The FINAL FANTASY INFINITY project - Preview Thread


If my sig took you here, know that this thread is pretty old. Most of what's in it still applies, but most of the action is at now. If you've got comments on anything related to Fantasy Infinity, I'd love to see them over there!

I'd put that information directly into my sig but I can't because I'm not currently a community supporter. Whenever my financial situation improves enough to restore my CS status, I'll do so.

The (Final) Fantasy Infinity project
Welcome to my new fantasy role-playing game project under the working title Final Fantasy Infinity. I intend to self-publish this in the relatively near future – I am currently aiming for a Kickstarter to commence in mid-November and for the initial boxed set to debut at Origins 2014 (EDIT: HAHAHA NO, those dates obviously were not met! The project IS making significant progress and WILL see the light of day, but the timeframe will definitely be longer than this!), though I don’t know if that’s realistic given the lengths of other product cycles in this industry.

Obviously, if it’s to be a commercial product, the name will need to change. Most likely, I will just drop the “Final” and go with Fantasy Infinity, and in fact some of the worldbuilding brainstorming has already used that name as a starting point; however, that's by no means set in stone at this point. If you've got a better suggestion and I end up using it, there's at minimum a spot in the credits, a free copy of the first boxed set, and other swag should Kickstarter stretch goals be reached in it for you.

I’m open to feedback on many aspects of the system (as well as what topics people would like me to write about here!) hence the existence of this thread. Keep in mind that, on the schedule I am trying for, it’s too late for a major ground-up overhaul; however, just about anything short of "Drop classes and levels! Don't you know skill-based systems are better?" is still fair game. I look forward to seeing what folks have to say, including their (clearly explained and civilly worded) criticisms and misgivings.

This post is primarily a welcome and introduction. It will also contain links to the substantive previews below. So far there are two, and more will be posted as time goes on. As they do, this post will be updated to acknowledge their existence.

Overview - This post summarizes some of the system's most notable features. AKA "What do you mean, there's no combat rounds?".

The Core Mechanic - This post describes the system's main dice mechanic. In some respects this is its least exciting aspect, however, it's the foundation for everything else and I'm as proud of it as of any other aspect of the system. If you're looking for something mind-blowingly innovative, this isn't it, but if you're a fan of simple, clean rules that work, this may be to your liking.

Default Setting - In which, after a brief general update, I think out loud about the setting that will come with, or shortly after, the core rules.

NOTE: I've started a nearly identical thread at RPGGeek as well, and others may appear elsewhere. This was the first, but the one at the Geek is now considered the main one and may be updated slightly more promptly.
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Here’s an overview of some of the game’s major elements, emphasizing the aspects that differ from what you might expect based on other RPGs (especially the D&D family). As with many other TRPGs, the most detailed rules are those for character creation (and advancement) and for combat, and so those are the areas I’ll focus on.

Character creation (and advancement): Character creation is a simple process that can be done in 10-15 minutes by someone moderately familiar with the game and involves the following steps:
Choose a class. Seven possibilities are planned for the initial release. Current working names, with the most common similar Final Fantasy jobs in parentheses: Warrior (combines Knight, Dragoon, Samurai and others), Thief (Thief), Dan (Monk), Sorcerer (Black Mage), Theurge (White Mage), Spellsword (Red Mage, can also do the Magic Knight's schtick), Spiritualist (Blue Mage). Some of the names and flavour might change slightly before release but the basic list is pretty much set.
Capture starting nodes. This one needs more explanation, which is given below. For now, let’s just say this is how your character actually learns to do things, from the boring but practical (use his or her armour to the best advantage) to the spectacularly cinematic (summon huge meteors to smite enemies).
Establish Heroic Traits. Divide several points among your “Heroic Traits”, the closest equivalent to “attributes” or “ability scores” found in many other games. There are six and the list is a bit different than you might be used to – Courage, Perseverance, Passion, Insight, Ingenuity and Presence. These numbers are rarely directly used in play, but they underlie the calculation of many other numbers that are; for example, Perseverance can strongly influence your hit point total. Note also that, while players are encouraged to role-play in accordance with their Traits, this is not mechanically enforced in any way – nothing, for example, stops a character with a high Courage from fleeing a battle that may yet be winnable, it is merely stated that this is not something such characters are normally prone to doing.
Obtain starting equipment. You begin with a certain monetary value worth of gear, typically a weapon or two, one or more defensive items (armour, shields, bracers), and perhaps one or two potions or other one-use items. At least for the moment I’m handling most other mundane equipment (torches, ropes, lockpicks etc) by just saying “if it’s reasonable to have it with you, you have it with you”; nitpicking over the finer points of your inventory is optional and mildly discouraged. There are no encumbrance rules, though heavy armour hurts your Quickness slightly and your Magic more significantly.
Determine derived stats. You are basically done making your character at this point, but before play you do need to figure out some other important numbers. While these calculations are not any more difficult than those involved in many other RPGs – I can blow through all of them for a starting character in perhaps five minutes – I want there to be an app for this at launch for a number of reasons, not the least of which is making the process less intimidating for math-phobic players. These include:
o hp (hit points). If these drop to zero, you’re defeated and most likely out of that combat, but you don’t die unless you decide your character’s story is over, or the entire party is defeated.
o mp (mana points). These power spells and certain other abilities, some of which their users swear aren’t magical in the slightest, really they’re not, nothing to see here, move along.
o Defense (number of dice you roll when trying to avoid physical attacks)
o Ward (number of dice you roll when trying to avoid magical attacks or shake off status ailments)
o Armour (subtracted from incoming physical damage)
o Resistance (subtracted from incoming magical damage)
o Quickness (helps your first action in combat take place sooner – for high level characters, it can also give you a chance to take actions more frequently)
o For each attack you can make (including offensive spells), your Attack or Magic (how many dice to roll when you use it) and the amount of damage it does, and/or what other effects it has, for various possible numbers of successes on those dice. (See The Core Mechanic below for a bit more on this.)​

Let’s go back to that second step for a second, “capture starting nodes”. What the heck does that mean?

Each class has two charts associated with it, resembling the tech trees found in many strategy games (or, more superficially, the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X). The class’ Destiny Wheel contains most of the signature abilities you’ll come to think of when you think of your character – weapon techniques and spells are learned here – while the class’ Defense Web consists of less glamorous but equally important abilities that protect your character from harm or allow your character to gather Focus, which is used to get extra dice or to power super-powerful attacks called Overdrives.

The photo below shows, on the left, a hand-drawn template for a complete Defense Web, and on the right, the inner portion only of the Warrior class’ Destiny Wheel. Note that the latter is not the entire thing, just the portion of it that low-level characters (levels 1-5) have access to. I apologize for the quality of the picture – I was going to post a legible scan, but my scanner has suddenly decided it’s not on speaking terms with my computer.

[sblock=Defense Web / Destiny Wheel] Destiny Wheel example.jpg[/sblock]

As you may have guessed by now, the individual items on these charts are called “nodes” and learning the ability one of them represents is called “capturing” that node. You start at the green dot in the center, the “start node”. At character creation and again each time you level up, you may capture any node adjacent to the start node or to any other node you’ve previously captured, provided you have enough option points. At character creation, you get 12 option points, which might be enough to capture as many as four nodes if you stick to the cheapest ones for your class (costs are printed on the lines connecting them), or you may capture any three nodes regardless of costs, which could be a value of up to 15 option points.

Nodes can do a variety of things. The colourful lozenge-shaped ones everyone I’ve shown this to seems to like are called “core nodes” and represent improved skills with a class of weapons, type of magic, or form of defense – the former two are found on the Destiny Wheel, the latter on the Defense Web.

The other ones can do almost anything. You might be able to see in this picture that they have different shapes penciled in, which represent different broad categories of effects they can have (obviously in the final version this will be done, much more clearly, by a professional graphic designer). The two most common are plus signs for static bonuses and other “always-on” abilities (e.g. extra hit points, more damaging melee attacks, sometimes something slightly more elaborate like the opportunity to counterattack if a defensive roll of yours goes really well), and ovals for powers you actually have to actively use. In many cases, especially for Warriors, the latter are “modified attacks” that let you add additional effects to the basic attacks you make with your weapons, sometimes at an extra cost in time, mp or Focus. You can only add one such modification to any given attack.

There are a few other categories as well – hexagons for Overdrives and for “Engines” that let you gain Focus, and stars for nodes that let you select and learn a couple of spells (capturing core magic nodes also lets you do this). Most spells require one or more matching core magic nodes in order to cast, but there are a handful that don’t, so capturing one of these nodes without having any magic cores still does something. This illustrates the larger point that I’ve tried to make it so that any node you can reach will be of some benefit – having captured other specific nodes first, while often very helpful, is never required except in a relatively small number of places where the layout of the chart dictates so.

This system of character creation (and, later, advancement) seems to be pretty intuitive to people and above all, fun. If I do my job well, people will want to level up just for the opportunity to take another kick at the “game within the game” of moving about on the Destiny Wheel and Defense Grid.

Battle System: Combat is a bit different from other RPGs, and I refer to the rules for it as the “Battle System” as a nod to the electronic RPGs that inspired it.

Combat is played out on something called a Battle Board. The current, rather primitive prototype, done with permanent markers on a magnetic whiteboard, is shown in the photo below. Once again, I apologize that the photo is not of the quality I might have preferred. Obviously, in the final version this is another thing I’ll want to give a professional graphic designer a kick at.

[sblock=Prototype Battle Board]Battle Board.jpg[/sblock]

The center is a simple 8x5 grid (plus small “Escape” areas on each side), somewhat resembling a football field. Typically, PCs will line up in the green area on the right, and monsters in the red area in the middle. This bears a (quite deliberate) resemblance to the battle systems of several of the Final Fantasy games but has certain elements not much in evidence in those games. For example, it is possible for a thief to start in the purplish area on the left, behind the enemy, even in a battle that isn’t an ambush (where you start surrounding the enemy). This lets the thief really go to town damage-wise, but is also dangerous should the enemy decide to do an about face and beat the crap out of the thief instead of concentrating on the rest of the party.

Narrate battles however you like. Positions on the battle board represent strategies at least as much as they do physical locations, so they’re a pretty abstract representation of what’s going on. Relative positions on the battle board, while they usually have at least a rough correspondence to the relative physical locations of combatants, are not an attempt to represent this positioning at the same level of detail found in a miniatures-oriented ruleset like Warhammer or 4E.

The other part of the Battle Board is the numbers along the outside, which resemble the scoring tracks found in various Eurogames. These are called the Initiative Track. At the beginning of a battle, each combatant places a small token called their Initiative Token on the darker strip to the left of the main part of the Battle Board, which counts down toward the zero near the upper left corner. (The exact position is determined by a simple roll of 1d6 plus Quickness. Ties are broken in favour of PCs or, where that doesn’t decide the issue, the tied characters/critters, being all on the same “side”, just decide among themselves by any mutually agreeable method.)

Combat then proceeds like this:
1. Starting at the words “Start Here” on the left and proceeding clockwise, find the first initiative token (breaking ties as noted above).
2. The combatant represented by that token takes one and only one action, resolves its effects immediately, then moves their token clockwise a number of squares equal to the Recovery time of that action, which usually leaves a different token as the one positioned to take an action.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until every combatant on one side is defeated, has fled, or has surrendered (and said surrender has been accepted), or until every remaining combatant on both sides agrees to a truce, or until some Event specifically says it ends the battle.

Notice that there is no “combat round” or anything like that, just different actions that take different amounts of time. Things that would be move actions or swift actions in D&D just have a shorter “recovery” so that it’s fewer “ticks” until your next action. Flipping your facing takes just two ticks while an attack generally takes anywhere from four to eight, for example.

There’s actually one other aspect to battles, and that’s that you can have Events occur. Events are placed on the Initiative Track just like combatants, and can be anything that affects the battle but isn’t a combatant taking an action. Some events are results of earlier actions – for example, if you’ve been poisoned, every so often an event occurs that deals poison damage to you, then gives you a chance to shake off the poison. Other events might represent storyline-related occurrences specific to that battle – if the attack is taking place in a city that’s being bombed, perhaps there will be periodic Events where there is a chance a random combatant is hit by shrapnel, or something like that.

That brings me to one last mechanic I want to mention. Random combatants, where needed, would be picked by putting tokens representing each combatant in a bag and pulling one out at random, another Eurogame touch. So each combatant needs, in addition to a character sheet, dice, a pencil and some scrap paper, three tokens:
• One for the main part of the battle board. I’m currently using mid-sized (1.25 inch) round magnets from office supply stores for this, with labels stuck to them with combatants’ pictures, names or symbols.
• The initiative token – currently, these are small magnets from a magnetic checkers (draughts) set with abbreviated names on them.
• A third token for the randomizer bag. Currently these are wooden crokinole chips with labels as above.

That’s it for the overview. Next – the core mechanic.
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The core mechanic
The Standard Roll
Most actions involve making a Standard Roll, which consists of rolling some number of six-sided dice and counting the number of successes. A “success” is an individual die that get at least a certain number, usually 5 for defending yourself in combat and 4 for everything else; this number is called the threshold.

Whenever you roll a 6 on one of the dice in a Standard Roll, that die explodes; not only does the 6 count as a success, but you may reroll that die as well, adding in any success you get on the reroll. As long as you keep getting 6es, you may keep rerolling until a result other than a 6 comes up. All such rerolling is optional.

In some cases, all that matters is whether you achieved at least some minimum number of successes or not. In others, the number of successes determines how powerful an effect you create. In particular, in combat, attacks inflict significantly more damage the more successes they achieve.

Types of Standard Rolls
Most Standard Rolls fall into two broad categories:
Combat Rolls, which use one of four numbers collectively referred to your Core Combat Scores. These cover the following four situations:
o Attacking an enemy with a weapon (including unarmed strikes), or using some other ability that depends on your skill with a particular weapon. This is called an Attack Roll, and the number of dice you use when making it is called your Attack.
o Trying to protect yourself when an enemy physically attacks you, or something else happens that makes you use the same skills and instincts as avoiding a physical attack. This is called a Defense Roll, and the number of dice you use when making it is called your Defense.
o You cast a spell or use some other supernatural ability, especially when you use it to damage or debilitate an enemy. Not every character can do this, and not every character who can do this consciously thinks of it as magic, but all classes have the option of taking at least a few abilities of this sort. This is called a Magic Roll, and the number of dice you use when making it is called your Magic.
o You are trying to avoid a magical attack, shake off a debilitating condition such as poison or temporary blindness, or otherwise protect yourself in ways that aren’t Defense Rolls. This is called a Ward Roll and the number of dice you use when making it is called your Ward.​
Skill Rolls are used for various non-combat abilities collectively referred to as Skills. These cover such diverse pursuits as brewing a potion, helming an airship, recalling relevant historical facts, and trying to sneak past an enemy. The number of dice you use when making one is called your Skill.
o These rolls can also be referred to more specifically by the name of the skill or specialty involved, so for example, brewing a potion might be referred to as an Alchemy Roll (the general skill it falls under) or a Herbalism Roll (the specific specialty of that skill that it uses). Overall there are nine skills, each with three specialties, for a total of 36 types of skill rolls (nine general skills plus 27 specialties).​

Determining the Threshold
The threshold is determined mainly by the nature of what you’re trying to accomplish. The thresholds for the most common types of Standard Rolls are:
• 4 for Attack Rolls, Magic Rolls and Skill Rolls
• 5 for Defense Rolls and Ward Rolls
In other words, the threshold is normally 5 when defending yourself from attacks (including spells, traps, etc) or otherwise trying to prevent direct and immediate harm to yourself, and 4 in all other situations.

The overwhelming majority of Standard Rolls fall into the categories mentioned above, but occasionally a rule or ability calls for one that doesn’t. In these cases, the rule or ability will specify the Threshold.

In the Novice Rules, only one thing ever changes the Threshold from the default values specified above – the Blind status ailment, which raises the Threshold of Attack Rolls by 2 (i.e. from 4 to 6 in the absence of other modifiers). More ways of changing the threshold are introduced in the Hero and Legend rules. However, nothing can make the threshold less than 3 or more than 6. If some combination of factors would move the threshold outside of this range, use a threshold of 3 or 6 instead, ignoring the excess.

Simple and Opposed Rolls
Sometimes, you just need to get a certain number of successes in order to accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish. This is called a simple roll. For example, deciphering a mysterious code your character has found might require two successes on a simple Skill (more specifically Lore) roll. Skill Rolls are usually (but not always) Simple Rolls.

Other times you are making an opposed roll, meaning someone else is trying to prevent you from succeeding at whatever you’re doing. In that case, the “active character” or “attacker” – the one who is actually trying to do something – rolls dice and counts successes, and simultaneously the “passive character” or “defender” – the one trying to resist the active character’s efforts – rolls dice and subtracts his or her successes from the active character’s. The result, called the active character’s net successes, determines what happens. Most Combat Rolls are opposed rolls, with the active character making an Attack or Magic roll and the passive character making a Defense or Ward roll.

Normally, if there is at least one net success, the attacker/active character is at least partially successful at whatever he or she is doing. The number of net successes can be negative (if the defender gets more successes than the attacker), which sometimes means that whatever the active character was trying has backfired in some way.

To summarize:
o Result of a simple roll = number of successes
o Result of an opposed roll = Active roll successes − passive roll successes = Active character’s net successes

Example: You try to attack a goblin (an opposed roll). Your Attack is 4 and the Goblin’s Defense is 2. You roll 1, 3, 4 and 6. That’s two successes, and you can also reroll the 6. You do so and get another 6 – a third success. You roll that die again and get a 4 – that’s four successes, but you have to stop rolling now since you did not get another 6. Meanwhile, the goblin gets a 4 and a 5 – one success. (If it were the attacker, the 4 would be a success, but as the defender, the goblin’s threshold is 5). You have three net successes – the four you rolled, minus the one the goblin rolled.

Successes without rolling – Casual skill use
Sometimes you can use a skill casually. This rule is intended for routine uses of skills outside of combat and other situations with time pressure. In these situations, it’s assumed that you can perform at a minimal level of competence reliably, and where applicable, can keep trying if all else fails.

When using a skill casually, you do not roll the dice. Instead, you simply get a number of successes equal to half the dice you would normally roll, rounded up. If you need more successes than this, you must roll the dice.

This can only be used on simple rolls, and not in combat or other high-pressure situations. If there's going to be opposed rolls involved or the stakes are high, you can’t use the rules for casual skill use.

You are never forced to use a skill casually; you can roll the dice if you prefer. However, you can’t just roll the dice repeatedly until you get a result you like, no matter how casual the situation; you have to accept the first result you get, which is considered to already include your character making several tries where this makes sense.

During a Challenge (combat and occasionally other high-stress situations, where the Battle Board is used), you can gain a resource called Focus. Any character can use the Focus action (basically taking a momentary breather) to gain one point of Focus; there are additional abilities, called Engines, available to each class that grant additional means of gaining Focus.

You can spend Focus to add additional dice to any Standard Roll, including all the types mentioned above as well as those unusual Standard Rolls that aren’t of any type. One Focus allows you to roll one additional die, and you can spend up to two Focus on any particular roll in this way. You may wait until you see what the result is going to be without the Focus before committing yourself to spending any, and you may spend one, roll the extra die (including any rerolls if it happens to be a 6), then decide whether to spend a second.

You can also learn powers called Overdrives which also cost Focus. These tend to have benefits that are much more powerful than this generic use of Focus, but also narrower – in particular, the majority of them are attacks and therefore won’t help you on, say, a skill roll.

Other types of rolls and dice notation
These rules use only six-sided dice. However, those dice can be used in many ways, not all of which are Standard Rolls.

Many other games use a notation for dice rolls where, for example, 2d6 refers to rolling two six-sided dice (usually, but not always, adding up the results to get a number from 2 to 12). This system follows suit, but only when not referring to a standard roll. Standard rolls are always described in words (“roll two dice”, or more usually “roll your Attack”, “roll your Alchemy” and so on).

If you see a notation like “roll 1d6” in this game, this will not refer to a standard roll. The most common situation where this occurs is when rolling for Initiative at the start of a Challenge – you roll 1d6 and add your Quickness to determine your starting position on the Initiative Track (as more fully explained in the Battle System rules.) This is not a Standard Roll and there are no “successes” or “threshold” involved – you simply add the actual number that appears on the die to your Quickness. (Sixes don’t explode in these rolls, either.)

Similar comments apply if you are told to roll 2d6, 3d6 etc. Sometimes you’ll only use the single highest, or lowest, result from among those dice, ignoring the rest. This is referred to as “keeping the highest” (or “lowest”). If the rules say “roll 2d6” (for example) without mentioning anything about which results to keep, you simply add the dice up and use the resulting number.

• If you are told to “roll two dice”, this indicates a Standard Roll. If you get a 2 and a 6, on this roll, the result is at least one success, with the option to reroll the 6 in search of more successes if you wish.
• If you are told to “roll 2d6” (without further qualification) and get a 2 and a 6, the result is 8. (You don’t reroll the 6.)
• If you are told to “roll 2d6 and keep the highest” and get a 2 and a 6, the result is 6 (the single highest number rolled).
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Default Setting (and a general update)

I've been very busy this past week educating myself on the business side of starting a company. For example, I've secured the name "Philosoraptor Game Studio" as well as learning a LOT about marketing, taxes, and other business necessities and approaching someone who may do some of the graphic design.

This is not to say I've been idle on the creative side. I've done two main things this week - write up most of the nodes for the Dan (Shaolin-type martial artist) class, and brainstorm a bit about the setting.

I think I am going to go with the name Fantasy Infinity. I'm only about 90% happy with that but trade dress and a logo will be needed in time to launch a Kickstarter in November, so there's only so long I can wait. Thinking about a logo for that name got me thinking about the infinity sign and other things that it might resemble - specifically the Mobius strip.

What would a world shaped like one of those be like?

First of all, the art possibilities are pretty awesome, what with being able to look up into the sky and see bits of planet above you. I've got a bit of a concept for the box cover based on that.

It also means different bits of the planet relate to each other physically in unusual ways. You can, with some difficulty, get to the other side of the strip from the edges - in most places, it involves rappelling downward for miles (and dealing with gravity flipping on you halfway down), but it's possible. If there are airships - and this was inspired by the Final Fantasy series so of course there are airships - they can not only follow the land, but in some places, can go up as well to reach entirely different areas of the strip. This is how most commerce happens between the biggest city and the independent city-states near where the "driftwood" needed for the airships grows.

The "driftwood" trees float lazily in the air by their own power. Mostly they stay tethered to the ground by their roots, but every so often one floats away and wanders through the sky until, deprived of the nutrients it needs, it loses its power and you get this tree falling from the sky into some farmer's field. This property is exploited to make airships, though those have the same problem with running out of juice and dropping to earth. Usually they have the decency to do it gradually rather than just crashing. Usually. But this does mean you have to keep replacing bits of them just to maintain a fleet of a constant size, let alone expand. Thus, massive industrial scale cutting of the driftwood forest, widespread desertification, and a perceived need on the part of those independent city-states to expand their reach and ability to extract resources. If a leader strong enough to stop them squabbling amongst themselves appeared, these guys could be trouble.

It's not like the main city above their heads is going to stop them. Ostensibly led by a hereditary emperor who fancies himself a benevolent dictator but is neither, real power lies in the hands of whoever has the money or muscle to exercise it and anarchy is just barely kept in check by an unspoken mutual desire to maintain a veneer of civilization. It's a good place for adventurers to find adventures and and an equally good place for them to be running the hell away from. It's openly corrupt and decadent and just waiting for a horde of near-barbarians and a fleet of airships to show up and conquer it just as soon as the GM decides that would make a good background for whatever adventures he or she would be running anyway.

Terrain on opposite sides of the strip tends to be opposites (if there's a mountain chain in one place, there might be a big crater on the reverse side), though not always - some features, like the main ocean, extend over the edge of the planet and onto the other side. A more or less stable blob of water has formed just off the edge of the Mobius strip in that particular spot, which it's possible to sail a ship over. This has resulted in an uneasy friendship between cultures roughly analogous to Japan and Norway from opposite sides of the strip.

That's just the stuff I'm reasonably sure I'll keep from a couple of days of brainstorming, and will no doubt develop a lot more over time. I do need to be a bit careful here, though. One thing I don't want is too much of a metaplot - I've hated those ever since TSR released the Dark Sun setting only to pretty much wreck the entire works inside of a year - but it's evident that the situation I've just described isn't stable. I hope to have other GMs write their own stories about it, though, not to do one myself and then impose it on them.

Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition Starter Box

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