Thursday, November 15, 2018

Crusaders of the Dark Savant: 10 Steps Behind

This just isn't my month.
As I closed the last session, I was near the gates of Ukpyr, where I was destined to meet (finally) the Umpani, a human-rhinoceros race that I guess represents one of the game's "good" factions. But I had reached the gates by following the right-most wilderness path ever since leaving the Rattkin ruins. Rather than continue to Ukpyr, I decided to about-face and map the rest of the wilderness between Ukpyr and the ruins, partly because I knew there were three more flowers to find.

Let me pause to note (and perhaps slightly complain) that Crusaders doesn't really have an "outdoor" area. It has a huge dungeon with outdoor textures, just like the first Might and Magic. Far fewer than half the squares on the grid are used, and the party is channeled through very narrow passages. I much prefer the open exploration available in Might and Magic III, which retains a first-person interface outside, or Pool of Radiance, which switches to a top-down view. Crusaders' system works okay for the needs of pacing and plot, but to pretend it's a major step up from Wizardry VI is absurd. I find the game map, which copies the style of the Might and Magic series, particularly disingenuous. It suggests there are 54 map squares, from A1 to F9, but most of these squares--including, I think, all of Row A--are completely unexplorable, and others only have a tiny handful of used tiles. 

For that matter, why annotate the squares? Unless I'm missing something, there's no spell or device in the game that provides the party's current coordinates, so why even specify that New City is in square C4 or Ukpyr is in D9? In any event, one consolation is that this type of world is easier to map.
Water exploration is exhausting for both me and the characters.
In due course, I came to a water-filled cave. I spent an hour mapping the damned thing, swimming for six or seven squares and then taking forever to restore everyone's stamina via "Stamina" spells. It was often up to 20 squares between land areas, so there were multiple "Stamina" breaks between times that I could simply sleep.

I should mention that water squares contain as many fixed encounters as land squares. Most of them are with red piranhas or these things called "Dinkle Wisps" that look like flying jellyfish. Nothing too hard.
I refuse to spell "piranha" the way the game does.
When all was said and done, I accomplished nothing in the cave. I'm not sure what it's purpose was. There was one area full of whirlpools that I couldn't pass without dying. ("Levitate" did nothing to help, and I couldn't find any other spell solution.) There were numerous messages about calcium deposits and turbulent waters, but nothing that gave me a clue to use or do anything. Maybe I'll later find something that allows easier passage over water.

I found two flowers on the way back to the Rattkin ruins. I also found another cave, this one populated by giants. (And like the cave I entered last time, at some point it collides with the existing outdoor map, meaning it doesn't exist on the same scale.) The giants mostly attacked individually, and had names like Ogo, Munstachio, and Gruengard. At first, I felt bad about entering their cave and slaughtering them, but it soon became clear that they regarded us as food. The giants have a devastating melee attack that almost never hits. They have so many hit points that I was generally lucky with a critical hit before I actually wore them down to 0.
The ultimate battle of the area was with Spot--sorry, * S P O T *--the dinosaur-ish "pet" of the giants. He had about 1,500 hit points and, like the giants, a deadly physical attack that usually missed. He seemed completely immune to spells and critical hits, so I had to kill him the hard way. Sometimes I miss all-physical combats like this, where buffing spells like "Superhero" and "Bless" and "Enchanted Sword" can really make a difference, and you need healers to run from character to character to minimize hit point loss. You use far different tactics when pounding away at one guy than you do in combat with 40 enemies in 5 groups.
He doesn't even have any spots.
* S P O T * turned out to be guarding nothing more than a buried helmet called a "Necromatic Helm," which is cursed. I have no idea as to its purpose. Elsewhere in the caves was the fifth flower required by Master Xheng.

At this point, I was way back at the beginning of this wilderness area. Rather than hike all the way back to Ukpyr, I decided to walk downriver and see if I could figure out where the two maps connected (I had been keeping a separate map ever since emerging from the Rattkin ruins). It didn't take very long, and with some careful cutting and pasting, I had a unified map again.
My current map of the game world.
Along the way, I explored an area north of the river, accessible only from the river, and found a treasure chest with a lot of great stuff. It had belonged to some kind of knight, apparently, and featured a "Crusader's Axe" and "Crusader's Helm," plus a couple of pieces of magical chainmail. The items are only usable by a fighter, lord, or Valkyrie. I had been building my Valkyrie's "Axe" skill in anticipation of eventually finding one, so I gave it to her to see if it would perform better than my +2 spear. Jury is still out.
Treasure chests are rare enough in this game that it's a major event when you find one.
Munkharama was now only a short distance away, so I went there to bring the 5 flowers to Master Xheng. When I arrived, he was gone, but he'd left a note: "Seek out Father Rulae in the Abbey of New City.  Tell him that you have learned the Holy Sacrament, and he shall aid you in your journey." This was followed by instructions for blending the five flowers together. I had to figure out part of the recipe myself, which was to make a "divine solution of White Dahlia," which just meant mixing the White Dahlia with holy water. In the end, I had a potion called "Snakespeed," and I have no idea what it does. "Identify" doesn't help at all. Drinking it doesn't seem to produce any increase in attributes. I've saved it in case I need it for a puzzle or something.
Part of Master Xheng's instructions.
Back I traveled to New City, now with two things to accomplish. First, I told Father Rulae that I learned the "Holy Sacrament." He granted me access to a new underground area, where there was a chest that contained . . . only dust. Yet another map piece that someone else got to first. There was also a healing fountain that I don't have to pay to use, but I do have to talk to Father Rulae and acknowledge multiple messages every time I want to use it. It might be easier just to use the one in the starter dungeon.
I walked around and picked five flowers. It wasn't particularly "virtuous."
I next visited Professor Wunderlund and told him that I need to visit the ARCHIVES, the keyword I'd received in the Rattkin ruins. He responded that the archives were in the Old City and gave me a key.
I feel like we could have gotten here sooner.
The key opened the way to a small underground area where there were a few easy combats with undead and slimes. I found two treasure chests there. The first contained some miscellaneous goodies--scrolls, mostly. The second contained . . . empty wrappers. Damn it. That's 0 for 2 this session, and like 2 for 7 the entire game.
This graphic makes me think of the "great link" from Deep Space 9.
The interesting thing is that these two chests in New City are keyword-dependent rather than item-dependent. If you were replaying the game, you could presumably get instant access to the maps by feeding the previously-known keywords to Father Rulae and Professor Wunderlund. I'm curious if any of my commenters who've replayed the game have done that or forced themselves to learn the words "honestly."

As I've mentioned before, the game continually assaults you with wandering NPCs. The two I encounter most frequently are Captain Boerigard, the Gorn soldier I released from prison in New City, and Jan-Ette, the Helazoid I rescued from a party of T'Rang. King Ulgar the Gorn shows up a lot, too. Every time they appear, you have to acknowledge their multi-screen introductory text, and sometimes they pop up literally a few steps from your last encounter with them.
Oh, go screw yourself.
The two positive things about these encounters are that you can offload unwanted goods on them, and by clicking "Lore," you can get rumors about who has the various map pieces. The current status seems to be:
  • We have Temple.
  • We have Boat.
  • We have Crypt (this is the one I bought from an Umpani rather than finding).
  • The T'Rang have Dragon.
  • The T'Rang have Legend.
  • The Rattkin have Crystal.
  • The Umpani have Fools.
Maybe I can trade the lodestone for it.
These are the only maps I ever hear about, but I think you only ever hear about maps whose chests you've already visited, so presumably there are still more out there. I still don't understand why they're called "maps" or what they actually do besides imparting some hints that you don't really need to solve the areas.

Let's do a quick character check-in. For the magic items equipped by each character, I cast "Identify" and gave it to the person that it seemed most suited for at the time, but for most of them, I can no longer remember what they do.
  • Gideon is a human lord of Level 17. He's equipped with the Sword of 4 Winds, a Bat Necklace, a Crusader Helm, upper plate mail +3, lower plate mail +2, cuir gauntlets, and buskins. Every one of his attributes is 18. He also has the highest karma, at 19, but I honestly don't know what karma does for me.
  • Noctura is a Dracon ninja at Level 17. She has a Vorpal Blade, a Blackbelt of 5 Flowers, ninja cowl, ninja garb (upper and lower), and Tabi boots (all items of armor given by the Xheng Temple). She has 18 in most attributes except 15 personality and 17 piety. She has the lowest karma, at 3.
  • Svava is a dwarf Valkyrie of Level 17. She wields a Crusader's Axe +1 (two-handed), a Burgonet helm, plate mail +2 (upper), plate mail +3 (lower), an "Amulet of Stillness." Her attributes range from 15 to 18.
  • Esteban is an elf bishop of Level 16. He's carrying a Staff of Blessing and a Cross of Protection and wearing the Necromatic Helm, a chainmail doublet +2, quilt leggings, and buskins. His attributes range from 12 to 18.
  • Prenele is a Level 17 faerie alchemist. I currently have her wielding a short bow and wearing an Amulet of Protection from Magic, a Wizard's Cone, a gossamer gown (upper and lower), and sandals. Because the availability of ammunition is variable, she also has a sling and a faerie stick as backup weapons, but I use her mostly for spells. Her attributes range from 15 to 18.
  • Bix is a Level 17 hobbit mage. I just equpped him with an awesome whip called a "Cat'O Nine Tail" that hits enemies all the way from the back row. He also has an Amulet of Airs, a skullcap, Robes of Enchantment (upper and lower), and sandals. Skilled at "Music" from his bard days, he's carrying a Poet's Lute (puts enemies to sleep), a Chromatic Lyre (casts "Itching Skin"), a Lute of Sloth (casts "Slow"), a Silent Lyre (casts "Silence"), and a Cornu of Demonspawn (casts "Astral Gate" and summons a demon to help the party). I should really be getting more use out of these.
Combat has frankly become easy, and it's my fault for spending so much time switching classes and getting easy skill points, though I guess I'm paying for that wasted time when it comes to the maps. Between Esteban, Prenele, and Bix, they're capable of so many mass-damage spells, and have so many spell points, that large enemy parties rarely last more than two rounds. Ironically, it's individual enemies, like the giants, that pose the most risk because I'm less likely to spend a lot of spell points on them.

From here, I have a few options. There's an unexplored area northeast of the Rattkin ruins, but I suspect it simply dead-ends in the forest, and I'll end up walking all the way up there just to map six squares. Still, I need to take care of it. I also have to finish the Nyctalinth ruins (readers offered hints that I haven't fully digested) and of course Ukpyr. 

But as I was closing this entry, a new path opened up. There's a square in New City, in the "Curio Museum," that I've long left marked "for later." I annotated it with the comment "Twisted heads; several options." To remind myself what I was talking about, I returned to that area and found that there are six heads sticking out of a mural, and they can be twisted around in any order. Their names are Laughing Devil, Silent Devil, Happy Demon, Angry Demon, Surprised Imp, and Scared Imp.
I wasn't looking forward to trying 6! = 720 combinations.
Those names rang a bell because I had just consulted the "Boat" map to support my statement above that the maps just give useless hints. It says:
The waters of life do move as the weather, and in life as the waters, thee shall know both calm and storm. He that must embrace the storm shall soon be swept away. While he that learns to navigate shall make his own journey. When thy fear has turned to anger, thee has lost thy soul, and shall make the devil laugh. But to still thy tongue and become amazed, thee begets enlightenment, and thus shall thee know bliss. Thus may one discover a craft, and sail upon the waters. Thus one may discover thyself, and sail upon life.
(Every time I quote text in this game, I'm ignoring that all of the sentences end in ellipses rather than periods. Every damned sentence in the game ends with an ellipse. It is one of the most annoying devices I have ever seen in an RPG.)

Twisting the heads in the order suggested by the paragraph caused a secret door to open. The passage beyond led to a boat! The game noted that it had no visible means of propulsion, so I searched my inventory--why am I still carrying that lodestone?--when I realized that the game called the boat the "Wikum-boat," and I had something called "Wikum's Power Globe." That was obviously the solution, and a few squares later, the party was out on the open sea. This is another area where a second-time player could get this resource almost immediately.
This feels like a major milestone.
A couple of weeks ago, a commenter with the initials L.M. (I'll let him comment if he wants his identity known further) contacted me to encourage me to upload my times to It's an interesting site that gives average completion times in three categories: "main story," "main + extras," and "completionist" (gods, how I hate that term). I frankly don't get some of the distinctions. For instance, it says that it takes 27.5 hours to beat Ultima IV's main story, 35 hours with "extras," and 50 hours as a "completionist." The problem is that Ultima IV really doesn't have a lot of optional content. For a first-time player (which is what the site ought to be polling), you have to visit pretty much every area. I don't see how a "completionist" approach would double the game's playing time. (Nor do I see how a second-time player would take as long as 27 hours.) Frankly, it's well past the era in which my blog currently lingers (1992) before such distinctions become relevant to most RPGs.

Nonetheless, the "main + extras" value is a reasonably good predictor for how long it took me to win games that I've played. Here are some examples:

Might and Magic
Might and Magic II
Might and Magic III
Pool of Radiance
Quest for Glory
Ultima V
Ultima Underworld

I created an account and L.M. agreed to help enter my scores for games already played. A lot of my games weren't in the HLTB database, and for many that were (or were later added), I'm the only player. Mandragore (1985) and Conan: The Cimmerian (1991) are two of them.

Anyway, Crusaders of the Dark Savant is proving to be a bit of an outlier. HLTB's scores show the "main story" should wrap up in 66 hours, "main + extra" at 100 hours, and "completionist" at 112 hours. Again, I don't know how you make these distinctions as a first-time player, when you basically have to explore everything, but the numbers suggest I should be done in about 26 hours, and it just doesn't feel like I'm that close. I guess we'll see.

I'm toying with whether I should reference this site at the beginning of my experience with a game. In some ways, it's a spoiler to know how long it lasts, and the numbers might even serve to intimidate me in the case of very long games. On the other hand, it might help me plan my upcoming list, alternating long and short games to create a better pacing. Of course, I'm still going to run into issues where a decent portion of games aren't in the database. Not a single title on my "upcoming" list is in there, for instance. Still, I'll try it for a while for major titles and see how it goes.

Time so far: 74 hours


  1. Drinking the snake speed potion is the way to go. Look more carefully at the character who drinks it.

  2. You could be also first to beat Deathlord :D I know, you just moved it further down the road because I mentioned it, but hey.

  3. I've used HL2B since near its inception, and you have a wide range of users. Some will list their times for first time play (with or without guides usually not noted), others will list their most recent times for games they completed recently for the seventeenth time. The distinction of main/main+/complete is up to the user as well, and unregulated. I've seen some users input as main+ just because they took a little longer when there really isn't any additional content. It can be good guide for estimates, but users beware, especially for games with hard game overs where one set of users will input their total time to beat and others will input only the time for their final attempt.

    The data is usually at least interesting anecdotally, and far better than the estimates on GameFAQs.

  4. How Long To Beat tends to make more sense with games with achievements. Main story is "credits roll", "main+extras" is "see all the content", and "completionist" is 100% including achievements (possibly requiring multiple playthroughs).

    With something like Eye of the Beholder, a completionist run I suppose involves finding 100% of secret areas.

    I'm not clear what the difference might be for those pre-VII Ultima games though....

    1. Having said that, I suppose "completionist" might be "hit the level cap and view all NPC dialogue"?

  5. I think that about 30 hours more is maybe about right... maybe 40, my memories aren't fresh, others can chime in. As you said, you've done most of the stuff on the continent apart Ukpyr, tying up loose ends in Nychtalinth/new city and solving the witch/giant/sphinx cave puzzles.

    Some very very light pointers:

    The *SPHINX* map gives clues for the sphinx cave with the whirpools. The object to use is really not obvious IMO, but think about what sphinxes do in stories and find an item connected with that idea.

    The helm is connected with the witches in the same area but you need to find and read a book to learn about how all that works.

    Oh and there's one map that you really need: *LEGEND*. You can't finish the game without it in your inventory. So hunting for the NPC that has it (T'Rang according to your lore) can potentially increase your play time in an unpredictable way. Some of the other maps you are missing give important clues like *BOAT* without which it's a long trial and error puzzle, but some offer vague and verbose blabla which you can figure out yourself.

    As another commenter pointed out a couple of posts ago, you should wrap up all this before taking the boat to the ocean.

    1. 30 hours seems about correct. Also spot on about all the rest.

    2. Now I have zero fact to back this up with, but I always felt during every playthrough that the fewer maps left out in the open, the more NPC's seek each other (and you) out. (This should be obvious by this point, but they do fight and kill each other.) This is both good and bad news.

  6. On the GameFAQs the Wizardry 7 length is stated to be 72.3 hours, based on 13 votes. However, given that it is the GameFAQs, that length might actually translate into "time to complete the game if you look into the FAQ regulary or replay it".

  7. The Snakespeed potion gives the personal skill of the same name to the character who drinks it. It increases initiative in combat. There's only one, so choose wisely.

    1. Ah. Missed that. Would it be so hard to have put in a message box that says, "[Character] now has the 'Snakespeed' skill"?

      I guess I'll have one of the spellcasters drink it.

  8. Btw do you feel you get a constant upgrade in Items?

    When I did my LP I felt like barely making any progress there and I think with the exception of a 2H Axe and the Sword of 4 winds I barely got any upgrades ... which I´m not a big fan of because I didn´t want to resort to spellslinging too much since resting for several minutes after each combat is not my cup of tea o.-

    Quit after reaching the Rattkin Ruins because it felt more of a slog than anything else with a mainly melee focused party.

    1. For clarification sake I´m not expecting to have the "Uber Equipment" after half the gametime but I kinda love RPGs where you start with a Rusty Sword in Hand and a Smile on your face and after a few fights you get Leather armor ... then hardened leather .. chainmail, etc pp .. small little increments o.-

      Guess that´s why I love the Might and Magic games that much xD

    2. Getting more powerful equipment is somewhat rarer in this game than some others, but I wouldn't call such upgrades entirely absent. The worse thing about this game is the needlessly complex identification system. I guess I haven't really talked about that.

      MM games are definitely the exemplars of this particular game element. I also like that in MM games, you don't always find the same stuff at fixed locations.

    3. You don't in Wizardry VII either. Treasure Chests usually have a class associated with them and you get random items from that class afaik.

  9. The Necromatic Helm is one of the good cursed items. Nice stats and is also required to be worn to continue.

    Most of the empty wilderness I've mentioned before is coming up. Most of the areas off of the sea. If I remember right, the areas you need are obvious in nature while most of the outdoors is empty.

  10. I like the idea of using HLTB--at least trying it out for those games with an entry.

    I am not surprised "main + extras" roughly matches a first-time player's style, but agree there should at least be a first-time player category. If you knew how long it took you to beat the first time, you would have a decent idea how long it takes you to play perturbations of the first time you beat it.

    A first time player may not know exactly what is "main" compared to "extras", but may not solve every single quest (nor even find every single quest giver). I think that is what they mean by "Main + Extras"--main path plus easily accessible extras that most people will stumble across.

    1. There's a checkbox for first time play when you enter the game as completed, but it's not displayed publicly.

  11. I would hope there would be a category for not finishing and ripping the game out of the disc drive and putting it in a blender. Maybe we could call it "Honorable Mention."

    I am playing Temple of Elemental Evil right now. While I have issues with this game, I like that there is only one necessary item to complete the game and that the rest is just optional depending on play style.

    1. There's a retired section in each game on HL2B, and you can note your time when you stopped playing.

  12. Oh, and yes. When I would replay Crusaders, I would use my notes from the last game. I admit it.

  13. I read the BOAT hints 3 times and still don't understand how the heads should be turned. Maybe you need to play to understand :/...

    1. In order, the paragraph mentions fear, anger, a laughing devil, "still thy tongue," "become amazed," and bliss.

      Fear=Scared Imp
      Anger=Angry Demon
      Laughing Devil=Laughing Devil
      Still Thy Tongue=Silent Devil
      Become Amazed=Surprised Imp
      Bliss=Happy Demon

      If the term "make the devil laugh" hadn't appeared specifically, I wouldn't have gotten it. But my memory turned on that phrase.

    2. Unlike the Temple map, which you might figure out yourself, the Boat map is one you need unless you want to try 720 combinations - more if you take away the assumption that each button only has to be pressed once.

      But, like the "Holy Sacrament", you only really need the information, so you could look it up or you might still know it from a previous playthrough.

  14. I’ve definitely taken advantage of prior knowledge in subsequent play throughs. The big one is Old City, as it really feels like the natural next dungeon after the starter dungeon in terms of difficulty. Doing it in the “proper” order, it seems far too easy

  15. Wizardry 7 is one of those games that having prior game knowledge helps a lot to get the Legend map (the only vital map) and a few more shortcuts like the boat or holy sacrament to get started
    So you have written a lot on game length but not on game enjoyment; a short 15 hour game can be perfectly fine in game length because it is so enjoyable or a 100 hour game (like The Summoning, another one of my favorites that you should play since you played Darkspyre) that is enjoyable from the first to the last hour... so have you felt the game to be grindy or slow in any way?

    1. I've started and deleted about 100 sentences in reply to your question. It's complicated. I'll have to analyze this issue towards the end of the game.

  16. The bosses names being spelled like * T H I S * is a homage to the original Wizardry game, where Werdna was stylized as * W E R D N A *. I think it's a cool throw back.

    1. Office hours 9AM to 3PM

      By appointment only

      The Wizard is * I N *

  17. Long, stressful day at work. Train connection cancelled. Absolutely tired, finally on my way home. So glad to find a new entry to read.


  18. Wizardry 6 had outdoor areas - the mountains, the swamp and the forest. But they all had castle textures. At least graphically, Wizardry 7 makes a large step forward. It's also less railroaded - a new party might and up in Munkharama first as well as Orkogre, and most mainland locations are immediatelly reachable.

    That being said, I loved the dungeon design of Wizardry 6. You felt like exploring a castle, and it was great to continually unlock new areas and eventually find your way back to the castle. I'd love to play a version of it that employs Wizardry 7's graphis, interface and mechanics improvements.

    1. I wonder if anyone was crazy enough to remake Bane of the Cosmic Forge in… Cosmic Forge :)

    2. There's a SNES version of Wizardry 6 which has vastly improved dungeon graphics compared to the PC version, including proper outdoor tiles for the outdoor areas. It was never officially released in English but there should be fan translations of the Japanese version out there.

    3. But is the SNES version the same authentic experience? Or watered down at all, I'm curious to know the differences if any.

    4. Only a few minutes into the game I've already found four differences in the SNES version mechanics. More hitpoints and skillpoints at creation, met a monster type which wouldn't be at this location in the PC version and skill raise by using works differently too.

    5. "At least graphically, Wizardry 7 makes a large step forward." This is where I'm definitely in the minority. I think I'd like this game only slightly less if it had the same black and white wireframes of the original Wizardry. Improved graphics only send me so far.

    6. Correction to what I said above: Improved TEXTURES only send me so far. I like better graphics when they can actually tell me something about the game world, such as that a monster is coming, or an object is on the ground, or this door might be a secret door. W7 is somewhat better than W1 in that regard, as the graphics can now show buttons and switches on walls and treasure chests in the environment, but they aren't notably better than W6 and certainly not better than contemporaries like the Eye of the Beholder series, Might and Magic III, or of course Ultima Underworld.

  19. I've been following every post, but this game is like a book you swear you were paying attention to, yet when you find yourself forty pages further in you can't remember a thing you've read.

    The game just seems rather convoluted, a marked difference from the simplicity of the first five in the series.

    1. I'm trying to walk a fine line because I like more complex plots, but in may ways, this isn't what I meant. (At least not yet; I have no idea how it resolves.)

  20. I have been playing the Bards Tale Trilogy remake and really enjoying it. I think it would be neat if someone did a remake on the wizardry and might&magic series as well.

  21. Been replaying this game myself, and from what I remember from the last time I played it and what's been happening on my playthrough, I have to wonder how fast did they honestly think a starting player was going to go? I pretty much rushed to the Gorn castle, and that map was still gone when I got there. What did they expect us to do, never rest?

  22. You're overly powerful while other people run around gathering the MacGuffins so you can steal them at the end of the game?

    Dude, you're the villain.

    1. Interesting observation! I wonder if there is an rpg where that is intended?

  23. "Opening the chest, you find nothing but scattered pieces of empty waxen wrappers...

    "...but on the other hand, those ginger chews always get stuck to your teeth, so it's a blessing in disguise. Besides, you know as well as I do that it's just stress eating and you don't even like them that much. The real problem is that you're really opening this chest -- and all the other chests like it, let's not lie to ourselves -- as a way of procrastinating and avoiding that project that's due next week. You know the only way to feel better is to get started on it, but if you insist on putting it off, why not do something productive like cleaning your armor or writing to your old master?"

  24. Really minor nitpick looking at your list: you've got Daggerfall, Battlespire, and Redguard listed as being for Windows, when they were all exclusively Dos games


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