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Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Escape from Gilligan's Island: The Roleplaying Game, Part I: Background

It was perhaps the smartest dumb show on television at the time: Sherwood Schwartz' Gilligan's Island, a tale of seven castaways shipwrecked on an uncharted isle somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Though the show has long been critically panned, I've been fascinated by Gilligan's Island since watching its reruns in the 1970s and 1980s. There was something strangely compelling about the off-kilter mixture of location shooting versus scenes obviously shot on some studio backlot; the show's many bizarre dream sequences; the oddball assortment of visitors to the island from lost Japanese veterans to surfers to pop musicians, gangsters, cannibals, and mad scientists; the Professor's absurd inventions; the fact that some characters had exactly one set of clothes, while the others seemed to have access to full wardrobes; the treasures that sometimes washed ashore, from film equipment to land mines to rocket ships and missiles; the unspoken sexual tension among Gilligan, Mary Ann, Ginger, and the Professor, in various combinations; and, naturally, Gilligan's unfailing ability to mess up any rescue attempt at the eleventh hour.

Over the course of three seasons, 98 episodes, and three reunion TV movies, the show developed a strangely rich mythology, one that I feel would be ripe for roleplaying possibilities.

Here are some rough notes on how Escape from Gilligan's Island: The Roleplaying Game might open:


Escape from Gilligan's Island: The Roleplaying Game is a roleplaying adventure setting meant for three to seven players, plus a gamemaster. Set in the world of Gilligan's Island during the time of the original series (1964-1967), players are shipwrecked on the title island and must find a way to deal with the island's hazards and obstacles, including the original seven inhabitants, while devising a means of escaping the island and returning to civilization. 


Gilligan's Island forms a rough oval shape with a set of pincer-like peninsulas on its southern coast framing a shallow lagoon. Even though the Castaways have circumnavigated the island and estimate that it's only a few dozen acres in size, the island is rich in geographic variety and biodiversity. 

Geographic Features

Beach: Situated along the island's western coastline, the Beach features beautiful white sand sheltered by a long line of coconut palms. This is the site of the shipwreck of the S.S. Minnow, which was subsequently completely destroyed during an effort to repair the ship, but, for reasons unknown, was later reconstructed to its post-shipwreck, pre-destruction state. 

Lagoon: The southwest side of the island features a shallow lagoon surrounded by jungle foliage and a small beach. 

Volcano: Located on the center-north side of the island, the imposing volcano is active and occasionally erupts. 

Foothills: Foothills divide the island roughly in half, starting at the base of the Volcano all the way to the south side of the island. 

Eastern Jungle: East of the Foothills, thick Jungle dominates most of the island's eastern half. 

Quicksand: A large Quicksand bog can be found on the island's southeast corner. 

Gold Mine: The island's Gold Mine is located in the Foothills, just north of the southern shore. 

Black Morning Spider Den: Castaways are advised to avoid this spot on the northeastern corner of the island. 

Western Jungle: Smaller than the Eastern Jungle, the Western Jungle is bordered by the Beach on to the west, the Lagoon to the south, the Foothills to the east, and extend to the northern shore. The Western Jungle is home to the original Castaway Huts, their Common Area, and the Supply Hut. 


Rich in flora and fauna, the island is home to a variety of species, including but not limited to: 

Coconut palms
Banana bushes
Pineapple shrubs
Many species of tropical trees and shrubs, many with edible fruit and flowers
Several primates, including at least one chimp, one gorilla, and one orangutang
At least one Black Morning Spider, six feet long and six hundred pounds
Several exotic plants found nowhere else in nature, including one that produces seeds that give the power of mind-reading when ingested

Infrastructure and Quality of Life Aids

In their years on the island the original Castaways have constructed several buildings and associated infrastructure. 

Huts: The Castaways constructed several Huts from leaves, grasses, and bamboo to serve as living quarters. The Howells live in one hut; Ginger and Mary Ann in another; the Skipper and Gilligan in a third; and the Professor lives in a Hut of his own. The Castaways also built a large Supply Hut, located a short distance north of the living quarters area. 

Common Area: Located in close proximity to the Huts, the Common Area features a long table and bench seating for communal meals. 

Washing Machine: A pedal-powered Washing Machine keeps the Castaways' clothing clean. 

Radio: One of the few pieces of equipment that survived the shipwreck, the Radio provides news and entertainment. 

Bamboo Island Taxi: A pedal-powered car used to transport Castaways around the island.

Record Player: The Professor used island materials to restore the Minnow's smashed record player. 

Observation Tower: The Castaways built a tall Observation Tower on the Beach. 

Putting Green: The Castaways landscaped a putting green to the west of the Lagoon. 

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