- More Targets: On site information reveals what they’re after has been split into multiple pieces in different sections of the target complex. Alternately an ongoing rival or high value bounty target turns out to be present—forcing the team to reassess the situation and cost/benefits.
- Multiple Parties Involved: The faction targeted turns out to be hosting one or more other factions. Is it a party? A conference? A secret meeting? The team will have to assess their relationship to these new parties. Can they carry out the mission without affecting them? Or can they use this to their short-term advantage, long-term consequences be dammed.
- Nano-Swarm: An intelligent host of nanites is present. Is it a security measure? A prisoner? An accident? Defensive nanite swarms will be programmed to convert certain kinds of material or to disable particular equipment. Some large swarms may have personality. Are they a ghost in the machine persona-ghost overlay or something weirder like a swarm imagining itself a mythic god?
- On Site Gala: Despite legwork and pre-operation prep, the team walks into some kind of party or celebration on site. Perhaps it’s a private gathering of the rich and powerful, a surprise party for on-site employees, or the security team is using the main holo-projector for a sportsball viewing. While it offers more chaos to work with, it means any info they have on movements, people, and locations will be wildly inaccurate.
- Overclocked Defenders: The security team has been outfitted with powerful short-term boosters. They’re faster, more accurate, and hardier—but only for a short time. The team will have to figure out how to delay them or uncover a method to utilize the additional stress the upgrades put on their opponents’ bodies.
- Parasitic Defense Implants: Target site employees have accepted an implant, either for a bump in pay or as a condition of employment. As a backup security measure, admins can activate these—mutating and turning the employee into a ravenous monster which can get in the way of any infiltration team. Removal should be possible, especially after the team sees the first couple of office drones turn.
- Phase Weaponry: The defender has access to weapons which can fire through walls and obstacles without damaging them. They can use x-ray scopes or on-site surveillance to judge the shots. Calibrating the exact distance for the bullets to phase back into the real world is tough, meaning they may be highly inaccurate and slow. But that matters little to the PCs when gunfire starts up seemingly from nowhere.
- Polymorphic Architecture: The building employs adaptive architecture, allowing it to quickly and easily reconfigure to match the needs of the staff. In a pressure situation, the building can go further—working to funnel a team in specific directions, closing off access to levels, and creating disorienting features. The team will have to figure out how to hack the program running this, uncover some kind of reset vulnerability, or brute force their way through walls.
- Possessor Suits: Flexible myo-fabric panels which can move on their own and envelop targets, usually dropping over one’s head. While grabbed the suit will take over basic motor functions, putting them under the control of a mental imprint personality dedicated to protecting the site.
- Power Drain: Devices and equipment not locked into the sites matrix will begin to lose power almost immediately. This means any device may be only a single use or the team may find crucial equipment will need to be recharged in mid-mission.
- Primal Regression Fields: The site can produce a sub-sonic vibration that interferes with rational thought and disrupts higher-level thinking. While caught in this, targets react instinctively—usually with a fight or flight response.
- Psychic Android Doppelgangers: Robotic defense systems designed to take a mental snapshot of an intruder and then shift their appearance to match them. They’re designed to infiltrate a team, causing dissention and dividing their attention—while at the same time gathering information. Localized comm jammers allow them to isolate members.
- Psychogenic Echoes: The facility can take potent emotional reactions, store them, and project them back out into the ether—often this is used to reinforce happiness and satisfaction in the workplace. But it can also be used for more sinister ends—capturing the pain and fear signals when someone’s been injured and playing that back into their attackers mind.
- Quantum Locks: Hyper-encrypted locks keycoded to a biological pass code. Breaking these locks will require equally sophisticated equipment, a dedicated AI, or a clever work-around.
- Quarantine/Contamination: The team’s actions, a site failsafe, or just a complex coincidence means that a dangerous substance or disease has been released into the site. Automated lockdown protocols will be activated and those in the know will be rushing for safety and protective equipment. Depending on the situation, local authorities may become involved and move to contain the site.
- Ravenous Psychic Maelstrom: A contained psychic negative space left to patrol and absorb the not protected by specialized equipment. The Maelstrom’s difficult to fight, but generates a field of anxiety which targets can use to sense its approach. Some have theorized that you could open your mind to it, allowing you insight and visions of the situation at hand, but that seems super dangerous…
- Raid by Authorities: Entry into the site has come at a terrible time as local authorities have decided to raid it on a pretext. This may be a legitimate raid or cover for another operation. It may also be that the team’s client has set them up. They’ll have to decide how much noise and heat they can afford to create.
- Remote Decoy Dolls: Robots designed to look like ordinary, panicked on-site workers. The team may find them hiding in a break room or desperately trying to complete work at their desk. These decoys will try to go along with the team. Then when they reach a non-critical section of the facility, they explode.
- Resource Interdiction: Something the team counted on on-site has been taken or destroyed: utility outfit disguises, hidden pre-set hacking tools, their inside operative. Now they have to figure out a way around it and uncover if the removal was accidental or deliberate.
- Retrograde Memory Barrage: This device captures deeply buried psychic engrams and broadcasts back to their source giving them hallucinations, flashbacks, and guilt pangs. Less aggressive systems may simply make the subject believe they’re back to an earlier moment in the day, disorienting them.
- Revolutionary Tinderbox: Tensions between political or social forces at the site have built up into deadly powder keg. Each side is waiting for an excuse to strike at the other. The team may want to push the button on this set up, but may not be fully prepared for the consequences.
- Rogue Mecha: Scientists on site have been working to reactivate a massive mechanical armored biped. This may be a relic of a lost society, the creation of a mad scientist, or some kind of repurposed cyber-weapon. In any case, the team’s entry into the situation has shattered controls and overcome failsafe checks allowing the deadly and massive foe free rein in the site.
- Sensor Cloaks: The security team has been outfitted with multi-frequency sensor blockers. This could be a single, skilled agent or a team equipped with devices to allow them to coordinate. They will attempt to divide and conquer any team.
- Sentient Art Installation: High-end sculptures, paintings, decorative vases and the like are actually carefully crafted hunter-killer robots, though with a higher aesthetic than the usual murderbots. Experts will be able to identify forgeries from fakes, hopefully before everyone’s dead.
- Shared Consciousness Defense Team: The defenders have a fully connected network, allowing them to share insights, information, and thoughts at all times. They can coordinate their actions with precision. Surprising them will require timing and speed.
- Short-term Mindwipe: In the middle of the mission, the team finds themselves suddenly in another location, dealing with another obstacle. If they’re facing agents, those troops may also be disoriented. Everyone has had the last X segment of time wiped from their memories. This means the team may not know what they have or have not accomplished in the mission. Note: this is a good way to start an op in medias res.
- Sonic Hounds: Sonic-field constructs made of condensed auditory vibrations. Invisible to the eye, they can control sound in their local area—with only a low frequency emanation or tell-tale sound to alert their targets. Their vibrations can rend flesh and tear bone like a sonic disruptor with teeth.
- Subliminal Mesmer Audio: It functions at just below human hearing, a background pattern design to induce compliance and control. The longer the team operates in the site, the more the pattern can change their thinking. Some versions work to create false narratives or emotional spikes in intruders.
- Supersonic Multipliers: Sections of the site have been protected with amplification sound systems which pick up the tiniest sound, play it back louder, and then repeat creating a destructive wall of vibrations which can shatter ear drums and break bones. The team will have to disrupt the setup, hack the system, or find a way to eliminate sounds over a certain volume.
- Tailored Infective: The defense system’s designed to suck up any loose bio-matter: shed skin, blood, perspiration, and use that to print a virus tailored to a specific person. Recalibrating the system takes time.
- Telekinetic Holograms: Simple holo projections prove themselves to be extra dangerous when combined with directed force fields and magnetic beams.
- Telepathic Construct Mental Locks: Each lock is telepathic bio-organism which must be mentally connected with to activate. While not sophisticated, these bio-locks can recognize authorized persons and pick up on ill intent. They can be communicated with if the agent keeps themselves focused.
- Vacuum Breach Protocols: Sections of the facility have machinery designed to expunge all air—it could be simply opening doors to the vacuum of space or running high powered pumps.
- Vapor Wasps: These strange tailored insects have a gaseous form which can drift and enter into small spaces—ventilators, in shoes, under clothes. They seek out perspiration and blood. Once in place they solidify and sting, often en masse. The trick is detecting them become they can manifest.
- Voltaic Barrage Fields: Defensive barriers including modulating cascades of electrical energy—designed to overload equipment, electrocute attackers, and disrupt shields. These have to charge up and so operate on a regular pattern though the speed of the system means only those with the most heightened reflexes can evade.
- VR Troopers: The site has a secret, sophisticated array of systems to hack into the HUDs, Augmented Reality Displays, and similar systems used by intruders. Then their agents enter into this virtual space as ghosts—changing information and attacking cyber-implants. They can be fought in the network or dealt with irl if the team can find their secure location.
This is the second half of my list of obstacles for sci-fi bounties and jobs. You can find the first part here. As someone pointed out regarding the first part, many of these could be adapted for fantasy settings as well. Mechanically for Blades in the Dark style games, you can either roll some of these ahead of time or as you go along. Especially if the players are going in a little blind, they're great to throw out as the result of an engagement roll just to see how creative they can be will flashbacks.
If you want more lists, resources, tools, and ideas, check out the Table of Contents for all of The Gauntlet Blog.