Creating an RPG Campaign Bible: Places – Part 6 Episode.066

Next on the list is probably going to be the most fun out of the entire campaign bible: important places and events.  This is where your world will shine the brightest.  You can put literally anything in your world.  Anything!  Don’t let your pop culture knowledge restrict your imagination.  Just because it was in Lord of the Rings doesn’t mean it has to be in your world.  Make orcs civilized instead of barbaric.  Give elves an evil twist to their nature by making them sadistic in sacrificial rituals.  Let the dwarves have industrial technology.  Provide dungeons with spectacular events like the walls, floor and ceiling suddenly breaking apart and floating in a void causing the players to jump along or fall to a lower level.  Bring life to your world by making the decisions you want to do.

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In Zatra, there are already tons of places to explore despite the fact that most people are living underground and sealed in the Chambers.  I want to make each region or location interesting and intriguing to the players by giving a little twist if possible.  The more typical and predictable the region is, the less likely they will want to explore it.


Important Places & Facts

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The Dwarven Chambers.  First designed in 1043 by a Dokaleer architect named Ludvig Shadowholm, Chambers are a complete ecosystem with the purpose of being entirely self-sufficient for living creatures within.  These structures are underground fortresses, chiseled and designed by only master craftsmen dwarves, and sealed off for protection.  The idea was to bring in only those who are not carrying the Touch disease in order to quarantine the healthy and keep the world from being wiped out.  There were originally 30 in total, but rumors have begun spreading that several have been discovered and breached.

Each Chamber has a secret one-way tunnel that leads to an underground cavern that’s connected to the surface.  The knowledge of its whereabouts and the trick to pass through it unscathed is only with the three dwarven kings and their 2 advisors within each of the 3 Dwarven Kingdoms.  These tunnels can only be used once as the last obstacle along the way causes a complete cave in.  Each of the 30 Chambers is governed by a Rystar, or knight, who is responsible for the wellbeing of those residing inside.  Generally communication between Chambers does not occur because of the danger of an outside source intercepting the message and, thus, discovering the location of either.  Only one of the 3 kings can give permission for a message to be sent by means of spells.

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Unhallowed Necropolis.  Formerly called Lut Gotain, it was once the shining jewel of the eastern coast of Zatra in the kingdom of Remes.  Strengthened by the advantageous geography of the land and sea, it remained untouched by enemies for centuries.  It was known to be the wealthiest and most powerful city along the East Coast.  So much so that an enormous vault was built high above the land, suspended by magic and tethered by thick, spell-bound chains.  Anyone passing within dozens of miles can visibly see the floating building waiting for someone to bravely climb the chains or find a means to lower it to the ground.  Lut Gotain was famed for the rich tobacco called mamiya used in meditational fires and smoking pipes.  Another well-known memory of the port city was the high vertical sails of their ships, some having masts over 300 feet tall.  These colossal sails were capable of producing speeds of up to 45 knots on the open sea, which allowed goods to be traded at an astonishing rate.

Sadly the only enemy that ever breached her walls brought her to ruins.  The accepted story is that a lone traveler from the far north brought the Touch unsuspectingly into the city without the guards checking.  Now the city of Unhallowed Necropolis is an extremely deadly location to venture, filled with hundreds of victims who fell to the curse.  It is peculiar, however, in that a rumor is known of a powerful person or creature that took control over the city and found a way to command the Touched to his bidding.  Some believe it is a member of Nub Sumat, but others believe it is another entity unrelated to Koz or his followers.

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Valashra. It stretches from east to west and divides the world into halves by its sheer size and range.  The mountain range Valashra was an unnatural phenomenon, created exceedingly quickly due to a massive explosion below the earth’s surface.  To this day, no one really knows for sure what caused the explosion, but for centuries it is wildly believed that a rare race of gnomes lives somewhere far, far below the surface.  Although some claim to have seen a gnome, most notably the dwarves as they dig forever deeper, there is no documented evidence that they exist.  Scholars believe that if there is a mystical race, they live much farther underground than the deepest the mountain dwarves have ever dug before.

The mountain range has an unusual feature that is found at either end:  a cave entrance.  While the duration has never been fully traveled, it is believed that the tunnel eventually leads from one coastline to the other.  A few tests have been conducted by sending glass bottles into one end and discovering it to exit on the other over a year later.  On one peculiar incident, the bottle was slightly tinted blue and had a piece of parchment containing unknown symbols that have yet to be deciphered.  Copies were made and placed in each of the 30 Chambers as well as several surface cities.  The original copy is on permanent display in Chamber 1 where King Wolvar Thunderharm resides.

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Ming Ki. Very little is known of the monk monastery.  Those unwelcomed attempting to locate it almost always finds their fate sealed before their eyes lay upon the fortress.  It is well hidden among the mountains high above in Valashra for mysterious reasons as no one knows why the monks require such isolated privacy.  Those who leave seem to already have their purpose determined, and none of them ever surrender any information about what went on during their training.  Some people believe the monks go through extremely torturous exercises, fasting for days while being burned or pierced.  The size of the complex is also only rumored.  Many scholars feel the fortress can hold hundreds of inhabitants, but being so high in the mountains, little in terms of vegetation can be grown.  So the mystery continues as to how they provide nourishment.  The only people who journey down from the mountains are the messengers, but they only recruit a new person without acquiring any goods.

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Ulopia.  One of the remaining surface cities in existence, Ulopia is protected by some of the world’s most powerful wizards.  Many of them formed the enclave over a century ago when it was clear the Touch was a global threat.  They were innovative with their spells, fusing and reforming new ones that far exceeded historical expectations.  A dome of energy was created over the entire city, giving off a light pink hue to those observing it from miles away.  The focal point comes from one of the most powerful hubs of multiple Leeways in Zatra, which was a fortunate coincidence to the founding location of Ulopia.  Unfortunately the dome comes at a price.  Within the dome, essentially no energy comes from the Leeways.  This includes all plant life as well as magic.  As a result, farmlands surround the dome.  The engineers of Ulopia designed fascinating structures that allow the fields to be elevated ten feet off the ground to help prevent dangerous creatures from harming the farmers as they work.  Water is drawn up and carried through aqueducts from within the dome to the surrounding countryside.  Still, patrols are on duty all hours of the day outside of the dome on an elevated, circular walkway that follows the circumference.

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K’leshima. Consider yourself lucky if you lay eyes upon the great floating fortress of K’leshima unless you are a sky elf.  This nearly impossibly accessible city slowly floats above the surface of Zatra as the wind blows.  Spiraled in the foundation of the city through solid rock are four massive iron chains tipped with anchors that are lowered to the ground below during troubling winds or storms.  The center point of the city is the citadel known as Malistima (Muh-lee-stemuh), a mighty building of deep historical purpose to the sky elves.    It is here that only the Sacred Nine are permitted to conduct elemental experiments and execute decisions that reflect all people of K’leshima.  Numerous smaller rock formations are tethered to the main portion of the city and hold smaller structures including windmills.  These are powered by the wind as the city travels across the country, fueling the city’s need for advanced technology: electricity.  There is no other race or person besides the sky elves that know how to produce or harness such power.  All believe it to be simply another form of magic as certain spells are capable of creating similar effects but for a brief moment.  Only in K’leshima will you find artificial illumination, and the city is a speechless, breathtaking sight at night as it explodes into a sea of lights that can be seen for hundreds of miles away.  Transportation between the floating islands is conducted either through floating wind- or electric-powered ships or bridges.  Ships ride on magnetic currents from the planet’s core and are capable of traveling up to 150 miles per day without recharging if powered by electricity.  Sailing vessels, on the other hand, are more common but extremely expensive and difficult to acquire.

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Keldia.  Covering a large portion of the southern lands is the bog of Keldia.  Despite the feeling of death and decay throughout, Keldia is home to the hill dwarves and plays a vital role in the ecosystem of Zatra.  The origin of Keldia stems from the hands of the Nub Sumat when Koz granted them the power of weather effects.  But the flooding that created the marsh fields resulted in very soft saturated soil that happens to be ideal conditions for peat moss.  Once cultivated, the peat can be used to produce numerous valuable resources such as luxury sealing wax, growth acceleration chemicals for farming, and the purification of water.  This crop grows for dozens of miles in every direction, giving the residents of the bog a lifetime of work.  The need to purify water came several centuries ago when a contamination directly resulting from a collecting of wizard spells reached a large portion of Zatra.  At the time, powerful Clerics were able to restore the tainted aquifers, but the duration was immensely long.  With the discovery of peat moss being used to purify groundwater, the process takes considerably less time and money.

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Northern Lands. The Northern Lands are not for the weak.  The region is a cold, dark formidable area covered in some areas with over a hundred feet of snow, plagued with white out blizzards that last for weeks, and riddled with extremely dangerous creatures.  Those who reside in the region are among the toughest in the world, capable of withstanding extremely dangerous temperatures and battling the most ferocious beasts.  All of the Northern Lands are covered with some snow or solid ice, and the majority has enough that tunnels are the only means of travel and survival.  These interlocking systems are carved by giant animals or by the humans who call it their home.  It is rumored that the Northern Lands was once home to a thriving civilization not of this world before the humans made the journey over Valashra and claim it for their own.  Any evidence of this ancient people has been buried deeply under the frozen ground.


I’ll cover an interesting section of the campaign bible in Part 7 with character and class origins.  I particularly enjoy this section because it adds a better reason in selecting your race and class during the creation process.  Instead of simply saying “I like playing dwarves and I like playing fighters, so I’m a dwarven fighter,” you can say “I really like the idea of coming from the frozen Northern Lands and being well adapted to survival as well as being a member of one of the barbarian tribes there.  I’ll play a dwarf from there, completely white skin and slightly bluish beard who is covered in tribal tattoos and carries a giant battleax as a fighter.”

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

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Creating an RPG Campaign Bible: Races – Part 4 Episode.065

Today we get into the meat and potatoes of the campaign bible by describing and breaking down the details of the races of the world and adding a little flavor with a custom-built calendar.  It’s always important to add even mundane and routine things into your world because what doesn’t stand out tends to be the things that make your world more realistic.  These are things that we take for granted in real life such as days of the week, typical weather patterns and seasons, food diets, superstitions, implied laws and regulations, etc.

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Then there is the detail of the races in your world.  They can be a traditional lot that are familiar to the average gamer or they can be completely foreign.  If you go the route of the latter, make sure there are some familiar features to give them a foundation to build the idea of what they look like in their mind.  If you create creatures and people with such fabricated concepts, it may be difficult for the players to wrap their heads around and paint a visual in their minds without being confused.  Race should be well established for role playing purposes as well.  There is no law stating you have to make dwarves and elves hate each other.  You don’t have to make dwarves and orcs mortal enemies either.  Don’t be afraid to spice things up and change things that might go against the norm because your world doesn’t have to be the norm.  It’s your world.

Although it isn’t entirely necessary, giving percentages of each race that makes up the whole world’s population can help give players a better way to imagine how populated areas look.  If they know that the majority of your world comprises of humans, when they enter a village or city, they will tend to imagine people milling about in the background as humans to make up the entire scene they just painted.

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Another tidbit of information you can provide your players that will also help you in the long run are names.  Some people have a lot of trouble coming up with a name they like.  Other times they give up and just randomly use a name that they later regret picking.  Whatever the case may be, giving a list of first and last names for them to pick can make their creation process easier.  It can be a nice time saver for you down the road when you have to come up with a non-important NPC on the spot and need a name.  The list you make now can be referenced at a later time.  It is also nice to add a little flavor of the race, too, if there is any unusual features about them such as better relation with another race or if the race has a general preference over a sporting event or deity.  You need not write a novel for each race.  A couple of paragraphs are sufficient for giving players a general idea of what that race feels like.  You’re essentially advertising the races to the players as if they were window shopping for the right one.

To begin with, here is the Zatra calendar.  Unique names for months may be tough for people to memorize although it might not be important for them to do so.  For those who really love becoming fully immersed in the world may take the time to learn the names and even the holidays.  Adding this knowledge into conversation while roleplaying will add that much more realism and excitement into the game.  Besides the names, I included some significant features that occur during that time.  I leave these open and in name only initially to draw interest at a later time.

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The Zatra Calendar

Most civilizations in Zatra follow the first calendar that was conceived by the elves after the year 232.  This follows a conformed pattern of 10 months, each month comprising of 5 weeks, and each week containing 5 weekdays (First Day, Moon Day, Midweek, Week Eve, Final Day).

Month                  Seasonal Significance

Mako                    First month of Spring, Star Harvest Begins

Ramo                   Month of the Spring Equinox, Day of Doka

Endispar               First Month of Summer, Fire Festival

Venispar              Month of the Summer Solstice, Giving of Thanks

Luno                    First Month of Fall, Major Harvest Begins

Luktavo                Month of the Autumn Equinox, Lunar Day

Menzo                  First Month of Winter, Day of Solitude

Tykober                Month of the Winter Solstice, Remembrance Day

Nunober               God’s Day celebrated, First Frost Eve

Umbo                    Soul Festival celebrated, Death Reborn Eve


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The Four Main Races of Zatra

The people of Zatra once were dominated by humans (80%), but since the Touch, they have been nearly wiped out to 20%.  Dwarves now are the majority species (60%) while halflings (5%), elves (10%), and other races (5%),(including half-breeds) make up the rest.  Here are notes and common names for each major race:

The Windemeir (Humans)

The few humans that remain are those wise enough to accept the invitation of the dwarves to live underground and avoid the Touch.  Most of the human race was wiped out due to arrogance and pride, ignoring the imposing doom of the Touch’s spread and not wishing to dwell with dwarves underground.  Interestingly enough, nearly all of the Windemeirs (Wĭn-dĕh-mērz) are from one kingdom of Zatra, called Kindred.  These survivors have traditional first and last names with middle names given to those of nobility descent.

Male First Names: Alastair, Ambros, Andrew, Avery, Barnaby, Bartholomew, David, Eward, Geoffrey, Hugh, Humphrey, John, Julian, Milton, Myles, Nathanial, Oliver, Roger, Solomon, Thomas, Timothy, Wyatt, Zachary

Female First names: Agnes, Blanche, Bridget, Clemence, Dolores, Edith, Eleanor, Emma, Ethel, Florence, Isabel, Joyce, Margery, Marion, Mildred, Molly, Princilla, Rose, Ruth, Susanna, Sybil, Ursula, Valorie, Winifred

Surnames: Andrews, Ashenhurst, Barlow, Battle, Beadows, Berkhead, Blackwood, Blake, Bishop, Bloom, Blunt, Bright, Carpenter, Cartwell, Castledon, Collingford, Crane, Crook, Cunley, Dawnthorpe, Downer, Dragonwell, Dunfield, Elkhorn, Everett, Fitzgeoffery, Fitzgerald, Fletcher, Francis, Fray, Gladdish, Goldworth, Gossingham, Grimmer, Hadley, Hale, Hammersfield, Hargreave, Humphrey, Hunter, Hyde, Ives, Jenkins, Jollybad, Keast, King, Kottlegrey, Lestrange, Leventhorpe, Langford, Lloyd, Mansfield, Merriwethre, Mortimre, Motts, Moxley, Narbridge, Northam, Noyes, Olver, Pallcraft, Payne, Penhale, Polkinghorn, Pummel, Quail, Quillmaker, Ratley, Reeve, Ringer, Rosserford, Rowley, Russell, Sawford, Shivington, Silcox, Smythe, Snell, Stargrave, Stokes, Strangeways, Teague, Tellam, Throckmorton, Thurman, Torrington, Trowbridge, Unger, Uxbridge, Vaughan, Vawdrey, Whitaker, White, Winkle, Wyndham, Yates, Ysterman.

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Random picture of a Mindflayer

The Dokaleers (Dwarves)

The dwarves are a hardened race with a strangely powerful resilience to the Touch (although not immune).  The Dokaleers (Dōh-kŭh-lērz) make up two of the three Dwarven Kingdoms and are credited for proposing the idea of building the Chambers to protect all untainted by the curse.  Their name comes from the First Dwarf, Doka, who was created by God in the 12 year of Zatra.  All dwarf surnames are their clan names.

Male First Names: Arn, Barin, Dolmen, Fargrik, Fyorn, Gluto, Grulf, Haxan, Holst, Illvar, Jokum, Krog, Krune, Kvalgar, Lofgren, Ludvig, Nylan, Rangvald, Stenger, Svensoren, Tarl, Wolvar, Yospur

Female First Names: Bjerke, Dreylan, Falka, Frau, Frunda, Gorana, Grayka, Halskir, Hammelmar, Helvig, Hjork, Lykke, Nessa, Ryngylrund, Rosenklau, Syldi, Vannim, Yilsi, Yuska, Zelga

Clan Names: Axeberg, Barrelmead, Blucher, Copperstein, Crystalbeard, Dragongrind, Dwerryhouse, Emberstoke, Evergulp, Ferrizalt, Grottmund, Hammermain, Ironshoe, Mithralvein, Osterchasm, Rockmantle, Shadowholm, Tarndark, Thunderharm, Tumblecask, Understrom, Vorne, Zonkenlander

The Waterfolk (Halflings)

Halflings are fairly rare in the world as they were more vulnerable than humans to the Touch.  They prefer to live in the hollow of giant trees and soft mounds near a waterfront where the soil is rich and fertile.  They were the first to invent oceanic navigation instruments and build sea-worthy vessels.  Those that remain created smaller versions of the Chambers that are not buried so deeply underground.  This led to a quicker discovery by members of the Nub Sumat though some Hollow Dens (as they call them) are still hidden.

Male First Names: Badger, Bandit, Banzai, Carrot, Charley, Chipper, Corky, Cricket, Dodger, Early, Heron, Huck, Jay, Jester, Louie, Lucky, Moe, Ozzy, Pennywise, Robber, Seymour, Skip, Skylar, Smedley, Squirt, William

Female First Names:  Blueberry, Celery, Claire, Cookie, Daisy, Minnow, Noodles, Peaches, Peanut, Pepper, Petunia, Punkin, Sadie, Sunny, Wendy, Whitney, Willow, Zoey

Den Names: Daggerthwart, Fatpurse, Featherpluck, Fondslinger, Foolspride, Hallowhill, Hawksprey, Honeygrab, Hydenhill, Littlegrift, Meanderstride, Nevercaught, Noosewary, Poundfoolish, Puddleskiff, Rattlekey, Riverdance, Rockhucker, Roundhill, Shallowpool, Tricker, Trufflestuff, Wanderfoot, Whisperhill, Wylde.

The Shastenza (Elves)

The original civilized race, Shastenzas are the geniuses of the world, creating marvels of inventions and discoveries that no other could conceive.  Many of their strange and wonderful devices can still be found operating endlessly in abandoned ruins or isolated regions.  All but a handful of elves remain in this world.  The race discovered a doorway that brought them to another plane of existence where they live temporarily until a cure for the Touch is created.  The handful of elves that remained is among the brightest of their people with a passion to find a cure.  They now reside underground in the Dwarven Kingdoms.

Male First Names: Aravoth, Arthon, Arvellas, Athelon, Balan, Balhiramar, Balthoron, Canyalas, Diron, Erannon, Eruvarne, Filverion, Firavaryar, Ganalan, Harmenion, Hilneth, Iomar, Larasarne, Lovain, Maingalad, Lenaren, Morisira, Pellavan, Senevast, Tarthagol, Valisain

Female First Names: Alonnen, Althirn, Anvanya, Dagor, Eredaith, Eruanna, Firyan, Gwenmirith, Haradi, Lenaren, Morisira, Myree, Nilde, Nimmeth, rainion, Sennemir, Shalmorgan, Sirva, Torduin, Valaina, Varalia

Home Names: Astramordan, Astravelios, the Circle of Ashes, the Emerald Cradle, the Green March, Kvalagost, Misthaven, Summerdown, Thornhenge, Val Andamar, Val Ressarin, the Weird Glade, Winterbane, Woodcrown

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Next part will break the races down further by listing some important figures and also some important locations that the players should know from the start.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Creating an RPG Campaign Bible: Your World – Part 3 Episode.064

What makes your world unique?  It was probably the initial idea that came to your mind when you first thought of starting a campaign based on a home-brewed world.  World builders, as some GMs enjoy being referred as, seldom wish to create something static and typical.  The world must be rich and dynamic, full of wonder and mystery that few have ever heard about before.  Secrets await the players as they begin exploring every corner, discovering new innovations that wow and draw them in deeper.

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Your world does not need to have one large unique aspect to it.  Consider instead the idea of having multiple smaller, “mini-features” that set it apart.  One particular part of the world may have high energy levels of magic that grant anyone in the area to suddenly possess spell-like abilities.   Another region could be riddled with random portals that suddenly appear that either sends your party to another part of the world or even to another dimension.

Try to keep in mind how your idea or ideas are going to truly affect the players both on a short term and long term basis.  There seems to be always one player who is capable of finding loopholes in everything, so be prepared to face a curveball from them at some point that might take advantage of your idea.

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I have seen some GMs run test games with his players using pre-gen characters similar to a convention.  These games are one or two sessions long tops, but they are based on specific circumstances within your world.  If you are worried that someone may take advantage of a region that grants wild magic, run one-session game involving the players randomly crossing over the boundary and see how they react.

In my continuing work of the campaign bible of Zatra, I included a more GM-friendly than Player-friendly section on my overarching twist of my world and what somewhat sets it apart.  Granted, we are all truly inspired by previous experiences to which our original content has reflections of the past, but we make it our own and enjoy it.  In the world of Zatra, it was created and observed by a single god, but a second chaotic god came into existence and wishes to rival him.

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World Altering Events & The Five Powers


The Five Powers is a generalized term used to describe the omnipotent power that God possesses.  In a literal sense, the Five Powers are an unknown force of god-builders.  The god is capable to do everything, know everything, and see everything.  It represents the ultimate sheer control that God contains.  Through these powers, the god can handle their world as they see fit.  Zatra’s God grants life and death and allows the living to determine their own fate and course of action.

However, from time to time, the Five Powers creates multiple deities for a single world.  They are commonly polar opposites in order to form balance, but on rare occasions these deities clash.  One of such phenomenon occurred in Zatra in its year of 920.

About 150 years ago, Koz reached a level of power and influence in the world that he was able to manipulate the very existence of all things throughout.  His powers, however, could only be filtered through the use of mortal pawns and avatars though he would be able to harness the powers himself once he acquired the fifth one.  Through the use of mind manipulation and brainwashing, Koz was able to convince his followers to do exactly as he commanded in using these powers.  His motivations (other than transforming all living beings into victims of the Touch) are unknown.  The potential of Koz acquiring the Five Powers is a tremendous threat as four of them have already been developed and utilized.

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The first power he acquired was in 1051 and allowed him to change the planet’s rotation speed, thereby causing extended periods of darkness.  Although incapable of stopping the world altogether, his powers could create daylight to appear for only a few hours before slowing the motion for darkness to last for days.  When nightfall occurs, the intensity increases to a pinnacle of nearly total darkness with visibility only a few feet away, even with a magical light source.  Some creatures were further granted the ability to see great distances during this period, including members of Nub Sumat.

As the Touch and the awareness of another god’s presence spread, his powers grew in number.  The Touch had a direct link to that power, and either more joined the cause of Nub Sumat or they fell to the Touch.  Soon Koz gained another powerful ability which was to alter weather patterns.  He allowed Nub Sumat to unleash a fury of torrential storms from hurricanes to massive tornadoes and earthquakes that devastated the lands and destroyed many of the cities.  Floods washed farmlands and building debris away, leaving ruins in their wake.  In some portions of the world, blizzards would last for days during the long periods of nightfall, leaving dozens of feet of snow, tunneled out by creatures and travelers still living above ground.

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His third power came in 1154, just 100 years after his first power acquisition.  This proved to be more lethal due to the lack of evidence of its existence.  Throughout the world, pockets would form at random that either contained a low amount of gravity or lacked it entirely.  The latter was particularly hazardous from those without proper magic as victims entering the pocket would rise up to a point in the atmosphere incapable of sustaining life.  Those who managed to manipulate their ascension to move out of the pocket before that point would retain gravity but usually fall to their deaths unless they had a means to slow their descent.  Telltale signs are difficult to spot from an area of a complete lack of grass to holes where young trees were uprooted to floating objects in midair.  Some of the more potentially dangerous anti-gravity pockets have been marked by past travelers as a warning beacon, but these signs are soon destroyed by members of Nub Sumat.

Some forty years after Koz acquired the 4th Power, the snowball effect of the world falling into darkness from the Touch’s spread allowed him to begin minor manipulations of time itself.  These brief spurts could cause time to reverse several seconds, speed forward a couple of hours, or momentarily stop.  These occurrences would not be worldwide but sized similarly to the areas of his gravity manipulation areas.  These moments are completely random and can happen at advantageous and disadvantageous times.  For example, moments after someone falls into a sinkhole, time shifts backwards, bringing them from falling.  Memory and awareness of the time shift seems to remain with the victim, too.

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With the final Power utilized with Koz, he will reach the level to rival God.  All Powers will be capable by Koz directly, and he will progress into the next existence as a deity, which is the omnipotent being that which is God.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Creating an RPG Campaign Bible: Timelines – Part 2 Episode.063

Another feature of the campaign bible that really helps the GM more than anything is a timeline.  This can be very challenging as you have to make educated guesses on when things occur in your world’s past.  Things like war, famine, catastrophes, worldly achievements, and political movements all fall into your timeline, but it can’t all be done in a few decades of history.  Laying out a timeline helps you give life into your world, but it also gives you a better structure when building.  If there really is no rhyme or reason behind your decisions as you create the world, you may find the entire project to be scatterbrained with ideas bouncing all over the place.  Although there is variety in any world, there is also a level of order and structure that ties everything together.  For example, adding a natural disaster event in the past can give reason to an important geological feature in the present.  An assassination of a great king a century ago that wiped out a bloodline leads to a noble house ruling the kingdom today.

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It also gives reason of how your world has risen or declined over the years.  At a glance, you can see the possible golden years or the dark ages and what transpired that led to those changes.  Although your world may not have cyclical events like in real life (things reoccurring over and over in history), it leaves the possibility of reoccurring themes if you are looking to add something to your campaign.

For my world of Zatra, I made a fairly big mistake: I made my history too brief.  I began building my timeline in the year 0 when the world was created rather than basing the numbering like the Gregorian calendar.  From here, I began to think in a chronological standpoint, filling in as the history began to be created.  As I went, I would put random dates down that went in order and were separated with what I thought were enough dates.  As it turned out, I ran out of ideas initially for the history.  I wound up finishing the timeline with the present events only 1,200 years after the world was created.  If compared to Earth’s history, the connection with the Middle Ages is familiar enough with the traditional fantasy setting that my timeline works in that regard.  However, too many things happened in too short of time, and more things need to be added to breathe more life into the world.

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These events in the history don’t have to be ground shattering either.  A merciful and wise king dying of pneumonia isn’t important for the players to fit into the campaign, but it adds more character to the world and offers them opportunity for it to be significant in the future.  They might stumble upon the king’s tomb after it was lost to a mighty rock slide centuries ago.  History does tend to repeat itself although your world may not, but those moments can really become memorable when a player comments, “Isn’t this the tomb of King Gutaliehm IV who was cursed for betraying his wife to a demon?  He went mad and traded his wife off so he would live for another 20 years!”

Here is my timeline that I created which has an extremely short world life (only 1,200 years).  From here, I will go back and add quite a bit more, but more importantly I’ll change the dates to spread them out a bit and have a few thousand years, perhaps from the time of creation to the first civilized city being formed.

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A Brief Timeline


0: God established by the Five Powers and Zatra is created by Him.

232: The first civilized city is formed as elves develop advancements in lifestyles quickest

258: General worldly civilization among the main races form, trading and politics are established

280: Five kingdoms are forged with Archdukes ruling each and one crowned king or queen over all.

372: Oceanic navigation is developed and fully exploring Zatra begins by many cultures

744: War breaks out among the five kingdoms after an assassination on the king

790: The original five kingdoms are reformed and political structure changed

810: The first nobility house takes over one of the five kingdoms

920: The speck of darkness that will become Koz comes into existence

1030: The first documented incident of the Touch is recorded

1037: [Koz communicates with his first follower and establishes his vision and demands]

1042: Touch has been deemed a worldly threat

[Nub Sumat is formed]

1044: The first Chamber is built by the Dwarves

1051: The world mysteriously darkens, the sun appearing for mere hours each day.

[Nub Sumat gains the ability to alter sunlight hours from Koz, darkening the world]

1089: Nub Sumat makes their presence known and spreads the praise of Koz.

1120: Catastrophic weather patterns form throughout the world without meaning.

[Koz grants Nub Sumat weather altering abilities, causing massive destruction]

1135: The last of the Chambers are built

1143: All communication or signs of God’s presence disappear

1154: Light- and anti-gravity pockets form throughout the world, causing unsuspecting victims to rise miles into the air and die.

[The dark god nearly reaches pinnacle, granting minor gravity alterations to Nub Sumat]

1178: Several Chambers are discovered by champions of Nub Sumat and are breached

1199 (Present Year):  People experience periodic time shifts throughout the world

[Minor time alterations are granted to Nub Sumat, Wild Magic occurs]

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Pre-Ordering Games, Consoles, & Books Episode.056

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I’ve never really been a fan of pre-ordering things.  I feel that if you’re going to produce a product make sure you have enough for the demand, but I realize that companies don’t want to waste money by making more product than the consumer’s demand.  Pre-ordering can give them an idea of what kind of demand it is, but those are just for initial sales by people who are aware of the product’s soon-to-be existence.  Theoretically there should always be more people who will buy a product after the initial pre-order phase is complete.

Video games are by far the worst practice of pre-ordering.  I have never in my life seen a video game that sells completely out of stock the first week it is released.  There are always copies available at some store whether it’s at your local brick-&-mortar store or online at Amazon.  One way or another, you can always buy a copy of the video game you want.  Perhaps companies give you incentives to pre-order such as in-game items or extra content.  Generally these pale in comparison and quite often are released as “new content” at a later date such as a Game of the Year Edition.

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Pre-ordering things that could have bugs such as video games or other electronics is really a large gamble.  This is especially true for video game consoles.  Electronics have such a huge volume of executions that it is quite easy to have errors or bugs that pop up.  Companies may run their product through Quality Check, but the product only has so much of a window before the higher-up execs demand the product to be put on the market to start making a profit.  This can lead to rushed products that aren’t quite ready for the consumer.  This is when you find bugs.  Yet when you pre-order, you are giving those execs even more evidence to rush the product out the door: if they have $1,000,000 worth of pre-orders, they won’t see a dime of that until the product ships.  This will cause them to become greedy and encourage their company to continue to rush their product before it’s ready.  When you pre-order, you are essentially acknowledging that you are okay with an incomplete game.  So when you put that game in the console for the first time and it doesn’t boot up right or crashes during the middle, you simply have no room to complain.  It’s actually closer to being more your fault than the company’s.  Granted the company who made a poor quality product should not have released it, but if enough consumers are willing to pay full price for an incomplete product, naturally companies are going to release it.  Some companies value quality over quantity, but the bottom line is that every company exists to make money.  If their reputation is not tarnished from shipping broken games, they will continue to do so.  Generally they will not have a damaged reputation because they can always go back to the financial reports and publicly announce their sales.

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A minor graphic bug

Now the one thing within this blog’s genre categories that pre-ordering might be beneficial are role playing games.  Although it still goes hand-in-hand with the concept of video games in which you should print more than the masses because you are hoping that eventually they will all be bought (or the majority).  Printing books does cost more than producing a physical copy of a game.  That’s a fact.  There isn’t much involved in burning the contents to a disc and printing a label on the top then putting it in a case and shipping it.  This is even truer with PC games that are almost entirely digitally produced now (few hard copies are put on shelves anymore).  So for that thought, pre-ordering (especially for PC games) makes even less sense because there is essentially zero overhead cost on releasing the game.

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Most expensive pre-order ever – This car along with a PS3 and GRID 2 – £125,000

With hard copy books it is another story, however.  Companies prefer not to produce too many copies to where they have a shelf full of books that were never purchased.  If they have to decide, they will most likely want to error on the side of caution and produce fewer than the demand.  Books are done in “print runs” where they will have a certain number of books produced.  Small publishing companies may only have 500 copies whereas larger companies may have 1000s or 10’s of thousands.  When these are all bought, the company then has to either order more copies to be printed or do it themselves if they have the means.  This, however, takes usually more than a month to do, sometimes 8-10 weeks depending on the lead time the printers are looking at.  Some roleplaying game companies have an agreement with a printing company to dish out their books, but that printing company doesn’t just sit around and wait for their order.  They have other companies requesting their service such as schools for textbooks and yearbooks.

Pre-ordering books does tend to make for a better decision if the number of copies is in question.  Basically the rule is the smaller the company, the more reason to pre-order.  Now again, it’s essentially to just make sure you don’t have to wait 6-8 more weeks more for the 2nd printing.  If a company runs out of copies, they are going to print more until they consider the product expired and deem it out of print.  This only occurs when sales have dropped below a percentage per month, which means you have already bought your copy.  Larger companies, Wizards of the Coast for example, produce so many copies that you end up finding the books in odd locations like Wal-Mart.  Pre-ordering really is pointless at that point because the availability will be considerable.

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Now having said all that, companies have a bad habit of not producing enough copies on the first print run and blaming it on the consumers.  This is a give-and-take issue because the pre-orders would help them make a better assessment on the number of issues to produce, but generally when a company runs out of copies quickly, as in the first week or two, that’s really a horrible mistake on their part.  This happens way too often too, and the consumer usually gets the same famous line from all of them: “We were completely overwhelmed by the sheer enthusiasm from fans that we ran out of stock!”  This is one of the worst business moves you can make because it does 2 things.  First, your company stops making money for 6-8+ weeks while you wait for the next batch not only to be printed BUT to be shipped to stores.  Second, you hack off the consumers who were unlucky and didn’t receive a copy and are forced to wait while those who did get a copy are enjoying it.  When a game is released, that is going to be the “hottest” point in sales.  Usually.  Granted there are exceptions where a product doesn’t get noticed by the general consumer for several months (or years…I’m looking at you Game of Thrones).  When you run out of product while there is still a huge demand for it, you run the risk of sales going cold while you wait for the next printing.  Consumers are fickle and have short attention spans.  Our interest burns bright but burns out quickly.  New things come along that clouds are memories of the past.

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So when you are about to jump on a band wagon or you become excited for something that is soon to be released, take a moment to reflect the situation and ask yourself if it’s worth it or necessary.  Are you frustrated with video games having bugs in them when you buy it?  Are you annoyed when you go to your local gaming store and find your game out of stock?  Are you looking at your sales from the last product and realize the demand is great for this new release?  Try to refrain from being too hasty and make smarter purchasing decisions and stop encouraging poor business choices.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Inanimate Objects As Characters Episode.049

Cedric took his feet off the console and stretched his legs moving out of the bridge and down the lonely corridor.  The bird was on her last leg though he hated to admit it.  It bugged him to think after all the travels he had ventured with her, he was going to have to say goodbye.  Tradition typically involved the crew saluting as she was set to be destroyed, but it had been months since he had even a skeleton to run the ship.  He turned the corner and walked into the engine room where her heart was quietly purring still.  Running his hand over the shell reminded him of a few close calls where that old and now obsolete engine saved his life getting out of a jam.  The intercom squawked from the docking bay master informing Cedric deconstruction was ready to begin once he exits the ship.  He sighed heavily with one last look of his old friend and started walking out.  A few steps before he reached the ramp, however, his eyes spotted a flickering light in one of the side wall panels.  It followed no pattern, and he never remembered ever seeing it lit up before.  Curiously he opened the panel up and realized it was coming from the ship’s main analytical system, essentially the ship’s brain.  It was an aftermarket chip he had installed himself to give the ship a sense of intelligence that recorded, calculated, and gave generalized suggestions to various occurrences.  Although his next ship would not be compatible with the chip, he placed it into a small steel locket and hung it around his neck.  The ship may soon be gone, but he knew she was close.

For some players in a role playing game, inanimate objects sometimes are personified by various ways such as unique situations or their level of value in service.  It could be a sword that seems to make you roll very well when you absolutely need that Natural 20 or it could be a space ship that gets you out of a sticky situation when all hope is lost.  Whatever the case may be, something gives life to what would otherwise be a lifeless item.  They tend to become part of you, the family or the party.  A rag doll that was given to the party by a little girl who they saved could become an iconic symbol for the party’s mission, but it could also become the group’s mascot even though it does little more than lay on the ground.

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These things generally acquire the same personality and perspective towards it as a household pet.  We view them as entities that can be expected to respond to situations or at least give us the perception to do so.  A vehicle truly responds only when someone or something interacts with it, yet we often will thank the vehicle for getting us out of trouble.  The actual machine gave us the opportunity to escape from danger, but it was not done from its own power or free will.  This way of thinking comes from our natural thought process of human interaction.  We generally feel that ordinary, non-living things cannot readily achieve the unthinkable.  A rock cannot actually save our lives because it would do nothing unless it was put into use by someone.  It may be in the right place at the right time to block something from hitting us, but the rock itself did not do anything other than happen to be there at that moment.  The latter part of that sentence even put some personality into the rock by implying it had a choice in the matter to be in that spot when, of course, naturally occurring phenomenon such as rock slides from erosion moved the rock into that place.

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And it’s interesting to analyze what it takes for us to begin perceiving objects as living beings.  Compare a castle with a space ship you designed.  The former will protect you from incoming invasions, withstand catapults, keep out wildlife, provide shelter from harsh weather, and give a sense of comfort having something to call home.  Yet if the place is razed, you probably would not be so concerned with the idea of the building “dying” after what it provided for so many years as you would be disheartened to have to come up with the resources and time to rebuild the thing again.  A space ship, on the other hand, does almost exactly what a castle can do in its own environment (protect, shelter, etc.), but we tend to give it a name, take special care in its condition, and feel truly disheartened if the ship were to ever be destroyed.  We see it as a living thing instead of a ship and the castle as just a structure yet they are very similar in purpose.  Even if you were to name the castle, it probably won’t hold a candle to the character the ship will have to you.

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The same goes with a sword.  It literally is a piece of metal that does nothing unless someone picks it up and uses it as a weapon.  It has the same principle purpose as a rock can have if used similarly.  Yet the rock is unappealing to us, ordinary in its own right.  The sword is an extension of our arm, the very tool we need to easily defend and attack someone if need be.  We give it a wild and exotic name.  We begin to rely upon it to get us out of trouble.  Once again, our notion of an object takes on life, and it may be relating closer to things that tend to save our lives and protect us.  Then again, we don’t usually give shields names or think of them as we do for swords.

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In the end, it boils down to our own way of viewing things.  We think squirrels are cute but despise rats though they are both rodents.  A castle has no “character” like a space ship.  The castle is made of cold stone walls, hard iron, and could even be considered “too large” to have personality.  Think of the giant capital ships in Star Wars, and they feel just like a machine.  Yet the Millennium Falcon was practically another character in Star Wars.  Having said that, Luke’s X-Wing took him all over the galaxy and was wrecked into a bog on Dagobah, but we think of it as an X-Wing like the others that Red squadron flew.  So it’s more the experience the item has that gives it the life that we take it to have.

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A volley ball is just another ball to play with, but draw a smiling face on it and suddenly it becomes Wilson, Chuck Noland’s best friend while stranded on a deserted island in Cast Away.  He wouldn’t have done such a thing living back home with his family, but in that situation and experience, the ball is given life.

It’s interesting to see what brings character and life into lifeless things.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

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Discussion: Pillars of Eternity Episode.047

I was among the fortunate to have lived during the nice stretch of years when companies were pumping out classic RPGs such as Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and to a lesser extent Diablo.  These games all had a similar look and feel to them that complimented the flavor of the game.  The camera was fixed in an isometric view looking down upon the ground from above.  It was built more as 2.5 dimensional where things could walk behind other things but you couldn’t rotate the camera to see the other side of anything.  All items were built in 3D but rendered as a 2D object that faced the camera.  The result gave a nice illusion of depth while limiting the need of high computer resources.

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We are seeing a nice resurgence of genres of yesteryear with reboots, remakes, and sequels of games that are 15-25 years old, much to the thanks of crowdfunding websites.  Most recently, Pillars of Eternity was released that commemorates that style of gameplay much like that of Baldur’s Gate.

Pillars of Eternity is a spot on nostalgic trip back 20 years ago as the graphic style and gameplay are nearly identical.  Character creation has a similar feeling to the Dungeons & Dragons systems of before as Baldur’s Gate was.  However, to avoid licensing/copyright issues, PoE altered a bit of the stats, abilities and skill names.  The veterans of D&D will recognize Cat’s Grace, Bull’s Strength, and Owl’s Wisdom among others now renamed.

Unlike 20 years ago, technology has allowed more voice recordings for the dialogue beyond just the few choice words that games like Baldur’s once had.  Unfortunately there are simply too many lines of dialogue for the entire game to be recorded (BioWare did just that for The Old Republic MMO, but the amount of dialogue is a bit less).  But reading line after line is expected for this type of game.  Even back in the 80s when there was nothing but text-based RPGs, the entire game was without visuals.  The only element that could be considered a visual was maybe a map, which would be created using keyboard characters.   These RPGs are going to immerse you partially from the dialogue by making the game feel like enjoying a good book.

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Although if you were to put the Baldur’s Gate II side by side with PoE, there still is a clear distinction of quality that tricks the mind into believing the older of the two games has similar graphic levels.

Skills tend to be more important in this game than they were in BG and Icewind Dale.  In the past, with the exception of rogue abilities, skills came up just in dialogue.  If your Lore was high enough, for example, you could choose an additional response to the conversation that reflected that skill.  Although perhaps 10 or so hours into the game has yielded very little skill-based choices, the actual skills have come in handy.  Instead of having a plethora to choose from like you would from 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons, you have just a few that are much broader: might, athletics, lore, mechanical and survival.  Just five skills are used that cover a great area though they do miss a few that just don’t come up in the game (or the closest skill just takes over in an even broader spectrum).

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The story does get you started off fairly quickly with action.  It puts you into the start of the over arcing campaign story right off the bat with a side quest to boot.  There doesn’t seem to be quite as many side quests as have been in some more modern RPGs like Skyrim (mercy the number of quests….you never got around to finishing).  There are quests that have multiple outcomes:  any choice you pick will result in completing the quest.  The result itself will be different than another choice, good or bad.  You may help a criminal escape which a woman who lost a cow to the thief goes without justice, but later the criminal gets you out of a bind when certain death is imminent (for example, this is not from the game).

They did a fantastic job with storing items.  You are given an enormous traveling case that you are able to put anything you pick up into it.  The downside is that you must either be in a city or resting for a while before you can access it.  However, the chest’s huge size carries over for each of the 6 some odd categories of items.  This means that the weapon tab can hold 50+ weapons, the armor tab can hold 50+ pieces of armor, etc.  Potions are in one along with their ingredients.  Miscellaneous tab for the millions of books you can read for weeks (just about every RPG has this).  It’s easy to get to what you want quickly, and you can take a quick nap to access something you really need right now.

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Camping is a bit better than it used to be in Baldur’s Gate.  Now you are required to carry with you firewood.  You use up one for every time you rest.  Resting restores all health to max and relearns any spent spells.  In the past, you could click rest at any time in areas where monsters were not present as much as you wanted.  Time would pass, but otherwise there was no consequence to doing so.  Potions and healing spells were only needed during combat to keep you alive to the end so you could click rest and recover.  Those games had chances of you being interrupted in the middle of the night with monsters, which was a nice feature, but they didn’t happen too often depending on where you were.  I have camped a few times, but I have not been interrupted.  There is an option to stay in the cities for free, which was nice, and there is now incentive to choose the rooms that cost money in that your party receives skill bonuses that last quite a while.  I have found enough campfire wood to keep things comfortably moving, but it is not to the point where I have to put them in the stash just because I don’t have enough room for them.

The game offers numerous levels of difficulty that range from easy to hard.  Monster frequency and number in each encounter are affected by difficulty, and there is also a hardcore version where you cannot make multiple saves of the same game along with perma death.

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Your characters have both Endurance and Health.  From what I can tell, Endurance is simply like stamina that can go down as you are wounded, but it automatically restores back to full at the end of combat.  Your health, however, does not.  Depending on the attack and amount of damage determines if you lose just a few Endurance points or dip into your health.

There is obviously nostalgia for me as I play the game and reminisce about my younger years.  However, as with many nostalgic things of our past, that feeling subsides rather quickly after we have experienced it.  Picking up a He-Man toy in the flea market may excite memories of your childhood, making you think about buying it, but after a few minutes the excitement is gone as we realize it’s just a part of our past.  Pillars of Eternity helps pick up when the nostalgia wears thin by delivering a solid game.  It offers itself as a strategy game, a role playing game, and a story-driven game.  All the while pushing you to explore more to see what the developers thought up next.  If you’re still hesitant because you aren’t familiar with this type of game, put it on a wish list somewhere and hold off on an upcoming sale before picking it up.  You may be pleasantly surprised at how much you find yourself wandering around the game’s world.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

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