IFComp 2015: Sub Rosa: 5 out of 7 points   8 comments

By Joey Jones and Melvin Rangasamy. Not yet finished. No hints/walkthrough used.


So while Sub Rosa was entered in a competition where playtime is intended to be 2 hours or less, I could tell I was going to exceed that and I decided it was worth it to treat the game as a whole rather than stop in the middle or rush through a walkthrough.

If I’m finding the puzzles solid enough that I don’t want to ruin them, and that’s a good sign. However, now that I’ve passed the 4 hour mark I figured it was worth checking in. This is therefore only a semi-review and I’m going to do some experiential blogging about my play experience rather than just evaluation.

At last you tip-toe into echo-prone confines of the Destine Mansion, each room carved out of what was once a small mountain. You sacrificed three toes to learn how many secrets would bring the Confessor down. Seven. There are seven deceits you know can be found in these halls and you won’t leave until you know them.

Sub Rosa is set in a completely original world in the “Age of Lead”. After a long, long preparation, you infiltrate the residence of Confessor Destine to steal his secrets.

I’m quite serious about “completely original” — I can’t think of anything to compare it to, even by combining together multiple authors. A lot of the appeal and difficulty is getting a grip on the setting.

The prose manages the delicate trick of conveying an epic and alienlike world without being overbearing.

Every secret heard is an awakening to a fresh world both more explicable and more unpleasant than the one you woke to before. The more the secrets allow you to understand, the worse you feel about the world. Each secret is a dose of pleasure and pain in equal proportions. As your mastery grows so does your despondency. The more you learn the more you realise there is so much that you do not yet know that you do not know. The desire for new secrets grows with each awakening. Eventually you awake to a world where your experience is so far removed from that of others that it is like they are sleepwalking. Where others shuffle, you could stride were the weight upon you not so vast. Knowledge without end. This is the Confessor’s Burden.

The position of the Confessor strikes me a little like the philosopher-king of Plato, but instead of stepping out of the world of form and seeing truth, the Confessor takes truth in the form of secrets from others and attains power by doing so.

The overall strangeness unfortunately does mute the impact of some of the puzzle solves. At one point I got an animal to give me a secret, which I *think* is a creature that can repeat past conversations somehow? — and while I found the actual puzzle solving logically cued and satisfying, I had to scratch my chin a few minutes before I had a grip on what happened. This reduced the satisfying impact somewhat.

Another instance of one of the secrets involves a forbidden food item. However, I was not aware the food was forbidden until after the puzzle was solved and the game told me I had found a dire secret. With no idea of the rules or laws or strictures of the universe I just had to nod my head and move on.

Still, I find the immersiveness satisfying, and it is for this reason I am still plodding with no intent yet of checking the walkthrough.

The remainder of this post I’m going to discuss what I’m stuck on, so there will be even more spoilers than usual.


I’m unfortunately at the scenario I’ve before seen in my All the Adventures jaunt where I need to solve a puzzle but I don’t know where the puzzle is. There are two more secrets of the Confessor I have yet to find. Here are the things I have yet to use:

a rug
a water closet
some beetles in a jar (although I’ve used the jar itself, so the beetles might be nothing)
some books

This isn’t a lot to work with. The rug seems to have the verb ‘ENTER’ attached as well as ‘HANG’ but I have tried to hang the rug on literally every noun I could find in the house with no luck. I was wondering if the rug had some magical property that let me enter a secret.

The water closet is totally unresponsive. I would assume it is just scenery except for the amount of flailing around I’ve done I don’t want to assume anything.

The beetles are so unresponsive (the game seems to keep wanting me to refer to the jar itself) I’d say it’s a bug, but it also means they seem unlikely to be involved in any more secrets.

The game impressively implements a library with 101 books. I’ve already found 2 related secrets, but I haven’t plowed through every book and I return to check a couple every time I feel lost as to what to try next.

I do please ask nobody posts hints in the comments; I’ll ask if I need some but I’m fine for now.

(Part 2 is here)

Posted November 19, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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8 responses to “IFComp 2015: Sub Rosa: 5 out of 7 points

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  1. Good luck. I gave up too quickly, but I think you’ll be able to complete the rest on your own.

  2. No hints, gotcha.

    Regarding the forbidden food item, I too did not expect it to be forbidden until after the game revealed this to me, but in hindsight, it makes perfect sense. Worldbuilding I had already seen elsewhere in the game suggested this, but it is simply that I have experienced so many fictional universes in which the same priors didn’t necessarily lead to the same conclusion — consider ?Narnia’s distinction between Talking Animals vs. non-talking animals, for instance.

    Where are you getting the information about which verbs are “attached” to an object? That is quite interesting.

    • Well, I had already tried “enter” on the rug with the weird feeling you could jump in somehow — there’s a mention elsewhere in a book of trying to find a secret underneath the floors — and it gave the message how it wasn’t positioned right for that (I forget exactly) so I assumed it needed to be hung like the curtain, except it didn’t work on the curtain pole or anything else. HANG gives the message that it *should* hang on something, just not the object I was trying it on, but that’s nearly all the objects in the game.

  3. Pingback: Sub Rosa: Finishing | Renga in Blue

  4. This might be a little bit of an old post, and maybe you figured it out by now, but here are some hints.
    When you inspect the rug, the pattern has doors and keys. This rug can serve as an entryway. What you DO with the rug is either drop it on or put it on the floor or an item (hint: garden and kitchen) and type PULL RUG.
    While the water closet is NOT enterable, you CAN interact with it. There is a detail described about it when you inspect it- soon enough you will Close the case.
    Try some more liquid-centered books. Maybe…literally.
    You will come back to the refresher for about 2 secrets.


  5. Pingback: Gargoyle Castle (1980) | Renga in Blue

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