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    Canonfire :: View topic - Role-playing PCs with high (non-physical) stats
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    Role-playing PCs with high (non-physical) stats
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    GreySage

    Joined: Sep 09, 2009
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    Mon Aug 06, 2012 8:11 pm  
    Role-playing PCs with high (non-physical) stats

    Sooooo...how does a "regular" fella like myself with decent (I'd like to think above average) mental and social stats (that one may be pushing it) role-play a character with VERY high Int, Wis, or Char scores?

    Let's face it. Most of us are in the average to slightly above average range on most stats. Sure, we may have one or two that are (well?) above the norm, but, frankly, anything in the 14 or 15 range (at least in 1e and 2e) is pretty darned good. Then you have those stats in the 16+ bracket.

    So here's this guy...let's call him 'Lanthorn,' with maybe an 12 Int, 11 Wis, and 12 Char (and those may be a bit inflated, mind you). Right now, for the purposes of this thread, his physical stats are immaterial (thank God, at least on that Str rating! And his Dex has suffered due to age Wink ) Anyhow, how the heck does this poor $%^&* sufficiently capture the AMAZING mental insight and perception of an elf bladesinger with an 18 Int?! Or that cleric with a 16 Wis? Or a paladin with a Char of 17?

    As DM, it's easy. You grant those characters with moments of perceptual or predictive insight, cognitive computation, or a fantastic aura to sway and captivate people by sheer presence. Things like that.

    But, as a PLAYER....wow, talk about TOUGH. How can a player with lower stats in (mainly non-physical) statistics really capture the essence of a character with SUPERIOR scores? In short, I don't think you can. It's like a chimpanzee attempting to solve the quadratic equation or a 5th grader attempting to debate with (most) high schoolers about...well, nearly anything, based on logic and reasoning. You get the point.

    I've only recently really given this conundrum the amount of thought that I think it justly deserves. I think the DM should give players latitude when it comes to playing stats that are hard to really fathom, and thus, role-play. Try role-playing the tactical genius of Sun Tzu! Or don the intellectual mantle that was Sir Isaac Newton (creator of calculus to describe his physics 'problem' with motion). If you can, assume the persuasive brilliance of someone like Churchill. Good luck on all accounts, my friends.

    I am not interested in how someone plays the feats of physical power (Str), agility (Dex), and fortitude (Con)...or even beauty (Com)...these are easily performed and, quite honestly, require NO role-playing on part of the player.

    Thusly, I am interested how YOU, as DM, 'aid' or judge the amazing statistics comprising Int, Wis, and Char, for your player characters. Do you merely leave it to a die roll? Do you automatically offer insights that the 'normal' player overlooks (and probably, rightfully so). I've got my own ideas, but would like to hear yours first and foremost before I respond on that issue.

    thank you for your thoughtful, insightful, and creative discourse,

    -Lanthorn
    GreySage

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    Mon Aug 06, 2012 10:10 pm  

    Since I'm playing 3.5e/Pathfinder, I can rely on Skill Checks to overcome a player's personal deficiencies when dealing with such statistics.

    However, that is too simplistic and boring. Besides, I believe that role-playing should be educational (yes, I'm a teacher Smile ). So, I insist that a player role-play any interaction s/he wishes her character to get such a roll for. Once it's been role-played to my satisfaction, I allow a Skill Check to be made, but I apply any bonus or penalty that I feel appropriate based upon the effort made by the player to exhibit the skill which his/her character is trying to make use of and whether or not the player actually did a good job of it. I reward effort and skill on the part of the player, but penalize laziness and seriously poor choices. This teaches the player to improve their own skill in that area, but still allows the character to succeed frequently when the player him or herself would fail in such an attempt.

    SirXaris
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    Tue Aug 07, 2012 7:01 am  

    I agree with SirXaris, in that 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder skills incorporate the bonuses of the abilities, and this shows up especially in the skills for social interactions. Also, the DM's application of bonuses and penalties is an appropriate move. For CHA based I have been satisfied with it.

    INT based issues are probably the easiest to handle: the character either knows the information or not. The 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder skills can cover this. For earlier editions perhaps you look at the sage's chances of answering a particular question and let the character have a similar or modified chance for the same. On a more role playing basis, perhaps you could decide a particular area of expertise - using the sage topics as a model. Such knowledge could essentially let the NPC know - and therefore prepare against - specific opposition like the party.

    WIS based issues are probably the hardest. Judgment, decision making, common sense, etc. Perhaps the best way is to rigorously prepare a set tactics and contingency plans for the NPC, always having an escape route. Tailor these to oppose the party (if the party can get that close to the very wise NPC, the wise NPC should have a good idea as to his enemies capabilities). In fact, if there is a place where I would fudge a roll as DM, this is it. Or rather than fudging the roll - fudge one particularly suitable one-use magical item - that is suddenly in the possession of the very wise NPC and would be immediately helpful.

    For a PC, the bag of tricks is a bit more limited. For the role playing of CHA (rather than using a 3rd ed skill) I would press the DM a lot more - asking questions like "You know, my character has this high CHA, what does he think would be best - being assertive, complimentary, or is there some other attitude he should take talking to the NPC? Does he sense that a deal can be struck?" A good DM should take the high CHA into consideration. Same with intelligence - just keep asking the DM questions and maybe he will let your PC have the answer (though this is quantified in 3rd ed. skills). Wisdom in 3rd ed. is tied to awareness and understanding whats going on through the skills as well. In a more role playing mode, I would keep asking the DM questions, "Does my wise guy get the idea that there is more to what the NPC just said? Is there something odd about this hallway and its decoration that raises his suspicions?" (sort of the 3rd ed. Sense Motive and Spot skills in a role playing form).

    Perhaps the key here is to think of your PC in the third person rather than first person, viewing the character as strange - because given his high mental abilities, he is. Litterally ask the DM "Who looks the most receptive to conversation in this room and what might they like to hear?" "Does my character know where the lair is from his extensive knowledge?" "Is there something about this that raises his suspicions?" "In this room, where might my character think is a good place to hide?"
    GreySage

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    Tue Aug 07, 2012 7:31 am  

    You both bring up good points, but, ultimately, it comes down to the fact that the player is unable to accurately represent (in role-playing and in REALITY) the astounding statistics of the character in question.

    To put it in other terms, the player just doesn't have the mental (or social) acumen of the character he/she is playing. It just doesn't occur to the player (or perhaps even the DM) to think in 3D terms, or to have certain insight and reasoning skills. Maybe said player is a shy introvert, or a rude SOB, or merely a wallflower personality. That person cannot possibly fathom, much less role-play, a paladin's Char score. Part of the issue is role-playing the phenomenal stat. The other is mere awareness that something beyond yourself and your abilities exists in the first place.

    That, to me, is at the heart of the issue here. How does the DM take into account the awesome mental/social score of the character even when the player is oblivious...or merely cannot pull it off?

    -Lanthorn
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    Tue Aug 07, 2012 5:31 pm  

    This is a great question Lanthorn!

    I think that great roleplaying - and you certainly sound like a DM who can hold his own in this department - is the key. The first question is, do the PCs know that the NPC (you) is highly intelligent / wise / charismatic? Or is this something they don't know but you're trying to impress upon them?

    If they already know then you are set, you can play the character to the hilt. Imagine Gary playing Mordenkainen, I'm sure he had his own personality, mannerisms, etc. Making those memorable will impress upon the players those stats because they already know this in the back of their minds.

    If the don't know, then there's a couple of different approaches that I might humbly suggest trying. First, if it's an NPC that won't be a recurring character, you can role play that one stat over the top. Super intelligent? Maybe have them be a joker and tell the PCs to ask him/her any math question or maybe have them ask about a specific part of the campaign they know little about then have the NPC go completely nuts in terms of talking about history, background, details, etc. You could make them snooty, or bookwormish and so on.

    Or perhaps make them very slow and introspective like the stereotypical martial arts master. If they're very charismatic you can actually interject with a quick line saying "you find yourself enamored / abhorring what the NPC is saying". Or even just have them saying exactly what the PCs want to hear / not hear.

    A combination of roleplaying and making the NPC useful in terms of info, understanding, insight into the characters or their situation and beyond can impress that upon the players.

    One of my favorites is when characters meet someone like this and I give them a sense, through description of the NPC's actions, mannerisms, facial expressions, etc. that they don't view the PCs on the same level. Whether this is in a kindly, angelic way or completely disdainful way is really dependent upon the NPC.

    Maybe those are tips, maybe not but that's what I do and so can you!
    GreySage

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    Tue Aug 07, 2012 6:53 pm  

    "This is a great question Lanthorn!"

    Thank you...it's been noodling around in my noggin for a while now.

    "I think that great roleplaying - and you certainly sound like a DM who can hold his own in this department - is the key."

    I appreciate the accolades and compliment. Thank you. I very much try to 'embody' each character differently, based on a whole plethora of variables and factors (race, age, gender, class, possible religious philosophy, regional affiliation, etc), not the least of which are the stats. I don't want my player(s) to think NPCs are stock characters, and I surely want my own PCs to be truly unique.

    The big dilemma, especially as a player when I slough off the DM shroud, is when I must play a PC with fantastic scores. For instance, my bladesinger, "Lanthorn," is incredibly intelligent (18). There is NO way that I come close to such staggering cognitive insight and processing power as that. I can only FATHOM the depths, speed, angles at which a person with that kind of mental ability perceives reality, solves problems, and the like. I've even considered the fact that such people may be...'weird" from a social sense, and have given "Lanthorn" social awkwardness and an inappropriate sense of humor (this is reflected in a moderate Char, and personality flaw, too); yes, Sheldon Cooper from "Big Bang Theory" comes to mind, but I developed this PC well before that amazingly funny show (to me) hit prime time viewing.

    I often turn to my DM and tell him what I perceive, and try to problem-solve an issue during the course of a game session. Then I remind him, "This is ME in character, but I don't have so-and-so's Int or Wis (or Char when interacting with NPCs). Maybe my character will have some insight or solution that I just cannot think of."

    Now, as DM, I allow my player(s) to do their best to capture the essence of a high score in Int, Wis, and/or Char. Typically it is not an issue, but I often allow a die roll (how often completely depends upon how high the statistic is), and based on the result, offer (as DM) 'insight' or a hint to the player. In my mind, this gives the player the chance to step up and try to role-play effectively, but as DM I feel it is my role to 'guide' the player as well. This is especially true if they are trying to role-play a PC with an amazing statistic which is, truly, hard to pull off. It also, I think, gives the player some pride in having a character with great statistics, but I could be wrong on that, and makes having high Int, Wis, and/or Char a beneficial thing beyond merely adding proficiency slots, languages, extra spells, bonuses to learn spells, or a whole bunch of henchmen. In short, it helps to do justice to that particular character.

    I would be interested to hear back from any of you on this, and appreciate the thoughtful discussion.

    -Lanthorn
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    Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:56 pm  

    One thing I point out to my players on Cha. You don't have too be "good looking" to have a high Cha. This is a very bad example, but look at Hitler. One ULGY MUGG, but had a very high Cha. that could wow a crowd.

    Right now I'm playing in a 3.5 camp. and my toon has a Cha. of 12. I'm playing him as a "good looking" guy with a bad personality.
    Just my two Cp's
    GreySage

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    Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:15 pm  

    You make a good point, but I am assuming, therefore, that you do NOT use Comeliness as a separate statistic from Charisma.

    -Lanthorn
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    Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:55 pm  

    Good post Lanthorn,

    I may not have the intellectual gymnastics of Sir Isaac Newton, but I know what it looks like. One of my friends always asked questions like if my character is a genius and he studies alchemy what are some of the more scientific terminology associated with alchemy, or the flora and fauna in the area. Since neither of us are geniuses we try to emulate examples of said geniuses. So whether or not it is truly achieved in role-play we collectively attempt to make it seem so. Charisma can be hard to play as well and wisdom can fall on deaf ears. So much like you likened high attributes to certain historical figures one can try an morph their characters into said roles by example.

    Later

    Argon
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    Wed Aug 08, 2012 12:05 pm  
    Re: Role-playing PCs with high (non-physical) stats

    Lanthorn wrote:
    Sooooo...how does a "regular" fella like myself with decent (I'd like to think above average) mental and social stats (that one may be pushing it) role-play a character with VERY high Int, Wis, or Char scores?


    -Well, I give my players an IQ test. Then, I corrolate their IQ score to the IQ bell curve, then I corralate that onto the INT bell curve (based on 3d6). That way, I know their INT score. I simply don't allow any player to have a charchter more than 1 point higher than his actual IQ score. I do a similar thing with WIS, and I use socio-metric tests for CHA...

    Just kidding.

    I always figure that there's a certain amount of "translation" going on. I might find what you're saying to be, well, sort of "wrong", but your 18 CHA character says it in a way which goes down better.

    The reverse is also true. You might have 18 CHA in real life, but your 3 CHA character takes what you say and butchers it.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Wed Aug 08, 2012 8:17 pm  

    @jamesdglick Laughing Laughing Laughing

    You are correct its not what you say but how you say it. Most of the time, not all of the time. Though I know people tend to over calculate all of their attributes. I appreciate Lanthorn taking a more modest approach. People tend to under estimate a 12or 13 in an attribute score.

    Later

    Argon
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    Thu Aug 09, 2012 7:47 am  
    Re: Role-playing PCs with high (non-physical) stats

    jamesdglick wrote:


    -Well, I give my players an IQ test. Then, I corrolate their IQ score to the IQ bell curve, then I corralate that onto the INT bell curve (based on 3d6). That way, I know their INT score. I simply don't allow any player to have a charchter more than 1 point higher than his actual IQ score. I do a similar thing with WIS, and I use socio-metric tests for CHA...


    James, this made me chuckle. You must be a statistician or psychometrician in a former life. Do you have them perform the Ink Blot test, too?

    -Lanthorn, pushing for "High" Intelligence (instead of Very) Happy
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    Thu Aug 09, 2012 9:45 am  

    SirXaris wrote:
    Since I'm playing 3.5e/Pathfinder, I can rely on Skill Checks to overcome a player's personal deficiencies when dealing with such statistics...


    -Yes!

    Lanthorn wrote:
    ...Try role-playing the tactical genius of Sun Tzu! Or don the intellectual mantle that was Sir Isaac Newton (creator of calculus to describe his physics 'problem' with motion). If you can, assume the persuasive brilliance of someone like Churchill. Good luck on all accounts, my friends...


    -In D&D 3.5, the Isaac Newton character would fall under "Knowledge (Mathematics)" and "Knowledge (Physics)". As DM, I just tell him that he thinks he solved the problem (which he probably did, unless he rolled a "1"). Churchill would fall under "Diplomacy" (which has the a much wider effect of influencing peope). That's straightforward.

    Sun Tzu is a little harder, and I've never done it. He would fall under "Profession (Soldier)", with a +2 each from having more than +5 in "Knowledge" (War)", "Knowledge (History)" and "Knowledge (Geography)." Now, if you just need the results of the battle, you just total is score to the enemy commander's score (or his advisor, as the case may be), throw in the other factors (numbers, terrain, equipment, skill, morale, etc), and plop out the result. You can invent the "play by play" after the fact. Simple. If it has to be played out, then you have give the Sun Tzu character advice and "do over" opportunities as you fight out the tabletop battle, the amount of assitance depending on his score.

    Ah! This reminds me. Something to post on the D&D 3.5 thread...

    But for this thread, what about games where skill has a role (poker, blackjack, bridge/whist, chess, backgammon etc.)?

    Lanthorn wrote:

    ...Do you have them perform the Ink Blot test, too?


    -That goes into my players' WIS and alignment tests... Wink Laughing


    Last edited by jamesdglick on Thu Aug 09, 2012 11:39 am; edited 1 time in total
    GreySage

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    Thu Aug 09, 2012 11:02 am  

    James, I think most of what you mentioned in the previous post dealt more with proficiencies or skills. I am talking about raw ability or aptitude from which proficiencies and skills are derived or based. Some people are just plain BRILLIANT (Int), INSIGHTFUL (Wis), or PERSUASIVE (Char) and that forms the basis and foundation for their skill sets, be it tactics and strategy, scientific knowledge, gaming, debate, etc.

    -Lanthorn
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    Thu Aug 09, 2012 11:55 am  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    James, I think most of what you mentioned in the previous post dealt more with proficiencies or skills. I am talking about raw ability or aptitude from which proficiencies and skills are derived or based. Some people are just plain BRILLIANT (Int), INSIGHTFUL (Wis), or PERSUASIVE (Char) and that forms the basis and foundation for their skill sets, be it tactics and strategy, scientific knowledge, gaming, debate, etc...


    As a practical matter, most things come down to "skills". When they don't I go back to the "translation" theory, or as Argon put it, it's not what you say (or do), but how you say it (or do it).

    Care to trip me up with a specific example?

    Ok, I'm still trying to figure out my own poker example...
    GreySage

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    Thu Aug 09, 2012 12:04 pm  

    Many proficiencies/skills (in 2e at least) have more than one statistic or ability score involved. For your poker example, (gaming proficiency), a character may use both Charisma and Wisdom or Intelligence for an ability check.

    -Lanthorn
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    Thu Aug 09, 2012 12:18 pm  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    Many proficiencies/skills (in 2e at least) have more than one statistic or ability score involved. For your poker example, (gaming proficiency), a character may use both Charisma and Wisdom or Intelligence for an ability check...


    -IIRC, it was in AD&D1. Funny that's one of the things 3.5 didn't include. Go figure.

    I might add it to my rule additions. You got a page number for a reference for that?
    GreySage

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    Thu Aug 09, 2012 12:28 pm  

    The 2e PHB only offered one relevant ability, but the subsequent 2.5e book, Player's Options: Skills & Powers offered two ability scores for several proficiencies (which I prefer), on pages 90-91. Depending upon the type of game, you could use Dex, Char, Int, or Wis. In this system, base ratings are given, modified by the appropriate statistic. Characters improve upon the skill by the addition of 'character pts' which they earn for each level obtained.

    "Come join us. You'll like it here..." Evil Grin 2e can use another convert...

    -Lanthorn
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    Thu Aug 09, 2012 12:35 pm  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    ..."Come join us. You'll like it here..." Evil Grin 2e can use another convert...


    Ah, you forget. I started with OD&D, went to AD&D1 (with a mish-mash of the two because we didn't realize they were different), AD&D2, and now D&D 3.5.

    I like to think that I've grown... Wink
    GreySage

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    Thu Aug 09, 2012 12:39 pm  

    Lanthorn makes his "Diplomacy" roll (in spite of average-ish Wisdom score), bites back retort, avoids comment in order to avoid inciting accidental, unintentional flamewar and keeps the peace... Happy

    See, I do play well with others...

    -Lanthorn, transient follower of Rao

    (Now I must either remove my Avatar symbol and switch it with a heart or white mask, or Atone for not seeking retribution! Darn you James!)
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    Thu Aug 09, 2012 12:52 pm  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    Lanthorn makes his "Diplomacy" roll (in spite of average-ish Wisdom score), bites back retort, avoids comment in order to avoid inciting accidental, unintentional flamewar and keeps the peace... Happy

    See, I do play well with others...

    -Lanthorn, transient follower of Rao

    (Now I must either remove my Avatar symbol and switch it with a heart or white mask, or Atone for not seeking retribution! Darn you James!)


    ...slowly, he falls into my web... Evil Grin
    GreySage

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    Thu Aug 09, 2012 12:58 pm  

    Lanthorn looks to nearby broadsword and spear while fumbling with white mask...
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    Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:12 pm  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    Lanthorn looks to nearby broadsword and spear while fumbling with white mask...


    Woops. Gotta go! Laughing
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    Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:33 pm  

    Poor old Lanthorn,

    Spent to much time in Mitrik it seems. Jamesdglick you better hope he truly has. Surprised

    Later

    Argon
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    Fri Aug 10, 2012 3:52 pm  
    Flipside

    You can ask the same argument from the other side of the gaming table. How would you as a DM take into account your regular motal human limited knowedge self and portray a highly intelligent or wise monster? Beholders aren't dumb. Dragons in their lairs aren't dumb. Liches, vampires, etc.... I think rolling for a wisdom check to see if the PC makes the wisest choice is a slippery slope that I don't plan to walk down.
    GreySage

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    Sat Aug 11, 2012 8:25 am  

    Raymond, good point, but as I stated, as DM, we already have 'supernatural insights' that players don't (basically, we have 'insider knowledge'). It can be very challenging to role-play highly insightful, intelligent, and/or crafty NPCs or monsters. In those cases, give them knowledge or predictive talents above and beyond the 'norm.'

    -Lanthorn
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    Sat Aug 11, 2012 2:20 pm  

    Raymond,

    Great point! As DM we have to adjudicate many things. So it is not just what are my PC's capable of, but also my NPC's. This includes stats, ecology, motivation, amongst many other things. So ask yourself are you smarter then a gnome, goblin, or just another guy who sits on his throne? Or are you able to come up with a challenging group of NPC's, and monsters, that convince your characters they are dealing with intellectual acrobats with whom they must account for?

    Later

    Argon
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    Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:11 pm  

    As other have already pointed out, ultimately that is what puts the "Master" in "Dungeon Master".

    You don't penalize a PC because the player does not know what questions to ask when the brilliant Wizard would have a high probabilty of knowing. Somethimes the DM just helps his PCs along by refirming what they see, know, remember, etc.
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    Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:20 pm  

    Moved to the "Age Old Question?" thread.
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