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D&D General What kind of class design do you prefer?

What type of class design do you prefer?

  • Few classes with a lots of build choices

    Votes: 53 62.4%
  • Lots of classes with narrow build choices

    Votes: 32 37.6%

  • Total voters
    85

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
These choices are too limited/limiting. There is no reason it has to be one or the other. Equally, there is no reason "narrow list with narrow choices" or "wide open with tons of choices" need be the only alternatives. You can easily have a list that is "both and"... all things to all people with the limitations simply placed by the player and how "in depth" or "shallow" (mechanically or narratively or "layers"-speaking) they want their character's class structure to be.

The game allows for PCs who are the "simple," some might say "basic," archetypes: Fighter, Cleric, Thief/Rogue, Mage/Wizard. Subclass options allow further detail, establishing a narrowing of the class' narrative while simultaneously specifying their features to suit the archetype. Then there are feats and skills, backgrounds and other elements of the character creation process that can further specify/narrow in on a very specific, even to "one-of-a-kind," character...and, by virtue of the adding of endless available options and new subclass specifics/specialists...your single class could generate a dozen different characters off the same chassis.

Par ejemplo...

Basic Class: Fighter.
Class "thing": Best at Combat. SIgnature features: some kind of Second WInd/stamina thing to keep you in the fight longer/-est, attack and damage bonuses, more attacks than other classes can have, some kind of situational things: battlefield control, situational interaction bonuses, save bonuses or improvements.
Primary Ability: Strength.
---> a specialist subclass: The Cavalier [Fighter]. Class thing: Fighter that's highly trained in specific techniques, education, and styles of combat. Signature feature: "Code of Honor" grants special "knightly" flavorful features. Add some feats, backgrounds, thematic archetypes, skill choices and you're:
------> Jouster/Dragoon/superior mounted combatant
------> Herald/Rallying leader type
------> Military commander/tactician
------> super-Defender, absorbing damage and taking attacks for his allies
------> add some barbarian trappings and dressings and you have some great would-be warlord chieftain who dreams of assembling a warriors' horde to rule their chaotic native lands with Order and virtuous rules.
------> Noble [chivalric] Knight sworn to king and country, Samurai, wandering knight errant, honorbound warrior with a personal code/no allegiance to any land or liege, a stable boy with a heart of gold and high ideals of conduct from a benevolent lord in whose keep he grew up, and, and, and...

But you only need get into those levels/layers of specificity if you want. It doesn't make your character "better" or give them "more stuff" than someone who is a straight Fighter with no subclass or archetypes or feats or anything.

So you have a Fighter Class.
And a Cavalier class.
All of the rest is...personal choice and options, coloring and fluff...all the fun stuff.
 

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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I'm fine with there being some SAD classes. However would prefer them to be very simplistic and their builds/subclasses being mostly specialization within the class and ribbons.

STR- Champion
DEX- Scoundrel
CON- Warden
INT- Arcanist
WIS- Priest
CHA- Elementalist

Complex classes that broaden their options or break limitations should require a secondary score to power it. Fighters who become Eldritich, Psi, Rune, Circle, Ward, or Echo Knights would need INT. Wizards who become War Mages and Bladesingers would need DEX or need CON to be Master Necromancers. Their options would be very narrow and very focused on a single fantasy archetype.

Then you have Monks and Bards who have a collection of abilities each with their own foci that you mix and match.
 

BrokenTwin

Adventurer
If I'm playing a game with classes, I want each class to have a unique mechanical gimmick that it does that the other classes don't. Leveling up that class should unlock refinements and expansions on what the character can do with that gimmick. Otherwise, I'd rather have a freeform system, with suggestions to take XYZ abilities if I want to evoke specific character concepts.

Personally, I like Shadow of the Demon Lord's system, where you take three different classes (called Paths) as you level, so each character is a mix-and-match bag of different abilities. Two Warriors (the novice martial path) can be very different mechanically based on their Expert and Master paths.
 

Undrave

Hero
These choices are too limited/limiting. There is no reason it has to be one or the other.
Hehehe, I made the poll as simplified as possible to stimulate conversation. I didn't want people to just me all wishy wash and go for 'the best of both worlds'. I wanted people to speak up about how the choices I offered didn't really express their preferences well enough.
If I'm playing a game with classes, I want each class to have a unique mechanical gimmick that it does that the other classes don't.
That's my philosophy as well! I want the class to have a mechanical impact.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I voted lots of classes with narrow build options - but I only would go that route if multiclassing is banned due to being to wide a build option.
 

Jaeger

That someone better.
I was going to reply and agree to some quotes, but after reading all this to the current point some things became clear:

1: Some people don’t really want a class system. They would be better served playing a game that gave them a starting archetype, and then had totally free-form advancement from then on.

Chaosium has obviously missed a step in never giving magic world a proper setting/supplement push...

2: Robert Schwalb would have made a lot of players happy if the system he uses in shadow of the demon lord was the default 5e class system.
 



Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Er...yeah...maybe...whatever that is... :)

Does it have the nature-based abilities of a Ranger though, e.g. tracking, herbcraft, etc.?

Why should it? That's kinda the point of this thread?

The Ranger and the Warden are different archetypes. However since they both use treebark, many fans believe they must be the saame class and you should be able to build them from the same starting point.

It's similiar to those who say the warlock and cleric are the same even though the 3e, 4e,and 5e versions are nothing alike.
 

BrokenTwin

Adventurer
2: Robert Schwalb would have made a lot of players happy if the system he uses in shadow of the demon lord was the default 5e class system.
The class system is one of the many reasons I left one for the other. Not saying D&D 5e is terrible or SotDL is perfect, but it suits me a lot better.
 

Not at all. :)

A non-caster CON-based class would or could be based around toughness, durability, and stamina. Mechanically this would show up as big bonuses on Con-based saves, more hit points (or baked-in damage reduction; or a flat bonus to AC; any of these would work), great resistance to an element based on culture (e.g. a member of this class raised in a cold-climate area would have massive resistance to cold), etc. It would be much harder for a member of this class to gain any levels of Exhaustion, and-or easier to shrug Exhaustion off once gained. It could be able to keep going even while making death saves (i.e. does not go unconscious at 0 h.p.). That sort of thing.

In 4e terms it'd be the Defender to end all Defenders.

And the more I think about it, the more I wonder if this is what the Barbarian should have been all along.
So...the Warden.

Because that's basically what the Warden was. It had the most HP (of all 4e classes, it had the most base and per-level HP and second-most surges), could use at-wills that gave Con mod THP, had an AC bonus from Constitution (for some builds, anyway), got extra saving throws to end effects, could manifest various aspects of weather or nature ("guardian forms"), and was generally Meatslab McStronghuge the Ultimate Survivor.

By these lights, the Barbarian is to the Warden what the Ranger is to the Fighter: yes, Rangers are reasonably beefy and share similarities with Fighters, but they do rather different things despite sharing some core concepts.

It doesn't need to be like that. There could be some diminishing returns for maxing everything. And if all classes are MAD then there simply needs to be more ability points. The point buy currently is far too stingy anyway.


Sure, but I think that is boring as hell. If the situation is that all characters of given class have a same score in their main stat, then I feel the system has failed.

But if there is one main stat per class, then that stat should cost more. That way the trade-off would be upping your main stat or several of secondary stats. At least then there might be several equal(lish)ly valid ways to build your character.
That's why 4e had its concept of "builds."

Rogues all care about Dex, there's basically no reason to have a Rogue that doesn't use Dex. But you could have ones that were slick and suave, smoothly dancing across the battlefield (Artful Dodger, wants Cha), ones that were brutal thugs roughing others up (Brutal Scoundrel or Ruthless Ruffian, both want Str), or ones that are sly and calculating and one step ahead (Cunning Sneak, wants Int).

The main problem with trying to make classes of the kind you describe is that it generally doesn't work very well. 4e really, really tried with some of its early classes. Paladin, for example, could theoretically specialize in any two of Str, Cha, Con, or Wis...but this rather fell down in practice. (In fact, dumping Charisma was initially a very bad move: there were multiple levels where there were zero Strength-based powers, as I understand it, and if you had neither Str nor Cha, you were gonna be in very bad shape.) It's just too delicate a balancing act, and adding any new features at all has a serious tendency to break whatever you've already set up.

That's why almost all classes after the PHB1 were what fans called "A-shaped" instead of "Y-shaped": having one key stat (Dex for Rogues, Int for Wizards, etc.) and a choice of (at least) two secondary stats. With one key stat, you can make as many variations as you like and not worry about accidentally turning the all-Intelligence Rogue into a dumpster fire or whatever.

By 4e's end, you had Fighters who could specialize in Wis, Con, or Dex in addition to Strength, and I wouldn't have put it past them to make an Int-specialized Fighter if the edition had lived longer. (Fighter and Wizard were absolutely replete with subclasses).
 

payn

Legend
By 4e's end, you had Fighters who could specialize in Wis, Con, or Dex in addition to Strength, and I wouldn't have put it past them to make an Int-specialized Fighter if the edition had lived longer. (Fighter and Wizard were absolutely replete with subclasses).
Excuse my lack of 4E expertise, but does any of these stat focus fighter options change the fighter from a defender to anything else?
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Hehehe, I made the poll as simplified as possible to stimulate conversation. I didn't want people to just me all wishy wash and go for 'the best of both worlds'. I wanted people to speak up about how the choices I offered didn't really express their preferences well enough.
I see. Well, if I must...then I guess my take is that the number of classes can be more "narrow" with the great breadth of options of other layers (skills, archetypes, feats, backgrounds, themes, prestige classes...even, perhaps, things like fighting styles and arcane specialist schools as player choice-point/options) to differentiate the various special specialists of specfic specialities. Even to a point where one ranger or thief or mage may have very little to no resemblence to another beyond their signature -class-defining- features.
That's my philosophy as well! I want the class to have a mechanical impact.
Yes. Agreed. Otherwise, why is it a class? If a Barbarian is just a Fighter who can "Berserker Rage" a couple of times a day...that's not really [worthy of] a class. That's a Fighter with a special feat or martial style.

By "narrow"...I am thinking a list for a particular system of...13 (minimum) to 24 or so. Anything beyond that can likely, or "should," be teased out through player options or "prestige class" add-ons.

So...breaking down by Warrior classes (the best at fighting), Wizard classes (the best with magic use), Rogue classes (the best at skills), and Mystic classes (the best at supporting/cross-discipline), we get a definitive class list that includes, at minimum:
  • Fighter: default warrior archetype, Strength, defining feature: Combat Expertise (bonuses to hit and damage), battle stamina, extra attacks, physical save bonuses, situational interactive bonus
    • Cavalier: specialist fighter, Str. & Cha. defining feature: Code of Honor, attack bonus, virtuous bonuses to various saves, defensive bonuses, horsemanship, battlefield attack & movement bonuses to allies
    • Dungeoneer: specialist fighter, Str. & Int., defining feature: battle stamina, exploration skill bonuses, save bonuses, special monster lore & attack bonuses, limited Roguish Tricks.
  • Barbarian: warrior archetype, Str & Con & third ability dependent on Clan chosen. defining feature: choice of Clan, damage bonus, battle stamina, Berserker Rage, Clan-dependent martial maneuvers/styles & skills.
  • Martial Adept: warrior archetype, Str & Dex & Wis, defining feature: choice of Martial Style, attack bonuses, acrobatic stunts, save bonuses, movement bonuses, Style-dependent tricks/abilities.

  • Cleric: default mystic archetype, Wisdom, defining feature: Channel [Divine] powers, Divine magic spell use, limited armor and weaponry.
    • Templar: specialist cleric, Wis & Str. defining feature: Channel [Divine] powers, limited divine spell use, Smite mechanic (use spell slots), all armors, more/sacred weapons.
    • Theurgist (Invoker): specialist cleric, Wis & Cha. defining feature: Channel [Divine] powers, Divine magic spell use, more channeling and better spell progression than other clerics, less armor & weapons
  • Druid: mystic archetype, Wis & Con & Int, defining feature: Channel [Nature] powers, Nature magic spell use, limited armor and weapons.
  • Bard: mystic archetype, Wis & Cha & Dex. defining feature: Channel [Nature] powers, limited-but-diverse spell use, roguish tricks, interactive bonuses, learned lore, limited armor and weapons.

  • Mage: default wizard archetype, Intelligence, defining feature: Arcane Magic/Spell use, best spell progression, at will cantrips, spell attack/DC bonuses, lore/research bonuses, magic item use and creation.
    • Illusionist: specialist mage, Int & Dex, defining feature: Illusion [Arcane] Magic/Spell use, Illusion magic spell list, at will cantrips, illusion/enchantment attack/DC bonuses, sneaky casting, other roguish tricks.
    • Abjurist: specialist mage, Int & Cha, defining feature: Abjuration [Arcane] Magic/Spell use, Abjuration magic spell list, at will cantrips, abjuration/conjuration attack/DC bonuses, defensive casting, counter-spelling & banishing.
  • Psychic: wizard archetype, Int & Con & third dependent on choice of Discipline, defining feature: Mental Powers, at will Talents, choice of Psychic Discipline, power point "casting"/manifestation system.
  • Sentinel: a wizard archetype, Int & Str & Cha. defining feature: Bonded (magic) weapon, limited arcane magic spell use, enhance physical attacks & defense with magic, light & medium armors, martial weapons.

  • Thief: default rogue archetype, Dexterity, defining feature: Skill Expertise, Roguish Tricks (accumulate more & quicker than other rogues), sneak attack, movement bonuses, dex/balance/reflex saves bonus.
    • Acrobat: specialist Thief, Dex & Str. defining feature: Roguish Tricks, acrobatic stunts (offensive, defensive, utilitarian), movement bonuses, reflex/balance and thrown weapon bonuses.
    • Rake: specialist thief, Dex & Cha. defining feature: Roguish Tricks, interaction and manipulation bonuses, lore, and sneak attacks.
  • Ranger: rogue archetype, Dex & Str & Int, defining feature: Wilderness Expertise (bonuses to skills & attacks in chosen terrains), Hunter's Quarry/"Favored Foes," tracking, other Roguish Tricks.
  • Alchemist: rogue archetype, Dex & Int & Wis, defining feature: Alchemy Expertise (bonuses to lore, identifying & crafting), potion/elixir making, poison/antitoxin identifying & use, enhance attacks & defense with magic concoctions, other Roguish Tricks.

Just about anything else can be handled through adding layers of options (whatever they may be).

Assassin? Anyone can be an assassin. Pick a class take appropriate feats, prestige class, special skills or theme package.
Spell-casting Ranger? Take appropriate feats, special skills or theme package.
Paladin? Take Fighter, Cleric, Templar or Cavalier (or, heck, maybe even Bard or Ranger or Sentinel). Take a simple 3-5 level Paladin "prestige class."
Swashbuckler? Take Fighter, Thief, Acrobat, Dungeoneer (or, heck, maybe even Bard or Sentinel). Take a simple 3-5 level Swashbuckler "prestige class."
Necromancer? Take Mage or Cleric or Aburist or Theurgist annnnd...Yup. Necromancer prestige class.
...and so on, ad nauseum.
 

Excuse my lack of 4E expertise, but does any of these stat focus fighter options change the fighter from a defender to anything else?
Not really. There is, however, the Slayer subclass of Fighter, which came out in 4e Essentials. The Slayer is a Striker. (Striker, Defender, "marking," etc. come from soccer/football terminology, which I have heard at least one of the lead designers was quite keen on.)

That said, role isn't rigid or cut and dried in 4e, though many assume it is. All classes have at least one secondary role, such as Paladin having Leader as a secondary role (like most Divine classes)--and, importantly, the secondary role of most Martial classes is Striker. Fighters could, in fact, do a truly impressive amount of damage, especially with the Great Weapon Fighter Training feature ("build" as I said above).

Role is mostly a demonstration of what you definitely can do, than what you are required to do, per se. So, for example, a Fighter that takes the Sohei theme, the Great Weapon Fighter Training feature, and (say) a Ranger multiclass feat can, in fact, do impressively large amounts of damage. Meanwhile, a Fighter who takes something like Primordial Adept (a Dark Sun theme), and goes for either Brawler Fighter and uses a net, or the standard Fighter Weapon Talent option and uses polearms, can become a surprisingly potent local-area lockdown specialist--roll in, nothing can hit you, nothing can escape, and your allies can rain fire with impunity, fairly confident you'll come out unscathed or at least only a little worse for wear.

In other words, think of role and class as...starting points, rather than fixed paths. Different starting points can make it easier or harder to achieve certain things, but if you're willing to put a few levels and resources into it, many characters can step into roles quite different from their explicit one.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
The main problem with trying to make classes of the kind you describe is that it generally doesn't work very well. 4e really, really tried with some of its early classes. Paladin, for example, could theoretically specialize in any two of Str, Cha, Con, or Wis...but this rather fell down in practice. (In fact, dumping Charisma was initially a very bad move: there were multiple levels where there were zero Strength-based powers, as I understand it, and if you had neither Str nor Cha, you were gonna be in very bad shape.) It's just too delicate a balancing act, and adding any new features at all has a serious tendency to break whatever you've already set up.
IMO. Paladins having two primary abilities to drive their powers was one of the better designs of 4e.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Excuse my lack of 4E expertise, but does any of these stat focus fighter options change the fighter from a defender to anything else?
4e Fighters all had defender mechanics in marking. But they could certainly slide toward high damage like many strikers.

*I never did like the essentials direction so can't speak to that content
 

Paul Smart

Explorer
When thinking of a class design, the designer must answer three main questions.

What do you do?
How do you do it?
What stat do you use?

What do you do breaks down into the following:
Note: Pick 2 of these

  • Damage Dealer
  • Tank
  • Battlefield Control
  • Skill Expert (pick locks, sneak, create things etc.)
  • Sage (you know things)
  • Face (good in social situations)
  • Healer

How do you do it breaks down into the following:
Note: One primary and one secondary

  • Use Weapons - Strength or Dexterity or Intelligence
  • Use Technology - Intelligence or Wisdom or Dexterity
  • Use Arcane Magic - Intelligence or Wisdom or Constitution - Primary Full Caster Secondary 1/2 Caster
  • Use Divine Magic - Intelligence or Wisdom or Charisma - Primary Full Caster Secondary 1/2 Caster
  • Use Psychic Power - Intelligence or Wisdom or Constitution - Primary Full Caster Secondary 1/2 Caster
  • Use other creatures - Any stat
(For example, Warlord with Troops, Necromancer with the undead, Druid with animals)

Stats are straightforward - the standard 6.

Newer players have some pre-built classes. For more advanced players, make your own.

For example:

Pre Built Fighter:
What do they do? Tank and Damage Dealer
How do they do it? Use weapons and use Technology
What stat do they use? Chose 1 for Weapons Use and 1 for Technology

For Example:
Chooses Strength for Heavy Armour and Weapons and selects Intelligence for Technology.
They see themself as a Heavy Armed combat Engineer.

Chooses Dexterity for Light Armour and Missle Weapons and selects Dexterity for Technology.
They see themself as a sniper.

Pre Built Paladin

What do they do? Tank and Damage Dealer
How do they do it? Use weapons (primary) Use Divine Magic (Secondary)
What stats do they use? Chose 1 from Weapons Use and 1 from Divine Magic

For Example:
Chooses Strength for Heavy Armour and Weapons and Wisdom for Divine Magic
They see themself as an elite religious warrior.

Pre Built War Priest

What do they do? Healer and Damage Dealer
How do they do it? Lead Troops (primary) Use Divine Magic (Secondary)
What stats do they use? Choose 1 from Leading Troops and 1 from Divine Magic

Example
Chooses Charisma for Leading Troops and Charisma for Divine Magic
They see themself as a Devoted Religious Leader using Divine Miracles to inspire their troops

Pre Built Mage:

What do they do? Battlefield Control and Sage
How do they do it? Arcane Magic (primary) and Leading Troops (summoning) (secondary)
What stats do they use? Choose 1 for using Arcane Magic and 1 for Leading Troops.

Example:
Use Intelligence for using Arcane Magic and Cha for controlling the arcane creatures they summon and consult. They see themself as a Sage conversing with other planes of existence.


Custom Built Wizard:
What do they do? Sage and Skill Expert
How do they do it? Use Arcane Magic and Use Psychic Power
What stats do they use? Choose 1 for using Arcane Magic and 1 for using Psychic Power.

Example:
Uses Wisdom for spell casting (Wizard means wise one) and Intelligence for Skill Use. They see themself as an expert archeologist and treasure hunter.

Custom Built Blood Mage:

What do they do? Damage and Battlefield Control
How do they do it? Use Arcane Magic and Lead Troops
What stats do they use? Choose 1 for using Arcane Magic and 1 for Leading Troops.

Example:
Uses Con for Arcane Magic (they fuel it with their blood) and Intelligence to lead their undead hoards. They see themself as a necromancer.

Custom Built Warlord:

What do they do? Damage and Battlefield Control
How do they do it? Lead Troops (primary) and Use Weapons (Secondary)
What stat do they use? Choose 1 for Leading Troops and One for using Weapons.

Example:

Chooses Intelligence for leading troops and selects Dexterity for Light Armour and Missle Weapons. They see themself as a Tactician and Scout Leader.

Chooses Charisma for Leading Troops and selects Strength for Heavy Armour and Heavy Weapons. They see themself as a Charismatic Captain leading from the front.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
When thinking of a class design, the designer must answer three main questions.

What do you do?
How do you do it?
What stat do you use?

What do you do breaks down into the following:
Note: Pick 2 of these

  • Damage Dealer
  • Tank
  • Battlefield Control
  • Skill Expert (pick locks, sneak, create things etc.)
  • Sage (you know things)
  • Face (good in social situations)
  • Healer
Missing there are:
--- Support (non-heal buffing, enhancement, divination, etc.; all distinct from battlefield control)
--- Explorer
How do you do it breaks down into the following:
Note: One primary and one secondary

  • Use Weapons - Strength or Dexterity or Intelligence
  • Use Technology - Intelligence or Wisdom or Dexterity
  • Use Arcane Magic - Intelligence or Wisdom or Constitution - Primary Full Caster Secondary 1/2 Caster
  • Use Divine Magic - Intelligence or Wisdom or Charisma - Primary Full Caster Secondary 1/2 Caster
  • Use Psychic Power - Intelligence or Wisdom or Constitution - Primary Full Caster Secondary 1/2 Caster
  • Use other creatures - Any stat
(For example, Warlord with Troops, Necromancer with the undead, Druid with animals)
Missing there is
--- Use Yourself - Constitution or Charisma

Awful name, I know, but it's all I could think of to cover the scout/explorer/persuader/lone-wolf archetypes. A party face, for example, can do its thing without use of anything on that list; ditto a party explorer or scout.

It's also notable that in your six-entry list Intelligence is a key stat for all six and Wisdom is key for five. Strength and Charisma, by contrast, only each appear twice (once being under "any stat").

Wouldn't the ideal be to have each stat appear about the same number of times, to even things up and not make one stat too powerful?
 

Paul Smart

Explorer
Missing there are:
--- Support (non-heal buffing, enhancement, divination, etc.; all distinct from battlefield control)
--- Explorer
Thank you. Those are excellent additions. Can you expand a little bit on what you mean by Explorer?

Missing there is
--- Use Yourself - Constitution or Charisma

Awful name, I know, but it's all I could think of to cover the scout/explorer/persuader/lone-wolf archetypes. A party face, for example, can do its thing without use of anything on that list; ditto a party explorer or scout.
Perfect. That is exactly what I was going for with something like the blood mage or an inspiring bard.

It's also notable that in your six-entry list Intelligence is a key stat for all six and Wisdom is key for five. Strength and Charisma, by contrast, only each appear twice (once being under "any stat").

Wouldn't the ideal be to have each stat appear about the same number of times, to even things up and not make one stat too powerful?
I wanted to make Intelligence, Wizdom, Constitution and Charisma available for any magic or psychic user; literally, pick your spellcasting stat to flavour how you cast. A holy person who is a brilliant theologian (Intelligence), sure. A wise old mage, sure as Wizard means wise one. A psychic who uses their blood (Constitution) sounds cool to me.

Weapons user using Strength or Dexterity is obvious. However, I can also see a case of intelligence or constitution and possibly even wisdom.

I agree that the ideal would be to have each stat appear the same or a similar number of times. Any suggestions on how to do so are welcome.
 

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