The one where I sing the praises of Harnmaster

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robertsconley

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To start the New Year off, I want to pump up one of my favorite RPGs Harnmaster. It is a d100 roll low system that uses attributes in the 3-18 range much like Runequest. It has two distinctive feature. Character Creation is oriented towards low fantasy medieval settings and the combat system doesn't use hit points.

Character Creation
In general Harnmaster offers a set of skills and "packages" called occupations to allow the players to generate a character that fits in the medieval fantasy world of Harn. It is easily adaptable to any other setting based on a form of Medieval fantasy like D&D. It also includes Psionics and in two separate supplements a magic system, and a divine magic system. It has a bit of a Traveller feel in that "bad" things can happen during character creation if one opts to roll on the Medical or Mental Disorder table. You get extra attribute points if you opt to take rolls on either. There a chance that nothing bad will be gained 30% for both.

This blog post, a 911 Call From the Attic details the time when it taking rolls on those table didn't pay off for the player. He literally rolled a gimp character.

Overall it is about as detailed as Runequest and like Runequest less fussy than GURPS (except for Dungeon Fantasy, then it is the same) or Fantasy Hero.

Combat
Combat is a bit unique in that there are no hit points. Not even Fate/Fudge style levels of injury like Scratch, Minor, etc.

The way it works is as follows
You can get the Harnmaster Combat Tables for free

The way it accomplish is this is as follows

Example: Alex and Brian are fighting both have broadsword and shield and both are wearing mail +cloth.

1) Swing or shoot a weapon. If it has multiple aspects (edge, point, blunt) pick one. It will have an impact rating.

2) The target will pick a defense (Block, Counterstrike, Dodge, etc). Alex opts to strike to the middle with has a +0 modifer using the edge of his broadsword.

3) Both attacker and defender rolls a d100 versus skill (low is better). Any roll ending in a 0 or 5 is a critical result.

4) Cross reference the result. Example: Alex rolls a 45 for a Critical Success with his broadsword (he picks edge), while Brian tries to block with his shield and rolls a 73 a marginal failure.

Attack.jpg

5) The result is A * 2 meaning the attack hit and will roll 2d6 + the impact rating of the weapon. Alex has a broadsword which has an impact of 5 for the edge. He roll an 8 and does 13 impact.

6) Alex rolls for hit location and scores a hit on the upper arm. Brian's Mail+Cloth gives him a protection value of 9 versus edge attacks. So 5 impact gets through.

7) Cross-indexing 5 impact with upper arm will give a <>M1 result <> being a diamond.

injury.jpg

What this means Brian suffer a minor slash to the upper arm doing one 1 injury. The diamond means that he has to roll a fumble roll (roll to see if it the right or left arm). He rolls 3d6+1(injury) if it less than or equal to his dexterity he does not fumble. If Brian already had an injury say a 3 injury stab to the left thigh then the roll would be 3d6+4.

In addition Brian has to make a shock roll. Because it was a minor injury of 1 he has to roll 1d6 equal to or below his endurance. However he had already suffer an injury, like the 3 injury stab, then it adds in and Brian has to roll 4d6 equal or below his Endurance.

Many who play Harnmaster view this has overly harsh especially compared to 1st edition. So opt to house rule it. The rules I used is (current injury)d6 + previous injury. So with a 3 injury stab Brian would be rolling 1d6+3. And the next shock roll would be (current injury)d6+4.

If the shock roll is failed the character passes out.

8) Brian notes on his character 1 Minor Slash Left Upper Arm and adds 1 injury to current penalty levels.

This means that Brian is now -5% to skill rolls and has to add 1 to any ability test.

The implication if a character is a mess of minor stabs and slashes but doesn't otherwise fail a shock roll or one of the other ability test, they will virtually not be able to do anything as all skill rolls will be a marginal or critical failure.

Indeed it is possible, although not likely, for both combatants to wind in a state with both are rolling nothing but marginal or critical failure in the final rounds of a combat encounter.

Conclusion
The key that makes this work are the well designed combat tables which are freely available and the fact that most everything it pre-calculated on the character sheet.

Harn Character Sheet.

While not as fast as D&D, Fate or other system with abstract combat and light details. It is however among the fastest if not the fastest among system that opt to treat combat in detail like GURPS, Rolemaster, Runequest, etc.

Mainly because literally everything is in those charts. There is no shopping list or manuevuers, feats, or abilities one has to refer too while resolving combat. There are modifiers and rules that are found only in the rule books (like for mounted combat) however due to the loose leaf format of Harnmaster one can photocopy a secondary cheat sheet. Or use one of the numerous fan sheets out there.

Again my 911 call from the Attic Post has a detailed account of a session I ran of Harnmaster

The Downside
Everything outside of the Harnmaster rules themselves are a premium priced products even the PDFs. The magic system, the divine system, and most of the bestiary are separate products. In general the format is loose leaf although for a few they supply a binder this also a downside for many. The good news is that the vast majority are of good to excellent quality.

The list of Harnworld products.
 
5) The result is A * 2 meaning the attack hit and will roll 2d6 + the impact rating of the weapon. Alex has a broadsword which has an impact of 5 for the edge. He roll an 8 and does 13 impact.

6) Alex rolls for hit location and scores a hit on the upper arm. Brian's Mail+Cloth gives him a protection value of 9 versus edge attacks. So 5 impact gets through.

7) Cross-indexing 5 impact with upper arm will give a <>M1 result <> being a diamond.

View attachment 6450

Shouldn't the impact be 4 (13-9)?
 
Harnmaster and Harn world are great, lovingly created and curated product lines. But I'm afraid I can't deal with combat systems that take that much work to resolve each blow!
Do you play Runequest?

Use an attack matrices and saving throws charts in AD&D?

Or had to look up feats in later edition D&D?

Harnmaster is more involved but only slightly more. There are issues in terms of using these rules in a campaign but combat taking a long time to resolve is not one of them.
 
Do you play Runequest?

Use an attack matrices and saving throws charts in AD&D?

Or had to look up feats in later edition D&D?

Harnmaster is more involved but only slightly more. There are issues in terms of using these rules in a campaign but combat taking a long time to resolve is not one of them.
How easy would it be to transplant the damage system to, say, Maelstrom Gothic:smile:?
 
How easy would it be to transplant the damage system to, say, Maelstrom Gothic:smile:?

1) You will have to figure out the impact damage for each weapon.
2) A set of armor protection values.
3) Adjust (or use) the impact ratings across the top of the injury chart
4) determine what 1 Injury means.
5) determine what fumble, stumble, and kill rolls are.
6_ Figure out how injury is healed.

I have partial notes on adapting to a system like AGE.

Notes
In Harnmaster Critical result happens around 20% of the time
1 Injury level equal -5% or -/+1 to a 3d6 roll.
 
1) You will have to figure out the impact damage for each weapon.
2) A set of armor protection values.
3) Adjust (or use) the impact ratings across the top of the injury chart
4) determine what 1 Injury means.
5) determine what fumble, stumble, and kill rolls are.
6_ Figure out how injury is healed.
So, it's easy and fun to do:smile:?
Especially if you've got Harnmaster, which I have due to Bundle of Holding. I just don't have basically no experience with it.

Also, thank you for the list, that should speed up the process:wink:!
 
HârnMaster is the bomb. The Third Edition is smooth as silk. It is by far and away the cleanest and fastest running high-realism d100 system out there. If you like RuneQuest you'll like HM. They are very closely related. It produces the same level of detail that Rolemaster does with about half the effort. It ends up producing very descriptive combats which are remembered for years afterwards.

The critical system is very elegant. If your roll ends in a 5 or 0, it's a crit. So if your skill is 75% 70 is a critical success and 80 is a critical failure. No calculation of what 5% of your skill is like in RQ.

The one weak point is the same as RuneQuest's; sometimes you have a few rounds where nothing happens due to people rolling the same success level, generally between two high skill combatants. The lethality is not so bad, as characters are more likely to get knocked out than impaled.

The final barrier is the front loaded chargen. It takes a while, but after that there's very little work to do as character updates are trivial to do most of the time.

Now, if you're the ultimate simulationist, there's more. N.Robin Crossby, before he passed away, released his "author's cut" of the rules, which he called "HârnMaster Gold". It's a development of the highly detailed First Edition of HM, taking things even further. You're in deep waters there, with a missile deviation chart and all kinds of goodies. It is NOT fast, but it's good. It's released by Kelestia Productions.

If you think of HârnMaster as the love child of RuneQuest and Chivalry & Sorcery (as I've called it elsewhere), then HM3 takes after RQ, and HMG takes after C&S.

Now, like any BRP style games, you can mix and match between the two if you like. You could also easily bolt on BRP magic to HM or port HM combat to BRP if you like with not a hell of a lot of work.

And don't get me started on the setting... Hârn is magnificent.
 
Is there any reason for the RQ player to seek out Harnmaster? Sounds like it does much the same thing, apart from the combat table.
 
Is there any reason for the RQ player to seek out Harnmaster? Sounds like it does much the same thing, apart from the combat table.

It does tend to play faster, and is geared for a low magic game. Thus there's no need for Bladesharp and protective spells to be accommodated in the base rules. The tables produce more unconsciousness than decapitation, reducing the need to have magic to deal with reattaching bits of adventurers. Not that it can't happen. The damage is generally straight to a location, so there are no general hit points to track.

While RQ models magical Bronze Age combat, HM does dark ages to late medieval very well.

As much as RQ is my flavour of the month right now, I concede that HârnMaster is probably better mechanically in every conceivable way, with the possible exception of a slightly longer character generation process.

That being said, they are very similar. If you like one you'll like the other.

Conceptually, one may find the magic system a little bland... it's a straight up elemental system not that different from WHFRP 2e. I've always been a big fan of its religions though.

You can think of HârnMaster as being like Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach was not an innovator, but he took what everyone else was doing, and did it better. That's why he's the greatest musical mind of all time.

Likewise N. Robin Crossby looked at RuneQuest, DragonQuest (I'm guessing), Chivalry & Sorcery, and synthesized them into something special. HM isn't perfect, but it comes damn close.
 
Is there any reason for the RQ player to seek out Harnmaster? Sounds like it does much the same thing, apart from the combat table.

In addition to what Spartan said, Harnmaster is supported by a lot of "life of the setting" material outside of the core rules. I.e. rules tied to the low fantasy medieval setting of Harn. For example Harnmanor,, the Pilot's Alamanac, or the numerous "slice of life" article that are part of the Harn corpus. Including the foremention Harnmaster Magic and Religon.

This give Harnmaster a lot of more grounded support than with Runequest. And because most published settings start with a medieval fantasy as a foundation (whether with low or high magic) it turns out to be more broadly applicable than say something equivalent for Glorantha or Tekumel.

It is rare when I run a campaign in Harn or use the Harnmaster rules. But every fantasy campaign I run uses one or more the Harnmaster related articles despite using an edition of D&D, GURPS, or Fantasy Age.

Finally while Harnmaster Magic is a bit bland. It also well known among Harn fans that it is a bit more "high fantasy" than something that one would think Harn would have. When coupled with the Psionic rules, and the religion rules, it quite possible to run a campaign in a setting more rich in magic.

One reason for this is that NRC has planewalking as a part of his campaign via teleportation device known as Godstones and documenting other worlds as part of the metaphysics of Harn. Some of which are magic rich. The concluding adventure of a Harn adventure trilogy "The Curse of H'len" has most of it set in Yashain the world of Harn's gods.
 
You can think of HârnMaster as being like Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach was not an innovator, but he took what everyone else was doing, and did it better. That's why he's the greatest musical mind of all time.
How dare you say that when Justin Timberlake walks among us! :hehe:

In trying to type that with a straight face, I believe I sprained something.
 
Do you play Runequest?

Use an attack matrices and saving throws charts in AD&D?

Or had to look up feats in later edition D&D?

Harnmaster is more involved but only slightly more. There are issues in terms of using these rules in a campaign but combat taking a long time to resolve is not one of them.

Yes
Yes and Yes
Oh Yes...

What you describe sounds slower than AD&D, slower than TFT, faster than RQ and faster than later editions of D&D at higher levels. Certainly faster than Aftermath! RAW which also aimed for detailed location based stuff, perhaps the slowest combat system I've ever played :smile: .

For me, still too slow...realized the additional detail / realism type feel of location and qualitative wounds was overcome by the slowness...the slowness taking all the tension out of combat and making running mid-scale combats near impossible. By mid scale I mean 4-8 in the PC party 12-24 opposing monsters. It's doing this for those 12-24 that makes it impractical...now for 4 vs 4....rock on.
 
What you describe sounds slower than AD&D, slower than TFT, faster than RQ and faster than later editions of D&D at higher levels. Certainly faster than Aftermath! RAW which also aimed for detailed location based stuff, perhaps the slowest combat system I've ever played :smile: .

For me, still too slow...realized the additional detail / realism type feel of location and qualitative wounds was overcome by the slowness...the slowness taking all the tension out of combat

So it fair to say you dislike anything beyond a minmalist combat procedure of two to three steps with minimal chart lookup. That this dislike would include RPGs like Runequest and GURPS.

and making running mid-scale combats near impossible. By mid scale I mean 4-8 in the PC party 12-24 opposing monsters. It's doing this for those 12-24 that makes it impractical...now for 4 vs 4....rock on.

Harnmaster has skirmishes for two to three dozen combatants covered. Has rules including a complete subsystem called Battlelust to handle skirmishes. It was a thing resolved early on because of Harnmanor, viking raids, the feudal system, and several "present day" situations within Harn that lead to military conflicts.
 
For me, still too slow...realized the additional detail / realism type feel of location and qualitative wounds was overcome by the slowness...the slowness taking all the tension out of combat and making running mid-scale combats near impossible. By mid scale I mean 4-8 in the PC party 12-24 opposing monsters. It's doing this for those 12-24 that makes it impractical...now for 4 vs 4....rock on.

It's a matter of preference. I've never found HM3 combat to be slow in absolute terms, as combats are realistic in that they don't last long after a good hit is landed. While the individual rounds may take longer, there are generally less of them, with the exception of high skill, high armour combatants. There's certainly a death spiral, because injury equates to penalties, and makes the recipient less combat effective. A good hit to the hand can cause a weapon fumble, and a good hit to the leg can cause someone to fall prone.

However, there's a fair amount to track. The blessing is that it's not hard to do.

For the realism fetishists, there are even infection rules should you choose to include them. IIRC there's also a Peleahn (fire magic) spell for cauterizing wounds. This can make victories phyrric if the winners succumb to infection.
 
We used Rolemaster and HarnMaster almost exclusively for a number of years, with a fair number of shorter games using other systems. HarnMaster had the best blend of playability and realism that we found, and once everyone was familiar with the mechanics, combat went quickly.

One thing I'll say about HarnMaster...once we were familiar with the rules, we had to stop and look up rules/special cases less than just about any other system we ever used. There were very few exceptions/special cases that caused us to stop the games to look up rules. (Also, good ToC and Index whenever we did.)

The version I was most comfortable with was the HarnMaster Deluxe edition with the card-stock semi-gloss pages that you could put in a binder.
 
You guys are doing a good job of selling me on Harnmaster. I have a few of the books but I don't believe I have the core rules. Last time I checked I knew where I could get a used copy. I'll have to check and see if it's still available.
 
The version I was most comfortable with was the HarnMaster Deluxe edition with the card-stock semi-gloss pages that you could put in a binder.

That was sweet. I'm disappointed they didn't continue with that and released HM3. That being said, the newer edition has more to it. The magic and religion rules are still separate, so it's a considerable investment unless you just buy the PDFs.
 
Even with the PDFS it's still a considerable investment as Columbia Games likes to mark up the cost of their PDFs compared to other rpg companies. The Harn Bestiary is 110 pages at 39.99. The same as print. They have 10 page PDFs going for 5$.

I would definitely wait for the next bundle of holding.
 
So it fair to say you dislike anything beyond a minmalist combat procedure of two to three steps with minimal chart lookup. That this dislike would include RPGs like Runequest and GURPS.
That would be fair to say as a GM,...as a player no worries. I won't say no to a game that had those things, I'd try it, and have played in them and shortcuts are often taken with "mooks" etc.

I tend to dislike cascading steps, in roll to hit, roll for damage have seen doing both at the same time to help (you just don't use the damage roll if you miss) I do want my "one step" mechanic to have tactical flexibility...hence my gravitation to count success type systems where a success could be used to move, leap, block, dodge, attack, etc... a plethora of things that provide a wide range of tactical choice and ready ability to emulate heroic genre actions.

One chart lookup is fine and a game with more charts that are easily memorizable is fine. Chart results that are used in another chart...way too slow for my taste...also chart size is important...small charts that one could fit on a character sheet are fine.

Harnmaster has skirmishes for two to three dozen combatants covered. Has rules including a complete subsystem called Battlelust to handle skirmishes. It was a thing resolved early on because of Harnmanor, viking raids, the feudal system, and several "present day" situations within Harn that lead to military conflicts.
No doubt it does cover skirmishes, sounds like the sub-system is interesting...doe sit take much work to convert from base combat to subsystem? How much PC detail is lost under the subsystem?
 
It's a matter of preference.
Oh no doubt, I was not immune to the realism in combat "band wagon" of the mid to late '80s. Just my current preference explained through the lens of my experience and a real desire to find such a more realistic system.

I've never found HM3 combat to be slow in absolute terms, as combats are realistic in that they don't last long after a good hit is landed. While the individual rounds may take longer, there are generally less of them, with the exception of high skill, high armour combatants. There's certainly a death spiral, because injury equates to penalties, and makes the recipient less combat effective. A good hit to the hand can cause a weapon fumble, and a good hit to the leg can cause someone to fall prone.
I get you...I found I do not like those kinds of combats...a bunch of miss, miss, miss, hit, disadvantage, death if equal and a lot of hit, death if you overpower the other side. I will agree 200% they are more realistic than an attrition model...I do find the attrition model better for the heroic genre feel I like. You could call the attribute under attrition Endurance if you want and let it represent fatigue. I do find the D&D HP approach a bit too abstract though.

However, there's a fair amount to track. The blessing is that it's not hard to do.
This kind of thing I don't mind as it usually involves no more than a few marks on a well designed character sheet....and can be kind of fun.

For the realism fetishists, there are even infection rules should you choose to include them. IIRC there's also a Peleahn (fire magic) spell for cauterizing wounds. This can make victories phyrric if the winners succumb to infection.
Hey I like infection rules even in my abstract rules. :smile: For me they just prevent normal healing then they progress under a simple "disease/poison" model I use where they start causing damage.
 
Oh no doubt, I was not immune to the realism in combat "band wagon" of the mid to late '80s.
I was. Because I wasn't playing back then, nor was I able to read English (like many roleplayers, RPGs helped my vocabulary :smile: ). Now, had I found a copy of a d6-based French game, the "scene" might have started earlier in Bulgaria!

And I still like realism, infections included :wink:.
 
I was. Because I wasn't playing back then, nor was I able to read English (like many roleplayers, RPGs helped my vocabulary :smile: ). Now, had I found a copy of a d6-based French game, the "scene" might have started earlier in Bulgaria!

And I still like realism, infections included :wink:.
mais oui!

That's about the extent of my French (may be off)...my German an Spanish is a little better. Alas like I'm a typical big country person I know only one language well, unless you count Fortran. But I do know geography and history very well.

Your written English AsenRG is excellent; would never guess it is not your first language.

RPGs have helped fuel my overall geeky love of knowledge, but would I have spent countless hours and days in the library (this is before internet and really there is not substitute) searching for every writing I could find on ancient crop yields and yields up to mechanization all to run some numbers myself on how much area my fantasy city need to support itself and to serves as a basis for my economy? Probably not. Maybe someday I'll post that in resources, all condensed into a few pages.
 
mais oui!

That's about the extent of my French (may be off)...my German an Spanish is a little better. Alas like I'm a typical big country person I know only one language well, unless you count Fortran.
Whatr you've written here in French was correct:smile:. Been learning it since I was 5, because my grandma was teaching it...and she believed that the more languages you know, the more you can learn about the world.

But I do know geography and history very well.
Indeed you do, I have observed. And that matters for realistic games way more.

Your written English AsenRG is excellent; would never guess it is not your first language.
Thank you! I actually started learning it in high school...though by that time, I was about the only one in my class to know no English.
In comparison, my daughter basically speaks fluent* English already, and she's only a year older than I was when I started French.

*To the extent that a 6-year-old can know any language. There's still words and concepts she needs to learn in Bulgarian.

RPGs have helped fuel my overall geeky love of knowledge, but would I have spent countless hours and days in the library (this is before internet and really there is not substitute) searching for every writing I could find on ancient crop yields and yields up to mechanization all to run some numbers myself on how much area my fantasy city need to support itself and to serves as a basis for my economy? Probably not. Maybe someday I'll post that in resources, all condensed into a few pages.
Well, I'm sure you would have spent this time learning something else. Probably something equally obscure:wink:!
 
[ . . . ]
What you describe sounds slower than AD&D, slower than TFT, faster than RQ and faster than later editions of D&D at higher levels. Certainly faster than Aftermath! RAW which also aimed for detailed location based stuff, perhaps the slowest combat system I've ever played :smile: .
Aftermath - the combat system so complicated they had to publish a flowchart in the rules so players could follow it. See below - yes, that's both sides of the card.

Aftermath-Hit-Location.jpg

There were 30 hit locations, and when generating a character you could purchase armour on a per location basis. Needless to say, at one point I rolled up a character with a plasteel codpiece ...


Aftermath - Combat Flowchart Page 1.JPG

Aftermath - Combat Flowchart Page 2.JPG
 
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To be fair, a lot of RPG combats that have attack-parry-special situations would have a similar flow-chart they just don't map out every step and some things look complicated when mapped out in individual steps but in reality are simply implemented as one action. For example, have you ever seen and explanation of how initiative and which segment you act on in AD&D really works RAW (once you ferret them all out)? The flow chart of that would be incredibly convoluted.

For example a simple thing like sub chart C above is really just, Roll AST and if succeed reduce effect by 1. (but only PCs get to do it)

The combat locations were fun for design purposes, but too much in play. I found the AP spend chart and countdown to be very slow and the melee weapon damage calculation, which was a damage multiplier like 1.4 to your strength group, versus another weapon that may be a 1.7 multiplier.
 
Like Xanther said, to be fair, flowcharting would make the simplest game look ridiculous. Aftermath isn’t that bad. Little too much for me, as a Rolemaster/Harnmaster/A&8 guy, but it doesn’t go Full Phoenix Command.

As far as body parts for hit and damage locations go, I use the following in Mythras.
Head
Torso
Abdomen
Upper Arm
Lower Arm
Upper Leg
Lower Leg

I like it because I can look at any drawing or miniature and assign armor types flawlessly. (Ok, I don’t have Hand, Feet, or Neck but that would get frickin crazy with Mythras crits.)

My players like it because then they can picture their character however they want and the system handles it giving their choices weight in the system.

Splitting the arms and legs into upper and lower also has the effect of giving more hit points, so you get more wounds, without quite as many amputations.

So, Win-Win-Win. :shade:
 
....For example, have you ever seen and explanation of how initiative and which segment you act on in AD&D really works RAW (once you ferret them all out)? The flow chart of that would be incredibly convoluted......

I'm replying to my own thread. Is that even allowed, is that like a 4th wall break inside a 4th wall break?

In any event, in case you doubt the "depth" of AD&D initiative RAW I present what I consider the seminal work on the matter by one DMPrata
 

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Like Xanther said, to be fair, flowcharting would make the simplest game look ridiculous. Aftermath isn’t that bad. Little too much for me, as a Rolemaster/Harnmaster/A&8 guy, but it doesn’t go Full Phoenix Command.

As far as body parts for hit and damage locations go, I use the following in Mythras.
Head
Torso
Abdomen
Upper Arm
Lower Arm
Upper Leg
Lower Leg

How do you determine left/right arm/leg?
 
I'm replying to my own thread. Is that even allowed, is that like a 4th wall break inside a 4th wall break?

In any event, in case you doubt the "depth" of AD&D initiative RAW I present what I consider the seminal work on the matter by one DMPrata
Yeah no one used that to my knowledge.
 
I'm replying to my own thread. Is that even allowed, is that like a 4th wall break inside a 4th wall break?

In any event, in case you doubt the "depth" of AD&D initiative RAW I present what I consider the seminal work on the matter by one DMPrata

Perhaps not the best comparison as initiative in 1e is a hot mess. Check out the endless arguments on DF about it to quickly induce a headache.
 
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