Shoot the Builder

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"You see that? That's a Bentley Mark XII. They gave one to me, one to Steven Spielberg, then they shot the guy who made it!"
Successmanship 101 Teacher, The Simpsons

So you've created your ultimate weapon of terror/fortress of doom/super secret thing. One problem, somebody had to build/design this thing. What happens if he talks or grows a conscience? Simple solution: have them all killed! Your secrets will be safe and he can't build another one for any rivals.

Of course, you have to hope there are No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup to ruin your scheme...

Subtrope of You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.

Examples of Shoot the Builder include:

Anime and Manga

  • Part of Franky's backstory in One Piece. His mentor Tom built the ship used by the Pirate King, and was killed in part due to guilt by association, and in part due to hoping that talent wouldn't be used by pirates again. Franky survived the same fate, and eventually became a pirate.

Comic Books

  • The comic version of Watchmen has the experts who made the fake alien killed via a bomb on their boat. And then, the Evil Plan involved a deadly pyramid of killers that will kill the previous killers so no one could connect the deaths.
  • Green Arrow's Stalker with a Crush Cupid murdered her hairdresser after she got a really good haircut so that no one else could have hair that good.


  • The Spy Who Loved Me. After the two scientists create the submarine tracking system for Stromberg, he has them murdered.
  • In the film of Watchmen, all the scientists involved in the reactor/energy weapon are killed and then vaporized.
  • In Once Upon a Time In Mexico, Agent Sands kills a cook who made a dish Sands likes particularly well. As Sands sees it, he has restored balance, and can look back with enjoyment on that meal as a one time moment of perfection.


  • The nuclear engineer in The Sum of All Fears was killed by the terrorists as soon as they believed the bomb was finished. They probably should have let him triple check everything first.
  • Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos from The Colour of Magic, who is maimed by various employers to stop him creating anything more beautiful and eventually shot.
    • Invoked by one of Sybil Ramkin's ancestors to Bergholt Stuttley Johnson, although in this case before Johnson made him anything; he'd already had a reputation as "Bloody Stupid" Johnson for years by that time.
    • In Small Gods, the narration states that the labyrinth creators were most likely murdered.
  • In the original Phantom of the Opera book, the Shah in Shah (King of Kings of Persia), who hired Erik (the titular phantom) to be his architect for a palace at Mazenderan where you could not utter a word but it was overheard or repeated by an echo tries to do this. Doesn't work.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, King Maegor the Cruel, who organized the completion of the royal palace and King's Landing, had the architects, masons, etc. murdered so that he would be the only one who knew the location of all of the secret passages.
  • Cryptonomicon: The final step in the WW-II Japanese plan to build a super-secret underground vault for their plundered wealth was to flood it with water, with all of their slave labour sealed up inside along with all the gold. Fortunately for some of the workers, one of their leaders knew what was coming, and designed in a back-door escape route.

Religion and Mythology

  • Subverted by King Minos and Daedalus from Classical Mythology. Minos only locked the famous architect away, because he still wanted to use his talent. Even when Daedalus advised Ariadne the best way to help Theseus, Minos didn't kill him, but imprisoned in the labyrinth. Some versions of this myth suggest, that Minos spared Dedalus' life, not only because of his talent, but also frienship they shared.
  • Occurs in some variations of stories from Hindu Mythology with either Viswakarman, the divine Architect Of The Devas, or more commonly Maya,[1] the Architect of the Asuras.

Tabletop Games

  • In Legend of the Five Rings, the Scorpion clan cooperated with an engineering genius from the Crab clan to bury a powerful necromancer, securing his body with deadly traps to defend it against possible resurrection attempts. When the work was done, the Scorpions informed the Crab leader that the builder sacrificed his life to set the traps from the inside, making sure no outside access to their mechanisms was left. The Crab leader knew the Scorpions well but pretended to buy it.
  • It's been mentioned in Shadowrun supplements that the best way to keep a new computer system secret is to kill the designer after he's finished creating it.
  • In the Warhammer Fantasy Battle Tomb King army book, it's mentioned that it was expected of Necrotects to be buried with their pharaoh in the grandiose pyramid they designed. Refusing was not exactly illegal, but accident-prone.

Video Games

  • In Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, Roberto Bianci's chapter ends this way.
  • Partly subverted in the first God of War: The architect of Pandora's Temple, Pathos Verdes III, commits suicide by despair after building the temple (which cost him both his sons and later his wife). Played straight in the third game, where Zeus chained Daedalus away when he completes the Labyrinth. In Greek Mythology, Daedalus and his son were sealed inside the Labyrinth by Minos for the reasons mentioned in the description, but they got away with that.
  • Mass Effect 2: In Lair of the Shadow Broker, the following conversation takes place (while musing on the shadow broker's base):

Shepard: I wonder what happened to the contractors?
Liara: I think I can guess

  • In Resident Evil this was the fate of George Trevor, who designed the mansion ( he escaped, only to find that they were just messing with him anyway and gave up and starved to death after learning of his family's fate). However, compared to his wife and daughter he got off lightly; unbeknown to him they were used as test subjects while he was working on the mansion. The latter became a Tragic Monster, while the former fought off her infection, only to be killed by her (now insane) daughter (or possibly just killed by Umbrella when she failed as a test subject, it's not made clear by the documentation).
  • Though only temporary, killing the Engineer in Team Fortress 2 can allow the opposing team to get through some choke points easier, making him a second target like the Medic.
    • That said, the buildings don't die with him, so if you get as far as killing the Engineer and still get blown away by the turret, well...that's stupid and embarrassing. Hang your head in shame.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: The description for Calo Nord's battle armour says that he killed the craftsman who made it for him in order to appease his ego, ensuring the armour would always be unique.

Web Original

Real Life and Legend

  • "According to legend, Ivan the Terrible blinded Yakovlev so that he could never build anything so beautiful again."
    • Didn't stop him from building the Cathedral of Kazan, though.
  • Legend: Jan Růže, legendary constructor of a Prague Astronomical Clock, was not killed, but blinded to stop him from building an even more beautiful clock for another city. In return he sabotaged his own work and died when the mechanical heart of the clock stopped. Although this story is only a romantic legend it adds more colour to the history of the famous Prague Clock.
  • According to legend, the workers who built the labyrinths into the pyramids in Egypt were killed when they were finished with the construction. But if that's true, they would have buried most of the male population of Pharaonic Egypt.
  • The Indian king who had the Taj Mahal built executed all the builders so they couldn't build anything to rival its beauty.
  • Perillos of Athens proposed to the infamously tyrannical Phalaris the torture/execution device known as the Brazen Bull. Supposedly, Phalaris used Perillos as the first test subject.
  • The First Emperor of China reportedly had the man who built his tomb killed so that he could not reveal its secrets.
  • Not as literal as these other examples but right at the end of World War II, the Japanese destroyed everything they could about their Yamato-class "super" battleships, apparently so they couldn't be copied (not that anyone wanted to). Most of the information about them comes from a report a visiting German officer compiled.
  1. not to be confused with Maya the cosmic illusion, Maya the goddess, or Maya the people...bloody Hindus