Tuesday, March 28, 2023

More Classics Return: Swords & Wizardry Complete, Revised Kickstarter!

 First, the Kickstarter is here. I'm kind of excited about this. While I rather like Old-School Essentials, I admit to having had the most overall fun with Swords & Wizardry Complete. I'm not a minimalist OSR guy, so the S&W Complete edition is important for me to capture the state of gaming as I experienced it at the start in 1981. It's not perfect (my core experience was pure AD&D 1E), but it gets close. OSRIC is nice, but its a very utilitarian experience.....S&W Complete has a style that is evocative of the times and which I find quite inspiring.* The fact that it works well with 0E D&D, 1E AD&D and B/X content all at once is a big plus, too. 

Anyway, with the new S&W Complete KS going I poked around a bit and noticed something: the new edition is a return to form through Mythmere games, Matt Finch's original publishing label, and it looks like S&W is back in his hands. When you go to Frog God Games it appears that S&W has been de-emphasized (I had to search a bit) and they also mention OSE now.  I have no idea why this change happened....and no time recently to probe the depths of the internet to see if anyone knows, so if you happen to know why feel free to post here and let me know. Maybe Matt just wanted to have control over a new edition.

Either way, I did some comparing of Shadowdark RPG to Swords & Wizardry Complete Revised and decided I have enough 5E variants to last me a lifetime, but I'd love that nice print leatherette cover design and a revised S&W Complete for the shelf, or maybe even a future campaign. Time to break out my old S&W Complete Otus cover edition again and think about what I could do with it. 

OSE is still a great take on OSR gaming, and I admit it does some things much better in terms of rule organization and how it mixes classic B/X with Advanced content....but I look forward to seeing what a revised S&W looks like, and also enjoying the distinctly visceral, always engaging, and inspiring feel of S&W can once more bring to the table.

*It's also the only OSR retroclone (barring Castles & Crusades, if you consider it as such) that I have done any self-publishing for. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Most Exciting News of 2023: Basic Roleplaying Returns!

 I just got the Ab Chaos newsletter from Chaosium this morning and here was the announcement:

Holy cats....a new release of the BRP book in April, with print to follow! Just when I thought Chaosium had all but abandoned BRP as a generic game system. 

Questions do abound, though. Will this revision reflect the 7th edition Call of Cthulhu changes? Will it be a truly big book with enough core content to let a GM devise their own games, or will it mostly be a framework with the intent that it spark lots of open content, as it will fall under the open content license Chaosium has set up? How much of it will reflect Chaosium today vs. the Chaosium of prior eras? The old Gold Book covers "Old Chaosium" well enough, so if this one is mostly focused on the current edition of the system as reflected between Runequest and Call of Cthulhu I think I would be fine with that.  The lighter resource for BRP previously released free online is probably the new template for this book, I presume, which is a good thing....it is an excellent modern iteration of BRP.

Either way, this is the best news and the thing I am most looking forward to in 2023 now (next to Mothership 1E finally being released).

Monday, March 20, 2023

In the Works: Vaesen

It looks like the Pathfinder 2E campaign (Extinction Curse) is coming to another pause soon. We're on....um, I think it's the end of the second module in the Path, but we're already like level 8 so I am not really entirely sure, maybe we plowed on in to the third adventure path. Who knows! I am a good player and simply do not cheat and look at modules I am playing in. 

But that means I'll be back to running again soon. I've been running a live ongoing high level D&D 5E campaign on Wednesdays, but I've pleasantly avoided running anything on VTT lately. I have been messing around with the prospect of Foundry at last, and I think I could do it....Foundry has a lot of potential, although it also has some curiously rough spots as well, things which, say, Roll20 does exceedingly well but which Foundry does not (and the reverse is also true). 

I threw out a mess of ideas to the player group, and the one which seems to have the most traction is Vaesen. It's not hard to see why: it has an exotic historical setting (19th century Sweden), an entirely new and different approach to horror (the monsters of Swedish myth and folklore), and an interesting game system with a robust and easy way to make genre-appropriate characters without needing to be intimately familiar with Sweden in the 1850's-1860's. 

My biggest road block at the moment is grasping how to make Vaesen as scary as much of its descriptive text promises. It has some decent background and setup for the GM to work with, but when I get to actually reading some of the monster descriptions they sound entertaining....but maybe not as scary or weird as I'd like? The art, based on a famous book of illustrations on Vaesen in Sweden, is almost adorable in its modest cartoonish style, giving me a "children's spooky stories for kids" vibe, which --I'll be honest-- is going to be hard for me to work with, because these illustrations generally aren't evocative of adult horror. 

There's got to be something I am missing, some spooky and unknowable element I am overlooking throughout the process. Maybe I am just ruined by more grim and dark horror like Call of Cthulhu and Kult (a game which I can readily, almost immediately see the full and dark potential of)? Maybe my poor old brain has been too deeply influenced by decades of obsession with Cosmic Horror to find itself able to wallow in traditional spooky old folklore. "It needs something truly weird, really out there," my old brain is thinking. "It can't really just be an angry fairy that's curdling milk (and maybe the milk maid is being curdled, too)."

Still, I am going to give it the old college try and see how it goes. Everyone is prepped with main and backup characters already, and the player enthusiasm is strong, so I must feed from that for my own. 

I mean, hey, at least its not yet another D&D game! More on that and my extreme D&D burnout in a future post, though.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Operation Blackwatch - A Savage Worlds Supers/Horror Mashup

 I ran this in the older edition of Savage Worlds a few years ago, it was a lot of fun and I am thinking of revisiting this campaign again soon:

Operation Blackwatch Campaign

A Savage Worlds Horror/Supers Mashup (but would work with GURPS, Hero System, Cypher, etc. just fine) inspired by the likes of Hellboy, Creature Commandos, X-Files and all those faddish Zombie/Superhero What If Tales)


A top-secret international covert ops organization named Operation Blackwatch is founded in 1946 after it is discovered that atomic bomb testing has resulted in a weakening of the fabric of reality’s walls….the “universe’s skin” has been damaged and something from somewhere else has begun to bleed through in to the physical world.

Initial encounters with the phenomenon proved deadly, and reports were enigmatic….the first appearance of “aliens” in Roswell, the appearance of enigmatic, Aryan figures in “sky chariots” to hapless drivers in the night, all seemed to have some connection to the opening phenomenon which materialized in the New Mexico desert a year after the initial tests were successful….a night which left dozens dead and three ghost towns in its wake. Demons in one location, aliens in another, and angels or gods of old in a third, all appearing within months of one another.

While the government instituted smokescreens such as Project Sign and Bluebook to disguise what was really going on, A covert team of specialists were assigned to study the aftermath of the “Old Organ” incident, especially specimens which had been recovered in the battle. The first team called these things demons, but settled on a more familiar term to the locals: skin walkers. The reason was simple: each creature appeared to have ripped its way out of the skin of the humans they seemed to inhabit, transforming them into brutal monsters.

Over several decades Blackwatch worked behind the scenes with other organizations, including Majestic-12 which was established by the US to coordinate negotiations with non-hostile “outsiders” as the term came to be for these beings which spontaneously appeared. Of the few who were willing to work with groups such as MJ-12 and Blackwatch, the so-called Vegans (three entities who suggested they were divine angels from the planet Vega) and the “little green men” of Roswell who never admitted to being aliens or otherwise, but would attempt to dominate human minds with psionic control at any turn if they weren’t kept unconscious with an oxygen rich formula, left the investigative teams suspect as to the intentions and contradictory stories of these beings. In 1951 in Korea a being called a Gunung manifested at the October 1950 incursion allegedly aided by the Chinese. The Gunung was so called because local Korean soldiers on both sides saw it as a manifestation of a brutal war god of old mythology, and it turned the tide against South Korean forces aided by the US.

The Gunung was the first concrete evidence of powerful manifestations outside the US. In a secret charter the Blackwatch Covert Operations Teams were reappointed as a agency under international UN jurisdiction to investigate any supernatural manifestations that happened worldwide. Within five years a dozen major manifestations had been reported. The most notable of these was recorded in The Soviet Union of all places, when a disturbance in Tsarskoye Selo (now Pushkin) revealed what appeared to be Grigori Rasputin, reanimated and undead, brought back by the supernatural energies. Aiding him was a manifestation straight out of mythic Russian nightmares: the fowl-legged hut of the legendary witch Baba Yaga, who had materialized in the flesh. The stories go that it took Soviet forces, including tanks and hundreds of men to drive the witch and her hut back into the woods with Rasputin, where they lost all trace of them….for a time. The two continued to haunt the Soviet Union for decades to come, as they appeared to take great umbrage at the Communist regime in charge of their country.

The Soviets allegedly formed their own group to study the supernatural phenomenon manifesting in the hinterlands of their country as well. Called the Night Watch (the Nochnoy Dozor), it would have multiple run-ins and conflicts with the UN’s own top secret Blackwatch over the coming decades. The Nochnoy Dozor continues to function in a modified role right to the present, and holds as many as one hundred supernaturally enhanced agents.

The practice of recruiting the “enhanced” began in the late fifties when the first humans who appeared to manifest unusual abilities as a result of an encounter with or exposure to supernatural elements first appeared. Some projects (such as MK Ultra) tried to exploit these enhanced for their own purposes to mixed results, but Blackwatch was uniquely qualified to recruit, train, and deploy these agents in to the field, using their own experience and abilities to counter and contain dangerous supernatural phenomenon.

Over the decades the incursions of the supernatural have grown. There were several hundred reported incidents from 1946-1960, but by 1990 there were another one thousand documented incidents world-wide, and by 2000 the number of cases had doubled. News stories were out of control, and it was only luck that prevented the public from being directly exposed to these manifestations in a manner that could lead to panic social unrest. By 2019 it is believed that there are over 5,000 humans and entities masquerading as human documented on record, and as many as 15,000 cases worldwide that have been records; Blackwatch can no longer keep up. A social engineering program in the early 00’s aimed at normalizing the concept of superhumans to the public and through film and other media this has had mixed success. Blackwatch remains an unknown operation, but a public group named Operation Skywatch ( a tribute to the days when most phenomena were perceived as UFO events) now seeks to identify and contain or train certain selected enhanced manifestations as part of a public program, and the operation openly implies that the powers of these individuals come from aliens.

In 2019, Blackwatch continues to fight from the shadows seeking containment of dangerous threats, while Skywatch seeks to create a public face to the increasingly hard to disguise presence of supernatural beings and humans who have been enhanced by this presence. Behind the scenes though the fight is getting more desperate, and Blackwatch realizes it may have overlooked a powerful hidden movement behind the scenes; the malignant and dangerous beings, the ones labeled demons and monsters, appear to have been forging their own alliances and working on their own agendas.

Threats and Secrets:

Blackwatch knows that there are hidden sources of order among some of the foes they have encountered. Study of these creatures, when captured, has revealed that they have formed “cabals” and “coteries” working to share knowledge and resources. Some of these groups are larger and more well organized; lots of evidence from Russia suggests that Rasputin and his patron saint of evil, Baba Yaga, are working behind the scenes to influence the heart of Russian politics and power, for example.

One recurring thread however is that the beings are growing more complicated, more insidious and manipulative. Most of the beings seem to manifest as identifiable creatures ripped from folklore, film, nightmare and myth. However, they all share the following hierarchy of traits:

1.      First Stage or “Primal” manifestations are beings which appeared the year following the atomic testing, and which appeared with consistency, usually a year or so later after additional atomic tests. It wasn’t until 1963 that Blackwatch, working through the UN, convinced the major world powers to agree to a test ban when they confirmed conclusively that the atomic testing was the actual source and cause of the manifestations.

The Primal First Stage Manifestations are the most terrifying and other-worldly. They seem to take on the most distinct and unrecognizable forms, as if they had not yet assimilated the appearance of horrors known to their first victims, though some rapidly changed and shifted, either into parodies or precise copies of those same victims. To this day Blackwatch has found less than ten of the estimated three hundred beings that appeared in 1946. These creatures, when found, are considered the most dangerous. It is believed that Baba Yaga is one of them, though it is suspected her power is what brought Rasputin back to life.

2.      Second Stage Possessors or “Inhabited” manifestations are more common, and start with a supernatural event manifesting in the region of a likely host subject. The individuals exposed to the “radiation” of supernatural energy from the bleed in the wall or reality rapidly degenerate and either mutate or become transformed by entities who seek a host organism in which to reside. These beings usually twist and mutate the host human in horrible ways, and sometimes are not successful in making the host viable. They seem able to abandon a host form to attempt to gain control of another body at times, though if this happens they seem unable to return to the old host form. Survivors of this sort of possession almost always manifest enhanced gifts….if they survive.

3.      Third Stage manifestations are known more commonly as Incursions as they seem to be creatures who claim to have come from some source of mythology, religion, fiction or nightmare in our world and seem to appear whole cloth. They are regarded as dangerous as their behavior seems to be dictated more by what people expect them to do as the beings they appear as rather than hold fast to any more common-sense agenda. Some early manifestations such as the Korean Gunung and the Vegans fit this description. These are often considered the most dangerous manifestations, but they can be hard to distinguish from Primal Manifestations or Possessors who have had time to shape their form and take on an identify unless you catch them at the moment they appear. The Vegans, for example, attempted to demonstrate their origin from a distant star by sending several agents to that location….their bodies were later discovered in orbit by observant sources.

One common agreement with study of the Incursions is this: they seem to need to take on forms chosen by the humans they intend to manipulate, terrorize or kill and feed off of. They are unable to survive without this “fear contact.” Certain classified experiments with captured Incursions have demonstrated that they seem to come apart and go insane, eventually killing themselves or dying when kept in isolation.

4.      Fourth Stage manifestations are identified by a Tibetan term and are called Tulpas. These entities are unique as it appears they are formed from others….including talented humans who have learned how, and are effectively simulacra of people. Tulpas can be complex or simple depending on the effort and energy invested in their creation, and some tulpas forged by powerful manifestations have enhanced powers and shapeshifting skills. The tulpa has become a significant danger in the spycraft of the modern era, as it is possible for a talented agent to kill and replace a target with a perfect duplicate, sometimes fooling the enemy for years. Tulpas almost never seem to manifest without being coaxed; but there are few exceptions to every rule and Blackwatch keeps a file on known tulpas for whom no creator as ever identified.

Blackwatch’s most dangerous foe in this game is the entity known simply as The Cabal, though it often has local titles going by whatever vernacular the creatures see fit to use. In the United States the Cabal is believed to be fairly strong and have infiltrated a portion of the government, with an unknown number of prominent organizers behind it, possibly all either hidden manifestations, enhanced humans sympathetic to the monsters, or tulpas in their service. The faceless leader of the Cabal is a being called the Tempest, and it is considered a great failing that no one in Blackwatch has gotten close to identifying who or what Tempest is.

In 1987 the Cabal forged a force of its own and thanks to some good luck and critical mistakes by certain agents the Cabal learned of a Blackwatch Operations Center and infiltrated then destroyed it in a raid, killing over one hundred agents and personnel in the process. Since this day Blackwatch moved to a more distributed operations network of cells spread throughout the world to avoid any one compromised Control Center from impacting the others. From 1988 to 2010 there were only four identified attacks on these cells. From 2011 to the present that tripled to 13 known attacks, and it is believed that the Cabal is getting better at infiltrating.

On occasion agents of the Cabal have been captured and interrogated. The most successful interrogation was with a Primal Manifestation which called itself the Grimjack, a gray, ghost-like being that had been working as a serial killer in the backwoods of Montana for decades. The Grimjack initially appeared incapable of speech beyond small mimicry, but when given paper and pen began to write furiously, producing a mixture of apocalyptic prophecy and occasional moments of lucidity. It was through this writing that the researchers learned that the Cabal’s leader could be a Primal Manifestation, one with strong influence over its kind. It was clear too from the writing that the apocalyptic descriptions of the Grimjack were not of our world’s future…yet….but of another world entirely, possibly one he had come from through the Bleed between universes.

Then, one day, the Grimjack spoke. “This is not the first time we’ve been here,” he told the stunned interrogators. “But this will be the last.” It was moments later that the Grimjack broke free and killed most of the researchers in the complex before disappearing. Rumors today suggest he is somewhere in South Texas, but local cells have yet to pin him down.

The Defectors

Almost all of the so-called Defectors are either Incursions which, though the adoption or their forms and “minds” have appeared as beings empathetic to humanity’s survival, or as victims of Possessors who have managed to survive the experience with enhancements. Defectors are unique in that they are by definition creatures of “the other side” or have been touched by them, but appear to have the best interests of humanity at heart. Angelic beings, demonic beings and other more disturbing entities who somehow found themselves with an undeniable soft spot for humanity have cushioned out the ranks of the Blackwatch. Long before they are considered for field duty as operators these beings undergo rigorous examination and testing to confirm they are not plants of the Cabal. So far, about one hundred such beings have made agent status.

Of interesting note about these defectors: each tends to firmly believe it is a correct and true manifestation of whatever supernatural element it presents itself as. However, in each case these beings seem to have strange “blank spots” in their memory that seem oddly to not bother them, but which constitute the rift in any memories that might lead to confusion about their natures. An angelic incursion, for example, might not remember its appearance on earth and instead think it descended from Heaven, but claim in its mortal form to have little more than feelings or impressions of what Heaven was like. Such beings, if interrogated too closely about their true natures, sometimes seem to go mad and may spontaneously change at that time to more hostile forms. Blackwatch’s interrogators have perfected a method by which they can attempt to force such reactions out of Defectors; if the defector resists and does not succumb to madness, or acknowledges it recognizes its existence as a manifestation of human creation then it has passed the test.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Reviewing the Backbone One - The Portability Firehose

 I recently decided to complicate my life slightly more by picking up a Backbone One, a funky and slightly overpriced device that attaches controllers to your iPhone, turning it in to a kind of portable game console. It's a $99.95 device, which is about $30-40 more than most PS5 and Xbox Series X controllers cost right now. On the plus side, it has an audio jack which is like gold in the phone world these days. There is a subscription based app which then makes it look and act like you're in a console environment while using it, though that is an entirely unnecessary product (with the caveat that it really does make it easier to connect to Xbox's Cloud streaming service than using Safari). It otherwise acts as a hub for various streaming apps, allowing me to connect to the PS5 and stream from the machine, or to my home PC to stream from my Steam library. It also works with a lot of games natively in the Apple Games store, and Apple's subscription service.

Until now, I have largely ignored gaming on phones for two key reasons: the general assumption that most (not all, but most) mobile gaming apps are predatory in some way therefore best avoided; and the fact that mobile gaming requires using the touch screen of the phone, which can be an awkward experience at best in most cases. As a result, the sorts of games that work best on phones with a touch screen are not ones I care for. Now, even with the Backbone handy, I think that by and large both of these statements remain true, but the situation changes a bit. 

Now it is already the case that I can readily identify and play games on the phone  (also, iPad) which work well with a remote controller. Sure, I could connect an Xbox controller via bluetooth before, but its not easy using that with an iPad let alone an iPhone. As for the predatory game design, in which the game is hyper monetized: easy solution there is, of course, to avoid those games which demand money be spent. This isn't too hard as the Apple store still contains lots of perfectly good or even great games with one time purchases (plenty of good RPGs, for example), or limited additional purchases (Dead Cells, for example, can be had for one base purchase plus three DLCs that are reasonably priced). Something else I noticed: there simply isn't as much hype around mobile releases. Mobile games tend to stick around for much longer, and fade when interest wanes or compatibility issues overwhelm it. The hype train of the Newest and Latest is mysteriously absent in the world of "free to download" apps.  

So, at least from a practical use case, my desire to avoid over-monetized and predatory games while finding games that work with the backbone is fairly easy to achieve. What I didn't expect with the Backbone was that streaming games I own from devices I own or in the cloud is a much better experience than I have been led to believe. Like...worlds better. As long, of course, as you have decent internet.

So far I have played some lengthy sessions in games like Outriders (on Xbox Series X) and The Division 2 (on PS5) and it was a very satisfactory experience. The only real issue to be honest is that I have the iPhone 13 mini, which is a smaller screen even than my Switch Lite, so this is not something you do without good eyes, or having some reading glasses handy. But I am shocked at how good the streaming is. I am lucky on this, though. Streaming at home: piece of cake, I am well set up for it. It's weird (and unnecessary) to play on the phone when my 42 inch OLED monitor is waiting for me to use it with whatever console I am streaming from, of course, but the experience is superior even to the Steam deck because the actual next gen console is doing the heavy lifting. The only issue would be latency in the controller itself, and I have noticed none at all at home.

I tried it at work, where I have a very good high speed internet arrangement (including a high speed public wifi for my employees) and it works great here as well, even with connecting online. It is better, or at least easier, to use the Xbox Cloud Streaming service in this case....my home consoles were more likely to have hiccups, I noticed.....but it worked really well. 

I tried it in some less suitable circumstances. I connected to the public wifi at a Chili's while having lunch with my wife and it worked okay, but you could see a bit of upside/downside lag. It was still weird playing my cloud saves on a game like Outriders at a Chilis, though. (FYI I could play Outriders on the Steam Deck if I picked it up through Steam, but I own it on the Xbox Series X so that's why I am testing a lot with this game). 

In the end, the phone+Backbone combination is letting me do the following: play (and resume playing) titles I already own on existing saves I have on my PS5 and Xbox Series X, which none of my other devices can do right now (I think I could accomplish this on the Steam deck with some effort at figuring out how to access Xbox on Linux, though); I can download and play native android games from the iPhone store that also work offline if needed (I have loaded Dead Cells, Hyperlight Drifter, Diablo Immortal, and a few RPGs that are backbone friendly); and I can also stream my Steam collection if desired. 

The Backbone+phone combo has two key limiters: you need good internet for the streaming, and you must accept the size of your phone screen. On the plus side, with a small phone and the backbone having a pretty low profile, this is as easy to slip into a pocket as the Switch Lite. It somehow manages to also have a more comfortable grip arrangement than the Switch Lite (which honestly kills my hands after playing for a while). I've had no hand-comfort issues at all with the Backbone. 

Now, for the reason I think that I (in my particular circumstances) may find that the phone+Backbone combo is actually what I needed all along for portable gaming: 

The thing is, I have over the last few years accrued the following devices. We won't go back to days of yore on this; my first post Atari 2600 console purchase was an original Gameboy when in college, which I used to play exactly two games: Castlevania and Metroid. No, this list is only of the current, relevant stuff (so my PS Vita stays in storage):

A Switch OLED; a Switch Lite; Steam Deck; Evercade EXP (plus prior original Evercade).

This is a pathetically small list of portable consoles compared to the average Youtuber who talks about portable consoles; I follow some of these vloggers who get into the portability and the retro/emulator elements, and they have sometimes dozens of imported, often cheap emulator handhelds, portable PC competitors to the Steam deck, and more. But for me, having access to four handhelds is a lot.

When I got the original Switch it was less for the portability and more for the sake of completeness to have all the current consoles on the market. What I discovered was that it was really fun to have a multipurpose portable console experience. Since that original Switch I moved to the OLED model as the screen quality is so much nicer, but when I travel the Switch Lite tends to be what I throw in the bag for ease of access. The reality is that outside of some rare occasions I never generally have an opportunity to pull the Switch Lite out for its actual intended purpose. It's more like an ornament, or a safety cord I can "pull in case of extreme boredom."

The Evercade series is likewise more for novelty than anything else. I like it a lot, especially the latest one, the Evercade EXP, but I am not throwing this in to my pocket on a regular basis for on the go gaming. It's more a novelty, a chance to occasionally revisit old classic 80's and 90's arcade games when I feel like it, and to introduce my son to them. But I think I've already logged more hours on my Backbone than I have on the Evercade EXP....so, yeah.

Steam Deck is a beast, and its a fascinating piece of hardware to have on hand. It's the one device these days I am most likely to throw in to a travel bag for a trip, but its impractical to say, throw in my work case because the thing is just too big for practical everyday hauling around. You can't fit it in a pocket, is what I am saying, and you can't play it for too long without having a way to recharge handy, so its better to have when you're going on a trip and staying at a hotel but maybe don't want to haul a laptop along for the ride.

Ultimately, what I have learned is that for daily portability it is nice to have something small and easy to use, which gives you just enough to handle those odd quiet moments when some actual portable gaming can be done. I bet if I were younger and not part of the rapidly growing elderly Gen X crowd that I might be able to find more free time slots for portable gaming....but I am an old guy now, like it or not, with a company to run and a family to wrangle, and portable gaming slips in when it can, not when I would like it to. As a result, throwing the Backbone in to my work bag or even for travel is an ideal and preferable alternative to what I have been doing (sorry Switch Lite!) for day to day access. 

Switch still has purpose, of course. I have designs on finishing Bayonetta 3, replaying after many years Metroid Prime, and Front Mission One of course. But its just not quite as impressive as what the iPhone 13 can run natively, I realize....Switch is looking old, now. And Steam Deck of course is amazing, an artifact of the future, but it needs a slimmer model to compete in the space we're talking about here, which is what can fit in my pants' pocket or my jacket's inner pocket. So going forward: it's just my iPhone as usual, but now with the Backbone One handy for whenever the moment takes me.

If this interests you but you have Android, the good news is a Backbone for Android should be out soon. Note that the current Backbone One is set up to plug in via the proprietary iPhone cable (lightning), so depending on how Apple's migration to USB-C goes that could end up requiring an adapter down the road. My iPad is already USB-C ready so I need an adapter for that when I plug the Backbone in to it to use as a regular controller (you can do that, it just feels a bit like holding an actual bone compared to a full size controller when holding it this way).