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Illuminated PC:s in your games


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I’d like to hear more about the actually-played Illuminates that have been active in your campaigns, including eg. Six Seasons -style Draconic Illuminates. 

Like, how did Illumination change their behavior in the campaign? Did they go all-Arkat stacking Chaotic Features and wonky cult affiliations? Did they pick up duties and geasas with no intent to keep them? Did they go mad and max all the Runes? How did the players, and the characters, discuss dipping in a bit of Orlanth who gives access to a lot of really nice spells?

Did the Draconic Illuminates stop giving a shit about material world retiring to watch by as the Moon and the Storm sort out their differences?

Very few detailed example characters exist in RQ or Glorantha materials — except ones that are portrayed with vague and conflicting descriptions (see ”Arkat”). 

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One good example is Oddi the Keen, in Cults of Terror. He is certainly not portrayed as a power-gamer.

I don't have Illuminated PCs in my game, but I have two who have begun on that path, and we're playing it as a character arc, not for any of the benefits.

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With Draconic Illumination, the players did not start (their Advenurers) withdrawing from the world.  They stlll wanted to PLAY. 

But the Chalana Arroy did start using a weapon, usually on Chaos but also when it would not be remarked on by the cult.

Edited by Squaredeal Sten
clarification, adventurers
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I play a Humakti who became Draconically illuminated after six seasons. He went a bit off the rails and ended up becoming a follower of Ygg and a wolf pirate in Harraks fleet. Basically he explored the vicious side of the death rune, and Ygg was a way to do that.

As time has passed he has reconciled his Humakti side again, and recently even made sword status, although honour took a bit or resolving, and still does as he is still an Ygg initiate and a wolf pirate, captaining a ship now too.

So in effect I basically played my illuminate strongly around the death rune and used illumination to push all the death boundaries. He recently Heroquested and drank of the river Styx and survived, gaining Death Rune Mastery.

on Gifts and geases, he mostly kept his initiate geases, like not riding x weeks per season, drink no alcohol, eat no meat on windsday etc. When he became a Sword we played that the High Sword would know what geases I had, so there is social pressure to not be seen as a apostate, so he basically sticks to his geases.

More recently he became an Arkati follower and is just starting to explore that side of illumination.

So in short, not, not power gaming it really, using illumination to fully explore the runes and aspects of self that already defined the character. Just with more flexibility within cult rolls.

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4 hours ago, Geoff R Evil said:

So in short, not, not power gaming it really, using illumination to fully explore the runes and aspects of self that already defined the character.

Can't non-illuminated characters also explore runes and aspects?  What is it about illumination that you think makes this easier or more possible?

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6 hours ago, Rodney Dangerduck said:

Can't non-illuminated characters also explore runes and aspects?  What is it about illumination that you think makes this easier or more possible?

I think this means raising opposed runes independently.

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6 hours ago, Rodney Dangerduck said:

Can't non-illuminated characters also explore runes and aspects?  What is it about illumination that you think makes this easier or more possible?

Well I see Ygg taking a different view of his death rune to Humakt, one sees it as a deep responsibility to be managed responsibly through honour, whereas Ygg is rapacious and uses it for the sake of destruction and winning at any cost. So for me it is an exploration of many aspects of the death rune that a Humakt could not explore due to the bindings of honour. Arkat ultimately abandoned Humakt due to his restrictions and went full on troll and ZZ, a different aspect of death again, where they see undeath as an acceptable face of the death rune. So in a way I see the Ygg aspect as my Arkati troll moment, but perhaps more reconcilable, especially as my char is strong in the Air rune too. So violence which ends in death is inimitable to his character.

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@Geoff R Evil Thanks for the reply, and I completely get your drift - it's a a good take on Glorantha.  But...

Nothing says that a non-illuminated generic Humakti can't be rapacious & destructive.  (Might depend on geas)  It just hurts Honor and, as your PC found out, makes it harder to qualify for Sword.  And I don't think Illumination would help maintain that Honor.

Likewise, a Solar can be impure, a Storm Bull can be cautious, a CA can be snotty & mean.  That's unusual, but PCs are far from usual.  Nor do they need to be Illuminated to be unusual.  

I think that too many Runequesters, myself and my play group included, play too straight and narrow with cult stereotypes.

 

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11 hours ago, Geoff R Evil said:

Well I see Ygg taking a different view of his death rune to Humakt, one sees it as a deep responsibility to be managed responsibly through honour, whereas Ygg is rapacious and uses it for the sake of destruction and winning at any cost. So for me it is an exploration of many aspects of the death rune that a Humakt could not explore due to the bindings of honour. Arkat ultimately abandoned Humakt due to his restrictions and went full on troll and ZZ, a different aspect of death again, where they see undeath as an acceptable face of the death rune. So in a way I see the Ygg aspect as my Arkati troll moment, but perhaps more reconcilable, especially as my char is strong in the Air rune too. So violence which ends in death is inimitable to his character.

I mean honestly, this *seems to me* like it would be the more common path for illuminati to take, not specifically, but generally.

I mean just speaking for myself in our world, if I suddenly learned that I was immune to punishment from any sort of law, personal, public, or otherwise, it probably wouldn't result in my doing things which were radically contrary to my already developed character. I might start getting up to some chicanery and Robin Hood-esque capers, but I feel like it would take a pretty long period of impunity from negative consequences(even my own guilt) before things started to get truly experimental.

EDIT: I mean I get that illumination is a paradigm change, but it doesn't seem to be described as necessarily obliviating one's character when it transpires.

Edited by Memestream
Further clarification
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I've only had one player ever get Illuminated on purpose. One of my characters got Illuminated by accident back in RQ3.

The player did it for power gamer reasons but that kind of died out when he found out that the Gods don't need Spirits of Reprisal when the cult will take care of things for them 😁. Trying to jerk over a Lanbril gang has... 'consequences'. The character ended up being framed for the murder of a Lunar official and sentenced to the salt mines.

With my own character, the campaign was solidly in the Rune Lord stage of the game and the ref was having a hard time getting challenging encounters built for us. I got Illuminated by a Donadar thespian troupe but only got a couple of powers [detecting Illumination in others and I forget what the second one was]. I was the Issaries fence /merchant /'talky guy' for our party and I really didn't pursue Illumination all that hard. My focus was keeping us from getting caught by the Lunar authorities for all our rebellious activities.

If a character at my table was trying gain Illumination just for mechanical purposes, I would watch how they played their character. Out in the Provinces of Sartar and Prax, Illumination is dangerous. First and foremost everyone considers an Illuminate to be a Lunar stooge... and for the most part they're right! Secondly, people don't see it as a form of enlightenment but rather a form of intellectual corruption. Lastly, the player needs to understand that Illumination is not a release from the consequences of their actions... if a character is a known Illuminate, all their actions will be perceived by non-Lunars in the worst possible light with absolutely no benefit of the doubt given.

And, of course, if a character wants to travel to the Empire to explore their new philosophy, the character is just retired.

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So far we have two draconically illuminated characters in my Sun County campaign (current year late 1617). They were both illuminated by draconic exposure and some rather fascinating discussions with Wind Whistler the wyrm with some stupidly low rolls (06 and 08, what are the odds). No proper teaching after that, so they are both fumbling along a path that they don't know. Neither of them see themselves as illuminated, nor do their character have a proper concept of what that means yet. One player is a gloranthaphile, for the other this is his first long campaign, so he doesn't have the player knowledge to immediately know what's up.

Character One (played by the experienced player) is a Babeester Gor, and for her the illumination has had some interesting effects. She was already an experienced heroquester with 90+ in Death, Earth, and Movement runes. Classical Babeester Gor, stone-faced and driven. After illumination and some other soul-shaking experiences in a draconic temple and some more heroquests she has... I don't even know how to describe this properly. She has decided that she won't die. Not like a quest to live forever or anything like that; she just knows that she won't die. She did that (and was reborn) on a heroquest once already; she's over and done with that, thank you very much. She told the Ferryman that it was nice to meet once, but they wouldn't meet again. She has also decided that it would be nice to get married and have children, and has uncoupled her life rune from her death rune, and it is growing stronger. She has tapped into a lot of Ernalda, which weirds her fellow Babeester Gor out. She's on the path to Rune Lady, but there's gonna be some issues there if she doesn't play her cards right, since she's turning weeeird. She also sacrificed her rather high Loyalty (Sun County) (we're all patriots here) as part of a sacrificial ritual at the dragon temple, and now she's building a mercenary band and leaning strongly into her position in the White Bull spirit cult. So far she has been very diligent about her Babeester Gor duties, but I can see it building towards a conflict in the future.

Character Two (played by the glorantha newbie) is a Yelmalio Light Servant, and for him, illumination just added fuel to the fire. He was already borderline heretical with his conflicts with the Sun Dome and Count Ironpike, and had been banished to the sticks as a result. His teacher and grandmother had both been a part of a movement digging into the Sun Dragon cult and other heretical ideas, and while he escaped more serious censure, they did not. For him, the first thing that happened was the uncoupling of his Truth and Illusion runes, and they now work independently from each other (or at the same time). In the final conflict at the dragon temple, he (the peacemaker, the talker, the reasonable one) won the battle by taking down all the other contenders in an all against all. This was in the heroplane, so the battle was not physical but done with passions and runes. His ruthlessness and determination shocked everybody to the core, and there was a big fallout afterward, which made him re-evaluate his own self-image. At this point, he has broken into the old Sun Dome, liberating some books from the old (true) library, and is researching what really happened in Sun County's past that the current regime is suppressing. He's learning about the Sun Dragon, and Nysalor... and his passions are changing subtly. He's still a very devout Yelmalian, but now he has Loyalty (the idealized temple) rather than submitting to any mundane authority. He is convinced that he is correct, the current Sun Dome is wrong, and he is actively digging deeper into forbidden knowledge to learn the truth. Sure, he's sometimes worried that he's straying too far and that the draconic truths he is uncovering might be very dangerous, but damnit, he KNOWS he's right. Add to this that he is actively working on establishing the White Bull cult inside Sun County under a secret identity and things are getting complicated. Especially since he is working on reconnecting with the Sun County administration again because he needs their authority to do what he feels needs to be done. He still follows all his geases, his beef is not with Yelmalio but with the people who choose to speak in his name.

So far, the biggest change for me when I watch the characters from the outside has been that they have both lost their ties to... hmmm common sense, for lack of a better word. They see no reason why their grand ideas can't be made reality, reality is malleable. They are both sticking hard to the strength of their core faiths but choose to ignore what they see as limitations that don't need to be there. This means that they are heading on a collision course with their cults, but so far, they have managed to toe the line just enough (and give rich gifts), so their eccentricity is tolerated for now.

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11 hours ago, Memestream said:

I mean just speaking for myself in our world, if I suddenly learned that I was immune to punishment from any sort of law, personal, public, or otherwise, it probably wouldn't result in my doing things which were radically contrary to my already developed character.

  • Perhaps it is a Griffin and no dragon that holds the key to illumination.
  • Why assume that the illuminated are immune to all punishment?
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55 minutes ago, PhilHibbs said:

It’s an analogy. The real world doesn’t have gifts and geases and spirits of reprisal.

Sure, but the imagined world does have all the real world’s forms of control in addition to geases and spirits. The practice of joining enemy cults to steal their secrets was presented as highly dangerous in Cults of Terror, IIRC.

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12 hours ago, Geoff R Evil said:

@Rodney Dangerduck I tend to agree. Illumination is a journey, and it may take a while to fully understand.

I love the concept of journey. It should not be "before illumination you were yellow, just after you are pink"

I m pretty sure that characters cannot know (even if they decide to become illuminate) where they will arrive or what path they will follow

 

Your humatki story gave me an other idea of illuminated humakti.

 

Harad is a humakti and swore to protect his clan and its ring. Good warrior, he is the champion of the clan. One day, he becomes illuminate for any reason.

That doesn't change a lot, he is proud to be the champion of the clan. He is proud to be the protector, the savior of his people. He is grateful to his ring for the great honor he get from his position, the wealthy gear they provide and all the great poems they do to praise him. Everything is fine

But one day, the clan has an issue with another clan. It is clear that blood must flow. However the ring doesn't want a battle, Too many wounded farmers, too many death. The only issue is a duel between the champions.

Harad knows that, Harad agrees with that. But Harad knows to that the other champion is very good too. That's clearly not sure that Harad will win, That his clan will win. Harad doesn't fear to die, no no that's not the point. But Harad fears to fail, and to lead his clan in a bad situation. No, Harad must change the situation.

Two days later, brigands ambush the other champion. He fights well and kill them all but is seriously wounded. He cannot fight Harad. But the honor rules that his clan must provides another champion.... And Harad kills him easily. How the brigands found the champion ? No one knows or, at least no one tells.

Harad is satisfied. Of course he gained not a lot of honor by defeating a weak opponent, but at least his clan gains a better position. What does matter is his clan, not his personnal reputation and exploits.

Later, Harad discovers that one of the local merchant seems to plot against the clan. Maybe the merchant hope a better position in the clan, maybe a bigger profit with some clans the ring doesn't want to trade with. He is a traitor, for sure, after all when they were young, who succeeds to seduce Harad's love ? This worm tongue ! And he does the same now again and again, he is disturbing the clan.There is no proof but Harad is sure. And Harad is sure that a big danger will happens if he does nothing. The merchant must die or be banned. But how to prove his trichery ? With a duel ? Never the clan will accept such challenge between the champion and a merchant who paid a lot of the clan's weapons but never use them. No, Harad has no sure option to save his clan. And one day the merchant dies, poisoned. It was clearly a secret murder, and all the clan think that the merchant's death was the result of his tendency to deal with bad clans. There is no proof, the clan decides to do nothing, no impact. End of the story.

Harad however is impacted. He is happy that the result is aligned with his goal but sad to hear how long and hard were his sufferings. Harad must find a solution, he will never let him do thing in this way. So Harad, the next time he will visit his kin in the great town near the clan will look for some knowledge

In the city, he finds some alchimist. He does not tell her who he is or what is his cult. Of course she should be scared to know that. And he becomes her student. He learns a lot about peaceful deadly poison. He is involved in a lot of practices. And at the end of the day he becomes initiate of the secret Krasht

Back to his clan. Years go by. The Clan is happy, children growth in peace. Potential dangers.... rest in peace. All is for the best. Harad does is job of protector flawlessly. He is praised by is people and other clan. Of course he should be blessed by Humakt and all the clan benefits of his holyness, even when he is absent to manage some personal business. Nobody cares, as everything is perfect.

Unfortunately years bring  old age too. And the clan chief is old and tend to make bad decisions for the clan future. Harad sees that. Harad knows that. And Harad doesn't see who could take the new leadership. So, to protect his clan, his peace, Harad decides the best actions for his people. And the chief dies, he was old after all. And by accident for one, attacked by a broos pack for another, and "natural" food poisonning for the last one, the candidates to the succession are disregarded.

And Harad becomes the clan leader. A peace maker, a protector. Noone can say Harad is not the best leader. Well ... no one alive. As Harad is blessed by the Death God, everyone can witness that any opponent is cursed by the death. Harad is holy and the clan is happy.

for sure, Honor was broken, but no one knows that.

for sure , Loyalty to the ring and oaths were broken, but no one knows that.

Harad is the Truth :20-power-truth:, Harad is the Death :20-power-death:. Harad is the best Humakti. Harad is Humakt.

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3 hours ago, mfbrandi said:

Sure, but the imagined world does have all the real world’s forms of control in addition to geases and spirits. The practice of joining enemy cults to steal their secrets was presented as highly dangerous in Cults of Terror, IIRC.

All the more reason to deviate very slowly and in line with one's typical character as I see it!

Also, while Glorantha has a lot of the same forms of real world control, there seem to be some significant differences with the judicial proceedings. The whole clan might be convinced you're a son of the devil, but their job is made quite a bit harder in acting on it effectively when every spirit and divination they consult on the matter tells them no crime has been committed.

 

5 hours ago, mfbrandi said:

Perhaps it is a Griffin and no dragon that holds the key to illumination.

I really like the idea of there being at least a hint of this in Illumination. Life without axiom has its perks, but it's not without horror.

 

9 hours ago, svensson said:

known Illuminate

Emphasis on known.

I pick this out of context because I think it's really easy to underestimate the storytelling potential of secret illumination, and get blinded by all of the game breaking BS that's suggested by it. Given the widespread attitudes toward known illumination, characters with illumination are effectively burdened with the geas of keeping their illumination secret! What's even better is that this geas is most forgiving when the character doesn't take any advantage of the mechanical effects offered by illumination, but puts them at risk every time they do take advantage

There's a lot of high-flying notation about cosmic knowledge, but underneath the hood, it's really just a very typical dramatic tool along the lines of the "Faustian Bargain." IMG at least.

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8 minutes ago, Memestream said:

The whole clan might be convinced you're a son of the devil, but their job is made quite a bit harder in acting on it effectively when every spirit and divination they consult on the matter tells them no crime has been committed.

Who consults the weather oracle when they can see the storm clouds blowing, the tin roofs flying, and smell the rain in the air? If someone insisted you do it anyway, and you got back the result ‘no wind, dry, and sunny all day,’ you might think ‘no oracle is 100%’ or possibly ‘clearly, there is something funny going on,’ but not ‘OK, I will take the dog out for a long walk, after all.’

I don’t say this to encourage the persecution of illuminates. I am on their side — no automatic enemies, be suspicious of extreme action. Sure, there is the odd psychotic, but that goes for non-illuminates, too.

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4 minutes ago, mfbrandi said:

Who consults the weather oracle when they can see the storm clouds blowing, the tin roofs flying, and smell the rain in the air? If someone insisted you do it anyway, and you got back the result ‘no wind, dry, and sunny all day,’ you might think ‘no oracle is 100%’ or possibly ‘clearly, there is something funny going on,’ but not ‘OK, I will take the dog out for a long walk, after all.’

I wholeheartedly agree with what you're saying in spirit, but as we're in the Runequest forum, I'll put it in Runequest terms.

Impede/Sense/Face Chaos do nothing. If the "villain" in question doesn't hold any ill intent toward those hunting him, Detect Enemies won't either.

The "bad guy" in question might pull cult rank in another martially strong cult. (S)He might have access to not only immense magical resources, but serious human capital and interpersonal connections with most(or at least ENOUGH) of the clan/city/cult leadership. 

What if this illuminate starts calling on the law itself to justify their own seemingly heretical behavior? Maybe it's not Chaos, maybe it's just 'finding another way.' The Humakti says she didn't cast Bless Pregnancy, she says she just killed the pain and complications associated with childbirth.

It's one thing to get creeped out and kill a stranger for doing weird things, but it's a totally different thing when your close relative who is a rune lord(who might have even taught you all that you know!) seems to have dodged a geas at an opportune moment with no apparent ill-effect. Speaking of opportune moments, what if their unorthodox behavior has only made you and yours richer? Even if your character isn't venal, that could just as easily mean that your own favored cult has swelled in influence thanks to the action of this rulebreaker. A few people might have some reservation about this deep in their gut, but the Gods and ancestors aren't mad about it, and are handing out favor like never before. 

 

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34 minutes ago, Memestream said:

Maybe it’s not Chaos, maybe it’s just ‘finding another way.’

Maybe it is Chaos and just finding another way. Shed your outmoded taboos. You will feel better for it. 😉

All the slippery slope stuff about questionable means to (supposedly) desirable ends can be filed under “if you fight with monsters, you will become a monster” — no “cosmic insight” required. Can illumination abilities — yogic superpowers — go into the toolbox of someone who is determined to achieve their ends “by any means necessary”? Absolutely. They will use anything to get an edge. But the ruthless application of means–end “rationality” (with the original business case long forgotten, naturally) is not itself the insight of illumination, but it is likely the professed creed of fanatics everywhere … whether illuminated or not.

Don’t worry, I know I am swimming against the tide — the intent behind canonical texts — on this one, but it is good to have a dissenting voice (soon to be drowned), no? If you like, at bottom I am kicking against this:

  • Other interpretations of evil will be revealed …
    There is an Empty Void, which …
    bears some resemblance to a Buddhist Nivanna
    Greg Stafford, Cults of Prax: Designer Notes (Classic PDF, p. 106)
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11 hours ago, mfbrandi said:

All the slippery slope stuff about questionable means to (supposedly) desirable ends can be filed under “if you fight with monsters, you will become a monster” — no “cosmic insight” required. Can illumination abilities — yogic superpowers — go into the toolbox of someone who is determined to achieve their ends “by any means necessary”? Absolutely. They will use anything to get an edge. But the ruthless application of means–end “rationality” (with the original business case long forgotten, naturally) is not itself the insight of illumination, but it is likely the professed creed of fanatics everywhere … whether illuminated or not.

Absolutely. It is only the insight that their own fanaticism justifies even overcoming their cult rules restrictions that requires Illumination. A fanatic may justify their actions as they will, and may do them even if it breaks their gods rules if they are sufficiently fanatic, accepting that there is a cost to their actions  and that they accept some punishment to do what must be done. An Illuminated fanatic actually believes their beliefs are more correct than their god, and their moral judgement greater than that of god, an astonishingly solipsistic viewpoint. Of course, you can see the 'Light side' Arkati POV as just a different spin on such Illuminated fanatic solipsism if you wish (though of course, you can also see it as different because it is justified, as they do, which is ambiguous when it comes to the morality of mass murder etc). This is intended, and a bug not a feature in the game presentation of Illumination. 

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2 hours ago, davecake said:

An Illuminated fanatic actually believes their beliefs are more correct than their god, and their moral judgement greater than that of god, an astonishingly solipsistic viewpoint.

I wouldn't call humanism "solipsistic". Humanism might be the wrong word, but illuminates are just as capable of self-sacrifice as anyone else, if not more so.

Edited by PhilHibbs
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3 minutes ago, PhilHibbs said:

I wouldn't call humanism "solipsistic".

An initiate of a god should not be a humanist who doesn't think their god has moral authority. 

If you aren't an initiate of a god. you don't need to be an Illuminate to think you have more moral authority than that god. Though believing your moral views trump natural law is still pretty wild. 

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1 minute ago, davecake said:

An initiate of a god should not be a humanist who doesn't think their god has moral authority.

That looks like conceptualism, argument-from-definition, or a "No True Initiate" purism. I contend that an illuminated initiate should be.

1 minute ago, davecake said:

If you aren't an initiate of a god. you don't need to be an Illuminate to think you have more moral authority than that god. Though believing your moral views trump natural law is still pretty wild. 

What do you mean by "natural law" in this context? That phrase has been used to justify some pretty outrageous stuff in the past.

Illumination in the hands of a fanatic can be a dangerous thing, but if the fanatic is right (that the gods are destroying the world with their war, and that this cycle needs to stop) then maybe it's a necessary thing.

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