The World of Aarn: A custom PnP setting. (WIP)
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    The World of Aarn: A custom PnP setting. (WIP)


    For over seven years, I've had a world bouncing around inside my head, just waiting to be let out. Two years ago, I started a freeform roleplaying campaign in the world, which has continued to this day. The people, the places, and the pure flavor of the world has proven to have the potential for more than just a freeform game, and so I've been working on converting d20 to handle the world in question.

    I've reached the point in development that I feel my work is ready for the big time; feedback and opinions on how I've constructed the world and plan on adapting d20 rules to it. There is far more information currently written than will be provided in this first, overview post, but I figured that I should at least start "small," considering how massive a project this actually is.

    The forums here at ENWorld come highly recommended, and I'm looking forward to seeing just how much interest my project can generate. As for the final goal of the project; the current plan is for the completed first edition of the setting and rules to be my senior project in college, and culmination of my work towards graduation.

    General Information:

    The setting of Aarn is one of clockwork fantasy and high magic, designed with intentional anachronisms, satire, and parody. It is primarily a light-hearted setting, but has its own secret dark side that can be used for more serious play, or simply to keep the characters from growing too complacent.

    Game Mechanics:

    The current mechanics of the system are based on a heavily modified version of d20 rules under OGL. Certain mechanics may be similar, but many things have been changed for flavor, for game play preferences and for fundamental requirements of the setting and its style. These mechanics are not final, have not been properly play-tested and may be changed in the future - even to the point of divorcing the system from all d20 OGL content completely.


    Two d12 dice are used in place of a d20. This slightly increases the range of possible results, while making the extreme results far more rare. The "auto-success" and "auto-failure" rules from d20 carry over - a result of a 24 is an auto success, and snake-eyes is auto-failure. Using 2d12, having one of these two results occur has a combined chance slightly below 1.4%, as opposed to d20's 10% chance to either auto-fail or auto-succeed.

    Also, the maximum ranks one may buy in a skill in this system is 12 - and ability score modifiers will rarely be above 6 (though higher ability modifiers will not be unheard of, and magical artifacts will push this number higher). This reflects the fact that using 2d12 makes for a more common midrange. Limiting the number of ranks to half the range also reflects the highly uncommon outlying results, and keeps the potential of a "lucky strike" without relying on the chances of an auto-success as heavily as in d20. It will still be possible for the roll of an untrained character with no modifier to naturally fall on a result that is also possible for a very highly skilled character with a significant modifier, though this will be quite rare.

    As for a character's advancement, all character attributes are treated as skill trees with regular progressions that must be bought with XP. The types of skills and the order of the skills bought is left up to the PC, allowing characters who are hyper-specialized in a specific field, and also allowing characters who are very effective jacks-of-all-trades. In fact, all aspects of a character are bought at character creation using a pool of XP that is given for free, including ability scores. Feats are also treated in this way, with feat trees replaced with skill trees (making advancement in them more natural) and stand-alone feats being called "traits" - a simple ability that can be bought with XP.

    One of the major goals of the system is to reward players who resist specialization and attempt to fill many rolls in a party, and changes made from play-testing results will reflect this goal.

    There are no character levels and no character classes. This helps make the progression of a character feel more smooth and natural, despite the reduction of a character's stages of advancement from 20 (in the case of levels or attack bonuses) or 23 (in the case of skill ranks) to 12. Characters will gain new abilities and more enhanced versions of old abilities more often, despite this perceived reduction in power.

    Importantly, there is no alignment mechanic to speak of. If players or GMs feel that one is required for their style of play, the traditional d20 alignment system may be house-ruled in, but it is the experience of this author that alignment mechanics often limit the types of characters that can be played in games, and the lack of expressly stated character alignments can make for far more interesting campaigns and stories.

    For instance, many monster and NPC concepts inherent to the system fly in the face of the alignment system and would be limited by its inclusion. One major example is the sphinx, a breed of legendary creatures that are friendly towards mankind and protect human villages from bandits and marauders. However, a sphinx values its privacy and is intelligent enough to actively portray itself as a menace to be feared and avoided. The vast majority of humans consider sphinxes to be evil and capricious creatures with no regard for human life, and the sphinxes wish to keep it that way. Most creature types have such subtleties, and attempts to shoehorn them into one of the nine alignments will most often produce an alignment of true neutral, which is practically worthless and useless information when 90% of creatures turn out to have that label.

    Endurance Points, Ability Scores, Combat, and Critical hits:

    The most unique game play mechanic this setting has is the way it treats combat, ability scores, and character death. Instead of hit points, all characters have "Endurance Points". Endurance is an abstraction of exactly what it sounds like - the character's energy and ability to do tasks. Things that reduce a character's EP include bruises, cuts, scrapes, and superficial wounds. Other things that can reduce EP are sprinting, vigorous activity, or special feats to add damage to attacks. All EP damage should be considered non-lethal, and when EP is reduced to zero, a character simply falls unconscious. EP can be recovered at a modest rate by a character taking no actions in a particular round and catching their breath. This fails if a character is attacked by an enemy in the round they wish to recover the EP.

    An alternative and intentional abstraction for "EP" can also be a character's plot armor.

    Critical hits also have undergone a very distinct change in this system, and do not simply do "double EP damage." Instead, a critical hit represents a wound that is serious enough to cause more than EP damage. On a successful critical hit, EP damage is calculated normally, but the attacker must also roll a weapon's "critical die" in order to determine how much damage is dealt to one of the target's ability scores. The victim's appropriate modifiers are then changed. A character's wounds will reflect on how easy - or difficult - tasks become as they become more and more injured.

    All weapons have two such dice - one for how much damage the weapon does to EP, and one for how much damage the weapon does to an ability score on a successful critical hit. A d10 will be rolled alongside a weapon's critical die to help determine what kind of ability damage is done, but weapons will have "favored" and "unfavored" ability score types, to help skew the results of the roll and make combat more interesting and tactical. Using these alternative rules, it's the hope that the typical "slashing/bludgeoning/piercing" weapon types and damage reduction rules may be eliminated.

    Further, the six typical d20 ability scores have been expanded to eight; Strength, Vitality, Agility, Finesse, Perception, Willpower, Intelligence and Charm.

    Exactly how one would expect it, with one exception. Strength is no longer the modifier that applies to attack rolls, Finesse is.

    For all intents and purposes, Vitality is constitution when it comes to applying modifiers. However, one's Endurance, which is abstracted with constitution in typical D20 is still affected by this stat, but represented directly by EP. Importantly, the only way for a character to die is for their Vitality to be reduced to zero. Reassuringly, this is surprisingly easy to do with one or two death blows - a character may choose to declare a hit on an unconscious, paralyzed or helpless creature a critical hit, eliminating traditional coup-de-grace rules. Also, if a character is unconscious with their vitality reduced to below half of its normal, that character should be considered unstable, and will eventually die without medical aid. This, however, is usually measured in minutes or hours, and not in seconds as in traditional d20.

    Agility is one half of d20's typical dexterity stat. It represents balance, reflexes, and movement speed. Dodge, which is arguably one of the most important custom stats in this setting is tied directly to agility.

    The other half of d20's dexterity stat, Finesse represents a character's mastery over activities that require a deft touch or more subtle control than agility alone would provide. Most skills that require the use of one's hands fall under finesse, such as lock picking, writing, playing music, or even swinging a sword. A character's attack bonus is tied to this stat, and so is their ability to Parry, which is another important skill, and an alternative to Dodge.

    A distillation of what d20's wisdom stat is most often used for, perception is exactly what it sounds like, and is used for skills and situations in which your character might become aware of something.

    A combination of the lesser used aspect of d20's wisdom ability score and the more active part of d20's charisma score, willpower is quite simply how much strength of will one's mind has. The power of all supernatural spells is tied to this stat, as well as skills that deal with one's mental perseverance, such as concentration.

    Like strength, Intelligence is only mildly altered from its d20 counterpart. It still helps to govern most aspects of a wizard's spell preparation and casting, skills dealing with knowledge and mental wit, and any other task that requires the parsing and analysis of information. However, Finesse helps a wizard prepare more spells in a shorter period of time, and willpower influences the actual power of said spells once they manifest. One current aspect of Intelligence that the author is currently experimenting with is the option for Intelligence modifiers to be used to make buying certain skills or ranks with XP less expensive. It is understood how much of an unbalancing factor this idea could be, and it requires a great deal of play testing before any kind of commitment to the idea.

    - Simply, Charm is how likable a character is, as opposed to willpower, which helps to govern how easily a character might force themselves to be the center of attention. One might think that with d20's Charisma stat split into willpower and charm, that charm would wind up being a largely unused stat. However, it is the intent of this author to give one's mental stats a center roll in their own alternative "verbal combat" system, the purpose of which is to bring diplomacy closer to the forefront of the game, and make diplomatic encounters more exciting and rewarding. Characters with higher charm stats will have NPCs genuinely like them and be genuinely loyal to them, while characters who use their willpower to intimidate their way through diplomatic situations will be at a distinct disadvantage - manipulating people successfully, but easily leaving in the option for a double-cross, or even causing an NPC to genuinely dislike them.

    The elimination of traditional Armor Class rules:
    To further reflect the above changes in the combat system, Armor Class has been changed beyond the point of recognition. A character's Dodge skill will be their to-hit DC, and is not increased by armor. If anything, a character's armor will reduce their dodge skill through armor class penalties. Instead, armor will provide native damage reduction for EP damage, and also help to reduce the chance of a critical hit. The current theory for how the critical chance will be reduced is for a character's armor class to be the DC on a critical threat roll.

    Because EP represents non-lethal damage as opposed to lethal damage, it makes sense that a blow blocked by armor will still reduce some of the character's EP, and it also makes sense that the armor will make it harder for enemies to score critical hits because the armor protects vital areas.


    Any creature on the world of Aarn will fall into exactly one of five categories. There is no overlap, and the different types of creatures have very distinct differences that are important to understanding the dynamics of the system.

    Children of the gods, fey are creatures of dream and shadow. They have godlike powers and are almost immortal. Originally hailing from the plane of dreams, gods and the afterlife, their behavior is governed by a paradox of chaos and alien thought processes. However, they follow their own personal sets of rules that allow mortals to encounter them – and even fight against them – and come away the victors. Understanding the rules of the game however is by far the most difficult part of defeating them in combat – verbal or otherwise. Examples of fey are dryads, nymphs, grassrunners, shadows, and fairies.

    Some animals have almost human-like intelligence, but what sets them all apart is that animals cannot use nor harness magic, and even the most intelligent of them can barely use enchanted objects. The most intelligent animals are like the least intelligent humans, and while they can communicate verbally, it is usually only in a broken pidgin language with a limited vocabulary. Typical animal examples include cats, dogs, elephants, giants, goblins, lizard-men and squirrels.

    Legendary Creatures
    All creatures who can naturally use magic and who are as intelligent as humans – or even more intelligent – fall into this category. This includes humans as well, though humans tend not to think of themselves as legendary. Examples of legendary creatures are medusea, all the possible player races, dragons, merfolk, sphinxes, and salamanders.

    While normally used to refer to all creature types in default d20, in this system the word “monster” has a special meaning. Monsters are creatures created by magical experimentation and have branched out and found their own niche in local ecologies. They normally have no more than animal intelligence, and often have magics that animals do not. Examples of monsters are trolls, gryphons, hydra, chimera and basilisks.

    Coming in the two default types, undead are either corporeal, deathless beings carrying an infection created by the god of undeath – Nektos, or they are semi-corporeal, and often invisible mortal souls that are trapped between worlds, and are prevented through emotional ties or some other means from moving on to the afterlife. Importantly, there is no positive and no negative energy in this setting, so spells that heal flesh do not harm undead. Purification spells, however, do harm corporeal undead.

    Player Races:

    In the interest of having a unique setting with its own distinct flavor, the traditional d20 player races have been all-but eliminated. There are no elves or half-elves, no dwarves, and no half-orcs. Halflings, (called grassrunners, here) while somewhat represented, are fey with godlike powers, and would not be appropriate for a player race.

    Those races available to players are humans, anthromorphs (misspelling intentional), spirit animals, naga, satyrs, harpies, and ardlins, a kobold-like creature unique to this setting.

    Anthromorphism is a magical genetic marker created by Venrisha, the goddess of the wilds and the feral life. It manifests in humans who have the genetic marker by making them anthromorphic creatures based purely on the subject's personality. An anthromorph's species has nothing to do with its heritage, and two anthromorphs of the same species can have offspring of a wildly different species. Anthromorphs have access to the purchase of abilities at character creation that no other player race has, to represent their animal features.

    Ardlins are a recent creation of Leeshia, the goddess of procrastination, in an effort to gain power through the creation of a legendary race. Ardlins were created out of lizard-men and goblins, and tend to be 4 feet high on average. Fans of kobolds should enjoy this race, though the ardlins are significantly more intelligent than kobolds tend to be in default d20. Ardlins have retractile raptor-claws on their feet, and have rows of spiny fins on their heads. Some ardlin tribes mutilate these fins and “braid” the fin spines into patterns of dreadlocks as a rite of passage into adulthood. There are many different tribes with unique features, including a handful of tribes who have feather-like iridescent fur on their body in strategic locations, and other ardlin tribes even have naturally growing feather quills.

    Ardlins are the ultimate underdog in this setting, because the other legendary creatures remember how easily the humans took over the planet, and don't want to see that sort of thing happen again. Ardlin lives are cut short more often than not, and most intelligent hostile creatures will want to kill the ardlin first, either out of jealousy for being favored by a god, or out of preemptive political action. They have a penalty to strength due to their size, but they gain an bonus to finesse.

    Harpies are an elder legendary race, and have the upper bodies of beautiful women. Their lower bodies have digitgrade legs like hawks or eagles with high knees, and long, backwards-facing “knee” ankles. That are mostly covered in downy feathers. They have sharp talons, and feathers growing out of the backs of their arms that allow them to fly and glide short distances. There are no male harpies, and they can only breed through mating with humans or other legendary creatures – though humans through some coincidence provide the best offspring. Harpies can be civilized, but many in the wild resort to rape and cannibalism to propagate their species. They gain a natural bonus to agility, but they have a penalty to willpower, with low impulse control, and a tendency to be rather air-headed, flighty and distractible.

    The most common legendary race, humans cover all stripes and walks of life. They were created by the god Jennin out of the giant race in order to bring Jennin power and prestige. They gain extra experience points at character creation in order to reflect their adaptability and the fact that their patron god Jennin is the god of wizardry, technology and information. They have no other extraordinary abilities to speak of, being the default race.

    Naga are creatures with the lower body of a snake and the upper body of a scaly humanoid with a long, gaunt face and even longer, pointy ears. They tend to be colors of black, blue, or purple. Naga have a long and sordid history with humans. During humans' rise to power, naga were the first legendary creatures to come to their aid, and protect them from others who would see humans exterminated. Due to their brave actions and loyalty, they were awarded the honor by the humans' god to be the holy beasts of the first human civilization. Eventually that civilization collapsed and the nagas' special honor was forgotten. Most still guard the ancient temples, resenting their abandonment, but the younger generation has a fascination with humans, and many have left their tribal jungles to assimilate into human culture. Naga have a bonus to strength and perception due to their long muscular tail and hunters' instincts, but a penalty to agility and charm.

    Satyrs are five foot tall creatures with the upper bodies of humans and the lower bodies of goats. They have horns on their heads, and no body hair above the waist except for the long, pointy beards of the males. They have a long rich oral tradition and pastoral history. They have had an uneasy truce with humans for quite some time – humans war over and lay claim to lands the satyrs use, but the humans do not. This understandably makes satyrs uncomfortable, but so far the human population has stayed low enough that satyr settlements have largely gone unmolested by the human kingdoms who “own” them. Satyrs are pranksters, curious, and fun-loving. They have a bonus to charm, their hedonistic ways and lack of inhibition allowing them to know how to worm their way into the hearts of others. Their naturally pastoral way of like however gives them an inherently reduced willpower, wishing to find the easiest solution to a problem, and not wishing to struggle where it's not needed.

    Spirit Animals
    Spirit animals appear to be any kind of animal that is lighter than 50 pounds. Every different type of spirit animal is a unique species, but they are treated as the same race for character creation due to similar supernatural abilities. Spirit animals cannot talk, and role-playing one can be a challenge. However, spirit animals gain free access to one of the three methods of casting magic in this setting - elemancy. A spirit animal's base physical stats are based on their animal type, but their mental stats are human-grade or higher. They have a kind of nature sense; an attunement with the One-Mother, the goddess who created the material world. This gives them a mild empathy and a sensitivity to psychic spells.

    Playing a spirit animal is the equivalent to playing a familiar without the wizard.

    A spirit animal's most unique feature however is the ability to completely resist moving on to the afterlife at death. They become an anima, a type of undead similar to a poltergeist that cannot move more than 200 feet away from the site of their death. Anima who reach a certain age (usually one hundred years) become spirits, a free-roaming type of semi-corporeal undead that are almost as powerful as fey.

    A spirit animal has another special ability as an anima – the capacity to possess an unconscious creature within their sphere of influence. Once possessed, the original soul of that creature is discarded, and the body is treated as if it is the anima's own. This crime against the natural order and the One Mother carries with it a dreadful price – the spirit animal permanently loses its nature sense, can never rejoin the one mother, can never evolve into a spirit, and the vast majority of their magical and physical skills are reset to their weakest state, to reflect them having to learn how to use a new body that their soul is not fully attuned to.

    A spirit animal that is ever resurrected from death will reappear in their original body, and will regain any skills or powers lost through possession. However, those that have possessed another creature will not regain their nature sense, their ability to become a spirit, nor retain new abilities they learned while in a new body. For this reason, it is essential to retain a copy of a spirit animal's character sheet at the time of death.

    World Culture:

    The major focus of the world is set in an area based on European or North American culture, with a political system that is one step between feudalism and capitalism. Despite an overabundance of kings, dukes, royal houses and a pampered nobility, private property ownership is common, even among peasants. Magic makes up a good deal of the economy and technology, and has brought educated people up to a modern standard of scientific knowledge. Despite this fact, there has been no industrial revolution, and the steam engine has never caught on as a source of power. The power and resources for modern-style conveniences are provided by magic instead of science.

    The overall population of the world is not much higher than twenty or thirty million people. Despite this small size, there are many earth-analogous cultures represented, such as a Middle-Eastern culture in the south, Russian and Chinese style cultures in the northeast, a Japanese style culture in the far east, and a superpower that resembles a cross between Middle Eastern, Indian, and Chinese cultures. Further south there are representations of African and South American inspired cultures as well.

    World History:

    The world is currently recovering from the collapse of an economic and territorial superpower called the Jorel Empire. It is analogous to the Roman empire, except Jorel's collapse was an economic one, not a political one. Because of this, infrastructure largely remained in place, and the world was not plunged into a dark ages. Despite four hundred years passing since the collapse of the empire, most kingdoms still speak the language of Jorel.

    Mankind is not sure of its most primal ancient history due to magical interference with images from the far past, but scattered throughout the lands are ancient ruins of strange and unusual design. These ruins are in fact the remnants of an ancient magical civilization from the time of the birth of man, approximately eight thousand years ago. This civilization was destroyed in a cataclysm that shattered a n entire subcontinent, creating a region now known as the Eastern Islands.

    Before the dawn of man, the world was inhabited the same legendary creatures that exist today, with prominent civilizations belonging to the dragons, the naga, the merfolk and others.

    Not much is known of the world before legendary creatures, all that is known is that it was created by the One Mother out of the astral sea, the home of the gods and fey.


    The most distinguishing characteristic of the planet is that only one hemisphere is accessible to players. There is a ring of storms that bisect the planet into two halves, and the opposite hemisphere of the planet is under some kind of mystical veil. It is unknown what lies on the other side of the world, and the ring of storms is impenetrable through means both magical and mundane.

    At the center of the accessible hemisphere there are is a pangeaic continent that has four named subcontinents. The northeastern most subcontinent is called Habruck, and is snowy and mountainous. The Western subcontinent is called Zenninfal. Zenninfal is temperate with wooded plains and hills, and is the home of the major civilization of this setting. The middle continent is mostly desert, and is called Yessha. The southernmost, and largest subcontinent is called Rensvan. Rensvan is mostly impenetrable jungle with several southern kingdoms that are mostly cut off from the rest of civilization.

    Many islands large and small dot the rest of the hemisphere, the largest grouping being the Eastern Islands, the only remnants of an ancient section of the major continent.

    World Religion:

    Religion in the world of Aarn is wide and varied, with just as many methods of practice and different gods as there are in the real world. Different cultures worship different gods at different levels of importance, but those who study the religions of Aarn closely find gods whose aspects in different cultures are surprisingly similar, despite major differences in gender, personality or role in society; these are representations of the true gods of Aarn.

    Only the youngest true gods interact with the world directly and make their presence known to their followers. The others choose to remain more distant from mortal eyes, and ensure that when they interact with the events of the world, they do so from a distance.

    Manifestations of other, false gods are possible because of the way creatures use divine magic. Divine magic is essentially the magic of the astral plane - the same plane that mortals travel to while they dream. Because of this, mortals with very dream like, faithful, or willful personalities can develop divine powers even without a god sponsoring them. Further, fey have the ability to grant mortals divine powers just as easily as gods, given that fey are natives of the astral plane.

    The afterlife of the world is one run by demons, where there are only nine hells, and no heavens. Depending on one's personality, one might just be able to find a hell that one would enjoy, but this tends to be a rare occurrence.

    Despite the fact that many magical spells have confirmed the existence of the true afterlife and gods, many different beliefs are still prevalent, leading to a very diverse pantheon of real and false gods.


    There are three main ways of casting magic in this world; Wizardry, Elemancy, and Divine magic. Divine magic is the aforementioned magic of the gods. Divine magic is a spontaneous casting system based on a small list of spells the divine caster learns (by spending XP) and then knows permanently. These spells are fueled by an exhaustible supply of power, that must be replenished during meditation or prayer. It is very loosely based on D&D psionics.

    Elemancy is the natural magic of human beings and other legendary creatures. Those who can use elemancy have the potential from birth; one cannot learn to be an elemancer. It is based on a limited but inexhaustible source of energy that is shifted from ability to ability on the fly. It can cause the least amount of raw damage, but has the greatest longevity and flexibility out of all the different kinds of casting systems.

    Wizardry is an unnatural abomination created by the god of man, Jennin. It involves hacking the natural processes of elemancy and the magic that flows through all things in order to create effects using material components and books of spells. Spells are prepared beforehand and then cast later, with no limit to how many spells can be prepared other than the wizard's time, money, and availability of materials. Wizards can also create potions (alchemy), scrolls (runic casting), and enchanted weapons and objects (crafting).

    There are other forms of wizardry that are more ancient and primal, but these are so seldom used in the common age that they should be considered a supplemental material not necessary for gaining a picture of the setting.


    Many people believe that Demons only exist as evil spirits whose prime concern is to torture people in the afterlife. The truth is much worse. Demons are little more than clerks of the afterlife who do their job with much paperwork, much delay, and much apathy.

    Demons are inter-dimensional aliens who discovered our dream plane and decided it would be a good place to live. They are a group of grotesque creatures who originally had no concept of different species. Demons themselves are very individualistic, and extremely sexually potent. Despite there being possibly hundreds of different "species" of demons, all demons can interbreed with one another and produce fertile offspring. Further, a demon can breed with literally anything else, even non-demons, and produce similar results.

    Except for rare circumstances, demons themselves have not been seen on the plane of Aarn in the flesh for quite some time. This is good for the Aarnians, because despite the demons' deficiencies in magic, they are extremely resilient physically and resist most types of damage. They also have skills with technology that put the achievements of the race of man to shame. Occasionally demon technology or artifacts can be found on our world. These monstrosities are better left studied but never activated or used.

    It is cosmically illegal for demons to personally travel to Aarn as per an agreement with the gods. However, demons (being creatures that live on an offshoot of the dream realm) can possess native Aarnians to either go on vacation, adventure, or collect magical items on Aarn. The demons cannot make magic items themselves, so they often go on scavenger hunts and then send the artifacts they find back to Bureaucracy, their home. Of course, this processes is heavily regulated and it is said that waiting times for a Demon to possess someone can often be in upwards of 2 years.

    As an alternative that has far less paperwork, demons are said to often go on adventures or vacations in the other 8 hells. This will usually annoy the actual residents of that particular hell, whether it's a hell the resident enjoys or not. Demons can also invade and influence the dreams of mortals, but then again, so can fey.

    The Astral Plane:

    What would eventually become the afterlife for Aarnian mortals is the dream plane, also known as the astral plane. This is the original realm of the fey before animals and legendary creatures were created. It is a place of unlimited possibility and much entertainment. It is also a place or horror and anxiety. When mortals were first created, they were given limited access to this place as they slept, in order to experience the primal energies of the soul and reduce the stress their minds encountered as they lived the material life.

    Visitors to the core astral plane itself will most often experience it as an analog to a solar system (even if they do not know what a solar system is). In the center is an impossibly bright ball of fire, the core of the astral plane where the fey and the gods themselves live. No astral explorer has ever attempted to enter this ball of fire and return, so very little is known of it or its contents. Orbiting the ball of fire are the 9 planes of hell, each represented by its own planetoid. Demons travel from plane to plane in jets, helicopters, hover-cars and other forms of aerial travel.

    Interspersed everywhere else in this “solar system” are star clusters and wisps of glowing energy. The stars are short lived, with each one representing the dream of a sleeping mortal mind. When the dream ends, the star is snuffed out. Approaching a star or observing it closely allows one to view the dream of the mortal. Those who approach a star may enter it, and directly interact with the dream. If the dream ends while someone else is inside, the dream disintegrates around them, and that person then finds themselves floating in the astral ether, like they were before entering.

    The clusters of stars are formed as dreaming mortal minds touch one another. Dreams of mortals may collide and intermingle, with two people sharing a single dream. The largest clusters are maintained y fey who have created their own home-away-from-home in the dreams of the mortals. Their clusters are so large that they are self-perpetuating, always having at least one mortal mind dreaming in order to maintain the cluster.

    The wisps of glowing energy are astral imprints of the noncorporeal undead trapped in the material realm. The material realm itself is not directly accessible through the astral plane without magical rituals, tunnels of energy or elemantic abilities, and this barrier works both ways. It is actually more difficult to access the material realm from the astral than to access the astral from the material.

    Often confused with the astral plane is the inbetween, the ghostly etheral realm. While astral bodies can be used to explore the inbetween, it is an echo of the real world, and far more closely tied to it than tied to the astral. Those in the inbetween see it as a grayish, cloudy version of the real world, with vague shadows where living corporeal creatures would be. Once a creature dies, its corpse can be seen clearly from the ethereal realm. Creatures without true souls, such as mindless corporeal undead or constructs can also be seen clearly.

    The inbetween itself only exists by the will of the noncorporeal undead trapped in the material plane. If all noncorporeal undead were to suddenly cease to exsit, the ethereal plane would vanish as well, along with the wisps of psychic pollution clouding the astral plane.

    The Afterlife Itself:

    The gods who watch over the material realm of Aarn have never truly been a large part of the afterlife, and they have very little influence over it. The original Aarnian afterlife intended for corporeal creatures was supposed to be a gnostic one. The One Mother, acting as a life-stream, was supposed to be the source of souls. Upon a creature's death, that creature's soul was supposed to rejoin the One Mother, where it could either stay there in eternal bliss or be reincarnated.

    A wrench was thrown in this smooth-running metaphysical machinery when Nektos created the first undead creature. By creating the phenomenon of undeath, he permanently shattered this intended gnostic cycle. Even the souls that did not become undead were having trouble rejoining the One Mother. These souls found themselves stranded in the inbetween as the first ghosts and noncorporeal undead. The astral plane quickly began to fill with clouds of these souls' psychic emanations. The pollution confused and played havoc with the local fey, and a great number of these fey became permanently bonded with the material plane and the inbetween. Most sadistic and antagonistic fey were created from this pollution trapping them on Aarn.

    At the same time this was going on, the first demon settlers had found our astral plane and began living there as psychic parasites, observing the material realm from the astral as entertainment. They created the first level of hell, Bureaucracy, as their home, shaping a level of the dream plane into a realm they could control and live in. The Primal Gods then took it upon themselves to confront the demons. The gods informed the invading demons that they would make the demons' lives as miserable as possible if the demons did not agree to create, run, and manage an afterlife that could harness and contain the souls trapped in the inbetween, and thus alleviate the psychic pollution flooding the astral plane. The demons reluctantly agreed.

    The demons began creating additional planes where souls could congregate and spend eternity without polluting the astral realm. However, the demons' initial attempts resulted in a great deal of complaining from those who were forced to actually live in the creations. Through complaints, changes of policy, and much paperwork, the demons eventually found themselves with 8 additional prototype hells on top of their original home they created for themselves. While there were indeed people who would more or less enjoy one out of the 8 hells designed for Aarnian mortals, most would absolutely despise the other seven. This gave the demons a headache and made them realize they'd actually have to sort the souls to ensure they wound up at a destination they might enjoy.

    To further confuse the process, the demons' method for deciding where the souls would go led to some serious complications. Instead of actually determining which of the 8 planes a soul would enjoy, the demons instead took that soul's value system in life and used that as a litmus test. This led to the very strange side effect of people satisfied with their lives being sent to a hell they would enjoy, while those who had serious regrets (or were hypocritical - valuing one thing and then doing the exact opposite) would be sent to a place where they would suffer eternally.

    The final thing the demons did in an attempt to make this run smoothly was to send emissaries into the real world to inform mortals what the afterlife and dream plane were like. The mortals misunderstood entirely, and religious dogma was born. Because those who are consistent in their value system wind up being sent to a place they would enjoy, great sects of dogmatic individuals were formed who would argue that -their- way was the only correct way. Their views were even reinforced by the fact that only their sect, or sects with similar beliefs, would be sent to their own most desirable afterlife. As a result, Demons were barred by the Gods from ever entering the mortal realm in the flesh again.

    The Nine + Planes of Hell:

    The first layer of hell, and the home of the demons. Bureaucracy is a place filled with towering apartment buildings, office complexes and other skyscrapers. It is a dystopian modern city that is both intimidating and horrifying to mortal eyes unfamiliar with the concept. They have flying cars, television, horrible weapons of mass destruction, military equipment and all other modern conveniences. Their society is very bureaucratic and organized. This also makes it especially inefficient. The civil code of laws however is quite simple; all activities are legal if one fills out the proper paperwork. Conversely, all activities are illegal if one does -not- fill out the proper paperwork. Demon activity is regulated by making certain paperwork extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find.

    Many native Aarnian mortals are absolutely horrified at any prospect of this hell, and the demons themselves are loathe to allow mortals to spend their afterlife in their own home town. Occasionally though, there are especially shrewd and bureaucratically minded mortals (especially dragons) who fit in just fine, and are allowed to stay there.

    The second level of hell, Paranoia was originally supposed to be a carbon copy of the real world, to allow those who did not want their lives to change to continue to exist as they always had. Unfortunately, the demons did their job designing this plane too well. Very quickly, a system of corruption and political dominance sprang up and began to oppress the populace. The fact that the more violent and "evil" people could not really be killed meant that they instead found themselves in positions of power. This also prevented any would-be revolutionaries from shattering the loyalty and power structure through assassination.

    The entire plane of Paranoia is currently run by an evil empire of criminals and corrupt law enforcement agencies. The only people who can enjoy this hell are narcissistic individuals involved in activities of naked self-interest, who died with a clear conscience over the evils they did in life.

    The second plane the demons created for mortal souls, Anarchy was purposefully regulated to prevent mortals from banding together into organized political groups. The demons hoped that this would prevent the problems that plagued Paranoia from plaguing Anarchy. In fact, worse problems developed. Anarchy became an extremely violent place, a constant riot where everyone fights everyone else, except when they're drinking or having sex. There is absolutely no order, no rhyme, no reason to this place. It is an endless sea of strife and chaos. Mass murderers, fighters, warriors and violent predator corporeal creatures tend to enjoy this afterlife quite a bit. Everyone else does not.

    Delerium is a plane so chaotic that any kind of civilization simply cannot spring up at all. The best way to begin to get a picture of what Delerium is like is to take a herculean dose of peyote, and then give yourself a direct IV drip of pure LSD. Then you have barely scratched the surface of the surreal way Delerium is constructed. The demons created it thinking that the removal of all order completely would allow those who did not enjoy Paranoia or Anarchy to have an happy afterlife.

    Those who enjoy Delerium tend to be curious individuals who enjoy sensation for sensation's sake. Otherwise, the plane is just so freakin' bizarre that it is practically impossible for anyone to function at all.

    Originally designed to be the final plane of hell, Meh is a plane of absolute nothingness. There is no gravity, no structure, no food, no water, no clothes, and even no bodies. Meh is a place where especially serene and nihilistic people can truly feel like they are at one with everything and nothing. It is also a place that is so boring, so empty, so lacking of stimulus that many call it to be the absolute worst alternative out of all the other eight planes of hell

    After the failures of the first four hells, the demons created a plan to construct four more, after studying human nature in more depth. The first of these, conformity is a plane of logic, structure, and technology. The demons populated it with their own robotic creations in order to police the plane and ensure that it ran smoothly. The society itself however is practically nonexistent. People are treated as numbers. There is no such thing as free thought or free expression. People are told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Surprisingly, many people actually do enjoy this hell. They are the sort of people who enjoy following a leader, and not having to think for themselves. Strangely, more actual humans populate this plane than any other type of creature.

    Like conformity, Security has a rigid authority structure. Unlike conformity, the sensibilities of the populace are actually looked after. Security is essentially the plane of Paranoia run in a tolerable way. Demons called angels are the authority structure here. They ensure that the needs of the populace are met, be they entertainment, food, drink, or other activities. Generally, it is possible to do or receive whatever one wants here, as long as it is not violent, mean, nasty, and does not infringe on the happiness of another individual in any way.

    While this may sound like a paradise, there is a down side. Happiness is regulated. If you are unhappy, you are almost treated as a criminal and taken to a "happiness reeducation center." These centers are often always materialistic in structure and do not tend to address the actual emotional problems causing the unhappiness. Treatment centers are distractions at best, torture at worst.

    What is worse, there is absolutely no risk, no thrill, no danger tolerated. Anything that might harm yourself or cause yourself pain is treated as if it were a kind of violence against another person. Even sex, which can often be rough and cause injury is strictly regulated. Keeping these things in mind, it can be easy to understand how this place could be considered a hell.

    A rustic wilderness with abundant wild food, crystal clear lakes, rains of honey and plenty of fresh air, Serenity is the most peaceful and primal of the nine hells. It is where most herbivore animals go. Philosophers, naturalists, vegetarians and other nonviolent people who enjoy little regulation find this place an utter paradise. The major downside of Serenity is that all there are put under a kind of spell that makes it especially difficult to undergo acts of violence or abuse. The paradise can sometimes be threatened by small spats or fights, but these rarely turn into anything serious.

    Serenity's major downside is the fact that it can be very boring to those who do not enjoy artistic or intellectual pursuits. While nowhere near as boring as the plane of Meh, Serenity can get on the nerves of those who demand an exciting lifestyle almost as much as Conformity and Security. There is little regulation in Serenity, but it does have just enough to prevent these sorts of people from truly being satisfied.

    The deepest level of hell, Revelry is a non-stop party. By this point, the demons had gotten so frustrated with their attempts to create suitable afterlives that people could enjoy that they essentially threw their hands up in the air, and decided to provide as much food, drink, music, and other fun things as possible. Extroverts who enjoy fun will absolutely thrive in this place. However, because the party is constant and never lets up, those who do not thrive on social conduct or cannot tolerate too much mindless fun without actual constructive activity will find themselves completely and utterly tortured.

    While not actually a plane of hell, immigration is a pocket space the demons created to store souls who had yet to be judged. It was supposed to only be temporary, but because of the demons' love of bureaucracy, quite a queue developed at the judgment booth. Immigration is very much like Meh, except it could be considered even worse than that because it was never intended to be a final destination. Immigration is nothing but an endless white space with a snaking line of creatures waiting to be told where they are going. The current wait, from death to judgment, is currently hovering at the equivalent of around 100 years.

    The Nature of Souls in Hell:

    Souls who find themselves in the afterlife are often granted a material body that reflects how they were when they were most healthy. The only exception to this rule is the plane of Meh, where visitors have their corporeal representation stripped from them. With this spiritual dream body, citizens of hell can do all of the things that they did in life, such as eating, sleeping, having sex, and even dying. Many of these activities do not work exactly as they did in the real world, however.

    Eating is not actually a requirement of spirit bodies. Hunger is only felt by souls in spirit bodies if those souls believe they -should- become hungry. Over time, many souls in hell do lose the habit of eating, as they slowly realize their hunger will abate even without food. Others turn eating into a recreational hobby, and food is often provided by the demons themselves if the local ecology of a plane of hell cannot meet the demand.

    Sex occurs in the afterlife just as commonly as it does in the material world, but spirit bodies are all barren and cannot reproduce. The demons were flooded with so much hate mail and feature change request forms over this issue that they decided to allow souls who had been stillborn or died at a very young age to come to the afterlife in that form and then be adopted by waiting families. These souls could be considered very unlucky. They not only have to wait through Immigration, but they are then put in a Demon adoption agency where the wait for adoption can be even longer. Once adopted, their spiritual body will slowly mature to the height of adulthood. Once adulthood is reached, their spiritual body ceases to age at all.

    Sleeping, unlike eating, is not something that is optional. The vast majority of mortal souls require dreams in order to maintain their sanity. Simply being dead is not enough to lift this fundamental requirement of mortal minds, and in fact, the lack of being able to dream is the major source of insanity in noncorporeal undead trapped on the material plane. Dead souls in the 9 hells do still dream in the astral plane, as they did when they were alive. During the deepest stages of sleep, soul's spirit body seems to dissolve into nothing. In actuality, it has been transported with the soul to that soul's dream pocket in the astral plane. When the dream is over, the soul is automatically transported back to its place in the nine hells, and the spirit body appears to re-form.

    Death in the afterlife is caused by an excess of trauma dealt to a spirit body, and lasts only a fraction of a second, with a new spiritual body forming next to the newly-created corpse. In planes such as anarchy or paranoia, cannibalism is rampant due to the excess of corpses that develop as spirit bodies die and reform. People also heal quickly from general injuries, but not as quickly as they would “heal” from a complete death and spirit body reformation. This has the interesting dynamic of forcing combatants in the 9 hells to attempt to deal nonlethal blows – it is much easier to recover from death than it is to recover from unconsciousness.

    There is an appeals process set up in the 9 hells that allows someone to ask for adjustments to be made to their afterlife. Naturally, this appeals process takes a very very, very long time, due to the high number of souls who are miserable. Some of these appeals involve changing the appearance or structure of a soul's spirit body. They can choose their apparent age, so those who fetishize age can appear old and wizened. They can also change their gender, or even their species. Many dragons, for instance, who wind up on the plane of Bureaucracy will often choose to appear as demons, and in fact, actually do become demons, both physically and spiritually.

    Souls can also appeal their judgment. In fact, the vast majority do. The long wait for the appeal to be processed however forces the soul to stay in their initial judgment plane for in upwards of thousands of years. Being forced to experience their supposed value system for that long often causes them to become tolerant of it, reinforcing that value system. When they are re-judged during their appeals process, they often wind up being sent right back where they came from.

    Others however, instead learn to hate their original supposed value system, and when their appeal goes through, they have accumulated the wisdom, experience, perspective and maturity for the demon judgment to actually work for once, and send them to a place they belong.

    The least lucky souls are ones who do not learn experience and perspective through their suffering, and instead experience a "Grass is greener" effect. They wind up being sent to a hell during judgment that they hate even more than the place they came from. Especially obtuse souls wind up bouncing around the different layers of hell for much of eternity.

    As an alternative for appealing their judgment, souls can instead send in an appeal form requesting to rejoin the One Mother as originally intended. Despite the shattering of the original gnostic cycle by Nektos' mischief, very small amounts of souls at a time can still do this. The process is one that strips the soul of all memory of their current life and identity, though the resulting consciousness can spend the rest of its existence as a true part of the One Mother's soul, experiencing a kind of parasitic bliss. Despite the suffering souls undergo in the nine hells, the idea of losing ones' own identity is one that the vast, vast majority of souls find horrifying. Many consider it to be a true death. Because of this, the wait for rejoining the One Mother is quite short, and souls often wind up rejoining the One Mother as soon as a few weeks after they send in their appeal.

    Another option for souls who wish to leave the 9 Hells is reincarnation. The reincarnation itself is handled by the One Mother, and the first step of it is rejoining her, in the same way as a soul who wishes to rejoin with her permanently. While memory, identity and experiences are still obliterated, the reincarnated soul carries with it a small imprint that allows the soul to identify its past lives in subtle ways. Unfortunately, a soul cannot request the type of creature it comes back as. The creature the soul is reincarnated into is chosen by the One Mother. Not surprisingly, this option is even less popular than rejoining her permanently.
    Last edited by Seiun; Tuesday, 9th October, 2007 at 01:01 AM. Reason: Adding categories

  2. #2

    Work on the setting has been slowly progressing, with advances in movement rules, elemancy skill sets, and fleshing out of the society of the world. Over the next few days I will post my current theories, suggestions and examples of how movement rules are being constructed.

    In the meantime, I have drawn artwork of all player races except humans. They are roughly sketched, undetailed, semi-SFW nudes. In the interest of keeping this forum as clean as possible, I will post links to the images here, instead of putting them in the original post or directly embedding the images.



    A Harpy:

    A male Naga:

    A female Naga:

    A pair of Saytrs:

    A group of Spirit Animals:

    I am also including here sketched out information about other prominant civilizations or legendary creatures that are not represented as player races.

    Centaurs: Drasticly departed from the source material, Centaurs are still humanoid torsos pasted onto the front of a horse. However, the Centaurs from Aarn are extremely musclebound and huge, hulking figures that rival ogers or giants in strength. They also have a row of bony, armored plates and spiked tusks growing out of their backs and faces, from their mouth, neck and shoulders to the base of their tail. Their civilization is rustic, similar to Satyrs, but very martial and warlike. They primarily live in the larger eastern islands that are not controlled by human politics.

    Dragons: Solitary creatures that enjoy the trappings of civilization, but have not produced their own. Like lions, they are the most powerful legendary creature race, and are lazy and do not like associating with others, or doing much of their own work. Dragons could be considered a type of parasite or scavenger of the civilizations of others. Before the age of man they collected the intellectual works and civilized products of merfolk, naga, and valdrex. There are 14 types of dragons, one for each of the elements represented in elemancy; Air, Water, Earth, Metal, Light, Dark, Fire, Cold, Electricity, Sound, and the two magical elements, manna and kanna. Typical dragon behaviors from high fantasy are not changed, and are treated traditionally.

    Medusea: Based on the classical image of Gorgons from the ancient greek myths, Medusea are scaly humanoids with huge golden-feathered wings that are used for swimming, as opposed to true flight, though they may glide. They are amphibious creatures who have a snake-like tail for swimming in water, that they may shed and grow human legs over a period of two weeks. They can wrap these legs in a cocoon of silk in order to re-grow their tail, which takes a similar period of time. They are also asexual "female" creatures who lay eggs, and then breastfeed their young once hatched.

    The major departure from myth is that their hair, snake-like tendrils, do not in fact have their own individual snake heads. Instead, each tendril ends in two openings, one which has a poisonous barb, the other which is what produces the silk for their cocoons. Medusea do however retain the ability to transform creatures who meet their gaze into stone.

    It is rumored that once the One Mother created Medusea, she used their basic humanoid form as a blueprint for all other humanoid legendary creatures, and even some animals, such as primates, giants, goblins and lizardmen. Despite this, the Medusea themselves have not developed their own prominent civilization, and are at risk of extinction, currently being confined to a chain of islands to the south of Rensvan.

    Merfolk: Living in a kingdom in the center of the Great Barrier Sea (South of Zenninfal, north of one of Yessha's major peninsulas) they are the most advanced and eldest of the true civilizations. Their design is traditional, with a fish tail, a human upper body, long elf-like ears and blueish or green skin. It is likely that the Merfolk were the first humanoid legendary creatures created after Medusea. Merfolk are content to keep to themselves, and do not like associating with other, "lesser" civilizations. Unlike the surface world of Aarn, Merfolk have had their own version of the industrial revolution, but their technology creates little pollutants, and is even based on some organic principles. Their highly advanced technology and weapons such as underwater vehicles, energy weapons and automated factories would be barely recognizable to us, and might even be confused for living creatures.

    Salamanders: Similar to the salamanders of traditional Dungeons and Dragons, they are fire-based creatures that are a cross between a man, a lizard and a centipede. Every salamander has fire-based elemancy at their disposal, but despite their intelligence have resisted grouping together into a proper civilization. They would easily be a threat to humans if they did. Salamanders are migratory and tend to live near areas of geothermal activity.

    Sphinxes: Mentioned in the main body of the setting overview in the Basics section, not much more detail about Sphinxes need to be said here. They are like dragons in that they have no civilization of their own, and integrate in their own odd way into the civilization and culture of humans. They are lions with feathered wings and human heads. Their forepaws also have opposable thumbs, like polydactyl housecats.

    Valdrex: A setting-unique race that lives between the Yesshan Desert and the jungles of Rensvan. They are lanky and 9 feet tall humanoids, and quite secretive. Despite only having four limbs and, they seem to be insect based and have exoskeletons. They wrap their bodies from head to toe in linens and robes, with only their glowing red eyes and massive clawed hands visible. Their arms are longer than their legs, and can almost drag on the ground while walking fully upright. They have minimal trading deals with the desert kingdoms of the Yesshan continent, and have an ongoing blood-feud with nagas. They support slavery and are often considered an evil, inhuman race with a code of morals quite different than our own, due to their different perspective and apparent insect heritage.
    Last edited by Seiun; Thursday, 4th October, 2007 at 11:23 PM.

  3. #3
    Unlike many other things I've changed from the 3.5 d20, I don't have a particular problem with the current movement rules. For the most part they're easy to remember and easy to manage.

    However, I want to make the stats of agility and finesse have their own impacts on the gameplay other than being a simple split-up of dexterity. One of the most obvious ways to do this is to restructure the movement rules and carrying capacity rules to take one's agility stat into account.

    First, all skill sets that involve body movement that depend on strength, such as climb and jump have had their governing stats changed to agility.

    Second, a character's strength score will still affect these skills indirectly, because when a character is overburdened, their agility score will simply be reduced based on how burdened they are. A character with a light load has no penalty. A character with a medium load may have a penalty from -2 to -4 to agility, to be based on future playtesting. A character with a heavy load may have a penalty from -4 to -6.

    This extends to staggering with a very heavy load (beyond carrying capacity) which would reduce a character's agility by as much as -8. Dragging a very, very heavy load will only reduce agility when it comes to movement speed, considering how easily it is for a character to let go of the load. Of course, if they are tethered to the load, or refuse to stop dragging/pushing the load, I may have it so that their agility score is reduced by as much as 10 or more.

    Third, when it comes to movement speed itself, a character's walking movement speed (default feet per round) will simply be twice the agility score, rounded to the nearest five. This means that a character with an agility of 7-8 has a 15" movement speed, 9-11 has a 20" movement speed, 12-13 a 25" movement speed, 14-16 a 30" movement speed, moving up the table. A character with an agility score of one has a movement speed of 0" and can only move 5 feet in a round by using a full round action.

    A hustling character is treated as normal, per the rules. If hustling would deal nonlethal damage, (such as extended out of combat travel) it deals endurance point damage instead.

    A running character, however, must spend one endurance point for every square crossed in the move action they spend running. This may seem very expensive, however, there is a special rule for the endurance point system I have mentioned before - catching one's breath.

    In general, a character in combat can spend a full round action catching his breath. This allows him to regenerate a number of endurance points equal to his current vitality score in that round. Making any other actions (including a full defense action) means that only half of one's vitality score (rounded down) is recovered. If a character is dealt damage from an attack of opportunity (or the equivalent), no endurance point damage is recovered.

    Normally, a character will always start combat with full endurance points, having had time to recover from their superficial wounds and their physical exertion between encounters. Long-term damage will be represented by ability score damage only.

    The only time a character would not have full EP is if that character were suffering endurance point damage outside of combat. Suffering endurance point loss outside of combat is assuming that the character has been pacing himself and catching his breath along the way, and any damage left over is beyond their current ability to recover. Endurance point damage suffered outside of an encounter regenerates at the same rate as nonlethal damage would.

    Because of this, when a character enters combat with endurance point damage, that damage is considered their current maximum EP, and endurance points cannot be increased beyond this level by catching one's breath or binding one's wounds. A healing spell however can increase endurance points beyond this level, and any endurance point amount reached through healing magic is considered the new temporary EP cap.

    To address possible confusion, healing magic cannot increase one's temporary cap to endurance point damage beyond one's normal maximum EP.

    When it comes to movement outside of combat, a character's base movement speed is calculated using whichever stat is lower - agility or vitality. If a character's agility is 15, and their vitality 10, they will still have a tactical movement speed of 30" during an encounter. However, because their vitality is 10, their movement speed for long distance travel is treated as if it were base 20".

    A full table describing these movement speeds and how they relate to agility and vitality, based on the movement speed table in the SRD, will be provided at a later date.

    Edit: Added five new fields to the campaign overview post, covering demons, the afterlife, and setting metaphysics.
    Last edited by Seiun; Tuesday, 9th October, 2007 at 01:01 AM.

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