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Fantastical gunfights at the dusk of the colonial age
Basheer Ghouse, Indian-American creator, talks about Guns Blazing!
Greetings, Global South Shoutout readers!
In today's issue, we're turning the spotlight on an intriguing and rebellious new tabletop RPG that's currently seeking funding on Kickstarter: Guns Blazing! by Basheer Ghouse. Our featured creator, Basheer, is an ENnie-award-winning, Indian-American game designer and writer hailing from San Jose. He's cooked up an alternate 1920s world of revolutionaries, freedom fighters, Jinn, and supernatural threats that challenges colonial and oppressive powers. Delightfully dieselpunk and anti-colonial, Guns Blazing! brings unique combat mechanics and rich world-building to the gaming table.
In our conversation with Basheer, we dive into his creative universe and explore the extraordinary aspects of Guns Blazing! Let’s get to it!
What sparked the idea to meld anti-colonial themes with dieselpunk - two seemingly disparate elements - in Guns Blazing!?
Looking at the dieselpunk genre, it’s abundantly clear that colonial struggle should be part of it. The time period is very much the twilight of the colonial era, it’s simply ignored in most dieselpunk in favor of rehashing World War 1 or 2 for the umpteenth time. It was less merging disparate ideas than pointing out the obvious relevance and utility: It’s the right time and the right aesthetic, you just have to point the camera literally anywhere else besides Europe.
Your game prominently features Jinn as a core part of the world. How do you feel about tapping into your personal cultural heritage to bring a unique flavor to your game?
Nervous and optimistic in equal measure. Using Jinn, and tapping into folkloric interpretations of them, means I’m tossing an enormous amount of cultural shorthand in the genre. However it also gives me the opportunity to represent this alternate take on Jinn to a wide, non-Muslim audience that might mostly be familiar with increasingly westernized takes.
One key aspect of Guns Blazing! is its tactical combat system. How does the Ahadi engine contribute to these fast-paced, intricate encounters, and what sets it apart from other tabletop RPG systems when it comes to delivering this tactical experience?
The Ahadi Engine uses a custom-designed stamina management and formation system. The formation system lets you simplify large groups of similar enemies: The sort of foe you’d see often in tactical shooters. It essentially lets you run a large group of enemies as one foe with minimal overhead. The Stamina system allows for dynamic reactions across a round of play, giving players meaningful tactical decisions even when it isn’t their turn.
How does the game system encourage players to explore complex relationships between allies and navigate the delicate politics of change in a time of revolution?
This is largely a setting and scenario design question. While Guns Blazing has a Bond system to mechanize character’s relationships with various allies and political factions, the impetus for that system mattering is the political situation of a given campaign. Guns Blazing will be launching with writeups of various national, international, and state factions detailing their conflicting desires and the circumstances that push them against each other. Individual scenarios show how those desires cause factions to work against each other in practice, forcing characters to navigate political situations to accomplish their goals.
Guns Blazing! offers players six playbooks and numerous Perks for character customization. How do these choices contribute to diverse play styles and unique experiences, and can you share an example of how they might result in interesting character interactions and developments within the game?
The combination of playbooks and perks defines how you interact with the game. Vanguards have perks that give them bonuses for moving in combat, and for stumbling into sensitive situations in narrative play. Hunters can destroy evidence of their actions in narrative play and get access to better stealth mechanics than anyone else. Similarly, perks can define not only what your character can do but who they are: A Jinn might be able to shapeshift into certain animals, while a human becoming more akin to a Jinn may gain the ability during a campaign.
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Your game features not just colonial powers, but also supernatural foes. How do you see the juxtaposition of these two kinds of antagonists enriching the game's narrative and thematic depth?
The supernatural foes allow me to embody conflicts that would be difficult to bring into a pulp story otherwise. The long-term effects of colonialism and the broken incentive structures it leaves behind, leading to dysfunctional states after colonial pull-outs, are hard to communicate in an engaging manner during a TTRPG. Ancient fungus monsters that prey on the weak which embody that idea are much more approachable. Juxtaposing them with more mundane threats both provides mechanical depth to your foes and helps players engage with the idea as a concrete part of the setting.
The campaign features three Starter Scenarios and plans to expand on these with stretch goals. Can you talk a bit about the narrative experience these scenarios provide for players, and how the stretch goals would enhance them even further?
Each starter scenario shows off a playstyle, threat, theme, and region in Guns Blazing. Incident Eliph introduces the False Majooj and their Restitched servants, as well as the tangled web of the still-extant Ottoman Empire. Welcome to Aceh introduces the Atom Unborn as both friend and foe, as well as Dutch-occupied Indonesia. Chaos in Hyderabad reckons with the terrors of the British Empire and Iram as well as the many competing factions in the Indian subcontinent. Similarly, Incident Eliph is a rushed adventure that wraps up in a matter of days, Welcome to Aceh takes place over several weeks, and Chaos in Hyderabad can take in-fiction months to resolve.
As a creator, what do you want the players to take away from the themes and gameplay experiences of Guns Blazing!, whether it's empathy, empowerment, or something else entirely?
History is fragile, politics are complex, and accomplishing change is difficult and requires compromise. This was as true for your ancestors as it is for you.
Can you tell our readers how they can find you and your work online, as well as where to learn more about this game and your other projects?
You can find Guns Blazing at:
You can follow me on twitter at @BasheerGhouse or elsewhere as Basheer Ghouse or Havocfett.
Thank you, dear Global South Shoutout readers, for joining us on this thrilling dive into the world of Guns Blazing! and the brilliant mind of its creator, Basheer Ghouse. We hope you enjoyed our conversation and discovered something new and invigorating about indie RPGs. We're grateful for your continued support, and we encourage you to share this issue with your fellow gamers and enthusiasts.
Make sure to stay tuned for more exciting interviews, game spotlights, and insights into the indie RPG scene from our vibrant Global South community. Keep on adventuring, and until next time, happy gaming!