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D&D General Is there an increase in "godless" campaign settings?

Yaarel

Mind Mage
the thousand types of large spirit
less than the gods
but who clearly are of greater rank than most humans
from those who bring sanctioned suffering
to a messenger or kights of the gods.
A god sends someone to punish a servant. Totally a thing!



Consider that it is impossible to actually encounter a god, because it isnt human in any way.

Thus a god can only send an intermediary to visit a servant.

This intermediary can be an other servant, such as an angel or an other human.

Or this intermediary can be an avatar: the god manifests itself via the form of an angel or incarnates as a human.

The intermediary can have whatever stats you want, from normal human to cosmically powerful being.

If an avatar, think of it like it is a smart phone. The god isnt the smart phone itself, but you can talk and hear via the smart phone.



The most important thing is to think about what kind of relationship you want between a god and a servant. Traditionally, the god is a slavemaster and the servant is a slave, and the slavemaster can and will severely punish any disobedience. To "worship" a god, means to declare that the god is "worthy" to be your slavemaster. To "serve" a god, means to do rituals in a temple for that god. These rituals are understood to actually benefit the slavemaster, such as bringing it food, enjoyable scents, and so on.

If this lord-and-servant relationship isnt present, it isnt really a god.
 

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A god sends someone to punish a servant. Totally a thing!



Consider that it is impossible to actually encounter a god, because it isnt human in any way.

Thus a god can only send an intermediary to visit a servant.

This intermediary can be an other servant, such as an angel or an other human.

Or this intermediary can be an avatar: the god manifests itself via the form of an angel or incarnates as a human.

The intermediary can have whatever stats you want, from normal human to cosmically powerful being.

If an avatar, think of it like it is a smart phone. The god isnt the smart phone itself, but you can talk and hear via the smart phone.



The most important thing is to think about what kind of relationship you want between a god and a servant. Traditionally, the god is a slavemaster and the servant is a slave, and the slavemaster can and will severely punish any disobedience. To "worship" a god, means to declare that the god is "worthy" to be your slavemaster. To "serve" a god, means to do rituals in a temple for that god. These rituals are understood to actually benefit the slavemaster, such as bringing it food, enjoyable scents, and so on.

If this lord-and-servant relationship isnt present, it isnt really a god.
what about a more master apprentice relationship?
also by servent, I mean the seemingly endless number of spiritual creatures that sort of work for the gods but are less like those things that punish oathbreakers of the Hellenics or the valkyries who pick the dead.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
yeah they use our soul according to Planescape to more or less mine faith bitcoin it is honestly horrible and all the gods need to be beaten up, 4e primordials look goon in comparison as they at least do not more or less eat us.


does anyone know how to build a workable system for dnd that lets the gods make more sense from an internal view?
Figure out what makes sense to you. Implement that.

If being absorbed by a god/plane is the main issue, just excise that detail. Everyone can hang out in the Celestial Heavens (or be tormented in the 9 Hells) for eternity.

Alternately, you could reframe it. Maybe the absorption is more along the lines of an evolution, of becoming a part of something greater than you were; the next step upon the path of the soul (as opposed to an end). Maybe each soul has the potential to eventually blossom into its own universe/multiverse, giving life to new souls, who then embark on this journey anew.

I usually create a new pantheon when I create a new world, because I want the deities to fit the setting and the background.

Typically, the deities in my settings are unknowable entities far beyond mortal ken. They reveal themselves to humans as aspects, which are pared down versions of what they encompass (there are even those who believe that it is a singular, all encompassing entity, from whom all the deities are merely aspects). For example, Athena and Ares might be the same entity who represents war. The followers of each aspect might even war with one another, and this is good, because the entity is war. The deities aren't concerned with amassing followers or amassing material things. That's left to their churches to worry about. They encompass and promote their ideal, even when it would seemingly be against their best interests (from a human perspective). In my settings, the consciousness of a deity can be destroyed (albeit, not easily, and only if they choose to manifest physically). However, that doesn't extinguish the essence that is that deity. It still exists and acts upon the world, though lacking conscious thought to focus those actions. If a someone attains a sufficiently singular focus upon that idea, the essence will be drawn to and merge with that consciousness, and the deity will be reborn. People with such a singular vision are exceedingly rare however. Most people are more complex, less singular.
 

hopeless

Adventurer
Right I need to discuss this properly and by that I mean work out my own creation myth.
This thread alone makes it clear someone needs to try!
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
So... the real "Rules" of a Polytheistic Pantheon in a Multi-Pantheon setting.

1) You worship your Pantheon. You may, personally, hold one deity over all others (Those devoted to the temple of Athena valued her over others on a personal level, but still worshipped them all) but you worship all of them and make appropriate offerings when the time comes. (Even someone devoted to Zeus gives offerings to Demeter for the Spring and Fall) And when you die you go to where the Pantheon's Worshippers go (Valhalla, The Underworld, Wherever)

2) Your pantheon may be at odds with another pantheon. If they are, then you are likely at war with that pantheon's people. If you're not, then it doesn't matter what gods they worship, you're still going to your idea of heaven and their choices mean nothing.

3) The gods provide Blessings, and Curses, to those who make worthy offerings and sacrifices, those who serve faithfully or unfaithfully, or to those who cause insult or spurn them. Deciding to change your religious affiliation to a different pantheon is liable to bring down curses, which your new gods may or may not help you out with.

4) Polytheistic religions rarely, if ever, Proselytize. They don't need to. Everyone who "matters" already worships the right gods. That said, they also generally do not allow the worship of other gods in their homes as it might be viewed as disloyalty by their gods. So slaves/servants are often savagely stopped from foreign worship, or forced to convert.

5) During times of Conquest, 2 and 3 go out the window and everyone converts or dies 'cause your church and your political authorities don't want "Heathens" to hold onto their own traditions instead of adopting the colonialist religion that you hold. Any tradition that cannot be broken will instead be recontextualized as part of the newly dominant religion.

How'm I doin'?

Meanwhile, most D&D Pantheons ignore pretty much every aspect of these 5 rules and just play Monotheism in a Polytheistic setting.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
So... the real "Rules" of a Polytheistic Pantheon in a Multi-Pantheon setting.

1) You worship your Pantheon. You may, personally, hold one deity over all others (Those devoted to the temple of Athena valued her over others on a personal level, but still worshipped them all) but you worship all of them and make appropriate offerings when the time comes. (Even someone devoted to Zeus gives offerings to Demeter for the Spring and Fall) And when you die you go to where the Pantheon's Worshippers go (Valhalla, The Underworld, Wherever)

2) Your pantheon may be at odds with another pantheon. If they are, then you are likely at war with that pantheon's people. If you're not, then it doesn't matter what gods they worship, you're still going to your idea of heaven and their choices mean nothing.

3) The gods provide Blessings, and Curses, to those who make worthy offerings and sacrifices, those who serve faithfully or unfaithfully, or to those who cause insult or spurn them. Deciding to change your religious affiliation to a different pantheon is liable to bring down curses, which your new gods may or may not help you out with.

4) Polytheistic religions rarely, if ever, Proselytize. They don't need to. Everyone who "matters" already worships the right gods. That said, they also generally do not allow the worship of other gods in their homes as it might be viewed as disloyalty by their gods. So slaves/servants are often savagely stopped from foreign worship, or forced to convert.

5) During times of Conquest, 2 and 3 go out the window and everyone converts or dies 'cause your church and your political authorities don't want "Heathens" to hold onto their own traditions instead of adopting the colonialist religion that you hold. Any tradition that cannot be broken will instead be recontextualized as part of the newly dominant religion.

How'm I doin'?

Meanwhile, most D&D Pantheons ignore pretty much every aspect of these 5 rules and just play Monotheism in a Polytheistic setting.
Yeah, that's the way to go if you want to model your campaign's religions on the real world.

The only addendum I would add would be to 5. There were civilizations that allowed conquered cultures to continue worshipping their own pantheon. Sometimes outright, and sometimes by simply adopting the deities from the conquered culture into the conqueror's pantheon. It was an effective strategy, as the conquered were less likely to rebel if they could continue to worship their own deities.

Of course, given that it's a fantasy game, you can certainly just come up with your own thing.

Maybe the gods are ancient mortals who attained enlightenment. They don't seek worship but instead try to guide mortals on the path to that same enlightenment. Of course, the path to enlightenment isn't a single course, and the gods don't necessarily agree on how to go about it, so there could be conflict.
 

King Babar

God Learner
So... the real "Rules" of a Polytheistic Pantheon in a Multi-Pantheon setting.

1) You worship your Pantheon. You may, personally, hold one deity over all others (Those devoted to the temple of Athena valued her over others on a personal level, but still worshipped them all) but you worship all of them and make appropriate offerings when the time comes. (Even someone devoted to Zeus gives offerings to Demeter for the Spring and Fall) And when you die you go to where the Pantheon's Worshippers go (Valhalla, The Underworld, Wherever)

2) Your pantheon may be at odds with another pantheon. If they are, then you are likely at war with that pantheon's people. If you're not, then it doesn't matter what gods they worship, you're still going to your idea of heaven and their choices mean nothing.

3) The gods provide Blessings, and Curses, to those who make worthy offerings and sacrifices, those who serve faithfully or unfaithfully, or to those who cause insult or spurn them. Deciding to change your religious affiliation to a different pantheon is liable to bring down curses, which your new gods may or may not help you out with.

4) Polytheistic religions rarely, if ever, Proselytize. They don't need to. Everyone who "matters" already worships the right gods. That said, they also generally do not allow the worship of other gods in their homes as it might be viewed as disloyalty by their gods. So slaves/servants are often savagely stopped from foreign worship, or forced to convert.

5) During times of Conquest, 2 and 3 go out the window and everyone converts or dies 'cause your church and your political authorities don't want "Heathens" to hold onto their own traditions instead of adopting the colonialist religion that you hold. Any tradition that cannot be broken will instead be recontextualized as part of the newly dominant religion.

How'm I doin'?

Meanwhile, most D&D Pantheons ignore pretty much every aspect of these 5 rules and just play Monotheism in a Polytheistic setting.
A fantastic set of rules in my opinion.

I would only express some reservations about Rule 5. Someone more knowledgeable than myself can correct me but "convert or die" doesn't seem to have been much of a thing, at least amongst Mediterranean polytheistic cultures such as the Romans. Syncretism seem to be the common approach to foreign cults and religion, "your god X is our god Y, continue to worship as you see fit, but just remember to praise the Emperor, or else".

Foreign cults could also become really popular over time, such as with Isis, Mithras, and Sol Invictus.

But in a fantasy setting where the gods are real, and maybe possess a keen interest in more followers, well "convert or die" can definitely be a prominent thing.
 

Yora

Legend
When we talk about polytheism today, we almost always talk entirely about Indo-European polytheism. Which really is all the same religion with different regional cultural adaptations.
African and American pantheons are their own things entirely, and there's various East-Asian pantheons, but I find those hard to really grasp as an outsider after 2000 years of Buddhist and Confucian influence.
However, Germanic, Celtic, Slavic, Greek, Roman, Iranian, and Hindu pantheons are all regional evolutions of the same original religion. You keep finding the same characters, stories, and relics all over the place, and with many names you can easily trace them to the same linguistic origin. Sky father, earth mother, thunder god, sun chariot, eagles, underworld, ... You know the package.

And ancient people saw that as well. Roman historians described the Germans as worshiping Mars, Mercury, and Hercules. You also have the case where Greeks and Romans adopted Isis as a goddess, even though the Egyptian gods had an independent separate origin. Or you had the Egyptians under Greek rulers worshipping Serapis as their main god, who was both Hades and Osiris.
In Indo-European Polytheism, all the people worship the same pantheon. Though within that pantheon are multiple teams. In Greco-Roman religion, you had the division between Olympians and Titans, who were different generations of the same divine family (though with some Titans still keeping a position under Olympian rule). While we don't find this generational conflict in Germanic mythology, we still got the two dynasties of Aesir and Vanir, who apparently had some kind of conflict in the past, which was ended by a hostage exchange that had the Vani Frey, Freya, and Njord live with the Aesir.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
A fantastic set of rules in my opinion.

I would only express some reservations about Rule 5. Someone more knowledgeable than myself can correct me but "convert or die" doesn't seem to have been much of a thing, at least amongst Mediterranean polytheistic cultures such as the Romans. Syncretism seem to be the common approach to foreign cults and religion, "your god X is our god Y, continue to worship as you see fit, but just remember to praise the Emperor, or else". Foreign cults would also become really popular over time, such as with Isis, Mithras, and Sol Invictus.

But in a fantasy setting where the gods are real, and maybe have an keen interest in more followers, well "convert or die" can definitely be a thing.
Sumeria.

When the Akkadians took over they recontextualized the entire religion of Sumeria to better match their own. "Tiamat", a river-goddess was the cause of strife and pain, mother of monsters, and curses. The new "Head God" of the joint-pantheon is the Akkadian God who slew Tiamat in order to protect all Sumerians. "We killed your evil river god to save you. You're welcome. Now worship the new Ruler-God! Yaaaaay!"

Meanwhile Tiamat was just a river-spirit in the original Sumerian Religion. No evil or wickedness, just water flowing from one place to another.

But it was enough to cause big problems for the priesthood which were, like, the right hand of politics in the region.

Different cultures did it differently, of course.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
How'm I doin'?

Meanwhile, most D&D Pantheons ignore pretty much every aspect of these 5 rules and just play Monotheism in a Polytheistic setting.
It still does not get the concept of worship right, at least when you look at older faiths like in Rome.
People didn't really worship the gods, at least according to the modern definition, but bargained with them when they needed their help. A person can go nearly his entire life without offering anything to the god of battle except once when war was coming to his town and this is totally ok and expected.

In effect people knew the local deities (which can come from a mix of pantheons in border regions) and whenever they wanted their help, be it good harvest, luck in a future endeavours, thanks the deity for something that went well in the past or just some pre-emptive gift they would perform a rite to that deity which clearly states what they give and what they expect in return.
So in game terms it would be more something like sacrificing X to get a bonus for the day or something like that.

5 is completely ahistorical before the rise of monotheistic faiths. It didn't matter if people believed in the deities, as long as they performed the rites expected from them so that misfortune won't befall the community. So "heatens" are at a high risk of becoming the scapegoat when something goes wrong and be killed in the following riot, but they were not forced to convert on conquest.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
what about a more master apprentice relationship?
The master-apprentice relationship is more so an animistic worldview.

Notably, the apprentices inherently have their own magical power, just like the master has. The master is teaching them how to use their power safely and effectively.

For example in premodern Scotland, elves taught witches how to do magic.

Somewhat similarly, in modern Scandinavia, Sami shamans describe their ongoing visions of nature beings who teach them how to wield magic.

In the Nordic view, every being has mindforce, including features of nature, including humans. (Moreorless psionic magic.)




also by servent, I mean the seemingly endless number of spiritual creatures that sort of work for the gods but are less like those things that punish oathbreakers of the Hellenics or the valkyries who pick the dead.
Regarding servants of gods, is there a reason to not use D&D Angels?
 
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King Babar

God Learner
Sumeria.

When the Akkadians took over they recontextualized the entire religion of Sumeria to better match their own. "Tiamat", a river-goddess was the cause of strife and pain, mother of monsters, and curses. The new "Head God" of the joint-pantheon is the Akkadian God who slew Tiamat in order to protect all Sumerians. "We killed your evil river god to save you. You're welcome. Now worship the new Ruler-God! Yaaaaay!"

Meanwhile Tiamat was just a river-spirit in the original Sumerian Religion. No evil or wickedness, just water flowing from one place to another.

But it was enough to cause big problems for the priesthood which were, like, the right hand of politics in the region.

Different cultures did it differently, of course.
Fascinating, I never knew that. Good inspiration for some fantasy worldbuilding.
 

Yora

Legend
You also had public cults, which were hugely important in Roman society, and relevant in Greece as well, to my knowledge. If these public festivals would be regarded as worship of the gods that were honored could be a matter of subjective judgement. But their role was massively important as team-building exercises and for community building.
Which is what got the Christians into hot water. Refusing to participate in public rituals to honor the gods of Rome was seen as anti-social behavior that openly rejected both the Roman state and society. A kind of non-violent rebellion against the state and disruptive of the social fabric.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
It still does not get the concept of worship right, at least when you look at older faiths like in Rome.
People didn't really worship the gods, at least according to the modern definition, but bargained with them when they needed their help. A person can go nearly his entire life without offering anything to the god of battle except once when war was coming to his town and this is totally ok and expected.

In effect people knew the local deities (which can come from a mix of pantheons in border regions) and whenever they wanted their help, be it good harvest, luck in a future endeavours, thanks the deity for something that went well in the past or just some pre-emptive gift they would perform a rite to that deity which clearly states what they give and what they expect in return.
So in game terms it would be more something like sacrificing X to get a bonus for the day or something like that.
When I say "Worship" I don't mean "Pray To". I mean "Show Reverence To". Even if you never make an offering to the god of war (Because that time never comes) you show reverence to the god of war in your speech and attitudes. You would never, for example, randomly -insult- the God of War. Or say "Battle never comes to our land, so we have no need of Mars/Aries/Whomever, here!" because that's a one-way ticket to getting a War on your doorstep.

I used Demeter as an example 'cause it would be a particularly common one in any Agrarian Society, with pretty much every farmer making -some- kind of offering in the Spring to request a blessing for their growing season, and another offering in the fall thanking the deity for the harvest.

But yeah. That's what I mean by Worship.
 


So... the real "Rules" of a Polytheistic Pantheon in a Multi-Pantheon setting.

1) You worship your Pantheon. You may, personally, hold one deity over all others (Those devoted to the temple of Athena valued her over others on a personal level, but still worshipped them all) but you worship all of them and make appropriate offerings when the time comes. (Even someone devoted to Zeus gives offerings to Demeter for the Spring and Fall) And when you die you go to where the Pantheon's Worshippers go (Valhalla, The Underworld, Wherever)

2) Your pantheon may be at odds with another pantheon. If they are, then you are likely at war with that pantheon's people. If you're not, then it doesn't matter what gods they worship, you're still going to your idea of heaven and their choices mean nothing.

3) The gods provide Blessings, and Curses, to those who make worthy offerings and sacrifices, those who serve faithfully or unfaithfully, or to those who cause insult or spurn them. Deciding to change your religious affiliation to a different pantheon is liable to bring down curses, which your new gods may or may not help you out with.

4) Polytheistic religions rarely, if ever, Proselytize. They don't need to. Everyone who "matters" already worships the right gods. That said, they also generally do not allow the worship of other gods in their homes as it might be viewed as disloyalty by their gods. So slaves/servants are often savagely stopped from foreign worship, or forced to convert.

5) During times of Conquest, 2 and 3 go out the window and everyone converts or dies 'cause your church and your political authorities don't want "Heathens" to hold onto their own traditions instead of adopting the colonialist religion that you hold. Any tradition that cannot be broken will instead be recontextualized as part of the newly dominant religion.

How'm I doin'?

Meanwhile, most D&D Pantheons ignore pretty much every aspect of these 5 rules and just play Monotheism in a Polytheistic setting.
I would push back a bit - real-world polytheists borrowed gods all the time. The Romans loved that, and in addition to a slew of Greek gods, added Isis form Egypt, Mystra from Persia, and Epona form the Celts off the top of my head.

In some cases, they saw the "new" god as a more interesting aspect of an existing god (ie Thoth is Hermes is Mercury), in other cases the new god covered an area they hadn't covered before and realized they should (Epona). It's a ever-changing, fluid, marketplace-driven faith.

But the big thing is: they don't have faith in the gods the way a monotheist does. The gods are, and therefore need to be dealt with. If you don't do the minimums, they will curse you. If you go above and beyond, they might bless you. That's it.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
When I say "Worship" I don't mean "Pray To". I mean "Show Reverence To". Even if you never make an offering to the god of war (Because that time never comes) you show reverence to the god of war in your speech and attitudes. You would never, for example, randomly -insult- the God of War. Or say "Battle never comes to our land, so we have no need of Mars/Aries/Whomever, here!" because that's a one-way ticket to getting a War on your doorstep.

I used Demeter as an example 'cause it would be a particularly common one in any Agrarian Society, with pretty much every farmer making -some- kind of offering in the Spring to request a blessing for their growing season, and another offering in the fall thanking the deity for the harvest.

But yeah. That's what I mean by Worship.
You certainly didn't try to anger the god, but you did not praise them either when you didn't need them.
Rites to the big, well known gods were also often performed by the king/ruler to ensure a good harvest for the country (Ancient China is a good example for this). That also meant that if there was a country wide harvest failure then the ruler screwed up.
This of course doesn't mean that the normal people couldn't also perform rites for the big gods for small favors, but mostly for them the little gods were as or even more important (in Rome the Lares and Penates for example). Gods or even just house spirits of locks, doors, your supply closet, etc.
And as they were small the rites for them were also cheap.

Gods were not something your worship or revere. They were someone you bargained with and at least tried to keep them happy.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
I would push back a bit - real-world polytheists borrowed gods all the time. The Romans loved that, and in addition to a slew of Greek gods, added Isis form Egypt, Mystra from Persia, and Epona form the Celts off the top of my head.

In some cases, they saw the "new" god as a more interesting aspect of an existing god (ie Thoth is Hermes is Mercury), in other cases the new god covered an area they hadn't covered before and realized they should (Epona). It's a ever-changing, fluid, marketplace-driven faith.

But the big thing is: they don't have faith in the gods the way a monotheist does. The gods are, and therefore need to be dealt with. If you don't do the minimums, they will curse you. If you go above and beyond, they might bless you. That's it.
Ehhh... and the rest of the gods of those other pantheons becaaaaame... Nothing.

Because you recontextualize the ones you can't get rid of. Like the Saturnalia becoming Christmas. See also the plethora of Semitic Gods in ancient cultures that were destroyed by various warring tribes or folded into a singular religious identity when their worship couldn't be quashed. Heck, the entire Sumerian Pantheon became squashed and recontextualized into minor spirits (Often Malicious) under the Elohim in ancient Hebrew traditions.

Can't get rid of a deity? Vilify him!

Meanwhile when Rome conquered Anatolia in what is now Turkey, formerly held by those of the Altaic language group with their own religious beliefs, they wiped out the cultural traditions of the Altaic people except for Cybel. And the only reason she survived was a Prophecy that if the "Idaen Mother Goddess" was brought to Rome the invaders (Hannibal et al) would be expelled.

But the rest? Gone to ash and ruin. We only knew about them before recent times through contemporary Roman and Greek writings.

Many religions were destroyed by Greek and Roman conquests throughout the ages. As well as the Semitic wars, the Ugaritic conquests, the Altaic conquests... Don't get me started on Zoroastrianism's impact on religious identities as the first "Monotheistic" religion (Which was really a dualistic religion that just treated the gods of all other cultures as lesser spirits and demons)...

Christendom held it's own religious conquests as well, obviously, as they all but wiped out the Germanic and Finno-Ugric and Slavic religions, but that was later and also monotheistic...
 

The master-apprentice relationship is more so an animistic worldview.

Notably, the apprentices inherently have their own magical power, just like the master has. The master is teaching them how to use their power safely and effectively.

For example in premodern Scotland, elves taught witches how to do magic.

Somewhat similarly, in modern Scandinavia, Sami shamans describe their ongoing visions of nature beings who teach them how to wield magic.

In the Nordic view, every being has mindforce, including features of nature, including humans. (Moreorless psionic magic.)





Regarding servants of gods, is there a reason to not use D&D Angels?
look I think about lots of things if gods made people we would be food, draft animals, pets or some kind of offspring so I was looking for less enslaving relationships so I went with what seemed to describe a layman's understanding of those things I can't spell from chan/zen Buddhism.

angles feel very Abrahamic plus they are not even the cool versions just the human with wings version.
 

look I think about lots of things if gods made people we would be food, draft animals, pets or some kind of offspring so I was looking for less enslaving relationships so I went with what seemed to describe a layman's understanding of those things I can't spell from chan/zen Buddhism.
That's three very different answers: food, pets/workers, and offspring would result in very different relationships between mortals and gods.

But any one of those would be interesting, and definitely a lot better than what FR (or most other official settings) give us, so I highly encourage you to explore whichever seems interesting to you. Your game will almost inevitably be better for it.
 

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