Categorized | Features, Game Designers

Enter the Cyclops’s Cave…An Interview with Matthew Dawkins

Posted on March 21, 2022 by Flames

Onyx Path publishing started a new Storypath game line with They Came From Beneath the Sea! where they explored 50’s science fiction movies and all the horror and humor of the genre. They then jumped into the 70s with They Came From Beyond the Grave!. Now they have recently launched a new Kickstarter project to take characters into fantasy adventures inspired by Jason and the Argonauts, Conan the Barbarian, Xena: Warrior Princess, and more.

They Came from the Cyclops’s Cave! sees characters ranging from heroic swordsmen and cunning sorceresses to charming minstrels and agile scoundrels, embarking on quests designed to evoke the majesty of fantasy movies and television shows from the 1940s onward. Whether you’re looking to channel an epic like The Thief of Bagdad or grim fantasy such as The Sword and the Sorcerer, Cyclops’s Cave! has everything you need for swashbuckling, noble heroism, and monster slaying.

The Flames Rising crew is pleased to present an interview with Matthew Dawkins, the co-developer for They Came from the Cyclops’s Cave. In this interview, Matthew talks about inspirations for the game, as well as different styles of play, and more!

What is your elevator pitch for They Came from the Cyclops’s Cave!?

    Play in a cinematic fantasy game drawing inspiration from everything from the Voyages of Sinbad and The Odyssey through to Conan the Barbarian and Hawk the Slayer. In Cyclops’s Cave, you can play one of six varied fantasy Archetypes complete with cinematic powers, magic effects, and everything that makes fantasy media so hammy, melodramatic, and overwrought. As with the other They Came From games, Cyclops’s Cave treats its inspirations with reverence while pulling on the parts that we find the most fun, to make for a genuinely entertaining roleplaying experience.

    What were some of your favorite inspirations when designing They Came from the Cyclops’s Cave!?

      My co-developer Michele Masala would probably name a lot of epic fantasy, sword and sandals media like Xena, Clash of the Titans, and a lot more of the early fantasy movies in the Harryhausen mold. For me, I look mainly to the sword and sorcery genre of the 1980s, with the aptly named Sword and the Sorcerer being a primary inspiration.

      What kinds of characters make for interesting stories in They Came from the Cyclops’s Cave! games?

        The best characters are the ones who jar with the setting, somewhat. Heroes should be exceptions to the world in which they appear, rather than the norm. This is why our Archetypes are things like Champion (who wants to be a lowly warrior?) and Inhuman (because an ogre or gorgon is a lot more fun than a boring old supporting character with rugged looks and a mullet). I can look at any of the characters from the Masters of the Universe franchise, for instance, and slot them into this game.

        What are some of the antagonists and other challenges characters in They Came from the Cyclops’s Cave! deal with during a typical adventure?

          Well monsters certainly play a large part in Cyclops’s Cave, with a wide array of fantasy staples, including some with twists. I’m particularly happy with how we’ve presented Orcs (Orx in this game) for instance. Characters can expect challenges that meet the classic heroic callings, involving quests against beasts, to find treasure, to seal a romance, or to defend the king against a foul and depraved sorcerer. If it’s been in a fantasy movie, novel, or TV show, you can find it here.

          Can They Came from the Cyclops’s Cave! be used for other fantasy genres?

            Absolutely. While we say in the book that it most closely emulates fantasy media from the 1930s to mid 1990s (arguing the Lord of the Rings movies are where fantasy cinema started being critically praised), you can stretch it pretty simply to fantasy in space in the form of Star Wars, or make the fantasy more grim, like A Song of Ice and Fire. They Came From games are flexible by design.

            What were some of the biggest challenges during the playtesting of this book?

              Honestly, I don’t encounter many as I’ve ran so many They Came From games. The most common confusion arises from players who have been taught not to metagame, not to make comedy references, and basically, to take everything at the table utterly seriously. They Came From isn’t a deadly serious game (unless you want it to be), so getting the players to relax into just having fun can something be a challenge.

              They Came From Cyclops Cave! is just only half of this Kickstarter project. What can you tell us about They Came From [CLASSIFIED]!?

                CLASSIFIED is a game covering one of my favourite media genres: espionage. Bond, The Avengers, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart.. They’re all represented in this game, and for my money, it’s been the most entertaining They Came From to work on. Whether you embrace the camp of The Saint or Austin Powers, or opt more for the seriousness of Smiley’s People or the Ipcress File, CLASSIFIED has you covered.

                How would crossovers work with the They Came From… game lines?

                  The They Came Froms are designed as modular. In other words, the rules differences between each are minimal, and Archetypes, Cinematics, Quips, Tropes, and antagonists can easily be ported from one game to another. For example, I’ve been running a long CLASSIFIED game in which one player is a Survivor from Beneath the Sea! and another is a Mystic from Beyond the Grave!, because both Archetypes fit perfectly well into a Live and Let Die style campaign. With them, the players use their favourite Cinematics and Quips from those games despite the CLASSIFIED backdrop.

                  What can you tell us about the creative team on these books?

                    As mentioned, the talented Michele Masala was my co-developer on Cyclops’s Cave!, and he did a wonderful job, especially considering it was one of his first in the developer chair. We had incredible writers on these books too, but I want to give a special shout-out to the artists, who never receive enough credit: Larry Blamire and Durwin Talon for their full-page poster style artworks for Cyclops and CLASSIFIED, respectively, and Aaron Riley for his Archetype pieces, deserve applause. I’m immensely proud of the creators behind both books.

                    Are there any Actual Plays where we can see the games in action?

                      Check out Red Moon Roleplaying for an ongoing They Came from [CLASSIFIED]! game (and an upcoming They Came from the Cyclops’s Cave! game), and tune into the Onyx Path Twitch channel this Friday for a Cyclops’s Cave! one-shot!

                      What kinds of stretch goals are you hoping for?

                        I’d love to fund a sourcebook of sufficient size to handle explosive action movies of the Schwarzenegger variety, but we shall see!

                        Find out more information and back this project at!

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