Piracy, the Trove and how they affect the Hobby

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TristramEvans

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I'm not clear what major problem you're declaring to be solved here, given the difficulties I've pointed out in the one you actually specifically identified

Um, the current issue with copyright lasting almost a century after an author's death, with corporations accumulating and abusing copyrights, and the privatization of culture. I don't know what difficulty you've pointed out besides that an author may not make their work available in an optimal form, in some specific circumstance in which a creator would for some reason not want to profit off of their creation during the period they maintain copyright control.

That lawyers are the worst?

So...just a "ha ha joke" about lawyers?
 

Black Leaf

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It's inaccurate to keep talking about creators in relation to copyright, because that really is only a minor side-effect of a law intended to protect corporate buyers of said copyright. Most creators work for a fee or a salary and do not retain rights to their work. Now, the value publishers, studios, and the like set on creators' work obviously depends on their expected returns, so there is an indirect link, but in the vast majority of created works it is not the creator who loses out from copyright violation (if indeed anyone does). Now, hopefully that is changing as more people create and market their own work, but mostly that results in far less visibility so the risk of copyright violation is commensurately lower.
While true in general, with RPGs specifically we're talking about a much larger percentage of creator owned properties.

When you get to people the size of Onyx Path etc. then that's when we start seeing a shift to work for hire.

With the smaller publishers, it seems more complicated. With someone like Arion Games, from what Graham has said I think Fighting Fantasy is still owned by Jackson/Livingstone. But I'd assume that the books that Graham has written himself are copyright Arion with the FF license paid for.

And there's a lot of companies that size in the RPG world. I don't know whether most games would be publisher or writer owned in those cases.
 

Alai

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The copyright infringements are a law that is being broken, so people who have a moral stance about it do have a legal recourse on the matter.
It's (typically) a civil law that's being transgressed, so it'd be more accurate to say that people who have a financial or proprietorial interest have legal recourse. I'm not sure summoning a theologian or a moral philosopher would generally be appropriate, but judges have their moments of whimsy too...

It isn’t Robin Hood, necessarily. In the case of Murnau and whoever the producers of Nosferatu were, I think they were punished enough for their infringement , although they may not have been necessarily aware that they were breaking any laws when they made their movie. In terms of the movie itself, for artistic and historical reasons, I am glad it got preserved.
As far as I know, this was a civil copyright case (as is generally the case), so the primary object isn't to "punish" the producers, it's to vindicate the copyright holder's property rights. (The dissimilarities to theft continue!) Hence the judgements first of monetary damages, then of destruction of the infringing work.

Well, the aggregate cost is hard to calculate, but like I say, any decision about distribution should come from the person who created it first and foremost, not have that capacity to make that decision taken away by somebody who has no stake in its commercial success.
Unless of course they're trying to deprive the world of a creative work in a way you deem overrides those rights.
 

Vile

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While true in general, with RPGs specifically we're talking about a much larger percentage of creator owned properties.
Indeed, but the law does nothing to protect self-publishers in and of itself - that takes lawyers, whom only larger companies can afford. You can issue your own C&Ds, and I have, but there is no comeback if (when) they're ignored. This is of course a general problem with law and not one confined to copyright violation, but there is a tendency to assign attributes of justice and ethics to the law which simply do not exist. Laws are created by and for the benefit of the wealthy in order to protect their wealth, and by comparison do vanishingly little for those without sufficient means to have them enforced. Small creator/publishers have to rely on reputation, quality, new product, or other means to keep selling ("making money" may be a bit of an exaggeration in this business!), given there is no real barrier to people getting free versions of their work if they want. Copyright violation is simply a factor like any other in publishing - the price of paper, new means of reproduction, changing consumer tastes, etc. Making it into a moral bogeyman is unproductive, and unsupported by solid evidence either way.
 

Trippy

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It's (typically) a civil law that's being transgressed, so it'd be more accurate to say that people who have a financial or proprietorial interest have legal recourse. I'm not sure summoning a theologian or a moral philosopher would generally be appropriate, but judges have their moments of whimsy too...
What I am trying to say is that people who think they have been wronged on the matter do have an legal avenue.
As far as I know, this was a civil copyright case (as is generally the case), so the primary object isn't to "punish" the producers, it's to vindicate the copyright holder's property rights. (The dissimilarities to theft continue!) Hence the judgements first of monetary damages, then of destruction of the infringing work.
The producers were ‘punished' in as much as they were ordered to destroy their movie. If the copyright feels they have had their property rights compromised, then I’m not sure how this particularly differentiates from somebody who think they have had any other property rights compromised by a thief. Sure, in legal terms it is a civil case rather than a criminal prosecution, but in moral terms it is people protecting what is theirs and not somebody else’s.

Unless of course they're trying to deprive the world of a creative work in a way you deem overrides those rights.
I don’t think the individuals who have been affected and have spoken out on this thread, for example, are trying to deprive the world of a creative work though, are they?
 

TristramEvans

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More like, "replacing bureaucrats with lawyers would probably exacerbate the issue of red tape and necessary documents", the way I read it:thumbsup:.

But I wasn't suggesting replacing anything, simply not bloating a government agency, not giving any special powers to lawyers.
 

AsenRG

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But I wasn't suggesting replacing anything, simply not bloating a government agency, not giving any special powers to lawyers.
Well, the original post you replied to was talking about "replacing bureaucrats with lawyers". If that's misrepresenting your position, you know who to bring it up with - I suspect his point was "not bloating the agency would result in more lawyers being involved", but am not vouching for it:thumbsup:!
 

Dammit Viktor

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So, maybe I’m a hack and all my stuff is shit. I’m not the person to make that judgement. But, even if that is true, how many other people with real talent might have had a great idea and said “fuck it” because they’d just like to be paid for their effort by people using their work?

Nah, that theory doesn't hold water-- that's the justification of entitled children, who say if RPG books were better, they'd pay for them. If RPG books weren't worth money, why do they they think they're worth the effort of pirating? Those children were never going to be customers... but they're also talking nonsense and they need to stop talking while the grown-ups are having a grown-up discussion.

You had really solid sales for weeks before they fell out, and pirates thought your products were worth purchasing, jailbreaking, and uploading. Your products were good, they were worth more than the money you got out of them-- and regardless of what portion of the problem is piracy, there are massive systemic problems in the economics of our industry that are preventing authors and artists (etc) from making the money they deserve and/or need to maintain the industry at the level the fandom community wants.

We can disagree on how much piracy is hurting you, but we can absolutely agree that your work is worth a decent standard of living-- and what I'm trying to convince people of, more than any ethical position, is that any effort-- or worse, money-- spent on attacking piracy is wasted effort that won't help you recoup any of your losses. At best. At worst you're alienating paying customers and making your legitimate and beneficial product less valuable in comparison to the pirated version of your work, you're actually spending money to reduce sales.

Lastly, for those who say you only download a product and then buy it if it’s actually good, consider the fact that if you actually do that, you’re in the extreme minority. I put together a complete sector for Traveller-type games and put it up on DriveThru as PWYW. I had mostly done it for my blog, and figured I’d share it out there and see if people were willing to pay for it. I got 273 downloads fromDriveThru (which would make it an Electrum Best Seller), and got some quite nice online reviews (including one from some guy in Shanghai). How many people contributed anything when they downloaded it? 32 people, just over 10%. So it’s not an Electrum Best Seller, because about 90% of people don’t contribute anything so those don’t count as sales. And that’s from a product that people supposedly liked.

That's more downloads than you would have gotten from a standard priced product, and... well, we can't know if more people bought it because they liked ir, or if fewer people bought it because they already had it. It's definitely a combination of both and I've heard mixed results from other publishers about the PWYW model. I have neither experience nor skin in the game... but my gut feeling is that PWYW works better as a loss leader for core rulebooks with supplements at retail, or as a pricing model for products that have already made their nut on crowdfunding.


I don’t think I’m going to convince anyone, because we all have our justifications for our own behaviour. But I think about what products we might have seen if people felt like they could at least be paid for the stuff they create that others take without throwing any compensation back.

All I can say here is... we are on the same side on this. You're just getting moral sentiment into your economics-- the only numbers that matter are the number of people who pay money for your product, times the average price they're willing to pay, weighed against how much it cost to produce. The ratio of legal/illegal free downloads to paying customers might be galling, but it's only relevant if there's a concrete action you can take to convert freeloaders into customers. Reducing freeloaders on its own is counterproductive unless you're making that conversion.
 

TristramEvans

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We can disagree on how much piracy is hurting you, but we can absolutely agree that your work is worth a decent standard of living-- and what I'm trying to convince people of, more than any ethical position, is that any effort-- or worse, money-- spent on attacking piracy is wasted effort that won't help you recoup any of your losses. At best. At worst you're alienating paying customers and making your legitimate and beneficial product less valuable in comparison to the pirated version of your work, you're actually spending money to reduce sales.

Yes, this exactly. Piracy is a reality of the online world, so new approaches need to be developed beyond the traditional retail relationship and commercialization of product that acknowledges and adapts to the new technology and doesn't try to fit square pegs into round holes (like treating filesharing the same as the theft of physical products).

I think Patreon was one step in the right direction, and the creation of online archived libraries would be another.
 

Jenx

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The digital age caused various industries to scramble around, cry foul and unleash the lawyers when rampant digital piracy became a thing. I'd argue that spotify would not have come about if not for napster and similar showing the industry what it had to do. Change. Netflix, Disney + and others sprung up after people had been downloading films and tv shows and probably shrunk piracy (but the pirate bay refuses to die, Arrrrr!)

The rpg industry needs to change. Drive thru goes to £10 a month to browse and access everything and creators paid a steady stream for stuff accessed over time instead of sell for a month or two then goes quiet. Pdfs are easy to copy and the definition of stealing vs copying will always be argued over.

Change or put up with the trove and others making free what you could charge for. Asking them not to do it because it's morally/ethically /legally wrong will get ignored or laughed at i expect.
 

TJS

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I feel like rpgs have a particular problem here as they are both too expensive and arguably too cheap at the same time.

I remember lots of arguments in the past about the pricing of rpgs that made the point they can be actually be very cheap for the amount of entertainment that you can get from them, which is reaonable. But that assumes that you actually play them. I've owned lots of rpgs that I've never played, and others that I've only played briefly before for one reason another a game fell apart. From this perspective a purchase of a new rpg is a bit of a risk. This is perhaps less so when you consider the costs of PDFs, but I always have the issue that if I'm actually going to play the game, especially a considerable amount, I'm going to want the book. And a hardback full colour book is too expensive a purchase for some light, not usually particularly enthralling reading, which means I want a good look at it in some fashion before I put down some money.

I'm not sure what the best solution here is. Fantasy Flight games sort of addressed filesharing by including lots of special dice and board game type elements in their rpgs, but this increases the price, and the element of risk, and also probably isn't viable post covid in a rpg environment that is increasingly online. In the long run I can see bigger games running by some kind of subscription service, perhaps supplemented by books that are less focused on rules and more on setting and general reading material such as worldbuilding and gm advice, but that's probably never really going to be viable for smaller publishes unless someone actually builds some kind of platform that third parties can actually use. VTTs could in theory do this, but I don't think any of them have enough of a section of the entire rpg customer base (including those who never play online) to be really viable, (and the one with the most support, Roll20 is clearly a mess and stuck in some kind of development cul de sac).

I find PDFs to be the most inconvenient format for games. There's often slow to find things in compared to a physical book, and much less convenient compared to online databases like wikis and SRDs.
 

Raleel

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And a hardback full colour book is too expensive a purchase for some light, not usually particularly enthralling reading, which means I want a good look at it in some fashion before I put down some money.
Ironically, rpgs have gotten demonstrably cheaper in inflation adjusted dollars, as well as the processes behind them. Also ironically, we have “demanded” much more artistically intensive books as well.

I don’t wonder if there is not a market for rpgs that comes in below your price point. There are a good number of inexpensive ones
I find PDFs to be the most inconvenient format for games. There's often slow to find things in compared to a physical book, and much less convenient compared to online databases like wikis and SRDs.
Which points to something about the nature of rpgs as more of an instruction manual or reference. I don’t necessarily agree with you on the speed of use, but I do understand your point and can see where it comes from.

both of these points make me think about how much I love a good “ coffee table” rpg book. Something gorgeous to look at with full color art, and how little that art aids in the intended purpose. It helps convey a setting or a genre to a point, and certainly helps get folks excited, but it doesn’t normally
 

AsenRG

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I'm wondering now about something, and would like to ask the game creators. I see quite a few of them here:thumbsup:

Would a site that allows you to read any RPGs you want (among those uploaded to it, of course...) be viable? Like, would you upload your materials there?

Monthly or three-monthly subscriptions for the customers, no downloading (or "this file auto-deletes in 3 months" files only), but a firm stipulation that the titles uploaded would always remain there (so no "cancelling this edition" can get to you just because you didn't purchase the title - it's going to be available both to you and to your players). Of course, this would also be included in the contracts with the creators and the customers.

Then the creators get money based on how many people are reading their RPGs, supplements or adventures.
(The way I see, any clicks (from different accounts and IP addreses, to prevent someone from clicking on their own titles:devil:) can be recorded only as numbers. Then the total earnings are split by the number of clicks. You get people reading them, you get paid. If nobody reads them...well, sorry!

OTOH, the consumers can use any title as long as they're paying (or, say, three months later). And they know it's going to be available both to them, and any potential players in perpetuity (OK, unless the site itself folds). Want to play this game even after a new edition comes out? Knock yourself out! The creator is still going to get paid for it, too...which beats the current model of "go find it on the 2nd hand market", I would think:shade:!
Same with browsing. You give the creator money, but unless you access it periodically, you give him less money than he'd get if you were actually referring to it regularly. Like, you know, when running/playing in a campaign:tongue:!
So it should even prioritize actual play, hopefully:gunslinger:.
 

AsenRG

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The digital age caused various industries to scramble around, cry foul and unleash the lawyers when rampant digital piracy became a thing. I'd argue that spotify would not have come about if not for napster and similar showing the industry what it had to do. Change. Netflix, Disney + and others sprung up after people had been downloading films and tv shows and probably shrunk piracy (but the pirate bay refuses to die, Arrrrr!)

The rpg industry needs to change. Drive thru goes to £10 a month to browse and access everything and creators paid a steady stream for stuff accessed over time instead of sell for a month or two then goes quiet. Pdfs are easy to copy and the definition of stealing vs copying will always be argued over.

Change or put up with the trove and others making free what you could charge for. Asking them not to do it because it's morally/ethically /legally wrong will get ignored or laughed at i expect.
Just to clarify, I started writing my previous post before you'd posted this:grin:!

So at least it seems we're on the same page:thumbsup:.
 

Jenx

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If I remember rightly didn't Wotc pull their pdfs from Drive thru because of piracy concerns? I'd 'bought' a lot of their books in digital format and they were gone from Drive Thru's cloud. All that I'd not downloaded I'd have to get elsewhere and I probably wasn't the only one who thought like that. Maybe gave rise to sites like the Trove, who knows.

It did drive home the fact I am not buying anything with a pdf. I can't sell it on and if the owner pulls it at any time for any reason and I haven't seen or downloaded it yet, well that's tough shit. I paid to access it in a certain window of time. If drive thru goes down tomorrow have you backed up all the stuff you bought? I sure as hell haven't.

There are some great people working in the RPG industry. I think (it was a while ago) Matt Sprange made sure i could get my Lone Wolf Multiplayer pdfs before they lost the licence and vanished. I've bought a lot of Mongoose stuff and have utmost respect for that company.

I would go download everything I bought but it would take forever and places like the Trove make it easier and faster to get copies of stuff i bought than Drive Thru which is slow, zips stuff up and limits how many files you can get at once. That can't be right when Pirates are doing it better.
 

Black Leaf

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I'm not sure what the best solution here is. Fantasy Flight games sort of addressed filesharing by including lots of special dice and board game type elements in their rpgs, but this increases the price, and the element of risk, and also probably isn't viable post covid in a rpg environment that is increasingly online. In the long run I can see bigger games running by some kind of subscription service, perhaps supplemented by books that are less focused on rules and more on setting and general reading material such as worldbuilding and gm advice, but that's probably never really going to be viable for smaller publishes unless someone actually builds some kind of platform that third parties can actually use. VTTs could in theory do this, but I don't think any of them have enough of a section of the entire rpg customer base (including those who never play online) to be really viable, (and the one with the most support, Roll20 is clearly a mess and stuck in some kind of development cul de sac).
This is a bit of a "be careful what you wish for" I suspect. Because one way to make filesharing less viable (or at least more labour intensive) would be things that people frequently dislike like booster packs for powers etc.
 

TristramEvans

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I think "leaning into it" is a better approach than trying to fight it.

Like if you put out a barebones. artless version of your game on pdf for free, people aren't going to go to the trouble of scanning in a full copy, and those that would buy from you are willing to pay for the full version.

This worked fine for Mantic, in fact to this day, the free version of KoW, which includes just the rules, with no art or history/fluff, is the pdf that 4chan distributes. Players and fans will buy the physical book with the art and history.
 

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TristramEvans TristramEvans Trippy Trippy
Can you two knock this shit off?

gif-eating-popcorn-43.gif
 

Nobby-W

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The rpg industry needs to change. Drive thru goes to £10 a month to browse and access everything and creators paid a steady stream for stuff accessed over time instead of sell for a month or two then goes quiet. Pdfs are easy to copy and the definition of stealing vs copying will always be argued over.

This. All of the successful dot-com businesses are middle men - Google, Amazon, Youtube, Ebay, Facebook and so forth, including DriveThruRPG. There's money and power in being the broker. The reason for this is that the value of a brokerage is a function of the number of vendors and punters, essentially a quadratic law. The more content you have, the more valuable you are to customers. The more customers you have, the more attractive you are to vendors. The value of an individual content provider is merely linear with the number of customers.

There's a classic essay on this done by Andrew Odlyzko called Content is Not King, which is well worth reading.


It's also been fairly consistently demonstrated that a subscription all-you-can-eat model provides the best value to customers as there's no value decision in what to consume, as long as the marginal cost to the provider of more consumption is low. In many cases customers will pay quite a lot of money for this, as anybody who has an internet connection in Australia or the U.S. will attest. We can see this in Netflix, Prime and Mandalorian+ charging a flat fee, and in most internet and telecoms providers charging a flat fee for service. Mobile providers are the exception to this, as cell bandwidth is still a limited resource.

Pay per view is best for providers with time sensitive content, and one can see this in sports. However, very little of lasting value does well out of PPV - it's interesting for time-sensitive materials where folks will pay a premium to get it now but that's about it.

If DTRPG were to charge a flat fee for access and then pay royalties per download to content providers I think it would be a valuable service and most content creators outside the big names (WOTC, Paizo etc.) would likely do better out of it.

You can still charge for physical copies and quite a lot of people will still buy those. In fact, the wide availability and access of a flat fee model might even drive sales of physical copies as more people would be able to browse random indie titles by publishers they've never heard of.

There are still a few complications to this business model. I think you would still have to come up with some monetisation threshold and some means to differentiate between a low value, low-effort one page D66 encounters sheet and a major rulebook, otherwise the platform would be flooded with useless content and you would have the same sort of problem with gaming the system as Google or Youtube have.
 
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AsenRG

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If I remember rightly didn't Wotc pull their pdfs from Drive thru because of piracy concerns? I'd 'bought' a lot of their books in digital format and they were gone from Drive Thru's cloud. All that I'd not downloaded I'd have to get elsewhere and I probably wasn't the only one who thought like that. Maybe gave rise to sites like the Trove, who knows.

It did drive home the fact I am not buying anything with a pdf. I can't sell it on and if the owner pulls it at any time for any reason and I haven't seen or downloaded it yet, well that's tough shit. I paid to access it in a certain window of time. If drive thru goes down tomorrow have you backed up all the stuff you bought? I sure as hell haven't.

There are some great people working in the RPG industry. I think (it was a while ago) Matt Sprange made sure i could get my Lone Wolf Multiplayer pdfs before they lost the licence and vanished. I've bought a lot of Mongoose stuff and have utmost respect for that company.

I would go download everything I bought but it would take forever and places like the Trove make it easier and faster to get copies of stuff i bought than Drive Thru which is slow, zips stuff up and limits how many files you can get at once. That can't be right when Pirates are doing it better.
Yeah, I've backed up the files I was planning to ever use. I am well aware of files not existing unless you own them...ever since I read "Blade of Tyshalle":devil:!
 

Black Leaf

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If we're looking for models that are sustainable for creators (as opposed to corporations) I'd suggest Spotify is the last place to look. It's an utter stitch up between Spotify and the major labels.
 

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A AsenRG Need to check to see if he ever did a third book in that series. Loved those first two books.


Edit: Damn it, he did and I missed it. Need to add some more books to my Kindle! (flails about wildly)

Double Edit: (Bumbles back in from Amazon) Damn it, my wife snagged books 3# and 4# back in 2016 and I didn't notice. (grumble)
 
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AsenRG

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Heroes die my friend.
Heroes die is the first book...but do you mean the part about e-books changing was in Heroes die?
I admit Blade of Tyshalle was the first one I read, so I might have managed to mix them up. It was a while, though usually I remember them better than that:shade:.
 

AsenRG

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It would sting more if not for the spelling error
That's because I didn't make it, just found it with Google:shade:!

A AsenRG Need to check to see if he ever did a third book in that series. Loved those first two books.


Edit: Same it, he did and I missed it. Need to add some more books to my Kindle! (flails about wildly)
Let me know if he had:grin:!
Though admittedly, I liked Heroes Die quite a bit better, for various reasons.
 

Acmegamer

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Heroes die is the first book...but do you mean the part about e-books changing was in Heroes die?
I admit Blade of Tyshalle was the first one I read, so I might have managed to mix them up. It was a while, though usually I remember them better than that:shade:.
I was just referencing the title to let you know I appreciated the reference.
 

AsenRG

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I was just referencing the title to let you know I appreciated the reference.
OK, sorry - I misunderstood the reference, then:thumbsup:!

Amusingly, Heroes die is rife with potential for an RPG, because that's what Actors basically are, PCs for hire in a world-wide high-stakes VR version of Critical-Role-crossed-with-reality-show:shade:!

Now you have completely lost Tristram's respect. All of his bespoke memes are personally handcrafted to suit the post he is making.

Then I'm afraid the loss cannot be recouped now:devil:!
 
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