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Minireview: Walker in the Wastes

Walker in the Wastes is the first big Cthulhu campaign published by Pagan, and it can be quite difficult to find nowadays. I hunted eBay for quite a while before finding my copy, and it wasn’t exactly cheap. I do wish Pagan would do a reprint of this one…

Besides “rare”, what, then, is it? Well, it’s a huge “classic era” (1928 to be exact) campaign for Call of Cthulhu, kicking off with an expedition to the same area where the legendary lost Franklin Expedition vanished in the ice and the wind, 80 years previously. While extensive historical research points to the expedition having perished to a combination of starvation, scurvy, exposure and lead poisoning, this scenario posits that there may have been something more to that list of horrors. What starts off as a fairly mundane scientific expedition slowly becomes more sinister in true Cthulhu fashion. Something dangerous and non-human stalks the icy wastes, and the native “Eskimo” tribes on the ice aren’t talking much and aren’t necessarily all that friendly either.

The first expedition to the ice is intended to kick off a series of escalating events, some of which require the players to go globetrotting in search of clues. Clues to what? Why, a cult that wants to awaken an ancient god, of course! This is Cthulhu, after all, gotta have those cultists! I do have to say that the cult here is quite intelligently portrayed, and is quite far from the stereotypical “bunch of morons in robes” scene. I’d expect the body count on the PC side to rise fast, unless they are very careful.

This campaign will require a lot of GM prep to run. While it’s interesting and contains a lot of stuff (it’s over 200 pages long), the scope of this one is just so huge that those 200 pages are nowhere enough. Don’t expect to just pick this one up and run it… the author (John H. Crowe III) says that about four years of research went into writing this thing, and while you won’t need four years of GM prep in addition to that, you will need to do some amount of work. The campaign says it’s intended for “experienced Keepers and players”, and that’s a fair enough warning. I think this would be a really cool game to run or to play in, though, so I think that prepwork will probably be very much worth it.

After a fairly linear start the campaign becomes extremely freeform. At times I had trouble figuring out why exactly the PCs would go to a given remote corner of the globe – but to the author’s credit, the campaign doesn’t assume all the leads will be uncovered or followed. The end will be less likely to result in a total party kill if most leads are followed – but I can see this one branching in lots of different directions. Most of them deadly to the PCs, of course.

In sum… a huge, complex and demanding campaign, but one which probably rewards effort put into it. This and Beyond the Mountains of Madness are the two big arctic-focused Cthulhu campaigns that exist… and both are justly famous.

Oh, and this one has zeppelins in it. Can’t go wrong with those.

Published on by Orava, tags , , , , ,

  • Gravatar

    by Lönkka

    $120 sure sounds like a Big Pile TM of moolah! Then again it apparently is one of the best campaigns ever published. Just wait a while and see how the rates of exchange move even more towards euro’s favor and purchase it then :)

    You haven’t gotten Grace, which means you haven’t read it. Hmmm, perhaps I should run it again for our gaming group. Mehears the sound of sonar again.


  • Gravatar

    by Orava

    Yeah, I’d love to get my hands on Horror on the Orient Express or Grace Under Pressure, but no luck so far. Horror shows up on eBay now and then, but so far the prices have risen so high ($120+) that I’ve given it a miss. Grace I haven’t seen yet, it seems to be very hard to find.

  • Gravatar

    by Lönkka

    I don’t know if Pagan has ever done any reprints besides the core Delta Green book.

    I recall seeing/ hearing/ dreaming years ago that apparently this has something to do with the agreement thay have with Chaosium which allows them to publish only a certain number of CoC -books each year. This includes reprints. Then again I might be completely wrong on this…

    AFAIK initial sales of (new) products make up the majority of publisher sales and with reprints these numbers are apparently much much lower. Even if secondary market is asking for an arm and a leg for copies of earlier printing. This might be the reason why Chaosium doesn’t do any reprinting either besides the rulebooks and the couple other core books. So no reprints of the Horror on the Orient Express on the horizon :(

    I’ve GMd a few of the Pagan scenarios and I quite like their material. Devil’s Children and Grace Under Pressure -the latter with horde or props and another GM so that we could split up the group easily. It REALLY rocked! With Pagan you have much better chances getting quality content than with Chaosium’s own supplements which vary a lot in quality.

    I only wish I had gotten my mitts on more issues of the absurdly excellent Unspeakable Oath -magazine that they used to do!

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