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Mystery Damage


steph
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hello everyone, I would like to know if GM here have tried for their fantasy campaign the mystery damage rule. That is, the GM calculates the Stun and Body damage but does not tell the players. Rather, it is a narrative description of what the player is going through. If you tried it how did it go?

 

Steph


 
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To me this is about the most annoying thing a GM can do.  The first problem is that every Gm I have encountered lacks the narrative skill to properly describe what is happening without becoming repetitious.  I am sure that a lot of people are thinking that they have better skills than those I game with.  The fact is that one of the GM’s for my group is a published author.  His ability to describe a situation is quite good, but coming up with different ways to describe basically the same thing without using game terms is difficult and time consuming.  Which brings us to the second problem is that this slows down the game to a crawl.  Combat takes long enough without having to add the time for a round of twenty questions to figure out the effect of your attacks. 

 

Another problem with this approach is that most heroes are supposed to be skilled combatants.  Part of being a skilled fighter is being able to judge the effectiveness of your attacks.  Without this your character is kind of just swinging in the dark.  Mystery damage denies this ability to the characters. 

 

The last reason that I dislike this is that it makes it so that everything in the game is from the point of the GM.  Often people will have different perspectives of the same event.  The 1950 Japanese movie Rashomon is classic example of this phenomenon.  By  having the GM as the only viewpoint it actually diminishes the story and roleplaying. 

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11 hours ago, LoneWolf said:

To me this is about the most annoying thing a GM can do.  The first problem is that every Gm I have encountered lacks the narrative skill to properly describe what is happening without becoming repetitious.  I am sure that a lot of people are thinking that they have better skills than those I game with.  The fact is that one of the GM’s for my group is a published author.  His ability to describe a situation is quite good, but coming up with different ways to describe basically the same thing without using game terms is difficult and time consuming.  Which brings us to the second problem is that this slows down the game to a crawl.  Combat takes long enough without having to add the time for a round of twenty questions to figure out the effect of your attacks. 

 

Another problem with this approach is that most heroes are supposed to be skilled combatants.  Part of being a skilled fighter is being able to judge the effectiveness of your attacks.  Without this your character is kind of just swinging in the dark.  Mystery damage denies this ability to the characters. 

 

The last reason that I dislike this is that it makes it so that everything in the game is from the point of the GM.  Often people will have different perspectives of the same event.  The 1950 Japanese movie Rashomon is classic example of this phenomenon.  By  having the GM as the only viewpoint it actually diminishes the story and roleplaying. 

 

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I tried this with my players back in the early 90s and we all agreed it was awful.

 

Once while a player at a D&D table I experienced a more severe version of this from a DM who wouldn't give us any hint at all about how hurt a monster was.  Like all monsters looked pristine until they suddenly fell over dead.

Even in UFC fights you get an idea of how badly hurt someone is over time.  They show cuts or start reacting badly to being struck (flinching, guarding, stumbling away dazed, limping, etc.).

 

Even if this was done artfully - It's going to be more trouble than its worth in my opinion.

 

The players are, after all, playing a game and should have enough information to make informed choices.

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I'm a bit lost:

 

Are we talking about for the players or for their opponents? 

 

I wouldn't do this to a player, but I do it for their opponents, yes.  All the time.  As in I've never heard of anyone saying "okay, the Look Tater has eleven hit points left and it looks like it's Koloth up to bat....   He steps out of the box...   A couple of practice swings.....  Okay, he's dropped the weights and back into the box-  did you see that?  Six donuts!  This kid's swinging for the parking lot.... "

 

 

Wow.   

 

 

That got away from me. 

Sorry about that. 

 

 

Duke 

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I keep it a secret just how much BODY STUN and END the boss villains have. It's easier to scale the encounter on the fly if I can adjust the bad guy's BODY, STUN, and END up and down based on how the encounter is going as well as being based on how much damage the heroes are doing.

 

I don't actually keep it a secret how much effect an individual attack does. If I don't want the bad guy stunned, for example, I just give him automaton abilities or a unique amulet that gives him extra CON only for the purposes of not being stunned. Or if he isn't supposed to die, he's done a long ritual spell giving him extra BODY or which triggers an escape teleport if he drops below a certain BODY score.

 

I'd much rather deal with potential problems in that manner than trying to keep every damage roll a secret.

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Yep; that's pretty much how i play it.

 

Players know how much damage they take; they know how much damage they delivered, but they don't know where the enemy is standing in terms of END, Body, Stun, etc.  Sometimes, you just need the bad guy to take one more hit, or deliver one more blow, or be conscious long enough to surrender or run off in a particular direction before succumbing in order to put the players where they need to be.

 

Sometimes you need them to drop a bit sooner than you thought they'd have to, in order to keep the players away from where you need them not to be.

It's pretty straight forward.

 

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49 minutes ago, archer said:

I keep it a secret just how much BODY STUN and END the boss villains have. . .

 

I NEVER tell the players how much of these a bad guy has at ANY point, but I always let them know both how effective their attack seems to have been, "seems you just grazed him", "yup he reels back w/ a growl as he grimace's in pain", as well as how bad a shape the bad guy is in in general, "he spits a glob blood as the smoking scorch marks on his upper body smell just as bad as they look", and seems to have been working for decades w/ different groups. The only exception I can think of was that one time the group fought a specific magic automaton monster that seemed to look pristine until it fell to pieces destroyed.

 

56 minutes ago, archer said:

...It's easier to scale the encounter on the fly if I can adjust the bad guy's BODY, STUN, and END up and down based on how the encounter is going as well as being based on how much damage the heroes are doing...

 

...Or if he isn't supposed to die, he's done a long ritual spell giving him extra BODY or which triggers an escape teleport if he drops below a certain BODY score...


As a player personally I cannot stress enough how much I absolutely abhor how much I hate it when a GM custom alters a bad guy on the spot just to avoid the characters from whooping its arse! In the process you are not only punishing the players for having the good sense to create good characters, make interesting (to them at least) choices, but it also steals away and invalidates any 'lucky' rolls they may have gotten to make it to that point.

Yeah sure its easier to cheat them w/o their knowledge just for you to keep doing what you want to do instead than have them obliterate that really awesome bad guy you thought was gonna give em hell and the really cool story you had planned behind him. Selfish and abusive!

The best darn 3yr irl campaign i ever been a part of started w/ my character running a steak thru the heart of the big bad vampire lord who was supposed to be the bad guy for the entire campaign. Instead of completely ignoring my reality-breaking natural rolls and cheating his way to life just to keep his bad guy and story alive, GM simply went w/ it and the game still lasted almost 3yrs irl.

Last month i ran my 1st champions scenario and the heroes just steamrolled thru the bad guys and the boss, I simply added more story, picked new better bad guys for the new story and new boss. They had fun kicking butt then and now still have the same amount of fun finally having a challenge. They're actually worried about being beaten in the current scenario, which is a real possibility, but if they do get beat, the story doesn't end and I will definitely wont be readjusting stats to make it easier or harder on them. The story will continue regardless, should they triumph they will be happy, should they fail, they will learn and will make their next encounter all the more sweeter should they be victorious then.

Yes players and GMs like a challenge, heck yeah, BUT adjusting on the fly simply means I shouldn't bother w/ character creation or making plans since you will already adjust on the spot to defeat or invalidate me or my choices on the spot no matter what I do or what I roll(s) I make.

P.S. no, am not accusing you specifically, I guess its could be considered a pet peeve and since I am in bed after surgery bored out of my wits I may have gone into a small rant. Also, I had to stand many years of abusive and unfair DMs to drive a mind flayer insane.

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6 minutes ago, Jayzon said:

P.S. no, am not accusing you specifically, I guess its could be considered a pet peeve and since I am in bed after surgery bored out of my wits I may have gone into a small rant. Also, I had to stand many years of abusive and unfair DMs to drive a mind flayer insane.

 

Thank goodness for that. I'm in a mood and would rip you a new one.

 

Or two.

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17 minutes ago, Jayzon said:

As a player personally I cannot stress enough how much I absolutely abhor how much I hate it when a GM custom alters a bad guy on the spot just to avoid the characters from whooping its arse! In the process you are not only punishing the players for having the good sense to create good characters, make interesting (to them at least) choices, but it also steals away and invalidates any 'lucky' rolls they may have gotten to make it to that point.

 

 

Let's assume the GM is here to tell a story _with_ you.  

 

Though mini-monologue here (not exactly a rant, because I've had a really bad day, culminating in a house fire (small one), so I just don't have the energy.

 

Moving on:

 

Everyone has a story of some nightmare GM who took the idea of a game as him versus the players.  Well I can't help it you had an idiot GM.  At some point, I think we all did.  Personally, I have never even understood the temptation: the GM has all the monsters, all the universe, all the powers, all the character points-- pretty much _everything_ on his side.  It's stupid to even let the adventure go any further than "as soon as you are all on the same continent, you can see the asteroid plummeting toward, just enough under light speed that it's visible, and you know the game is over, and I win."

 

 

So let's look at why the GM you trust _might_ do this:

 

1) the players are rolling great, and having a really good time with this particular combat.  Two opponents manage to have two STUN more than they should have and go another round.  Hurray!  We had fun, and realistically, we didn't even notice, but I really liked the way we worked together on that last maneuver!

 

2) The players are stymied, this last round of asses they are kicking are closer to the big bad than they seem to realize.  Since this entire adventure the players have decided "let's beat them unconscious, arrest them, and keep hunting for clues" will actually deprive them of the very clues they are looking for, why doesn't this one guy manage to stay awake long enough to make a comment or two that will put them on the right track?

 

3) There is something brewing behind the scenes on a timer, something they should have figured out two sessions ago, but they're being unusually thick since they decided to follow this track.  By now, the Doomsday Plan is scheduled to go start countdown, and they haven't even figured out it _exists_, let alone the whos and whats are behind it.  One of these guys needs to run away so he can be followed somewhere that will get them on the right path.  I can assume that this premature butt whoopin' has perhaps upset the plans, and the Doomsday Plot needs to pause countdown until some X I now have to fit into the plot so the whole city doesn't go blooey while these guys pat themselves on the back for reverting to stress-relieving thugs the last five sessions.  So he needs a couple of points of Stun left, and he needs to run away and be followed.

 

4)   I've opted not to continue the list, because there are just as many ways that players screw themselves and _need_ some tiny bit of help in the form of a bad guy who didn't go down when you think he should have.  I have instead opted to give an example from the conclusion of my youth group game (it wrapped up last week-- went four sessions into school season, which I was really trying to avoid, but it happened.  Fortunately, no one minded.  In fact, they all seemed more upset that it wrapped up at all than they did about it cutting into their homework.  :lol: ).

 

At any rate:  

 

the final boss is going to make good on his threats of killing every living thing in the city since his plot has been foiled.  ignoring two month's worth of clues (or roughly ten gaming sessions) that his geo-destabilizer _is_ ready and _does_ work and _will_ tear a rift through the city (and beyond) that will release a small ocean of magma and a cloud of absolute death that will travel across a couple of states before dispersing, the players have decided to instead wade through wave after wave of villains and thugs and go stomp  a new mud hole into Big Bad's anus.

 

It was, I am afraid, terribly, _terribly_ important that as Big Bad retreated to a hasty retreat a villain who, by the dice, was at -1 BODY and -13 Stun (he was the least unconscious super in this showdown) rouse himself awake behind the heroes (as they were paying close attention to all the active villains) and fire a shot over the heroes and directly at the Big Bad, missing him (but "accidentally" destroying the control panel nearest to him).  When two of the heroes turned to beat on him some more, he dropped to his knees and cried "You guys are too tough.  I thought we'd take you.  Stop him.  I have two kids.  Don't let him kill my kids...."

 

Then-- and _only_ then-- did it even _OCCUR_ to the players that "Holy cats!  He really _can_ take out the entire city!"  and buckle down to figure out the threat  (for what it's worth, the Big Bad then shot Mr. Second Thoughts straight through with his lava blast (Big Bad was a geomancer who had figured out how to build a super-gizmo to amplify his powers, but only briefly, so--- dead city, right?)

 

 

So folks can bitch and fuss all they want: sometimes you have to cheat to give the players a great game because they won't always let you do it straight by the dice.

 

 

Good night, all.

 

 

Duke

 

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Oh, and of course, there's the opposite problem:

 

The guys are really off their game tonight.  This group of baddies I put together is going to absolutely _kill_ them!  Hmm...   better take the baddies down a notch or two....  So the next combat round comes around, and "he doubles over your fist, wrapping around it like a meat glove and he chokes sputum in a trail behind you.  As your blow completes its arc, he spins half a circle on one heel and crumples over, whacking his head on the stone floor below.  He's not moving, there a small bit of blood matting the back of his hair, but it doesn't look serious, and though his breathing is shallow, it's regular unlabored....     All right, Zandar!  His overconfidence was his undoing, and he wasn't keeping his mental defenses up as he should have been!  Looks like your Mind Control got him at Level Three; anything he might consider doing anyway.  You guys _may_ have just turned the tide on this battle....."

 

 

It goes both ways, but it's still that thing you hate.

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15 minutes ago, Duke Bushido said:

 

 

 

That's a bit too Narrative,or Manipuative to me. I don't tell the players the enemy Stun and Body, but if I go over the total they drop like a laundry bag.  

12 minutes ago, Duke Bushido said:

 

 

Let's assume the GM is here to tell a story _with_ you.  

 

That may be the wrong assumption, for my games, because the "story" is the context for a "problem" for the players to solve.  Sometimes it's a tactical  problem. Sometimes it's a mystery.  Sometimes it's diplomacy. As a GM my entertainment it to watch the players solve the problem presented to them.  But people play for different reasons.

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18 minutes ago, Duke Bushido said:

...Though mini-monologue here (not exactly a rant, because I've had a really bad day, culminating in a house fire (small one), so I just don't have the energy...


I am sorry to hear that friend and I hope everyone is fine and can recover fast and well.

Now as for your examples, if it works for you and your group and everyone has fun its all fine and good and excellent. That's the bottom line: have fun!

As for me following your examples, if the city gets destroyed, oh well, doesn't mean I will auto-kill em, just means the world and story takes a different turn and they have to deal w/ the consequences regardless of their fault or not. The story just takes a different turn instead than the one I had expected (a welcome surprise to me as a GM most of the time). As a player, oh well, shoot, we kinda failed and the city got smashed, I just roll w/ it and actually look forward as this unexpected turn and learn from the experience.

If a fight is going badly for the players, it happens, the players I usually play w/ know when to actually call a retreat or use some teamwork tactics to stay alive and/or triumph. Me and my group actually prefer going into a battle have a real fear of death and having to make a new character, but its not for everyone (only 1 death in 1 year and due to extremely unlucky rolls in a row and some very very poor choices. Its not an extreme game; though we have had near deaths a few times).

At the end of the day I think we may agree that whatever works for whatever group one is a part of and everyone has fun IS the correct answer, regardless if it doesn't work for a completely different group elsewhere.

Again, I wish u best of luck and a speedy recovery from the accident.

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16 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

3) There is something brewing behind the scenes on a timer, something they should have figured out two sessions ago, but they're being unusually thick since they decided to follow this track.

 

On the final boss fight of the pathfinder campaign I was taking my HERO players through they were so caught up in the encounter that they had completely forgotten the thing they were supposed to do to make the encounter much easier.

 

We were down a player that day so 4 players vs the boss.  Two players are down hard (enough negative stun to be in the REC / hour range) and a third is going up and down like a yo-yo with single digit negative stuns.

 

I didn't have the heart to TPK them so I just paused and said, "Gents, remember that specific thing you got to take the impossible action to beat this guy?".

 

After that the players are all, "Do the thing!  Who has the magic ring!?  OMG - it's on the unconscious sorceress!".

 

They all lived, but it was chaos.

 

The DM ad-lib is really important in both directions.  Sometimes the encounter is anti-climactic without the boss living long enough to be scary or monologue a little.  Sometimes you have to make the boss take stupid actions or taunt unconscious foes instead of TPK'ing the party so that there's a chance for them to win.

 

Ultimately it's whether you're playing WITH the GM or AGAINST the GM.

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2 hours ago, ScottishFox said:

The DM ad-lib is really important in both directions.  Sometimes the encounter is anti-climactic without the boss living long enough to be scary or monologue a little.  Sometimes you have to make the boss take stupid actions or taunt unconscious foes instead of TPK'ing the party so that there's a chance for them to win.

 

Ultimately it's whether you're playing WITH the GM or AGAINST the GM.

 

 

I totally agree, and all counts.

 

But in the interest of completeness, and to address a specific important point Scott brought up, I need to add just a bit:

 

It's _not_ something I do a lot of.  As someone mentioned above, if the characters change the world by screwing up, well that can be fun, too, at least, in a long-running game with multiple arcs, etc, etc.

 

I do it when the players are about to really, _really_ screw up royally because they are not really in it: do something to pull them back into the game.  I do it when the conclusion of the entire campaign is in sight and everyone is totally stoked (especially if there are no plans to continue the world).  I do it because the players _wanted_ a challenge, and what I prepared for them didn't _quite_ meet it the way I hoped it would.  I am most likely to do it in a four-color (I think I have the right name for the "feel" I'm looking for) supers game or relatively optimistic Heroic game.  I do it most for new role players-- not new to HERO, per se, but new to role playing in general.

 

Above all else, though, I do it rarely.  But every now again, you have to stretch a bit to give the players what they want in the moment, and every other now and again, you have to stretch just a bit to save them from themselves, if only because you have nothing prepared for a post-nuclear setting.....

 

 

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3 hours ago, ScottishFox said:

 

On the final boss fight of the pathfinder campaign I was taking my HERO players through they were so caught up in the encounter that they had completely forgotten the thing they were supposed to do to make the encounter much easier.

 

 

Mr. Fox - what adventure path was it? Also how well- and how easy- was it adapted to HERO? I'd much prefer to run the things in HERO.

 

Coz I neeeeeeeed to get away from Pathfinder before I go effin nuts.

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13 hours ago, drunkonduty said:

 

Mr. Fox - what adventure path was it? Also how well- and how easy- was it adapted to HERO? I'd much prefer to run the things in HERO.

 

Coz I neeeeeeeed to get away from Pathfinder before I go effin nuts.

 

So far I've done Return of the Runelords (didn't enjoy it very much) and War for the Crown. 

 

This one was War for the Crown - which was great.

 

Lots of political intrigue, investigation with the occasional dungeon crawl or extended combat.  They really play up the reputation and political power aspects as well as some city building early on.

 

It is a great mix of things to do in a world that is much more than a dungeon crawl.  I highly recommend that particular adventure.

 

Luckily I do simple math very quickly in my head so I generated some formulas for converting the creatures on the fly and it worked out pretty well.

 

 

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9 hours ago, ScottishFox said:

 

So far I've done Return of the Runelords (didn't enjoy it very much) and War for the Crown. 

 

This one was War for the Crown - which was great.

 

Lots of political intrigue, investigation with the occasional dungeon crawl or extended combat.  They really play up the reputation and political power aspects as well as some city building early on.

 

It is a great mix of things to do in a world that is much more than a dungeon crawl.  I highly recommend that particular adventure.

 

Luckily I do simple math very quickly in my head so I generated some formulas for converting the creatures on the fly and it worked out pretty well.

 

 

 

Thanks for the recommendation. In the past I've looked at War for the Crown and was wondering if it was worth getting and converting.

 

I guess your players have no problem playing HERO instead of Pathfinder? I suspect that some of my players will be reluctant to learn a new system.

 

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15 hours ago, drunkonduty said:

 

Thanks for the recommendation. In the past I've looked at War for the Crown and was wondering if it was worth getting and converting.

 

I guess your players have no problem playing HERO instead of Pathfinder? I suspect that some of my players will be reluctant to learn a new system.

 

I DM'd 5th edition for them for a couple years first.

 

Then I got them hooked on the HERO.

 

Nobody wants to GM HERO, but most of my players enjoy the great amount of freedom that comes with character creation and a system where armor behaves in a more intuitive way (not harder to hit, harder to injure, slower, bulkier, heavier).

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I have been known to fudge the odd roll or damage for dramatic effect but my players know that I will not avoid a TPK if their gameplay "deserves" it. 

 

My last TPK was in the Sunless Citadel adventure for D&D 3.5, the party had ground their way through all the politics above and entered the dark druid's lair beside the Gulthias Tree.  It is a great story but they were now focussed on bearding the druid (though they had not quite worked out that is what he was) they ignored the numerous rooms with books and stuff in it and even avoided the recipes of weedkiller that I had also put in there to make their life easier.

 

In the final battle with what were obvious undead, the cleric failed to try a single turn and they went for a straight head on battle.  I captured them first when they could have been killed, gave them a second chance and they still made the same mistakes.  They all died.

 

I then gave the players a choice of semi-revenant characters, their original character after it had been rescued from the Gulthias Tree - a wooden man (with some damage resistance and a weakness to fire) - or new characters with abut 90% of the XP of the original.  Half of them went for something new, half for their originals.

 

I think the players need to know you are willing to wipe the floor with them to give adventures that element of risk and danger that you need to make decisions relevant.  All I need now is to believe that doing this encourages them to learn a better way! 🙂

 

Doc

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I played through Sunless Citadel last year. We didn't have much trouble with the final fight, despite having an under-powered party (a rogue, a druid, and a samurai. Samurai are basically a fighter with fewer feats.) What saved us was the druid had used an Animal Friendship spell on the big mama rat on level one. She did about half the killing by herself. Love ol' mama rat. We also had Meepo with us. After all the adventuring was over we got him a job as live in barman at our local.

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There was a thread-- was it the 4e incarnation of this board?  Was it the old Red October?---

 

anyway, there was a thread people were posting their worst player cock-ups, and Doc's commentary on TPK reminded me of one of my favorites from my own tables.  

 

Short version:  Sci-Fi. Space Opera-ish.  Players all on the run, trying to make it to an NPC who can get them off the station.  As the sneak through the catacombs (station is on alert; security is hunting them), the luck up and see the back of a guard ahead, standing in an intersection, looking three different ways in turn (he came from the same direction the players did, and assumes that the corridor behind him has thus been "secured.")  Instantly Player 1pulls the other two close to him and activates his force field belt and prepares to back away.  Simultaneously Player 2 "My blaster is already out; I fire it!"

 

Okay.  You all take 3d6 Killing.

 

"What?  Joey's got his forcefield up!"

 

"It clearly didn't help."

 

(other players are super p.o.ed, and giving him grief).

 

"Well did I hit him?"  (totally not comprehending what he's now being told for the fourth time).

No; Harley; you didn't hit him.  You _couldn't_ have hit; you didn't do enough enough damage to even penetrate the survival field!

 

"Wha-- Okay, fine!  I chuck the incendiary grenade at him!"

 

:rofl:

 

 

Oh yeah.  TPK......

 

 

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