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Author Topic: Conflict issues  (Read 6326 times)
Alex F
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« on: November 02, 2005, 09:59:56 AM »

Hi Forge people, my name's Alex, and I am hoping to GM a session of DitV sometime in the run-up to Christmas. I suspect I may post here again before/after this, and I would then want to give some fuller information about the play group, my own background and so on (to be clear, if anyone wants such info now feel free to ask) but at present I have some specific questions about game mechanics in play, specifically about about conflict resolution. Searching the forums has given me a much good advice on this subject but I can't find these specific questions covered [NB just before posting I found the answer to my second Q in the rules so I have truncated this to focus just on the supplementary questions it led to. Shows the benefit of reading before speaking...].

1. Traits and narration. From what I understand of the rules, narrating a trait brings it into play (p63).  The dice are free to be used  in other sees and raises. This is crystal clear to me, mechanically, but am unclear about how it pans out in play, giving real life to those traits. I'll use a hypothetical to show my issue.

Let's say that Br Simeon has the  trait: ' I tell it like my grandaddy told me 3d4', a pushy, dictating know-it-all that thinks a few well-spun homilies solve everything. Obviously, a trait like this is going to be interesting because it causes problems and fall-out for the character. But it seems likely that the narration that brings the trait in is  going to end up disconnected from the mechanical problems the trait will cause, as dice often won't be used at the moment they are avaiable - especially if they are low dice, which will likely be saved until they are absolutely required. So the moment of failure is likely to come downstream of the use of the trait, which could even be at a different level of escalation, such as when the dice are used to take the blow at a shooting level.

When the conflict is all said and done, mechanically granpa's proverbs may be the reason for Br Simeon's bloody knee, but thematically the proverb appeared to momentarily shut up the yahoo, with Br Simeon's slower trigger finger seeming the real culprit. Is this how it's meant to be, or should there be an attempt to weave things together? One example I can think of is the yahoo's critical raise being 'eyes narrowed, bead cocked, ''grab the bull by the horns my ass'', BANG!' but that depends upon being confident on what the see will be (mechanically, at least) and feels a bit railroady.

2 Taking the blow and fallout - just before posting I found an example in the book which answers this question: the scale of fallout dice does rely on the narration of the particular raise, rather than a consequence of the level to which the conflict has escalated (example on p62 - even though they're at shooting, the narrated raise was 'rough physical treatment', so it's d6s). So I've removed my hypotheticals and two interpretations, but I'd still like to canvas thoughts on two outcomes of this,  which I'll call tactical fallout.

Does this incentivise simply narrating 'I shoot at him' on every raise with a big bad enemy, to maximise fallout caused? Additionally, do players use this rule to tactically take the blow on 'safe' raises where shooting has not been mentioned, like the 'creep along the ridge' raise on p82 of the book? My feeling is that the first issue will depend upon the Creative Agenda of the players, meaning I want to be sure to get them on the same page beforehand. On reflection the second may not be a worry: it's good story-wise for the players to allow their characters to fall for stunts and gambits, and not necessarily so to see them explode in blood every gunfight. Does this sound about right: exploiting the rule to narrate only gunshots should not be encouraged (but allowed) whereas tactical taking the blow, being narratively interesting, should be a by and large cool thing to do?
 
3. Tangentally related, is a player allowed to escalate all the way to shooting but never actually shoot? Let's say a player wants access to as many dice as possible in every conflict, without ever having to deal with the consequences of actually killing or hurting someone.  What's to stop them always escalating, but narrating raises like 'I idly but meaningfully spin my pistol around with my trigger finger', 'I wave my shotgun in his face', 'I pull out my OTHER pistol for added effect' (thinking of the badass described in this thread - http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=13170.0 - and the ruling that they can have as many guns and as many dice as they want from it). If Dice in guns and acuity etc are temptations, it seems wrong that they can be exploited without ever having any consequences.  Given that these kinds raises don't cause d10 fallout but d4s (given the resolution of question 2), the character can do more or less what they want. How does this work?


Again, I'm aware that a lot of this may be just down to players at the table. And I will definitely take this to heart:
Quote
The thing to observe in play, by the way, isn't what the group's doing, but instead who's dissatisfied with what the group's doing. The player who shakes her head and uses withdrawing body language in response to someone else's raise, or who's like "that's weak" when someone reaches for dice - that's the player whose lead to follow. Everyone's raises etc. should come to meet the most critical player's standards. As GM, it's your special responsibility to pay attention, figure out what those standards are, and make sure the group (overall) lives up to them.
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16125.0 / p77

But these things are currently cloudy in my head, and I figure together with Town generation conflicts are crucial, crucial to getting things working well.

Thanks for any help people can give me with these issues. I am enthused about the game and I figure my confidence in what I am doing is going to play its part in everyone's enjoyment.
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2005, 10:15:32 AM »

I'll leave question 1 for someone who can asnwer it better than me.

2. Taking the blow and fallout -
Does this incentivise simply narrating 'I shoot at him' on every raise with a big bad enemy, to maximise fallout caused?

One of the duties of the GM in DitV is to present characters for the players to deal with, rather thar then enemies to shoot. If you go through the town building process, you'll end up with a bunch of NPCs, some of whom the players will end up in conflict with, and they won't want to shoot them. The wife of caring for the ill steward doesn't wan't the Dogs to see him and stress him - do they shoot her to get past? You're brother is listening to the preacher spreading false doctrine - do you shoot him to get him back on the straight and narrow?

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Additionally, do players use this rule to tactically take the blow on 'safe' raises where shooting has not been mentioned, like the 'creep along the ridge' raise on p82 of the book?
In my experience, yes they do - and this is okay. (It's also not necessarily safe. A real example from my game - one player had taken the blow and racked up 11d4 fallout, and then was faced with a weapon - an extra 3d8 fallout finished him off and made it very hard to be healed.)
But also, Taking the Blow is not just about the fallout.
When you Take the Blow, you must concede part of your foe's raise - this is something that happens within the conflict, and is separate from the stakes and fallout. So make sure some of your Raises include things the Dogs don't want to happen.

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3. Tangentally related, is a player allowed to escalate all the way to shooting but never actually shoot? Let's say a player wants access to as many dice as possible in every conflict, without ever having to deal with the consequences of actually killing or hurting someone.  What's to stop them always escalating, but narrating raises like 'I idly but meaningfully spin my pistol around with my trigger finger', 'I wave my shotgun in his face', 'I pull out my OTHER pistol for added effect'

I'd say, an escalation to shooting must involve shooting. The examples you mention are not shooting actions. You can twirl your gun about for effect, and get the gun dice on that raise, without escalating - though it sounds like a physical action rather than a non-physical.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2005, 10:18:21 AM »

There will be other, more informed, responses after mine.

As far as fallout being connected to the traits that supplied the dice that resulted in taking the blow which generated the fallout dice in the first place... I wouldn't really worry about it.  Players will choose fallout based on what is important to their character in the given situation -- if it's important to the player that grandpappy's stories get his character in trouble, he'll select something based on that.  If it's important that his character's slow trigger finger gets highlighted, he'll select something based on that.  There doesn't need to be a strict and formal causal connection in the rules -- player preferences steer better in the first place.

Secondly, players making tactical choices of when to block and take the blow fall under the same deal -- players will do the things that make sense for what they want to happen to their characters.  It's not cheating or skirting the rules; it's how the game is played (consider how many teevee shows or films have the hero win the conflict, not get shot, but come away with doubts about something important to them -- that's what the system produces).

Lastly, pulling a gun is not escalating to gunplay.  You only gain d10 fallout if you are being shot at, not if somebody is waving a gun around.  If you pull a gun, you can get dice for the gun, sure.  Maybe you'll win the conflict by showing off your guns.  But then whoever you cowtowed into submission takes their fallout, and they might take a trait like "Dogs are only thugs" or "Authority comes at the barrel of a gun" and suchlike, complicating matters further down the line.

From my perspective, you're focusing on fallout as if it was damage.  It's not.  Damage is how you determine who wins a conflict -- first one out of HP loses.  Fallout, on the other hand, has no (direct) affect on the resolution of conflicts.  Fallout is not how you track progress towards goals or setbacks from the same.  Fallout is the price you pay for acheiveing those goals.  That's why it happens after the conflict is resolves and the winner gets their stakes.  It is secondary to the conflict (hence the name) but it ends up being tied for the primary focus of the game (tied with what traits the players are willing to tap to win).
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foucalt
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« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2005, 11:09:03 AM »

Related question to (3): What if I'm shooting, but not even to hit the person, like I want to shoot the wall by their face to scare them or shoot the ground to make them have to dance? Do I get all my shooting dice? Is the possible fallout for them that I miss and hit them, or that they take the blow by being scared or jumping around?
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David Younce

dave dot younce at gmail dot com
Brand_Robins
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« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2005, 11:27:29 AM »

Related question to (3): What if I'm shooting, but not even to hit the person, like I want to shoot the wall by their face to scare them or shoot the ground to make them have to dance? Do I get all my shooting dice? Is the possible fallout for them that I miss and hit them, or that they take the blow by being scared or jumping around?

In cases like that I will usually let people get dice for "good shot" style traits, and traits dice for guns.

Before I let people roll escalation dice, however, I usually ask them if it would be fair play for me to have the NPC (or some innocent bystander) get hit by the bullet and take the d10 fallouts or not. If they say yes, then I will usually let them escalate. If they say no, however, I usually won't. If there isn't any actual chance of killing somebody, then you aren't really escalating to gun fighting.

(But then I'm twitchy about such things. I'm willing to bet that others play perfectly good and functional games of Dogs in which they'd let such actions be escalation no problem.)

As for the earlier questions: pretty much what Josh said. Narration brings in traits, and narration brings in fallout. The dice are there to serve as a guide and to tell you the effects of what happens. What it looks like is still up to you. So if the player wants those d4s in "Rod Up My Butt Has a Stick Up Its Butt" they'll narrate 'em into a conflict, and they'll narrate using them when its time. If they don't, they won't.

Dog's system works holistically, not unit by unit. So if you're looking for one to one correlations on many things, you may have a hard time with them. It's about the total sum of the conflict, not each specific moment of rolling.

Trust me, it works out in play. It's a little hard to conceptualize until you've done it a couple times.
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- Brand Robins
Brand_Robins
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« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2005, 11:28:41 AM »

The first line of my reply should say, "Good Shot" style traits and equipment dice for guns. Not traits dice for guns, obviously.
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- Brand Robins
Alex F
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« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2005, 11:18:09 AM »

I like that people begin with a modest disclaimer and then proceed to mop up most of my issues. Thanks to everyone who replied; I'm almost there I think. Slight delay in my response mainly due to time-zone diffs.

1   OK. I think I'm good with this from Joshua and Brand_Robins. Part of me wants to pin this down further but I'm reassuring myself that this will become clear in play.

2a
One of the duties of the GM in DitV is to present characters for the players to deal with, rather thar then enemies to shoot.

I get that, and hence this issue is less extreme than the flip side (issue 3). However there are clearly some cases where it comes down to guns and killing - several examples in the core text, and some of the actual play examples. It occurs to me  hat perhaps such cases will have stakes framed that are far more important than NPC fallout incurred; in a blazing battle with a sorceror the stakes can be 'who survives', so winning the conflict is paramount, making maximising fallout administered at best an afterthought. In any case, this isn't seeming such a problem to me now.

2b - Darren says everything I need.

3
an escalation to shooting must involve shooting. The examples you mention are not shooting actions. You can twirl your gun about for effect, and get the gun dice on that raise, without escalating - though it sounds like a physical action rather than a non-physical.
I agree with the sentiment (reiterated by subsequent posters) but not sure how this should work system-wise. Clearly, when acuity and will are being rolled in a shooting situation you can narrate non-shooting raises such as the 'creep around the ridge'  aise in p82 of the text. Or, presumably 'I step forward and press my muzzle against his temple'. What determines how many of  such raises are considered kosher? I suspect the answer is to rely on player agreement - if it feels like the player is using these types of raises in the genuine spirit of escalation, to end in bloodiness, then that's cool even if opponents end up giving  efore the shots are fired, but if it seems like a cynical tactic then the group should cry foul on it. Does that sound about right?


Maybe you'll win the conflict by showing off your guns.  But then whoever you cowtowed into submission takes their fallout, and they might take a trait like "Dogs are only thugs" or "Authority comes at the barrel of a gun" and suchlike, complicating  atters  further down the line.
This is great: guns can (and should) be a pain in the ass whether fired or not. Got it.

I imagine I'm nearing 'Alex, just go ahead and play the damn game and watch your worries disappear' time, but if anyone has any further feedback I'd welcome it.
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Neal
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« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2005, 11:34:17 AM »

Obligatory modest disclaimer: I've only GM'd one full-length session of DitV.  Okay, that's out of the way.

3
an escalation to shooting must involve shooting. The examples you mention are not shooting actions. You can twirl your gun about for effect, and get the gun dice on that raise, without escalating - though it sounds like a physical action rather than a non-physical.
I agree with the sentiment (reiterated by subsequent posters) but not sure how this should work system-wise. Clearly, when acuity and will are being rolled in a shooting situation you can narrate non-shooting raises such as the 'creep around the ridge'  aise in p82 of the text. Or, presumably 'I step forward and press my muzzle against his temple'. What determines how many of  such raises are considered kosher? I suspect the answer is to rely on player agreement - if it feels like the player is using these types of raises in the genuine spirit of escalation, to end in bloodiness, then that's cool even if opponents end up giving  efore the shots are fired, but if it seems like a cynical tactic then the group should cry foul on it. Does that sound about right?

That's what I ended up doing.  I had a problem when one of my players whipped out his gun without firing it, but both my players argued that the presence of the gun, its barrel aimed at an opponent's face, was a sure-as-heck escalation from swinging punches; and anyway, the character was using the weapon for intimidation purposes, and would it make a difference if he fired first, then waved it around?  I shrugged and said, "I'll go with that."  Not sure what others might say, but we kept the game rolling, and a good time was had by all.  In hindsight, perhaps I should have argued that the player could gain dice for the gun, but wouldn't get new Stat dice until that shot went off.  Dunno.

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This is great: guns can (and should) be a pain in the ass whether fired or not. Got it.

Yup.  Hence the d4 tacked onto every firearm.  When guns come out, things get more complicated and dangerous.

Quote
I imagine I'm nearing 'Alex, just go ahead and play the damn game and watch your worries disappear' time, but if anyone has any further feedback I'd welcome it.

Just this: there's a learning curve, but it's not as steep as it might seem.  The hardest part for my group hasn't been following or understanding the rules.  It's been breaking with older modes of gaming.  Knowing which Stat dice to roll when you escalate to fighting is one thing; remembering that a Raise in a life-or-death conflict can take the form of a flashback to Paw-Paw at the fireside, talkin' about the Pearly Gates... that's the hard part.
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Brand_Robins
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« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2005, 11:46:22 AM »

I like that people begin with a modest disclaimer and then proceed to mop up most of my issues.

We live in the shadow of the lumpley, and like the bees in the lilys about his feet we make honey from the sweet distilation of his words. Who are we to think ourselves much, who creep through the sweet grass that grows in the wind-lee of his magnificence?

Quote
I agree with the sentiment (reiterated by subsequent posters) but not sure how this should work system-wise. Clearly, when acuity and will are being rolled in a shooting situation you can narrate non-shooting raises such as the 'creep around the ridge'  aise in p82 of the text. Or, presumably 'I step forward and press my muzzle against his temple'. What determines how many of  such raises are considered kosher?

For me it always comes down to "can someone get dead from a bullet because of this action." If the answer is yes, then it is escalation. If it is no, then it is not. It is also important to note that you can escalate with a potentially lethal action, then follow up with actions not so lethal -- but once you've set the stage you got to play with the toys you've brought out. You can also start a conflict with guns without having your first action be "shoot em" because you're setting the stage for the conflict as a whole at that point.

To use your examples, the creepy one I don't see on page 82. However, without seeing the full text, I'd say that such a raise would be fine if it was your first raise after having declared you were going into a gunfight. ("I'm starting with Will+Acuity because I know this guy has a gun, and I'm trying to creep around to shoot him.") I'd also say it was fine once you were in a gunfight. ("Bastard took a shot at me, well now I'm gonna move around and get the drop on him.") I wouldn't, however, let it be the action that escalates from (say) talking into a gunfight -- as there aren't guns in play yet. ("I'm creeping around to the back while he's asleep -- I escalate to guns." "Um, are you pointing a gun at him or moving back there with the intention of shooting him in the back?")

The second example, otoh, is probably escalation at just about any time. At that point I can do all sorts of nasty crap with my response, such as taking the blow with 8 1s and saying "As you put the muzzel against his head he screams and jerks hard, making the gun go off right against his face. Now he's bleeding and screaming and trying to shoot you back." At that point his fallout is going to be brutal, quite potentially killing him, because you chose to come in with a gun.

That's the reason why I said I often ask my players if'n they're meaning for people to have the possibility of getting dead. If no, then they don't get to escalate or get those dice (and often re narrate their raise), if yes they get the dice and the bullets land where they will. Sometimes, however, you don't really need to ask -- they're reaching for the dice and putting guns against people's heads and you all know the dreaded fallout of 20 is now possible.
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- Brand Robins
Brand_Robins
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« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2005, 11:49:06 AM »

I shrugged and said, "I'll go with that."

I fully support your course of action. You went with your group rather than trying to ride herd on them, and that's good practice.

The ONLY thing I'd say about the situation is to remember that once they've brought out guns, you have all the permission you need to start pushing things with your sees and taking the blows to get people shot.

Of course, I may be influenced in this by having recently read the firearms essay in KPFS, so....
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- Brand Robins
Tim Alexander
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« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2005, 12:41:12 PM »

Hey Folks,

Other folks have covered this pretty well, but I wanted to give my take and also highlight something I hadn't seen posted. First, the way I read Dogs is that if you want escalation dice your action has to be one that can cause the escalated fallout. It's mostly Brand Robins way of doing it restated something. Without that fallout risk initially, you don't get escalation dice. You can later raise/see in a way that doesn't cause that sort of fallout, but initially it has to be risked. Otherwise you just haven't escalated.

Secondly, and here's the thing I'm getting at really, don't forget that the other side of the conflict escalates on their own terms. While the Dogs have a lot of options to keep fallout low if they like, the other side of the conflict may have no such compunction. When the Dogs are faced with taking round after round of d10 fallout, while only inflicting d4s you may be surprised to see how quickly the guns go off. Big fallout can often cause one or the other side to give long before they run out of dice.

Third, don't forget that in a natural progression, where you've gone up through the chain, an escalation to guns doesn't earn you additional dice beyond the weapon dice anyway. You've already rolled all your attributes, so it strictly changes the fallout die.

-Tim
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Alex F
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« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2005, 12:55:35 PM »

For me it always comes down to "can someone get dead from a bullet because of this action." If the answer is yes, then it is escalation. If it is no, then it is not. It is also important to note that you can escalate with a potentially lethal action, then follow up with actions not so lethal -- but once you've set the stage you got to play with the toys you've brought out.

Aha. I think I've neglected to focus on the moment of escalation. I can totally see how if that is done right, things should flow.

To use your examples, the creepy one I don't see on page 82.

I was in error  - I meant p86 (example 6); apologies. The muzzle/forehead fallout tactic is great; it hadn't clicked until now how the mechanics allows you to to spectacularly intensify conflicts - as you've always got the option of stacking up your little dice and deliberately taking the blow. An obvious and crucial point that my hang-ups didn't let me get.

Tim, thanks, your points 2 and 3 are especially well taken.

So just to see if I've got this right, taking another textual example: 2 'Who draws first?' (page 84). This is all at the shooting level, but the raises necessarily don't include shooting, so they are - d4s? What's crucial is who wins, ultimately, and the consequence would be some kind of follow-up conflict, like 'do I hit you' or 'do I kill you'. This example had me stumped at first but now it seems to make sense. Does this scan about right?
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Brand_Robins
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« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2005, 10:44:32 AM »

So just to see if I've got this right, taking another textual example: 2 'Who draws first?' (page 84).

It's important to note that in both of the examples you cite there isn't actually any escalation -- both conflicts are starting off at firearms. In the one on page 86 it would have been possible for the player to start with physical (sneaking) and then escalate to gunfights (shooting in the face) -- but in both that example and the one on page 84 everyone seemed to be on the same page that the fight was really about shooting people, and so just started off with the shooting. How you start a conflict is often a little loser (in my games) than how you escalate a conflict already underway.

An, in the page 84 example, your scan seemed about right. The players are rolling their "gun" dice becaue it's a gunfight. However, because they won't actually shoot before drawing the fallout dice are going to be smaller, probably d4s for talking or d6s if they start moving around and trying to physically back the other off. The followup conflict would generate d10s, if it went to shooting. Of course, because it is gunfighting, you could always push the fallout right up the scale -- your NPC could take the blow by shooting himself in the foot before he draws and just soaking up the d10s from that. (There's a real gunfighter that died that way, though I can't for the life of me remember his name now.) If you were doing that in a physical conflict and no one had escalated to guns, it'd be right out -- but if guns are involved, and you can think of a way to narrate it, the d10s come out when you bring em out.
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- Brand Robins
Alex F
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« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2005, 03:14:42 AM »

Great. Thank you Brand,  and thanks to everyone else who participated, whether I specifically replied to you or not, your advice was totally helpful. My mental windshield has been well and truly demisted, and I'm now (even more) eager to play out some real conflicts in game. Stick a fork in this thread, as I think it's done.
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