If you’re a new fan to Don’t Starve Together (DST) or if you haven’t played Don’t Starve: Hamlet, you may have noticed an odd new character in the climax of the Return of Them update chain. He’s a peculiar scientist who… doesn’t seem all there, in more ways than one. While the characters of DST only know him as the Grainy Transmission, longtime fans and theorists will recognize this to be one Robert Wagstaff. Far from a one-off update NPC, Wagstaff holds a lot of clues and mysteries that tie together different characters’ backstories and clear up a few mysteries of the Constant itself.
Wagstaff was first introduced to the Constant in the Hamlet DLC for the single player Don’t Starve. With hints to his existence dating back as early as 2013 in a Klei developer forum post, Wagstaff has always solidly been placed as a core key to the world and lore of Don’t Starve. To start, his technology is the main conduit for drawing people into the Constant.
Introduced in the very first Don’t Starve: Forbidden Knowledge trailer, the Voxola PR-76 Radio has been a key feature of several character introductions, from Wilson’s radio at his home, to the abandoned one that Walter found in Woodie’s abandoned house. The tune it plays haunts our characters throughout their time in the Constant, and there is a direct connection between Charlie, Winona, and the Volxola Radio company, which was founded by Wagstaff.
As quoted in this forum post by Don’t Starve developer Kevin Forbes, “The radio is a Voxola PR-76, manufactured in 1919 by the Voxola Radio company of Sidney, Ohio. The radio offered revolutionary sound and reception quality for the time, and was promoted by an intense national marketing campaign. Very few units were actually produced, because the factory was destroyed in a fire only days after production began. Voxola founder Robert Wagstaff went missing the night of the fire, and the company declared bankruptcy soon thereafter.”
This brings us to the Winona short, “Next of Kin.” Revealed via in-game dialogue and the short itself, Winona worked for Voxola, and was present during the fire at the factory — perhaps even witnessing Wagstaff’s fall into the Constant — in a gate very reminiscent of Wilson’s. This is further cemented in the Eye of the Storm Moon event, as she calls the grainy transmission by name and remains the only playable character who can correctly identify specific tools when Wagstaff requests for them.
Next of Kin even opens with a full-on conspiracy theory board, connecting Winona and Charlie together with a show poster of Maxwell and Charlie’s original show, “Abigail’s flower,” news reports of fires and arson (thanks Willow), and a diagram of WX-78. Wagstaff’s technology is at the center of it all, and the man himself is right where he wants to be.
Over and over, we see the sentiment that Wagstaff brought himself to the Constant on purpose, whether for experiments, like in the Eye of the Storm, or for some other unknown purpose. This is further reinforced with this sentiment from his wiki: “…Wagstaff seems to have brought himself there on purpose to seek the forbidden knowledge that the world contains,” not unlike Wilson’s original goal.
His grainy appearance and transmission themes hold up across his appearances too, as he is the only character that becomes translucent and faded at lower and lower health, similar to a hologram, as well as becoming increasingly distorted when you play as him in Hamlet. Whether he was the cause of Charlie’s initial disappearance or just played a hand in their fate is still to be determined. So stay tuned in, and keep an eye on your radio dial, folks.