#RPGaDAY Day 07: What was your most impactful RPG session?
  • #RPGaDAY Day 07: What was your most impactful RPG session?


    It’s August and that means that the annual #RPGaDAY ‘question a day’ is here to celebrate “everything cool, memorable and amazing about our hobby.” This year we’ve decided to join in the fun and will be canvassing answers from the ENWorld crew, columnists and friends in the industry to bring you some of our answers. We hope you’ll join in, in the comments section, and share your thoughts with us too… So, without further ado, here’s Day 7 of #RPGaDAY 2017!



    #RPGaDAY Question 7: What was your most impactful RPG session?


    Michael J Tresca: I played D&D on a camping trip with a friend and her three kids this summer. Along with my two kids (six players in total), we played through the entirety of an adventure I designed, wrote, and illustrated, from maps to paper miniatures. The monsters were made of candy, and the kids were eager to defeat the monsters because then they were rewarded with the appropriate candy. It was an epic game across three days, and because it rained on and off, we kept the kids busy when they couldn't play outside. It's the first time I've ever designed every element of an adventure exactly the way I wanted to (a DM's dream) and the effort paid off. Everyone had a blast!


    Angus Abranson: It’s hard to say what have been my most impactful RPG sessions. There have been highlights, and lowlights, but I’m not sure any have really changed the way I approach the next game in a major way. I could say my first ever RPG session, playing Keep on the Borderlands with my cousins was impactful as it launched me into not only a fantastic hobby but also my professional life and has introduced me to new friends from all over the world. The RPG session that probably had most ‘impact’ though is probably a charity event we did back in 1987. On the back of the incredibly successful DragonAid in 1986 (think the BandAid concerts but with a record breaking non-stop RPG session) a group of us decided to run DragonLancealot – a 50 hour non-stop RPG session playing through part of the Dragonlance Adventure series for charity (Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London). We ran a couple of weekend events to both get used to playing for long continuous amounts of time and also to trim down applicants to get to a core team of 8 or 10 players, including a DM and a substitute DM if the main one crashed during the event. Following the official Guinness Book of Records Guidelines of being allowed a 5 minute break for every hour played (during which time we could leave the table) and only being able to pass notes to the ‘support team’ for food, drink and medicine a hotel in Victoria donated a room for us to use and we were off! It was great, albeit very tiring fun and we raised thousands for charity. I sadly didn’t make the 50 hours as I ate something that disagreed with me and ended up bailing around the 36 hour mark.

    Wade Dyer (Design Ministries: Fragged Empire): This actually happened earlier this year. I was GMing a game for a gothic horror RPG I was working on where I had a short campaign planned that would involve my players tracking down a mad-lord who had been serving a Fiend. But on the very first session my players went off the rails: murdered a person (who was justifiably evil) in front of small crowd of people at a party, kidnapped the lady of the house, drenched the lady in sewage and made her walk home in the middle of the night.
    I went home fairly angry after that session. Not because my plans had been messed up, but because a particular player had (possibly) ruined the fun of the night for everyone else. I was tempted to have the city authorities capture and prosecute the wayward player, but instead I let him get away with his actions and I turned the lady that they had kidnapped into the main villain of the campaign. This NPC ‘hated’ the players with the rage of a thousand suns for what they had done to her and her friend. In the end, this was one of the best short campaign I had ever run because I made it all about the players choices.

    Lynne Hardy (Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks; Achtung! Cthulhu): That would be a Company of Crimson LRP, where the character my character was falling in love with murdered his sister because she'd become a vampire and then promptly went insane with the guilt. Total party meltdown as the sister had been a ref plant in the party for a very long time with no one suspecting a thing.


    Michael E. Webb (Alliance Game Distributors, Game Trade Magazine): I was 11 and had just discovered Red Box D&D. My best friend and I were being run through an adventure his older brother prepared for us. But he had us involved in crafting the story as well. "You enter the old manor house - there is a fireplace ahead of you in a great room, a large chair facing away from you. What do *you* notice in the room?"
    It got us thinking descriptively instead of just absorbing his descriptions. And prepped us both to be better GM's in the future.
    (I said "the fire is roaring, but there is no heat")

    T.R. Knight (Freelance Editor): The most impactful RPG session in my gaming hobby has to be the first time I DMed for my wife and daughters. I was nervous running an adventure for them, but really enjoyed the evening. Little did I know then that it would spawn a passion for RPGs in one of my daughters who is now running her own D&D 5e campaign for her friends, draws gaming inspired artwork for shirts, and loves to spend time chatting with me about adventure and campaign writing.


    Uli Lindner (Space: 1889; Clockwork Publishing): A night of Das Schwarze Auge early in our first year of gaming, during which we had no adventure to begin with for the first time, but still loads of fun. It taught as all about how to improvise.

    Mike Lafferty (BAMF Podcast; Fainting Goat Games): I was in a pretty dysfunctional D&D campaign in the mid 90s (pre 3rd Ed). One night after a session I was talking with another player and we were surprised to find out we were both feeling the same way – that the game was off the rails and no one was having fun anymore.
    It was eye-opening in a lot of ways to realize that it wasn’t just me and that there must be a better way to roleplay. Striving to avoid sessions like that has informed my inclinations as a player, GM and game designer.


    Marc Langworthy (Modiphius; Red Scar): Again, there are so many to choose from! Back in the days when Vampire the Masquerade 2nd Ed was fairly new, a good friend ran a game of Hunters Hunted that had us playing mortals hunting the vampires. The entire campaign was great fun – and deadly - although one particular session stands out; a high-speed car chase led to us actually pulling a sofa and some chairs into the middle of the room and acting out the drama right there and then. No dice, just pure storytelling and reaction.

    Stephanie McAlea (Stygian Fox Publishing; The Things We Leave Behind): A game of Blade Runner (BRP homebrew) where a replicant who wanted to sing one last song plucked the heart strings of the PCs to such a degree that they didn’t want to ‘retire’ him. One player
    had tears in his eyes.

    Rich Lescouflair (Alligator Alley Entertainment; Esper Genesis 5E): During my longest running Shadowrun game, my players were in an alternate timeline where the tiny decisions they made in the beginning of the campaign were changed. They were so amazed at how much of an impact they had on the world, it made them play the rest of the game with deep regard for each of their decisions.

    Mike Myler (EN Publishing, Legendary Games): Robo-Hitler on Crucible City. It cannot be forgotten. I am still humbled by it.

    Federico Sohns (Nibiru RPG): I'm almost always the narrator in my RPG sessions. Often, the most impactful ones would be those in which a character dies. Character death is something that many groups try to stay away from, due to very valid reasons. With that said, generally, the people I play with see characters and their development as just part of a greater plot, adding to the overall drama of the story. If a character death can be pulled off in a very dramatic way, it can prove to be one of the most immersive and significant experiences on the table. Of course, your job as a storyteller is to make it so, and to do it in a meaningful way.


    Martin Greening (Azure Keep, Ruma: Dawn of Empire): Everyone has their “best roleplaying session ever” stories. For my group, it was the one time we played Castles & Crusades. Being a group of power gamers, most of us, including the perennial dwarf player, chose to play half-orcs since they get +2 Strength. One player chose to play a human bard, who was the only one with enough Intelligence to speak more than their native language. Fortunately, the bard chose to speak Orcish as well. Two things made this session truly impactful and special to us. Somewhere along the line we decided that Orcish = Spanish. No idea where that came from, but the only word the half-orcs knew in Common (English) was “Menemy” (enemy). This in and of itself led to some interesting hijinks, but the real kicker for the session was all due to the Castles & Crusades character sheet, at the bottom of which was a Last Will and Testament. During character creation, we decided the bard was the father of all three half-orcs. What we didn’t realize until about half-way through the session when another player glanced at the bard’s character sheet, he wrote as his will “Tell their mothers I’m sorry.”

    Simon Brake (Stygian Fox): An afternoon set aside to play a Call of Cthulhu scenario, with my phone on hand to play slow suspenseful music, and then to switch to more ominous music once the investigation stepped up a gear, and then to more fast paced music when the investigators were forced to run away from the creatures in the woods. We had the lighting dimmed just right, and the pacing of the story went nicely, with the investigation slowly revealing more and more disturbing clues, until eventually they confronted the great evil. One investigator flung himself into swirling rapids to escape, one investigator was hunted down and disappeared, whilst the third investigator ended up face to face with the mythos, cracked, and went over to the dark side if only to avoid being killed himself. It was a great and satisfyingly dark ending to what was essentially a one-shot, and exactly the sort of disturbing tale I’d wanted to subject my players to.

    Ken Spencer (Rocket Age; Why Not Games): Years and years ago I ran a BRP game world hopping game. During the campaign, our heroes ended up on a flying roman galley over the sands of Mars (you might be familiar with the last part if you read the Roma Universalis articles I wrote for Pyramid magazine). During several sessions, the PCs got to know the crew of the mercenary galley they were traveling with. Well, being a terrible bastard, I ran with that, and soon the players were involved in the lives and stories of these NPCs. When the inevitable happened, by which I mean a group of world hopping Nazis attacked the ship, all the NPCs, one by one, died heroic and tragic deaths. The players were stunned but performed their roles well, and much gnashing of teeth and rending of hair followed. One even stepped outside after the scene, tears in his eyes, and threatened to kick my ass if I ever did anything like that again. That's not the impactful part. No, it was that that sessions saw the birth of a villain that has popped up in several games, in many different incarnations. That day saw von Strasser enter my game world, and he has never left.


    Darren Pearce (EN Publishing; Savage Mojo): My most impactful RPG session was probably way back when I used to run Warhammer FRP. My players saved a whole village that hated them, they threw themselves in the way of an advancing Skaven horde even though the village despised the PCs for what they had to do earlier. They triumphed too, so that was a bonus!

    ****
    Originally created by Dave Chapman (Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space; Conspiracy X) #RPGaDAY os now being caretakered by the crew over at RPGBrigade. We hope you’ll join in, in the comments section, and share your thoughts with us too!
    Comments 13 Comments
    1. Venley's Avatar
      Venley -
      The first. Well, the first fortnight of sessions.
      Wet August 1979. Camping in a cold damp village hall in coastal Cumbria with fellow poverty stricken archaeology students. Choices of evening activities: expensive drinks in the Dun Cow with the local farmers looking askance at us, setting the world to rights deep into the night, endless card games.... or this new game a friend of ours wanted us to try.

      Mad Mike the Whale was a barefooted natural born storyteller (and Welsh bard) who quickly convinced us and made us each a little backstory out of the 3d6's that we rolled in order, creating our characters for us. Soon I was an evil half-orc cleric-assassin and we were treated to the fullblooded lightning and thundercrack that he did so well as we stood in front of great stone doors in a mountainside.

      Trials and tribulations later (and though we did not understand it at the time, Mike having to juggle OD&D and the parts of AD&D that had been published), there was most of a group leaving the dungeon until I set the skeletons I had raised upon the rest of the group and made off with their treasure too, carried by them in my service.... my first and last time playing an evil character till I GMed.

      We were hooked, returned to Uni and converted a subset of the wargaming society into rpgsoc. My life had been changed forever.
    1. Connorsrpg's Avatar
      Connorsrpg -
      At Wade Dyer... that story is awesome. What a way to turn it around. I was always tempted to have 'local authorities' deal with PCs, but that is so much better and fulfilling. Kudos.
    1. Simonpaulburley's Avatar
      Simonpaulburley -
      #RPGaDAY 2017: 7) What was your most impactful RPG session?

      Way back in the early days of RPGs there was just D&D. Other games started to come out - Runequest, Tunnels and Trolls, Traveller. I was on the look out for something to become MINE - something I could run that other people didn't have. I came across a game called Superhero 2044. Great! No one else had a Superhero game!

      I bought a couple of Superhero comics and discovered Claremont and Byrne's X-men. That REALLY got me excited. I started buying comics. X-Men naturally but also Marvel Two-in-One and Marvel Team-Up where the Thing and Spider-Man, respectively, each teamed up with a different guest star each week. (I called this research.)

      So I tried to run games of Superhero 2044, I really did, first at Nottingham University and then at Birmingham. It didn't work. The game just didn't simulate the comics.

      After one particularly fractious session at the Birmingham University Games club, the players rounded on me - after their "Heroes" had been blasted to pieces with shotguns and lasers - and told me, in no uncertain terms, why they thought it was so unsatisfactory. I'm afraid I didn't respond very well. Programmed by the D&D mantra of encounters being appropriate to the level of the characters, I thought "They just want to be able to do whatever they want!"

      (That WASN'T the most impactful session.)

      So to teach them a lesson and show them why they were so wrong, I went away and did a quick "hack" of Gamma World (which had just come out) and threw together a scenario based on an issue of Marvel Two-In-One (The Thing and Moonknight versus "Crossfire"). Then I came back, let them make their characters and ran them a game where I didn't care if they steamrollered through hordes of thugs, smashed through walls and lobbed fork lift trucks about. I expected them to see that, without challenge, there was no fun.

      Thing is - they LOVED it and demanded another game. And I enjoyed it too.

      (THAT was the most impactful session.)

      Figures were converted and painted and before I knew it, I had a Superhero campaign. Of course, the rules needed refining - and I was helped by one of the players who was a rules genius. People started asking for a copy of the rules and so I scrounged some artwork, had them typed up professionally and printed and Golden Heroes (later to be published by Games Workshop) was born.

      And I became a games author.
    1. Brodie's Avatar
      Brodie -
      Most impactful... I'm not sure I can pick just one. However, the only moments I can think of all involved one character and one game. The game was L5R 2nd edition, I had just joined my rpg group (with whom I still game 15-16 years later), and the first character I made for anyone's game in the group (everyone in the has to run a game) was for L5R. They asked me what kind of character I wanted to play and I responded with 'someone who's great at combat but doesn't really talk much' (I was generalizing on the talking part). They pointed me right away to the Lion Clan and the Matsu family in particular. I set about creating 'Matsu Ken' ('ken' being a Japanese word for sword, not me being lazy and picking a gaijin name. If I wanted to do that, he'd have been Matsu Bob.

      Anyway, after a few sessions of that, I really started getting into the character, with help from the others yelling at me to be bombastic when I did speak. Full of bravado. I was told I hated the Crane Clan and so I took that to heart. Little secret, I still hate the Crane Clan. I remember a few moments very well, but my favorite was while trying get someone out of a burning building with oni chasing us was me making sure the person was behind me then turning towards the monster and telling the GM "I'm going to defend him the only way I know how: FULL ATTACK."

      Another moment that stuck with me was closer to the beginner. We were at a tournament and the big mock battle at the end came up. At this point, I'd developed this antagonistic rivalry with a former-PC-turned-NPC. The 'generals' of the battle were chosen and all participants were allowed to chose which one they would serve under. The other PCs joined with the PC given the general position. My rival joined that character as well. I had developed friendships with the other PCs, but they all (including GM) thought I would join the opposition just for a shot at the rival. Because I didn't, I got a huge boost to my Honor rating for putting aside personal matters. That npc also ended up becoming a good friend over time.

      The hard choices, deeply satisfying events, and profoundly affecting moments I experienced with that character make him my all time favorite and thus most impactful.
    1. Mike Myler's Avatar
      Mike Myler -
      Sniper and Robo-Hitler (in text and video that has an annoying fan thrumming away in the background)
    1. Jhaelen -
      Probably my first AD&D session. I had played a few games of 'The Dark Eye' before, but it hadn't really 'clicked' yet for me.
      I was still a bit dubious about the roleplaying because I had so far played the whole group of adventurers on my own.

      My AD&D DM had a bit of a cruel streak and basically shoved me into the deep water to teach me how to swim:
      Another player had an assassin character and received a mission to kidnap my (illusionist) character for questioning.
      When they were satisfied he didn't know a thing, he was knocked unconscious and came to stripped of his possessions in a park...

      I couldn't stop thinking about this session, though, and immediately went to work designing my own RPG system...
    1. Oliver Peltier's Avatar
      Oliver Peltier -
      The night of 7thAugust 2017, I played my first game of Peter Petrusha's (Imagining Games)Dreamchaser. This brilliant new game is truly a Universal RPG. In Session Zero,the players choose the dream they want to chase, then they setup the setting,create characters and choose their adventuring milestone. I'm placing the linkbelow of our Session Zero.

      https://youtu.be/cj0_-489pxc

      http://www.imagininggames.com/game/
    1. Batjutsu's Avatar
      Batjutsu -
      Ignoring my 1st ever RPG session, my tweet answer was: "#RPGaDay 7, True Love at a fairy cake party for 8 players in Changeling #RPG #WoD"

      From my blog: Another tough question; like many role-players I don’t normally try to rate/compare my games, but of course when asked I’ll still spend time pondering ;-) Years ago I ran a Changeling: The Dreaming campaign for roughly a year, often it had 8 players in attendance, and I don’t recall a session with less than 6. I mention this because everyone was very proactive whilst sharing the spotlight, it was a joy to GM, and often felt effortless to run, despite how many players and all the extra work I did (see below). This campaign had several sessions that could each fulfil the criteria of this question.

      Despite being a slightly larger group, the game worked well. Feedback from the players during the campaign was that they felt constantly included, and motivated to play. Part of the trick I used was to write a revelation of a past life for each of the characters. Every few sessions I would give all the players a handout each, summarising another glimpse of their past lives via their dreams. This was tied in to events happening in the game, inspiring the characters to overcome great difficulty. This meant in addition to game events, each player also had an internal exploration. All of the characters had known each other in their past life, so the glimpses also worked as a way of expanding the relationships in the group.

      The session in mind was going to be a big IC celebration, and the players decided that this justified having an OOC fairy cake party. So at the start of the celebration session it was revealed that the collection of fairy cakes was more of a massive spread, like a birthday party, we even had jelly.

      In addition to all the different character activities, two characters finally planned a big get together. During the many previous sessions, Limpet (Pooka) and Angel (Satyr) had teased and flirted with each other, and things had been building up.

      During the previous two sessions they had started to get serious about each other. I offered regular game maintenance between sessions, as well as PBM aspects. The players of Limpet and Angel wanted to explain their character’s emotional state during a mini-session. Once I knew what they both planned I was shocked, there was going to be emotional fireworks, and since both players seemed to have no idea that the other was doing this, I made sure to keep neutral.

      At the start of the celebration session the players of Limpet and Angel both handed me a final note about how they planned on things. This was partly because there were potential game mechanics involved, and they didn’t want them getting in the way of very emotional dialog.

      A quick explanation just for those not familiar with Changeling: The Dreaming. Changelings are divided in to different species (Kith), and each have birthrights and frailties.

      • Pooka have problems with telling the truth, but it’s not as simple as simply saying the opposite, and even when it is, which part is opposite and which is straightforward? They can make a dif 8 Willpower to overcome this, so not easy for many characters.
      • Satyr have Passion’s Curse. They can have wild mood swings, and can also have difficulties resisting temptations.

      Angel was desperate for a real relationship. Whilst Limpet felt unloved by the world, since no one understood him, he was so insightful about others. Of course others found him to be too complex, whilst he thought he was simple, and this paradox plus his nature meant discussing anything about himself to be impossible.

      So, at the celebration, Angel & Limpet finally had their chance to be honest with each other about their deep feelings. The following is what transpired:

      • The Satyr, Angel, believed she had learned how Limpet tended to speak, and how she could discuss her love for him. The player note stated she would spend WP to pass any frailty rolls, how Angel had been building up to this, it meant the world to her.
      • Meanwhile Limpet also had decided that was the moment, he wanted to know why Angel declared she had feelings for him, but then teased him and went off with other people! The player note for Limpet stated he would spend WP to pass his initial frailty roll so he could speak like a 'normal person', to speak honestly, since he had been building up to this, it meant the world to him!


      So Angel asks Limpet to speak with her, it’s important. At this stage, the two players had the spotlight. The rest of the players guessed at what would happen at this moment, and even the Sidhe and Redcap kept quiet. Limpet takes a deep breath and nods that he will go with Angel; he starts to psyche himself up for the difficulty of overcoming his nature. They step out on to a balcony of the wonderful mansion hosting the party, the sun is setting, the weather is perfect, the Redcap is not persecuting anything, the childe Pooka is busy, they look at each other, with their hearts are racing as this is the perfect moment.

      The tension builds as seconds tick by, both are too nervous to speak. Finally Limpet declares love for Angel, the delivery is so earnest, Angel freaks out, confused, how could Limpet take the piss out of her!? He was like that with everyone, but she thought she was different, and she tells him this: "You take the piss when you mean the opposite, the more you do so, the more the seriousness. Yet you dismiss me now, you think so little of me?!" Limpet once again earnestly declares his love for Angel. Angel’s anger subsides, maybe he is being truthful, so she asks him this if this time he is being truthful. Limpet has Willpower issues, so the player opts for a dice roll, he succeeds and explains that he is being totally truthful. Angel starts crying, finally they have broken through the communication barrier, and Limpet’s elaborate piss-taking stunts. Limpet is relieved, there is someone for him, she has persevered and understands him. Angel’s emotional rollercoaster gets the better of her, she asks a lot of questions, Limpet is overwhelmed, his frail nature breaks through, he cannot help but take the piss, dismiss and lie about things. Angel runs away crying…

      Moments later there is an outcry, the newly crowned High King David is missing. The Redcap takes the opportunity to persuade a young Pooka to get ice cream from the freezer, and then locks her in, whilst her Troll guardian is discussing playing spin the Eshu to find out which is the way to go. Limpet starts telling the Sidhe that are freaking out that he believes David has gone hiking.

      The zany ending aside, maybe down to all the sugar that had been eaten, the 30 minute dialog between Angel and Limpet was at first a beautiful encounter, but in the end heart wrenching. The session stands out as being a great example of role-play build-up, delivery, emotional rollercoaster, as well as the fun nature of gaming; the fantastic amount of celebration food also helped to give the session an extra immersive feel. I also love how two players independently decided to implement their plan, at the same time, and how it almost worked out.
    1. Von Ether's Avatar
      Von Ether -
      For me one of my top five happened last week. We finished up a Spelljamer-ish Cypher game and my players, all of them new to RPGs -- never mind finishing a camapign, were a bit sad to call it a day on their sailing starship privateer fleet.

      And then three of my five players announced they were ready to run their own games! We started making characters and juggling schedules ASAP. (My session ran short. It was an intense climax with the hobgoblin alchemy fleet.)
    1. Shasarak's Avatar
      Shasarak -
      What was your most impactful RPG session?
      If this is not just bait for "Let me tell you all about my favourite character" then I dont know what it is.

      The one that springs to mind is running under a Dragon to grab a magic arrow from its hoard and then shooting it with a Nat 20.

      Ah, good times.
    1. Lord Mhoram's Avatar
      Lord Mhoram -
      The culmination of a subplot I wanted to run. I was playing Champions - martial artist supported by Darkforce powers- Black Cat.

      I ran a get possesed by your powers, go evil, get de-powered, go full martial arts plot. When she got depowered, one of the other players said "you didn't do it".

      It rattled around in my head all night at work (I worked night shift). I came home in the morning and wrote a tone poem about it, in character. I was so into the character's emotions, feelings and thoughts, I couldn't let go after the game was over.

      Yes my avatar is that characer, wearing the old "go play" logo instead of hers.
    1. Yaztromo's Avatar
      Yaztromo -
      Like everybody, I have to put on the top my very first games as a kid (yes, the Red Box)! the very irst was the Palace of the Silver Princess, followed soon by the super classic B-series adventures and, a bit later, by super classic X-series, such as Curse of Xanathon and Castle Amber...

      Then I have to place very high in the list The Talons of Night and, even more, Where Chaos Reigns, that really amazed me!

      Later on, at university, I run a homebrew campaign based on Galaxy Express 999 setting, where I involved absolute beginners for RPG and I still cherish that!

      I loved being involved (marginally) in the Numenera playtesting before its publication - great experience!

      I run more recently a few homebrew adventures on Calidar, using Advanced Fighting Fantasy ruleset, as Calidar is a rule agnostic setting and at least in a couple of occasions it was great! Once with the characters being space Rhino-men on a small planetoid that was actually a spaceship (Numenera-style) and another time with a story line that moved somehow from post-apocalypse similar to Gamma World, to pseudo-Mad Max, to Fremen (Dune) motives...

      Recently I also run various Savage Worlds (Ultima Forsan) games that really fullfilled me.

      Last but not least I run a few times more recently a short campaign of Advanced Fighting Fantasy / Stellar Adventures / homebrew Lovecraftian space fantasy where the characters can rise to a demi-god status and run a kind of "reverse-Chtulu", where you infiltrate worlds of unspeakable horror (and you are the unspeakable horror for them!)

      So difficult to pick one above all the others...
    1. pogre's Avatar
      pogre -
      WFRP: Shadows Over Bogenhafen. Still my favorite adventure of all time and changed the way we play games in many ways.
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