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Western Hero Wars Status Quo


scott-martin

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1 hour ago, scott-martin said:

I for one am not saying "unplayable." We can play anything. I'm saying GF is not M out of the box. Happy to be schooled!

Seshnela is noted for its arrogant and ambitious martial ruling class . . . oppressed peasants, and secretive wizards who live in constant fear . . . distinctions restricting diet, dining practices, marriage, occupation, and so on are rigidly upheld . . . a woman’s primary responsibility is as a wife and mother.

The nobles claimed hereditary ownership to all property and enforced rigid caste laws on the peoples within their domains. The zzaburi told all the peasants that rigid adherence to their miserable way of life would achieve them Solace.

Maybe the regional events table provides some relief, let's see. 3 in 6 common events have the king or his agents either celebrating his new "acquisitions" or making people nervous. "Suspicion" is everywhere. 1 in 6 is traders offering beautiful things I can't really afford and another 1 in 6 is the authorities rounding up muscle to teach those foreigners a lesson. Then there's "wizards accompanied by religious police." Outbreaks of spirits, Tapping, lycanthropy. Raids. Peasant revolts. 

Whether this is an "evil" place or not, it is definitely a society under significant stress. I can get all that on cable news. (More later.)

The bigwigs are Watchers for a reason! EDIT not a buffy joke

Oh, I agree that Seshnela is very much a society under significant stress.

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A turning point for Rokarism itself could potentially be someone finally figuring out the spell that Theoblanc is using to kill dissident Zzaburi. Sounds like Hrestoli Man-of-All questing time to me! Stand before the Inquisition and rebuff their demons! Amaze the masses!

Edited by Sir_Godspeed
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44 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Stand before the Inquisition and rebuff their demons! Amaze the masses!

An interesting twist to Rightness - the "Right" peasant rebuffs the Zzaburi inquisition, the "Right" citizens of Safelster (or wherever) cast off the Horali's spells with a look or a glance... The Crusade for Rightness proves to be "Not Right".  Demons or Arkati?  Or is there something deeper?  Do the spirits of Malkion, Hrestol, and Xemela move among men?

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Posted (edited)

(all out of reacts, will catch up)

2 hours ago, Jeff said:

Oh, I agree that Seshnela is very much a society under significant stress.

Let's chase a little fun here by asking why we're seeing such stress now and why the boys decided that it's time to settle all the regional accounts. The land has been fertile enough in living memory to support a substantial population (more than theoretically lush Teshnos, half the entire East Islands archipelago) and the Quinpolic trade in particular is extremely rich. 

That isn't ordinarily a recipe for conflict, much less the vicious consolidation that has apparently been going on at least since the reign of Svalanigos. While there are always exceptions, happy talars find ways to get along: bloodlines divide and differentiate. Unhappy talars and especially horals left to their own devices fight over perceived or real scarcity because they don't see enough resources to go around.

So things used to be better. They were already unhappy in Seshnela when Dormal showed up. I wouldn't be shocked to hear that the population was higher a generation before the Opening and the early 1500s were remembered as a kind of golden age with enough to support everyone and even throw away. After Vikard it starts to look like a long decline, maybe with periods of recovery but it never really takes.

Relatively long reigns though. No sign of upheaval at the top. Even Vikard hangs on for a decade without being deposed, which makes me think the dynasty is successfully punching down at this point to claw back aristocratic resources, probably with clear sorcerous support. Old families start disappearing.

1552 looks like a setback for that sorcerous support. It's not hard to imagine a scenario where the Rokarists are stretched thin enough to let broad responsibilities slide. Crop yields might start faltering. People get tired. The Opening provides some relief but it isn't evenly distributed . . . the center gets worse, the periphery (go fringe!) brightens. But even in Nolos the recovery is slow. It takes decades before they can take on central power and win.

Ariston is a clever and urbane guy, Leto Atreides. Possibly poisoned or otherwise done away with 10 years ago. After that, the die is cast. Crushing the League isn't going to hand Guilmarn a working economy (normally the Waertag fleet would cheerfully take that over) but it's going to unlock a lot of treasure for the here and now. 

What fed the boom in the first place? Seems to me that 1499 shut down a lot of people's trade routes and this one couldn't recover. Otherwise, no immediately apparent reason for the spice to stop flowing. Even then, the union with Safelster could've kept them going if Vikard hadn't thrown the ultimate party. Someone clever can start building a Family History out of this if they haven't already.

Where does it go? Fronela's open again, whatever economic benefit that provided in the Bailifid golden age. Through Fronela you can get to the Empire and vice versa. Somebody up there has a strategic interest that only access to western markets can provide. It seems to be in Ralios and it's important enough to keep Kartolin open despite all the unpleasantness. 

They weren't miserable for 300 years. It got better and then it didn't.

Edited by scott-martin
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My biggest problem running a Malkioni RQG game would be not knowing the myths well enough to run a heroquest. In the murder hobo days not knowing how to run a heroquest was fine. The only one my Malkioni  went on involved being thrown down a bottomless pit when he smirked while a Death Lord was lectured by his mother. 

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2 hours ago, scott-martin said:

(all out of reacts, will catch up)

Let's chase a little fun here by asking why we're seeing such stress now and why the boys decided that it's time to settle all the regional accounts. The land has been fertile enough in living memory to support a substantial population (more than theoretically lush Teshnos, half the entire East Islands archipelago) and the Quinpolic trade in particular is extremely rich. 

That isn't ordinarily a recipe for conflict, much less the vicious consolidation that has apparently been going on at least since the reign of Svalanigos. While there are always exceptions, happy talars find ways to get along: bloodlines divide and differentiate. Unhappy talars and especially horals left to their own devices fight over perceived or real scarcity because they don't see enough resources to go around.

So things used to be better. They were already unhappy in Seshnela when Dormal showed up. I wouldn't be shocked to hear that the population was higher a generation before the Opening and the early 1500s were remembered as a kind of golden age with enough to support everyone and even throw away. After Vikard it starts to look like a long decline, maybe with periods of recovery but it never really takes.

Relatively long reigns though. No sign of upheaval at the top. Even Vikard hangs on for a decade without being deposed, which makes me think the dynasty is successfully punching down at this point to claw back aristocratic resources, probably with clear sorcerous support. Old families start disappearing.

1552 looks like a setback for that sorcerous support. It's not hard to imagine a scenario where the Rokarists are stretched thin enough to let broad responsibilities slide. Crop yields might start faltering. People get tired. The Opening provides some relief but it isn't evenly distributed . . . the center gets worse, the periphery (go fringe!) brightens. But even in Nolos the recovery is slow. It takes decades before they can take on central power and win.

Ariston is a clever and urbane guy, Leto Atreides. Possibly poisoned or otherwise done away with 10 years ago. After that, the die is cast. Crushing the League isn't going to hand Guilmarn a working economy (normally the Waertag fleet would cheerfully take that over) but it's going to unlock a lot of treasure for the here and now. 

What fed the boom in the first place? Seems to me that 1499 shut down a lot of people's trade routes and this one couldn't recover. Otherwise, no immediately apparent reason for the spice to stop flowing. Even then, the union with Safelster could've kept them going if Vikard hadn't thrown the ultimate party. Someone clever can start building a Family History out of this if they haven't already.

Where does it go? Fronela's open again, whatever economic benefit that provided in the Bailifid golden age. Through Fronela you can get to the Empire and vice versa. Somebody up there has a strategic interest that only access to western markets can provide. It seems to be in Ralios and it's important enough to keep Kartolin open despite all the unpleasantness. 

They weren't miserable for 300 years. It got better and then it didn't.

I think the Bailifids have a deep need to display their might and glory - Ulianus III conquered everything from the mouth of the Tanier to Lake Felster. For 65 years, his heirs ruled over Seshnela and Safelster, only for Vikard to throw it all away in a massive display of pomp and pageantry. His grandson, Lofting III, led his army against the trolls of Guhan only to be defeated and devoured. Now Guilmarn, ruling what Plato called a "fevered state", is about to restore the Balifids to the glory and might that Vikard threw away.

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2 minutes ago, Jeff said:

the Bailifids have a deep need to display their might and glory

Love it. If I had a professional interest in experimental talar investiture techniques I'd almost think there's something busted in their formula. Works OK at first but glitches like this accumulate over time. 

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Just now, scott-martin said:

Love it. If I had a professional interest in experimental talar investiture techniques I'd almost think there's something busted in their formula. Works OK at first but glitches like this accumulate over time. 

The West has always had a pathological desire for purity, to the point of inventing a rune for it that never existed.  IMHO / IMG, a central problem with Talar investiture would be the fact that is almost assuredly far too dismissive of deities and spirits.  Something central Genertela is very good at proving is that the most successful societies are multidimensional (on a magical / religious level) that Seshnela / Tanisor actively rejects.

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1 hour ago, Frp said:

My biggest problem running a Malkioni RQG game would be not knowing the myths well enough to run a heroquest. In the murder hobo days not knowing how to run a heroquest was fine. The only one my Malkioni  went on involved being thrown down a bottomless pit when he smirked while a Death Lord was lectured by his mother. 

Yeah, a loooot would need to be made up, which... if I was in the right mood, would be a ton of fun.  In the wrong mood, it'd be agony

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On 4/28/2021 at 6:33 PM, scott-martin said:

I love the refugee segmentation this opens up as well as the larger role this conflict plays in the larger Hero Wars. Let's start with the second part because it's the central impulse here. I am not a fan of the Rokarist system for simple reasons: they're mean, they're puritanical and they're in power. Any of these elements can contribute to Gloranthan Fun but the combination condemns about 2 million fictional characters to a life of oppression, bullying and naked fear . . . without the usual compensations like religious ecstasy or intricate local lore that make these conditions more tolerable elsewhere on the lozenge. They're a puritanical sect. They spend their effort eradicating many of the factors that differentiate Glorantha from the late modern state of alienation and anomie.

Even this is fine from a purely abstract intellectual perspective but it gets tedious in sustained play. What are we doing this week? We're getting oppressed again. When that gets boring, maybe we try being the bullies for awhile, which is rarely either a good look or emotionally sustainable for long-term exploration of Glorantha. Or we can join the resistance and guarantee at least a few years of really hard futility before the canonical timeline gives us any relief or hope at all. (See: getting oppressed.) The bullies are in power. Return to scene one, a mailed saboton smearing a butterfly for what feels like forever.

Now there are solutions. We can look behind the official narrative for a more expansive and "authentic" experience more compatible with the Gloranthan mainstream. We can choose to engineer redemptive change in play, ensuring that within this fiction right won't always lose and wrong won't always win. We can focus on the relatively sympathetic characters, rooting for them to live productive and rewarding lives. And when all else fails, we can take refuge in the catharsis of tragedy without hope of liberation or transcendence, which is not what we see in the Dragon Pass Hero Wars materials. Dooming part of the world to perpetual gloom is one thing. Building materials in the hope that people will then play out that grim dark narrative is quixotic publishing at best -- we already have Warhammer and real life for that.

So that's my moralizing speech. We're gamers. This is the world we build together over time. The world Greg discovered is not Disneyland but "life is not slavery" either. If the Rokarists don't see the error of their ways in play and fast, what's it all for? Life's too short to have the priest dictate what your character can eat for lunch. And so if we can't redeem the Rokarists for years to come in subjective game time, we can at least salvage as much of the sympathetic stuff as we can and get it away from Rokarist territory. I think this impulse drives the refugee narrative. When MGF leads, setting logic bends to accommodate.

That's literally where the fun part comes in. People want the relatively sympathetic stuff in a setting where it comes out in play. Who makes the journey from the West? Sorcerers from this part of the world are either orthodox ("are we the baddies?"), dead or in exile. Going from the old RQ3 occupation tables, there were once maybe 30,000 trained sorcerers in the League and conservatively 10,000 of them were ever any good (rule of 1% magic people). Luckily only a couple hundred are invited to Theoblanc's little fatal soiree so the rest can either die in the war or scatter. We'd want to play it out on five-mile hexes a few thousand times to get the survival numbers.

Talars in Seshnela are an interesting phenomenon BTB, with the really old families who can trace their roots back to the island being scarce to the point of being completely hypothetical. Maybe they're another 1% of the overall population so a base of 10,000 in the League before attrition sets in. From a skills perspective these are mostly jocks with fancy job titles so would make great mercenaries if they land in settled areas or warlords if they don't. (Alatan just got interesting.) Standard horals add 5X to that base.

I don't know what the mortality rate is in the Quinpolic Wars . . . the bully factor makes me think it's pretty high but Guilmarn needs fresh crusaders to make a credible play for Ralios. Maybe say that enough of these two castes switch to replace people he loses and "half" of the rest die. Horrific by Bronze Age Standards, sure. But one side has a significant sorcerous disadvantage (many of the best mages are dead) and this is a Convert Or Die scenario. Most convert rather than die. The weirder you are (hrestol etc.) the less eager you are to convert. Hit the road.

This rough math opens up maybe 12,000 deserters but actual inputs will yield different conclusions. How many die on the way out, boats torpedoed or otherwise running into complications? How many do the Wolf Pirates need in 1623-4 to make their 1625 starting numbers? How many head north to taunt Laurel & Hardy from what looks like the safe harbor of Safelster, only to get caught up in that phase? How many fan out into pagan Ralios? The rest are available for the Manirian exodus.

I would argue that we've just talked about the last meaningful survivors of heterodox high-caste Tanisorian civilization, including all of the warrior women and female sorcerers. But every Umberto Eco fan knows farmers can be heretics too. Even if the zzaburs dictate the spirituality of most (a big if), at a glance at least 6% of the dronar population is going to be initiated to some pagan god or Master, a secret caste mobilist (#occupypasos) or otherwise not the kind of person who welcomes a chat with the Rokarist inquisitors. Again, this includes nearly all of the interesting women. Witches. Shapeshifters. Heretics. 

satanism.jpg.86016745b61f0880ffdadb85977df0f6.jpgAcross roughly a million people in the pre-crusade League this might be another 55,000 people who are already unhappy with the Rokar status quo (otherwise they wouldn't seek these forest compensations) and are now highly motivated to get the hell out. A stunning 10% of the Seshnegite population in RQ3 had the "sailor" occupation. These people probably lead the exodus and while a shocking number die early on,  they're probably overrepresented in the 1625+ diaspora.

The rest scatter by land as though you were watching the great houses of Sartar scurry after the fall of Boldhome. Those who go north get pulled into that war one way or another out of sight from Dragon Pass. Those who accept the southern passage are a big but probably sad question mark. Those who survive the journey to the east are the ones we meet, each telling a tale of woe and dreaming about vengeance before the end of the world.

This is a great - and I mean this in the best way - rant.
The short version is I'm also concerned about how playable the West is, and you have a clear concern about that.  Unfortunately, I've been a bit myopic in my attention, so I'm rather useless for some of the setting issues around.

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Maybe this is a bit of a quandary - Seshnela could easily be pimped up to cater to teenage boys' wet dreams, sold in a special brown paperback envelope because of the scandalously low necklines around the navel. All together entirely economically viable, if you look at the sales of the HBO Game of Thrones, or how well the Spartacus series sold.

The Rokari way as something to die for to that clientele might be a hard sell, though. "What do you mean - the talars get to cosy up to lots of topless chicks, and the sorcerers may look but never touch?"

The Western novels by Greg are as focused on the men-of-all as is the Pendragon roleplaying game.

Peasants remain something like non-entities - there might be a few roles for worker caste individuals from urban backgrounds, where the fourth caste can aspire to some wealth and influence.

Playing a game of beast-totem infantry samurai serving with the heavy cavalry of the nobles might be problematic, too. But a Horali may end up with more personal magic than a Talar.

 

How to sell this kind of setting to the non-adolescent-male clientele, though?

How would a RuneQuest game centered on Seshnegi females look? Female horali bodyguards are available in Martin Helsdon's description, so a martial angle would be covered. Worker caste dress-makers, cooks or perfumers, possibly with criminal connections, might be a go, too. Sorcerous enchantresses can only do their thing in secret, a bit like in Mage, or one would have to play a woman making it into the Rokari orders hiding her sex. This leaves the noble ladies, who don't get to ride around in cataphract armor but do get to look decorative. On the other hand, they may get talar suitors doing their bidding.

Edited by Joerg
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Telling how it is excessive verbis

 

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Huh... I ran out of reactions for the day.  I didn't know I could do that.  Sorry if I have been a bit too... enthusiastic.  Anyways, unsurprisingly, my initial thoughts are about how Maniria fits into all this.

Other people, especially Eff, have said everything I can imagine to say about the Reforestation, except 1 thing: I think it breaks Maniria in half. For this thread, western Maniria is (obviously) more interesting, so I'll babble about that. 

In terms related to Western Hero Wars, I can think of 4:

  1. Aquatic Antics. If you want Godlearner knowledge, to go Maniria with SCUBA gear.  The Trickster College, Lukae, it's all there... assuming you can get down there and make a deal with the Merfolk. Also, Erenplose is down there still, and that's a massively undefined mystery in Glorantha: a city sunk "by the Sea Gods" within a hundred years of the Dawn, saved by a Kolati, and never visited since Palangio did it about 1,200 years ago.
     
  2. Surviving Populations. Ramalia has a Godlearner sorcery library.  The Low Temple of Caratan has a library of documents from Gualal.  Kaxtorplose remembers Arkat better than most.  It's currently undefined who originally built the Great Tower of Fay Jee.
     
  3. This is not a convenient place to invade.  Maniria, assuming spaces don't get completely choked by plant life, would be a distant place to flee Seshnela, since land armies need to go around Tarinwood.  Naval invasions are much more difficult.  Also, based on everything in the Guide, one should fear the Pralori.
     
  4. You want to talk about Dragons?  The Ryzel Hills have their own Inhuman King.  They marched with Palangio to (re-)take those hills, and have been there ever since.  The Godlearners didn't mess with them (IIRC they even had cautious trade at times).  If someone wants to know more about Western dragons, you'd need to go there, since Dragon's Eye in Ralios has been a bit broken since Alakoring came through.

 

Regarding Manirian Hero Wars, this will likely be a central place for fights both regarding the New Forest and the Flood.  Magic of Heler will matter here, as will the myths of Severus.  

 

Edited by Nevermet
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46 minutes ago, Joerg said:

Maybe this is a bit of a quandary - Seshnela could easily be pimped up to cater to teenage boys' wet dreams, sold in a special brown paperback envelope because of the scandalously low necklines around the navel. All together entirely economically viable, if you look at the sales of the HBO Game of Thrones, or how well the Spartacus series sold.

The Rokari way as something to die for to that clientele might be a hard sell, though. "What do you mean - the talars get to cosy up to lots of topless chicks, and the sorcerers may look but never touch?"

The Western novels by Greg are as focused on the men-of-all as is the Pendragon roleplaying game.

Peasants remain something like non-entities - there might be a few roles for worker caste individuals from urban backgrounds, where the fourth caste can aspire to some wealth and influence.

Playing a game of beast-totem infantry samurai serving with the heavy cavalry of the nobles might be problematic, too. But a Horali may end up with more personal magic than a Talar.

 

How to sell this kind of setting to the non-adolescent male clientele, though?

How would a RuneQuest game centered on Seshnegi females look? Female horali bodyguards are available in Martin Helsdon's description, so a martial angle would be covered. Worker caste dress-makers, cooks or perfumers, possibly with criminal connections, might be a go, too. Sorcerous enchantresses can only do their thing in secret, a bit like in Mage, or one would have to play a woman making it into the Rokari orders hiding her sex. This leaves the noble ladies, who don't get to ride around in cataphract armor but do get to look decorative. On the other hand, they may get talar suitors doing their bidding.

Honestly, these sort of issues (Gender, who has what sorts of magic, etc) are at least as important for making the West playable as anything else.

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On 4/29/2021 at 6:02 AM, Richard S. said:

...I don't suppose anyone would mind doing a TLDR? I feel like I really like this thread, but I can't say for certain until my brain manages to decode the arcane script y'all are speaking.

Developing relevant JC materials for the terminal Third Age West presents its share of challenges.

There are lots of areas in the west, with 1600 years of history and everyone helpfully wants to share their knowledge.

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Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

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Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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8 hours ago, scott-martin said:

Love it. If I had a professional interest in experimental talar investiture techniques I'd almost think there's something busted in their formula. Works OK at first but glitches like this accumulate over time. 

One might even suppose there is a problem with the very idea of mortal societies placing a greater emphasis upon abstract reason than lived experiences. That has led to the near extinction of the Malkioni on more than one occasion.

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21 hours ago, Nick Brooke said:

"Star Wars is such a depressing setting. An oppressive Galactic Empire extending its grasp everywhere. Who'd want to play games against that background?" 😉

With a really cool Emperor and right-hand person.

 

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Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

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47 minutes ago, soltakss said:

With a really cool Emperor and right-hand person.

I'm not sure I understand your point. Failing that, you may have misunderstood mine.

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4 hours ago, Jeff said:

One might even suppose there is a problem with the very idea of mortal societies placing a greater emphasis upon abstract reason than lived experiences. That has led to the near extinction of the Malkioni on more than one occasion.

This highlights the inaccuracy (irony, perhaps?) of the Malkioni occasionally being called Humanists.

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3 hours ago, Nevermet said:

This highlights the inaccuracy (irony, perhaps?) of the Malkioni occasionally being called Humanists.

They are quite appropriately called Humanists as they place humans, not gods or spirits, at the centre of their cosmology.

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2 minutes ago, Jeff said:

They are quite appropriately called Humanists as they place humans, not gods or spirits, at the centre of their cosmology.

Oh, the definition completely makes sense on that level.  However, the consequence of a humanism that prioritizes abstract reason over lived experiences, leading to misery and social ruin is something I think I can rightly call ironic.  (I'm pretty comfortable saying that about real world history in addition to Glorantha)

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1 hour ago, Nevermet said:

Oh, the definition completely makes sense on that level.  However, the consequence of a humanism that prioritizes abstract reason over lived experiences, leading to misery and social ruin is something I think I can rightly call ironic.  (I'm pretty comfortable saying that about real world history in addition to Glorantha)

giphy.webp

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