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A short (two and a half hours) RPG OneShot? for 2-4 players (and one GM) based (very) loosely on ['Med-ship' (baen)]

Fairly railroady.

Theme: Cuteness in the midst of death.

All information here is for the GM - SpoilerSpace will not be used within the text.











You will need
You will want

There's a lot of detail here that is from the PlayTest? - playing fast and loose with the areas is probably your best bet, as long as you keep things basically moving.


We'll be using that classic conceit of amnesia here.  The players have no idea what is going on, so neither do their characters.

System is simple, but actually plays an important part of the flavour.  You will need three distinct colours of dice and enough dice total for each player to have two and the GM three.  D6 are fine.

A major component of the game is gaining memories and fighting in a mindscape.  Don't skimp on the memories - and a bit of preparation here wouldn't hurt.  (Index cards)

The game follows the players (as cute fluffy aliens) as they accidentally destroy one planet and (probably) purposefully destroy another.  And hopefully put themselves back together.

Character creation

Each player chooses a colour (pastel or primary - plaid is perhaps overly silly) and they play a cute small fluffy alien of that colour.  This colour is also their name.
They also choose two dice.    Make sure each of the three colours is roughly evenly represented amongh the players.

In the PlayTest? I called the aliens 'popples'.  Baen calls them Tormal and unless you want to risk a player recognising the source of 'popple' you probably want to as well.

Popples (or tormals) are four legged, lack opposable thumbs, have little sharp teeth but small mouths and a long smooth tail with a PomPom? on the end.  They are also a little less than a foot in length - although this should not be obvious to the players at first.


The BadGuy? has infected the GoodGuy? who escaped and transferred part of his mind into the popples to survive.  The popples are now plague carriers of the first order - but being medical gerbil equivalents with hyperactive immune systems are themselves fine for a while.

Through the game they will fight the illness in a MindScape? and (probably) destroy the inhabitants of two planets - hopefully finally finding the cure.


The PCs awake in a large metal room.  Relative to popple size it has a 25 foot ceiling and is about twice that in width and three times in length.  There is a man (an eighteen foot giant!) lying comatose on the floor.  (Note, in the playtest I didn't make it obvious enough that it was still alive.)  They know this man is important.

You get the idea about scale - emphasise how big everything is and I'll go with normal human sizes from now on - as will the players once they (quickly) figure out that it is they that are small.  Think PlanetOfTheGiants?.

As previously mentioned, the characters have amnesia and they can't remember what is going on.

Also in the room are two large control panels at (human waist height - about 8 popple feet) and a large glass cabinet.

Popples don't know any of the right terms for things - though the players will quickly figure it out.  PlayTest? greatly enjoyed naming things erroneously.  For the next run I suggest using medical terminology for things wherever posisble.  (Exception - not in the MindScape?)  This worked well when, for example, purple jumped up and down on the giant and I replied "You fail to resucitate him, though you know it should have worked"  - the popples are medical equipment and should find that out quickly.

Have fun describing buttons to the popples - they will have great fun clambering up and pressing them.

I found it very helpful to sketch their surroundings (and all the other things they discover later) on pieces of paper.

The important controls are:

The Butler Cube

(Rename this if the players might know PrincessMaker and not be able to stop laughing)

A large black cube.  It has several functions to enhance popple capabilities.  In its default mode it is a black cube, roughly popple sized and hovers following them nicely.
Using the controller (which is huge and fixed to the wall - no taking it with you) they will find its other modes.
  1. Transport mode.  The cube becomes TeaTray? shaped, hovers and looks like a partially hollowed out obelisk (2001) - this amuses me.  Inside is a little joystick which the popples can use to steer it at about 6mph.  It can handily carry all the popples and an extra object of about the same size.  (In playtest the players used it to carry a guards gun.)
  2. Manipulator mode.  The cube shrinks and extrudes a gripper claw.  It also sinks to the floor is heavy enough that it takes the combined efforts of all the popples to move it.  On one side of the cube is a button that makes the claw open and close - and on the other a joystick which moves the claw around on the end of a screwthread tube thingy.  The cube shrinks as the claw moves further away, limiting how far you can reach - across the room is about the limit.  This form can be used to reach high things and move human scale objects.
  3. Translator mode.  Which in PlayTest? my players inexplicably named 'Reginald Cuthbert'.  This can translate any language into any other.  (I'm thinking about making it only WRITTEN communications)  The players can use this to communicate.  Some concepts (especially proper nouns) are beyond translation however.  In this form the cube becomes a pyramid with a radar-like dish on the top which turns towards whatrever there is to translate.  Again, it takes all the popples to move it when it is like this.

The butler cube will also absorb capsules - up to one of each colour - and spit them back out when requested by name (which the players will probably take a while to find out)

Treatment Capsules

The dispenser has a limited number (I used 20, the players shouldn't run out unless they try to use them all - as layTest did) of each of six types of capsule.

See system for what they do.  They should be coloured as per the dice you are using - in pairs.

The effects of opening (or bursting, sitting upon, eating or otherwise activating) the capsules is as follows:

  1. Hot. A red mist surrounds the popple - and all the popples feel warmer.
  2. Cold. A blue powder makes the popple sneeze - and they all shiver.
  3. Acid. (PlayTest? called this 'sharp') Tastes like citrus - can be painful.
  4. Alkali. (Soap) Slippery - too much makes them all feel a bit sick.
  5. Fast. You all feel better, but something squirmy inside you moves too.
  6. Slow. You all feel tired.

See the MindScape? system for how this affects them.

After activation, the capsule itself vanishes.

The Shuttle

Sooner or later (probably later, on subsequent revisits) the players will discover how the standardised controls for a shuttle work.

When fuelled, you press the big red button - and the ship takes off and goes on autopilot to its next destination.  Simple, no?  But the ship isn't fuelled.
So the first time they press the button there'll be a rattle, a roar - and then the doors will open.

The speaker grille (in conjunction with its little button) allows you to speak with the control tower.  Sort of, given that you can't speak 'giant' and only 'popple'.

If the players gain access to any other shuttles, they will find them the same - except that there is a code needed to take off as well.  Popples (not knowing the code) will end up triggering a 'cat on keyboard error' at best.  Other shuttles will generally have a bed instead of the medical panel, probably won't have a ButlerCube terminal (certainly won't dispense a second cube - having only one is iportant to the game) and shouldn't have an almost-dead guy.

The big red button opens the doors.  (And on later pressings will take off if refuelled, or complain of being hungry if not.)


Human-scale; shuttles are landing in one corner, moving around the grid (a huge concrete expanse with metal rails set flush into it) and taking off from another.

Popple scale this is huuuuge and extremely dangerous.  They can't get killed but should have close escapes.  There's no way they can transport any of the bulky forms of the cube until the traffic is stopped.  Their best bet for exploring is the TeaTray? form of the cube.  There are several other parked shuttles (all identical white boxes on four legs) - their best bet to get inside one is to go up to a recently landed one and wait for the owners to come out.

Out here play should be dangerous at first - and quite lonely later.

The only place they can really go to is the terminal building (control tower - whatever you name it, keep it straight) - which has huge doors and a button you need to press to open them.

The button is far out of reach.  The popples need help, or the gripper mode of the cube.

The Visitors

If the players go out and cause a traffic accident, or when they play with the radio - a short while later two friendly staff will turn up.

Giants see the popples as cute pets.  (If your players use translator mode early in the game then it will have to be text-only.)  There's much 'aah' and 'ooh'.  The giants want to cuddle and pet them.  The players of course, may interpret this as threatening.
They will also see the comatose giant and panic.  They will use the radio and then rush back to the terminal (closing the popples in the shuttle, or leaving them far behind.)

Shortly after they reach the terminal they succumb to the plague.  Infecting the traffic control tower staff stops the traffic.

Which makes the players life easier.

Important note - popples and giants can't communicate.  Giant-talk just comes out as "Blah blah blah" in various tones and accents.  (For inspiration think CharlieBrown? or that AlloAllo? episode.)

(PlayTest? report from the section of the game - the players had wonderful enjoyment of my 'blah blah' - and even started imitating it back.  Which I interpreted as popples trying to imitate people and being seen by the giants as incredibly cute.  The players later played back a logfile to find they'd been taught to say 'sausages' - which they then said over and over again for the rest of the game.  You never can predict what parts of a game are gonna be fun.)

Control Tower

Inside is another butler transformation booth (it won't dispense another butler).  There's also some staff (probably all dying or dead - certainly they will be shortly after the players meet them) some incomprehensible controls (even if you're not a popple - traffic control isn't simple) another radio the refuelling controls and a large door at the end.

From the radio they will get increasingly urgent 'what is going on?' calls and from the traffic controls all they will discover is that they have been locked out and all traffic stopped.

The refuelling controls are simple enough.  There's a dial surrounded by lights (most unlit) and a button.  Turning it to a lit light and pressing the button will cause the butler booth to have a ButlerCube float out - with a large pipe connected behind joining it to the wall.  It will float over to an unfuelled ship, wait for a while and the retract.  The machine will then go 'ping' which the translator will helpfully say means 'done' and the light goes out.  Pressing the button whilst it is pointing at an unlit light does nothing.

The characters can now go into space.  Apart from slowly exploring the nearby planet and finding out that everyone is dead or dying that is about all they can do.

But frankly they'll probably launch extreme sanctions and leave the planet purely because they are small fluffy aliens who like to press shiny buttons.

Looting the Bodies

At some point they will think of this.  Some common items that they will find:

Extreme Sanctions

This button is available once the plague is unleashed and the shuttle is fuelled.  Show them the effects on the monitor.  Be big and loud as a large thing launches vertically from the shuttle.  Zooms away over the paceport, over the city, over the country - into orbit.  And hangs there ominously.
Over the radio: "Extreme sanctions imposed.  By order of the medservice, this planet is in quarantine.  Do not approach.  Warning.  Medical disaster.  Extreme sanction.  Message repeats..."  (The Cube can translate)

We're going for anticlimax.  With this bit.  As well as revelation, if they've not already figured things out.

By this point the players should have figured out that they are fighting something between them (they are somehow connected) and most of the capabilities of the fighting system.  They should also have had enough FlashBack? time to tell them that their human is a med-ship man and very important.

In Space

The launch is pretty smooth - crushing them to the ground for a bit, then a bit of weightlesness and then a bit of floating - before gravity goes back to normal.

The readouts can tell them that they are on their way (PlayTest? - I forgot this bit) back to their previous destination (PlayTest? - they named it Brazil)

Give the players some time to chat, figure stuff out, play with any things they didn't play with before.

It is possible for the players to take off without a cube.  Don't worry about it if so, but the trader can sell them a new one.

After a while, they are hailed by a trader.  They will be surprised at trading with popples - but happy to do so.  The only things the popples have of much value are themselves, their medical capsules and their cube.

They can buy whatever they like.  In PlayTest? they bought guns.  New drugs would be another thing to buy.  They also bought many many sausages.

The trade will be performed by placing things in the docking airlock - the door closes, and reopens with the goods they have bought.

The trader himself will only come aboard if something goes wrong or their popple-nature confuses him terminally.

And yes, once they see him he is infected and will die.

They could also get him killed by pressing the 'auto launch' button in mid trade and exposing him to vacuum.  (If needs must, make the popples immune to hard vacuum - though it should probably muck up their illness-fighting settings)  In PlayTest? they also shot the poor guy.

After this encounter they then proceed the the planet of the BadGuy?.  (Which, amusingly, they declared war on.)


(Proper names don't translate remember - the players have to name it.)

This ending is quite flexible.  How it proceeds depends upon the players and what they bought from the trader.

Importantly - the first guards will have only flimsy suits (expecting to just pick up a dead guy, not live popples) and can easily be infected.  Any guards trying to shoot valuable popples will be slapped by their superiors.

Later, nets will be applied.  Unless clever, the popples willprobably be caught and put into a bio-machine (much like the one on the shuttle.)

By this point the illness should be reaching crisis point.

No-one will think popples are truly intelligent.  (They aren't, usually)

The BadGuy? (and FlashBack? so that they know he is - he even has a goatee) will confiscate their cube given the chance.

If infected, the BadGuy? will panic and rush to get the cure.  If the whole base is infected, guards will all be dead.

There should be an opportunity to get a new cube if needed.

the BadGuy? has a mind-swap machine they could use to go back to being a medship man.  That's the best scenario end, if they can manage it.

This is a big climax, it should be a running chase - or the application of unlikely technology (or oversized guns!) against the odds.  The BadGuy? is a coward, and will likely run if popples start shooting at him.

The End

Whether they saved the day or let their man die - they have caused a plague and likely wiped out two planets.  (Worse if they didn't deploy sanctions!)  Wind down by explaining where you got the game from, the likely follow ons and so forth.

If they got the antidote, run them through the mindscapes quickly showing it work (and do any critical fights) and then fade out as their man wakes up.

The system

(Scale as needed to different sized dice)
The three colours of dice represent:  Temperature, Acidity and Metabolism.
At first the players will not know what each die does.  Finding out is part of the game.

When doing difficult things (jumping up to a high place, or using the cube) each player may contribute a die to the task - but no more than one die of each colour may be used.  They should explain how they are helping together.
Add the dice rolled together and try to get a high total.
A difficulty of 5 is appropriate for a normal task (getting up to a high place) so that a popple might be able to do it alone.  A difficulty of 10 is appropriate for a very hard task (such as carrying the cube or firing a human-sized gun)

If any player ever rolls a 6 they trigger an individual FashBack? and shared MindScape? sequence.  The GM can trigger them the same way.

When 'just using' a die in the mindscape - 1-2 is a negative (make it colder, make it acid, slow  metabolism down) 3-4 does nothing and 5-6 is a positve (hotter, alkali, faster) - 1 and 6 being double effect.

Once they know what they are doing (sorta) they can use a die in a desired direction.  In this case, 3+ is a success, 6 is a double success (and outside of a mindscape triggers one).

Note that each popple only has two colours - this is intended.

Popples may also attempt to use their powers on other people - it works on infected people best.  Normally the effects are felt by all the popples and the med-ship man.

Extremes of anything (+ or - 5) do damage - but they beat off the infection until next Mindscape.
Smaller amounts slow things down - but over time they drift towards the extremes.
I didn't bother with a full blown system for this.

When the player reverses a track (temperature for example) they cannot go to the middle - they go straight from even +5 to -1 (-2 if it was a double success) (or vice versa)  And the imbalance slowly goes the other way.  The capsules throw you straight to +/- 4.

The three damage tracks correspond to the three mindscape environments.  Save the third environment until after the trader - and open up the second once the first has taken about half damage.


  1. The lungs
  2. The circularatory system
  3. The brain

The Lungs

A huge cavern, with slightly wet walls.  Snowflakes (the attacking virus) are drifting down and attacking the walls.  A few rocks (defence antibodies) sometimes fly out of the walls and shatter the flakes.
The flakes sometimes split apart.

Affecting the environment is easy - heat blackens the walls, cold ices them over - both stop the flakes getting in as easily but are clearly damaging to it.  Head is more effective here than cold.
Acid changes the floor - eating the walls but also fizzing away the flakes.  Alkali makes walls slippy but eats away slowly too.

High metabolism makes the walls throw rocks more - and does ntohing at all bad in here.
Low metabolism slows down the rock throwing - but the walls grow a bit thicker.

The antidote shows up as raptors swopping around and easily destroying the snowflakes.

The Blood

An underground river, swift flowing and full of fish.  Red and blue (oxygenated and empty blood cells) fish, white jellyfish (defence) and sharks (the virus).

Here heat and cold damage the fish universally.  High metabolism speeds up everything - including disroportionately the sharks (bad thing) - and low is the reverse.
Acid and alkali hurt one of the colours of blood fish and the sharks.

The antidote takes the form of giant cranes (the bird, not the JCB), plucking the sharks from the water.

The Brain

Big pulsing web - the attackers are spiders.  The strands are very vulnerable to any extremes - and the spiders are trying to rewire the web and suck out the pulses travelling along it.  The players have a strong feeling that damage to the web is very very bad - and it should trigger a FlashBack?.

The antidote is represented by vengeful owls (which for the PlayTest? turned to a crisp in the heat and crushed the spider by plummeting onto them.)


Images of life as a medship man, images of popples being experimented on, lots of medical procedures and recurrent images of the BadGuy?.

You probably want to stick some on index cards for quick reference and so as to not slow down the whole table.

This game can be very very silly.  Don't forget the flashbacksa (prepare them in advance) or they'll never have a chance to catch on.

Second play never got out of the spaceport.  No one minded.


Big hat?

Floaty boxy thingy

It's blatantly just a giant tamagotchi.

The elephant is dead, long live the elephant.

I've lost my wedginess.

Toomy Cooper: Just like that.  Without the cheese.

The elephant palpatates.

Dude, where's my cube?
... It's a borg cube.

Your cheese ladder has cooled sufficiently.

Do you want to stop for a giggle break?  (They did.)

We now have toold.
... of a rudimentary kind
... made of cheese.

Mattress plan 'A'

It uses sign language
with its fingers.

So, slithery snakey thingy, what are you wearing?

We could just say yes.
How?  My mouth is connected to my car.

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