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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Speeding Up Combat

    Well, long story short, I'm DMing for 10 people.

    And combat takes forever.

    I'm looking for anyone that has ideas or suggestions to speed up combat with my players, because...well, it really does take entirely too long. I already limit their actions to 10 seconds(except for the guy that's new) and have them roll damage with their attack rolls, but it still takes a bit too long and the monk can't hold that many dice at once.

    Any ideas would be superb.

    PS: Please don't bother to tell me to cut some players out, because that's not happening nor helping with the problem here. Thanks.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Try Half Dice Madness.
    All d6's roll 3,4,3,4,3; d8's 4,5,4,5,4,5; d10, 5,6,5,6; and d4's 2,3,2,3,2,3.


    Only roll attacks and saves.

    You could also put the numbers 1-20 randomly on a board and anytime someone rolls a d20 they get the next number in order.
    Last edited by Orzel; 2007-03-13 at 10:21 AM.
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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    If you can break the group in two, that'd probably be best. Depending on the campaign, you might have them need to accomplish two different goals, and have them go in two different directions. No one cut out, no one cut short.

    Otherwise, have them preroll. The 10 seconds thing isn't a bad idea. You probably should've limited the number of players you had before this got to be a problem, but no one's perfect.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    It's not a problem by any stretch, it's just slightly annoying. I could get more done in a session if 4 rounds of combat didn't take 20 minutes.

    This kind of thing just happens when you have a lot of friends and don't know how to say "no."
    Last edited by Ranis; 2007-03-13 at 10:26 AM.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    You might try getting everyone to declare their actions at the beginning of the round. This cuts down on some (not all) of the instantaneous planning that goes on in a combat round. Folks that want to change their action might lose say. . . 5 steps on their initiative (arbitrary number).
    Less combat might be an option (though that might also decrease the fun level of your game).
    Less table chatter can help.
    Encourage people to plan their actions and look up rules/spells prior to their turn.
    With 10 people the key is mostly discipline on their part.
    For your part, if you know what the encounter is to start with, you can put together a list of random d20 rolls in advance, and instead of rolling you just go down the list. Similarly, if you know the encounter in advance, do damage rolls prior to the game. Also, fewer monsters that are more powerful can speed your turn up, and they tend to make for shorter combats. Put together the strategy for 1-3 rounds for your villains in advance. Avoid random encounters, or roll the random encounters prior to the game, and get all of your numbers straight ahead of time. Heck, unless you've got PCs that have lots of DR, you can just use average damage each round.
    Randomness and decision making are the things that take time in the game. Unfortunately, they are also what make the game fun for a lot of folks.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Roll all attacks at once, with color-coded dice for which one hits first. Roll the first set of damage dice along with the attack roll, roll again if necessary.

    For each power-attacker, print out an attack chart, set for both to-hit, 1h damage, and 2h damage. (Include 1h and 2h rage, if you have any barbarians). This will cut down on the time needed to do math.

    Bad guys all go on the same initiative check.

    Have the cleric and any other buffers make folded-in-half notecards with the spell name and the bonuses it grants on active buffs. Set each card on the table when it's active. This helps people remember exactly what buffs are active all the time - no more "Wait, what does Aid do again?" from the Fighter.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranis View Post
    Any ideas would be superb.

    PS: Please don't bother to tell me to cut some players out, because that's not happening nor helping with the problem here. Thanks.
    Split your group into two groups of 5. There is just no way to run a fast combat with 10 ordinary gamers, especially if some of them are newbies. Either get a second GM, or rearrange your group into two separate groups that meet on different days of the week.

    Even 5 players can be a little hard to handle sometimes. 10 is just impossible.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Wow! You do four rounds of combat in 20 minutes with that many people? Man, I have 6 - 7 people in my groups, and we can take an hour to do a 4-5 round combat. Dude, you're doing fine. If combat is taking up too much time in your games, try putting less combat in the game.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    These are all fantastic ideas. Thanks a million, guys.

    And yeah, I keep it pretty fast-paced, as combat should be. The problem is that the only way I can really challenge them is to put up enough appropriately-sized monsters for them to fight, because they just swarm anything big that I put up there. This often requires me putting PC classes or templates onto existing monsters; last week I had them fighting a Formian Myrmnarch with 15 Cleric levels and had raised a bunch of the hiveminded plagueborn formian zombies. It was a titanic fight, but it took the better part of two hours.

    I dunno, maybe it just bugs me that normally the day moves at the speed of plot, then 24 seconds takes the better part of 20 minutes.
    Last edited by Ranis; 2007-03-13 at 10:41 AM.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    I dunno, maybe it just bugs me that normally the day moves at the speed of plot, then 24 seconds takes the better part of 20 minutes.
    Therein lies the rub in D&D--pacing. I lost one of my favorite players for good because he longed for quicker combat, which just isn't to be had in D&D, despite my best efforts. Kudos for running quick combat with ten players, that's quite a feat!

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Put some of your monsters in hard to reach places, and use battlefield control as well to further split up/slow the group down (offensively, not in RL). Then you can have one or two big baddies in there that wont get swarmed instead of having to roll dice for a ton of monsters and all their attacks.

    Thick fog, deep mud, water/wide cracks, dense forests, high places, narrow tunnels, and multiple entrance points which your baddies use to swarm in will all help to split a group.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    I can't imagine making players go faster than 10 seconds. I played in a 15 person game many moons ago. We eventually had to use a 45 second timer (the amount of time you need in a turn will increase as the levels go up) because a single round of combat took 30 minutes. 20 minutes for 4 rounds ain't bad at all for a group of your size.

    The only suggestion I have is to go with smaller combats, but use the terrain in a way that prevents the enemy from getting swarmed. Wall of Force is your friend. Hmm. With as many players as you have, you could have them siege a small castle. On the castle side are three sorcs, all with telekinesis. As players swarm them, they keep launching players back over the moat. Could be fun.
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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Unfortunately with a game like D&D, as the party grows in number the time it takes to GM a round of combat increases exponentially (because you've got to deal with that player, and the additional foes you had to put in to deal with that player).

    You might want to have the new person learn the rules on the side, but just have him or her tell you what they want to do instead of asking them to describe their actions in terms of rules. For example...

    Instead of having them tell you, "I move fifteen feet to Orc A and hit him with my Greatsword", he can instead tell you "I thwack the nearest Orc with my big sword". Might speed things up on his end of things.

    Really though, it sounds like you're running these combats as fast as possible. I'd suggest focusing on a few bigger monsters when possible. Those are easier to scale up for an appropriate CR, and GMing two slightly buffed Giants versus a ten-man party is easier than GMing twenty Orcs.
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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    If you trust them, have them roll attacks/damage before thier turn, simply reporting to you what ACs they hit, etc. Or, if they cast spells, you roll the save on thier turn, and they say what happened.

    Large parties are fun sometimes. We did a 10 round combat in ~2 hours with 12 players (plus cohorts) versus ~30 demons of varying types.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Also since you have 10 people, you can use those "screw over a class" features of the game more often.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Rigeld2 View Post
    Large parties are fun sometimes. We did a 10 round combat in ~2 hours with 12 players (plus cohorts) versus ~30 demons of varying types.
    Yeah, I do things like that to them all the time and they work so well together that it's almost sickening. They have a LOT of fun with each other and don't mind the long combat, so I keep challenging them in ways that I think are creative and they keep rising to the task.

    Lankybugger-Thanks for your insight. The new guy isn't as....well....new in the sense of "What's this Button Do?," but more along the lines of he's not quite familiar with all of the mechanics quite yet and he's playing a Druid with a War Ape companion, and he's having some slight difficulty keeping two characters at once, and I can't autopilot the Ape because I usually have 7-35 NPC's to manage at once.

    I've been looking at some bigger creatures that would be challenging in numbers, such as a squad of Briarvexes from MMIV and the like, but I'm a stickler for my dungeons not being just a mechanic and having a part or a reason behind them; as such, I often make my own constructs to fit something better, or give things classes; like giving Nimblewrights class levels in Barbarian or Rogue for flavor.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Perhaps if someone's down for the count/missing in battle/whatever anyway you could have them cover the war ape. Keeps them from getting bored, takes a bit of the weight off your dual player, and as long as they know approximately what they're doing you should be okay.

    ....35 NPCs? And I thought I was ambitious.
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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Yeah, my notebook is full of a slew of random things like Kobolds with class levels, new constructs, and general stuff that I use for my games when I can't find things in the MM's I like.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    A few tips

    Pre-rolling: Before each session I use the Random number function of MS Excel to print a whole page of random whole numbers ranging from 1-20 (the formula for this is "=randbetween(1,20)") this serves two purposes in game, I use it for secret checks, like spot and listen, where the sound of rattling dice might trigger the Belkar instinct ("I think I failed a spot check") and also speeds up combat by preventing me from having to roll dice for all the monsters. Each time I need a d20 roll I just check off the next number on the list and, bob's your uncle, I move on.

    Initiative cards: Get a set of 3x5 cards with the important stats for each character and one for each type of monster in the encounter. The things I usually keep track of are BAB, GRP, Melee Attack, Ranged Attack, Senses (spot, listen, and anything like darkvision, scent or blindsense) and for the opponents any supernatural or spell like abilities they might have. In the upper right corner of the index card I right each participants initiative and then keep the cards stacked in order, that way after each action instead of checking to see whos next in the order you just flip over the card and say "Ok, Bekresh the Barbarian, you're up what is you action"

    Limiting Indecision: In a game with this many players there is little reason a player can't have his decision about what his character will do ready when you get to him in the initiative order, limiting the amount of time you give a player to be indecisive or waffle between two ideas speeds things up plus has the added benefit of better simulating the fast and hectic pace of combat where someone won't be able to calculate the odds before they must reach a decision.

    Staying on task: Do your best to discourage off topic discussions during the gaming session. First and foremost this means leading by example and not engaging in any discussion that digresses from the game. Beyond that let your players know that if they focus on the matter at hand combat can both go faster and be more engaging. If you players have an extreme problem with getting sidetracked, as a last resort, you could institute the "Off topic Wraith" a completely invisible intangible creature with a penchant for applying temporary negative levels to heroes who daydream during combat.

    Know your stuff: I know it can be hard to find the time to prepare for a session but the better you know the abilities and stats of the monsters you're throwing at your PCs the less you will be responsible for slowing down combat. If you're going to have an encounter balancing on a catwalk, make sure you know all the effects of balancing during combat. Once agian by leading by example you might see you're players follow suit and pick up their pace too by knowing their characters inside and out.

    Many of these things have been mentioned already, but these are my stock practices to streamline combat in my games. Hopefully some of them will find use at your table.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Morgan_Scott82 View Post
    Initiative cards: Get a set of 3x5 cards with the important stats for each character and one for each type of monster in the encounter. The things I usually keep track of are BAB, GRP, Melee Attack, Ranged Attack, Senses (spot, listen, and anything like darkvision, scent or blindsense) and for the opponents any supernatural or spell like abilities they might have. In the upper right corner of the index card I right each participants initiative and then keep the cards stacked in order, that way after each action instead of checking to see whos next in the order you just flip over the card and say "Ok, Bekresh the Barbarian, you're up what is you action"

    Limiting Indecision: In a game with this many players there is little reason a player can't have his decision about what his character will do ready when you get to him in the initiative order, limiting the amount of time you give a player to be indecisive or waffle between two ideas speeds things up plus has the added benefit of better simulating the fast and hectic pace of combat where someone won't be able to calculate the odds before they must reach a decision.
    Morgan, you are awesome. This is a brilliant idea that I'm going to implement. The index cards are the things Win is made of, and as such, I shall use this in my games. Thank you thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Morgan_Scott82 View Post
    If your players have an extreme problem with getting sidetracked, as a last resort, you could institute the "Off topic Wraith" a completely invisible intangible creature with a penchant for applying temporary negative levels to heroes who daydream during combat.
    I know a few of my players who are now going to earn some negative levels. Once again, you have achieved 5 points of Win.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    You're very welcome, glad I could help.

    As for the "Off topic Wraith" I would only use this as a last resort after a few sessions of trying to curtail the problem normally by talking to players and leading by example, and then informing the Players at the beginning of the session you implement the policy. Anything else is just vindictive and petty.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Another useful tip is to deputize players. Get the players with the most experience/ability with numbers to sit near the DM. Assign them to tracking things like total damage dealt to each monster, initiative order, and other trivia.

    Even better, or course, is getting one of the players to Co-DM combats. This obviously only works if they have a lot of experience, but is invaluable in large groups. Each DM can control the fighting in half the battlefield. This can reduce combat time by 40%.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Oh, they will be warned about it, but I seriously don't think it's going to be an issue, not with this group. They're awesome.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranis View Post
    I'm looking for anyone that has ideas or suggestions to speed up combat with my players, because...well, it really does take entirely too long. I already limit their actions to 10 seconds(except for the guy that's new) and have them roll damage with their attack rolls, but it still takes a bit too long and the monk can't hold that many dice at once.
    1. Have them roll their attacks (and damage) before you get to them. Most of the time it's pretty clear who they're going to attack and how. As long as you've got honest and ethical players, this will speed things up.

    2. Let them know what the AC numbers are so that they can figure out for themselves whether they hit before you get to them. Again, this takes honesty and open communication.

    3. When the resolution of monster reactions require player reactions (such as saving throws), multitask the monster actions. For example, if a monster casts a fireball that catches players 1-4, ask them for their Reflex saves and then -- while they're rolling -- move on to the next monster and resolve his actions, then come back and finish resolving the fireball. (In the case of the fireball you can also announce what the damage is, what the DC of the save is, and then let the players proceed with rolling their saves while you move on to the next set of tasks.)

    4. Get a lot of d20s yourself and resolve as many monster attacks simultaneously as you can. (I'll use a simple left-to-right metric: The dice farthest to the left after the roll applies to the monster farthest to the left in my field of vision, and so forth. Designing encounters around a lot of identically statted mooks with maybe one or two special leaders also simplifies your job.)

    5. Prep a cheat sheet with key PC stats, particularly armor class. One of the biggest things that used to slow down my combats was having to ask, "What's your AC?" and then waiting for the player to look at his sheet. If your party has a lot of abilities which cause their ACs to move around (like a rogue using Combat Expertise a lot), get a whiteboard and have the players update their AC on the whiteboard whenever it changes.

    Basically, you want to get rid of as many interactions in which you're just asking people for a number or waiting for someone to roll the dice. "What's your AC?" is a big one. "I rolled X on my saving throw, did I save?" is another. (That uncertainty of rolling against a DC you don't know can increase tension, but it gobbles up time.)

    Beyond that, if they're quickly announcing their actions, there's not much you can do. Ultimately, even if you manage to resolve an entire turn in 10 seconds or so (and that's a pretty impressive pace), every round of combat is still going to take nearly 2 minutes to resolve just for the players.

    But I used to be able to resolve combat with 5 players and 40+ mooks on a regular basis and keep things going at a pretty fast clip. So it can be done.

    One way of speeding up the beginning of combat: Have the group roll their initiatives at the END of combat, then use those initiative results for the next encounter. This not only makes it possible to get combat off to a big bang (since you're not waiting for 10 players to feed you back initiative results and then trying to sort those initiative results into order), but those initiative checks can generally be made while you're sorting out corpse-looting and the like (again, multi-tasking is the key).

    Someone else's suggestion of initiative cards is also heartily seconded: It makes sorting out initiative order, and changing initiative order, a lot easier. This change, all by itself, made a huge difference in my combats. (It also reduced initiative errors on my part.)

    That being said, I don't recommend keeping key stats on the initiative cards. Use separate cheat sheets. Flipping through a stack of randomly ordered cards trying to find the information you want is time consuming. The only thing on my initiative cards are the name of the character and the initiative result they rolled.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    I DM from my laptop on the right, on which I have an Excel spreadsheet with everyone's vital character information chalked down, then my notes and books in front of me, and my calculator. I think what I'm going to do is give each of my players a 3x5 card with their character's name on it so when I call initiative, I can just have them pass the cards to me and I can assemble it from there.

    I do like your idea of the resolving two special abilities from monsters at the same time; I'll try to do that when I can and if it work's I'll run with it; if not, then I'll figure out something else to do.

    Once again, thanks so much for everyone's input.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Second the motion on you are doing fine sentiment:

    We have a group of four plus DM and a four round combat takes approximately an hour. Deciding actions is only allowed for up to six seconds.

    Conversations between PC's is allowed for only as long and actually takes up a portion of your alloted six seconds. Other guys suggesting what a guy can do or not do is totally cramping on flow.

    Power attack and all other attack options including reccurringly used buffs and penalties like fatigued, exhausted, shaken, flanking, prone should be precalculated in all possible permutations in a table that they can reference.
    My mother says: those on fire should roll.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Justin_Bacon View Post
    4. Get a lot of d20s yourself and resolve as many monster attacks simultaneously as you can. (I'll use a simple left-to-right metric: The dice farthest to the left after the roll applies to the monster farthest to the left in my field of vision, and so forth.)
    I use a slight variation on this: I have several different colored dice sets, which I line up in order next to me. If they're red-green-silver-pink-black, then when I roll all 5 d20s I read them in order of red-green-silver-pink-black.

    Typically, I also number my monsters. I often use surplus d6's to denote medium monsters, so that lets me number them 1-6. I use d12's, or even up to d30's, to denote bigger monsters... again, with a number order. So in the above example, red is #1, green is #2, etc.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    A couple tips that sped up games for me-

    Make sure every player has a dry-erase board of some sort, so they can lick-and-scribble HP and spells instead of erasing. When they receive a status effect, have them correct their stats there. I lay a huge sheet of acetate on the table over a grid, so every player has a good-sized block in front of their chair while I map out the battle in the middle. This way, you or a caster announces the changes, everyone writes them down, and you never have to deal with it again.

    An important rule- every player must have everything they use printed verbatim. That means wizards have their entire spellbook typed out in front of them (including the statistics for every creature they could summon/shapechange into), and every single class feature is sitting in front of them. I let a player slide if he has his own PHB, but it better have lots of color-coded tabs. Every feat and mechanic you use often is reproduced right there. So the fighter has the Tripping procedure right under his Improved Trip. You lose so much momentum having to flip through the PHB or MM- every player having it there works so much better. This also forces people to get good at the rules, at least the ones tied to their role. The rogue has every DC and modifier for all of his skills, for example. Not only can he judge if he should do something before his turn, half the time, he knows the DC better than I do. The goal is to make sure everyone is being the DM of their little corner of the universe, so you can focus on running the combat and supervising everyone a little.

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    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Clementx View Post
    An important rule- every player must have everything they use printed verbatim. That means wizards have their entire spellbook typed out in front of them (including the statistics for every creature they could summon/shapechange into), and every single class feature is sitting in front of them. I let a player slide if he has his own PHB, but it better have lots of color-coded tabs. Every feat and mechanic you use often is reproduced right there. So the fighter has the Tripping procedure right under his Improved Trip. You lose so much momentum having to flip through the PHB or MM- every player having it there works so much better. This also forces people to get good at the rules, at least the ones tied to their role. The rogue has every DC and modifier for all of his skills, for example. Not only can he judge if he should do something before his turn, half the time, he knows the DC better than I do. The goal is to make sure everyone is being the DM of their little corner of the universe, so you can focus on running the combat and supervising everyone a little.
    This might be something I'll implement later down the road if the other things here don't satisfyingly decrease combat time; it wouldn't be so hard to do because all I have is a Controller/Mindbender Sorc and a Warmage, so no messing with spellbooks.
    Last edited by Ranis; 2007-03-13 at 07:09 PM.

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    ken-do-nim's Avatar

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    Nov 2006
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    Mansfield, MA
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    Male

    Default Re: Speeding Up Combat

    I'm going to recommend using a slightly different combat system that harkons back to the old days.

    One player rolls initiative for the whole party, and you roll initiative for the baddies. When it is the party's turn, you go around the table in clockwise or counterclockwise order. It might help to seat the fastest thinking players at the side of the table that you pick to go first. Then do everybody's else's suggestions about rolling before you get to them. Anybody who takes more than x seconds to do their turn is skipped, although you can go back to them.

    Obviously you'll run into issues with delaying, readied actions, and whining from those who took improved initiative as a feat.

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