The Lost Lands: The Lost City of Barakus (PFRPG) PDF

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The ENnie Award-Winning Adventure Returns!

Centuries ago, a race of humans built an elaborate underground city beneath the Duskmoon Hills called Barakus. These were a magic-loving people, and for hundreds of years, they dwelled peacefully in their subterranean home, delving into the arcane arts. Eventually, however, one of their number, a necromancer named Devron, rose to great power and transformed himself into a lich. The wizards of Barakus banded together, and after a great struggle, banished him to a prison far below the city. Before his banishment, however, Devron forged the helm of power, which he could eventually use to restore his power.

"The Lost City of Barakus," designed to take characters from 1st to 6th level (or higher), is as much of a bustling campaign setting as an adventure. Detailed within these pages is the great, bustling metropolis of Endome, the Penprie Forest, and Duskmoon Hills located north of the city, and, finally, the huge dungeon that is the Lost City of Barakus. Within all these areas are many adventures, NPCs, and locations for the party to explore, interact with, and conquer. How and in what order the party chooses to take on the various challenges before them is entirely yours (the GM's) and the players' choice.

Written by W.D.B. Kenower and Bill Webb
Cover Art by Artem Shukayev
Pages: 176
ISBN-13: 978-1-62283-205-7

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4.50/5 (based on 4 ratings)

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A focussed module brimming with adventures

5/5

I've been working on getting every single entry in the Lost Lands series and while I like them all very much, this one is so utterly and obviously a classic that I can't help but recommend it wherever I go.

You get:

-A city
-it's sewers
-the surrounding wilderness
-a massive dungeon

It's so well detailed and brimming with adventures and life and character that a party on slow experience track could easily play in this wonderful sandbox for more than a year.

Despite it's length, it feels like there is more in this book than a typical Paizo adventure path - without the railroad. If your players want to explore, this is the book for you.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This massive mega-adventure clocks in at 176 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 170 pages of adventure, so let's take a look!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should instead read the Player's Guide and/or jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, so in case you're wondering: This is the update of the classic, Ennie-award winning campaign supplement/mega-adventure. The basics are as follows: We have a massive city, Endhome; we have a vast stretch of wilderness surrounding it. The players are here. Go. This is pretty much the textbook definition of a massive, wide-open sandbox - something that renders this massive module a huge playground: From the exceedingly-detailed city of Endhome (including city statblocks, btw.!) to its environments, there is a lot of grounds to cover.

What do I mean by "exceedingly detailed?" Well, beyond the environments coming with a key-less, player-friendly hex-map, the city itself sports more maps that you'd imagine feasible for a book of this size: How many cities out there, for example, do you know that actually do have full maps for the canalization they sport? Indeed, even hexed ones so you can, theoretically, hex-crawl through the network of tunnels? Better yet, how many do you know that actually sport multiple mini-dungeons inside? But this level of detail not only is provided for below the streets - indeed, the fully-mapped temples of local deities and a whole mansion can also be explored...for there are whispers of death cults and even vampires having their home within the very walls of Endhome...

Now granted, there are other hyperdetailed city-sandboxes out there, but few that also manage this lavish level of detail beyond the confines of the city walls - there is a lot to find and explore outside of the walls of Endhome. Whether to stop the notorious bandits that have taken to harassing the roads, dealing with the stupid giant shambling through the hills or braving the small, but still deadly dragon that scours the lands, there is a lot to do; perhaps, the PCs are intrigued by the door-less wizard's tower they heard about in the player's guide and want to scale and explore it...or perhaps they stumble over a sinkhole and wan to lower themselves down, past the deadly mold growing down there, to explore the caverns below? The fountain of Freya is supposed to be somewhere in the woods and ghouls and worse room the wilderness, with a shrine to dread Tsathogga being once again a mechanical highlight, as a dire boar turns out to be a were-boar cleric! Mysterious crypts, haunted hovels and hidden treasure all await intrepid adventurers stumbling over secrets ancient and old. What about the friendly alchemist out there - is he all he seems to be? No trip beyond the walls of Endhome will be boring - that, I can guarantee!

In fact, this mega-adventure does sport a very prevalent leitmotif that has since then become one for the Lost Lands-setting: A feeling of a world that has moved on; once, there may have been empires, a structure, a geopolitical struggle - but now, the world is on the verge of becoming all wilderness. Civilization seems to be in decline and every rock and hovel seems to be hiding a piece of an age long gone, a piece of the puzzle, a sense of antiquity. Obvious danger may lurk outside, yes, but even beneath the veneer of civilization, where still maintained, there is no rest - you will never lose the feeling of something sinister brewing beneath the surface, of a calamity just being a step away. This brooding melancholy suffuses the whole writing, providing a sense of thematic identity far beyond anything you'd consider evident or obvious; the effect is subtle, but utilized in an extremely smart manner, for the caverns of the massive dungeon that hide Barakus and the ruined city itself further amplify this theme.

Let me reiterate: Barakus once was a radiant city - until one of its numerous wizards, Devron, turned lich. The city was unified in its struggle against the lich and crafted a sword to bring him low. Not one to wait for his demise, Devron crafted a helm to regain, eventually, his power and, from the prison into which he was banaished, expended a significant portion of his power. Before the sworn champion could destroy him, the stone of madness thus conjured crashed into the city, turning its denizens against themselves and destroying the once proud city-state. Thus, the legendary sword was lost in its own sanctuary, to never be used; thus the shield never was found; and thus, the ruins of the erstwhile city still hold not only the well-sealed prison of the (temporarily weakened) lich, but also the sword of kell, the means to reinvigorate it and the dread stone of madness - all while Devron still hungers for his power, for the helm to restore him, for freedom - it is this that can be considered to be the main quest of this massive adventure, though, frankly, it is as much the main-quest as some others herein. The brilliant component about this one, though, is the fact that the dungeon that now contains the city's remnants is diverse and huge - several levels, some parallel to one another, some sporting maps that cover 2 pages, render this dungeon a significant challenge - better yet, the whole complex manages something only rarely seen.

The indirect story-telling one associates with game like Dark Souls: When ephemeral voices ask you about Devron to enter his domain, when lethal puzzles loom, when strange devices can be collected to illuminate the city's "flames" to bring full power back to the sword, when the deciphered warrior's prayer actually has an effect beyond flavorful fluff - it is then you'll note the extent of this book's atmosphere. Add to that a significant array of terrain hazards and unique adversaries and you will literally have excellent content to last you a couple of months, perhaps even a year. Oh, and one thing: The player's guide immensely facilitates the process of running this one, allowing the GM to avoid the necessity for hours of exposition and establishing shots - it literally does that for the GM and renders running this even more smoothly than in its 3.X iteration.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games' elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The book sports numerous pieces of awesome b/w-artwork and the maps the PCs can conceivably get are printer-friendly. As a nitpick, I would have loved to see player-friendly maps for all areas, since I (and a lot of GMs I know) like cutting them up and then handing out the respective areas as the PCs explore the place, but you can't have everything, I guess. The hardcover is a beautiful book with FGG's excellent binding and high-quality paper - this is a book made to last.

W.D.B. Kenower and Bill Webb's Lost City of Barakus is perhaps one of Necromancer Games' classics that is closest to the quality and style the current Lost Lands adhere to. I may be mistaken, but when I look at this mega-adventure, I can see how Slumbering Tsar, Dunes of Desolation and similar tomes among FGG's superb catalogue drew upon established flair and further expanded it. Endhome and its surrounding area are, hands down, the most detailed low-level sandbox I currently know of: Massive in scope and ambition, there are literally hundreds of hours of awesome gameplay herein. But that was true before. The PFRPG-conversion ranks among the better ones as well - with alchemists and several classes and builds getting more than just the required face-lift. The dungeon and its organization is also slightly clearer and thanks to the superb player's guide, you spend much less time with exposition and have more time for proper adventuring.

So is this better than its previous iteration? Yes, in my opinion, it is - the frog god crew has done a great job transporting this to PFRPG. This is an absolutely stellar sandbox and one of the low level modules that should be considered to be a rite of passage, a great first glimpse at the Lost Lands and what makes the setting awesome. In fact, were this 3.X, I'd still be gushing on and on about how awesome this book is - the only reason I'm not, lies in the lack of player-friendly maps for every environment and, more importantly, one book: Sword of Air. While higher level, Sword of Air has pretty much raised the bar so high, it is very hard to not acknowledge its influence. That being said, guess which sandbox I'd recommend to lead towards this legendary module? Yes, you're reading the review of it. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. If you have not yet played this gem, check it out - it is one glorious beast.

Endzeitgeist out.


Backed it on Kickstarter

5/5

A really interesting region which to base a campaign or part of a campaign on and easy to insert into an existing realm.

Lots of fluff and also adventure hooks to get the players to explore the city and the surrounding areas.


3/5



I was always a fan of this book. Will there be any new material?

Silver Crusade

Lost City of Barakus is an excellent low level sandbox with a variety of city, wilderness, and dungeon encounters. I got the D20 version back in the day and picked up the PFRPG version when the KS was announced.

Imnotbob, I would say that the PFRPG version is 90-95% of the D20 version updated and 5-10% new stuff. There are new encounters, a new dungeon level and wilderness encounter or two, but most of the book is the same as the D20 version.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.


Just wondering how similar this is in style to Slumbering Tsar. I'm pretty disappointed in the way that product slathers on room after room of monsters with very little backstory or believability around the location of monsters. For the money, and based on some reviews, I expected to see a living world with believable ecologies and interactions between things in the world.

Any thoughts?

Scarab Sages

Devron. Pity the fool!


Anything else?


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It's important to understand that Frog God Games publishes books in different styles. Rappan Athuk is a "Dungeon" book - it's not a story, per se, it's a big dungeon. Borderlands Provinces is an "exploration" book, detailing many areas, offering lots of potential adventure ideas, and encouraging people to see what's in the next hex.

This particular book is mostly adventure, with an added note that GMs should adjust it a bit to suit their preferred campaign style and decide for themselves what the hook/goal is.


Thanks, GM Rednal.

I found the older parts of Rappan Athuk to be interesting to read and probably good to play, but the additional stuff (Level 1A etc, if I recall correctly), were as... amateur as Slumbering Tsar. So I still don't feel like my question has been answered here, and maybe that's because no one (so far) has the same taste as I do.

So I'll ask again, from a different angle:

I'm not interested in a map with a different monster in every room and a terrible justification for why they're there. I can do that myself.

What I'm interested in is a well thought-out world that I can put PC's in, where they will feel like the entities that exist there are there for a reason. I love super interesting ideas that I would have taken time to think about myself (the original Rappan Athuk has that - Slumbering Tsar etc... no so much.)

I can draw a map and toss monsters into it easily enough.

If you've ever read Caverns of Thracia, that's my baseline for a well thought-out dungeon that is an absolute tickle to read. It doesn't have a different monster in every room. The monsters have long histories that help me decide what they would do in different situations. It helps me build a story around the already complex and well-considered interactions and histories that the author has written in.

So again:

I'm wondering if Barakus is a bunch of maps with a barely-logical assortment of monsters sitting next to each other with no life, waiting for you to open the door to their room (a la Slumbering Tsar), or is it a living world that is waiting to unfold as the players discover it?


I see that Barakus and Tsar have two different authors, and I've heard a lot of great things about Bill Webb, so I should check this out.

I'm sorry to say I was really dismayed by Slumbering Tsar and it led me to realize that my tastes are very different than some of the big reviewers on this site. I really can't see how that thing has a 5 star rating.

I'm tempted to start reviewing myself so people can get another perspective.


I strongly encourage you to do so. ^^ Reviews are helpful for the whole industry, and among many other things help 3PP companies understand their audience better, and perhaps improve future works.

Let's see... to answer your question, I think this book is probably more like Slumbering Tsar, in that it's mostly an area that can be explored. It has an Adventure Background explaining how the place came to be, but exploring Barakus is more of just an adventure, without much of a pre-made plot for the players (indeed, I think they offer several different hooks, and encourage tweaking it to your liking). It's kind of a book meant for GMs who are starting an adventure in this area of the Lost Lands and want a low-level dungeon and some side-quests they can work into the plot they're making.

If you're looking for more of a living world and a story, I encourage looking at the Northlands Saga instead, which is more of a full adventure path with a specific plot to it.


I actually don't need books with a plot for the characters, but I do need books with an internal logic.

It's not the form of the book (adventure vs sandbox) that I'm curious about... It's the content. Does this adventure have a different monster in every area that has no relation to adjacent monsters? That's what slumbering tsar is like. That's what other reviewers have not mentioned, and it's a huge deal if you're running a game where you're looking for any amount of believability in the world. Thats what I'm wondering about.

I'll buy this book and review it.


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Coffee Demon wrote:

I actually don't need books with a plot for the characters, but I do need books with an internal logic.

It's not the form of the book (adventure vs sandbox) that I'm curious about... It's the content. Does this adventure have a different monster in every area that has no relation to adjacent monsters? That's what slumbering tsar is like. That's what other reviewers have not mentioned, and it's a huge deal if you're running a game where you're looking for any amount of believability in the world. Thats what I'm wondering about.

I'll buy this book and review it.

Ahhh I got you - the answer to that is much more no than yes.

The wilderness area is pretty much a wilderness - although I found every encounter to be logical and have nice writeups it's not a wilderness campaign and so you find some interesting locations and encounters but it's not meant to be 100% cohesive - other than being believable as wilderness.

The town is what I'd call 100% cohesive and logical - and well done.

The dungeons are what I would call 70% cohesive with the odd lair encounter - there actually is a story behind many of the encounters and some of them even have plot hooks from the town area. I think however it works in the context - the lost city is a big magical trap for an ancient evil that has been overtaken by all kinds of things - hobgoblins - orcs - goblins - and critters - Some of the 'wtf' is leftover from being a magical trap, so I do think it works in context.

That my opinion however.


Thanks, that's very helpful!

I agree that a 'real' wilderness is somewhat random. Sounds worth checking out!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Coffee Demon wrote:
What I'm interested in is a well thought-out world that I can put PC's in, where they will feel like the entities that exist there are there for a reason. I love super interesting ideas that I would have taken time to think about myself...

Huh. That's pretty much a perfect description of what I'm looking for in adventures.

I hope you do start writing reviews -- it sounds like how much you like adventures will be a good indicator of how much I'd get out of them!


Coffee Demon wrote:

Thanks, that's very helpful!

I agree that a 'real' wilderness is somewhat random. Sounds worth checking out!

NP - As they convert stuff over I've noticed much more thought that has gone into how it fits into the 'world' of the lost lands and I believe it's been affecting the adventure design.

I will say a good followup to Barakus is 'Cults of the Sundered Kingdom' - and between the two products you could have a campaign that goes from level 1 to level 13-14ish on the slow XP track that is pretty damn awesome. Cults is written more 'ap style' without as large of a level range with solid plots/motivation and thought in every adventure and a nice meta plot that ties it all together - in starts around level 5 in the Barakus area which is around where you'd be wrapping up adventures from the book.

Sword of Air is another fantastic book - however it's like a campaign overlay though - as it has 'stuff' that happens at different level ranges and isn't meant to fill in all the gaps - it does however go to a higher level and is suitable to use on top of almost anything else you are doing (with work to move locations/etc. if you are running outside the lost lands).

Scarab Sages

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

I think FGG has a basic philosophy of game design that goes back to the beginning of D&D.

In the early days it was more a game of exploration and discovery rather than a game of stories and logic. I know that sometimes those old adventures did not make a lot of sense with placement of monsters, and sometimes it was distracting.

But the essence of a game of exploration can make for an amazing game. My group has a mix of those who started with 1st edition, and those that started with 3rd edition. Those that started with 1st edition get the Lost Lands in a way that the later starters don't quite get the same way.

What I really like about all the work is that it is such a sandbox. Unlike an AP it does not matter if the group abandons an adventure to do something else.

My group was just doing Barakas, and the jumped right into the caves in the hills. They ran into trouble, and needed to go back to town to actually survive (almost lost half the party), and when they got the help they needed, which took most of their money, they were asked if they could do a task for the local priest. They decided they would take up that task and they got on the road. I doubt they will ever make it back to Endhome from there. It is a very long trek to do what the priest asked them, and it will likely take three or four game sessions to get there. I cannot see them then heading back that 2000 or so miles to continue in Endhome. At that stage they may go onto Tsar or who knows where. It kind of doesn't matter where, there is adventure everywhere.

About Barakas I would say that mostly things hold together, in the actual caves and dungeons of Barakas there are areas where there are related creatures, like a group of Hobgoblins in several rooms, or goblins, or ratfolk. And at the same time a room or two can have something totally unrelated to the creatures around them.

Dark Archive

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Coffee Demon wrote:

I see that Barakus and Tsar have two different authors, and I've heard a lot of great things about Bill Webb, so I should check this out.

I'm sorry to say I was really dismayed by Slumbering Tsar and it led me to realize that my tastes are very different than some of the big reviewers on this site. I really can't see how that thing has a 5 star rating.

I'm tempted to start reviewing myself so people can get another perspective.

Based on what you have posted here on what you are looking for it would probably be best to not buy FGG modules. Their modules are designed with an old-school feel, something that emphasizes challenge/difficulty and fun vs. "logical" encounter design.

If you are looking for product with more internal consistency I would recommend checking out Raging Swan modules and environs which are structurally set up differently and have more of a focus on consistency, balance and cohesion. Or Paizo APs/modules, which are based more on story/balanced encounters and less on challenge/difficulty.

I am a big fan of FGG - in fact they are my primary source of material for Pathfinder or AD&D games but their material is not for everyone, especially not for new-school players who don't understand what they are trying to do as a publisher.
Their big influences were old modules like The Keep on the Borderlands, Village of Hommlet and the Tomb of Horrors and that is what they are trying to replicate in their adventures. If that isn't your gaming background or is something you want to emulate in your gaming with newer product then I would recommend you look elsewhere because you are just going to get frustrated.

I know my logical encounter mind needed to switch around and change the way some of the dungeon encounters in Barakas were laid out, bth - they would work well just as written if you are running an old school style dungeon crawl. 100% cohesive encounter/dungeon design - no. Did my players have fun running through it - yes, very much so. But that's because they like that style of play and focus more on the fun and challenge instead of "why was that ghoul over here and how did it get here past the Ogre?"

I didn't subscribe to Tsar sight unseen, I looked into its history and development and I looked at the other products I purchased from Necromancer games (Bill's prior company with Clark Peterson) before I dropped 150 bucks on a product so I knew what I was getting into. Tsar wasn't written by an "amateur" - Greg Vaughn is actually one of the best writers in the industry, but if you don't like sandbox dungeon bashes it won't matter who wrote the adventure - you probably still wouldn't like it.

All that being said, you are going to be very frustrated trying to make their adventures fit what you are looking for when you are looking for something different than what they are selling.


Suffice it to say that I disagree with some of the above comments.

First: There are a number of oldschool modules (including Tomb of Horrors, Keep on the Borderlands and Hommlet, mentioned above) that have very good (some of the best) internal logic. Caverns of Thracia, published in 1979, is one of the best. I also like B4: The Lost City, Lost Caverns of Tsjocanth, and Barrier Peaks. Those modules are crazy and they make sense. We should be aspiring for that, and not say something lesser is good. tenfootpole.org does a great job of interrogating what's good about old school design. Take a look at that and get back to me. Also, check out "Jacquaying the Dungeon" - http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/13085/roleplaying-games/jaquaying-the-d ungeon

So referring to OSG as inherently illogical, or solely difficult-based, is a misnomer. Let's aspire to better than that, and let's ask for the best in our reviews. Let's give our players awesome games that the DM doesn't have to write from scratch.

Also, I did a s!~~eload of reading on Tsar before I bought it, so you can cut the veiled insult there. The problem is that most reviewers claim it's filled with amazing ideas, when it isn't. It doesn't hold a candle to any of the old classics I mentioned above.

I am aware of Greg Vaughn's publishing history, and I didn't say he was an amateur - I said the book was amateurish. He can, and has, done better.

Let's get specific. I'm going to let my $89 of frustration shine here:

**SPOILER** Example: A lich who is the money-changer of a town isn't an amazing idea. Anyone can say that a lich is the money-changer in a town. The work comes from explaining how that affects the rest of the town (which is filled with an equal hodgepodge of weird-ass s$*#). The module does the easy work (here's a map, here's what lives here) - it leaves the hard work (WTF are these things doing here?) to the DM. There is SO MUCH opoprtunity to build the town around that one entity. You dont' even need to describe things heavily. Just put in other beings that are "serving the usurer" by "blankity blank" and "blank". Why is the lich there? Here's what we get: "He came to the camp for reasons of his own a few generations ago." Gee, thanks. WHAT. ARE. THE. REASONS?!? Weak. So. Weak. Just link it to a single other location in the module and I would be 25% satiated at least.

Some reviewers say "open any page in Tsar and you'll find an amazing idea." I see the opposite - every page I open leaves me frustrated. Ready? Here hoes - random page: pp 215-218 "The Tunnel". I have a tunnel that is "lair for a band of demons" and "access to...Area H6). That tells me nothing about what these demons are doing hanging out in a tunnel. It tells me they live there (which is obvious) and that the tunnel links to another location. Are they hiding from someone? Do they have a partnership with others somewhere? Hommlet, Keep on the Borderlands, the Slavers Modules all give better description than this. Well. Any description at all is better than this.

Following that is a series of rooms where demons are "lurking" and "listening for intruders". In the 6 pages of text, I find one line of description that might be a seed for something: In one room, the demons are "planning their next raids." On whom?

In the same area is a band of morlocks. There is zero mention of the relationship between the morlocks and the demons. They are a "wandering tribe that has colonized the area." Do the demons raid the morlocks? Kinda doubt it because they live right next to each other. Do some work besides draw a map and toss in monsters. That's what I'm asking.

Also, the trap in here is dumb.

It's just not interesting stuff and not worth the money. That's my point.

I do like parts of Rappan Athuk (as I mentioned), but that's different than Tsar. If you can't see the differences, or the difference between Tsar and the modules I mentioned above, then I don't think we're going to have a generative conversation. But I'm happy to continue to try.

Community Manager

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Removed some posts and their responses. Please keep this thread about the product, don't insult other posters, and don't drag in discussions from other forums.


What would I lose if I ran the Lost City of Barakus in S&W instead of PF? I can see the appeal of a simpler system and combat in the S&W version, but am concerned about dumbing down or replacement of monsters, NPCs, story hooks, magical abilities, and so forth. Could anyone pls tell me what specifically I would lose, and why running it in PF would be better?


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You'd basically lose nothing; it's a different experience, but rules-wise, the two versions do the same job. Combats will be less tactical in S&W and skills will be instead handled more directly via RPGing since S&W isn't this precise with the minutiae. It's a matter of taste and aesthetics, at least in my opinion.


Oh, wow. Endzeitgeist in the flesh. I love your reviews, and read them often. Thanks!


Always glad when I can help, Guang! And thank you very much for the kind words!

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