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Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide to the Haunted Highlands
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/29/2016 14:25:26

Now this is a huge book. 400 pages and priced accordingly.

Like the Players Guide, we get an overview, real-world and in-world, of the Haunted Highlands. This section contains a number of additions above and beyond the Players Guide. This includes a calendar of months and days. Along with that are some details on various astronomical features. Now the big issue that might cause some concerns for adding to other worlds are this calendar and the two moons. This can be adapted easy enough. For my games I have three moons in my world, so one of the moons is just not detailed here. A recap on the gods from the PG and we have the first two dozen or so pages covered.

For the next 90 or so pages we get a reprint of the modules DB1: Haunted Highland, DB2: Crater of Umeshti, and DB3: Deeper Darkness. Now if you don't have these modules this is a nice value add, but I have them is dead-tree (and for DB1, PDF). I didn't notice too many changes but I did not compare them side by side. Having them in one place is nice, but I didn't really need them. Though there is good reason for them to be there. There are new modules/source guides, DB4: Dro Mandras, DB5: The Conquered East, DB6: Dwellers in the Darkness, DB7: The Duchy of Karbosk, DB8: Mists of Mantua, and DB9: Fanderburg. The adventures are not "leveled" so the CK can adjust them to fit their players.
At this point, we are now 330 pages deep into this book.
This takes us to the Monsters sections. There is a lot culled from the first three modules, but there are a lot more new ones. 40+ pages to be exact, so enough to keep me happy for a while. This is followed by 25 some odd pages of new fiends, demons and devils.
The last three or so pages are dedicated to new magic items.
This is a campaign world in the very sense of the term. It is much more akin to Greyhawk than it is to the Forgotten Realms. You are given some locales and locals, some gods and demons, some monsters, some factions and some background. You are told how they all interact and then what you make of it all is what YOU make of it. No NPC is going to overshadow the players here unless of course the CK allows that. Which they won't.

The books are of course gorgeous in the way that all C&C books are. They really feel like something from the 1980s, only better.


In truth what would be better is a nice boxed set with both the Players book and Castle Keeper's book in softcover. Put the modules in there, all nine. Include a big fold out map and some green dice with bronze/gold color lettering.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide to the Haunted Highlands
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Castles & Crusades Players Guide to the Haunted Highlands
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/29/2016 12:10:54

This book is everything the player needs to play in the HH. It is 114 pages and includes some very basic C&C rules, but you are going to want to have the full C&C Players book to really play.
The book begins with a bit of an introduction to the HH; both real world and in-world. The in-world material is compelling and well thought out. I certainly feel that this is a world with some history (again real world and in-world). In the overview a number of locales and some groups are covered, all from the point of view of what the characters would know. This covers the first couple dozen pages or so. This flows right into the gods, demi-gods and fiends of the lands; about 10 pages.
Chapter 1 covers Character creation. This is largely a condensed version of the C&C rules.
Chapter 2 covers the Races of Karbosk. This chapter discusses the variations from the fantasy norm for the various races. Your C&C "Value Add" here are rules to play Orcs, Goblins, and Hobgoblins. New races, the Zvarguth (Dark Dwarves) and Meshkuri (pale humans), are also covered.

Chapter 3 details Character Classes. The traditional classes are mentioned and detailed. More value adds are new and revised classes. The assassin gets a remake as a cult to the goddess Shambere. The Conjurer is a new spell casting class that has access to both cleric and wizard spells, but at a cost. The Necromancer with spells from the Black Libram of Naratus. There is also a witch that is very much of the "old hag" archetype and followers of the Hag Queen. There is a monk class known as the Pammakoni, which is an interesting addition.
Chapter 4 continues the class idea with Dual Classing. Some of this is detailed elsewhere in other C&C books. Also covered here is magic and new spells. Witches gain the new arcane spells and select divine spells.
I will say this book is worth it for the classes and spells alone, but obviously it shines more with the Castle Keeper's Guide.
Don't see this as a complete guide to the game, but rather an add-on to an exsisting C&C game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Players Guide to the Haunted Highlands
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Amazing Adventures Book of Powers
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/20/2016 13:53:17

The Amazing Adventures Book of Powers for the Amazing Adventures RPG is really, really interesting book. Interesting in that it opens up the Amazing Adventures game, and thus Castles & Crusades and Victorious RPGs into new and interesting realms of play. It does in a sense to Castles and Crusades what the BESM d20 rules did (or could have done) to d20 rules.


Let's start with the basics and then move into specifics.


The Book of Powers (BoP) is a slim book, 48 pages. The covers are full color, the interior is black & white. The list price is $14.99 but as of this writing, the PDF is on sale for $10.99.
We get right away to my first gripe about the book. The cover. I love Peter Bradley's work and this cover is gorgeous. However, it is not really "pulp" to me at all. Sure if this were a modern supers game (which in fact you can use this book to turn AA into) this would be a great cover, but acrobatic girl with green hair, in skin tight lycra/spandex outfit with plunging cleavage isn't my idea of the 1930s. Sorry. I mention only because I fear that people might not grab it.

Moving on.
The premise of this book is pretty cool. Take AA's Gadgeteer class and turn gadgets into powers. These powers can be used along side gadgets and other powers to make some truly heroic characters. I did a few quick and dirty character creations this morning and I am pleased so far with what I was able to do.


Expanding on this idea Vey also presents a "Sorcerer" class, a magical power wielder that could fit in right next to the Arcanist class in AA OR even the Wizard in C&C. For my next character I want to create an AA style sorcerer for a Castles & Crusades game to see how well it works.


Expanding on these powers even further we are given rules on how to make Vampire, Demon and Angel characters. Now this is a REALLY cool option. I don't often pull this card, but today I will.
Jason knows his shit here. We worked together on WitchCraft, All Flesh Must Be Eaten and of course the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG. Jason is above and beyond qualified to give us these rules. And these rules are really fun. So much so that one idea I had for a supers game I want to now convert over to an AA game with powers, sorcerers, vampires, angels and demons. It's actually quite silly how well it work for me.


The book also has a host of new character options including a modified skill check system. I believe is the same as the one in Victorious. Though I am not 100% sure. It's a nice simple system. Though reading it I realize I almost never do skill checks in C&C/AA; just ability checks.

There is also a new advantage system or perks for each class. Totally optional, but allows for greater customization. Not enough here? They are similar enough to feats to allow importing from other d20 games. Add these to Castles & Crusades and you basically have D&D5.


Speaking of which there is also a section on "Amazing Crusades!" with guidelines on how to get Amazing Adventures Peanut Butter into your Castles & Crusades Chocolate. I would also add that you can add the sweet, sweet creamy caramel of Victorious to this.


I was going to like this book anyway since it does a lot of the things I tend to do in my games anyway. It also has a lot of things I love adding to my games. So how do I give an unbiased opinion?


Well, I will say this. If you love Amazing Adventures, then you should check this out.

If you want some more flexibility with powers and even races in Castles & Crusades, you check this out.
If you want more Steam Punk gadgety goodness of Victorious then definitely buy this.


I highly recommend this.


Disclaimer 1: I received of a copy of this book in the mail as thanks for being a playtester. No review was ever mentioned, promised or implied.
Disclaimer 2: I was a playtester for this book.
Disclaimer 3: I am good friends with the author, Jason Vey, and we have worked on many RPG projects together over the last 16-17 years.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Amazing Adventures Book of Powers
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Castles & Crusades Beneath the Dome
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/15/2016 16:49:18

Beneath the Dome is an adventure for the Castles & Crusades game by none other than James M. Ward. The current versions out in game stores and OneBookShelf are a combination of four smaller adventures. It is really like a small campaign or a longer adventure in four parts.


Each section challenges characters of progressively higher levels (1-5, 4-7, 10th and above) and deals with the invasion of a race of giant humanoids, the Amdromodon. Aside: While the new monsters here are interesting enough, I couldn't help but think it might be cooler if instead, I replaced them with Slaadi from the old Fiend Folio. But that was only a thought.


The adventures are interesting and I love the whole "invasion" and corruption vibe. It made it feel a little different than your typical adventure dealing with outer planar creatures. A little fleshing out with some other adventures the Castle Keeper could really make a nice campaign with this. The only thing really missing is a very high level adventure where the PCs go to the plane of the Amdromodons.


There is a lot going on in this adventure(s) and it is a lot of fun really. In addition to the new monsters there are also some new spells.


The book itself is 36 pages.


Now. I hate to be "that guy" but today I am going to be.
If your book needs so much editing that I notice it then you have some issues. There is more going on here than the odd typo or comma splice. Some sections are so awkward in their phrasing and the way they were written it really made it difficult to read. I know these complaints have been leveled against Troll Lords before and I have for the most part ignored them. But this book for whatever reason seemed to be really bad. Now the PDF might be updated, I don't know. But the physical copy I have needs a lot of help.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Beneath the Dome
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Castles & Crusades I3 Dogs of War: Felsentheim
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/15/2016 12:23:56

22 pages, for 4-8 characters levels 3 to 5.
Felsentheim is the epic conclusion to the I series of adventures. As with the last adventure the GM should be knowledgeable on all the NPCs and factions in this adventure. Again it can be played on it's own, but works best as the conclusion to the I series. While the adventure is shorter there is quite a lot of combat in this one.


All together these three books are greater than their parts and make for an interesting set of adventures.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades I3 Dogs of War: Felsentheim
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Castles & Crusades I2 Under Dark & Mistry Ground: Dzeebagd
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/15/2016 12:09:00

34 pages, for 4-8 characters levels 2 to 4.
Following up on the events of I1 Vakhund the party finds the missing girl but uncovers a larger plot involving many local factions. The conceit of the adventure is the party will be drawn in, but as far things go this is not a bad one.
This one is a bit longer than the last adventure and a bit more involved with all the factions. This adventure can stand alone, but it works best as part of the I trilogy. Interaction with the NPCs is really what makes this adventure so the game master should read up on all of them and their motivations ahead of time.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades I2 Under Dark & Mistry Ground: Dzeebagd
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Castles & Crusades I1 Into the Unknown: Vakhund
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/15/2016 11:52:26

26 pages, for 4-6 characters levels 1 to 2
Vakhund, Into the Unkown is a short adventure that builds up to some epic events in the later I series from Troll Lords for Castles & Crusades. It starts out simple enough really. The party has been hired as guards for a caravan. Soon the wealthy merchant is dead and his daughter kidnapped.

Vakhund is interesting since for an adventure that has it's DNA in a game known as "Dungeons & Dragons" there are neither dragons nor dungeons (for the most part) in this adventure. Typically for low level adventures there is a dungeon to explore. In this one the PCs are thrown right to a plot and it is rather interesting to be honest.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades I1 Into the Unknown: Vakhund
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Castles & Crusades Fantastic Adventure
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/15/2016 07:23:59

This is a short adventure, 16 pages, for 4 to 8 characters of 1st to 3rd level. Actually it is three very short adventures in a general area. One flows to the next easily and Tcan be run in a couple of sessions. The starting adventure revolves around finding a missing gem and this leads to the PCs saving a deranged golem. There is also a host of really weird and interesting NPCs that could, if needed, be used as characters. I know that C&C typically takes it's cues from AD&D1, but this adventure felt like something right out of D&D Basic to me. I mean that in the best way possible; I love D&D Basic. This would make for a good first adventure to anyone new to C&C, but familiar with other FRPGs.

I often gush at the nostalgia fuel that Castles & Crusades often is for me, but this adventure really does capture a lot of the fun of playing in the late 70s and early 80s. Particularly the early 80s. It is set in their larger, and somewhat more dangerous, World of Aihrde and can lead up to their other adventures. Or it can stand alone for a couple nights of rolling dice and having fun.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Fantastic Adventure
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Girls Gone Rogue
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2016 14:44:04

Girls Gone Rogue (GGR hereafter) is an 80-page supplement for Alpha Blue. The book expands on the options and tables found in Alpha Blue. There are additional character options and lots of tables but really sets this book apart, and makes it a must have for AB fans, are the adventures.
If you are a fan of Venger's style of mixing and matching various pop cultural references then these adventures are a real treat. In particular, the mixing of Galaxina and Ilsa She Devil of the S.S. is quite fun really. Venger obviously grew up on a steady late night Cinemax. Actually, that explains a lot of GGR to be honest.
This one is a bit harder to judge in terms of a game book. I will say that if you enjoy Alpha Blue, then this is a good buy and will be very useful. If you don't like Alpha Blue then GGR will be more of the same really. Though there are a some that would enjoy the adventure seeds for use with other games.


So. Who should buy these books?
Well it's pretty simple. If you have Alpha Blue or like playing it then these are "must buys".
If you play some other Sci-Fi game and want to add a little "Sleaze" to your "Scum and Villainy" then these are must buys only behind Alpha Blue itself.
If you like lots of pop-culture references, especially ones that are more R or even NC rated, then this is also for you. But if that is the case you already know this.


Who should avoid this?
Well normally when reviewing a product I stay away from these sorts of discussions. But in this case, I will say those who are easily offended should not bother.
More to the point with me though is don't go into these books expecting to find a lot of material you can use for other, non-sci-fi, games. Can I use it with say a Modern game? Sure, but there are a lot of conversions I'd have to do. Not game mechanics, but style.


Both books are a lot of fun and I am certain I can still find a lot to use here even in my PG and PG-13 rated games.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Girls Gone Rogue
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Universal Exploits
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2016 14:43:32

Universal Exploits is a 110 page book for Alpha Blue. UE tackles the universe beyond the space station Alpha Blue. Like Girls Gone Rogue it is an expansion, but it also setting material. The universe is a big and dangerous place. Well, dangerous in the same universe that has a space brothel/space station orgy happening. Or maybe that is just a result of some the horrors going on around them. There are also some short adventures/scenarios you can use. Again, these are presented system-neutral/system-lite so they can be used for just about anything.

In truth this reads a bit like a collection of Traveller articles, that is if Traveller went really gonzo. Or, chances are, like many used to run Traveller anyway.
The real treat comes in the form of the special Alpha Blue Character sheets. Honestly every game should have great looking Character sheets and these are among my favorites.


So. Who should buy these books?
Well it's pretty simple. If you have Alpha Blue or like playing it then these are "must buys".
If you play some other Sci-Fi game and want to add a little "Sleaze" to your "Scum and Villainy" then these are must buys only behind Alpha Blue itself.
If you like lots of pop-culture references, especially ones that are more R or even NC rated, then this is also for you. But if that is the case you already know this.


Who should avoid this?
Well normally when reviewing a product I stay away from these sorts of discussions. But in this case, I will say those who are easily offended should not bother.
More to the point with me though is don't go into these books expecting to find a lot of material you can use for other, non-sci-fi, games. Can I use it with say a Modern game? Sure, but there are a lot of conversions I'd have to do. Not game mechanics, but style.


Both books are a lot of fun and I am certain I can still find a lot to use here even in my PG and PG-13 rated games.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Universal Exploits
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A3 Wicked Cauldron -- Adventures for 5th Edition Rules
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/06/2016 08:02:10

I am reviewing the print and pdf versions.


The premise is a fairly simple one. There is a ruined ziggurat in the Barren Woods that is the home to many foul things. It also has a long and evil history and currently is home to one of the fabled Witch Queens. The PCs must investigate and stop her.


The adventure itself is particularly original, but that doesn't make it less fun. There is a good balance of overland and dungeon exploring, plenty of new monsters to fight, a threat of an ancient evil. Given that this module is coded "A3" should give you an indication it is part of a larger series, and it is. It can be played as part of Troll Lords "A" series that began with "Assault on Blacktooth Ridge" and "Slag Heap" and continues in other Airhde products and adventures. But it can also be played as a stand-alone adventure.
The adventure is very reminiscent of the old Basic adventures of the early 80s, especially B2 and B4. In fact, it is almost a perfect mix of these two classic adventures. So in the nostalgia department, it gets a perfect score from me.


My biggest issue with the PDFs and the Print versions are the maps are fairly small. I can redo them on my own and larger, but having something I can print out or read easier would be nice.


The 5th edition conversion is good and really, C&C is so close to D&D5 as to almost make the conversion unnecessary, but still I did enjoy looking through both to find the subtle differences. The most interesting changes were to the Witch Queen herself.


The Witch Queen, Neb–Eprethat, is the central figure in this adventure and stopping her is the main goal. In the C&C version she is a Lawful Evil 5th level human cleric/wizard. In the D&D 5 version she is a Chaotic Evil 6th level human cleric.


All in all a really fun adventure.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A3 Wicked Cauldron -- Adventures for 5th Edition Rules
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Castles & Crusades A3: Wicked Cauldron
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/06/2016 08:00:43

I am reviewing the print and pdf versions.


The premise is a fairly simple one. There is a ruined ziggurat in the Barren Woods that is the home to many foul things. It also has a long and evil history and currently is home to one of the fabled Witch Queens. The PCs must investigate and stop her.


The adventure itself is particularly original, but that doesn't make it less fun. There is a good balance of overland and dungeon exploring, plenty of new monsters to fight, a threat of an ancient evil. Given that this module is coded "A3" should give you an indication it is part of a larger series, and it is. It can be played as part of Troll Lords "A" series that began with "Assault on Blacktooth Ridge" and "Slag Heap" and continues in other Airhde products and adventures. But it can also be played as a stand-alone adventure.
The adventure is very reminiscent of the old Basic adventures of the early 80s, especially B2 and B4. In fact, it is almost a perfect mix of these two classic adventures. So in the nostalgia department, it gets a perfect score from me.


My biggest issue with the PDFs and the Print versions are the maps are fairly small. I can redo them on my own and larger, but having something I can print out or read easier would be nice.


All in all a really fun adventure and the start of something really fun for the players.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades A3: Wicked Cauldron
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Villains of the Undercity
Publisher: Maximum Mayhem Dungeons
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/01/2016 12:31:38

Mark Taormino is like some sort of mad genius. I love his Maximum Mayhem Dungeons and each one "delivers the goods" in terms of hitting that nostalgia feel.
What if the Keep on the Borderlands was destroyed and then humans came in and built a new keep on top of the ruins. Let's also say the caves of Chaos have been cleared, but not all the monsters were killed. Where did they go? What did they do? Now invite the Slave Lords from the A series over. You would get Villains of the Undercity!
This adventure is an ode and homage to the great dungeon crawls of the day.
While this adventure fits the gonzo style of the other Maximum Mayhem Dungeons this one can also be played straight. Well...sorta. There is a crazy Halfling Illusionist Assassin, but that is for the players to figure out.
With this one anyone that has ever been inside a classic dungeon will find something to love. There are lots of deadly traps, monsters and puzzles to figure out. Of course plenty of treasure too.
This adventure is also the one that I can see fitting into a larger campaign, even with adventures from other publishers. I was mentally placing it in Greyhawk or even Dolmvay.
Just really a lot of fun.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Villains of the Undercity
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The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn
Publisher: Maximum Mayhem Dungeons
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/01/2016 12:30:35

Mark Taormino is like some sort of mad genius. I love his Maximum Mayhem Dungeons and each one "delivers the goods" in terms of hitting that nostalgia feel.
Let's play a game of what if. What if the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks had been written in the 80s instead of the 70s? What if there were influences of Star Wars, Buck Rogers, 50s sci-fi movies and just a little dash of 70s Blaxplotation? You might get something like The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn, but it would not be as good as the module Mark Taormino wrote.
The module follows a similar flow of the other Maximum Mayhem Dungeons; something weird is happening, there are rumors, a long history of strangeness and a thin excuse to go adventuring.
What they PCs will uncover is...well I don't want to spoil it. It's no shock that this adventure will feature a downed starship and some lasers. But it doesn't end there.
In truth there is a lot to really, really like about this adventure. In a different setting the monsters would be scary ass deadly and really, really awesome. Also there is so many references to pop culture, espeically sci-fi and 80s pop culture, that it would be pointless to address them all. The rock band KILL was one of my favorites.
Designed for OSRIC, I played bits and pieces of this using D&D5. Though it would work just as well with AD&D1, Castles & Crusades or any other OGL based clone game.
The one issue I have with it (and very minor) is that players that didn't grow up in the 70s and 80s would not get all the jokes. I ran Hanging Coffins for my kids and they loved it, but some of the jokes fell flat on them here. No surprise they have no context for them. I thought they were hilarious to be honest. Loved the Pinball Wizard!
If I were to run this again I would either merge it with a little bit of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and run a huge Star Spawn mega-adventure. Or I'd run it as is with some disposable characters and guys the grew up in the 80s too.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn
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Wizard Tradition: The Witch
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/27/2016 07:13:05

This presents three witchcraft Wizard traditions: White, Black, and Gray and two Patron: the Fiend and the Earth Mother. This one is more in-line with other TSR/WotC versions of the Witch, esp the 2nd and 4th editions where the witch was akin to the Wizard. The author even states that the 2nd ed Witch kit was one of his favorites and I can see that here. The Patrons and the traditions offer mostly role-playing favor to the witch, but that is fine. The witch gains ritual casting abilities and boons. The odd thing about this one are the minimum ability scores required. I don't recall any D&D class having minimum ability scores required in 5e. There are some good ideas and certainly a witch I would like to try playing.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wizard Tradition: The Witch
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