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  • My (kind of opposite) problem with something else in chargen

    I felt like this was more of an aside to the main issue, and probably most people won't even consider it to be one since I'm… sort of weird about this stuff, I guess.

    I thought of it more like the flipside of what happens when you don't make the 5/5 character regardless of concept or guidelines.

    Also, these are more ramble-y and possibly way, way off – which is why I went for a separate post.

    Supposition 1:
    Exalted is a game where traits have dot ratings and those dot ratings have narrative descriptions, the rating has "story" meaning in terms of gauging the character's traits in comparison with the rest of the world.

    For example, having a Craft (Painting) rating of 1 and a Melee rating of 5 define the character as being an amateur painter and a legendary master swordsman, respectively.
    The character's Appearance 3 means he's handsome and his Backing, Influence and Resources ratings tell us he's the captain of the local town guard and a respectable member of the local community, whose word carries some weight locally, and with a generous government stipend.
    His Allies and Retainers ratings tell us about the hotheaded-but-loyal guardswoman who became his most trusted companion, and the shady cat-eyed man who owes the captain his life and swore to serve him in secret until he could repay the Captain the favor…

    Important: We are told that a rating of 2 in a trait is average while rating 5 is a very rare thing that defines the level of a legendary master.

    In other words, specific numbers mean specific things.

    Supposition 2:
    Exalted is also a game where dot ratings are used as dice pools for actions and as "Must Be This Tall" requirements to purchase Charms.

    In order to be competent in any particular action, one needs to have a high dice pool.
    A pool of 4 or 5 dice is not acceptable for actions that are supposed to be part of a character's core competencies, especially on actions that tend to be opposed or resisted with surpassingly high and higher numbers, penalties and difficulties.

    For example, if your character is supposed to be The Warrior, you cannot just put one dot in Brawl or Melee and expect to be The Warrior of anything.

    Problem:
    Say we want to make a character.
    "Daring young farm girl" is a listed concept from the Dawn Caste's description page in the core rulebook, so let's take that as an example.

    We got an idea brewing, picturing this young peasant with the classic "village gets destroyed by…" opener. Enraged and driven, she fights back, yada, yada, yada.
    You might've seen a similar scene somewhere, that one time, you get the picture.

    So we get to the character creation part of character creation…

    If you're like me, you want to build the character in a way that makes sense for the concept, trying to give the character traits that are logical things for her to have – but the things that are logical for the character's traits on paper are naturally things that put us in the problem from the end of Supposition 2:
    She's a peasant, she did not grow up mastering melee combat skills.

    So if we want her to be The Warrior of the Group (Dawn Caste, after all), you have to stretch and round some mental corners if you're going to stick to "x number of dots in y means z".

    She may have been a bit of a tomboy, but could she have gotten Athletics 3 and Dodge 3?
    Remember, that is a level which, according to the core book, means that our character's "training in the Ability surpasses the competence expected even of professional".

    A lot of things that would be important for the character to have, for example Charms, require things like Melee 4, which would make her an expert veteran.

    I'm aware that character creation doesn't represent the character at the moment of Exaltation but picks things up after she's had some time to start to get to grips with her Essence and maybe hone her abilities a bit.
    I'm also aware that you can justify an exalt attaining a higher level in a trait through talent and their inherent heroic excellence, but we want to stay faithful to our concept, which suggests starting with low ability dots.

    Yes, we're supposed to be a fucking Exalt and that calls for some "oh, this young character is already swinging a sword at the level of my best swordsman!", but this also that breaks away from "if you're an apprentice sculptor, this one dot is the level of apprentice sculptors" ratings – and those same ability rating descriptors are there for you, to represent your character.

    Important: We are told that inborn talent is represented through Attributes, and that Abilities represent "training, education and experience".

    This is exactly my problem with the system – does it want me to accurately build a young farmer or does it want me to build a character that will be efficient in combat?

    Exalted is a game that's supposed to be about playing mythic heroes capable of 300'ing their way through armies – but it's also a game that makes you aware of how your Melee rating compares to both your concept and the NPC's around you and keeps insisting that you don't need to be mathematically efficient, while at the same time it puts up a Mathematical Efficiency Paywall on the kind of Charms you kinda-sorta need for your character.

    Yes, you can Defend Other without War Lion Stance and you can maybe get away with doing it at Melee 1 (and a high Dexterity) if you Stunt and also throw an Excellency into the mix, but I won't go into an Efficiency argument here – the point is that in order to get the magical ability to Defend Other while also doing other stuff (fighting, presumably) you need X dots in Melee and in this case, the rating of a master and veteran.

    The specific descriptions tied to specific levels of traits in the system also kind of forget that this is a dice pool system.
    So a character with Melee 4 is considered more skilled at Melee than a character with Melee 3.
    BUT the character with Melee 4 might have a Dexterity of 2 while the character with Melee 3 might have Dexterity 5 and also a Specialty in their Melee trait.

    This is the reason that when the book declares that a rating of one dot in a given Ability means XYZ, it essentially lies because that one dot doesn't exist in a vacuum – it's attached to an Attribute and possibly a Specialty and other traits such as Accuracy or situational modifiers.

    There is no way that a character with Charisma 2 and Performance 3 is "of higher skill" than a character with Charisma 5 and Performance 1.

    The book can claim all it wants that the average soldier has Melee 2, but does the average soldier also have Dexterity 2 or is it 3?
    Can you tell the difference in skill level between a mortal soldier with Dex 4+Melee 2, versus another soldier with Dex 3+Melee 3?

    Bringing it Back to Chargen

    The flipside of the issue with chargen, being how easy it is to make a character with 5/5's, is what happens when you specifically try to follow the book's guidelines and make a character's stats reflect their concept.

    In other words, a problem with character creation is that following the book's very own guidelines and trying your hardest to not min-max or power-game it is simply not a thing that you can do.

    We don't live in a world where you point to your rating in Occult and say that "this is the level I felt to be representative of an inexperienced shaman who inherited a great mystical power and finds themselves fighting demons to protect their clan" – we live in a world where you need a minimum of 3 in Occult to gain access to the Charms that let you actually do that, and practically speaking you'd need more of a 4 or 5 if you want to actually be good at any of it and not just inflict ping on NPCs.

  • #2
    Opening a lock is Difficulty 1.

    Opening a First Age lock is difficulty 4.

    Dex 3, Larceny 3, a 2-dice stunt and a 6-dice Excellency opens that First Age lock 92% of the time.
    Dex 2 and Larceny 2 is doing it 75% of the time. 89% of the time with Exceptional Tools. 96% of the time if they spend Willpower as well.

    4-5 dice is fine.

    What else... Resisting lava is difficulty 5. If you can throw 5 dice at that then with a stunt and excellency you succeed 73% of the time.

    Hitting an elite soldier in combat? Difficulty 5. You have Dex 2 Melee 2? 73% chance of hitting.

    You want to convince the Resolve 4 Snakeman Merchant to give you a discount? Charisma 2 Presence 2 gives you a 75% success rate. 89% with Willpower.

    You don't need 5s.

    The average mortal soldier doesn't have Dexterity and Melee because these are system abstractions. They're player facing mechanics. They have "Chopping Sword: Accuracy 7".

    The Solars started reappearing five years ago. If you want to say that your Farm Girl Dawn has gone from Melee 2 to Melee 3 immediately on Exalting then bumped up to Melee 5 over the last five years, I don't have a problem with that.

    But you don't need Melee 5 to be an effective warrior.

    Moreover, the Charm minimums enforce rarity. Iron Whirlwind Technique is not something every random Solar can do. It's rare. You don't need it.

    You don't need Larceny 4 to make a disguise. You need Larceny 4 to make a magical disguise so good that it cannot be defeated. Where does your magic come from? Your training and skill. You need to be a cut above the veteran master of disguise to make a flawlessly impenetrable disguise because that charm is the mechanical representation of your magical skill. If you only have Larceny 2, the skill of an average professional, how in the heck do you propose that your average professional disguises be flawlessly impenetrable?

    You don't need War Lion Stance to Defend Other. You can Flurry your Defend Other with an Attack at Melee 0. No special ability required. Dex 3 Melee 3 and a medium weapon, and you're hitting a zombie 72% of the time with the flurry penalty without stunting or using an excellency. Stunt and Excellency and you can hit a Bride of Ahlat 79% of the time. If you are an exceptional warrior, you might have access to specialist magic that makes that tactic more efficient, but the numbers of the game mean you don't need Melee 4 if you want to use Defend Other. The magical defend other power requires the abilities of an exceptional veteran because it doesn't exist. War Lion Stance isn't an upgrade you plug into your character. It's the mechanical representation of having a character so good at Melee fighting that they can seamlessly defend their allies as a casual afterthought whilst dunking on their enemies. A swordfighter so skilled that deflecting blows aimed at their ward doesn't impact on their own offense or defense at all. That doesn't sound like a skill belonging to a merely average swordfighter. That sounds like the skill of an absolute legend.

    Spirit Detecting Glance is Occult 1. Spirit Cutting Attack (and most spirits need to materialise before they can do anything to you) is Occult 2. You could totally play an apprentice shaman whofights demons with Occult 1/2. (Or you could take Occult 3 and just say the master you inherited your power from was Occult 5. So even though you are mighty by the standards of normal folks, you know you still have a way to go.)

    The Bride uses the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique exactly once. The rest of the film she uses her MA 3 techniques.

    Now I would encourage you to give your Farm Girl Dawn Melee 5 if that was her thing. It's not a fun, unique idea to play a Melee 1 Dawn. But she doesn't need Athletics 5. Let her have her tomboy Athletics 3. And if you think Dodge 3 is too high... well give her Dodge 2. The sky won't fall in on you. The game will still work. You'll still be able to dodge lava flows (assuming Dexterity 3 and the Excellency).
    Last edited by JohnDoe244; 03-04-2021, 07:43 PM.


    Hi, I'm JohnDoe244. My posts represent my opinions, not facts.

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    • #3
      Also your base exalted characters are supposed to be a bit exceptional in at least some areas. You get 28 ability dots, you get 8 bonus dots in your primary attribute, you simply can’t spend all of those and have a character with dots representative of a regular farmhand.

      Also as an aside I think the attribute and ability descriptions are okay. True somebody with five in every physical stat is likely to beat a 2/2 average professional soldier even if he has no dots in combat abilities, just through sheer physicality, but he’s still completely untrained for combat.

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      • #4
        There's a pretty common trope in the genres Exalted pulls from of the accidental expert. Learning Shaolin kung-fu by way of construction techniques in Return to the 36th Chamber, the ancient family clothes washing techniques actually being a masterful grasp of Eagle Claw style in Dreadnought. Goblin Slayer being so absurdly skilled and clever entirely from slaying goblins that he can use goblin slaying techniques on things that aren't goblins.

        With your farm girl example, it'd be extremely easy to explain away a very high combat Ability by having to constantly deal with pests. Having to throw rocks at the pests stealing the grain being really similar to throwing a lead ball through someone's eye, etc.


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        • #5

          Originally posted by Serpent Axis View Post
          This is exactly my problem with the system – does it want me to accurately build a young farmer or does it want me to build a character that will be efficient in combat?.
          It mostly depends on what you and your group considers fun.

          Some people like to start as epic level characters while others feel they've been cheated out of a part of their character's journey.

          In addition some Storytellers build their chronicles with a fixed endpoint and follow a loose 3 or 5 act structure before the curtain calls, others are happy with a largely episodic tale that continues until nobody wants to play anymore. The latter is more favourable to a young farmer coming to terms with being a Dawn Caste and training her skills while the former typically favours immediate mastery.


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          • #6
            Originally posted by SamuraiMujuru View Post
            With your farm girl example, it'd be extremely easy to explain away a very high combat Ability by having to constantly deal with pests. Having to throw rocks at the pests stealing the grain being really similar to throwing a lead ball through someone's eye, etc.
            "I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home..."


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            • #7
              Originally posted by SamuraiMujuru View Post
              With your farm girl example, it'd be extremely easy to explain away a very high combat Ability by having to constantly deal with pests. Having to throw rocks at the pests stealing the grain being really similar to throwing a lead ball through someone's eye, etc.
              How does that equate to a high rating based on the narrative descriptions of them? A young shepherd might defend their flock from predators with a sling, and as part of their livelihood maybe take that to a 2. Where does a 3, let alone more come in?

              Originally posted by Lioness View Post
              Some people like to start as epic level characters while others feel they've been cheated out of a part of their character's journey.

              In addition some Storytellers build their chronicles with a fixed endpoint and follow a loose 3 or 5 act structure before the curtain calls, others are happy with a largely episodic tale that continues until nobody wants to play anymore. The latter is more favourable to a young farmer coming to terms with being a Dawn Caste and training her skills while the former typically favours immediate mastery.
              The fact that the book doesn't really acknowledge this is basically the problem though.

              If the book basically said there's two "core" ways to play Exalted, and advised you figure out which your group was doing and then build with that in mind - even without changing the numbers available to characters - there wouldn't be the same sort of disconnect the OP is bringing up.

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              • #8
                I have previously proposed:

                Lower all Ability requirements of all Ability-based Charms by 1, except for the ones that are already at 1 (keep those at 1), and the ones at 5 with a prerequisite that is also a 5 (keep those at 5).

                I think this would help a bit. People have disagreed with this suggestion, but I don't think anyone has explained that it would, like, break the game.

                Other than that, Solars are supposed to be able to learn things super fast. She could have easily gone up a dot or two in Melee in the "Enraged and driven, she fights back, yada, yada, yada" step if one of the things she was driven to do was train for battle, and she kept it up for a few days after Exalting.

                The idea of being a badass through training is central to the idea of the Solar Exalted - if you want to play a farmhand who never trained to fight and is still an awesome fighter, you can play a Lunar.

                Finally, you don't need these Charms to play a badass. If your players and ST agree on "My Athletics 2, Dodge 2, Melee 2, Resistance 2 barely-trained farm girl is the strongest combatant in the group" you can achieve that, rules as written, and beat plenty of enemies in the core book. You'll probably have a lot of fun in those fights, and in growing your character over time.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                  How does that equate to a high rating based on the narrative descriptions of them? A young shepherd might defend their flock from predators with a sling, and as part of their livelihood maybe take that to a 2. Where does a 3, let alone more come in?
                  From getting that good at it. Not everyone benefits equally from the same kind and amount of practice.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by habitableexoplanet View Post
                    People have disagreed with this suggestion, but I don't think anyone has explained that it would, like, break the game.
                    I have quibbles with the specific implementation, but I'm completely behind the general concept.

                    The idea of being a badass through training is central to the idea of the Solar Exalted - if you want to play a farmhand who never trained to fight and is still an awesome fighter, you can play a Lunar.
                    I think it's a minor but important difference: being a badass through skill is central to the idea of Solars. Training is how you get skill obviously, but Solars aren't built around the process buy the end result. Which is why a lot of people pump up a rating by 1 or 2 based on just being innately awesome and it doesn't mess with the Solar-ness of the character.

                    I'm also fairly confident from the OP's post that they're aware of how Attributes can elevate a character with low Ability scores to higher level performance; but that only adds to the disconnect of making a character by letting concept dictate the dots vs. acknowledging all the ways the system encourages you to take ratings for more mechanical reasons.

                    Other than that, Solars are supposed to be able to learn things super fast. She could have easily gone up a dot or two in Melee in the "Enraged and driven, she fights back, yada, yada, yada" step if one of the things she was driven to do was train for battle, and she kept it up for a few days after Exalting.
                    Originally posted by Sith_Happens View Post
                    From getting that good at it. Not everyone benefits equally from the same kind and amount of practice.
                    This already addressed in the OP as a violation of Supposition 1. The concept is not "former farm girl now rebel warrior," but, "daring young farm girl." as is a suggestion in the book.

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                    • #11
                      Luke Skywalker is a farm boy.

                      He's also one of the greatest crack pilots in the galaxy because he trains every day running target drills that are too difficult for a computer to pull off.

                      Will Turner is a blacksmith's apprentice. He drills for three hours every day with the swords he forges.

                      David was a sheep herder. But he practiced killing wolves with his sling then was blessed by God with supranatural talent.

                      There's this kid called "Clark" who grew up on this farm in kansas...

                      ****

                      Most tattooine moisture farmers aren't the son of Darth Vader. But Star Wars isn't the story of the average farm boy. It's the story of an exceptional hero.

                      But Luke isn't, as well as being an ace pilot, also the greatest lothario in the galaxy, and a hyperbrain engineer who upgrades the millennium falcon, and an expert lightsaber duelist, and a champion code breaker, and a renown doctor. Even in terms of his force abilities, he's not the greatest jedi in the world. He's a super special protagonist, hero of his own story though -- hasn't even been to flight school yet casually outflies the greatest pilots in the star wars.

                      Average Farm Girl being the greatest swordfighter in the world is incongruous. Absolutely.

                      Solar Protagonist being the greatest swordfighter in the world is probably fine. Especially as it literally takes two weeks for a PC to train from Melee 1 to Melee 5 without a tutor.

                      You're the hero of the story. You're playing Son Goku. You are the amazing one-in-a-generation prodigy, chosen by the king of heaven.

                      Don't get me wrong. If all the players are on board, you can get a lot of milage out of "normal person gains Solar powers". But Exalted is kinda about playing someone exceptional (whether born, become, or thrust upon).

                      I mean... are you saying you can't take a 5?

                      Originally posted by Sith_Happens View Post
                      From getting that good at it. Not everyone benefits equally from the same kind and amount of practice.
                      Yeah, this.

                      My sister and I took guitar and piano lessons side by side for three years. She rocks the guitar but after three years struggled with chopsticks. I can only play power chords on guitar but can play piano.

                      Different folks are good at different stuff. Different folks given the same opportunities will have different results. Because people are different.

                      Your Farm Girl can have different stats to an NPC farm girl.

                      Now if you're going to try to tell me that your southern farm girl who's never seen the ocean has Sail 5, I'm going to raise an eyebrow. But you wanna say your Dawn got Thrown 5 but hunting rats in the cornstacks? Well all I can say is, you must be playing some kind of exceptional hero - a gifted one-in-a-million natural warrior - to get world class combat skills like that! Oh wait, you are!
                      Last edited by JohnDoe244; 03-04-2021, 07:40 PM.


                      Hi, I'm JohnDoe244. My posts represent my opinions, not facts.

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                      • #12
                        Please don't bring up the omni-competence at character generation thing again, FYI. The last thread was locked for a reason.


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                        • #13
                          To elaborate on what I said earlier, I attempted to make a brave young farm girl following the character creation rules, sticking as close as possible to "only the Abilities a brave young farm girl could take, with a very small amount of post-Exaltation training giving a +1" while also being a capable warrior and a playable character. This is what I got:

                          Athletics 2
                          Awareness 2
                          Brawl 2
                          Craft (Farm Tools) 2
                          Dodge 2
                          Integrity 3
                          Larceny 1
                          Medicine 1
                          Melee 2
                          Performance (Singing) 1
                          Presence 1
                          Resistance 3
                          Ride 1
                          Socialize 1
                          Stealth 1
                          Survival 3

                          Athletics: Graceful Crane Stance
                          Athletics: Monkey Leap Technique
                          Brawl: Fists of Iron Technique
                          Integrity: Enduring Mental Toughness
                          Integrity: Stubborn Boar Technique
                          Medicine: Ailment-Rectifying Method
                          Melee: Excellent Strike
                          Melee: One Weapon, Two Blows
                          Melee: Dipping Swallow Defense
                          Resistance: Ox-Body Technique
                          Resistance: Durability of Oak Meditation
                          Resistance: Iron Skin Concentration
                          Ride: Master Horseman’s Technique
                          Survival: Hardship-Surviving Mendicant Spirit
                          Survival: Friendship with Animals Approach

                          Strength 3
                          Dexterity 4
                          Stamina 4

                          Appearance 1
                          Charisma 3

                          Manipulation 3

                          Intelligence 1
                          Perception 4
                          Wits 4


                          To make this character the group's warrior, you would have to ask the other players to take at most a 2 in combat Abilities, and no or almost no combat Charms. But if the group wanted to do that, you could.

                          I haven't tested this specific character, but my understanding from previous fights I've seen is that there is a lot of enemy monsters she could wreck, as well as small battlegroups of mortal (i.e. she could take on dozens of people). If the Storyteller wanted to allow it, she could be a total badass. And she would grow even stronger over time.

                          Was whichever dev or original writer who wrote that thinking you would build your character like this when they put that entry in the Dawn character concepts list? Probably not - they were probably thinking more like Eric Minton and John Doe's suggestions of a farm girl/boy who displays exceptional talent like some noted fictional characters. But I think the system would support you if you wanted to do it this way.

                          (I hope that bringing up a concrete example will take this thread further from the old thread, and help it be generally less argumentative. If not, I hope it at least doesn't make anything worse.)

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by habitableexoplanet View Post
                            If not, I hope it at least doesn't make anything worse.
                            You've done the worst thing I could possibly imagine: now I want to run a game for this character.

                            What's her name?

                            ****

                            I think if you're going to run a character like that, you're probably better off with minimal niche protection. Have every character be about as capable in combat (or just a shade less: Dex 3, Melee 2 and two Melee Charms compared to the Dawn's +1 Dex and extra Melee Charm), else run minimal combat scenes. Because whilst you could have Dawn, the Farm Girl Dawn Caste, fight a Bride of Ahlat whilst the rest of the circle fights brigands, there's not a lot of compression room to play with here. And combat takes a long time and you don't want the other players feeling sidelined.

                            In a game where the Dawn has Melee 5 and half-a-dozen Melee Charms, the Twilight can take Melee 2, Excellent Strike and Dipping Swallow Defence and there's still a ton of stuff the Twilight can fight (and utterly wreckface dominating). Whilst if the Dawn is Melee 2 with three Charms and the Twilight is Melee 0 with no Charms... there's not a lot of stuff the Twilight can fight.

                            But yeah... that works. It feels better suited to a game where all the characters are generalists because I think it'd be hard to stand-out with that build... but it works.

                            Like... the Power Rangers. Jason is a better fighter than Zach. He's literally Zach's teacher. But when they suit up and fight Zach holds his own and kicks ass -- it's not like Jason is in a totally different league. That's kinda what I'd expect with this Dawn Farm Girl. Sure, she's the best fighter in the group, but not by some insurmountable margin.
                            Last edited by JohnDoe244; 03-04-2021, 08:08 PM.


                            Hi, I'm JohnDoe244. My posts represent my opinions, not facts.

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                            • #15
                              1) This is why when I ran Exalted games, I ran Mortal campaigns. I know I sound like a broken record, but ........ guys. Guys. So much easier. And, dare I say it, more fun?

                              Plus, when people play mortals, they, at least in my experience, seem to be muchmore willing to take 2s and 3s, or hell even 1s, than when they play Exalted.

                              Lower ratings make the game more fun, not less

                              2) The main reason I got away from Exalted is because there is very little official actual help, either for the players to build characters or for the ST to build a world.

                              The D&D Players Handbook had sections on how to play a character, and how to design a character. The D&D DM's Guide was an entire book on how to build campaigns, build worlds, build individual dungeons, how to have PCs mesh with NPCs in the world, how to adapt combat and other encounters for your party

                              Now, yes, D&D has its own issues, but the fact of the matter is that stuff was there, if not from the beginning of the line then early on.

                              Maybe the Core Rulebook should have had similar sections

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