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> Enrichening the Setting, Making Shadowrun come to life
TheMadDutchman
post Jul 6 2007, 10:49 PM
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As a gamer I'm always looking for ways to enhance the game environment. My groups have done everything from painting figs to character sketches and in a recent Fantasy campaign the GM even got a bunch of fake coins to use as the actual in game currency. It really did a lot to increase everyone's enjoyment of the game because we could actually see and spend the treasure our characters had earned (as opposed to it just being numbers on a page).

So, I've been looking for ways to make shadowrun seem more real and really help the players perceive the world as being real. Today I had an idea that might do that: commercials. I think it would be cool to randomly subject players in a campaign to commercials for various things in the Shadowrun world. "Aztechnology making a better future" or "Dunkelzahn the Legacy (coming soon to theaters)" Let's face it the SR world is so corporate that Advertisements are everywhere. Not only that; you could even use them as a story telling tool; if you're running a time lined game. If you're running a game w/ a progressing timeline where events will unfold regardless of PC interaction and you're having; say an npc meeting at club inferno, you could plug the club and advertise whatever DJ or band would be performing. This way there's a chance that the Pc's will say "Hey, let's go to that club" and that increases the odds that they'll interact w/ the timeline and if you insert one or two commercials per session they'll never know for certain when you're hinting that they should go somewhere and when you're just randomly plugging something.
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JonathanC
post Jul 6 2007, 11:34 PM
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I'll be watching this thread closely, as I've been looking for ways to really bring out the setting as well. So far, my best attempt was in how I placed NPCs in the game. For example, when the team fell back to a safehouse that one of them found with a knowledge skill check, I had the team run into an ork BTL dealer and her 8 children squatting in part of their safehouse. They talked, paid her some cred to keep quiet (she seemed willing to stay quiet for free; personally I think they felt bad for her), and later found out that she sold BTLs and drugs with the help of her two oldest kids.

They even bought some product from her.

Now, not every NPC you place is going to get that kind of reaction from players, but for a long time I'd stopped even trying because I assumed they were mostly interested in NPCs who were either trying to kill them, or willing to pay them. Sometimes just giving them someone to run into can go a long way towards creating immersion.
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Wounded Ronin
post Jul 6 2007, 11:43 PM
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Just play 80s music in the background and get people pumped up with a marathon that includes Big Trouble In Little China, Bloodsport, Robocop, and Escape From New York.
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Rifleman
post Jul 7 2007, 12:08 AM
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QUOTE (TheMadDutchman)
This way there's a chance that the Pc's will say "Hey, let's go to that club" and that increases the odds that they'll interact w/ the timeline and if you insert one or two commercials per session they'll never know for certain when you're hinting that they should go somewhere and when you're just randomly plugging something.

Along this line of thought, giving them a quick run down of the news in the morning or whatever shows they watch can add to the environment as well. Just be prepared to fake details in case someone goes 'Huh' and begins looking up what Really happened (Even if that was what really happened).
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TheMadDutchman
post Jul 7 2007, 12:17 AM
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I've found that music (especially music w/ lyrics) can be more of a hinderance and distraction.

If I'm going to use music for SR than I'd use some heavy electronic or industrial (something w/ little or no lyrics) and I'd want to play it very low to prevent it from being a distraction.

As for the movie marathon; yeah those are fun but they don't help while the game is being played.


I'm looking for things to put into a session that'll pull my players in while we're at the table.


I do like the daily news idea. It wouldn't be hard to do once I build the timeline for my campaign and I can always throw random events in as well.
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Cain
post Jul 7 2007, 05:52 AM
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Props are your friend. Daily newsfaxes can be a big help, but so can weirdly-colored or odd food (to represent Soy Krunchies and SoyKola) can do the trick as well. Airsoft guns can also lend weight to a game, if your players are OK with that.
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Critias
post Jul 7 2007, 06:00 AM
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Nothing says Shadowrun like The Ninja Kitties! cartoons and FizzyDew™.
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sunnyside
post Jul 7 2007, 06:16 AM
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The old CP2020 standby. Mirrorshades 8) (Yes indoors).

That might work but in all seriousness I try to add details to the setting. Including ads, NPC and more descriptions of the area and people in it. This occasionally means having to detail an NPC on the fly, but that's OK, and usually develops into some interesting RP. Props would be cool, but I'm not inclined that way. Powerpoint maps though I'll do now and again.

Another advantage of this is being able to drop clues in here and there without setting the players off, because they're used to you describing people and things outside the plot.

I also try to keep technology coming at them. Not neccesarily stuff like a gas vent 5 or something. But gagets and gizmos and vanishingly small improvements and varients on the stuff they have.

Oh and also remember to add weather. In all honesty most GMs have every day be clear skies, low humidity, and just cool enough to make an armored jacket comfortable.

In Seattle
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bibliophile20
post Jul 7 2007, 06:21 AM
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QUOTE (sunnyside)
Oh and also remember to add weather. In all honesty most GMs have every day be clear skies, low humidity, and just cool enough to make an armored jacket comfortable.

In Seattle

Not in my game; twice they've been out in rain, ranging from light to torrential--and one of those times they were out wendigo-hunting. :D
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TheMadDutchman
post Jul 7 2007, 01:50 PM
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A little over a decade ago I spent about 2 years in Lacey (a suburb of Olympia) which is south of Seattle and actually in SR would be part of the city.As I remember the weather the Summers are warm and dry- but not too hot. Think mid 70's occasionally rising into the low 80's but the rest of the year was wet. This is a bit of an exaggeration but it basically rained from September through March. I'm not saying it was raining every second of every day but it did rain a lot and from November thru Feb the rain could last for a couple days at a stretch (which made catching a 6:15 bus to school suck we scotch guarded everything).

You are right though, many people neglect weather entirely.
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Lagomorph
post Jul 7 2007, 08:56 PM
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if your players have laptops, buy a couple cheapie thumbdrives and save text messages on them, toss them to the players during the game and get them back at the end of the session for re use?
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Kyoto Kid
post Jul 7 2007, 09:40 PM
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...for a recent run I did entitled Drek the Halls, I wrote a WeaponsWorld Christmas gift commercial...

[excerpt]
"...when you only want to give her the best...the Lady Guardian by Savalette...

Available at all WeaponsWorld Stores in the Greater Seattle Metroplex Area...

Purchase a Lady Guardian by December 24th and receive two boxes of OnPoint gel ammo this handsome leather toned holster all in an exquisite wood toned gift box..."


I also did running weather updates (Seattle was bracing for their "once every 70 years" blizzard) as well as an ongoing news string relating to a heist of medical equipment from the University of Seattle Medical Centre that had nothing (well maybe nothing) to do with the run at hand.
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TheMadDutchman
post Jul 7 2007, 11:31 PM
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That's the kind of stuff I'm talking about.

Here's another idea I had (going back to my initial commercial gimmic). In a lot of campaigns I've run I've prepared handouts for my pcs highlighting areas of the city and specific locations. This way instead of just giving my players access to a list of clubs and stores etc. I can advertise them 1 at a time.

The other thing that I'm doing is I'm working on a project which I've titled Target: San Juan. It's an In Character run-down of the city that I've tried to present as if it were a thread on a message board. I've got around 40 didn't personalities who have posted on topics ranging from gangs to traffic to nightclubs. It's currently 17 pages long and I'm debating on adding another topic because I realised I haven't done anything on the actual organized crime groups (Triads, Yaks, and Mafia... I'm leaving the Vory out intentionally, for now). I like this because I've already decided as a GM that some of the intel in the thread is wrong; just like most Shadowrun books that are presented as opinion and up to the individual GM what's correct and what's not.
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Serial_Peacemake...
post Jul 8 2007, 12:08 AM
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Personally I generally start most sessions with the morning news that the hacker downloads. Basically a pirate news radio station called "News You Need to Know" a series that generally tries to interupt 'official' news stations when they are doing 'human interest' stories. I try to model the head news caster a bit on Spider Jerusalem, and basically give news that is useful to runners, and somewhat blackly humorous. Ex. There will be a shooting at 5th and Vane tommorrow. There will be no witnesses. Seems to work fairly well, but then again I sometimes go so over the top with the dystopia it becomes funny.
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PlatonicPimp
post Jul 8 2007, 12:25 AM
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In my setting I used to start each run off with a small audio clip. If any of you are familiar with the cowboy bebop soundracks, one of them has these 30 second clips from "Mr. Martian," a pirate radio broadcaster on mars. Since noone is on mars in shadowrun, I made up an urban legend or 3 about his origins. Each session began by playing another Mr. martian clip, under the assumption that they were listening to the station when the scene starts.

The players got so hooked on this that they actively followed up on the urban myths to try to determine the nature of Mr. martian. In the final run, they managed to contact the man, and get him to transmit some interesting paydata to tthe public. Though they never did figure out if he really was an abandoned astronaut cryo-frozen and hooked up to the matrix, or just some punk kid with more knowhow than sense.
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Solomon Greene
post Jul 8 2007, 12:41 AM
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I've chosen to base our campaign in St. Louis, the city we all live in. Once a month, I'll pack my friends up and take them to a new spot, a restaurant, something. These settings end up making it into the game, which grounds the whole in a huge, impressive way. It's one thing to describe a running gun battle in the Cathedral Basillica, another entirely to have visited the place. I realize that many people can't do this exact thing for your campaign, but you can do something similar. Borrow from the known - insert familiar things into your game.

When you're out with your game group, discuss in the downtime how places would look in 2070 - how things change, how they stay the same.

I use music - some people, as stated, don't like to, but I have soundtracks which my players have also come to love - they make soundtracks for their own pc's.

My first session kicked off with me sitting a small mirror on my table, cutting out two lines of baking soda with a razor, and setting an airsoft pistol on the table. When they walked in, to the theme song of the campaign (Beck's "Two Turntables and a Microphone") it really got them into the mood.

It's all about bringing the imagined world into conflict and harmony with the world we live in. The more "help" you give the imagination, the richer your results.
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TheMadDutchman
post Jul 8 2007, 02:41 AM
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I've been reading everyone's suggestions and I like a lot of what I've seen so far but I do have a couple questions for you all now.

I noticed that a couple of you mentioning that you start each session or each run a certain way. This leads me to a major question: How do you manage time in your games?

Largely there are two ways to do this. The first is run by run. When you manage time run by run it means that at any point you can have an arbitrary amount of time pass (like from the end of one session to the beginning of the next)and then voila it's run time.

The second way is to manage time strictly w/ an ongoing timeline. That means that if you end one session at 3:00 a.m. the next one picks up around 3:01 a.m. and if you've planned runs for days 4 and 7 than you actually roleplay through days 5 and 6 before getting to the next job.

I'm a strict ongoing timeline guy myself. I've always had the most fun running that way and I try to recruit players that enjoy doing that.
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Solomon Greene
post Jul 8 2007, 08:34 AM
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Well, my Sr game is a little different. PC's are freelancers, working in a very crowded SL. They work for a man named Solomon Greene, enforcing his plays on the city shadow power structure. There's no Johnson, no "typical" shadowruns, so I play full through, narrating each day as it happens. It's more "Sopranos" meets "Pulp Fiction", so we get to see the characters in all their glory.

Most of our play seems to come from the "downtime", anyway.
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Synner667
post Jul 8 2007, 12:11 PM
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Hi,

Interesting thread, and something I'm not sure many people think about - they just know something's missing, but not what.

I'm a big fan of putting together screamsheets/mini-newspapers for players to read and enjoy - put it together in almost any word processor, add some real stories, add some stuff you want them to be aware off in the gameworld, maybe some stuff related to previous shadowruns ['company 'x' burns to ground in mysterious fire']..
..On top of that, re-use characters and locations from scenario to scenario [to maintain continuity], use slang, keep a calendar/diary [just a few words - so you can keep track of what's been done, when it was done, and things for the future].


Just my thruppence..
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Talia Invierno
post Jul 8 2007, 01:48 PM
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QUOTE (Solomon Greene)
I've chosen to base our campaign in St. Louis, the city we all live in.  Once a month, I'll pack my friends up and take them to a new spot, a restaurant, something.  These settings end up making it into the game, which grounds the whole in a huge, impressive way.

I've done this -- although usually with far less impressive locations. Still, it's amazing just how different even a taken-for-granted late hour mall subway access can be when it suddenly becomes the setting for an accidentally interrupted third-party meet.

I don't set mood, except insofar as to physically set up around a dinette-height table (rather than, for example, the television-viewing couch and coffee table). I've found that physical position seems to affect degree of willingness to be sucked in by in-game environment. Occasionally I've used props (usually not written articles, it's just the nature of most of the groups I've worked with), but it's far from a common thing: which means that when they are used, they stand out. No in-game music -- instant distraction -- but sometimes when it's possible I'll flow the game over right after an appropriately-toned film (Ghost in the Shell, anything Bourne), or sometimes even just the soundtrack.

QUOTE
The second way is to manage time strictly w/ an ongoing timeline. That means that if you end one session at 3:00 a.m. the next one picks up around 3:01 a.m. and if you've planned runs for days 4 and 7 than you actually roleplay through days 5 and 6 before getting to the next job.

This is us, but with Solomon Greene's "no "typical" shadowruns'." And yes, by far most of our play seems to come from the downtime as well.
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MaxHunter
post Jul 8 2007, 03:34 PM
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Hey, I am all into tiny little things to make the setting richer!

I do not follow a systematic approach to it but:

-I do commercials a lot, both as trideo ads, spam the runners get, product placement by some Johnson and mostly ads they see on the street, subways, zeps and on the walls of buildings. It has certainly had some interesting effects:

One of the runners spontaneously started drinking Aztecola, he is so hooked up the rest of the group gives him odd looks.

They have never pulled a run for or against Shiawase, but all of them know it as "the corp of that hot asian chick"

-News also go a great deal into richer settings. I have prepared some newsfaxes -in the tradition of old and new SR books- They also get to see some news and or/receive news updates from certain contacts. I normally include one or two "real" clues amongst a pile of fluff. The frequency/content depend mostly on the time I have to prepare for the run. They are usually handled before or after the run, as downtime info or inserted somehow while the runners are en route to someplace. "As you drive to meet the johnson, managing your way trough the jammed downtown streets, the gridsat screen lights up a window with the latest newscast"

-"Random" events. Rock concerts, traffic jams, unusual weather, miracle shooter shootouts, gang wars, matrix graffiti, national holidays, new shops, new and useless tech, jail breakouts, music hypes, pollution alerts, sport events, conventions, etc.

I have used all of this and more. It doesn't even has to do anything with the run itself, but many times they help convey the idea that the city has a life of its own. Smart runners can many times take advantage of random situations to advance their nefarious plans. Improvising, IMO, is the runners prime skill.

Example: Runners had to dispose of a body and make it look like an accident. Someone remembered a go gang gunfight that they had heard happened nearby (like a session before) and staged what looked like "random violence". The gangers actually showed up and looted the body and his eurocar so the runners idea made even more sense.

-Minor or Major NPC plots; the shopkeeper who is trying to survive in a tough neighbourhood. The prostitute who has a BTL problem. A young band who are trying to make it big. The hacker gang who are trying to spread dirt on X corp. Yakuza's infighting. Lone Star cops who are taking money from the mob to look the other way.
Tamanous secret operation in the city's hospital, etc, etc.

These things do necessarily not come up explicitly in runs, but runners notice -even subliminally- that something is going on. NPCs are busy doing their stuff, when the runners go to the hospital some doctors get nervous. Eventually some of this subplots may come into the focus of the story, or not. But I always try to think "What would this NPC be doing when the runners appear? What may happen then?" Then, just by leaving a little space in the plot to see what the runners do may be enough to see the story develop.

Example, Rich Npcs does not take much time, just mantaining coherence and sometimes keeping notes.

One of the players is currently living with who was originally the target of an extraction run and a little boy they rescued from a ravaged village in Africa. Now they have to skip town because the heat is getting closer and he doesn't want to move to a city with cold weather like Seattle because the little boy is used to a warm climate and gets depressed.

Another has started dealing guns with a gun dealer contact and a rigger they met in a job.

A third player has decided to help a little ork gang in their turf war and they have become his friends, etc, etc.

-Player generated ideas. I make a point of asking players what they do between runs. I also ask them what their characters want, what they were doing just before Johnson called... etc. Some players have "generated" runs for me by telling me that their runners want to do this or that and giving me some time to think how to include it in the campaign.

Improvisation is also the GMs most important skill. Not that I do not prepare runs, but I tend not to solve them in my head, I just come up with one or two likely outcomes and then sit and see what the runners do. I try to be fairly open to what comes up, because I do not think I always have the best ideas. Greater players involvement makes the world richer and funnier to everyone.

Example: One of the players' characters likes motorbikes, he spent some downtime with a mechanic he had met. The moment we started playing the next run that player was anxious to describe the rest of the group his new motorbike and tell the group what a fantastic deal he had made. Eventually the rest of the runners wanted to meet that mechanic and later, a couple more runners bought motorbikes from him. Not that they were better from a stats point of view, just a little cheaper and cooler. Now the next car chase they have will certainly be a lot more richer. Imagine what would happen when the Humanis gangers scratch the paintjob on that character's Harley...


-If you are in one of my groups just don't read what follows: -
[ Spoiler ]


Pfiu! I am afraid that I got carried out. This came up a little longer than I has originally intended. Well, I hope sharing this might help. Cheers and good gaming!

Max
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TheMadDutchman
post Jul 8 2007, 09:14 PM
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I'm working up a list of musicians to randomly insert into my campaign as background fodder and I thought I'd share the list to show you some of the things I'm working on. I've got 14 so far. It's: Band name (genre) Album "song"

The Coven (industrial rock) Three Candles Burning w/ the hit single “Earth Below�


Chemical Coma (electronic rock) UPSIDE DOWN w/ the single “Moronicon�


Paco Chavez (Gangsta Rap) No Love w/ the single “No Love�


Latin Razor (Metal) Padre in Hell w/ the single “Diabolic�


Rum Shock (hip-hop) 3 Dead Soldiers w/ the single “3 Dead Soldiers�


Machete Phil (Island Metal) Under the Setting Suns w/ the single “Final Hour�


Raging Torrent (Industrial) XXX w/ the single “Through the mirror, darkly�


Gaspar Morales (hip hop) Out in the Sand w/ the single “So Damn Fine�


7th Street (gangsta rap) 9s and Brass w/ the hit single “Down Ho Cookin’�


Blunt Scissors (pop/rock) New York, New York w/ the single “I see her�


Jigger and Pony (Metal) Things I Never Thought Were Real w/ the single “Turn around (Excorcism)�


The Latin Kings (Gangsta Rap) Listen UP w/ the hit single “No Regrets (featuring DJ Dirty)�


SlickDown (Gangsta Rap) Big Rowdy w/ the single “How I Deal�


Red Devils (Russian Industrial) We Burn w/ the single “Bring to Fire�
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Kyoto Kid
post Jul 8 2007, 10:59 PM
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QUOTE (MaxHunter)
Player generated ideas. I make a point of asking players what they do between runs. I also ask them what their characters want, what they were doing just before Johnson called... etc. Some players have "generated" runs for me by telling me that their runners want to do this or that and giving me some time to think how to include it in the campaign.

...this happened recently in my current campaign. While speaking with the person who had hired them one of the team members took her aside and brought up an interesting idea to possibly flush an assassin into the open. I had the the NPC think about it, then agree. The next session, the plan was put into action. While the actual assassin was not nabbed, it did point to a possible leak within the employer's organisation when the backup plan was nearly compromised. In a sense, here a player gave the GM a hook to work with which helped develop the plot in an interesting manner.

The NPC has since tightened her security and is very watchful of her people's moves.
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Strobe
post Jul 9 2007, 02:42 AM
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Something I do with weather is look up the actual weather records for the city in question (in my case Sydney) and then just use a years worth of weather to predict what it is like on a particular day. You get realistic patterns of the seasons this way.

Unfortunately Sydney is now somewhat different. Those who have read Target: Awakened Lands will know what I mean. I just on occasion throw in some totally strange hail/storms or dry spells to shake them up.

-Strobe
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Talia Invierno
post Jul 9 2007, 08:06 AM
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RL Sydney climate prediction
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