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Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Escape from Gilligan's Island: The Roleplaying Game, Part II: Character Creation, Part I

See Part I here.  


The year is 1969. On a clear and sunny morning in Honolulu, you and two to five other people looking for a diversion booked a sightseeing tour on the S.S. Arness. But the weather started getting rough, and the tiny ship was tossed; if not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Arness would be lost. The ship set ground on the shore of the uncharted isle you now find yourself stranded upon. You are now a Castaway, and moreover, though you don't know it yet, you are a Castaway on Gilligan's Island.

Who are you? What put you on the path that led you to this lonely beach, soaked to the skin, the sun beating down, wreckage strewn about? Which of your skills will help you survive being marooned? And which might, just might, give you the chance to escape? 

Vital Statistics

Each Castaway is partially defined by seven physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual Attributes, collectively known as their ISLANDS score. Each attribute is ranked on a scale of 1-20: 

This is a measure of the Castaway's intellectual prowess, their raw intelligence. The higher the Intellect, the likelier a Castaway is to succeed at Tasks requiring Intellect Tests, such as inventing a machine, learning a new language or Skill, or solving a mystery. The Professor has high Intellect. 

A Castaway's strength measures their raw physical ability and determines their carrying capacity, hand-to-hand damage, and the ability to use certain Skills effectively. The Skipper has high Strength. 

A Castaway's Luck score, for good or ill, will help or hinder their attempts to carry out certain Tasks, to pass Tests, to avoid harm, and to stumble across positive or negative Discoveries. Gilligan has little Luck.

A Castaway's Allure represents their personal magnetism, their ability to attract mates, make friends, and convince others to do their bidding or agree with their point of view. Ginger has high Allure. 

Nature represents a Castaway's internal fortitude, their constitution, their ability to thrive in the face of the elements and survive shortages of food, water, and other essentials. Lovey Howell has low Nature. 

Determination helps Castaways overcome fatigue and frustration. The greater a Castaway's Determination, the better their odds of overcoming the various obstacles to survival presented by Gilligan's Island. Mary Ann has high Determination. 

Savvy represents the street smarts, wisdom, and perception of a Castaway. Characters with low Savvy will seem somewhat oblivious to the world around them, missing obvious solutions to problems and blundering into hazards willy-nilly. Characters with high Savvy will perceive these dangers more easily. Thurston Howell III has a high Savvy. 

To determine each Attribute, roll 5d6 and remove the die with the lowest number. Add up the remaining dice to determine the measure of your Attribute. Each Attribute will range from 4 (abysmal) to 20 (superb). Attributes can not fall lower than 4 or rise higher than 20, even with modifiers. 

Once you have your ISLANDS score, you will use these numbers to determine other aspects of your Castaway. But first, you must choose your Archetype.


In Gilligan's Island, each character represents a human archetype. The Professor represents the Intellectual class. Gilligan is a Fool. The Skipper is an Authoritarian figure. Ginger is a Siren. Mary Ann is a Girl Next Door. The Howells are Idle Rich. 

Each Archetype comes with advantages and disadvantages, and will play a large role in determining your approach to surviving--and escaping--Gilligan's Island. 

The All-American (or All-Canadian, All-Australian, All-Japanese, etc.) represents the ideals of their particular home nation, all that the country aspires to be. All-Americans receive +1 Strength, +1 Allure, and +1 Luck, but -2 Savvy. All-Americans receive one item of sporting or performing arts equipment from the Ship's Stores. 

Extra Skills: 2

Artists paint, write, sing, play, act, sculpt, or create art some other way. Artists receive +1 to Intellect and Determination, but -1 to Luck. Artists receive an extra musical instrument or artist tool from the Ship's Stores. 

Extra Skills: 1

The One Next Door
You're everyone's best friend and secret crush thanks to your empathy, kindness, and unconscious charisma. You have bad days like everyone else, but when there's trouble, you're a dependable source of help and morale-boosting. Ones Next Door receive +1 to Allure and Nature, but -1 to Savvy. They cannot choose weapons from the Ship's Stores or Personal Possessions lists. 

Extra Skills: 1

You are a figure of physical, political, or intellectual power. Authoritarians receive +1 to one of Intellect, Strength, or Savvy, but they receive -1 to Allure. Authoritarians get first choice of weapon from the Ship's Stores; in fact, this player may choose to be the captain of the Arness

Extra Skills: 0

The Entrepreneur put their qualities to work to create their own small-to-medium sized business. Entrepreneurs receive +1 Determination and +1 Savvy, but -1 Allure. They receive 1.5x the standard allotment of items from the Personal Possessions list.  

Extra Skills: 1

Through no fault of their own, the Fool fundamentally misunderstands the way the universe works. While they may be gifted in other ways, their obliviousness invites all manner of catastrophe. However, their innocence can also reveal the hypocrisy inherent in our social and political systems. Fools receive +1 Nature and +1 Determination, but -2 Luck. 

Extra Skills: -1

Healers are doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals schooled in Western or traditional medicine. Healers receive +1 Intellect and Determination. They cannot choose weapons from the Personal Possessions or Ship's Stores lists, but they get two extra pieces of medical equipment from either list. 

Extra Skills: 2

The Iconoclast has rejected, or been rejected by, their culture. They might be a hermit, a hippie, a Beatnik, or any other sort of eccentric who believes society is broken and must be abandoned or toppled. Iconoclasts receive a +1 bonus to Intellect and Nature, but a -1 penalty to Allure thanks to their unconventional outlook on life. They receive half the normal allotment of Personal Possessions. 

Extra Skills: 0

Idle Rich
Through no virtue of your own, you've lived a life of luxury. The Idle Rich receive +2 luck and -1 to Nature or Determination. They also receive three times the normal allotment of  items from the Personal Possessions list, but do not have access to the Ship's Stores unless they can convince the other Castaways they will reward them after a successful Escape. 

Extra Skills: -1

The Intellectual is known for their smarts. Intellectuals come in many flavours; they could be a scientist, explorer, poet, writer, artist, philosopher, or other thought leader. Intellectual Castaways receive +2 Intellect, -1 Allure, and any two extra pieces of scientific apparatus, books or artistic tools from the Ship's Stores. 

Extra Skills: 2

Sirens are figures of great charisma, particularly of an erotic nature. Sirens receive +2 to their Allure score, but -1 to Determination, since they are often used to other people accomplishing tasks for them. Sirens get to choose two extra costumes, sets of grooming supplies, and exercise equipment from the Personal Possessions list. 

Extra Skills: 0

You hide it well, but you have no empathy for others and will do whatever it takes to pursue your own interests. You can assume the guise (though not the Attribute bonuses or penalties) of any other Archetype. Sociopaths receive +1 to Allure and Savvy and their choice of concealable weapon from the Personal Possessions list. 

Extra Skills: 2

You are between 13 and 19 years old, with the extra vitality, imagination, and other qualities of youth. Teens receive +1 to their Nature and Luck Attributes, and -1 to their Savvy attribute due to their inexperience. They receive half the normal allotment of Personal Possessions. 

Extra Skills: 0

Tinkerers possess curiosity, imagination, and the physical coordination to put their skills to use. Tinkerers receive +1 Intellect, Strength, and Determination, and have first pick from the Ship's Stores except for weapons. 

Extra Skills: 2

The Veteran has served in a branch of their nation's armed forces. They receive +1 Strength, +1 Nature, and +1 Determination, but -1 Allure. Veterans can choose a weapon from the Personal Possessions list. 

Extra Skills: 1

Have I missed any Archetypes? Comment below! 


Jeff Shyluk said...


A special agent or secret operative whose singleminded course of action brings them to the Island, either as an escape from a greater foe or with the perception that the Island holds strategic purposes or resources. Achieving mission goals is the highest priority, and if the Castaways get in the way, that's their problem.


An adventurer or merely adventurous, the Lost embarked on some momentous journey only to become lost and then found by the Castaways. Absolutely bereft of any sense of direction, the Lost is unable to find the way home for the Castaways, but will easily find their way off of the Island on their own. And then stumble back by mistake since they were holding the compass upside-down half the time.


Somebody from the outside who will definitely be missed, such as a movie star, a politician, or a great humanitarian (Read: Special Guest Star). Their absence from the world at large will provoke a worldwide search and rescue mission. Unfortunately, the Notable will be rescued when the Castaways are all asleep and in the huge party thrown in honour of the Notable's return, the Castaways will be forgotten.


A visitor from the outer reaches: an astronaut (or astrochimp or astrodog), the pilot of a spy plane, or even a real alien, the Spacenik has dropped into the island via capsule. The Spacenik has access to technology far above what the Castaways are capable of using, and as a result that technology is extremely fragile and will break constantly. Repairs made from cocoanut husks and bamboo stakes will be essential if the Spacenik's hich-tech devices are to be rendered useful in the hostile environment of the Island.

Earl J. Woods said...

This is perfect for the upcoming Island Visitors section, Jeff! Thanks so much! I love it!

Jeff Shyluk said...


A trickster? A mage? A wise crone? The Mystic is a mystery, undefinable by definition. However, what the Mystic will do is present alternate realities for the Castaways: what life would have been like if they had not taken the tour, what life is like for those left behind, and what life will be like if they ever return. Sort of a Ghost of Christmases Past, present, and Future, but with a laugh track. (Audience claps and cheers)

Jeff Shyluk said...

I guess these are just visitors after all. I can't wrap my head around the idea of having alternate castaways to the ones that have already been established. The closest I can come is to consider cross-over episodes, like if the Beverly Hillbillies arrived on the Island, or Homicide: Life On The Street.

"You've made... a fully functioning... cappuccino machine... out of, and let me get this straight... coconut husks... and bamboo sticks."

"Well, yes, that's right, Frank."

"My name is Detective Pembleton. My point is... you could have simply built a raft, or even just, oh I don't know, patched the hole in the hull of your boat... and sailed away from here!"

"Well, I suppose, but honestly in our experience that sort of thing has never worked out."

"Professor, do you think some people work harder to be stupider than others?"

"I'm going to go out on a limb, and say yes."

"Yes. Yes is indeed the correct answer. Somebody make me a cup of that coconut husk coffee. I need that caffeine to kick in... right... now."

Earl J. Woods said...

The Professor speaks truthfully; the Castaways did indeed try to fix the hole in the side of the Minnow, but as depicted in the season one episode "Goodbye Island," the glue they used to patch timbers over the hole and to reinforce the rest of the ship was volatile and led to the Minnow being flung to pieces by the constricting adhesive.

As for the idea of alternate Castaways, try looking at it this way: from the perspective of the originals, the player characters are really just new visitors, no different than Wrong Way Feldman or The Mosquitoes. Since the game premise involves the player characters' escape, the story of the game takes the form of just another episode (or, more likely, a multi-part episode).

Jeff Shyluk said...

The Skipper, and Gilligan for that matter, should have known about "fothering", where you draw sailcloth very tightly over the outside of the hole around the hull to seal the gap. The Minnow wasn't a sailing ship, though, so the Castaways would have had to use other materials. But I do remember that episode!

Part of the problem I have with coming up with new main-character castaways is that the originals are so iconic. However they were cast and assembled, the Castaways to my mind represent the ultimate combination of types to occupy a deserted island. However, I don't know if I would want to play as them. It would be daunting. The trick to the Castaways lies in their own existential pause. While they mount escape plans, those plans never work because they have already achieved their escape from the larger world. Mistakenly, they have transcended mundane existence, and we who are trapped in our troubled lives seek their simple and charming banality. It's all very Rollo May.

Put another way, it's disheartening when the Castaways finally are rescued or escape - the show is over and we quickly lose interest. Yet it would be equally disheartening to play out an escape plan knowing it will fail, unless you are already at peace with the concept of being cast away. Being an outsider, you don't have to worry about the existential state of the Castaways: no matter how much you mess with their fate, they always bounce back after every twenty-two minutes.