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  1. - Top - End - #31
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    High-level play requires more preparation on the players and DM. Knowing your character and NPC's will make the game flow, no matter how you run or what style of play. The game I'm currently in is low 20's and due to the Incantatrix persisting all of the cleric's buffs, it requires a lot more effort for me as the DM to come up with something challenging that actually stands a chance...if the PC's can't die, there's no point. Not that I'm going for the TPK, but I don't want to waste my time either.

  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Telok's Avatar

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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    Lets see how well I can recall...

    Dwarf Fighter 1/Psion 15: Flying, teleporting, scrying, disintegrating, teleporting weapons out of people's hands and into mine, precognition abuse, self healing, effectively energy and ranged attack immune during combat. Death: Last one standing at a "TPK" ambush after several sessions of telling the rest of the group that they needed to invest in anti-scry and anti-teleport. The rest of the party got a scry & die dropped on them when he went out shopping (because they couldn't scry with him around). The six 10th level rogues, 13th level cleric, and 11th level wizard took two successive ambushes to wear him down so the third ambush could kill him. He died standing in front of the local captain of the guard, in a major city, surrounded by soldiers. A number of the soldiers died too. I wasn't surprised, I expected some backlash for sacking twelve evil temples and turning all their gold holy symbols into a giant solid gold urinal in a dwarf gutter bar.

    Elan Wizard 5/Mage of the Arcane Order 9: Flying, teleporting, true strike & no SR disintegrating... I think there's a theme here... quad huge air elemental summoning ("make a f*** ton of saves versus whirlwinds and pile everyone in that corner"), nearly energy immune, party haste and energy resist provider, casting Grease on people's weapons, spiky black tentacle hentai & sleet storm combos. Flooded a demon tower (near the top of a mountain, it involved sealing up all the entrances and unleashing several decanters of endless water) for laughs, put almost all feats into more psychic power points for the elan damage resistance (resulted in a surprisingly tough wizard), was starting to try to set up a succubus whorehouse. Game died out over vacations/schedule disruptions.

    Hideous Duskblade/cleric/crusader/warblade/ruby knight vindicator/jade phoenix mage multiclass monstrosity: Truestriking empowered vampritic touch x3 + about 6d6 other random damage adds on a single short sword swipe as his normal attack at about +40 to hit. Iron heart surge, the 'Fort save vs damage to ignore going under 1 hp' stance, an pretty insane Fort save, a number of pretty good melee & save counters, lots of dimension dooring. Death: It was a two session high level one-shot, I came in on the second session. Some semi-minion had TWF improved crit brilliant energy sun blades with full-bab power attack got a hasted pounce-charge leap attack on me. Apparently in the previous session someone's fighter had failed a basic Hold Person save and gotten coup-de-graced, resulting in the opposition getting his loot. Specifically those swords and something that gave more bonuses to hit and another extra attack or three. While my character survived that initial attack, and was possibly the only one in the party who could, the maximized searing meteor storm / maximized blood to water combo later that round got me and half of the rest of the party. I got better a few rounds later but nobody else did, so I ended up switching sides because "these guys are too lame to live".

    Elf cleric 15: Archery spec for multishot (not greater) and lightly abusing DMM persist and DMM reach spell, took craft wand because the elf domain gave him a divine version of True Strike. Shot every other round at about +30 to hit for... three? four?... arrows doing +20-ish damage each. Decent defences, lots of status mitigation, Revenance+Revivify combo, Heal, had a small selection of special arrows for specific occasions. Very much a back line support character. Survived the game, which ended when half the party had gone down in a combat and been Revenanced, was out of heals, we agreed that we needed to retreat and recover. He used the cleric teleport (the linked item one that takes you back to a specific place) taking one other character with him, the other three used regular teleport but to a different city. Then their Revenance spells wore off because they didn't have any more teleports.

    Interestingly I note that we never broke into 9th level spells/powers, and were mid-op casters with high-op warriors. Even though the DMM cleric didn't use nightsticks he was still much better off than the non-casters in the group.
    Niven's Laws, #5
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  3. - Top - End - #33
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    Playing this game at the level of optimization that this forum demands seems, to me at least, outright boring. I'd rather play Exalted, so that it is at least patently obvious that I am already a divine super being.

    My current tables don't play beyond 12th level because 7th level spells and powers generally start to warp the game into pudding, and 8th level spells and powers can do this in a literal sense. This can be applied to 3rd level spells as well, and even more so to 4th level spells, so the fact that this applies to spell levels beyond that is totally unsurprising. The commonly accepted solution of course just being "ban those books then" or "play core only", but is core really anymore balanced than expanded play?

  4. - Top - End - #34
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    Quote Originally Posted by Afghanistan View Post
    Playing this game at the level of optimization that this forum demands seems, to me at least, outright boring. I'd rather play Exalted, so that it is at least patently obvious that I am already a divine super being.

    My current tables don't play beyond 12th level because 7th level spells and powers generally start to warp the game into pudding, and 8th level spells and powers can do this in a literal sense. This can be applied to 3rd level spells as well, and even more so to 4th level spells, so the fact that this applies to spell levels beyond that is totally unsurprising. The commonly accepted solution of course just being "ban those books then" or "play core only", but is core really anymore balanced than expanded play?
    "Core only, for balance" is an oxymoron at best.

    "Balance to the table" is my mantra on this topic.

  5. - Top - End - #35
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    "Core only, for balance" is an oxymoron at best.
    Read as: "3.5 is a poorly balanced system where you either go big or play something else."
    I agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    "Balance to the table" is my mantra on this topic.
    Again, I agree. However, I am curious how one balances to "Party is immune to damage and status effects." At which point do you simply accept that you are better off playing freeform if your players characters are that overwhelmingly equipped to solve problems.

  6. - Top - End - #36
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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    Quote Originally Posted by Afghanistan View Post
    I agree.



    Again, I agree. However, I am curious how one balances to "Party is immune to damage and status effects." At which point do you simply accept that you are better off playing freeform if your players characters are that overwhelmingly equipped to solve problems.
    Who did give the players these immunities. I'm wondering, by your longer post, whether its actually the players who's at "fault" I mean, do you always find the magic items, always have the money or find all the scrolls all the time? I mean as long as the DM sets no limit, or accepts anything then the game can spiral out of control, but only if the players abuse these things... Not saying that that is what is happening at your table, but it sounds boring never going above level 12 to me. Not saying your game is not good or right, just that I don't understand how your games become so broken so quickly or become what sounds like broken... My experience is just radically different... just dont quite get it... I am genuinely curios!

    To me it seems like the player are not trying to play a balanced game...
    Last edited by Melcar; 2019-05-22 at 03:05 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by chaotic stupid View Post
    tippy's posted, thread's over now

    78% of DM's started their first campaign in a tavern. If you're one of the 22% that didn't, copy and paste this into your signature.

  7. - Top - End - #37
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    Quote Originally Posted by Melcar View Post
    Who did give the players these immunities.
    So a bit of backstory since it seems like this is a veiled inquiry:

    Spoiler: Backstory
    Show

    My old table played with a very simply philosophy: "If it is in the book, it's all in play"

    Suffice to say, there are quite a few books that are allowed, and a few that aren't allowed, however we allowed the entire book as a consequence of this. We did this because it is a simpler way of remembering what is and isn't acceptable. Simple enough right?

    Yes and no. We allowed Complete Divine. A very common enough book to allow that most tables would accept as a fairly good book because of the resources it adds for divine characters. In Complete Divine (as an example among other sources), you had the Ur-Priest, and Divine Metamagic in addition to the Sacred Exorcist, the Contemplative, and several other sources. Most notably Rapid Spell. Now, Rapid Spell, by itself isn't THAT powerful, but it is an inadvertent buff to the Conjurer. You've also introduced Lesser Vigor to the game which has a reputation of more or less invalidating out of combat healing if it is persistent (It can't be in this case because Complete Arcane isn't explicitly allowed, but hypothetically, it can be).

    Furthermore, players are awarded their GP as appropriate for an adventure or encounter or whatever and, provided there is a means to convert it into whatever resource you'd like (either buying it, or crafting it yourself), you can absolutely make use of it assuming you are willing to expend the resources to do so. Did we allow custom magic items? Absolutely. You pay for it, you can get it. The custom magic items obviously not being too much of an issue because the counter response was that the player could absolutely get whacked with a Disjunction if they weren't careful enough at high levels.

    So to answer your question of who was giving these players their various festival of immunities? The players were giving it to themselves. This post in particular is deeply fascinating to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by RNightstalker View Post
    High-level play requires more preparation on the players and DM. Knowing your character and NPC's will make the game flow, no matter how you run or what style of play. The game I'm currently in is low 20's and due to the Incantatrix persisting all of the cleric's buffs, it requires a lot more effort for me as the DM to come up with something challenging that actually stands a chance...if the PC's can't die, there's no point. Not that I'm going for the TPK, but I don't want to waste my time either.
    Mostly because it does not necessarily require that the players be at level 20 to do so. An assistant buffing Incantatrix can be as low as 7th level to achieve their desired effect with their assistant buffing Cleric.


    Quote Originally Posted by Melcar View Post
    To me it seems like the player are not trying to play a balanced game...
    Yes, which is why I suggest free form at this high level of play. Any semblance of balance from this game died at a very low level. Whether it is a Squad of Druids Wildshaping their way to victory, Clerics Zone of Truthing your murder mystery away, Wizards just flying and casting protection from arrows out of range of your monster of the week, or the Rogues or Bards Diplomancing/Blufflomancing the bad guys away, the game lost any balance from the Introduction.
    Last edited by Afghanistan; 2019-05-22 at 04:08 PM.

  8. - Top - End - #38
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    Thank you for your answer. A few followup questions...

    Quote Originally Posted by Afghanistan View Post
    Wizards just flying and casting protection from arrows out of range of your monster of the week, or the Rogues or Bards Diplomancing/Blufflomancing the bad guys away, the game lost any balance from the Introduction.
    Don't you enemies have fly too?

    I mean it seem more like the DM is simply not presenting adequate challenges, be that puzzles or combat. Combat is easily fixed, puzzles and role-play not so much!

    Anyways, it sounds like a very different game and different people than my table. At our table, it was a given, that if we came up with some shenaniganz, the BBEG would come up with similar... So we always had crazy difficult encounters... The time we tried to invade a Red Wizard Holding in Thay, was tough. We had to fight our way through 100+ guards, and about 10 mid level wizards and 2 epic level wizards... Granted we were a bigger party than 2 back then, but it kind of sounds like your DM is not mirroring your actual EL...
    Last edited by Melcar; 2019-05-22 at 05:06 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by chaotic stupid View Post
    tippy's posted, thread's over now

    78% of DM's started their first campaign in a tavern. If you're one of the 22% that didn't, copy and paste this into your signature.

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    there's lots of math involved.

    expect the fighters to have to continuously recalculate their to-hit bonus to keep track of buffs, conditions, and stuff that got dispelled.
    you'll spread out to avoid area effects, and then all the spell ranges will suddenly become relevant.

    At my table, the cleric prepared a half dozen mass heal per day, and he has a rod of quicken too. the npcs can either kill a party member in one round, or stop the cleric from casting, or they are not worth rolling dice for.
    Last edited by King of Nowere; 2019-05-22 at 05:48 PM.
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  10. - Top - End - #40
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    Way back in 1e days.

    Isle of the Apes module, but the DM upgraded it (namely giving The Big Monkey™ a druid to put a stack of buffs on him, including Animal Growth).

    6 party members. In the final combat, which went about 15 rounds, we had about 20 deaths between us. About half of those were my 24th level paladin. If he got hit with both claw attacks (10-100 each), the followup rend (for an extra 20-200dmg) killed him every time. And despite his astoundingly high AC (negative 50ish, equivalent to AC70 in 3.5), that happened on a roll of 4 or so.

    Nothing the Wizard was casting would stick, between saves, SR, and immunities, so the wizard usually spent his action Wishing my Paladin back to life. If I happened to survive a round, the Cleric would Heal. If I died, the Cleric was free to throw a Heal at someone else (who were mostly just taking bite damage)

    That was actually one of our faster fights in terms of table time. Maybe 6 hours for the whole thing. That fight had only 2 enemies, one of which was a simple 80HD beatstick, where normally there would be at least 2 per character, huge amounts of spells flying around, etc. Taking an hour for a single round of combat was probably the median past 18th level, and I know we had single rounds that consumed 4 hours or more. A dispel magic might eat an hour all on it's own, as everyone was forced to check vs huge buff stacks, and then recalculate their stats.

  11. - Top - End - #41
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    So, I'm not sure if I got my ideas across, so I'll try again.

    "Balance to the table" is short for "balance to the table, and the module", which replaced my (sadly unpopular) mantra of "balance to the module".

    A related me-meme is "never get into an arms race with your players, because they cannot win".

    So, IMO, optimally, the "module" - the adventure content - should exist before the PCs do. Further, in a perfect world, it would be accompanied by a set of sample characters, to indicate the "expected" power level of the party.

    Then all books, all material, etc, are fair game for the players to use to make PCs which fall within the group's balance range of those sample characters.

    This is the simplest version of my mantra's meaning. The corollary to this version is maximum player agency - the ability to choose how easy or difficult the module is through their selection of characters.

    Alternately, the group could have an established power range, and everyone - players and GM - are required to build things within that range.

    Lastly, yes, I suppose that the players could set the balance point, and other players - including the GM - are required to balance around it.

    The problem I have with a dynamic GM, making dynamic content, is that it feels too much like getting into an arms race with the players.

    EDIT: similarly, the DC to climb the mayor's fence should be determined by the mayor's fence, not by the climb skill of the person trying to climb it.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2019-05-22 at 09:37 PM.

  12. - Top - End - #42

    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    No different than lower levels.

    Beaters will beat.
    Spellcasters will disable enemies, or buff beaters.

    The End.

    Can Spellcasters completely replace the beaters with superior minions? Yes. If you do that though the beaters will complain and the DM won't let you do that.
    Can Spellcasters completely end encounters with one spell like Gate? Yes. If you do that though the beaters will complain and the DM won't let you do that. Incantatrix one shotting every creature in the encounter in one round also counts.
    Can Spellcasters solve all problems without leaving their home? Yes. If you do that though the beaters will complain and the DM won't let you do that.
    Can Spellcasters solo the game? Yes. If you do that though the beaters will complain and the DM won't let you do that.

    So ultimately whatever your spellcaster is capable of, everyone won't let you do anything other than what you've been doing at lower levels so nothing changes.
    Last edited by RoboEmperor; 2019-05-22 at 10:04 PM.

  13. - Top - End - #43
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    Quote Originally Posted by RoboEmperor View Post
    No different than lower levels.

    Beaters will beat.
    Spellcasters will disable enemies, or buff beaters.

    The End.

    Can Spellcasters completely replace the beaters with superior minions? Yes. If you do that though the beaters will complain and the DM won't let you do that.
    Can Spellcasters completely end encounters with one spell like Gate? Yes. If you do that though the beaters will complain and the DM won't let you do that. Incantatrix one shotting every creature in the encounter in one round also counts.
    Can Spellcasters solve all problems without leaving their home? Yes. If you do that though the beaters will complain and the DM won't let you do that.
    Can Spellcasters solo the game? Yes. If you do that though the beaters will complain and the DM won't let you do that.

    So ultimately whatever your spellcaster is capable of, everyone won't let you do anything other than what you've been doing at lower levels so nothing changes.
    Except in full spellcasting teams which then face challenges fit for full spellcasting teams and have no beaters that complains.

  14. - Top - End - #44

    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    Quote Originally Posted by noob View Post
    Except in full spellcasting teams which then face challenges fit for full spellcasting teams and have no beaters that complains.
    I haven't been in one so I wouldn't know. But I think encounters where all creatures are +8 CR than your level would result in you reaching epic way too quickly and the game falls apart because of that.

    So even in full spellcasting teams I fully expect the DM to tone everyone down so that at most CR+4 encounters challenge you.

  15. - Top - End - #45
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    Quote Originally Posted by RoboEmperor View Post
    I haven't been in one so I wouldn't know. But I think encounters where all creatures are +8 CR than your level would result in you reaching epic way too quickly and the game falls apart because of that.

    So even in full spellcasting teams I fully expect the DM to tone everyone down so that at most CR+4 encounters challenge you.
    Or to switch to… whatever those aberrant leveling techniques are called.

  16. - Top - End - #46
    Orc in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    My only experience of high-level play involved spamming Contact Other Plane like crazy (we had a marshal to boost the check such that there was no risk of failure) and we'd verify the results using Commune before acting on them as Contact Other Plane has a possibility of inaccuracy (an easy way to get Communes without XP is to round up a lot of Imps). Contact Other Plane could be used to see the future as some deities can (the GM ruled this like Minority Report). I spent a lot of out of game time asking the GM questions via Contact Other Plane on discord throughout the week between sessions. The GM wrote a short retrospective of the campaign here (Age of Worms spoilers).

    Incidentally, Contact Other Plane gives you single word answers and the numbers from one to twenty are all single words.

    Contact Other Plane: 'Hey Boccob, if I divide this map of the continent I'm holding into twenty portions horizontally, which number from one to twenty corresponds to the location of the bad guys' lair? Cool, now vertically. Now for the narrowed down region.'

    And after every question, Commune: 'Boccob, did you just lie to me? Good to know... Hey Corellon...?'
    Last edited by radthemad4; 2019-05-22 at 11:21 PM.

  17. - Top - End - #47
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    Quote Originally Posted by RoboEmperor View Post
    I haven't been in one so I wouldn't know. But I think encounters where all creatures are +8 CR than your level would result in you reaching epic way too quickly and the game falls apart because of that.

    So even in full spellcasting teams I fully expect the DM to tone everyone down so that at most CR+4 encounters challenge you.
    Wait creatures?
    You are not solving as encounters problems like the existence of violence?

  18. - Top - End - #48
    Orc in the Playground
     
    ClericGirl

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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Or to switch to… whatever those aberrant leveling techniques are called.
    Or even simpler, throw a multiplier on the exp curve to slow it down.

  19. - Top - End - #49
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    Reprimand's Avatar

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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    This is the reason wizards cannot ban divination. You would be a fool to! Information is power and going into things blind at these levels will get you killed exetremely fast! Being able to ward yourself againist SoD or SoS spells and effects will greatly stack the law of averages in your favor. You need to get in instantly take something out and get out instantly Scry and Die as Xykon once referred to it. And also being able to simultaneously protect against similar strategies. Any risk is too much if you can cheese any enemy you should do so because fighting "fair" is just poor planning as the players have odds stacked againist them one natural 1 or bad roll can set the players back thousands of gold in resources.

  20. - Top - End - #50
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    ElfMonkGuy

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    Default Re: What is High-Level Play Actually Like at the Table?

    My response would be "it depends on the players"

    There is a practical limit on the preparatory effort an individual is willing to contribute to a game. So while on paper you have unlimited freedom, in practice you just get a lot of 'hard nopes'.

    If you're talking about a literal table in-person... My exclusive experience has been that anyone you personally know who wants to run a high level campaign has minimal actual knowledge of the rules and no intent to follow them, and is just doing it because they want the stakes to be cataclysmically dire and/or they want to use the big, cool-looking monsters from the monstrous book of pretty pictures. To them, that means high-level.

    They'll expect you to be afraid of the scarynasty colossal dinosaur-that-also-has-scythe-arms that the book totally says is CR 22, or the demilich BBEG who mostly just knows different blasting spells. If you act contrary to expectations then you'll just get GM fiated and whatever you try won't work. Basically there is a large disconnect between how the GM thinks a high-level game works and how the rules say it works, and the rules do specify that the GM gets the final say (until you call shenanigans and quit playing).


    When playing with a GM who does know game well, it'll either go one of two ways.
    -You end up with very low-OP PCs who can't or won't do most of the game-breaking things so that a reasonable story can be constructed around them. These can be extremely fun, but they require a lot of cooperation from the players.
    -You play high-OP, and because there's only so much prepared you end up with a lot of 'soft nopes' instead of 'hard nopes' that take the form of astronomical save DCs, skill checks, or other mechanics to dissuade you from stepping away from what was planned, generally with an added reason why you can't just be immune to them or bypass them with a spell. If you try to play it like normal D&D then it rapidly becomes immunity-check rocket tag. If one of your players likes being the tactician then it will instead revolve around never actually being in the same room as the bad guys and creatively nuking them from orbit. In any case the GM will usually be forced to fight fire with fire. These sorts of games can be fun though if the GM puts a lot of thought into them, and even the mediocre ones still create memorable moments which is like half of what D&D is about.
    Last edited by Anachronity; 2019-06-19 at 03:51 PM.

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