Friday, August 3, 2012

The Bradford Players Present . . . Walker in the Wastes [Cthulhu]

I just finished listening to the Bradford Players' audio recording of their 23 sessions playing Walker in the Wastes, a Call of Cthulhu campaign.  My thoughts after finishing are fairly similar to what I thought listening to them play through The King in Yellow (here): they are an absolutely charming and hilarious group, and it would be a real joy listening to them play a game that has an intentionally silly aspect like Paranoia or Gamma World.  For a game like Call of Cthulhu, however, their play style is like watching an otherwise excellent horror movie on a laptop under bright lights at 1 p.m. in a raucous cafeteria--in other words, the mood that the media specializes in loses all of its effect.


It's hard to know what to think of the Walker in the Wastes campaign itself, as unlike The King in Yellow I haven't read it.  Some aspects seem pretty cool, as it sounds like the initial part is very immersive and portrays the idea of isolation and survival against the elements well.  Other aspects seem to drag on and be rather railroad-y.  The Keeper faced a veritable mutiny halfway through the campaign when some mind-control was going on, though part of that is attributable to players acting on information their characters wouldn't have.  Similarly, there was no real conclusion to the entire campaign because one of the players was tired and two of the players weren't persuaded by the necessity of conducting the big ritual that was supposed provide the dramatic climax (the PCs were supposed to have to soak these mystical tablets in at least 10 pints of blood and then provide a human sacrifice to keep an evil god from arising).  That part was pretty disappointing, and again I think part of the responsibility lays with a campaign that didn't provide enough justification and part with players who just didn't really buy in to the game and role-play different personalities well.  The danger level of the campaign is also hard to gauge, as the PCs triumphed through pretty much every combat with little danger or SAN loss, but again the Keeper was rather generous and even gave the players special tokens to use to re-roll results.  (She was also one of those Keepers who calls for skill rolls to find clues and make progress, but has no idea what to do if no one succeeds; more experience with flexible story-telling and improvisation would help a lot there).

Listening to the audio games is a nice way to experience some Cthulhu campaigns I'll probably never get a chance to play, and as always I'm appreciative to the Bradford Players for taking the time to consistently make their high-quality recordings accessible.  I think I'm going to sample another group next time to see if I can get that real horror storytelling that I want to learn how to direct effectively, but chances are I'll end up downloading Horror on the Orient Express or Beyond the Mountains of Madness from the Bradford Players sooner or later!

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