It’s a term meaning “under the rose”, and it denotes secrecy, silence and conspiracy. The phrase has no single origin; it might refer to the rose as a symbol of silence and the Greek god Harpocrates, as well as a symbol of secrecy originating from a story of Aphrodite giving a rose to Harpocrates to ensure that her indiscretions remained silent and secret. In ancient Rome, roses were painted or carved in the ceilings of banquet rooms, ensuring that things said under the influence of wine would remain under the rose. In Christian confessionals, the phrase and the symbol of a five-petalled rose are sometimes invoked to reinforce silence and secrecy. Modern security services and agencies will use the term for covert operations, and the phrase even finds its home in meetings in parliaments that are held “off the record”.
Sub Rosa is also a game, but it’s not solely about secrecy. A key element of the Sub Rosa game is conspiracy, downfall, secrets and lies and the dangers inherent in all of them. It’s a game that takes place in a dark city, where players take on the role of Inquisitors of the Sub Rosa Society, a secret society within a larger church which has taken on a mandate of guarding the city from corruption, collapse, chaos and heresy. Their work is paramount, secret, and rife with conspiracy and the ever-present threat of the evil within. The Inquisitors are sanctified; all they do in the name of their society is forgiven and allowed. Can anyone’s conscience survive doing evil to prevent it? Will they find that the collapse of society is simply a mirror of what’s happening within them?
One player takes on the role of the Lord Inquisitor, the high master of the society. He’s an enigmatic, cruel and bird-like figure who seemingly delights in watching his underlings suffer for his causes, personal or otherwise. He often instructs the cell (a collective term for the inquisitors) to perform certain tasks or investigations on his behalf. The player of the Lord Inquisitor is therefore not just responsible for this one character, but also for every investigation the Inquisitors take on. That means giving the players the leads they’ll need to progress, tracking their blessings, playing any characters they interact with and so on. At the end of every game, the cell will report their version of what they did to the Lord Inquisitor, who -of course- already knows everything that occurred during the mission thanks to his hidden eyes and ears and will judge them based on their success… or failure.