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Author Topic: [My Life with Master] Black ooze oozes forth  (Read 7371 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: October 06, 2003, 07:21:46 AM »

Hello,

We played our second session of My Life with Master (see [My Life with Master] Black ooze and babies) yesterday. Julie really found her feet as GM, mainly in terms of scene cutting and moving 'round the table in order.

In fact, that's a question ... I've found GMing this game to work very well when "turns" are handled very much as in a card game, just going around to the left. If someone wants to walk his or her character into a pre-existing scene, fine, but the turns proceed in round-robin. The first time I saw this apply in a role-playing game was in Soap, and it shows up in identical form in Universalis as well.

Julie made an interesting point about one of her decisions as GM: in this game, the Master will never unite the Minions in a scene. In other words, if we want Minion-Minion interaction, we as the players must move our characters into the same locales. I can see that this standard on Julie's part doesn't have to be a universal constraint for the game in all its forms, but it's quite solid as a local standard - consistent with the "divide and conquer" abusive mentality of the Master.

So what happened? Oh golly. Let's see, Adrian Auenbrugger (Lord Schwartzschlamm) is this Brain/Breeder Master, using his black slimy bog to produce infants. He has three such children being raised in town at the moment, and during this (our second) session, two of them got killed. One of them was drowned by a Minion, in a wonderful example of crossed communication (the Master had no idea he was ordering the death of his most precious protege); the other was dragged into the bog by his mother (!!), one of the women who emerged from the bog to stalk through the town and reclaim their spawn during a Horror Revealed.

The Horrors Revealed both showed how much of the back-story can be provided by players in this game. The two that we saw in this session included the aforementioned women-zombies (tracking wet black footprints) and instances of black ooze seeping up in the cellar of one of the key households in town. I emphasize "can" because, of course, if a player is disinclined to provide such background, the Horror Revealed doesn't have to.

Here are some rules questions that I recorded during play.

1. Can the Master put some Weariness onto a Minion by beating him or her? The rules as we understand them suggest not, and if that's correct, we all like that. My Minion, Augustin, took a cane-whipping this session, and by our reading of the rules, he had two choices during the scene: (a) flee, if possible; and (b) cower and eat it. The fun part is that he takes no Weariness, so it's pure humiliation, nothing more.

And that kind of matches my images of some of the movie versions of Frankenstein hitting the monster with sticks, or the early movie version of Dr. Moreau whipping his beast-men. They hate it, and they can't defend themselves, but in plain old effectiveness-terms, the abuse doesn't lessen their abilities for later. (Note that the literary references for these characters contain no such scenes, but that's another discussion.)

2. Do Minions' "More than Human" descriptions affect one another? In one scene, my character Augustin confronted his fellow Minion Nestor, the drowner of the boy Augustin is looking for. Tod played Nestor as sullen and defiant, and not at all interested Augustin's distress. Now, Augustin's More than Human is "terrify anyone except when passion is involved," but I more-or-less decided on my own not to employ it. I liked Nestor's stonewalling in the scene, especially since he did confess (or retort, really) that he'd killed the boy.

But what if I, as a player, had invoked my More than Human? I foresee some potential for conflict there. All of us are resigned to being cowed by the Master, if we either choose to accept or fail to resist a command. But how about this kind of situation? Or, to choose an even more problematic example, the More than Human held by a Minion in my recent campus game? He could "kill anyone except those who bear him no ill-will." What if he'd turned that on a fellow Minion?

3. By my reading of the rules, Connections who bear Love are inviolate during a Horror Revealed narration ... but are not so protected at any other point during play. If the Master either sends a Minion or does anything else that kills such a Connection, that's it: the NPC is dead and the Minion who benefits from that Love loses it, and that's that. Assuming that all the preceding is correct, I'm curious to know whether the Master can conceivably do such a thing without any roll on the GM's part. I mean, it's more fun to have the Master order a fellow Minion to do it, but say the Connection is near the Master already, and the bastard/bitch decides to strangle the Connection for some reason. Bam, no Connection, right? With no roll necessary?

4. Tod had Nestor do a fair amount of Connections-interaction, including plans to get them out of town. That's tricky, isn't it? Say that a player-character does this and is reasonably successful at it, due to good role-playing and various in-game circumstances. Aren't those Connections now essentially "safe"? It's a kind of sequestering of vulnerable pieces, in a way. Paul, is this an issue at all? And if it is, what do you suggest a GM consider?

Best,
Ron
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2003, 08:48:51 AM »

Hey Ron,

Obviously I'm not Paul.  Nor do I have answers to your questions.  But I do have a couple comments.

For me, the only problematic issue I ever saw with Master was that certain abusive GMs could prolong a game nearly indefinitely by systematically ordering the death of connections every few minutes.  Paul and I discussed it a bit, and I was curious to see if eventual play would bear out the concern.  It hasn't really.

But I was concerned enough about it that, when playtesting the game, I did exactly what you describe Tod as doing.  I maneuvered amongst my Connections very carefully, and at certain points tried to get them to "safe" places.  Paul was pretty savvy about it all; I don't think more than one of my connections ever actually left play for safer regions, and at one point a physical struggle ensured between another minion and I, with the life of one of my Connections on the line.  Even so, my play was rewarded.  I only ever lost one Connection during the game - and I had many - and Paul was either nice to me, or I flew under his radar, because I acted almost totally independent of our Master most of the game (unlike certain characters, who were constantly having horrible indiscretions visited upon them).

So I guess I'm curious to hear Paul's answer too.  From my perspective, careful play with Connections was rewarded, but again, when the Master was near, I was very good at deflecting the spolight from myself.

- Scott
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jrs
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« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2003, 09:07:34 AM »

I like to think of our game as the Schwartzschlammkinder game.

I've been wondering about the escaping connections.  It's true that Nestor was successful in convincing his connections that it is urgent that they leave town.  That they actually will succeed in escaping is a different issue in my mind.  I like to think of them on the road, just out of town, at night, with a broken wagon axle.  It would make a nice Horror Revealed.

I didn't really think about this too much during play; I was still grappling with incorporating the bog women from Maura's HR especially after Ron's request for an overture(!!!) scene with one of them.

So far, my biggest struggle as the GM is determining the use of the Sincerity die.  

Julie
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GB Steve
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« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2003, 10:31:12 AM »

Here's what we did under such circumstances. We did have a few queries and moments of indecision but on the whole we came to some kind of concensus on how to procede and it worked rather well.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
1. Can the Master put some Weariness onto a Minion by beating him or her? The rules as we understand them suggest not, and if that's correct, we all like that. My Minion, Augustin, took a cane-whipping this session, and by our reading of the rules, he had two choices during the scene: (a) flee, if possible; and (b) cower and eat it. The fun part is that he takes no Weariness, so it's pure humiliation, nothing more.
The Master does not inflcit weariness. Ours had a penchant for stabbing people with cutlery, but did not actual damage, beyond the humiliation.
Quote from: Ron Edwards
2. Do Minions' "More than Human" descriptions affect one another? In one scene, my character Augustin confronted his fellow Minion Nestor, the drowner of the boy Augustin is looking for. Tod played Nestor as sullen and defiant, and not at all interested Augustin's distress. Now, Augustin's More than Human is "terrify anyone except when passion is involved," but I more-or-less decided on my own not to employ it. I liked Nestor's stonewalling in the scene, especially since he did confess (or retort, really) that he'd killed the boy.

But what if I, as a player, had invoked my More than Human? I foresee some potential for conflict there. All of us are resigned to being cowed by the Master, if we either choose to accept or fail to resist a command. But how about this kind of situation? Or, to choose an even more problematic example, the More than Human held by a Minion in my recent campus game? He could "kill anyone except those who bear him no ill-will." What if he'd turned that on a fellow Minion?
We had our More-thans affect each other, in fact there was a fair amount of player on player action involving beatings and humiliation. I'd suggest that the more than you quoted is perhaps a too-much-than because it directly interferes with the violence/villany idea.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
3. By my reading of the rules, Connections who bear Love are inviolate during a Horror Revealed narration ... but are not so protected at any other point during play. If the Master either sends a Minion or does anything else that kills such a Connection, that's it: the NPC is dead and the Minion who benefits from that Love loses it, and that's that. Assuming that all the preceding is correct, I'm curious to know whether the Master can conceivably do such a thing without any roll on the GM's part. I mean, it's more fun to have the Master order a fellow Minion to do it, but say the Connection is near the Master already, and the bastard/bitch decides to strangle the Connection for some reason. Bam, no Connection, right? With no roll necessary?
I think the Master can only affect villagers through the means of a Minion but we did have an occasion when the Master ordered a Minion to bring a connection to the castle. The Master then tried to kill the connection but we persuaded him not to.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
4. Tod had Nestor do a fair amount of Connections-interaction, including plans to get them out of town. That's tricky, isn't it? Say that a player-character does this and is reasonably successful at it, due to good role-playing and various in-game circumstances. Aren't those Connections now essentially "safe"? It's a kind of sequestering of vulnerable pieces, in a way. Paul, is this an issue at all? And if it is, what do you suggest a GM consider?
We tried this, but to no avail. Nothing was safe from the Master who knows and sees all. He just sent another minion to retrieve them. I was marginally more succesful in giving my connection a sleeping draught so he didn't turn up to mass which I new had been perverted into a demon summoning ritual.

One of our more common problems was a player trying to make a connection and do the Master's bidding at the same time. We ruled that connections can only be made if the intent is pure, and certainly not something to meet the Master's demands.
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joshua neff
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« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2003, 11:27:36 AM »

When we played MLWM, we had the More Than Human abilities affect other minions. This was used to tragically humorous effect when Mike's groundskeeper Wilhelm (ha!), whose More Than Human trait was "can convince anyone, except children," convinced Ryan's minion Tor to clean up the blood Tor had spilled, when the Master had ordered Tor to get Wilhelm to do it. (Which was interesting. The command was for Tor, not Wilhelm, even though it was to get Wilhelm to do something. So, Mike didn't have to make a resistance roll, & Tor failed at the task, even though he gave it an honest try.) The next scene, the Master berated Tor for cleaning up the blood--"I told you to get Wilhelm to do it, you towering imbecile!"

The Master elimination connections became much less of an issue when two Players decided they both wanted to end up the new Master, so began attacking their own connections to drive their Love to zero.

...I have weird Players.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2003, 11:47:43 AM »

Hey Ron,

1. Can the Master put some Weariness onto a Minion by beating him or her?

No. He can't hurt you, and you can't hurt him until you have enough Love. You know how dysfunctional families have these crazy, knock-down drag-out fights, clawing and screaming, throwing dishware, and pushing each other through glass windows and shit? It's like that. When you're family, you never exceed each other's tolerances.

2. Do Minions' "More than Human" descriptions affect one another?

I'm going to draw from the dysfunctional family analogy for this one as well. The answer is no, not if the player of the targeted minion does not wish his character to be affected. When you're a family, you're so keenly aware of each other's bullshit that you're immune. Sure, you respect your family for what you know they're capable of. But try and put your flame breath on me, I saw it coming and stepped aside.

I'm curious to know whether the Master can conceivably do such a thing without any roll on the GM's part....strangle the Connection for some reason. Bam, no Connection, right? With no roll necessary?

Nah. It wouldn't be codependent if a Master could take that kind of decisive action. A Master should be considered physically/mentally temporarily/permanently incapable/unwilling to consider/do such a thing.

Aren't those Connections now essentially "safe"?

Julie has the right of it. There's no such thing as safe. If Nestor rolls a tie in a conflict next session, then maybe father is standing in the doorway. "You mother was worried about you." Sure, part of the player's game is "protecting your pieces" the way Tod did. But the GM's job is to keep the pieces in play.

Paul
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2003, 12:58:49 PM »

On the whole "safety" issue, I think there are some interesting Step on Up features here. That is, I always play to subtly move my connections out of harm's way. Not that the Master can't send a minion out to do them harm, but sometimes out of sight is out of mind. Interestingly, if you do this blatantly, you're asking for people to go after your connections. So it really only works if you can squeeze it plausibly into play. So, again, the better the story, the more likely you are to "win".

On a "tactical" note, also remember to spread out your Love somewhat. That way it takes more for you do drop precipitously. This helps the plot as well by introducing more NPCs. OTOH, again, don't spread the love too thin, or players will catch on, and start killing the less important one's; after all, they're not that important, right? Further, you can try to be with connections that are valueable and guard them (people don't employ this tactic nearly enough), and too spread out means that you won't be able to defend the ones you love. Not that it often works, but occasionally you can thwart an attempt - it's a numbers game you're playing over time. A target rich environment can be just as problematic as one in which you have only a few really juicy targets.

So the key is to moderate your connections. Have some worth defending, and some "roamers" holding on to some of your love in the backfield far from notice. Spread things out intelligently.

Another key is to get love with other minions' connections. There's more chance that these will last a little longer if the other minion decides to resist the master on a command to kill the connection in question (OTOH, again, it becomes a juicy target, however). This helps the plot by intertwining it more, of course.

All in all it's difficult, but interesting to play to try to preserve your connections. The feeling of desperation that you get, as you're unlikely to be able to succeed in protecting your connections, is a very pressing challenge, IMO.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2003, 07:21:14 PM »

Hello,

I like the idea that a More Than Human works on another Minion only with that player's consent. That seems to me to account for any possible problems, and also to allow those over-the-top examples, keeping them from being, as Steve so rightly put it, Too Much Thans.

Steve, the previous Black Ooze thread includes some discussion about More Than Humans that overlap with violence and villainy. I would have thought they'd be game-breakers too, but as it turns out, they work fine in play after all, at least in my experience. (And I play with some real boundary-pushers in terms of stretching descriptors, believe me.)

Some more highlights of play ...

- Nestor mocking the child as he drowned him, which was all the more nasty because he'd actually had a sort-of-nice conversation with him in the previous session. Of course, Nestor also likes to carve apples with the Master's face and then smash'em.

- A quick off-topic conversation about The Blob, both versions, after Tod's Horror Revealed which brought the ooze into town. On reflection, I think the out-of-game discussion wasn't really as much of a digression as it might have looked. I suspect we were establishing that "Blob stuff" would be appreciated in further scenes, rather than "let's not do it like the Blob."

Best,
Ron
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Blake Hutchins
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« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2003, 10:51:33 AM »

How far do More Than Humans apply to the Master?  Such as the "Kill anyone unless the victim bears the minion no ill will" one?

Best,

Blake
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Tim Alexander
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« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2003, 10:55:48 AM »

Quote
How far do More Than Humans apply to the Master? Such as the "Kill anyone unless the victim bears the minion no ill will" one?


As I understand it they don't. I don't have my copy on me, but the Master/Minion relationship is pretty explicit. The only time the minion can really do anything to the master directly is in the endgame, and it's accomplished via love. Sidestepping those mechanics with a MTH seems pretty directly against the theme to me.

-Tim
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2003, 01:27:44 PM »

Hi Blake,

I wrote pretty extensively on that issue in the [My Life with Master] Hell and heresy thread.

Best,
Ron
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Blake Hutchins
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« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2003, 07:15:36 PM »

Thanks for the referral, Ron.  Will check it out.

Best,

Blake
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2003, 10:07:35 AM »

Our ooze-of-blackness continues!

Here are all the really fun "it clicked" things from the most recent session.

1. Tod played his character Nestor as the most malevolent, yet pathetically-defiant Minion possible. Snivelling, resentfully protesting, ceaselessly trying to get his Connections safely away ... what a nasty, hairy little wretch!

And some great inter-player stuff went on about that latter. Ordered by the Master to fetch Nestor, my character used his Terrifying-ness to suss out Nestor's Connections, then Villainously tricked poor Hilde into going to the Master's manse ... Nestor then managed to get her out of there, but only by having her set off across the countryside, on foot, with nothing to her name, into the night. Angst, I tell you!

2. Maura didn't really mesh with this game and system until this session, in my opinion, but it did come together. Her character is saddled with an insane Self-Loathing (I think she succeeded in an Overture roll exactly once, despite many tries), so I can't wait until she decides to get medieval during Endgame.

3. Julie found her feet regarding the Sincerity die, I think, and it showed up several times during the session. Some musings about how to explain this die to future GMs of the game might be helpful.

By this point, the Master was onto all of our Connections and more than happy to make us miserable to get what he wanted ... and the key figure was Trude Hilde, his dead sister, arisen from the bog and clearly the mother of the only female bog-child. Minerva finds them in the family crypt, the little girl braiding her corpse-mother's slimy, scummy hair, singing a happy tune. As I pointed out, the male Gothic Master never just has a sister; he has, you know, a sister (cue impassioned psychotic monologue). So we were all pretty determined to protect the Love we'd earned and to get out from under the bastard's thumb.

4. We all tried to defy the Master one way or another, but fairly hopelessly. Fear 5 ain't messing around ... But I especially liked Minerva's protest: "Are you, then, God?" And at the Master's pleased self-realization that that, indeed, fitted his self-assessment ("At last you understand ..."), she loses it and calls him a "pathetic, self-perpetuating piece of Schlamm!" Of course, then she's commanded to do something awful and has to go do it.

As it turned out, we reached Endgame way sooner than I expected. That's mainly because two of us became eligible for Endgame, and looked at the odds and chuckled despairingly ... but tried anyway. On my turn, I got the Sincerity die (I'd been angling for the Intimacy one, but it kind of snowballed during my delivery) ... and it turned up a 7 on d8. With that helping out my little handful of [0-3] dice, I succeeded in defying the Master by a single point. So we're starting the next session with Endgame, which promises to be a doozy.

The main thing I'm concerned about, mechanically, is that (as I say) the characters are a little under-equipped for Endgame rolling. I think a little helping-roll and quite a bit of angling for bonus dice will have to be necessary if we want to kill him without going into insane Weariness levels. And what happens to the other Minions who happen to be in town, I shudder to think, as those townsfolk were getting quite incensed about our recent activities there. And let's not forget that black ooze puddle that formed in the cellar of the Glockl's residence.

And that dreadful little girl seems fair fit to become a new Master, perhaps. And what the hell is up with that infant who resembles the Master and the other bog-children, but apparently was not birthed from the bog? Endgame may entail a wide range of scenes, I think.

Questions:

1. Are Overtures still possible during Endgame? I'm thinking of the player-framed scenes for characters who aren't in direct conflict with the Master.

2. Could some mechanism prevent the currently numerically-possible outcome that Endgame rolls do not result in the death of the Master? I know the rules say the Master's fate is sealed, but how can that happen if the Master wins a ton of rolls and the Minion fighting him or her just gets ultra-Weary?

3. On a related but larger-scale note, what if no player gives a rat's ass about Love and just maxes out on Self-Loathing by obeying the Master, ultimately generating a Horror Revealed per player, every other scene? Should another Endgame mechanic be generated once that happens, such that the Master successfully destroys himself or herself, as well as all the Minions? Or something like that? [I suggest referring to this outcome as the Holmes Heresy or something similar.]

3. If a Minion is not eligible for an Epilogue after the death of the Master, what happens? I suggest an Epilogue option to cover this be, "The Minion seeks out and finds a new Master to serve." [OK, I'm cheating. Paul and I already discussed this.]

Best,
Ron
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joshua neff
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« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2003, 11:26:33 AM »

When we played MLWM, Mike barely made his Resist Master roll as well & was barely up to defeating the Master during Endgame. The result was that Mike pushed really hard each of his turns during Endgame to get a bonus die, pulling out all of the stops & cranking the angst to 11. If I remember correctly, he ended up pulling a "Darth Vader" & revealing that he was, in fact, the Master's father. (This had never been mentioned before, either in-game or -out-of-game. Completely spur of the moment soap opera revelation. And we never really established if it were ture or just an invention of Mike's character.) With a final good roll (which Mike needed the bonus die to make), he defeated the Master, who, unable to deal with the family revelation, hurled himself out the window to his death.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2003, 09:04:19 AM »

Hey Ron,

1. Are Overtures still possible during Endgame? I'm thinking of the player-framed scenes for characters who aren't in direct conflict with the Master.

Yes, you have it exactly right, overtures can happen in those scenes. To nitpick though, they aren't "player-framed scenes." They're requested by the player and framed by the GM.

2. Could some mechanism prevent the currently numerically-possible outcome that Endgame rolls do not result in the death of the Master?....

3. On a related but larger-scale note, what if no player gives a rat's ass about Love and just maxes out on Self-Loathing by obeying the Master, ultimately generating a Horror Revealed per player, every other scene?


Maybe I'm making a mistake, but these I'm inclined to leave unaddressed in the text. My experience suggests that the game very effectively carves out a shared ownership of the story, through the text, through the work of collaborative Master creation, and through play. So, by the time Endgame is triggered I'd be surprised if a group wasn't entirely capable of solving concern #2 to their own satisfaction, should it arise...likely inventing something very much in line with the outcome you suggest.

And if after collaborative Master creation a group is capable of #3, I'm not sure anything I might write into the game text would solve their problems.

3. If a Minion is not eligible for an Epilogue after the death of the Master, what happens? I suggest an Epilogue option to cover this be, "The Minion seeks out and finds a new Master to serve." [OK, I'm cheating. Paul and I already discussed this.]

Yep, I'm going to make this an official rules annotation. I recommend scrawling it into the wide margins of page 41 in your best deranged hand.

Paul
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And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
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