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5E Why is there a limit to falling damage?

pogre

Hero
I'm a rules guy. To me, taking 20d6 damage you could have easily avoided is punishment enough.

To me, the more serious underlying problem is that the player seems to want to play a fantasy supers game, and the DM wants to run one based on fantasy realism. IMO, this is the issue that needs to be resolved, not changing the rules on falling damage.

I thought one of the earlier suggestions was pretty good: ask the player to narrate how the character "only" took 20d6 damage when he reached the bottom, whether it is hitting the ground so hard at the point of impact that it slowed the character's fall, or clawing at the side of the cliff to slow his descent while laughing maniacally at the adrenaline rush.
I hear you. But let me make this more clear about the situation - The player does not want a supers game - he wanted to use his hit points as an elevator - a short cut. He offered no other justification and flat out said as much. I clearly explained the consequences that would be incurred and he chose not to do it.

What's interesting is that this player sometimes complains about how easy 5e is and how he wishes the game were grittier.

Now, if the player said his PC, "Looks over the side of the cliff. That's a long drop, but there are a few branches and roots and ledges. I think I see a way for me to get down. I'm going to take some heavy bruising and bashing, but I think I can make it!"

That would make a difference to me.

A lot of you disagree with that.

That's cool. As I said up-thread, after thinking about it, I'm good with this being a gray area of DM's call in my home campaign. This thread was helpful in reaching that conclusion.

BTW - I run very much RAW at AL and Cons.
 

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I hear you. But let me make this more clear about the situation - The player does not want a supers game - he wanted to use his hit points as an elevator - a short cut. He offered no other justification and flat out said as much. I clearly explained the consequences that would be incurred and he chose not to do it.

What's interesting is that this player sometimes complains about how easy 5e is and how he wishes the game were grittier.
Sounds to me like your player just wants to attack the rules. All RPGs require a degree of suspension of disbelief, if you player isn't willing to buy into that I can't see a long term future for them in the game.

Now, if the player said his PC, "Looks over the side of the cliff. That's a long drop, but there are a few branches and roots and ledges. I think I see a way for me to get down. I'm going to take some heavy bruising and bashing, but I think I can make it!"

That would make a difference to me.

A lot of you disagree with that.
I would allow it. 5e is designed around an action movie sensibility, if an action hero could survive it a D&D PC could survive it.
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
That's not how I play. I don't have a "preferred scenario", and I'm very careful to honor the established fiction. I think you may have missed the point of my anecdote, but I realize how it might look from what I've described. The reason the creatures woke up is because they were attacked. I didn't intend this as a gotcha moment, and it didn't carry any heavily negative consequences for the players. They wanted to fight these creatures, and finding them asleep allowed the PCs to get into position around them and gain surprise quite easily. I think the player that was unhappy with my ruling may have seen it differently though, and my point was that I think this was because he had already made up his mind about how he thought his action should have been resolved, whereas my expectation is for the players to commit their PCs to an action and then be alright with finding out what happens next. The "what happens next" for the player's declaration of "I attack the creatures" was "The creatures wake up. Roll Initiative." I think now that I could have done a better job of foreshadowing that this was going to happen, but it really hadn't occurred to me that someone might have the assumption of a guarantee that a creature is going to stay asleep while being attacked, and it certainly wasn't my intention to mislead anyone in that direction.
I don't know your players or how things roll at your table. It sounds to me like you are trying to operate in good faith.

That said, I wonder how unreasonable it is for players to have expectations regarding rulings at least with respect to things for which there are rules.

Typically PCs are expected to do things like set watches, or cast spells to secure where they sleep. They do these things because they expect that being attacked while they are asleep is dangerous which is both reasonable in the fiction and is reinforced by the rules. If the creatures in the world aren't doing things to protect themselves yet still get a chance to win initiative to save themselves, it feels like the creatures aren't playing by the same ruled as laid out in the fiction.

Of course if your players typically don't have to worry about securing where they sleep because they can just wake up before paying the price, this is all moot.

At the end of the day, players are not residents in the fiction. They have the rules and what you've told them as basis to make decisions. Sure they should generally be willing to adapt to what happens, but it's not unreasonable for them to have issues when they find out they had bad information when they made their decisions, no way to know about the bad information, and it's to late to fix it.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yes, I do. Because I can reliably survive having a boulder dropped on me and pinning me. It isn’t a fluke. It’s absurd to posit that the character doesn’t understand hat they have experienced. I’ve survived failed saves vs dragon fire that would have incinerated a common guard even on a success. I can keep coming up with examples.

The character knows that they can survive things that other people can’t. To suggest otherwise is entirely preposterous.
The character knows that it has survived such things in the past, assuming such things have happened to it during its career.

What it doesn't know is whether its luck will run as true in the future; whether it will survive the next boulder dropping on it or the next blast of dragon breath...or the next fall from a great height on to a solid surface.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Sounds to me like your player just wants to attack the rules. All RPGs require a degree of suspension of disbelief, if you player isn't willing to buy into that I can't see a long term future for them in the game.
Not sure I agree here. A player IMO ought to be attacking the rules as an outgrowth of advocating for his-her character, and a DM needs to have strong enough rules and rulings to withstand those attacks.
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
The character knows that it has survived such things in the past, assuming such things have happened to it during its career.

What it doesn't know is whether its luck will run as true in the future; whether it will survive the next boulder dropping on it or the next blast of dragon breath...or the next fall from a great height on to a solid surface.
It's not just that they've survived things in the past though. It's that over time things that once were perilous ceased to be perilous, or at least became less so. If this were not the case, a few goblins would be an adequate challenge for every encounter of an adventurer's career.

In addition, characters know about when they need to take a break or a health potion. So it's not crazy to expect some dots to connect in a "I used to need a break when x happened, but now I feel fine" kind of way.

For better or worse, 5e has a zero to hero level progression. It's unreasonable to expect that the characters should be completely blind to this.

But you could test it out. Take away visibility of hp totals from the players to prevent them from metagaming and see how they run their characters.

I know I'd be curious to see how that goes.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
This is a consequence of "bounded accuracy" (which is something I've never liked). It was a reaction to 4E's approach of "add half level to everything". The criticism then was "Why should my character get better at skills that he does not practice?" For example, Stealth for a paladin or Arcana for a barbarian.
Honestly, I don't mind the idea of bounded accuracy, but they just went too far IMO. A cap of 40 would work better to me, and still avoid the treadmill effect. But anyway, to your point, does the Paladin never Stealth? Does the Barbarian never learn from others around him when they discuss Arcana information? So, although these things might not be "practiced", they are used and exposed to enough that using a half-proficiency bonus would work fine IMO.

Its like saying 20th level characters can know they cant be killed by a dagger because a dagger only deals 1d4 damage. They get killed by daggers all the darn time.
Yep, they get killed (potentially) every time that dagger takes them to 0 hp. The problem is when a 200 hp character decides to stab himself in the heart (no idea why, but whatever...) and doesn't die! I completely agree with you about how HP works, so how does the dagger not kill the character in such a case?

This is where narration has to trump mechanics. The DM just tells the player, "Ok, your character is dead. Happy?"
 

Yep, they get killed (potentially) every time that dagger takes them to 0 hp. The problem is when a 200 hp character decides to stab himself in the heart (no idea why, but whatever...) and doesn't die!
They do die.

Player (20th level Barbarian): I stab myself in the heart with a dagger to show the other guy how tough I am!
DM: OK, you die.
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
Yep, they get killed (potentially) every time that dagger takes them to 0 hp. The problem is when a 200 hp character decides to stab himself in the heart (no idea why, but whatever...) and doesn't die! I completely agree with you about how HP works, so how does the dagger not kill the character in such a case?

This is where narration has to trump mechanics. The DM just tells the player, "Ok, your character is dead. Happy?"
So here's my problem with this example. For the life of me, I cannot find the 'stab something in the heart' mechanic. I can find the 'attack something' mechanics though. And it seems like the folks using this example believe these are the same thing.

If they are actually the same, then characters all through the fiction are indeed surviving heart wounds...like all the time, such that it should not seem odd they do so. If they are not the same, then there is no rules/fiction dissonance because there is no rule.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
So here's my problem with this example. For the life of me, I cannot find the 'stab something in the heart' mechanic. I can find the 'attack something' mechanics though. And it seems like the folks using this example believe these are the same thing.

If they are actually the same, then characters all through the fiction are indeed surviving heart wounds...like all the time, such that it should not seem odd they do so. If they are not the same, then there is no rules/fiction dissonance because there is no rule.
As an improvised action not covered in the rules, the DM makes a judgement call. Under "Improvised Actions" in the PHB "When you describe an action not detailed elsewhere in the rules, the DM tells you whether that action is possible and what kind of roll you need to make, if any, to determine success or failure. "

Someone stabbing themselves in the heart is obviously trying to commit suicide. Who am I as a DM to argue?

As far as PCs getting stabbed in the heart and surviving on a regular basis, they are not. They may be almost stabbed in the heart on a regular basis.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
They do die.

Player (20th level Barbarian): I stab myself in the heart with a dagger to show the other guy how tough I am!
DM: OK, you die.
So here's my problem with this example. For the life of me, I cannot find the 'stab something in the heart' mechanic. I can find the 'attack something' mechanics though. And it seems like the folks using this example believe these are the same thing.

If they are actually the same, then characters all through the fiction are indeed surviving heart wounds...like all the time, such that it should not seem odd they do so. If they are not the same, then there is no rules/fiction dissonance because there is no rule.
Sometimes, I just can't tell when people quote me if they are agreeing with me or not. Given the bold you both used, I am leaning towards "not"?

Which, frankly makes little sense to me considering the last line of the post you're both quoting me from. Namely, this:

This is where narration has to trump mechanics. The DM just tells the player, "Ok, your character is dead. Happy?"
@Flamestrike basically just wrote out the narration I was talking about.
@Gammadoodler is arguing for my point: there is no rule for a character inflicting what should be a (potentially) lethal injury, so I am not sure why he (?) has a problem with that example...

It is the folly of online communication I suppose. :)
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
As an improvised action not covered in the rules, the DM makes a judgement call. Under "Improvised Actions" in the PHB "When you describe an action not detailed elsewhere in the rules, the DM tells you whether that action is possible and what kind of roll you need to make, if any, to determine success or failure. "

Someone stabbing themselves in the heart is obviously trying to commit suicide. Who am I as a DM to argue?

As far as PCs getting stabbed in the heart and surviving on a regular basis, they are not. They may be almost stabbed in the heart on a regular basis.
Agreed. This is distinct from rules for attacking and from rules for falling, which ultimately was my point. The situations are being discussed like they are analogous, when they aren't.
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
Sometimes, I just can't tell when people quote me if they are agreeing with me or not. Given the bold you both used, I am leaning towards "not"?

Which, frankly makes little sense to me considering the last line of the post you're both quoting me from. Namely, this:



@Flamestrike basically just wrote out the narration I was talking about.
@Gammadoodler is arguing for my point: there is no rule for a character inflicting what should be a (potentially) lethal injury, so I am not sure why he (?) has a problem with that example...

It is the folly of online communication I suppose. :)
Yeah sometimes hard to jump from branch to branch on these things. But you ended up about right. I agree with the conclusion for the scenario, but not that the scenario is representative of the topic.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Dude, a 20th level Fighter, literally the greatest warrior in the kingdom, has an 8/20 chance (action surge, extra attack 3) of stabbing himself in the face or tripping over a deceased imaginary turtle, or disarming himself in a six second combat round. At 1st level his chance is 1/20 of fumbling, a chance that doubles when he uses Action surge.

His chances of screwing up increases as he gains experience.

I strongly suggest limiting 'fumbles' to only be applicable to the first attack roll, saving throw or ability check you make in a turn.

That way the Fighter doesnt get a greater chance to trip over his own shadow and disembowel himself as he advances in level, and it creates a much more even 'fumble' system that affects all classes more or less evenly.
That's why at my table, we do the following.

Levels 1-5: If you roll a 1 in combat you have to make a DC 15 Dex check or fall/lose weapon/etc. So if you roll a one, you can still just end up losing an attack and nothing more.

Level 6-10: The DC drops to 10.

Level 11-15: You have to roll two consecutive 1's to even have to make the DC 10 check.

Level 16+: There is no chance to fumble. A 1 is just an auto miss.

That takes care of the whole getting worse as you get better problem.
 

Hriston

Hero
I don't know your players or how things roll at your table. It sounds to me like you are trying to operate in good faith.

That said, I wonder how unreasonable it is for players to have expectations regarding rulings at least with respect to things for which there are rules.

Typically PCs are expected to do things like set watches, or cast spells to secure where they sleep. They do these things because they expect that being attacked while they are asleep is dangerous which is both reasonable in the fiction and is reinforced by the rules. If the creatures in the world aren't doing things to protect themselves yet still get a chance to win initiative to save themselves, it feels like the creatures aren't playing by the same ruled as laid out in the fiction.

Of course if your players typically don't have to worry about securing where they sleep because they can just wake up before paying the price, this is all moot.

At the end of the day, players are not residents in the fiction. They have the rules and what you've told them as basis to make decisions. Sure they should generally be willing to adapt to what happens, but it's not unreasonable for them to have issues when they find out they had bad information when they made their decisions, no way to know about the bad information, and it's to late to fix it.
That's the thing, isn't it? There is no rule for when a sleeping creature wakes up (at least, not in the core game). It's pure fiction.

With some exceptions, the players in my game are in control of when their characters go to sleep and when they wake up. I do the same for my monsters. If anything that would wake up my monsters happens when the PCs are asleep, I tell them it wakes them up. Combat starting is one of those things. Being attacked in your sleep is still dangerous, however, because before you wake up you have no awareness of your surroundings and can be ambushed very easily. The creatures in my play example are not the type to set watches while they sleep (INT 2), but you didn't know that. I'm not sure what you mean by the rules laid out in the fiction, but one of the rules of the game is that "Everyone involved in the combat encounter rolls initiative".

There is a price to being caught sleeping in my game, though. It's just not what you or my player seem to think it is. The creatures in my example paid that price. The party was able to sneak up on them without fail, completely controlling the circumstances under which they commenced their attack, and I gave them all the time they wanted. The creatures also began the encounter prone and surprised. Overall, I think it was a pretty good deal for the players. If the shoe was on the other foot, the same could happen to the party.

I think players should be making decisions for their characters based on the fictional situations in which they find themselves and that they should trust their DM to describe the salient details of the situation accurately. I think the "bad information" in my example and in the OP's example comes from thinking that things can't happen that the rules don't cover. There aren't any general rules for creatures waking up, but that doesn't mean I've broken the rules by having creatures wake up. Likewise, there aren't any rules for a creature being killed in a way that circumvents hit points if it falls from a great height, but that doesn't mean a rule has been broken if a creature dies in that way. To avoid such "bad information" I think players would do well to remember that (to quote @iserith) the rules serve the DM, not the other way around.
 

That's the thing, isn't it? There is no rule for when a sleeping creature wakes up (at least, not in the core game). It's pure fiction.

With some exceptions, the players in my game are in control of when their characters go to sleep and when they wake up. I do the same for my monsters. If anything that would wake up my monsters happens when the PCs are asleep, I tell them it wakes them up. Combat starting is one of those things. Being attacked in your sleep is still dangerous, however, because before you wake up you have no awareness of your surroundings and can be ambushed very easily. The creatures in my play example are not the type to set watches while they sleep (INT 2), but you didn't know that. I'm not sure what you mean by the rules laid out in the fiction, but one of the rules of the game is that "Everyone involved in the combat encounter rolls initiative".

There is a price to being caught sleeping in my game, though. It's just not what you or my player seem to think it is. The creatures in my example paid that price. The party was able to sneak up on them without fail, completely controlling the circumstances under which they commenced their attack, and I gave them all the time they wanted. The creatures also began the encounter prone and surprised. Overall, I think it was a pretty good deal for the players. If the shoe was on the other foot, the same could happen to the party.

I think players should be making decisions for their characters based on the fictional situations in which they find themselves and that they should trust their DM to describe the salient details of the situation accurately. I think the "bad information" in my example and in the OP's example comes from thinking that things can't happen that the rules don't cover. There aren't any general rules for creatures waking up, but that doesn't mean I've broken the rules by having creatures wake up. Likewise, there aren't any rules for a creature being killed in a way that circumvents hit points if it falls from a great height, but that doesn't mean a rule has been broken if a creature dies in that way. To avoid such "bad information" I think players would do well to remember that (to quote @iserith) the rules serve the DM, not the other way around.
Just to jump in with how I see it...

I think the issue here is that this way of handling it means its impossible for an assassin to stab someone in their sleep. That seems pretty counterintuitive. Waking up is generally something that takes place in response to something in the world--like a loud noise, or a stab of pain, etc. By making it take place automatically before the round starts in response to immediate intent to attack (ie, rolling initiative), it breaks out of the fiction pretty heavily for me.

From a player's perspective, you're saying it's impossible to stab someone quietly enough that their eyes don't fly open before the blade enters their lungs. That's going to cause some dissatisfaction.

Unless there is a particular issue being addressed, I'd also recommend against that ruling. Instead, just have everyone roll initiative, and those that are asleep are automatically surprised, and will wake up once something happens to wake them up, which is probably going to happen by the end of the first round of combat, barring some really good planning.
 

Hriston

Hero
Just to jump in with how I see it...

I think the issue here is that this way of handling it means its impossible for an assassin to stab someone in their sleep. That seems pretty counterintuitive. Waking up is generally something that takes place in response to something in the world--like a loud noise, or a stab of pain, etc. By making it take place automatically before the round starts in response to immediate intent to attack (ie, rolling initiative), it breaks out of the fiction pretty heavily for me.

From a player's perspective, you're saying it's impossible to stab someone quietly enough that their eyes don't fly open before the blade enters their lungs. That's going to cause some dissatisfaction.

Unless there is a particular issue being addressed, I'd also recommend against that ruling. Instead, just have everyone roll initiative, and those that are asleep are automatically surprised, and will wake up once something happens to wake them up, which is probably going to happen by the end of the first round of combat, barring some really good planning.
I think you're looking at stabbing as an instantaneous event, whereas I'm looking at it as having duration that overlaps with other events. You can stab someone in their sleep, but while you're doing that they wake up. Who's going to sleep through someone stabbing them?

The stabbing is something in the world.

I also think there's a difference in how we frame combat and the initiative roll that gives us different perspectives. In my game, initiative doesn't correspond to anything that happens before the first round of combat. It represents the quickness of the participants in combat. Intent has nothing to do with initiative. You can intend to attack someone all day long for all I care, and I still won't call for initiative until actually do it. Initiative is called for in response to an action, which is considered to happen in the first round. In-fiction responses to that action also happen in the first round, not before because it won't have happened yet.

Why is it important for someone to keep their eyes closed while you're putting a blade through their lungs, and what AC do I have to hit to do that?

I don't do auto-surprise because the other side has to at least try to be stealthy.

This "something happens to wake them up" of yours just sounds like you're substituting your opinion of what would wake someone up for my opinion of what would wake someone up.
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
That's the thing, isn't it? There is no rule for when a sleeping creature wakes up (at least, not in the core game). It's pure fiction.

With some exceptions, the players in my game are in control of when their characters go to sleep and when they wake up. I do the same for my monsters. If anything that would wake up my monsters happens when the PCs are asleep, I tell them it wakes them up. Combat starting is one of those things. Being attacked in your sleep is still dangerous, however, because before you wake up you have no awareness of your surroundings and can be ambushed very easily. The creatures in my play example are not the type to set watches while they sleep (INT 2), but you didn't know that. I'm not sure what you mean by the rules laid out in the fiction, but one of the rules of the game is that "Everyone involved in the combat encounter rolls initiative".

There is a price to being caught sleeping in my game, though. It's just not what you or my player seem to think it is. The creatures in my example paid that price. The party was able to sneak up on them without fail, completely controlling the circumstances under which they commenced their attack, and I gave them all the time they wanted. The creatures also began the encounter prone and surprised. Overall, I think it was a pretty good deal for the players. If the shoe was on the other foot, the same could happen to the party.

I think players should be making decisions for their characters based on the fictional situations in which they find themselves and that they should trust their DM to describe the salient details of the situation accurately. I think the "bad information" in my example and in the OP's example comes from thinking that things can't happen that the rules don't cover. There aren't any general rules for creatures waking up, but that doesn't mean I've broken the rules by having creatures wake up. Likewise, there aren't any rules for a creature being killed in a way that circumvents hit points if it falls from a great height, but that doesn't mean a rule has been broken if a creature dies in that way. To avoid such "bad information" I think players would do well to remember that (to quote @iserith) the rules serve the DM, not the other way around.
I mean, sure it's the DMs world, players can and should expect that not everything is going to be addressed in the rules. That said, where there are rules that appear to address circumstances (e.g. falling rules, or that 'unconscious' creatures are 'unaware of their surroundings'), there is a reasonable expectation that those rules will be applied in those circumstances (in the absence of communications to the contrary).

Also note, there is a significant difference in the impact of the rulings you're comparing. In one the player's party doesn't win quite as hard; in the other the player's character is dead.

Advice to players that, no matter what 'the rules' say, the DM rules, is true, but it doesn't really guide player decision making beyond saying 'hey. chill out.'
 

I think you're looking at stabbing as an instantaneous event, whereas I'm looking at it as having duration that overlaps with other events. You can stab someone in their sleep, but while you're doing that they wake up. Who's going to sleep through someone stabbing them?

The stabbing is something in the world.

I also think there's a difference in how we frame combat and the initiative roll that gives us different perspectives. In my game, initiative doesn't correspond to anything that happens before the first round of combat. It represents the quickness of the participants in combat. Intent has nothing to do with initiative. You can intend to attack someone all day long for all I care, and I still won't call for initiative until actually do it. Initiative is called for in response to an action, which is considered to happen in the first round. In-fiction responses to that action also happen in the first round, not before because it won't have happened yet.

Why is it important for someone to keep their eyes closed while you're putting a blade through their lungs, and what AC do I have to hit to do that?

I don't do auto-surprise because the other side has to at least try to be stealthy.

This "something happens to wake them up" of yours just sounds like you're substituting your opinion of what would wake someone up for my opinion of what would wake someone up.
I mean sure, it's my opinion, but I'm having a hard time figuring out what you're doing here.

Assuming the character is quiet while sliding a blade into someone, they aren't waking up until the attack has already hit and damaged them. It's the damage from the attack that causes them to wake up. If you run it so that they wake up before the attack and damage has resolved, they are in a whole different boat, and can theoretically prevent damage from happening (assuming surprise isn't involved and preventing that, which I think we agree normally is), which would mean that they wake up and prevent the very thing that woke them up!

That's what I'd be having a problem with. If the player starts combat by bellowing a war cry--yes, I'd have the foes all wake up. If they started combat by charging in full clanking plate, I might wake up the foes. And maybe that's what's happening. But the image I have is that they have their sleeping foes surrounded, ready to kill them in their sleep, and right as the first person quietly stabs/slashes, the creatures all wake up.

As far as initiative, I'm not sure I run it much differently than you described it, other than that I don't count that any action has actually happened until it has fully resolved, because 5e is chock full of "take back" mechanics where an attack hits and you use a reaction to make it so that you blocked it and it didn't really hit, etc.
 

Hriston

Hero
I mean, sure it's the DMs world, players can and should expect that not everything is going to be addressed in the rules. That said, where there are rules that appear to address circumstances (e.g. falling rules, or that 'unconscious' creatures are 'unaware of their surroundings'), there is a reasonable expectation that those rules will be applied in those circumstances (in the absence of communications to the contrary).

Also note, there is a significant difference in the impact of the rulings you're comparing. In one the player's party doesn't win quite as hard; in the other the player's character is dead.

Advice to players that, no matter what 'the rules' say, the DM rules, is true, but it doesn't really guide player decision making beyond saying 'hey. chill out.'
I'm not too big on the idea that the world belongs to the DM. Like I said, when I DM, I hold myself to not having a "preferred scenario" that I'm bringing about, but rather letting the players guide the fiction through their PCs. My problem with the type of expectation you're talking about here is that it short-circuits the basic play-loop of the game. It's the DM's job to narrate the result of the players' actions. If that result relies on the application of a rule, that's the DM's call, so I wouldn't say the world belongs to the DM, but I would say the rules do.
 

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