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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Seed of an idea  (Read 10954 times)
Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #30 on: December 05, 2002, 08:23:47 AM »

Quote from: Paganini

But, seriously. I might be able to point you at a game you're *not* familiar with that will do what you want, but I need a little more info. For one thing, are you looking for something more or less generic, as the Window is, that you can apply to any setting / genre etc.? Or does your group have a particular setting that you always play in?


I guess the sort of setting that I prefer would be "low fantasy". By that I mean a setting where truly supernatural/magical/fantastical elements are present but rare and are definetly not the norm.

If you've ever read any books by an English author by the name of David Gemmell then thats the kind of setting and atmosphere I'd love to create.

:) I have a sudden urge to check our Shadows again.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #31 on: December 05, 2002, 09:06:56 AM »

Quote from: Cassidy

I was merely trying to illustrate how use of the mechanic in play would facilitate the illusion that the players are acting out the roles of their characters.

But your post doesn't do that at all. You talk about how the GM will not ask questions that will lead to such play. You talk about appropriate player response, and what good play should look like. Then you point out how D&D does a bad job. But this is reasoning by induction, and you've made a big logical error. Which is that you assume that it's the fact that D&D does numbers that makes players speak about attributes and stats. That's simply not true.

In Sorcerer, to use an obvious example, players have several numerical scores. Further, each score has a descriptor attached to it. Yet, do you ever hear anyone reference these numbers or descriptors? Not really. It all goes very much in play like you describe being good play. What's the difference? In Sorcerer, you get extra dice for describing things in good narrative form. Thus if you include your descriptor in your narration somehow, the GM will give you a reward. However, you can't just keep saying, "I'm using my Athletic Stamina of three". That's never going to get you dice. What you have to say is, "Bob leaps high into the air, his well-toned musculature enabling him to get high enough to kick the demon in the head." That will get you dice. Thus this numerical/descriptor system always produces the desired effect.

It's the fact that D&D rewards careful consideration of your traits, and play bout them that results in their discussion. These stats are the point of play. All you have to do is avoid that in your game, and you're home free. But what do you hav right now? Something that is practically indistinguishable from FUDGE in terms of what sort of play it will produce. Your post above only enumerates how a GM should phrase questions, and how a player should respond. That's fine, but how does the system (System Does Matter) produce these effects? You can place admonitions in the text about doing like you describe, but historically, that does little. Take for example Storyteller which encourages detailed narrative in the text. Mechanically, however, it encourages Vampire: the Supers Combat. What do you get? Far more of the latter than the former.

So, is this just for your own consumption? Or do you want to develop a system that produces such play for others? If so, you'll have to go beyond translating numbers to descriptions. Because, just like in FUDGE play, it will not work with your system.

Now, the Fate mechanic idea has some merit as a reward system. But it seems a bit off to me. Basically, it encourages a player to go for their light fate, and discourages falling to the dark fate. This is gamist. Yes, promotion of "good" narration for the purpose of trying to achieve a prticular player goal is gamist. Or, at the very least, it's Simulationist trying to promote display of "winner" or light fate scenarios.

What if a player want's to play Narrativist, and explore his dark fate? You'll reward that angle only by narrating poorly? The reward should occur no matter which direction you go.

Others have suggested that what you want is Narrativism, and they may be right. Do you have an opinion on the subect? If it is Narrativism, then the Fate things needs some fixing, IMO.

Mike
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #32 on: December 05, 2002, 10:39:14 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

In Sorcerer, to use an obvious example, players have several numerical scores. Further, each score has a descriptor attached to it. Yet, do you ever hear anyone reference these numbers or descriptors? Not really.


During ongoing narrative focused play are you aware of those numerical scores?

Is your attention ever diverted from the narrative to look at those numerical scores when you are resolving an action?

If it is, then why is that?

Is it desirable to require players to divert their attention away from the in game narrative so that they can consider abstract numerical elements of their character.

How does that help further the narrative goals of the game?

Quote from: Mike Holmes

What if a player want's to play Narrativist, and explore his dark fate? You'll reward that angle only by narrating poorly? The reward should occur no matter which direction you go.


The concepts of True Fate and Dark Fate are the stated win/loss parameters as set by the player.

True Fate is the Fate that the player desires for their character and vice-versa.

If the player wants to explore a particularly nasty outcome for their player then that becomes their True Fate.

If you want to play a doomed warrior who is Fated to die in some particularly heinous way then thats his True Fate.

Conversely, the player could deem the characters Dark Fate to be one where the character becomes some fabled and highly renowned figure.

It could be fun to play a character who is truly destined to achieve some "evil" fate.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #33 on: December 05, 2002, 11:43:13 AM »

Quote from: Cassidy
During ongoing narrative focused play are you aware of those numerical scores?
Yes, when they need to know how many dice to roll. Just like your game when the GM tells them how many to roll. In fact, the GM could keep the character sheets and just throw dice at players like you describe.

Quote
Is your attention ever diverted from the narrative to look at those numerical scores when you are resolving an action?
No moreso than your system. In fact, it's very similar. You look for your highest die, and do a comparison. Can be more effort if you tie with another roller, but not a lot.

Quote
Is it desirable to require players to divert their attention away from the in game narrative so that they can consider abstract numerical elements of their character.
No, but it'anot undesirable either. In either case this all misses the point, yet again. Neither system does anything with it's enumeration method to keep player's attentions away from the stats. Sorcerer does do something in it design outside of that, however. This is where it's a superior design in that light.

Quote

The concepts of True Fate and Dark Fate are the stated win/loss parameters as set by the player.

True Fate is the Fate that the player desires for their character and vice-versa.

If the player wants to explore a particularly nasty outcome for their player then that becomes their True Fate.
Gamist narration. Cool.

However, that means that all players will always attempt to play well, and, if that's the simple criteria, they will always succeed at achieving their True Fate. To avaoid this, you have to make the criteria strong.

In the only other systems that I've seen that use such a technique, Pantheon and Primeval, the player's play is judged by very specific criteria. Including failure criteria. The problem is that if you want to make your game work, there will be times when you have to not reward players for their play. When they think they should be rewarded. Such is the subjective nature of "good roleplaying".

The point is that if the rule is just "The GM decides", that's often waaay to subjective for many players. I wouldn't want to run it or play it. OTOH, if you were to set up some more specific criteria, then you might be onto something.

Mike
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Cassidy
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Posts: 165


« Reply #34 on: December 05, 2002, 12:34:57 PM »

I haven't played Sorcerer and I've only read the online PDF a while back but from your reply it seems pretty close to what I'm after in terms of in play conflict resolution.

On the math/stat angle as I did mention before I am inclined to agree with you that stats and knowledge of how the "system" works are a necessary part of the whole gaming experience.

In hindsight, and on reflection, the notion of distancing the players totally from any inherent system mechanics is likely to be viewed suspiciously by some players. I suspect that to be true of the players in my group.

With that in mind, and assuming that it is in some ways desirable for the players to adopt an active role in "using the system" are there any drawbacks in the using the following sort of in play process to resolve conflict...

a) Conflict arises.
b) GM narrates the scene and requests statement of intent from player.
c) Player narrates statement of intent.
d) GM requests roll from the Player.
e) Player determines what dice need to be rolled and rolls them.
f) Results are interpreted and narrated.

The steps I would be concerned about are (d) and (e).

(d) Because the GM will have to step out of "narrative mode" to phrase the request to roll, potentially in using system terms that the player(s) can interpret.

i.e. "I need you to make a test - difficulty 7"
     "Give me a roll - difficulty 6"

I'm assuming that the character trait that is being tested is either inferred or stated in some way either by the GM or the player as part of the prior to the GM stated request to 'roll the dice'. This limits the need for the GM to refer to the trait being tested in 'system' terms.

I'm concerned that phrasing requests to the player could detract from the narrative tone that has previously been set and which I would be trying to maintain.

(e) Requires the players to step out of "narrative mode" to do the math which determines how many dice need to be rolled.

i.e. (player thinking)
<My Strength is 6, the difficulty is 7, 6 - 7 = -1, so I need to roll 2 dice and take the lowest result.>

or...

<My Perception is 8, the difficulty is 6, 8 - 6 = +2, so I need to roll 3 dice and take the highest result.>

Whilst it enhances the players feeling of 'involvement' in the 'mechanical' process of conflict resolution (which I accept some players like), I can't help feeling that it's potentially detracting from the narrative goals I want the game to achieve.

Am I just being over-zealous in my desire to create a gaming envoronment that is focused on promoting narrative play?
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #35 on: December 05, 2002, 12:47:47 PM »

Rewards for "good role-playing" never seem to work in my group and thats probably due to the group dynamic more than anything else.

Some players are just more articulate and better able to role-play a character than others. They may inadvertently "over elaborate" or "grandstand" in an effort to be seen as "playing well" if they believe it is likely to result in an in-game reward of some sort.

Others players just aren't as eloquent or find it harder to adopt their chosen roles. They see rewards being handed out to other players who are just better role-players. Ego's get bruised and players can start to feel a marginalized from the game.

Have you experienced anything similar?
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #36 on: December 05, 2002, 01:32:39 PM »

I have seen what you are talking about. In systems built inappropriately. This is the basic problem that I have with the Fate system you're building. Essentially, I feel neither good enough a roleplayer, nor judge to try the system out.

The ones that do work are the ones where the GM gives out the reward on the spot, the reward can't be gotten another way. And the GM gives them out like candy based on the effort the player displays. I once saw a guy go from complete D&D hacker mode of play, to complete narrativist play, simply because he saw that we were getting extra dice. The GM found a spot where the player described the action with the least little fair, getting into it. The GM said, "Cool!" and gave him an extra big bonus. From that point on there was no stopping this player.

Because it's not good roleplaying that we want. That's right. You and I both agree, it seems to me that what we want is effort in that direction. Some players just can't do it well. But that doesn't matter. As long as they're trying, that's all we can ask, right?

So what do we do? We give on the spot rewards for what we like to see. And players respond. Boy do they respond. You wouldn't believe. Such a switch in focus is startling. Because play suddenly goes from "I'm trying to win by player tactics" to "I'm trying to make this dramatic". And the difference can be like night and day. Starting with the player stopping thinking in terms of stats (which no longer have anything to do with the rewards), and instead starts thinking in terms of "cool".

Gotta admit it's getting to me. Actually, you can have the best of both worlds. See TROS.

Mike
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #37 on: December 05, 2002, 01:44:07 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

However, that means that all players will always attempt to play well, and, if that's the simple criteria, they will always succeed at achieving their True Fate. To avoid this, you have to make the criteria strong.


Absolutely.

Looking at the idea of True Fate and Dark Fate in terms of a "challenge" to the players...

Achieving one's True Fate should be an ongoing struggle, fraught with difficulty, peril and risk. In game terms it should be hard to achieve.

Achieving one's Dark Fate should be enticing, tempting, deceptively alluring, easily achievable. In game terms your Dark Fate should be easily achievable.

As I mentioned before, my preferred setting is Middle-Earth, and the influence of Sauron and/or other dark powers is potentially a workable rationale for the concept of True/Dark Fate.

Powerful immortal beings such as Sauron (or before him Morgoth) seek to shape the world in their own design, a design that was never intended to be and which is the antithesis of the original thought of the creator, Eru.

Will the characters become part of that design? Will they be manipulated by immortal powers far greater than themselves with the will and the power to alter destiny?

In game terms, spending Fate is the tempter. Every time you spend Fate you are effectively attempting to alter your destiny, your True Fate. You are trying to shape an event by your own will, weilding a little of that Dark Power that Sauron himself wields.

When you've spent all your Fate then you are bound to a destiny that is in some way tied to the dark design of Sauron. Your Dark Fate.

Regaining Fate should be hard.

I can't think of an in-game process under the direct control of the players that I could use which would fit.

As such I'm thinking that it would be better to award Fate as a consequence of the characters in-play activities that can be directly tied to or rationally deemed to be bringing them closer to their True Fate.

As a concept I believe it has potential. Clearly defined player goals are very often missing in games and often unstated. Allowing the players to define those goals and through actual play work towards them seems a very good way to engage the players interest.

In practice I can see that it has some problems though.

Players will naturally have diverse True Fates. Moderating play so that each players perceived progression towards their True Fate is in sync with the overall story is going to be tricky. I guess I'll just have to be inventive.

If it can be done though, and each players chosen True Fate is engaging and interesting then there is a very good chance that the players are going to enjoy the game, which is the ultimate aim.

Time as well is a factor. How long should it take for a player to achieve their True Fate?

What happens when one player acheives their True Fate? It would seem like a natural end for the player since there is little to compel them to carry on playing other than to create a new True Fate.
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Andrew Martin
Member

Posts: 785


« Reply #38 on: December 05, 2002, 01:47:15 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
We give on the spot rewards for what we like to see. And players respond. Boy do they respond. You wouldn't believe. Such a switch in focus is startling. Because play suddenly goes from "I'm trying to win by player tactics" to "I'm trying to make this dramatic". And the difference can be like night and day. Starting with the player stopping thinking in terms of stats (which no longer have anything to do with the rewards), and instead starts thinking in terms of "cool".


I totally agree. For munchkins, it's the instant reward, "what gives me the most plusses?" And the answer is, "to roleplay gives me the most plusses." Now you've got a roleplayer, instead of a munchkin.

A similar reward scheme gets great drama and moral choices. Any time the player chooses to make life more difficult for their character, instantly reward the player with more in-game power. And very, very quickly, you'll have dramatic play.
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Andrew Martin
Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #39 on: December 05, 2002, 02:02:45 PM »

MH, I just read your "on the spot reward" post.

I never envisaged handing out Fate points like as a reward for good narrative play.

Given your experiences I suppose if I did then players would achieve their True Fate before the pizza had time to go cold :)

Short game.

I always saw Fate points as a long-term reward thing, a defined goal for the player to strive towards which addresed some kind of theme that was of personal interest to the player.

Question:

What about awarding a player who gives a suitably vivid description of intent the right to narrate the outcome?
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Paganini
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« Reply #40 on: December 05, 2002, 02:42:41 PM »

Hey Cassidy,

I'm not sure that you have a clear picture of what a narrativist system actually looks like, yet. The Forge on the whole has adopted the terms Ron uses in his "GNS" essay. There are some dissenters (Hi Fang!) who keep things interesting, but as a rule if you say "narrativism," people will assume that you're talking about narrativism as described in Ron's essay. Therefore, if you say that you're looking for a narrativist system, it's important that you understand how the word is locally defined. It may turn out that narrativism isn't actually what you're after at all, but rather a system with few "Points of Contact," as described in one recent thread, or a system that encourages player director stance, frex.

Remember that the phrase [sic] "narrativist system" is a short-hand that means "a system that facilitates or promotes narrativst play." So what exactly is narrativist play? Two points are required for narrativist play to exist:

1) Player contribution to narration - IOW, the story-telling duties are not all left up to the GM.

2) The group as a whole prioritizes the exploration of some "thematic question," which is what Ron calls "premise."

The tricky thing is that, until you've tried it, it's (IMO) impossible to grok what a narrativist style game section actually looks like. I was in that position not that long ago, where I'd read the essay, understood the concepts intellectually. Then I actually played a narrativist game, and was totally blown away by how different it was from what I'd imagined.

Now, in order for a *system* (as opposed to a session) to be narrativist, it must facilitate and / or promote points 1 and 2. Shadows and the Pool are very explicit about point 1, but leave point 2 up to the group. This means that, game sessions using these systems aren't necessarily narrativist, if you play them exactly as writen. I think this is what Ron calls "abashedly narrativist." It's really easy to play narrativist games with the Pool and Shadows, but the systems of those two games aren't out actively campaigning for a premise. :)

Mike and J.B.'s Synthesis is an example of a game that tries to actively promote point 2. It's in the playtest phase right now, and has a couple of problems, but I think you can still get a lot out of it. (It's actually one of my favorite games right now, coming in fairly closely behind Universalis. If only Synthesis had more director stance... <ducks froth from Mike> :)

Anyway, as it turns out, all this time I thought I was hardcore narrativist, I was wrong! I'm not really into addressing a premise. I enjoy playing in narrativist games, but I can do just as well without a premise as with one. What I really enjoy (and what Shadows and Universalis do very very well) is simulationism (prioritising exploration of situation, character, and / or color) coupled with a hefty dose of player director power (IOW, lots of narration from everywhere, not just the GM). This is one reason I love Universalis. There *is* no GM, so all the narration comes from players in director stance.

This sort of play may often, in retrospect, look a lot like narrativism. It tends to produce oustanding stories, and looking back over a play session you may even be able to identify premise being addressed. (For a good example of this see this shadows game report I posted over in the Actual Play forum.) The difference is that *during play* exploration of a premise was not prioritized. It may turn out that a premise was addressed, but any such circumstance is purely coincidental.

From your posts I suspect that you may be, as I am, more interested in this kind of play than in hardcore narrativism.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #41 on: December 05, 2002, 03:11:58 PM »

Holy cow, Nathan. :-)

Don't let Nathan get you down. You may, in fact, have a perfectly good vision of what Narrativism is. Or not. Either way, that's not actually all that important. You've got goals, and you're trying to get to them, and that's fine.

The problem, again, with "suitably vivid" is that it's very much a GM call. The rewards should be easy to get, actually. Any attempt at appropriate play should get some reward (essentially make it so that not getting the minimum entitled reward is a punishment for poor play which will be reare under sucs a system). The easier they are to get, the greater the fecundity of the response. The key is the phrase "like candy". Give them out left and right, and players will be constantly clammoring for them.

As such, the reward should be of variable intensity. Low reward for any weak effort, large reward for really good effort.

And no reward then becomes a punishment for outright poor play.

"What no dice?"
"Dude, that sucked; don't refer to your character sheet next time."
"Oh, I get it."

:-)

Garunteed results.

Mike
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #42 on: December 06, 2002, 03:24:34 AM »

Quote from: Paganini
From your posts I suspect that you may be, as I am, more interested in this kind of play than in hardcore narrativism.


For me, GNS defined Narrativism that requires players to prioritorize a recognizable theme that addresses or explores some ethical of moral issue is not a suitable mode of play for my group.

I know my players and not all of them are going to be interested in addressing the same narrativist premise or will prioritorize that premise during play. For me, it would be futile even trying to run a game in tha way.

Quote from: Paganini
What I really enjoy (and what Shadows and Universalis do very very well) is simulationism (prioritising exploration of situation, character, and / or color) coupled with a hefty dose of player director power (IOW, lots of narration from everywhere, not just the GM). This is one reason I love Universalis. There *is* no GM, so all the narration comes from players in director stance.


This hits a chord with me.

What I like to see...

Use of descriptive narrative to provide colour, tone and atmosphere to help create in the minds of the players the imagined setting, situation, characters etc.

Some (not a lot, but some) director stance play from players which allow them to direct the course of the story. Before I read GNS or even found the Forge I've allowed that to happen on an ad-hoc basis in any case. If a player gives me a good description, or the scene is vital to the player, or even if say the player gets a perceived outstanding outcome or pathetically dismal outcome I'll usually say, "Tell me what happens."
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #43 on: December 06, 2002, 04:07:17 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

Don't let Nathan get you down.


I won't. He's just more familiar with the whole GNS thing that I am.

In a perverse sort of way I think it may have been better if I hadn't even tried to use any GNS terms in my posts.

Quote from: Mike Holmes

The problem, again, with "suitably vivid" is that it's very much a GM call.


"Vivid" was the wrong term for me to use. If the players do end up giving vivid descriptions then great. I guess what really matters is that the players are consciously trying to add some colour and atmosphere to the game through the use of narrative. When they are able to that that unconsciously (i.e. without even thinking about it), then you've got to be onto a good thing.

I wonder of thats why the Pool seems to have the appeal it does at the Forge.

The reason for the 1-3 die GM award to players in the Pool is never explained but it seems obvious that it's the 'candy' you refer to.
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Paganini
Member

Posts: 1049


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« Reply #44 on: December 06, 2002, 06:57:30 AM »

Quote from: Cassidy

For me, GNS defined Narrativism that requires players to prioritorize a recognizable theme that addresses or explores some ethical of moral issue is not a suitable mode of play for my group.


Ah, aha. <nods like a wise sage>

;)

That makes sense. (Although, you might want to try it just once. Posts in the Actual Play forum often contain surprise at how certain players took unexpectedly to certain play styles.) But, in any case, I'm with you in prefering no premise. The more I play, the more I find I'm a sim/sit kind of guy.

Quote from: Cassidy

Use of descriptive narrative to provide colour, tone and atmosphere to help create in the minds of the players the imagined setting, situation, characters etc.

Some (not a lot, but some) director stance play from players which allow them to direct the course of the story. Before I read GNS or even found the Forge I've allowed that to happen on an ad-hoc basis in any case. If a player gives me a good description, or the scene is vital to the player, or even if say the player gets a perceived outstanding outcome or pathetically dismal outcome I'll usually say, "Tell me what happens."


Mmmm. You might not like Shadows, in that case, because it has *lots* o' director stance. Basically, players can narrate whenever they wish. The content of the narration is limited by a Shadow Roll, but that's a tangential point.

Have you... er... played Donjon? In spite of how Clinton has made it look on the outside (D&D Parody) inside it's a really cool fantasy adventure game with some player empowerment. Specificaly, when you get successes on a roll you have a choice: You either spend the successes to define "facts" in the game world (as in "There's an orc hiding behind that rock. He wants to ambush us.") or to get bonus dice on your next roll (assuming that you can justify a relation between the rolls). This works in reverse, so that when a player fails a roll, the GM spends the successes to define facts.

The nifty thing is that whoever fails does the narrating. If the player wins the roll, the player defines the facts, but the GM narrates them. If the GM wins the roll, the GM defines the facts, but the player narrates them.
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