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[OSSR]Double Bill: Drow of the Underdark
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Prak wrote:
On the topic of coloration, is the range of colors for drow hair and eyes even... realistically correlated? Awhile back, I considered hair and eye color for a goblin I was drawing and realized that the two things, in humans, have correlating shades and ranges, for the most part at least, if we take blue eyes as correlating to black hair and green eyes correlating to blonde.

Now, I have no clue if this is just a coincidence that I reasoned myself into believing a rule, or what, but do drow colorations correlate that way, at least within the same book?


Dafuq?

Eye color genes are largely independent of skin color genes. That's why you can have blue eyes black people. The blue eyes gene is a relatively recent mutation from Syria, and most of the people who have it are from Europe. But there's no particular reason it has to be like that. There's nothing about being from Scandinavia that makes blue eyes any better from an evolutionary standpoint.

-Frank
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

cf. Melanesian blondes
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Prak
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Sorry, I meant specifically just hair and eye colors, nothing to do with skin color.
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The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Prak wrote:
Sorry, I meant specifically just hair and eye colors, nothing to do with skin color.


Eye color and hair color are also uncorrelated on genes and it is entirely possible to be a redhead with brown eyes or have a black afro and have blue eyes. There are various groups that have different hair and eye color gene frequencies, but they are independent factors within those groups. It's like Mendel's fucking peas.

-Frank
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Prak
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ok, so just a weird thing I thought had more weight than it does.
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Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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DrPraetor
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

From genotyping fossil human remains, the history of eye color looks like it's more complicated than was at-one-point thought:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/07/first-modern-britons-dark-black-skin-cheddar-man-dna-analysis-reveals
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Prak
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I think I explained my hypothesis poorly-

I noticed that the human hair range is black, brown, red, blonde.

The human eye colour range is blue, brown, hazel, green. More or less. There are in-between shades that seem like another color, I guess.

And those sort of correlate, in so far as pigment is concerned. Black hair to blue eyes, brown to brown, red to hazel, and blonde to green.

So I was just wondering if the supposed colors of drow hair and eyes correlated that way. Looking at the 2007 book, drow hair ranges White, Grey, Silver, Platinum, Golden Blonde, and eye color ranges Red, Purple, Gold, Green, White.

So, no, there is no correlation of possible hair and eye pigments in Drow, at least as far as the 2007 book is concerned.
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Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OSSR: Drow of the Underdark

Drow Campaigns



Drow of the Underdark wrote:
Drow are not just elves with dark skin




AncientH

A major problem with the Sabbat Drow of the Underdark is: how do you have mixed-alignment parties? If the PCs are generally good and an evil PC comes along, there needs to be some outside factor whereby everyone can work together without a major alignment violation - preferably one that actually makes sense within the context of the setting. You could restrict PCs to non-evil Drow, which is hamfisted and stupid, but popular; you could flip the menu and make Drow only part of all-evil parties; you could give the PCs a common cause which overrides their individual alignments (money, power, save the kingdom, get laid, etc.)...or you could follow the most popular approach, and just dump that shit in Mister Cavern's lap and let her fucking deal with it.

Frank

The 2007 version promises some bits on campaigns with Drow characters and also campaigns where you fight Drow. And not only that, but campaigns where you fight Drow like all the time, and also ones in which you fight Drow just some of the time. Are you excited? I'm excited.

The 1991 gives some feelies to show how Drow runes might look and some rants about life in the Underdark and the overarching conflict with the Dwarves. These are really short sections, with the thing about the War of the Axe being only two pages long, and “The Underdark” being literally a 1 page rant about magnets.


They make it so you can't teleport reliably for long distances so that it's hard to scry-n-die Drow leaders.

With so little to bother sinking our teeth into, I think we'll mostly be talking about the 2007 material. There's a 41 page chapter called Campaigns and Adventures, and then there's a 24 page chapter called Erelhei-Cinlu. Erelhei-Cinlu was the Drow city in D3: Vault of the Drow, which is the 3rd adventure of the Descent Into The Depths of the Earth from 1978.

AncientH

D&D is at least 75% nostalgia by volume, at least during 3rd edition, so this should not come as any vast surprise. The problem with presenting a Sabbat Handbook from a writing standpoint is that there are fundamental differences of approach between writing a book for player characters to play something and writing a book for player characters to play against. In the latter case, balance isn't really a factor, or it's at least a different factor: you're less concerned about individual character options than in making interesting and formidable threats for the PCs to encounter, and then have something they can maybe lift off the enemy's corpse. From a strictly game-mechanical point of view, one of the basic reasons monstrous races tend to have innate magical/psionic/special abilities is because when you kill them those go away without actually providing the PCs any additional power.

But both Drow of the Underdark books try to have their cake and eat it to - to present drow as a monstrous race for PCs to defeat, and as possible (albeit not always strongly pushed and often quite nerfed) PC options. And when the PCs get the same stuff as the NPCs from the get-go, you need to provide stronger incentives for conflict.

Frank

The section on incorporating Drow into a campaign is frankly pretty dumb.

Quote:
You will need to do more than simply insert drow NPCs here and there. Capturing the menace and awe of the drow requires effort on your part, and it begins with generating a sense of fear before the first drow ever shows its face.


This is hokey, and it's also wrong. The reasons for that particular rant are twofold. The first is obviously that they are using up wordcount by gibbering about bullshit, but also because they are trying to recapture the glory of Descent into the Depths of the Earth. The initial Drow adventure worked, at least it worked better than most adventures of that period. And while that particular adventure is probably why people ultimately care about Drow more than they care about Saurials or Shu or whatever other vaguely racist humanoid race that has appeared in a monster book for whatever edition.

But if you think about it carefully for a moment, you'll realize first that having a race be the big reveal all the time doesn't make it constantly a big deal, it makes all your big reveals boring and predictable. And secondly, to the extent that the Descent progression worked, it did so because the stakes kept rising and there was a progression of mysteries to uncover and weird shit to explore. The final vault isn't epic because it happens to be filled with Drow and spider demons, it's epic because it's part three of an escalating ramp of heroics. That kind of thing is hard to hit the right note on, and you'll note that Gygax tried exactly this formula several times to decidedly mixed overall results.


Sure. Fine.


Fuck this adventure and fuck their “you get captured no save” bullshit.

The core issue is that getting a Pathfinder style adventure path to work requires a bit of luck to make it all work out. GDQ was the first successful Adventure Path, but it was also the only successful published Adventure Path for over a decade. But it's important to realize that GDQ didn't work because of something special about fighting Giants, then Troglodytes, then Kuo-Tia, then Drow in that specific order.

Essentially this book is advocating cargo cult campaign design. The proper use of the Drow according to this book is to follow the outlines of an adventures path written in 1978. But Ari Marmell was four years old in 1978, he wasn't playing the GDQ adventures at the time they were relevant. He's heard legends from an older generation of gamers about how cool Vault of the Drow was at the time, and he's gibbering up suggestions that you go through the motions of processes he has heard were cool back when he was watching Scooby's Laff-A-Lympics.


1978 was a weird time.

So the fact where the specific examples just use up a lot of text and aren't really very usable or interesting, and indeed kinda sound like they were dictated by people that are high, is not really the problem. “You could like, find some references to powerful Drow in a journal, man. It would be like foreshadowing and shit!” The problem is that the core concept they are trying to get across is shallow and stupid. Even if you could make a successful adventure path, just using the Drow in precisely the same way they were used in GDQ would be boring and predictable because GDQ already fucking happened.

AncientH

I should point out the 2007 advice was pretty fucking typical of D&D products of this era. Producing mechanical content - actual feats, classes, spells, weapons, magic items, monsters, etc. - had become rote, and the write-ups actually really compact by 3.5. And then...they started to unpack. A class whose mechanics might fit on a page and a half suddenly got six fucking pages with sample characters and worthless campaign advice and maybe a random map of a building. It was insane, and it got worse. By the end of the edition, the books had gone from slim, packed with information to bloated shovelwear shelfbreakers.



Frank

Quote:
However, you can also run an Underdark campaign in which the PCs are members of other subterranean races.


Well... yes. If you wanted to do a campaign in the Underdark, you could jolly well have the players all play races that just happen to already live there. You know, like Dwarves, the incredibly normal player character race that has been in literally every edition of Dungeons & Dragons as a basic playable race. They just already live in the Underdark. You could start the Underdark Campaign by having the players put on their fucking shoes.



More generally, the Underdark just isn't that “mysterious” or “scary” anymore. At this point the Underdark is more fleshed out than just about any other D&D location. I can tell you more about the Underdark than I can about any place in any D&D world except maybe the Sword Coast. I can tell you what's deeper in the Underdark in a way that I just can't tell you what's south of the Banemires or east of Skull Island. We talked about this a bit with the review of the 4e DMG2, how the people at WotC seemed convinced that they could just put “in the Underdark” on things and have that successfully communicate that a new horizon of mystery and challenge had been reached. But it doesn't. The Underdark is as familiar as any D&D landscape can be, and is well known to have plenty of low level stuff in it and it is a perfectly normal place for starting D&D characters to be from.


That's kinda cool, but it's no more or less threatening than a Hobgoblin city. And it's quite literally not on the same level as the brass minarets of an Efreet city or the cyclopean walls of a Cloud Giant fortress.

Quote:
Another possibility is for players to run drow characters who are disaffected outcasts.



And they can all use two scimitars, because that is awesome.

I'm not saying that you can't have a campaign where all the characters are shallow copies of Drizzt Do'urden. Obviously people played games like that. But mostly in 1997. This book came out in 2007. But my main issue with this is not that the authors were literally an edition and a half late to the party, it's that the fact that this is even the first thing you think of when you discuss Drow player characters highlights how basically bullshit the Drow society they came up with is. There really isn't much to hang your hat on if you've made the society so comically and universally unpleasant that you can't even really imagine trying to roleplay as members of it. When they do try to think about being members of the Drow society they've described, they just sort of fail to launch.

Quote:
Parties should avoid including PCs who are noble or elite dark elves, mainly because such drow prefer to let subordinates do their menial work while they focus on their schemes and decadent lifestyle. Also, noble drow face the near-constant threat of extermination by rivals, perhaps even a sibling or other close relative within their house.


Yeah, who would possibly want to play a Game of Thrones style campaign with scheming nobles and lots of conflict and betrayal? That's unpossible!

Sarcasm aside, the authors really have oversold the wicked venality of the whole thing. To the point that they've basically been forced to admit that they can't actually think of a reason that you'd want to engage with the culture they've written in any way. Fundamentally players are willing, even excited, to play out stories with lots of conflict and betrayal and D&D characters are going to get into fights all the time no matter where they are from or what their goals are. But scheming, fighting, and struggling against rival houses and rivals within the house is only something players are going to want to do if there is something actually at stake. The authors simply forgot to actually write in anything to actually win. It's the whole problem we mentioned with Vampire: the Rrquiem, if the scenario being presented is dangerous you do need to have an answer to the question “Why don't we just leave?” WotC just straight admits that they don't have an answer to that. They cannot think of a single reason for you to want to scrabble your way up to the rank of Matron of a High House, and neither can I. All the perks of being high ranked seem like they could be duplicated by just hiring servants from any village anywhere. Actually owning slaves doesn't seem to do anything except save a few silver pieces a month.

What's odd of course is that societies that have societal evils in them represent perhaps the most obvious possible hooks for a heroic campaign. You could have a campaign where the goal was to emancipate the slaves of Menzoberranzan. You could have a campaign where the goal was to replace the sacrifices of thinking people with sacrifices of cave oxen. These heroic goals are easy to imagine, but the authors can't imagine how to get players to engage with them because they haven't bothered to write a single thing about what players might want to actually keep or even interact with in the Drow civilization.


After your heroic victory, the green guy in the corner gets paid three silver pieces a month and doesn't have to wear the leash.

AncientH

Which is unfortunate, and let me bring something back here:



This is a fun series. It's not great literature. It's not the Dark Elf version of Lord of the Rings. It's the Dark Elf version of the Drizzt novels. And I fucking ate these up, because they are fun, and they are fun because Malus Darkblade has...a purpose.

It's not always a great or glorious purpose. Sometimes he just wants to steal shit. Sometimes he's on a pirate cruise to steal some slaves, and ends up fighting some plague-pirates that wear the skins of their victims. Every now and again he's an outlaw on the run, just trying to survive. At least once, he's more than a little interested in fucking his sister. But the point is, Dark Elf society in Warhammer is fucked up but also functional. Your average Dark Elf may not have a lot of options in life, but they can still join a slaving cruise or steal shit or smuggle things or break into an ancient tomb to claim a magical artifact. They can be sent on secret missions by the Witch-King into human and orc and dwarf lands, they have their own definitions of honor, nobility, respect, and social standing to aspire to.

Drow should have all of that shit too. Instead we get this:
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


What this boils down to is that if you want your drow to adventure, you need to give them a reason to adventure. Just assembling a bunch of drow PCs doesn't make a party. They need a reason to cooperate without stabbing each other in the back, and a goal to work towards. That's such a fundamental aspect of things, you think they would hammer it home with a spider dildo...but no.


Sex toy or Underdark terrain feature? YOU DECIDE!

Frank

We are assured that Drow are kill-on-sight in Elf cities, but also that Elves are allowed to come into Drow cities and trade if that is for whatever reason what they want to do. This is problematic on a whole bunch of levels. And like many things that are just kind of inertially fucked up about Dungeons & Dragons, it can be traced back to Tolkien.


Saruman recruiting a racially mixed army of humans and orcs in Dunland.

One of the easiest criticisms of Lord of the Rings and most fantasy that has been inspired by it (which these days is most fantasy) is that the POV armies don't seem to have any Orcs in them while the Enemy armies definitely have some Humans in them in addition to Orcs. That's hugely problematic because the biggest crimes of the 20th century, and thus the biggest crimes in the history of the world, were defined by genocidal racial intolerance. The declaration that one race cannot be allowed in your culture and can only be fought to the death is literally the worst thing anyone has ever done, and anyone saying something like that out loud in fiction has been clearly marked as the bad guy in the most simple and irrefutable fashion possible.

So when D&D tells us that the Elves are the “good guys” and that also they have genocidal intolerance of the Drow, that rings exceptionally hollow. That is a circle that I cannot square. I literally cannot even imagine a moral framework in which it is permissible to be “Good” yet still have the character flaw “actively racially intolerant to the point of perpetuating genocide.” That's just too fucking far for me.


This is a pretty unsympathetic group, but they haven't already begun murdering your people on an industrial scale.

It goes down to the fact that in the real world evil is not an absolute and is instead something both nuanced and relative. As social progress is made, things in the past which were regarded as “good” are instead regarded as “bad” because they are being compared to possibilities that are better instead of possibilities that are worse. But also that as technological progress is made, that the evils that are even considered as possible continue to multiply. Times of war also change the equations significantly as there is a substantially different conversation to be had about actions like detonating nuclear bombs in civilian populated areas because you are already in a massive war that has claimed the lives of tens of millions of people versus simply doing it as an act of terrorism because you don't like the people you are vaporizing very much.

When we think of all the societal evils that a society can have, they are multiform and horrifying. The Drow as described have human slavery, institutional banditry, a capricious and corrupt judiciary, legal torture, and public human sacrifice. Those are all very bad things! But they don't have forced marriages, child labor, forbidden social mobility, industrial genocide, or many other social wrongs that you could imagine or even which explicitly exist in other societies in D&D. Even in societies that we are explicitly asked to sympathize with.

But of course ultimately the reason that Drow society is not something that people cared about interacting with is not because of a fundamental disagreement on what the hierarchy of societal sins should look like – most players never really thought about it at all. No, the reason that Drow society never had any traction as an environment to adventure in is that being part of a society with legalized robbery and murder isn't actually different from not being part of that same society. The social contract basically doesn't exist, so there's no reason to follow any of the rules.

AncientH

And this kind of boils down to another common game designer flaw: not understanding equilibrium. Most people don't rape and murder and steal all the time, not because they aren't physically capable of it or because they're afraid of repercussions, but because they don't want to rape and murder and steal all the time. This isn't always formalized into a code of ethics or laws, it's basic group survival stuff. People want to live, they want to keep their shit. "Live and let live" is the default for humanity, and the people that violate that for whatever reason are the monsters - the thieves in the night, the wolves from the sea. Yet people still largely abhor violence.

So any working society, any group of people that live and work within proximity, has an equilibrium. It might not be fair, it's probably fucked up. There are Drow in chains and Drow that get a new concubine every night. But there has to be some structure, even if only a nominal one. A Drow that can order anyone to cut anyone else's throat at any time is one too many orders away from facing someone that realizes that same Drow can order their throat cut...unless they cut the Drow's throat first. Household servants and bodyguards need to be rewarded, the rewards need to be in some form that sustains them. Whether that's magic, gold, regular access to the sex slaves, or whatever...people need to get paid, fed, and clothed.

And since you need sources of food, wealth, and clothing, you need producers. You could steal that shit in raids, or you can buy it, or you can produce it yourself - and the Drow undoubtedly pick D (for Drow!) for All Of The Above. But only the young and stupid Drow noble would arbitrarily steal everything from a merchant. Even the fucking Mongols learned about taxes.

Frank

Much ink is spilled on how Drow Cities are set up. And I do mean spilled. It's like whoa that's a lot of wasted fucking text. I think they hypothesize that Drow have a genetic memory of archetectural stylings like eight fucking times.

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


The thing is that again this is cargo cult bullshit. The alien vision of a dark fairy castle built in a giant cavern where no light ever shines was cool imagery. In 1978. But it also isn't shocking and discordant anymore. That's just a thing that the Underdark has in it, and the Underdark is as previously noted one of the most well understood and described places in the entirety of D&D land. You don't really have to prattle on about how weird it is that Drow build towers underground. Yes, that's entirely pointless in an environment where you can “build up” for like a fucking mile without any effort at all just by starting on the surface instead of starting with a one mile handicap by putting all this shit a mile underground. And it serves no possible defensive purpose because obviously anyone who wants to can climb down into your city from above. But it's what Drow cities look like. It's a particular aesthetic, and you don't really have to speculate as to why they do it like that. Efreet don't need genetic reasons to build minarets. Aquatic Elves don't need genetic reasons to make coral walled castles (which are even more useless, since everyone is underwater and fucking swimming).

But fucking worse than all that is when they rant about fucking resources that underground cities are built next to.



Now obviously anyone who has played a 4X game knows that you want to build your cities in good locations. It's just.... aaargh. It talks about the fucking underground radiation. The underground radiation was fucking stupid when it was specifically ultraviolet and it hasn't gotten any less stupid. In the 1991 book the one page rant about the Underdark is almost entirely taken up by a rant about magical radiation and strong magnetic fields and how they make fungi grow bigger. Look, I just don't fucking know, OK? This whole radiation subplot seemed like an exceptionally shitty explanation for why there's a functioning eco-system in the lands where the sun literally never shines, and as I have grown older it has not gotten any less retarded.

AncientH

Radiation subplot serves as plot armor for why you can't just zap in and out of Drow cities, and what gives the Drow goods their special whatsit so that they fall apart away from it. That being said, the mechanics are never quite there, and that's because D&D has never wanted to get into the nitty gritty of magitech.

Faezress would make sense if regular Drow smiths could craft +3 armor and weapons in a cavern using radioactive ore and that bonus wore off/things fall apart when it was gone. Think about that for a second: you're surrounded by dwarfs, aboleths, mindflayers, vampires, all sorts of shit. Being able to build magic weapons and armor in quantity and cheaply is worth a lot more than being able to generate some twinkly lights from your fingertips. Drowcraft stuff could have been a major advantage, if they'd approached it from the standpoint of "Okay, it's the Middle Ages and these guys can create 21st-century steel alloys, but they're magic so they fall apart if they go away too far or too long." Being able to just have regular non-magic smiths craft shit that bypasses damage reduction and gives a +30% hit/damage advantage is huge. In a campaign without wealth-by-level, having the fucking 1st level Drow equipped with 9th-level gear makes them pretty badass, even to 4th level PCs.

But they don't go that route, really. They don't feel the need to justify the Drow being badass...they just claim they are. And that's like 9th grade sad.

Frank


Next up: Monster listings.
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CapnTthePirateG
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 5:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I feel the 4e "redeemed drow" class deserves a mention on the racism front, as its epic feature is literally that you get reborn as a regular elf.

As presented in the sourcebooks and some of the novels I'm kinda ashamed to have read, there's no actual reason (as you guys point out) for this society to survive and it's basically made out of idiocy and failure. Lolth wants the drow to be unified by external enemies yet always pouncing on each other at the first sign of weakness - which makes them terrible villains who can't project any power outside the city, because as soon as your troops leave for an invasion/extended military campaign the shortsighted idiots next door massacre your family. As I remember the opening fiction of the 2007 book has a bunch of drow cartoonishly murdering each other upon engaging an adventuring party - so what the hell is a functional drow society supposed to look like is beyond me. Even in FR (which produced a TON of drow wanking) one of the city-states' wizards guilds overthrew the priesthood and basically set up a place that is open to business.

Really, the only thing drow society has going for it is that individuals tend to be higher level due to all the backstabbing, but even then you'd think all the oppressed 18+int wizards hanging around would realize they can march in an army of the dead or surface mercenaries and rule the damn place like a petty tyrant. It's silly.

There's a lot you can point to with more supplements/bad novels and most of it is dumb.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 5:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Prak wrote:

The human eye colour range is blue, brown, hazel, green. More or less. There are in-between shades that seem like another color, I guess.

And those sort of correlate, in so far as pigment is concerned. Black hair to blue eyes, brown to brown, red to hazel, and blonde to green.


You lost me with this correlation list. There is absolutely no correlation between black hair and blue eyes. Blue eyes involves less pigment in the eye and is genetically recessive. There is no blue pigment, people who have blue eyes just have less brown pigment and the appearance of blueness is from light scattering like the fucking sky in the day. Your list is just fucking gibberish and is in no way accurate.

I can't engage with the next part of what that would mean for fictional species with different sets of hair and eye colors, because all of the stated premises are false.

-Frank
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Frank wrote:
I literally cannot even imagine a moral framework in which it is permissible to be “Good” yet still have the character flaw “actively racially intolerant to the point of perpetuating genocide.” That's just too fucking far for me.


Well that's your problem.

This is not a moral framework where "racially intolerant to the point of perpetuating genocide" is a character flaw. It is a moral framework in which "racially intolerant to the point of perpetuating genocide" is a positive character trait and "tolerant of evil races" is a character flaw.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I know there's a common problem when trying to draw someone in the process of hiding - you can either make them well hidden (in which case the viewer might not notice what you drew and just wonder what the point of that wall was) or you can draw them to be noticed by the viewer (in which case they wonder why nobody else in the picture can spot them).

But the drow I-want-to-say-assassin? lady on the right (some might say the far right) that Frank spoilered, I just have no fucking idea what's going on there. She isn't drawn to be "ostensibly hiding, but we can see her plain as day". She's putting on a theatrical performance and the male drow is showing the good etiquette of pretending she's not there. Maybe he's not the target so he knows better than to get her attention in any way?
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Koumei wrote:
I know there's a common problem when trying to draw someone in the process of hiding - you can either make them well hidden (in which case the viewer might not notice what you drew and just wonder what the point of that wall was) or you can draw them to be noticed by the viewer (in which case they wonder why nobody else in the picture can spot them).

But the drow I-want-to-say-assassin? lady on the right (some might say the far right) that Frank spoilered, I just have no fucking idea what's going on there. She isn't drawn to be "ostensibly hiding, but we can see her plain as day". She's putting on a theatrical performance and the male drow is showing the good etiquette of pretending she's not there. Maybe he's not the target so he knows better than to get her attention in any way?


The male drow has a lot on his mind and is completely oblivious to her. He's power walking somewhere while thinking hard about his plans. She's hiding behind the wall so that he can't see her, and is raising her weapon so that she can jump out and stab him when he passes the opening. The guard with the sword across from her knows that she's there, but he's just thinking "again? I do not get paid enough for this shit."


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deaddmwalking
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Regarding correlation between hair color and eye color, yes, it exists. But correlation does not mean causation.

This is from a study of Dutch people:

With the Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis software package, we found strong genetic correlations between various combinations of hair and eye colors. The strongest positive correlations were found for blue eyes with blond hair (0.87) and brown eyes with dark hair (0.71), whereas blue eyes with dark hair and brown eyes with blond hair showed the strongest negative correlations (-0.64 and -0.94, respectively). Red hair with green/hazel eyes showed the weakest correlation (-0.14).

Most people in China have black hair. Most people in China have brown eyes. The two traits aren't directly related, but it's easy to establish a positive correlation. They happen to go hand-in-hand more often than not. A blonde Chinese person with brown eyes is possible; a black-haired Chinese person with blue eyes is possible - they just don't happen often enough to destroy the positive correlation.

As an aside, it is crazy easy to establish a 'statistically significant' correlation between things that have no actual relationship. Have fun with this article by FiveThirtyEight on that.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
Quote:
Parties should avoid including PCs who are noble or elite dark elves, mainly because such drow prefer to let subordinates do their menial work while they focus on their schemes and decadent lifestyle. Also, noble drow face the near-constant threat of extermination by rivals, perhaps even a sibling or other close relative within their house.


Yeah, who would possibly want to play a Game of Thrones style campaign with scheming nobles and lots of conflict and betrayal? That's unpossible!


Seems a thing D&D does, deciding that players do not or should not want to play the game certain ways. Or is it just because there's a zillion books, and you're going to get that sort of thing sometimes?

Koumei wrote:
I know there's a common problem when trying to draw someone in the process of hiding - you can either make them well hidden (in which case the viewer might not notice what you drew and just wonder what the point of that wall was) or you can draw them to be noticed by the viewer (in which case they wonder why nobody else in the picture can spot them).

But the drow I-want-to-say-assassin? lady on the right (some might say the far right) that Frank spoilered, I just have no fucking idea what's going on there. She isn't drawn to be "ostensibly hiding, but we can see her plain as day". She's putting on a theatrical performance and the male drow is showing the good etiquette of pretending she's not there. Maybe he's not the target so he knows better than to get her attention in any way?


Huh, I didn't realise she was supposed to be hiding and going to kill that other Drow. I thought she was just standing there in a stupid over dramatic pose. Possibly waiting for a bus or something. Admittedly, it'd have to be an over dramatic evil spider bus with large breasts.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
Prak wrote:

The human eye colour range is blue, brown, hazel, green. More or less. There are in-between shades that seem like another color, I guess.

And those sort of correlate, in so far as pigment is concerned. Black hair to blue eyes, brown to brown, red to hazel, and blonde to green.


You lost me with this correlation list. There is absolutely no correlation between black hair and blue eyes. Blue eyes involves less pigment in the eye and is genetically recessive. There is no blue pigment, people who have blue eyes just have less brown pigment and the appearance of blueness is from light scattering like the fucking sky in the day. Your list is just fucking gibberish and is in no way accurate.

I can't engage with the next part of what that would mean for fictional species with different sets of hair and eye colors, because all of the stated premises are false.

-Frank

That's sort of what I was wondering. I didn't fucking go to med school, and high school biology doesn't get into pigmentation, we get "blue eyes are recessive" and that's about fucking it. Thank you for informing me that eye and hair color doesn't correlate in an individual, which I never really asked about.

But, since deaddmwalking posted about that study, I'm going to try one more time to get the idea I had across, and then we can let this whole stupid thing die-- humans can have black, brown, red, or blonde hair, with some inbetweens. They can have blue, brown or green eyes, with some inbetweens. FROM THE STANDPOINT OF CREATING A FICTIONAL SPECIES, it seems there is a correlation between the color ranges.

That's fucking it.

I'm not saying black haired people tend to have blue eyes. I'm not saying blonde haired people tend to have green eyes.

I'M SAYING THAT THE RANGE OF COLORS FOR HAIR, AND THE RANGE OF COLORS FOR EYES, ARE SIMILAR RANGES.

AND I WONDERED IF EITHER OF THESE BOOKS POSITED DROW WITH SIMILAR RANGES OF EYE AND HAIR COLOR.
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You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 9:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ahh.

This is one of those situations where what you SAID isn't what you MEANT to say.

And those sort of correlate, in so far as pigment is concerned. Black hair to blue eyes, brown to brown, red to hazel, and blonde to green.


Awhile back, I considered hair and eye color for a goblin I was drawing and realized that the two things, in humans, have correlating shades and ranges, for the most part at least, if we take blue eyes as correlating to black hair and green eyes correlating to blonde.

What you APPEAR to have meant was: humans have a range of typical hair colors ranging from pale white through blonde to brown and black. Eye color also varies from lighter colors to darker colors (green, blue, hazel, brown). Did they provide a typical range of hair and eye color for drow?

The term 'correlate' means: have a mutual relationship or connection, in which one thing affects or depends on another.

But thanks for clarifying. I didn't read the book, so I can't speak to what 'normal ranges' are provided for drow regarding hair and eye color.

Edit - replaced one instance of 'hair' with 'eye' for correctness.


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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Artists might correlate nipple/eye/hair color, but there's nothing in the book to suggest there's a biological basis for it. You could have a drown with lavender nipples, silver hair, and green eyes. Or whatever.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

deaddmwalking wrote:
Ahh.

This is one of those situations where what you SAID isn't what you MEANT to say.


Yeah, that happens a lot here with me. I try to be better about saying what I mean.
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FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OSSR: Drow of the Underdark

Monsters



AncientH

A monster is never just a monster. A single monster is encountered once, and you get used to it. The monster might be cool, but if it's unique, it runs the risk of being played out. A tiger is scary, but if you know you're facing a tiger and can prepare for it, the tiger, as a known entity, loses some aspect of its monstrousness. You can plan how to capture and kill tigers. Tigers can be hunted to extinction. After four or five tigers, you might get bored of them.

Boredom is a major issue when it comes to roleplaying games. You can't have boring monsters.

So it's never just a monster. And the drow have always known that. It's why you have driders. But beyond that, it's also why you have weird unique drow half-fiends and Aranea, Chitine, and...others.


Spider-horse, spider-horse, does whatever a spider-horse can...except reproduce, for reasons unknown to wizards.

So having a monster-section in a Drow book is a no-brainer. For variety, if nothing else.

Frank

An absolutely essential portion of any D&D adventure is enemies you can fight. In a general sort of way, all stories have conflict and opposition and Dungeons and Dragons is a cooperative storytelling game, so therefore it needs antagonists. But D&D is also a cooperative storytelling game that is heavily invested in the Sword & Sorcery genre and has a large and intrinsic skirmish combat minigame. It is almost inconceivable to have D&D adventures that don't involve enemies getting stabbed in the face, so writing up enemies you can fight is an absolutely required portion of the writing of any campaign setting for D&D. It's just not negotiable.


Traps are also acceptable. But mostly we're talking about monsters and hostile warriors.

As we've mentioned before with the Monstrous Manual review, the 2nd edition AD&D monster entry form looked reasonably modern because monster presentation was pretty well defined back in 1977 and I can't say that there has really been much in the way of advancement in the format since. Yes, different editions use different nomenclature and the exact placement of stuff on pages varies from game to game, but the column with name and stats followed by descriptive text is the standard for a damn reason. That worked. It worked in the 70s, it was the right call then and it's still the right call now and it's been the right call ever since. Given a set of text and pictures, I could typeset the 8th edition D&D Monster Manual. I have no idea what classes or statlines or rules keywords or whatever that edition will use, but I could still properly format the monster book for it because the formats of monster books haven't changed much in forty years and won't change much in 40 more.

Which is a bit of a long walk to say that honestly the entries for monsters in the 1991 and 2007 versions aren't that different if you squint a little. Yes, the 2nd edition version has a line for Magic Resistance and for THAC0, and the 3.5 version does not, but the core structure is pretty much the same.


It wouldn't be right to not have a bunch of pictures of Driders. Here is one.

AncientH

One thing that always got me is why there aren't more Drow-related monsters. I mean, you could conceivably throw every single spider-related monster into the Drow arsenal (see spider-horse, above), and no one would bat an eye. I mean, what fucking dark elf would not see this and say, after due consideration, "I bet I could ride that fucker into battle":



I really think it's the case that the Drow are a little too elf-like, and while the elves have a lot of subspecies and shit, they don't have a lot of direct monsters related to them. Which is too bad, because I'd be down for some Drow that went in for spider-grafts and renegade Drow society of underdark druids made up of were-spiders or something.

However, a nice bit of the AD&D book is that it opens up with a drow familiar table, just so you don't end up with a butterfly or something and all the other drow make fun of you.

Frank

The 3.5 book has more space to waste. Rather than being the product of one guy with limited time and a typewriter, it's the product of a bunch of hacks using word processors who are being paid commission and probably by the word (or possibly something like “fixed contract for X pages” or whatever that works out to a “by the word” rate if you think about it for thirty seconds). So it really goes the extra mile in wasting space. Yes, there's a bunch of white space at the end of all the monster entries in the 1991 book, and that is because the editors and authors didn't actually have two fucks to rub together. But the 2007 version goes the extra fucking mile by giving you character sheets for various random douchebags who happen to be Drow.

The presentation of monsters hasn't changed much in forty years, but the presentation of characters sure as fuck has. What is and is not important to know about a character varies on the edition and the expectations of the adventures they appear in. In some games you want to know they combat initiative first, in others you want to know they social class and languages spoken. It really depends. And while 3rd edition D&D was the best edition of D&D, one thing it really struggled with was presenting Non Player Characters in a usable way. Player characters had a lot of toggles and choices and fiddly bits and stuff so that they could be personalized and grow during play and shit. And that's fine. That was good. But I genuinely don't give a single rat's ass what some Drow 9th level Swashbuckler was doing with his life at 3rd level. And yet, here on page 161 I am told that information about Keveras Lorakythe (he was learning how to use a spiked chain as his weapon of choice while swashbuckling). There is no possible universe where I wouldn't be better off not knowing that and having that dumb asshole's character sheet text take up less than an entire page's right-hand column from top to bottom. Fuck this book.

The Drow NPCs are followed by some extremely sketchy yet surprisingly wordy dungeons. Weird asides about the cousins of various Kuo-Toans and shit. But it's also extremely bullshit. There's a sample drow manor that the players are supposed to be exploring while it's being attacked by.... you know... whatever. Lots of text is wasted on descriptions of doors being pounded on and shit, but the attackers are ultimately just whatever the DM wants them to be.

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AncientH

There's about 13 monsters in the 2007 book (if you don't count the Deep Dragon by age category) and 17 in 1991. Despite technically having more monsters, 2007 feels like they have less because the information density is so fucking low, they do that stupid thing where they give each humanoid species a breakout character/role, and a number of the monsters are just random underdark noise like Trolls and Goblinoids. Partially, I think, this is because they had already stat'd out some Drow-related monsters like the yochol (a species of demon associated with Lolth) elsewhere, and partially because the end of 3.5 was already dead and the corpse had begun to rot, bloating full of noxious decomposition gases which inflated the wordcount on completely worthless shit.

Also, Deep Dragons. These are dragons that exist outside of the color/metal axis which most D&Ders are used to, and some of them worship Lolth, so I guess they're cool? No idea. Also no idea why they have wings when they live in the Underdark, but everybody needs an ecological niche, I guess? Later on, these guys would fight it out with Shadow Dragons and the like for "wait, how many of us can plausibly survive down here?"

Also, 1991 has the Rothe, or underground cattle analogue, which I personally think make a great addition to the setting and which Ed Greenwood would go on to use in many, many products. I mean, it would make more sense if they had giant cave-beetles they milked or something, but it shows at least minimum foresight and attention to setting detail to mention a food animal that PCs might plausibly kill and slaughter.


Where was this during my teenaged years?

Frank

The monsters presented in the 1991 books are mostly just random beasts that live in the Underdark and might be expected to live in the surrounding areas of Drow cities.


Giant camel spiders, for example.

Most of this is bats and bugs of various sizes. But you also get a token demon and of course a token Dragon. I mean, this game is called Dungeons and Dragons, you can't not have a Dragon! That being said, the Forgotten Realms “Deep Dragon” has always struck me as the stupidest fucking Dragon. Well, at least since I knew about it. Back when all I knew was the original 1977 Monster Manual, I thought the Blue Dragon was the stupidest, because no one made a compelling case for Blue Dragons that breathe lightning at people until 3rd edition came around.

The 2007 book's pile of outright monsters are way shorter in content, but way longer in text. Just 13 monsters in 45 pages. You may ask how that's even possible, given that the monster presentation is largely the same as the OG Monster Manual and they are giving us a two column format that could fit about a thousand words per page. And the answer to that is bloated and redundant text. To give you a feel for how this works, lets consider the Venom Ooze: it's a big blob that envelops the nearest creature and crushes it to death while being covered in contact poison. You now know everything there is to know about this fucking thing except the exact amount of damage it does when it crashes into you. However, because the authors here were heavily invested in wasting space so they could get paid more for doing less, the monster entry is followed by the following text headings: Sample Encounter, Ecology, Typical Treasure, Venom Oozes in Eberron, Venom Oozes in Faerun, and Venom Ooze Lore. I'm not going to list out what is under those text headings, but literally the only thing you don't already know is that they are apparently 12 feet in diameter and weigh half a ton. The entire rest of the page is basically just them restating that it's an ooze over and over again. And even those numbers are fucking weird – assuming it has a density approximately that of water that bad boy is only 1.8 inches thick (4.5 cm).


It's not even that kind of venom. It's literally just a quivering mass of poisonous slime. Do not image search for quivering mass of poison slime.

AncientH

The only 2007 monster worth bothering about is the Adamantine Spider, which is a small CR 3 construct. I have a soft sport for constructs, and with the right feats you could plausibly have it as a familiar or something and be a badass Drow Artificer.


There's an idea...

One of the "helpful" things that the 2007 book includes is a bottombar reminding us of the 2002 product City of the Spider Queen, which includes a helpful list of all creatures labeled as "spiderkind" for spells that affect spiderlike creatures and...well, it basically gives you a list of other critters to use in your Drow campaigns, like the Drider Vampire, Tentacle Spider, Devastation Spider, Bloodsilk Spider, Chitine, Spellgaunt...you almost wish they'd planned these books better or just womaned up and reprinted all the damn things in this book rather than force people to dumpster-dive for them. But they did not. Such is life.
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deaddmwalking
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
, Tentacle Spider


I read that as 'testicle spider' - that is suddenly my deepest fear.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
one thing it really struggled with was presenting Non Player Characters in a usable way.


For non-casters you can absolutely fit "everything that actually matters" onto one side of a business card. For casters you can probably fit "the spells you expect them to cast over their very short lifespan" on the other side (providing you don't write out what the spells do). The way 3E does it (especially in later books like this, or MM 4-5 where they write up three gnolls with levels or whatever) is fucking stupid.

Quote:
Later on, these guys would fight it out with Shadow Dragons and the like for "wait, how many of us can plausibly survive down here?"


It was only then that I remembered Deep and Shadow Dragons are completely different "non-standard Evil dragons found in the Underdark". I was thinking of the negative-breathing Shadow Dragons the whole time. But no, there's a fourth acid-breathing dragon!

Quote:
Back when all I knew was the original 1977 Monster Manual, I thought the Blue Dragon was the stupidest, because no one made a compelling case for Blue Dragons that breathe lightning at people until 3rd edition came around.


Could you elaborate on this? I started with third and by this stage "Blue breathes lightning" would have been my first guess (second being "Blue breathes cold and yellow breathes lightning. White breathes acid.") And I guess it helps that they basically have a lightning rod on the end of their nose. Was there something particularly dumb about the write-up before?
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I had to google what a camel spider was, and I found that while they are not nearly as large as that image makes 'em out to be (according to wikipedia, the largest specimens tend from 4 to 6 inches), they are still abominations that were clearly designed by a mad and terrible god.

So thanks for that.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Koumei wrote:
Ancient History wrote:
one thing it really struggled with was presenting Non Player Characters in a usable way.


For non-casters you can absolutely fit "everything that actually matters" onto one side of a business card. For casters you can probably fit "the spells you expect them to cast over their very short lifespan" on the other side (providing you don't write out what the spells do). The way 3E does it (especially in later books like this, or MM 4-5 where they write up three gnolls with levels or whatever) is fucking stupid.


The D&D Minis cards did pretty much exactly that, and did both fairly functionally. The spellcasters were a little light on spells, but for low-level spellcasters, it was certainly a useable reference.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 4:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Koumei wrote:

Quote:
Later on, these guys would fight it out with Shadow Dragons and the like for "wait, how many of us can plausibly survive down here?"


It was only then that I remembered Deep and Shadow Dragons are completely different "non-standard Evil dragons found in the Underdark". I was thinking of the negative-breathing Shadow Dragons the whole time. But no, there's a fourth acid-breathing dragon!

If it makes you feel any better, in 3.5 we also got the Brainstealer Dragon.
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