Why are we okay with violence in RPGs? - Page 26
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  1. #251
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
    I don't know if I agree with this.
    A lot of people don't.

    I don't think the presence of social mechanics means that actual roleplaying will be replaced by dice rolls.
    You'll note, I don't either. What I actually believe is something much more controversial.

    Certainly your examples of "I try to intimidate the guard" and "I try to persuade the Baron" can both be used in a game that has no social mechanics just as easily as one that has them.
    I think "I try to intimidate the guard" replaces actual roleplaying, and that social mechanics are a problem only to the extent that they encourage these anti-cinematic social propositions. If your RP/social encounter tends to replace conversation with rules propositions, that is what the problem is, and not that there is an underlying system for guiding the GM on how to adjudicate social interaction.

    Neither is right or wrong, but also neither is dependent on the presence of social rules.
    Like I said, my position is more extreme than that. I do think one is more wrong than right, and that while you are correct that social rules do not in themselves create the problem, to the extent that they encourage the table to bypass actual roleplaying, I think they are diminishing the enjoyment of the game.

    That said, I can't objectively prove that a more immersive more cinematic game is one that is better, and if you are like, "Those aren't even important aesthetics of play.", then OK. But I don't believe anything is gained by ignoring those aesthetics of play, and indeed, they are one of the most essential aesthetics of play. If you ignore them, you might as well play a cRPG, but I'll note that even cRPG's try to create something like a cinematic transcript of social interaction and that you'd miss that if it was gone.

    In my experience, such mechanics actively promote focusing on the social aspect more, which winds up enhancing those scenes. People are more willing to get involved when there are engaging mechanics involved. I mean in meaningful interactions that will have an impact on the fiction....convincing the Baron to lend troops, to use your example. Let's say a game has some kind of meaningful mechanics to support an attempt to convince a NPC to do something, and that it can involve more than one roll and one character....it's not just "have the bard try and convince him to help" but instead it's having the party convince him in a number of ways. Hopefully, this would make the attempt to convince the Baron a more involved encounter rather than simply boiling it down to rolls.
    In theory I agree with you, though achieving the goal of having a whole party equally engaged by social interaction at the same time is more challenging that you make it seem here - especially if what we are not doing is IC conversation (and it's hard enough even if conversation).

    All of gaming boils down to two things - choices and rolls. The problem with anything boiled down to some dice rolls is that means it had no meaningful choices. A combat that lacks meaningful choices of tactics, positioning, weapons and so forth is I think rather boring and greatly to be avoided if at all possible. And if it can't be avoided, then it should be resolved quickly. I judge social systems by the same standards. If there really aren't a lot of meaningful choices of approach, then keep the resolution simple. A conversational approach at least involves a night infinite number of choices to make. Even if all those choices come down to just a plus or minus 1-3 modifier on a die roll, according to how well the GM thinks you made the case, that's at least something. A more complex scenario, so that you get a -5 modifier if you engage in flattery (because the Duke hates sycophants) but a +5 modifier if you appeal to his honor (or vica versa) and the PC's must figure out from what they know of the Duke what sort of approach to use, or else realize that because the Duke is a compulsive gambler that they could get the Duke to make some sort of wager and stake the outcome on a contest, or else that they could persuade the sympathetic Duchess (DC 15 rather than DC 25) more easily than the Duke provided they could get an audience, and the Duke in turn is easily persuaded by the Duchess (50% chance), and so forth just requires planning out the scenario with the detail you'd otherwise lavish on a dungeon.

  2. #252
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flexor the Mighty! View Post
    And no Rot grubs are not a staple in games like stirges, dire striges, undead dire stirges, the stirge king, and giant dire epic stirges.
    We're in full agreement on stirges.

  3. #253
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bedrockgames View Post
    We just see things differently then. The GM deciding what happens when the players do something in the world, I file that under adjudication. I think we just have fundamentally different ways of thinking about play Umbran.
    I don't think there's anything fundamental, here - I'm talking more about categorizing, and setting expectations.

    I just think about it, and realize there are parts of play where the GM is acting more like a judge/referee, and parts of play where the GM is acting more like an author. The former I'd call adjudication, the latter, not. There's connotations to "adjudication" that I don't think apply to the authoring moments, and failing the expectations is not good for the table (broadly, speaking).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    I don't think there's anything fundamental, here - I'm talking more about categorizing, and setting expectations.

    I just think about it, and realize there are parts of play where the GM is acting more like a judge/referee, and parts of play where the GM is acting more like an author. The former I'd call adjudication, the latter, not. There's connotations to "adjudication" that I don't think apply to the authoring moments, and failing the expectations is not good for the table (broadly, speaking).
    Okay but this is subjective. This isn't objective categorization. What you consider authoring, I consider adjudication.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bedrockgames View Post
    Okay but this is subjective. This isn't objective categorization. What you consider authoring, I consider adjudication.
    I think that there probably is an objective difference. I could easily write a computer program to adjudicate, in the same way you could write a program to play chess and determine what was or wasn't a valid move. But I don't think I could so easily write a computer program to author. And if I could write a program which engaged in authoring, it would be at least quantitatively different than one that could adjudicate. Present cRPGs are very good at adjudication, but authoring in the sense that Umbran means it is beyond our understanding. We can attempt to simulate authoring through what is called procedural generation of content, but the very fact that it is procedural and therefore bounded, suggests that even this is more like adjudication than what Umbran is calling authoring.

    Adjudication seems to relate to some sort of finite set. While authoring seems to be boundless, or at least a set so large it would be beyond our ability to even imagine constraints.

    So I offer this objective definition. If the process is procedural, then it is adjudication. But if the process cannot be defined by any presently known procedure, and seems to require that element we call imagination, then at the point it requires imagination it is authoring.

    I do agree that certain systems have no adjudication by this definition, as in some systems the GM is empowered always to imagine a resolution based on undefined categories and never really has an outcome imposed on them. These 'wheel of fortune' systems never really say what happens, but instead generate very vague hints like 'Fumble', 'Failure', 'Partial Failure', 'Success with Complications', 'Success', 'Critical Success' and so forth, and leave it up to the GM or some sort of non-procedural negotiation among the participants to decide what that hint means.

    You can imagine my opinion of that sort of system.
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  6. #256
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    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    A lot of people don't.

    You'll note, I don't either. What I actually believe is something much more controversial.

    I think "I try to intimidate the guard" replaces actual roleplaying, and that social mechanics are a problem only to the extent that they encourage these anti-cinematic social propositions. If your RP/social encounter tends to replace conversation with rules propositions, that is what the problem is, and not that there is an underlying system for guiding the GM on how to adjudicate social interaction.
    I don't think it replaces roleplaying. It's just a more straightforward version of roleplaying. What you seem to be advocating is speaking in character as a more cinematic version of roleplaying; does that sound right? I would say that may be the case just as if the DM makes a snarling face when he describes the gnoll that your party has just encountered. But if he describes the gnoll without making the face, I don't think he's not roleplaying.

    I think as long as the player is advocating for their character, an they're engaged in the stakes and what's happening, then anything additional like speaking in character is just that...additional. I can understand that for some, speaking in character can be a very immersive element of the game. That's fine. I don't agree that it's essential to roleplaying. Nor do I think it's essential to a cinematic experience.

    By your reasoning, it would seem that combat is non-cinematic? During combat, most players begin to declare actions in very rules proposition kind of ways, no?


    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    Like I said, my position is more extreme than that. I do think one is more wrong than right, and that while you are correct that social rules do not in themselves create the problem, to the extent that they encourage the table to bypass actual roleplaying, I think they are diminishing the enjoyment of the game.
    Like I said, I don't think that such rules really encourage people to bypass roleplaying. I think that having rules in place simply makes such encounters more structured, and lets players know what their options are, and how to go about those options, and some sense of the possible outcomes of the actions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    That said, I can't objectively prove that a more immersive more cinematic game is one that is better, and if you are like, "Those aren't even important aesthetics of play.", then OK. But I don't believe anything is gained by ignoring those aesthetics of play, and indeed, they are one of the most essential aesthetics of play. If you ignore them, you might as well play a cRPG, but I'll note that even cRPG's try to create something like a cinematic transcript of social interaction and that you'd miss that if it was gone.
    I would't really disagree with this other than that what is immersive can vary from person to person, and the same for what is considered essential to play. But I do value immersion and cinematic play, so those are important to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    In theory I agree with you, though achieving the goal of having a whole party equally engaged by social interaction at the same time is more challenging that you make it seem here - especially if what we are not doing is IC conversation (and it's hard enough even if conversation).

    All of gaming boils down to two things - choices and rolls. The problem with anything boiled down to some dice rolls is that means it had no meaningful choices. A combat that lacks meaningful choices of tactics, positioning, weapons and so forth is I think rather boring and greatly to be avoided if at all possible. And if it can't be avoided, then it should be resolved quickly. I judge social systems by the same standards. If there really aren't a lot of meaningful choices of approach, then keep the resolution simple. A conversational approach at least involves a night infinite number of choices to make. Even if all those choices come down to just a plus or minus 1-3 modifier on a die roll, according to how well the GM thinks you made the case, that's at least something. A more complex scenario, so that you get a -5 modifier if you engage in flattery (because the Duke hates sycophants) but a +5 modifier if you appeal to his honor (or vica versa) and the PC's must figure out from what they know of the Duke what sort of approach to use, or else realize that because the Duke is a compulsive gambler that they could get the Duke to make some sort of wager and stake the outcome on a contest, or else that they could persuade the sympathetic Duchess (DC 15 rather than DC 25) more easily than the Duke provided they could get an audience, and the Duke in turn is easily persuaded by the Duchess (50% chance), and so forth just requires planning out the scenario with the detail you'd otherwise lavish on a dungeon.
    This all seems to assume the core structure is that of D&D. And that's fine....I think you can achieve what I'm talking about with D&D, but you have to work to make it happen, and I don't think that the rules are designed with it in mind.

    But there are other systems that function in a different way than the DC/skill roll mechanic. There are systems that may allow players to contribute fictional elements that could affect the outcome that in D&D are entirely the purview of the DM; certainly that could engage a player, I'd say. There could be group checks or something similar, which allow multiple characters to be involved in a given roll in some way. There could be varying numbers of successes needed, with some actions adding more successes than others.

    All this could be daunting if you had to constantly make a bunch of rulings on exactly how to handle it.....but if the actual mechanics already exist, then I don't think you have to do nearly as much prep as you are implying. You just keep the NPC's goals and traits in mind, and then you lean on the mechanics to help resolve the matters. If they do this, that happens, and so on.

    I agree with you about the amount of choice and how much time you spend on an encounter. I look at combat encounters the same way....how much does the outcome matter and how much do the players have to think about how to win? If it's not all that deep, I consider how to resolve it quickly, or if it's even worth table time. I do the same with social encounters, or skill based challenges. So I think we agree on that.

    But I guess I'm just struggling with the idea that combat can be cinematic and engaging when boiled down to action declarations, some dice rolls, and maybe some dialogue, but social encounters become non-cinematic when boiled down the same way.

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    Well first off, the same reason I'm okay with violence in videogames and on TV: because it isn't real. And that is all I'd feel the need to say if this wasn't a topic I've thought a fair bit about. To go a bit more in depth:

    Human beings have celebrated and glorified violence--usually but not always with a focus on courage, honor and valor--for our entire history. The need to do violence is biologically wired into us as organisms.

    Our (Western and then when I speak, I do mean specifically American) culture has lacked for outlets for real violence for a long time because of the state of relative advancement our civilization has reached. Our warrior caste is, compared with that of previous civilizations, nearly invisible. The US population is 327 some odd MILLION people. The US Army has only a hair over 2 million troops, counting the reserves. Overwhelmingly, these troops are professional career volunteer soldiers: the rest are largely made up of youths from lower income brackets joining the military as a practical way of paying their way through college. Our soldiers in the former group are largely segregated from the civilian population and make up their own subculture with relatively little cultural intercourse between soldiers and citizens. Amidst our mania for television, sports, and televised sports what would in ancient cultures have been warrior poets are largely ignored in the shadow of sports and media celebrities. Actual martial glory and/or honor is something only a tiny percentage of soldiers will achieve, and only a tiny percentage of US citizens are soldiers. For everyone else there is a fantasy/fantastic/fictional violence. A appreciation of violence, conquest, and victory seems to be built into us instinctively.

    Now, let's compare this with another Democracy like I don't know, Athens. Historians estimate that during the 4th Century BC Attica may have had as many as 300,000 citizens. Only adult male citizens who had completed their military training were allowed to participate in Athenian Democracy. This military training gave every citizen at least a taste of what violence was like, even if they decided they wanted to have nothing to do with it. According to Thucydides, at the start of the Peloponessian wars in 431 BC Athens had a total military strength of a little over 30,000 troops.

    Ancient Athens -- note that I did NOT pick SPARRRRTAAAAAA -- had a population comprised of roughly 10% soldiers, based on the above numbers.
    The modern United States has a population comprised of roughly 0.61% soldiers, based on the above numbers.

    It seems reasonable to me to extrapolate that means that compared with an ancient democracy, a modern democracy has 9.49% less soldiers: in the case of the US, that would be roughly 31 million citizens who would have been soldiers for the vast majority of human history that are now accountants, construction workers, doctors, software engineers, you name it. It seems to me that interactive violent entertainment (whether videogames in 99/100 cases or TTRPGs in the other 1%) was a necessity for these individuals who would spend their lives distanced from real violence, and the creation of such entertainment by modern culture feels perfectly logical.

    I am ABSOLUTELY NOT saying that everyone who enjoys fictional violence in TTRPGs or any other medium does so out of a subconscious frustration at being unable to be doing violence (soldiering) in real life.

    So, to sum up: there is practically no modern warrior caste, or at least it has nearly vanished in the modern age with a few striking counter-examples, because of civilization. Violent entertainment is in part a cultural response to this sea change in a large portion of the populace from soldier or citizen/soldier to non-soldier citizens.

    This is something I have thought about because I have killed millions and millions of fictional people (the overwhelming majority in videogames, a few hundred in TTRPGs) and enjoyed the heck out of it. If I am not just a sick bastard, plain and simple, then most likely the explanation I've outlined makes some sense. Born into a different culture (and with actually functioning intestines) I might have been a soldier if I had displayed any natural aptitude for it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    I just think about it, and realize there are parts of play where the GM is acting more like a judge/referee, and parts of play where the GM is acting more like an author. The former I'd call adjudication, the latter, not. There's connotations to "adjudication" that I don't think apply to the authoring moments, and failing the expectations is not good for the table (broadly, speaking).


    I would say that a lot of the time when not acting more like a Referee, a GM acts more like a director and showrunner than an author per se. It's a subtle but important distinction. An author is the usually the sole creator of a narrative work. A director guides many people together to achieve the desired effect, and likewise while the showrunner is in charge of the overall direction of a narrative, they do so by working through the writers on their team.

    There's a fine line between fun happy combat and ... um ... uncomfortable colonialist massacre of women and children, if you catch my drift.
    See, "why are we okay with violence against demihumans?" is an altogether different, probably more interesting, and certainly stickier question. But mainly, it is a DIFFERENT question. And you are absolutely right that colonialism is undeniably bound up in it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
    What you seem to be advocating is speaking in character as a more cinematic version of roleplaying; does that sound right?
    Yes, that's pretty much the essence of it.

    I would say that may be the case just as if the DM makes a snarling face when he describes the gnoll that your party has just encountered. But if he describes the gnoll without making the face, I don't think he's not roleplaying.
    So, here comes the stickler. I'm not really interested in arguing the qualitative. I'm arguing for essentially the quantitative. In other words, whether or not the DM is roleplaying isn't really an interesting contention. While I might agree that there is some diminishing point at which the GM is not roleplaying at all, that's not to me the essence of the issue. The point is that he is roleplaying "less well"/"more badly" than the first GM. And as a mature form of art, we ought to be pushing toward the skillful play of the GM who brings the gnoll more to life and creates the more interesting characterization.

    I think as long as the player is advocating for their character, an they're engaged in the stakes and what's happening, then anything additional like speaking in character is just that...additional. I can understand that for some, speaking in character can be a very immersive element of the game. That's fine. I don't agree that it's essential to roleplaying.
    I do think it is essential to roleplaying, and that a game in which it is not essential at all to be immersive isn't a RPG. Thus, you can speak in character in the game of monopoly, but doing so is no part of the game. Thus, it's not a roleplaying game. I'm not going to argue at what point immersion so disappears from play that it isn't an RPG any more, but I will argue that less important it is to your process of play, the less of a RPG you are playing, and the more you are moving toward playing a wargame or some sort of board game.

    Nor do I think it's essential to a cinematic experience.
    But I'm contesting that whether it is essential or not, by the definition I outlined I can objectively show that it is the more cinematic experience.

    By your reasoning, it would seem that combat is non-cinematic? During combat, most players begin to declare actions in very rules proposition kind of ways, no?
    Combat certainly can be non-cinematic, and often is non-cinematic. To understand how it does not have to be non-cinematic, you have to go back to my definition of cinematic which is, "Creates a shared imaginary space which the participants can each concretely imagine what is going on and will each imagine much the same thing." So consider the common rules proposition, "I [try to] attack." This is a very uncinematic and unimmersive proposition. The participants are given little sense of what to imagine by such an abstract proposition, and neither are required to imagine what happens nor are prompted to imagine what happens. Likely all that will be mentally considered by the participants is some mechanical result, such as the deduction of abstract hit points from a pool of hit points to be abraded away. But now consider the following rules propositions:

    "I step to the side and attempt to cleave the legs out from under the orc with my battle axe."
    "I trust my shield into the orcs face and attempt to hurl him backwards over the cliff."
    "With my blade locked with the orc, I attempt to hook my leg around his, and trip him over backward."
    "I leap up on to the altar, and with an overhead smash, bring it down on the orcs helm."
    "Stepping back from the fray, I cast a spray of magic missiles into orc horde."

    These are all highly cinematic rules propositions. Everyone participating in the game is prompted to imagine something concrete by such propositions, and each is likely to produce a transcript of their play experience that is similar because they all imagined nearly the same thing. Whereas with something abstract like, "I attack.", who knows.

    My contention is that a game system is improved if it tends to encourage more cinematic propositions because there is an onto mapping between cinematic propositions and the rules systems that adjudicate those propositions. In other words, it matters if you leap onto the alter, or step to the side, or whatever because it changes the outcome or at least the odds in the outcomes.

    Now of course, we don't live in a perfect world. In an idealized system such highly cinematic propositions are well and good, but as a practical matter in the real world highly cinematic systems tend to be granular by definition and granular systems tend to have high complexity and slower resolution of play. So in a real system, you have to make a trade off in cinematic versus speed of play. But in a hypothetical system where everything was equally simple and equally fast, we'd always tend to prefer the more cinematic system because having a shared imaginary reality filled with concrete actions always ALWAYS produces the more exciting transcript of play (essentially, what you remember of the game) than merely abstractly whittling down a pool of hit points by rote action.

    There are of course techniques for turning abstract declarations into more cinematic resolutions, but the problem with that process is that the player's choice matters less to the outcome, which over time reduces player interest in the game.

    Like I said, I don't think that such rules really encourage people to bypass roleplaying.
    They can, if they encourage people to substitute more abstract metagame declarations for more concrete in game declarations. If for example, the mechanics encourage you to simply state your social move as a metagame classification, without ever providing some idea as to what actually happened in the game when you performed that move, then you have a process where some rules generated an outcome, but no roleplaying necessarily took place. No one will have a clear idea what happened in the game reality, only that you transitioned from one game state to another after a move was made. And at that point, you are playing a board game, because part of what makes a board game a board game is the reality it is modelling does not need to be and usually is not concretely imagined.

    Incidentally, this is one of the reasons I find most consciously created Nar games terrible at actually creating Narrative and the experience of being in a story.

    I would't really disagree with this other than that what is immersive can vary from person to person, and the same for what is considered essential to play.
    Well, by my definition you could do some sort of double blind study, and if the participants could at a higher percentage rate agree to what the essentials of an action had been based on the proposition, then we could prove within a certain confidence interval than one sort of play had been more immersive than the other.

    For example, for the proposition, "I attempt to persuade the Duke.", if two separated participants independently reported afterwards the same words said to the Duke, then that was immersive. But I think it is clear they'd do a much better at agreeing what had been said with a proposition like, "Your Grace, you have always been known as a man of honor. If you do not lend your strong aid now, and tragedy ensues, what will your loyal subjects say of you?"

    But there are other systems that function in a different way than the DC/skill roll mechanic. There are systems that may allow players to contribute fictional elements that could affect the outcome that in D&D are entirely the purview of the DM; certainly that could engage a player, I'd say. There could be group checks or something similar, which allow multiple characters to be involved in a given roll in some way. There could be varying numbers of successes needed, with some actions adding more successes than others.
    All of which is irrelevant. That's just the underlying mechanical engine which the GM then cranks the handle of to decide whether or not the Duke is persuaded. The point is the proposition. The underlying mechanical engine only matters to the extent that it pushes the game toward abstract declarations by prioritizing the meta-declaration over the proposition itself.

    All this could be daunting if you had to constantly make a bunch of rulings on exactly how to handle it.....but if the actual mechanics already exist, then I don't think you have to do nearly as much prep as you are implying. You just keep the NPC's goals and traits in mind, and then you lean on the mechanics to help resolve the matters. If they do this, that happens, and so on.
    Point is, you have to define the NPCs goals and traits. Some systems encourage you to do that and provide a framework for it. Others provide no such encouragement or framework, but as I'm hopefully showing - even in systems that traditionally don't define NPC social traits in a mechanical way - you still can define those traits in a mechanical way.

    But I guess I'm just struggling with the idea that combat can be cinematic and engaging when boiled down to action declarations, some dice rolls, and maybe some dialogue, but social encounters become non-cinematic when boiled down the same way.
    Well, I direct you back to the start of this line of argument for why combat and social challenges are inherently different in a TRPG context, and why therefore attempts to treat them as exactly the same tend to fail, and are quite possibly poor design because they are more unalike than they are alike. (https://www.enworld.org/forum/showth...=1#post7621872)
    Last edited by Celebrim; Tuesday, 18th June, 2019 at 09:59 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    I'm really not a fan of FATE, and the only part of FATE that I'd ever advise anyone to borrow is less its system than the description it provides for outlining in some concrete way the elements of the game and challenges. The system itself leaves me cold for a ton of reasons, but it does in its advice to the GM push you toward good preparation to play. Unfortunately, I really think too often this good foundation is ignored and at most people attempting to play the game do no more than a rough draft and build nothing on it, thinking that they can get away with little or no preparation. Based on what I've seen from play run by even the designer of the system, this is not a great idea.
    I get not liking FATE, its not for everybody, but it does a good job of explaining why you want to setup your social encounter and lay out what the moving parts are in advance. As you noted of course.

    FATE can be played off the cuff, for a physical fight, but it works best with at least a bit of setup. This can be with or without player input. A social encounter needs the same kind of work, but requires much more description because you need clear ideas about what will work, what might work, and what will not work.

    I can think of a few ways that we can look at using D&D similar ways without dramatically changing the way skills are used, but as you noted Celebrim it requires a substantial amount of prep work, and it requires a willingness to explain why the perfect speech you ginned up actually insulted the Duke after the dice are rolled. Which isn't that different than combat, where you figure out why your attack didn't actually do anything (on a descriptive level) after you know the results.

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