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Do your players take mission notes?


Pathfinder Society GM Discussion

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

THIS topic asked about what information players start with regarding the missions/goals/tasks involved with a scenario. And that got me wondering...

What do you do when none of the players are writing any notes during the briefing and then constantly forget names, places, tasks, items, etc throughout the scenario and the GM is "forced" to continue to repeat the same info time and time again?

As a frequent GM, this irritates me to no end, but how to handle it? On one extreme, just suck it up and keep reminding the players. I guess you can assume that the characters would be smart enough to take notes since their lives actually are at risk vs. the player who is safely just playing a game. Doesn't really encourage immersion, but makes game-play easier to adjudicate.

OTOH, you could take a "hard line" and refuse to remind them and have it play out. This could have a significant impact on Diplomacy and other checks, but could derail the game if no one seems to know what to do next. And the GM risks being tagged as a jerk.

What do you do?

Taldor ***

Bob Jonquet wrote:
What do you do?

Changing the Wall of Boxtext into something interactive and interesting tends to work. Giant blocks of text don't tend to do so well in loud game stores; with all the noise of other games and shouting Magic players, it's really hard to pay attention to.

-Matt

Qadira ****

well... I do two things.

First, I tend to repeat the names. I have REAL problems with the names myself, and it does throw me when the write up introduces a character by one name and then talks about him by another (by his first name sometimes and by his last name sometimes). So, we muddle thru, the players and I.

Second, I often give the NPCs a memorable, pronounable nick-name. Maybe I call him "Bob". I've had people object to this only on the board, never actually at the table, where it does seem to solve some of the issues with "now, which is Suramon and which is Sarron?" .

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

Mattastrophic wrote:
loud game stores

Wouldn't that be even more reason to take notes as a player?

Shadow Lodge

I place index cards next to the flip mat at the start of the game. I find it encourages players to take notes that otherwise would not due to having no place to write things down (and barely overcomes their laziness to dig paper out). Thus, I have not yet had a game where someone didn't jot down important info.

Taldor ***

Bob Jonquet wrote:
Wouldn't that be even more reason to take notes as a player?

Player behavior is outside of the GM's control. How a we GMs deal with the presentation of opening boxtext, however, we can do something about that.

-Matt

Qadira ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Michigan—Detroit

Personally, my mind goes blank as soon as the VC briefing starts. I just can't pay attention that long and I swear the authors don't bother to read aloud what they write. But I've said it before, I GM a lot because I suck as a player.

Decline of Glory wrote:
Only a few crudely scarred trees denote the secluded route as it winds through the syrupy mire of flooded vineyards and vague remnants of rotten trellis with grapevines choked out by prevasive briars and heavy blankets of peat.

Whuh? I just forgot the entire mission after that last sentence. Hitchcock must really crack himself up when he writes that stuff...

After prepping Bloodcove Disguise last year I started doing the same thing that Nickademus42 suggested. If a mission is complicated or if there are a lot of NPCs to keep track of, I take some index cards and write down the subject and then include a couple of bullet point details.

Bloodcove

  • Ramshackle town built on and around a river delta in the Mwangi Expanse.
  • Nominally ruled by pirates and inhabited by like scum
  • Stronghold of the Aspis Consortium
  • They don't like Pathfinders here

Kyle Baird took it a step further and made custom handouts with pictures from the Gamemastery Face Cards to further make an impression on the players. I get compliments from the players and waste less time repeating myself.

Andoran *****

Usually I just suck it up. I think I might start doing the notecard thing though. Sounds like a good idea.

Also could help to keep players completely truthful regarding HP. Not that I think any of my players cheat on purpose, but there are times, Im sure, when people have forgotten about that condition they gained, disease they got, or damage they took between encounters. This might help that.

Itd probably help me with notes, too, really. I hardly ever remember to denote how much a PC has spent IN a mod of what conditions theyve gained outside of death.

Qadira ***

Repost from another thread:

I've had a major change over the last year in my judging style to accommodate this exact phenomenon. Players definitely have a hard time following all the names, places, people, and the mission itself.

My solutions have been:

1) Write down all important names and facts on my dry erase surface for the party to read and/or copy. Many players will internalize written information differently than just oratory.

Stuff I write down:
a) Locations: where one is starting from and going to
b) VC's name
c) Main NPCs
d) Mission and mission notes

2) I go completely off boxtext and script and frequently repeat myself again and again during the intro. Which is to say that I often repeat myself, the mission, the name of Venture Captain, and all names again and again. I mean, really, repeating myself during introductions with important facts is important.

3) I make a point to interact with the players (being the VC) during boxtext with comments like:

"Pathfinder Byle Kaird, were you listening?"
"You there! What do you remember of XYZ from your training?"
"You look like the smart sort...what do you know of ABC?"

4) I freely reveal more about the backstory, Out of Character, when I feel that it will help and aid understanding of the mission without giving away secrets. For instance, with Ghennet Manor Gauntlet, I went into a lot of detail about the Ruby Phoenix Tournament because, as Pathfinders, it's stuff they would know.

5) As a judge, I consider fun, story, & flow > (more important than) reading boxtext. Do what you need to do to make it work for your players.

-Pain

Taldor ***

I find the back of last session's chronicle is a handy-dandy place to write notes for your current mission. And on the GM's side of the screen, I don't show mercy to the inattentive.

I agree about the box text thing.. I make sure I either proverbially or literally foot-stomp the details they need (such as where you're going, and who you're meeting once you get there). If someone forgets such things, I shrug and tell them they should have taken better notes. 100% of the time so far, someone else at the table is able to provide the info again to the inattentive player, and it's also been my experience that once exposed to such a 'close call', that player doesn't repeat their lack of attention :D

Sczarni *** Venture-Lieutenant, Connecticut—Manchester aka Cpt_kirstov

Bob Jonquet wrote:


What do you do?

If they ask questions on names, and no one has notes, I ask if anyone has the chronicler vanity. If they don't I ask if anyone who has the prestige would like to buy it. If not I tell them their characters don't remember the name, and that they should take notes next time..

sometimes I'll give them an int check to remember the name... if it's actually important.

Qadira ****

Cpt_kirstov wrote:
Bob Jonquet wrote:


What do you do?

If they ask questions on names, and no one has notes, I ask if anyone has the chronicler vanity. If they don't I ask if anyone who has the prestige would like to buy it. If not I tell them their characters don't remember the name, and that they should take notes next time..

sometimes I'll give them an int check to remember the name... if it's actually important.

so, do you warn them before the game that you do this? or just pop it on them during the game? I can see this leading to some really short games.

Andoran *****

nosig wrote:
Cpt_kirstov wrote:
Bob Jonquet wrote:


What do you do?

If they ask questions on names, and no one has notes, I ask if anyone has the chronicler vanity. If they don't I ask if anyone who has the prestige would like to buy it. If not I tell them their characters don't remember the name, and that they should take notes next time..

sometimes I'll give them an int check to remember the name... if it's actually important.

so, do you warn them before the game that you do this? or just pop it on them during the game? I can see this leading to some really short games.

Agreed. Short games and games that dont even count (for a chronicle), since they didnt make it through enough encounters, so you just have to start from scratch.

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

And that is the case I really want to avoid. Sure it might teach the players a lesson, but in my experience, it would more likely just get the GM tagged as a jerk and no one will have enjoyed the session.

Sczarni *** Venture-Lieutenant, Connecticut—Manchester aka Cpt_kirstov

Like I said, it depends on how important the name is. if they are asking about a personal friend of the venture captain, then they can ask 'do you know [venture captain x]?' The name is irrelevant, and that's how most people would ask in real life if they didn't take notes. If it's a requirement to the story that they have to know X, then a simple INT check will usually get it, with tiered bonuses depending on how much they remember about what they were told on the character.

Qadira ***** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Practices I use as a classroom teacher carry over into Pathfinder Society play.

I have found that having the Venture Captain stop in the middle of his briefing and then spell out the name of the person or place he just mentioned, has been enough of a hint.

Qadira ****

Just some things to think about...
1) the characters often have been taking weeks to get to where they are going. During this time they will have reviewed thier mission briefing, if there is a name they do not know they will have weeks to realize this. the players have 5 or 10 minutes.
2) The names/places/events that are contained in the briefing often are common knowledge. How many people recognize the name of Margret Thatcher? what country would you think she is from? Can you pronounce it? How about Xerbystes? Is that a female or male name? what country is it associated with? Can YOU pronounce it (I can't and I've tried)? Correctly? the same way every other judge will pronounce it?

Xerbystes:

Satrap of Qadira, Xerbystes II: The ruler of Qadira

It should be a common Qadiran name - kind of like John or William would have been in England of 1700.

Margret Thatcher:

really? you need to know? Goodness - Google her.


In our group, most of the players use a spiral notebook for their character sheet. The 'official' character sheet is pasted in the book. Game notes and character's diaries fill pages (along with maps, references to NPC's, and so on). When a character levels, we paste a new character sheet in.

Some of the younger players have not chosen to keep a notebook yet, but they rely on the rest of us to remind them of names, clues, and so on. And they're learning fast. (Our GM expects us to remember stuff from previous games.)

Qadira ****

pachristian wrote:

In our group, most of the players use a spiral notebook for their character sheet. The 'official' character sheet is pasted in the book. Game notes and character's diaries fill pages (along with maps, references to NPC's, and so on). When a character levels, we paste a new character sheet in.

Some of the younger players have not chosen to keep a notebook yet, but they rely on the rest of us to remind them of names, clues, and so on. And they're learning fast. (Our GM expects us to remember stuff from previous games.)

my wife keeps something like this for her characters - basicly she prints the adventure summary for each adventure she plays in and adds it to her character binder (in the order her PC played the adventure).

Silver Crusade ***

In our local PFS group, we've started handing out the Chronicle sheets face down at the start of the adventure. Players aren't allowed to look at them until the adventure is over, but you can take notes on the back. Usually, this starts with writing down who the players and characters are for that adventure, followed by mission notes as they come up.

Shadow Lodge

Chris Mortika wrote:

Practices I use as a classroom teacher carry over into Pathfinder Society play.

I have found that having the Venture Captain stop in the middle of his briefing and then spell out the name of the person or place he just mentioned, has been enough of a hint.

+1

I love subtlety.

Shadow Lodge *****

I try to take notes, but I never know what is important enough to write down, and being bent over a notepad makes me miss things anyway.

As a DM, I paraphrase the box text, using it as a guideline for what I say. Reading from the book is boring and your players can tell the difference.

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I kinda feel like it honors the author, who likely worked very hard on the into text, to read it. I try to use voice inflections, eye contact, etc. to keep the players focused, especially for lengthy text, but I feel I owe it to the author to see the fruits of their labor be revealed.

Qadira ***

Bob Jonquet wrote:
I kinda feel like it honors the author, who likely worked very hard on the into text, to read it. I try to use voice inflections, eye contact, etc. to keep the players focused, especially for lengthy text, but I feel I owe it to the author to see the fruits of their labor be revealed.

I think this is where you and I politely disagree, my friend.

I believe authors have freely chosen to give their work to us: the collective yahoos who play this silly game.

I would hope that they would want their work to generate as much fun and adventure as possible.

And sometimes, the box text needs to be trimmed/fixed/edited/adapted for some groups.

A customized approach (for each table) is a better experience than a one-size-fits-all approach.

Hence, "5) As a judge, I consider fun, story, & flow > (more important than) reading boxtext. Do what you need to do to make it work for your players."

-Pain

EDIT: What?! TOZ is posting on the PFS boards? Wow. First time I've seen that.

Silver Crusade ***

Bob Jonquet wrote:
I kinda feel like it honors the author, who likely worked very hard on the into text, to read it. I try to use voice inflections, eye contact, etc. to keep the players focused, especially for lengthy text, but I feel I owe it to the author to see the fruits of their labor be revealed.

I actually just GMed for the first time in PFS this past weekend, and I read the opening briefing in full, but I kept forgetting to read the smaller descriptions as we moved on to each new area. Actually, once or twice, the players would ask me about particular details, and that's when I'd remember I hadn't read it, so I would read it then, which answered some of their questions.

And even during the opening briefing, it was kinda long, so there were a couple of points where it seemed logical to maybe stop and turn it interactive with the players asking questions, rather than just reading on.

Shadow Lodge *****

Painlord wrote:


EDIT: What?! TOZ is posting on the PFS boards? Wow. First time I've seen that.

I have them hidden, so it only happens when I get linked to one and don't realize it's a PFS thread. Not a lot to say usually since I don't do organized play.

Qadira ***

TOZ wrote:
Painlord wrote:


EDIT: What?! TOZ is posting on the PFS boards? Wow. First time I've seen that.
I have them hidden, so it only happens when I get linked to one and don't realize it's a PFS thread. Not a lot to say usually since I don't do organized play.

Lolz. I feel the same way about non-PFS threads.

Thanks for chiming in, TOZ, I hope I didn't make you feel unwelcome.

-Pain

Osirion

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Bob Jonquet wrote:
I kinda feel like it honors the author, who likely worked very hard on the into text, to read it. I try to use voice inflections, eye contact, etc. to keep the players focused, especially for lengthy text, but I feel I owe it to the author to see the fruits of their labor be revealed.

I'd much rather have bullet points, whether it be a PFS scenario, or a regular one.

Firstly, it focuses the mind on what is relevant to the scenario at hand, and what is filler.
"Filler?" I am sure some will cry. "How can you say that? Surely none of it is filler!"

Sure it is.
If the scenario goal is to apprehend 'Xerxes' the antiques dealer, before he can make his assignation with the Aspis Consortium, then that is the name you need to make sure to stress, and maybe repeat, to ensure it goes into the players' brains.

If the boxed text describes "On the journey to Qadira, the peasants give you suspicious looks as you pass the increased border patrols, and heightened security, caused by 'Xerbystes' recent consolidation of his power and proclamation to restore the glory of Qadira back to its former might, blah, blah, blah...", then (assuming they don't blank out) which name do you think the players will latch onto?
How much of your session is going to be wasted by players looking for 'Xerbystes'?

It might come as a shock to some, but not everyone has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the setting. Even as a Charter Subscriber (ie, in from Day One), I do not have time to fully read everything I've been sent, over the last 5 years. Sure, if I were to run an AP, I'd try to read ahead in the region it's set in, but at PFS, you have no notice that your PC has been sent to the other side of the continent.

When even the hard core subscribers don't know this stuff, what hope has a newcomer? They're already juggling a new game system, modified campaign rules, and the basics of the setting along with their implied place within it, as members of PFS. Don't swamp them with info they will not need and will never use. Are they actually going to meet the Satrap of Qadira? Then don't mention him by name.

As a player, you need to know;

You are currently at A;
You need to go to B;
You need to talk to C;
You need to find out what happened to D;
You need to prevent E. Etc.

Once everyone has memorised that, then you can embellish it further. If they ask a question, fill them in. If you realise you've played with everyone before, and they know the setting well, then run with it and have more fun, but not at the expense of alienating new players or displacing the essential info crucial to completion of the mission.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Mattastrophic wrote:
loud game stores
Bob Jonquet wrote:
Wouldn't that be even more reason to take notes as a player?

Loud background noise, and unfamiliar setting terms mean that even when you have a conscientious, well-organised player, if they can't hear what you said, or don't understand the relevance of it, their notes are worthless, or even counter-productive.

A printable handout would be much easier, and make sense in-character, from the NPC Venture-Captain's POV.

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

Snorter wrote:
stuff

Wow do we have different styles of play. I WANT all that other stuff. Dazzle me. Give me more fluff. It helps to make me feel immersed in the setting. I get very bored if the GM is just giving me the crunch. I want to experience the campaign, not just roll dice and move my token around the board.

No one is expected the players, or even the GM, to know everything about the campaign, that is what the author is for. I would expect that most RPG players came here after having a love of fantasy, either the written word or TV/movies. I want my game to give me/them that same feeling of wonder, discovery, and adventure I had when I read Tolkien, or Burroughs, or Vance, not the feeling I got when I read my Statistics textbook in college.

For me, fantasy gaming is not about the destination or the rewards, etc., it's about the journey and everything I get to see and experience along the way. YMMV

Qadira ****

Snorter wrote:
Bob Jonquet wrote:
I kinda feel like it honors the author, who likely worked very hard on the into text, to read it. I try to use voice inflections, eye contact, etc. to keep the players focused, especially for lengthy text, but I feel I owe it to the author to see the fruits of their labor be revealed.

I'd much rather have bullet points, whether it be a PFS scenario, or a regular one.

Firstly, it focuses the mind on what is relevant to the scenario at hand, and what is filler.
"Filler?" I am sure some will cry. "How can you say that? Surely none of it is filler!"

Sure it is.
If the scenario goal is to apprehend 'Xerxes' the antiques dealer, before he can make his assignation with the Aspis Consortium, then that is the name you need to make sure to stress, and maybe repeat, to ensure it goes into the players' brains.

If the boxed text describes "On the journey to Qadira, the peasants give you suspicious looks as you pass the increased border patrols, and heightened security, caused by 'Xerbystes' recent consolidation of his power and proclamation to restore the glory of Qadira back to its former might, blah, blah, blah...", then (assuming they don't blank out) which name do you think the players will latch onto?
How much of your session is going to be wasted by players looking for 'Xerbystes'?

It might come as a shock to some, but not everyone has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the setting. Even as a Charter Subscriber (ie, in from Day One), I do not have time to fully read everything I've been sent, over the last 5 years. Sure, if I were to run an AP, I'd try to read ahead in the region it's set in, but at PFS, you have no notice that your PC has been sent to the other side of the continent.

When even the hard core subscribers don't know this stuff, what hope has a newcomer? They're already juggling a new game system, modified campaign rules, and the basics of the setting along with their implied place within it, as members of PFS. Don't swamp them with info they will not...

Masterfully done Snorter. I would love to play at a table you Judged and would feel honored to Judge for you some day (and hopeful that I did a good job).

Qadira ***** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

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I'd like to note that being able to distinguish between players who just want the facts, and players who want a lot of the flavor as well, is one of the skills I'm still learning as a table GM.

Qadira ****

Chris Mortika wrote:
I'd like to note that being able to distinguish between players who just want the facts, and players who want a lot of the flavor as well, is one of the skills I'm still learning as a table GM.

I think that is why I am looking more at using a "briefing sheet" hand-out. It gives my players the raw facts in a simple form, and still lets them "experience the campaign" as the PC.

Provide the Mechanics in a hardcopy form and the RP in the "software" vertual form.

Paizo Employee ** Developer

I will note that we generally suggest the GM "read or paraphrase the following the get the adventure underway" for boxed text, and one of my goals is to make the necessary text at the start of each scenario as concise and efficient as possible while still providing enough flavor to set the adventure in Golarion and within the Pathfinder Society Organized Play campaign. If an individual GM can impart all the necessary information contained in a bit of readaloud text to her players, then she is welcome to ad lib as she desires to do so. Since not everyone can do so well with their individual talents, especially on little or no prep in a convention environment, we will continue to provide readaloud text introductions to scenarios, but if you look closely at some of the scenarios this season, you may find that we've been experimenting a bit with their length, format, and starting adventures in media res to see if there are better ways of getting the players information they need without requiring or suggesting GMs all read a page of text to them to get things underway.

Qadira ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Tennessee—Murfreesboro

One thing I did for a scenario I was running multiple times at Gencon was to print out a bunch of information ... I actually printed out the VC opening speech; which came in handy towards the end when it was hard to speak above a whisper.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Mark Moreland wrote:
If an individual GM can impart all the necessary information contained in a bit of readaloud text to her players, then she is welcome to ad lib as she desires to do so. Since not everyone can do so well with their individual talents, especially on little or no prep in a convention environment, we will continue to provide readaloud text introductions to scenarios, but if you look closely at some of the scenarios this season, you may find that we've been experimenting a bit with their length, format, and starting adventures in media res to see if there are better ways of getting the players information they need without requiring or suggesting GMs all read a page of text to them to get things underway.

Thanks; that's good to know. I've yet to GM for PFS, but if I did, I'm glad that ad-libbing wouldn't be seen as deviating from the expected obligations.

I was thinking I'd probably do both the handout, and the box text, so as to cover myself both ways.

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

Snorter wrote:
I was thinking I'd probably do both the handout, and the box text, so as to cover myself both ways.

FTW!

Osirion

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Snorter wrote:
stuff
Bob Jonquet wrote:
Wow do we have different styles of play. I WANT all that other stuff. Dazzle me. Give me more fluff. It helps to make me feel immersed in the setting. I get very bored if the GM is just giving me the crunch. I want to experience the campaign, not just roll dice and move my token around the board.

As do I, and that's great for your home game, where you know the players, know their style, and can send them titbits between sessions, to read up on where they are and the local detail. I agree that makes for an awesome game, and wherever possible, I try to put that work in.

I'm running Age of Worms, which is full of Easter Eggs for the older players, yet I still inserted more references for those players who really worked to mesh their PCs with the world (currently added material from Rod of Seven Parts, Return of The Eight, Maure Castle, Ghost Tower of Inverness, Isle of Dread, Shackled City, Slavers, etc).
I don't know how I can convince you of my usual GM style, except maybe to link to a commission done for me of one of my players' PCs. My description is halfway down, and was drawn out of a very quiet new player, who'd given me nothing but 'female dwarf fighter with axe' to go on. We got the maps out, described the area, came up with a reason for her to be in the area, out on the surface, with autonomy to adventure. Most of the rest came via play.
An example of my writing style for others to use, is "The Mourning Knight" in Wayfinder 5 (pdf).

Bob Jonquet wrote:
No one is expected the players, or even the GM, to know everything about the campaign, that is what the author is for. I would expect that most RPG players came here after having a love of fantasy, either the written word or TV/movies. I want my game to give me/them that same feeling of wonder, discovery, and adventure I had when I read Tolkien, or Burroughs, or Vance, not the feeling I got when I read my Statistics textbook in college.

I enjoyed reading LotR; it's one of the most highly regarded examples of the genre, however, it would make a truly dire RPG campaign.

As would any campaign based on going through the motions of someone else's PC, which is why I could never finish the first Dragonlance module. Players want to know what their PC is doing, right now. You need to get them involved asap. That means making the briefing an interactive back'n'forth.

Bob Jonquet wrote:
For me, fantasy gaming is not about the destination or the rewards, etc., it's about the journey and everything I get to see and experience along the way. YMMV

And the players need to experience the world, not be told about it second-hand. Famous writing maxim: "Show, don't tell.".

If you want to impress upon them the casual cruelty of Cheliax, have them witness a slave being beaten, during the game. Have the slave refuse offers of help "Don't trouble yourselves, I probably deserved it.", with a Sense Motive roll for the subtext "Get lost, I'll get double if I'm seen talking to you!".
If you want them to understand the failure of the Revolution in Galt, tell them their rations are mouldy, and have a pack of urchins beat each others heads in with rocks, to get the worm-ridden applecore the PC threw away.

The players will remember these incidents far more, since they happen right here, right now, in front of their PC's eyes, while the player is actively involved in the game, rather than a passive recipient of boxed text at the start of the session, while still unpacking their bags.

Qadira ****

Thank you Snorter.... not sure if I can add to what you said.

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