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Christopher

Rules that make no sense, make the most sense

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There is a standing rule that the special effect does not change the game effect of a power. Yet often we have question if the answer would be different if the power had "Special Effect X"?

When we say 'no' we get reactions like "but that does not make sense". The thing is, nobody ever said it was supposed to make sense! Making sense is the last thing rules are supposed to do.

 

Rules job is not to make sense. Rules job is to make the game balanced:

An RPG session is not like a Book or Film.

- A book has one Author that controlls the environment, the antagonists and the protragonists.

- A RPG sessions has one Author that controlls the environment and antagonists (the GM). And several authors each controling an protagonist (Players).

Multiple Authors invarriably lead to conflicts of interest. Those have to be solved in a somewhat fair manner. We invented game rules (and keep using them) to disolve these conflicts of interest.

 

Rules that don't make sense, get sense invented for them:

D&D has a rule that mages can not wear armor without affecting spellcasting.

In Shadowrun loosing essence to cyberware drops your magic and technomancy atributes.

These rules have been established as far back as the 1st editions. In the current day when the rule is talked about they lead with the explanation. The explanation has become an integral part of the whole world. So much it is hard to translate adventures into rulesets that don't have similar rules.

 

But the real reason the rule exists in the first place? Balance.

The Rules about Essence and Magic was invented because a point bought resource (magic) and a money bought resoruce (cyberware) should not be allowed to stack. It would create inbalanced characters. After it had been invented, sense was invented for it. They never found a way to repalce them with something better, so nowadays it is such an integral part of the game world nobody would even dare to ask "why?"

D&D solved the same issue (just replace cyberware with magic items) by inventing different kinds of bonuses and apply a "highest only" policy for each "class" of bonus.

 

The rule was thought up for balance. It did not make sense other then for balance. So it got sense invented for it.

Once a sense get's invented, there is going to be feedback with the adventures. I know of several D&D adventures where the inability to cast a certain spell due to level constraints or do something due to stacking rules was an integral plot point.

 

Hero rules are likely to not make sense and you can not really invent sense for them:

Because Hero is a toolkit for making settings, it is not tied to any one world. There is not "one" hero world or a handfull of distince hero "settings" like for Shadowrun and D&D. That means for most hero rules it is impossible to invent ingame reasons.

If people try it is most often using the Superheroic or Fantasy settings.

 

Other game examples:

There are many D&D GMs that can not wrap thier head around Attacks of Opportunity. I had at least two of them in my early P&P times. AoO was invented for balance reasons. But they never provided a proper ingame explanation that could be accepted by everyone.

In an odd way the rule about Cyberware and Essence makes more sense then Attack of Opportunity. Because magic/technomancy and Cyberentics are both unknown fields. So we can accept any balancing rule in that area as "fluff" or "setting rule", without even realising it was invented for a totally different reason...

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Attacks of opportunity make perfect sense to me.  D&D combat is not a tactical, blow-by-blow system but is instead a general simulation.  In the course of a combat round, a lot of things are happening, and if you turn away to move somewhere else, then you're not defending yourself the way you are in combat normally.  That means the attacks which are ongoing have a better chance of hitting you.

 

That's why as you get higher level you get more attacks: you aren't faster, you're more skillful and have a better chance of landing an attack in that exchange instead of a series of blocks, dodges, parries, etc.

 

In Hero I've added a rule similar to the attacks of opportunity where characters cannot just pass by slower characters in the middle of a fight safely.  I allow people to abort to an attack on someone doing this, simulating that movement isn't as segmented and jerky as it looks in practice in hero.

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Attacks of opportunity make perfect sense to me.  D&D combat is not a tactical, blow-by-blow system but is instead a general simulation.  In the course of a combat round, a lot of things are happening, and if you turn away to move somewhere else, then you're not defending yourself the way you are in combat normally.  That means the attacks which are ongoing have a better chance of hitting you.

As they do for me. But that does not apply to every GM. Inlcuding two of mine.

Two that I don't consider especially boneheaded or anything, so I asume there are more with the same issue.

 

But wich was first with AoO? The rule or the reason?

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But wich was first with AoO? The rule or the reason?

 

For D&D, I think it was during the 3rd edition design (actually the last stages of 2E also had AoO), they said, "what reason is there to ever use a polearm, and why don't enemies rush right past the front line to attack the mages in the back?" So it was both emulating reality and balancing the game.

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The Hero System doesn't need a separate mechanic for what D&D calls Attacks of Opportunity. It already has Held Actions and Aborted Actions. Together they cover the two fundamental aspects of AoO: overwatch and desperate defense.

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There's also the Ignoring Opponents rule.  If you move past an opponent who has a Held Action without interacting with them, you're at 1/2 DCV if they attack you.

When I'm adapting material from D&D 3e to Hero, I generally translate provoking an AoO to being reduced to 1/2 DCV.  For example, spellcasters have 1/2 DCV Concentration as a Limitation on all of their spells, but it can be negated by taking a significant penalty to the Power Skill roll used to cast the spell (Casting Defensively).

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Ignoring Opponents is just a specific application of the general rules for being Surprised (i.e., half DCV for being attacked from a direction you aren't paying attention to or know about).

 

It seems to me that the last couple of editions of the Hero System rules have spent way too many pages churning out specific applications of the general mechanics for the abstraction-challenged. I kind of feel like this has done more harm than good to the system's long-term prospects. Likewise, the notion of replicating, in the Hero System, the cancerous mass that is D&D's AoO rules makes me shudder.

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Personally, I've never had a problem with the Special Effects of Powers producing somewhat different results in unusual circumstances, with the assumption that the benefits and drawbacks of those SFX will tend to balance out. The official rules specifically suggest making allowances for such things. In fact the section of Hidden Lands covering Atlantis also contains the most recent iteration of HERO rules covering how the SFX of some Powers may change their effects under water (a distinction made since Third Edition and Scourge from the Deep).

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Personally, I've never had a problem with the Special Effects of Powers producing somewhat different results in unusual circumstances, with the assumption that the benefits and drawbacks of those SFX will tend to balance out.

I can tell you've been playing this game for a long time, Lord Liaden. Your Hero System Fu is strong.

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The one rule that drives my brother nuts is that you can be stunned and knocked out at the same time.  He hates this, and he argues that it makes no sense; how can you be unconscious and stunned?  I answer "it represents a hit so bad that it just takes you that extra phase to recover from."  And he just grits his teeth.  Being stunned is really annoying and he hates it so much he buys his CON up on every character to amazing levels.  Its not like it happens a lot in my games, its just a personal thing.  But it does make sense, ultimately.

 

 

The principle behind using the Attacks of Opportunity-like rule in Hero is that if you watch a fight on a map, people teleport about rather than move smoothly and constantly. Everyone is supposed to be moving around and fighting at the same time, and not jumping about phase by phase.  But in terms of game play, they teleport about.  Because of this, people blast past other targets regularly and comfortably in combat.  The ignoring opponents rule only works with people who have held phases or move soon, and generally they're busy enough not to attack you anyway.  It sort of works, but I've found that players appreciate the device, as it prevents bad guys from just brushing past them and taking off without any real consequence.

 

Now, you could in theory come up with a way of making people move very small increments over time so it looks more constant - Aces & Eights did that and it was... nearly unplayable.

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Personally, I've never had a problem with the Special Effects of Powers producing somewhat different results in unusual circumstances, with the assumption that the benefits and drawbacks of those SFX will tend to balance out. The official rules specifically suggest making allowances for such things. In fact the section of Hidden Lands covering Atlantis also contains the most recent iteration of HERO rules covering how the SFX of some Powers may change their effects under water (a distinction made since Third Edition and Scourge from the Deep).

Even 6E2 has a few pages on the liquid mater. Of course water is a extremely different environment. So much so, it works close to another planet or another dimension with totally different physical rules.

 

Apparently mentioning Attacks of Opportuntiy as example was a mistake. What about the other example, Shadowruns Essence/Magic interaction rules?

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Fantasy Hero Complete pg 186:

"If a character’s STUN total is reduced to zero or below (whether by one attack or multiple attacks) he is Knocked Out. A character can be Stunned or Knocked Out; not both (the Knockout condition “overrides” the Stunned condition)."

 

Pretty sure this has been explicitly stated in every version of the rules since at least 5Er and I think it was the same in 4E as well.

 

Your brother is right to be frustrated. Being Knocked Out already has a specific mechanic to determine how fast you recover.

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The principle behind using the Attacks of Opportunity-like rule in Hero is that if you watch a fight on a map, people teleport about rather than move smoothly and constantly. Everyone is supposed to be moving around and fighting at the same time, and not jumping about phase by phase.  But in terms of game play, they teleport about.  Because of this, people blast past other targets regularly and comfortably in combat.  The ignoring opponents rule only works with people who have held phases or move soon, and generally they're busy enough not to attack you anyway.  It sort of works, but I've found that players appreciate the device, as it prevents bad guys from just brushing past them and taking off without any real consequence.

 

Now, you could in theory come up with a way of making people move very small increments over time so it looks more constant - Aces & Eights did that and it was... nearly unplayable.

 

AoO can also be represented by a trigger naked advantage.

 

Very few RPGs get past the difficulties of turn-based combat. They are, after all, derived from a history of miniatures warfare where turns were inherent. The few that attempt to address it (Aces & Eights, Runequest, Star Fleet Battles) mostly do it simply by reducing it down to smaller and smaller ticks of the clock. If you ever want to hear a rant on the subject. Youtube RPG/fantasy commenter Lindybeige is good for an hour or more of amusement.

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Hero combat is already driven by a segmented action model just like Star Fleet Battles. But rather than your warp speed determining which segments you move and fire on, your SPD characteristic determines that. Breaking up Hero movement and combat to be even more granular is pointless in my view. This is a game, after all, not a rigorous simulation of reality. One must accept a certain degree of abstraction and learn how to master the tactical trade-offs necessary for "optimal play" at any given moment. That includes knowing how to use Held Actions, Aborted Actions, Triggers, teammates, and so on, especially when the artificiality of the mechanics put your character in a less-than-ideal situation. That's the game part of the combat simulation. Learn it. Embrace it. Love it.

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Fantasy Hero Complete pg 186:

"If a character’s STUN total is reduced to zero or below (whether by one attack or multiple attacks) he is Knocked Out. A character can be Stunned or Knocked Out; not both (the Knockout condition “overrides” the Stunned condition)."

 

Pretty sure this has been explicitly stated in every version of the rules since at least 5Er and I think it was the same in 4E as well.

 

Your brother is right to be frustrated. Being Knocked Out already has a specific mechanic to determine how fast you recover.

 

 

I think most characters will be severely limited by having at most one RECovery worth of END to use after being Knocked Out.  They can easily Knock themselves Out again by just spending too much END and burning STUN as its replacement.

 

3e and 4e Champions were different.  5e & 5er show the change.

 

Champions 3e page 76 shows:

If a hero is both Stunned and Knocked Out by the same attack, he spends his next Phase recovering from being Stunned and does not get a Recovery that Phase.

 

Hero System 4e page 161 shows:

A character who is both Stunned and Knocked Out by the same attack spends the next Phase recovering from being Stunned and does not get a Recovery that Phase, even if he would have normally.

 

5e page 274 and 5er page 412 both show:

A character who’s both Stunned and Knocked Out by the same attack begins taking Recoveries in his next full Phase; he does not have to spend a Phase recovering from being Stunned (that’s part of waking up from being Knocked Out).

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I think most characters will be severely limited by having at most one RECovery worth of END to use after being Knocked Out.  They can easily Knock themselves Out again by just spending too much END and burning STUN as its replacement.

 

3e and 4e Champions were different.  5e & 5er show the change.

 

[cut]

 

Hero System 4e page 161 shows:

A character who is both Stunned and Knocked Out by the same attack spends the next Phase recovering from being Stunned and does not get a Recovery that Phase, even if he would have normally.

 

[cut]

To pick a nit, the text for 3E and 4E both say, "both Stunned and Knocked Out by the same attack." It is very possible that the attack that knocks a character out is not the attack that stunned them. So, as written, it does not say that the character loses their recovery that phase unless both criteria are met in a single attack.

 

I don't remember how my gaming groups used to actually play that.

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To pick a nit, the text for 3E and 4E both say, "both Stunned and Knocked Out by the same attack." It is very possible that the attack that knocks a character out is not the attack that stunned them. So, as written, it does not say that the character loses their recovery that phase unless both criteria are met in a single attack.

 

I don't remember how my gaming groups used to actually play that.

 

It really shouldn't matter. 

 

4e page 160 shows:

Regardless of how severely the character has been Knocked Out, he cannot do anything except recover.

 

Technically, Recovering from being Stunned is a distinct Action separate from taking a Recovery (at least according to 5e and 6e).

 

6e2 page 106 shows:

Regardless of how severely the character’s been Knocked Out, he cannot do anything except take Recoveries. He can take his first Recovery on his next full Phase (unless he’s deeply unconscious; see below) at the end of the Segment (after all other characters who have a Phase that Segment have acted). However, he cannot take a Recovery in the Segment in which he was Knocked Out, even if he had a Phase that Segment which had not yet been used. A character who’s Knocked Out must take Recoveries every Phase (or as often as allowed to) until his STUN total is greater than zero. When his STUN total is positive, the character wakes up, and can take whatever Actions he wants to.

....

A character who’s both Stunned and Knocked Out by the same attack (or who’s Stunned by one attack and Knocked Out by another in the same Phase) begins taking Recoveries in his next full Phase; he doesn’t have to spend a Phase recovering from being Stunned (that’s part of waking up from being Knocked Out).

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...

 

The principle behind using the Attacks of Opportunity-like rule in Hero is that if you watch a fight on a map, people teleport about rather than move smoothly and constantly. Everyone is supposed to be moving around and fighting at the same time, and not jumping about phase by phase.  But in terms of game play, they teleport about.  Because of this, people blast past other targets regularly and comfortably in combat.  The ignoring opponents rule only works with people who have held phases or move soon, and generally they're busy enough not to attack you anyway.  It sort of works, but I've found that players appreciate the device, as it prevents bad guys from just brushing past them and taking off without any real consequence.

 

Now, you could in theory come up with a way of making people move very small increments over time so it looks more constant - Aces & Eights did that and it was... nearly unplayable.

 

I think this illustrates a need to define the HERO Turn as the better equivalent to other system's default 'Round' of combat.  It would remind folks that they are nit-picking seconds and possibly speed up combat in the process.

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It really shouldn't matter. 

 

4e page 160 shows:

 

Technically, Recovering from being Stunned is a distinct Action separate from taking a Recovery (at least according to 5e and 6e).

 

6e2 page 106 shows:

Re: It shouldn't matter

Why not? You're quoting the rule as it is different from 5E/6E. It makes a very clear statement about both conditions applying and how that requires recovering from being stunned,

 

Re: 4E p160

That doesn't refute or support anything that you or I have written regarding the Stunned and/or Knocked Out portion, so I'm not sure if that's really the quote you were looking for.

 

Re: "technically" and 6E2 p106

I wasn't commenting about 5E or 6E, so I don't find that to be persuasive regarding the 3E/4E RAW. I do agree that in 5E and 6E they are separate; I also agree that the newer rules have stated a difference in handling Stunned and/or Knocked Out--which is the start of this whole thing.

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The setup (using 3e rules) - A SPD 4 character takes damage on Phase 3 before his DEX.

If he takes more Stun than his CON he is Stunned and will lose his Phase 3 action due to the mandatory requirement to Recover from being Stunned.  He will get to act normally on his DEX on Phase 6.

If he takes additional Stun equal to or greater than his remaining Stun before his DEX on Phase 3 he is Knocked Out. He will remain so until he takes enough Recoveries to be at a positive Stun total.  

He will NOT get a recovery on Phase 6 however.  

Any recoveries besides the Free/Automatic Post Phase 12 Recovery require that the character take 0 damage that Phase.

If his negative Stun Total is less than his REC he will hit a positive Stun value on his DEX on Phase 9.  He will get no other action that Phase.

Being Knocked Out, even if by separate attacks, is always going to be worse than being Stunned.

THIS is what I meant by "it really doesn't matter".  A character will usually be so screwed by getting Knocked Out that any additional Phase lost due to being Stunned has little difference from being at a greater negative Stun total.

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Very few RPGs get past the difficulties of turn-based combat. They are, after all, derived from a history of miniatures warfare where turns were inherent. The few that attempt to address it (Aces & Eights, Runequest, Star Fleet Battles) mostly do it simply by reducing it down to smaller and smaller ticks of the clock. If you ever want to hear a rant on the subject. Youtube RPG/fantasy commenter Lindybeige is good for an hour or more of amusement.

When all is said and done, "Realtime" computer games are just really, really small turns that do not wait for user input. 20 per second is a common figure for RTS games. FPS use anything from 10-100 UPS.

But that obviously can not be applied to a P&P session. If nothing else, tracking all this would become to much of an accounting to make fun.

 

Another system that tries to break movement out of the turn based approach is Shadowrun. There movement is is measured in meters per turn. With you spending a chooseable amount of actions per action phase to maintan the speed/simulate the focus of needed to run.

The tracking of movement is accordingly difficulty.

 

But could we perhaps get back to the original thematic and not discuss the differences in Stun+KO mechanic for the different editions?

 

The OP was:

Title: "Rules that make no sense, make the most sense"

Content:

 There is a standing rule that the special effect does not change the game effect of a power. Yet often we have question if the answer would be different if the power had "Special Effect X"?

When we say 'no' we get reactions like "but that does not make sense". The thing is, nobody ever said it was supposed to make sense! Making sense is the last thing rules are supposed to do.

 

Rules job is not to make sense. Rules job is to make the game balanced:

An RPG session is not like a Book or Film.

- A book has one Author that controlls the environment, the antagonists and the protragonists.

- A RPG sessions has one Author that controlls the environment and antagonists (the GM). And several authors each controling an protagonist (Players).

Multiple Authors invarriably lead to conflicts of interest. Those have to be solved in a somewhat fair manner. We invented game rules (and keep using them) to disolve these conflicts of interest.

 

Rules that don't make sense, get sense invented for them:

D&D has a rule that mages can not wear armor without affecting spellcasting.

In Shadowrun loosing essence to cyberware drops your magic and technomancy atributes.

These rules have been established as far back as the 1st editions. In the current day when the rule is talked about they lead with the explanation. The explanation has become an integral part of the whole world. So much it is hard to translate adventures into rulesets that don't have similar rules.

 

But the real reason the rule exists in the first place? Balance.

The Rules about Essence and Magic was invented because a point bought resource (magic) and a money bought resoruce (cyberware) should not be allowed to stack. It would create inbalanced characters. After it had been invented, sense was invented for it. They never found a way to repalce them with something better, so nowadays it is such an integral part of the game world nobody would even dare to ask "why?"

D&D solved the same issue (just replace cyberware with magic items) by inventing different kinds of bonuses and apply a "highest only" policy for each "class" of bonus.

 

The rule was thought up for balance. It did not make sense other then for balance. So it got sense invented for it.

Once a sense get's invented, there is going to be feedback with the adventures. I know of several D&D adventures where the inability to cast a certain spell due to level constraints or do something due to stacking rules was an integral plot point.

 

Hero rules are likely to not make sense and you can not really invent sense for them:

Because Hero is a toolkit for making settings, it is not tied to any one world. There is not "one" hero world or a handfull of distince hero "settings" like for Shadowrun and D&D. That means for most hero rules it is impossible to invent ingame reasons.

If people try it is most often using the Superheroic or Fantasy settings.

 

Other game examples:

There are many D&D GMs that can not wrap thier head around Attacks of Opportunity. I had at least two of them in my early P&P times. AoO was invented for balance reasons. But they never provided a proper ingame explanation that could be accepted by everyone.

In an odd way the rule about Cyberware and Essence makes more sense then Attack of Opportunity. Because magic/technomancy and Cyberentics are both unknown fields. So we can accept any balancing rule in that area as "fluff" or "setting rule", without even realising it was invented for a totally different reason...

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When all is said and done, "Realtime" computer games are just really, really small turns that do not wait for user input. 20 per second is a common figure for RTS games. FPS use anything from 10-100 UPS.

But that obviously can not be applied to a P&P session. If nothing else, tracking all this would become to much of an accounting to make fun.

 

Another system that tries to break movement out of the turn based approach is Shadowrun. There movement is is measured in meters per turn. With you spending a chooseable amount of actions per action phase to maintan the speed/simulate the focus of needed to run.

The tracking of movement is accordingly difficulty.

 But could we perhaps get back to the original thematic and not discuss the differences in Stun+KO mechanic for the different editions?

 The OP was:

[cut an unnecessary copy of the original post]

The rules are mechanics. Sorry if that de-railed the thread. I'll go elsewhere.

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I'm relatively new to HERO, but based on my experience with similar systems, such as M&M, I tend to straddle the line for special effects: Generally, no, you won't get any bonuses or penalties for shooting fire from your hands vs lightning (unless an enemy has vulnerabilities or the like), however, if you have an especially interesting idea, I'll allow it on rare occasions, since the one big thing that I feel HERO lacks, especially with its basis in Superhero RPGs, is a way to pull off one-off 'power stunts' which are fairly in genre, and I think the "power" skill is a poor way of doing it.

 

As for some of the other stuff in the rest of your post, I feel like I agree to only a certain extent. Yes, some rules are done for balance, but many rules are to enforce genre conventions, whether or not "Balance" is a factor. With a look at D&D, the rules about wizards casting in armor aren't really there for balance. Not when spells and magical items exist which do basically the same thing as having armor does. It's there because Gandalf and Merlin and the like never wore armor.

 

As for AoOs, I don't understand what there's not to get about them: when I first read the rules for them, my first reaction was "Ok, that makes sense. You shouldn't just be able to run past the fighter without any penalty, or cast or shoot a bow, or the like". It feels very much like a blend of balance, yes, but also genre conventions, even if the specified genre convention is only class-based fantasy RPGs (Because D&D, at least for me, no longer represents fantasy but its' own thing).

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Special effects not granting bonuses makes perfect sense to me.

 

In a generic system, potentially covering all genres and all settings, powers will inherently function differently, and so they must be purchased to do what you want them to do.

 

I remember a guy at our local game store who was convinced that telekinesis was the greatest power in the world, because you could just reach into your opponent's brain and give him an aneurism with the tiniest amount of force. I don't know why he decided TK worked that way, but that was his vision of the power. My view of the power was far far more limited. Which of us is right? Both of us are right -- we can each have the power we want when we build our characters. We just have to pay to see our particular vision in the game.

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