• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is coming! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

Raiders of R’lyeh: An Interview with Quentin Bauer

Raiders of R’lyeh: From the Tideless Sea is a recent kickstarter by Quentin Bauer. Quentin was kind enough to talk to me about his new supplement and his pulp and Lovecraftian RPG, Raiders of R’lyeh.

Raiders of R’lyeh: From the Tideless Sea is a recent kickstarter by Quentin Bauer. Quentin was kind enough to talk to me about his new supplement and his pulp and Lovecraftian RPG, Raiders of R’lyeh.


Charles Dunwoody (Charlie): Quentin, thanks for talking with me. “Firefly in the imperial pre-Great War era, with tramp steamers!” really makes me want to play Raiders of R’lyeh: From the Tideless Sea right now. Since this game draws on pulp are the PCs a bit larger than life and sturdier than normal people? But can they still go insane?
Quentin Bauer (Quentin):
One of our design goals with RAIDERS OF R’LYEH is emulating the more “hardboiled” elements of weird and pulp fiction (capturing not only the awe and terror, but also the adventure and wonder). While madness is a potential reality for the adventurer, mental disease is not the focus of the game, but rather a potential side effect of coming into contact with the supernatural. This distinction may seem slight, but it does significantly affect the overriding feel of the setting, as well as the player experience. When it comes to the sanity system, our goal has been supporting this ethos in the mechanics. Several sources influence this direction. First, they are Lovecraft, Howard, and the original Indiana Jones film — itself a thoughtful tribute to the adventure and weird genres that inspired it, and as a result the most tightly focused of the series, tonally speaking. Considering these pulp elements, we distinguish between the types of horror a hero may face. Shock and awe includes the fear of imminent death, pain, dismemberment or annihilation. Dread and despair is different. Dread can have lingering and eroding effects, including those of moral and physical repulsion. Seeing a corpse, experiencing great loss, or enduring ongoing depravity, all fall under this category. Psychic terror includes what Algernon Blackwood calls “spiritual terror,” experiencing: the supernatural, the “Weird,” the abomination from the abyss, a pack of ghouls, etc.; or correlating clues into an inescapable reality, either in one horrible moment or over a course of reflection...These experiences cause a profound undoing of beliefs and ego. The mind either denies the reality and reinforces its own delusions, accepts the truth and changes its worldview forever, or snaps and escapes into catatonic stupor. The situation determines which skill is tested. Moments of shock and awe require tests of Willpower, while moments of dread and despair call for tests of Fortitude. Less frequently will heroes face the need to test their Rationality, as this represents the moment where every belief the adventurer holds about life and meaning is being tested. Whether testing Willpower, Fortitude, or Rationality, on a failed horror check, all damage is deducted from Rationality.


Charlie: This RPG covers pulp adventure in the Edwardian era from 1900 up to around 1914. What type of adventures does this time period offer?
The Edwardian era leading up to the Great War — roughly 1900 to 1914, or the end of the 1910s depending on the source — is such a fascinating time period. Comparatively speaking, it is still a relatively untapped era for popular media, though we are seeing more of it explored now in such things as Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders, Titanic, 1917, and so on. So communicating tropes of the era to the average gamer is a bit more challenging than, say, those of the Victorian, World War 2, or even the Cold War eras. However, this also creates an opportunity for untapped exploration. This time period is not as clear cut as having two opposing powers. Instead, we have a tapestry of powers all vying for control. By the late Edwardian, the safe assurances of these powers and their ideologies are coming to a head. This is a time of anarchy, revolution, conspiracies — populated by old money families, industrialist upstarts, spy groups, secret societies, and occult and magical fraternities. In the lead up to the Great War, there is a general sense that the world is leaving its “endless summer” and approaching a great precipice. (For more about the time period and its potential for gaming, we survey the full scope of the setting in the intro of the Gamemaster’s Guide & Complete Rules.) With our newest expansion, gamemasters may facilitate a Traveller-esque or Firefly-like type of open world game, where players assume command of a merchant vessel plying its trade in dangerous seas and eventually caught in a web of intrigue, adventure, and/or cosmic horror... Or, gamemasters may use the toolkits to randomly generate factions, ships of all sizes and designs, adventuring NPCs (both seafarers and passengers), enemy timelines, scenarios, mysteries, set pieces, and dozens of other campaign elements — to be integrated with their own settings, or with Call of Cthulhu, Basic Roleplaying, pulp, steampunk, or other d100 games (or with some creativity, integrated with Monster Island, Dracula Dossier, or Horror on the Orient Express, among other great third party creations).


Charlie: The rules are based on the OGL for RuneQuest with some new innovations. What rules new to d100 RPGs can GMs and PCs find in Raiders?
We had some specific design goals in mind when creating RAIDERS OF R’LYEH. A few of the bigger goals follow.
  1. Open-ended for CUSTOMIZATION. Other d100 games — such as Eclipse Phase and RuneQuest (various editions, especially 6) — have divided skills into common and professional categories. We did so for various reasons, one of them being the ability to easily port the rules to different times and settings. Our Cultural Backgrounds, Combat (with its tactical rules for settings that can use them), Magic, and skill organization were organized to be easily ported to various weird settings: Weird West, Indy-Pulp, Great War, Night Land, Elizabethan-Solomon-Kane, Conan-Cimmerian and so on...without the need for additional expansion material. The Common skills list (excepting Class & Credit in some cases), for instance, is appropriate for just about any setting, while the Knowledge, Science and Tradeskill skills can be easily customized for the appropriate time period. Kevin Ross — early on — offered advice about simplifying skills, and our dividing skills into a minimal Common skills list with options for adding Professional skills was one of our compromises in moving toward that goal.
  2. We spent time refining INVESTIGATION in the game, not by changing time-honored legacies and rules of the d100 system, but by layering in guidelines for facilitating mysteries, explanations, and examples for investigation-based scenarios. Circles of Influence (derived from other systems), Clue Webs and Scenario Nodes (inspired by several discussions at therpgsite.com and by Justin Alexander’s excellent three-clue rule and node-based design), Networking and Connections rules, Organization/Conspiracy Responses and Hierarchies (drawing influences from Kevin Crawford’s amazing games, roleplayingtips.com, Ken Hite’s work on Night’s Black Agents, and Elizabeth Sampat’s Blowback) were all designed to help facilitate this approach. Our focus from the beginning was to avoid investigations-on-rails.
  3. Both Chris Birch and especially the RPGPundit — early on — suggested an “OSR” approach (admittedly a loaded concept at this point) in design — meaning pushing the rules toward SANDBOXES OVER RAILROADS. Everything in the game was governed with this in mind (e.g., faction rules, location traits, clue web/node-based approach to scenario design). Kevin Crawford’s work and Justin Alexander’s blog both proved invaluable as inspirations in this effort. Dark Swamp as a scenario is an example of a node-based location, designed as a modular unit to be incorporated into a bigger conspiracy (akin to the various scenarios interconnected in Masks of Nyarlathotep).
  4. We wanted a comprehensive MYTHOS CREATURE GENERATOR rather than just a fixed set of creatures that every player memorizes — and other mythos-based and weird setting toolkits for the d100 system.
  5. We wanted mythos setting material (historical organizations, weapons, personalities, events, and so on) for the EDWARDIAN/GREAT WAR/IMPERIAL AGE.
  6. Options for “pulpier” OCCULTIST AND OCCULT DETECTIVE CHARACTERS — akin to much of Lovecraft’s original material and most of Howard’s, and to the Occult Detectives in the works of various weird writers such as William Hope Hodgson, Arthur Machen, and so on — for players who want to incorporate pulpier magic into their mythos game.
  7. We wanted a mythos-based d100 system with an OGL, one that others gamers could adapt as they see fit, with ongoing support for other designers to hack their own settings and derived rules. Going forward, we plan to create more locations, NPCs, and weird threats for the setting, and we look forward to seeing others using the system for their own creations.
  8. With the newest expansion, RAIDERS OF R’LYEH: FROM THE TIDELESS SEA, we aimed for: the ultimate rules resource for seafaring campaigns and especially those involving tramp steamers; true and full support for a world-spanning horror adventure sandbox; and, an epic, world-spanning, earth-shattering conspiracy involving world empires and cosmic forces (akin to the legendary Masks of Nyarlathotep or Shadows of Yog-Sothoth campaigns for the Call of Cthulhu RPG).

Charlie: In From the Tideless Sea, PCs comprise a tramp steamer crew in an open world horror sandbox inspired by the Sargasso Sea tales of William Hope Hodgson. What kind of adventures can GMs and PCs expect to find in this supplement?
The setting includes a wide variety of factions and an exhaustive set of options for generating new factions — with each one providing opportunities for alliances or rivalries, a hierarchy of NPCs and other investigative nodes, and potential missions for heroes to accomplish or sabotage. The patrons, allies, enemies and missions — and the toolkits for generating new missions and conspiratorial leads randomly — are quite exhaustive, providing a full spectrum of adventures. I’d be hard pressed to decide which examples to list, as I can’t think of any kind of mission that isn’t covered in the setting. Players can run a true merchant business, smuggle contraband from port to port, form military operations, engage in piracy or pirate hunting, escort people of import, turn their flagship into a floating nightclub (or a front for crime or intelligence), sabotage enemies and their logistics, follow leads to lost islands and secret locales, or investigate the weird threads unraveling a greater world-threatening conspiracy, among a myriad of other options...there are whole chapters of randomizing events, timelines and tables aimed at generating just about any kind of mission one could imagine. As it states in the pitch, the setting contains everything a gamemaster needs when heroes ditch dreamy Arkham to investigate the missing HMS Terror, to pursue coordinates found in an 18th-century wreck pointing to fabled R’lyeh, or to smuggle contraband out of Cairo right under the nose of the British Empire.


Charlie: Many readers of EN World are D&D and Pathfinder players. What would you say if they asked why should they should try one of your RPG?
This setting is a must-own for:
  • D&D and Pathfinder players wanting to investigate Lovecraftian RPG games — such as classic Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green, or Raiders of R’lyeh (Raiders of R’lyeh — in my biased opinion — is the most detailed sourcebook for the pre-Great War era, and Raiders of the R’lyeh: From the Tideless Sea is hands down the most exhaustive sourcebook for globe-trotting adventuring in the same era).
  • Lovecraftian RPG fanatics wanting a tramp steamer sourcebook and massive sandbox full of seafaring cults, strange ports of call, scheming factions, and epic conspiratorial plots
  • Traveller RPG players wanting to try the Traveller experience but with seafaring cargo liners in the pre-Great War era. In other words, “it’s Firefly in the imperial pre-Great War era, with tramp steamers!”
  • Pulp action or historical gamers wanting toolkits, toolkits, and more toolkits, plus an exhaustively researched sourcebook covering the 1900-1914 era of seafaring travel and derring-do.
Charlie: Where can gamers go to find your work?
You can buy the game at DriveThruRPG (we are exclusive with DriveThruRPG right now, but will be expanding to other stores in 2023). You can find our latest news and join the game’s mailing list at raidersofrlyeh.com.

Charlie: Any final comments you’d like to share with the readers of EN World?
RAIDERS OF R’LYEH: FROM THE TIDELESS SEA is an expansion to be used with RAIDERS OF R’LYEH and other games based on H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘Call of Cthulhu’ or on other pulp adventures. As the game mechanics are derived partly from the classic 1d100 rules that have been released under the Open Game License, they share a playable compatibility with those old school systems.

log in or register to remove this ad

Charles Dunwoody

Charles Dunwoody

Today the Lovecraftian myths can be mixed too easily by the urban legend and conspirancy theories from internet, someones telling really horrible things hapenning in the Victorian age, too horrible even to be told in a horror story.

Related Articles

Remove ads

Remove ads