Summary of the Problem

My GM does not like the name of my character but gives poor reasons for not liking it and is gung-ho to change aspects of my character for little reason. What do I do to protect my choices without being a problem player?


My friend and I started a game of Pathfinder with a GM we found over reddit. He's very experienced with roleplaying games, going back to the 70s and we wanted to learn how to play Pathfinder for the first time (We both have several years of DnD 5e experience).

Other PCs already in the campaign:

Cleric, Dwarf: Tiglan Rogue, Goblin: Tweaky

Order of events:

We had a Session Zero with the GM where we talked about what characters we were thinking of and how certain mechanics work for new players. This Pathfinder world is entirely of his creation (according to him) but his world does contain most of every kind of archetype except for things like gunslingers or steampunk.

I decided to do a simple Human-Dromaar Barbarian to learn the game with. I told him that my name is Shine and pronounced it Shí-Né (Shee-nay). I told him how to spell it, he wrote it down and no problems after Session 0. Afterwards, he emailed us to send him a summary backstory and some other basic character stuff.

So I take storytelling for my characters so I went to work. I sent him a 5,000 word document explaining my character but the summary backstory for him was only 289 words.

enter image description here

Here is the starting part of the document with what I wrote for him to read. I explain that my character's birth name is Akzech and Shine is the name of the demon that possess me and what gives me my rage abilities. I took on the name of the demon for my story.

In Session 0, I told him this is what I wanted to do and asked if it was ok or if it fit in his world. He told me that it was flavor and I could do whatever I want with flavor as long as I write enough words about it.

Start of Conflict:

I received this email from him a few days later.

enter image description here

So at this point I'm very frustrated. Shine Ra'ncid is not a verb or a play on words, he is pronouncing the name incorrectly and thinking it’s a fairy name, and he obviously didn't read what I wrote for him (which he asked me to write for him) because he doesn't know that Shine is not my orc name.

So I wrote this response: enter image description here

A few days later, he sends this: enter image description here

So now I'm even more frustrated because, again, he still thinks Shine is an orc name despite it not being one. Shine being a Japanese word for "death" does not have to be Japanese in his world. That wasn't the point I was making. It shouldn't matter what he sees when he writes the name down, it’s my name and I gave a very good reason for it being my name. He compares my well thought out name with a joke name that he used once (wtf?), which is so rude. And finally he just decides he has to change a major aspect of my character because he isn't understanding the simplest aspects of my character.

I sent him one final email clarifying my name isn't an orc name and that I can be a western orc. I also clarified that if his orcs are 'Tolkien-y' then Rancid is a perfectly acceptable orc name (Shagrat?).

Talking to him in person:

He basically told me he understood that Shine is not an orc name but he could not fathom why a Japanese demon would possess a western orc.

Few things about that:

  1. You play fantasy games and you have a custom world of your own, how can you be this uncreative and unimaginative?
  2. It’s thematically a Japanese demon but it does not have to be Japanese, I don't know why he is hung up on this.
  3. If he understood what I wrote we wouldn't be having this argument.
  4. He literally said he would accept anything as long as I put enough words to it (crazy enough, I explained this leap in logic for him in the 5,000 word document).

His conclusion after all of this was that I was taking this too seriously and he doesn't care because “It’s not going to come up at all.” Which is such a great thing to tell your players sarcasm.

So he starts this illogical argument and just dismisses me. Is this game hopeless, am I being unreasonable or am I able to salvage this without seeming like a problem player?

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's a lot of images of text here. Those may display poorly on smaller screens and are incompatible with screen readers. Could you replace them with quoted text? \$\endgroup\$
    – Red Orca
    Commented Jun 10 at 17:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ We are starting at Level 3 \$\endgroup\$
    – Space Dead
    Commented Jun 10 at 20:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hey @SpaceDead, while we can appreciate the desire to hide this from your group it is against site policy to delete or substantially alter a question once asked and answered. Once you post a question you are asking others to volunteer their time and energy to solve a problem for you. If you delete your question it also removes their answers, wasting the time they spent on them and removing any reputation they might gain for their efforts. Instead you could edit your post to remove some of the more personal or identifiable information while keeping the core of the post unchanged. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented Jun 11 at 4:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ This has three questions and it's making answering this very confusing: 1) Is this game hopeless, 2) am I being unreasonable or 3) am I able to salvage this without seeming like a problem player? The "or" section does not necessarily exclude the other 2 questions either. \$\endgroup\$
    – Senmurv
    Commented Jun 14 at 0:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Did your experience in D&D 5e teach you that it was best to work with a DM to fit your character into the world? (Not all tables worry about that). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14 at 16:33

6 Answers 6


This is not going to work, you should look for another GM

I am not going to go into trying to figure out which one of you is being unreasonable or problematic here (from your description I could easily imagine situations where that could be either of you, both, or neither). The issue here is that you cannot reconcile your views and reach a compromise and that is even before the campaign has begun. I suggest that you bow out of this campaign and find another one with a different DM.

From the way you write, you are clearly resentful towards this GM and annoyed by him. I can’t be quite sure from his replies but I get the impression that he is kinda exasperated and maybe frustrated with you too. So you have already started your relationship on the wrong footing here and first impressions do last, your further interactions will be coloured by this and I doubt they will be enjoyable for either of you.

You are clearly very passionate about this character and their backstory, which is great! The GM is also apparently very passionate about his world. The problem here is that your character doesn’t fit into GM’s vision of his world and so is unacceptable for him. Making the changes to this character that would be needed for him to fit in is unacceptable to you as that would make playing him no longer enjoyable to you.

It happens. It happened in one of campaigns I was DMing (the world was standard medieval-ish fantasy Forgotten Realms and the player wanted to play a PC built around the combination of Greek mythology and hard science fiction). We did manage to talk it through and find a compromise (I made some changes to the pantheon and introduced some Spelljammer stuff and he edited his character to make use of these instead).

This would normally be my first suggestion for this type of problems but I don’t think it would be useful in your case. There is already a ton of negative emotions between you, both your question and your comments are very strongly emotionally charged. You are so attached to your character that you’re refusing to even change their name and the GM seemingly refuses to change anything about their world to accommodate your character. I don’t know if this is what’s happening here, but a common pitfall that GMs who homebrew their own worlds can fall into is get excessively protective and reluctant to change them, it’s not good, but understandable to a degree. After all, you are quite attached to your PC that took you a few hours to create. The GM spent a lot longer than that preparing their world, crafting every single tiny element to be just right. It doesn’t excuse them but sometimes it’s helpful to see the issue from a different perspective.

And they flat out told you that your backstory, the one that’s important enough to you to write 5000 words + a summary, is not going to come up in the game. I think you should cut your losses here and part ways. This campaign is going to be unsatisfactory for you in the best case scenario.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your response misses the points that I am complaining about. But I get the sentiment. If what you took from this is that I am unwilling to change my character's name then I don't know how to help you. That's not the problem. I would be willing to completely rewrite my whole character. I would be willing to play a totally different character. That is not the problem and it is disappointing to see so many people responding to my post that don't seem to see the issues with what he has asked or done. I'm love writing characters, its never an issue to write other characters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Space Dead
    Commented Jun 10 at 20:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SpaceDead what are you complaining about then? From your question I gathered that you dislike the fact that the DM wants you to change things about your character, the name is just an example but one that you reference multiple times in your question and your back-and-forth with that DM, and if so many people are missing what you want to convey then maybe you could be a little clearer getting it across. My answer is not about your character’s name or any aspect of him, [continued below] \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Commented Jun 10 at 21:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ [continuation], it’s about the issue that you very clearly have negative feelings towards this GM, your post basically screams it and you will not enjoy a game with him even with a brand new character. Just look at how you described your feelings: you’re frustrated with him, then even more frustrated, he doesn’t understand your character, you think he’s uncreative and unimaginative, and so on. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Commented Jun 10 at 21:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I get that, I'm going to get a new GM. I do not how to be more thorough in my complaint but I will try to reiterate. If you read what that GM emailed me and thought, "ya that's normal." There's a problem in it of itself. The GM asked me to change my name because he "can't deal with a first name that is a verb and a last name that is a play on words. And Shine is not an orc name." That is the reason he gave. He wanted me to change my name because he is ignorant of what is happening, too lazy to read a summary he asked for and arbitrarily bothered by a verb/play on words (which its not) \$\endgroup\$
    – Space Dead
    Commented Jun 10 at 21:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SpaceDead well, the guy does seem much too rigid with his setting and unwilling to adapt for my liking too, so I do get the frustration, I wouldn’t want to play with someone this uncompromising either. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Commented Jun 10 at 22:29

Consider finding a new DM.

We only know your version of events, so it is hard to say that he is an objectively bad DM (setting aside the question of whether objectively bad actually means anything in the context of DMs). But you've said enough to make it pretty clear that you and he are likely to not get along well.

From your point of view, he is rude, he is disrespecting your character, your choices, and to an extent you. His point of view may be different, but for this particular question, that might not even matter. You feel disrespected and no roleplay is better than bad roleplay.

Also, you seem to think the DM is unimaginative. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. Either way, that's a pretty strong sign that you think he will not make a good DM or at least not a good DM for you since being imaginative is very helpful for any DM and necessary for one homebrewing the world. Your DM would almost certainly go beyond feeling disrespected and take great offense if you told him that directly.

Now, its certainly possible you could work this out by talking to him further, or at least reach a compromise you are both content with. I would suggest that if you had a long running game you wanted maintain, or if you had a long running personal friendship and this was just a part of it, or if you had a lot of mutual friends. In those cases you would both be motivated to work it out and you could leverage those other shared parts of your background to work them out.

But as I understand your situation, you have none of them. You don't have anything of significance to salvage or protect. You don't have anything outside the game to leverage in fixing it.

Consider taking your character to a DM that better fits with you.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @SpaceDead I did not mean any offense. I will slightly reword if it makes you feel better. But as a DM, if one of my players said I was unimaginative, I would certainly feel disrespected and probably take great offense. I would love to be wrong about this, but based on your question, my best recommendation remains for you to find a different game. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 10 at 17:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I take great offense - maybe there's the short end of it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wyrmwood
    Commented Jun 10 at 18:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, I reached a similar conclusion in my answer, OP clearly already already has a lot of negative feelings towards this GM, there’s good chance this goes both ways, and since it’s a reddit stranger and they just met, the work needed to salvage this relationship just doesn’t seem worth putting in, better to cut your losses at this point and move on, there’s plenty of GMs that would be happy to have a player so invested in their character \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Commented Jun 10 at 20:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SpaceDead your comments send the message that you indeed don’t respect your DM (or at the very list his skills) and/or harbour resentment. This is not meant as a criticism towards you, just a point to consider this question: Do you really want to play with someone towards whom you feel this way? \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Commented Jun 10 at 20:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AnnaAG I think you posted an excellent answer and I think your personal experience is likely to be informative. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 10 at 20:53

You decide how you want this to go

Firstly, I understand: you love Japanese cultural references, you want your war name to be that of a demon that was called death in Japanese. You want an orc tribe name that is fitting your tradition of naming your characters. And you put a massive amount of effort into speccing out your PC's background. The GM said they were OK with the name. You even are willing to make changes. But you are upset that they want changes. They have not put the proper effort in to understand your magnum opus. How dare they?

You already got a number of very nice answers, that neutrally just advice you to move on, because honestly, with your attitude, this is never going to work out.

But the truth here is: your DM is right. From the exchange you have written, they are, if anything, considerate and trying to make room for your ideas as far as they can.

The DM has a lot on their plate. Not only does he have to run the whole world (and a homebrew world at that), they also have likely at least 3 or more players that they need to keep entertained. You cannot expect them to read through a 5,000 word, 10-page novella. You say you wrote that for yourself, not the GM. If so, why did you share the whole thing with your GM? Why not give them a verstion that is 1-2 pages, with the main things?

The GM also has built a whole world, and has a vision for the cultures in his made-up world, and he likes taking things serious, so no funny names like the Rancid orcs (apostrophe or not). He even is willing to compromise by offering you an orc tribe from a region that might be a better fit to Japan in his world. I think he is not out of hand rejecting your ideas, he is trying to work with you to find a solution that is acceptable to both of you. To me, he is entirely reasonable in his requests.

What is the real problem?

You feel put off and unappreciated by their reaction. This emotional basis makes it hard for you to accept anything they ask or say. And you can move on and hope you find another DM that accomodates you. But I think this attitude is not going to help you in the long run. If you never pause to even consider the other side might have some reasons for how they behave, too, you can feel right all the time, and learn nothing.

You're not a problem player, if you don't want to be one. But currently, you act like one, and that is on you. If you are unwilling change that, this GM and game is not for you. Good luck finding another GM in that case.

Reasons for your GMs behaviour

You explain that the orc itself is a Western orc, just posessed by an Oni and your GM is ignoring that, and asking you to play an orc from his version of the far East. But if your orc is from a Western culture, why is he being possessed by an Oni, which is an Eastern monster, and one that uses an Eastern Language name at that? Apparently the tribe battled that Oni nearby where they live, but that Oni seems to be entirely out of place there. If that is an Oni, then there should be a good explanation in your story why and how it came to be there, and I do not see that. It is not surprising that your DM thinks it would make only sense to have your orc come from an Eastern culture.

Orcish tribal names

You make the point that Tolkien's orks might have had names like "Rancid", in the sense of using English words, but that is not really the case in the Lord of the Rings. They called Gollum names like that, but the orks themselves have black speech names like Azog, Bolg, Bolvag, Uglûk, Grishnák, Mauhúr, and the orks refer to themslelves in black speech as the "Uruk-hai", or the or just as the Orcs of Mordor, of the Lidless Eye, or of the White Hand. Shagrat is an exception, and while its English meaning has negative connotations, that there is one unusual and maybe coincidential; even if you allow for an English meaning, the original meaning of the term is about shaking, and I am not sure if the other meanings that you refer to were already coined when Tolkien was writing between 1937 and 1949.

Common ground

Your DM even accepted Shine, and you in principle are willing to change the tribe name. So all this is about really is that you feel upset and want to vent. Your positions are not actually apart, you have a zone of mutual agreement. It is entirely up to you, if you want to blow this up into some kind of drama how unfairly you are being treated, or not. Changing the name is really trivial.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The disconnect here is that Shine does not have to be Japanese, that is not the point I was making when I said that. He rudely compared my name to a joke name and said I wasn't taking the name seriously. I was refirming that I was. My orc is a western orc. That is what he isn't getting here. It is part of the story that he is a western orc that is possessed by a demon. His 'concessions' to have me be an eastern orc is unnecessary, overcomplicated and nonsensical. \$\endgroup\$
    – Space Dead
    Commented Jun 10 at 18:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @space-dead Yes, I think you feel not taken seriously and your effort unappreciated, after all that work you put in, is that the right take? He may however not have meant it that negatively, and may be unaware this hurt your creative sensibilities. That is why I think you can find common ground, if you can step back from this feeling and try to work with them. For example, in Tolkien, the orks use black speech names for themselves, the "Uruk-hai" etc. Especially if you are OK to change Rancid somewhat, I think apart from hurt feelings, there is not a large gap in the actual positions. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 10 at 18:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Senmurv Thanks for the feedback, I removed that sentence. If you check the edit history, the answer used to be a lot more neutral, but there are already several other good, neutral answers suggesting this won't work. I thought about what might be more helpful for the asker here. I think they are overreacting, and this is no good for them. Like, if I were the DM here, I’d count my blessings if they move on. So I tried to be more helpful, and less nice. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14 at 3:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin It reads very well now and I think it's more powerful in a way because it will hold up the mirror to players who are struggling with similar problems. :) Thanks for editing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Senmurv
    Commented Jun 14 at 10:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ You saved me a lot of writing. +1. 😎 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14 at 16:37

I understand your frustration. In order to come up with a character that feels worth playing, you need to come up with a backstory that you feel like you can really own. I'm inclined the same way.

Some possibilities:

Find a new DM

I mean, just reading your level of frustration, you gotta ask yourself, are you ever going to get over it?

Change the name, without really changing it

Could you stand to spell "Shine" as: "Shenay", "Shenae", "Shaenae", "Chinae", or anything else that makes it not look like "shine"?

Could you stand to spell "Rancid" as "Rinthid"? Or something like that? It is very common in tropes where one or multiple characters exist across a plethora of worlds or universes with somewhat or widely different names, even when the "same" or related people.1

Shelf this character, go with a more by-the-book character, to start with

Consider using a more off-the-shelf character using the conventions of the DM's world, just to start with. "Hey DM. I want to play an orc barbarian. Where would I fit in your world?"

Once you know the DM a bit better, maybe then shift to a more complex character.

Drastically simplify

Throw out 90% of your material. 5000 words is a lot. Consider something more like between 50 and 500 words. Think more elevator pitch than short story.

1 - for instance, Michael Moorcock's "eternal champion" is represented in many stories, often with dramatically different names, but sometimes related; to name three: Jherek Carnelian, Jerry Cornelius, Jerry Cornell.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This has been very great advice. Changing the spelling of the name was never an issue for me and I asked to compromise for the name spelling but he did not consider it an orc name at all. He unfortunately said any variation of Rancid has to go and he has not clarified what that means totally so I'm going to just use a very standard orc name thats completely different to avoid conflict. As for the 5000 word doc, it mostly personality stuff and explaining my home, my demon and my backstory. Its mostly for me to know my character enough to roleplay with him so I know how to act or behave. \$\endgroup\$
    – Space Dead
    Commented Jun 10 at 18:24

How would you feel about spelling your character's name "Shee-nay"? That addresses the DM's difficulty with seeing "Shine" without altering the pronunciation. I read by shape recognition, without a phonetic processing stage, and share his difficulty with it.

Submitting 5,000 words of background is not helpful. That's far too much to ask a DM to integrate into their setting. 500 is more like it. The DM may be trying to spare your feelings by not saying so.

  • \$\begingroup\$ If that was the issue then that would have been fine. But that wasn't what was brought up or discussed. The 5,000 word document was more for myself so that I can organize what my character's history, morales and flaws are. I wasn't insinuating he had to read all of that. I made a summary backstory (which he asked for) for him to read and he didn't even read that before complaining. If the stretch of having an eastern demon in a western setting then he could have read the 5,000 word doc that was labeled and chaptered or even ask me if I have a reason for it. He didn't. He just said I don't like \$\endgroup\$
    – Space Dead
    Commented Jun 10 at 18:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Somewhat more of a compromise might be Shi-ne or Shi'ne, both of which preserve but mark the syllables in Japanese without changing the spelling. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jun 10 at 18:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SpaceDead: Yes . . . I'm having trouble following your explanatory style. Maybe your DM is too? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 10 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, yes. And I did offer to have it spelled differently and he just said he doesn't care. I'm willing to compromise if that's something he is willing to do, but he is not. He just said, "I don't like it. It looks weird. Change it." That's the main rub I'm having. The problem is now he has put me in the position to he a problem player and now I'm changing things for no real reason. Our first session went great and we all had fun. But I feel hindered in being a creative player because I don't want to argue anymore, especially when Im trying to learn a new system \$\endgroup\$
    – Space Dead
    Commented Jun 10 at 18:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JohnDallman How do you mean? But again, if that was the issue then it was never brought up to me. That's my problem. He is making decisions without talking it out with me or working with me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Space Dead
    Commented Jun 10 at 18:11

I think a lot of this is just not suitable for the medium of a tabletop role-playing game, it may work better in a comic book where there's constant visual feedback to contrast with the terms used.

The Japanese word for "death" is normally depicted in roman characters as "shi" not "shine".

Also a soft-a followed by a Y sound is very awkward, a "y" is usually placed after an a to indicate it's a hard-a sound like "bay" or "day". An example of how awkward "Shine" is try to say the "ba" of "bath" but add "y" sound on the end to pronounce "bay" with a soft-a sound.

It would be like "shee-nah-yy". It sounds like you're trying to speak in an exaggerated rural Australian accent.

This is dangerously close to Shania as in the singer Shania Twain, do you really want people to think of that when they're saying your name?

Or as the y sound will inevitably get swallowed this character name is just "Sheena". Which is already the name of a fairly well known comic book superheroine. If you want your character to have the same name as a comic book character they're just going to think of the comic book character every time they think of you.

This is not just going to annoy a DM but everyone around the table.

If you're conducting the game in english and you have your name spelled the same as a common english word like "Shine" you can't have it pronounced in a drastically different way and you definitely can't have it pronounced in a way that breaks so many pronunciation conventions of the language you play the game in.

If you want your character to have a Japanese name why not just look up a list of Japanese given names and pick one of those and use the Romanized spelling? Like Shinji, or Shinya.

Your name is going to be important as it'll be the biggest recurring introduction to your character.

Most players will not like to think of a character they're working with as being "rancid" in some way. Some will be fine with it, but a lot will be invited to view your character as if you're smelly if they're referred to as being smelly. I think from the photos you've shared you consider this an ironic name but to other players around the game they won't get the irony.

In a medium where you cannot tell that someone doesn't stink, repeatedly calling someone smelly when they aren't is just going to make them think that they are smelly.

You have to think about how the players will know your character, it will overwhelmingly be by description. It's not a visual medium, it's a descriptive medium further limited by pronunciation.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like Shania Twain, and I'd like to think about her when playing D&D if the orc barbarian will occasionally entertain us with a song and dance. 🤣 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14 at 16:38

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