Isle of Misfit Pathlosers


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

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I am seeing a certain pattern in posts regarding Paizo's AP design philoseophy so I wanted to start a new thread.

James Jacobs wrote:
Of course... if you have players who HATE being railroaded almost as much as they HATE the mere concept that they MIGHT be railroaded... you probably shouldn't be running pre-made adventures for them anyway.

Dungeons are usually in modules, not 'big fat campaign settings', and yet they don't need to be presented as 'railroads' at all. The type of assumed railroading James Jacobs frequently mentions on the boards IMO applies primarily to event based encounters. Site based encounters rarely feel like a railroad. For example, I found much more sandbox value in encounters written in Hollow's Last Hope and Conquest of Bloodsworn Vale than many of the encounters in modules like Edge of Anarchy and the Skinsaw Murders.

If we wanted pretty art and a good story we could pick up a novel and some collectible trading cards (or combine them together and watch a movie). It sometimes feels like Paizo is treating gamers looking for simulationism as if we're red headed step children.

I'm sure there are a lot of people who will reply in support of more event based, cohesive, linear modules for groups that just 'go with the flow'. I'm guessing these types of gamers gravitate towards Paizo because of this style. However, if you play in campaigns where players choose RPGS for their freedom of exploration, and you're looking for site (or organization) based encounters to salvage from the adventure paths and standalone modules, please use this thread to make your voice heard too. If there are only a few of us out then we could use the solidarity.

Pathlosers, sound off!

Dark Archive Contributor

I think it's been said before that the point of Pathfinder is to present story-based campaigns, while we'll experiment with simulationist adventures in the modules. Of course, I could be wrong and James might have a whole adventure path in mind centered around simulationist thinking, but nobody knows that except James. ;)

Being a simulationist player myself (although definitely a story-based GM) I look forward to more sandbox-type adventures to read through and wish I could play. :D

Sczarni

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber
Takasi wrote:


For example, I found much more sandbox value in encounters written in Hollow's Last Hope and Conquest of Bloodsworn Vale than many of the encounters in modules like Edge of Anarchy and the Skinsaw Murders.

Sorry Takasi but we disagree again having DMed Hollow's Last Hope and currently DMing 2 sessions of edge of anarchy... I found Hollow more rail roady. maybe that is because the amount of other information for the city, where Darkmoon doesn't have a guide out yet. But where my players have had to go with things 'just because' in Hollow, in Edge of Anarchy they could do anything that they want to and I had enough information to work with. Possibly its because I don't want to deviate too much from the world so that I don't have to keep my version too much different from the official version..


Cpt_kirstov wrote:
But where my players have had to go with things 'just because' in Hollow, in Edge of Anarchy they could do anything that they want to and I had enough information to work with.

In Hollow's Last Hope, there are a set of site based encounters that a DM can drag and drop easily into pretty much any campaign. They are just sitting around waiting for the players to choose whether they want to find them or not.

In Edge of Anarchy, the riots, the chase with Trinia and the scene with Blackjack are all very narrative and force their way into the PCs lives. They are walls that almost require specific actions from anyone who plays in character.

That is the key difference IMO. Adventures that involve attention hogging events are good reads but they overshadow other choices and paths players want to follow. They can't simply be added into the background; they tend to force their way onto the center stage in a PC's life.


Pathfinder Adventure Paths are just that: Adventure Paths. Wouldn't make that much sense if the "Paths" were just a box full of encounters or something. Without a story to connect them together, they're not really an Adventure Path.

I'd say that there's no chance that the APs will become free-form. They're for Pathfinders, not Pathlosers.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Also: one thing to keep in mind is that I actually feel that a stronger storyline is a benefit to adventures. The adventure paths are constructed the way they are partially because that's the way that I've always built campaigns, and judging by their popularity, that method rings true for a lot of GMs.

Our Pathfinder Chronicles line (and the support material in Pathfinder) is where you'll want to go if you want to run a more open-ended Pathfinder campaign.

That all said... I am considering tackling a more open-ended less plot-driven adventure path for AP4. No promises yet, though...


I am not trying to dissuade a looser style of AP, as James alluded to with AP 4 (where he said no promises).. If that happens I'll be cool with it, because variety is good.

And I'm not trying to take away from those who want a sandbox to play with..

Nevertheless the only reason I'm playing DnD right now, and buying a lot of Paizo products (including the modules!) is the AP concept.

That brought me back to the hobby, and got me spending money here.

I don't want to revisit the Edition Wars, but I think one of the many great selling points Paizo has *is* the AP concept. That is the quiet advantage I see them having over WOTC.. all discussion of rules and editions notwithstanding.


Looser...Pathlooser...I like the sound of that too, thanks Watcher!

Don't get me wrong, for some campaigns my players and I are looking for a very tight story. I'd love an AP where the BBEG is in your face from day one, and every encounter is tied to a primary metaplot.

Can everyone agree that the existing APs (and adventures within them) have a varying degree of cohesiveness?

Shackled City has a lot of adventures that are only loosely tied together. From running Age of Worms, I would go as far as to say that no matter what the heroes do in any given adventure it really has no impact on how the rest of the adventures are written.

In fact, for Runelords I've TPK'd my characters in almost every adventure, and just picked up where the last one left off. When the characters...

Spoiler:
were killed by Nualia, we just made new characters in Magnimar. Nualia's actions have nothing to do with the rest of the AP. The players were killed by Xanesha. It's ok, they didn't need to kill her and we make a party many miles away in Turtleback Ferry. Fortunately they killed Breakbones, but guess what? It really didn't matter, because they'd just start up again in Sandpoint fighting stone giants. Mokmurian kills the party, but again, who cares? Now it's time to go to the Runeforge. None of these adventures are connected!

And for some campaigns (mine) it's a good thing. ;)

Crimson Throne is looking more like Savage Tide in its interdependency. James Jacobs, you mentioned AP4, how about AP3? I'm guessing it involves a long journey, which (like Savage Tide) would probably often require a point X to occur in order for point Y to make sense?

I think it's great to take the same philosophy that is often used between adventures and apply them between encounters. And this is being done already (even in Pathfinder). This thread is for those who like it to sound off and revel in loosing and losing themselves along the path.

Pathlosers (and Pathloosers) unite!

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Takasi wrote:
Crimson Throne is looking more like Savage Tide in its interdependency. James Jacobs, you mentioned AP4, how about AP3? I'm guessing it involves a long journey, which (like Savage Tide) would probably often require a point X to occur in order for point Y to make sense?

There is a long journey in Second Darkness, but it's not the real point of any adventure, unlike in Savage Tide. Second Darkness will be relatively story-driven and plot-driven though. But like the previous APs, we'll be doing what we can to hide railroady bits to make them look like Player Choices.

Liberty's Edge

Takasi wrote:
I'm sure there are a lot of people who will reply in support of more event based, cohesive, linear modules for groups that just 'go with the flow'. I'm guessing these types of gamers gravitate towards Paizo because of this style.

My group can usually sniff out a railroad from a mile away. That's why after years of practice I have been able to run railroady adventures and they're never the wiser.

However, recently without provocation my players (who are halfway through Rise of the Runelords) mentioned how it feels so natural with no railroady elements at all.

I gravitate towards Paizo because of their stories and presentation. But, like the OP I do like the more sandbox style elements. I really appreciate there will be an additional 'side trek' in upcoming Adventure Paths. That's a good move and nice feature.

-DM Jeff

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pawns, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Why play and buy any premade CAMPAIGN... call it adventure path, on going adventure, whatever... and not expect to be told "go here next? I thought that was the point of buying an "adventure in a box" instead of making up your own.. did I miss something? :P

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Takasi wrote:
If we wanted pretty art and a good story we could pick up a novel and some collectible trading cards (or combine them together and watch a movie).

Pretty art and a good story are precisely what I'm looking for. And like others mentioned it was the adventure path concept that brought me back to playing d&d after years of other games.

Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like what you want is more of a highly detailed gazetteer. No one likes to feel railroaded, but on the other hand I don't understand players who would agree to an AP but only feel the game was worthwhile if they can completely ignore the plot hooks.

I realize it's just a different style of play, but it seems like you'd want the opposite of an AP for simulationist play.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

One thing to keep in mind... I suspect a sizable amount of Pathfinder's readers WON'T run the adventures. I know that, for several years after college, I wasn't playing D&D at all, but I kept my subscriptions to Dragon and Dungeon going, and I kept buying D&D books because they were enjoyable to simply read. That's one of the areas, incidentally, that WotC's delve format fails to deliver on—it makes it very difficult to simply read an adventure for entertainment.


James Jacobs wrote:
That's one of the areas, incidentally, that WotC's delve format fails to deliver on—it makes it very difficult to simply read an adventure for entertainment.

Amen . . . a most resounding Amen! I really wanted to sit down and figure out what was going on in the Cormyr adventure, mainly to see what was going on setting wise in these adventures. It took forever piece it together, as did Shadowdale. I've only started trying to puzzle out Anauroch. I didn't really have this problem with non-delve format adventures.

Sczarni

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber
Takasi wrote:

In Hollow's Last Hope, there are a set of site based encounters that a DM can drag and drop easily into pretty much any campaign. They are just sitting around waiting for the players to choose whether they want to find them or not.

In Edge of Anarchy, the riots, the chase with Trinia and the scene with Blackjack are all very narrative and force their way into the PCs lives. They are walls that almost require specific actions from anyone who plays in character.

That is the key difference IMO. Adventures that involve attention hogging events are good reads but they overshadow other choices and paths players want to follow. They can't simply be added into the background; they tend to force their way onto the center stage in a PC's life.

I think I see the difference in our groups now - your group defines Railoading as the story taking over and saying 'these events happen' which frankly the only time this happens is the encounter with blackjack. the riots, while unavoidable, have nothing to do with the PCs or their choices. The riots aren't railroading.. they're just like the fact that magic item shops - people assume that they have whatever they want, yet if they had that much stock they would surely go out of business. So things happen off-scene. The rooftops -the only one actually happening with interaction with the PCs -can be prevented with good planning.

My Group on the other hand, feels that time limits in Hollow much more railroady because they couldn't prepare as they normally would for a hunt, or they would risk having more townsfolk dieing.

Sovereign Court

James Jacobs wrote:
One thing to keep in mind... I suspect a sizable amount of Pathfinder's readers WON'T run the adventures. I know that, for several years after college, I wasn't playing D&D at all, but I kept my subscriptions to Dragon and Dungeon going, and I kept buying D&D books because they were enjoyable to simply read. That's one of the areas, incidentally, that WotC's delve format fails to deliver on—it makes it very difficult to simply read an adventure for entertainment.

Agreed. I am one of those who mainly buy the adventures for reading. If I get to play them, all the better! But that's not what I have in mind as I get them. My group is way too far behind with APs as it is. That's something that I've particularly enjoyed about Pathfinder: it's an interesting read! I already feel like I'll be enjoying CotCT more since it seems heavier on the narrative elements than RotRL was. You'll get no complaint for me!

As for the delve format, I completely agree. I finished reading Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk just the other day, and as cool as the story was, it was annoying to flip back and forth to read what's going on in an area, and then jump to the encounter descriptions. Some of my favourite chapters in that book were the ones that didn't detail many encounters, like the chapter on the City of Greyhawk. Lack of delve format is definitely a plus for Pathfinder, in my opinion.

Dark Archive

Not to threadjack Takasi (and I do greatly enjoy sandbox style adventures), but James is dead-on with his theory about folks who read the Pathfinder adventures and Pathfinder Adventure Path games only for the narrative entertainment value. I would conservatively estimate that the number of people who have run all of Paizo's pre-4th edition Dungeon adventure paths, and the existing Pathfinder Adventure Paths, from beginning to end, could comfortably fill a small classroom.

It is a testament to story-driven entertainment that this product model works so well. You can play the adventures, read them to appreciate a wonderful world-building creative endeavor, or do both. I, like many folks, have done a little bit of both. If I didn't have players tomorrow, I would still purchase and read the Pathfinder products for the story and to witness the growth of Golarion.

I think Paizo knows this, and it is simply amazing to me that they have managed to figure this little mystery out without having to resort to some massive, ill-defined, outsourced survey firm.

In my opinion, this area in particular is where WotC dropped the ball most egregiously with the introduction and marketing of 4th edition.

In contrast, Paizo spoke to their fans directly on these forums and at conventions and understood. A big thanks to James and company for that.


Cpt_kirstov wrote:
I think I see the difference in our groups now - your group defines Railoading as the story taking over and saying 'these events happen' which frankly the only time this happens is the encounter with blackjack. the riots, while unavoidable, have nothing to do with the PCs or their choices. The riots aren't railroading.. they're just like the fact that magic item shops - people assume that they have whatever they want, yet if they had that much stock they would surely go out of business.

That's a good example. In some campaigns I let players buy whatever they want, and in others I decide what's there (through rolling or logic). Neither one is good or bad, they're just different styles of play.

The riots have everything to do with player choices. It's an event, something that gets up in their face and requires that they deal with it. Usually the choice has to do with their character, so rarely can they decide to do 'nothing'.

Weather is another good example. Some modules and DMs will create weather conditions for story purposes. That is a form of 'railroading', especially if the reason is to get the players to do something. ('The players cannot leave the Torr; there is a great and powerful hurricane outside!')

Cpt_kirstov wrote:
My Group on the other hand, feels that time limits in Hollow much more railroady because they couldn't prepare as they normally would for a hunt, or they would risk having more townsfolk dieing.

The difference to me is that it's very easy to present these encounters to players regardless of any timelines.

A simulationist can get a lot out of modules that they'll have trouble finding in even the most detailed campaign setting. Interesting locations, encounters and even events are excellent resources for any DM, but if they can only be triggered under very specific assumptions and set about a series of future events that obligate characters to follow then they lose their value, IMO.

And for narrative DMs, great stories usually come from the players and their characters, not just from the minds of the authors of modules and the will of NPCs. Some modules (and DMs) tend to forget who the story is really about.


Rookseye wrote:
Not to threadjack Takasi

I think it's too late for that. James Jacobs WotC comments have 'derailed' the conversation entirely.

I would like to add that I would be in that classroom of people. I come to play adventures, not just to read them. And I fear that the designers do not share this sentiment, as it seems like most of them don't even playtest their own games.

I wouldn't really enjoy running some of the APs for people who have already read them. The more narrative the module, the less useful it would be, IMO, in that scenario. If a lot of people are reading and collecting these APs then it could become a liability, forcing DMs like me to skip over them because so many people know 'the plot' that it becomes useless. If I had a choice between playing in an AP I've already read and playing in someone's campaign where I didn't know the story, it would be incredibly difficult to choose the former over the latter.

Compare how many people rerun the Dragonlance modules vs the Greyhawk classics. While it's fun to have a shared experience and a 'campaign in a box', I fear that this format, if it focuses too heavily on story-driven triggered event-based encounters, could begin to lose the appeal of the original APs.

With that said, I was able to pick up the Fortress of the Yuan-Ti and very easily drop it into a Sword Coast campaign; it was incredibly easy to adapt the adventure. I was told long ago that good modules need to be flexible, and that's something you don't see often in railroads.


James Jacobs wrote:
One thing to keep in mind... I suspect a sizable amount of Pathfinder's readers WON'T run the adventures.

But not from any lack of desire to run them . . . .

I hate it when my gaming groups disolve . . .


Takasi wrote:
Cpt_kirstov wrote:
I think I see the difference in our groups now - your group defines Railoading as the story taking over and saying 'these events happen' which frankly the only time this happens is the encounter with blackjack. the riots, while unavoidable, have nothing to do with the PCs or their choices. The riots aren't railroading.. they're just like the fact that magic item shops - people assume that they have whatever they want, yet if they had that much stock they would surely go out of business.

That's a good example. In some campaigns I let players buy whatever they want, and in others I decide what's there (through rolling or logic). Neither one is good or bad, they're just different styles of play.

The riots have everything to do with player choices. It's an event, something that gets up in their face and requires that they deal with it. Usually the choice has to do with their character, so rarely can they decide to do 'nothing'.

Weather is another good example. Some modules and DMs will create weather conditions for story purposes. That is a form of 'railroading', especially if the reason is to get the players to do something. ('The players cannot leave the Torr; there is a great and powerful hurricane outside!')

Cpt_kirstov wrote:
My Group on the other hand, feels that time limits in Hollow much more railroady because they couldn't prepare as they normally would for a hunt, or they would risk having more townsfolk dieing.

The difference to me is that it's very easy to present these encounters to players regardless of any timelines.

A simulationist can get a lot out of modules that they'll have trouble finding in even the most detailed campaign setting. Interesting locations, encounters and even events are excellent resources for any DM, but if they can only be triggered under very specific assumptions and set about a series of future events that obligate characters to follow then they lose their value, IMO.

And for narrative DMs, great stories...

I've just had a look over this, and to be honest, by your definition,even 'The Power Behind the Throne' is railroadie. And i have to say it is one of the least railroaded, prewritten adventures in existance.

Dark Archive

Takasi wrote:


And if so many people are reading and collecting these APs then it could become a liability, forcing DMs to skip it because too many people know 'the plot' that it becomes useless. If I had a choice between playing in an AP I've already read and playing in someone's campaign where I didn't know the story, it would be incredibly difficult to choose the former over the latter.

I respectfully disagree here. The model that Paizo seem to be using with the Pathfinder products is to sell to the long-term DM's out there. They are the ones that buy most of the D&D products. They are the ones that read these products and obssess about them and dissect them on the messageboards.

In fact, players were only recently mined as a target audience with the endless flood of 3rd edition D&D splatbooks for every conceivable character build/permutation/concept.

Players like to build characters. If they are like my group, probably more than they will ever need/play in a lifetime.

A DM however is the guy interested in buying the whole line of products for the sake of a collection. Most players couldn't be bothered with buying adventurers for the sake of just reading them...and any player worth his salt wouldn't "ruin" his experience by reading the Rise of the Runelords from cover to cover before playing.

From reading your other posts, Tak, I know you are someone who has an obsession with canon. I admit the same. We are the people who keep coming back to find out more about Andoran's currency, or the color of the priestly raiment of Torag. The Pathfinder line is geared toward us.
The good folks at Paizo knows their demographic. I'm impressed and slightly delighted that there still marathon D&D games out there, but lets face it, a sizable chunk of the hobby's population now are weekend gamers with a wife, 1.8 kids, a mortgage, and the occasional couple of weekends a month to let loose and carve up some goblins. As one of these gamers, the story-driven adventure approach is just what the doctor ordered.

But don't get me wrong, sandbox play is great, and even us weekend warriors (and wizards) would love to see an AP with that direction. If the early hints at AP4 are any indication, you might get your wish sooner that you think.

Sovereign Court

James Jacobs wrote:
One thing to keep in mind... I suspect a sizable amount of Pathfinder's readers WON'T run the adventures. I know that, for several years after college, I wasn't playing D&D at all, but I kept my subscriptions to Dragon and Dungeon going, and I kept buying D&D books because they were enjoyable to simply read. That's one of the areas, incidentally, that WotC's delve format fails to deliver on—it makes it very difficult to simply read an adventure for entertainment.

That's exactly what I do. I have never run a game of D&D in my life, but I have been reading the books for years. There are just no one near me to play with.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Takasi>
What would you say are your top three published adventures for the sandbox style you are looking for?


Rookseye wrote:
I respectfully disagree here. The model that Paizo seem to be using with the Pathfinder products is to sell to the long-term DM's out there. They are the ones that buy most of the D&D products. They are the ones that read these products and obssess about them and dissect them on the messageboards.

I'm a player and a DM. And I've never met a DM who didn't also wish to be a player at some point.

I keep thousands of books I leaf through. I keep them as reference material. I really don't care if they are good reads, because I'm only really going to read them if I run them, because I know that if I read them thoroughly I'm spoiling the enjoyment of possibly playing in them at some point in the future.

This is what I fear: having story as a higher priority over gameplay encourages potential players to reading spoilers, doubly decreasing the gameplay value.

When AP 1 came out, I was looking for a module with a big reoccuring villain and Paizo eventually delivered with AP 2. I'm also keeping my fingers crossed for AP 4. It should come out around the time players have had a chance to play 4E and may be deciding to 'switch back'.


ithuriel wrote:

Takasi>

What would you say are your top three published adventures for the sandbox style you are looking for?

I gave a few examples above that show that even within a module some encounters are more linear than others.

For full modules, I'm currently having a lot of fun running a campaign using Mysteries of the Moonsea, Ruins of Adventure and Sons of Gruumsh.

One of my all time favorites is the original Isle of Dread. I like using the Dungeon Crawl Classics modules. In Eberron I liked the format for the Explorer's Handbook and the Secrets of Xen'drik, they seem very useful even though I haven't had an opportunity to use them yet.

For the past couple of years I've been playing in the APs primarily and the RPGA. So don't get me wrong; we've been happily 'choo-choo'ing along. I'm getting better at improv in 3.5 though and my players are wanting more freedom, so I felt it was time to sound off for Pathlosers! :)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pawns, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Sounds like to me that Takasi needs more Pathfinder Modules that take place in Varisia in and around the areas of the APs so his group can stray from the main plot when there's adventuring that can be done near.

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Takasi wrote:

and Sons of Gruumsh.

That's ironic. My players found SoG pretty linear

Spoiler:
(and somewhat railroady--save the scions, save the world)

though they had a hell of a fun time.

Spoiler:
The keep battle and then the running fights down on Thrull's level were awesome and memorable

But I think you mean maybe the style of the old Undermountain boxed sets. They tell you what is there, and what kind of hooks and plots could be going one, but no adventures to make you do X to get to Y.

Then again, one could make the case that Halaster's Halls are one big Railroad...


James Jacobs wrote:
One thing to keep in mind... I suspect a sizable amount of Pathfinder's readers WON'T run the adventures. I know that, for several years after college, I wasn't playing D&D at all, but I kept my subscriptions to Dragon and Dungeon going, and I kept buying D&D books because they were enjoyable to simply read. That's one of the areas, incidentally, that WotC's delve format fails to deliver on—it makes it very difficult to simply read an adventure for entertainment.

I know that's true of myself, though I've never played more D&D than now, in college. And I'm lovin' it!

But that aside, I bought all of the dungeon aps and am buying all of the pathfinder ones, when I'll never get to run them all.


William Pall wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
One thing to keep in mind... I suspect a sizable amount of Pathfinder's readers WON'T run the adventures.

But not from any lack of desire to run them . . . .

I hate it when my gaming groups disolve . . .

Should be a law against it.

Try hinting that when you get depressed, you don't get suicidal. Not that you don't think about death, you just don't think about your own death. Let it sink in. Grin in a creepy way. They'll stay on out of sheer terror. ;-)

Takasi wrote:


I'm a player and a DM. And I've never met a DM who didn't also wish to be a player at some point.

Sorry to go off the thread's railroad here, but I met something similar: The guy didn't mind playing - he liked it - but he liked being DM a lot more. He greatly preferred to be the DM.

Me, I used to be mainly player for a long time. I think Pathfinder changed that, and I'm about 50/50 now, maybe even with a slight lead in DMing.


James Jacobs wrote:
One thing to keep in mind... I suspect a sizable amount of Pathfinder's readers WON'T run the adventures. I know that, for several years after college, I wasn't playing D&D at all, but I kept my subscriptions to Dragon and Dungeon going, and I kept buying D&D books because they were enjoyable to simply read. That's one of the areas, incidentally, that WotC's delve format fails to deliver on—it makes it very difficult to simply read an adventure for entertainment.

Count me in as one of these. I played a lot in my younger years, but then after my return to civilian life from a stint in the Army I entered a RPG wasteland with nary a FLGS in sight. I still bought every 3rd edition book and kept my subscriptions current until the very end, the switched to Pathfinder. I buy the books many times for the entertainment value, one reason I really dislike the delve format. I enjoy Pathfinder for the gripping storyline, not the ease of modular encounter 'cut and pastes'.

Sczarni

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber
Patrick Curtin wrote:
I played a lot in my younger years, but then after my return to civilian life from a stint in the Army I entered a RPG wasteland with nary a FLGS in sight.

pat - it looks like you're on the cape? I knew I saw a thread somewhere about a group out that way... I found this old one:

http://www.enworld.org/archive/index.php/t-149257.html
but I think there is a more recent one somewhere... I'm sure that if you post on the various gamer connection boards you could find somewhere to play -and if all else fails, watch for a play by post that looks interesting to you


Cpt_kirstov wrote:
Patrick Curtin wrote:
I played a lot in my younger years, but then after my return to civilian life from a stint in the Army I entered a RPG wasteland with nary a FLGS in sight.

pat - it looks like you're on the cape? I knew I saw a thread somewhere about a group out that way... I found this old one:

http://www.enworld.org/archive/index.php/t-149257.html
but I think there is a more recent one somewhere... I'm sure that if you post on the various gamer connection boards you could find somewhere to play -and if all else fails, watch for a play by post that looks interesting to you

Thanks for the tips Cap'n. I have tried to get together with others in meatspace, but I am constrained as when I am not working I usually have to be home, so I would have to game in my house if anywhere. I have a daughter who is bedridden, and I don't get out a lot. For many years I did the sterile world of MMORPGS, but eventually got tired of the 'kill mobs, rinse, repeat, wait for buffs' cycle. Since I started hanging out on these boards though, I have entered several PbPs and even began my own, so I am finally getting my D&D fix.

Paizo Employee CEO

Takasi wrote:
I'm a player and a DM. And I've never met a DM who didn't also wish to be a player at some point.

Well, I can help you cross that one off your list! Ever since I picked up my D&D Basic Set back in 1980, I have wanted to be the DM and the DM only. Sure, I played in early RPGA games at GenCon and such, but I never really want to be a player. Ever. We just ended our SCAP campaign and Skaff Elias volunteered to DM a campaign if I wanted to play. I shot him down so fast, his head spun. I just don't like being a player nearly as much as I like DMing and if I am never a player in a D&D game again, that would be fine with me.

-Lisa

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Trying to get back somewhere towards the original argument, I think that a lot of this debate comes down to what you see as railroading. I think that myself and many others, see railroading in a very different light the the original poster.

To use his examples of the use of weather in a story, or the riot, those I think are wonderful for a sandbox and aren't sandboxing at all. The reason I feel that way about events that are natural to the narrative is because they just happen, whether the players do something about them or not. When its raining, thats part of the world moving, it just happens. Now, you can use that in a story progression fashion, but rain more or less just happens. The players could be on the otherside of the world, but weather gives the sense of a dynamic environment, it would be windy or snowing or raining or whatever else whether the players where here or not.

As for the more specific question of the riots, I think they are much the same. They happen and are likely to pull the players into them, but if the players decided to flee the city they wouldn't just stop and wait for them to return, nor would they grind to a halt in the players boarded themselves up in an inn.

Often in a story there are two major ways that plot points develop, either the players cause them to happen or they happen independently and the players either interact with them or simply hear about them. It sounds like your idea of railroading is any sort of story that doesn't focus solely on the first one, however I think that pathfinder tries to find a pretty ideal balance between both of these two points. Things happen that allow the story to progress, but the players don't have to accept those things. The world and stories laid out are fluid enough and offer expansive enough information that you can run with your players ideas, even when that moves away from the main plot of the AP.

The goblins attack sandpoint, and whether your PCs are heroic and join in its aid or hide in the church the story can continue. The AP needs to give a fairly direct point to point story to maintain some sort of consistency, but they always strive to give you enough side information that you can allow your characters to explore their own path.

Whenever you are using a published story arch there is going to be a lot of points where you have to devise things on your own because the players will always find ways to step outside of a scenario published in a book, no matter how many variations it has to it. The level you do that though does of course depends on your players. Some enjoy to follow directly after the story, others like to branch out, some do it just to see if they can break the story. Every player and group is different, but I think that Golarion seems to have a really great world around it and if you look at the events that do happen as being somewhat flexible and dynamic rather then rigid, I believe you could have a lot of fun with the setting and APs.

-Tarlane


Well, since it was my post in another thread that spawned the original quote, I'll add my thoughts here.

No two players are the same, but I've rarely encountered one that enjoyed playing "through" a story as opposed to feeling like they were the story. No writer or designer can account for all the possible actions of a party, nor do I expect them to. However, there are usually some rather obvious things that can be dealt with in a module. There's even an example in #7...

Spoiler:

It gives details about what happens to Trinia based on a few possible outcomes. A little more detail on options of hiding Trinia would have been nice, but at least it's mentioned.

That example is fairly close to what I would like to see as an acceptable level of "looseness" in a module. The story still progresses, but there are different routes at least touched on briefly. Other parts of the module lack this approach, which can make it seem railroady without DM intervention.

Just like players, no two DMs are alike. Some are creative and flexible and can handle modifying stuff either in advance or even, at times, on the fly. Others aren't very good at that and rely heavily on the material at hand. I'm sure some would argue that these are the "bad" DMs, but they might just be new and/or inexperienced. Anything a module does to provide looseness and touch on the various options goes a long way to helping those DMs, and even makes the lives of experienced DMs easier. If many people are buying these products as novels, then I guess I can't argue with the story approach, but I'd still prefer to see them "loosened". I'm not really looking for a sandbox when I pick up a module, though I do expect it in other product types.

Lastly, the feedback provided by the writers and designers here is very much appreciated and one of the best instances of customer service I've seen anywhere. I am enjoying the Pathfinder products immensely, and like a previous poster, they are almost solely responsible for getting me back into D&D and they're even threatening to make 3.5 enjoyable for me, which is saying a lot considering the number of years I accumulated under 2nd edition.


Lisa Stevens wrote:
I just don't like being a player nearly as much as I like DMing and if I am never a player in a D&D game again, that would be fine with me.

But...you've been a player at some point, right?

I'm not saying that I've never met a gamer who prefers being a DMing over playing. However, at one point or another, they've passed the screen to another gamer. Perhaps to give someone else a turn, or (for me) to gain experience on the other side of the screen. DMs who also play, IMO, can relate better to players.

And in simulationist games, it's actually better, IMO, to have the more outgoing, organized and enthusiastic gamer to play rather than DM. There is an excellent article here that helps explains why.

However, if you are going to have someone else at the table give DMing a shot, Pathfinder and narrative play makes it easier for them to do so. If players 'go with the flow' and the DM has the story all lined up for him then his job is easier. The caveat though is that if the previous-DM-now-turned-player buys PF just to read the 'story over gameplay' then he'll already know the plot. IMO, this decreases the value of premade material.

I would hate to be someone who has subscribed to Pathfinder to read the plot, finally finds a gaming group but has to bow out because they're running an AP he's familiar with.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Takasi wrote:
I would hate to be someone who has subscribed to Pathfinder to read the plot, finally finds a gaming group but has to bow out because they're running an AP he's familiar with.

Well... with each adventure path we put out... that possibility becomes less and less likely.

Having been a GM for the majority of my time in the hobby, I've read a LOT of the adventures that have been published over the years. As a result, whenever I'm a player in a campaign, chances are pretty good that sooner or later the GM will want to run an adventure I've read (or run, or even written). In that case... my GMing training kicks in. Just as the NPCs I portray in the game don't know everything I know about the world and the PCs... my characters don't know everything about the adventure I'm playing. It's something that I've come to accept as inevitable, and every GM who runs a lot of pre-written adventures who some day wants to become a player will probably have to do the same at some point.

Dark Archive

Takasi wrote:

The riots have everything to do with player choices. It's an event, something that gets up in their face and requires that they deal with it. Usually the choice has to do with their character, so rarely can they decide to do 'nothing'.

Weather is another good example. Some modules and DMs will create weather conditions for story purposes. That is a form of 'railroading', especially if the reason is to get the players to do something. ('The players cannot leave the Torr; there is a great and powerful hurricane outside!')

Well I can see by this, that you and I at least have very different views on what railroading is. For me those things you list are not railroading but events, mood settings ect to build up the general feel of the game. Least for my group, they utterly loath it if they feel the world waits and revolves around them. That the world stops moving until they enter stage left. So they like when things happen beyond their control and they have to deal with it, as long as that is not happening constently.

To me railroading is, to finish a adventure the PC's must deal with encounter A, then must go to encounter B, then most go to Encounter C so and so forth until you get to encounter H with final one.

If a adventure allows for PC's to go to A, then skip to C, then to D and finally back to B ect. Basically let them explore the events how they want then it's not railroading since they can skip some parts.

I get what you are saying I just don't consider that railroading. Me and my group prefer lose plot based adventures. The other ones tend to at least for us, feel more like a series of random encounters with no real connection between them. Not that that is bad or good, just different styles and tastes.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pawns, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
In that case... my GMing training kicks in. Just as the NPCs I portray in the game don't know everything I know about the world and the PCs... my characters don't know everything about the adventure I'm playing.

*gasps*

Someone that can roleplay and still have fun without meta-gaming.. I thought those didn't exist.

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

I enjoy playing adventures I've read (so long as I'm in the minority among the players in this regard). I suspect, like James, that it comes from being the GM most of the time.

Like James, I'm also the type of player who takes notes and really tries to understand the vision that the GM has for the campaign. I think DMs, knowing the trade, know how to help the game flow and coax the right information from the right situations.

Dark Archive

Let me chime in and say that one of the biggest added values to the Pathfinder AP's for me is exactly along the lines James said. Specifically, I read the adventures far more frequently than I can run or play in them. Real life commitments make it hard to find time to sit at the table and roll dice like I did when I was in high school and college. That said, I don't have to get a group together to sit in a comfortable chair or lay in bed and read the Pathfinder AP for an hour or so. The entertainment value of having a cohesive story and following in my mind a virtual team of adventurers as they confront the story adds a HUGE amount of extra entertainment value to the AP stuff.

The fact that Paizo has included Iconic stats in the back also means I will sometimes pull out my PHB, MM, and DMG and read the story visualizing the iconic party going through the thing and looking up monsters or spells or what have you as I envision them battling this foe or solving that puzzle. I can do that far more frequently than I can get together with a group to play D&D. Personally, I hope Paizo continues to have the interconnected stories in the AP, because in some ways it is like getting a 6-part interactive novel every 6 months. For those that want a sand box type approach, that is why they have the gamemastery line of pathfinder stand alone modules. I subscribe to those too, but I hope the flagship product (the AP's) stay very story driven. It is what I think sets them head and shoulders above WotC discombobulated "delve" format. Trying to read a WotC adventure as a story is more complicated than doing vector calculus. It just isn't fun. Its just another reason Paizo will be the sole beneficiary of my gaming dollars going forward. They just make superior products. I hope very sincerely that doesn't change.


James Jacobs wrote:
Well... with each adventure path we put out... that possibility becomes less and less likely.

I don't understand why. If people are subscribing to Pathfinder and reading them instead of playing them then they're getting spoilers. The more narrative and linear the paths are, the more they focus on revealing twists and an interesting story, then the spoilers have an even greater impact on future play.

Subscribers can read these modules faster than DMs can run them. I don't see how the number of APs matters; if subscribers follow your lead and read them then those are players who are spoiled.

I have collected a lot of modules (especially the GameMastery ones), but personally I don't read them unless I'm thinking of using them. And I have chatted with a few DMs who are NOT reading their AP subscriptions until they plan to run them, and I think they couldn't care less how well the module actually reads but instead how it plays.

James Jacobs wrote:
In that case... my GMing training kicks in. Just as the NPCs I portray in the game don't know everything I know about the world and the PCs... my characters don't know everything about the adventure I'm playing.

That's a huge difference in opinion then. I would much rather play in a campaign with no story on the DM's part, where I build a backstory and explore the world than play in an intricate, linear plot where I, as a player, know the outcome.

Playstyle makes a big difference. If your group's agenda leans heavily on gamism, like if the focus is creating an interesting stat build, or simply exploring a different personality or backstory, then I can understand. But if it's a murder mystery I have no interest in going through the motions again. I would prefer that the DM alter the story, since its unraveling is a big part of narrative play.

I'm a little surprised Paizo would have to play in games with DMs who have to run premade modules you've already read. I would have guessed that you have plenty of writers around the office who could playtest new ideas that would become new material in the future. And I have trouble relating to anyone who would prefer replaying a full on adventure path when they already know the entire plot for the campaign from 1st to whatever high level you end at.

The RPGA, for example, is a necessary evil for pick up games at cons, but I would hate it if that was all I had to play, especially if I had already played in the modules. Some people would find satisfaction with this, but my standards are different.

Role playing is interactive, and is different from watching a movie or even playing a video game because you can improvise and have a lot of freedom to explore characters, settings and events. Unlike a video game, you can quickly add a new building, or character, or event. I personally wouldn't want to limit myself, as a player, to a campaign when I've essentially already explored the 'plot' of what's happening.

On the topic of what the OP (me) considers 'railroading': event based modules that require a specific outcome from previous events in order for them to make sense is a railroad. (In the case of putting in riots or harsh weather, it's a railroad when subsequent encounters are entirely dependent on specific actions that the previous events required.) You can present goals and encounters that are site based, where exploration of one area does not require another. This is less restrictive. It may not make the greatest story in the world, but it makes for more enjoyable play and IMO a better opportunity for a memorable story from the player's perspective.

And to reiterate again, there are a lot of playstyles out there.

Some campaigns are based on modules that use a very linear series of events.

Some campaigns tolerate players who already know that event x will trigger event y.

Other campaigns don't want either. There are some very good parts of the APs and the standalone modules that support a variety of playstyles. This thread is for DMs who aren't always looking for a linear story. DMs who don't always want a totally cohesive series of (unfortunate) events. DMs who like it when gameplay is a priority. We are the Pathlosers.

Erik Mona wrote:
I think DMs, knowing the trade, know how to help the game flow and coax the right information from the right situations.

In some campaigns there is no 'right or wrong' roleplaying. There is no 'expected' outcome.

This reminds me of a quote from the simulationist article, where I'm sure a DM could get the players back on the railroad track:

"The PCs will walk around and look in different places, not find anything special, and be bored. Indeed, if the players are conditioned to expect a prepared adventure, this can be just what happens. The players search around for hints about what the GM wants them to do, and fail to find it. But by adjusting play, a different dynamic emerges.

In Simulationist play, the onus is more on the players to drive play. Without contrived situations to force the PCs into action, the PCs need to be more pro-active. They need to be rebellious, in the sense that faced with a stable status quo, they will take risks to upset that status quo. In GM-driven adventures, there is an unusual event (a melodramatic hook) which spurs the PCs to action. But in Simulationism, there will not usually be such unusual events. Without such hooks, the PCs need to seek out conflict. "

The transition between each of the Runelords modules is a good example of modular independence. There are even some encounters in Crimson Throne that are very independent of one another. A few threads (like 'The Runelords aren't doing a lot of Rising') criticized this because it didn't make a very compelling story. In actual play I'm having a great time with it.

A lot of material in Paizo adventures are very useful for Simulationist play (and some of it isn't). I'm really not asking for more or less because to be honest the amount of support seems to differ from module to module and even encounter to encounter. This thread is for those who enjoy the Simulationist benefits to express themselves.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Takasi wrote:
I'm a little surprised Paizo would have to play in games with DMs who have to run premade modules you've already read. I would have guessed that you have plenty of writers around the office who could playtest new ideas that would become new material in the future. And I have trouble relating to anyone who would prefer replaying a full on adventure path when they already know the entire plot for the campaign from 1st to whatever high level you end at.

This smells a bit of elitism, I'm afraid. Personally, I'd rather play in an adventure that I've read with a good GM than play in a game with a GM who feels his home-brew adventures are spun gold and isn't big enough to admit that, yes, pre-made adventures CAN be better than his home-grown ones.

For example. One of the games I'm playing in (although it's been on hiatus for a while) is Erik's Age of Worms campaign. Now... I developed every single one of the adventures in this campaign. I wrote one of them. I edited all of them. And I rewrote/rebuilt a lot more of each adventure's elements than I suspect most people suspect. I'm pretty sure that out of everyone at Paizo... I know the Age of Worms adventures the best.

But at the same time, I have a BLAST playing in these adventures, in the same way I have a blast watching a movie like Jaws or Alien or The Thing that I've seen a million times with someone who's never seen that movie. You can only have the thrill of "first time" once... but that's not true. By taking part of an adventure with other players who are experiencing it for the first time, you can hitch a ride on their excitement. It's fun to see how other players react to the adventures. It's fun to see how a good GM makes those adventures his own and changes them. It's fun just to play the game.

Is it exciting to play in a game where you DON'T know what's going to happen, where you DON'T know the plot before hand? Absolutely. But that's not the only way to play the game. Not by a long shot.

Oh and as an aside... when I hear words like "gamism" and the like... my interest wanes. I'd rather talk about the stories of the game than philosophize on styles of play, honestly.


Campaigns take a lot longer to commit to, in most cases, than watching a Jaws or Alien.

I can understand someone doing a repeat of a one shot, 4 hour RPGA mod. I can understand a module. I can even understand a couple of modules. How far did you get into AoW? What I can't understand is the preference of this style over playing something new. You're living vicariously through someone else's enjoyment. It's just...strange to me. Especially to commit yourself for so many hundreds of hours. [Edit: Let me rephrase that. It's not that strange, because that's partially the fun of being a DM. But what you're describing is the worst of both worlds. You're not the DM, but you're also not the player. You're an NPC! It sounds like something I might do if I wanted to feel like a DM but didn't have the time, but it doesn't sound better, to me, than being a player or being a DM.)

And while you would rather talk about 'the' stories, I would rather talk about the set and setting behind the stories others will produce. (And on a detailed scale much of the set and setting of Golarion can only be seen in modules, not 'setting' books. The same applies to other settings, like Eb...well, let's not go there...)

I haven't seen any comments on the difference between the replay value in site based adventures, like the original Greyhawk modules, vs event based linear modules, like Dragonlance. From my experience, few players go through the motions of the original Dragonlance modules after they've read the novels. They may do it, but it certainly doesn't seem to be preferred.


James Jacobs wrote:
But at the same time, I have a BLAST playing in these adventures, in the same way I have a blast watching a movie like Jaws or Alien or The Thing that I've seen a million times with someone who's never seen that movie. You can only have the thrill of "first time" once... but that's not true. By taking part of an adventure with other players who are experiencing it for the first time, you can hitch a ride on their excitement. It's fun to see how other players react to the adventures. It's fun to see how a good GM makes those adventures his own and changes them. It's fun just to play the game.

I agree! I watched The Thing with my kids a few weeks ago and the experience of watching the reactions of a 15 and 17 year old seeing an "old" movie was fantastic. The blood test scene in the movie made them both jump!


Takasi wrote:

Campaigns take a lot longer to commit to, in most cases, than watching a Jaws or Alien.

I can understand someone doing a repeat of a one shot, 4 hour RPGA mod. I can understand a module. I can even understand a couple of modules. How far did you get into AoW? What I can't understand is the preference of this style over playing something new. You're living vicariously through someone else's enjoyment. It's just...strange to me. Especially to commit yourself for so many hundreds of hours. [Edit: Let me rephrase that. It's not that strange, because that's partially the fun of being a DM. But what you're describing is the worst of both worlds. You're not the DM, but you're also not the player. You're an NPC! It sounds like something I might do if I wanted to feel like a DM but didn't have the time, but it doesn't sound better, to me, than being a player or being a DM.)

And while you would rather talk about 'the' stories, I would rather talk about the set and setting behind the stories others will produce. (And on a detailed scale much of the set and setting of Golarion can only be seen in modules, not 'setting' books. The same applies to other settings, like Eb...well, let's not go there...)

I haven't seen any comments on the difference between the replay value in site based adventures, like the original Greyhawk modules, vs event based linear modules, like Dragonlance. From my experience, few players go through the motions of the original Dragonlance modules after they've read the novels. They may do it, but it certainly doesn't seem to be preferred.

I think there is a disconnect in the playstyles here. What some of the posters (and I put myself in this area) enjoy about the game is sending a 'new' character through and old (or known) module. I consider running a character through a known module akin to acting a role in a play. You have to be able to constrain your metaknowledge, just as an actor in a play can't run up to the villian in the first act and beat him silly. Now if this feels horribly constraining, then we would obviously be comparing apples to oranges. I, and most of the people I ever played with, are able to enjoy a known module through the eyes of a 'new' persona.

Of course role-playing isn't an exact analogy to playacting. I realize that you have purported freedom of action in a RPG that actors in a play don't. Still, to make a good RPG work, you need players who are willing to lock their metaknowlege away in a little corner of their mind. If they can't, then perhaps you are right and they shouldn't read the modules at all. That's really a personal call. It's the same as rules lawyers and monster studiers. In a game I never identify a monster off the bat by name, unless that character has dealt with it or makes a knowledge roll. If a player can't suppress their metaknowledge during a game, it's going to be a long, painful one. This applies to any aspect of the game, not just adventures.

As to the event vs. area design, to my mind either works. It's the carpenter, not the saw, that makes a good chair. I think that Golarion will be fleshed out in time as thouroughly as Greyhawk. We are at the threshold here, Pathfinder is not even 1 year old yet.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:

Personally, I'd rather play in an adventure that I've read with a good GM than play in a game with a GM who feels his home-brew adventures are spun gold and isn't big enough to admit that, yes, pre-made adventures CAN be better than his home-grown ones.

It's gems like these that make wading through the storm of house rules that are pelting the Alpha Playtest boards worthwhile. As a GM with many pre-published adventures, you've just added another dimension in which I can enjoy the game.

Thanks for the insight, James. Please keep 'em coming!

Paizo Employee Creative Director

We started playing Age of Worms to playtest "Whispering Cairn," but we only played for a 3 hour session on Thursdays and as things started getting crazier (magazines going away, conventions, starting up Pathfinder, writing products, the whole 4th edition thing), we had less and less time to play. Last session we just finished the first arena battle in "Champion's Belt."

And of course, to Erik's credit, a fair amount of the campaign HAS been new. We spent several months dealing with the Mistmarsh, for example, while "Encounter at Blackwall Keep" pretty much glosses over that area. He changes enough and adds enough (and the other players do too!) that it's not the overall plot that engages me as much as it is the fun of wallowing in the adventure and the world, I guess.

That said... to me, a big part of the enjoyment of the game IS watching how other players play their characters. And the interaction of characters is very rewarding to me as well. And to be honest... the challenge of keeping player knowledge apart from character knowledge is actually pretty fun too.

Anyway... we ARE developing Golarion, slowly but surely. Pathfinder's actually doing a fair amount of that, both via adventures (which is a time-honored method; when D&D was at its height of popularity in the early 80's, ALL of a world's development was done via adventures, after all!) and via other articles. And we'll be doing more through the Pathfinder Chronicles line as well, between the big Hardcover campaign setting and the smaller books like the various Guides, Classic Monsters Revisited, Gods and Magic, Into the Darklands, etc.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

James Jacobs wrote:
One thing to keep in mind... I suspect a sizable amount of Pathfinder's readers WON'T run the adventures. I know that, for several years after college, I wasn't playing D&D at all, but I kept my subscriptions to Dragon and Dungeon going, and I kept buying D&D books because they were enjoyable to simply read. That's one of the areas, incidentally, that WotC's delve format fails to deliver on—it makes it very difficult to simply read an adventure for entertainment.

Oh how much I so so agree with this sentiment!

I have every Eberron book to Date; but have never (and probably will never) be in an Eberron game because everyone else in my play group doesn't like Eberron.
Same goes for Star Wars RPG; Every book, including Saga Edition but still no game (closest I got was making Characters).
To a certain extent the same goes for Pathfinder. I am the one that is hyping it up to our play group and buying all of the books (and yes I do mean all, me am Superscriber!). We probably will get to play, but not till we finish our current FR game (which may be soon, we have already had 1 TPK and I am up to my 3rd Character; my second lasted all of 10-15 minutes of me playing him before an Ogre chopped his head off. One more TPK and the DM is calling it!).

And I also agree with the statement about the Delve Format. I have all of the "Expedition to" Adventures (cheers for the signed Greyhawk btw) and have found them to be an extreme pain in the arse to read.

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