Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Legends of Valour: Man About Town

 
Good thing there are no alignments in Legends of Valour.
        
In a previous session, we learned that to figure out the main quest of Legends of Valour, I would have to become the head of four guilds:
   
  1. Either the Guild of Men at Arms or the Mercenaries' Guild. I chose Men-at-Arms.
  2. Either the Fellowship of the Asegeir or the Brotherhood of Loki. I chose the Fellowship.
  3. The Temple of Set, the Temple of Aegir, or the Temple of Odin. The Temple of Freya is unavailable to me because they only take women. I chose the Temple of Aegir because it didn't require me to resign from an existing guild.
  4. The Guild of Thieves. No choices there.
   
This session started with a focus on the Temple of Aegir, god of the sea. I had joined and got my first promotion in the previous session. I next went for the "Theologian" rank, for which I was tasked with bringing back proof of the death of the murderer Hoder. Hoder is curiously not mentioned in the manual's Mitteldorf Post, and I'm not sure what his crimes were. The first NPC I spoke with said that he had already been arrested and was in jail.
     
Probably for "acting suspiciously."
         
The city has four lock-ups, labeled "Turret Jail," "Castle Dungeon," "Hireling Prison," "The Brig," and "Town Gaol." I don't know what the jurisdictional differences are between these facilities, but the Town Gaol was closest and, it turns out, correct. There, the guard told me that Hoder had died after a night in a cold cell. His body was sent to the Charnel House. That was my next stop, and I found there a Certificate of Death for Hoder. That was easy. I thought I was going to have to kill him.
    
Becoming Divine Mediator was harder. I had to "capture the invisible spirit of Skoll." Skoll, or rather his spirit, is mentioned in the Post. An article titled "We're Sick of Werewolves!" notes that the large number of werewolves wandering the streets at night are searching for the Spirit of Skoll using "pocket spirit diviners."
          
Lore in the manual is used well in the game itself.
       
Werewolves are easy to find at night. I found one on the street, summoned him to me, and executed him. Sure enough, he had a "spirit diviner" that took over my compass to show the direction of the Spirit of Skoll. Unfortunately, I contracted lycanthropy when fighting the werewolf. I didn't realize it until a couple of days later, when I abruptly turned into a werewolf at midnight. This was accompanied by a fun animation.
   
I didn't notice any real benefit from the change, and I also had some other ailments that I needed the temple to cure. You can't pick and choose--it's all or none. Thus, it wasn't long before I was a human again. I was going to call this a "first," but then I remembered you can get lycanthropy in Nethack, maybe even Rogue. This is the first time it's depicted graphically, I think.
 

I didn't mean to call you a meat loaf, Jack!

      
The diviner let me find the spirit, but I had no idea how to capture it. Message boards came to the rescue. They led me to a "spirit bottle" at Drysdale's Salvage. I then followed the diviner until it led me to a house where it started spinning around. I fiddled with the bottle and soon had a "spirit in a bottle," which I took back to the temple for my promotion.
    
The cleric promotion was most interesting. The instructions for the guildmaster were to go to the house of the temple's representative on the Council of Five, follow the instructions on a scroll I would find there, and return the scroll to the temple for incineration. The Council of Five meets in a special building called the Meeting House, which I'd already discovered. After I got the quest, notices started appearing on message boards that the council would be meeting daily "due to the current political climate."
        
Bursting in on a council meeting.
          
The Council meets at night. When I entered, there were indeed five members. To identify my temple's representative, I talked to each of them--they didn't seem to mind that I was interrupting--and asked their religion. My representative turned out to be "Garth o' the Barnhouse." I was worried that I was going to have to follow him home, but fortunately "Where is the Barnhouse?" started showing up as a dialogue option.
    
A scroll in his house said, "The Council traitor is Cadby. He must be killed immediately. Only the traitor must die." This referred to Cadby the Needy, one of the five members I'd spoken to. As much as I dislike the idea of assassination, I hadn't gotten this far to quit and try a different temple, so I returned to the Meeting House and engaged Cadby in a duel of insults:

"You're the child of a degenerate halfling," I opened.
"And you look like a halfwit bog elf," he said. I guess we're both pretty racist.
"You look like a rotting ogre," I tried.
"You walk like a rotting ogre," he shot back. Oooh, good one.
     
 
Trying to provoke an attack.
       
This was getting me nowhere, so I just killed him. None of the other council members seemed to mind. I returned to the guildmaster with the scroll and got my promotion.

The quest for High Cleric required me to pay all of my gold. It was getting low anyway, but I spent most of the rest on a feast before taking the quest. 
      
A dragon's egg and a round for the house!
           
The final quest was to become a member of the Institute of Zoolatry. "The Institute commands great power across the whole of Wolfbrood," the guildmaster explained. "As such, they can pick and choose from the elite of Mitteldorf." Wolfbrood is the volcanic island on which Mitteldorf is situated.
  
I couldn't find any information at the Institute itself, but once again, the message boards had my back. A new message said that the Institute was seeking people for a "chimeric development plan." Aspirants, it said, should present themselves at the Institute with an egg of a wild lizard man. 
      
What is that lizard man doing to the water table?
      
"Where is the wild lizardman" appeared as a dialogue option after this. One NPC told me to look at the wetlands around the boatyard. This turned out to be a dungeon beneath the boatyard. Waterfalls ran down the rocks inside, and pretty much all of these waterfalls had secret doors behind them. I killed about a dozen lizardmen there and retrieved a golden egg.
       
A druid would have a tough time in this game.
            
When I took the egg to the Institute, things got weird. I was told I had to perform "the initiation ritual." This consisted of going to the Seahorse Tavern, drinking at least four gin-and-tonics, and killing a worshiper of Bacchus. That sounds like how you join a gang in New Orleans, not join the board of a zoo.

Nonetheless, I did as instructed. I downed the four drinks and stumbled out of the tavern, the world threatening to go black as I staggered down the street. "Wass yor relgissism?!" I demanded everyone who passed. When I finally found a bacchusite, I sacrificed him to the god of the sea. This earned me my Institute membership and, more importantly, a High Cleric position in the Temple of Aegir--all without having to cast a single priest spell.
       
The hangover made the ceremony tough to endure.
            
As expected, there was another skull in the High Cleric's quarters, along with a message: "Only one more skull you must collect. And the Book of Summoning--a spirit to resurrect." So not only do I need the fourth skull but also the Orb of Vision (mentioned in the second scroll) and this Book of Summoning. I actually know where the Orb of Visions is: in the jeweler's. I found it accidentally while exploring the place, looking for something to steal. Not knowing what it was, and conscious of taking up inventory space with something I didn't yet need, I left it where it was. I have no clues at all about the Book of Summoning.
    
The Thieves' Guild didn't want anything to do with a Templar in the Guild of Men at Arms, so after I grabbed the Skull of the North from the Templar's quarters, I resigned. After I left the Men at Arms and joined the Thieves' Guild, I started getting attacked a lot more on the street. Entire races who I'd never noticed before, like dwarf fighters, suddenly started coming up to me and telling me I looked like a boil on the bottom of a half-wit rotgoblin. Fortunately, these combats are still very easy, so the extra attacks were to my benefit. But I also started getting arrested a lot more, perhaps because the Thieves' Guild required me to commit several crimes, and because there's no "hide" mechanic in this game, I had to commit them in the open.
     
The Men-at-Arms don't take resignations well.
          
Getting membership at all--you join with the title of "Beggar"--requires stealing the collection bowl from the Temple of Set. It's a walk in, walk out quest. The second is also pretty easy: stealing a day's worth of tax collections from the authorities. Once I got this quest, notices started appearing on message boards that for the next few days, tax collection would be handled in the back room of the Troll's Arms.
          
If the IRS did all their collection in bars, I might not have been six months late filing last year.
             
As I entered the Troll's Arms, some guild member came up and said he'd already taken care of loosening the tax collector's purse strings. I just needed to follow him until the purse fell. As I noted before, "following" is difficult in this game, since the slow speed of turns makes it impossible to keep your target in sight when they go around corners. Fortunately, in this case, the guard dropped the purse before he was even a block down the street. I took it back to the guild and was promoted to "Pickpocket."
    
This guy should get the promotion.
      
My "Graverobber" promotion was the most difficult quest in the game so far. I had to burgle the plans for the thieves' guild from the architect who designed them. His house was easy to find--I just had to ask NPCs--but it was swarming with guards looking to arrest me the moment I set foot in the building.
   
Success required me to "case" the building for a while first and note its layout and the presence of guard patrols. I did this partly by peering in the windows and partly by saving at a nearby tavern, charging in and running around until I got caught, and reloading. Eventually, I figured out where the stairs up to the second floor were, and on my seventh or eight try, I managed to skirt the guards and get to the stairs. This also required me to use my "Portal" spell to enter via one of the windows rather than through a door, incidentally. Other than the breaking of immersion caused by the reloads, it was a thrilling quest--one of the first times in CRPG history that the game's mechanics of NPC movement and detection have allowed for something this complicated. The influence on The Elder Scrolls is again fairly clear.
    
Attempted burglary.
     
Speaking about plans and window entries, I was getting sick of getting to the Thieves' Guild. You have to enter through a door at the south end of the map (in the rear of a tavern), go down to a dungeon, follow a twisty path, and finally emerge into a building with no entrances or exits--except windows. I don't know when I first realized that "Portal" works on windows, but now that I knew, I used it to exit the guild via a window and then note exactly what building the guild was in, so I could enter via the same window in the future. A little later, I realized that I no longer even needed "Portal" to enter and exit via windows; I was given that skill as part of one of my Thieves' Guild promotions. I would note again that learning the skills or spells necessary to enter a building through its windows is not only a "first" in this game but, as far as I know, an "only."
     
Viewing the interior of the Thieves' Guild from the street.
    
Throughout the process of leveling up in the Thieves' Guild, it became annoying to keep having to stop and make enough money to both live and afford additional quests. It's humiliating for the High Priest of the Temple of Aegir and the head of the Fellowship of the Asegeir to be hustling packages for shop owners to make a living. These days, my preferred method of making money is to stand in the middle of a crowded place--the square in front of the Mercenaries' Guild is a good one--let haters come and attack me, and then sell their stuff. Sometimes, they drop nothing. Other times, it's a few gold pieces. But occasionally, I get lucky and they drop a few gems, or a hunk of treasure worth 20 gold. A day spent doing this lets me live for another week and afford the next guild quest. Unfortunately, standing in the middle of a public square waiting for trouble also attends to attract guards. I keep getting arrested for "acting suspiciously," which inevitably costs me 10 or 15 gold pieces. The criminal justice system in Mitteldorf needs some serious reform.
           
Having to pay for quests is getting a little irksome.
   
My "Thief" promotion required me to go to the Hanged Man tavern at midnight, find a guild member named Greyfell, do what he said, and return with his seal of approval. Greyfell approached the moment I entered and said that my instructions were on a scroll in the Troll's Arms. A scroll in that tavern instructed: "Gain entry to the Castle Keep and steal the stone urn from the Keep Courtyard. Take it to the Guild of Mercenaries and place it on the table in the Arena."
    
It was just that simple. Except for all the subterfuge and meeting in taverns, this could have been an entry-level quest. The castle keep doesn't have any guards that block you or anything, so I just had to wander in, grab the urn, and take it to the Mercenaries' Guild. Then I had to return to the Hanged Man and get Greyfell's seal.
     
The urn must not be that valuable.
    
The last promotion was to "Godfather." As usual, to get it I had to pay all my gold, so I preceded it with a couple of days of feasting. The task was to steal the "Jewelled Rock" from the Forbidden City. Moreover, I had to return with "knowledge of the lesser known point of entry to the city."
   
I also briefly tied up some of my gold in commodities.
        
As usual, the quest began by asking random NPCs, "Where is the Forbidden City?" The first one came through: "I heard that Choker Bloodaxe has been there and he has a map. You'll find him at the Hanged Man." As for "What is the Forbidden City": "It is a legendary part of Mitteldorf where the streets are paved with stone and the talk is of revolt."
    
Liar!
   
Here, I've run into a problem: I can't find Choker Bloodaxe. He isn't in the Hanged Man or any of the buildings near it. The damnedest thing is that he was here early in the game; I even noted him in my first entry. Maybe he insulted me and I killed him.
   
I figure the Forbidden City is found in the underground. There's a vast network running beneath the city, and I've only explored a small part of it. Aside from the time limit on the quest (which I think is renewable), I thought it would be fun to try to explore as much as possible, especially now that I can cast or pick my way through grates and "Warp" out if things get dangerous. I descended into the sewers via a random hovel and started poking around. I killed a few trolls, lost some gold to goblins, and was generally having fun when I suddenly wandered into a room dominated by a huge, red, snake woman and died nearly immediately. That sucked, as I lost all my progress, but it was also kind of cool. I wonder if she's just a random creature, or if she's part of one of the other guild's questlines.
           
Part of me is glad I just got to see this.
         
As quests go, this game is pretty good. As I keep saying, I like how the guild quests vary in length, difficulty, and nature. The only problem is that none of the game mechanics are up to the quality of the quests. No game has done stealth very well yet, so I can forgive that, but plenty of games have done combat, equipment, and NPC interaction better. It's too bad that Legends of Valour didn't graft its excellent guild and questing system onto a more conventional mechanical backdrop.

Another severely under-developed mechanic is the spell system. Mages and clerics have the same spellbooks, and they consist of only eight spells. I've experimented only lightly with a few of them, but this is what I can tell you:
             
  • Portal is invaluable for a while. It lets you enter any locked door (except those that, for plot reasons, absolutely require a key) or pass through any window or grating. Eventually, you get enough thief skills to do the same for no expenditure of magic, however.
  • Fireball lets you shoot fireballs for a brief duration of time. The problem is, you can't cast it in combat. You have to anticipate combat and cast it before the enemy engages. I could see it being useful in dungeons, particularly against those goblins that you want to keep away from you. But I'd have to experiment to see how it performs against just throwing things.
  • Create Food expends half your "energy" bar for a single food item that increases your food meter marginally. I can see why they made it so expensive, as otherwise it would ruin the carefully-balanced economy, but I can't see using it unless I was really desperate.
  • Create Water uses only about a quarter of your spell bar but is otherwise the same story.
  • Warp takes you from wherever you are to the circle of Standing Stones in the middle of the city. There's a hostel, a tavern, and a store a short walk from there. Extremely useful. I use it a lot when I just don't feel like walking.
  • Heal fully heals you. There's no "Cure Light Wounds" in this game. The problem is that it does nothing for injuries or disease, which deplete your "combat" meter, and you usually need those things cured more.
  • Power increases the damage you can do in combat. "Some monsters just won't fall over without it," the manual says. I've yet to meet one.
  • Protection decreases the damage you take in combat. Again, combats have been so easy that I haven't needed it, but it might come in handy during long dungeon explorations.
         
The spellbook is the same for both clerics and mages.
     
Over the course of my hours with Legends, I've really gotten to know Mitteldorf. The map is only a rough guide--there are lots of fences and other dead-ends that it doesn't depict. But now if I have to get from one end of town to another, I can mentally work out the best route and plot key stops on the way. And yet, on any route, I pass dozens of buildings I still haven't entered--buildings that probably don't have any major secrets because this game isn't quite there yet, but buildings that nonetheless might hold intrigue and secrets. This evokes something of the feel of wandering through a real city, and it's a major milestone on RPG development.
    
I'd appreciate any hints on Choker Bloodaxe. Failing that, I'd appreciate if anyone can confirm whether I will or won't find the Forbidden City by systematically exploring the underground. Otherwise, if I have nothing in a couple of days, I'm going to have to look at spoilers.
   
Time so far: 29 hours

31 comments:

  1. I can understand wanting to have the economy tightly balanced early on, but surely by late game, I assume you're in the late game, when you're the head of various guilds you'd really think you'd have much easier ways to make money.

    Perhaps those power/protection spells will be useful against the red snake-lady? In another game I might think you'd need a specific item (like a mirror for a medusa), but this game has mostly been pretty straightforward with its quests.

    Re: Bloodaxe, your first post has this line: "There's one NPC in the tavern [The Hanged Man], Choker Bloodaxe, the town executioner." is he perhaps there at a particular time, when he's not at his day job? your previous line being "I enter just as the game switches from day to night."

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    1. I hung out in the tavern for more than 24 hours, left and returned a few times, and he simply wouldn't show up. I managed to get past it though.

      I agree that they went too far with the economy. At some point, after the player had mastered the strategies, it should have loosened up and made making a living not such a big deal. I'll talk about this in my final entry.

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  2. I feel like this game is the definition of a mixed bag. The ideas are great, the execution isn't, but it still manages to pull off enough for it to be potentially worth playing, although the parts it doesn't pull off might offset that. If nothing else, it definately looks like the rare game that could desperately use a remake for more than relatively minor quality of life and graphical improvements.

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    1. A remake using Daggerfall Unity as a base. Making it a full circle.

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    2. I can't wait until people start making full new games with Daggerfall Unity.

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    3. I remember thinking you could do Ultima Underworld with Morrowind, except (mainly) for the magic system.

      Daggerfall Unity might be a good starting point.

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  3. This earned me my Institute membership and, more importantly, a High Cleric position in the Temple of Aegir--all without having to cast a single priest spell.
    So they copied this in skyrim, there is a guy on YouTube that made headmaster of the Wizards collage without casting any spell and head of thief's guild after only stealing ones.

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    1. I wonder how that's possible. IIRC, you have to cast at least one random spell to get into the college and a barrier spell for Tolfdir to start the first quest. Beyond that, it seems possible.

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    2. I think he got inside the college by a backdoor or something, I dont really remember. But the ward spell for Tolfdir he managed to get by using the Spellbreaker shield. His channel name is ymfah, his Skyrim videos are really worth it

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    3. You can talk your way into the college if your "Speech" is high enough, but I don't know how you get around Tolfdir's lesson without a spell. Either way, it's a bare minimum of spellcasting to become the leader of the guild. This is a problem with Skyrim. Morrowind had hard skill thresholds before each promotion. I can't remember for sure how Oblivion did it.

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    4. He kills one of the other pupils then flee and rest until the crime is forgotten when he comes back the lesson ends, and he manipulates a companion to arrange the mirrors for him later on.

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    5. Oh, I forgot that latter one. Yes, you have to cast "flame" and "frost," too.

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    6. I loved Morrowind, but this sort of thing drove me nuts in Skyrim. Oh, I just became the head of the thieves guild. I have no abilities, but it doesn't matter.

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  4. Skyrim... I think I need to find this video.

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  5. Thanks for keeping the RPG experience alive.

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  6. Wow, Elder Scrolls sure borrowed a lot from this game. Always interesting to find antecedents.

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  7. 'I would note again that learning the skills or spells necessary to enter a building through its windows is not only a "first" in this game but, as far as I know, an "only."' -- I'm not sure what you mean exactly, but once again Quest for Glory series featured a fair bit of breaking in through windows on the thief path (potentially aided by levitation spell if you multiclassed into a wizard).

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    1. Yes, but only in the fourth and fifth game, which Chet hasn't reviewed yet. They're from '93 and '98 respectively.

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    2. QfG had the ability to break into some windows in 1 and 2, but they were only certain locations in which the action was heavily scripted. That's far different from a game offering a mechanic by which thieving skill works to open up every window that you encounter.

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    3. Anyway, the closest approximation I can think of is the Etherealize spell in Might & Magic, which can move you through any one-square-thick walls, and can be used as a shortcut in some places.

      (restrictions may apply, depending on which M&M game exactly)

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  8. Really enjoying the entries on this game. It's wild to see such an obvious predecessor to a huge series like the Elder Scrolls and have it be essentially completely forgotten.

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  9. "I pass dozens of buildings I still haven't entered--buildings that probably don't have any major secrets because this game isn't quite there yet, but buildings that nonetheless might hold intrigue and secrets. This evokes something of the feel of wandering through a real city, and it's a major milestone on RPG development."

    I completely agree with you about this. I played this game when it came out in the early '90s, then again a few years ago. It really felt like coming back to a place of my childhood. It's true that most of the buildings are empty, but there is such a sense of potential.

    Anyway, regarding the Forbidden City, there is an entrance via the underground, but the underground is a very big place and I doubt you'll find it by just wandering around.

    Really enjoying these entries.

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    1. Somehow, old RPGs are the best at providing the feeling that anything can happen. It's a hard feeling to describe; the feeling that there are true secrets to uncover, rather than just quest markers or new loot. The sense that there's more hidden in that dungeon than just gold, XP or even story progress. Maybe I'm being too sentimental, I don't know.

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    2. Well, that's exactly the feeling I got from Ultima Underworld. The only other modern game which comes close but note quite is Skyrim (haven't played any other Elder Scrolls games and it's still one of my favorites).

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    3. I think partly it's because the 'rules and expectations' of games were still being developed? Even expansive recent games like Skyrim or Witcher 3 are sitting atop such a pile of tropes now, that despite vaster development resources they often miss that feeling of total possibility.

      For me it wasn't just old RPGs, but adventure games as well. Before I understood what sorts of rails underlay Sierra On-line games, I remember some of those games having that feeling. Ultima Underworld, too, as fireball mentioned.

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    4. I think also it’s because the worlds were more bespoke in a way. Like modern games you can tell it’s all a collection of highly designed systems. Everything works like clockwork but you start to see the repetition in that. Whilst old games were more seat of the pants - if they wanted to make it so talking to person X makes you play a space fighting game, then they could code that and add an exception. Smaller teams and less developed systems ironically made this easier.

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    5. There's something to that. Even "AAA" games of this era weren't huge teams, so there was a lot of individual creativity involved. The stuff being pumped out nowadays uses such huge dev teams that a level of "corporatization" is effectively mandatory if you want to get a consistent tone.

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  10. This game spells it both "jail" and "gaol"? IMMERSION RUINED.

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  11. Rogue doesn't have lycanthropy, there aren't even werewolves.

    And I too am enjoying reading about this forgotten game. Never played Elder Scrolls, but this I have always loved games that given you a sense of some world to explore, especially when they keep it basic and not too high-classed. (That's why I loved Might and Magic I and II, while I never found III+ very appealing.)

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  12. AlphabeticalAnonymousAugust 14, 2021 at 9:01 AM

    This entry was one of the funniest I've read in some time - I found myself laughing out loud, multiple times. Thanks!

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