Satanic panic revisted @ the BBC

There’s a pretty long article I haven’t had time to read through yet here at the BBC’s site, and some follow-up discussion here at FARK.  Saving these here to remember to look at it tonight after work.

From the BBC article:

[Pat] Pulling [founder of BADD, Bothered About D&D] described D&D as “a fantasy role-playing game which uses demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, murder, rape, blasphemy, suicide, assassination, insanity, sex perversion, homosexuality, prostitution, satanic type rituals, gambling, barbarism, cannibalism, sadism, desecration, demon summoning, necromantics, divination and other teachings”.

That sounds like one hell of a campaign!

Published in: on April 11, 2014 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Romani ite domum!

 

Click to embiggen!

Click to embiggen!

One of my first armies in 1/72 was Imperial Romans.  Like most new wargamers, I went with something familiar, impressive, and badass.  Since then I’ve come to like more of the underdogs of history, but if you’re going to go with a winner, you might as well pick one of the winningest armies in history.*

I began with some recasts of the Airfix Romans set, made by HäT, and later added ESCI, Revell, and HäT originals.

roman-testudoFront line, Airfix recasts; behind them, ESCI, trying to form a Testudo or “tortoise” formation.  Third line, in blue, Italieri Republican-era Romans; fourth line, barely visible, Revell.  The blue uniformed troops I gave a dark wash.  Usually I avoid any shading on my wargaming 1/72s both to speed things up and to keep a cleaner, toy-soldier look.  The only exception is that I usually shade steel with black and flesh with a darker tone.

roman-legions-2Some stands with command elements.  Center, all Airfix; right, all ESCI; left, ESCI troopers but I think Italieri command.  Behind them a Revell tribune standing over a fallen Airfix trooper and an ESCI Caesar standing over a fallen Airfix Briton.  (They don’t serve any role in a DBA army; I had originally planned to use Might of Arms as my war game rules but found it a little too complex for what I was after, and I really the simplicity of DBx type rules.)   You can also see some cavalry (HäT Republican Romans) and a ballista in the background.

roman-legionsMore legions.

roman-auxilia-revellRevell auxilia — in this case, lightly armed recruits, probably Gauls in Roman gear.

roman-batavi-hatHäT auxilia — in this case Batavi, some Germanic tribesmen famous for using their traditional clubs in battle and for being excellent amphibious troops — or at least able to swim across rivers that gave the legionaries pause.  Behind them are some auxiliary archers.  Both the Airfix and ESCI sets had what looked like legionaries with bows, so I painted them in legionary colors, but really they would probably be archers from subject lands in more native dress — Syrian archers are often mentioned.  The second line of archers are Britons from the Airfix Briton set.  I’m not sure if any Britons served as archers for Rome but I didn’t need many missile troops for my Ancient British army so the Romans took them.

Some miscellaneous stands of troops did not get close-ups.  Those are more auxilia in Roman dress, camp followrs, and some skirmishers.  The army is far larger than I need for DBA and could probably form several Early Imperial Armies — perfect for a civil war.  I also made some Roman camps, as DBA armies usually need one unless there is a settlement on the battlefield.  I have couple of simple, generic palisades, but I also did a funner one, which I always get out for Good Friday:

camp-romanThree religious-supply store crucifixes and a pair of Airfix legionaries.

With any luck I’ll find some time to photograph some more stuff this weekend — my Roman mile fort, and the Republican Romans, as well as some Etruscans & Italian Hill Tribes, Thracians, Carthage, and so on….

========================================================

*Well, that’s their reputation anyway.  They certainly conquered a big area and held it a long time.  Superior numbers, technology, logistics, and training seems to do that.

Published in: on April 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm  Comments (5)  
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men o bronze

The release of a new edition of De Bellis Antiquitatis, along with my hiatus from having to DM, and having just read a book on hoplite warfare, all converged to reignite my interest in ancients war gaming.  Or at least in building armies and painting them.

So this is the group shot of most of my Greeks (I have another dozen or so stands of Thracians, as well as some mercenary Greeks in my Persian and Carthaginian armies, and some unpainted hoplites probably).

greeks-panorama

Click to embiggen!

A lot of my Greeks are Spartans, naturally.  The lambda is really easy to paint onto a shield, and the red tunics look pretty awesome against the bronze everything else.

Come and take them.

Come and take them.

The general and piper are Zvedza; the rest are Nexxus recasts of the old Atlantic set.  The second line in the background is all Zvedza too.

greek-thracians-hatThese are the Thracians that I keep with the Greek army.  Like I said I have a whole army of them, I should post them next.  These three guys are HäT Industries minis.

greek-macedonainsMost ancient Greek city-states did not use a lot of cavalry (well Thessaly would big the big exception), but the Macedonians famously did.  Since my pikemen are actually hoplites with extra long spears, I use them interchangeably and the Macedonians are stored with my Greeks too.  Above we have mostly Zvedza cavalry (the guys way in the back are Nexxus/Atlantic) and some HäT hoplites/pikemen.

greek-pikes-hatHere’s another view of the HäT “pikemen”.  I think the shields are all off to the side because of the limitations of injection-molding plastics.  I wish they’d opted for separate shields instead but back when I was collecting plastics, I just bought whatever was available.  Nowadays there are so many sets available you could pick and choose.  Still, these figures are pretty solid and look OK.

 

Published in: on April 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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C’mon, internet, show us yer owlbears!

I decided to paint this Reaper owlbear I picked up really cheaply a year or two ago (it is from their “PB” line of retro lead/tin castings, so it was cheaper than the modern lead-free metal version, and moreover the FLGS had it 50% off!).  I found some pictures of other people’s paint jobs which I used for ideas.  Once I was done with it, I thought I ‘d repaint my TSR owlbear.  Back in the early 1980s, TSR, in a fit of hubris, decided to tank the AD&D license from Grenadier, give it to Citadel (though I never saw any Citadel AD&D minis anywhere in the US, maybe it was a UK-only deal?), and finally in 1983-1984 they produced their own line of minis which were pretty uneven in terms of quality.  I only had a few of these, including an owlbear that came in a blister with a rolly-polly polar bear.

Anyway I looked, in vain, for a painted example of this guy and came up with nada.  I did my best to make him match the Reaper owlbear’s colors and markings, though really he looks a bit more like a vultureracoon than an owlbear.

tsrowlbearThere he is in all his glory.

Below, the Reaper owlbear, looking much more obviously owly and beary.

reaper-owlbear

Look at that glorious plumage!

owlbear-plumage

Even accounting for the puffed up plumage, the Reaper mini is a good deal bigger, so maybe these are a mated pair.

owlbear family

In which case that weird Grenadier hawk-goat thing would be a an owlbear cublet.

Sadly, owlbears are getting to be as rare as hen’s teeth due to the fad for owlbearskin rugs.

owlbear-extinction

My only regret is I forgot to put any feathers on the rug.  Maybe I’ll touch up that some time.

I did recall seeing a painted TSR owlbear in an ad once, in a Dragon magazine, and by chance I found it in the first issue I checked (#62).

owlbear ad Not a bad paint job at all.  I would like to point out that their painter noticed the racoonish features too and put bands on the tail.

The rest of the ad has some of the character minis and you can see that the hand on the right has a spiked leather bracer. \m/  I guess TSR was feeling threatened by the Grenadier ads of the same period which featured a dud in full armor sitting at a table with their competing line of minis.

Do you, or did you, own any owlbear minis? Leave a comment and/or post a link if you’ve got something to show off.  Or draw an owlbear.  C’mon, internet, show us yer owlbears!!!

 

Published in: on April 3, 2014 at 9:10 am  Comments (9)  
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Sword of Rhiannon

908296

Cover image from Goodreads, I think.  I have this same edition and actually the aspect ratio of the image is a little off — this image is a little squashed along the Y axis.  The serpentman is actually more slender and tall on the cover, making the image more unsettling.

The book is a one-off adventure, as far as I know — the central character does not reappear in Brackett’s other books set on Mars, though the same world is explored in some of her other books under the name “Skaith”.  As you may have guessed from the location on Mars, this book was written as an homage to the E.R. Burroughs “Carson of Venus” and “John Carter of Mars” books, and like them it is a very light but enjoyable adventure yarn, full of cliffhangers, occasional swashbuckling, and card-board thin characters (especially the protagonist).  I think that for Burroughs, the undefined protagonists are meant to allow almost any reader to identify with them. Maybe Brackett intends the same thing. Either way, it is fun, with a lot of plot twists and action, very concisely written and never boring.

As a “planetary romance,” the story blurs the line between science fiction and fantasy.  It takes place on Mars, involves time travel, and features aliens with psychic powers, so by modern standards it is more in the fantasy camp, but this is all presented as rational and scientific — the time travel and psychic phenomena is apparently just beyond the scientific understanding of the hero.

The villains of the book — serpent men and their human minions — remind me more of Howard than Burroughs.  Brackett packs a lot into this very short novel, and it is worth a look.

Published in: on March 31, 2014 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Yes I have been drinking, but I think this needs saying

The death of David A. Trampier, a wonderful illustrator of D&D and some other games from the mid-70s to 1988, has been reported.  A lot of blogs started posting brief RIPs and a few pictures as tributes, which is fitting.  Now I am noticing that there is some kind of race to report more details as quickly as possible, be the first kid in your webring to post the news, and other star-effing.  One blogger who is probably well-intentioned has started digging into the details of Trampier’s funeral arrangements and encouraging gamers to crash what has already been communicated to him to be a private event.  What.The.Fuck?

For whatever reason — and now is not really the time to get to the bottom of it — Trampier wanted out of the “gaming community” and politely refused requests for interviews etc. for the last decade.  Apparently his mounting medical bills did convince him to consider publishing and/or making appearances shortly before his death.  Still, I think the gaming community needs to back the fuck off.

If you did not know the man personally, you don’t need to be crashing this funeral.  You can sign the online guestbook if you need to let his family know how much you loved his art.  Hordes of strangers (especially the unwashed masses of gamers) showing up at a private funeral for a man who wanted no attention (or anything at all to do with the general public gamers really) –  hordes of gamers showing up at his funeral would be in incredibly bad taste.  The cynic in me suspects all the gushing about going to the funeral is just online braggadocio and trying to be grognarder-than-thou.  I will try to be more charitable and assume it is just talk coming from a real sense of vicarious loss.  Yes, all of us who loved D&D in the 70s and 80s, or appreciate the classics now, can feel a sense of loss at his passing, and as humans of course we can feel sorry for the family’s loss.  But imposing ourselves on DAT’s grieving family & friends does not honor him nor respect his or their wishes for privacy.

Published in: on March 29, 2014 at 1:46 am  Comments (9)  
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non-D&D qns part three

16 Which RPG besides D&D has the best magic system? Give details.
Probably GURPS.  The default system uses ‘power points’ that come from the PC’s Fatigue.  This is equal to the Strength stat, so most mages have a limited pool of power points, and casting spells causes the mage to be weaker with clear mechanical implications.  Very nice.  More skilled mages spend fewer points.  It’s pretty elegant; the only downside is some of the spells are too powerful and some are too weak.  There are lots of optional magic systems for GURPS, but my favorite is the ritual magic system introduced in the Voodoo supplement.  It is perfect for more historical or “realistic” settings as the magic is mostly indirect, affects probabilities rather than making big booms so it can be explained away by skeptics, and mirrors a lot of real world occult ideas about invoking spirits.
 
17 Which RPG has the best high tech rules? Why?
I am not much of a fan of high-tech stuff but I would, true to form, say GURPS does it the best.  During a heavy GURPS phase, my brother and one of our friends got a Guns Digest type book and converted used the information there about muzzle velocities etc. to stat out EVERY FRICKING GUN in production.  GURPS could tease out some subtle differences.  And yet a gunshot will probably kill you period.  Gritty as hell. Plus don’t forget Steve Jackson Games was raided by the government while working on their Cyberpunk book.  :)
18 What is the crunchiest RPG you have played? Was it enjoyable?
I think “crunchy” means “has rule for everything”?  D&D 3rd edition, and no it was not.  If “crunchy” means “has calculations that will cause you to learn all the functions on a scientific calculator in order to level up,” probably Rolemaster with “All options” in play from the Companion books.  They got a little out of hand.  We still enjoyed it once character generation was done though.
19 What is the fluffiest RPG you have played? Was it enjoyable?
I don’t understand this question.  I hear “fluff” used a lot of different ways. If “fluffy” just means rules-light, I tried some FATE and it was pretty good; it is just not my choice for fantasy, and fantasy is my preferred RPG style.  I think I’ve heard “fluff” used to mean all the stuff that is not in the “mechanics” of the rules, in which case I’m not sure how to approach the question — does it mean which game is most interested in background and setting over rules?
20 Which setting have you enjoyed most? Why?
My last D&D campaign, set in the ruins of a previous campaign setting (Telengard).  Because I made it up.  The setting I enjoyed most as a player is hard to pin down.  Maybe the semi-historical Norman England game I mentioned last time.  The setting was interesting and dangerous.  We mostly fought humans with complicated motivations rather than simply going after monsters.  And our characters often had to make major sacrifices — some dying horribly — to prevent worse things from happening to the NPCs.  We were very “immersed” in the story, is what I guess I mean.  The fact that my brother, who was running, really understood and communicated the period to everyone helped a lot.  No anachronistic characters for one thing.
21 What is the narrowest genre RPG you have ever played? How was it?
“Over the edge” — Atlas Games’ weird mix of film noir, William S. Burroughs, and the X-files-before-there-was-an-X-files.  Or maybe Call of Cthulhu set in the 1920s.  Both were so specific and so strange that it was probably too much to ask of any player.  I don’t know if the GMs enjoyed them but both were very short-lived.
22 What is the most gonzo kitchen sink RPG you ever played? How was it?
Ha!  This guy I know, Chip, who is both intentionally and unintentionally strange on every level, ran what he called “Wacky World.”  It was GURPS with every sourcebook in play — Space, Supers, Fantasy, Cyberpunk, Ice Age, whatever.  The player characters were ridiculously min-maxed.  One PC had robotic legs (“crazy legs”) and neural implants and martial arts that basically made him capable of wiping out the entire crew of the Enterprise using two force swords.  Which he did.  Single-handed.  Another carried around a laser cannon that could destroy anything.  My character was a sharpshooter who could shoot things — from the ground — that were in orbit.  He needed to because the galactic police decided to nuke us from orbit.  It was mostly played for laughs.  Chip loved imitating various political figures as NPCs.  We laughed, but we were probably stoned too.
23 What is the most broken game that you tried and were unable to play?
I honestly object to calling any system “broken,” but the two stand-out stinkers IMO are Gamma World which fails to deliver the game I expected based on the art and the early 80s zeitgeist about nuclear war, and Battlelords of the 23rd Century, an incoherent mess that was basically ‘alien supersoldiers with big laser guns’.  I could never run GW now, it just has too many silly things going on.  Battlelords I tried back in college.  I believe the author was running it, and he had lots of enthusiasm but it was just stupid.  Couldn’t get past character generation.  (Sorry Larry!)
24 What is the most broken game that you tried and loved to play, warts and all?
Fantasy Wargaming.  I still think there is something worth salvaging in that confused mess of a game.
25 Which game has the sleekest, most modern engine?
Maybe Dungeon World, or FATE?  Not really to my taste though. 
26 What IP (=Intellectual Property, be it book, movie or comic) that doesn’t have an RPG deserves it? Why?
None, dammit!  I honestly have never enjoyed an IP-based RPG other than the old d6 Star Wars, and that was really in spite of the IP.  We just had a great GM who loved Star Wars but loved it enough to mock and humiliate the setting some too.  Star Wars, being a mess of tropes from science fiction and fantasy, works the same way D&D does — it just taps into a million themes you’ve seen elsewhere and assembles them into a gamable state.  Sort of the opposite of Tolkien-based games, where the IP/setting so carefully tied to a plot that you feel like a minor character in someone else’s story.
27 What RPG based on an IP did you enjoy most? Give details.
Oops, already answered that.  More details: the gaming group was some of the nicest, funniest, smartest people I’d played with; one player was totally new to RPGs and was having a Freaks & Geeks experience (10 years before Carlos the dwarf).  I went through at least four or five PCs, all of them dying gloriously, except for the last one, Lothar of the Hill People.  My Gomorian killed a damn AT-AT. Bitchin.
28 What free RPG did you enjoy most? Give details.
The “Optional Resolution System” in “Out where the buses don’t run”.  (Is that a free module?  I got it free for helping with proofreading.)  You have a d6.  When you try to do something, you need to roll a 4+.  If you get hurt once you are kicked don to a d4; hurt again you die.  Simple and elegant and you could play blind drunk.
29 What OSR product have you enjoyed most? Explain how.
1. Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  The skill and encumbrance systems are still one of my favorites for D&D, and the whole thing is a great re-imagining of what D&D could be.  2. Every other retroclone of OD&D or Basic, for giving more fuel and examples of workable revisions.
30 Which non-D&D supplemental product should everyone know about? Give details.
The whole family of GURPS sourcebooks, especially the historical/cultural ones, like Vikings and Swashbucklers and Old West. They have the perfect amount of research, focused on how to game the settings.  My own blog posts on finding D&D-fuel in unlikely books is inspired by their examples.  I am in awe of them.
31 What out-of-print RPG would you most like to see back in publication? Why?
I have no answer for that, because almost everything I can think of is back in print or has been “cloned” in some form or another.  I could gripe that nothing quite recreates B/X, I guess.  Oh wait a minute — maybe Boot Hill.  The original was great and there was a second or third edition that fleshed out the role-playing rules that I liked.  I have not investigated other Old West options though.
Published in: on March 27, 2014 at 10:01 am  Comments (1)  
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Strange cousins from the East

Some of our strange cousins in Oriental lands, according to the anonymous book De Rebus In Oriente Mirabilibus (Marvels of the East or Wonders of the East).  This is a 4th or 5th century anonymous work which has survived in three manuscript versions, the most well-known being a copy that was copies with a number of works in a manuscript identified as the “Cotton MS Vitellius A XV“.  (Cotton as it was in the collection of a Sir Robert Cotton, MS being an abbreviation of manuscript … I’m not sure about all he details of naming conventions for ms. in the British Library though.)

Some of the familiar “monstrous races” seen in Medieval art and romances are here, but given different descriptions than usual.  For example, the dog-headed men or cynocephs of Pliny are described as having the dog face we expect, but they also have a horse’s mane and boar tusks, and can breathe fire.  They are called Cinocefali or Conopenae.  (Speculation that cynocephs are a garbled account of baboons seem to be confirmed by the mane and tusks, anyway.)  The usual blemyes, sciapods, and so forth are cataloged.

Other monstrous races are, as far as I know, unique to this book:

  • Near the Nile, there are 15′ tall giants with white skin, two faces, long noses, and red knees.  They sail to India to give birth to their children, which are three-colored, lion-headed, twenty-footed monstrosities.
  • Near the river Brixontes, there are 20′ tall, man-eating giants.  Their skin is black and their legs alone are 12′ long.
  • There are also 13′ tall women with white skin, boar tusks, ox-tails, and hair to their feet — which are the feet of camels.
  • Also, there are bearded women who wear horse-hides, and hunt with trained tigers, leopards, & other wild beasts.  They are normal-sized but still rather fearsome.

More info, and pictures, here.

Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 8:35 am  Comments (2)  
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nonD&D qns part 2

It’s still March, better finish this.
7 What fantasy RPG other than D&D have you enjoyed most? Why?
GURPS tend to top my list of non-D&D games, even for fantasy, but in terms of play time, I’m sure I played more Rolemaster and MERP.  As complicated as they are, we had a great time with them. 
8 What spy RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details.
None, actually.  Never got into the genre.  Read a little of Top Secret and James Bond 007 and that’s it.  The Q Manual for the latter was cool though.
9 What superhero RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?
Villains and Vigilantes, because we played it when I still loved the supers genre.  Champions sort of ruined supers for me.  TSR’s Marvel game was OK but for whatever reason I always resisted adopted someone else’s “world,” and my brother, who usually GMed, did not care for the system or something. We tried GURPS Supers, and because of the group we played with, it was fun, but as rules GURPS kinds of clashes with comic book supers.  I also really liked the game Underground — it came out when I was in college and fit the zeitgeist or something.  I remember being impressed by the William S. Burroughs quote in the rulebook.
10 What science fiction RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details.
Probably something in GURPS.  But I don’t really care much for science fiction.  I do sometimes wish we’d given Traveller a fair shake.
11 What post-apocalyptic RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?
As much as I like the genre, I have not played it much.  I guess Gamma World by default.
12 What humorous RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details.
Paranoia is the only one that comes to mind.  I love to inject humor into games but games that try to be funny never seem to be.
13 What horror RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?
Is CoC the correct answer?  The truth is I never got in it.  I hadn’t read any Lovecraft when we played, but even if I had I am not sure I’d have enjoyed the BRP system for horror.  I would like to try it for fantasy at some point though.  We haven’t played a lot of horror, and the only horror game I’ve run has used the extremely simple system included in “Out where the buses don’t run.”  I liked it a lot.
14 What historical or cultural RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details.
A GURPS game set in England just after the Norman Conquest — probably the best game I ever got to play in.  I know I sound like a broken record but GURPS was perfect for the gritty dark ages feel and subtle magic.  The session summaries I kept — which was sort of a new thing for us to do — were in the form of a saga.  Sadly I fell behind and the last dozen sessions are a confused mix of scenes.
15 What pseudo or alternate history RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?
GURPS Swashbucklers + Fantasy.  Basically the races of the GURPS setting “Yrth” mixed in with the golden age of piracy.  It was like Roman Polanski’s Pirates crashed into the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean movies but with orcs, dwarves, etc.  We played that twenty or more years ago and I still remember some sessions vividly.  We also cobbled together some tactical naval combat rules into the campaign.  It was just a blast all around.

 

Published in: on March 25, 2014 at 2:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

nonD&D qns part 1

So there’s another set of daily questions for March.  I sort of missed the bandwagon, but it’s still March, so here’s some answers.  The questions?   Here they are.  I think it shouldn’t take an entire post for each question; I’ll do a few at a time.

1 What was the first roleplaying game other than D&D you played? Was it before or after you had played D&D?
Boot Hill, after D&D.
2 In what system was the first character you played in an RPG other than D&D? How was playing it different from playing a D&D character?
Did I stutter? Boot Hill.  It was very different, as we assumed there was a lawman to keep on the good side of (until you could out-draw him!) and while we did consider the town map to be a sort of “dungeon” to conquer, we figured you were supposed to go after some bounties on outlaws, then build up the resources to plan and pull off your own bank robberies and shootouts in town.  We ended up taking over half the buildings and running the place.
3 Which game had the least or most enjoyable character generation?
Least enjoyable for me was Champions.  The points just killed the joy after a while, too much min-maxing and exploiting loopholes.  The most enjoyable for me was probably Gamma World, just because it was so random and you got so many hit points!
4 What other roleplaying author besides Gygax impressed you with their writing?
Steve Jackson and the stable of GURPS writers kicked ass in the GURPS sourcebooks of the 1990s onward.  They could actually explain things in clear English, even if some of their “facts” were a little questionable.
5 What other old school game should have become as big as D&D but didn’t? Why do you think so?
The Fantasy Trip.  I never met anyone who played it back in the day, and by the time I discovered it, it was dead and supplanted by GURPS.  But as a simpler cousin of GURPS, I think it had a lot of potential.
6 What non-D&D monster do you think is as iconic as D&D ones like hook horrors or flumphs, and why do you think so?
Chaos beastmen and Chaos warriors  from Warhammer.  Why? John Fucking Blanche.
Published in: on March 18, 2014 at 3:02 pm  Comments (3)  
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