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[Let's read] Dragon magazine - Part two: Gimme some Moore

So, how am I doing so far?


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Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
I bet I know which article from issue 109 you're thinking of. :)
Actually, just a reference to Dragon's precusor, the 7 issues of The Strategic Review :). Now I'm wondering... the dwarf beard article?
Ha. This is also why when there is objective morality as a fact of the universe, I prefer it's standards impossibly stringent for humans to live up to perfectly, and/or just plain alien, as the cosmic beings that decide what morality is are not human, and have standards informed by that cosmic perspective on things. The more troublesome they are, the more interesting the conflicts between what is objectively Right, what is culturally right, and what would be the most practical option become. When there are several axes to the moral compass, and all have their benefits and drawbacks, so which one to prioritize is not a foregone conclusion, it becomes particularly pleasing to me in terms of world design.
That's why I like "For King and Country". There's still alignment, with all the spells and attendant trappings. Defining alignment using messy human nationalism, religion, and personal morality allows a lot of free reign.

With absolutism, I tend to prefer the idea that the division between Good and Evil in D&D is objective, but created by committee. The various gods, pantheons, religions, religious traditions, and so on are powered by belief. The cumulative belief of humans and other races across the planes is boiled down into a simple on/off button, which is horribly contradictory and doesn't fit particularly well into any one faith's system of morality. But there you have it. Good is defined this way, by consensus; and evil, like this. And all that magic or theurgy dings when it senses one of the polar opposites. People can be wicked, and still register as "Good" as long as they mostly follow the rules; break one single important rule on the other hand, and you're tarred with the "Evil" brush. To jump ahead a couple editions, take the ur-priest. Stealing magic from the gods is Evil, even if you're the most saintly person in every single other way, so by definition all members of the prestige class are Evil. Though being Evil doesn't in any way proscribe your actions. You can still be nice, and rage and wail against the unfair standards of the cosmos. On the other hand, you can be pretty mean and vile, and as long as you only butcher the races with "Evil" written on their barcodes, your patented paladin's halo won't lose any of its tarnish because those are the approved genocides. Learn to play the game, and profit.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 101: September 1985

part 3/4

Creature catalog III: Another 16 page set of new monsters is this month's centerpiece. A whole bunch of writers, including many of our usual suspects. What kind of trends will we see in them this time. Good or bad, direct or sneaky, mechanically sound or not. We shall see.

Alcor are arctic lizards that snowboard on their specially shaped tails. Yeah, it's as goofy as it sounds, especially looking at the illustration. That quirk aside, they're just another basic low-mid level humanoid race to harass your players with. If you're going to cold climes, they're a perfectly decent lizard man alternative.

Avari are bat monsters from the lower planes. They aren't particularly powerful as planar monsters go, and have suffered for it, being kicked around by Deamonkind and relegated to obscure places. Which is an interesting take on it and explains why they're rare. They're still scary enough to do some serious wreaking of havoc if summoned, so don't take them too lightly or extend them any sympathy just because they're currently the underdogs.

Automatons are exactly what you would expect them to be, robots constructed by wizards or "scientists". They're primarily designed as servants rather than combatants, but are hardly useless in a fight. Suffers from a very goofy illustration.

Bogeymen are another creature with a very definite comedic edge, that do exactly what you'd expect them too. Not particularly dangerous in actual combat, they can still be immensely annoying, and ruin a good nights sleep.

Burbur are immensely useful to dungeoneers because they eat Slimes and Molds, and are immune to their nasty special powers. Keep a jarful of them, and then let them out whenever you encounter some of the weapon immune, equipment destroying bastards. It'll save you a lot of hassle, and they make the D&D underground ecology make more sense. I approve on multiple levels.

Creeping pits are an even more brilliant example of the deranged D&D dungeon ecology. Nearly impossible to destroy, they're likewise largely unable to harm you directly, but can be massively inconvenient to deal with, (Unless there are stairs nearby, hee) especially when combined with other monsters. Definitely one for the sadistic and inventive GM.

Dracones are another emergent monster, produced by the union of a snake and a dead Fighter. (Err, yes. Hmm.) They have a whole bunch of plot hooks embedded in their description, and are another monster straight combat won't get rid of for good. You can definitely get more out of talking to them.

Forchoreai are magical stags from the beastlands. They have a whole wild hunt thing going where they don't really die when hunted. They're a decent challenge, and you can also get one as an ally for your druid or ranger. Nicely thematic.

Gargorians are extra badass versions of gargoyles. With 12HD, 6 attacks per round, and regeneration, they're good straight-up combat for your low name level team, or a boss encounter with some minions for a slightly higher level party.

Gu'armori are magical suits of armor that explode when you hit them. Given their fragility, they're more a nuisance than anything, both to their makers and the people encountering them. I'm not very impressed.

Hamadryads are another more powerful variant of a common monster. They have the standard charming capabilities, plus a whole load of spell-like abilities, and aren't limited to a small area like their lesser cousins. Mess with nature while they're around at your peril.

Hawkdragons are a self-explanatory magical hybrid. They can be trained, but have exceedingly stinky breath. Oh well, if nobles will pay ridiculous prices for caviar, you can probably make a decent amount of money training these guys up for them.

Lhiannan Shee are one of those delightful mythological monsters. They seek out handsome men with musical talent, and slowly suck their lifeforce away. Much potential for intrigue and intraparty conflict here.

Mantimera take the ridiculous hybridization of the chimera and further cross it with the manticore. Apart from firing tail spikes, they're pretty much the same as the other chimera variants, annoying things that go raar and ravage the countryside. No great inspirations here.

Metal mimics are another powered up variant of a normal monster. As they can imitate a wider range of materials than regular mimics, they're great for inducing paranoia. Never trust an unguarded treasure pile.

Orpsu are decidedly odd looking gliding bloodsuckers. They're a weak but flavorful creature that make a good alternative to stirges, bats, giant centipedes, and other verminous low level monsters.

Pilfer vines are another amusingly named and behaving thing that does exactly what you would expect it to do. Intelligent plants that steal your shinys? Sign me up for putting some of those around my dungeon!

Righteous clay (these names just get more and more amusing) drops on you and STEALS YOUR SOOOOOOOUUUUUULLLLL! They can imitate sounds like an organic stereo too. Insane genius. I'm loving this.

Sea giants are, yeah, giant variants on merpeople. They're big, fairly smart, and many of them are quite magically capable. One of those monsters who's effectiveness will vary widely depending on how they're played, and may be both friend and foe.

Tener are thieving humanoids from pandemonium with definite arachnoid traits. With powerfull class abilities, lots of innate spell-like powers, and rather more physical power than you would expect from a creature of this type, they are pretty dangerous. Well, if you go plane-hopping, everything is scarier than on the prime material.

Thendar are near immortal humanoids from the astral plane who look rather like a slimmed down galactus. They do seem rather stereotypical, with their ennui with life in general and tendency to impart wisdom in exchange for a new story. Not very interesting.

Tundra beasts are another creature with a self-explanatory name, as they can camouflage themselves as part of the landscape and then jump out to eat you. Hopefully they'll eat the snowboarding lizard-men as well. At least they're covering a wide range of climates.

Wind throwers are badass relatives of dwarves that have the power to manipulate wind, making them virtually immune to missile weapons, and able to use them to enhance their own ranged capabilities. They'll definitely be a nasty surprise for people expecting the standard heavy armour and battleaxe variety dwarf.

Yale are another goofy pseudonatural animal incorporating a stags body, a boars head, and sword-like horns. Despite being pretty tough in combat, they're a favoured prey of huntsmen. Well, it's not sporting to fight a monster that can't fight back.

Definitely a very mixed bag this time, with both monsters I love, and dull, derivative stuff. All the levels between starting and low teens are well catered for, and there's plenty of variety in habitats, alignments, and fighting styles. The overall quality control probably isn't quite as good as the last one, but there's more genuinely funny stuff, and I can see myself using quite a few of the monsters in here.
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
Yale are medieval monsters that fart fire and are just as mythological as the manticore (ie people actually believed they existed).
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 101: September 1985

part 4/4

Coming attractions gets a double page spread for the first time. Guess they're really gearing up to sell sell sell in bulk this holiday season.
AD&D gets T 1-4, the temple of elemental evil. Belated for six bloody years since the first installment, we finally get the remaining three all at once, long after any first time round players would have given up and gone on to other adventures. Was it worth the wait? If it can be judged by the number of remakes and references it's got, the answer is very definitely yes. It also gets DL9: Dragons of deceit. Our intrepid heroes have to sneak into the city of Sanctuary to find the secret to defeating the draconians.
Speaking of dragonlance, the first novel trilogy is coming to an end with Dragons of Spring dawning. However, a cash cow like this cannot go unwrung, so there's going to be a second trilogy following it up next year. Will they be able to maintain the magic?
Dragonlance also branches out to their Super EndlessQuest gameline with The Soulforge. Play Raistlin's test of high sorcery. Will it turn out like the official fiction? Only you can know for sure.
D&D gets XS2: thunderdelve mountain. A solo adventure starring a dwarf? Okay then. It also gets AC7, the player masters screen. Tired of your DM geting to hide all their stuff from you. Turnaround is fair play, and you get lots of helpfull charts at your disposal as well to reduce page flipping.
And in another case of accesorising, we have The art of the D&D game. Your basic coffee table book, I suspect many of the magazine's better cover pics will make their way into there. Much mehness.
Top secret's companion finally comes out after having been teasered in the magazine for some time. Lots of new rules, plus an adventure, this ought to freshen up your game a bit.
The Marvel superheroes RPG gets MHAC7: Concrete jungle, and MH8: Faultline. A book full of characters and another adventure.
Amazing Stories branches out from the magazine to sell full-on novels. The 4D funhouse and Jaguar! are our first two offerings. Anyone read these? How were they?
Conan gets CN2: Conan the mercenary. Our mighty thewed friend winds up having to save the world, because he's being paid too. He's a hero anyway. Where will his wanderings take him next?
Indiana jones gets IJ6: The 4th nail. Search for the titular nail from the cross and hope Ben ali Aloob doesn't beat you too it. Their current love of fold-up cardboard figures continues, with a whole bunch included.
Our solo adventure book series include one on one gamebook 3: Revenge of the red dragon. Endless quest book 29: Tower of darkness. And Crimson crystal book 4: Stop that witch! If you can't find a gaming group, that should tide you over to next month.
We also have another gaming related book. The game buyers price guide shows how much you can expect all your old out-of print stuff to sell for. If you have a mint copy of the 1st printing OD&D boxed set, you can get quite a bit for it. One for the historian and speculator.
And finally, we have a cancellation. Seems like there wasn't enough demand for Proton Fire, so they've pulled it. After going all the way through the development process? That's gotta waste quite a bit of money. I smell the ugly hand of politics behind this. Anyone have any more info on this odd little turnup for the books.

Fiction: And adventuring To ... by Brenda Gates Spielman. Adventuring is like being a musician. Sure there may be disgustingly rich, famous and talented people at the top, but for a low level adventurer, things are pretty unglamorous, and you risk your life daily for rewards that really don't seem worth it. A story that feels very much like a low level D&D game, with clearly visible classes, spells and defined monsters. Not sure if that's a good thing or not. Guess I'll have to file this one under filler, as it's neither particularly good or bad.

The Ares section has a particularly good cover this issue. If they play their cards right, they might get a Sci-fi art coffee table book as well. Roger is rather chipper in the editorial as well. Seems promising.

Starships and star soldiers: Seems like they're continuing their push to get wargaming back on the map. Having produced the Battlesystem for D&D, now they want to try and give sci-fi wargaming properties a boost. This article lists a bunch of current systems that may do the job, and encourages us, the readers, to write in if we want to see TSR and the magazine do more mini's stuff and wargaming in general. Yeah, no agenda at all here. Unfortunately, your wish is not going to be granted. So sad to see a hobby on life-support, and people trying to resuscitate it. How long are they going to keep trying? I guess this is another thing I'll discover as we go along.

Sorry, wrong dimension: Ah, interdimensional travel. Not a very different topic to the alternate timelines one they had fairly recently. Thankfully this takes a quite different tack, giving us a quick way to easily quantify how each alternate dimension differs from earth, using a few random rolls, or not, if you already have a good idea in mind. One of those cases where I've already seen several variants on the topic, and it's interesting to see how different people do it differently. You could definitely go into a lot more detail on this one.

The marvel-phile: Beta ray bill! Sif. (no, she doesn't deserve an exclamation mark. ) We return to Thor's extended family. Another pair of rather badass characters get stats and histories. Definitely another case where there is no way this could have happened in backstory. Jeff also takes the time to congratulate Roger on becoming a dad and make a ludicrous naming suggestion for the kid. Just a normal day at the office, exchanging a bit of banter, doing a bit of work. Funny to think that kid's an adult now. How time passes.

Out of the sun: Gamma world's article this month is on the empire of the sun, aka oriental gamma world, and their giant mechas. :rolleyes: Why am I not surprised in the slightest. Just another bit of goofiness to throw into the melting pot. Also another reminder that OA is immanent, and general interest in that area is on the rise. Once again Jim is trying to expand the scope of his his game, with mixed success. This may or may not be a crossover too far, depending on if your want Gundam in your postapocalyptic game or not. Whether you object to the premise and power creep (300d8 HD? Ouch. Not so much creep as quantum leap.) or not, it's still a pretty entertaining and well written piece, with nice fiction. Another thing that I probably wouldn't put in my game, but have no objection to them covering.

The stellar Diocese: Clergy character paths for Traveller? Is there no end to the number of career paths they can give us? I guess not. Like new classes, there'll always be demand for this, even if mechanically they're not that different from current options. And lets face it, spreading the Word is a great excuse to travel to new places, meet weird and wonderful aliens, and meddle in their affairs. Like the criminal career path they had recently, you can definitely see the plot potential in having one of these guys along. This also gives a bunch of sample religions for you to follow. Once again they've provided stuff that is both amusing and easily insertable into your game. Traveller has certainly built up a lot of options over the years. Now all they need is a wizard career path and they'll have the full D&D party covered. ;)

Teenage mutant ninja turtles! Heroes in a half-shell, Turtle power! Official palladium RPG! My god, was it really that early? This is years before the cartoon. Were the original creators gamers, because they certainly seem to have taken plenty of personal interest in this. Fascinating to discover.

Wormy reminds us storm giants are absolute badasses virtually every monster should be afraid of, even dragons. Snarfquest gives a so far minor character a serious upgrade. Dragonmirth gives us lots of giant stuff in various scenarios.

While certainly not as spectacular as their recent celebratory issues, this has still proven quite an interesting issue. Somehow, once again, it's wound up with me breaking my own record for size of review, despite the smaller page count. Guess having lots of subdivisions within the larger articles'll do that for you. Lots of stuff that you can put easily in an existing game as well. Well, since most people will be established players by now, you don't want to have to start a whole new game every time someone comes in with a cool new idea. Just how much more diverse can D&D's melting pot get? Quite a lot, I'm wagering. The real question is, how quickly.
 

committed hero

nude lamia mech
Validated User
Top secret's companion finally comes out after having been teasered in the magazine for some time. Lots of new rules, plus an adventure, this ought to freshen up your game a bit.
It contained a free-form adventure that was surprisingly well-written compared to some of the earlier thinly-veiled dungeon crawls. IIRC there were Nazis and ninjas to boot.

The marvel-phile: Beta ray bill! Sif. (no, she doesn't deserve an exclamation mark. ).
No fair - I always thought she got short shrift, considering that owing to Bill's origin we might have seen a Kree or Skrull Thor. Well, maybe a Shi-ar Thor....Gladiator/Thor would've come in handy against Dark Phoenix!
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 102: October 1985

part 1/4

99 pages. Once again we Kim bemoans how annoying the press are, painting gamers as a bunch of weirdos who spend all their time dressed up in fantasy gear and talking pseudo-medieval bollocks, when they aren't living in their parents basements invoking satan. They're just trying to get the most interesting story. The fact that bears little resembelance to the truth is just because we're not actually interesting enough. Don't sweat it too much. It happens to everyone else as well. This is another reason why the internet is so great. It allows you to easily bypass the big media outlets and talk to real people around the world about a topic. It's no wonder we're so much more cynical when it's much easier to see through the bullshit, but they keep producing it anyway. But I seem to have digressed. Lets get back to the issue at hand.

In this issue:

Letters: A letter asking how the training rules in issue 97 work. They are designed to slow you down somewhat. This was intentional. We want you to spend more time at low levels, so you don't see how much it breaks down at higher levels.
A request for Dragonchess, asking if it will be for sale soon. Unfortunately not. They couldn't figure out how to make it cheap enough for the mass market.
A letter from someone who noticed the numbering slip-up in issue 65. Very ancient history by now. But mistakes like that will live in ignomy forever. What are you gonna do.
A rather amusing question. What happens if a character playing through The city beyond the gate finds and reads a D&D book. Kim deflects the question with a joke. Guess you'll have to deal with the recursion as you see fit.
Finally, we get a bunch of Dragonchess errata. Curse you, unclear explanations. Once again, we see that Gary needs a firmer editor to turn his cool ideas to clear reality.

The forum: Dan Fejes points out that the uberpaladin vs red dragon fight in issue 99 would have gone rather differently if you'd remembered to make item saving throws for all their stuff. One breath weapon would wipe out a sizable fraction of their toys, and even if they survived, they wouldn't be as twinked as they used to be. You aren't playing the monsters cleverly enough, or taking advantage of their full power. No wonder you can't challenge your players.
Anthony Ragan gets rather heated about the idea of the druid/ranger, and how dumb it is. This makes no sense and messes up the themes of the game. Cut it out now! Hee.
Carl Seglem has a pretty simple yet profound statement. There is life after Monty Haul. Come back to the game you know.
Chris Sheldon shares the sad story of how his game fizzled out when he tried to rein back the munchkins. Already D&D is starting to lose quite a lot of the casual players to the next fad.
Mark Permann presents us with a horrible moral dilemma. What should the alignment consequences be of a bunch of adventurers showing up on earth, using magic openly and shattering our belief that we are alone in the universe. Even if they don't engage in mass slaughter, they've still completely overturned a culture. Man, that's a tricky one. I can see justified arguments for all sorts of positions on this topic. I hope we see some more on this in the next few issues.

Realms of role playing: Ha. Gary thinks that too much attention is being paid to roleplaying, and not enough to the game part these days, and it's time the pendulum swung back the other way. Considering how undeveloped the settings and characterisations are still compared to even 2nd edition, and other games of the 90's, I find this very amusing. He's definitely not keen on immersing yourself in your character and their everyday likes, dislikes and behaviours to the extent that the goal pursuing aspect of the game gets forgotten. It's not that it's bad advice, but it's obvious that his idea of a good balance between the roleplaying and the game part is rather more skewed towards the game aspect than many of the new writers. If you think it's annoying now, just you wait and see what the next decade has to offer. We also get a bit of cross-promotion. For those of you who want to see more stories of Gord, buy Amazing magazine. After all, I can't fill Dragon up with fiction to the detriment of it's intended purpose. So you'll have to buy all our properties if you want to get the full picture of what we're up too. This is definite evidence that supplement bloat and scattering metaplot through multiple books would probably still have happened had he been in charge during the 90's. Overall, this is another entertaining, but not entirely pleasing contribution from the father of the game.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 102: October 1985

part 2/4

All about gully dwarves: Looks like Krynn has given Roger a whole new seam to mine. Unfortunately, this means putting up with the second bloody comic relief race, gully dwarves. Still, if that means we'll be getting ones on irda and minotaurs soon, I can sit through this. At least they're not as disruptive to a party as kender. Of course, most players won't want to play them because they have crap ability scores, no special powers, and are not very glamourous either. This means that in terms of not pulling their weight in a heavily optimized party, they're probably even more troublesome. So hopefully only people who really want to play them for roleplay reasons and can handle their quirks without pissing the rest of the players off actually will. This is one area I'm particularly interested in hearing about peoples actual play experiences, precisely because as written, they do seem so troublesome and unappealing. Did anyone manage to transcend that? If so, how?

A collection of canines: Doggies! This article gives stats for lots of variants on this species, and is essentially an ecology of article in disguise. This is a typical Stephen Inniss article, a well researched expansion on an already existing part of the game, with fairly decent crunch along with the fluff. We get revisions of existing stats based on more intensive study of how these creatures compare to people, talk on evolution and domestication of wild varieties of canines, and some stuff on jackals and hyenas as well. These are assisted by some pretty nice illustrations which remind me of science books from this era. This is one of his more pleasing contributions, avoiding the dullness he can slip into when he gets too interested in little details. He's certainly continuing to earn his place here.

Elvira officialy endorses the Chill game with a set of adventures, Evenings of Terror. Are we seeing the start of the goth and roleplaying scenes intermingling that would reach its zenith with the world of darkness? That's certainly a pleasing sign from my point of view.

Nine wands of wonder: And here comes the most regular of all our regulars with another Forgotten Realms piece. Elminster starts using magic casually as part of his conversations. I'm guessing it's not long now until he's revealed in all his, er, glory. Anyway, this month's topic is magical wands. So we get nine of them. The Wands of Magical mirrors, of Hammerblows, of Banishment, of Armory, of Darkness, of Displacement, of Obliteration, of Teeth, and of Whips. While many of them are quirky, there's none of the cursed, or partly cool, partly damn inconvenient powers that many of his previous items have possessed. Guess even he falls victim to the desire for mechanical superiority and making things more convenient in actual play. Or maybe it's that FR wizards are quite happy to put conditional drawbacks on their companions equipment like swords and shields, due to their evil sense of humour, but want the stuff they actually keep for themselves to work smoothly. In any case, it's another well written piece, full of stuff you can put in your game easily enough, while still developing the Realms as a setting. I continue to approve of this.

Villains and vigilantes: Another superhero game now out. They do seem to be rather common back then. Trouble is, how can you compete with the two big official licenses?

Coming attractions: Oriental adventures is occupying pole position in the promotions field this month. We went years without seeing the basics of AD&D changed, and now we get two big hardbacks within a few months of each other, introducing huge amounts of new classes, items and stuff. This is a quite substantial change in developmental policy. AD&D is also getting DL10: Dragons of dreams. The epic adventure continues as they free the elven kingdom of the silvanesti from the literal nightmares that have engulfed it.
D&D also gets a pair of adventures. M1: Into the maelstrom takes you into space to save the world against an incredible evil. You know you're playing with the big boys now. If you haven't quite made it that far you can instead play CM6: Where chaos reigns. Still pretty epic, with the fate of the world once again resting in the PC's hands, and time-travelling involved. Honestly, can't we have a good high level adventure that doesn't involve saving the world? It should be big enough and ugly enough to take care of itself by this stage.
Gord's first novel is out. Saga of old city is set in greyhawk, and shows the start of the eponymous rogues rise to fame. Gary already has a quadrilogy planned out. Ok then.
Star frontiers is also doing pretty well for itself this month, with SFAC4: Zebulon's guide to frontier space (With apologies to David Cook), and SFAD5: Dark side of the moon. (With apologies to Pink Floyd) An expansion and an adventure. How will they fare in the harsh environment of the modern market?
The marvel superheroes RPG gets MHAC8: Weapons locker. Gear, gear and more gear. Don't feel your heroes are super enough with just their innate powers. Here's where you should go then.
The Amazing stories imprint releases two books this month. Number 3 is Portrait in blood by Mary L. Kirchoff. Number 4 is Nightmare universe by Gene DeWeese and Robert Coulson. Yeah, there's a definite horror theme here, be it gothic or sci-fi. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Endless quest is up to book 30: The fireseed. Oh no! You've been kidnapped by pirates. You must escape! How will you accomplish this?
And finally, we have two new SPI brand wargames. Barbarossa is a strategic level game covering the Russian front of WWII. An epic battle covering 5 years and half a continent. How will it go this time round? Terrible Swift Sword is a regimental level american civil war game. Now updated with the latest in civil war research, it's now more historically accurate than ever! Mmmkay then.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Villains and vigilantes: Another superhero game now out. They do seem to be rather common back then. Trouble is, how can you compete with the two big official licenses?
By being first. V&V was actually released in 1979. The Marvel and DC games didn't come out until 1984 and 1985. Superhero 2044 is actually the earliest (1977), but by all reports it was pretty poor. V&V didn't have any real competition until Champions, in 1981.
 
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