If the purpose of the obstacles was to prevent anyone from stealing the stone, why would the broom that's required to catch the key stored in the same room? Why not store the broom elsewhere?

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    It was all a honeypot by Dumbledore, set up to lure the Dark Lord there. If Harry and his friends didn't intervene, Quirrel could have passed all the deceptively easy obstacles, but would then have been stuck at the Mirror of Erised without a way to get the stone. Dumbledore would have then arrested him when he returned. This also gave Harry a fair chance to fight the Dark Lord if he did enough preparation. – b_jonas May 19 '12 at 11:58

If you analyze it like that then why keep the vials for the potions, just keep huge containers instead,why keep the pieces along with the chessboard and so on.. I think the challenges conceived by each of Hogwart's professor was to keep the intruders out, but allow authorized people in

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    +1 - excellent! Though the skeptic in me wonders - if three random 11 year olds beat all the puzzles, just who was supposed to have successfully been kept out? :))) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 24 '12 at 11:30
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    But it's not three random 11 year olds. It's Harry Potter and crew! But yeah - I thought that as well when I read it. Seemed silly to me. I have nothing backing this up but I also assumed that Dumbledore probably had some way of knowing when somebody was seriously attempting to get the stone (through some spell or charm) and the initial tasks are there to slow the person down so they don't have as much time at the mirror. It's fairly clear that anybody trying to steal the stone wouldn't be able to pass the last task on their own though. – Dason Jan 24 '12 at 16:11
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    @DVK You forget that Harry and his friends was able to pass all the obstacles due to a lot of facts. They knew how to deal with Fluffy because Hagrid told them, they got through the chess because there were three of them (Ron could sacrifice himself), they didn't have to deal with the troll, Hermione was on good terms with logic which is not common for magicians as she said that, and also Harry could get the stone out of the mirror because he had no desire to use. So the protection was decent enough. Quirrell and Voldemort failed to get the stone, after all. – Malcolm Apr 6 '12 at 11:07
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    @Malcolm Also, Quirrell had to be told how to get past Fluffy as well. He tricked Hagrid into telling him. – JFA Jun 11 '14 at 15:36

It's the book plot's analogy of Point-and-Click interface games. To give an excellent description of the concept from "Overthinking It"'s "Are You There, God? It’s-a Me, Mario!" (aka "Video Games Anthropic Principle") article:

In a P&C there’s a finite number of obtainable items in the world and limited combinations of or uses for items that will actually do anything. The trick is getting the right items and then doing the right things with them to accomplish the task at hand and progress to the next puzzle.

The P&C gameworld is one in which there’s a place for everything, and your job is to put everything in its place. Meaning that each object you encounter is there for a reason, and has its own utility and purpose that will go unfulfilled until you activate it with your human agency.

As Joshua so excellently noted, every single task in SS is designed that way.

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