When I was in high school, and started playing AD&D, I had a bit of a struggle with a section of the Dungeon Master’s Guide where it described the idea of “keyed” encounters- encounters that only appear in a given area of a dungeon once certain conditions are met. This was the kind of concept that was simultaneously too simple and too complex to grasp- of course I understood basic causality and was confused as to why the DMG would mention something so obvious and simple, but I struggled with the realization that, fundamentally, any interactive quest/dungeon/cyoa story/whatever could be realized in the form of a flow chart.
Or, if you prefer, as a sort of program.
While I struggled with it at the time (described a quest or a dungeon in those terms seemed to rob D&D of some of it’s magic, I suppose), it helped me realize something which you might have found I like having a little fun with in Harem Collector: A key can be anything you want it to be. Sure it could be as simple as flipping a switch, or actually having a physical key, but it doesn’t have to be. In Resident Evil, a key could be a mechanically unlikely art installation. In metroidvanias, skills like double-jumping or the ability to roll can act as keys. In RPGs, having spoken to a specific person frequently acts as a key, or having a certain party member if that particular game has field abilities.
So I try and have fun with it. The Golden Tomb “Knight of” enemies are just a mechanically interesting (I hope) way of presenting a “guess which key goes with which lock” kind of puzzle, and I really like moments like the Expanding Foam/Foam Key and the Wyld Seeds, but my personal favourite is the bench from “Hall Monitor From Hell”. Especially that meaty thunk of having the Hero slam it down. I don’t know why, but it feels very satisfying to me.
Now, I’m not just mentioning this randomly- you can look forward to a couple interesting “keys” to show up in the v0.41 update to Harem Collector, one of which I went out of my way to grab some special assets for. So, get hyped- it’s only a week away for backers!- and get ready because I think you’re really going to like this update!