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G+ Preservation: OSR Obstacles

A fishbowl full of gems and undead snakes!

This post documents content from the G+ 1d∞ OSR Obstacles Group, inspired by an article by Arnold K., which discusses some pillars of OSR-style play, and, in particular, the need for open-ended problems.

Many thanks to the contributors to this group for your generous creativity!

Handy Haversack
• Party is hired to steal an artifact from the hoard on a pirate ship tonight before it makes land. The artifact can cause all (demi/)human(oid) types in a logical area (building, dungeon level, ship, room, whatever makes sense in context) to sleep until it is deactivated (made by a *non*human-style species as a pacifier for slave labor). The contractor has someone on the inside on the ship but no way to ID him to the players or vice-versa. Otherwise, lots and lots of nasty pirates on the ship. Party or anyone who can get to it can activate the artifact, but it will affect everyone on the ship.

Nick Sunshine
• The key to this lock is in the other tower, across the rickety swaying rope bridge. The key is made of mostly neutrons and weighs 3000 pounds.

• In the Palace of Lies, whenever you speak the truth, your words deal xdX damage to all in earshot. Any written truth functions as explosive runes.

• A magical barrier blocks this long hallway. Beside it, a glass orb sits on a pedestal. If the orb is removed from the pedestal, the barrier vanishes and the hallway fills with fire. If the orb is replaced, the fire goes out and the barrier reappears.

Chris McDowall
• The Worse Guy: He's a sluggy mass of skin flaps and a big slobbery mouth. He'll help bring about the downfall of absolutely anyone, he just loves seeing people fail and die.

No real physical ability but super smart with mild omniscience. Also eats anything and excretes the worst (as in most terrible, least good for the world as a whole) form of that thing. It's always something tempting though. So he'll make your sword into some soul drinking demon weapon or your rations into cholesterol ridden babel burgers.

Someone else is using him against you, but he'll just as happily help you fight back if you like. Trusts no one so will only make contact in a place where he's protected.
Benjamin Baugh
• At the Grand Ball, the Prince is finally mingling with people beyond the inner court, but the Queen will prevent anyone she doesn't know from approaching the Prince, and even at the Ball, he's surrounded by sycophants and courtiers, all loyal to her, but fawning over him.  Salted among the dancers and revelers are a half dozen paid duelists, expert killers ready to slap the face and lay challenge upon anyone whom the Queen points out, and one among the Prince's retinue is the final guard against any who might try and speak to the Prince without authorization.

• The Vampire is in your dreams, and if you sleep it will know where you are and how close you're coming to it's lair, but you need to rest to heal and rest to recover.  Siri Sirlong's vitality potions can keep you upright and fighting without sleep, but they won't close your wounds or allow you to prepare your magic.  The closer your get, the more coherent the dreams, and eventually the Vampire will appear in them and speak with you directly.  He is so very reasonable, generous even.  And you know he always keeps his word. 

• At the center of the orchard, in a leafy clearing, there is a circle of old weathered stones that resemble crudely carved dwarves, facing inward towards a glass and gold coffin long overgrown with vines, now in springtime bloom.  The faces of the dwarf-stones are streaked, rain-wet, as if they've been weeping.

Here, the swarm of songbirds which have stripped the orchard bare form a spiraling gyre into the sky and sing so loudly you can not hear the speech of your companions, and the birds begin to swarm and peck at you.  Then, as one the dwarf-stones move, forming a line between you and the coffin, the epicenter of the bird spiral.  You can not hear their rough angry speech either.

The songbirds individually do almost no harm, but in their angry thousands might eventually prove fatal.  The dwarf-stones' voices grind louder, but still unintelligible in the din.  The Spring sun kisses the golden hints of the coffin beneath the twisted vines.  

David Folsom
• The man your murderhobo rogue killed was carrying a letter that the party needed. The murderhobo is congratulated for the victory only to discover that the message is encoded. It is very clearly what the party needs to know but they just killed the one who wrote the code. If trying to use speak with dead, they will obviously be hostile to the folks who just killed him and gave pats on the back to the party member who did it.

Arnold K.
• Time demon. Anything that approaches within 10' ages a million years. Metal rusts apart, wood turns into dust. Also immune to magic, unless that magic effect is permanent. Kill it.

Sean Fager
• There's a door made of jet dark wood in this room. It's not attached to anything, although it is hinged as if it ought to be resting in a frame. Three inches thick, eight feet tall, and absolutely saturated in carvings and engravings. Like Rodin's depiction of hell, but with a little more detail and significantly less bodies.

Pulling on the door... pulls it over. It's heavy. You wouldn't want it crushing you. Middling lethal for a level zero character. Pushing it hard enough just tips it over. Either way, roll for a random encounter, twice.

The door neither burns nor scorches if exposed to flame.

The door is a work of art. It takes twenty points of collective strength to carry it, and it's way too big to move through doorways at full speed. Imagine moving an over built dining room table.

If both of the heavily rusted hinges are pried open at the same time it opens a slit into a plane of fire between them. The portal's width, and heat, increases with the distance between the hinges when they're opened. As mounted on the door it is hot enough to boil water in a pot, given ten minutes or so, and illuminates as a torch.

If both hinges are open and more that fifty feet apart, the portal is wide enough for a few fire imps to slip through (1d8-2 per minute). Alternately, roll on a fire plane random encounter table.

If open and more than a mile apart, a fire worm will slip through in a few rounds. Three hundred feet long, it ironically freezes all it touches to absolute zero. Also likes smashing things for fun.

If open and more than three miles apart the hinges will instantly melt, which does not close the portal. Fire creatures will pour out of the gap, the area will glow like the sun, anything flammable within a few miles will spontaneously ignite, and Fun Times will occur.

• A philosopher hermit sits in front of the door to the next room, cloaked in tattered rags and wheezes. If you would pass, he requires only something cheap enough for a pauper's purse but of extreme worth. Something new, he's not here to collect things so much as to broaden his appreciation for the casual wealth of the modern world.

Something new from each person passing, please. He has already acquired a book of matches, a (now rotten) biscuit, a wooden bowl full of water, some bandages and a small canvas tarp.

He's not unreasonable and could probably be talked into letting people pass if he agrees, morally, with their quest. Or if they offer a sufficient alternative proposal. If attacked he's just a level one specialist/rogue, trained in hiding and languages. Each melee attack against him requires a d100 throw over the attack value rolled to avoid catching his Spiral Rot, though. (Every day roll a save. On a failure, add one to your disease total and roll against it. Another failure means the rot will claim a random limb over the next month. No more checks until that's completed, after which the disease total resets to one. On any given day, instead of rolling, the player can choose for a lesser body part to rot off and reset the disease total to one. You'd probably want to start with individual teeth.)

• Doom-doom the fire imp was summoned to serve his master, but his master went away, and now he spends his time helping others. Literally anyone he runs across. Doesn't speak a lick of any language, side from repeatedly chanting his name. If found via a random encounter roll will deliver some mundane item the party either needs or is likely to need soon. Tends to sprint towards people unexpectedly. Explodes as per fireball spell if dealt any damage at all(or if he gets too emotional). Reconstitutes four hours later. Doesn't remember what killed him. Tends to set off traps. Sentient bad guys will probably make use of him. A pacifist carnivore. Accidentally lights wood on fire when he touches it. Knows the location of a minor McGuffin.

• This underground library is just filled with intricately carved wooden shelves loaded with fragile, brittle, ancient tombs. A warm wind gusts throughout the room, wicking away moisture. Of course, digging through the slitted walls the wind blows through opens a tunnel to the greater depths or the surface, depending on which wall is broken through.

Every three turns spent searching the shelves with a question in mind has a Language Skill-in-twenty chance of revealing something useful.

Many of the books are written in Habriciled Quicksilver, a ridiculously expensive ink that has been shown to avoid wearing away over time. However, unbeknownst to most of those who used it over the centuries, after several hundred years it becomes explosive on contact. As hinted previously, the room is FULL of dry paper, animal skin, books of finely woven cotton pages, wooden furniture, etc. I'm sure your players have been stuck in a burning building before; use those rules here. There are books scattered a bit haphazardly across the floor as well. Think highly visible landmines—probably safe, unless people start running around without concern of where they are stepping. 

(Note: Habriciled is a made-up word)

• This whole room was designed by an alien intelligence, or a mad man. Because of the precision architecture, all noises echo for several seconds, hitting the natural resonance frequency of the human inner ear at least once as the pitch modulates. So every noise shakes, rattles, and pervades the ears of the hearer. Earplugs block out weak noises, but the vibration will travel through the face flesh if the noise is loud enough. Yelling, swords clashing, magical proclamations, steel on flint, a plate armoured sell sword flinging themselves across the room... any of these can stun a humanoid, barring a save.

Intelligent, non human monsters will seek to engage the party here, if they can manage it through ambush or false retreats.

• The baked clay urn, a single piece of hard brown storage, contains within it the Quill of Cursing, whose written wrathful words always come true. It has enough ink to spell out thirty two more letters. The urn bears this engraving, scribed in suspiciously narrow letters- "Whosoever seeks to open me shall meet Death, who flies on swiftest wings."


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