Friday, January 13, 2017

Components of a Satisfying Shipwreck Story

Being marooned on a tropical island would probably not be much fun in real life, but in popular culture it's not always a completely bad thing - witness Gilligan's Island, for example, or Lost.

Living out the ideal tropical island fantasy can be simulated through the medium of role-playing games. I am not aware of an existing role-playing game of this type, though I'm sure they exist; it also seems like good fodder for a computer RPG. What tropes are necessary to create a satisfying tropical island experience?


  • A shipwreck in a tropical climate
  • Washing up on a sandy beach
  • Salvaging supplies and food from the wreck (ideally toiletries, clothes, hunting, fishing and cooking equipment, guns and ammunition, entertainment (chiefly books), personal items, navigation tools, fire-making tools, cutlery, towels, blankets, pillows, footwear, swords, knives, spyglass, a radio or cell phone if temporally appropriate, etc.)
  • The possibility of other survivors, who could be allies or enemies
  • Loneliness
  • The Waterfall (for bathing and drinking water)
  • The Hot Spring (for hot baths)
  • Coconut palms
  • Banana trees (bushes?)
  • Plentiful fish and pigs 
  • Mysterious, initially unseen human inhabitants of the island, who may be good or evil
  • A gorilla or two
  • Parrots
  • Pirates
  • Building a shelter, preferably an expansive treehouse
  • Eventual romance
  • Exploration of the island's interior
  • Mysterious ruins
  • Caves
  • Snakes
  • Mountains
  • Creating fire
  • Learning how to hunt/fish
  • Writing in your diary for posterity
  • Sending messages in bottles
  • Tropical storms
  • Occasional visitors who for one reason or another can't rescue you
  • A raft for exploring the river or circumnavigating the island
  • The eventual, inevitable escape attempt and/or bringing civilization to the island
Character Classes!
Diplomat
Scientist
Writer
Ship Captain
First Mate
Ship Officer
Crewman
Stowaway
Passenger
Nobility
Pirate
Musician
Actor
Gravedigger
Rat Catcher
Farmer
Settler

Character Traits!
Strength
Survival
Willpower
Cunning
Wits
Charisma

Character Skills!
Fishing
Foraging
Hunting
Carpentry
Sewing
Cooking
Navigation
Repair
Diplomacy
Writing
Swordfighting
Gunnery
Brawling
Fire-making
Fermenting
Swimming
Orientation
Meditation
Language(s) (specify)

Shipwreck Cause Table
Mutiny - marooned ashore in rowboat with supplies
Storm - wrecked on reefs
Human Error - navigator crashes into uncharted island
Becalmed/out of fuel - ship remains intact but useless
Act of God(s) - divine mischief



1 comment:

Jeff Shyluk said...

Going through the entire run of Patrick O'Brien series, Captain Jack Aubrey gets shipwrecked a number of times. You'd really like those books. The Far Side Of The World, to which most of the Master and Commander movie owes its plot is a study in nearly gothic terms of the horrors of long-term ocean travel, and it includes a shipwreck and being marooned on an island.

So, going by that, you'd also add:

Scurvy, amputation and surgery, suspicion, espionage, and revenge. Insanity, cannibalism and cannibals (and if you want to go really dark: kuru). Cannons, war canoes, reefs, lagoons, marines, muskets, cannons and swivel guns, gunpowder, cutlasses, axes, chisels, sharks, fresh water (hopefully a spring, if not then a ship's sail fashioned into a dew-catcher), lean-to's and huts, cliffs, volcanoes, birds, coconuts. Peculiar to O'Brien: cricket (the game).

Cooking skills might include eating your own clothes. You'd need carpentry to build a sea-going vessel out of wreckage or flotsam. Possibly weaving skills to make lines out of vines or leaves. Navigation would factor into orienteering, as well as sailing. Forging skills if the crew needs metal parts.