Thoughts on free archetype?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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Alchemic_Genius wrote:
Temperans wrote:

Based on the comments so far the problem does seem to be overpowered builds. But that Fighters are overtuned compared to what everyone else can do. Notice that it's mostly just "fighter alchemist with flurry" that gets talked about?

That tells you more than enough as to what the problem seems to be: Fighters being top DPS becomes broken when given Flurry (a great action economy booster), and arguably better use of alchemy than the actual alchemist (the current version barely helps the Alchemist but Fighter is broken with it).

Actually, FA doesn't boost power that much in most cases. The power level of my playtest games (ran RAW) and my home game (ran with a FA rule that allows players to pick up half level class feats or at level archetype feats) is about the same. The FA table shows a wider variety of abilities, but aren't really more powerful at the stuff their base class already does

The fighter flurry thing can be done with or without FA. Meanwhile, your assessment of alchemist is also off base; being able to pick up wizard MCD and still have have all the bomb feats early on is a hell of an early game boost that frees up reagent resources (I say this was someone actually playing an FA alchemist), although when G&G came out, I retrained my MCD to inventor for flavor.

I won't say that that it makes the alchemist better than other classes dipping into alchemy, but saying that FA barely helps alchemist is highly inaccurate. Off the top of my head, wizard/witch, gunslinger (mostly for martial gun access), archer (again, martial ranged weapon access), ranger (hunt prey acting as pseudo range increase, gravity weapon stacking with calc/expanded splash, hunter's aim for accuracy boosts, etc) all provide pretty meaningful boosts to the class, especially early game, where the class has the most problems. It doesn't make alchemist mich more powerful, but it does take a lot of stress off of the feat taxes the class expects you to pay

I think you read it backwards. I was saying that Fighter plus anything can easily be broken with FA because the abilities of those archetypes are built around the original class not being as strong or having requirements to use it. I was not saying that Alchemist is powerful, but that Fighters having alchemy for effectively free is powerful.

The problem is not free archetype, the problem is fighters having such easy crits.


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The main issue of FA when it comes to powergaming is how easy it is to get extra reactions. Champion Reaction (level 4), Riposte (level 6), AoO (level 4), Opportune Backstab (level 16 so a bit late for this one). You can also spice up with Heavy Armor proficiency (level 2), or Sneak Attack (level 4) or Reflexive Shield (level 2 and 10 for Quick Shield Block).
Whatever martial you play, you can end up using your Reaction nearly every round, and on top of that you have easy access to the best defensive feats in the game. And that's alongside your actual build, off course.

Next to that, you also have the companions. Animal Companions are extremely expensive without FA. With FA, you can end up with half of the party with an AC, and it really clutters the battlefield.

And the next thing is that some classes can really be powergamed, others can't. Fighter, with all its extra reactions, is an excellent client for FA optimization. Alchemist is also very nice because of the number of tax feats you need to take to be efficient. On the other hand, casters don't gain much from FA and their power boost will be negligeable. Actually, you may even end up with just no idea of what feat to take with a caster (it happens to me on a game with FA with my Oracle where I ended up taking feats I don't care about at all and forget all the time just because I have too many of them).

That's why, overall, I'm a bit reluctant to FA. I find that it complexifies character building without allowing me anything I can't do without FA.

Scarab Sages

True, optimizing reactions is important for character optimization, but FA isn't necessary for it. If it's a concern, then limit which archetypes PCs can select with FA.


NECR0G1ANT wrote:
True, optimizing reactions is important for character optimization, but FA isn't necessary for it. If it's a concern, then limit which archetypes PCs can select with FA.

If I ever GM with FA (it's highly improbable) I'll definitely limit which archetypes PCs can select. But I've tried to do that just to see, and in fact most archetypes are strong. There are really few roleplay oriented archetypes and if you allow only these ones I can see a lot of players complaining that there's nothing for their character.


SuperBidi wrote:
On the other hand, casters don't gain much from FA and their power boost will be negligeable. Actually, you may even end up with just no idea of what feat to take with a caster (it happens to me on a game with FA with my Oracle where I ended up taking feats I don't care about at all and forget all the time just because I have too many of them).

Casters actually have a fair bit to gain from FA:

Every cha caster (and cleric) wants one-for-all so that they have a useful 3rd action/reaction.

Similarly, non-bard cha casters benefit from grabbing lingering composition and inspire courage and every human-ish caster can grab lingering dirge by 12 regardless.

Cha casters can also dump dex and steal champion reaction either for personal or team defense with the reaction plus LoH.

Prepared casters can pick up flex casting without losing their level 2 feat.

Int casters can hit a few different profession archetypes to make those extra trained skills useful long term if the party lacks a rogue.

Wild druid going for champion and getting reaction in wild shape and eventually getting flurry and maybe a wild shape compatible stance.

Blend Wizard gets extra slots to eat for free, subsidizing or negating the cost of blending. Very quickly enables flexible spell blend wizards, particularly in double archetype scenarios where you can archetype separately with class feats as well.

I'm sure there are plenty of other obvious things I'm missing, but just because the gains are less for casters, doesn't mean they aren't there for the taking. Bards, druids and clerics especially have good feats they don't want to sac.


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gesalt wrote:

Casters actually have a fair bit to gain from FA:

Every cha caster (and cleric) wants one-for-all so that they have a useful 3rd action/reaction.

Similarly, non-bard cha casters benefit from grabbing lingering composition and inspire courage and every human-ish caster can grab lingering dirge by 12 regardless.

Cha casters can also dump dex and steal champion reaction either for personal or team defense with the reaction plus LoH.

Prepared casters can pick up flex casting without losing their level 2 feat.

Int casters can hit a few different profession archetypes to make those extra trained skills useful long term if the party lacks a rogue.

Wild druid going for champion and getting reaction in wild shape and eventually getting flurry and maybe a wild shape compatible stance.

Blend Wizard gets extra slots to eat for free, subsidizing or negating the cost of blending. Very quickly enables flexible spell blend wizards, particularly in double archetype scenarios where you can archetype separately with class feats as well.

I'm sure there are plenty of other obvious things I'm missing, but just because the gains are less for casters, doesn't mean they aren't there for the taking. Bards, druids and clerics especially have good feats they don't want to sac.

That's not specific to FA. I can grab all that with just a normal caster.

- One For All is 2 feats.
- Bard Dedication is not specific to caster, everyone can be a Bard and some martials are way better at it than casters (like the Monk and its excellent action economy).
- Champion Reaction on a caster is unusable because of its range unless you put your caster at melee range. It's very specific and once again, it doesn't ask for tons of feats.
- Flexible caster is one feat.
- Wanting to increase skills is not something special to casters, everyone may want to be a skill monkey.

So, I only see the Wild Druid case which is super feat costly, I agree (but at the same time, it's a gish and you grab martial Reactions as I said above). And the Spell Blending Wizard that can be very useful. 2 builds and all of them ask for a specific subclass.

Overall, FA doesn't benefit casters the way it benefit martials. The most common way to optimize a caster with FA is to go Beastmaster. It's not bad, but compared to martials that can grab reactions everywhere, it won't boost your power much.


A lot of good and interesting points have been reasing by plenty of folk, so I'd just like to offer my opinion. I'm going to put it in a spoiler because that's just an offer of my insight, followed by my actual opinion. :B

My insight as someone playing with FA:
I've been playing in a game with FA recently and it's been great fun. I'm playing a Ruffian Rogue that picked up Sentinel Dedication, then Steel Skin at level 3, and so I plan on picking Dual Weapon Warrior at level 4. Because I'm wearing a Full Plate, Bulwark helps with those dangerous saves, but I also plan on eventually picking up Mighty Bulwark too because that's just plenty of good, though that's a little down the line. Anyways, going with DWW lets me pick up Twin Parry at level 6, and I do plan wielding a parry weapon, although I'm still quite not sure which. Finally, Multitalented at level 9 will give me Champion Dedication, and I will finally be able to snag the Glimpse of Redemption at level 10, I think?

Realistically, this all started with the concept, kind of. I didn't compare a lot of graphics and went around the internet looking for the best combination ever, but still, it comes together really nicely, I think, and I kind of chose whatever option felt more intuitive to the concept. The concept itself is of a shelynite that failed to train to become a champion when she was younger, and can't quite love herself because of background reasons. She uses a longspear (for now) because she never quite could get how to use the glaive properly, although I do describe most of her strikes as rather accidental, trying to be emphasize that she isn't really comfortable with the longspear. She'll eventually embark on the journey of learning to accept herself, and love herself; and that she doesn't have to wield Shelyn's favorite weapon or anything like that to be a good devout, and only when she actually learns to accept herself, she will become a proper champion.

Truthfully, a loooot of stuff can happen during the campaign that might change what I'm planning to do with her. But honestly, her character (arc) is totally doable without FA. In fact, I'd lie if I said didn't go out of my way a little to optimize her a little, though that's because there's only her and a swashie as frontliners in the group.

In my tangible experience of GMing plenty of games without FA, and playing some games without FA, and now playing my first game with FA...

It's definitely benefitial, I think. I wouldn't say it breaks the game or anything, but I also wouldn't say that the amount of optimizing players do is what solely impacts it. The quantity of players has an impact, too, and whatever other optional rules are in place. Imagine a game with FA, gradual ability boosts, and with six players; and then compare it to a group with only four players and no additional optional rule.

I plan on GMing a game with FA soon, but I'm definitely going to limit archetypes to thematic options; because that's what I want to get out of them: The reinforcement of themes.


SuperBidi wrote:
Overall, FA doesn't benefit casters the way it benefit martials.

It doesn't benefit most casters as much as martials do. Wild Druid and CHA casters in the other hand benefit greatly from free archetypes. Wild Druid is obvious since it kind of works like a martial sometimes so lets say we are going with a Maestro Bard:

Lvl 2: Inspire Competence + Sorcerer Dedication (Occult)
Lvl 4: Basic Blood Potency (Familiar maybe?) + Basic Sorcerer Spellcasting
Lvl 6: Captivator Dedication + Basic Captivator Spellcasting*
Lvl 8: Inspire Heroics + Bloodline Breadth
Lvl 10: Expert Captivator Spellcasting + Captivating Intensity
Lvl 12: Inspirational Focus + Expert Sorcerer Spellcasting
Lvl 14: Effortless Captivation + Heightened Captivation
Lvl 16: Effortless Concentration + Master Captivator Spellcasting
Lvl 18: Eternal Composition + Master Sorcerer Spellcasting
Lvl 20: Perfect Encore + Look Again

*I would retrain into this later and get Dirge of Doom early on

In which way is that worse than what you can do with a FA martial? You will not only be able to have the tool for every ocasion in your spell list (with max spell DC to boot), but you will remain a functional Bard and will never run out of slots once you get through the early levels.


SuperBidi wrote:

That's not specific to FA. I can grab all that with just a normal caster.

The martial stuff isn't FA specific either. FA mostly just lets you get more of it and pair it with class feats or a second archetype.

If I'm remembering bard right, you have open feats at 8, 14 and 16 with 2, 4 and 18 being available if you don't want the esoteric polymath feats. 3/10 feats open for archetyping is a little cramped. 6/10 is better obviously. In both cases, you can pretty comfortably fit archetypes in although not in a stellar timetable. FA gets you everything you could possibly want, and more, and gets it in a timely manner.

Similarly, the "better paladin" fighter build that eats feats at 2, 4, 6 to come online is there by default. Free archetype just means the fighter might get to do it with the wild shape build at the same time.

Now, I'm not arguing that casters benefit to the same extent. Martials benefit more from this largely because caster power is locked almost entirely behind getting higher spell levels whereas martial power can be enhanced or stabilized through system mastery and build choices.


What problematic combinations are possible through the restriction of "free archetype" to non-multiclass and non-class archetypes?

A spellcaster taking the Cathartic Mage archetype instead of "a different caster" seems like the Fighter taking the Martial Artist archetype instead of the monk dedication, in that it's a slightly weaker option.


PossibleCabbage wrote:

What problematic combinations are possible through the restriction of "free archetype" to non-multiclass and non-class archetypes?

A spellcaster taking the Cathartic Mage archetype instead of "a different caster" seems like the Fighter taking the Martial Artist archetype instead of the monk dedication, in that it's a slightly weaker option.

The Rogue + Scout dedication one I posted earlier is definitely above the curve, but I don't know if I would consider it problematic.

Being honest, I don't think I would consider any of the builds mentioned here so far "problematic" (beside a triple caster, not because I find it too strong, but due to it being a way of circumventing the limited resources a caster is expected to have, IMO leads to a worse table experience overall) unless there is a lot of discrepancy with the rest of the party power wise (With that I mean someone already playing the non FA part of the build suboptimally, in which case I don't think it can be considered a fault on the FA ruleset but a problem born from the players not being on the same wavelength)


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Generally, any combo you can do can happen in few enough feats to happen without free archetype, the reason you see differing mileage from Free Archetype is that it provides more space for unoptimized PCs to pick up the capability they wouldn't have normally picked up. if you already optimize, its generally hard to get extra power out of it, so versatility is better, which can translate to more success, but not in a disruptive way.

In other words, something like Marshal is cool, but if you already have an optimized output with all three of your actions generally accounted for, you'll have trouble working it in, and any action you devote to it might come out as a net neutral because of whatever you were giving up (depending on build), weapon style feats are good, but you probably only have to devote 1-3 feats to them in the first place depending on what kind of weapon you use. Even 'free spells' for something like true strike, means you have to spend an action on your turn casting True Strike, which might hurt if you have a shield or need to move.

Where Free Archetype is strong, is that it lets you tighten things up by grabbing feats that are disproportionately more useful in *certain* situations (like say, a reaction that complements Attack of Opportunity by popping off under different circumstances), or not having to give up combat power from your class to gain say, Social Power from the Dandy Archetype, or Ritual perks from the Ritualist.

All of this means that if you try and 'focus' everything you get on increasing output, you hit a wall of diminishing returns.


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

I would generally go with a limited choice for the free archetype as set by the GM for a specific campaign. Strength of Thousands did it right, in my opinion. A completely free choice looks like a potential power creep to me, although I must admit that I never analyzed all potential combinations for that purpose.


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I prefer FA, because it allows flavor builds that would sacrifice to many feats. ::coughs::Hellknight::coughs::
It is a minimal direct increase in power, but a great lateral increase versatility.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Don't care much about any power increase, but my main reason to not have it as a default is the up to 10 additional feats that players have to select as they play. Some players are already a bit overwhelmed by the number of feats that characters have to take, and adding more leads to folks checking through their list of abilities more frequently because they can't remember them all.

Definitely like it when it's thematic to the campaign like Strength of Thousands with free Druid or Wizard Dedication, but otherwise I only use it if the players seem particularly excited about it for their given builds.


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Perpdepog wrote:
What about archetypes that also grant spellcasting power, but aren't multiclass archetypes? The Cathartic Mage comes to mind.

From what I can see, Cathartic Mage is actually a power downgrade. Unless you have a huge number of encounters per day, the slots that it costs you are more important than the slots it gives back, and that's without taking into account the issues with occasionally exploding. If you sink a lot of feats into it, you *might* break even.

********
Edit: As Alfa/Polaris correctly points out, I was totally wrong about the above paragraph, as I had been thinking of a different archetype entirely. Now returning you to your regularly scheduled post.
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MC caster/caster isn't that big a deal either. It's more gas in the tank, but it's only in lower-level slots which... aren't that valuable to begin with? It's not increasing your burst power at all, and it's not increasing your endurance by all that much.

The real issue is when you can stack a bunch of boosts from different classes that all apply to the same actions. The fighter/druid/alchemist/monk thing is because you're stacking answers from multiple classes of "why is fighting unarmed worth doing?" and they actually stack reasonably well. I'd imagine that you could manage something similar with grapple optimization, actually - there's a lot of things you can't get combat grab to work with because it just grabs, rather than making a grapple check, but a barbarian who's taking from the monk tray can pull crushing grab, flurry of maneuvers, and flurry of blows to add to Brutal Bully, Furious Bully, and Thrash/Collateral Thrash. You get a flourish that lets you make two grab attempts (at +2, dealing 2*strmod damage with each success) and can then spend your remaining actions on thrashing, where MAP doesn't slow you down any.

For grins and giggles, you can even teach yourself the Kobold Fangwire, so that you can make your grapple checks with agile... and hold a kama in the other hand so that when you successfully grapple the first time you can trip with your second action and still have agile... or dip into Witch for Living Hair. Or you can MC into Alchemist for the Applereed Mutagens.

Side note: did you know that lvl 14 wrestlers could cure baleful polymorph by squeezing? I hadn't known that. Is it still a bear hug if they stop being a bear halfway though?


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Sanityfaerie wrote:
Perpdepog wrote:
What about archetypes that also grant spellcasting power, but aren't multiclass archetypes? The Cathartic Mage comes to mind.

From what I can see, Cathartic Mage is actually a power downgrade. Unless you have a huge number of encounters per day, the slots that it costs you are more important than the slots it gives back, and that's without taking into account the issues with occasionally exploding. If you sink a lot of feats into it, you *might* break even.

Uh, you're thinking of Wellspring Mage. Cathartic Magic is a whole different thing.


For a spellcaster character just wanting to double up on spell slots, Cathartic Mage may be better than most spellcasting archetypes because the spells it gives are always of the same tradition and spellcasting proficiency that the character already has. It also doesn't require boosting any skill proficiency ranks in order to take the higher level spellcasting feats. Though one downside is that it doesn't have a breadth feat to give additional spell slots.

But other than a focus spell that isn't always available and a mechanic that vaguely resembles an Oracle curse, the spellcasting is pretty much all that the archetype gives. If you want more than that, you will have to go to an actual multiclass archetype.


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Alfa/Polaris wrote:
Uh, you're thinking of Wellspring Mage. Cathartic Magic is a whole different thing.

*blinks*

You're absolutely right. I am. Thanks for the catch.

I have no idea of how cheesy Free Archetype for Cathartic Mage is or isn't.

That said, I'd suggest that Wellspring mage is an argument *for* Free Archetype. It's an archetype that people want to embrace for the flavor (they sure aren't doing it for the power) and giving them a way to do that without carving our their base class feats just seems kinder.


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I'm playing a Wellspring Mage actually, it's very fun! One problem I do have with it though is that the way the feat's are laid out prevents you from escaping from the Archetype until 6th level. I don't know if this is an argument for or against FA, but I just thought I'd point out it's very uncomfortable in a FA build, haha


I'm actually not entirely sure how Free Archetype interacts with Class archetypes. I'm seeing two possibilities.

One is to allow using the Free Archetype slot for taking the class archetype dedication at level 2. This is probably the intended option since the Free Archetype feat slots are still classified as class feats. But it could be ruled that the wording of the class archetype's restriction that you use the level 2 class feat to take the dedication means not using a Free Archetype slot to do so.

Another possible ruling would be to require the class archetype dedication in the level 2 class feat, but allow a different archetype dedication in the Free Archetype feat. For some class archetypes, such as Flexible Spellcaster, this works without problems. For others, they do have written in the dedication feat that you need two more feats from the archetype before taking another dedication. Though that rule is sometimes removed for Free Archetype in general.


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breithauptclan wrote:

I'm actually not entirely sure how Free Archetype interacts with Class archetypes. I'm seeing two possibilities.

One is to allow using the Free Archetype slot for taking the class archetype dedication at level 2. This is probably the intended option since the Free Archetype feat slots are still classified as class feats. But it could be ruled that the wording of the class archetype's restriction that you use the level 2 class feat to take the dedication means not using a Free Archetype slot to do so.

Another possible ruling would be to require the class archetype dedication in the level 2 class feat, but allow a different archetype dedication in the Free Archetype feat. For some class archetypes, such as Flexible Spellcaster, this works without problems. For others, they do have written in the dedication feat that you need two more feats from the archetype before taking another dedication. Though that rule is sometimes removed for Free Archetype in general.

In the strength of thousands AP, the FA doesn't care about archetypes you take with your class feats and vice versa, though in that AP. Imo, this is the best way to approach it because otherwise stuff like Eldritch Trickster or Ancient Elf hits a rules violatation at level 2, and Eldritch Archer become inaccessible at level 6 unless the player spends both their normal level 4 feat and FA level 4 feat on their archetype; which is actually not always possible, since some archetypes only have one level 4 option.

As far as class archetypes, I think thats really a game by game basis. Some sources like No Nat 1s interpreted the verbiage of using your level 2 class feat to mean you can't, I'm not really convinced, FA feats are class feats, just limited to archetypes.

I keep it simple at my game, you can use FA feats for class archetypes, and your first archetype drops the "you must take 2 more feats before getting a new archetype" (if you take two at the same time, you pick one); that way, for those that are REALLY just wantingnto play, say, an eldritch archer can just take an archetype for level 2 and 4 and nab EA without a fuss. The closest I have to a player exploiting it is a witch with Familiar Master and Beast Master for two significantly invested pets, but even then it's not really OP, and the player does a good job of pet management


Alchemic_Genius wrote:
As far as class archetypes, I think thats really a game by game basis. Some sources like No Nat 1s interpreted the verbiage of using your level 2 class feat to mean you can't, I'm not really convinced, FA feats are class feats, just limited to archetypes.

Yeah, that is probably the most literal way of interpreting the rules. Free Archetype feats are still stated to be class feats. And the class archetype only requires a class feat, not an unrestricted class feat.

Alchemic_Genius wrote:
I keep it simple at my game

Heh. I actually make it more complicated.

I have the class feats and FA feat slots as two separate tracks. You can still only take archetype feats with the FA feat slots. But additionally, you can only take an archetype feat if you have the dedication feat in that track. So you are not able to double up on feats from a particular archetype at a single level - one from your class feats and the other from the FA feats. However, you can ignore the dedications in the other track when checking if you have an open archetype or not. So you could take Eldritch Archer or Ritualist with your level 6 or level 4 class feat slots before buying out of the FA dedication.

I do lessen the restriction on taking a second dedication, but only if you would otherwise be unable to take any feat. So the Scroll Trickster archetype, for example, that doesn't have a level 4 feat. I would allow taking a different dedication for the FA slots at level 4 - but you would have to pay off both of them before getting a third dedication in the FA slot track.


Oh, and Eldritch Trickster and Ancient Elf would end up being part of the class feat track rather than the FA feat track.

Horizon Hunters

Alchemic_Genius wrote:

In the strength of thousands AP, the FA doesn't care about archetypes you take with your class feats and vice versa, though in that AP. Imo, this is the best way to approach it because otherwise stuff like Eldritch Trickster or Ancient Elf hits a rules violatation at level 2, and Eldritch Archer become inaccessible at level 6 unless the player spends both their normal level 4 feat and FA level 4 feat on their archetype; which is actually not always possible, since some archetypes only have one level 4 option.

As far as class archetypes, I think thats really a game by game basis. Some sources like No Nat 1s interpreted the verbiage of using your level 2 class feat to mean you can't, I'm not really convinced, FA feats are class feats, just limited to archetypes.

I keep it simple at my game, you can use FA feats for class archetypes, and your first archetype drops the "you must take 2 more feats before getting a new archetype" (if you take two at the same time, you pick one); that way, for those that are REALLY...

This is the rule I use and prefer to play with. Like you said it gets rid of all the outliers and exceptions. Another reason I like it is so players are not forced to take a class feat at level 2 if they dont want.

For example a Wizard might not want any of their class feats but without loosening the restrictions they are forced to.

Also quite often since some archetypes have really boring feats at certain levels I like the players to have freedom to grab feats they like.

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