( Skeleton key
Name skeleton key
Appearance key
Cost 10 zm
Weight 3
( Lock pick
Name lock pick
Appearance lock pick
Cost 20 zm
Weight 4
( Credit card
Name credit card
Appearance credit card
Cost 10 zm
Weight 1

There are three unlocking tools in NetHack: the skeleton key, the lock pick (osaku to Samurai) and the credit card. The skeleton key and the lock pick allow you to lock and unlock doors and chests, while the credit card can only unlock them. Credit cards have nothing to do with money in NetHack; they appear as unlocking devices because of their popularity in films for jimmying open door locks.


The chance of successfully locking or unlocking a door depends on which tool you use, your dexterity, the type of lock, and whether or not you are a Rogue. The per-turn probabilities of success are listed in the table below.

Tool For Rogues For non-Rogues
Door Box Door Box
skeleton key (70+Dex)% (75+Dex)% (70+Dex)% (75+Dex)%
lock pick (3*Dex + 30)% (4*Dex + 25)% (3*Dex)% (4*Dex)%
credit card (2*Dex + 20)% (Dex + 20)% (2*Dex)% (Dex)%

"Box" includes chests and large boxes.

If you have not succeeded after 50 turns, you give up.

This exercises your dexterity, even if you don't succeed.

To unlock doors apply the unlocking tool and then choose the direction of the door.

To unlock chests apply the unlocking tool while standing on the chest and then choose ">", for down or ".", for here.


All unlocking tools are generated uncursed.

Other effectsEdit

If a watchman sees you picking a lock, he may warn you or get hostile. If a warning is given, a trap is automatically added to the door in question.

Attempting to apply a credit card at a shopkeeper or the Oracle will produce the message "No checks, no credit, no problem.". Attempting to apply an unlocking tool on a visible monster (other than a disguised mimic) in any other situation will produce the message "I don't think Monster would appreciate that.".


Credit cards are the lightest unlocking tool, but also the slowest, and they won't lock. Lock picks are the heaviest and most expensive, and for a Rogue with 18 dexterity give a 97% chance of (un)locking a box in one turn. However, in all other circumstances, skeleton keys are faster, as well as cheaper and lighter.

Rust does not impede the operation of any unlocking tool, however cursed tools have only half the chance to unlock versus uncursed tools.

Beginners frequently kick down doors (or do other loud actions). Reasons to use an unlocking tool instead are:

  • Kicking wakes up nearby monsters. This includes the fabled invisible nymph.
  • You cannot close and/or lock doors to partition out spawned monsters if you have kicked them down.
  • Kicking takes longer, unless wearing kicking boots or some corner cases.
  • The door might be attached to a shop closed for inventory.


All the unlocking tools first appear in NetHack 3.0.0.

In addition, the NetHack 3.0 Series had special shaped keys that fit specific locks on chests and large boxes. You might see "a chest (triangular keyhole)", for example, and a "triangular key" would open its lock much more quickly than a skeleton key; but a "square key" would not fit.

Doors did not have locks of any specific shape, and the shaped keys could not open them; you had to use one of the other unlocking tools.

Keys, and the locks that they fit, were as follows in NetHack 3.0.10:

Key Lock
round round
square square
triangular triangular
oval oval
octagonal octagonal
hexagonal hexagonal
cylindrical wide
irregular notched
conical large round
wedge-shaped large square

In time, the shaped keys were felt to add nothing of value to the game, and in NetHack 3.1.0 they were removed.

See alsoEdit

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