Below is a Recollection–this is not a review, but rather a full spoiler walkthrough of the author’s experience in Screenshot Production’s The Rope in 2016. As this event will not occur again, spoilers should not be a worry. The Rope is described as a fantasy role-playing immersive experience with heavy character interaction and a strong focus on exploration and discovery.
I arrive at a dark, deserted street in downtown Los Angeles for Screenshot Productions’ The Rope. Street lights illuminate the way, but there is another light—a lantern, shining from the end of an alley. Holding the lantern is a figure in a black robe, beckoning me closer. I reach him, and he blindfolds me and leads me further down the alley and into a small alcove.
As my blindfold is removed, I see a roaring fire, contained in a hexagonal metal bowl. Surrounding the fire is pillows, furs, and rugs. I hear the wind rustle by as I take my seat on a nearby fur, warming my hands by the fire. As the remainder of my group is led in and takes their place by the fire, the Shaman, Medullarum, begins to speak.
He recounts a tale of a land seen in our dreams. A land covered in fog—formless, empty, yet still part of the fabric of reality. A great fire is set upon the land, and with it comes many things: progress and disparity, heat and cold, life and death, and light and darkness. This land was known as Conscentia, and it was a beacon of civilization for the age of man.
But time changes all things, and from the North, a being rose to power. Through coercion and manipulation, he subjugated the land about him. He struck fear into the hearts of his subjects, created barriers between brothers, and hate between people. Death and decay became his hallmark… and by the time his life had ended, only darkness remained.
The Shaman then turned to each of us.
“My children, listen very intently to the words I will now impart. A quest stands before each of thee. Thou must enter into the ashes of this lost world and restore Conscentia to its former glory. If thou art willing, I have the power to transport thee into this world. Thou must only trust me…”
He then passes around a large goblet filled with a dark liquid. “Now, drink from the cup and enter into the flame.” I drink and feel warm. We stand, and enter a small door. A platform begins to move, and the Shaman imparts some advice to me: “If thou findeth oneself at an impasse in thine quest, find one of my kin, Sophus, to guide thee. Thou will know her by her red cloak, and her table of what thou might refer to as eccentricities.”
And then he whispers closely:
“Look for a woman bound from a land lost. Will you recoil, or help at all costs?”
The door opens, revealing three ropes stretching into darkness. I choose one, and begin to travel. I pass trees and snow, and a man lying on the ground. But I continue to follow the rope, and soon after I come across a woman lying on her back with her hands bound. I leave the rope and rush to her, untying her hands.
“Most gracious. I am deeply obliged. I am Veneficia. I cannot stay here long. So, before I disappear, allow me to ask one thing. My home is the home of ancient sorceries. My hope is to pass this profound knowledge to thee, with thine approval. Would this be of assistance to thee?”
I quickly agree, and she hands me a token—symbolizing the sorceries of her land. She then continues, telling me of a creature of the Abyss who threatened her. If it weren’t for the great knight Eques, she would have perished. She shies away—suddenly aware of her fanciful musings. She sees that she owes her life to both Eques and I, and comments again to our sharing of true greatness. I move on, with token in hand.
I continue on the path, and the rope appears to end at a small cavernous like room. A table with candles and a woman in a red cloak sit before me. The fortune teller—Sophus! I sit before her and present my token to her. She inspects it and then lays out a series of cards before me. She flips one over and then recites the following:
“Look for the one huddled in the snow, He will tell you which way you ought to go.”
I follow the rope back out and return to the fallen man I passed. He is curled up next to a bare tree in the snow. “Praise the gods above! My name is Perditus.” He moves closer to me, clutching my hands. “I have been travelling for years, seeking the great realm of Conscientia. I have heard tales of its splendor, of its wealth, and I desire it greatly. Do you seek it as well?” I tell him I seek knowledge, not wealth. He ponders this for a moment and then his face reveals excitement. He asks me to find Conscientia and return to him once I have. He hands me a token with an ornate leaf upon it.
I take the token back to the fortune teller. She flips a new card and instructs me:
“Seek within the foggy marsh, a rose quartz gem. Present it to me, and I’ll show you to them.”
I follow the rope back to the start, and choose a new rope to follow. I pass more trees, other travelers in their quest, and two ghastly figures clad in white. Eventually I enter a new area full of fog. The fog is dense, but I believe this is the marsh, so I get on the hands and knees. The ground is soft and spongey as I feel around for the rose quartz gem. I hear noises from behind and I turn to see a haggard looking man before me.
“What is it that you seek in Conscentia?”
I tell him that I come for the rose quartz gem. And upon the end of my sentence, he pulls out the gem from under his cloak.
“The old woman must have sent you here for this. She will continue sending you to fetch items for her, but have you stopped to ask yourself this is? What is she using these items for after you gift them to her? What is she really helping you find? Are you nearer to the gates of Consentia than when you started this quest? The rose quartz is yours if you want it. You surely can bring it back and await for whatever challenge is next. Or you can take this clear quartz and keep it for yourself. Riches may await you in Conscentia but I can tell you that the value of this gem far outweights whatever you will find there. The choice is yours, friend.”
I weigh the options in my head. My word, my quest… or riches promised by a single gem. I decide to stay on my quest and I ask for the rose quartz. He looks disappointed, but he gives it to me and sends me on my way. I feel empowered that I was not swayed in my quest.
I return to the fortune teller. I hand her the rose quartz gem, but she tells me to keep it. She flips another card and reads to me.
“Under the trees of red, amidst fire and flame, meet the King who was exiled. Exul is his name.”
I follow the rope until I come across an elevated platform with red trees upon it. I climb up onto it, but before I can full get onto it, I grabbed forcefully by man. “How dare you show your face to me here of all places!!” He pushes me to the floor and places his hands around my neck, choking me. “Was it not enough that you took my throne?” His grip is tightened around my throat as I try to speak. “Must you take my family, my honor, my very way of life?!” He loosens his grip and I explain to him I am but a humble traveler. I did not take his throne, but I pledge myself to help him regain it. At this, his rage subsides and he collapses to the floor next to me.
“I… don’t know what came over me. Years have passes, seasons have come and gone, and I am… content with my life. I have made peace with what happened and made a new life for myself in the red hills. Clearly you are no better off. I know what you seek… insatiably… without rest… and I know it will never come to pass. Despite this, there is still something that can be done about your own world, your own people, your own reality.”
He then pulls out a token with a sigil on it. “This is the symbol of your people. Although you have attempted to divide and disseminate, displaying this publicly may unify us all once again. I cannot force you to take it, but I implore you, seek peace, seek strength, seek Conscentia.” I wonder why he thinks I am the one who had taken the throne from him, but also feel he has lost his grip on reality. But if taking his token will help him feel some peace, I will do so. I leave him to live out his days in the red hills.
I return to the fortune teller and a new quest awaits:
“Follow the Song to seek the light. Seek the Sisters dressed in white.”
I remember them from my path to the marsh, so I head back in that direction. I hear ethereal humming as I approach.
“We knew you were coming… and stopped singing…” Their words are whimsical and lyrical. They speak together as one. And in concert, they lean forward to whisper their words into my ears.
“We are Canticum. We are here to sing to those bound by Death and dark. We will sing here, forever, as we always have, from long, long ago. We know nothing of the world outside, and why should we? For we will never leave. Do you seek Light? What is light, after all? We know nothing of the world outside, for we will never leave What do you want from us, do you seek Conscientia too? Choose to take with you either the dark or the light. This is all we can offer you.”
One sister holds out a candle, the other holds a dark black stone. I pondered my choice. I felt that the dark stone better reflected their needs to comfort those bound by the dark and the comfort they provide. I embrace my darkness and close my fingers around the small rock.
The fortune teller tells me of my next quest:
“Seek the one nearing death. Will you assist in his dying breath?”
I find a man lying in a pile of dirt and as I approach he reaches out, weakly grabbing onto me. “What are you doing here? Do you not remember me? It is me, Eques. My liege, though you sent me an armada of men to conquer other realms, there is nothing beyond the gates of Conscientia. You lord over this entire world. Your greed must be satisfied, how much is enough? I pray, stop what you are doing. Make peace with your people, make peace with yourself.” I nod along with him, realizing that I was much more than I thought I was when I began the quest. “Now that you know, I can die with hope my heart. Now take this, may it remind you of my words.” He hands me a token. “If you could find it in your heart, as I depart from this world, place this veil over my body. Finish what you started. It was after all, you who put me here.” I feel guilt, but I will respect his last wishes. I take a thin blanket, and cover his frail body in it.
I return to the fortune teller and present her the last token. With all collected, she opens a small portal behind her, and asks me to crawl through.
I enter a very dark room and am grabbed by an unknown woman. She begins to tell me a story. A story that begins long ago in a far off land. A story of a girl with hair black as night, born under no special circumstances. The world knew not of her arrival, of her family, or of what she would ultimately become.
Each night, her mother would tell her tales of a far off land of warmth and resplendence. A world that to her, offered far more than the cold, unassuming world that she now knew. She spent her childhood dreaming of this world, and thus, took it upon herself to leave this dark world in search of the glorious one from her stories. She traveled for weeks, pilfering food and drink where she could. One day she came across a fellow companion who brought light and joy into her steps. However, this joy was short lived, for in a dreary bog, the man was lost forever, leaving behind a rose colored stone for her, said to lead the way to the land in her stories.
After years of searching, she found this marvelous land. She marveled at the towering structures, the throngs of people, and the seemingly endless sights, smells, and sounds. However, this was not enough, and the girl imagined what might lie within the castle walls, to have power over all the beings she saw around her. And she did not have to imagine long, for in her wanderings she soon happened upon a strange woman who granted her powers she could not imagine. She could now manipulate light and heat in any way she saw fit. She entered the castle with flames shooting from her hands. Fire was everywhere by the time she reached the throneroom. She didn’t even have to speak before the great king Exul dropped his crown before her feet, bowing before her. She cast him and his family out, extinguishing the flames in the castle with a simple thought. She was the new ruler of this land.
And what better name for this land then her own… it was now to be called Conscientia.
The storyteller reveals herself as Conscientia’s mother, and begs me to save the soul of her daughter. I crawl back through the portal, to the start of the ropes. A Shaman awaits me and once again blindfolds me. He then grabs my hand and leads me up a seemingly endless flight of stairs. As I reach the end, we stop.
“What do you hear?”
I stop to listen and hear chimes in the distance. “Bells” I say.
“What do you feel?”
A wind picks up at this moment, and I realize I am outside. “Cold” I respond.
He takes off my blindfold, and I see candles leading across the roof to a large tent. The space is adorned with lanterns, ropes, furs, pillows, incense, and other oddities. A beautiful woman sits at its center.
“Who are you to come before me? Who are you to walk this marked path? Why do you think you are here? To stand as heroes before your people? Do you even know that which you carry? I am the Lord of Conscentia, and I welcome you to my throne room. I beseech you to take a seat and lay your riches before me. You there, what is that you carry, as if offerings to a god? Choose something to present to me and lay it before you.”
I chose my item and lay it before her. She speaks to me of its importance, its meaning and the path I’ve taken. She tells me that I was sent here from my world at her request. She requested that the Shaman find those strong of mind and spirit to relive these key moments in her life. It was her that freed Veneficia, the bound girl I met at the start of my quest, and through it obtained her power. It was her that sent Eques to his death over greed and usurped the throne from Exul. She had been consumed with living in another world spending years obsessing over power, sacrificing endless time, resources, and lives to harness it, but all to no avail. She continued to speak:
“In this time, the world crumbled around me. Though I had a substantial and satisfying world around me, I only cared for that which I did not have. Only now can I begin to see this, but the hour is late. However, it is not too late for you. Go from this place, holding within you our time together. Do not forsake your own lives for powers promised as I have. Instead, rise from your seats and seek towards the roots of your true nature.”
I stand, empowered with my new mission. And I exit the tent back into my world, my reality, ready to claim my own path without the illusions of promised power dancing before me.