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Stephen Duetzmann

Tips for Playing Dungeons and Dragons with Kids!

A lot of gamer parents ask us about how to get started with playing tabletop RPGs with their kids. In fact, we’ve given (and heard) so much advice that we thought we would just put it all down on a page and publish it here on EFG!

This list isn’t the be all and end all for playing RPGs with your children, but this is going to be a great place to start. Take a look below, and make sure to let us know in the comments if we missed anything.

Note: Most of the text here will refer to Dungeons and Dragons, but the majority of these tips will be applicable to any tabletop RPG out there.

Start with a Kid-focused RPG

Lots of gamers have dreamed of playing Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop RPGs with their kids for years. It stands to reason that some of those gamers would design their own games to help fill in that void. Darcy Zalewski from the Stay at Home Gamers suggested playing some of those games first!

Some examples include:

Hero Kids

No Thank You, Evil by Monte Cook Games

The Tales of Equestria Tabletop RPG

Establish The Ground Rules

Lots of tabletop RPGs are full of rules, charts, and tables to search through to help understand how to play the game. But, those aren’t as important as the general rules for playing at your table.

You will likely have your own rules, but some suggestions are below:

  1. Respect is key. Make sure to respect your fellow players and the DM.
  2. Be courteous.
  3. Don’t draw in, or rip up game books that are loaned to you. Treat them like your own toys.
  4. No cussing or inappropriate jokes.
  5. If everyone isn’t having fun, then no one is!

Focus on Shared Storytelling

A lot of folks assume that the story comes from the DM, but that’s actually untrue. At the end of the day tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons are collaborative storytelling games. This means that everyone is working together to make an interesting story. I think it is important make sure kids understand that.

The story isn’t just happening TO them. It is happening AROUND them. Let them describe their actions whenever possible. Encourage them to talk about how their character does the things they are doing. That adds layers to the experience for everybody!

Let Them Drive (Unless They Aren’t)

It is important to let the kids drive the bus. They might take wrong turns, get hyper-focused on something weird, or kick your sandbox over in any number of cruel, unusual, and exciting ways. Let them do it. As long as they are engaged and enjoying the experience you have won!

With that said, Dungeons and Dragons depends on the players to direct the action. The stories expect the players to move forward, find clues, and discover the solutions. Kids (and even inexperienced players) can have trouble with that. Which means their indecisions can stagnate the experience for everyone. You, as the DM, are the only person who can fix that.

There are lots of great Dungeons and Dragons Products out there, and lots of them have previews online. Make sure to check out what they can add to your campaign!

Keep It Short!

Adults that play Dungeons and Dragons can play for hours without real breaks. We often brag about marathon gaming sessions. That isn’t going to be possible with younger kids. They just don’t have the attention span to focus on these games for long periods of time.

Instead, make sure to plan for your gaming sessions to be more compact and to take more breaks. You won’t make as much “progress” through stories (especially if you are using adventure modules), but they will be more engaged in the experience.

If You’re Going to Go Big – Bring a Co-GM

Rob Kalajian of A Pawn’s Perspective regularly runs a game for ten kids. (WHOA!) He loves it, but he has found that it would be impossible without the help of his wife who co-DMs with him. This lets him focus on the story and the creatures while his wife helps make sure the kids are ready to take their turns. It minimizes downtime and ensures that kids get more direct attention from a GM.

Have (Quiet) Fidget Toys!

Kids will often have a VERY difficult time sitting still for a long time without fidgeting. Dice are terrible fidget toys because they are loud, and they can get lost easily. (Nothing is more distracting than a handful of kids rolling dice and dropping them on the ground.)

Make sure you have a small collection of quiet fidget toys on hand to give them something to fuss with. Some great suggestions are fidget spinners (that you can probably get for super cheap since the fad is over) and Play-Doh.

Simplify The Game!

Dungeons and Dragons is pretty complicated. You can take steps to simplify it though. Some examples of things you can do are:

  • Only give them the dice they need. A player will very likely only needs 2-3 different dice in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition (the most recent one).
  • Create a cheat sheet to go along with their character sheet that explains in simple terms what they should do when the
You don’t need to invent your own adventures either! There are plenty of pre-made adventures available!

Don’t Make Them Manage Their Stuff

Kids are notorious for losing things or failing to take care of them correctly. And, nothing can set a game back like a player having to find a new mini or to craft a new character sheet. The best way to solve that problem according to John Christopher over at Wooden Shoe Games is to collect their character sheets at the end of the session. That keeps organization nice and simple.

You could even store all of those character sheets in a binder with some sheet protectors. They’ll be virtually indestructible.

Make Sure the Villain Is AWESOME!

Treavor Bettis and Allie Deutschmann from the Difficulty Class Podcast both emphatically told me that villains for kids need to be cool. They don’t necessarily need to be interesting and nuanced like villains for adult players though. They can, and should, be completely over the top!

What do you all think? What tips do you have for playing tabletop RPGs with kids? Let us know in the comments!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Is Grand Theft Auto V Ok For Kids?

Grand Theft Auto V was developed by Rockstar Games and published by Take 2 Interactive on September 17, 2013. It was originally released on the PS3 and Xbox 360, but it has since been ported to the PS4, Xbox One, and PC. There are even rumors of an upcoming port to the Nintendo Switch (although those rumors have yet to be substantiated).

GTAV is easily one of the most popular games on Earth and it is infamously M-rated for violence, sexual content, etc. Even when you consider its legendary place as a mature game I STILL get questions about whether or not people should let their kids play.

So, without further delay, here is my answer to the question: Is Grand Theft Auto V ok for kids?

First, I want to refer folks to the ESRB. They rate is as M for Mature and have given it the following rating summary:

In this open-world action game, players assume the role of three criminals whose storylines intersect within the fictional city of Los Santos. Players can switch between each character to follow his storyline, completing missions which often include criminal activities (e.g., stealing cars, executing heists, assassinating targets). Players use pistols, machine guns, sniper rifles, and explosives to kill various enemies (e.g., rival gang members); players also have the ability to shoot non-adversary civilians, though this may negatively affect players’ progress as a penalty system triggers a broad police search. Blood-splatter effects occur frequently, and the game contains rare depictions of dismemberment. In one sequence, players are directed to use various instruments and means (e.g., pipe wrench, tooth removal, electrocution) to extract information from a character; the sequence is intense and prolonged, and it involves some player interaction (i.e., responding to on-screen prompts). The game includes depictions of sexual material/activity: implied fellatio and masturbation; various sex acts that the player’s character procures from a prostitute—while no nudity is depicted in these sequences, various sexual moaning sounds can be heard. Nudity is present, however, primarily in two settings: a topless lap dance in a strip club and a location that includes male cult members with exposed genitalia in a non-sexual context. Within the game, TV programs and radio ads contain instances of mature humor: myriad sex jokes; depictions of raw sewage and feces on a worker’s body; a brief instance of necrophilia (no nudity is depicted). Some sequences within the larger game allow players to use narcotics (e.g., smoking from a bong, lighting a marijuana joint); cocaine use is also depicted. Players’ character can, at various times, consume alcohol and drive while under the influence. The words “f**k,” “c*nt,” and “n**ger” can be heard in the dialogue.


As you can see, GTAV is full of content that is inappropriate for kids.

To put my answer another way:

What do you think? Am I wrong? Let me know in the comments!

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Kickstarter Preview – Empty Space

Empty Space is a set collection card game about exploring the vastness of space and, ultimately, landing a rocket on an exoplanet.

It is currently live on Kickstarter. The campaign is asking for less than $2,000 US. That is a very modest goal, and one that they should meet. This is a very cool game.

Empty Space doesn’t have a board. Instead, you deal out an array of cards from the deck in whatever shape you want. It is best to start with a 4 x 6 grid with 4 exoplanet cards on one side, but you (or your kids!) can get wild with it and create all kinds of cool shapes.

On their turn, each player has a choice to either research or explore.

  • Researching consists of drawing cards from a deck blindly or choosing from a pair of revealed cards (similarly to Ticket to Ride).
  • Exploring consists of attempting to move your probe or rocket onto and across the various cards that on the array you created at the beginning of the game.

You’re trying to do a number of things by choosing between those steps and you need to balance them carefully.

  • All of the cards in the array start face down, with the exception of a few that are chosen at the beginning of the game. Players discard non-matched pairs of cards to peek at the cards or flip them over.
  • Building a probe for exploration and a rocket to eventually fly to the exoplanet you discovered requires discarding sets of four matching colored cards.
  • You can “shape the universe” and block your opponent or help yourself by discarding three matched cards. This is, in my opinion, one of the hardest decisions you’ll make as a player. You really have to be careful messing with your opponents because it can bit you in the end by making your own path more complicated.

Our whole family enjoyed Empty Space for different reasons. My oldest enjoyed the map variety and has suggested a whole bunch of differently shaped arrays. My youngest likes the ease of exploration (and messing with her brothers by putting black holes in their path). I just like a simple game that all of us can play together without any real difficulty.

Our friends at the Stay at Home Gamersgot their hands on Empty Space as well! I was able to watch their family of four play the game on a live stream. Their experience confirmed my thoughts. Their kids loved the experience and were chattering the whole time.

I love how easy it is to modify the difficulty of Empty Space. We can make it a little easier when playing with the kids and increase the difficulty when playing with only adults.

Darcy – Stay at Home Gamers

I agree with Darcy on this one. One of Empty Space’s strengths is that is plays well among different age groups. Younger kids can play it together and enjoy it without much intervention from parents or older siblings. Families with mixed skill levels can enjoy it as well.

The campaign will be live on Kickstarter for a little while longer and is definitely worth a look. Head on over!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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E3 2019 – Dragon Quest Builders 2

Dragon Quest Builders was a title that first came across our radar as a humble PS4 title with big ambitions. The game utilizes the beautiful art style of Akira Toriyama (Of Dragon Quest, Dragon Ball, and Chrono Trigger fame), blending it with Minecraft style construction and level design, on top of Dragon Quest RPG. The sequel was debuted at Square Enix’s E3 2019 presentation and seeks to top even those lofty goals. Dragon Quest as a series has always been a mainstay in the RPG genre, being one of the few games with a lineage going all the way back to the original NES.


The Dragon Quest Builders series paints itself in a much lighter tone than the Dragon Quest series.  Specifically, Dragon Quest Builders 2 integrates co-op multiplayer that shows promise for both epic exploration, combat, and construction to put it in league with Minecraft in terms of its possibilities. Unlike Minecraft though, the story of Dragon Quest Builders 2 is meant to also serve as a tutorial and narrative focus for its block based construction.  This is in contrast to the much more open world that is traditional Minecraft. The play dynamic will give some structure to keep the sprawling options presented in a meaningful way and keep the more casual fan engaged in the gameplay.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 is slated to be released on all major platforms on July 12th to both the PS4 and the Switch. It is built for a very specific audience in mind, but for that audience, this looks to be a stellar experience.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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E3 2019 – HALO Infinite

Halo Infinite has been officially been revealed as the first game associated with Xbox’s next generation console, currently code named Project Scarlett.  This is huge news as this is the first time since the original Xbox console that a Halo title has accompanied the launch of a new console. The trailer provided at the Xbox E3 2019 Media Briefing did not include much in the way of details but instead was a way of introducing back to a newly remastered and super detailed Master Chief, who is found floating in space.

The developers have already confirmed that this will be a great opportunity for new players to get into the Halo franchise.  They intend to give call backs to the previous games and lore but provide a fresh experience and story to new players. Already, die hard Halo fans have been picking it apart the trailer frame by frame to see what can be gleaned from it, including some of those aforementioned callbacks.  There are plenty of theories and conjecture about what we are actually seeing and what it means and when the game takes place in the overall timeline, but at this point that is all they are. Obviously there will be much more to come with this over the next year. I would expect that come the Xbox E3 2020 Media Briefing we will see much more as Project Scarlett is finalized and they are able to actually product game play content.

Xbox has the opportunity to take full control of the proverbial hype machine by linking these two releases together and fully leveraging the capabilities of their new console.  They have the attention of their legions of rabid fans and I expect that to be cultivated over the next twelve months till E3 2020. Please be sure to keep an eye out here for updates and additional information as the Engaged Family Gaming team scours the multiverse for more information.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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dark crystal tactics

By: James Pisano

If you remember Jim Henson’s “The Dark Crystal”, then you had a fantastic childhood.  If you also played Final Fantasy Tactics, or are a fan of the Final Fantasy universe, then your childhood was even better.  If one or both of those statements applies to you, then I have AMAZING news for you!

On the same day that Netflix is releasing “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” prequel TV series, they’re dropping “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics”.  Yep. It’s a Dark Crystal turn-based tactics game, borne out of a partnership between Nintendo, Netflix, and Bonus XP (The developer behind the Stranger Things games).  You’ll be controlling squads of soldiers from the Dark Crystal universe, on a grid based map, and fight using a combination of swords and sorcery. The aesthetic, while simplistic, looks stylized and appropriate for the game.  The animations also look a bit simple, but this was never going to be a graphics powerhouse. If it delivers a sound strategy game, dripping with personality from the world of The Dark Crystal, I think we will all be very happy.

Now, they’ve planted a flag in the ground by putting the word “Tactics” on the end of a game.  That’s definitely a statement, and one that has not gone well for some other games. However, I have faith that they’re going to nail this.  By the short trailer we’ve seen, and my gut instinct, I’m declaring this one a winner, sight unseen. Will I be right? Time will tell.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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E3 2019 Nintendo Direct – 5 Things Parents Need to Know!

Nintendo’s E3 2019 Nintendo Direct was full of fun announcements and surprises! Take a look below for five things that parents need to know!

Animal Crossing: New Horizon Delay

Animal Crossing: New Horizons was unfortunately delayed at the E3 2019 Nintendo Direct.  And while all of us were saddened by this news, we’ve already been waiting 7 years for a new Animal Crossing game, we can wait a few months more.  With its charming design, relaxing atmosphere, and neverending hours of fun, we’ll have plenty to enjoy when it hits the shelves in March 2019.

Two New Smash DLC Characters

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is still rolling out the characters in its fighter pass. The first character was Joker, from Persona 5, which made just about any character to ever be a part of a video game possible. Nintendo revealed two characters during their direct: The Hero from Dragon Quest XI, and Banjo-Kazooie!

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2

Zelda: Breath of the Wild is without a doubt, one of the greatest games ever to come out of Nintendo.  It’s got action, puzzles, story, amazing visuals, and so much more. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t enjoy their time in this version of Hyrule.  So when Nintendo announced that the sequel is in development, jaws around the EFG war room dropped. We all suspected, but now we know its coming. Whenever its ready, we’re bracing for what might be a very different look at Hyrule, and we are 100% OK with that.

Secret of Mana Collection

Let’s see… we’re getting Final Fantasy Adventure (actually part of the “Mana” Series), Secret of Mana, and Trials of Mana, which is actually hitting the US for the first time in history.  Trials was previously known as Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan, and fans of the “Mana” series have been wanting a US port for a very long time. This collection is available today on the Nintendo Switch eShop for $40.  Additionally, a full 3D remake of Trials of Mana will be coming to Nintendo Switch in 2020. All aboard the Mana Hype Train!

Luigi’s Mansion 3

Luigi’s Mansion 3 was announced for later this year. Nintendo revealed a ton of gameplay details during their Direct. This looks like it is going to be a great game for families to enjoy when it comes out later this year.

Honorable Mention: Dark Crystal Tactics

On the same day that Netflix is releasing “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” prequel TV series, they’re dropping “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics”.  Yep. It’s a Dark Crystal turn-based tactics game, borne out of a partnership between Nintendo, Netflix, and Bonus XP (The developer behind the Stranger Things games).  You’ll be controlling squads of soldiers from the Dark Crystal universe, on a grid based map, and fight using a combination of swords and sorcery. The aesthetic, while simplistic, looks stylized and appropriate for the game.  The animations also look a bit simple, but this was never going to be a graphics powerhouse. If it delivers a sound strategy game, dripping with personality from the world of The Dark Crystal, I think we will all be very happy.


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Square Enix E3 2018 Press Conference – 5 Things Parents Need to Know!

Square Enix held their E3 2019 Press conference on June 10th, 2019. They actually took Sony’s normal spot after they bowed out of the event. I knew as soon as that happened that Square had something to show, and they didn’t disappoint.

Take a look below for five things parents need to know!

Final Fantasy VII Remake

The Final Fantasy VII Remake is coming, and sooner than we expected.  On March 3rd, 2020, we’ll get to play this labor of love that so many fans have waited so long for.  On top of that, they seem to have expanded and fleshed out the story, to give us a deeper look into Midgar.  One of the best benefits of today’s gaming technology is it can be used as a tool for more immersive, more complete storytelling.  In the case of the Final Fantasy 7 remake, I think evolving and maturing the storytelling is a smart, and very welcome decision.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was a Square Enix title released during the Nintendo GameCube Era that featured a heavy co-op multiplayer element. The popularity of the game was hamstrung by requiring a combination of Gameboy Advance and GameCube for its most in depth features. In 2003, this is a game where the premise did not quite fit the technology of the times. Almost 15 years later, online and mobile phone technology have closed the gap to making this game accessible to a larger variety of players. This in addition to a fresh HD graphics upgrade makes this an appealing title to investigate for the Winter of 2019.

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition S

Dragon Quest 11 celebrated it success with announcements of its recent port to the Nintendo Switch on both Square Enix and Nintendo’s E3 Presentations. The Definitive Edition combines its adaptations for both the PS4 and the 3DS into a single experience on the Nintendo Switch. As a family gaming experience, this game’s best feature is its consistency in gameplay. Dragon Quest has found its appeal, as well as its detractors, by sticking to its core gameplay and theme and moving with the times only to improve its overall quality. Dragon Quest has been an iconic high fantasy story since its original incarnations in the NES era, and it uses its own nostalgia as its best advertisement. The Switch release comes in the fall of 2019, and its PS4 release is available now, making this a must have in the family gamers library among multiple consoles.

Oninaki

Oninaki is a diablo-esque game with an anime aesthetic. It is being made by the Tokyo RPG Factory and will release August 22, 2019 on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PC. Players equip spirits that provide them with weapons and special skills.

Tokyo RPG Factory has struggled out the gate with its past few games, but this looks like it could be their best game yet!

Marvel’s Avengers

Crystal Dynamics finally revealed Marvel’s Avengers. They had announced it a few years ago, and it was a sight to behold. We can’t wait to play through a single player story featuring Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, The Hulk, and Thor. We especially can’t wait for the multiplayer missions that will be expanded with new maps, mission, and heroes – for free.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Ubisoft E3 2019 Press Conference – 5 Things Parents Need to Know

Ubisoft held their annual E3 2019 Press Conference on June 10th, 2019. The vast majority of the conference was dedicated to updates for their various M-rated games like The Division 2, For Honor, etc. There were a handful of announcements that families need to know.

Take a look below for five things parents need to know:

Just Dance 2020

Ubisoft announced their next iteration of Just Dance for all major platforms during the E3 2019 presentation. It continues to be a family friendly rhythm and dance game that combines popular music with controls and difficulties for a variety of play styles. The song list is being revealed as it gets closer to its November release date. Which internet and radio favorites will be immortalized into this family game? We look forward to telling you soon.

Adventure Time X Brawlhalla

Brawlhalla is a 2D Fighter available on all major platforms that attempts to capture the free for all aspects of Smash Ultimate, the weapon based combat of Samurai Showdown, notable inclusions of indy games like Shovel Knight, all while spelling out the stats of individual characters with an eye towards serious play. Their most recent expansion includes new playable characters and cosmetics from the hit animated series Adventure Time. Finn, Jake, and Princess Bubblegum are added to a roster of 30+ characters, as well as custom animations and effects for the entire cast inspired by the animated series. We find it a neat addition to Ubisoft’s rollout for the year, and are curious how this game will carve out its own niche in a crowded field.

Uplay +

Ubisoft announced a subscription service for PC (and eventually Google Stadia) that will grant access to the deluxe versions of all of their games as well as all of the DLC. The service will debut this September and will cost $14.99.

The cost may seem a bit high, but when you consider the cost of digital deluxe editions for Ubi games (and the DLC for those games) the numbers start to sound much more reasonable.

Roller Champions

Ubisoft announced Roller Champions during their press conference. It’s a roller ball game that includes bright colors and fast action. I felt a distinct Rocket League vibe while I was watching the trailer.

Ubi released a demo for the game on the same day, so we should know more about the game soon.

Gods and Monsters

The team behind Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is definitely putting in extra hours at the office. God’s and Monsters is an action RPG focused on mythology that bears more than a passing resemblance to Breath of the Wild. We don’t know many details yet, aside from the the February 25, 2020, but we can’t wait to learn. This looks like it’s going to be one of the biggest surprises of the show!


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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E3 2019 – LEGO Games at E3 This Year!

This weekend Microsoft had their Xbox E3 2019 Media Briefinghttp://engagedfamilygaming.com/videogames/5-things-parents-need-to-know-from-the-xbox-e3-2019-media-briefing/ and we had two Bricktastic announcements that raced into our hearts!

To our surprise Microsoft announced some AWESOME DLC for Forza Horizon 4 involving LEGO Speed Champions! LEGO Speed Champions is LEGO’s line of model kits based on real life cars like the McLaren Senna model. (They actually had a full size LEGO car on stage!)

The DLC pack features a new area that mixes real cars rendered with realistic textures and cars constructed from virtual LEGO. The racers even drove past iconic LEGO Expert sets and then onto realistic scenes. I am not into racing games normally, but this is a day one purchase and even convinced me to sign up for Xbox Game Pass. The DLC comes to Forze Horizons 4 on June 13th and will be sold at a discount with Game Pass

Changing gears..

Not so long time ago in a galaxy not so far away Xbox gave us hope by announcing LEGO The Star Wars The Skywalker Saga! It’s a new LEGO game that features levels from all nine of the movies including Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The trailer shows that they’ll be going back to the silent comedy we enjoyed from some of the first games in the series. We are most excited to see what scenes from all of our favorite movies make their way into the game even making light of the most iconic scene of Empire Strikes back and blended into a very cute Darth Vader Snowman and then Kylo Ren and Rey show us some action.

LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will be out next year in PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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