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My character needs to have a lair in the middle of a big city, but for reasons beyond the scope of this question, it's important that nobody but him be able to get inside. This lair will be established at low level (the game starts at level 3) and is intended to be maintained and upgraded as I advance in level.

The city does not have a conveniently labyrinthine sewer system; it's likely that NPCs will be near my character's lair frequently, and they might actively attempt to enter the lair. How can I make sure that nobody breaks into my lair, with minimal expenditure of resources on my part?

My DM is pretty strict — he does not allow the creation of custom magic items, and he usually doesn't allow sourcebooks other than the PHB.

I don't have a specific character build in mind, but lair plans that don't require a specific character build are better than those that only work for a certain class.

Some NPCs might be around the level of my character, so I might need to use a range of solutions — one plan that I can implement at lower levels, and another plan that can keep out even high-level trespassers.

(Related: In D&D 3.5, is there a mechanism to resemble the use of a remote-controlled car?)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is this for a specific level? \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Dec 21 '16 at 15:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am similarly curious about your character build (or if you want that not to matter) as well as how often you go to your lair. Reasoning: "minimal expenditure" to me would be things your character can do themself or dependant on how often they are done. \$\endgroup\$ – joedragons Dec 21 '16 at 15:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Honestly, i read this title and thought this was a monster (more specifically, a dragon) asking how to keep adventurers out of his lair. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Dec 21 '16 at 19:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Given the bit about both lower levels and higher levels later in the question, I made the inference that this lair and its defences are for your low-level character, to be improved as they advance in level. To make that critically-important context clear, I restated that as the second sentence. If that inference is wrong, please do edit the question to tell us what level you are. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 21 '16 at 19:28
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Consider a wall rather than a door

A slightly higher level but still lowish level option is to conceal the entrance using stone shape, which is a wizard, druid and cleric spell. Casting the spell could get expensive if you can't cast it yourself (like a sorcerer without the spell or a rogue forced to employ Use Magic Device to use the spell). However, if you don't plan to enter the lair that often, paying the price may be acceptable.

The idea is that you can hide any door (or remove the need for a door!) with a stone wall instead. The spell stone shape's duration of instantaneous means not needing to renew it and the effect not detecting as magical. Further, stone shape leaves no telltale signs of the stone being shaped. (The spell wall of stone could be used for a similar purpose as it's also instantaneous but is higher level.) Subsequent stone shape spells could be used then to access (and re-disguise) the lair.

Admittedly, this solution fails in the face of brute force attempts to hack through the wall, so it should be implemented in addition to just keeping the lair's location a secret.

Such a lair could serve as a springboard to the higher-level solution of using to dimension door to enter it.

Also consider building the lair underwater

Creating the lair so that to reach it an entrant needs to swim or, better yet, breathe underwater. This may not be possible depending on the city, but if so, in conjunction with other answers and this one, you could make it so only people with water breathing or some other magical means can access the lair. Granted, you need means to do so as well, but, with the right skills or equipment, you could spend low levels swimming around and looking for an appropriate place. The spell water breathing is similarly a wizard, cleric and druid spell, so it's widely available. Since the spell's duration is hours per level, it could even be cast by a temple's cleric and you'd still have enough time to explore and lose anyone tailing you along the way.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Hey I Can Chan It is weird asking Qs about my own answer but since you edited do you feel it's not worth noting that the detail specifics of stone shape could prove a problem with the implementation of that plan? It seems you struck all mention of that (in fact, it now reads a little the opposite in "no telltale signs"), so am curious. Maybe that's just for the user of the spell to figure out on their own? \$\endgroup\$ – joedragons Dec 23 '16 at 19:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ The second 'graph includes what I thought someone reading the answer would need for viewing the answer as valid, and I figured anyone really interested would chase the spell link. If you think it needs more 'splaining, then do more 'splaining. :-) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Dec 23 '16 at 19:15
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It's tempting to suggest you use a spell like rope trick or magnificent mansion for your lair -- if you combine those with Extend Spell, you can get an effect that lasts 24 hours per cast. The problem with these spells is that, when they expire, all your stuff gets dumped out on the ground, and you have to move it all into your new place. Nobody wants to move all their furniture around every day. (Also, any NPCs nearby might discover your secrets or steal your stuff.)

What you should use instead is a portable hole, which, amazingly, can be picked up either from the outside or from the inside. (If you pick a portable hole up from the inside, it's not entirely clear how you get back to the Material Plane; the item description doesn't mention anything about getting stranded inside your portable hole forever, so I'm guessing you can redeploy it in the same place you picked it up from.)

A portable hole will run out of air after ten minutes, so you'll need a necklace of adaptation to allow yourself to breathe. It's also fairly cramped -- six feet by ten feet -- so consider playing a halfling and/or getting a permanency reduce person effect.

You won't be able to afford those items until around ninth level. What's a good way to secure your lair before that time? Locks are out since any wizard can cast knock. Stacking defensive spells on your door could be effective, but also very noticeable, and a creative NPC can discharge your spells by poking them with a very long stick. My suggestion is to get a normal house, make the ground floor a normal-looking decoy, and put your lair in the basement under a hidden trapdoor. A 700gp scroll of illusory wall will make your trapdoor actually invisible, and you can block pesky divination spells by putting a rug-with-a-thin-sheet-of-lead-in-it on top.

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The greatest security you can have is if no-one knows where it is.

Remove all the doors to it and make sure the building is boarded up/condemmed/has a secret room.

After that only ever go in or out of it via Dimension Door or similar spell, a scrying ward (Such as Mages Private Sanctum) may be needed to stop people locating you directly or Mind Blank.

If the PCs know where your lair is, have a fake lair and then dimension door from that one to the real one.

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Some simple* things will make it at least harder to get in so that not anybody can manage it. So it is a good starting point.

*At least if you can cast Wizard/sorc spells.

Cast arcane lock on the front door. This increases the DC to force the lock by 10. It can't be picked. Material component 25 gp, duration permanent.

Have the first room be a dead end with an opening to the first floor where a rope ladder is fastened but does not dangle down. Knowing that it is there (and where it is) you can have an unseen servant hand it down to you. Make the walls smooth for high climbing DC.

Those two things should be enough to keep many intruders out or at least make it non-trivial for many low to mid level NPCs. Dispel magic will get rid of the arcane lock but doesn't open the mundane lock. Knock will do both. Spider climb will overcome the second obstacle. But the intruder has to have those or similar spells. Or he is strong enough to force the door open and a skilled climber. But at least my ideas need little resources.

As an addon let the point where the rope ladder is secured be guarded by a guard dog. Not sure if and where there are rules for those in D&D3.5 but they are not something fancy.

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You could use an eversmoking bottle(embedded into something solid, to prevent removal) in an entry room to obscure the mechanism for getting to the next room. You could also make explosive rune "posters" to hang all about the entry room, in case somebody can see through the smoke or goes around feeling everything (and perhaps pulling a poster down and reading it), along with fire traps on what appears to be secret compartments. You could also place phantom trap all over the place, so anybody checking for traps will find them everywhere. Combine arcane lock with phantom trap to make anybody wary to try to get past the front door. You can also use continual flame to create a fire "illusion" that you can easily walk through. You can use illusory wall make it look like the real secret door opens to another wall. In fact, you could make the secret door two-part, where the first is an entire door with a secret opening mechanism, and behind that is a door covered in illusory wall with a small (invisible) hole that you must reach into to push the button on an immovable rod that is holding the second door shut (and it still looks like a wall even when opened due to illusory wall).

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