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What we can learn from Beast and others (Some opinions for 2e)

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  • What we can learn from Beast and others (Some opinions for 2e)

    So, I've been chewing some things over lately, and something tripped me up hard when, while taking a break from the exam season, I got to thinking about Changeling and realized a bit of a problem.

    Changeling has a persistent them about trying to hold onto your humanity while persistently indulging your fae side; scarred by Arcadia but unable to let it go; beauty and terror sacheying giddily through the park. On its face, Changeling has some great systems for encouraging certain behaviours; the odd tricks in Catches, the power and peril of pledges, and the like.

    Yet as it stands, Changeling has a core problem in that it rarely does a good job of tempting Changelings to indulge in fae behaviours and break the rules. Oh yes, there's the need to gather glamour, but the ways a Changeling can get that simply and easily are manifest. There's always ways to trip up players to make their pledges bite them in the butt, but that's not fun; that's making the ST the enemy. Likewise, Changelings are fundamentally transformed beings; turned into something not-quite-human. I, personally, enjoy emphasizing that inhumanity, but the primary sources of Changeling powers are oddities that anyone can use or Contracts, not changes to themselves.

    Also, Entitlements suck. Just putting that out there. They shouldn't, and I'd like to fix them too.

    With Beast the new kid on the block, some of my mulling has been emphasized by how well Beast encourages odd behaviours while Changeling shunts them off to Wyrd 6+; how much Beast changes its PCs while Changeling just gives them a new bag of tricks.

    Putting it mildly, a Fairest with a beautiful singing voice and all the powers available in the books to focus on it is still a worse Siren than a Makara with one Atavism, and has very little of the motivation to be one anyway. The Changelings are shown up at the very legends said to inspire them.

    Still, it's a poor person who only complains without any voicing of a solution, so I propose the following:

    Rework Entitlements and buff up the Merits.

    Changeling already toys with the latter, especially in Rites of Spring; granting special little tricks to the Lost as changed parts of their nature. These should be getting a whole hell of a lot more attention. Persistent passive powers or innate abilities - like an Ogre being exceptionally strong or resilient - wouldn't be hard to represent, nor would more specialized powers; a passive immunity to environmental tilts from a given element for Elementals; the Fairest having a kind of floating "Fame" merit that causes people who meet them to naturally think they're important and awesome, even if they can't figure out why; Darkling abilities that all but one iconic detail about them really hard to remember; Beasts getting a network of animal spies; Wizened being able to hide an action in plain sight because people just don't notice them. These are just some of the most obvious and more basic powers available, and Changelings should honestly feel a bit like they're drowning in them; like every Changeling is a unique legend because no two are likely to be identical.

    There's a twofold reason for this. First, anything that adds to the "What you can do" roster is neat for a start. More importantly, though, passive powers play into a sense of identity. If you have to spend energy (Glamour) to use a power, it does not feel like an innate part of the character; it's a tool you have to put coins into before it can work. Innate, intrinsic abilities feel like a character-defining feature which is why, for me, I found even the simplest Kith blessings providing a small bonus to a given dice roll more character-defining than all the Contracts in the world. A character who can never be burned can make peace with the flame, but one who has to spend power to actually come into contact with it still has a cost associated with it.

    Consider the difference between someone who can pick up a burning splint with their bare hand, and one who has a fire/heat-proof glove that lets them do the same. Which one will attach more of their identity to flames?

    Yet with all the cool tricks and abilities in the world, Changelings still aren't incentivized to use them, which brings me to my second point: Entitlements.

    At the moment, all the major game lines have a feature similar to Entitlements; Bloodlines, Legacies, Lodges, etc., all of which provide some neat boon in exchange for a pattern of behaviour and/or social obligations. The rewards that come with these things often tie into and reward the given behaviours; the Mara Bloodline forces you to feed only from the submerged but gives you some neat water-related powers; Legacies grant you attainments that are typically highly effective and reliable and change the way you interact with the world, such as using fire as a mystical symbol if you join the Tamers of Fire Legacy, or becoming a healer if you join the Tamers of Water.

    Changeling doesn't have that. Entitlements don't typically provide much of a reward (a free specialty or weak token is a common example), and the rewards in question rarely encourage a behaviour intrinsically. If a vampire has power over water and needs it to feed, they spend time near water; if a Mage controls fire freely, they'll start using a lot more fire in their magic. Yet a Changeling who joins the Satrapy of Pearls gains a free specialty; hardly an overwhelming advantage, for a start, but it also doesn't really encourage behaviour; it doesn't make you all that different to how you'd have been otherwise.

    An exception to this is the Accepted Order of Bridge Masons, one of Changeling's few entitlements to grant an ability that a Changeling wouldn't have otherwise: Rapid construction of buildings when no-one's looking. This provides a new and unique ability that will distinguish a character who joins the Entitlement from others, while also providing a new niche to expand into. It doesn't quite inherently encourage the behaviour but, given the utility of it, anyone who joins is probably thinking already of what they can do with it. Builder Betty will really want to join the Order because she gets to do things she otherwise couldn't. Social Samuel, though, has little direct reason to join the Satrapy because all he gets is a Specialty and a whole bunch of obligations, when he could've gotten all that on his own without them for minimal effort.

    Entitlements should be groups which provide a Changeling with a reason to use their powers for a specific purpose, excusing and embracing certain fae behaviours in the process. They should provide the Farwalker with a reason to scare people out of an area and to spend months in isolation; the Deep-Dweller with a reason to claim a specific lake; the Leechfinger a specific reason to feed regularly. Why not an Entitlement based around the alluring creatures of the wood - the nymphs and satyrs and dryads - that allows the Changeling to produce a hypnotic trance in a target, allowing them to be lured away and lulled, or made more suggestible, or addicted to the Changeling? Why not an Entitlement dedicated to protecting wild places that allows a Changeling who has dedicated themselves to securing that wild place to become invisible within woodlands? Why not one which gives Leechfingers the ability to steal Willpower from sleeping people to restore their own reserves?

    So, yeah. Those are my two big suggestions: Drown us in passive abilities to allow further shaping of character behaviour and identity, and make Entitlements a driving force in shaping and sheltering fae behaviours.

    As a secondary suggestion, I'd also like to reshape the Hedge. The Hedge at present might as well have a big ol' KEEP OUT sign over the doorway. Changeling suffers a bit from Call of Cthulhu syndrome, where any sensible person jumps out the window the moment the phone rings or a newspaper mentions odd cult activity. The Hedge should feel strange and mysterious, beautiful and terrible, but there should always be an opportunity for wonder, with the threats being much less common than the opportunities. Otherwise, the Hedge becomes a place people don't want to go.

    To that end, I'd recommend a philosophy of sign-posting. If a threat exists, make sure that it's signposted from a mile away, but dangle the temptations from the same distance. If a temptation exists, make sure it rewards the player as much as the character.

    As an example, if a given trod in the Hedge is home to a nest of thornshrikes, signpost the hell out of it. Have skeletons hanging on the thorns to mark the edge of their territory. The trod might be a useful shortcut, though. Or perhaps the shrikes' victims had valuable treasure that falls from limp hands and decaying pockets, all ending up lining a mean bird's nest or the gulley at the side of a trod. Make it very clear that entering the shrike's trod means risking a possible encounter, but also make it worth it. Maybe mapping out the trod means that the character knows how to hide there when fleeing pursuers, while letting their pursuers get mobbed by butcher birds, or they can find some shiny treasure or trinket in there.

    More to the point, make victory possible. Changeling has this overarching tone where everything you do everywhere ever is going to cost you a finger. Those such moments should be rare, though, because otherwise the game inherits an atmosphere of impenetrable gloom. Changelings are blossoming legends, though; they should be able to come away victorious if they're clever or guileful or strong enough. Heck, being clever enough is how you start the prelude to the story; if every rabbit was shot sneaking into Mr. McGregor's garden, Peter wouldn't have even tried. The risks should be real but beatable by those with the talent. The true hiccups - the time characters face something particularly scene-worthy, like one of the shrikes being sleeping in its nest when the little thief climbs up to filch their prize - should be rare but interesting events that the character shares around a tavern later. The ones where they lose a finger should be grand and character-defining.

    After all, everyone remembers the story of Nine-Fingered Frodo, don't they?

    Likewise, set temptation in ways that it rewards both player and character. In so many stories, characters are lured off by promises of relaxation or the tastiest-looking piece of fruit, or the like, but your players are people sitting at a table or desk; they don't get to feel the delicate Weisse-Frau stroking a lock of hair off of their face with a gentle fingertip, or taste the succulent delights of the sweet fruit of the vine. They're the ones hearing the description of the gorgeous maiden beckoning them over or seeing the fruit and thinking "If this was spelled out any more clearly, it'd be in 300 point font and set on fire."

    The Hedge has to have nasty predators, sure, but there's other reasons why these things might exist. Herr Mannelig is a song of a troll offering a knight so many great prizes if he will marry her so she can be a troll no longer; the mythic precedent exists. Perhaps that fruit is an anglerfish-type lure, threatening to drag a Changeling down, but it might also just be a fruit presented by a plant to encourage others to spread its seeds. It might be addictive, but it could also grant the Changeling supernatural wit and intelligence, say. The Weisse-Frau might not be able to leave the Hedge unless someone promises to marry her, and offers the Changeling a great many things if they agree (and holds up her end of the bargain), but brings complications with her (perhaps her family wants to come and live with them? The handsomest trolls this side of the moon).

    You might also offer a Condition whenever the character enters the Hedge, allowing them to receive a Beat whenever they end up in a trap, further encouraging players to take risks, rather than shying away from them because it's sensible to do so.

    And... I think that's everything. Woof. Hope this helps someone.

  • #2
    While I'm on a tear here, I might as well keep on tearing.

    Goblin Markets. Goblin Markets have a big problem because, at present, they fall into the "Why would anyone do this?" trap. There's something innately distressing about selling off pieces of your existence piecemeal and, while interesting, should probably be something that's kept for really important things. If a Changeling sells their birth name, it should be for the only weapon that can kill their fetch or Keeper or something similarly monumental. Otherwise, you become the guy who sold a piece of his soul to get better at piano.

    Moreover, there's no real clear sign what matches up as an oddment worth trading. Examples are made of trading bags of spiders' legs, but when and why would goblins accept these in trade?

    To my mind, the Goblin Market is worth playing up; it should emphasize the oddity of a Changeling's life and its utter fluidity. A player may wish to "respec" their character, selling their skill with a firearm for skill with the scalpel instead, becoming a superlative surgeon when they take a life and realize they just can't take it; the need to reinvent the self fits well with the abuse and recovery narrative Changeling has going. The Goblin Market should also be utterly fae and, to that end, I recommend considering the notion that, say, once an adventure, a character may claim some odd trinket that they can trade for one dot's worth of token(s) on the Goblin Market, saving up to buy bigger items if necessary. These wouldn't be protected by Sanctity of Merits unless paid for but it'd be a good way to represent the character growing with time.

    Likewise, consider something akin to a "floating" token merit, representing the fact that Changelings have lives that fluctuate and often exist on the willingness to trade one thing for another. A Changeling may have five dots in this floating merit and, at the start of a story, can decide on up to five dots worth of token(s) to have their character start play with (with obvious veto power to the ST; be kind of ridiculous to start off with Excalibur). This way, players are more willing to give up their toys in trade, because they know it's not a mechanical loss, even with Sanctity of Merits considered.

    Floating merits like this also allow for more fae behaviours. An impressive collection of oddities is the Lost equivalent to being wealthy, so consider what these things represent and where characters get them from and where they keep them. It suddenly makes sense for one of the Lost to live in a filthy hovel full of garbage because they spend ten hours a day digging in the local dump ground for things that might be of value; mundane folks think of them as the local crazy garbage hoarder, but they know what's up. It suddenly makes sense for them to go digging through the shrike trod because it means they get shiny things to trade.

    You could even include mechanics for scrounging up trade items. Access to a token - temporarily or permanently - is hardly an overwhelming advantage, and you can get a pretty interesting scene just of a character having to find an oddity of some sort. A panicked Darkling digging through trash in a subway station might have to deal with the metro cops, for example. Likewise, if a player got something effectively for "free", the ST should always feel like they can include some kind of odd catch in there somewhere. You get what you pay for.

    Likewise, if a character wants to pay experience, don't make it an agonizing moment of "You traded something awesome from your future" for it unless the player wants it to be. If the player's paying experience, feel free to let them assume they have the sufficient trade goods.

    I've honestly got much, much more if people are interested but, right now, my stream of consciousness is slowing to a trickle, so... Yeah.

    I can provide example merits, sample mechanics, etc., if desired.

    Comment


    • #3
      Changeling should take the approach on morality of werewolf 2.0: the balance between the human and the fae sides. Being more fae may grant the character certain benefits (example, contracts are easier or more powerful) at the cost of gain banes and insanity)

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      • #4
        In regards to goblin markets, what makes you let the PCs deal only in important memories? For minor tokens, trinkets, goblin fruit and minor information I usually let the PCs trade with glamour or parts from monsters they killed/found. Mind you, I do agree that the rules leave a lot to be desired in regards to the economy of trinkets and goblin fruit. I have been somewhat generous, but at the same time I am hesitent to make them too common if only out of fear of them overshadowing certain contracts.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Raistlin View Post
          Changeling should take the approach on morality of werewolf 2.0: the balance between the human and the fae sides. Being more fae may grant the character certain benefits (example, contracts are easier or more powerful) at the cost of gain banes and insanity)
          I'm definitely down for this. Werewolf, though, tries to suggest the desire for a balance between flesh and spirit, whereas Changeling's themes are about desperately holding onto reality, uncertain if this is real or not. It also has the abuse survivor theme and any morality meter needs to grapple with that. Changelings are desperate fugitives trying to believe that this is real.

          I think I'd need playtesting to see how to toy with this but my instinct is to suggest that there should be rewards for seeking the peaks of either, but the human side should have fewer penalties. Being more human might make you better able to resist magic, whereas being more fae makes you better at using it but less able to resist it. Clap your hands if you believe, y'know?

          In regards to goblin markets, what makes you let the PCs deal only in important memories? For minor tokens, trinkets, goblin fruit and minor information I usually let the PCs trade with glamour or parts from monsters they killed/found. Mind you, I do agree that the rules leave a lot to be desired in regards to the economy of trinkets and goblin fruit. I have been somewhat generous, but at the same time I am hesitent to make them too common if only out of fear of them overshadowing certain contracts.
          This is largely in line with what I'm suggesting. Trading important parts of yourself, though, is pretty much one of the common symbols of the market and I really don't feel that should be the case. It should be a symbol of it, and a major one, but trading something important should be as important as the thing itself.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Raistlin View Post
            Changeling should take the approach on morality of werewolf 2.0: the balance between the human and the fae sides. Being more fae may grant the character certain benefits (example, contracts are easier or more powerful) at the cost of gain banes and insanity)
            I see where you're coming from, but I'm not terribly fond of that paradigm for Clarity. I don't think it works as well as a more linear Integrity equivalent trait. Clarity to me is not about balance. Changelings aren't trying to strike a harmonious point between their human and fae sides; they're trying to not get swallowed by the influence of Arcadia on their minds and to keep a strong hold on reality. The Lost are touched by Faerie - but they weren't born like that. They struck pacts with it to survive, and the Wyrd filled in where the thorns of the Hedge ripped their souls in the escape from the Others.

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            • #7
              You definitely have some intriguing ideas here, Axelgear. I especially like what you have to say about signposting the Hedge. Adds to the fairy tale logic of the place, as well as providing players concrete reasons to engage in unwise behavior. I've experienced the frustration before of trying to put some bit of fae trickery in my players' way, only for them to immediately recognize what was going on because, well, everyone knows fairy tales. Then again, I was a pretty novitiate Storyteller at the time, and I think I dropped a few too many hints, in hindsight. Ah well.

              Speaking of fairy tale logic, I think Conditions are going to be a huge boon for 2e Changeling, tying in to the "rewarding the players" angle. Not that everything should be Condition-facing, of course, but they'll definitely help.

              Considering that both 2e Vampire and 2e Werewolf have Merits exclusive to each Clan/Auspice, I think it is likely we will see something similar here, which, I imagine, could help with what you have in mind with regards to Seeming passive abilities. At the very least, I really like the vague Fame bonus for the Fairest and the animal network for Beasts; if there's nothing like that in 2e I'm definitely going to crib those two and cobble together rules for them.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by YeOfLittleFaith View Post

                I see where you're coming from, but I'm not terribly fond of that paradigm for Clarity. I don't think it works as well as a more linear Integrity equivalent trait. Clarity to me is not about balance. Changelings aren't trying to strike a harmonious point between their human and fae sides; they're trying to not get swallowed by the influence of Arcadia on their minds and to keep a strong hold on reality. The Lost are touched by Faerie - but they weren't born like that. They struck pacts with it to survive, and the Wyrd filled in where the thorns of the Hedge ripped their souls in the escape from the Others.
                I agree with this. Faerie isn't something you really want to be a part of. Its more of a necessity.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Raistlin View Post
                  Changeling should take the approach on morality of werewolf 2.0: the balance between the human and the fae sides. Being more fae may grant the character certain benefits (example, contracts are easier or more powerful) at the cost of gain banes and insanity)
                  Hell no. That's not what Clarity is about. That's not what Changeling is about.

                  I don't have the focus to go into full rant mode, so give me a second to go find posts on the subject when I was filled with the fervor.

                  EDIT: Here's one.

                  Actually, that whole thread covers the subject. I'd like to highlight Errol and Satchel's comments in particular there.
                  Last edited by ArcaneArts; 04-17-2015, 03:41 PM.


                  Kelly R.S. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
                  The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
                  Feminine pronouns, please.

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                  • #10
                    Well on the part about them not being as great as the legends that spawned them, that might be because they are only half fae. Also, it refers to the fact that once they cross back into the mortal world, their Fae abilities are substantially weaker. For example, the Windwings had the ability to fly through the skies of Arcadia when they were in their durance, but after their escape, they only retain the power to glide, with the exception of maybe a contract giving them full flight.

                    Might also want to keep in mind that most of the Changelings didn't want anything to do with the Fae in the first place. It was forced upon them and now they'll struggle the rest of their life to maintain their sanity and avoid being dragged back in chains. The Changelings do not want to indulge their Fae nature, they do it subconsciously like a bad habit. Ogres are regarded as violent, simple minded brutes, not really something most people would want to indulge in if they care about the safety of those around them.


                    They prey upon the emotions of humans, even having the power to fuck up their dreams and thus cause psychological trauma. Somebody who is trying to hold onto their humanity isn't going to say "this is fun, let's go wild!" they're going to feel terrified about what they've become. This is why we have Clarity, the more you act like a Fae, the less grip you have on your sanity.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      As for the rest of this thread, I'm gonna keep it simple and just say that we should probably wait for Beast to come out before looking at it, and of course my old mantra of "You can't solve Changeling's problems with another game, you can only use them to inform decisions (and even that isn't preferable)"


                      Kelly R.S. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
                      The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
                      Feminine pronouns, please.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Illuminated Minutia View Post
                        I agree with this. Faerie isn't something you really want to be a part of. Its more of a necessity.
                        I disagree with this. There's nothing about Arcadia that is a necessity. A Changeling who has returned to the world can, as the Winter Court's members sometimes try to do, attempt to have as little to do with it as possible. They can choose not to use their Contracts, not to use Glamour, not to make Pledges, etc., and live entirely mundane and mortal lives to the best of the ability their new state allows.

                        Changelings can do this, but they don't. They don't because Faerie is alluring. There is a heady thrill to tasting glamour; to consuming emotions and turning it into power; to commanding the flame to dance and the wind to blow. Pledges give you power and power lets you do things you never dreamed possible. Windwings remember what it was to fly, Mirrorskins understand the beat of every actor's heart, and Artists shall know the joy of creation (tee hee). They suffered horribly, but their suffering gave them new perspective; it showed them a beauty they perhaps never otherwise imagined possible.

                        I'm not saying I agree with the notion that Clarity should be a sliding scale about finding balance - it might best be served as a readily sliding scale to represent a mind as brittle as glass, but it shouldn't be about balance, as I've said already - but Faerie shouldn't be about necessity either; it should be about temptation. It should be the offering of a needle of opiates, or to go riding dangerously down a coastal highway on a motorbike at unsafe speeds. It should be the chance to go parachuting or sneak into a zoo at night to try and pet a lion. Foolhardy and inadvisable, maybe, but an experience you'll never forget for the rest of your (possibly short) life that might change your identity forever.

                        Arcadia should be your most wonderful dreams as often as your greatest nightmare. Preferably until the two are one and the same.

                        As for the rest of this thread, I'm gonna keep it simple and just say that we should probably wait for Beast to come out before looking at it, and of course my old mantra of "You can't solve Changeling's problems with another game, you can only use them to inform decisions (and even that isn't preferable)"
                        I understand that you may have heard some of these words before, but I'd appreciate it if you actually gave a look-over to what I'm saying and see what you think. I'm not (or I don't think I am) trying to slap in place other game's dynamics to fill apparent holes so much as I hope I am taking lessons from them to try and make something better. I greatly enjoy hearing other's opinions and, while I understand you might be busy at the moment, I would appreciate it if you did actually go through my suggestions and see what you think.

                        If you still don't like it, that's fine, but I hope what I've said deserves more than an off-hand remark.

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                        • #13
                          That's actually a better way of putting it, yeah. I do think a much more mercurial Clarity scale might be interesting. Maybe have some set up where you can drop more than one spot from a single roll if you botch it hard enough? IE - One minute you're doing fine and the next the whole house of cards starts to fall over.

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                          • #14
                            I'm not saying the benefits of being a Changeling aren't appealing (they're pretty damn awesome). It's what it took to get those benefits and maintain them that's the scary part. If you want to maintain balance, just join the Autumn Court. They seem like they're the scientists and sorcerers of the Freeholds, studying and developing their Fae abilities to better combat the True Fae. Oh, but then you draw your power from terror... now how do you suppose you're going to get a regular supply of that?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Axelgear View Post
                              I understand that you may have heard some of these words before, but I'd appreciate it if you actually gave a look-over to what I'm saying and see what you think. I'm not (or I don't think I am) trying to slap in place other game's dynamics to fill apparent holes so much as I hope I am taking lessons from them to try and make something better. I greatly enjoy hearing other's opinions and, while I understand you might be busy at the moment, I would appreciate it if you did actually go through my suggestions and see what you think.

                              If you still don't like it, that's fine, but I hope what I've said deserves more than an off-hand remark.
                              I've read it before hand, and I should make it clear that my ability to respond properly is...restrained somewhat. I do intend to go through my own notes about Entitlements and respond in someway to the ideas at work in Changeling.

                              But as it comes to comparing things to Beast...well, we just don't know enough at this point. We know some of the forms, but without a greater picture about why Beast does what it does in relation to it's greater self, it's risky to draw ideas from it as a informant on Changeling, and what's more is that I think the ideas that perfect Changeling should be drawn from a critical analysis of Changeling in and of itself first anyways.

                              There's some other minor reasons I haven't responded yet(like finishing up FMA: Brotherhood, planning for two games, searching for a job, etc.), but predominantly it comes down an innate skepticism of the premise leaning against a desire to bring my full academic bore to the conversation. The only things I can say before that can be nothing more than cautionary tales.


                              Kelly R.S. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
                              The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
                              Feminine pronouns, please.

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