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Pathfinder 1E How to deal with high AC PCs

Make a new feat. "Penetrating Blade" or "Armor Crushing Blow" that can be given to PCs or NPCs. (In other words, let the PCs know about this.) For a modest penalty to hit (-2? -4?) the incoming attack acts like a touch attack.

Someone has heavy armor? Well, someone has an adamantine maul (and that feat) to try to smash them in. That's actually based on real life. While knights always carried swords, that was mainly a dueling/caught by surprise weapon. They often used poleaxes or shortened lances in actual combat. The former being to go through armor, in multiple formats too. (The spike for visors, for instance.)
 

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The Little Raven

First Post
Uhm... sounds like you broke the game. You won. Game over.

No, I didn't break the game. I made ONE defense (out of FOUR) impossible for him to hit using perfectly legal game elements he allowed.

He broke the game by not using his brain and thinking "Wow, he's got a weak Will, Reflex, and Fortitude. Which of those three should I attack, instead of focusing on his strongest point?"

Maybe I have high standards, but I expect more from a DM.
 

gamerprinter

First Post
Alright, if it works in your group it works. My players love making stuff, customizing their gear etc. - might be because they have a long history of playing wizards and other spellcasters all the way from AD&D (some even 1st ed). Thus any wizard worth his salt will make or try to buy items that increases Intelligence (headband if intelligence, etc), and enchanting up armor is a no-brainer. They also love to make special items, or rare ones, it's not all about just boosting some stats or bonuses.

Although 3 out 6 of our group started playing together 20 years ago with AD&D 2e, the same 3 started with 1e originally, but not together. The other 3 are half the age of the older members, so have only been playing with us since 3x.

One of us old guys always (always) plays psionicists, another always plays gish classes (or multiclass) and is more of the casting fighter, and never crafts, me I play any class that takes my fancy at the moment, and almost never wizards. With PF I play half-casters mostly.

Some people are into making their own items and that's great, but our group, not so much.

I actually prefer to GM, and I like making monsters, new classes, and magic items (but not crafting them as a player.)
 
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Just like the PC's target the enemy spellcasters first. If so much of the character's resources have gone to AC, he's unlikely to be the high damage team member, so ignoring him to focus on the softer targets with higher damage potential makes sense. It is what the PC team would do, so why should NPC's be tactically stupider? Once the others are out of the way, teamwork like Aid Another against this guy becomes much more practical.

There are an array of abilities against which armor is less useful, as already cited by others.

Ultimately, I would WANT this PC to feel awesome in his defensive ability pretty regularly. If he had instead focused all his character resources on higher damage, he'd get to be the guy who cleaves through the opponents before they even get an attack and feel Awesome. He spent his resources on defense, so he should be Awesomely defended.

At 8th level, these guys should feel pretty powerful, so having town guards be a limited threat really doesn't bother me. If they're abusing that power, the town would logically take the same approach most game worlds do - hire some heroic adventurers to deal with these powerful brigands!



To start, maybe you need your scenarios to feature more investigation and NPC interaction. That seems highly likely to be this guy's weak point, since everything he has is combat-focused. Let the PC's who invested resources in non-combat abilities shine there, and he can shine in combat.

With Combat Expertise, he's taking a stiff penalty on attack bonuses to get defense bonuses. I always thought of Combat Expertise as a replacement for Fighting Defensively, but I see nothing in the rules that prevents using both. That's a -7 penalty to hit, though (-3 from Expertise and -4 from Defensive Fighting). Why not throw in some high AC opponents and make him reconsider those bonuses? I assume he's not getting much mileage from iterative attacks.



So it's low magic when the player wants to complain about his weaknesses coming into play, but not when he wants to commission a very specific item for his character. Somehow, that sounds less than fully reasonable. Especially if the characters' power has also come with some fame. If enemies know this guy is almost unhittable in combat, but easily affected by mind-affecting spells, they would be pretty stupid not to hire someone who can target his weaknesses - and you've established spellcasters aren't tough to hire, right?

Hey, if he wants a bonus to Will saves, all he has to do is Rage...and suck up the AC drawbacks. I'd also suggest this organization they are up against should have an idea of the characters' capabilities (not just his PC) and the ability to equip their minions in an equally focused manner. So maybe they should start sending in, say, some Net and Trident warriors to oppose this guy. No reason they can't have feats to enhance attack bonuses with their nets. His Touch AC is pretty good, but removal of armor and shield bonuses drops him to a much more hittable range.

Net fighters staying 10' away, probably with decent AC's so he has to choose between a decent touch AC and a decent chance of hitting them (Defensive and CE being a much bigger part of his Touch AC) changes the game a bit, I suspect.

You have some good points. Although I'm already doing some of these things, and the player is considering changing his character because of it. My missions have been mostly investigation combined with combat - about 50% each. As for CE+FD, he seldom uses this anymore, and he used to routinely miss enemies at the lower level because of his extreme cautiousness.

I think you misunderstood something about my campaign - spellcasters are not dime a dozen. Only major organizations can even hope to bring in several spellcasters, and the party is working for the government of the most powerful empire in that game world. The spellcasters they have met so far has been from an opposing city-state which is almost unique in the world by having an actual school of magic (the Empire doesn't).

Also, most spellcasters are of the non-adventuring type in my games. It doesen't make sense to send such a rare resource out to die when they can stay in base and do valuable magical research, scrying, long-range communications, item crafting for operatives etc. Also the party's spellcasters are putting their time in as well, crafting items for NPCs when asked for no additional price.

In every major encounter the... enemy spellcasters are there to mess up the party.

The character has been dominated once (for several days, killed a party member), Held 2-3 times, blinded 3 times (glitterdust), Feared 3 times.. probably more I forget. Many of his enemies have realized he has this weakness, but his party has helped him out every time.

I am curious in what you and your players want to do with the campaign. Looking at the current state of it, it doesn't look like it's very viable.

When I mentioned core, I was thinking of 3.5 (I am not familiar with pathfinder specifics) and to me that was the PHB. Might you think of core as a wider variety of books or is pathfind really that broken?

Anyway, the question isn't really what you can do, bute more of a question of what you and your players want to do with the Campaign. We usually discuss things like this before creating characters. Sometimes we go for "go as broken as you want" and sometimes we go for "avoid powergaming too hard". Where are you and your players in this?

My players do know when they have found a combination that's good enough to "break" the game and because of the social contract we have they either approach me with it or just don't use the loophole.

Like the player who found the "Blinding spittle" spell gave a +4 ranged touch attack to blind the foe until he managed to wash it out. I let him use it if just used it occationally and agreed that it wouldn't work against dragons and such.

The campaign is far from broken, I just miss having lower level enemies to be a somewhat reasonable threat. Even Conan gets taken down when faced with overwhelming numbers.

Pathfinder isn't broken, but it makes more powerful characters than 3.5 generally speaking. In the case of AC PF easily gives 2-3 more points from boosted armors and feats, but lacks the outrageous balance issues in some 3.5 material.

Power gaming: The group isn't bad on this is general, and actually I was surprised as that one player generally makes far less effective characters - his last character in PF was a completely useless cleric/wizard.



No, I didn't break the game. I made ONE defense (out of FOUR) impossible for him to hit using perfectly legal game elements he allowed.

He broke the game by not using his brain and thinking "Wow, he's got a weak Will, Reflex, and Fortitude. Which of those three should I attack, instead of focusing on his strongest point?"

Maybe I have high standards, but I expect more from a DM.

You really think AC is the same as the saves? This isn't 4th edition. AC is what is attacked by at least 80% of the enemies, and is also far easier to get high. You're basically saying that the DM is only allowed to use spellcasters or monsters with SPA's against the group because you somehow managed to make a character that has a completely overpowered AC? If the game system allows broken combos, don't blame the DM when you abuse that fact.
 

The Little Raven

First Post
You really think AC is the same as the saves? This isn't 4th edition. AC is what is attacked by at least 80% of the enemies, and is also far easier to get high. You're basically saying that the DM is only allowed to use spellcasters or monsters with SPA's against the group because you somehow managed to make a character that has a completely overpowered AC? If the game system allows broken combos, don't blame the DM when you abuse that fact.

Plenty of monsters have spell-like abilities and supernatural abilities that target saves. Using them while still using AC-targeting monsters against my allies isn't really that difficult.

It's the DM's job to figure out how to challenge the characters, not the player. If his solution is "You can't play a character you made by the guidelines I set," then he has failed.

And I know it isn't 4e. That's why I don't play it anymore.
 

Blackbrrd

First Post
The campaign is far from broken, I just miss having lower level enemies to be a somewhat reasonable threat. Even Conan gets taken down when faced with overwhelming numbers.
Ah, I see where you are coming from with that comment. ;)

It's one of the things that I think can be interesting with 5e - the flattening of to-hit/AC math. Low level mobs will probably hit for small amounts of damage and miss a bit more often, but they won't be useless. Something one assumes in basically every work of fiction but isn't the case in DnD.

I am also thinking of running a version of 4e where skills, to-hit numbers, ac and non-ac defenses and magical items don't scale by level. That would mean I could use all premade 4e monsters that have a wide variety of cool powers and only adjust the to-hit numbers, skills and AC.

This way I can have monsters like goblins that are a constant threat for a large level range if the number that appear grows as the characters level. For instance at low levels they might just meet a little scouting party the later run into a warband and even later the whole tribe. It also makes city guards and such not completely useless.

The reason I am contemplating 4e again is that I actually enjoyed the combat system but thought the leveling process with "mandatory" magical items and very steep scaling was completely not my style. What I have seen of 5e so far looks interesting, but I really think they have to do something about the monsters. So far they do seem quite bland combat wise. The claw/claw/bite attack routine has gotten a bit old. On the other hand - it's simple and leaves more time for role playing. I will have to see what how 5e turns out.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Have you tried having mooks use nets against him? Ranged touch attacks should really lower his AC. The nets would probably have to be stronger than the usual so he didn't automatically get right out of them, but even the usual net takes a full round action to get out of. Have the other end of the rope tied to a horse, or a bunch of people pull him towards something unpleasant...

Alchemists fire and acid already been used a lot too, or too rare? (Are there other annoying ranged touch attacks... big bag of sneezing powder?)
 

Have you tried having mooks use nets against him? Ranged touch attacks should really lower his AC. The nets would probably have to be stronger than the usual so he didn't automatically get right out of them, but even the usual net takes a full round action to get out of. Have the other end of the rope tied to a horse, or a bunch of people pull him towards something unpleasant...

Alchemists fire and acid already been used a lot too, or too rare? (Are there other annoying ranged touch attacks... big bag of sneezing powder?)

Hmm more alchemical items could work, as they haven't been used that much yet (had npcs with smoke pellets and tanglefoot bags last adventure, but they hardly used it).
 

monboesen

First Post
Maybe part of the problem is the fact that the character seems to be positively loaded with magic items for a low-magic campaign.

I have lots of DM experience with low-magic 3ed. Low-magic in the sense that players had 1-2 magic items at level 10. To keep it low-magic item crafting feats were not eligble for players. And the stuff they had focused on interesting items rather than stat increasing items. Thus your dude would maybe have the boots, but none of the other stuff.


Keeping magic items that rare really affects character power greatly. AC for instance doesn't really improve after the character can afford the best mundane armors. Unfortunately it affects non-spellcasters more than spellcasters, a bad thing as spellcasters in general already are more powerful at higher levels. To keep pc spellcasters in rein in such a campaign, you might rule that only half their total level can be in a spellcasting class.

Guess I'm rambling a bit here. But the point I'm trying to make is this: If you want lower level enemies to be relevant in your mid-level low-magic campaign, then the campaign needs to be low-magic for both enemies and players. Right now it seems to be low-magic for npc's but not at all for the pc's.

Take a look at that character without his magic stuff, he would have an AC of 20 (+5 armor, +2 shield, +3 dex). That is a number that a 3rd level warrior will hit often, heck even a 1 level orc will be able to hit that. And his attack bonus would be +13, so using expertise to increase AC would really cut down his chance to hit (as it should).
 

Maybe part of the problem is the fact that the character seems to be positively loaded with magic items for a low-magic campaign.

I have lots of DM experience with low-magic 3ed. Low-magic in the sense that players had 1-2 magic items at level 10. To keep it low-magic item crafting feats were not eligble for players. And the stuff they had focused on interesting items rather than stat increasing items. Thus your dude would maybe have the boots, but none of the other stuff.


Keeping magic items that rare really affects character power greatly. AC for instance doesn't really improve after the character can afford the best mundane armors. Unfortunately it affects non-spellcasters more than spellcasters, a bad thing as spellcasters in general already are more powerful at higher levels. To keep pc spellcasters in rein in such a campaign, you might rule that only half their total level can be in a spellcasting class.

Guess I'm rambling a bit here. But the point I'm trying to make is this: If you want lower level enemies to be relevant in your mid-level low-magic campaign, then the campaign needs to be low-magic for both enemies and players. Right now it seems to be low-magic for npc's but not at all for the pc's.

Take a look at that character without his magic stuff, he would have an AC of 20 (+5 armor, +2 shield, +3 dex). That is a number that a 3rd level warrior will hit often, heck even a 1 level orc will be able to hit that. And his attack bonus would be +13, so using expertise to increase AC would really cut down his chance to hit (as it should).

Hmm yes you may be right about this. I chose a low(er) magic setting than normal, and then inserted a high-magic style campaign into it, giving the PCs too easy access to magic and money while the majority of the world lacks it.

Your numbers are off though, since this is Pathfinder. I wanted to post this in a PF only forum, but that seems to have been merged.

The same character without magic stuff:
Breasplate +6, Dex +3, Dodge +1, Shield Focus +1, Heavy shield +2 = 23 normal, 26 with Combat Expertise. A 1st level orc warrior has about +4 to hit, and will only hit on a 19+ normally, or on 20 if he uses expertise. Average human warriors only hit on 20.

PC attack bonus would be +13 as you said, so could easily hit that orc (but might struggle against a well-equipped human warrior who can easily push AC into 20-22 levels.

The problem with a real low-magic campaign is that:
1. Enemies with resistances become almost unbeatable (especially noncorporeal creatures).
2. Spellcasters such as Clerics and Wizards become even more unbalanced compared to the fighter types, as they can buff themselves with "temporary magic items."
 

monboesen

First Post
Ahh well, I'm not that familiar with Pathfinder.

But AC 23 would still be far more acceptable, though the poor orc might need combat advantage to make an impression. But in numbers and spending actions to aid another a group of lower level enemies will at least have a chance at hitting.


The problem with a real low-magic campaign is that:
1. Enemies with resistances become almost unbeatable (especially noncorporeal creatures).
2. Spellcasters such as Clerics and Wizards become even more unbalanced compared to the fighter types, as they can buff themselves with "temporary magic items."

Well changing the expectations of a game system will always lead to unwanted effects. As to point 1 either treat such enemies as a higher CR than their value or change the resistances. The positive aspect is that such enemies become truely terrifying to the players.

Point 2 can be partly solved by the proposed solution of limiting PC's to take only half their levels in spellcasting classes.
 

Ahh well, I'm not that familiar with Pathfinder.

But AC 23 would still be far more acceptable, though the poor orc might need combat advantage to make an impression. But in numbers and spending actions to aid another a group of lower level enemies will at least have a chance at hitting.




Well changing the expectations of a game system will always lead to unwanted effects. As to point 1 either treat such enemies as a higher CR than their value or change the resistances. The positive aspect is that such enemies become truely terrifying to the players.

Point 2 can be partly solved by the proposed solution of limiting PC's to take only half their levels in spellcasting classes.

Half only.. .that is harsh. I am however considering making pure spellcasters to follow the slow xp progression while letting non-magic user use the fast one.

You can see the difference here:
http://www.d20pfsrd.com/classes/character-advancement

That would make spellcaster less attractive, but still very powerful with enough xp.
 

N'raac

First Post
You have some good points. Although I'm already doing some of these things, and the player is considering changing his character because of it. My missions have been mostly investigation combined with combat - about 50% each. As for CE+FD, he seldom uses this anymore, and he used to routinely miss enemies at the lower level because of his extreme cautiousness.

Sounds like he has a major strength with a significant drawback. Seems balanced to me.

I think you misunderstood something about my campaign - spellcasters are not dime a dozen. Only major organizations can even hope to bring in several spellcasters, and the party is working for the government of the most powerful empire in that game world. The spellcasters they have met so far has been from an opposing city-state which is almost unique in the world by having an actual school of magic (the Empire doesn't).

So how can the PC's pick and choose a customized set of magic items exactly matching their desires - in this PC's case, focused on AC maximization? Seems like they have an advantage the rest of the world largely lacks, so why would you expect threats lacking that advantage not to fall behind?

Also, most spellcasters are of the non-adventuring type in my games. It doesen't make sense to send such a rare resource out to die when they can stay in base and do valuable magical research, scrying, long-range communications, item crafting for operatives etc. Also the party's spellcasters are putting their time in as well, crafting items for NPCs when asked for no additional price.

So why don't the enemy have similar access to spellcasters to craft magic items for them? Starting to sound very little like a "low magic world", just one where most spellcasters make items rather than risk their own skins.

The character has been dominated once (for several days, killed a party member), Held 2-3 times, blinded 3 times (glitterdust), Feared 3 times.. probably more I forget. Many of his enemies have realized he has this weakness, but his party has helped him out every time.

Again, not seeing the unbalance. He's very effective against mooks and otherwise not so effective, so how is it fair to take away his advantage in the one area where he really shines?

The campaign is far from broken, I just miss having lower level enemies to be a somewhat reasonable threat. Even Conan gets taken down when faced with overwhelming numbers.

Conan doesn't get dominated once (for several days, killed a party member), Held 2-3 times, blinded 3 times (glitterdust), Feared 3 times. He's not focused on AC and defense against mundane opponents, like this character. He also doesn't have half a dozen or so magic items custm built for his specific needs. He lives in a truly low magic game (where spellcasters are not PC's).
 

N'raac

First Post
Half only.. .that is harsh. I am however considering making pure spellcasters to follow the slow xp progression while letting non-magic user use the fast one.

You can see the difference here:
http://www.d20pfsrd.com/classes/character-advancement

That would make spellcaster less attractive, but still very powerful with enough xp.

When is the chart used determined? If the character is a W3 and decides to take L4 as a rogue level, which chart does he follow and how much xp does he need to advance from L3 to L4? What about half casters? Medium chart? Do paladins and rangers count as casters?
 

monboesen

First Post
Half only.. .that is harsh.

Another option it allow only half their level in the same spellcasting class. Thats gives more breadth (and plenty of spells per day) but still less power (as the character never gains high level spells and needs more than 1 good attribute).
 

Option One: Throw Tanglefoot bag at high AC PC
Option Two: Use magic that forces Will Saves
Option Three: Use mooks! Even one flank buddy who used Aid Another add +4 to hit!
Option Four: Use Sunder :p
 

jpmg90

Villager
Items: +2 Breastplate, +2 heavy shield, adamantium +1 Longsword, Ring of Protection +2, Amulet of natural armor +2, Boots of Striding and Springing.

+2 Breastplate - 4000 gp
+2 Heavy Shield - 4000 gp
+1 Adamant Longsword - ~5000gp
+2 Ring of Protection - 8000gp
+2 Amulet of Natural Armor - 8000gp
Boots of Striding and Springing - 5500gp

Total cost of listed Items: 34500gp

Level 8 Suggested wealth for level 8 : 33000gp

Assuming he has no other equipment, has never spent any money on consumables(potions, scrolls, etc), and has never had to bribe or hire anyone then your still a bit over

Sure its just a suggestion, but it's also there for player balance when taking magic items into account.
 

Sounds like he has a major strength with a significant drawback. Seems balanced to me.

And it has been, for some time. The problem is challenging him in the area he is good in, not finding something he sucks in and just exploiting that weakness as much as possible. That's not fun for the player.


So how can the PC's pick and choose a customized set of magic items exactly matching their desires - in this PC's case, focused on AC maximization? Seems like they have an advantage the rest of the world largely lacks, so why would you expect threats lacking that advantage not to fall behind?

Item Creation feats of course. The party can make everything they have, except items containing Mithral or Adamantium (these have been found fairly late).

I give whatever items I like to the NPCs too - which has a tendency to end up in the player's inventory. They don't generally have so much of course, because I base it off NPC wealth, but there have been exceptions.


So why don't the enemy have similar access to spellcasters to craft magic items for them? Starting to sound very little like a "low magic world", just one where most spellcasters make items rather than risk their own skins.

They do. And the campaign is low magic only compared to normal D&D where it is assumed any PC can get any item worth 100k gp or less in a major city. In my game they have to make it themselves or find someone to do it for them.

Again, not seeing the unbalance. He's very effective against mooks and otherwise not so effective, so how is it fair to take away his advantage in the one area where he really shines?

He is invulnerable to mooks, he is very effective against tough enemies, and he is the only one able to stand up to the really tough melee monsters (the rest would be crushed fast). He's (almost) doing his role as a tank (can't draw enough aggro because of high AC and meh damage).


Conan doesn't get dominated once (for several days, killed a party member), Held 2-3 times, blinded 3 times (glitterdust), Feared 3 times. He's not focused on AC and defense against mundane opponents, like this character. He also doesn't have half a dozen or so magic items custm built for his specific needs. He lives in a truly low magic game (where spellcasters are not PC's).

Conan lives in an extremely low-magic setting. He gets dominated occasionally, but always manages to beat it off in the end because he is the hero. He's blinded a few times, both mundane and otherwise. He is Feared.. nah Conan knows no fear. Conan often fights unarmored, and manages to parry almost everyone, so he is definitely good at AC (probably uses the Defense bonus house rule from unearthed arcana ;) )

When is the chart used determined? If the character is a W3 and decides to take L4 as a rogue level, which chart does he follow and how much xp does he need to advance from L3 to L4? What about half casters? Medium chart? Do paladins and rangers count as casters?

The idea was that you choose one at the beginning of the game that limits you to a certain class. Paladins and Rangers (and Bards) counts as half casters, using medium chart).

Option One: Throw Tanglefoot bag at high AC PC
Option Two: Use magic that forces Will Saves
Option Three: Use mooks! Even one flank buddy who used Aid Another add +4 to hit!
Option Four: Use Sunder :p

Option 0: Check to see if you have anything new to contribute.

+2 Breastplate - 4000 gp
+2 Heavy Shield - 4000 gp
+1 Adamant Longsword - ~5000gp
+2 Ring of Protection - 8000gp
+2 Amulet of Natural Armor - 8000gp
Boots of Striding and Springing - 5500gp

Total cost of listed Items: 34500gp

Level 8 Suggested wealth for level 8 : 33000gp

Assuming he has no other equipment, has never spent any money on consumables(potions, scrolls, etc), and has never had to bribe or hire anyone then your still a bit over

Sure its just a suggestion, but it's also there for player balance when taking magic items into account.

Hmm haven't been keep that careful track. It should be noted we just slowed down the campaign to slow xp progression, so he should be level 9 already (meaning he would be below reccomended wealth), but now I need to hold it off for awhile for that character.

Still he's been wanting a Mithral Full-plate since level 5. They don't get anything they want.
 

jpmg90

Villager
It should be noted we just slowed down the campaign to slow xp progression, so he should be level 9 already (meaning he would be below reccomended wealth)

It shouldn't matter if it's fast or slow progression, Wealth charts are there to balance equipment with enemy CR's (which is your problem at the moment b/c a character's AC is too high b/c of a +2 Armor, shield, ring and Amulet that YOU gave him)

Also nothing to do about it now, but consider having these items specifically tailored to the players that buy them if you are having them purchase them (and not just find them) Have a stat or race requirements so you dont have PC's purchasing other PC's equipment for them especially if you are 'cutting off' this particular PC from even more equipment.
 

It shouldn't matter if it's fast or slow progression, Wealth charts are there to balance equipment with enemy CR's (which is your problem at the moment b/c a character's AC is too high b/c of a +2 Armor, shield, ring and Amulet that YOU gave him)

Also nothing to do about it now, but consider having these items specifically tailored to the players that buy them if you are having them purchase them (and not just find them) Have a stat or race requirements so you dont have PC's purchasing other PC's equipment for them especially if you are 'cutting off' this particular PC from even more equipment.

I didn't give him those per se, and he could have afforded that anyway. The Ring was "meant" for other PCs who needed to improve their ACs, but he whined about it till he got it.

Not sure what you mean here.. tailored how? There are race requirment for some items (like the Elven chain). But nothing for a +2 armor or shield. PCs are enchanting items for other PCs, not purchasing them.

Only the party can cut off other PCs - im fairly certain the character in question is far down the priority line just now.
 

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