The original assassins are supposed to be the order created by Hassan I-Sabah. There are various associated stories, saying that they used to get fucked up on hashish and that that was were the term assassin came from, and I guess we have all heard the myth/legend about how he drugged 'em, told them they were dead and kept them in a kind of "paradise" in the form of a lush walled garden where they spent their days in luxury consuming as much as they liked of wine, sweetmeats and women etc Hassan would then send them out to kill people every now and again, totally unafraid as they knew they were already dead and that the worst thing that could happen was that they ended up sent back to paradise.
Which is of course a fantastic story (I actually wish someone would drug me and try their very hardest to trick me into believing that I was in paradise - doing their best to make it as convincing as possible by satisfying whatever whims I happened to have as completely as they possibly could) but I think it's generally accepted that it's not true, although whether it's completely made up out of thin air, or if it is an exaggeration of something that kinda sorta almost happened, I dunno.
Anyway, I read a book once about Omar Khayyam (mathematician and poet as I'm sure you all know) who lived at the same time as Hassan I-Sabah and in that book it suggested that the assassins were so successful co they were unafraid to die. I have to say I find it hard to believe that there had never been fanatics who were prepared to die for their cause before - maybe the point was that in that culture, at that time, it was totally unknown. And so, that book contended, a leader or whatever might have loads of guards around him and it was clear that if someone were to attack the main man, then the guards would pile in and kill the attacker, and this was such a deterrent for would-be murderers that people who were surrounded by guards in this manner were deemed protected - probably they didn't even search people who might be granted an audience or who were seeking to petition him for some reason. Of course this set up was completely ineffective against people who were prepared to die for their cause, and so an assassin merely had to had to conceal a knife up their sleeve, find some reason to be allowed near the king and then they could pretty much rely on getting one free stab in before the guards reacted. And it was willingness to do this that made Hassan I-Sabah's special dedicated group so effective and, as a result of that, so feared. And cos they were so feared - with people who had been seen as protected by an impervious ring of steel being killed - the stories and exaggerations of their prowess grew particularly quickly.
As I recall though, the book didn't really explain how he engendered such loyalty in a small elite group of his followers. It seems to me that other rulers were unable to inspire such fanaticism and had concluded that most people were not dumb enough to kill themselves on order and that finding such people was so unlikely that they did not need to be defended against. And so to me the question that needs answering is "how did he program so many people to be like this when no-one else could do it?"