D&D General Vote up a 5e-Alike: Ancestries! (First Draft)


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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
See, my table and I all hate the idea of Always Evil races and therefore see no reason why subterranean elves shouldn't be playable.
Where I'm fine with there being - maybe not Always Evil, but certainly Always Enemy - species or cultures or whatever.
Hard disagree. There's no point giving an ancestry an ability that's going to be useless a lot of the time. It's incredibly frustrating to have abilities or other character elements that can't be used 90% of the time.

Maybe, maybe not. But not all games are travelogues, and not all travelogues are going to go through all terrain types.
And by the same token, not every ability has to come into (or be forced into) play. I've had characters who by random chance turned out to be expert swimmers and yet they maybe did any swimming once in their played careers, if that. And so what? They found success in other ways, and things went on.
That's only if you believe in rolling randomly for backgrounds or build them after you roll your stats--which not everybody does. A very large percentage of players come up with their backgrounds before their stats.
And I maintain that doing so is a foundational error; and that doing so will only serve to reduce one's fun in both the short and long term.
This isn't like the old days where you rolled 3d6 in order and then resigned yourself to playing whatever it was you rolled the highest in, even if you hated the class.
There's a middle ground where you roll 4d6k3 or even 5d6k3, rearrange, then for other elements (background, languages, etc.) either choose among some very basic ones that give no benefits or roll (and the roll is binding) if you want a chance at something more exotic that maybe carries some minor benefits with it.
Not end of issue, because there's no reason for a game like D&D to force you to play as a particular gender or to gatekeep an ancestry behind an ability like that; nor should D&D try to go out of its way to make a race uncomfortable for people to play. That's why the gender change thing is listed as an optional trait, not one that you must take if you want to play an elf.
Ah - I thought it was baked in to the species.

Still think it works better for Orcs, though - gives them something truly distinctive.
Nah, humanity as a baseline is boring and there's not only no reason to have a boring race in the game, it also ignores that humans can actually be really cool. HFY all the way!
What's HFY?

Also, Humans might be boring but they're also the easiest species for us all to relate to; which makes it far easier to answer the question "what makes species X tick?" with answers that directly compare it to Humans, as in "A typical Dwarf tends to be shorter, heavier, tougher, a bit stronger, and a bit uglier than a typical Human".
And, well, IME most disadvantages in a game like D&D are either going to be useless (if your dwarfs have a hard time swimming and the game takes place almost entirely on dry land, your dwarf basically has no disadvantages) or crippling (like D&D races with sunlight sensitivity, which penalizes them during 90% of gameplay).
If you're playing a Dwarf who can drown on a whim then in-character it's in your best interests to make sure things stay on dry land, isn't it? :)
Or filled with Unfortunate Implications, like any sort of stat penalty, especially mental stats.
I'm still all about the stats penalties, unfortunate implications be damned. If a species is on average less intelligent than Humans, make the stats reflect that.
A platonic ideal of Averageness, perhaps.
Reflected in the game as what? And the answer, of course, is Humans. :)
How high do you want the attribute tables to go up to? I looked it up; one of the strongest humans in the real world was able to bench something like 535 pounds, which in 5e terms means a Strength of 35 (and could deadlift over a thousand pounds), or 18 if you are playing a Medium race with a Heavy Lifter type trait. But in 5e, you're limited to Strength of 20, or 300 pounds; dragons don't even have Strength 35.
Yeah, this points out a flaw when linear-math design is applied to things that really should be on bell curves: it breaks down at the extreme ends as the bell-curve isn't allowed to extend far enough to account for those extremes. For encumbrance there should be a bigger difference between Str 17 and 18 than there is between Str 11 and 12, to (slightly) reflect the extremes of the bell curve.

That said, sure someone could bench 535 pounds or lift 1000 but how far could they carry it? :) Encumbrance is in theory supposed to represent what you can carry for a day's travel, rather than what you can lift for a moment or drag for thirty feet.
Anyway, for an orc to be as strong as you think they should be, they'd have to start out with a Strength of well above 20--which would make them far too OP to allow in a game. The same goes for any stat modifications. You want halflings to be physically weak? They'd have to have a Strength of, like, 4 if you want humans to be the baseline. Want elves to be particularly graceful? They'd all have to start out with Dex scores of at least 18 or 20. It's all going to be either OP or so weak that nobody would ever want to play them.
So you split the difference and give them a boost or penalty, which could still be more than +/-2 but doesn't need to be as extreme as you note here.

The more complicated - but IMO far more realistic - way of doing it, however, is to first determine what the range would be for each species and stat (for Humans it's 3-18 for all stats). Thus a Dwarf's Str range might be 5-18, its Int range 3-18, Wis 3-18, Dex 3-17, Con 8-19, and Cha 3-16. Then, you take the roll (which has to fall within the 3-18 range, of course) and modify it such that it's in the same relative place on the bell curve for that species/stat. So, if a Dwarf rolls 6 for its Strength it would be forced to 8 but if it rolls 18 for its strength it stays at 18. Flip side: if that Dwarf rolled 6 for its Charisma it would stay at 6 but a roll of 18 would get knocked down to 16.

We've done it this way for something like 40 years now. In practice, there's a chart that does the conversion for you. It's still slower and more complex than simply applyng a flat + or - but IMO the added granularity and realism is worth it.
See, the game-standard of a +1 or +2 or even +4 to a stat is no more than a +1 or +2 to a d20 roll, or a 5% o 10% on a d%, and that does next to nothing to make a race feel stronger or smarter (or weaker or more clumsy).
If we're using roll-under for things, every stat point is going to make a difference.
It's just an annoying thing that tries to force people into specific race/class combos or penalizes them if they choose to break the mold,
Yes. I don't mind this at all; though "force" is too strong a word. "Encourage" might be better, as there's nothing binding and one can always play against type if one chooses.
And above everything else, those numbers are abstract. A Strength of 6 doesn't really mean all that much. A person with an Intelligence of 5 is fully playable as anything but a wizard, really--but I used to work with developmentally disabled adults, and an actual person with an Intelligence that low wouldn't might not be able to even talk, walk, or use their hands properly, let alone adventure and hold a sword. (The brain controls the body; if you have a very low IQ, your brain is, as one of my old professors put it, basically Swiss cheese and your body simply won't work properly because of it.)
Again, the extremes at the ends of the curve aren't reflected well. I think for game purposes we pretty much have to assume that someone with Int 3 is still (perhaps barely) able to function to the point of walking and being able to do repetitive tasks - and of course to defend itself, but that's mostly pure instinct. Those unable to function to that extent would be non-adventurers, and the game would assign them Int scores of 1 or 2.

This is one thing 1e did right IMO: those with an extremely low stat had very little choice as to what class they could be.
So an orc with a Strength of 6 is fine. All it means is that they get a -2 to their Strength-based rolls. They'll still be able lift more than a human with the same Strength, and they'll still do more damage that even an average human on a critical hit. And you know what? That's fun.
Thing is...and this may point out our differences here...I see stats as being universal absolutes. If it has Str 6 it's going to roughly tie on an arm-wrestle with anyone else* of Str 6 and-or be able to lift/carry roughly the same weight, whether that "anyone else" is a Human or Orc or Elf or anything else. The moment you start sayng they're not absolute, and that a Str 6 Orc is stronger than a Str 6 Human or that an Int 12 Orc is dumber than an Int 12 Human, the stat loses all relevance.

* - with about the same length of arm, of course. :)
And that's another thing. Why can't a Strength 6 or exist in the setting? Why can't I have them in my game? Why does the game have to forbid them?
Because, using your own rationale, Orcs as a species are beefy and burly and thus just don't come that weak. (or if they do, they're not allowed out in public)
And a third thing. Why not? Your game, sure, but everyone's game? They're fictional characters, entirely under our control.
They're entirely under our control once we start playing them. During the generation process, however, I don't see them as being entirely under our control at all; because roll-up is the stage where the universe, in the form of dice, gets to have its say.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Where I'm fine with there being - maybe not Always Evil, but certainly Always Enemy - species or cultures or whatever.
Ugh. The very idea of an Always Evil--or Always the Enemy--race makes me literally physically ill. Unless you decide that the "good" race (say, surface elves versus drow) are actually hateful, propaganda-spreading xenophobes who can't conceive of not being at war with their chosen scapegoats, the idea of an Always Evil/Enemy people isn't at all realistic to me. It's a good idea for a very specific type of campaign, if you remove alignments or explain that alignments are subjective, not objective. But for the standard type of game setting? Nope.

And unnecessary. Fiends are basically evil-based elementals. Aberrations and undead are perversions of nature. Constructs are as evil as they were programmed to be. You could even do a "man versus wild" thing and say that fey and elementals are actively hostile to mortal life because they believe everything should return to its original, primal state. It makes sense to say that these beings lack free will, that they aren't people like drow or orcs are.

People at war? Sure. The human kingdom and the goblin kingdom could be at war and hate each other because of it--as long as there's a reason for the war. Land, resources, religious differences, grudges, old-fashioned racism--the standard things. Maybe the humans stole the goblins' lands (humans are good at that) and the goblins refuse to go quietly. Or vice versa; goblins could be the ones with the power. These things make sense, and it makes sense, then, that humans and goblins would want to kill each other. But that's not Always Evil/Enemy.

This is when you have to ask yourself what realism actually means. You can't say "it's realistic for orcs to be fantastically stronger than humans" and also say "orcs are people who are always evil."

And by the same token, not every ability has to come into (or be forced into) play. I've had characters who by random chance turned out to be expert swimmers and yet they maybe did any swimming once in their played careers, if that. And so what? They found success in other ways, and things went on.
If an ability isn't going to be useful much of the time, it shouldn't be an ability that clutters up space on your character sheet.

And I maintain that doing so is a foundational error; and that doing so will only serve to reduce one's fun in both the short and long term.
I've only ever made backgrounds first, and just about everyone I've ever gamed with--going as far back as early 2e--has made at least skeletal backgrounds first (with exceptions for games such Traveler), and I can honestly say that everyone has never had their fun reduced at all.

There's a middle ground where you roll 4d6k3 or even 5d6k3, rearrange, then for other elements (background, languages, etc.) either choose among some very basic ones that give no benefits or roll (and the roll is binding) if you want a chance at something more exotic that maybe carries some minor benefits with it.
You're missing the point. It's not how many dice you roll--and note that a lot of people, probably the majority of people, prefer point buy/stat array--it's that people want the be able to choose their character.

Nobody should be forced to play a character they don't want to play. D&D isn't a job you have to put up with; it's supposed to be fun.

Ah - I thought it was baked in to the species.

Still think it works better for Orcs, though - gives them something truly distinctive.

What's HFY?
"Humans expletive-deleted Yeah!" It's the idea that humans are awesome in comparison to others species.

This is perhaps the most famous meme-style example of it (I hadn't realized bogleech had started it), but there's subreddits, TV Tropes pages, and a lot more dedicated to the concept.

1699743094384.png

I read an early story--perhaps among the first on r/HFY--that had the aliens decided to land amongst a crowd of humans in order to frighten, intimidate, and capture/kill them. Too bad for the aliens that the crowd they landed in was actually a hockey game.

Also, Humans might be boring but they're also the easiest species for us all to relate to; which makes it far easier to answer the question "what makes species X tick?" with answers that directly compare it to Humans, as in "A typical Dwarf tends to be shorter, heavier, tougher, a bit stronger, and a bit uglier than a typical Human".
Which is why it's a good thing to emphasize what's cool about humans as well.

In Level Up, humans, like other heritages, have several gifts to choose from. There's a "long-distance runner" gift, a "survivalist" gift, and a "hyperfocus" gift--the last of these made me, a person with both autism and severe ADHD, jump for joy, since this was actually acknowledging that being neurodiverse isn't all doom and gloom.

So what does this mean? It means dwarfs--and other heritages--tend to be less able to run for extended periods of time, less able to survive in the face of adversity, and less able to focus so completely on a task. And this is a good thing. It's pointing out differences not by saying how one people is less than the other, but by showing how all peoples have their own strengths.

If you're playing a Dwarf who can drown on a whim then in-character it's in your best interests to make sure things stay on dry land, isn't it? :)
Which means that if the DM chooses to not have an adventure take place on water and you don't write a background where your inability to swim is important, then you not being a good swimmer isn't important at all and might as well not exist. It's why I gave elves the ability to change their chosen terrain. IIRC, people have complained en masse for years about rangers being limited to a few terrain types and how it made the class useless. WotC finally addressed that in TCE by giving an (optional) replacement trait. I've learned from that.

I'm still all about the stats penalties, unfortunate implications be damned. If a species is on average less intelligent than Humans, make the stats reflect that.
This is a hard no from me. Maybe you're lucky in that you don't belong to a group that constantly has to deal with these unfortunate implications, but I do. And so do a lot of other gamers. But I will literally quit writing this game than knowingly include "unfortunate implications" in it, especially when there are other, more inclusive options.

Plus, this is stupid. Humans, no matter their origins here on Planet Earth, are all about as intelligent as one another. Medieval people were as smart as you and I are; we just have different types of education and different skill sets. The same is true for any other group of humans.

In the real world, people who lived, or live, in tribal societies have fully-realized cultures, religions, histories, trade networks, artwork, crafting abilities, and everything else, and were hampered only by the materials they had available to them. You want tribal orcs? (or goblins or ogres or whatever) Then they also need need to be a fully-realized people. And that means no penalties to their mental stats. The only reason to make orcs low-Int is so people can think that they're just dumb savages that you can kill without risking an alignment change. And that is a bad reason, and I won't include reasons like that.

Yeah, this points out a flaw when linear-math design is applied to things that really should be on bell curves: it breaks down at the extreme ends as the bell-curve isn't allowed to extend far enough to account for those extremes. For encumbrance there should be a bigger difference between Str 17 and 18 than there is between Str 11 and 12, to (slightly) reflect the extremes of the bell curve.
And if you want that play a different game, one that uses multiple dice to determine outcomes. GURPS, PbtA, probably a whole bunch of others. Not D&D.

That said, sure someone could bench 535 pounds or lift 1000 but how far could they carry it? :) Encumbrance is in theory supposed to represent what you can carry for a day's travel, rather than what you can lift for a moment or drag for thirty feet.

So you split the difference and give them a boost or penalty, which could still be more than +/-2 but doesn't need to be as extreme as you note here.
It still wouldn't work. To actually represent what you want it to, you would have to give it too much of a bonus so it becomes OP.

So you either do what a lot of other, story-first games do, and let the players be the judge of what their character can do while trusting them to be honest about it--or you stick to something that is balanced but not "realistic."

If we're using roll-under for things, every stat point is going to make a difference.

Yes. I don't mind this at all; though "force" is too strong a word. "Encourage" might be better, as there's nothing binding and one can always play against type if one chooses.
But it actively penalizes you, if only a bit, if you choose to play against type.

And again, it's too setting-specific. There's no reason to assume that all or even halflings are built to be rogues, simply because, nearly 90 years ago, Tolkien wanted Bilbo to be a burglar and Gygax took that a little bit too much to heart.

D&D was always supposed to be a game about exploring your imagination, but at the same time tries to force your imagination into neat little boxes. Maybe you've seen this meme:

1699742952233.jpeg


People tend to think of halflings as the European badger. Why not view them as the American badger instead?

Because, using your own rationale, Orcs as a species are beefy and burly and thus just don't come that weak. (or if they do, they're not allowed out in public)
And why wouldn't they be?

First, yes, orcs are beefy and burly. A Strength 6 orc isn't going to have the wasted-looking noodle-limbs an incredibly weak human might. A Strength 6 orc might look like human who has a sedentary lifestyle, in terms of muscle mass.

As I said, I worked with developmentally disabled adults. Real-life humans locked away people with disabilities, often in horribly abusive facilities. I literally worked with people who had suffered from that sort of abuse. That's a type of real-world evil I have zero interest in ever using in my fun elf game. I don't care how "realistic" it is; I'm not writing it into this game.

So scrawny orcs might get mocked because they can't throw an orcball worth a damn, but there's still plenty of room for them to thrive in any other class out there. Bring on the Strength 6 orc thieves and priests and wizards!

They're entirely under our control once we start playing them. During the generation process, however, I don't see them as being entirely under our control at all; because roll-up is the stage where the universe, in the form of dice, gets to have its say.
Except it's (A) a game, so that "the universe is in charge" is a rule that can be changed, not an immutable fact, and (B) most people don't use dice to determine stats anymore. The game has to appeal to everyone.
 

mamba

Legend
Maybe, maybe not. But not all games are travelogues, and not all travelogues are going to go through all terrain types.
then pick a type that works for the adventure, talk to your DM, being able to essentially change it at will to whichever terrain type you find yourself in is OP

So an orc with a Strength of 6 is fine. All it means is that they get a -2 to their Strength-based rolls. They'll still be able lift more than a human with the same Strength, and they'll still do more damage that even an average human on a critical hit. And you know what? That's fun.
no, it is nonsense, stats represent absolute values, a Halfling with strength 6 can carry as much as a Human or an Orc, if you violate that, then stats become meaningless.

Why would Int 16 for a Human and Elf be the same thing, what about a Dex 8 Halfling vs a Dex 8 Orc, which one is more dexterous?
 
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Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Plus, this is stupid. Humans, no matter their origins here on Planet Earth, are all about as intelligent as one another. Medieval people were as smart as you and I are; we just have different types of education and different skill sets. The same is true for any other group of humans.

In the real world, people who lived, or live, in tribal societies have fully-realized cultures, religions, histories, trade networks, artwork, crafting abilities, and everything else, and were hampered only by the materials they had available to them. You want tribal orcs? (or goblins or ogres or whatever) Then they also need need to be a fully-realized people. And that means no penalties to their mental stats. The only reason to make orcs low-Int is so people can think that they're just dumb savages that you can kill without risking an alignment change. And that is a bad reason, and I won't include reasons like that.

IMC Orcs are as intelligent as humans but they still have lower quality crafting abilities - disadvantage using artisan tools due to reduced manual dexterity. With their con bonus Orcs have thick, tough and often calloused hides but they also have reduced tactile sensation which reduces their manual dexterity and ability to do fine work.
so sure an Orc can hammer steel into a blade but it will be less well honed than a human forged blade, and not too many Orcs will be doing filigree inlays or tinkering with clockwork.

I also toyed with Orcs having a cha penalty to explain why they havent taken over the world already (they cant work together except via Intimidation (Str)), but Cha is a dump stat anyway…
 

CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
@Faolyn i know you're probably doing your own version but what do you think of this?

Goblin
Age:
Goblins reach maturity in their early teens and tend to live just past 60 years.

Size: Goblins are small, standing at about four-and-a-half feet tall, and typically weigh between 30 and 40 pounds and have a tendency towards being wiry and a certain lankiness. Your size is Small.

Speed: Your speed is 25 feet.

Ability Score Modifiers: Goblins have thrived in a number of surprisingly hostile environments through an innate hardiness and quick sharp minds. Increase one of Constitution or Intelligence by +2. The maximum for that ability score increases to 24.

Sharp Eyes: Goblins have particularly sharp eyesight adapted to night and dark caves. You have Low-Light Vision. You can see in dim light to a range of 30 feet as if it were bright light. This vision is in grayscale, not color. You can’t see in complete darkness.

Agile Climber: Goblins have tough hooked claws that enable them to climb easily, you have a climbing speed equal to your movespeed, you cannot climb whilst wearing heavy armour or a shield.

Nimble Escape: Using your small size and quick thinking allows you to protect yourself in dangerous situations easier, You can perform the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action.

Hobgoblin Mettle Muscle: A streak of military dicipline runs strong through the goblins, you are proficient with your choice of two martial weapons, Some goblins are blessed with greater strength than other of their kind, you are treated as a medium creature when determining the weight that you can push, lift or carry, additionally you ignore the penalties of weilding any heavy weapons as a small creature.

Crafty Assistance: Goblins are experts in coming up with dirty tricks and tactics in battle, you may perform the help action to assist an ally attacking another creature within 10ft of you as a reaction up to PB/LR times.
 
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Faolyn

(she/her)
then pick a type that works for the adventure, talk to your DM, being able to essentially change it at will to whichever terrain type you find yourself in is OP
There are other races and classes in 5e that let you change integral things at the end of a long rest (eladrin, for instance), and I'm not sure a 5-foot increase to walking speed and advantage on saves again on natural heat and cold (not magical!) are hardly OP--especially in comparison to many other 5e races who have these abilities all the time.

no, it is nonsense, stats represent absolute values, a Halfling with strength 6 can carry as much as a Human or an Orc, if you violate that, then stats become meaningless.

Why would Int 16 for a Human and Elf be the same thing, what about a Dex 8 Halfling vs a Dex 8 Orc, which one is more dexterous?
Well, a halfling in D&D has the nimble trait, which means that between a halfling and an orc with identical Dex stats, the halfling is more dexterous--they have a trait that enhances their natural dexterity. Just like how an orc is stronger than a halfling of the same Strength because orcs can lift more and hit harder.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
IMC Orcs are as intelligent as humans but they still have lower quality crafting abilities - disadvantage using artisan tools due to reduced manual dexterity. With their con bonus Orcs have thick, tough and often calloused hides but they also have reduced tactile sensation which reduces their manual dexterity and ability to do fine work.
so sure an Orc can hammer steel into a blade but it will be less well honed than a human forged blade, and not too many Orcs will be doing filigree inlays or tinkering with clockwork.
Orcs have never had a Dexterity penalty or penalty to fine motor skills in any edition... Also, you don't need to have super tactile senses to have good hand-eye coordination. In the real world, there have been lots of very good artists who are color-blind or even lack hands. And IMO, you don't need "filigree inlays" to be a good craftsman, nor do you need to be able to feel things all that well to be able to hone a blade.

I also toyed with Orcs having a cha penalty to explain why they havent taken over the world already (they cant work together except via Intimidation (Str)), but Cha is a dump stat anyway…
Maybe they should take over the world, then. Maybe settings should actually take their non-human inhabitants into consideration instead of assuming they'd be just like medieval Europe with fantasy trappings and non-humans stuck around the edges.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
@Faolyn i know you're probably doing your own version but what do you think of this?

Goblin
Age:
Goblins reach maturity in their early teens and tend to live just past 60 years.

Size: Goblins are small, standing at about four-and-a-half feet tall, and typically weigh between 30 and 40 pounds and have a tendency towards being wiry and a certain lankiness. Your size is Small.

Speed: Your speed is 25 feet.

Ability Score Modifiers: Goblins have thrived in a number of surprisingly hostile environments through an innate hardiness and quick sharp minds. Increase one of Constitution or Intelligence by +2. The maximum for that ability score increases to 24.

Sharp Eyes: Goblins have particularly sharp eyesight adapted to night and dark caves. You have Low-Light Vision. You can see in dim light to a range of 30 feet as if it were bright light. This vision is in grayscale, not color. You can’t see in complete darkness.

Agile Climber: Goblins have tough hooked claws that enable them to climb easily, you have a climbing speed equal to your movespeed, you cannot climb whilst wearing heavy armour or a shield.

Nimble Escape: Using your small size and quick thinking allows you to protect yourself in dangerous situations easier, You can perform the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action.

Hobgoblin Mettle: A streak of military dicipline runs strong through the goblins, you are proficient with your choice of two martial weapons, you ignore the penalties of weilding any heavy weapons as a small creature.

Crafty Assistance: Goblins are experts in coming up with dirty tricks and tactics in battle, you may perform the help action to assist an ally attacking another creature within 10ft of you as a reaction up to PB/LR times.
Everything is great there except, maybe, the first part of Hobgoblin Mettal--learning weapons is more a cultural trait, I would think. But I would definitely give them the ability to wield heavy weapons without penalty!
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Orcs have never had a Dexterity penalty or penalty to fine motor skills in any edition... Also, you don't need to have super tactile senses to have good hand-eye coordination. In the real world, there have been lots of very good artists who are color-blind or even lack hands. And IMO, you don't need "filigree inlays" to be a good craftsman, nor do you need to be able to feel things all that well to be able to hone a blade.


Maybe they should take over the world, then. Maybe settings should actually take their non-human inhabitants into consideration instead of assuming they'd be just like medieval Europe with fantasy trappings and non-humans stuck around the edges.
Unless of course that's what you want. A lot of folks still want that. Maybe that should be taken into consideration as well when making sweeping statements about personal preference.
 

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