Sunday, June 15, 2014

An Abandoned Map (Now Found)

An Abandoned Map
Gus L from over at Dungeon of Signs has abandoned this map, so I thought it would be interesting--and fun--to see what happened if it showed up somewhere else, so here it is. I opted to keep things minimally-statted and aimed at a party of low-level adventurers. This dungeon can be quickly and painlessly used or adapted for use with whatever system you prefer, whether Swords & Wizardry (Complete), OD&D, DCC RPG, Heroes & Other Worlds, T&T, AD&D, Labyrinth Lord, or whatever, maybe even some version of FATE, FUDGE or one of those other newfangled games.

This is pretty much a bare-bones sort of thing, wide open to re-interpretation, adaptation and on-the-fly improvisation. If you don't like a particular monster, feel free to swap it out for one you do like. If there needs to be more monsters, more traps, more whatever, then feel free to add whatever you need to make it work for you. Take it and make it your own. Go for it. Knock yourself out. Have fun!

The Weird Mound

A weird tumorous mound of semi-petrified flesh was recently discovered in the middle of a previously unexplored box canyon that a family of goat-herds thought might hold some decent pasturage for their goats. The pasture is lush and very tempting. They just don't trust the mound-heap and have offered a modest reward to anyone brave enough to go examine the thing.

Getting There
The surrounding area is steep, rocky and heavily wooded everywhere there's a spot for trees to take root. Several small streams cut through the rocky soil and there is a lot of sage, thyme and rosemary growing in abundance wherever the trees haven't quite taken over yet.

It takes one or two days to get to the weird mound, following the tracks and trails used by the herders. They have sent along a guide to lead you to the place, but upon arrival the kid runs off figuring that you can find your own way back.

First Look at the Weird Mound
Maybe, once long ago, this thing might have been a big jiggly mass of stuff like aspic or pudding. In places it still looks kind of soft or squishy. Distorted and tangled weeds of unhealthy aspect jut out of cracks and crevices all over the mound. It gets progressively and more obviously drier, darker and more brittle the higher up it goes. The upper layers are a tumbled mess of fractured splinters and shapeless, broken debris. Nothing grows on top of any of this stuff.

You are not the first ones to discover this Mound. There are a number of entrances, crevices, niches, carved-out cavities and ledges built into the place by diverse hands in various styles, apparently at several different historical periods.

The Outer Areas (A-G)
Roll 1d4 and consult the options in the green box however often or as many times as you like while the characters are poking about or loitering in these areas.

Area A
Marble columns flank an ornate door, three to a side. Rancid-smelling blue-veined vines clutch the columns to about half-way from the top where they fall away in a fine gray powder. The ornate doors crumble to dust and half-petrified fragments if you attempt to open them. The space beyond the outer columns is cool, dry and has an indefinable mustiness to it. None of the vines intrude on this dimly lit area.
Roll 1d4 as often as desired...
1) The vines attack as (1d4) constrictor snakes. 2) A column crumbles as you pass. 3) Nasty green mold covers the overhanging ceiling. It drips a mild acidic fluid on everyone who passes. 4) The disintegration of the door startles a flock of hairless three-eyed bat-things that squawk loudly as they flutter off in a swarm to escape from the disturbance.

Area B
A sandy slope leads into a sharp-edged crack in the Mound. There are bones jutting out of the sand. Mostly small animals. The sand gets deeper and more slippery the farther back you try to go, making this route challenging and potentially difficult.
1) A partial (legless) Skeleton crawls out of the sand and attacks wielding a beautiful jade cutlass. 2) The sand begins to pour forth from the opening in a massive surge. Everyone attempting to make their way through this stuff must Save or make a DEX Check to avoid getting buried. The sand-flow subsides in about an hour.  3) Nasty yellow mold covers the overhanging ceiling. It drips a foul-smelling milky fluid on everyone who passes. Those exposed must make a Save or their leather and fabric clothes/armor/gear will begin to fall apart. 4) Someone finds a rough-edged disk of translucent gray stone carved with the likeness of an octopus that has the face of a mandrill on top wielding some sort of jagged-toothed chopping weapons in each of its eight limbs.

Area C
Crudely carved stone steps lead back into a roughly-hewn hole hacked and hammered through the very stuff of the Mound. There are chunks and pieces of brittle mound-stuff scattered across the steps. The debris is as brittle as charcoal and appears harmless. The walls of this entrance are covered with angular spirals with sharply-exaggerated corners almost like hooks.
1) A section of the ceiling overhead collapses. Everyone within 10' of the opening must make a Save or DEX check to avoid getting struck by falling debris for 1d4 damage. 2) The spiral-carvings in the walls seem to swirl and change colors as you pass. 3) Nasty red-spotted mold covers the overhanging ceiling. It sprays a fine mist of sweet-smelling nectar on everyone who passes. This stuff remains pungent for the next 2d4 hours and turns exposed portions of skin a sickly pink. 4) There are (1d4) Giant Centipedes coiled-up within some of those carved-out spirals and they will attack with surprise if no one notices them in time.

Area D
A small stairway leads up to a flat, clear corridor. The walls are whitewashed. The floor is spotless.
1) The 'whitewash' is actually caustic lime and anyone stirring up the stuff by walking through here must Save or be blinded for the next 1d20 hours. 2) An stunted, albino Black Pudding lairs in a niche in the ceiling. 3) Nasty bone-white mold covers the overhanging ceiling. It does nothing, but it is extremely flammable. 4) A Skeleton wielding a broken spear (The head is missing) attacks. Inside its skull is a small green stone cut with three indecipherable rune-marks.

Area E
A ledge where someone once set up a modest shrine from mounded-up bones, candles and other bits and pieces. It hasn't been used in decades, if not centuries. There might be a sort of altar-stone set-up towards the back.
1) There's a small white conical stone lying amid the bones, stones and debris. It is cool to the touch and radiates a faint magic (Radiates a faint aura of Protection From Faeries in a 12' radius). 2) The debris shifts as you sift through it, or as you pass it by. In either case there's nothing to see here. 3) Nasty black mold covers the overhanging ceiling. It crumbles into a toxic cloud of smoke-like spores if disturbed. Those exposed must Save or suffer intense diarrhea for the next 1d4 hours. 4) A Skeleton of some sort of prehuman creature digs, claws and pulls its way out from under the debris. It will mindlessly serve any one-word command given to it by the first person it encounters.

Area F
Another ledge, only this one was stripped bare and blasted by intense heat. There are harpy bones burned into the Mound-stuff from whatever destroyed the shrine that once occupied this niche.
1) A section of wall collapses as you pass, revealing even more blackened bones embedded in the side of the Mound. 2) A hazy black flame erupts from the center of the floor inside the niche. It lasts for less than a second, but fills everyone who sees it with a lingering sens of dread. All retainers, hirelings and the like must roll their Morale Checks with a -2 penalty. 3) Nasty orange mold covers the overhanging ceiling. It scrutinizes your group with a single lambent green eye but disdains to converse with lower life-forms. 4) A blackened harpy-skeleton tries to free itself from the wall only to tear itself to pieces in the process, scattering burnt old bones across the floor.

Area G
Four very angular, very precise openings have been sliced through the Mound-stuff. Each of these openings extend upwards for over 30'. The walls are clean, smooth and exactly perpendicular to the extremely smooth and flat floor. Everything gets rougher and less finished and cruder the farther back one goes.
1) The upper portions of this passage are unsteady and will collapse in a heap of debris after anyone goes farther than ten feet into this space. Unless they stand there gawking, there is no danger of getting hit, hurt or buried as the collapse proceeds in slow motion and makes little to no noise. 2) The other openings close-up as you enter this one. 3) Nasty blue-striped mold covers the overhanging ceiling. It drips a meaty-scented liquor that is absorbed by the walls before it can reach you. 4) The floor cracks and peels as you pass and grows progressively more brittle the farther back you move until finally a section gives way, leaving a yawning pit that blocks the way forward. The pit forms in slow motion, so is easy to avoid. It extends to a depth of at least 300' deep, and is 1d4x10' across and goes from wall to wall.

The Inner Regions
Wherever there appears to be a door marked on the map roll 1d6: 1-4) The door collapses into fragments and dust without harming anyone or making much noise; 5) Whomever touches or is within 5' of the door must roll a DEX Check or Save to avoid taking 1d4 damage from the petrified fragments of the door cascading down around them with a terrible clatter. Make a Wandering Monster Check; 6) The door screams loudly, tears itself loose, and charges past the group in an attempt to escape its centuries-long imprisonment only to splinter, shred and fall to pieces with each step. It will get about 30' before it finally collapses into a pile of debris. A Wandering Monster is pretty much going to happen now, no need to roll.

Room 1
The door leading inwards from here is partly petrified, partly rotted. It breaks into shards and pieces on contact. The noise echoes quite a bit. [Roll bonus Wandering Monster check.]

There are two rows of four columns. Each column is featureless, smooth and seemingly all of one piece of peculiarly mottled marble. Closer examination will reveal that these 'columns' are in fact semi-petrified mottled puddings that are slowly awakening due to your lingering presence. Leaving the room allows the Puddings to return to their suspended animation state, sticking around will have a 3HD Mottled Pudding (treat as Black Pudding)  become active every other round until all six have been awakened. If the Puddings are destroyed, examining the much smaller-diameter columns they were mounted upon will reveal several intricately carved panels of fragile fossilized ivory, each one weighing over 200 pounds and approximately 10' tall, 1/2' wide and 3" thick. The panels can be removed from the columns simply by prying them loose with a dagger or whatnot. Transporting the panels will be tricky; they break if handled roughly and will be ruined unless carefully handled. They are priceless archaeological finds dating back thousands of years, but will probably net about 1,000 GP each from the usual suspects...if you can get them back intact. The fragments will be all but worthless, except to very peculiar crafters of exotic materials.

Room 2
Small Temple. The columns in this area are stark black stone and quite inert. A large black basalt block has been set-up in the middle of the floor and appears to have been used as the base for an altar and other fixtures that have all been rudely and vigorously removed be some previous despoiler of sacred precincts. If anyone cares, the walls are painted with frescoes depicting strangely interconnected clusters of organic swirls and loops that take on an ominous aspect the longer you look at them. All NPCs allowed to stare at these frescoes must make a Morale Check with a -4 penalty.

Room 3
A half-dome ceiling completely covered with an ancient mosaic fashioned from human finger-bones. There is a dull gray fuzz extending down from the top obscuring the most interesting parts of the mosaic. What you can see is disturbing, disgusting and causes all NPCs to make another Morale Check with a -6 penalty.

There are a couple of small, dark storage-spaces behind grated-doors. Both of these little rooms were in fact cells where dozens of fingerless skeletons have been piled like so much cord-wood.

Room 4
The walls are smeared with long-dried blood and show the clear signs of a mighty struggle. Massive vertebrae from some sort of exotic giant serpent lie scattered across the dusty and filthy floor. There is no sign of the things head. What remains of the furniture is smashed and burned. Someone has chopped some sort of vulgar insult into one of the walls at about thigh-level with a chisel or axe.

Room 5
A badly mauled skeleton missing one arm is suspended by chains head-down over a brazier that has fallen off of its tripod. There is a large ruby ring still attached to the skeleton's sole remaining index finger.The ruby glitters and glimmers seductively in the dimness of this room. It contains the essence and soul of the old High Priest who used to be master of this shrine, before his insatiable hunger for human sacrifices brought him into conflict with a band of adventurers...but that was long ago and of no interest or lasting consequence.

Room 6
A ledge littered with broken idols, all of which have bat-like features. A closer examination will reveal that each one is in fact the petrified remains of something that once lived.

The bat-thing idols are fragile, but can be carried if wrapped carefully. They might fetch a few coins from those interested in extinct monsters and the like.

Room 7
A fractured pedestal stands between two opposing stairs. A heavy metal foot broken off just above the ankle is all that remains of an ancient iron golem that used to guard this space.

Room 8
The old castellan's desk is a mouldering mass of rotted wood and loose-bits of trash. A heavily tarnished silver-chased ceremonial shield has crumpled to the floor. It might be worth a few coppers, but moving it will upset the (1d4) Giant Centipedes hiding behind it.

Both sets of bunks in the two sleeping areas have fallen into ruin and rot. There are a few random bits of off-hand junk left behind, including a letter-opener (dagger-1), and a carved bone chit once used in a brothel long since gone.

Room 9
Bats have taken over this room. Hundreds of the wee beasts sleep suspended from the ceiling and a few projecting pieces of the walls during the daylight hours. Each night they fly forth to feed on insects. The floor is almost waist-deep with accumulated guano. They've been here a long time. Digging in the guano will only attract a wandering monster. This room was cleared-out well before the bats moved in.

Room 10
A cultic shrine. The pillars in this place are twisted and slick with an oily residue. The floors are covered with enameled tiles arranged in intricate geometric patterns that resemble angular, hook-like spirals of green and yellow flaring across black and purple abstract cloud formations. A brazier of white metal suspended in the air by a lingering enchantment flares into life as anyone enters this room. Three more of the things lie dead and inert on the floor. The brazier can be moved slowly, but will go inert if taken out of the room.

All NPCs entering this room must make a Morale Check with a -4 penalty. Those rolling a result of '1' become suddenly and violently ill, vomiting uncontrollably and suffering 1d4 damage per Turn that they remain inside the Mound. Those that die from this disorder rise as zombies within 1d4 Turns.

Stairs lead down and away from this room to a landing. There are two black onyx statues set in rounded niches on the left-hand side of the landing. These figures are grim, menacing and monstrous but inert. Each has a large, crudely cut ruby mounted in each of their three eye-sockets. Tampering with the statues will result in the floor of the landing falling away, leaving only a 3" rim around the pit trap so revealed. This pit is 60' deep and the walls are dry and crumbly, making climbing difficult as portions will cascade down upon anyone struggling about down there. A gong will sound as the floor falls away. It might attract a wandering monster, but the guards it was intended to call are long gone.

Room 11
The door to this small room was spiked shut from the inside. The door breaks easily now, due to rot and age. There are two small humanoid skeletons in here, one clutching a short sword, the other with a clearly damaged skull. A small sack in the corner will fall to dust if disturbed. Underneath are 400gp, 20sp, and a small gem worth maybe 100gp. The coins are crudely stamped from chunks of raw metal and might be of some interest to a numismatist or historian.

Room 12
The old font, nave and statuary in this room have all been thoroughly smashed and defecated upon.

Room 13
The frescoes on this room's walls have all been defaced, often in crudely humorous ways. There is a stack of 27 slightly fractured skulls stacked along the wall. All of them have turquoise and jade bits implanted in their teeth.

Room 14
The walls are covered with strange, angular hook-like spirals. All NPCs must roll Morale checks with a -2 penalty. There are (1d4) skeletal rats lurking within one or more of the spirals.

Room 15
The door used to be reinforced with heavy panels of bronze that have spilled out onto the floor as the wood rotted away underneath it. Inside are several ornately-carved wooden clubs set with obsidian and animal teeth, as well as dozens of egg-shaped throwing stones and hand-axes. Some of it might be useful still, but most of it is too old, too brittle to trust.

There is a section of the back wall that sags oddly. Disturbing it, as in examining it more closely, causes the gypsum and paint to finally give-out and collapse into the little armory with a groaning crash. A choking cloud of white dust will fill the space for the next hour or so before it finally settles. A passage is revealed. A corridor that leads to a still functional pit trap that will trigger on a roll of 1-3 on a d6 once someone passes over it. This pit is lined with jagged bits of jade and obsidian taken from broken weapons and anyone falling down into this pit takes 2d4 damage. Any rope lowered into the pit will be severed on a roll of 1-2 on a d6, if it is used to help pull someone out of the pit.

Room 16
The floor swirls with the faintly luminous coils of an ancient Silence 15' Radius spell that remains in effect for 1d6 Turns. It used to be permanent, but age has worn it down somewhat. The walls are all glossy black and featureless and they end abruptly two-thirds of the way into the room where the floor extends as a bridge over a dark body of water. There is a fetid and disgusting breeze wafting off of the water below. Any organic materials left in this room for longer than an hour begin to rot.

Room 17
The front third of this room is wall-less just as Room 16. Once past the part where the bridge enters it, the room takes on a nacreous, greenish cast. All the surfaces are covered with a mold-like encrustation that fills-in the gaps and corners to cover-up any right angles or sharp edges. The mold extends like a carpet across the floor and seeps a blood-like fluid as anyone walks across it. The fluid is sticky, foul-smelling and causes leather and similar things to slowly take on the consistency of raw liver and eventually to slither off into the darkness.

Room 18
A sandy-floored cavern that surrounds a dark body of still, stagnant water. Anything organic left in this chamber for longer than ten minutes will begin to rot. Touching the water will force a Save against Disease with a -2 penalty, those failing this Save suffer the effects of Mummy Rot. There might be little fishies, or something pale and scaly swimming about down there. Out towards the middle of the non-lake, right below the bridge connecting Rooms 16 and 17 overhead, is a mound of bones, metal and gems. These were the sacrifices who didn't make it over the bridge, back when an absurd-looking tentacled extraplanar monstrosity lurked within the non-lake. It has since returned to its plane of origin. However...if someone is carrying the strange gray stone disk from Area B (option 4)...then that stone disk begins to glow, emits a high-pitched keening whine, levitates out to the middle of the non-lake and re-summons the mandrill-headed octopoidal beast...

Room 19
The viewing chamber. There are three gaps cut into the spell-infused stone of this round chamber, each one littered with crudely stained glass, amber, horn and what might be some other kind of resin. The floor is a smooth glassy surface that reveals a shifting and swirling pattern of angular, hook-like spirals slithering through a black and purple abyss. All NPCs must make a Morale Check with a -6 penalty. Anyone else looking at the floor must make a WIS Check or else stand their gaping for 1d4 Turns.

Originally, you weren't intended to see anything--this room was built to allow the sleeping god below to gaze upon those brought before it. can look through one of those gaps and behold the still sleeping, perfect golden form of some forgotten Godlike Being surrounded by a unspeakable hell-broth of mold and corruption.

You are not worthy of its notice.

Room 20
Everything is whitewashed and clean. Even the bones of interlopers that have been piled along the walls.

There is a section of bars set into the outer wall. A heavy membrane has been stretched from bar to bar. Standing in this room, one can look out upon the pasture surrounding the Mound, but no one can see into this space. The membrane weeps yellowish ichor if cut.

Room 21
Much like room 20, only there are four Skeletons covered with a heavy coating of what at first appears to be accumulated whitewash, but is in fact the dried remains of slain albino Black Puddings. These skeletons are faceless, with disks of intricately carved black jade set into their foreheads. They attack as Black Puddings--their claw-like hands excrete sizzling acid. If destroyed, the jade disks can be pried loose form their heads. They might be worth a few coins to anyone who doesn't recognize them or know their source of origin.

Room 22
An old (12 HD) albino Black Pudding covers most of this ledge. It is the ancient slave of the cult who use its flesh to achieve a form of immortality as they keep vigil over the Sleeping God-Thing below. This old Pudding is sluggish and takes 2d4 rounds to rouse itself from its torpor once someone steps upon it. If intruders leave, it will go back to sleep. It dislikes leaving the ledge for any reason.

Room 23
Secret Inner-Shrine. Six pillars of rare violet onyx mined from some extradimensional quarry are arrayed before a statue of chunky, pitted lead. Taking a closer look will reveal that the lead figure is an intentionally crude replica that was lowered into place to facilitate the theft of the original, presumably golden statue that used to occupy this space. The pillars are scratched and chipped where chains were wrapped around them for the use of a block and tackle. The substitute statue weighs several hundred pounds and will most likely never be worth the effort required to retrieve it.

Room 24
Octagonal room set aside for meditation and using Commune spells by the third cult to occupy this Mound. A basin of marble has been set-up in the center of this room. It contains crystal clear water that will Cure Disease unless the drinker has passed through Room 19, in which case the water turns into a black oily substance that causes Mummy Rot on contact.

There is a secret passage to Room 3 that might come in handy. Anyone using Commune or Contact Other Plane in this room gains the immediate attention of the God-thing sleeping amid the horrid muck below...

Room 25
 Similar to Room 24, only the basin is here a brazier that holds an apparently eternal green flame. Anyone lingering more than ten minutes in this space that has not received Bless from a priest of the Third Cult will suffer 1d4 fire damage per round until they leave. A Save is required to avoid incurring any lingering angular spirally-hook shaped scars of livid green seared deep into their flesh.

Room 26
Six violet onyx pillars are all that stands between you and the sleeping, golden God-Thing surrounded by cosmic filth and primordial matter. The God-Thing dreams of far more interesting things that you.

Room 27
Safe behind a secret door, this is what remains of the treasury of the Third Cult. The Last Priestess of the Third Cult sits upon a modest throne at the back of the room keeping eternal watch over the raw gold, rough gems, ivory and other ancient treasures that have slowly crumbled into dust and rubbish. She intends for her undead vigil to continue until her deity arises from the muck and slime that surround it to do whatever it is going to do--this is the deepest mystery of her cult. The air of this chamber is saturated with dark green poison gas from multiple Cloudkill spells. If anyone finds this room, and if they survive the toxic fumes, and if they manage to destroy the 10 HD Mummy of a 5th level Cleric holding a wand of Cloudkill (2 remaining charges) sitting on the throne, then they will be able to scrounge-up a pretty good haul of raw gold, silver nuggets, ritually-inscribed ivory mammoth tusks, obscure clay tablets, chunks of amber, copper beads, turquoise and jade ornaments and so on. There will be too much stuff to carry it all out, so the group will have to deal with encumbrance and all the fun logistical issues of carting off heavy loads of bulky loot.

Wrapping It Up
The real challenge will come after the party has returned from the Weird Mound and have to deal with the ambitious, greedy and woefully unprepared goat-herds who descend upon the Mound with visions of easy pickings and an end to their poverty.

If the party heads back into whatever town or village is close-by, the goat-herds will be watching and once they see all the loot these guys got, they will run off to go plunder the place themselves. The goat-herds will also insist on getting a 50% cut of the recovered loot, at a expect some friction and escalating tensions and potential conflict over the disposition of the loot that will not only continue to be a source of disputes and arguments, but the goat-herds will blame all their casualties and injuries on the group as well, so things could get pretty heated fairly fast.

Who knows, maybe one of those goat-herds will take it upon themselves to revive one of the old cults...especially if they are upset with the player characters and want to get some revenge upon them...

Wandering Monsters: Outside
  1. (1d6) Lost Goats.
  2. (1d4) Wolves, hunting the above-mentioned goats.
  3. (1d4) Deer or other game animals.
  4. A flock of birds that seem to be acting oddly. If one is brought down with a sling or an arrow, you'll find that they're infected with a peculiar green mold that might be what turned them undead.
  5. An immature Giant Serpent that slithers away from your group as fast as it can go.
  6. A very suspicious goat-herd keeping an eye on the group.

Wandering Monsters: Within the Mound
  1. (1d4) Giant Centipedes.
  2. (1d4) Mold-infected bats.
  3. (1d8) Green Slugs. [3hp each, DG 1hp+ Save or lose 1 point from daily healing for 1d6 days.]
  4. A really lost goat.
  5. (1d4) Skeletons. These ones are carrying heavy stone clubs and wearing lots of copper bangles.
  6. A single, solitary Skeleton mostly covered in flaky white stuff. It melts into a pile of white slop after taking 3 or more hit points of damage.

Wandering Monsters: What's That? (Bonus Wandering Monsters Just In Case)
  1. (1d6) Giant Centipedes hiding in niches set into the walls. Attack at +4 to hit on their first attack.
  2. (1) Patch of Yellow Mold all over the ceiling and extending down the walls. not a good place for torches.
  3. (1d8) Yellow-Striped Slugs. [6hp each, DG 2hp+Save or suffer -1 penalty to all Saves versus Poison for 1d4 days.]
  4. The carcass of what once was another really lost goat. There are rot grubs tucked away underneath the haunches.
  5. (1d4) Skeletons. These ones wield stout spears with obsidian heads carved like screaming monkeys and wear wicker-work armor that used to have lots of feathers attached.
  6. A wounded and panicking goat-herd. Returning this kid safely back to his people will alleviate a lot of potential unpleasantness and could lead to an alliance of sorts between the greedy goat-herds and the characters--there should also be a reward, possibly an offer of marriage into the clan, etc. Returning their body will divide the other goat-herds, with only half of them turned against the party and the rest willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Abandoning the kid might come back to haunt them if anyone else finds them. Killing them outright will cause them to become a vengeful ghost or other form of undead with a distinct grudge against the characters. In any case the kid has 1d4 hit points and moves at 1/2 normal speed and needs some healing, or at least bind their wounds or something. Feel free to let things get worse as things progress, and to make the kid a real drain on resources, needy, clingy, and continually whining about going home...this should be a challenge.

If you run this dungeon for your group sometime, let us know.
Thanks to Gus L. for the cool map!

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