Is boon companion a feat tax for clerics with the animal domain?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


It was suggested in this thread (Best 1st level domain powers) that clerics who take the animal domain suffer a feat tax in the form of boon companion.

I don't believe this is the case, since while it might be a good feat for clerics with that domain to take, it isn't required and it isn't even your only option to increase the effective level of your animal companion.

But what do others think?


Why not change the thread title to "Best higher level domain powers"? I was going to create one anyone as a follow on... and this topic fits ion too.


Boon Companion is useful but do I think it should be listed as a higher level domain power? No. Truthfully I think it's a weak Domain one I would avoid. Don't get me wrong an animal companion can be a powerful ally but with the domain your companion start off weaker then any other granted companion, mount or familiar. The domain power is granted at 4th level where some more powerful domain powers are granted at 8th. That's the trade off. A weaker animal companion say compared to resistance even immunity to at various elemental attacks. Leadership in once instance. If you want a full strength companion pay for the feat or play a Druid to start.


I mean, Boon Companion is a feat tax associated with any class/option that has a sub character level animal companion if you intend to use your animal companion in combat. If you plan to use them as a gimped familiar then its probably fine to ignore the feat, but since animal companions already suffer an HD disadvantage they run into some serious trouble at higher levels without losing even more HD.


It all depends on how one defines "tax feat". There are two uses of the phrase that I've seen:

A) A feat that you never use and only have because it's a prereq, e.g. Combat Expertise. Also includes feats that you use because you already have them, but wouldn't have selected if it weren't for the prereqs, e.g. Quick Draw for Ricochet Toss.

B) A feat that you have to pick to make a playstyle viable. This ranges from feat that your character doesn't work at all without, e.g. Weapon Finesse on a dex-based melee, to feats that you don't technically need but that are de facto required to keep up with the expected numbers. Power Attack is an example, as the attack roll bonus of a full BAB martial usually rises faster than monster AC, but the average damage rises slower than monster HP, and you need the feat to fix that, resulting in using the supposedly optional feat every round.

Obviously, Boon Companion is not like category A, as it's a passive feat that you will benefit from every combat. It does fall into category B, presuming we consider the pet a vital part of playstyle. A Cleric with the Animal domain makes for a very strong character even without the feat, so it's not required to play such a character, but if you want to play a melee team or something, you definitely need the feat.

Thus, my answer to the question "Is boon companion a feat tax for clerics with the animal domain?" is 'not in general, but can be for specific builds'.


Interesting. I had not encountered the term "feat tax" being used for feats that fall into category B. It seems to me that the reduced progression is there in order to keep the domain balanced. I think what gets overlooked is that the animal domain gives you more than just an animal companion. It also grants domain spells and an additional ability (that varies depending if you take the base domain or one of it's subdomains).

Now, it's debatable if these are actually worth 3 levels worth of progression or not, but if it gave you a full animal companion then there would be little reason for druids to not always grab the animal domain instead of having an animal companion (except for perhaps the earlier access). Since it would basically be a choice of Animal Companion or same Animal Companion + extra stuff.

I guess it just seemed strange me to call boon companion a feat tax since I have optimized builds involving the animal domain, which are focused on the animal companion and boon companion never got used because it was the weakest option.


LordKailas wrote:
Interesting. I had not encountered the term "feat tax" being used for feats that fall into category B.

You can see both categories being adressed in the pretty well known "The Elephant in the Room: Feat Taxes in Pathfinder" houserules. Likewise, in this GitP forum thread people nominate both kinds for "the worst feat taxes in D&D". The 4E Wiki entry for the term only describes feats like Power Attack.

LordKailas wrote:
I think what gets overlooked is that the animal domain gives you more than just an animal companion. It also grants domain spells and an additional ability (that varies depending if you take the base domain or one of it's subdomains).

I wouldn't say it gets overlooked, but rather that it's not relevant for the question, because it's not about evaluating overall power. A tax feat doesn't stop being a tax feat because it's on a super strong character*. The tax doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, either - once could certainly make a case that if someone wants to add a full strerngth animal companion to one of the already most pwoerful classes in the game, them having to pay a feat tax is the least they should be burdened with.

*) Although of course the impact is totally different. For a martial, especially one of the weaker ones, a feat is a notable amount of the character's total power and potential flexibility (and that that a tax feat makes you waste that is the main complaint about tax feats). For a Cleric, a feat is just a teeny-tiny portion of the power and an almost irrelevant part of potential flexibility.


A healing/channeling cleric is very feat hungry. Fey foundling, selective channel and quick channel are almost required. Reactive channel and reach spell are nearly required. And I feel like I’m forgetting about another big feat.


Boon companion may be a feat tax but honestly it should be. Having a full animal companion is supposed to be equal to the power of a single domain. That is why druids get the choice of a full animal companion or a single domain. Look at it from the opposite side. If you could take a feat that gives you +1/2 your level to perception and the ability to cast an extra spell per spell level, would you consider this balanced vs other feats? That is the same as giving a character with full animal companion the powers of the feather subdomain. I could see a GM housefuling that allows a cleric to gain a full animal companion but no other domain power or spells as an option.


This mostly started because once upon a time some people were talking about how the Animal domain gives you a full animal companion "for free". But that never sat right with me. You give up the choice of another domain and its powers and you also have to use a feat. That's 2 costs right there. It's not to say it's not a good option. It's totally a good option, but it's not "free".


You still get other domain powers and spells from the animal domain. The feather domain gives you a bonus to perception equal to half your level. That in itself is actually a pretty good power. So what exactly are you really giving up? Sure it cost a feat to get the animal companion at full strength but that is a bargain. Complaining about having to spend a feat is like complaining that you had to pay $200 for your new gaming class laptop.


It's still a cost though. If you're doing the meat shield + archer thing then the cost may hurt. Not everyone has $200 to spare at all.


Everything has some cost involved. Trying to go with a meat shield + archer + full 9th level caster + healing should be difficult. No character should be able to do everything better than anyone else. If you want to play a meat shield + archer play a hunter and give up some spell casting.

You also realize that a gaming class laptop usually starts at $1,000 and often goes to $2,000 or more?


I don't really follow the "feat tax" theory of gaming, but I did find Boon Companion to be an initially underwhelming feat. It does improve with leveling and is very necessary for building a proper melee-oriented familiar, however.


I know what a gaming laptop costs. I'm writing this on a secondhand iPad mini which is older than my niece or my nephew. If I could get a decent gaming laptop for $200 I would, but I'd feel the cost.

Anyway meat shield + archer + 9th level casting sounds amazing but doesn't actually work that well; some forms of inquisitor (or hunter, yes) could do a similar job better. The feat tax is indeed a feat tax, even if it is a relative bargain.


Maybe think of it less as getting some levels to your companion but more as gaining a domain power and 9 spells for a feat.

Given the other feat that gives a domain power and how much it sucks that's way better.


Animal companions have never excited me. Admittedly companions designed to be charging mounts is another matter. Three feats and you ae doing three times damage with a lance. Even small size that stings. You take a flying critter say a Baby Roc even scarier.
I would start with a class granting me full strength companions to start. Druid or more likely Hunter. Then take two or three levels of fighter for the charging feats. That's what Boon Companion seems meant for.
Now to be fair and honest I am playing a Saurian Champion Cavalier and am enjoying it. I have taken Horse Master so my mount a Raptor is at my full level since I am mutliclassed. Our group has two pets not companions that add to our groups diversity. So I'm not saying a companion pet is bad, I can easily see an animal companion for RP. I myself would never grant Boon Companion has an extra Free feat no. I like Clerics one of my favorite classes but I'd never take Animal Domain unless I had a theme and probably would not spend a feat for Boon Companion.


Derklord wrote:

Obviously, Boon Companion is not like category A, as it's a passive feat that you will benefit from every combat. It does fall into category B, presuming we consider the pet a vital part of playstyle. A Cleric with the Animal domain makes for a very strong character even without the feat, so it's not required to play such a character, but if you want to play a melee team or something, you definitely need the feat.

Thus, my answer to the question "Is boon companion a feat tax for clerics with the animal domain?" is 'not in general, but can be for specific builds'.

I feel this is the wrong way to view the argument because possessing a 1st level animal companion at 4th level is objectively bad. The companion cannot effectively serve as a meat shield or a flanking partner when it has so low HP, nearly any CR4 monster can drop the beast negative with a full attack. That leaves the function of the animal only as a source of utility, and a familiar would do much better in that regard. There is no mechanical reason to delay or avoid selecting boon companion as an Animal Domain cleric. You can certainly build an animal domain cleric without Boon Companion, the same way you can build a 2h barbarian without power attack, or an archer without precise shot. The phrase "cleric with the animal domain" IS the specific build the feat exists to tax.


ShroudedInLight wrote:
I feel this is the wrong way to view the argument because possessing a 1st level animal companion at 4th level is objectively bad. The companion cannot effectively serve as a meat shield or a flanking partner when it has so low HP, nearly any CR4 monster can drop the beast negative with a full attack. That leaves the function of the animal only as a source of utility, and a familiar would do much better in that regard.

Look at LordKailas' last post. "I have optimized builds involving the animal domain, which are focused on the animal companion and boon companion never got used because it was the weakest option." Here you have proof of someone who considers Boon Companion not "a vital part of playstyle" for apparently multiple builds. So even under the presumption that the "specific builds" I mentioned are the majority the existence of other builds prove me right.

You're only really talking about specific builds. Maybe some people want to use an animal companion as transportation. Maybe some people only want to have a companion to qualify for feats like Share Spells.

Also, Boon Companion is a general feat, so unless retraining is involved, we aren't really talking about 4th level. Just saying.


The exact opposite of your statement does not prove you right. If the majority of cleric AC based builds use Boon Companion, and a small sub portion don't, then its a feat tax because 99/100 builds take. Is there anything wrong with it being a feat tax? I don't think so, animal companions are quite handy at full progression, but dismissing the feat as situational is absurd.

Because you are quite right, the hell of putting up with a 1st level AC at 4th level should make anyone planning on using an animal companion take Boon Companion at 5th. I can't think of any feat except Leadership that gives +2 HD, + 1.5 BAB, +1 to all saving throws, +1 feat, +2 natural armor, +1 Str, +1 Dex, special abilities and potentially a size increase. Sure, those bonuses go to a different body but that an insane suite of abilities to pass up; many of these bonuses are individually worth between .75-1.5 feats. Because feats are limited, bundling effects together makes them worth even more than if the effects took more resources to acquire. If you are an animal domain cleric, then you are mechanically obligated to take Boon Companion. The only times you would not do so is if you intentionally were choosing to leave power off the table for your GM or if you had an in-game/backstory reason to have a weaker animal companion.


To be fair, in the builds I have with a cleric taking the animal domain, Instead of spending 1 feat to have an animal companion at my level I'm spending 2 or more in order to have an animal companion that is above my level. The reason I pass on boon companion is because it doesn't allow the animal companion to exceed your character's level making it a useless feat for those builds.

If we take a broader picture and say that the animal domain requires you to spend at least 1 feat in order to have an animal companion at full capacity and not that boon companion specifically is required then yeah that's generally a true statement.

The only instance I can think of where you could get a full level animal companion without spending a feat (as a cleric with the animal domain) is if you take a domain or inquisition in conjunction with it that also grants an animal companion.

I can by no means claim these are common build options, as no deity grants both the animal and saurian domains and the chivalry inquisition not only grants no domain spells but, it's other ability is unusable by a cleric.

I think the main reason that it doesn't feel right to call it a feat tax is because the term "feat tax" (to me at least) implies that your character is forced to spend a feat for little to no benefit to the character. If we are calling this situation a feat tax, then I think the death domain has a similar feat tax since unless you're a worshiper of pharasma any cleric that's grabbing the death domain will feel obligated to spend a feat on command undead.

At least in the case of the animal domain (and by extension the saurian domain) boon companion isn't your only option. So, sure you have to spend at least one feat but you do have options.


LordKailas is absolutely right. When most people talk about a feat tax they are talking about having to take a feat that will not be used to qualify for something else. Taking combat expertise so that you can take another feat, when you have no intention of ever using combat expertise is a feat tax. Taking boon companion so that your animal companion is viable is the exact opposite situation.


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I guess call it a "surcharge", if it's just an issue with terminology. Although really, type A seems more like a surcharge, and type B feels more like a tax.

Personally, I think tax is appropriate for both. It's just different types of tax. One is more of a sales tax and one is more of a property tax.


PFRPGrognard wrote:
I don't really follow the "feat tax" theory of gaming...

I'd be interested to hear more about that. Do you feel like combat expertise is a good feat to have, or mobility, or cleave (once you have great cleave)?

In regards to the main topic of the thread, I'm a little confused. Druids get am animal companion or a cleric domain. One of those domains can get you a weaker animal companion in addition to other stuff. So obviously a full-strength animal companion is equal to one cleric domain.
I can't see many situations where you'd want to pass up the opportunity to make your animal companion more viable; a feat (whichever one) seems like a fair price for that.

Whether you're cool with having a sub-par animal companion or you're willing to spend a feat on it, I don't see how it's a tax. Regardless of your specific definition of feat tax. It's not mandatory and it's not worthless.


Lord Special K: what 2 feats make AC advancement GREATER than your Cleric level?

Derk Perfect: option B suggests this feat is necessary for certain "playstyles." If these forums have taught me anything it's that there's a million builds that get you to the same or even better results. My question is: if you want a Cleric with an Animal Companion, why is this the ONLY way to optimize towards your end goal?

Taxes are by their very nature inevitable. The only way you don't pay a tax is by avoiding an action that forces the tax to be assessed. In other words for this to be a Feat Tax there would have to be no other way to get to the end result of Cleric with optimized AC unless you HAD to pick Boon Companion or else go without an optimized AC.

If Super Kai has a way to get there without taking Boon Companion then the feat isn't a Feat Tax. But here we should circle back to that word... "playstyle."

This is a subjective term. The Regent of the Derk Throne may have a completely different "playstyle" than Kailas, Lord of the Black Goatee up there. As such, in this completely subjective definition, D-Town proves option B to be 100% accurate for himself just by the nature of believing it is.

My other question then would be this: why not modify your playstyle? In other words, the term Feat Tax seems like a negative; if this game is chosen because you have so many choices in building your character but one playstyle robs you of all but one choice, hence the inevitability of the "tax," then I would guess this robbery would be an undesirable thing. Why continue to follow that path, that leads inextricably to this singular outcome, if other playstyles, paths and options are available?

For all of these reasons I don't say Boon Companion is a Feat Tax; it's a choice. You aren't FORCED to choose it if the end goal is a Cleric with a fully optimized AC. The only way it's a tax is if the end goal is a "playstyle" wherein the only way to optimize a Cleric's AC is by taking Boon Companion.

And seriously, L.K. Ultra, please throw out the one-two punch combo of feats that make the AC advancement greater than your Cleric level, I'd be much obliged. Thanks!


Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
And seriously, L.K. Ultra, please throw out the one-two punch combo of feats that make the AC advancement greater than your Cleric level, I'd be much obliged. Thanks!

I wrote the following guide on the topic that goes into greater detail.

but, the short answer is if you're able to get an animal companion from multiple sources those levels stack (assuming you pick the right animal companion). They also stack without limit except that an animal companion isn't allowed to have more HD than your character's HD+1.

So, really the goal is just to take feats that give you an animal companion independent of what your class is giving you. That is something that can be achieved with the following feat combinations.

Option 1:
Exotic Heritage -> Eldritch Heritage[Sylvan] (a combination that explicitly goes against the RAI of Exotic heritage. However, I've had no problem getting DMs to approve something that costs 2 feats and gives you an animal companion equal to your character level - 5)

Option 2:
Nature Soul -> Animal Ally (This combination requires that you multiclass into something that doesn't grant an animal companion for 1 level AND that you retrain at 4th level to grab Animal Ally)

Option 3:
Fiendish Obedience [Baphomet] -> Damned Soldier (This combination gives you a 2nd animal progression when you hit 16th level, which is probably not useful for many builds)

Option 4:
4 levels in cavalier + Horse Master Feat (This one is likely not viable as it delays your caster level for 4 levels, but it does achieve what you were asking about)


Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
In other words for this to be a Feat Tax there would have to be no other way to get to the end result of Cleric with optimized AC unless you HAD to pick Boon Companion or else go without an optimized AC.

Having multiple ways of paying a tax or reducing your tax doesn’t make the tax not a tax.

A tax of 5 copper coins or 1 chicken or else go to debtors prison is still a tax.


Melkiador wrote:
Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
In other words for this to be a Feat Tax there would have to be no other way to get to the end result of Cleric with optimized AC unless you HAD to pick Boon Companion or else go without an optimized AC.

Having multiple ways of paying a tax or reducing your tax doesn’t make the tax not a tax.

A tax of 5 copper coins or 1 chicken or else go to debtors prison is still a tax.

You're right of course Door of Mel, but the point of my rambling missive was just this: what's the end goal we're chasing here? If it's a Cleric build with the Animal domain that results in an optimized AC then Kai-Mart upthread just posted four ways to completely avoid the Feat Tax of Boon Companion in favor of paying OTHER taxes, so in regards to the OP of the thread we're in no: Boon Companion is NOT a Feat Tax for this build since you don't HAVE to have that feat. Instead, the Feat Tax is Exotic Heritage, then Eldritch Heritage/Sylvan, or one of the other options mentioned above. The TAX is that you have to take feats or a specific build to optimize your AC but it doesn't necessarily have to hinge inevitably on Boon Companion.

Then again...

If the end goal is a "play style" as the OP mentioned, which isn't necessarily the same as a character build, wherein the "play style" requires Boon Companion on a Cleric with the Animal domain in order to be enjoyable then yes, in regards to the discussion in this thread: Boon Companion is indeed a Feat Tax for the play style that demands you have a Cleric with the Animal domain and Boon Companion in order to be enjoyable or otherwise whole.

Bottom line, I don't know that you HAVE to have Boon Companion. It helps, but you don't have to.

1. You could choose a different "play style" altogether

2. A cleric can certainly still meet all of the critical benchmarks by CR of hitting average ACs, dealing average damage or exceeding average Good save bonuses in order to be effective in combat regardless of an optimized AC, so having a combat AC isn't necessary in relation to their combat efficacy

3. There are other options for the Animal domain such as choosing a Subdomain if avail

4. Non-optimized ACs aren't useless; they might have senses like Scent or movement types which, coupled with buffs can help the Cleric and their allies get around the map and navigate combats

If you want a Cleric, using the Animal domain to have an AC optimized to help you in combat all the time however, that end goal does carry a tax. How you choose to pay that tax is entirely on you. Boon Companion isn't a necessity for that payment, but it helps.

You could multi-class, take the other feats mentioned above, or just spend a LOT of money on magic items to buff your AC to pick up some, if not all of the slack of not choosing Boon Companion. The feat is an option, not a requirement.


I would have to agree with Mark that if the argument against this as a feat tax is that your build spends multiple other (at least one of which is illegal and needs permission) ways to get around it, that doesnt make boon companion any less useful. It just means theres other ways to be just AS useful. That doesnt mean pointing at Kailas' builds are proof it's not worth taking as an option, but rather the opposite.

The end goal was always to max the companion out. Just different routes were taken to do it, sometimes with more than one feat to do it.

That doesnt make boon companion less viable and if it's not less viable it's not really a tax.


I'd say the reason Power Attack is considered a feat tax is that a huge chunk of builds need it. Needing a feat to make a certain use of one subtype of one class work is one thing, needing a feat to make any melee martial class work is another.


Not every martial needs PA; I suspect many (archer) rangers would cope adequately without it, but would certainly pick up Boon Companion.

There's something of a thin line between a feat tax and a feat bargain: some feats are so good you'd be hard-pressed to justify not taking them if they're relevant, and PA and BC fall into this category. See also Weapon Finesse, Rapid Shot, Natural Spell, etc.


Mudfoot wrote:

Not every martial needs PA; I suspect many (archer) rangers would cope adequately without it, but would certainly pick up Boon Companion.

Then you need Deadly Aim. Regardless, whatever your -attack/+damage feat is, you probably need it or you'll hit like a wet noodle. It's my group's favorite/best houserule to get rid of them all and just make it a baseline combat option.

As for whether Boon Companion is, probably. Otherwise you have a companion that is probably going to die whenever area spells get thrown around or something large smacks it with an attack of opportunity.


At level 4 a companion still starts off with 3 HD. It's hardly a 1 hit wonder, and standard just behind most party members in HP. They dont start off with 1 HD.


Scavion wrote:
Mudfoot wrote:

Not every martial needs PA; I suspect many (archer) rangers would cope adequately without it, but would certainly pick up Boon Companion.

Then you need Deadly Aim. Regardless, whatever your -attack/+damage feat is, you probably need it or you'll hit like a wet noodle. It's my group's favorite/best houserule to get rid of them all and just make it a baseline combat option.

As for whether Boon Companion is, probably. Otherwise you have a companion that is probably going to die whenever area spells get thrown around or something large smacks it with an attack of opportunity.

Honestly given that the least feat intensive melee style is a 2 handed weapon, power attack isn't a bad pick for ranged focused characters either as a bare minimum investment in backup weaponry.


Cavall wrote:
At level 4 a companion still starts off with 3 HD. It's hardly a 1 hit wonder, and standard just behind most party members in HP. They dont start off with 1 HD.

A 1st level animal companion which is what the animal domain grants at 4th level starts with 2d8 for HD. Boon companion brings that up to 4d8. Also many if not most animal companions increase size at 4th level. This means that a cleric with the animal domains companion is significantly weaker without boon companion especially at lower levels.

This is not to say that a cleric with the animal domain should not have to spend the feat. It is still one of the best feats in the game. Look it this way would you spend a feat to be able to cast one extra spell of each level per day that is not on your spell list, and gain a minor ability that is usable for a number of rounds equal to your level +3? That is exactly what the animal domain does in addition to granting a lower weaker animal companion.


I dont think of power attack as a feat tax. A feat Tax to me is 1 of 2 things.

Something you need to qualify for something else. Athletics feat to qualify for a Prestige class.

Something you need to get rid of an inherent flaw that you can work around but would rather not. Versatile channel.

Power attack isnt a tax it's a feat that would be used often but isnt integral to making a build work at all. Your 2 hander fighter isnt going to fall apart without it because 2 handing already has built in bonuses of often heavy damage dice and a strong strength bonus.


Cavall wrote:

I dont think of power attack as a feat tax. A feat Tax to me is 1 of 2 things.

Something you need to qualify for something else. Athletics feat to qualify for a Prestige class.

Something you need to get rid of an inherent flaw that you can work around but would rather not. Versatile channel.

Power attack isnt a tax it's a feat that would be used often but isnt integral to making a build work at all. Your 2 hander fighter isnt going to fall apart without it because 2 handing already has built in bonuses of often heavy damage dice and a strong strength bonus.

Power Attack is pretty much assumed in the combat math at all stages of the game, especially for any full BAB chracter.

Cavall wrote:


At level 4 a companion still starts off with 3 HD. It's hardly a 1 hit wonder, and standard just behind most party members in HP. They dont start off with 1 HD.

A Level 1 Companion(like when a ranger gets theirs at 4th level without Boon Companion) only has about 13 HP. A CR+1 encounter swings for about 20 damage a round then, or 25 damage if CR+2


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Assumed doesnt make it a tax. Just a good option.

Grand Lodge

It’s not even required.


Cavall wrote:
Assumed doesnt make it a tax. Just a good option.

If the game assumes you to have something in their monster/encounter design, then I would consider it a tax. Much like the big 6. Full BAB characters get some superfluous bonuses that they wouldn't be able to utilize without Power Attack.


Scavion wrote:
Cavall wrote:
Assumed doesnt make it a tax. Just a good option.

If the game assumes you to have something in their monster/encounter design, then I would consider it a tax. Much like the big 6. Full BAB characters get some superfluous bonuses that they wouldn't be able to utilize without Power Attack.

I doubt the game considers it in its monster/encounter design,since it didn't see core line print til ultimate wilderness


Ryan Freire wrote:
Scavion wrote:
Cavall wrote:
Assumed doesnt make it a tax. Just a good option.

If the game assumes you to have something in their monster/encounter design, then I would consider it a tax. Much like the big 6. Full BAB characters get some superfluous bonuses that they wouldn't be able to utilize without Power Attack.

I doubt the game considers it in its monster/encounter design,since it didn't see core line print til ultimate wilderness

Was talking about Power Attack. Boon Companion would be a feat tax if you actually wanted to use your Companion when you get one as a combatant since it only scales worse as you level up.

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