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Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game $9.99
Average Rating:4.2 / 5
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Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game
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Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Dan O. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/18/2015 12:39:20

I'm so pleased to find a rules-lite system like this at last! The hobbling point for the RPG group I play with has always been fashioning characters. In any generation of Dungeons and Dragons character creation takes HOURS if not days of pouring over books not the least to determine complex equations based on scores and how to make those scores deliberately unbalanced. But the Catalyst system gives you options without making the point of the game to boost your scores. The numbers become less important than the adventure...AND THAT'S HOW RPGS SHOULD BE I THINK! Roleplaying! It's a little distressing to me how seldom that's actually used in favor of rules lawyering.

My favorite system for a long time was the somewhat obscure Over the Edge which deliberately tried to cut out the chaff of rules in favor of outlining characters quickly but in depth, but that system always had the issue again of lots of arbitrary numbers being thrown around requiring all players access to one book. The Valiant Universe dispenses with this and makes character creation so simple it barely takes up a chapter compared with the rest of the book which is devoted to the Valiant Universe itself.

And what a universe! I used to collect Valiant comics and still pick them up when I can because it's a welcome departure from either the crushing despair of modern comics or their rigid formality. Valiant is a maverick in the genre thanks to presenting different times, different cultures, and different attitudes revolving around the core iconic concept of the 'super hero'. And the system also reflects that approach with super powers being extremely flexible, granting characters suitably heroic edges but not making them invulnerable.

All in all I'm glad that free RPG day introduced me to this system and this concept of gaming in the Valiant Universe and I'd recommend it to those who are fans of the comics, want a speedy but customizable system to make character creation and breeze and roleplaying deft and entertaining again, and for people who just want a different take on the super hero genre itself.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by keith b. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/01/2015 00:51:07

Unfortunately open ended for Valiant means you only get half a game which justifies the 3 star rating I gave. The game system is fine, good to even great at times. rolling a d12 game dice along with stat die of 1d4 to 1d12 is a good thing. Using a power to add the power die, replace the stat die or to discard the lower of the power die or stat die is even better. no complaints here about that.

Changing Narrators(GMs) is ok too as most people like playing and narrating, maybe not equally but you know what I mean. It can also take the story in unique and unexpected directions like alien invasions out of no where and all of a sudden your grandmother is standing on the sidewalk where the battle is headed. It can be quite fun and humorous and personal grudges against other group members can be settled using the game system.

my main problem is the effect once you have succeeded in affecting an opponent. some sample characters attacking with the same dice numbers do damage of 2, 3, 4, 1d4, or 1d6 with really no explanation other than if it feels right do whatever damage you want. this applies to fists, guns, swords, fire, or any other form of attack.

As it stands you get a huge amount of armour allowing you to take many hits before having to worry about negative modifiers or lasting effects. Of course some characters possess an Armor power that can reduce damage by 1 but another character has it reducing damage by 3 with no explanation and yet having the same power die.

The samples are great but when creating a custom hero the open endedness falls apart hoping that your game group will keep your powers and the effects to a reasonable level. if your group also wants high damage for their characters they can't stop you from doing the same which means the enemies will have to be even greater in power or you will easily run over most opposition.

Open ended powers are a great thing allowing you to define the power as you play and use it in many different ways however there is nothing stopping a player from loading up on one power and assigning a keep the stat and power dice at the same time. and then using this power over and over for attack and defence. by adding the game die of d12 and a stat die of d12 and a power die of d12 on each roll you can have a max score of 36 to beat out your opponent. as few NPCs come close to this you will be able to hit and avoid the enemy with ease and that is not even using any Event points to modify rolls or scenes.

Tags, Cues, Action Cues, and Disposition descriptors while being optional is way to many. this is a minor issue for me as I would have 3-4 cues whether they be action or otherwise to define my character. A good Narrator(GM) can call in at least 1 of everyone's cues every game session without even trying. As it stands most characters will be cued for anything that happens in the game.

Like I said before half the game is on par with excellent. the amount of sample characters, NPCs, can have a new group running in 2 minutes if the LN(GM) knows the system and doesn't switch roles. Creating characters can be done in less than 5 minutes once you know the system as well. Leaving the cues empty or filling them in as you play(my personal method).

I have mixed feelings about Valiant but if the effects and some power defining was polished up I would not hesitate to raise my rating and purchase a version 2 but as it stands I have quite a few house rules to keep battles fair and NPCs on par with the Players.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Emma M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/02/2014 10:54:13

I have now finally run a game of Valiant Universe, and can confidently report that I feel that many of the issues other reviewers have perceived with this system are, in my opinion at least, part of what makes this a must-have purchase. I've been a supers gamer for a long time. I've played and run the sublime (DC Heroes) to the ridiculous (Heroes Unlimited), and I've always noticed the same thing every time. In every group I've played in or run for, there is always at least one player who says "But I wanted my character to have (insert obscure power here)!" A lot of GMs are happy to hand-wave and come up with a rule on the fly, and that's great, but some systems actively support the 'go-anywhere-build-anything' mindset, Champions & M&M being the first two that spring to mind. But often, because of this, most of the first session is spent juggling points, calculating modifiers and getting migraines, all before a single die has been rolled. In Valiant, at last, we have a system that says "sure, why not? If it's okay with the group, define the power as far as it makes sense. Can we play now?" Yep, that last sentence above is key to the design ethic behind Valiant Universe; this thing is FAST! But that speed doesn't cost the game any depth. Actions run the gamut from combat to skill use to even some very odd power descriptors (Woody's 'Snark' and Faith's 'Pop Culture Knowledge' spring to mind here), hinting at a system that is as flexible as it is fun. And therein lies the point of this review: This is a fun game, perfect for pick-up play or a long-term campaign, capable of telling deep, engaging stories or hosting a superpowered downtown grudge-match, and as adaptable as the players and Lead Narrator feel it needs to be. And this is only the first release...I for one will be giving this new contender a fair shake, as the mile-wide smiles on the faces of my group when the first session wrapped were all the proof I needed that we had ourselves a winner.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by The H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/27/2014 21:57:04

I'm not a reader of the Valiant comics, but I have to appreciate just how comprehensive the Valiant content is in this game. There's an exhaustive supply of character profiles, writeups for them and major organizations, as well as a slew of ready-made adventures (Event Briefs) to play. Valiant fans will get a ton of mileage out of this one.

Unfortunately, the best part about Valiant Universe is also its greatest flaw. There's a lot of setting information. Too much, in fact. At least, it seems that way...but the ruleset the game runs on (based on Cosmic Patrol) is so sparse in certain places that it feels like a flimsy framework to base games on. I can deal with rules-lite, narrative games that rely on a little handwaving to move things along, and I always expect them to run better with the right kind of group. However, this game doesn't focus on a single GM to keep things in order - it expects you to rotate between each member of the group to narrate the scene, relying on sparse Cues to guide the action. There's little to no insight on solving common problems that may occur beyond a simple "just make it up, I guess!" and for a game that expects players to act as GMs as well, that lack of codified guidance can put them on the spot.

But even beyond that, the rules feel sparse. The basic mechanic is simple enough but it feels like there's little to set characters apart from each other, especially in terms of their powers. Like Marvel Heroic, Valiant has you assign powers a die rating, but unlike that game, the rules don't seem to cover any special effects a power might have (which do tend to pop up in some of the character profiles). Marvel Heroic didn't exactly have clear-cut character generation rules for its special effects either, but at least there were a few options. The lack of them makes Valiant characters feel bland, most of their sheets being taken up by lists of visual and action Cues to add roleplaying.

The game is definitely rules-lite, but it's by no means cofidied like other rules-lite games. If it gave more narration guidance, maybe had optional rules to help make the rules feel more substantial, this game could've easily gotten four stars thanks to the wealth of Valiant content and Event Briefs, which are a good cheat-sheet of sort for GMs. As it stands, Marvel Heroic has more going for it than this game.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Steven L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/27/2014 13:57:48

This is a rules-lite RPG based on the Valiant Universe series of comicbooks. As such it really has two main ingredients – the game rules themselves and the setting information. The setting/sourcebook aspect of this book is where it really shines. Pages and pages are dedicated to characters, histories, organisations and other details that provide a rich environment for superhero roleplaying. I was largely unaware of the Valiant Universe before buying this book but will probably investigate further on the strength of what I have found here. The problems start with the rules themselves, which take up only a small portion of the total page count. I have read and/or played a number of rules-lite superhero RPGs over the years, including Capes, Cowls & Villains Foul, BASH, Prowlers & Paragons and several others. Each has it's own strengths and weaknesses but all of them, in my opinion, do a better job of providing a complete and satisfying rules set than this game does. It is not so much rules-lite as rules-vague or even rules-incomplete. Most superhero RPGs will have rules or guidelines regarding things like equipment, mooks, gadgeteering, bases and vehicles. This game gives little or nothing on any of these subjects. The book makes several mentions of what the rules do not cover or cannot simulate. It even admits to not being able to properly define the difference in power level from a reasonably average NPC to a powerful PC! When the rules aren't vague or completely missing, they are sometimes broken. The Luck stat is not well thought out and completely ignores the huge statistical advantage in having a low Luck score. It is possible, through character advancement, to spend points on a power and have it end up weaker than before! Rather than fix this in playtesting or give proper advice on the situation, players are advised to make up whatever rule they like. This is the game's stock response to the huge number of questions it fails to answer. As a tie-in product that is likely to attract newcomers to the hobby, I understand the reasoning behind going for a rules-lite system. This, however, is not the way to do it. Players are encouraged to take it in turns GMing each scene but are provided with an ill-defined way to determine the outcome of those scenes that is wide open to interpretation. For an inexperienced group of players this is an argument waiting to happen. The setting material here is very good and deserved a much better game engine than this. A poor effort.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/24/2014 07:47:33

Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/07/24/tabletop-review-valiant-universe-the-roleplaying-game/

Well, it’s finally here. After four Quick Start Rules sets and a Free RPG Day 2014 release, the final version of Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game is finally available to all…in PDF form anyway. You’ll have to wait a few more months for the physical copy. I have to tell you I am more than a LITTLE tempted by that Red Leather X-O Manowar version.

If this is the first time you are hearing about the Valiant Universe RPG, then welcome! Yes, much like how Green Ronin has the DC Universe license and Evil Hat has the Atomic Robo license, Catalyst Game Labs has added Valiant’s cast of characters to its RPG collection. No you won’t be seeing a crossover with Battletech or Shadowrun any time soon, but you finally have the chance to play as all your favorite Valiant Universe characters like Shadowman, Ninjak, Sting (Not Steve Borden), Livewire and more. Even better, the system is extremely rules-lite which makes it very easy to learn. The Cue System, or the engine that powers Valiant Universe RPG is a huge paradigm shift for a CGL game. Usually their products are extremely mechanics heavy, with all sorts of little rules for everything. Not the Cue System. This really feels designed for newer or casual gamers, which makes sense as this will be the first tabletop RPG for a lot of Valiant fans. If anything the system is kind of a mix of Cortex, Savage Worlds and the old Marvel RPG from TSR that first made me fall in love with gaming all those years ago. Honestly, the system will probably be a bit of culture shock to CGL’s longtime fans since it’s so streamlined, but for a super hero oriented game, the Cue System is a great choice as it focuses more on imagination and co-operative storytelling than letting the dice do all the work.

Now, a couple quick notes. First, the game is not up to date with current Valiant continuity. This is because new issues come out every month and games take a LOOOOOONG time to make. So characters like Rai, Dr. Silk or the antagonists from Armor Hunters are not in here. You also won’t see recent story developments so Flamingo is still alive, Monica Jim isn’t a member of the Renegades, and so on. It’s also worth noting for older gamers like myself that this only covers the current Valiant universe. There is no mention of the original Jim Shooter or Akklaim versions that came before it, so if you were hoping to see stats for Magnus, Dr. Solar or Turok….nope. That’s not going to happen for a whole bunch of reasons. On this particular note it also is important to note that the writers of the Valiant Universe RPG only have read the current Valiant Universe and the stat blocks for characters reflect what they have seen and not necessarily what some long-time fans know these characters are capable of. So yes, Master Darque is extremely underpowered in his character sheet and is lacking the ability to create undead creatures or summon demons. Things like this will probably annoy the more anal-rententive fans of the current universe or people like myself who own a lot of old trades/issue runs from the original Valiant era, but it shouldn’t. It’s a game after all and if you can’t wait for new stat blocks for these characters to be released, you can always tweak them to your own liking. House rules and all that rot. The point I’m trying to make is that Valiant Universe: the Roleplaying Game is written by readers of the new universe FOR readers of the new universe and I think that was the smart way to go. It prevents references to characters who have yet to appear in the current Valiant continuity and probably never will, like Mothergod, The Visitor or Nettie. Maybe someday we’ll get a look at “Classic Valiant” as a supplement (I’ll write it up!), but for now the focus is purely o the current version of Valiant’s offerings and that’s the way I like it.

So, remember how earlier I mentioned how the Valiant Universe RPG is extremely rules lite? Well, out of the 210 pages in this PDF, only twenty pages are devoted to rules. I can’t think of any other major release that has that little in the way of rules! This is both a good thing and a bad thing. The good is that this makes the rules easy to learn and memorize, but the bad side of it is that things can be a little too vague for gamers used to a lot of structure and mechanics, like Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons. So what else is in the book? Well, there are thirteen pages devoted to character creation. Yes, the character making rules are almost as long as the complete mechanics for the game. Now that’s different. This is mainly because character creation is pretty free form. We’ll take a look at that later. The bulk of the Valiant Universe RPG is about the comic continuity itself. Eighteen pages about the core nine comics, fourteen pages on various organizations and secret societies and a whopping EIGHTY-EIGHT pages devoted to Valiant characters. There are roughly three dozen major characters listed here, along with forty eight minor characters or NPCs to throw into your homebrew games. That’s pretty amazing. I can’t think of too many super hero RPGs that give you that many characters right off the bat. All the major characters right now except Rai, Ax, Dr. Silk and the Armor Hunters are here. Again, you might quibble on the stats. Faith probably should have a d4 or d6 in Might and Action instead of d8s and Archer is missing his ability to duplicate any super power or skill, but what’s here is pretty good, if not entirely accurate. Again tweak things to fit your own vision of the Valiant Universe. It’s your game after all.

So let’s talk rules. To be honest, not much has changed since I first reviewed the quick start version of the rules back in May. Each player takes turn acting as the Lead Narratior, which is the game’s equivalent of the Dungeon Master, Storyteller, Keeper or whatever you like to call the person running the show. This allows everyone a chance to both play AND direct. I like the idea very much. Of course, there are some people that like RPGs that aren’t very good at running games and some who aren’t good at playing characters, so you don’t have to do the regular switching of the Lead Narrator role if you are more comfortable using the standard way of doing things.

Characters have five stats: Might (Physical Build), Intellect, Charisma (Personality and force of will), Action (combat) and Luck. Each stat except for Luck has a die attached to it: d4, d6, d8, d10 or a d12. The bigger the die, the more powerful the character is, the better they are in that field. Powers are run the same way. Luck is unusual as it is a random number between 1 and 12. There is no intentional correlation with the Luck number and a character’s power level. When generating a new character, you are told to just pick a number and slap it in. Luck comes into play whenever you roll a die. If your Luck number comes up on a roll, BAM – instant success even if you would otherwise fail. Now the clever min/max gamer will realize something that others won’t. The LOWER your luck number, the more likely you are to actually roll it. Eternal Warrior has a Luck of 10. That means whenever he rolls a 10 on a die, it’s an automatic success. Let’s look at his stats. Gilad has a d10 Might, a d8 Intellect, a d6 Charisma and a d10 Action. Now since his luck is 10, he can never get a Luck success on his Intellect or Charsima. Those dice don’t go up to 10! Your best bet with Luck is to have it between numbers 1-4 as it shows up on any die, thus maximizing your chance for it to occur. However, that is MIN/MAX’ing, which I tend to frown upon. Plus, there is something to be said in a character who doesn’t need luck or is generally unlucky. So while a Luck from 1-4 is best for rolling, it might not be best for ROLE-PLAYING, am I right?

Making rolls is pretty easy. When a character needs to take an action they roll a D12 + the appropriate die on their character sheet. So if you are trying to be stealthy with Ninjak, you’d roll your standard D12 + his d10 in Adaptive Camouflage and then add the results together. Meanwhile the Lead Narrator would roll a d20. Whoever gets the highest wins the challenge. Now it’s not always that simple. There are occasional modifiers to the rolls and some powers might take precedence over a stat die. There are times where you can even roll both a power AND a stat die with the d12 and then you drop the highest, drop the lowest or keep them both! It all just depends. D12+ appropriate die vs. d20 is the universal equation for the Cue System though and it’s extremely intuitive.

There are rules for weapons, vehicles, combat in vehicles, mind control, breathing, being in space and other things that you’ll want for comic book style battles or situations. One thing that is notably missing are hard and fast rules for death. This is on purpose because 1) unlike other comics book universes with a revolving door policy on death, Valiant has been and always will be a place with only permadeath. Now that isn’t to say there isn’t necromancy or ghosts, otherwise we wouldn’t have characters like Dr. Mirage or Sandria, but when you are dead, you are DEAD here in the Valiant-verse. Because the game wants to keep that intact, death in tabletop Valiant only comes about when the Lead Narrator and players feel it is appropriate. Say a heroic sacrifice or it really fits the story. As such you’ll notice when a character loses all armor and health in the game, they are only Knocked Out, Pokémon style. I think that is a good idea, especially since you can’t raise the dead in some fashion here unless you are Master Darque and even then, it’s a mockery of life, not a second chance at things. I like this idea on many levels. This allows the story to come first and the dice to come second, which is how things should be. It makes death more interesting and meaningful when it happens. It also makes the group more co-operative because everyone has a say, not just a bad or jerky LN. This is just one of the many ways the Cue System and the Valiant Universe RPG really focuses on being a storytelling and role-playing game rather than a roll-playing dice fest. Some might not like it while other will love it. I’m definitely in the latter camp.

Let’s talk character creation. Better yet, let’s make one together! I’m going to make a classic Valiant character that might actually have a chance of showing up at some point in the current universe so everyone wins with this example. It’s a Bionisaur, one of the cybernetic dinos from the original Unity that shows up in the Valiant take on Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. I mean, I’m pretty sure Archer & Armstrong and/or Quantum & Woody are going to run into one of these sooner rather than later, right? So we have our concept. Let’s assign stat dice. You get a d6 two d8s and a d10 to make your character. I’ll give the Bionisaur a d10 in Might, a d8 in Action, a d8 in Intellect and a d6 in Charisma. I then have the option of turning my d10 into a d12 at the expense of turning my d6 into a d4. I am fine with this. Charisma is a dump stat for an evil cyborg tyrannosaur from beyond space-time after all. So our final build looks like this: Might: d12 Intellect: d8, Charisma: D4, Action: d8. We have a d12 in Might, so our health is as set on the character sheet – no changes needed. We pick our Luck and I’m going to choose 6 because it is my favorite number and because Bionisaur doesn’t need Luck on his Charisma roll. It gives him a really workable flaw to offset his sheet power.

Next comes powers. We have four levels for powers, with each one giving us more points to spend and a cap of powers. Now Bionisaurs are generally NPC cannon fodder for Valiant heroes, but this one we are making is special and a playable character. I’m going to choose the second tier of powers called “Hero,” which gives me 30 points to spend and a maximum of 3 powers. There are no set powers in the game. You get to use your imagination, but you also have to be pretty clear about what they do. The first power I will take is “Accelerated Healing” which comes from the cybernetic enhancements to the dinosaur. I’ll choose a d10 and the option to “discard lowest” as my option for this power, which means I roll the d12, the Stat Die, the Power Die and discard the lowest of the two non-core d12 rolls. I check the chart and this costs 10 points. So I have 20 left to spend. I next power will be “Tracking” based off of the Bionisaur’s keen sense of smell and its cyber gizmo doo-dads. I’m going to choose a d6 here and also “Keep Both” which will let me roll both the stat and the power die and then add each of them to the core d12 roll. This costs me 9 points so I have 11 left to spend. For Bionisaur’s last power I’m going to take “Protection Against Mental Manipulation.” Because he has a reptilian brain enhanced by computers I’m going to say powers like mind control, illusion, telepathy and the like have trouble with the alien nature of his thought process. This will also help shore up his Charisma based rolls in certain areas. I’m going to do a d6 and “Keep Both” again which costs another nine points. That leaves me with two points left over that I can’t do anything with. Which is fine, as the three powers we do have make him a good defensive villain that can be used as a PC or a midboss antagonist.

After that we get armor with is used (and depeleted) before Health starts to go down. Each character gets a minimum of 10 along with (Might+Action)/2 more points. In this case that’s an extra ten for a total of 20 armor points on Bionisaur. After that you pick your weapons (in this case big sharp teeth, tail smash and stepping on soft squishy mammals,) and you do the personality side of things. That’s it. It took us a page in Microsoft Word to give an example of character creation, which shows you how quick and easy this whole process is.

The book then closes with almost forty pages of adventure seeds, or Story Briefs, as is the vernacular here. These are divided into nine categories – eight for specific books and their characters like X-O Manowar or Eternal Warrior and then one four part story for immortal or time travelling characters like Ivar and Armstrong which will span literally thousands of years across the Valiant continuity. Some stores adhere closely to plots or story arcs from the comics, while some are completely original pieces. The sheer amount of briefs included means you won’t have to create your own homebrew adventures for a very long time. Of course, briefs are well, brief, so the Narrating team will have to flesh things out to make a full story out of them. This is how adventures for Valiant Universe RPG are done though due to the group effort of storytelling and the emphasis towards “on the fly” imaginative thinking. This is neither bad nor good – it simply is. I feel this affords new gamers a lot more flexibility than the on-rails format of most published adventures and it allows the group to think for themselves and become better GMs for it. At the same time, newcomers MAY want a little more structure and handholding with adventures, which isn’t something the current Story Briefs system offers.

Overall, I think Valiant Universe: the Roleplaying Game is fantastic. My favorite comic book universe is finally melded with my favorite hobby and the result is spectacular. The Cue System is a wonderful way to learn how to tabletop roleplay as the rules are simple and it really focuses on story telling over dice rolling. You have a great co-operative atmosphere that prevents the GM vs PC situations that develop with some other RPGs. Valiant Universe RPG is a very fun and easy to use system. The fact the PDF version of the game is only ten bucks makes this must buy for ANY superhero fan, even if you have little to no exposure with the Valiant Universe. Those same newcomers to Valiant might want to hold on the regular or deluxe version of the physical game as that money would be better spent purchasing a few trades (Start with Archer & Armstrong then pick up either Quantum and Woody or X-O Manowar). After all, you want to know you like the characters before you spend 30-50 bucks on a game you might not play. That’s why getting the PDF version first is the smart bet. At worst you’re only out ten dollars and even if you don’t like the game system, you might want the characters intriguing and want to learn more about them. At best, you’ve got a new gaming system to love and some new comic series to pick up! Again, with a ten buck price tag, any RPG or comic book fan should grab this without hesitation as the game is as well done as it is affordable. Valiant Universe RPG won’t be replacing TSR’s Marvel game or Mayfair’s DC Universe as my top two super hero RPGs, but I can safely say this one of the best new games of the year, Between Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game, Atomic Robo and the new version of ICONS, this is one of the best years for super hero RPGs in a very long time.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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