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Question

How can I build a secret base without having to just kill all the builders afterwards to keep the secret?

Explanation

Another player and I want to build a secret base for an assassins guild we are forming in our E6 game, but neither of us are good at masonry or anything like that. I am not sure if something like an unseen servant could help us because if I am not mistaken, they do not make the check themselves, we have to make the check for them. If we use NPC labor they would know the secrets of our base and would probably need to die... which could get messy because they may expect an attack if we make them build too many secret passages and stuff.

Our Chars

Both are basically Stealthy Combat Characters: a Rogue and a Shadow Caster. Both are level 6 with around 3 post-6 feats or so. My Rogue is working on getting Shaper Psion class features but will not be able to get more than what a level 6 Psion could.

Restrictions

We are playing D&D 3.5e using the E6 variant, which basically caps out the characters at level 6 though they can still gain feats.

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11 Answers 11

How about expanding the Guild? You could get an NPC who's capable of building what you need, and then make him a member. If he knows that 'Once you're in, you can't leave' he won't be a threat, and more members will make your guild stronger. Talk to your GM about letting the NPC handle the paperwork, provisions, etc.

Alternatively, you can adapt an existing structure. You know what has a lot of rooms, corridors and hidden passages? A dungeon. If you've recently cleared one, especially if it has a secret alternative entrance, you can bring down the front entrance, tell all the locals that the stone isn't safe or something, and move in at night.

The third option I can think of is something in a book I once read (to avoid spoilers I'm not naming it). Basically, there's a hidden Assassin's Guild, which is built under the Ruler's palace. No-one can find it because the main entrance is via magic, but the building itself is a sectioned off part of the cellar complex. Something similar may be an option, depending on the GM.

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as to adding an NPC capable of building what I need that could be a solution. And in the mean time adapt an existing structure... as we are just starting the guild probably will not have too many members at first need to make sure we don't have anyone with a loose tongue and all you know. –  Eforen Jan 28 '13 at 18:15

Having a trusted NPC/employee will help, though that'd be difficult for assassins to come by.

Anything that will alter memory will do what you need, though. I can't see any spells specifically designed for such a thing, so you're probably looking at "wish" or equivalent on that front. It's probably better if you work with your GM to research a method of mind-control/forgetfulness. You can see if your GM will allow a custom remedy—maybe something with an herbal/poison base with magical enhancement. You could even be up-front about its use with the workers. Offer to pay them an exorbitant amount with the caveat up front that they're isolated while they work and their memory will be altered when they finish. Frankly, that may ease their minds and produce better results than if they fear they'll die at the end.

Or, since you're evil and all, you could promise to erase their memories to get the best work out of them and then, at the end, reveal that the erasure involves sharp metal bits applied to the brain...

EDIT: Pathfinder has an interesting spell that you may be allowed to bring in (and hire someone to cast). Sequester Thoughts allows you to remove the memory of one "topic". I'd think "building a secret base" would qualify as a topic...

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While memory removal is good, it may be not enough. People tend to get suspicious when they can't remember what were they doing for the last couple of months. And we didn't even mention their families and friends. –  Jeor Mattan Jan 28 '13 at 17:38
    
I can bring in stuff from pathfinder which I guess I should have mentioned the problem is it is E6 almost everything I know of to do with Mind altering stuff is post 6th level. Though I will be looking into Sequester Thoughts for sure. –  Eforen Jan 28 '13 at 18:11
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@JeorMattan: Yeah, that's why I'd be up-front about it--and let them keep the memory of making the agreement... –  Jacob Proffitt Jan 28 '13 at 19:06

Disclaimer: this is the evil way. But I suppose that doesn't really matter for assassins.

If your primary concern with disposable workforce is that they would be suspecting murder, don't put all the eggs in one basket.

Have one architect design the layout and another split the layout in several building schemes. Hire a load of workers to construct the obvious part of your base (anything accessible from the outside without resorting to secret passages, extradimensional travel, bashing through the walls, flight, etc). Be sure to silence them forever.

Then, start adding secret passages, traps and the like, few at a time, hiring a new construction team each time. Make the affair secret, hire in different locations, pay good enough for them not to ask silly questions (like, "Where's previous construction team?" or "Why would you want add a secret passage to a brand-new building?"). Silence them, rinse, repeat.

If you are lacking enough clever NPCs to kill construction supervisors after each part, find one willing to join you, as was suggested by Jacob Profitt's and Dakeyras' answers - after all, even assassin guild needs to supervise and maintain their hideout.

Also take a look at the brilliance proposed by Pulsehead and Mark Bessey - among other merits, posing as some good and useful establishment really expands your location choices.

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First step: pay an architect from a far city to make the plans without knowing where would it be located.

Second step: buy young slaves.

Third step: train the slaves in building houses.

Fourth step: make the slaves build the secret base.

Fifth step: never allow the slaves to go out the base.

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Manual labor is not a particularly effective way to build things in 3.5. I'd recommend this approach instead:

  1. Learn how to play string instruments.

  2. Obtain a Lyre of Building and build the whole thing yourselves.

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I'm afraid that a Lyre of Building requires a fabricate spell to make, which basically removes it from E6 game (a list of workarounds exist, ranging from cooperating with item-creating monstrous populace and DM support to arbitrarily high amounts of cheese, but that is beside the point). –  Jeor Mattan Jan 28 '13 at 18:29

Hide in plain sight! Since you are both playing assassins, I would guess that your characters have the required moral flexibility to lie like politicians.

Simply find a few Holy Symbols for a religion that would appropriately want to have a monastery. Design and build this "monastery" based on your specifications but ALWAYS refer to it as the "New Holy Monastery of {deity}". Since it's not a juicy piece of gossip "OOOOH, there's assassins up on that hill!", but instead is boring "Yeah... a bunch of fuddy-duddies live up there worshipping the sound of one hand clapping", it will be so utterly unremarkable that most people won't care your assassin's guild is on the hill overlooking the capital city. This is also a great chance to learn a bit of the appropriate craft/profession skill(s) to then modify this "holy monastery" into the actually intended purpose.

This route is probably the easiest, but you may have issues with pilgrims of that deity wanting to stop in, so another option would be to pick a deity that no one's ever heard of before (would Assassinia be too obvious?), thereby reducing the wandering pilgrims.

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Having wandering pilgrims visit is the best cover ever: Not only do they ally suspicion, they can also be a nice secondary source of income. Plus, your guild's clients can pretend to be pilgrims as a way of getting your attention. –  GMJoe Jan 29 '13 at 5:44

Partly it depends on what kind of "secret" your secret lair needs to be. If you want a guild hall that nobody who's not a member can even find, then you'll either have to have guild members build it (recruiting for the appropriate skills), or recruit and then silence the builders from somewhere else. Other answers seem to have covered these options in some detail. On the other hand - if you want people to be able to find you, to offer you work for example, then what you need is secrecy in layers.

First layer: A legitimate business establishment

Find a local business that's fallen on hard times, and offer to invest (through a third party that you've hired for that purpose). This can be any business, but ideally you want one with a fair amount of front-office traffic, something like a warehouse or a tavern.

Second layer: An illegal, but non-threatening activity

After the business owner is dependent on you and your "associates", let them know that you're going to be doing some construction in the basement or back room, and that it's important that they don't let anybody in there. Let them think it's a smuggling operation, document forgery/counterfeiting, etc. Make it really profitable for them to look the other way. Maybe actually engage in some smuggling - the guild needs startup capital, after all.

Third layer: The actual guild

So now you've got a legitimate presence, and an illegitimate cover operation, in case any busybody does decide to investigate. On the rare chance that the business owner does decide to go to the cops, despite his own best interests, there's an obvious illegal operation for them to bust up, and they won't need to dig any further.

The guys running the cover operation don't need to know what your business actually is, but if they do find out, they're certainly not going to rat you out. And the kind of guys that would engage in some shady activity for a quick buck will definitely understand that you're serious when you tell them to keep quiet about anything they see.

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Regardless of the physical headquarters, this is an important approach. +1 for defence in depth. –  Tynam Jan 29 '13 at 18:11

Another solution: Bring in some workers from far away but blindfold them for the trip and do not allow them to see anything other than just the area they are working on.

Yeah, they'll know one secret of your base (use different teams so nobody knows them all) but they don't know it's YOUR BASE, the knowledge doesn't do them any good.

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Instead of not killing the workers, what about thinking about the ways how to kill then efficiently when the work is done? It's traditional for an Assassin Guild.

For example, poison them in the begininng and put antidote into their food every day. When the work is done, they leave and die. No bloodshed.

For example, let them leave but hire npc assasins to kill them when they are far enough. Even if they are expecting an attack, they can't expect it all the time. Pay them for silence and let them leave. It will be a nasty surprise for them.

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The most efficient way of covering it up is to not need to, making the workers members is good but inefficient. Find a necromancer to make you a work force and make him a member. If he knows the right spells, like awaken undead, or how to make intelligent undead he can control, then you can kill the workers and architects Before you start construction.

If you can't make him a member than either off him yourself or reveal him to an adventuring party. Heck if he doesn't cooperate you can take him down and make yourselves look like heroes, then noone will suspect you as assasins.

If he does join then you have a large amount of workers for free and thematically appropriate magical help, and clever use of necromancy can cover up so many crimes.

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You can do most of the aforementioned in order to convince your builders that you are trying to protect them from becoming a liability to you. Then kill them.

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Given that the question specifically asks about scenarios where the builders are not killed, I'm not sure how this answer helps? –  Phil May 9 '13 at 15:37

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