D&D General Story Now, Skilled Play, and Elephants

Interesting. Outside of optimizing party tactics and character build optimization I always found playing through 4e combat to have a rather low skill ceiling - as in high skilled play mattered very little in the outcomes. What tended to matter most was the character builds.
Disagree strongly, relative to other editions of D&D.

But it does rely hard on the DM creating scenarios which require the PCs to use tactics, and on using the DMG2 monster math. If builds mattered more it means you were either dealing with players who aren't good at tactics, or, more likely, the players didn't need to use them the monsters were inherently too easy and/or the DM was putting the PCs in scenarios which were basically trivial. It was easy for this to happen if you didn't adhere closely to the guidelines re: encounter-building - not just in CRs or whatever they were called, but in terms of numbers, roles of monsters, terrain and so on. If the DM wasn't playing the monsters tactically that would also cause tactics to be less-needed.

A lot of 3PP and even some WotC adventures fell down pretty hard here, and in other people's games I rarely saw the guidelines followed, or encounters designed in such a way as to encourage tactical play (4E did have good advice on this, albeit the initial monster math was flawed). You could see a drastic difference between say, me or my wife DMing, who both followed the guidelines closely, set up tactical scenarios, and played the monsters tactically, and one of our friends, who just ran 4E like it was 3E, basically, and wasn't afraid to have a one-role encounter full of too-weak monsters that he just basically walked directly at he PCs lol. I mean, it was viable, but yeah it didn't make for any tactics beyond "do as much DPR as possible to get these guys down".

In 1/2/3E there tends to be little skilled or tactical play in combat. The skill, where present, tends to be more in pre-combat. I.e. setting up a good enough ambush, preparing the right spells, knowing when to rest, etc. 3E was a mess because its CR system actively deceived the DM, too. It was literally worse than useless. Eyeballing was considerably more accurate. 4E was the first edition of D&D to stress at the table tactical combat, and whilst the skill threshold might be lower than say, an actual wargame, it was vastly higher than previous editions. 5E dialled back from this and move more towards the older approach, whilst retaining a superficial appearance of tactical combat and some limited elements of it.

I can't, off-hand, think of any RPG that comes particularly close to 4E on this. Even if you did think skill mattered "less" than it should in 4E, it certainly mattered more than any other RPG I can think of, and ludicrously more than previous editions of D&D.

Conversely, strategy mattered less and I wonder if this is what you mean. In earlier editions, pre-battle strategy could often basically win encounters before you even took part in them. In 4E, your pre-battle decisions mattered considerably less, because of the lack of incredibly powerful spells/items and so on relative to the general abilities of PCs/monsters. So 4E allowed PCs to stumble into situations then have a good tactical fight, but wasn't great for preparation-focused players. Of course prep-focused players totally break 5E, which is almost worse.

EDIT - WAIT! There is one "mainstream-ish" TT RPG that matches or exceeds 4E here - the fairly recent Lancer which has basically two modes, a fairly free-form RPG (albeit better handled than any edition of D&D) and combat, which is basically a tactical wargame, and has indeed been described as "4E with mechs" because it has considerable similarities. I think it commits a bit harder than 4E though.
 
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MarkB

Legend
I find it weird that a character who can go toe-to-toe with a balrog should be worried about hunger or thirst or cold. We all know that Beowulf can hold his breath for as long as he needs to to fight the monster at hand!
Which just goes to show that different people will have different expectations of what should or shouldn't be tied to character class and level.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I'd like to understand something better. Are you saying that for you, "skilled play" is a synonym of skillful play? It contains no other content.

I ask, because in other threads some categories of skillful play seemed to be rejected. A common example is where a player adroitly manages and exploits the numbers on their character sheet. No matter how skillfully they might do that. If that is right, then "skilled play" seems to exclude at least some play that can be skillful.
I'm not clear on what you mean by "skillful play" so I'm not going to agree or disagree. I don't really follow your second para, here, in that I'm not sure where you think there's a problem or issue -- what you're saying here does make it clear to me what you think is in opposition.

Skilled play is simply leveraging the system to achieve the player's goals. Leveraging the system definitely includes utilizing player resources, and those are often on the character sheet, so.... The player's goals are synonymous with win conditions. Sometimes these are obvious in the game being played -- like, say, B/X, where the win condition is clearly to survive the dungeon while maximizing treasure acquisition. In other games, the win condition is less obvious from the system, and/or rotates or is achieved and replaced on shorter timescales.

What's in direct contest with skilled play is Force. This is another term that originated with the Forge, but is one that I find extraordinarily useful in terms of describing play. Simply, GM Force is when the GM uses their position to force an outcome. Railroading is a continued and intentional use of Force. Not all Force is bad, however -- trad play and neo-trad play both require the use of Force. The point here is that if the GM is deploying Force, they are pushing a specific outcome, and so no amount of skilled play to achieve a different (or even that outcome) really matters -- the GM will Force the necessary outcomes.

Again, Force is a legitimate tool in the toolbox for GMs. Like all tools, overuse risks degenerate or unfun play (eg, a hard railroad when the players don't want that), but it's not bad in and of itself. It is a tool that some really enjoy and some really dislike, but there's nothing inherently bad about Force. It does stand in opposition to Skilled Play, and recognizing this can help GMs and players achieve their play goals.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Disagree strongly, relative to other editions of D&D.
I'm not sure how you can disagree with a personal experience.

But it does rely hard on the DM creating scenarios which require the PCs to use tactics, and on using the DMG2 monster math. If builds mattered more it means you were either dealing with players who aren't good at tactics, or, more likely, the players didn't need to use them the monsters were inherently too easy and/or the DM was putting the PCs in scenarios which were basically trivial. It was easy for this to happen if you didn't adhere closely to the guidelines re: encounter-building - not just in CRs or whatever they were called, but in terms of numbers, roles of monsters, terrain and so on. If the DM wasn't playing the monsters tactically that would also cause tactics to be less-needed.
I flat out reject your claims that my experiences are because I somehow managed to play the game 'wrong'.

A lot of 3PP and even some WotC adventures fell down pretty hard here, and in other people's games I rarely saw the guidelines followed, or encounters designed in such a way as to encourage tactical play (4E did have good advice on this, albeit the initial monster math was flawed). You could see a drastic difference between say, me or my wife DMing, who both followed the guidelines closely, set up tactical scenarios, and played the monsters tactically, and one of our friends, who just ran 4E like it was 3E, basically, and wasn't afraid to have a one-role encounter full of too-weak monsters that he just basically walked directly at he PCs lol. I mean, it was viable, but yeah it didn't make for any tactics beyond "do as much DPR as possible to get these guys down".
My claim wasn't that the game didn't play for you the way you described. Only that it didn't for me.

In 1/2/3E there tends to be little skilled or tactical play in combat. The skill, where present, tends to be more in pre-combat. I.e. setting up a good enough ambush, preparing the right spells, knowing when to rest, etc. 3E was a mess because its CR system actively deceived the DM, too. It was literally worse than useless. Eyeballing was considerably more accurate. 4E was the first edition of D&D to stress at the table tactical combat, and whilst the skill threshold might be lower than say, an actual wargame, it was vastly higher than previous editions. 5E dialled back from this and move more towards the older approach, whilst retaining a superficial appearance of tactical combat and some limited elements of it.
So my criticism was that what mattered most in overcoming obstacles in 4e for my group was character builds. I'm not saying 4e wasn't tactical or that you couldn't get small advantages out of tactical play or that such play doesn't qualify as skilled play. All I'm saying is that for me, strong tactical play in 4e rarely changed any outcomes - or said another way, it rarely actually mattered.

Conversely, strategy mattered less and I wonder if this is what you mean. In earlier editions, pre-battle strategy could often basically win encounters before you even took part in them. In 4E, your pre-battle decisions mattered considerably less, because of the lack of incredibly powerful spells/items and so on relative to the general abilities of PCs/monsters. So 4E allowed PCs to stumble into situations then have a good tactical fight, but wasn't great for preparation-focused players. Of course prep-focused players totally break 5E, which is almost worse.
Let's talk 5e for a moment. Most Fighter's don't play very tactically. Neither do most Barbarians. Although the sentinel feat goes a long way for both of these classes. All full casters play very tactically. Rogues and monks and Paladins tend to get or can choose tools that allow tactical play to matter from them. Rangers have fairly limited tactical options.

In 5e when you do something tactically strong - it tends to really change the encounter. Most of the tactically strong choices are fairly obvious at this point. But those choices grant huge advantages. Examples:

  • Kiting with a ranged rogue
  • Casting Hold Monster on a strong solo enemy
  • Using your divine smite when you crit
  • Polymorphing your low hp ally into a Giant Ape
  • Casting healing word to pop back up an ally and still cantrip attack instead of using cure wounds.
  • Casting spike growth in a narrow pass with your druid
  • Casting Haste on your mount and engaging in hit and run tactics
  • Using Action Surge + Trip Attack + Precision attack to down an enemy fast
  • Using Maneuvering strike to get an ally out of harms way
  • Rushing in and taking a dodge action with your monk, knowing that the first round of combat tends to mean there are more enemies that could attack you
  • Or one of the strongest types of tactics - cast a lock down ability (preferably no save) on an enemy and then someone else cast a zone based recurring damaging effect
  • Etc.
These kinds of things tend to really matter to outcome. Which likewise makes the choice of when and how to use them quite a bit more obvious. Contrasting that with 4e which tends to offer more 'tactical' play by making the impact of most abilities of fairly low value - and giving all abilities but dailies back to you after the battle (5 min short rest) really shows the difference I'm talking about in terms of how much tactical ability matters.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Char-gen optimization is a skill but it's not really 'play'. I would say that fact makes Char-gen optimization logically excluded from skilled play.

If you mean using character sheet abilities efficiently and effectively - then that is definitely a skill that comes up in play - and failing to do so well enough can definitely lead to failure to achieve your goals in most games.
I very much disagree with this. Firstly, on the idea that doing things for the game are not part of the game. Boardgame setup is still part of playing the boardgame. Character building, even in games where you do it all before sessions and there are no further build choices to make, is still part of playing the game. Modern games, though, often feature character build choices that occur during play, such as during leveling for level advancement games, or point expenditure for those style games, or character alterations due to play outcomes. Character build is still part of play.

The second axis of disagreement is that character build is integral to the types, variety, and frequency of player resources that can be brought to bear in a skilled fashion. Choosing these resources is critical to their future application in play. Saying that the selection of resources is not part of the use of said resources in play is, to me, a completely artificial separation of play moments based on claiming that play only occurs in session when the players are making moves with their PCs.
 

I'm not sure how you can disagree with a personal experience.


I flat out reject your claims that my experiences are because I somehow managed to play the game 'wrong'.


My claim wasn't that the game didn't play for you the way you described. Only that it didn't for me.


So my criticism was that what mattered most in overcoming obstacles in 4e for my group was character builds. I'm not saying 4e wasn't tactical or that you couldn't get small advantages out of tactical play or that such play doesn't qualify as skilled play. All I'm saying is that for me, strong tactical play in 4e rarely changed any outcomes - or said another way, it rarely actually mattered.


Let's talk 5e for a moment. Most Fighter's don't play very tactically. Neither do most Barbarians. Although the sentinel feat goes a long way for both of these classes. All full casters play very tactically. Rogues and monks and Paladins tend to get or can choose tools that allow tactical play to matter from them. Rangers have fairly limited tactical options.

In 5e when you do something tactically strong - it tends to really change the encounter. Most of the tactically strong choices are fairly obvious at this point. But those choices grant huge advantages. Examples:

  • Kiting with a ranged rogue
  • Casting Hold Monster on a strong solo enemy
  • Using your divine smite when you crit
  • Polymorphing your low hp ally into a Giant Ape
  • Casting healing word to pop back up an ally and still cantrip attack instead of using cure wounds.
  • Casting spike growth in a narrow pass with your druid
  • Casting Haste on your mount and engaging in hit and run tactics
  • Using Action Surge + Trip Attack + Precision attack to down an enemy fast
  • Using Maneuvering strike to get an ally out of harms way
  • Rushing in and taking a dodge action with your monk, knowing that the first round of combat tends to mean there are more enemies that could attack you
  • Or one of the strongest types of tactics - cast a lock down ability (preferably no save) on an enemy and then someone else cast a zone based recurring damaging effect
  • Etc.
These kinds of things tend to really matter to outcome. Which likewise makes the choice of when and how to use them quite a bit more obvious. Contrasting that with 4e which tends to offer more 'tactical' play by making the impact of most abilities of fairly low value - and giving all abilities but dailies back to you after the battle (5 min short rest) really shows the difference I'm talking about in terms of how much tactical ability matters.
I mean, your position seems bizarre.

You claim "personal experience" as a defence and that your experience cannot be commented on or discussed (which is pretty funny), and the you make broad sweeping claims about 5E, and point out utterly trivial and obvious advantages that can be gained and claim it is tactical? That's laughable. 5E is superficially tactical as a rule - moreso than earlier editions but drastically less so than 4E. Pressing an IWIN button isn't really "tactics" (which is about 1/3rd of the list) and most of your examples were better handled by 4E. I'm not even sure how to engage with this kind of weird double-standard. Re: 5E let me be clear, I'm not talking just experience, I'm talking about how the mechanics work, fundamentally.

And I'm sorry but your "I DIDN'T PLAY THE GAME WRONG!!!!!" vehemence is unreasonable. 4E required a lot of effort to play "right" - this was a definite and real flaw of 4E, and worthy of criticism. Rejecting it as part of the picture is just unhelpful and unrealistic - 4E was demanding and specific in a way no other edition has been, and that caused issues. I admit it is sadly common on D&D-related-boards for people to refuse to accept that decisions and approaches they've taken to games can have any consequences or results - directly contrary to discussions of modern RPGs where people spend a lot of time and effort trying to learn how to "play right" and are very accepting of this. I should point out that I certainly didn't "instantly" play 4E "right". I had a significant learning curve.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Ketchup is good but I'm more of a Cheesecake person myself.

Mod Note:
What you're doing now is not witty, funny, charming, or constructive. Since you either cannot or will not stop willfully antagonizing people when asked, we'll help you out with the self control....

You're done in this thread.

@Shiroiken, or anyone else, who want to join him, that can easily be arranged.
 
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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I mean, your position seems bizarre.

You claim "personal experience" as a defence and that your experience cannot be commented on or discussed (which is pretty funny),
Maybe in the future it will work better if you don't start out telling others their personal experiences are wrong.

and the you make broad sweeping claims about 5E, and point out utterly trivial and obvious advantages that can be gained and claim it is tactical?
That a tactic is trivial or obvious doesn't cause it to no longer be a tactic.

That's laughable. 5E is superficially tactical at most.
There's all kinds of tactics available in 5e. Yes, most are fairly obvious - but that fact doesn't cause them to no longer be tactics.

Pressing an IWIN button isn't really "tactics" (which is about 1/3rd of the list)
Except, knowing when to use that button as opposed to some other button is tactics.
 

Maybe in the future it will work better if you don't start out telling others their personal experiences are wrong.


That a tactic is trivial or obvious doesn't cause it to no longer be a tactic.


There's all kinds of tactics available in 5e. Yes, most are fairly obvious - but that fact doesn't cause them to no longer be tactics.


Except, knowing when to use that button as opposed to some other button is tactics.
The trouble with the first point is the personal experiences are rooted in circumstances and circumstances have causes and 4E had a very real problem in that it absolutely demanded a rigorous and entirely different approach to encounter to design to any edition before or since, and whilst I personally feel it gave good guidance on that (subjective, ofc), it is clear to me from playing it and discussing it and reading Actual Plays and so on that perhaps the majority of DMs were not following the rigorous approach. Or certainly plenty of them.

You say this is playing "wrong" and on some level it is, but I also don't really blame them and I think it's fair to say that 4E asked too much, made too much of a leap in one edition.

But what I am saying is this had a real impact, which is that the game frequently didn't work the way it was intended. 5E has similar failing with the 6-8 encounters business (but WotC adventures tend to adhere to that a bit better). And I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that experiencing the game as "tactics not mattering" might have something to do with that common issue.

What you're describing re: 5E is very superficial tactical stuff. I'm not saying no tactical elements are present. Just that they're shallow or to put it more kindly, straightforward and accessible. In 4E you had to make some pretty big round-to-round decisions and combat tended to run a lot longer meaning decisions flowed into other decisions much more. You also had far more move-countermove-type play, with a wide variety of actions, especially as you went up levels. This wasn't all good, note - the same stuff which made it more tactical gradually bogged down combat increasingly as levels went up.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
And I'm sorry but your "I DIDN'T PLAY THE GAME WRONG!!!!!" vehemence is unreasonable. 4E required a lot of effort to play "right" - this was a definite and real flaw of 4E, and worthy of criticism. Rejecting it as part of the picture is just unhelpful and unrealistic - 4E was demanding and specific in a way no other edition has been, and that caused issues. I admit it is sadly common on D&D-related-boards for people to refuse to accept that decisions and approaches they've taken to games can have any consequences or results - directly contrary to discussions of modern RPGs where people spend a lot of time and effort trying to learn how to "play right" and are very accepting of this. I should point out that I certainly didn't "instantly" play 4E "right". I had a significant learning curve.
So this comes off a lot like one true Wayism. “You didn’t play 4e the only one true way” and therefore your opinions about how it played are invalid.

I could just as easily claim my way of playing 4e was the only one true way of playing it and that just because you could hack it into something better makes your opinions of based on your modified version of it invalid. Doing so would get nowhere though would it?

So ultimately I think it’s necessary to recognize that RPGs have many valid ways of playing them and that your groups way isn’t the only one true way.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
The trouble with the first point is the personal experiences are rooted in circumstances and circumstances have causes and 4E had a very real problem in that it absolutely demanded a rigorous and entirely different approach to encounter to design to any edition before or since, and whilst I personally feel it gave good guidance on that (subjective, ofc), it is clear to me from playing it and discussing it and reading Actual Plays and so on that perhaps the majority of DMs were not following the rigorous approach. Or certainly plenty of them.
The question is - were both styles allowable by the rules and guidance provided in the game. I think so. And even as you noted - the guidelines are subjective enough that it doesn’t make sense that you would ‘die on that hill’ about the game so to speak.

You say this is playing "wrong" and on some level it is, but I also don't really blame them and I think it's fair to say that 4E asked too much, made too much of a leap in one edition.

But what I am saying is this had a real impact, which is that the game frequently didn't work the way it was intended. 5E has similar failing with the 6-8 encounters business (but WotC adventures tend to adhere to that a bit better). And I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that experiencing the game as "tactics not mattering" might have something to do with that common issue.
I’m not particularly concerned with why tactics didn’t matter. Only that they didn’t. I think you are a bit overly concerned with why. I liked 4e at the time but it’s not a game I ever see myself returning to.

What you're describing re: 5E is very superficial tactical stuff. I'm not saying no tactical elements are present. Just that they're shallow or to put it more kindly, straightforward and accessible. In 4E you had to make some pretty big round-to-round decisions and combat tended to run a lot longer meaning decisions flowed into other decisions much more. You also had far more move-countermove-type play, with a wide variety of actions, especially as you went up levels. This wasn't all good, note - the same stuff which made it more tactical gradually bogged down combat increasingly as levels went up.
I agree. But I’ve not argued that 4e cannot be called more tactical. I’m saying that the tactics in it while perhaps needing more skill to master matter much less to outcome than the much easier to master tactics of 5e. We are talking about 2 separate axis. The skill needed to master the tactics, which I agree 4e has more of, and the magnitude of tactics on outcome, which I think we probably agree that 5e has more of.
 

Mod Note:
What you're doing now is not witty, funny, charming, or constructive. Since you either cannot or will not stop willfully antagonizing people when asked, we'll help you out with the self control....

You're done in this thread.

@Shiroiken, or anyone else, who want to join him, that can easily be arranged.
Not to be that guy, I don't honestly see what Weiley31 or Shirokken did that was wrong. I only recall seeing one remark from him about the cheese cake and seems to be the only time in the thread there was some unnecessary snark I guess?

Clear stream was technically being the snoody one.

Although I haven't seen the new justice league yet so I'm not sure what they did with cyborg.
 




So this comes off a lot like one true Wayism. “You didn’t play 4e the only one true way” and therefore your opinions about how it played are invalid.

I could just as easily claim my way of playing 4e was the only one true way of playing it and that just because you could hack it into something better makes your opinions of based on your modified version of it invalid. Doing so would get nowhere though would it?

So ultimately I think it’s necessary to recognize that RPGs have many valid ways of playing them and that your groups way isn’t the only one true way.
I don't think that's fair or reasonable.

I've described in detail how the game had a rigorous approach required for the tactical element to function. I'm not saying you have to play like that. I am saying you won't get the tactical stuff working strongly if you don't.

One True Way would be saying that this was literally the only way to play. I literally said the opposite to that in my first post that angered you so much. So you cannot claim that! :)
The question is - were both styles allowable by the rules and guidance provided in the game. I think so. And even as you noted - the guidelines are subjective enough that it doesn’t make sense that you would ‘die on that hill’ about the game so to speak.
Who is dying here lol?
I’m not particularly concerned with why tactics didn’t matter. Only that they didn’t. I think you are a bit overly concerned with why. I liked 4e at the time but it’s not a game I ever see myself returning to.
You described a pretty common issue people had with 4E, and I pointed out why that issue occurs, in some detail. To me, why things are the case is a really useful thing to understand. I dunno if you feel the same way, or indeed if you do generally, but just don't care re: 4E. That's fine, but you decided to take my discussion of why this issue commonly occurred as a personal affront. I literally said you didn't have to play that way - but if you want the tactical stuff to work you do.

It's much like the 6-8 encounter thing with 5E. If you don't follow that, 5E will be less balanced between classes, even less tactical, feel too "easy" and so on. But can you ignore it and have fun with 5E? Of course you can! It doesn't mean the design didn't want you to do a specific thing though.
I agree. But I’ve not argued that 4e cannot be called more tactical. I’m saying that the tactics in it while perhaps needing more skill to master matter much less to outcome than the much easier to master tactics of 5e. We are talking about 2 separate axis. The skill needed to master the tactics, which I agree 4e has more of, and the magnitude of tactics on outcome, which I think we probably agree that 5e has more of.
I would broadly agree. I would say part of this is fight length. In 4E, you had to make tactical decisions round-after-round, and because of all the Interrupts/Immediate Actions/Reactions/etc. (which you sometimes had multiple of), and encounter-based limits to stuff, and more frequent bumping into meta-limits (Healing Surges etc.) during combat, and whilst one single ability was rarely as pivotal, you had to keep using them to control what was going on, so the number of meaningful decision-points was far higher. Which to me, is pretty much the definition of tactics in a game. But 5E yeah, one action is going to have a big impact - you've only got three or four rounds, and one action/bonus action/reaction in each round at most (broadly speaking). And the tactical moves are far more binary and not decision-oriented. Quite a number of 4E moves make a target make a decision, or put them in a pickle about what to do next. Whereas 5E it tends to be "Oh you're stuffed" or "you made your save" (Booming Blade and OAs are some of the only exceptions I can think of). 5E's approach is undeniably more accessible to most.

Weirdly 5E's approach is far less popular with the two most "casual" players in my regular group, who actually engaged hard with 4E's stuff. Whereas the charop-obsessives are totally down with it lol. But YMMV.
 



? How's that? The GM sets up a 'balanced' encounter and the players hire minions?
That's one way, or if the players obsessively retreat and rest and so on unless prepped (DMs can fight this with clocks etc. but there are limits and ultimately if the players play this way and the DM is having to throw clocks at them to stop them, probably you need a different DM or different players).
 

Necrozius

Explorer
I just want the designers to firm up the differences between ability checks vs. ability saves.

There are several instances in the rules in which a player "resists" an effect with an ability check rather than a save, and this confuses me.

Grapple, for instance. Why isn't that a Strength or Dexterity save to overcome/resist? Some argue that it's because it's an opposed contest... but if the one resisting the grapple succeeds they don't get the option to reverse the grapple and turn their grappler into their grapple...ee?

Fix that and make it obvious when to make an ability check, when to make an ability saving throw, and specify which cases the PC may NOT use an associated or relevant skill or tool proficiency. More than once I've had a GM tell me to "Roll Strength, but without any skill or tool proficiencies, just straight up Strength" WTF
 

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