Issues with Heavy Armor


Skills, Feats, Equipment & Spells


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Straight to the point - I'm not a fan of PF2's current balance between Light and Heavy Armor. I'll list what I see as some pros and cons of both below:

Light Armor Pros:
* Easier to gain Trained proficiency
* Low weight
* Higher possible TAC
* Low/No Armor Check Penalty

Light Armor Cons:
* Requires higher investment in DEX to make it effective
* Lower maximum Proficiency means lower AC and less effective Shield builds

Heavy Armor Pros:
* Requires minimal investment in DEX
* Higher potential AC with Fighters and Paladins due to proficiency

Heavy Armor Cons:
* Higher STR requirement to use
* Higher Armor Check Penalty means lower bonuses on many Skills
* Lower potential TAC
* Speed penalty reduces mobility
* Clumsy trait significantly limits the benefit of higher DEX
* Higher monetary cost
* Delayed access to Expert-quality armor and the +1 Armor Potency Rune
* Harder to gain Trained proficiency

It just seems to me that the Heavy Armor options are more heavily penalized despite having few benefits. In pretty much every situation I'd prefer to invest a little extra into DEX and take a Medium or Light armor instead. Is there anything glaringly obvious I'm missing? What are everyone else's thoughts?


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You're pretty much exactly right. And being better for Dex dumpers is only really relevant at low levels before the level up stat increases start rolling in.

This is why a lot of us want to see various armors get positive traits that benefit you, much like how weapons get various positive traits. That could go a long way to making choosing armor more fun and less disappointing, especially for those of us who like plotting out builds and finding synergy between various options.


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I feel also that "some characters can get legendary proficiency with heavy armor, but no characters get legendary proficiency with light armor" is a temporary condition (there will be a Prestige Archetype or something which gets legendary light armor).

Armor needs another design pass, I feel. Heavy armor is, to borrow a phrase, all stick and no carrot as it stands. Since we're going to add a lot more weapons than "kinds of armor" during the lifespan of the game, there's no reason not to add positive traits to armor.


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Agreed. I used to have a variant somewhere where I postulated the split of armour penalties between dex-based and str-based (by keeping the penalty as is, and having the Lightweight and Flexible traits reduce one or the other, or both if having both traits), and the introduction of minor damage reduction from physical damage types (1/2/3/5, using BPS damage types). Armour Quality impacts AC and trait bonus scaling, as a mirrored counterpart to Weapon quality.
Clumsy is SO not needed.

Ah, there it is! ...let's add a bit of updating, and...

Hindsighted Ediwir wrote:

Starting with Light armour, we'll ask first what the idea of light armour is. To me, light armour is not very protective, and relies on the wearer's ability to dodge. It's light, allows for good movement, and mostly fitting for those characters that rely on nimbleness and stealth.

Padded Armour: little more than a thick shirt, it gives the highest flexibility but is unlikely to last long.
AC+1, TAC+0, max dex +6. Fragile, Hidden.

Leather: just a little thicker than padded, it covers your body more but starts pinching at the elbows.
AC+1, TAC+0, max dex +6. Fragile.

Studded Leather: let's skip on the existence of the studs. This covers you pretty well but also limits your movements, but certainly not your ability to climb and push.
AC+2, TAC+1, max dex +5, -1 penalty. Lightweight.

Chain Shirt: we are getting into metal. This one is a bit heavier, but the links make it really easy to move... and clink around.
AC+2, TAC +1, max dex +5, -1 penalty. Flexible, Noisy.

Off from the start, once could say "But Studded is still the best!" and it's kinda true. However, studded leather is only lightweight (see end post), which means for a professional rogue, it'll limit Acrobatics and Thievery in a way that Chain Shirt does not. On the other hand, Chain Shirt limits Athletics. Both limit Stealth, making Leather a risky but attractive option as long as nothing damages it. And finally, for those who want to rely on subtlety, Padded Armour can be flavoured as regular clothing, with none being the wiser.

I realise there is little wiggle room in Light Armour because of the very low penalties and high Dex, so why don't we try with Medium?
Medium armour is usually heavier, limited to the upper body, but more solid than Light armour. It gives decent protection without getting to the point of encasing yourself in a can.

Hide: usually fulfilling the "savage barbarian" fantasy, this is a rough collection of thick hides and pelts that protect the wearer... up to a point. You'll get the pun soon.
AC+3, TAC +0, max dex +4, -2 penalty. Impervious (B,S), Medium.

Scale mail: made of tiny little metal plates joined together, a scale mail is flexible and tough, definitely a useful protection.
AC+3, TAC+1, max dex +4, -2 penalty. Flexible, Impervious (P), Medium.

Chain mail: a more covering, more sturdy version of chain shirt, chain mail is great to protect your body from cuts and slashes but more restricting.
AC+4, TAC+1, max dex +3, -2 penalty. Flexible, Impervious (S), Medium, Noisy.

Breastplate: a single piece of armour that covers the chest, breastplate is usually pretty light and covers your vitals, but leaves your limbs vulnerable.
AC+4, TAC+2, max dex +3, -3 penalty. Lightweight, Medium.

Here we have a selection of different approaches. Hide follows the idea that low AC isn't a big deal as long as you can take the hits. Breastplate, on the opposite end, keeps your AC high in all situations but provides no protection, and is light enough to help strength-based characters. Chain mail is not a favoured of rangers but can help against Slashing, a very common damage type. Scale helps stealthier/mobile characters. If you can imagine playing different characters with different armours and feeling satisfied that you made the best choice each time, the system is working.

Lastly, Heavy armour is the top of the line, toughest of the tough, ultimate defence tin can fashion choice. *slaps plate* This bad boy can fit so much knighthood in it. Have a look.

Splint mail: this armour is covered in tiny plates in horizontal rows. It combines flexibility with protection, and is the top of the line agile protection family. Still weighs a ton.
AC+5, TAC+2, max dex +2, -3 penalty. Flexible, Heavy, Impervious (S), Noisy.

Half plate: lacking the proper weight distribution that distinguishes full plate, this armour allows for a bit more mobility, but leaves some points exposed to a good stabber.
AC+5, TAC+2, max dex +2, -4 penalty, Heavy, Impervious (B,S).

Full plate: a full covering armour with straps and harnesses distributing the weight, this armour is light enough on the body that it can be used almost effortlessly... Just not for pinching coins. Also, no additional level, but still hella expensive.
AC+6, TAC+2, max dex +1, -5 penalty. Lightweight, Heavy, Impervious (B,P,S).

Oh my, no bonus AC for full plate? What have I done? Heresy! Burn him! Burn him! ...more seriously, the general Impervious still makes it one of the best choices in all cases, especially with the lightweight trait. Half plate is more aimed at someone who wants the higher TAC, but exposes you to sneak attacks and athletic troubles, and splint is our run of the mill "I'd still like to pretend I can be agile" low penalty armour. Note how all heavy armours protect against Slashing, nudging the DPR calculations a little away from glaives.

Finally, while I kept the AC range the same, there is definite reasons for picking medium or heavy armour. I used to have more alterations for TAC, but it got a little weird and didn’t really work out. Maybe someone will have better ideas.

Traits:
We used these, but there wasn't an actual explanation. Here it comes:

Armour quality no longer reduces armour penalty, but instead adds to AC (and scales armour traits).

Flexible: The armour's penalty to Dex-based checks is reduced by one. The penalty is reduced by two if the armour is master quality and by three if it is legendary.
Fragile: If Fragile armour takes a Dent, it's automatically broken. This armour cannot be made Sturdy unless it is of Master or better quality (the traits cancel each other).
Heavy: Heavy armour reduces a character's Speed by -5ft on all Move actions.*
Hidden: Hidden armour is crafted to look like ordinary clothing. This can be changed to fine clothing or winter clothing if the armour is master quality and to nobleman’s clothing if it is legendary.
Impervious: This armour grants a Resistance value to the listed damage of 1. The Resistance is increased to 3 if the armour is master quality and to 5 if it is legendary.
Lightweight: This armour's penalty to Str-based checks is reduced by one. The penalty is reduced by two if the armour is master quality and by three if it is legendary.
Medium: Medium armour reduces a character's Speed by -5ft on the first Move action taken in a round.*
Noisy: This armour's penalty on Stealth checks can never be reduced by the Flexible trait. If the armour is Master quality or better, reduce the Stealth penalty by one, to a minimum of -1.

*Fighters and Paladins should reduce these by increasing their overall Armour proficiency and treating Heavy as Medium and Medium as Light. keeping the same speed reduction from P1 when the move of everyone went down doesn't feel feasible. Also, let the poor sod who decided to play an archer get better armour proficiency.

Thank you all for your time, and always use protection.


Heavy armor is the worst of the three classifications, and in my opinion needs to be addressed.

The proficient restrictions and low dex requirement are not balanced against the ACP and Speed reductions. We also have an certain AC/TAC balance that low dex heavy armor wearers suffer as well.

My suggestions are twofold, address the Armor Check Penalty and Address the Heavy Armor speed penalty.

First, ACP is too punishing at low levels and complicated to remember with the varying numbers modified by varying levels. Mithril is necessary for medium armor. I suggest removing all ACP for light armor, all Medium Armor has an ACP of -1, and Heavy armor has an ACP of -2. I also suggest eliminating the ACP for light shields, the balance between light shields and heavy shields is quite poor. Also, this requires removing armor quality from affecting ACP, instead make them like weapons, they get a relevant +1 at the appropriate levels. So Expert armor has +1 AC etc.

As for speed, cap out the armor speed penalty at -5ft. Being forced into a 15' speed is just too debilitating and mandates Fleet at the first opportunity.

Also, remove the lvl restrictions on heavy armors and lower the cost of Splint mail to 100sp so a character can actually start the game in it. Treat Heavy like Light and Medium for cost etc of enhancements at low levels, its unnecessary.

Now, we have a situation where the benefits of dumping Dex and getting access to higher levels of proficiency is balanced against a moderate ACP(-2 or -1 with Mithril armor), reasonable speed decrease -5ft, and the poorer AC/TAC. We also end up with a balance point that always incentivizes Mithril armor for all metal Medium and Heavy armors.


A problem with the armor system comes from their attribute system. It's very expensive to have a high dex at low levels, but everyone can increase their dex to 18 pretty quickly. I believe the attribute system should be revised first, than make an armor system that fits that attribute system.


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I feel like I have three strong opinions here:

  • Heavy armour needs to be far less punitive.
  • Armour in general could do with feeling a lot more interesting. Positive traits would handle this.
  • Class features that bump armour prof probably shouldn't just bump heavy. I want to be able to do unusual stuff, like a light armour pally. Without having to neglect class features.


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    Well, for my version at least, I tried to make each armour different and meaningful. Perhaps not balanced, but certainly catering to different styles.
    Specifically, heavy armour is clearly aimed at frontliners who regularly get whacked in the face and light amrour is more aimed at those who stay out of reach of swords, but not spells.
    If someone improves his defence, then he needs to improve all styles. Otherwise the impact of choice decreases.

    (Note that currently heavy armour is balanced around the fact that it is the only one to get bonuses - higher AC, crippling penalties. Not good)


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    PossibleCabbage wrote:
    I feel also that "some characters can get legendary proficiency with heavy armor, but no characters get legendary proficiency with light armor" is a temporary condition (there will be a Prestige Archetype or something which gets legendary light armor).

    Forcing fighters into heavy armor through proficiency feels cheap and silly - if Paizo wants fighters to wear heavy armor, make heavy armor competitive.

    Liberty's Edge

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    You forgot to list that you also pay Bulk, and (uniquely in the game) limit the utility of a Stat (even if the Armor isn't Clumsy). The price/item level penalty of Heavy armor has resulted in some interesting choices in our game as we've played different levels.

    I'm okay with Dex Mod Cap, even if you make all armor Clumsy (it's just easier that way) - if you adjust the Cap with armor quality. That's a better limit than the hefty ACP cost, which isn't accounted for in all the Skill/Hazard table math. Despite the legacy heritage, having any ACP ruins the skill system they are trying to have.

    I would prefer a -5' speed penalty for shields and 1 more bulk, if, when raised, they provide ranged cover...and reduce the speed penaty stat for armors by 5'. "Take Cover" is much of what a shield is about. Then, we'd understand the "come back with your shield, or on it" admonition. Shield Block can make the shield a valid melee target, and on the hit, can allow the weilder a choice to just have it absorb its hardness in damage (no dent by taking a glancing blow), or up to double (until dented, by taking it in full).

    Silver Crusade

    I agree that heavy armor could need a buff.

    Silver Crusade

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    It seems to me that the main value of heavy armor is to enable you to mostly dump dex. Casters with Fighter or Paladin Dedication, in full plate, seem to work pretty well.


    The sorry state of special materials also adds to the terribleness of heavy armor. Mithral only improves ACP (by a tiny amount considering Quality gives you significantly more) and bulk now, not max dex or movement penalties like it used to. Adamantine has no advantage whatsoever for armor (unless sunder was brought back, but that's a pretty small reason to use it). So the PF1 method of mitigating some of the penalties with special materials is no longer an option. Special materials need a big improvement over their current state, and that will help armor a little. The materials need to be fixed for other reasons too, like darkwood and mithral currently have lower hardness than standard wood and iron respectively. That's just silly.

    But heavy armor needs a lot of love by itself in addition.

    Elleth wrote:

    I feel like I have three strong opinions here:

  • Heavy armour needs to be far less punitive.
  • Armour in general could do with feeling a lot more interesting. Positive traits would handle this.
  • Class features that bump armour prof probably shouldn't just bump heavy. I want to be able to do unusual stuff, like a light armour pally. Without having to neglect class features.
  • 200% agreed. The penalties are horrible, the benefits are almost non-existent and the only real reason to use it now is because some classes are tied to it, which should go away entirely. Just make heavy armor actually good and we'll use it. Don't force classes towards it with class features. A lightly armored paladin and fighter should not require wasting your class features.


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    PCScipio wrote:
    It seems to me that the main value of heavy armor is to enable you to mostly dump dex. Casters with Fighter or Paladin Dedication, in full plate, seem to work pretty well.

    But since you advance 4 stats via level up, it does sort of make sense to advance your main stat and your 3 save-improving stats. Sure you might not be able to have a dex above 12 at level 1, but you can manage a 16 by level 10 and at that point medium armor is just better. So unless you have two "main stats" which aren't Con/Wis/Dex you shouldn't stick with heavy armor for any mechanical reason except "you have a higher proficiency in it." Also I suspect that "without higher proficiency there's no reason to wear heavy armor" is why fighters and paladins get shoehorned into that half-plate.


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    I feel like I should link this:
    An analysis of armor


    Previloc wrote:


    I would prefer a -5' speed penalty for shields and 1 more bulk, if, when raised, they provide ranged cover...

    Actually, shields currently grant cover. Shields give a circumstance bonus to AC. So does cover. The two do not stack. Thus, you can say that shields provide a cover bonus to AC.


    I think they mean that you could combine the "raise shield" with the "take cover" action.


    citricking wrote:

    I feel like I should link this:

    An analysis of armor

    My initial rant against heavy armor was nowhere as detailed, but I may as well link it as well.

    I have also complained about clumsy here.

    Silver Crusade

    PossibleCabbage wrote:
    PCScipio wrote:
    It seems to me that the main value of heavy armor is to enable you to mostly dump dex. Casters with Fighter or Paladin Dedication, in full plate, seem to work pretty well.
    But since you advance 4 stats via level up, it does sort of make sense to advance your main stat and your 3 save-improving stats. Sure you might not be able to have a dex above 12 at level 1, but you can manage a 16 by level 10 and at that point medium armor is just better. So unless you have two "main stats" which aren't Con/Wis/Dex you shouldn't stick with heavy armor for any mechanical reason except "you have a higher proficiency in it." Also I suspect that "without higher proficiency there's no reason to wear heavy armor" is why fighters and paladins get shoehorned into that half-plate.

    Str is important for melee attacks, which don't run out. I've seen people complaining about Bards being underpowered, which was not a problem for my bastard sword wielding, full plate wearing Bard (In Pale Mountain's Shadow).


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    Were I doing the armors for the main book, I would do an expanded list:

    Light : Padded, Leather, Studded Leather, Chain Shirt, Breastplate (the classic 18th century back and breast with helmet)

    Medium : Hide, Scale Mail, Chain Mail, Hoplite (back and breast, helmet, greaves, vambraces (1 plus shield, or 2 w/o shield) , thigh plates or armored skirt)

    Heavy : Splint Mail, Banded Mail,Half Plate, Full Plate

    With regards to mechanics, it is my opinion that armor should be MORE important than it is now, and in fact should be net more beneficial with armor weight. So the expected Dex + Armor ac bonus scale is +8 for Light, +9 for medium, and +10 for heavy!


    PCScipio wrote:
    Str is important for melee attacks, which don't run out. I've seen people complaining about Bards being underpowered, which was not a problem for my bastard sword wielding, full plate wearing Bard (In Pale Mountain's Shadow).

    I guess the problem is "how concerned are you about making a reflex save" I have a Shelynite cleric with the fighter dedication in heavy armor who advances Str, Con, Wis, and Cha and i'm pretty worried about it. I considered leaving Wis at 14 so I could advance Str,Con,Dex,Cha and just not worry about spell DCs, but will saves are more important than reflex saves.

    For martial classes, for the most part, you can afford 16 dex for the mid levels though. So their only incentive to eschew medium or light armor is "class features which prioritize heavy armor" or "a particular concept that needs stats elsewhere."

    Liberty's Edge

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    Add my voice to the chorus singing against the current model for Heavy Armor.

    I strongly feel there needs to be some unique benefit for Heavy Armor users baked in to bridge the gap here since Stacking Dex and Light Armor is STILL better for all intents and purposes than even carrying a set of Heavy Armor.

    I don't know how to it should or could be buffed but it needs some love. Perhaps allowing them to add their Full AC to Touch attacks would work?


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    I'm also amongst those who're unhappy with the current rules for armor and shields. The fact that the best possible "Armor Class" is acquired by having a little actual "armor" as possible is unreasonable.

    I would like to see armor and shields made significantly better.


    Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
    Cantriped wrote:

    I'm also amongst those who're unhappy with the current rules for armor and shields. The fact that the best possible "Armor Class" is acquired by having a little actual "armor" as possible is unreasonable.

    I would like to see armor and shields made significantly better.

    Fighters and Paladins, at least, have higher potential AC by using Heavy Armor. The issue for me is that there is no reason for any other class to use Heavy Armor as soon as they hit DEX 16.

    I'd definitely prefer that Armors and Shields had positive traits like Weapons do. That would make the choice of which armor to wear more interesting. Here's a few examples off the top of my head:

    Nimble - This armor's check penalty decreases by 1 on Acrobatics and Athletics checks.

    Sturdy - This armor / shield can take an additional Dent before becoming Broken and Destroyed.

    Unmoving - This armor grants you an Item Bonus to your Fortitude DC against being Shoved and to your Reflex DC against being Tripped.


    What if heavy armor gave some piercing and slashing DR based on quality? Something like 2/3/5/7/10 for common, uncommon, expert, master and legendary respectively.


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    I did write an Armor as Damage Resistance rule, using my estimates of how underpowered a given suit of armor was to the best possible armor in the game.

    At this point I'd like to see "Touch Armor Class" replaced by simply using an enemy's Reflex DC instead. We don't need two different defenses that do functionally the same thing (represent your ability to dodge).

    I'd also love so see Heavy Armor and Shields allow a character to apply their Strength instead of Dexterity to AC. Because physically blocking an attack requires you be strong enough to brace for the impact.


    1st off, get rid of medium armor category.

    Light and heavy armor only. Like 4E

    heavy armor gets -5ft speed penalty

    raise TAC to 2/3(round down) of full AC bonus.
    Get rid of clumsy/noisy traits

    armors:

    Light:

    padded: +1 AC, TAC +0 max dex +6, acp 0
    leather: +2 AC, TAC +1, max dex +5, acp 0
    Studded leather: +3 AC, +2 TAC, max dex +4, acp -1
    chain shirt: +4 AC, +2 TAC, max dex +3, acp -1

    Heavy:

    Hide: +5 AC, +3 TAC, max dex +3, acp -2, speed -5
    scale mail: +6 AC, +4 TAC, max dex +2, acp -3, speed -5
    chain mail: +7 AC, +4 TAC, max dex +1, acp -3, speed -5
    plate mail: +8 AC, +5 TAC, max dex +0, acp -4, speed -5


    pad300 wrote:

    Were I doing the armors for the main book, I would do an expanded list:

    Light : Padded, Leather, Studded Leather, Chain Shirt, Breastplate (the classic 18th century back and breast with helmet)

    Medium : Hide, Scale Mail, Chain Mail, Hoplite (back and breast, helmet, greaves, vambraces (1 plus shield, or 2 w/o shield) , thigh plates or armored skirt)

    Heavy : Splint Mail, Banded Mail,Half Plate, Full Plate

    Quoted for truth. That a cuirass (breastplate ONLY) is not light armor is just odd. Or remove medium armor and move the breastplate to light.


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    Medium armor is just in a weird place aesthetically. Like I can imagine my hero as clad in shining armor who is an impenetrable fortress on legs, or I can imagine my character as a lightly armored skirmisher flitting in and out of danger and these are fun visions. But a medium armored character is just "neither of those things, somewhere in the middle I guess... this is just mechanically the best armor for me."


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    Starfox wrote:
    pad300 wrote:

    Were I doing the armors for the main book, I would do an expanded list:

    Light : Padded, Leather, Studded Leather, Chain Shirt, Breastplate (the classic 18th century back and breast with helmet)

    Medium : Hide, Scale Mail, Chain Mail, Hoplite (back and breast, helmet, greaves, vambraces (1 plus shield, or 2 w/o shield) , thigh plates or armored skirt)

    Heavy : Splint Mail, Banded Mail,Half Plate, Full Plate

    Quoted for truth. That a cuirass (breastplate ONLY) is not light armor is just odd. Or remove medium armor and move the breastplate to light.

    That breastplate exists is odd. I stand by my claim that it feels like an option from a piecemeal armor system that found its way into a non-piecemeal system. For example, 5e describes half plate as "Half plate consists of shaped metal plates that cover most of the wearer’s body. It does not include leg protection beyond simple greaves that are attached with leather straps" and Plate as "Plate consists of shaped, interlocking metal plates to cover the entire body. A suit of plate includes gauntlets, heavy leather boots, a visored helmet, and thick layers of padding underneath the armor. Buckles and straps distribute the weight over the body." The lack of tin cans on your legs instead of greaves is apparently enough to have 15+Dex AC instead of 18 AC.

    Anyway, if I were doing armor, I would scrap studded leather, add it back in as a proper brigandine and medium armor, condense half and full plate into plate (since historical full plate is just masterwork half plate), turn hide into a subsystem based on natural armor (as opposed to it always being exactly +4), and expand Leather into options like leather scale, leather lamellar, and leather plate.

    Also, I think I first got this from a different thread on armor, but one idea I like for making heavy armor suck less is letting you reduce ACP by your strength modifier, or maybe half strength, given the respective ranges. For example, full plate is normally -5 ACP, but if you have 18 Str, that gets reduced to either -3 or -1 ACP, depending on the exact rule.

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