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Public Enemy: Lord Foulwind
Publisher: Bloodstone Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2014 10:22:41
Making for a fun and original opponent for your superheroes, Lord Foulwind is a troll trapped here after finding a means to open a portal from, well, whatever fantasy world he came from. Capable of magic use as well as having normal troll capabilities like regeneration, he's smart enough to make a formidable foe.

There's plenty of background to help you bring him to (smelly) life, as well as several plot hooks to bring him into the action; and of course a full stat block to take care of the mechanics.

Lots of little touches make Lord Foulwind a bit more than just a classic fantasy monster dumped into a superpowered world, he has his place and his plans... and it's up to your party to deal with him before he makes even more of a problem of himself than he has already! A nice interpretation.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Public Enemy: Lord Foulwind
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100 Noble Titles
Publisher: Lee's Lists
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/08/2014 12:07:23
Nothing like a fancy title to gain respect... and it's a cheap way for the local authorities to reward characters that have done them a service!

It's quite a mixed bag of titles, and you will have to decide for themselves any hierarchy... does a Morza rank above a Sawai? I don't know, but if they are both used in your campaign world you will need to know who is the superior even if it is only for trivial reasons like arranging the seating plan for dinner.

If you are curious, a Morza is a princely title in Tartar lands whilst Sawai is a title of Indian origins meaning someone worth one and one-quarter of an ordinary man in Sanskrit... most holders were rulers and so it is possible that a Sawai ranks above a Morza, but only just. But that's the real world - in your alternate reality, your word is law.

It's a little bit of fun, especially if you are bored with Barons and Princes...

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
100 Noble Titles
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Theater of the Mind Magazine - Issue #5
Publisher: Critical Hit Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/08/2014 08:59:14
If you like to think about what happens around your gaming table, if you are interested in creating a vivid shared alternate reality, this magazine is worth a look...

This issue is centred on the concept of 'Parlay' - the discussions that can take place before or during a game, in it or out of it. Articles cover Player Agency: letting players determine details for themselves within certain boundaries determined by common sense. One example used is a bar room brawl - a player could determine that there are bottles behind the bar to be grabbed as improvised weapons without checking with the GM, but it wouldn't be reasonable to assume they could find a large mace or an assault rifle there.

There's a long article on the social contract that exists - even if you haven't realised it - within a gaming group, and in particular governing the relationship between the GM and all the other players. Round here, all of us play and all of us GM, and these lines are pretty blurred... but in the groups I play with online, particularly the ones I GM, the other players defer to their GM, treat him or her as someone apart, in a manner I find a bit surprising. This article explores the roles and responsibilities of all parties and is quite fascinating.

To balance this fairly GM-centric article there's another one called The Player's Role. This reverts to the idea in the first article, of players having agency, and develops it further in light of the social contract already discussed to look at ways of getting players more involved and making the game a truly SHARED storytelling experience, rather than one narrated by the GM with minimal player input. A follow-up article looks more closely at the overlap between player and GM roles in two areas: narrative and system. Again, plenty of food for thought here.

There are a few other bits and bobs: fiction, a couple of reviews, and even a short piece about involving youngsters in role-playing by the use of online games when you cannot find children of a similar age to your own who want to play face to face.

Thoughtful, philosophical yet directly applicable to your gaming experience - definitely worth a read.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Theater of the Mind Magazine - Issue #5
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VA1 Valley of the Five Fires
Publisher: New Big Dragon Games Unlimited
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/07/2014 09:33:37
This is not an adventure - it's a whole setting, inspired by the historical Mongols and Cossacks, nomadic peoples of open grasslands. Within this setting, as a native or as a visitor, much adventure is to be found; but whilst there is a complete adventure and several other ideas here, the main part of the book talks of the peoples and places to be found here, their history and customs, and the lay of their lands.

There are five tribes (originally four but one divided) scattered across the grasslands, each with their own distinctive style although the nomadic nature of their lives imposes much commonality as well. They live in tents, and are circumscribed by many customs and rituals. There are only a couple of permanent settlements.

A new class, the Shaman, is presented: this has two sides, the Black Shaman and the White one. Black Shamans are warrior-priests who use martial prowess and discipline to combat evil (or their tribe's enemies), and serve as advisors to clan leadership. White Shamans are men of peace, working in harmony with nature and people. New spells and abilities are provided for Shamans as well.

There's also a section on typical armour and weapons of the steppes. These are the ones natives will be familiar with, and probably the only ones that outsiders can obtain whilst here.

Notable NPCs are listed, with copious background to facilitate playing them. There are pre-generated generic NPCs too, and a bestiary-full of the creatures of the steppes. This section rounds off with wandering monster tables.

Then we come to the actual adventure, The Quest for the Luuzhin Coins. These legendary coins have been lost for ages, and so the quest is suitable for both characters native to the steppes and visiting characters. If they need any encouragement, several hooks are provided to gain their interest in the quest. Of course, this does involve entering the Valley of the Five Fires, which is of course forbidden territory to both natives and outsiders! Once there, there is plenty to explore and do, and maybe those elusive coins to find.

If that's not enough, a wealth of additional adventures are provided mostly as outlines, seeds and places to visit, including caves and local religious structures called stupas to explore. One of each is detailed in full, as well as suggestions for other like adventures. A few tombs and lairs, and some general encounters end the adventure section (and the book).

Overall this is a very flavoursome and exciting place to visit, with a distinct feel of its own and plenty for the party to do. The whole air is very much 'sandbox' - there is no set path for the characters to follow, yet they will be challenged at every turn with interesting encounters and locations.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
VA1 Valley of the Five Fires
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Village Backdrop: Riverburg
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/06/2014 10:31:13
At the confluence of three rivers, some wise fellow established an inn called the Singing Bargemen where those who ply their trade on the rivers could quench their thirst. Around this inn a village has grown up, built on pilings driven into the slowly-flowing muddy river, preferable to the thickly forested shore. It's home to river guides and others who earn their keep on the water, not a rich place but for them it's home, and for others a welcome stop on their journey.

The village is described in detail, with rumours and personalities and details of the various buildings in the complex. As well as the inn, there is a Rivermen's Guildhall, a temple to the river god, a marketplace and a handful of private homes. Oh, and an, ahem, house of ill repute for those whose need for refreshment takes other directions than a few pints of ale. The sole access to shore is guarded - it's far easier to approach the village by water.

The village survives on fishing and hunting in the forest, and on passing trade from people travelling up and down the rivers. Some come to visit nearby caves which are rumoured to contain treasure. Oh, and pirates are said to lurk in the forest.

A few random events to liven the party's visit and details of a couple of notable residents round out this work, a small and likely disregarded little place that makes a handy stop if your plotline takes the characters along the river (or even loses them in the woods!).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Riverburg
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, Megan. It\'s jolly decent of you and I\'m glad you enjoyed Village Backdrop: Riverburg!
Trapped
Publisher: Vas Quas Editrice
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/06/2014 10:01:50
A strange and rather disturbing story game that covers a conversation between a person trapped in a coma and an 'angel' that has come to visit, for good or for ill.

The person playing the Angel chooses whether they are good or evil, leading the comatose individual to salvation or damnation. Through three stages 'scenes' where the Angel describes a situation and the comatose person can ask questions, the comatose one has to decide if they wish, in the final scene, to follow the Angel. Only then does the Angel reveal where they are going.

The mechanics are neat and easy to understand, and feel less contrived than many story games. The game is played in a darkened room, with the Angel using a torch to signal scene changes. The comatose individual can demand a truthful answer of the Angel just once, by playing some music. Otherwise the Angel decides, within certain boundaries, which scenes will be handled truthfully and in which ones they will lie. It's translated from Italian, and occasionally the English is a bit clunky, but nothing that renders it unintelligible.

The disturbing element is that this explores the feelings and fears of someone trapped in a comatose state. Those who know someone in this situation may find this traumatic... or even theraputic if they are struggling to articulate how they feel. Hence if you do know a coma patient, think carefully before deciding to play this game (whichever role you are going to play).

Thought-provoking, and intended to be, if you enjoy pyschological story games this is worth a look.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trapped
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Perilous Journey #15: Mission Alpha
Publisher: Mystical Throne Entertainment
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/04/2014 11:54:03
The title of Perilous Journey #15 is a little misleading, this is the opening adventure in a new campaign set in the Hastilion Expanse, and expected to last for some 14 episodes... so don't get confused. The introduction attempts to reduce the confusion, explaining how the campaign is constructed to use the Savage Worlds ruleset, and Mystical Throne Entertainment's Mercenary Breed setting.

The basic premise of the campaign is telling the stories of an expansion into a new area of space, the Hastilion Expanse. Naturally, many corporations are eyeing up the opportunities, and there's the potential for many a fortune to be made. The characters will be hired - as mercenaries - to facilitate the plans of one such corporation, Drake Mining and Manufacturing... and the adventures begin.

Mission Alpha actually comprises three missions, which may be run in any order. They involve the party in various activities on behalf of Drake M&M - anything from diplomacy to more 'traditional' mercenary activities - as well as introducing them to some of the major players in the corporation and the murky world of corporation politics! This ensures plenty of activity that should keep the players entertained whether they prefer brawling or intrigue, or a bit of both.

Both the introductory sequence and the actual mission locations are well described with plenty of atmospheric detail that makes them come alive in the shared alternate reality that is your game. The neat thing is each of the missions would rate as a full adventure in most people's books - there really is a lot going on, and a vast amount to do. Although the adventures are quite open in structure, suiting the GM who likes to run with an outline of what's to take place, there is plenty and enough detail so that you are not left wondering how to respond to character actions.

As well as the actual missions, there are 'travelling encounters' that may be run when the party is in transit - interplanetary travel is quite slow and whilst it is OK for the characters to be bored, it is a good idea to keep the players entertained. There is also a Bestiary which covers any alien creatures mentioned in the adventure text, but which of course are available for use anywhere appropriate as well, and background notes on the Hastilion Expanse (it is suggested that you allow players to read these notes, most of this is general knowledge as far as the characters are concerned). For those interested in new character options, some are presented - you might want to make these available during character creation as there are three new xeno templates that would fit in quite well with this campaign. One is of a native species that will be encountered, you may prefer to hold that back against needing a replacement character when on their world, however. Notes are also provided about the corporate benefits available to loyal employees of Drake; and finally there's a bit of scene-setting fiction. Again, you may share this with the players, it doesn't give away any plot.

Whilst the material refers to the characters as 'mercenaries' I think they are more like 'corporate troubleshooters' in the nature of the work they are being asked to do. This has all the potential to develop into a truly epic campaign that will live on in a group's memory for years...

All I need now is some players!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Perilous Journey #15: Mission Alpha
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Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition FREE Open Beta
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/03/2014 09:12:20
Wondering what the much-vaunted Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition will be like? Never heard of Mutant Chronciles before? Pick this up and your questions will be answered and your appetite whetted for more.

Starting with an excellent thumb-nail sketch of what a 'dieselpunk techno-fantasy game is in the first place, there is a whistle-stop tour of the overall concept - a dystopian future in which Earth is well-nigh abandoned, humanity has colonised most of the rest of the solar system and are slowly realising that squabbling amongst themselves is not a good idea when you've got the awful power of the Dark Symmetry breathing down your neck - the timelines that will be explored in the new game and a primer detailing the major factions, mostly corporate nation states and a few other organisations. Then there is the setting itself: the main location being Luna City, that sprawls over a good half of Earth's Moon, along with the inner and outer portions of the solar system.

Scene set, it's time to dive right into a summary of the ruleset sufficient to let you have a go at the scenario that forms the bulk of this document. Basically each character has eight attributes, used to provide a target to roll under to accomplish a task. If the character has an appropriate skill, the number of ranks in that skill are added to the relevant attribute to form the target number. The roll, by the way, is made on 2d20, but each die counts separately giving an indication of how well he has done at his attempt. A natural 20 introduces a complication, even if the character has managed to do whatever he was trying to do; but if the result is a failure including a natural 20, that failure becomes critical! There's a bit more to it, of course, but this is the gist of it.

Initiative, turn order, combat actions, damage, wounds and healing are all dealt with before we come to a section on Weapons, Equipment and Gear. Oh, and due to the nature of the threats characters face, there's a piece on Mental Strain and Madness. There is then some information for budding GMs on how this game works, and then we get to the adventure, Straffar Gatan 39, in which the characters are cast as detectives in the Luna City PD answering an emergency call. Four suitable pre-generated characters are provided, and the scenario links in to an adventure that is in the pipeline, as well as beeing well-seeded with potential threads you can explore in your own adventures.

This is a game in which dark foreboding, tension and paranoia form a backdrop against which characters fight dark forces and (hopefully) save the day.... at least, until the next time. If this sort of weirdness appeals, dark near futures with things crawling out of the woodwork, madness lurking around the corner and a mish-mash of technolgocial advances and ancient knowledge, come try this out... and start getting excited about the release of the game in August 2014.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition FREE Open Beta
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The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby
Publisher: YSDC
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/01/2014 10:45:06
A most remarkable and strange adventure. Now, someone turning up on the investigators' doorstep and asking for help is quite normal. Even the poor fellow dropping dead before he manages to explain his problem is not completely out of the ordinary... but when what appear to be duplicate corpses start turning up all over town, then you KNOW something weird is going on!

Oh. All of the corpses have the party's address in their pocket. Just the thing to send nosy police officers round to visit.

This is a fast-moving rapidly escalating adventure that should keep the party on their toes. The book opens by revealing what is actually happening, and how it could so easily lead to Things That Should Not Be did the characters fail to deal with the problem. All the notes are laid out well, with clear indications of which skills might reveal the clues if the right questions are asked and the characters look in the right places: good use of the GUMSHOE rules mechanics that underpin Trail of Cthulhu. There's plenty of advice on how to deal with potential character actions too, as well as some gloriously atmospheric notes on the seedier parts of Soho in London, where the adventure is located.

The characters will have the opportunity to explore much of the underbelly of London as they chase down the plethora of clues provided. There's plenty for them to do - and plenty of potential contacts for them to make, should they ever be here again. It creates a good alternate reality, with lots going on apart from the matter the characters are investigating, yet keeping the current investigation firmly in centre stage. There is an end-note linking locations and other material in this adventure to the Trail of Cthulhu product Bookhounds of London, although you don't need to have it to make the most of this work.

This is an exciting and potentially deadly adventure that should keep the characters on their toes throughout.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby
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Lost Spells of Canthar - 10 Necromancies
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/28/2014 09:59:09
This is a neat selection of ten new spells from the School of Necromancy. The underlying story is of a lost ancient realn, Canthar, that was noted for the talents of its sorcerers... apparently in real life, this is a feature of the author's own campaign world, and it is a place where the brave and curious can discover new magicks. Now we too can share in them!

As befits necromantic spells, most of these are quite nasty. Some may even do harm to your alignment if you have aspirations to be good! Depending on the campaign, the GM may prefer to limit these - at least until a spellbook is found - to NPC necromancers.

One really nasty spell is Enfeeble - this reduces the target's strength and dexterity to such an extent that they can barely carry anything or even move, and requires significant healing magic to restore their abilities. Some of the spells enable the caster to either take over the body of an undead creature or to utilise its senses; while others create fear effects in their targets.

After reading this, you'll likely conclude that necromancers aren't very nice people... but you will also realise how potent they can be. A nice collection for your ever-growing spellbook.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Spells of Canthar - 10 Necromancies
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Modern Ruins 4
Publisher: DramaScape
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/28/2014 08:55:55
If poking around long-ruined urban buildings is part of your story, this mapset provides a derelict city block to root around in. Don't be fooled by the quite complex-looking ruin on the front cover, the actual building is quite simple.

A nice point is that the roof has fallen in, so you have a clear view of the internal layout, as well as some stairways leading down into cellars or other depths below. There's also what appears to be a lift shaft and stairs that once led upwards.

The roads around show evidence of long-term neglect, overgrown and cracked.

A somewhat strange suggestion involving subterranean ants is provided as an adventure seed; but an investigation of a long-ago incident or some post-apocalyptic scavenging seems a more likely use for this map.

As always, there's an A4 overview map and a series of maps with hex, square and no grids for miniatures use. There's also a huge JPEG image for those who have access to professional print facilities or who use a virtual table top for their gaming.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Ruins 4
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Poprock - AoV Solo (M&M3e)
Publisher: Xion Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/27/2014 12:25:02
Most people regard vengeance as a dish best tasted cold... not Poprock, born of an angry young girl burning to avenge her father's murder. Her main power is the ability to unleash the energy contained in items when she throws them - she carries a whole bunch of ballbearings for the purpose - backed up with an extreme talent at the martial art of capoiera. Her general athleticism also makes her good at parkour. Quite a heady mix for a budding super-powered character!

The backstory gives involvement with known supervillains, who helped her identify and harness her powers, but given other associates she could as easily be a superhero instead. As a teenager, she'd also fit well into any game involving young superpowered individuals.

This is a well-constructed character with plenty of potential however you decide to use her.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Poprock - AoV Solo (M&M3e)
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Libram of the First Language: Truename Magic Reborn
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/25/2014 07:06:12
In the beginning was the Word - and a truename studies that word, and all the others that came after, using the power inherent in such words to manipulate reality. Most outsiders think he's just another wizard, but he knows he's not: his power is derived in a completely different manner. A truenamer's source of power is his encyclopedic, or rather dictionarylike, knowledge of the First Language, also known as Truespeech, or so we are told here.

So what is this Truespeech? Basically it describes everything that is, was, and shall be - items and concepts alike. If you knew it all, you'd have complete control over, well, everything. It is impossible for any sentient mind to manage that, of course, but even limited knowledge confers great power. Philosophy aside, the game mechanics create a spell-like mode of operation, with the truenamer using 'recitations' to cause desired effects by articulating the change he wants to take place.

As the truenamer rises in level, he understands more and more and has access to a wider range of recitations, and the ability to cause more complex effects. To increase the range of effects, there's a sort of meta-recitation called inflexion - it's all in the way you say it, as well as what you say... however the universe itself is more resistant to some things than others, so some of these variants are harder to cause.

As well as the core character class, several archetypes are given: the orator, the truescribe and the verminspeaker. These explore different aspects of truespeech, and introduce greater variety as to what you can do with it. Feats that enhance your use of truespeech and (of course) a whole bunch of recitations themselves are also provided. Finally, there are some prestige classes for those that progress that far.

It's a whole new area of study, opening up new horizons, and yet working mechanically within established patterns so it is not so hard or unbalancing to introduce it into your game. A nice concept to add to the wealth of magical theory.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Libram of the First Language: Truename Magic Reborn
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The Genius Guide to More Barbarian Talents
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/24/2014 10:30:53
Piling option upon option, this work provides a whole host of 'talents' for barbarian characters. These talents are swapped in for the standard barbarian class features, on a one-for-one basis, with some being better suited for reserving until the barbarian gets up a few levels.

The introduction explains that they come in different categories: edges, talents, advanced talents and grand talents.

Then we move on to a closer look. Edges are fundamental to the barbarian's worldview and can be almost spiritual in nature. Talents are a bit more practical, and often reflect a closeness to nature or the innate talent for combat that most barbarians seem to have. Greater talents (presumably the same as 'advanced' ones, which seem to have disappeared by now!) and grand talents kick in at higher levels, but serve the same purpose as regular talents. In all cases, whenever the barbarian would qualify for a new class feature, he can take one of these instead. There are also some rage powers for those barbarians wishing to capitalise on that feature of their class.

While the main listings come under what category of ability they are, there's a very useful section which groups them all by theme: battle expertise (offensive or defensive), combat manoeuvres, craft and cunning, durability and resistance, mounts and animal companions, movement, perception, primitive and primal, rage and intimidation, shapeshifting, and spells and mysticism. This makes it easy to look for an appropriate one suited to your needs when working out your build path.

The various options are interesting and give plenty of scope for you to tailor a barbarian character to precisely what you want. If you enjoy optimising and configuring unique characters and play a barbarian, this is well worth a look.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to More Barbarian Talents
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[PFRPG] Player's Options: The Ayutthayan Monk
Publisher: 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/23/2014 11:19:16
At first glance you might think, so what? This is just a re-write of the standard fantasy monk. Perhaps it is, but where it scores is that the entire underlying philosophy and history of the Ayutthayan monks is wound through the game mechanics rather than being bolted on as an afterthought to explain what that monk is doing in your fantasy campaign world where there might not really be any of the sort of traditions that underpin a classic oriental unarmed fighting style. (I remember way back in the 1980s playing a D&D Monk as a Chinese person perpetually confused with the standard 'cod-European' fantasy world in which he found himself...)

Here the opening text paints the scene of a single adventurer who retired to a life of contemplation, but was pestered by visitors... some of whom stuck around to become his first disciples, and who - being themselves proponents of different fighting styles - created what became several different strands of the same core martial philosophy. These strands are reflected in the options available as class features as the monk rises in level - the ones you choose chart your progress in your preferred style. Some are acquired by means of mystical tattoos, a beautiful and traditional touch.

The combat styles are based on Thai martial arts and are described well, enabling each monk to develop a coherent - and potentially devastating - combat style. There is also a selection of feats and an array of new weapons appropriate for ayutthayan monks, a new tactical manoeuvre called a Bone Break and a sample character to let you try out this class or just give you some ideas to get you going.

If you want to play a monk, this is a good way to go because of the coherent background philosophy that underpins the mechanics of the styles available. Pick it up, mix it in to your campaign world's history and you do not need to explain how you came to be.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] Player's Options: The Ayutthayan Monk
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