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I'd like to make an underground base, but I don't want to spend a lot of time or money on it. I have access to divine spells and psionic powers, and whatever magic item creation feats are needed.

My priorities, in order, are:

  1. Cost. I'd much prefer options that don't cost any money, and especially options that only involve spells, or reusable magic items. If it will cost more than 30k gp or so, it's too expensive for me.
  2. Time. I'd prefer faster options to slower ones. I'd prefer options that take fewer spells, so I can do them more times in a day.
  3. Versatility. It would be helpful if there were walls and supports included in the plan, in case I need a base in an area that's mostly dirt, instead of stone. Similarly, having a way to avoid using wall of stone, which requires existing stone to use, would be great. Also, solutions that work at lower levels are much better than ones that require high levels. I would much prefer solutions that need no more than 6th level spells.
  4. Low play time cost. I'd prefer solutions that didn't require a lot of time spent in play to do. Anything that would take an adventure on its own to accomplish, or would require exploring the world more is less helpful.
  5. No use of arcane spells. In my current game, we don't have a full arcane caster, so I'd prefer options that only use divine or psionic spells.
  6. Comfort. If there's a way to create doors, stairs, and other furnishings while making the base, that would be better than not.

Basically, of the "good, fast, cheap, pick two", I'd pick cheap and fast first.

Note that this doesn't necessarily need to involve spellcasting, I just assume that spellcasting will be the most efficient way to do this.

Answers should say how much underground area the approach can create, and how much is costs per unit area. For example, making rooms using disintegrate and wall of stone costs 1 6th level spell and 2 5th level spells per 10X10X10 cube, or 1 5th level spell at level 12 or higher.

Feel free to ask more questions, in case there's something that I'm not including.

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Step 1: Find an existing cave system, or similar preexisting underground space, such as sewers or catacombs

Step 2: Add sturdy doors.

Step 3: Decorate.

Seriously, if at all possible this is a good place to start. You get an existing location which can be blocked off and explored in stages. You enter, explore a bit, add doors to block of any areas you haven't yet explored, and move in. Each time you explore more, you end up with a new segment where you add a door.

You can then use any other methods at your disposal to improve the location, but the initial bit will barely cost you anything, and won't take terribly long.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting suggestion. It doesn't work for my current situation, because the location where I'm building doesn't have much in the way of pre-existing cave systems, but good just the same. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Jan 14 '15 at 21:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd add "or mine" to the cave system. Or I guess "or sewer, catacomb, dungeon, smuggler cove/den/tunnels, Noble's root/wine cellar, badger/dire badger/delver habitat, etc." Basically take a pre-existing hole in the ground and mix with other answers to modify/expand/customize to taste. There's lots of reasons to have a hole in the ground already, D&D is full of 'em. Optional adventures to clear out any existing riff raff. Can be anywhere from free to expensive. "Quaint lot in convenient area just needs a little TLC. Great for a DIY enthusiast or handy man! Price reduced, motivated seller..." \$\endgroup\$ – BrianH Jan 23 '15 at 18:00
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Three possibilities come to mind:

  • Summon a Dire Badger with a Summon Nature's Ally II (or higher) spell (+ casting Charm Animal may be helpful). A 2nd level Druid can cast both spells - at higher levels more badgers may be summoned for longer periods of time. Dire Badgers can burrow through 10 feet of solid earth per round. According to the 3.5 Monster Manual, Dire Badgers leave a usable tunnel 5 feet in diameter. The Pathfinder Monster Manual does not speficially mention whether Dire Badgers create a usable tunnel, although the PF Dire Badger can burrow through solid rock. One could argue a badger would not burrow through solid rock and allow the tunnel to collapse behind it, which would suffocate the animal. Therefore, a friendly PF badger might build a network of tunnels in solid rock to make an underground base. Going with the 3.5 rules, the badger would serve as a cheap earth mover and that's about it.
  • Make friends with a Delver, which can burrow through 10 feet of solid rock per round. Delvers are Neutral, intelligent creatures which speak Common and therefore may be open to excavating an underground base given sufficient inducement (they love metals!). Given their intelligence, it's conceivable Delvers could also follow a floorplan for the base. At 10 ft/round, the entire base could be constructed in a single day. Unfortunately, being an aberration (not an animal), Pathfinder rules do not allow spellcasters to polymorph or beast shape into a Delver. Nor can Delvers be summoned. So you'll have to find a cooperative Delver, perhaps as an adventure in itself.
  • Find a Lyre of Building, a Wondrous Magic Item which can magically perform the labor of 300 man*days of labor in 30 minutes while it is played. A skilled musician is required to play the Lyre. The Lyre may be crafted with arcane magic, requiring a Craft Wondrous Item feat and a Fabricate spell at a cost of 6,500 gp. Or the Lyre can be purchased with 13,000 gp if you're in a campaign where magic items may be bought off the open market. Stone excavation rates per laborer may be found in the 2e Dungeoneer's Survival Guide. For hard rock it's 25 cubic feet per miner per 8 hours, 50 for soft rock, 75 for very soft rock.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1: Generally good ideas. I like the low cost of option 1. Option 2 seems like it's difficult enough that it's not really practical without significant DM buy-in. Option 3 is also good, though I'd suggest using the mining rules from the Races of the Dragon 3.5 book (page 98) rather than a 2e supplement. Those rules basically say that 2 unskilled man-days mines 1 5-foot cube of rock. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Jan 12 '15 at 4:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Undead workers don't need to sleep or take a rest - just sayin'. \$\endgroup\$ – Ruut Jan 12 '15 at 4:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DuckTapeAl- Option 2 is a heavy lift for players and DM, although it's far sexier to enlist the aid of a huge aberration than use a horde of badgers or play a harp to build your underground lair. :) \$\endgroup\$ – RobertF Jan 12 '15 at 15:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Checking through the monster description again; are you sure that Dire Badgers can create usable tunnels? There are no official PF rules for burrowing that I can find, and the assumption in 3.5 was that burrowing creatures didn't leave behind a tunnel unless something said that they did. For example, "Burrowing ankhegs can construct tunnels by pausing frequently to shore up the walls with a thicker, less caustic secretion from their mouths." The Dire Badger doesn't have anything like that in its description. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Jan 19 '15 at 17:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DuckTapeAl - Good point, I was going by the 3.5 MM in my answer. The description for the Dire Badger in the 3.5 MM states "They cannot burrow into solid rock, but can move through just about any material softer than that. A dire badger usually leaves behind a usable tunnel 5 feet in diameter when burrowing unless the material it’s moving through is very loose." The description for the Dire Badger in the PF MM states "... but unlike typical badgers, a dire badger's claws are capable of tunneling through solid rock." with no mention of usability of the tunnel. \$\endgroup\$ – RobertF Jan 23 '15 at 17:17
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I actually did a similar thing in my last campaign. This requires access to the druid spell list, so it might not work for you depending on which divine spells you can cast. It also may require some cooperation from your DM.

Stone Area

If the area you are constructing your base in is already rocky then you can simply use the 2nd level spell Soften Stone and Earth.

When this spell is cast, all natural, undressed earth or stone in the spell's area is softened. Wet earth becomes thick mud, dry earth becomes loose sand or dirt, and stone becomes soft clay that is easily molded or chopped. You affect a 10-foot square area to a depth of 1 to 4 feet

Depending on how the DM rules the 1 to 4 feet clause this might not work. Mine ruled that it meant 1 to 4 ft. of depth into the stone in which it was cast, but it could also be interpreted that this spell won't do any thing once you are more than 4 feet below ground level.

The spells are is a 10 ft. square per level so the most efficient approach would be to dig out a big hole using multiple castings of this spell, and some digging by your party or henchman, and then use the third level spell stone shape to create supports, internal walls and a ceiling.

Using this approach you could expect to excavate a 10x10 foot area down 5 feet with 2-5 level 2 spells depending on the hardness of the stone. Then several level 3 spells at the end to finish it up. The exact number of level 3 spells depends on how complicated you want to make the interior, but the spell affects 10 cubic ft. plus a cubic ft. per level.

Dirt Area

If the area you are in is all dirt(as the location my base was built in was), the above approach will not work. However, you can make an area of dirt into an area of stone with the 5th level spell(once again Druid) Transmute Mud to Rock and several castings of create water(level 0) to turn the dirt into mud. This again depends on the DM to allow it.

One casting changes 2 10x10x10 cubes per level from mud into a soft stone ready to be excavated. Make sure you check with your DM on wether or not they consider this to be "natural stone" before attempting.

If having it be camouflaged from above is important you can also add one casting of the 6th level spell Move Earth to cover the hole and top of your base.

I'm not sure how you would add comfort items such as doors, but for creating the basic structure this should only take you a few days with the only cost being spells.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The first option is pretty reasonable, but will need a LOT of castings of Soften Stone and Earth and Stone Shape to get a reasonable amount of space. The second option is also pretty good, though it does have the issue that the structure is vulnerable to Dispel Magic, since Transmute Mud to Rock is permanent, rather than instantaneous. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Jan 28 '15 at 4:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DuckTapeAl It actually wouldn't take as many castings as you would think for the excavation itself. Assuming a caster level of 12(you mentioned being able to cast 6th level spells) and soft rock, you could change a 30x40x4 foot area with one casting. That's a livable area the size of a small house/apartment with 3 castings, and you could probably do that 3 times in 2 days depending on your wisdom. The stone shape castings would be the hard part. 3.5 has a 5th level version of stone shape that affects a 10ft cube per level, which is what I used, but I don't think it exists in pathfinder. \$\endgroup\$ – Noxerran Jan 28 '15 at 7:00
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create major I think would work. It would take time and wouldn’t cost anything. You can change the composition as long as the mass doesn’t change. More dirt more mass. You could literally make an entire base of operations underground with steal beams and with the right knowledge and use of spells like fabricate and shrink item.

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