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I am new to the DM role and I have come across a player that maybe some of you have experience with. His main drive is loot. So much so that he has started pick pocketing and searching enemies IN BATTLE and ones that have been incapacitated (by a sleep spell etc).

I have tried a few things, like waking the sleeping enemy or putting a mimic in his path. I’ve even warned him that I’ll start imposing weight restrictions (since I don’t right now). The problem is that he is the barbarian, so when he wakes an enemy by pick pocketing, he can usually down them or at least take the brunt of the hits. The weight issue is a long term solution, maybe, but his STR is high.

I want them to be open and creative. D&D is a game of endless imagination and options so I don’t want to take that away either.

How do I, as DM, curb this behavior?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is this behaviour actually causing any issues for your game? \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Jul 25 '18 at 11:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why do you need to "deal" with him? "moans and groans from the other PCs" — you mean players, right? not PCs \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jul 25 '18 at 12:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ John, I modified your question slightly to be more in line with what you indicated in the comments you are actually asking. That being said, I think it would be helpful to us if you answered some of the question raised here in the comments so we can better understand the issue. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jul 25 '18 at 12:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Given that you've stated that this is NOT currently a problem, I'm not sure what you're asking us to solve. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 25 '18 at 13:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerS.Loeper: Leave answers as answers, not as comment. See this FAQ in meta here. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 25 '18 at 17:53
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You're solving the wrong problem

In your question you didn't say what the very problem is. The only details were:

The problem is that he is the barbarian, so when he wakes an enemy by pick pocketing, he can usually down them or at least take the brunt of the hits.

But the problem isn't his class. The only clue we've got from the comments was:

— Is this behaviour actually causing any issues for your game?
— it’s not..yet..other than moans and groans from the other PCs

I assume you mean players, not PCs. So, there is a reason, why other players are not happy with his behavior. This reason is the problem. Find the reason and you will find the solution.

If it takes too much time (real time, not game time) — make it faster. Don't use rolls and loot tables, or pre-roll all the loot in advance.

If he does this in order to lay hands on all the loot — collaborate with the group, choose a fair treasure distribution system (the one from the AL rules, for instance) instead of the "who grabs first" rule.

If he forgoes his attacks and use his Action to loot in combat — find out, why. Use common sense and adapt mechanics to solve the problem. Postulate that "looting someone takes one minute". If he searches incapacitated enemies — he might have reasons for this (mistreated action economy, weird loot roll rulings, other reasons). Find them and confront these reasons, not the behavior.

TL;DR

Rehabilitating greedy barbarians is not your job as a DM. The behavior itself is not a problem. This behavior might cause a problem though. For instance, other players get bored, because you spend too much time with this barbarian, rolling for loot. Or there might be a problem causing this behavior — for example, the "who grabs first" loot distribution system. Fix the problem, not the behavior.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Enkryptor is exactly right. Picking pockets and looting isn't the problem. The problem is either why the player is doing this and / or what reaction it garners from the other players. Pinpoint that and deal with it. It might not even be an "in game" issue. It might be something that needs to be addressed outside the game. \$\endgroup\$ – Andrew Cooper Jul 25 '18 at 13:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Say "you can't pickpocket an enemy you're fighting with", period. A solution that I find a much better option is to just say that looting someone (rather than taking an item you can see/know the location of) takes one minute (or two). \$\endgroup\$ – user24827 Jul 25 '18 at 16:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rogem I agree — a good DM should always give an in-game explanation \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jul 25 '18 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rogem That’s not always true, I would argue. Before I had my own table, I ran a greedy bard specializing in melee. It wouldn’t be uncommon for me to get a good hit on an enemy wearing conspicuous loot (jeweled thingamabob) and take a bonus action. I rolled a disadvantage sleight of hand check to get that darn thing off. The DM balanced it with a high DC (based on value), and the possible destruction of the object if I rolled too low. So I would agree that it takes a while to full loot, but I’d argue an exception should be made for a small trinket or pouch of gold. \$\endgroup\$ – Imperator Jul 25 '18 at 20:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ "If he does this in order to lay hands on all the loot" - then the rest of the party should take action. No need for the DM to get involved here. PC fights happen; and I would say they're part of the fun \$\endgroup\$ – UKMonkey Jul 26 '18 at 12:03
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You don't need to do anything: delegate this to the other players

You indicated in comments that this got reactions from the other players.

Question: Is this behaviour actually causing any issues for your game? – PJRZ

Answer: it’s not..yet..other than moans and groans from the other PCs. They say oh that’s just him being him, he’s trying to break the game.

You also mentioned an instinct to kill off the character to get the player's attention. That isn't necessary, and might put a serious damper on your relationship with all of the players.

My old PC would just bash them alongside the head for endangering the party but I can’t do that as a DM so any way I can try and curb the behavior would be welcome

I offer you an approach based on what you are looking for: think like a DM.

Have the players in the party establish a loot division method

Loot division is best arrived at through an intra-party consensus. It's heavy handed for the DM to dictate to the players how loot will be divided among them. The DM has enough work to do already. The first step is an Out-of-Character step. If necessary, the players can apply any In-Character steps.

  1. Before play starts for the next session, invite all of the players to get involved in a discussion for how the party divides up loot. Let them kick it around. Once they come to an agreement, have them formalize it, write it down. Notes on a card or a sheet of paper suffices. You can participate in the discussion, if you like, but don't dictate; address various options and their benefits as they come up.

    • Respect their decision, and as the neutral referee make a note of it.
  2. See how it plays out during the next session. If you want to offer a nudge to one of the other players, you can offer a passive Perception or Investigation check and tell the player something like "you noticed the Barbarian looting during the battle." See what kind of in-character discussion or interaction takes place. Let the PCs interact to resolve the conflict, if any arises.

  3. If the rest of the players don't take action on such prompts, then there isn't a problem to solve, yet, since it isn't important enough (from their perspective) to take action. Let them apply peer pressure to inform any change if they aren't happy with the status quo.

Your role as DM is to act as neutral mediator to any such discussion, and to calm things down if any of this discussion gets heated.

Suggestion: do not use the variant encumbrance rule as punishment

This is an instinct that I'll suggest you not follow.

I’ve even warned him that I’ll start imposing weight restrictions (since I don’t right now).

Unless you get buy in from all of the players to adapt the game to that rule, I'd recommend against making that choice for three reasons.

  1. Applying the weight limit to this character, and not all of the others, is unfair and poor DM technique. Just don't.
  2. Over half of the D&D 5e games that I have played use variant encumbrance, and it's quite easy for characters to get overloaded. Does the whole table want to feel the consequence of each thing they want to carry? Is that fun? Since you aren't playing that way now, making the change ought to be done via consensus, not "the DM changing the rules out of the blue."
  3. You'll hurt the other players more than the barbarian if you implement this. The barbarian can get a decent armor class without armor (see unarmored defense) and will often have high strength. He'll be the last one to feel the pinch.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am always more of a fan of in-game solutions to this type of thing, PCs can police their own in this case. PC interaction is part of the game and adventuring is dangerous, if my character witnessed that he would either have the barbarian meet with an accident (depending on alignment) or arrange for him to leave the party with the rest's help. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jul 25 '18 at 13:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth I added a bit to point three (that I had thought about but not typed) that fits with your comment. Thanks for the prompt. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 25 '18 at 13:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Have the players in the party establish a loot division method". Exactly. In the "real world", there is no DM to resolve this kind of problem. The adventurers have to do it themselves. \$\endgroup\$ – RonJohn Jul 26 '18 at 16:12
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Find out why

I can't emphasize this enough. Talk to the player and find out what drives him to play the barbarian as a thief. Maybe he should multiclass into rogue or let this PC retire so he can play a rogue. If that's more in line with the player's style / desire, then work to phase that in. Or if he's used to other gaming styles that focus on wealth more than anything else, help him understand what the focus of your group is. (Computer RPGs tend to push for wealth attainment as a high priority, in my experience, for example).

Use in-game actions that make sense in your game's world.

Demonstrate that there are consequences for actions by invoking consequences for his actions.

  1. What if he picks the pocket of a foe who survives? (Teleport spells or trigger spells can be great here.) Does that foe now hold a grudge? Your PC is now packing a token from the foe, can that be used for divination spells?
  2. What if he steals a cursed item? Suddenly, in the middle of combat, he's fighting a curse instead of fighting battles...
  3. What if he goes back to town to sell some stolen jewel and the jeweler he tries to sell it to knows the piece? Now he's been caught selling someone else's stuff. Is he going to start attacking the townsfolk? Or will he face the punishment(s) for his crime(s)? Or will the jeweler low-ball the value of the item, then report him to the original owner / their family / the authorities / etc.?
  4. If he's ever exposed as a thief by some survivor or someone who recognizes the loot he's selling, will the town's thieves guild come after him for "competing" without being a member?
  5. How specific is the coinage in your D&D world? Is this generic GP, PP, CP, SP as in the rules, or does each kingdom have their own coins, like historical Europe? What happens if your guy tries to pay for his dinner with an enemy kingdom's coins? Will the inn refuse his money? Will someone report him as an enemy agent?

Don't get too heavy-handed here. Don't throw everything at him at once. Try to be subtle enough that the player (and the PC) don't feel you're attacking them.

If he's focused on looting during a battle, then he's not focused on the fight. Does that expose him to other thieves' back-stab attempts? Does some wizard see that his back is turned and fire off a spell that now gets a bonus because he's distracted? Or an enemy archer...

Some out-of-character options

Talk to the player out of game and, preferably, not in the middle of the session or in front of everyone. See if there is some specific motivation behind his efforts to be a barbarian thief. Maybe there's a goal here, or long-term character development that he's after. If so, work to bring the game and that goal into closer alignment.

Or maybe the player just wants "all the shiny stuff" and the above in-game options will help educate the character (and/or player) that greed comes with a price.

If the stealing puts the party at risk, remind him that he needs the party's trust and if they don't trust him then there's a risk that they'll kick him out of the party. (That may be too heavy handed?)

If he's noticed the in-game stuff starting to happen and is asking about it, indicate that if he backs off the overt greed, then you'll back off the consequences.

This may begin to push the barbarian towards an Evil alignment. Don't spring that on the PC / player unexpectedly, but maybe mention that the PC's behavior might be pushing him towards evil and that this would have consequences...

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    \$\begingroup\$ Definitely worth an upvote, but I have one reservation: if your player's motivation is "I want the shiny" - give it to them! Find a good balance that doesn't take away from other players' needs, but don't try to educate the player, but lean into it - if this is what the player enjoys, make them enjoy! \$\endgroup\$ – lisardggY Jul 26 '18 at 5:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Balance, yes. But if they're cutting out of combat to loot the bodies early, that's... well, that's up into the "addicted to gold" level. \$\endgroup\$ – CaM Jul 26 '18 at 13:39
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Is this behavior in fact, an issue?

I, myself, currently plays a relic hunter. While he does not brings the PC's in danger during combat, he wouldn't hesitate to manipulate fellow PC's to explore ancient crypts and temples despie their dangers, if he caught rumors of ancient goodies.

Being a loot hungry character is not nescesarily an issue. It is rather a characteristic that is great for fleshing out an actual character. If he (your PC) actually hoards loot to himself without ever sharing with the party, address the player - and if he doens't care, talk to the remaining party and ask them what their motivations are for accepting this kind of behavior, and not just dump this PC from their party.

Alternately, Set up a trap!

If this is an actual issue for you and the other players, and you or the party does not want to face such a conflict, another approach is to set up a trap.

A minor trap could be to add a magical effect to an item, that you are certain he would try to steal. The effect of this trap could be to momentarily weaken him.

A cool, yet story changing option would be to let him stumble upon a cursed soulbound item. For example, while pickpocketing a necromancer-creepy-enemy. Make the item noticable for him - e.g. the enemy wears a cool looking dagger with a skull on the handle and a pitchblack balde, emitting a slightly red aura.

  • Once he touches the item, it becomes souldbound to that PC, and bestows a permanent curse - e.g. significantly reduced strength (forcing him to chose between his possessions). Consider letting the enemy flee for plotline reasons.

    The item will perhaps over time cause nightmares or hellish illusions to the PC, that forces him to find a way to detach his soul from this item. Now the character has a side quest where he ultimately is forced to face his own greed and carelessness. Consider to force him to beg the enemy (at a later point int time) to take the curse away, of course at the payment of most of his possessions.

    Take your time to plan a setup. When the time is right lead that PC to your trapped loot - a perfect set up would be to isolate him from the others, so you are sure the others doesn't get a chance to jump in your trap.

Finally

Please DO invoke the encumbrance rule, as you should never "threaten" your players! When things are taking off in a direction you do not care for, present your players with some parts of the rules that you until this point, had been taken lightly to.

Explain to them that since you wanted to ensure that everyone feel comfortable with their role, you have up until this point chosen to ignore the rules. Now that you see the group are becoming so powerful and are playing so well, you are now certain that they can handle playing with the actual rules. Make sure to announce this a few sessions ahead, so the PC's can plan their baggage, and maybe ensure that they are implemented the next time the PC's leaves a town.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you referring to something like the Sword of Vengeance (5e term "soulbound" I didn't find) that is cursed? (Which would make your proposal something like "Dagger of Vengeance" rather than the sword-- this is an interesting idea since the character would attack with disadvantage when using any other weapon). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 25 '18 at 12:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you should emphasize the second paragraph over the first one. The trap option seems like it could go wrong in multiple ways, e.g. it would disrupt any story, occupy the party for no good reason and could even seem like bullying, if it is obvious that it is targeting only one PC. \$\endgroup\$ – J.E Jul 25 '18 at 13:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @J.E Understood, and I agree that traps should be less central in this post!! \$\endgroup\$ – Kasper Thystrup Karstensen Jul 30 '18 at 11:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I must admit, that I didn't have a particular DnD item in mind. \$\endgroup\$ – Kasper Thystrup Karstensen Jul 30 '18 at 11:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you so much for your help, I have now tried to elaborate a bit on the last section. \$\endgroup\$ – Kasper Thystrup Karstensen Jul 31 '18 at 6:28
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Honestly, lean into it IMO.

Give quests/encounters based on greed

Examples include

  • Mimics as you've already done

  • A sack of gold lies near the water. A hungry river troll (or something) waits underneath ready to snatch the one rushing to it

  • Lord QuestGiver is actually a greedy bad person himself. What's he do? He promises severe riches to the party to go perform a task. Sounds too good to be true. It is. When you return he refuses your entry until you've been sufficiently embarrassed. He lets you in to see he is surrounded by a massive body guard. He derides you for performing his labor and getting nothing out of it, mocking you openly and maybe even the town has been invited to laugh at you.

  • Tell them of the gold-hording Dragon in the mountains to the North. If you can just get inside, maybe you can leave with Mules packed full of gold!

  • Swindle him with False-Gold. His greed knows no bounds and people know this. NPCs start gold-plating copper coins in order to buy the services of your PCs without having to pay their exorbitant prices

I think that's enough examples, but it'd be trivial to come up with dozens more.


Now I get it, you may be saying to yourself "But I want him to stop!", but you have a gold mine of an opportunity:

  • This player is highly motivated to interact with your world in any way that gets them gold. You can attempt to use the energy that comes from that motivation

  • This player is willing to do more than "Full attack the pedestrian" with your world, and is interacting with it in meaningful ways.

  • If the other players buy in and you do the Lord QuestGiver is-a-meany questline; they are embarrassed due to the precise behavior of the PC in question. This not only hints that the behavior has consequences, but it gets this player involved in a non-money situation as he attempts his revenge. The others also get to avoid more of the previous situations now that this player is driven by something other than money.


I had a party once who basically stole a bar after they murdered the owner in a duel and started playing sessions where they were getting that figured out. I was having an issue getting them to follow any mainline quest hooks. Then I decided after a couple sessions that I could kill two birds with one stone:

  • That NPC was well connected with an mysterious order, one who doesn't take a death like that (even in a foolish duel) lightly. They burnt down not only the bar, but the whole village, crucfied the caretaker and basically murdered everyone.

Now, my players weren't happy about this, but they weren't happy in the best way. They now gave a damn about a common enemy who took away their thing. I now had a quest line they were happy to follow and RP and they were going to have their revenge.

That said, they still miss their bar years later and vow to have a campaign with it again, good times.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is closer to what they're asking. Let me know what you think. I think the advice still applies it's just harder to get the buy in from the other players \$\endgroup\$ – blurry Jul 31 '18 at 21:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, closer to it, and nice edit. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 1 '18 at 3:44
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I've been a DM for a little bit and I've noticed that you can create situations (more dangerous) if a player is being disruptive to a game.

For example, one of the players in a recent game just wanted to sit at a bar during one part of the game. What I did is I let him just go and do that - and then the whole crew got annoyed at the pace of the game (and didn't tell me). What I should have done is have him be kidnapped to raise the stakes. What I recently saw on Geek and Sundry is that you could also implicate them of a crime and cause death to the whole party unless the party goers comply to help solve a mystery.

More on the latter idea here (during the last 10 minutes or so of the video, which was created by Geek and Sundry).

Be aware that this group facilitation technique was not created by me; if you have the time to watch the series, then you can see how GM style can resolve a lot of conflicts between players. But these techniques, on the web series, were created by their team, and copyright laws etc. applies if you're trying to sell your services as a facilitator.

Hopefully these two specific techniques help you expand your toolbox!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for contributing! Since this is a Q&A site, all Answer posts already have to be responding to the Question rather than to other Answers, so the note at the top of your post isn’t needed. I’ve taken the liberty of editing it out. Cheers! Take the Tour for an introduction to the site. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 27 '18 at 15:16
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As others have suggested, this might not even be much of a problem. Others have mentioned the extra time and spotlight this player is stealing from the game. My initial concerns were about 1) if this PC is doing these actions in combat then they are not pulling their weight in helping with the combat and 2) the realism of carrying 10 tons of gear.

For #1, some people consider weight restrictions a minor issue that they might be willing to drop. I have seen some games where they don't care, they loot everything, and PCs are currently carrying 15 swords, 10 daggers, 20 javelins, and 5 bows. When they get back to town they may say "I'll keep 3 swords and a bow in my personal treasure chest, keep 2 swords, 3 daggers, all the javelins and a bow on me, and sell the rest." And that is fine for some games.

If the weight issue is not something to be overlooked in this game, then instead of saying "If you keep that up I'll enforce weight restrictions," say "I get that we all want to keep everything, but I really don't feel like enforcing weight restrictions and keeping track of all the weights, so please at least keep it reasonable." And if that player pushes it too far after that, you can just arbitrarily say at some point (without actually keeping track of any weight, but just because it's past reasonable) "As you pick up that sword, you realize the weight of all your stuff is a bit too much. All that weight now makes you off balanced. If you don't put something down, you'll move at reduced speed and you might notice problems with your dexterity."

For #2: Why is it acceptable that this player is not helping in the combat, especially being a melee combat class? Are the battles too easy so it doesn't matter? If so, tweak the balance of the battles. Is the help needed, they barely survive, but this PC keeps doing these things anyway? Then the other PCs (the characters first, not the players) should yell at him. If that doesn't work, then you could have an out of character talk between the players on the grounds that this player is not helping with their role.

Player1: Orcsmash's eyes light up at the sight of the bandit leader's bulky coin purse, and he tries to snatch it.

other players sigh and make comments

DM: Roll.

Player1: 15

DM: (whatever the outcome is)

Player2: Magicdude is about a burst a vein and he screams at Orcsmash, "Dude! What the ---- you doing!?! Get your head in the damned fight! If I lose a hand because of you I swear you'll be the next target of my uber strength curse, and that's if I don't lightning bolt your --- first!!!"

And make sure you let the other player say what is necessary, even if it seems like too much to say in one round, as long as it's not a lengthy speech of course. You could insist at this point, out of character, that the other player at least play their character in a way that helps the party better, and insist on no more in-combat pick-pocketing at times when it could put the party in danger.

If this doesn't help, maybe they should follow through with their threats. And/or, maybe the characters decide they don't want that barbarian along anymore and would rather replace it with someone who pulls their weight fully. If it goes that far, the same player could even play the new PC that replaces the old one, and maybe it could even be essentially the same character, just with a different name and with the insistence that this "new" character does not neglect its combat duties.

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It is a good idea to do checks on agility when pickpocketing. Barbarian with great STR should struggle pickpocketing because of his height and noises. Does he have hide perk? How is it possible to pickpocket in battle? he loses opportunity and receives additional damage from every enemy attack.

He is able to do this stuff either because enemies are too weak or he doesn't have enough interest in current quest.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello and welcome! You can take the tour for a quick site introduction. I am not sure what you mean by "checks on agility" or the "hide perk". Are you sure this answer is about dnd-5e? Thank you for participating! \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Jul 27 '18 at 9:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hello, sorry for not being accurate in my termins, i've read d&d guide not in english. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Kashkin Jul 27 '18 at 15:15

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