The Alexandrian

Posts tagged ‘eclipse phase’

Eclipse Phase - Posthuman StudiosA quick review for those unfamiliar with the Eclipse Phase system: It’s a percentile system where you need to roll equal to or under your skill level in order to succeed. If your roll a success, your margin of success is equal to the number you rolled on the dice. If you roll a failure, your margin of failure is equal to the number you rolled minus your skill level.

(So if your Fray skill is 45 and you roll 27, your margin of success is 27. If you roll 89, your margin of failure is 89 – 45 = 44.)

Playing Eclipse Phase at Gencon this year, I noticed once again the difficulty some people have grokking this method of “calculating” margin of success. Part of the problem is that it’s discordant with how venerable percentile systems like Call of Cthulhu calculate margin of success (by subtracting the number you rolled from your skill rating). And part of the problem is that Eclipse Phase actually swapped methods between subtracting numbers and reading the die roll between printings. (The post-Catalyst Labs versions of the game should really have been clearly labeled a Revised Edition, frankly.)

But laying all of that aside, the huge advantage of the “read the die” method of calculating margin of success is that it completely eliminates calculation at the table when calculating margin of success: All you have to do is look at the dice. When you can get everyone to grok that (and to report their rolls as “XX out of YY” instead of just “succcess”) it makes the game run with incredible smoothness. (Margins of failure still require calculation, but the system doesn’t use them nearly as often.)

Having concluded that there’s a huge upside to calculating margin of success like this, without further ado I present several different conceptual frameworks that can help you (or someone else) grok the concept:

  • Success starts at 00 and grows from there, so the higher you roll the better your success (assuming that you succeed).
  • It’s like blackjack: You want to get as close to your target number as possible without going over.
  • It’s like The Price is Right: The dice are naming a price and you want that price to be as close to the actual price (i.e., your skill rating) as possible.
  • Your skill rating is like a gravity well: Successes start far away at 00, but the closer they get to your gravity well the faster they go and the bigger the explosion when you punch that guy in the face.

(For some reason face punching always features heavily whenever I’m teaching a new system to people.)


Okay, now that you’ve grokked how Eclipse Phase does margins of succcess, let me strain your credibility by proposing a similar method for handling margin of failure in the system. (This is really just a random thought that occurred to me as I was writing out the above.)

The key point here is that the system (a) rarely cares about margin of failure and (b) when it does, it only cares if you missed by either 30 points or 60 points. (The former are referred to as “severe failures” and in my system cheat sheet I refer to the latter as “horrific failures”, although I don’t believe the rulebook ever gives a formal term for them.)

So the method here is really simple:

  • A roll of 70 or less is a severe failure
  • A roll of 40 or less is a horrific failure.

The system also has a handful of effects which are determined “per 10 margin of failure”. (For example, shock damage can knock you unconscious for 1 round per 10 MoF.) To calculate that, simply subtract the tens digit of your result from 9. (So if you roll 77, you would be shocked for 9 – 7 = 2 rounds.)

If you’re looking for a conceptual framework, think of failure as emanating from 99 and growing in magnitude. Note, too, that higher is always better with this system: A higher success is a better success; a higher failure is a better failure. What my mind initially tries to interpret as a discontinuity actually makes sense if you just imagine success and failure emanating from opposite ends of the spectrum while the outcome is a linear comparison to your skill rating.

Gencon 2014 - The Best Four Days in Gaming

I mentioned a couple days ago that I’d just returned from Gencon and a few people asked me to talk a little bit about my experiences there. As I mentioned, I ran 5 games and played in 4:

  • Numenera: Into the Violet Vale (ran 3 sessions)
  • The Strange: Eschatology Code (ran 2 sessions)
  • Cthulhu Masters Tournament (played in 2 rounds)
  • Eclipse Phase: Detente
  • Eclipse Phase: Overrun

This was more intense but considerably less varied than last year, when I played in 6 games (including Call of Cthulhu, Lady Blackbird, Eclipse Phase, Shab-al-Hiri Roach, and Numenera).

The sessions of Numenera and The Strange I ran were actually the very first con games I’ve ever run. And I made a very conscious decision to jump in with both feet by signing up to run two sessions of each. What I wasn’t anticipating was that this would, in turn, lead to a very intense pre-con experience, too: I didn’t receive the scenarios I was running from Monte Cook Games until August 2nd, which meant I had less than two weeks to read them, prep them, and playtest them. (I ended up running two playtest sessions of The Strange: Eschatology Code and one session of Numenera: Into the Violet Vale with various assortments of my local players.) The core rulebook for The Strange was also just released and so I found myself having to run the game without actually having read the core rulebook yet. (I actually still haven’t finished the core rulebook.)

The Strange - Bruce Cordell and Monte CookTHURSDAY MORNING SURPRISE: I was supposed to launch my Gencon experience by playing in an 8 AM game of Numenera run by an independent GM unassociated with the official MCG events. I haven’t had much of a chance to actually play the game since last Gencon and I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the GM was a no-show. That meant that I was sitting at a table in the Marriott with four players who were all desperate to try out this awesome game. Meanwhile, right next door at the JW Marriott, I had all my supplies for running Into the Violet Vale.

Well… you can guess what happened next. We headed over to the JW Marriott’s bar, sat in comfy chairs, and I inaugurated my experience of GMing at con twelve hours earlier than I was anticipating. The session, albeit somewhat abbreviated on time, proceeded fabulously. (This was followed by a desperate scramble to print out new character sheets for the scenario so that I would have enough for my official games. Fortunately, the JW Marriott has a FedEx store on the second floor.)

THE STRANGE: Since Gencon last year, Numenera has rapidly dominated my roleplaying, displacing D&D 3.5 as my most played game. I am just as excited about The Strange. I talked more about it over here, but the short version is this: If you’ve dismissed this as just a simple “dimension hopping” game, take the time to give it a second look. It’s doing some really interesting and unqiue stuff within the genre.

I will also say that Eschatology Code, the scenario Bruce Cordell wrote for Gencon, is simply fantastic. It has certain limitations as a scenario for home play (although it would be a strong way to kick off a campaign), but it’s one of the tightest and most effective convention scenarios I’ve had the pleasure to see. No spoilers, but if you get a chance to play it, I recommend seizing the opportunity.

ECLIPSE PHASE: I’m a huge fan of Eclipse Phase and my experiences with their games this year were great. I had some confusion with my schedule (Google Calendars shifted the times of all my events when I switched time zones heading into Indianapolis) and I ended up being an hour late for the first scenario. After apologizing profusely for being an unintentional jackass, however, I settled into a really nifty scenario involving multiple factions fighting over control of one of the Pandora Gates. Midway through the scenario I had a Crowning Moment of Awesome(TM) and actually got a round of applause at the end of the session for it. Woot!

(During the convention I also got two rounds of applause while GMing, one after pulling a back-to-back doubleheader of Numenera and ThStrange that lasted until midnight on Friday.

CTHULHU MASTERS TOURNAMENT: This was my second year participating in the Cthulhu Masters Tournament and this year (after fleeing a Hound of Tindalos during the Fall of Saigon in a very memorable scenario where they actually built a helicopter for use to roleplay in) I advanced to the second round. This tournament is really fabulous and the caliber of players it attracts is simply marvelous.

THE LOOT: The two Gencon acquisitions I’m most excited about are Run, Fight, or Die and Level 7: Invasion. (The Strange would also be on the list, but I kickstarted it and received the rulebook a couple weeks earlier.)

Run, Fight, or Die - Richard Launius

Run, Fight, or Die was designed by Richard Launius (of Arkham Horror fame). I first glanced at it many moons ago when it was being kickstarted, but the pitch for the game was basically “King of Tokyo with zombies” and my response to that was, “Meh.” (As it is with pretty much all “it’s X plus zombies!” pitches.) But I slid into a demo game on the con floor and really, really enjoyed the game: The central keep-and-roll mechanic is similar to King of Tokyo, but that’s where the similarity ends: Run, Fight, or Die features immediate punishment for pushing your luck, which adds an extra dynamic of risk to the standard procedure or looking for the most favorable combination. The combinations themselves are actually progressive in interestingly discontinuous ways, which means that you can actually end up shooting past your desired result. Finally, the central conflict of the game — in which hordes of zombies move closer and closer towards you — creates a rich tactical environment in which you have to balance and choose between short-term and long-term consequences.

The whole package is just fabulous. I’ve played it a dozen times since getting home from Gencon and I’m pretty firmly convinced that it’s going to be a huge hit at my Game Night parties.

Level 7: Invasion - Privateer Press

I haven’t actually had a chance to play Level 7: Invasion yet, so I really can’t pass any kind of judgment or provide any kind of insight about it. But I’m a huge fan of Level 7: Escape and Level 7: Omega Protocol. The progressive storytelling in the series evolving through radically different types of games (Level 7: Escape is a co-op ‘crawler, Level 7: Omega Protocol is a players-vs-masters tactical combat game, and Level 7: Invasion is a geopolitical wargame) is really fascinating to me.


Eclipse Phase: Transhuman - Posthuman StudiosThis post is a little hyper-specialized in its focus, but it was a mechanical concept that was tickling my hindbrain so I decided to just pull the trigger on it.

Flexbot morphs are formed from multiple, shape-adjusting modules which can flexibly reconfigure themselves into a multitude of forms: Multi-legged walkers, tentacles, hovercrafts, and so forth. In addition, their individual modules are capable of sprouting fractal-branching digits (capable of breaking into smaller digits down to micrometer scales, allowing for ultra-fine manipulation).

Eclipse Phase: Transhuman introduces a new set of rules for flexbots allowing them to incorporate specialized modules. (For example, a Beekeeper module can be used to deploy nanoswarms.) In order to support these specialized modules, Transhuman also introduces a system for calculating the characteristics of a morph formed using various configurations of specialized modules.

In order to use these rules, however, you need the stats for a basic flexbot module. Transhuman provides stats for a Yeoman module which is supposed to replace the basic flexbot morph, but it actually results in a very different stat block. So what I’ve done is to create a basic flexbot module that you can use to build a flexbot morph virtually identical to the one described in the core rulebook. I’ve also tossed in a cheap flexbot module and also something nifty called a silvershot module.


A basic flexbot morph (as described in Eclipse Phase, pg. 144) contains 5 basic flexbot modules.

(Following the rules for combining flexbots, this would actually result in a morph with Durability 24 instead of the Durability 25 found in the core rulebook. But that’s the closest you can mathematically get.)


Robot Concept Art - Sean YooThis is the basic module found in a typical flexbot morph. In a typical configuration, one of those modules is the size of a small dog (roughly 75 centimeters high x 75 centimeters long x 25 centimeters long), but they’re capable of significantly compressing or extending their dimensions using their Shape Adjusting enhancement (see Transhuman, pg. 208).

Enhancements: Access Jacks, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack, Cyberbrain, Fractal Digits, Mnemonic Augmentation, Modular Design, Nanoscopic Vision, Shape Adjusting
Mobility System: Walker (4/16), Hover (8/40)
Aptitude Maximum: 30
Durability: 8
Wound Threshold: 2
Advantages: Armor (4/4)
Notes: Small Size trait (Transhuman, pg. 95)
CP Cost: 4
Credit Cost: High



Originally marketed by Starware, this cheap alternative to a typical flexbot module quickly gained an extremely negative reputation. Consumer advocacy groups leaked the full blueprints for the design in an effort to discredit Starware, but this ironically just resulted in a lot of people having access to it. Down-on-their-luck flexbots sometimes don’t have any choice but to substitute in a cheap Starware knock-off if one of their main modules is damaged.

Enhancements: Access Jacks, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack, Cyberbrain, Mnemonic Augmentation, Modular Design, Shape Adjusting
Mobility System: Walker (4/16), Hover (4/28)
Aptitude Maximum: 20
Durability: 6
Wound Threshold: 2
Advantages: Armor (2/2)
Disadvantages: Lemon trait
Notes: Small Size trait (Transhuman, pg. 95)
CP Cost: 1
Credit Cost: Moderate



Robot Concept Art - Sean YooSilvershot modules are designed with specialized, multi-channel connections using superconducting material to synchronize high-speed, cross-modular communication through massive redundancy. A flexbot formed entirely from silvershot modules can move like quicksilver, although the advantage debilitates rapidly if non-silvershot modules are introduced.

Enhancements: Access Jacks, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack, Cyberbrain, Mnemonic Augmentation, Modular Design, Shape Adjusting
Mobility System: Walker (4/16), Vectored Thrust (8/40)
Aptitude Maximum: 30
Speed Modifier: +1 (Reflex Boosters)
Durability: 8
Wound Threshold: 2
Advantages: REF +10, Armor (4/4), Reflex Boosters
Notes: Small Size trait (Transhuman, pg. 95)
CP Cost: 8
Credit Cost: High (minimum 10,000)


Unless noted otherwise, only physically attached modules should be considered when combining the modules of a flexbot into a flexbot morph’s stats.

Enhancements: In general, the flexbot morph is considered to have all of the enhancements and traits available to their individual modules. The exception would be any enhancement or trait that would require the entire morph to be augmented (unless, of course, all of the flexbot’s modules possess the enhancement or trait). (For example, a chameleon skin would only cloak the module possessing it.)

Mobility System: For each module which lacks a specific mobility system, the movement rate of the morph with that mobility is halved. (This penalty is cumulative for each module which lacks the mobility system.)

Robot Concept Art - Sean YooFlexbot modules can reshape themselves to possess any mobility system based on purely mechanical principles (hopper, hover, roller, rotorcraft, snake, submarine, tracked, walker, wheeled, winged). A module cannot have more than two mobility systems shaped at a time. Assume shaped mobility systems have a movement rate of 4 meters.

Aptitude Maximum: Use the highest maximum available for each aptitude.

Speed Modifier: Flexbots use the Speed of its slowest module.

Durability: Take the highest Durability among the flexbot’s modules and add half the Durability (round up) of each additional module. Calculate the morph’s Wound Threshold (Durability ÷ 5) and Death Rating (Durability x 2) normally based on the morph’s total Durability.

  • Damage: Damage is assumed to be evenly divided between a flexbot’s modules. (As an optional rule, determine which specific module was hit and apply the damage accordingly. This would only become important if a specific module separates from the flexbot or if that module is disabled, in which case the flexbot would lose any enhancements or traits specific to that module.)

Advantages/Disadvantages: As with enhancements, a flexbot morph is considered to have all the advantages and disadvantages possessed by their individual modules.

  • Ability Scores: Flexbots use the highest bonus for each aptitude. Multiple bonuses to the same aptitude from different modules do not stack.
  • Armor: A flexbot’s Armor Value is equal to the average Armor Value of its modules (round up).
  • Individual flexbot modules count as a small target (-10 modifier to hit in combat)

This is a quick reference. Refer to Transhuman (pg. 203-206) for the complete rules.

Eclipse Phase - Posthuman Studios

Essentially every character in Eclipse Phase has a personal muse: An AI that serves as their companion and personal assistant from the time that they’re a young child until the day that they die. Their persistent presence and collaboration in every facet of a person’s life is one of the transformative elements of the Eclipse Phase setting which creates the unique exotic flavor its science fiction.

As I mentioned when I posted my Eclipse Phase system cheat sheet a few days ago, however, it initially proved difficult for players to properly utilize their muses as an integral part of their lives. Literally front-paging the muses helped, but something I also started experimenting with was the idea of letting another player run the muse. Thus everyone at the table would control both their PC and the muse of another character.

The recent Eclipse Phase: Transhuman sourcebook makes a similar suggestion. There are multiple advantages: First, it forces the roleplaying relationship between the PC and their muse into the open. Second, it encourages the muse to have its own independent personality. Third, it can also make it a lot easier to split the party because many or all of the players who aren’t present may still have a muse to play in the scene.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, however, I’m currently developing an open table Eclipse Phase campaign. Unfortunately, an open table disrupts the idea of having a second player run your muse: Since the players at the table are constantly in flux, there would be no guarantee that the player running your muse would be at your next session.

Loosely inspired by Shock: Social Science Fiction, therefore, I’m going to experiment with the idea that your muse is always played by the player to your left. (Basically a structured troupe-style play in which the muses form the body of communal characters.)

This obviously sustains the advantage of the muse always being portrayed by a separate player. The disadvantage, however, is that there would be a constant flux of different players portraying your personal muse (leading to potential continuity problems). To mitigate these problems, what you need is a quick briefing sheet that would introduce the new player to your muse. This needs to be insightful enough that the essence of your muse is communicated, but focused enough that it can be quickly assimilated at the beginning of the session.

Fortunately, I already have a template like this that I use when designing NPCs for social-intensive scenarios. I’ve tweaked it slightly to customize it for troupe-style muses. I think you might find it useful even if you’re not contemplating this style of play.

When designing your muse, I also recommend checking out “Maximizing Your Muse” in Eclipse Phase: Transhuman (pg. 166-169). There’s a lot of good ideas in there.


Name: Self-explanatory. As limited artificial intelligences, muses have their own identities.

AR Avatar: A description of the muse’s “physical” appearance when it appears in AR (or VR).

Altered Carbon - Ben MauroRoleplaying: This is the heart of the briefing sheet, but it should also be the shortest section. Two or three brief bullet points at most. You’re looking to identify the essential personality traits or mannerisms which will serve to unlock the muse.

Motivations: Like any other character, muses should have three personal motivations (Eclipse Phase, pg. 138). These may mimic, support, or even contrast the motivations of their owner.

Background: This is likely the only section of the briefing sheet which is likely to need frequent updating. I recommend a single bullet point for each significant scenario the muse participates in (and keeping each bullet point to no more than two or three sentences). The point isn’t to be encyclopedic: It’s to provide an essential overview of key facts. (If the muse’s current player needs clarification about something, they can lean over to their right and ask.)

Notes: A miscellaneous category of key information that wasn’t hit in the previous sections. For example, if the muse is currently holding the encryption keys for an important data store or is hiding the fact that they know what happened to their owner during a span of lost time, this is probably a good place to note it.

Stat Block: Include the muse’s stat block at the bottom of the briefing sheet for easy reference. Most muses will use the standard muse stat block, but they’ll still be customized by selecting three Knowledge skills. Some muses might be commonly housed in a bot (in which, case include that stat block, too); others, of course, may have received custom upgrades.


AR Avatar: A young girl with yellow hair so bright it seems to glow lemon. She usually has a cigarette drooping out of the corner of her mouth.


  • Refuses to take any shit from her owner, but is also fiercely protective of her.
  • Her owner cannot understand her obsession with celebrity gossip.
  • A dry, sardonic laugh that often breaks apart into a fake “smoker’s cough”.

Motivations: +Open Source, +Wealth, -Alien Contact


  • Aurora was originally licensed on the likeness of a child star named Sundrop. Around the time her owner turned 17, “Sundrop” got tired of that identity and started referring to herself as “Aurora”.
  • Aurora was actually the one first contacted by Firewall based on a research project she was working on for her owner.
  • Aurora’s owner deleted her and restored her from a backup that was three months old. Her owner refuses to explain what happened, which completely infuriates Aurora.


  • Aurora was infected by a “dormant” strain of the exsurgent virus. It hasn’t had an visible effects yet, but she’s been spending her down time secretly researching a very strange and seemingly random set of topics. (List anything she researches on the back of this sheet, please.)

Aurora: Aptitudes: 10, INT 20. Skills: Academics: Psychology 60, Art: Simulspace Design 30, Hardware: Electronics 60, Infosec 30, Interest: Celebrity Gossip 30, Interface 40, Professional: Accounting 60, Programming 20, Research 30, Perception 30.


Eclipse Phase: Rimward - Posthuman Studios

When characters want something in the Eclipse Phase universe, they hit up their social networks: PCs will make a Networking test to reach out through their friends, associates, and the sophisticated software that binds society together in the year 10 AF. And if they find someone who can help them, they’ll ask for help based on the reputation they’ve built for themselves.

In short, they’ll call in a favor.

But if the PCs are constantly reaching out to other people, doesn’t it make sense that people would also be reaching out to them? They’re skilled, well-connected, and possibly even well-known. Just the sort of people you’d want to ask a favor from.

The system presented here is a tool I’ve designed for an open table Eclipse Phase campaign I’m currently developing, but it should prove useful for almost any Eclipse Phase GM. The idea is to create unexpected complications (and synergies) by having the social networks of the PCs organically interrupt their lives.


Rep Network Check: Each PC has a 2 in 10 chance of being contacted for a favor each session.

The GM should make this check at the beginning of each session and note which PCs will be receiving a request. These requests won’t necessarily happen immediately: The GM should decide during the course of the session when the call comes.

Optional Rule: If the initial rep network check indicates that a PC will be contacted for a favor, immediately roll another check to see if they’ll be contacted for a second favor. Continue rolling until they actually fail a check.


1. Determine Reputation Network. Randomly determine which of the character’s reputation networks is making the request.

2. Determine Solicitor. Determine who’s requesting the favor by rolling on the Solicitor table. Note that this can be an opportunity to develop the PC’s personal life for play. For example, if the table indicates that the request is coming from a friend that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a friend who has been part of the campaign before.

6Friend of a Friend

3. Determine Favor Level. Determine the level of the favor being requested by rolling on the Favor Level table.

0-39Trivial (Level 1)
40-59Low (Level 2)
60-79Moderate (Level 3)
80-94High (Level 4)
95-99Scarce (Level 5)

4. Determine Type of Favor. Roll on the Type of Favor table to determine the type of favor being requested. The exact nature of the favor is heavily dependent on the particular circumstances of the character and the campaign; the table is merely designed to provide a general idea that can help serve as a creative seed for the GM. Reference the favors tables on pages 289-290 of the Eclipse Phase rulebook to determine the scope of the favor being requested (based on the level of the favor).

65-74Use of an Item
75-84Buying an Item
85-89Selling an Item
90-99Borrow Money

Information: This can either be information that the character already knows or information that they are capable of finding out. (It could also be information that someone just thinks they know or can find out.)

Introduction: The solicitor would like the PC to introduce them to someone they know. At trivial levels, this is the digital equivalent of passing business cards. At higher favor levels, a physical meeting is likely (and, obviously, the person they want to be introduced to will be of some importance). If the PC agrees to make the introductions, don’t be afraid to let the consequences splash back on them. (“What the hell did you get me into?”)

Skill: Somebody would like the PCs to use their unique skills. You can randomly determine which of their skills is desired or simply choose one. Obviously this can range from the benign (“can you prepare a précis on the most recent discoveries in xenoarchaeology?”) to the criminal (“I need you to rescue my sister who’s indentured in a brothel”). Make sure to take note of the terms of service listed on the Acquire Services table (EP, pg. 290) – this favor could actually be a long-term job offer.

Delivery/Pick-Up: At low favor levels, this is most likely going to be a matter of convenience. For example, the PC happens to be standing outside a Coffee Star franchise and somebody a couple blocks away wants a latte. At higher levels, it becomes increasingly likely that the pick-up or delivery requires some special skill the PC possesses.

Transportation: Similar to the delivery, except in this case it’s someone needing to be delivered themselves. If the PC doesn’t have access to a vehicle, then it might be someone looking to hitch a ride in their ghost rider module. Or asking them to deliver a portable server filled with enslaved infomorphs.

Use of an Item: The PC has something somebody would like to borrow for a bit. They’ll give it right back. (Honest.) At trivial levels this is again likely to be a matter of convenience. (“Hey, I’m just across the plaza. The local spime spotted that you had a utilitool. Could I grab that really quick to fix my glide sneakers?”) At higher levels, it’ll be something expensive or the use of which the PC might need to supervise.

Buying an Item: The PC has an item that the solicitor would very much like to purchase. Pretty straightforward.

Selling an Item: The solicitor has something that he thinks the PC might be interested in. Wait… why does he think the PC is the sort of person who needs large amounts of explosives?

Borrow Money: 50 credits for a trivial favor; 250 credits for a low favor; 1,000 credits for a moderate favor; 5,000 credits for a high favor; and 20,000 credits for a scarce favor.


Cyberpunk Alley Pub - Brosa

Cyberpunk Alley Pub – Brosa

If a character refuses to do a favor, there is a 10% chance that they’ll suffer 1-2 points of reputation loss. (Feel free to modify this chance depending on exactly how the PC handles the interaction: If they’re a real prick, their reputation is more likely to take a ding. If they apologize for being too busy at the moment and recommend someone who might be able to help, they might even gain a rep point. But, in general, most people don’t feel entitled to assistance and won’t ding someone for a simple refusal.)

Characters who fulfill a favor, however, will be rewarded with a reputation gain. Of course, characters who say they’ll do something and then fail to carry through on their promise are going to get hit with a reputation loss. See page 385 of the Eclipse Phase core rulebook for more information.



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