Pixels & Platforms

Monday, September 16, 2019

Aquarian Dawn: Howlston the boom town

Howlston is still very much a growing city (both in-universe and because I'm making things up as I go in my current TNT Aquarian Dawn Campaign), but after the seventh session of my current campaign, I think there's enough here to share more about Howlston, the primary location of the setting.

Since I intend for this campaign to focus heavily on settlement building, Howlston needs to be an interesting place. While my SHIELDBREAKER campaign, set in Nova Arkham of my Phantasmos campaign setting, was also a fairly centralized campaign, unlike Phantasmos, in Aquarian Dawn I can't over-rely on gonzo, so this is an interesting challenge for me. I still allowed myself a little bit of gonzo baked into the premise of Aquarian Dawn, but i want these places and NPCs to stand on their own merits, and not just for being "weird", so we'll see how that goes.

If you need additional context for Aquarian Dawn, I have the following posts for some of the major species in the setting:

And a couple pieces of prose:

And with that, here's Howlston!


These lists are broken into three overlapping sections, each referring to the other two.

I chose to put NPCs first because I think the personalities and preconceived interpersonal relationships are the main driver of Howlston. Ideally, even without any pre-written modules or adventure seeds, the interpersonal relationships alone should lend themselves to natural emergent narrative within a sandbox adventure.

NPCs: These are NPCs commonly found in or associated with a given region/location.
Locations: Specific points of interest within a region.
Regions: Broad areas that include several locations.

Finally, there are some "spoilers" in this table, so if you're in my current campaign please don't read this. If you're a GM, you may want to mix some things up anyway. 

Palthos the Triton Warlock by u/captdiablo. Not quite an Aquarian, but close enough for a visual reference.


  1. Tetra-El-Voss
    • Aquarian ambassador who has chosen to identify as female for the convenience of humanoids. She has aqua skin with greenish-gold spots and greenish-gold eyes. Her head filament is in the shape of a tight bun haircut, and unlike most Aquarians she dresses in human clothing. She is surprisingly knowledgeable of human language and culture but is still not totally fluent. She tries to be friendly and accommodating but presents in a way that comes off inauthentic.
    • Usual Locations: Aquarian Caravan
  2. Urin'Kal
    • A dwarven engineer working on the surveillance suite project. His appearance is somewhat more humanoid than other mountain dwarves, although he still has a round and inflated appearance. He is also more adapted to thinking like and communicating with other intelligent species; not just humans, but also Aquarians and fey. He is friendly and excitable. He builds tiny warforged servants which he refers to as his babies.
    • Usual Locations: Aquarian Caravan; Lighthouse; Mount Laputa
  3. Quint
    • A goblin engineer working on the surveillance suite project. She has greenish-gold skin and light, wispy, shock-orange hair in the shape of an onion. She rides an "impossible" rocket-powered tricycle. She loves pranks and is a thrill-seeker, but is a bit of a softy and does not take well to criticism. Unerringly loyal to those she cares about, sometimes to their detriment.
    • Usual Locations: Aquarian Caravan; Lighthouse; Fey-Town
  4. Hericlesa Siriwell
    • A renowned artificer from the capital, who is temporarily staying in Howlston to work on the surveillance suite project. She is commonly seen with Lumo, who is partially funding her work, although at night she's more likely to be found at Black Tom's Tavern with Lumo's wife Natrova. She is also "old friends" with Peter Gibson, although it's unclear how exactly they know each other.
    • Usual Locations: Aquarian Caravan; Lighthouse; Black Tom's Tavern
  5. Bet-Don-Tuin
    • Aquarian engineer of the lighthouse. They have a haughty contempt for humanoids and has made no effort to learn the language or customs of humanoids. They are older, with dull green skin and loose, wispy filaments.
    • Usual Locations: Lighthouse; Aquarian Caravan
  6. Ruth Gibson
    • Human mechanic and general groundskeeper of the lighthouse. She is a middle-aged, heavyset woman with short brown hair and a muscular frame belying a history of some sort. She is stern but kind, as demonstrated by how she berates her “no-good” fisherman husband and dotes on her three young children. It is tacitly understood that she is working for one of the Kind Companies with the purpose of reporting on Bet-Don-Tuin and attempting to at least copy, if not reverse engineer his work. Ruth and Peter were elite Huntsman for the empire and are significantly older than they appear. They were involved in the extermination of what they believed was the last domain of the bluecap fey. Horrified by the things they were forced to do, they later ran off to live a simple life in Howl's Village, Ruth's original home long, long ago. 
    • Usual Locations: Lighthouse; Oldtown
  7. Peter Gibson
    • The “no good” fisherman husband of Ruth, an aging and somewhat portly man with a jolly blush to his smile. Has an unusual accent for one of the “original villagers”. He came from another place, long before the Howlston Boom. He really is a sub-par fisherman, but is kind, and generous to a fault, and treated as a pillar of the community among the original villagers. His eyes carry a heavy weight. Ruth and Peter were elite Huntsman for the empire and are significantly older than they appear. They were involved in the extermination of what they believed was the last domain of the bluecap fey. Horrified by the things they were forced to do, they later ran off to live a simple life in Howl's Village. 
    • Usual Locations: Docks; Lighthouse; Oldtown
  8. Gilgamesh
    • A large, muscular middle-aged man, the top of his otherwise shaved hair tied into a knot. He has a raspy voice with an unusual accent. A smooth talker and salesman hocking the finest wares from throughout the empire. He wears a purple and gold vest and carries a silver and gold saber that occasionally glows and sparks.
    • Usual Locations: Fish Market
  9. Gemini Forthright
    • The proprietor of Black Tom’s Tavern, a surprisingly young halfling, known for her competence, cunning, and comeliness. She dresses in a professional looking black leather suit appropriate for business and for getting one’s hands dirty, wears black gloves, and a black top-hat. She wears yellow lenses, the top half of her face is painted in a black that fades down to her cheekbones, marked by many yellow spheres like the eyes of spiders. A large toothy grin is painted across her face. She is an information broker, and as a result is one of the most important people to the Kind Companies. She is also nominally associated with Le Fauves. She does not believe strongly in the philosophy and actions of Le Fauves, so much as that she does not identify with humanoid society. She has learned to work the system in her favor so that she can buy the power necessary to buy freedom. She sees herself as an animal, and wishes for civilization to accept its place as part of the animal kingdom.
    • Usual Locations: Black Tom's Tavern
  10. Cyrus Giancarlo
    • An esper and enforcer for Black Tom’s. He’s large and strong, with a stern face and stubbly shaved head. His skin is slimy and gummy, making it easy for him to grapple and disarm opponents. Additionally, his skin is impervious to piercing. He can still be hurt but has abnormally high durability. Despite his exceptional wrestling skills, he prefers the simple life of an enforcer, with ample free time for hunting and fishing.
    • Usual Locations: Black Tom's Tavern; Docks; Mononoke Forest
  11. Damon Ricci
    • An esper and enforcer for Black Tom’s. A rogueish mystic who appears as a photo-negative of a human. For this reason, he hides his skin behind clothing, black gloves, and a black mask over his entire head. He has the ability to create a field of light distortion around himself, in addition to general magical abilities (61: Photobomb). He has a developed a major gambling problem, and can often be found at the Clover Casino. He thinks Gemini doesn't know about this, and would prefer to keep it that way.
    • Usual Locations: Black Tom's Tavern; Clover Casino
  12. Gylex Hane
    • The owner of Clover Casino, a leprechaun and real-estate tycoon, and the biggest threat to the Kind Companies in regards to dominance and effective ownership of Howlston. Although he puts on a used-car saleseman charm with his customers, he's a cutthroat and a scrooge. He wears a perfectly-fitted red suit and red bicorn hat, and his clothing is laced with the finest luster gold. It is said that he built his empire on the blood of those murdered by the legendary Death Metal Crow and her Mosh. If the rumors are to be believed, he set her up to fail on their last job together, leaving her for dead, and now she is out looking for revenge.
    • Usual Locations: Clover Casino
  13. Jeremiah Blackstone
    • Effectively the mayor and sheriff of Howlston. The Kind Companies have privatized most of Howlston’s new developments, leaving him with frustratingly little power. He’s a small, thin, elder man, but carries himself with a gravitas of leadership. He was among the last generation of monster hunters (at least until they recently started coming back), and there are few deadlier with a bow than he. His bow is a magical artifact from the high age of humanity, an ivory bow that charges its arrows with energy that launch like beams of light, capable of arcing and bouncing, if the wielder knows how to use it. He is strongly opposed to the Aquarians and what has happened to Howl's Village, and seeks to expand Old Town and collaborate with the Temple of Father Dagon and Mother Hydra against outsiders, although he does not approve of the current Hydra Head, Alice Olmstead.
    • Usual Locations: Law Building
  14. Alice Olmstead
    • The Hydra Head of the Temple of Father Dagon and Mother Hydra. She has short red hair (dyed aqua) and large and awkwardly-shaped, egg-like eyes. The temple is nominally associated with the greater pantheon of the empire, but the church is mainly focused on the patron deities of the sea, and few churchgoers besides Alice are even familiar with the broader pantheon. Alice believes that the Aquarians are the gods' chosen people, and sees their arrival as a blessing. Although a new cult is forming around these beliefs, there is also an orthodox resistance to this movement, and the church is at risk of sprouting a new Head.
    • Usual Locations: Temple of Father Dagon and Mother Hydra
  15. Robert Marsh
    • An elder member of the Temple of Father Dagon and Mother Hydra, his wrinkled head, fatty neck, O-shaped mouth, and large pearl-shaped eyes give him the appearance of a canned sardine. He is a former fisherman and firm believer in the orthodoxy, and some believe that he intends to split into a new Hydra Head in the face of Alice Olmstead's Cult of the Aquarians.
    • Usual Locations: Temple of Father Dagon and Mother Hydra
  16. Patrick Russo
    • Captain of a Kind Company, operating out of one of the low to mid-tier offices of the Slum Ruin. His company only has a single apartment for an office, but is respectable and well kept, and the shared enforcers of the Kind Companies on his floor keep the area safe. He wears a brown leather bomber jacket, rounded goggles that cover half his face, and a clean but worn cloth scarf. He prides himself on the number of fey gadgets and trinkets he’s amassed, many of which he keeps in a utility belt around his waist and across his chest, and others that are worn over his clothing. He acts manically and eccentrically, like he’s never satisfied with what’s happening in the moment. He puts on a bold front, but is actually deep in the red with Lumo and desperately trying to claw his way to prominence.
    • Usual Locations: Slum Ruin
  17. Lumo
    • Captain of the Luminose Kind Company on the penthouse top floor of the Slum Ruin. Middle-aged mafia don type who wears expensive but flexible outfits (always ready to scrap) and has a rogueish build. (Power 83 synchrous flow). So long as there is a beat or rhythm, he is a perfect, Ace shot. His crew always includes bards and a musical mage esper. He regularly cheats on his wife Natrova but would be furious if he learned that she is cheating on him.
    • Usual Locations: Slum Ruin
  18. Natrova
    • An attractive, vaguely elven or fey-looking woman in her early 20's with an unusual accent, the wife of Lumo. It's an open secret that Natrova regularly cheats on him, and has struck up a relationship with the renowned artificer Hericlesa, who is temporarily in Howlston working on a secret project for the Aquarian Caravan. She is actually a drow mystic working on behalf of the Machine Goddess, but has tricked a Pride of the Righteous Angry Lemurs into believing she is a lamia elf. She is using Hericlesa and the Lemurs to activate the Whitemare Ziggurat, to summon the Machine Goddess from the Whitemare Dimension.
    • Usual Locations: Slum Ruin; Black Tom's Tavern
  19. San Alemania
    • A field medic and general provider in Slum Park. He has tan skin, dark hair, and a high-born foreign (real-world Spanish) accent. He's attractive and charismatic, but doesn't look like much of a fighter. He is an esper; he has a ghoulish alter-ego which exists only in mirrors, is incredibly powerful, and invulnerable. So long as he is being reflected in a mirror, his real body is also invulnerable, although not supernaturally powerful. He is also a member of the true Le Fauves, and when operating he wears a razzle dazzle outfit of brown, green, and orange, that blends into the crowd and trashfires, giving him near-supernatural stealth. His Le Fauves makeup is like a hyper-exaggerated dandy gone wrong, with yellowing jaundiced skin and running makeup; like an uncanny parody or satire of opulence, like a creepy clown.
    • Usual Locations: Slum Park; Razzle Dazzle Den
  20. Death Metal Crow
    • The largest hob you've ever seen, covered from head to toe in black metal armor; a long, crimson, beak-like visor obscuring her face. She rides a beast thrice the size of a horse, with a scaly gray hide like a metal lizard covered in jewels, and a girthy horn longer than any man. She carries a metal compound bow as long as she is tall, and the metal string screeches and rends on each draw. Her metal bolts pierce the air, shrieking in absolute dissonance with the pounding music of her Death Metal Bards. Two massive blades protrude from both sides of her beast, the metal stained crimson from the fields of meat and blood left in their wake. It is said that at the end of battle, she draws these blades and effortlessly eviscerates every bit of dead meat into a single lump of pinkish pudding. She is a warlord, leading a legion of red, green, and blackcaps, along with her elite Crows and shocktrooper Mosh. She has a long-standing grudge against Gylex Hane.
    • Usual Locations: Eastern Wildlands
  21. Hobb Headhunter
    • A mysterious knight and presumably esper, covered in full body armor. He has become something of an urban legend, known for hunting firbolg war gangs, and other remnants of the Machine Goddess. Few take these threats seriously; up until recently they were thought to have been virtually exterminated. However, the recent rise in firbolg gangs has made the Hobb Headhunter a more prominent figure. He will begrudgingly leave "civilized" hobbs alone. Has an antagonistic relationship with the Death Metal Crow, whom he's not totally convinced isn't part of the Firbolg.
    • Usual Locations: Eastern Wildlands; Elsewhere in Howlston
  22. Golure
    • Grendel elf with bright red skin, fiery orange stripes, covered in burns he received from a starborn cyclops. Part of the Righteous Angry Lemur Pride, often hunts with Celinael and Tanarfin.
    • Usual Locations: Mononoke Forest
  23. Celinael
    • Lamia elf who seems to always be in a breeze. Part of the Righteous Angry Lemur Pride, often hunts with Golure and Tanarfin.
    • Usual Locations: Mononoke Forest
  24. Tanarfin
    • Black-skinned Grendel elf, supernaturally stealthy. Part of the Righteous Angry Lemur Pride, often hunts with Golure and Celinael.
    • Usual Locations: Mononoke Forest
  25. Lessarie
    • A Grendel elf with an uncanny, deer-like face and short antlers. Her quiver is the trumpet of a giant calla lily, and its pollen enchants her arrows with various effects. Part of the Raging August Leopard Pride. She has taken criticism from her pride for being overly cooperative with the humans / Aquarian colonization project. She sees any conflict as an inevitable loss for the Leopards, and so wishes to position the pride as best as possible through diplomatic means.
    • Usual Locations: Mononoke Forest; Kind Company Camp
  26. Debbie
    • A daemon, a cyborg creature containing djinn energy, subservient to the Machine Goddess. Her body is covered in open wounds seeping a dark grease. Her mouth is covered by some sort of breathing apparatus, giving her the appearance of a wide grin. She has a long spiked tail. A series of rotating fan blades dance around her in a repeating pattern. The fans each contain organic tissue with a mouth. She is oblivious to mortal concerns, but has a friendly / HR-like demeanor. She tends to make 20th and 21st century, real-world pop-culture references, specifically pertaining to robots and AI. If the Whitemare Ziggurat is freed from the Machine Goddess, she would likely serve the new owners. However, she may also try to trick them into freeing her.
    • Usual Locations: Whitemare Ziggurat
  27. Woody
    • An esper and former Huntsman for one of the Kind Companies working on the Aquarian Colonization Project who deserted. He was running an illegal drug trade as a side business, but fell in love with the dwarven mountainside and dwarven way of life. He is in his early 30's, has medium-length black greasy hair in a ponytial, and wears round blue-tinted sunglasses. His esper power is to see six seconds into the future. He also has three magical dog companions known as the War Dogs.
    • Usual Locations: Blue Candlelight Village
  28. Keelut
    • A hairless Siberian Husky with an odd foulness about him. He's actually an undead ghoul-dog.
    • Usual Locations: Blue Candlelight Village
  29. Bul-Gae
    • A maroon Jindo with an aura like sunset. He has a determined personality. He also has natural fire and lightning magics.
    • Usual Locations: Blue Candlelight Village
  30. Cu-Sith
    • Bull-sized, shaggy dark green fur, coiled tail, and a soul-chilling howl. She is the alpha of the pack, is motherly, and protective. She rescued Keelut from the realm of the dead.
    • Usual Locations: Blue Candlelight Village
  31. Coca'Cola
    • A dwarf who is clumsy and perennially sick, leading to her damaging her saiga suit and regenerating it so slowly, that she is often found in humanoid form. She is an oneironaught; a dream explorer, meaning she's a genius philosopher and mathemtician. She speaks in a poetic code, a hash function for a geo-spatial map; to communicate with her one must simulate, must imagine the space from the graph theory model her language is encoded in. She prefers to go by the shortened name Cola. In dwarven society, where individuality is valued, referring to someone by their surname is seen as a term of diminution but also endearment. She is seen as the spacey "problem child" in her family, and so the name stuck.
    • Usual Locations: Blue Candlelight Village
  32. Pepsi'Cola
    • A well-meaning, practical-minded dwarf blacksmith, and the brother of Coca'Cola. He is somewhat embarrassed by his sister, who he does not really understand. He has a simple worldview.
    • Usual Locations: Blue Candlelight Village
  33. Arsee'Cola
    • The village elder of Blue Candlelight Village and father of Coca'Cola and Pepsi'Cola. He is proud of his daughter in his own way, understanding her on some level, but he has a much stronger relationship with his son, who is a more practical-minded person.
    • Usual Locations: Blue Candlelight Village
Land of Giants by Desmond Wong. A bit too big and not aquatic looking enough, but roughly a visual reference for the Aquarian Caravan.


  1. Aquarian Caravan
    • Opulent district, consisting primarily of mobile coral-like structures on the backs of large crustaceans, turtles, and amphibians. 
    • Region: Coast
    • NPCs: Tetra-El-Voss; Urin'Kal; Quint; Hericlesa Siriwell
  2. Lighthouse
    • A large building made of smooth marble, a wonder from the High Age. It’s believed to have been used to signal ships from across the ocean, before that knowledge was lost. The Aquarians recently restored its functionality by placing a large magic pearl at the top. It has become a local attraction, and a useful tool for the caravan.
    • Region: Coast
    • NPCs: Bet-Don-Tuin; Hericlesa Siriwell; Ruth Gibson; Peter Gibson
  3. Dock and Fish Market
    • A once quiet area where local fisherman would head out on their small ships to fish nearby waters. As Howlston has grown, the “fish market” has become a hustling bazaar of oddities from throughout the world.
    • Region: Coast
    • NPCs: Gilgamesh; Peter Gibson
  4. Black Tom's Tavern
    • The first and so far, exclusive luxury inn on the coast. In addition to the finest food, drink, lodging, and entertainment, it is also the den of business and politics. It is a large building, painted entirely black, with black gargoyle-like sculptures at the corners.
    • Region: Entertainment District
    • NPCs: Gemini Forthright; Cyrus Giancarlo; Damon Ricci; Hericlesa Siriwell
  5. Clover Casino
    • Part of the burgeoning Fey-Town neighborhood of the entertainment district. The casino is a small but flashy house of cards, dice, game machines, and other mechanical contraptions. The building has mechanical arms and other constructor machines operating on top of it, giving the casino the appearance of being alive. They recently opened an amphitheater, and are constructing an inn, which would make the casino larger than Black Tom's and put the two in direct competition.
    • Region: Entertainment District / Fey-Town
    • NPCs: Gylex Hane; Quint; Hobb Headhunter
  6. Temple of Father Dagon and Mother Hydra
    • Perhaps the nicest and largest building in Oldtown, a steepled church with aquatic colored stained glass depicting the patron gods of the local religion.
    • Region: Oldtown
    • NPCs: Alice Olmstead; Robert Marsh
  7. Law building and jail
    • A small, unassuming building, that contains the courthouse (as it were), jail, Jeremiah's office, and a general reception area.
    • Region: Oldtown
    • NPCs: Jeremiah Blackstone
  8. Slum Park
    • Hooverville-style overcrowded slum of makeshift housing.
    • Region: Slums
    • NPCs: San Alemania
  9. Slum Ruin
    • A large brutalist ruin in the middle of slum park. The lower levels are slum housing, the higher levels are Kind Company offices.
    • Region: Slums
    • NPCs: Patrick Russo, Lumo
  10. Razzle Dazzle Den (aka Den of the Wild Beasts)
    • It is rumored that a secret underworld exists within the slums, a pattern enmeshed within the tents and makeshift buildings of Slum Park. Graffiti, like bunches of dots or cubes or other simple geometric shapes, interrupting and intersecting stripes of contrasting colors, all designed to give the illusion of densely packed spaces, where from within the true Le Fauves gang operate.
    • Region: Slums
    • NPCs: San Alemania
  11. Kind Company Camp
    • The main camp managed by the Kind Companies for the Aquarian colonization project. Located in the northeasternmost region of Mononoke Forest that has been colonized, one of the furthest points along the current length of the road. Has the bare essentials but little else. Must be associated with a Kind Company, and willing to pay, in order to enter. The golden rule is no in-fighting among Kind Companies within the camp.
    • Region: Mononoke Forest
    • NPCs: 
  12. Whitemare Ziggurat
    • A fractal pocket-dimension embedded within an unassuming cabin. A secret base of the Dark Lord Athena, the Machine Goddess, who appears to have returned. If the ziggurat is removed of her forces, Debbie may assist the new owners as a subservient daemon or free djinn, depending on the circumstances.
    • Region: Mononoke Forest
    • NPCs: Debbie
  13. Blue Candlelight Village
    • A dwarven village nestled within unevan terrain, partway up Mount Laputa. It is known for its vision-inducing Withered Mallow Flowers, hot spring, stilt-legged huts, and the Singing Bard Tavern. Within the village are a handful of metal sculptures of ancient humanoid dwarves which contain bluecap fey magic. The town smells of potpourri, devil-water, and burning pig feces, and at night has a pastel glow.
    • Region: Mount Laputa
    • NPCs: Woody and the War Dogs, The Cola Family
Fairy Market (Stardust) by Charles Vess. A visual reference for the Fish Market or Entertainment District of Howlston.


  1. Coast
    • Beautiful, increasingly over-developed. High concentration of ruins and ancient wonders.
    • Locations: Aquarian Caravan; Lighthouse; Dock and Fish Market
    • NPCs: Tetra-El-Voss; Bet-Don-Tuin; Hericlesa Siriwell; Ruth Gibson; Peter Gibson; Gilgamesh; Urin'Kal; Quint
  2. Entertainment District
    • Between the coast and the town. Has developed to accommodate the new traffic in Howlston.
    • Locations: Black Tom's Tavern; Clover Casino
    • NPCs: Gemini Forthright; Cyrus Giancarlo; Damon Ricci; Gylex Hane; Quint; Hericlesa Siriwell
  3. Fey-Town
    • A burgeoning neighborhood, technically within the entertainment district, centered around Clover Casino.
    • Locations: Clover Casino
    • NPCs: Gylex Hane; Quint; Hobb Headhunter
  4. Oldtown
    • The original village center.
    • Locations: Law building and jail; Temple of Father Dagon and Mother Hydra
    • NPCs: Jeremiah Blackstone; Alice Olmstead; Robert Marsh
  5. Slums
    • Hooverville-style campgrounds, full of crime. Massive brutalist ruin in the center has been re-purposed into slum housing (lower floors) and Kind Company offices (higher floors).
    • Locations: Slum Park; Slum Ruin; Razzle Dazzle Den
    • NPCs: Patrick Russo; Lumo; San Alemania
  6. Eastern Wildlands
    • Mostly flat or hilly planes east of Howlston. Treacherous for the Firbolg gangs, human gangs that did not become Kind Companies, and increasing numbers of monsters.
    • Locations: 
    • NPCs: Death Metal Crow; Hobb Headhunter
  7. Mononoke Forest
    • The forest of the elves, where the Kind Companies are developing roads for the Aquarian colonization project towards Mount Laputa.
    • Locations: Kind Company Camp; Whitemare Ziggurat (appears as a cabin)
    • NPCs: Golure; Celinael; Tanarfin; Lessarie; Debbie
  8. Mount Laputa
    • Home of the mountain dwarves and duergar, the destination of the Aquarian colonization project. A large and dangerous hollowed out mountain, known for Withered Mallow Flowers and other flowers and herbs that grow on its surface.
    • Locations: Blue Candlelight Village
    • NPCs: Urin'Kal, Woody and the War Dogs, The Cola Family

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