Not a Traditional RPG, But it Can be Used With One [ edit ]
Bucket of Bolts is a very different from the other RPGs listed here. Instead of a giant rulebook, it has only two small ones, which total eleven pages. Instead of being designed for a group, it's designed for a single player, and instead of creating a character, you create a ship ... and then you document it's history, making the whole game (in a sense) one long creation process.
This means that Bucket of Bolts useful mainly for two classes of player. First, players looking for some "solo gaming" when away from the table might enjoy playing the game and generating new starships with colorful histories simply for the fun of it. Second, players wanting to have a ship in a more traditional space travel game, like Traveller, GURPS, or Scum and Villainy, can use this mini-game to create a rich history for their group ship.
Bucket of Bolts, First Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse
Character Creation [ edit ]
As a solo or "journaling" RPG, character creation ... or rather, ship creation, is the entire game of Bucket of Bolts: there are no other mechanics. This allows Bucket of Bolts to be used in conjunction with any "real" RPG that has actual ship stats in their rules.
To begin to create your ship you simply start with a "medium class freighter" and pick three traits for the ship. After the traits, you draw it (rough sketches are fine, no drawing ability is required), and pick a suitable model name and factory designation for it.
Given that the system has no rules for actually using the ship, traits are necessarily abstract, and the game defines them as:
These can be mechanical systems, battle scars, modifications, facets of an increasingly wilful personality core—or just the way the craft feels to fly.
Example traits include sleek, nondescript, infamous, leaky, infested, or even rude.
After the ship is created, play consists of three "acts", where each act describes several captains who owned the ship during that act. To begin an act the player chooses from one of four captains in that act. For instance, the first act offers choices such as "long distance hauler", "galactic senator" and "intelligence agent".
After selecting a captain the player then answers some basic questions about them. For instance, if they select a long distance hauler, they must describe the family (blood or otherwise) that live on board the ship, and what it's most valuable cargo was.
Next they must select an event to occur. There are two event tables to choose from, each of which has six questions. For instance the "Love & Triumph" table might ask the player to answer questions about a great treasure recovered from a long forgotten world, or about a time that an overwhelming force came against a community aligned
with the Captain (who helped to drive it off).
After the event the player can choose to answer one or more "ship questions". Each of these is optional, but the player is encouraged to answer some of them during play.
For instance, one is simply selecting a name for the ship, while others include deciding on a secret mechanism (installed but not used by the last captian), or deciding how the crew respond after the ship's computer is upgraded with artificial intelligence.
After each act the player decides how long the ship went between captains (eact act has different options), and then waits a related amount of time in real life (ranging from "no time at all" to up to six minutes, if the ship went for centuries in-between). Players are encouraged to wait silently during that time or listen to the game's soundtrack (which, as of December 2021, was not yet available).
Depending on the amount of time selected the playe then may choose 0-3 time events (again from two tables with six options each). For instance, a ship mothballed for a long time may have been picked over by scavenegers, and the player has to decide what parts the next captain has to replace, and what systems never work quite right after.
After the time has passed the player selects a new captain , and repeats the process again. Depending on how many previous captains the ship has at that point, the player may also move on to the next act.
At the end of the third act (which comes either when the player is ready, or after ten minutes of real-life rest) the player reaches their final captain. After that captain is done, they either describe the ship's ending
Is it Any Good? [ edit ]
As a small game about documenting space ship history ... with no rules for combat or, well, for anything else, Bucket of Bolts will clearly not appeal to everyone. But if the core idea resonnates with you, you can rest assured that the game does a good job of it, as it has a five out of five star rating on its home, Itch.io (from 59 reviews).
So if you're looking to develop a richer, more insteresting backstory for your campaign's Millenium Falcon (or Bebop, or other storied craft), or if you're just looking for a way to stay pumped in-between games of an actual space RPG, check out this fun journaling option from developer Jack Harrison.