How to prep for painting?

My bathroom needs painting. The walls are in bad shape; they look like a dry lake bed. How will this dry lake bed effect alter the way I prep for fresh paint? What I'm afraid of hearing is that I will need to replace all the dry wall!
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Bryan wrote:

You mean the existing paint is alligatored (split/checked)? If also flaking, you'll need to use a hook scraper (carefully) or other means to remove the loose paint. Once the surface is sound, smooth with drywall compound, prime with oil base primer and paint.
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Not flaking, just "alligatored."
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wrote:

BTDT. Sand, prime with acrylic, skim coat, sand, prime with acrylic, top coat. PITA, but that's the cure.
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