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New GM seeking opinions

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broklynite

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« on: <07-26-11/2339:24> »
Hi all, I had a couple of thoughts/questions to share, and would appreciate your feedback.

A little background about my experience. I played a total of one Shadowrun game about ten years ago. I loved it very much, but the participants all moved/got busy soon afterwards, and the game never continued. I read every single SR book I could get my grubby hands on, loving the world, the history, the characters...About a year ago, I was going to get married, and the question came up about what I would do for a bachelor party. My groomsmen are all very nice, quiet types. Doing something as...forward as a strip club would leave them nervous and uncomfortable for the most part. I know this because I've tried it in the past and it didn't work out all that well. What I really love doing is sitting around a table with good friends, some food, and just chatting the evening away about books, history, science, whatever comes to mind. I then thought- what if I ran a SR game? I had no experience DMing, but as none of my friends has any experience RPing, it would be worth a shot. I bought the SR4A and spent my time carefully studying it. To everyone's surprise, it was a smashing success, and now we play a game about once every two to three months. I'd like to do it once a month, but snacks are expensive.

 In any case, I quickly figured out one thing. Shadowrun is not a game to go into for the faint of heart. Due to things like time constraints (we usually only have anywhere from 2-4 hours to play), I have a tendency to bend the hell out of the rules and situations laid out in the sourcebook. I feel guilty about it, but the simple truth is that my players are new to RPing, and I'm new to DMing, with very little RP experience as well. The fact of the matter is, if I really went for the complexity which SR allows for everything from magic to exact dice modifiers to sprites and matrix moves, the game would become too complex for my friends, and they would stop having fun.

 I guess that what I'm saying is, am I the only one who does something like this? I make up dice modifiers and requirements off the top of my head, and adjust it to the situation. I feel guilty, but somehow for this group, it seems like the right thing to do. What worries me is that as well all gain more experience, if I try to use the more official rules, will this blow up in my face and leave my players hating me for sort-of changing the rules on them?

The other problem I'm having is with one player. I know, I know, every DM complains about someone like him. It's the guy (or girl) who likes to completely derail the storyline, knows he is doing it, claims to be in character but is really just being themselves. I'll have the characters negotiating with a Johnson for a future mission or something and he will demand that they get, say, 5,000 nuyen per person per day for a cake-walk job. Or demand that they get a million, or they walk. I try to explain why that is perhaps not the greatest of ideas, but he ropes the other players into trying it. I was able to turn the tables on him a few months ago. After a job, he wanted to re-negotiate with the Johnson before handing over the merch, which was a fairly potent neurotoxin. The player demanded that they get paid a million nuyen or they would set it off. Annoyed, I had the Johnson laugh and lower the price he offered, explaining he wouldn't send them out for anything he wasn't immune to, and welcomed the players to kill themselves. While my players squawked and argued back and forth, I occasionally interrupted them as the Johnson, gradually lowering the offer until they finally panicked and agreed. I think that it was not a bad solution, but does anyone else have any other tips to offer for dealing with this guy? He is otherwise a willing enough player, but his constant arguments and cockamamie ideas are driving me nuts. I welcome my players to try anything they want, and if they can get enough hits I'll allow it. But this guy again and again tries to bend the game to his own purposes, like some kind of power trip. Any thoughts?

Fallen

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« Reply #1 on: <07-27-11/0231:37> »
Hey man,

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I have a tendency to bend the hell out of the rules and situations laid out in the sourcebook. I feel guilty about it, but the simple truth is that my players are new to RPing, and I'm new to DMing, with very little RP experience as well. The fact of the matter is, if I really went for the complexity which SR allows for everything from magic to exact dice modifiers to sprites and matrix moves, the game would become too complex for my friends, and they would stop having fun.

If, for any reason, a GM feels that a single rule or set of rules stands in the way of his gaming and continuity, that GM shouldn't at all feel awkward about amending or changing the rules to suit his players' needs and his own.  The rules are usually provided as a "guide" in how to handle situations occurring within a story.  Many GMs come up with house rules that sometimes deviate from what the published core rules suggest.  If your players were more knowledgeable about the SR rules, then the better way to go about it would be to discuss any changes or amendments to the rules you intend to make before gaming actually begins, asking for player input and making sure everyone agrees to the new rules, etc.

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he other problem I'm having is with one player. I know, I know, every DM complains about someone like him. It's the guy (or girl) who likes to completely derail the storyline, knows he is doing it, claims to be in character but is really just being themselves.

Players will very often come up with ideas that don't follow the main plotline, and an experienced GM will learn to "follow them" in their intentions.  No one can predict what any given player will do, and so most GM's learn to keep their story-lines flexible and adapt them to whatever direction the players take.  Remember that there needn't absolutely be a single "directive" in what happens in a game session -- no single event, place, plot device or NPC that absolutely needs to come into play for the session to be successful.  The key element to success in GM-ing is much simpler: are people having fun?  If so, then everything else is really only secondary.

Instead of writing down an entire plot-line, you might consider "mapping out" key events, places, plot devices and NPCs without tying them together too rigidly.   Follow the "flow" of the players' actions instead, and put whatever events and such you want to take place in their "path", so to speak.  To avoid being at a loss, it's always a good plan to write up several NPC's and bits of mini-plots that you can easily work into the situations your players create.  Eventually, you'll learn to just improvise and actually feed off of whatever your players' are intent on doing enough to tailor the game around it.

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Or demand that they get a million, or they walk. I try to explain why that is perhaps not the greatest of ideas, but he ropes the other players into trying it. I was able to turn the tables on him a few months ago. After a job, he wanted to re-negotiate with the Johnson before handing over the merch, which was a fairly potent neurotoxin. The player demanded that they get paid a million nuyen or they would set it off. Annoyed, I had the Johnson laugh and lower the price he offered, explaining he wouldn't send them out for anything he wasn't immune to, and welcomed the players to kill themselves. While my players squawked and argued back and forth, I occasionally interrupted them as the Johnson, gradually lowering the offer until they finally panicked and agreed.

Situations like this often arise when GM-ing with a group of players who are unfamiliar with a system and its setting.  It's good to let them try out some things, even if what they plan to do isn't necessarily the wisest course of action imaginable.  In the situation you mention above, an acceptable course of action would have been to have the Johnson walk out of the deal, let the players detonate the neurotoxin, and have them deal with the consequences.  If they would have decided to attack or harm the Johnson, you could have let them and then written up some follow-up events in which they would have had to deal with the consequences of their actions.

There's no single absolute way with which to handle any situation as a GM.  What's important is for you to adapt to what's going on and react in a way you feel to be appropriate, just as you did.

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think that it was not a bad solution, but does anyone else have any other tips to offer for dealing with this guy? He is otherwise a willing enough player, but his constant arguments and cockamamie ideas are driving me nuts. I welcome my players to try anything they want, and if they can get enough hits I'll allow it. But this guy again and again tries to bend the game to his own purposes, like some kind of power trip. Any thoughts?

Maybe the best solution would be to scrap the next planned gaming session to take a break and talk with your group, see with them what kind of game they want to play, and find a common ground between yourself and them.

Just remember: there's no right way or wrong way to handle anything that comes up during a gaming session, so long as people agree they're in it to have fun.
"Do not meddle in the affairs of Dragons for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup."

Neurosis

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« Reply #2 on: <07-27-11/1419:45> »
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. My groomsmen are all very nice, quiet types. Doing something as...forward as a strip club would leave them nervous and uncomfortable for the most part. I know this because I've tried it in the past and it didn't work out all that well. What I really love doing is sitting around a table with good friends, some food, and just chatting the evening away about books, history, science, whatever comes to mind. I then thought- what if I ran a SR game? I had no experience DMing, but as none of my friends has any experience RPing, it would be worth a shot. I bought the SR4A and spent my time carefully studying it. To everyone's surprise, it was a smashing success, and now we play a game about once every two to three months. I'd like to do it once a month, but snacks are expensive.

That is the nerdiest bachelor party ever. And speaking by necessity as one of the people who *writes* Shadowrun: awesome. Jason, can we give this guy an award of some kind? Although it would be better if you were playing Shadowrun *at* a strip club.

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In any case, I quickly figured out one thing. Shadowrun is not a game to go into for the faint of heart. Due to things like time constraints (we usually only have anywhere from 2-4 hours to play), I have a tendency to bend the hell out of the rules and situations laid out in the sourcebook. I feel guilty about it, but the simple truth is that my players are new to RPing, and I'm new to DMing, with very little RP experience as well. The fact of the matter is, if I really went for the complexity which SR allows for everything from magic to exact dice modifiers to sprites and matrix moves, the game would become too complex for my friends, and they would stop having fun.

I feel bad for you. If you're only playing once every two or three months for 2-4 hours, you're barely playing Shadowrun at all, even less than I am. In these circumstances, I definitely say do what you need to with the rules. I do hope you get more gaming time in and have more of a chance to explore the wealth of rules and character options that are written.

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I guess that what I'm saying is, am I the only one who does something like this? I make up dice modifiers and requirements off the top of my head, and adjust it to the situation. I feel guilty, but somehow for this group, it seems like the right thing to do. What worries me is that as well all gain more experience, if I try to use the more official rules, will this blow up in my face and leave my players hating me for sort-of changing the rules on them?

In spite of hundreds of hours spent reading and understanding the SR4 rules, in the heat of the moment at the table, sometimes ad-hoc rulings need to be made to keep things moving along which may not be consistent with past or future rulings. It happens, and it's not the end of the world.

That said, I don't think that phasing in more of the rules is necessarily a bad idea, assuming that a) time allows and b) you explain what you're doing and why.

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It's the guy (or girl) who likes to completely derail the storyline, knows he is doing it, claims to be in character but is really just being themselves. I'll have the characters negotiating with a Johnson for a future mission or something and he will demand that they get, say, 5,000 nuyen per person per day for a cake-walk job. Or demand that they get a million, or they walk. I try to explain why that is perhaps not the greatest of ideas, but he ropes the other players into trying it. I was able to turn the tables on him a few months ago. After a job, he wanted to re-negotiate with the Johnson before handing over the merch, which was a fairly potent neurotoxin. The player demanded that they get paid a million nuyen or they would set it off. Annoyed, I had the Johnson laugh and lower the price he offered, explaining he wouldn't send them out for anything he wasn't immune to, and welcomed the players to kill themselves. While my players squawked and argued back and forth, I occasionally interrupted them as the Johnson, gradually lowering the offer until they finally panicked and agreed. I think that it was not a bad solution, but does anyone else have any other tips to offer for dealing with this guy?

Let's see. First off, that's not a bad solution, especially if most of the players enjoyed the narrative. (The fact that Mr. Johnson could simply have been bluffing makes it even better, and considering it would have killed the entire team, it was a stupid threat anyway.)

Secondly, the unfortunate truth is, using and understanding the rules (all of them) and having all of the players use and understand the RAW (rules as written) as well WILL make it much easier to deal with problem players (although, again, I'm not really sure this *is* a problem player from the example given; it could simply be a character with a fast approaching expiration date) without your rulings being perceived as 'arbitrary', 'because I say so' or 'GM Fiat'.

One mechanic you might want to introduce to the players is the Street Cred/Notoriety/Public Awareness mechanic. Explain to the players that their characters have a reputation and they live or die by that reputation. Antics like the ones that the team just pulled are worth a point or two of Notoriety not just for the guy who instigated it but for all of the team who went along. By making them feel the consequences of notoriety and public awareness, you should be able to cause the rest of the team to put pressure on "Mr. Blonde" (so to speak) to 'be cool'.

And of course, if they really piss off someone with power and resources, don't hesitate to let them have it, as long as it makes sense in-story and in-universe. A six man kill team using the stats for the sample 'Street Samurai' in the core book should at least be enough to put the fear of god into them, and of course you can use discretion on the fly to "pull your punch" as much or as little as you need to, to send the message that their actions have consequences.

Just don't think of this as punishing the players, and they shouldn't think of it that way either. Shadowrun is a game where doing stupid shit gets you killed.
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Crash_00

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« Reply #3 on: <07-27-11/1451:16> »
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Although it would be better if you were playing Shadowrun *at* a strip club.
You'd think that, but all the players get distracted (or god forbid the GM where the game comes grinding to a stop) and the "game" quickly just becomes a bunch of guys sitting in the strip club with their Shadowrun books and forty pounds of six siders. And to make it worse, no one has any pizza money for two months. Now, Shadowrun at KFC buffet time, pure awesomeness.


I've always been a fan of fast gameplay over slow RAW gameplay. I usually will make up modifiers on the fly rather than trying to find the tables in the book (I've got many of them memorized though). If you have the money to buy a screen, then this helps wonderfully, but I don't personally use a screen unless my group asks me too  8) . Just make sure to keep the modifiers reasonable.

As for the "problem" player, just keep in mind what the Johnson would do in each situation. If they demand too much for a job he can always walk out. The runners in your group aren't the only ones in the city, there are others he can hire. As for the other case, I never have my Johnsons at a meet alone. Usually they have muscle with them and a sharpshooter to cover them. In that case, the moment the player threatened to release the toxin, I would have sniped him. I don't feel bad about killing off players when it makes sense.

Trenchknife

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« Reply #4 on: <07-27-11/1504:10> »
Rule #1: Have fun.

Goal #1: See Rule #1. 

Truth is, you can ignore the rules to your heart's content.  I completely understand the wish to keep the fast pace and just get down to what's going on and what's going to happen next.  In that mind, I've done some of the same things you have.  Main thing I've found is that you just have to remain consistent with how you are adjudicating situations. 

One thing you might want to try is to slowly incorporate different aspects of the rules bit by bit.  One session, warn everyone before you start, and then make sure to add in all the lighting condition modifiers to tasks.  Do that a few times till it becomes natural and everyone understands how it works.  Then maybe add in all the perception modifiers.  It can slow things down a bit, but will quickly pick back up if you do it this way.  At least that's what I've found.
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broklynite

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« Reply #5 on: <07-27-11/2057:40> »
Thanks to everybody for your thoughts. I'll have to give my approaches some more thought, that's certain. I've tried to be careful by having a general storyline and layout, but without forcing the players through corridors, so to speak. I think that it would also be a good idea to sit down and talk with my players a little bit about the world, give them something of a better idea of how it works, players, etc. The notoriety is certainly a great idea. Thinking about it now, I think that I need to start coming up with more complex decisions for them to make. Too many go/no-go choices are coming up. Not a lot, but things like starting off the night with "You get a call from your fixer offering you a job. Do you take it?" can be enough to cause arguments in my group.

Yah, it was a fun night. As I said, we get together infrequently, which is unfortunate. But some of us are doing things like working on our PhD's, which eats up time like crazy. Actually, one of my players is heading to another state to start hers this weekend. We thought of a fun solution tho- she'll skype in via laptop and webcam. It's fun because it works- her character is a technomancer. Appropriate, no?

Anyway, again, thank you all for your thoughts and suggestions. I appreciate it very much.

JoeNapalm

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« Reply #6 on: <07-29-11/1003:54> »
Everything Crash and the others said, plus...

Notoriety!


Threatening and attempting to extort Mr. Johnson is VERY bad form. Word gets out on that FAST and next thing you know...your team is begging for gigs. No one will hire them, except for when they need...ahem...expendable assets. Street Samurai refuse to speak or associate with those who back out of deals. Your Contacts start avoiding you (low Loyalty) or calling you up and reading you the riot act for damaging THEIR rep for vouching for you.

Heck, keep up that sort of unprofessional behavior, and you'd be lucky to live long enough to be broke and friendless.

Yes. I am a mean GM.  :D  But my players love me for it.  ;D

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Cass100199

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« Reply #7 on: <07-29-11/1047:49> »
You should set them up. Part of developing a good story and being flexible is knowing your players. You can combine well scripted plot and still allow free will this way.

Anyway, setting them up. You already know how they are going to respond. So you design your next adventure based on that premise. They think it's another regular run, go through the chain jerking process, then bam! You hit 'em. The Johnson had heard this was a possibility. His strike team moves in And they barely survive. They're burning through contacts and nuyen with a lot of "I can't help you. You shouldn't do business like this". Eventually, your team is holed up Young Guns style, things have gone to helll and they are going to die. At that point you re-cock, and inform them that this is what happens when you go poking the hornets nest.
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Prime Mover

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« Reply #8 on: <07-29-11/1116:14> »
I agree with the advice here. 
1. Have fun!
2. Your job as a gm of any game is to make sure rule one takes place.
3. Do whatever's needed to keep the pace going or you risk breaking the story and losing player immersion.

Hell I've run dozens of different games, Shadowrun for more years then I care to admit and re-read my material constantly.  Still have a few episodes of confusion each game session. 

You have two options.
1. Look it up.  (Oh god is this easier now with searchable pdf's.)
2.Make it up. Do what you feel is fair and necessarily to keep the game going while staying as close to the system as you can.
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Neurosis

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« Reply #9 on: <07-29-11/1526:09> »
Everything Crash and the others said, plus...

Notoriety!


Threatening and attempting to extort Mr. Johnson is VERY bad form. Word gets out on that FAST and next thing you know...your team is begging for gigs. No one will hire them, except for when they need...ahem...expendable assets. Street Samurai refuse to speak or associate with those who back out of deals. Your Contacts start avoiding you (low Loyalty) or calling you up and reading you the riot act for damaging THEIR rep for vouching for you.

Heck, keep up that sort of unprofessional behavior, and you'd be lucky to live long enough to be broke and friendless.

Yes. I am a mean GM.  :D  But my players love me for it.  ;D

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I mentioned Notoriety. A lot.
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JoeNapalm

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« Reply #10 on: <07-29-11/2129:13> »

Yes.

Then I discussed it some more.

And?  ???

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darcdante

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« Reply #11 on: <08-02-11/0402:27> »
You sound like a nice guy, and may be suffering from nice-GM syndrome. Like Neurosis said, doing stupid shit in SR gets you killed. Fast. Or, as others mentioned, you simply lose all your friends and all your runs and, eventually, all your money.

The player seems to just be pushing your buttons because he can. You deal with it, but you're still pretty nice overall, I think. I like the idea of setting them up, or using them on missions where they're considered expendable (the run that's mentioned in the introduction to the Core book comes to mind. They were all set up in that run and weren't supposed to make it out alive - two of them didn't). If they're going to start trying to renegotiate contracts after the run, the only Johsons that will hire them are the ones who plan on not having to deal with them.

But, since they're still new to roleplaying, and you're such a standup guy and all, you can try a different approach. If the plot hook phone call is enough to cause a debate, then don't use them. Technically, you can play Shadowrun without the runs. Just ask them what their characters are doing and drop plot points in their way as they go about their daily business. Maybe they just happen to find themselves in the middle of a gang war, or a racist Lone Star agent tries to confiscate all their weapons the next time they cross a border, or they witness a purse snatching, etc. You can then link other plot devices in, like it turns out that the victim of the purse snatching is the daughter of some CEO and invites the runners to a big, exclusive shindig as her way of saying thanks (which could lead to a whole multitude of plot devices).

Thing is though, running the shadows is a shadowrunners job. Mr. Johnson is the customer, and you don't want to piss off your customer in any business,but especially not this job. Turning down jobs, or losing them due to notoriety, means lost income. Their actions are going to cause them to go broke before too long, and they'll realize it. You don't really have to be mean to get this point across, since it's the natural consequences of their actions. Just like irl, if you don't go to work, you don't get paid. If you piss off the customer, you lose your job. This is no different. You can give them other plot hooks, but the only job that really pays for a shadowrunner is the one they were created to do (unless your annoying player wants to start roleplaying being a wageslave, which sounds about as fun as four hour marathon of The View).


As for the rules, you're on the right track. I'm only now starting to GM Shadowrun, but I've DMed D&D quite a bit and eventually you start BSing your way through it anyway because the group has become uber-powerful and can mow through most monsters, or you never know who's actually going to show up for the session until the day of (which isn't enough time to adjust the mobs), stuff like that. You want your game to be grounded in the rules, but nothing's more annoying than a GM who wants to look up every rule for every call. I dig Trenchknife's idea. Learn one rule, and start implementing it. Once your comfortable, learn another and start implementing it as well. As time goes by, you won't have to look them up.BSing isn't a bad thing, like I said, and experienced GMs do it a lot imo, but that's because they know the rules well enough to estimate everything effectively. As such, my only real concern would be that you might be making stuff up that isn't as accurate as it should be. But if it works for your group, and they're having fun, then I don't really see any reason to care.

That player should be dealt with though. Sounds to me like he's one of those people who views the game as "player vs GM" instead of working together to create a great story. He wants to "beat" you at a game where you don't really ever win or lose. And yeah, those types are annoying as heck.
darc

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« Reply #12 on: <08-20-11/0122:09> »
I run a game back while I was still in the Marines that had a troublesome player.  Not to the extent described here but still troublesome.  I was able to do things such as lower the pay on runs, drying up contacts etc.  The other players before long started pressuring him into shaping up and when he didn't he became an unfortunate statistic - one more victim of friendly fire.  He rerolled a character that he played even more annoying that suffered a similar fate.  Eventaully after several characters he did shape up.  I realize that this did not get fixed through my actions but those of the players.  The point is he was taking away from the fun that they were having in the game and they took it into their own hands to fix things.  If they aren't having fun they won't play for long so as many people have said above the reason we play the game is to have fun not watch some jerk ruin it for the rest of the group.

As far as making things up on the fly go for it as much as you are comfortable with.  With time comes more experience and more comfort with saying 'yeah thats prolly a modifier of -3' keep the pace going though nothing kills action worse than having to dig through several different books for a rule.  Make it up if you have to and are comfortable with it.  Later on if you see you were wrong don't be afraid to tell the group.  Especailly if you are all new to the game. 'Hey guys last week when Joe threw that Rapier at the ganger we should have done this.'  Also if there is something in an adventure that might be complicated I tend to jot down a few notes to remind me of what the rules are for it.  For one it saves time even if the note is just the page number, for two writing something down tends to help remember it.
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