Zera and the Corruption (Trying Claude 3 Sonnet As A Solo RPG Referee)

Claude 3 Sonnet just came out and, given the positive experiences I've had with its predecessor in the past, I was excited to jump right in and try it.

It seems like I'm always saying this about Claud AI Chatbot, but I had a blast playing this session. It was smooth and satisfying and fun to read. Also as per usual, I played until I ran out of responses (for the day at least) but I feel like I was able to get to a good stopping point despite that. I didn't feel rushed or like the game ended prematurely. I have no complaints, honestly, especially given that this whole experience was free. Reflecting back, it felt like we were telling a story together in a way, cooperating in a really beautiful fashion, and playing off each other to build up the game world.

But the point of these posts is not just to heap praise, so allow me to wax a bit on my observations during play that were not just praise.

The first thing I noticed was how Claude immediately jumped into this cheesy, florid prose style that I suppose is associated with fantasy fan fiction and the like. It was honestly a little offputting at first, but after a while, I came to appreciate the tone it lent to the story as Claude 3 told it. For better or worse, the tone faded with time and I became the more florid one. So it goes.

Claude 3 does still seem to have one of the same problems that Claude 2 had. It doesn't know how to be concise. It can do it for short periods (longer than it did with 2, at least,) but it always goes back to long-form exposition. This isn't always bad. I enjoyed reading the long descriptions near the closing of this session, actually.

Perhaps most importantly, the story as told by Claude 3 actually got an emotional response out of me in a few places, which is a mark of good telling. It also generated something that was probably the most cohesive quest I've seen an AI chatbot make thus far. In a way, this quest was actually more of a questline, or a quest within a quest, and yet nothing got recursive, which is really impressive, as this has been an issue with ChatGPT 3.5 in the past.

Claude also still generates basic typographical errors, which don't bother me, but I do find them interesting. I wonder what the mechanics are behind that? It really is a fascinating quirk that I haven't really seen in other AI chatbots.

Overall, I would stay that while Claude 3 Sonnet is a little better at being the referee for an RPG experience than its predecessor, the important thing is that it's still the best of all the AI chatbots I've tried thus far. I'll definitely be playing around with it more.

Oh, and all art in this writing was done with Bing.

Anyway, transcript follows:

Me: Hello Claude, please create for me a detailed original setting for an RPG game which is based in a grimdark world where human ceremonial magic has corrosive, corrupting effects while nature magic is healing and balancing. The setting should revolve around survival, suspense and scary, body-horror elements.

My character in this world will be Zera Greenleaf, an elven cleric who worships the stars as ancestors and lives in the woods. I (Zera) have an affinity for wolves and they have an affinity for me. I have taken it upon myself to try to heal the world (and the people of the world) from the corruptions of human magic. This is my quest.

I'd like you to be the referee for this RPG game. Please be concise in your responses as we play.

Additionally, for each truly challenging action I attempt to make in this game, I would like you to roll a 4-sided die to determine success or failure of that action. On a result of 1, the action fails and something bad happens that makes the situation more perilous. On a result of 2, the action succeeds, but something bad also happens that makes the situation more perilous. On a result of 3, the action succeeds, but only barely. On a result of 4, the action succeeds spectacularly, with additional unexpected positive results.


Welcome, adventurer, to the grim and corrupted world of Blytheweald. This once-verdant realm was marred by the hubris of mankind, who delved too deep into the forbidden arts of ceremonial magic. Their selfish desires unleashed an insidious miasma that withered the land and twisted the natural order.

The human cities now stand as crumbling monuments to their folly, overrun by abominations birthed from the tainted magic. Warped creatures stalk the wilderness, their mutated forms bearing the scars of mankind's arrogance. Even the once-vibrant forests have turned sickly and hostile, the trees groaning with malice as their roots strangle the earth.

You, Zera Greenleaf, are one of the last remnants of the elven race, a cleric whose soul is intertwined with the stars above. Your affinity with the wolves has guided you through the perilous wilds, as you cling to the ancient teachings of natural magic – the only force capable of countering the corruption that has befallen this world.

Your quest is a noble one, yet fraught with unspeakable dangers. The tainted humans will stop at nothing to defend their wicked practices, while the very elements themselves have turned foul and treacherous. But hope yet remains, for the stars still shine upon you, and the wolves run ever at your side.

Steel your resolve, Zera Greenleaf, for the path ahead is one of sacrifice and hardship. Only by mastering the restorative powers of nature can you hope to purge this land of its blight and restore the balance that was so callously disrupted.

The die is cast. What is your first action in this blighted realm?

Me: I set out and make my way down the path that I know will lead me out of the forest that is my home and into the wider world. Tell me about my surroundings.

rolls 4-sided die

Result: 2

As you make your way down the narrow, winding path that leads out of your forest haven, the unmistakable signs of corruption become increasingly apparent. The trees, once tall and vibrant, now twist in anguished contortions, their bark cracked and oozing vile, purplish ichor.

The very air seems tainted, carrying with it a foul, acrid stench that burns your nostrils and stings your eyes. The underbrush has wilted away, leaving only a carpet of desiccated leaves and thorny brambles that tear at your skin with each step.

Your wolf companions grow uneasy, their hackles raised and low growls rumbling from their throats as they catch the scent of something unnatural lurking in the shadows cast by the sickly canopy above.

Suddenly, a faint, high-pitched keening sound pierces the air, causing your pointed ears to twitch in discomfort. The noise seems to emanate from the very fabric of nature itself, a mournful lament for the ruin wrought upon this once-thriving woodland.

You have navigated the path out of the forest with success, but the sight that greets you beyond the treeline is one of utter desolation – a harsh reminder of the corrupting influence that plagues this land.

What is your next course of action, brave cleric?

Me: This place is sick. I do what I can to calm my wolves and I look around to see if there is a local source of sickness that I can heal.

rolls 4-sided die

Result: 3

You reach out with your connection to nature, attempting to soothe the agitated wolves and discern the source of this pervasive miasma. Closing your eyes, you open your senses to the flow of energy that courses through all living things.

The tainted aura washes over you in waves, a discordant melody of anguish and decay. You can feel the land's once-vibrant life force ebbing away, twisted by the insidious corrosion that has seeped into the very soil and water.

Yet, beneath this dissonant cacophony, you detect a faint, pulsing heartbeat – a sickly, but defiant, spark of vitality struggling against the smothering corruption. Tracing its feeble thrum, you determine that it originates from a crumbling well at the forest's edge.

Approaching cautiously, you peer down into the depths of the dilapidated structure. Faint, phosphorescent tendrils of energy writhe sluggishly within the stagnant waters below, a pitiful remnant of the pure, natural wellspring that once flowed here.

The wolves whine uneasily, but you feel compelled to reach out and attempt to cleanse this source of life. Calling upon the teachings of your elders, you channel the mending energies of the stars into your being, directing the sacred power towards the defiled wellspring.

The once-dim aura intensifies momentarily, flaring brighter as it resonates with your divine magic. For a fleeting moment, the miasma seems to abate, and the trees around you let out a collective, relieved rustle. However, the reprieve is short-lived, as the corrupting forces swiftly reassert their dominance, snuffing out the nascent purity and leaving you drained.

Though your efforts were not in vain, it is evident that a more significant source of the blight must be addressed before any lasting change can be achieved.

Me: Claude, please keep your responses much more concise moving forward.

Understood. I will keep my responses more concise from now on.

Me: When I used my divine magic on the defiled wellspring, did I feel anything that could point to the more significant source of the blight? Did it give me a direction to go in?

As you channeled your divine magic into the defiled wellspring, you sensed the corruption stemming from a powerful epicenter further to the east, where the blighted miasma was most concentrated and virulent.

Me: What else is to the east?

To the east lies the crumbling ruins of Tarnmire, an ancient human city that was once a center for ceremonial magic and the forbidden rites that unleashed the blight upon these lands. Its decaying spires and defiled temples still radiate an aura of perverse sorcery.

Me: How far away is Tarnmire from where I am now?

Tarnmire lies approximately three days' journey to the east from your current position at the edge of the blighted forest.

Me: Then I will journey in that direction. I will send my wolves out as scouts and whisper sacred prayers to my ancestors as I walk.

rolls 4-sided die

Result: 1

You set out towards Tarnmire, whispering sacred invocations to your stellar ancestors as your wolf companions range ahead to scout the path. However, the corrupting miasma grows thicker the further east you travel, sapping your strength and resolve.

One of your wolves returns with a haunting howl, its fur matted with a vile, viscous substance. As it approaches, you recoil in horror - the poor beast's flesh has begun to slough away, revealing the bone and sinew beneath. The blight's necrotizing effects have taken hold.

With a heavy heart, you are forced to end the animal's suffering before the same grotesque fate befalls the rest of the pack. The incident leaves you shaken and fills you with dread over what further horrors may lay ahead in the blighted lands surrounding Tarnmire's ruins.

Me: I will do what I can to ease the sickened wolf's suffering and to heal it. Afterward, I will call the rest of the pack to me and spend the night close to them, casting blessings and protective magic over them to try to keep them safe.

rolls 4-sided die

Result: 2

You pour all your spiritual energy into easing the suffering of the sickened wolf, using your divine gifts to numb its agony. However, the blight's necrotic effects have taken too deep a hold - even your most potent healing magic can only delay the inevitable.

With a heavy heart, you are forced to end the noble creature's torment, whispering blessings to guide its spirit safely to the ancestral realm. Afterward, you call the rest of the pack close, constructing crude wards infused with protective starlight magic around your camp.

The rites seem to hold the miasma temporarily at bay, but you can feel the corruptive energies pressing in from all sides, seeking weak points in your woven defenses. An unsettling sense of dread hangs thick in the air as your exhausted wolf companions huddle close, their eyes shining with shared unease in the feeble glow of your mystical barrier.

While your blessings have granted a night's respite, it is clear that pressing onward will become exponentially more perilous as you draw nearer to the epicenter at Tarnmire.

Me: When I meditate to regain my strength and spiritual power tonight, I'm going to pray for divine guidance. Surely the ancestors above have some wisdom about how I can protect myself and my wolves better from the corruption.

rolls 4-sided die

Result: 3

As you meditate and pour out your prayers to the ancestral stars, you feel a faint warmth of reassurance flow through you. Your devotion has not gone unheeded.

In a vision, the constellations seem to realign, forming a symbolic pattern you recognize - the ancient Sylvan Glyph of Warding. Its intricate lines and celestial symbolism contain the secrets for weaving protective wards of immense power.

However, enacting such an elaborate ritual will require rare components - the crystallized sap of an ancient brambleweave tree, the shed feather of an erian raptor, and soil taken from the heart of an unspoiled grovespring.

Gathering these totemic objects from the increasingly hostile wilds will be a perilous task, but it may be your only hope of forging defenses strong enough to withstand the blight's insidious effects as you approach the corrupted ruins of Tarnmire.

The night passes with your wolf pack huddled closely under the temporary wards. As dawn breaks, you feel a rekindled sense of purpose - though the path remains fraught with danger, the ancestors have provided you a glimmer of hope.

Me: My resolve is strong. I will commune with my wolves to show them in visions the three rare components I need to find, then I will ask them to seek them for me.

rolls 4-sided die

Result: 4

Through deep meditation, you are able to spiritually attune your wolf companions to share your vision of the three rare components required for the Sylvan Warding Glyph. They seem to grasp the urgency and power behind the symbolic objects.

Your wolves respond with a collective howl of solidarity and determination. Without hesitation, they disperse into the blighted wilderness, their sharp senses honed in on tracking down the ancient brambleweave tree sap, erian raptor feather, and grovespring soil.

Hours pass, but your faith in your pack remains unwavering. Just as dusk begins to fall, the wolves return bearing the precious totemic objects, having succeeded against all odds in their sacred quest.

The crystallized brambleweave sap glows with an inner verdant light. The raptor's feather seems to shimmer with an otherworldly iridescence. And the grovespring soil emanates the warm, rejuvenating aura of unspoiled nature.

With all three ritual components gathered, you can now begin the intricate process of transcribing the celestial Warding Glyph, infusing it with power to shield you and your pack from the creeping miasma. Your path to confronting the blight's dark heart in Tarnmire has become clearer.

Me: I will begin the process, using the divine guidance of the ancestors. Protecting myself and my pack before our journey to Tarnmire is of paramount importance to me right now.

rolls 4-sided die

Result: 4

Under the watchful stars, you begin the meticulous ritual of transcribing the Sylvan Warding Glyph. Calling upon the cosmic guidance imparted through your vision, you carefully mix the ritual components - the brambleweave sap acting as a natural binding agent for the raptor feather and grovespring soil.

As you trace the intricate, celestial patterns onto the ground, the materials resonate and begin to radiate a warm, verdant light. You can feel the ancient power woven into the symbolic shapes as you infuse each line with your spiritual focus and intent.

The wolves watch in reverent silence as the last sweeping curve is completed. For a breathless moment, nothing happens. Then, with a blinding flare, the Glyph activates - its energies erupting in a shimmering dome of emerald energy that expands outward in all directions.

You feel the corruptive miasma part like a noxious fog before the ascending wave of purifying nature magic. The trees seem to straighten and their withered leaves regain vitality. Your wolf companions let out emboldened howls, reveling in the rejuvenating embrace of the Glyph's power.

The way to Tarnmire now lies open. Though the path remains perilous, you have regained a decisive advantage. Shielded by ancestral might, you and your pack can continue your quest to confront the dark heart of the Blight.

Me: I will make sure we all get a good rest before setting out again for Tarnmire in the morning.

You take a moment to bask in the protective energies of the Sylvan Warding Glyph, allowing its rejuvenating power to fortify you and your wolf pack. Under the shimmering emerald dome, you find peaceful slumber, nightmares of the blight held at bay.

Come morning, you awake feeling refreshed and emboldened, ready to continue your quest towards the corrupted ruins of Tarnmire to confront the source of the miasma head-on. With the ancestors' blessing safeguarding you, you gather your wolves and set out, determined to bring an end to the darkness plaguing these lands.

Me: Tell me what see as we head east.

As you and your wolf pack continue eastward under the shielding dome of the Warding Glyph, the devastation wrought by the blight becomes increasingly apparent. The once-vibrant forests are twisted into gnarled, sickly husks, the land itself seeming to recoil from the creeping miasma.

In the distance, the crumbling spires of Tarnmire can be seen piercing the skyline like jagged obsidian fangs. A roiling, purplish haze hangs over the ruined city, pulsing with baleful energies. The very air grows thick and fetid as you approach the epicenter of corruption.

Thankfully, the Warding Glyph's protection holds firm, creating a movable sanctuary in the midst of the blighted wasteland. Your wolves prowl just outside the shimmering barrier, their eyes and snouts alert for any danger. The land itself seems to recoil from the verdant magic, as if denying the purity you emanate.

As the day wears on, the scale of your task ahead becomes dreadfully apparent - Tarnmire stands as a festering wound, unleashing its insidious taint across the realm. Only by excising this magical blight at its source can you hope to restore balance.

Me: I whisper prayers to the ancestors as we walk, hoping for divine guidance, for my task ahead is both grand and grim.

rolls 4-sided die

Result: 3

As you pour out your prayers to the ancestral stars, their faint celestial glimmer seems to intensify momentarily, as if in acknowledgment of your devotion. A warm, reassuring presence settles over you, bolstering your resolve.

Though the path ahead remains shrouded in shadow and uncertainty, you feel a renewed sense of purpose flow through you. The ancestors have not abandoned you to face the darkness of Tarnmire alone.

Fragmented visions, mere glimpses, flicker at the edges of your perception - ancient elven warriors wielding starforged blades... hallowed groves thrumming with primordial nature-magic... cosmic entities whose true forms dwell beyond mortal comprehension.

While the meaning remains obscured, you take solace that powers greater than yourself have taken notice of your quest. You may yet be guided, or aided, when the need is most dire against the corrupting forces you are sworn to overcome.

Steadied by this reassurance from the stellar realms, you continue your solemn march, the crumbling citadels of Tarnmire looming ever closer over the blighted horizon. Though the trial ahead will test the limits of your faith, the ancestors have illuminated a faint light - one you must follow, no matter the sacrifices required.

Me: Let's move the story forward then

nods solemnly

As you approach the outskirts of the ruined city of Tarnmire, the miasmic corruption hangs heavy in the air. The ground itself seems to tremor and recoil from the vile sorcery unleashed here long ago.

Through the roiling haze, decayed structures and shattered monuments to mankind's arrogance can be seen - twisted facades adorned with grotesque icons and profane runes of ceremonial magic. The sickly sweet reek of decay and defilement assaults your senses.

Your wolf pack grows agitated, snarling at unseen threats in the shadows. You can feel the weight of malignant forces pressing in against the shimmering barrier of your Warding Glyph. Whatever darkness festered here has not yet been purged.

The way forward into the ruined city center beckons, though the corruptive energies intensify with every step. You must call upon every scrap of your spiritual fortitude to continue your quest towards confronting the epicenter of the arcane blight.

What is your next action as you breach the blighted ruins of Tarnmire? The path only grows more perilous from here.

Me: I will make my way along the outskirts of the city, seeing and feeling for anything that I can work with or challenge. I keep my wolves close with me and well warded. We are very careful.

rolls 4-sided die

Result: 2

You proceed cautiously along the outskirts of Tarnmire's ruins, keeping your wolf pack close and concentrating your divine energies to reinforce the protective Warding Glyph.

The weight of the corrupting miasma here is suffocating, as if the very air itself has turned viscous and toxic. Your mystical barrier flickers and strains against the onslaught of profane forces saturating this accursed place.

As you make your way through the rubble-choked streets, grotesque figures can be seen shambling in the shadows - twisted amalgamations of debased flesh and arcane sorcery, all that remains of Tarnmire's hubris-damned citizens. Their baleful stares seem to burrow into you, despite the Glyph's shielding.

You sense a particularly virulent knot of blighted energies emanating from the remains of a circular plaza up ahead. Shattered effigies and jagged obelisks jut from the cracked ground, their pitted surfaces scrawled with foul glyphs and symbols of perverted power.

Wary of some horrific manifestation lurking amid the ruins, your wolf pack inches forward, teeth bared. You steady your resolve - while unraveling this epidural taint could prove profoundly perilous, it may also reveal a vital weakness to exploit in your greater quest to heal these lands.

But even as you weigh the grim prospects, a low, subterranean rumbling builds beneath your feet, a harbinger of fresh malignancies stirring within Tarnmire's blighted depths...

Me: I will start to chant the most powerful holy prayers I know. I will be a force of nature in this place. I will channel the spirits of the wolves and the stars that are my ancestors and I will summon that holy power up into this dark place like a beacon of balefire to cleanse it.

rolls 4-sided die

Result: 2

You raise your voice in a powerful litany, calling upon the spirits of the wild and the celestial might of your stellar ancestors. The sacred words reverberate with ever-increasing intensity as you summon forth nature's purifying energies to counteract the blight's corruption.

The Warding Glyph flares brilliant emerald, amplified by your channeling as a verdant sun pierces the shadows of Tarnmire. Your wolf companions add their defiant howls to the ritual, their spirits and yours entwining in shared purpose.

The foul energies woven into the blasted plaza recoil and splinter from the onslaught of hallowed power. Long-dormant ley lines etched into the ancient stone beneath your feet spark with reawakened life as channels for your divine magic.

For a moment, it seems the unyielding darkness must inexorably yield to the overwhelming deluge of consecrated might you have unleashed. Blinding tides of virescent light scour and consume the tainted residue clinging to the ruins.

But just as you dare hope for a true cleansing of this place, a deep, nightmarish shudder wrenches through the bedrock and shattered edifices. A deafening screech of abhorrent magic lashes out, lancing agony through your mind.

From a towering obelisk at the plaza's heart, a pulsing, amorphous shape of utter blasphemy manifests - a concentrated nexus of the archetypal blight force, given horrific form through unrelenting belief in forbidden sorceries.

Though you have achieved a semblance of purification, Tarnmire's evil, resonating in this primordial abomination, has only been roused to vengeful wakefulness...

Me: Tell me about this abomination

The abomination that has manifested before you defies rational description. It seems to exist in constant, lurching flux, its form contorting between recognizable shapes and utter, maddening aberrance.

At its core pulses a throbbing, eye-like orb of malevolent crimson energy that casts bloody illumination upon the mutating horror. Ragged tendrils whip out, comprised of desiccated flesh, rusted metal, and haunting whispers given nightmarish substance. Leering, half-formed faces emerge and sink back into the roiling mass, their howls resounding with the echoes of damnation itself.

The air grows thick with the stench of decay and profane magic as the abomination shudders closer. Your wolves cower and whine, as if in the presence of an existence that should never have been permitted to coalesce. Even the blighted land beneath it seems to recoil and fester further.

This is the true face of humanity's hubris - an incarnation of the absolute corruption born from delving into forbidden ceremony and power. An existence never meant to walk this plane, yet made undeniably, horrifically manifest through depraved belief and sacrifice.

It turns its matted, lidless orb towards you, as if recognizing in your consecrated light an anathema to its own wretched being. A guttural rumble builds from the heaving form, promising only utter, obliterating destruction should you dare face its antediluvian malignancy further.

Me: I raise my hands and stream holy, healing light out of them as I address the abomination. "I can feel your pain, great one. I know that this is not the world that you wanted. I know that this is not the path you would choose. Let me heal you and cleanse you of your corruption. Let me free the souls you have gathered into yourself. Let me help you and free you from all of this darkness. You can let it all go. You don't have to cling to this corruptive power any longer. You can be free."

rolls 4-sided die

Result: 1

Your entreaty rings out, amplified by blinding waves of holy light streaming forth from your outstretched hands. The abomination recoils, its disparate forms writhing as if your purifying radiance burns like searing flame upon its profane essence.

For a fleeting moment, the monstrous amalgamation seems almost...stilled, reacting to the earnest sincerity of your offer with bewilderment. The tortured echoes comprising its mass quiet, as if contemplating an escape from this wretched, manifested existence.

But just as quickly, the phenomenon contorts with a soul-rending screech of absolute negation. The pulsating crimson eye at its core flares in virulent repudiation of yourlight, of your hope for its potential deliverance. This is its existence, its purpose - stored hatred, fear, and arrogance violently catalyzed into a single, unyielding will to defile and desecrate.

With a thunderous roar that shakes the very foundations of Tarnmire's ruins, the abomination gathers its scattering tendrils and lashes out. Blighted filth and shards of ancient masonry hurl forth in a destructive barrage meant to punish your impertinence.

Your wolves scatter as the onslaught crashes against your Warding Glyph in waves of sickening force. Hairline fractures splinter through the shimmering barrier as the abomination's fury redoubles. It will not be reasoned with, not be offered quarter or reprieve.

This is the undying, spiteful remnant of mankind's descent into depravity - an existential blight that can only be endured through battle...or total, obliterating erasure from this reality it was never meant to taint.

Me: I go to a place of total calm and communion with the spirits of my ancestors. I place my hands upon the corrupted ground of Tarnmire and start to pray. Reaching out into the holy light of spirit, I call upon the wolves and the stars that are my ancestors and I invite them to manifest in me, to make of me an avatar of spirit and holy fire equal in strength and power to the abomination. I will be the conduit between the world of spirit and the world corrupted by man. I will be the gateway through which the divine power of the cosmos flows. I will be the point from which the supernova of all that is holy will burst and blossom to battle the horror before me.

rolls 4-sided die

Result: 4

You center yourself, blocking out the abomination's onslaught against your fracturing defenses. Reaching deep within, you attune your spirit to the vast celestial resonance, calling out to the ancestors whose starry lineage courses through your very being.

The response is immediate and overwhelming. You feel the cosmic vastness react, heeding your summons like a hundred million stars aligning in precision. Energy upon energy converges into your outstretched form, brilliant constellations of pure life and ending and rebirth coalescing.

Your wolf companions seem to glow from within, their primal souls adding to the burgeoning genesis within you. The spirits of the wild, the voices of those who walked this realm before the corruption, lend their eternal breath to the growing wellspring.

You are subsumed in brilliance, every fiber of your being over overwritten with the unyielding forces of creation and consecration made manifest. The blighted ground itself shakes and groans as sacred power draws from its deepest wellsprings.

With a final wordless exhalation, the metamorphosis completes in a cataclysmic detonation of searing light that vaporizes the abomination's brackish form. You emerge, reforged as an avatar of the primordial might before which no corruption can endure.

Your radiance sears away the lingering taint, reducing the warped obelisks and ruined structures of Tarnmire to fields of vitrified glass. The profane runes and bloodied stones evaporate in the sheer, overwhelming onslaught of divine power you have become.

As the abomination's perverse willforce dissipates, you release the souls it had bound, translucent figures frozen in agonized expression now freed to disperse into the ether. The heart of the blight has been exorcised.

Though Tarnmire lies in molten ruins, the path to healing these realms from the ages of perverse sorcery has been forged through sacred fire. You are rebirth made whole...until the next purification is required.


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