Weird campaign ideas you've successfully played


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I've been reading through the weird campaign ideas you'd like to play thread, and figured we should also see what people have successfully pulled off.

I'll offer a couple of my own to start:

The BBEG had actually split the world into 4 parts, based on the elements - air, earth, fire, and water. There were prophecies of the chosen ones who will one day have the chance to defeat him. The characters (gestalt PCs) all passed through a magical portal, after which they met each other for the first time. Before the game started, I sent each a player a description of the game world for building their character. I sent each of them a totally different description, randomly assigning each one to one of 4 elemental 'pieces' of the original world. The adventure spanned all 4 elemental realms, the Elysian Fields (Halfling Heaven, as it were), a 5th 'hidden' shard that was the last piece of the original world, and several other planes. It was pretty awesome. The air shard was my favorite and was based on The Integral Trees by Larry Niven. On the water shard, all of the land-based species were forced to live on top of the ice in arctic areas. By the end of the campaign, the party were flying on a planes-hopping mithral-hulled airship and wound up befriending Vinnie, the 30-headed tarrasque. Yes, that involved multiple Nat 20 rolls on the part of the party.

The second bizarre one I started, was D&D 3.5 anthropomorphic animal characters w/ BESM d20 traits. I said this was bizarre from the start, right? Raised on what was, to all appearances, a medieval estate. The entire group, were raised as a family unit, despite being different animals. They were all accustomed to medieval style life, manners, etc. The game started with the death of their father, when they were first able to leave the family estate. And that is when they learned they were in a post-apocalyptic Earth. Including a cult that worshipped the ancient god, Michael Jackson. That was a hell of a campaign. Especially after they got their hands on a Doctor Who inspired time machine.


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I'm playing in a weird mashup of Call of Cthulhu d20 and Vampire: The Masquerade. We're vampires during WWII fighting Nazis and creatures from beyond time and space. We're having a blast with it.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Ran a cross-space-time adventure where the 'travel device' was a Braun face trimmer.

Had a list of different realities, if the party attempted to use the device, would roll it out to see where they ended up, used a variation of World of Darkness with self-insert-esque characters.

Ran for a few months while the ship was in the yards.

Pretty impressive for a military gaming group whose crew was in flux.

Scarab Sages

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We had an intermittent ongoing campaign using the 'Risus: The Everything RPG' free rules for several years, that was inspired by the Iron Chef tv show. Our characters were agents of The Kitchen, the secret Illuminati-like organization for which Iron Chef was just a cover. The real Chairman sent us off on missions to acquire things like manticore meat and ambrosia (the stuff the Greek gods enjoyed, not the horrible fruit salad). Our enemies included the Antarctic Nazi brewmeisters who were always trying to get their hands on the same ingredients. The party members included an Australian chef who acted like Crocodile Dundee, a chef who was deadly at throwing kitchen knives; and my character, an Atlantean sorceress.

Weird campaign #2 used a modified set of Risus rules for a superhero game inspired by the movie Mystery Men. Our heroes lived in Campaign City, and we took every place name and person we could think of from any other source and threw it in there - the city had a Milliways Restaurant and Leonard McCoy Memorial Hospital, to name but a few.

Our superhero team leader was Jack, as in the Jack-in-the-Box food franchise mascot, complete with his giant pingpong-ball head. His superpower was that his head could deflect almost anything, and his hat never came off. One of the other players was the Spectacular Squirrel, a reporter who had been bitten by a radioactive squirrel and developed squirrel powers; his wife made his costume, but he didn't have a headpiece, so it was a guy in a squirrel outfit with a domino mask over his eyes. My husband played Java Joe, who was Tweak from South Park all grown up; he had coffee-based powers, like throwing hot latte' on villains and hitting them with coffee mugs. Then there was Ninja Princess, a mobster's daughter who had learned ninja techniques from a book and could summon a stunt double to keep her out of danger. My character, Gadget, was inspired by Professor Heller from Mystery Men; she only made non-lethal gadgets like her Goo Gun and the Big Bopper (a giant boxing glove on a spring).

Risus is great for a 'make whatever you want' campaign.

Liberty's Edge

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A Call of Cthulhu campaign in pre-revolutionary Mexico (1908) facing pre columbine mythology creatures.


Never fear...Spectacular Squirrel is here! Do you have any fermented pumpkin from All Hollows Eve? Spectacular Squirrel NEEDS nature made pumpkin liqueur...to maintain my powers, yes....thats it...powers. ;)


Once played a non D20 fantasy game as a young (14 or so) lad, I played a pink halfling size tribble that wore a meat skewer on a harness as a lance...good times, even without hands, or eyes, or a mouth.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

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I once ran a GURPS game years ago where each player began the game believing that it would take place in a different setting, and built their characters around the idea of playing in that setting. Less than five minutes into the game, they were all caught in storm which picked them up from their respective settings/realities and deposited all nine characters on a tenth, completely distinct, setting. None of them were built or prepared for this and all of them proceeded to panic and flail. They spent the next 3 years of real time fighting to predict and enter more of these storms hoping to be dropped off in more familiar settings, ignoring most of the plot hooks presented to them, including those about the people who were causing the storms, in favor of desperately hopping settings in the hopes of getting sent home, a la quantum leap. A more rag tag bunch of adventurers I've never seen. Most of the time, they didn't even have a consistent shared language. Some of the most memorable characters I've ever run for came from that campaign.

We also had a psionics game where the players picked up their powers partway through investigating a global conspiracy to commit/cause a mass ritual sacrifice/suicide to usher in the end of the world by sending the psychic essence of every death to a creature who had wrapped a portion of its psychic aura around the planet. Instead of unraveling the mystery, the players figured out how to wrap their aura in a similar way, accepted the incoming levels of insanity, and allowed the sacrifices to go forward, absorbing the power themselves instead. This was followed by a battle between several near-god level creatures with an outer eldritch horror that leveled most of europe.

I was also in a game where everyone was giant crabs. That didn't last long, but it was fun.

Then there was a campaign where the players all died in the U.S. patent office fire of 1836 in the first session, only to awake in a military hospital, naked and surrounded by terrified staff. They then fled, unequipped save for hospital gowns, into the frigid Virginia winter to look for safety first, and explanations second. The premise was that they were superheroes, in a setting where such a thing was unheard of until only a month or so prior, and their characters were all built with the assumption that magic/superpowers/hypercompetence did not exist, and they would have to fix everything the old fashioned way. I also kept their list of powers secret from them, and they had to figure them out through trial and error, slowly working out how far they could go without hurting themselves or those around them. The world was essentially undergoing a "supernatural renaissance", and they were, willingly or unwillingly, going to be a focal point of it. They chose unwillingly and fled from every major plot point, developed phobias of their own powers, and in general behaved like real, traumatized people. It remains one of my favorite campaigns to date.

Scarab Sages

Corsario wrote:
A Call of Cthulhu campaign in pre-revolutionary Mexico (1908) facing pre columbine mythology creatures.

That sounds seriously awesome.

Liberty's Edge

Dire Elf wrote:
Corsario wrote:
A Call of Cthulhu campaign in pre-revolutionary Mexico (1908) facing pre columbine mythology creatures.
That sounds seriously awesome.

It was. Maybe the best campaign I have ever mastered.


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Many, many years ago, at Kennedy's Historical Models & Games, I ran what might have been the first: "you wake up naked in the dungeon and have to get out" campaign. It was very popular, had to run it two nites a week with two large groups.


DrDeth wrote:

Many, many years ago, at Kennedy's Historical Models & Games, I ran what might have been the first: "you wake up naked in the dungeon and have to get out" campaign. It was very popular, had to run it two nites a week with two large groups.

I'm fairly certain that that concept predates the name "D&D"...and it predates every living human, for that matter.

Also, what are nites?


Used and abused the dual-class rules from AD&D 1st ed. At the end (AD&D skills and powers) each PC had mastered 5 classes staggered at 25th/27th/28th/29th/30th level. Climax was a self-sacrificing slobberknocker that consumed the power of far-too-many artifacts, relics and XP to save the campaign world from the eldritch horrors.

Heroes remembered what they'd done, starting 3.0 as ... fresh faced young adult 1st levels with awesome ability score arrays and nothing else asides a few gimmie feats and probably more than a few mental health issues. No rep, no vast multi-world demesnes, no extraplanar harems, no ridiculous treasure hordes, all was as it should be. Good times.

Were the players still around, we'd probably pick them up for Strange Aeons as the New Beginning was a bit vague...


Always wanted to play a plane hopping, heroes out of time sort of game, where every time the players (and thus their PC's) start to understand and get into the flow of a particular plane or time, they get swept away to a whole different plane and/or time. I am sure others have thought of this, and done it before, but as a player, I would find this quite amusing, and the idea warms my cold cold GM heart, someday, ahhh, someday.


I love this thread.

Angry Wiggles wrote:
Then there was a campaign where the players all died in the U.S. patent office fire of 1836 in the first session, only to awake in a military hospital, naked and surrounded by terrified staff. They then fled, unequipped save for hospital gowns, into the frigid Virginia winter to look for safety first, and explanations second. The premise was that they were superheroes, in a setting where such a thing was unheard of until only a month or so prior, and their characters were all built with the assumption that magic/superpowers/hypercompetence did not exist, and they would have to fix everything the old fashioned way. I also kept their list of powers secret from them, and they had to figure them out through trial and error, slowly working out how far they could go without hurting themselves or those around them. The world was essentially undergoing a "supernatural renaissance", and they were, willingly or unwillingly, going to be a focal point of it. They chose unwillingly and fled from every major plot point, developed phobias of their own powers, and in general behaved like real, traumatized people. It remains one of my favorite campaigns to date.

I would love to hear what each secret powerset was, and how the PCs discovered them!


Sounds like amazing fun, and some masterful manipulation, all for the good of a great game, well done there Wiggles! I would totally play in such a game.

Indeed do share if so inclined, I smell great stories.


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I've run a few short 'crazy campaigns' that I rather enjoyed.

First was the all-monk party. This ended up involving tripping a flying wyvern.

Second was the reverse dungeon crawl, where the party consisted of monsters at the bottom floor of a dungeon that had been overrun by adventurers. The monsters fought their way up through the various humanoids until they broke through a new door at the top floor of their dungeon... depositing them on the floor at GenCon next to a very confused GM. Mass panic then ensued.

Last was the hydra campaign, where each character was a head on a hydra, who had to vote on where to move their body. I'm actually reprising this campaign on the boards here now.


Almonihah wrote:
Last was the hydra campaign, where each character was a head on a hydra, who had to vote on where to move their body. I'm actually reprising this campaign on the boards here now.

I just read through some the threads for this campaign. I'm so mad at the universe that I missed the Recruitment thread for this!

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

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Andostre wrote:

I love this thread.

Angry Wiggles wrote:
Then there was a campaign where the players all died in the U.S. patent office fire of 1836 in the first session, only to awake in a military hospital, naked and surrounded by terrified staff. They then fled, unequipped save for hospital gowns, into the frigid Virginia winter to look for safety first, and explanations second. The premise was that they were superheroes, in a setting where such a thing was unheard of until only a month or so prior, and their characters were all built with the assumption that magic/superpowers/hypercompetence did not exist, and they would have to fix everything the old fashioned way. I also kept their list of powers secret from them, and they had to figure them out through trial and error, slowly working out how far they could go without hurting themselves or those around them. The world was essentially undergoing a "supernatural renaissance", and they were, willingly or unwillingly, going to be a focal point of it. They chose unwillingly and fled from every major plot point, developed phobias of their own powers, and in general behaved like real, traumatized people. It remains one of my favorite campaigns to date.
I would love to hear what each secret powerset was, and how the PCs discovered them!

I'm spoilering this both for length, and because some of the content can be both racially and religiously sensitive to multiple groups.

Another thing to note reading this, every player was given the option every game to leave the table at any point, and discuss what bothered them after taking a moment to cool off and center, as we handled old politics, racial and social injustices, and violence as they were, without watering them down. We added a fantasy coating to it, but player characters were openly and brutally discriminated against, sometimes in horrific ways. They were warned that this would happen, and still most of them chose to pick some group from the time that was readily discriminated against for their character. I was also encouraged by several players to openly engage their real life phobias at the table, which allowed me to increase the horror aspect of the game a great deal. I can't say that I enjoyed everything that I said and wrote to maintain those atmospheres for that game, but the players certainly enjoyed that level of realism. I think mostly they enjoyed it because we always encouraged walking away when it became too much, and coming back as soon as you were able. I'm not going to write about all of this in detail, but understand that it happened, and may bleed through.

Spoiler:
Prior to the games start, I approached each player, got an idea of their character and how they fit into the game world, and then gave them a secret memory. Which implied to them that there was more going on in the world than they originally thought when they first built the character. The idea was that this memory would have been repressed, due to family action, behavior, breeding, or culture. Remember, this was, for the most part, 1836 as it was historically.

The first character was a young woman who had recently been cast out of her very religious catholic family for having an affair with a priest. Her local community had decided that she had seduced him, despite that not being the case, and had cast her out, so she was moving to stay with a relative in New England, which was the reason she was in the hotel above the patent office at all. She was given the ability to both heal wounds, transfer them to other people, and pull people across the line between this life and the next, in both directions. Her secret memory entailed a beloved family dog dying, and returning several days later, covered in soil and partially rotted, to whine outside her window, only to be discovered and put down again by her father the next day. Throughout the course of the game, she only discovered the ability to bring people back, and it mostly worked to the party's detriment, as she had very little control over it. For a great many sessions, they believed it was an environmental effect that was spreading over the area spreading from the Hospital and they could outrun it, only to kill a deer, cook dinner that night, and watch meat slowly regrow on its bones. The unexpected reactivation of her powers is what caused all of the characters to return to a full, unscarred state from being nearly burnt bones following the hotel fire, herself included.

The second character was a second generation Irish immigrant and a member of the Irish mob with one good arm, and one shrunken, disfigured arm. He was working as an enforcer for years prior to the game and was in the hotel with a massive quantity of someone else's money in order to complete the purchase of a large number of firearms the next day. He largely worked for the mob for a consistent source of money to take care of his ailing father. He was the only character in the group built with combat in mind, and had the ability to breathe under water, as well as manipulate any mostly-clear water he was in physical contact with. His secret memory was of an argument between his (deceased) mother and father about how his father had left something behind in the old country, and now she couldn't ever go back, even if he wanted to leave her. It was clear in his memory that he had two normal arms. This slowly led him down a path of realization that his mother was a Selkie, who was driven mad by the loss of her original form, and attempted to make a deal with a nature spirit in the Americas and tried to trade his arm for her stolen skin, which his father had taken in order to convince her to marry him. He developed a real fear of the ocean due to a series of nightmares sent to him by an npc in the game and would roll against will in order to even use his powers. If he failed, he would refuse to use them and look for purely physical solutions.

The third character was a pale skinned Indian woman who had come to the U.S. posing as a British woman following the death of her British husband. She practiced her religious rituals in secret, and hid nearly every symbol of her ancestry, in order to protect her newborn infant (who also died and was resurrected in the fire). Her secret memory revolved around her village in India and the first child of every woman being taken by a creature she later identified in game as an Asura (following original myths, not pathfinder lore). The Asura attempted to take her, leading her to a tiny temple/home, built out of loose foliage and twigs and containing little more than a bed and dresser. She screamed and ran, and by the time she returned with the elders, the creature was gone, but the tiny house remained. She was left alone, but other children continued to disappear. Extra kudos to this player, she did an obscene amount of research in order to make her character as authentic as possible to the location and time period. Even going so far as to hide her character's real race and religion from the other players for months of real time. She spent much of the game paranoid about potential risks to her infant child (who also had powers, but which had not yet manifested). Her powers were centered around the controlling of plant life. She could cause things to grow obscenely quickly, or wilt, given adequate resources. She could even hybridize or create wholly new plants, given time, although she only discovered the first few powers by the games end.

The fourth character was an anxious young woman from a poor background travelling to meet family. She started out with kind of a thin background, which was clearly to allow the character more space to grow in game, which it definitely did. Her secret memory involved listening to an uncle rant for hours about how he had seen his own death in a mirror. He was then dragged off to an asylum, and came back several months later, heavily sedated, before dying in exactly the way that he had predicted. She recalled this happening with three other male relatives in her family, including her own father. This character was a diviner, although several of her first exposures to her power were particularly gruesome, and so she quickly developed a fear of using it and had to be coaxed into it by other characters, despite its usefulness. She could relatively easily see something that was happening elsewhere, but the future was troublesome to interpret. When she looked into the future, she saw two likely outcomes first, and then an event which would most likely pivot it in either direction. I will admit, they occasionally chose neither and attempted to swing it away from both outcomes. It was a grand time having them try and thwart fate, and succeed on occasion, particularly when they burned down the entirety of Chicago in order to stop a man who was able to mind control everyone over approximately the age of 30. (this was judged not by physical age, but by an amount of emotional/spiritual damage taken, as he worked himself into wounds in your mind. So people who had maintained a level of naivety or innocence where harder for him to control, while those who had been traumatized where easier for him to worm his way into. The more he worked himself across the city, the younger the people he was able to control.)

The fifth and final player was a white heir to a southern plantation with an eye on national politics, who had so far refused to disavow his ancestors due to their political ties as he climbed the legal and political ladders, but couldn't come to terms with the moral crimes they were committing. He had one good leg, the other having been crushed under a horse years prior. His secret memory was getting lost in a fog bank while out riding with his brother and coming upon an old black man (who they later identified as a personification of a Loa), wearing sackcloth pants, a rope belt, and a ring of broken keys, but little else, flanked by two large shaggy grey and black mottled hounds. The Loa told him that he would be very important soon, and he would need to pay attention when it happened, and that he was sorry, but this would hurt a great deal. The player then heard his brothers horse, turned and saw no fog, was run into, thrown from his own horse, and crushed. He was left a cripple after this, and could only walk with the assistance of a cane. His power was the limited ability to speed and slow time, as well as short distance teleportation. He got a good handle on slowing time, but the player had an extremely unlucky time with the other abilities, and actually knocked herself unconscious more often than not when she tried teleportation, dropping herself 40 feet off of a ledge more than once.

The players, split between veteran roleplayers and those newly introduced to gaming in general, found it incredibly easy to stay in character, more than in any other game I've ever run. It's the only game where I've ever had players shout at each other that they were being unfair before getting up to go get the other one a drink. They behaved like real people in their situations would, terrified, angry at times, and with a confused determination to pull through. They did not treat it like a game, and they seemed to understand that they could die and be left behind, so they were not afraid to flee and return later with reinforcements or more information. Once they discovered that they had powers at all, they spent weeks in and out of game slowly experimenting with them trying to figure out how to use them safely; and often failing. As they encountered other people with powers, some similar and some very dissimilar to their own, it became clear that these people were otherwise just like everyone else in the world, with the same prejudices and the same fears and desires. The bigger difference is that these people had the power to see their desires through, when they didn't have any strong morals or ethics holding them back. This led to a very rapid backlash against them, an overturning of several underground crime rings, and as already mentioned, one of them attempting to claim the entire city of Chicago by force. This newfound source of power among humans also brought to light a few very old monsters. Mostly this exposed those creatures that were already good at hiding, the rest having been slain long ago as the corners of the world were explored.

There are a plenty of notable stories, including a false Lovecraft style elder god faked by a dream manipulating telepath, the diviner trying to see an impossible future and instead seeing a void in which only she existed and going slightly insane, the life/death character accidentally reviving an entire morgue of superpowered people, some of whom were known to have no control over very dangerous powers, the plantation heir accidentally teleporting into a set of shackles at the bottom of a river, and a seven hundred year plus old man who had been stealing years from other people and storing them in a philosopher's stone of sorts. They also found an an army of children protected from harm (including a very violent explosion) by an Indonesian water goddess who had been trapped in Lake Michigan, a store owner who used dozens clones of himself with a hivemind to carry out insider trading and market manipulation across the east coast, and an alchemist who could force unstable powers in people who would then force them to go on near/actual suicide attacks against his political allies in exchange for their families safety. And, of course, they burned down Chicago, fleeing with the children, to escape a mind-controlling psychic who had been trying to recruit them by force into a war against the aforementioned alchemist, shattering most of the psychic's powerbase.

I'm not sure if that was more or less than you wanted to know, but it was both a long game and not as long as I wanted it to be.


Angry Wiggles wrote:
I'm not sure if that was more or less than you wanted to know, but it was both a long game and not as long as I wanted it to be.

It was way more than I was expecting, but that was great fun to read! How did the PCs discover all or part of their powers? Was it story-based, action-based, time-based?

Were the PCs more or less morally upstanding, or were they coerced to stand against the threats you provided?

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Andostre wrote:
Angry Wiggles wrote:
I'm not sure if that was more or less than you wanted to know, but it was both a long game and not as long as I wanted it to be.

It was way more than I was expecting, but that was great fun to read! How did the PCs discover all or part of their powers? Was it story-based, action-based, time-based?

Were the PCs more or less morally upstanding, or were they coerced to stand against the threats you provided?

Spoiler for length:

They discovered their powers mostly through action. Putting themselves in circumstances where they would be used, and having something unusual happen. Eventually they figured out that it was them causing it, and they sought out some other seemingly friendly people who may have known more to try and clue themselves in. There was a little bit that just happened, so that I could clue them in to powers existing at all, but I didn't want them to miss out on it all together. Their powers grew the more they used them, which meant that the players who developed phobias of their powers and refused to use them generally remained behind the "power curve" in terms of what their abilities could do. They didn't seem to care or complain about this at all.

Some of the players, in attempting to learn more about their powers and how far they might stretch, spent time reading in game about real world beliefs that may have related to their abilities. That definitely surprised me, but it was a pleasant surprise. The second session they sent their characters to a library to read, I was able to give them summaries from real books on the subjects to give them the information that they wanted. It definitely aided in the immersion.

Very little was explicitly story driven. The world moved around them, but it was largely open world. I did not correct their actions or guide them in any given direction. If they wanted to hop on a train and flee to Canada, or try to ride out California, I would not have stopped them, and there would have been something there to do. I was definitely aided by real world maps, though. They probably could have dodged the main events of the underlying plot forever, if they were so inclined.

As for morals, I would describe them more as a neutral group. The plantation heir was the most hard line against racism, amusingly, while the Irish mobster thought the plantation heir deserved a turn on the bottom of the social pile, and reminded him of this constantly. The Indian woman in the group was following the rest because she literally knew nobody else in this country and she thought that since she now knew their secrets she could blackmail them into keeping her safe, and the other two women were simply too naive/innocent to believe that anyone could wish them harm at all, although that changed quickly.

Mostly they confronted threats from a place of fear. They talked their way out of anything possible. When that didn't work they fought what the mobster thought they were capable of fighting, which wasn't a great deal. Otherwise they attempted to flee.

Later on in the game it became apparent to them that powers were appearing in the world for a reason. A sort of mock territorial dispute between gods and demigods, using humans as proxy pieces, which was intended not to claim souls or land, but to spur new belief by demonstrating power in the world again. They were building a series of near apocalyptic events, fulfilling various prophecies about themselves, and then intending to show up and do fake battle before settling back down again to enjoy their new followers. Except that one of those participating, and none of the orchestrating gods/demigods knew who yet, had raised the stakes and things had gone much farther than intended. Several minor deities were already dead, some were missing, and as mentioned before, there was an Indonesian water goddess trapped in Lake Michigan.

After they figured that out, having even been approached by a less popular deity and told they would now act on his behalf in the coming war, they mostly acted to figure out who had started up the real war instead of the fake war so that they could remove themselves as pieces from the god's metaphorical gameboards.


Amazing, simply amazing, that sounds like a metric crap ton of fun.


Yeah, agreed. It sounds like you had a really great group of players that were willing to go along with not knowing everything about their PCs until the GM deemed it best.

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