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Author Topic: thought experiment  (Read 8773 times)
xiombarg
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« on: May 21, 2004, 11:41:11 AM »

So, okay, I've been reading the version of the manuscript that Vincent sent me, and it's much clearer than the outline, that's for sure. I like the intro to the game a lot.

That said, I want to make sure I understand it, so as a thought expirment, I'm going to create a character and run the character through his inititiation. To do this, I will split myself into two people, Kirt and Loki. Kirt is the player, and Loki is the GM.

So, okay, Kirt decides he wants to play a straight-up, gee-whiz good, old-fashioned rural kid, the sort of guy Normal Rockwell would have done a painting of. The idea is for the character to be as pure as possible before contacting the Real World, as it were.

Kirt calls this guy Billy Hoyt, and chooses the Well-Rounded background.

Stats
Acuity 2d6
Body 4d6
Heart 5d6
Will 2d6

Traits
I used to help my dad around the farm. 1d6 + 1d8
I love reading the Book of Life. 1d8
I wouldn't hurt a fly. 1d4
I'm a Dog. 3d6

Relationships
Momma 2d8
Poppa 2d6
leftover dice 3d6

Possessions
Poppa's Old Shotgun 1d6 + 1d4
Poppa's Old Knife 1d4
Old Nell the Horse 1d4
Coat 2d8: made of red, white, and blue cloth that Momma begged everyone in the community for, and ewn together with love, a HUGE coat with a myriad of pockets

Now, am I correct that you just make up the status for your posessions, there's no guidelines there?

Okay, so let's do the initiation. Kirt says, "I hope that my character banished a demon during initiation."

Loki says, "The demon Bal-Moloch possesed a local townsman during your training."

Kirt says, "Sounds good. This happened while there were no other Dogs around, and Billy noticed the signs of the demon."

Loki decides to roll the townsperson's stats at random.

Acuity 5d6 Body 3d6  Heart 5d6 Will 4d6
Argue Scripture 2d8 Dance 1d6 Haggle 2d6 Fistfight 3d6
Wife 3d8 Bal-Moloch 2d6: Cunning, Ferocity

Kirt says, "Billy starts out by telling the man he's possessed by a demon, and he should seek aid."

The conflict starts out Just Talking, so each side rolls Acuity + Heart, tho the possessed man gets to add 2d6, his Relationship with Bal-Moloch, because of Cunning.

Loki rolls: 1 1 1 2 3 3 4 4 5 5 6 6

Kirt rolls: 1 1 4 6 6 6 6

Kirt puts forth two dice -- two 1s -- as the initial salvo mentioned above.

Loki Sees that with two 1s. "The man laughs at you."

Then Loki Raises with two 6s. "He tells you to go back to your mentor, and that 'puppies' shouldn't be barking at men."

Kirt Sees with two 6s. "You are a clear and present danger right now. I wish to save you."

Kirt then Raises with two 6s. "Billy is ceremonially quoting an appropriate passage from the Book of Life."

Loki says, "Roll your 'I love reading the Book of Life' trait, and your 'I'm a Dog' trait, to represent your ceremonial training."

Kirt rolls 1d8 + 3d6 and gets: 1 1 4 6

Loki Sees with 5 5 2, Taking the Blow. "The man admits that you have a point." 3 dice of Fallout for the possessed person -- and the demon's -- side.

Loki Raises with two 4s. "And he quotes a passage back at you, to back up his point -- you should let your elders handle this."

Loki rolls 2d8 for Argue Scripture and gets 2 and 2. Well, it was a weak argument.

Kirt Sees the two 4s with two 4s of his own. "They are not here right now, and I am."

Kirt Raises a 6 and a 1, "Taking out a little pot of earth, I quickly Annoint him."

Loki says, "Oh, good one. All I have is two 3s. Hmmm, I could Escalate, but I don't think so. Bal-Moloch leaves the body of the townsman."

Kirt says, "Okay, I'm taking the Trait 'I drove off a demon' at 1d6."

Loki says, "Right."

Okay, did I do that example right? When you introduce a Trait, can you use the dice you roll in the same Raise? I didn't do that above, but I wondered if I could.

Also, there wasn't much Ceremony stuff in the manuscript I had, so I used what was in the outline. Did I handle that correctly?

More on this later, I want to take Billy into a town.
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lumpley
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« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2004, 02:47:10 PM »

Just right!

To bring a new Trait into the conflict, the timing works like this:

Say what your character does to Raise or See, incorporating the Trait.

Roll the Trait's dice and put them in the mix with the rest of your dice.

Put forward two dice if you're Raising, however many dice if you're Seeing.  You can include the dice you just added, or not - at this point, they're just dice in your mix with nothing to distinguish them.

Make sense?

-Vincent
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xiombarg
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« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2004, 06:21:50 AM »

Quote from: lumpley
Make sense?

Yeah, makes sense. You might want to say that explicitly in the rules somewhere, tho.

And when you say exactly right, do you mean that I'm right about Possessions, and that I did the Ceremony stuff okay?
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Emily Care
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« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2004, 05:15:30 AM »

Quote from: xiombarg
And when you say exactly right, do you mean that I'm right about Possessions, and that I did the Ceremony stuff okay?


The ceremony looked dead on to me. Possessions too, though its a good question about the lack of guidelines for them in the rules.

--Em
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

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lumpley
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« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2004, 06:08:09 AM »

The prob with ceremonies and possessions in the rules is: the game's supernatural special effects are on a dial.  On two dials, actually.  I'm writing in my notebook right now some text tackling the problem.

You can't do ceremonies and possessions wrong.  Your own vision of the game will force you to do ceremonies and possessions right.  The rule is: a demon can't ignore ceremony, so ceremony is an available Raise when other things - punching, shooting - aren't.

Ask me questions about this if I'm not making sense!  I gotta figure out how to communicate it somehow.

Oh and there are guidelines for your possessions, but they're small.  They're in the chargen chapter, I'm pretty sure.  They're these:

If it's normal: 1d6.
If it's high-quality: 1d8.
If it's big: 2d6.
If it's big + high-quality: 2d8.
If it's crap or big + crap: 1d4.
All guns get an additional 1d4 for being a gun.

So a big, high-quality gun is 2d8+1d4, and a crap gun is 2d4, and your horse is 1d6 unless people looking at it will go "dang that's a fine horse," in which case it's 1d8, or "good LORD that's a big horse," in which case it's 2d6, and etc.

edit: Check it out, confusion about possessions as in the stuff you carry around with you, and possessions as in demons taking over your bod.  Maybe I should call the stuff you carry around with you your "kit" or something instead.

-Vincent
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xiombarg
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« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2004, 10:37:53 AM »

Yes, I used those guidelines for the "kit". What I'm saying is there are no guidelines about what possessions you can have and how good they can be, unless I missed them. That is, if I'm reading it right, your kit can be:

Big badass knife 2d8
Big badass gun 2d8 + 1d4
Big badass coat 2d8: it's black and red
Big badass backpack 2d8
Big badass bulletproof vest 2d8

Not that there's anything wrong with that, per se, but considering everything else is part of a constrained pool, I though it was odd I could go hog wild on physical items if I wanted.

As far as "possessions" as in "demonic possessions", this does lead me to an issue I have: There needs to be more verbiage about, and more guidelines on, this whole "decide for yourself what the Lord is telling you" thing. Especially given that the Faith is supposed to be objectively correct, so not everyone can be right.
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lumpley
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« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2004, 11:26:17 AM »

Nope, no constraints on kit but what you want your character lugging around.  Meg's character right now has a fancy folding writing box, like a briefcase that opens up into a desk, with pens and stationary and stuff!  2d8!

Also, above, I got it reversed: it's two dice for quality and d8 for large.

Here's the current text about your character's conscience.
Quote
A Dog's authority: When your character is acting to preserve the faith of a branch, he or she can take whatever steps are necessary, and no one can justly complain.  Your character acts on behalf of the King of Life; if anyone has a problem, they can take it up with Him.

Check this out:

Brother Benjamin is the worst thing in Brother Joseph's world. It's not just that he's a sinner, it's that he's unteachable, unreformable. Too mean and too proud.

Br. Benjamin is single-handedly destroying Br. Joseph's branch. But when Br. Joseph goes to the King of Life for guidance, it's all: see to his needs, call him to repentance, cultivate him, serve him, help him, show him compassion. That, after all, is Br. Joseph's job: look after each person in his care. The King of Life tells Br. Joseph what's best for Br. Benjamin. Br. Joseph has invested more time and care and worry in Br. Benjamin than in any other single thing in his life.

Your character comes to town. The branch has a septic wound. A thousand resentments, sins waiting to burst free. If you leave it as it is it'll tear itself to pieces. Br. Joseph's doing his very best by everyone, but it's stone clear: Br. Benjamin will become too much for him to carry. Br. Joseph will do something terrible, with lots of people caught up in it, and it'll be bloodshed, sorcery, and damnation.

Your character doesn't care what's best for Br. Benjamin, he cares what's best for the branch. You have him drag Br. Benjamin out of his house and shoot him in the street.

Br. Joseph comes in a rage. "All my work, all my time, all my investment in Br. Benjamin's salvation! And for what, you kill him!"

"Your job is to heal the wound," your character says. "My job is to save the body."

Your character's conscience and your own: Does this mean that your character can't sin?

No.  But it does mean that no one's in a position to judge your character's actions but you yourself.  Your character might be a remorseless monster or a destroying angel - I the author of the game can't tell the difference, your GM and your fellow players can't tell the difference, only you can.

As play progresses, you'll have the opportunity to consider your character's actions and change your character's Stats, Traits and Relationships to reflect them.  That might mean that you give your character Relationships with sins and demons, problematize his or her Traits, and burn out his or her Relationships with the Faithful - or it might mean no such thing.  Sin, arrogance, hate, bloodlust; remorse, guilt, contrition; inspiration, redemption, grace: they're in how you have your character act, not (just, or necessarily) in what's on your character's sheet.  Those moments, in play, are what matters.  

Your character's conscience is in your hands.

My most relevant experience in play has one PC leading this real bastard sinner of an NPC down to the river to rebaptize him, because he deserves mercy, and a second PC coming down and shooing the bastard sinner of an NPC in the head, because his victims deserve justice.  We played it as a conflict between the two PCs, and yep, J's character shot the guy in the head.  The players looked at me to resolve the morality of the situation, and I was like - Tony, is your character's conscience clear?  And he was like - yes.  And I was like - J, is your character's conscience clear?  And he was like - yes.  And I was like - well there it is then, I got nothing to add.

The GM will be tempted to play God as an NPC, and all I can say is, don't.

-Vincent
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xiombarg
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« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2004, 03:34:48 PM »

Vincent, I've read that text several times, even before you posted it here, and that's a cool scene you describe, but I don't understand what it means in play.

The example I understand to the extent that it means you can be as nasty asyou want, as a Dog, in the name of the King of Life and no one can complain. But that doesn't mean that the King of Life actually approves.

I don't understand how the rest works in play. Let's say I'm playing the character in your example, and I think my character's extreme methods are justfied. So what? What does that mean, for play? What about Bob, who is playing a pacifcist, who beileves the King of Life is telling him that violence is wrong? If Bob is right, how can my character be right as well? You say yourself the Faith is objectively true. This means it can't contradict. Or if it does, you have to explain how that works.

If someone is Sinning, or completely unspported by the King of Life, would their Rituals still work? And since the GM takes the other side of most conflicts, doesn't that mean the GM has to rule whether the King of Life is behind the character, in order for it to be okay for the player to use certain Traits or not?

It's all fine and dandy to say each player must decide what the King of Life thinks, but that sort of makes structuring conficts problematic as a GM. I mean, if the character is actually nasty and not supported by the King of Life, wouldn't demons help him? And since I, as GM, control the demons, don't I have to know what's up? But am I supposed to have the demons oppose the character because the player says the King of Life is cool with him raping and pillaging? That seems really, really counter-intuitive to me. But if I have the demons think the pillager and raper is cool, the player cries foul, claiming the King of Life is all cool with it.

How can I NOT play the King of Life as an NPC, if he objectively exists? Am I missing something about how conflcits are initiated?

See, this is one thing for a game based on real life, where it's not as clear if the Faith is true or not. But it's another thing in a game that asserts that within the game world the Faith is objectively true. An objectively true Faith needs objective standards for how it works.

Am I making any sense here? I'm sure there's a solution in your head, Vincent, but the text you're quoting doesn't communicate it to me. I know you want to leave things somewhat vague, but it seems to me to be at odds with everything else in the game, particularly if different players disagree about what the King of Life prescribes.

Let's take an extreme example. Say we have two players, Bob and Joe. Bob's character is raping a Mountain Person, and it is Bob's claim the King of Life is fine with this, because the person is an unrepentant sinner, and the King of Life wants to show the wages of sin through Bob's character, which Bob sees as a vessel for divine wrath. Joe has his character invoke a Ritual to drive the demons in Bob's character out, because Joe says the King of Life is telling him that Bob is wrong and demon-haunted, and that Joe's character has to stop Bob's character, as his actions may harm the community. Objectively, they both can't be right. How is this conflict resolved?
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Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
lumpley
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« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2004, 05:38:36 PM »

I'm not being thick-headed on purpose, but that doesn't mean I'm not being thick-headed.

Demons don't roll dice.  When the GM rolls Demonic Influence dice they're based on how bad things are - or rather, how bad things've been revealed to be - in town, not on how powerful the demons are.  Sorcerers and possessed people get dice for their Relationships with their demons, not for the demons themselves.  The GM never gives a player demon dice - you never have to decide whether the demons are for or against any particular action.  The demons may later exploit the character's actions, by influencing townsfolks' reactions to them - but that's true of righteous actions same as unrighteous.

The GM also never gets to contradict a player's use of Traits - only ask for justification, same as any other player.  So say I have "I heal the sick only when I'm righteous 2d10," and as a Raise in a conflict I say "hey, I heal this sick person!  I get 2d10!"  You can say, "dude, you better justify to me that you're righteous," and if I do, I get the dice.  If I don't, it's because I admit that I'm not righteous.  Either way, conflict resolved.

Most people won't write "I heal the sick only when I'm righteous," they'll write "I heal the sick," and ain't nothing a GM can say about that.

So now as far as I can tell, the GM has no opportunity to pass effective judgement on a PC's actions.  Talk about 'em, sure, but never come down on them as righteous or sinful in a way that's binding in the game world.  The GM can't give or withhold dice for the state of a PC's soul, and thus never needs to judge it.

So then, when two players disagree.

What's at stake is: does Joe's character stop Bob's character from raping the woman?  The conflict's resolved thusly: you roll off between Joe and Bob, with them each using whatever Traits they can bring into play.  Whether Bob's character is possessed by demons or not depends on, if Joe raises with "I cast the demons out of you!" does Bob Take the Blow, Block or Dodge, or Reverse?  If he Takes the Blow, he'll say something like "the demons depart me!"  If he Blocks or Dodges, he might Dodge with "but I'm not possessed" or Block with "the demons are dug in too deep!  They keep their hold!"  And if he Reverses the Blow, he can say "in fact, it's the demons deceiving you!"

And that's how we decide who's right.  Conflict resolved.

The solution in general is: is something at stake?  Then roll dice.  Nobody gets to just decide.  We negotiate, via the resolution rules.

What's at stake is: "does the King of Life back me?" Groovy!  That's good honest negotiation, and the players'll be bought in.  Turns out that my character's possessed by demons and has been for years, and now the truth and enormity of his sins crashes in on him?  Sweet!  He coulda gone either way, and now I know which.

But under what possible circumstances can "does the King of Life back me?" be what's at stake?  As close as it usually gets is: "do I win this argument?" "do I convince Bob's character to repent?" "does Bob's character rape the woman?"

So: when it comes up, go "whoa!  Dice time!" and let them deal with it.  It won't usually come up.

You just gotta not play God as an NPC.  Negotiate God's Will in play, as collaboratively and directly as "do I make the shot?"

(And I guess you're right, it wouldn't kill me to put text of this sort into the game.)

-Vincent
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xiombarg
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« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2004, 06:13:06 PM »

Quote from: lumpley
(And I guess you're right, it wouldn't kill me to put text of this sort into the game.)

Yes. It's much clearer to me now that you've explained it that way, thank you. I think these issues need to be explicitly addressed, as the urge to play the King of Life as an NPC is very, very strong, especially given the text about the objectivity of the Faith.

And if you think this is unlikely to come up, you haven't played with the same people I have. Go look at my playtest of Pretender again in Actual Play and note that we came very close having to define the nature of God for that game to continue. That's what happens when two pagans, a former Roman Catholic, an athiest and an agnostic play a game with religious themes together. And if you don't think this game isn't going to interest such eclectic groups, I think you underestimate the appeal of your game. :)

One small question, tho:

Quote
You can say, "dude, you better justify to me that you're righteous," and if I do, I get the dice.

Can I disagree with the player's justification? Can I say, "Nope, not good enough"? I mean, if all you can do is ask for a justification, perhaps that needs to be more explicit as well. I wasn't aware that every disagreement was settled by dice.

Also, can you deny someone's desire to go to dice? Can you be like: "Dude, we already went over this, do we have to resort to dice again?"

I know I sound like an old-school RPG guy, but even if you don't have any old school RPG assumptions, you need to understand how narrative power is apportioned.
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lumpley
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« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2004, 08:22:17 AM »

No, it's true.  There's this interesting hump I have to get over every time I run Dogs - maybe it'll go away eventually.  It's like this:

The PCs arrive in town.  I have someone meet them.  They ask how things are going.  The person says that, well, things are going okay, mostly.  The PCs say - mostly?

And I'm like "uh oh.  They're going to figure out what's wrong in the town!  Better stonewall."  And then I'm like "wait a sec.  I want them to figure out what's wrong in the town.  In fact, I want to show them what's wrong, so they care about it and kick its ass!"

So instead of having the NPC say "oh no, I meant that things are going just fine, and I shut up now," I have the NPC launch into his or her tirade!  "Things are awful!  This guy's sleeping with this guy not with me, they murdered the schoolteacher, blood pours down the meetinghouse walls every night!"

A smaller version happens at the beginning of every conflict.  I'm like "uh oh.  How am I going to make the PC lose this fight?"  And then I'm like "wait a sec.  I don't care whether the PC wins or loses!  I chose this fight on purpose so that win or lose, the game goes forward cooler!"

Once I'm over that hump, I don't mind which dice the player brings into the conflict.  I ask for justification in a "to roll the dice you have to actually use the Trait" way, not a "that Trait isn't really an advantage in this circumstance" way.  Which is how the rules say I should to begin with!

So that's what asking for justification is about: I, the GM, want you to use your character's Traits in action, not just for dice.  If you choose a Trait like "I heal the sick but only when I'm righteous," I want you to justify that your character's righteous.  If you're not coming up with good justification on your own, I'll offer suggestions!  It's not in my interest to prevent you rolling those dice.

Just remember: your job as the GM is to present an interesting social situation and provoke the players into judging it.  You don't want to hobble their judgements by arguing with them about what's right and wrong.  You want to hear their opinions, not to present your own.

That'll be in the rules too.

Anyhow.

A couple other things about "going to dice," which you probably get already but I'm going to say:

A conflict can end without going to dice, if one side gives up front.  That happens a whole lot, actually.

When you win a conflict, you win it - you get to dispose of what's at stake.  I can call for a follow-up conflict if I want, but something new has to be at stake - I can't demand a do-over with the same stakes.  Thus, no, we never have to "go over this again."  Only if the stakes have changed.

And: the players can agree about what's the Will of the King of Life without agreeing that the King of Life is good.  Your players might use this game to put forward a searing indictment of (some version of) God.

-Vincent
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xiombarg
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« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2004, 10:19:10 AM »

Quote from: lumpley
And: the players can agree about what's the Will of the King of Life without agreeing that the King of Life is good.  Your players might use this game to put forward a searing indictment of (some version of) God.

Well, yes, that part I understood. The problem I was having wasn't because, in my example, one idea of God was good and one was bad, but because of the disagreement about what was objectively the case for the game.

I think more text like what's been going into this discussion is the way to go. ;-D
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Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2004, 12:12:15 PM »

There's nothing objective about the King of Life, in a metagame sense. The players make Him up. They can debate all they like and use their empirical evidence to back themselves up, but it'll be a big theological furball no matter what way you cut it, and that's fun. At least for me.
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xiombarg
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« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2004, 07:26:59 AM »

Quote from: nikola
There's nothing objective about the King of Life, in a metagame sense. The players make Him up. They can debate all they like and use their empirical evidence to back themselves up, but it'll be a big theological furball no matter what way you cut it, and that's fun. At least for me.

Right, but the rules also state that within the game world, that the Faith is objectively true. This is where my problems came in.

It's fine to say "the Faith is objectively true, but what this means is determined in play", but that needs to be explicit in the rules.

I don't have any problem with it working the way you describe, I just want it to be clear in the rules how it does work. One man's obvious is another man's obscure.
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Joshua A.C. Newman
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« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2004, 09:29:20 AM »

Well, there's nothing wrong with being explicit. I agree.
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the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
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