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Middle Earth BRP?


Mankcam

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I see that there is a Middle Earth BRP fan setting in this site's Downloads section, but I see it has only several chapters listed. Have I missed something? Did the other chapters get taken off, or perhaps never posted? The author was BRPCentral member fergo113, I'm not sure if he/she is still active in these forums. Fergo113 has done quite a good job and I'll certainly use alot of the material.

Has anyone else done a reasonably good conversion of Middle Earth? I did my own almost 10 yrs ago now, but wasn't satisfied with it, it was more of a generic fantasy or MERP conversion and didn't really capture Tolkienesque magic or world flavour, I'ld love to see how others have approached a BRP version, especially if they have been influenced by Decipher LOTR or The One Ring which have subsequently arisen since my own attempt, and are considered to be decent portrayals by many.

If there are any good BRP Tolkien blogs or anything like that I'ld appreciate any heads up. I'll probably do my home brew, but as time is limited for me these days I certainly won't need to invent the wheel if there are some other BRP conversions already out there.

I'm particularly interested in concepts that portray Tolkien's world mechanics, such as Magic (Cantrips, Rune-writing, Innate Magic or 'The Gifts', The Power of Words, Spellcasting or 'The Art', Magical items, 'Noble' items, Innate Magic, Corruption etc) and Allegiance (? The Light vs The Shadow?) and stuff like that. That is the kind of content that sets Middle Earth apart from generic high fantasy, and I'm interested with how these concepts are portrayed in a BRP conversion rather than just plain character/npc/opponent stats, as I can pretty much lift those from the other BRP sources already published.

Regards

Edited by Mankcam

" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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There is another one someplace. It had a nifty fear mechanic. I thought I had an email back and forth with the author a few years ago but a search through my email brings up nothing.

Sadly a search through my email is not bringing anything up and I'm not remembering enough of the details to find it online. :(

I kinda have an urge to romp in Middle Earth myself, after seeing The Hobbit.

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Well it was probably seeing The Hobbit that kicked it off again for me as well, and many of my players are interested in Middle Earth again. I think it is quite hard to portray the setting and really do it justice, the flavour really comes in its trappings and world view, otherwise its too easy to be a bland generic fantasy.

I think using Allegiance will be a key in portraying The Light vs The Shadow, with the role of Hope, Morale, Honour having a tangible impact on the characters and the environment ( not to mention their opposites also having ill-effect, such as Dishonour, Betrayal, Fear, Corruption, etc).

Some mechanics I could lift from pre-existing BRP settings, for example I think the Fulthark Rune system from 'Mythic Iceland' could be excellent in portraying Rune-writing with Dwarven and Elvish Letters. Magical items, although rare, could be easily portrayed with RQ Enchanting. There are other aspects of Magic which require a little more detail however, such as Elvish Powers, Folk-Magic and Wizardry (the later would need to be rare, primarily the province of The Istari, however some scope would need to be had in order for PC playability). Folk-Magic would also need to be determined if it is actually Magic at all, or mere customs (ie: The Dwarves in 'The Hobbit' place 'spells' on their buried loot to ward away robbers - are these actual spells in a game sense, or just cultural practices...?). Also there needs to be a concept of 'inherent nobility/corruption' in particular items and locations which makes them behave almost magical at times, perhaps there is scope for Allegiance rules to be used here in some fashion.

To really make it feel Tolkienesque the GM needs to describe in great detail the environment and scenery, and also try to mimic much of the prose and speech of the characters from the novels, no mean feat and certainly more of a narrative style than a game mechanic. I'll probably look a field into other rpg systems to see how they have done things, and I already have found a few free rpgs on the net that are also quite good: 'Arda Marred'; 'Legends Of Middle Earth'; and I have a teaser pdf of 'Hither Lands'. I can use these with BRP to some extent, although finding a really good BRP conversion would be great.

I think I have a fair idea of the concepts I need to lock down, but if there are any pre-existing BRP conversions I would like to take a good look at them first. Fergo113 did a good job, I'ld certainly be interested in seeing if the other chapters were ever posted.

Edited by Mankcam

" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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For my home brew Middle-Earth setting I plan on using 'Abilities/Feats' for non-magical characters, to provide a bit of heroic play. Basically these work like magic mechanics, costing PP, except they have no prep time.

I use them in my Pulp Cthulhu home brew setting and they're alot of fun. For example, one character has a 'Steely Gaze' which basically is a variant of the RQ Demoralize spell, whereas another character has an ability that reduces the range/environmental modifiers when using Firearms. I also like to have an 'official' reference for my homebrew tweaks so that players can refer to. For example, our player-character can apply her Steely Gaze ability, and the player reads the description mechanics for the RQ Demoralize spell. Works well.

It's alot of fun, but PP are regenerated much slower, between sessions normally, although we also use Personality Traits as well which heal PP like Natural Healing rules for successful trait use. I renamed Power Points to be 'Pulp Points' for my Pulp Cthulhu setting, just to get into the Pulp flavour, and calculated them as equal to (POW+CHA)/2 rather than just POW.

For my Middle-Earth setting I'll probably rename Power Points as 'Fea' (Quenyan for 'Of the Spirit'), and also likely rename Hit Points as "Hroa' (Quenyan for 'Of the Body') - its all about flavour I reckon.

In any case I have a notion that perhaps this Ability/Feat system would work well in Middle Earth, albeit with different trappings and names, and still provide non-spellcasting characters with effects they can spend PP on. It would work in with the concept of Middle Earth to some extent in that extraordinary effects can occur by good skill use. On another note, other effects deemed to be magical in some settings could easily be portrayed by extraordinary skill/lore use, such as the Healing Arts, for instance.

The question is, then, how would I portray actual Spell-casting as being different from Abilities/Feats, beyond simple narrative?

I don't mean Rune-writing or Crafting, which is actual Magic in Middle-Earth, but rather the evocation of magical effects on the spot. Not that many player-characters would have access to Spell-casting, and I'ld have to tweak the setting to incorporate a little more Spell-casting than Tolkien described, otherwise the only Spell casters would be Istari. Tolkien does describe folk magic practices, but it is unclear if this is low powered magical spellcasting, or if it is extraordinary mundane lore use, or just plain cultural beliefs and practices.

Tolkien was not consistent with describing Spell-casting, at times there was evidence of 'flashy' magical spell effects, although overall magical spellcasting tends to be subtle and pervasive, much more like the mystical beliefs of the Britons and medieval magic, rather than Vancian high fantasy magic fare.

This got me thinking that perhaps Chaosium's Pendragon could be referenced here. My Pendragon 4th ed has a great portrayal of medieval spellcasting, and I am toying on somehow using this with a few tweaks. It would certainly be quite different to the Abilities/Feats I have outlined above, and I think could be a reasonable portrayal of Middle Earth spellcasting. The spells tend to drain much more magical energy the more powerful they are, and the magic is based on a mixture of the caster's knowledge of a specific realm of magic lore and on the caster's intent, which seems very Middle-Earth to me. The spells are not clearly outlined, rather there are sample effects described at varied levels of spell potency, with great room for character elaboration here.

I would greatly decrease the amount of slumber time (if required at all), and perhaps also the amount of casting time, but essentially I think it could be a good fit. I was even thinking of keeping the Life Point cost similar to that of Pendragon (renaming Life Points as 'Essence'), so I port the potencies directly across. Perhaps for every 1PP the magician expends, the magician has 1D20 Essence at his/her disposal. This way the magician can still have the effects of ambient essence etc similar to Pendragon, I'd perhaps rename that as 'Resonance' as it fits more with the Middle-Earth theme

Okay sorry if this post rambles, I have my child sitting here with me so I'm possibly not articulating my thoughts as clear as I would like.

Does anyone think this kind of system could portray Middle-Earth magic reasonably well, or does it sound too cumbersome for the setting? Any constructive advice appreciated :-)

Edited by Mankcam
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" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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I really think that the "Tolkien's touch" will be more a narrative question than a rule question...

When I watch Lord of The Ring, from Peter Jackson, especially the second episode, I found that D&D did it quite right with its level system (that I still find boring): Gandalf really changed level after the Balrog encounter...

So, if a game like D&D can make the job, BRP surely can do it much better!

The options you are talking about (allegiance, abilities/feats...) sound fine but, it my humble opinion, it won't change things a lot. Likewise for the magic rules...

Your stories and your descriptions will change things!

Look at Tolkien scenarios. They are extremely simple (in a role playing game point of view). A hero (Bilbo) takes part to a treasure quest and the main foe is a dragon. Another hero (Frodo) must bring back a magical ring to the mountain where it was created in order to destroy it... Hard to find more classical adventures...

What makes these two stories amazing are the manner with which Tolkien told them.

So, no matter which precise rule you use for magic in you Middle Earth world, and which gaming optional BRP rule you use, all what will change the atmosphere of your games will be how you describe things.

Take all your time to describe spell effects or combats, as Tolken would have done it, and your campaign will look like a Tolkien story.

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Well I do believe having a good fit with mechanics is quite important, but yes, the narrative flavour of Tolkien is the most important part of portraying his world for a rpg setting. I totally agree, and atmosphere certainly does take precedence over game mechanics (although this should be the case in all good settings).

I think if I had a bit more time I could marry the Pendragon magic to Tolkienesque magic quite well, but those days are gone for me, my time gets eaten up with work, family pursuits, and just plain mental lethargy these days...

In the end using a BRP conversion of the Decipher rules is the quickest solution, and I think Fergo113's ME BRP rules covers a version of that pretty well actually. I'll have to focus my game prep more on plot, location descriptions, NPC prose etc, which is pretty time consuming in itself, and running Fergo113's ME BRP rules for mechanics out-of-the-box will hit the spot in any case.

My players and I want to run Middle Earth at present, we all love the setting. However in my experiences a few years ago I found it had limitations and wasn't as free form as we liked, so we'll see how we go this time around...

Edited by Mankcam

" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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Well I do believe having a good fit with mechanics is quite important, but yes, the narrative flavour of Tolkien is the most important part of portraying his world for a rpg setting. I totally agree, and atmosphere certainly does take precedence over game mechanics (although this should be the case in all good settings).

It is the case for all settings, actually. Even with a bad set of rules, a good GM can make you live an amazing adventure with a truly interesting plot, very good descriptions of what your character feels, and a lot of NPCs who sound alive. A bad GM, to the contrary, will make the adventure boring, even with a very good set of rules...

An this is especially true with Tolkien's world... There is no more richness in Tolkien's plot than in a classical D&D adventure... Except everything around. Tolkiens characters and world are so well described that we believe in them. They do live in our mind as well as if they really existed.

I think if I had a bit more time I could marry the Pendragon magic to Tolkienesque magic quite well,

It could be great, indeed... Especially because Tolkiens stories have their roots deeply planted in Celtic and Nordic myths...

but those days are gone for me, my time gets eaten up with work, family pursuits, and just plain mental lethargy these days...

I've got exactly the same problem... Too many things to do and not enough time to spend on role playing games...

That is why I decided to become lazy... Lazy about what is not really necessary to run a very good adventure... But I also decided to focus all my efforts on what is really necessary: a good plot and living NPCs.

In the end using a BRP conversion of the Decipher rules is the quickest solution, and I think Fergo113's ME BRP rules covers a version of that pretty well actually.

Yes. But conversion can take a lot of time too... And exactly as translation, they are never completely satisfying...

I played Cthulhu adventures with GURPS rules for several years. And one of my first questions was: how to do it? How to give the same atmosphere with rules which have much more technical detail... Fortunately, I decided to use GURPS rules exactly as they are written, even for fright checks (which are handled in a very different way from sanity loss) and magic.

And it worked very well. The atmosphere around the table was as gloomy and terrific than with Call of Cthulhu rules.

So, my hint: BRP rules are very good. Don't worry too much about rule detail... Just choose the options that sound fine in the big golden book and focus all your efforts on adventure preparation... You will save a lot of time and get a much better result...

But it is just my point of view, of course...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Mankcam,

I'm still here and very slowly working on my ME-BRP stuff. Family, work and the changing directions of my RPG group definitelly have slowed the project down. Seeing the Hobbit is inspiring me to get back into this project again. I don't get to the forums often these days but if you have any questions you can always send me a personal message through BRP central here.

Cheers,

Fergo113

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Hi Fergo113, thanks for checking this thread.

Unfortunately I doubt that I myself will have the time to run Middle Earth at present, I'm in the middle of a Cthulhu campaign, and have a Gloranthan campaign in hiatus. My group of friends is very inspired after seeing The Hobbit, but I don't think I can do the setting justice until I completely wrap up my other campaigns.

The more I read your Middle Earth rules the more I like them, you really have put a lot of effort in with this.

I am still interested in GMing Middle Earth, but I don't think I will be in a position to do so until the end of the year, which should tie nicely in with the cinema release of the next instalment of The Hobbit, and I suspect my troupe will be quite enthusiastic about it at that time.

I will keep a watch out for anything you may post or put in the downloads section over the next twelve months, as its likely I'll be using most of your supplement for my campaign. If I start developing anything sooner I might take you up on your offer and PM you to see how you would be handling things with your BRP ME setting, that is greatly appreciated.

Unfortunately my family and work commitments are making it hard to continue gaming at a rate I would prefer, but I guess that's the curse of many a maturing gamer...

Edited by Mankcam

" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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Thing is, in Tolkien characters don't "cast spells" in the same sense that people do in other settings. No incantations or grimiores or spell components. No Hogwarts College. Galdalf, et. al., do magic because they are mythological beings. It's their nature. Old G throws exploding pinecones like a big league pitcher throws fastballs; it's just what he does. Galdriel struggles to grasp what humans mean when they say "magic" because her abilities are part of who she is. Elvish gear, like Sam's rope, is "magical" in the sense that it is alien (unfamiliar) technology, better than what most folks have access to.

In running a Middle Earth game, the challenge is how do the game mechanics model this?

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Unfortunately I doubt that I myself will have the time to run Middle Earth at present, I'm in the middle of a Cthulhu campaign, and have a Gloranthan campaign in hiatus. My group of friends is very inspired after seeing The Hobbit, but I don't think I can do the setting justice until I completely wrap up my other campaigns.

The good news is there are two more movies coming out, so you can plan to kick it off at the end of The Hobbit! ;)

This is likely heretical, but before my ongoing BRP phase I was a big MERP head. I still love all that material and the slightly gonzo nature of teh Middle Earth adventures we had back then. It's funny but I wasn't a fan of Jackson's Lord of the Rings because I felt his changes didn't add much to the telling of the story. I AM a big fan of The Hobbit (even though it looks a bit too much like a video game) because I felt the changes were both fun and worked for the medium.

Which ties back to how I feel about MERPS. The changes are fun and work for the medium. Granted, Fergo's ruleset are hands and above what MERP offers.

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The problem with Jackson's movie versions is that, given the numerous lengthy, non-canonical and gratuitious action sequences, the characters are miscast. What we need to do is import the testosterone-drenched crew from The Expendables 2 to fill major roles. Sauron? "No problemo." ;);D

Indeed. Rather a proper Tolkien film should be a travelogue describing every freakin' shrub and flower the party comes across, blathering about heros who don't appear in the film and spotted with musical numbers. Sixty percent of the audience should be asked to leave after the beginning of The Two Towers. ;):D

Again, not a fan of Jackson's LotRs but I am of his Hobbit. The inclusion of Azog and Radagast and the framing and plotting of the film was all very well done in a Screenwriting 101 sort of way. I am, however, nothing close to a Tolkien purist.

Thing is, in Tolkien characters don't "cast spells" in the same sense that people do in other settings. No incantations or grimiores or spell components. No Hogwarts College. Galdalf, et. al., do magic because they are mythological beings. It's their nature. Old G throws exploding pinecones like a big league pitcher throws fastballs; it's just what he does. Galdriel struggles to grasp what humans mean when they say "magic" because her abilities are part of who she is. Elvish gear, like Sam's rope, is "magical" in the sense that it is alien (unfamiliar) technology, better than what most folks have access to.

In running a Middle Earth game, the challenge is how do the game mechanics model this?

They don't, for the most part. One thought is to allow for masterwork items. Craft:Rope becomes something different at a master level with a critical.

Say 80% is mastery. A particular master weaver is has Craft:Rope 230%. 46% of the time they will be criting when crafting their rope and it will act like Sam's elven rope. Maybe add some material components like; fibers gathered from sources in Lorien. Aragorn is has Healing at 180%. 36% of the time he can cure special ailments when he's got a pouch full of Athelas.

Much to my chagrin I do not have The Laundry yet. My understanding though is that they handle magic without magic points in it. A summoning is just a mathematical theorem expressed through a software program with whatever other tools might be necessary to manifest the desired results.

If one must have a Gandolfian figure, one could do worse than snagging the magic system from Maelstrom. Questbird is a poster here and he's used that system to great effect in his BRP Lankhmar game. It could easily fit Middle Earth, flexibility wise and subtlety wise.

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PLEASE EXCUSE ANY TYPOs AS I'M TYPING ON A LITTLE 7" TABLET AT PRESENT...

That is the crux of the matter for myself as well. I was toying with some of the ideas from Pendragon where magic is based upon the intentions of the caster. Beings like the Istari could simply do magic, and Elves would have some talent as well

, but Men would need to treat it more as Spells if they still use magic at all by the end of Third Age Middle Earth. My ideas are quite vague on how to portray Middle Earth Magic, although I know that Allegiance (The Light vs The Shadow) would play a major role in Magic and also mundane situations in Middle Earth.

One of my ideas included that if you rolled a Special or Critical

Success with your Craft skill (skill level must be 90% and above) and the roll was also under your Allegiance then some aspect of yourself and the Alliegance is imbued into the crafted item. Its an attempt to portray that most magic items are the result of master craftsmanship and the Purity (or Corruption) of the crafter. I also thought that various items, when in use, should react differently according to the nature and conviction of one's Allegiance, and items should also accumulate resonance according to the Allegiance level of their owners.

Magic use would have to be quite difficult if it goes against the Nature of Things, so my example is conjuring a magical fire requires kindling, although the fire created is much bigger than it would normally be. Doing so without kindling may be a Difficult roll, and doing so in unfavourable circumstances may be almost impossible, such as conjuring fire whilst the weather is snowing. The intentions of the caster could also have some impact as well, such as creating a Ward that does not allow others to enter, but could be much more powerful against those aligned to The Shadow if the caster also rolls under their Light/Purity alliegance whilst invoking the ward.

No firm ideas on any of this though...

Edited by Mankcam

" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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Don't get me wrong. I've enjoyed both the LOTR trilogy and the first Hobbit installment. It's just that (as with Disney's Narnia movies) the films take more and more liberties as they go along. Jackson is clearly padding out The Hobbit, although doing it with style, turning people and events that were mentioned in passing in the book into entire subplots. [spoilers ahead if you haven't read the book!] Azog's name appears, but it is his son Bolg who opposes Thorin at the end, and neither of them were Thorin's personal nemesis. Radagast was a mere footnote in the trilogy, although I always felt he deserved more attention. Jackson apparently felt so, too. He was a fun addition, odd enough to earn Saruman's disdain yet competent enough to have Gandalf's respect. There was no elvish conspiracy to prevent the dwarves from attempting to regain their treasure, although the traitorous Saruman might have wanted to forestall investigations into the Necromancer business. On the other hand, Gandalf reported at the end of The Hobbit that the Wizard's Council (including presumably Saruman) had successfully driven the Necromancer out of Mirkwood.

Still, it would be fun to at least have a skit with Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, and Chuck Norris standing in for some of Our Heroes. Perhaps on Youtube ....

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The problem with Jackson's movie versions is that, given the numerous lengthy, non-canonical and gratuitious action sequences, the characters are miscast. What we need to do is import the testosterone-drenched crew from The Expendables 2 to fill major roles. Sauron? "No problemo." ;);D

I preferred Hobbit to any of Tolkiens other books, possibly as it was tighter and leaner. I feared when I heard that it was going to be stretched to 3 films.

But:

The only thing which niggled me in the first one was the number of fight scenes which all followed the same format

Baddies, aargh

Most of us run away

Two stand and fight

They nearly get overwhelmed

The others turn up again and save the day

The footnotes and asides were developed nicely I thought

Perhaps we will get to see the scouring of the shire?

Number one son immediately asked if we could pop into the library after the film and he borrowed the book and promptly read it with every are moment. So job done.

Rule Zero: Don't be on fire

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  • 2 years later...

Coming in late to this topic just to say that a while back I blogged some notes about finding a fit for Middle-earth style play with the BRP rules. I've found a lean version of BRP to be a fairly good fit for adventures in Middle-earth with a small group of new players. The notes are here: http://rpg-tinker.blogspot.com/2015/02/brp-for-middle-earth.html

 

The issue of magic in Middle-earth is fascinating, but I mostly dodged that by having no PC wizards or magicians. The one elf in the group used a combination of special abilities and simple spells based on Runequest spirit magic (such as Bladesharp). These were subtle effects that could be taken for extraordinary skill or luck. My feeling is that wizardry, if there is such a thing, should be based on fairly open-form areas of study and affinity, with a flexible power point cost based on the scope of effect.

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  • 2 months later...

Hmm, my post didn't 'take.' Anyway, Colin Brett wrote the 'other' BRP ME mashup. There's also "Age of Shadow." And I'd love to hear from Fergo113.

 

Hi,

 

Coming in way late to this party. Thanks for the shout-out, Baron. :)

 

Anyway, I made my LotR rules available on my own website. If anyone's interested, they can be found here:

 

http://www.colinabrett.me.uk/htdocs/lotr.html

 

There are a few other BRP items on my site, including a Stormbringer (3rd edition) campaign and rules for Warhammer 40000 RPGs.

 

Regards,

Colin

 

PS: What are the rules for submitting my own work to this site?

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PS: What are the rules for submitting my own work to this site?

 

Please do, all contributions are greatly appreciated! Just upload it in the download section in whatever category you think fits best. However, the software doesn't handle files over 20 Mb, so if that is the case you'll have to send it to me so I can upload it manually by FTP. Just PM me if you need any help.

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Ef plest master, this mighty fine grub!
b1.gif 116/420. High Priest.

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