Ken Hite ushers in The Day After Ragnarok and a CONTEST!

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We’ve been awfully excited about Atomic Overmind  Press‘ release of Ken Hite’s all-new Savage World setting, The Day After Ragnarok.  In fact, I’ve been so jazzed about it that I’ve gotten our resident non-gamer, Paul, stoked about it as well.

Brother Hite has a distinguished career in tabletop RPGs.  He’s written for GURPS, White Wolf, The Star Trek RPG at both Decipher and Last Unicorn, and Deadlands among others.  When he’s not busy authoring RPGs, he’s  writing Cthulhu books for kids such as Where the Deep Ones Are.

Hite’s newest work, The Day After Ragnarok, debuted at #2 on Drive Thru RPG‘s Hottest Items List.  A pretty big deal considering that the the #1 item was the new Exalted release.

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Ken…

You hold a bachelors degree in cartography, which seems like a degree perfect for gamers. You share a cartography credit with Hal Mangold on Day After Ragnarok. So, do you spend just tons of time drawing awesome maps? What type of software do you use? Or do you draw free handed?

I used to spend tons of time drawing awesome maps, free handed because back in those days “software” meant a Letraset. Nowadays, I don’t have tons of time for it, which is kind of a shame. For the map in THE DAY AFTER RAGNAROK, I downloaded a base map and drew boundaries on it in Seashore and colored in the empires. Then Hal made it look vastly better. Vastly. Better.

Day After Ragnarok is dedicated to Jess Nevins “Two Fisted Scholar” and you have some kind remarks about him at the end of the book. What’s the story there?

Jess Nevins is my kind of guy. He’s the author of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FANTASTIC VICTORIANA, writes essays on steampunk and pulp, edits penny-dreadful fiction, and has compiled three volumes of Alan Moore annotations. He may be the world’s leading authority on the “Yellow Peril” trope. He also dresses staggeringly well. In short, he’s coolness personified. He was nice enough to shoot me an advance draft of his forthcoming ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PULP HEROES, which I mined for this book — and for the TRUTH & JUSTICE game I ran last year, for which he was the unwitting co-GM, as far as I’m concerned. So he deserves a shout-out. Hell, he deserves a Booker Prize.

ophitechPlease pardon me while I gush. I love THE DAY AFTER RAGNAROK. I’ve never before encountered a setting that in my capacity as GM I didn’t feel I needed to modify to my own ends. DAR suits my tastes just like it is right off the shelf. Amazing! It is wonderfully well conceived. The parts all fit together in marvelous fashion. Nazis, monsters straight out of the Prose Edda, weird science, and Soviet Man-rillas? You’re scratching me right where I itch, Mr. Hite. DAR has the feeling of a setting that you’ve been noodling for a long, long time. In fact, the book lists that an earlier version appeared on Pyramid Online back in 2007. How long have you been living with Ragnarok?

Well, in a way, I’ve been noodling with it since I first read Roy Thomas’ CONAN comics and watched PLANET OF THE APES, back in nineteen-seventy-mumble. As your very kind highlight-tour indicates, there’s a lot of stuff in there, much of it unpacked from everything I was reading or viewing in the Seventies. But the specific setting just sprang pretty much full-blown from my head one May night in 2007 when I had a “Suppressed Transmission” deadline looming up. When I started writing this book, I thought it would be about a quarter as long as it turned out to be — it turns out that, like the Serpent, there was a lot more waiting inside. That just seems to be how my head works — Odin only knows what’s brewing in there right now.

What’s the difference between the prior incarnation and this other than the application of the Savage Worlds system?

The “Suppressed Transmission” version was much shorter, and systemless, but the big difference is that it really privileged the British-agent, “Servants of the Crown” story. As I wrote more and more of the SAVAGE WORLDS version, Robert E. Howard kept muscling his way into the setting, along with the whole “Wolves Across the Border” feel. When I added the Random Poisoned Lands Encounter table, I knew I had a whole different kind of thing going.

dar-giantWhat excites you most about the setting?

Primarily, I’m most excited that other people are excited by it. Writing is solitary by nature, so it’s good to know that other people are reading and enjoying what I wrote. As far as the setting itself, I like the sheer scope of it — smashing whole continents, trillion-ton monsters, all that. It really feels big, and “go big or go home” was very much a design goal.

I’ve been developing my own Savage Worlds setting. The first set of games I’m running in the setting focus on a Texas Ranger-like group on the galactic frontier. I’ve found your Texas Ranger rules VERY helpful in that regard. Thanks a bunch for that!

You’re welcome! I took a lot of inspiration from DEADLANDS, of course, which is the go-to game for weird Texas Ranger madness. But yes, the world is definitely ready for a Texas Rangers-Lensmen mashup.

I’m a Norse mythology enthusiast, have been since 4th grade. You appear also to relish the stories of the Aesir. When did you get the bug?

I’ve loved mythology of all kinds as long as I can remember. I started with the Greeks, as one does, and probably read D’Aulaire’s Norse book right after his Greek myth book. And once that happens, you’re just hooked, especially if you’re any kind of fantasy fan, because the Nibelungs and the Aesir and all those guys are always right around the corner from everything you read or watch. I think Ragnarok is part of why Norse myth is so compelling, too — having your whole religion literally be a tragedy is kind of mind-blowing, no matter what age you are when you think about it.

The mythology of the Norse gods has Thor striking down Jormungandr. Was Thor a metaphor for the A-Bomb, or is the God of Thunder still kicking around the nine worlds?

It’s not exact, but in my own mind, the Bomb is Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, and America is Thor, broken and poisoned by the Serpent it slays. But I don’t want to spoil anybody’s fun — if you want an actual red-bearded thunder god, or a hammer-hurling tulpa of Harry S Truman, or physicist Dr. Grant Farrel* in your game, have at it.

Will you be at GenCon running games set in The Day After Ragnarok?

I will be at GenCon — probably at the Pelgrane Press booth — but I don’t think I’ll be running any games there. But do please come tell me about your game, anyone who’s reading this.

Do you have plans to write supplements for the setting?

If we think there’s a demand for it, I’ll almost certainly write one or two supplements for it. We’re kicking around some ideas now, including one or two Plot Point campaigns. Plus, it would be kind of fun to come back to this world three or five centuries later — Hal really wants to read about the “Sons of Space” I mention in DAR’s Howardian cold open, and it would be fun to get my Dan Dare and Buck Rogers ya-yas out. That should be far enough in the future not to ruin anybody’s game.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m working on GURPS HORROR, Fourth Edition, and GURPS INFINITE WORLDS: WORLDS OF HORROR. Plus CTHULHU 101 and two or three more projects for Atomic Overmind, another TRAIL OF CTHULHU book or two, an outline for THIS SCEPTER’D ISLE (CALL OF CTHULHU in Elizabethan England), and I think I have another Lovecraft column due for “Weird Tales” at the end of the month. Depending on how you count it, that’s six or seven Lovecraftian projects ongoing.

kenhiteHow often do you get to game? Are you GMing anything now? Or do you mostly play?

I’ve been the “GM for life” since the fall of 1979 when I foolishly left the room for an hour to get a Slushee. Right now, I’m running a playtest campaign of a new GUMSHOE-system game best described as “RONIN, if all the shadowy guys you never see in that movie were vampires.” We try to play every Monday, and succeed more often than not. The next game we play is going to be NOBILIS, probably starting up after GenCon. I’m also in a D&D 4e game, as a player and loving it, one Saturday a month, and every so often we’ll play a wargame or a board game.

Favorite system?

My favorite game is CALL OF CTHULHU, by several lengths. I’m very fond of the BASIC ROLE-PLAYING engine, but I choose my system based on the theme and feel of the game I’m running. It’s like choosing a golf club — you gotta match for each shot, no matter how much you like the nine-iron.

What advice do you have for aspiring RPG writers?

This is the Golden Age of RPG design. There haven’t been this many great, great game designs around ever, and the barriers to publication are pretty much completely gone. Read as many games as you can, play as many games as you can; always think about what the mechanics and the setting are doing, and compare that to what you’d like them to be doing. Pay attention to what your favorite designers and writers are doing, and try to figure out what you’d do differently, or why you’d do the same thing in another context. Listen to them on podcasts, comment on their blogs, meet them at conventions, read and play their games — in no other art form is connecting with the creators this easy.

This is your first Savage Worlds setting, right? What’s it like working with the Pinnacle folks?

This is indeed my first SAVAGE WORLDS setting. Awhile back, Shane Hensley asked if I had anything I wanted to write for the system. I didn’t have anything then, but when I found myself writing this four-fisted extravaganza, I immediately knew it was a Savage Setting. I can’t speak for other licensees, but the Pinnacle guys have been very laid back with us — Shane and Hal go way back, and Shane and I are simpatico, so it’s always been pretty easy talking to them. Clint Black was nice enough to spot-check something for us when he thought we were taking a left turn, but otherwise we’ve been allowed to run around on our own and scratch up the nice furniture.

kenneth_hite1-229x300The image of you at the back of the book shows you enjoying a cigar. What’s your favorite stogie?

That particular cigar came on night four of GenCon, after I’d had a cumulative ten hours of sleep. So that cigar might have saved my life. I did have an honest-to-Fidel Cuban Cohiba in Estonia, which I smoked on the bow of a hydrofoil while drinking a Stoli-and-tonic. If you have such an opportunity, I highly recommend it.

Thank you, sir!

Right back at you!

And now… the CONTEST!

We here at Ideology of Madness are thrilled to assist Atomic Overmind Press in giving away both a PDF and print edition of Ken Hite’s amazing The Day After Ragnarok to one lucky winner! To win your own copy of this incredible Savage Worlds setting, all you have to do is Tell Us About Your Character! Describe your character (no stats required) for the post-apocalyptic world of The Day After Ragnarok, based on the previews at the Atomic Overmind site. Ken Hite will review all entries and pick his favorite to award the prize.

Post your Day After Ragnarok character concept in the comments section! One entry per person, please.

Contest ends June 20, 2009 at 5:00 pm Central time.

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* Fox Comics’ Thor, from Weird Comics in 1940 — I just looked that up in Jess Nevins’ Golden Age Heroes Encyclopedia online. See what I mean?


22 comments on “Ken Hite ushers in The Day After Ragnarok and a CONTEST!Add yours →

  1. me and my friends were going to be each superheros and decorate some sweat pants were some cool shirts and get some capes. but now someone else we found out was doing it. so were trying to find a new idea… and ideas?.

  2. (In at the last minute!)

    Bill “Tank” McCafferty

    Bill was born in a small town in east Texas. He was a star football player and captain of the wrestling team. It was in high school that he earned his nickname Tank.

    Tank enlisted in the marines on December 8th, 1941 at the age of 18. He fought in the Pacific, against man and the strange monsters caused by the war.

    After Ragnarok, Tank’s home town was destroyed by rampaging lizard men. He escaped with a few survivors and arrived in Houston. Now Tank travels, looking for a new life.

    Tank’s a big guy, and a bit of a meathead. At 25, he’s already developing a beer gut, as his athletic physique wears down. He’s not stupid, but he prefers decisive action to deep thought. Tank’s a friendly guy, with a quick smile and a warm heart. He wants to kill monsters, and help establish some sort of safety and home in the new chaos.

  3. Aron Magnussen was a Norwegian conscript in the German army, sent into Russia during Operation Barbarossa. When the attack failed within sight of Moscow he was captured and sent to a labor camp. After the serpent’s fall he “volunteered” to be injected with venom. The venom did not have the usual effects upon him, although he could feel it festering within. After a giant stomped through his camp in the night he saw his chance. Now he’s escaped and wanders the wastelands of Europe, trying to survive and fearing the venomous blood coursing through his veins.

  4. Agent Smith

    He had been a G-Man, taking on the bank robbers and the Reds, but after Serpentfall and the end of America in his immediate neighborhood he had retreated to only looking after those near and dear to him.

    Until Old Man Hoover came to him in a dream and told that if Hoover could be dead and still fight the enemies of the republic, Agent Smith had no excuses. It took some effort to get the Studebaker running and even more for some acceptable suits and ties, but the Tommy Gun works just fine.

  5. Kanakanui Joe performed weddings and held luaus for tourists on Maui, before Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. He weighed at least 400 pounds when he showed up at the US Navy recruitment office two weeks later, but the Navy took him anyway. The big man had a gift for navigation and an uncanny knack for guessing the locations of enemy ships. So lucky did he seem, that his fellow crew members would often rub his bald head before a battle in the hopes that some of his luck would rub off on them.

    Upon completing his service in 1946, he returned to Maui, which now had more refugees than tourists. Still, even refugees need to get married and have a good time once in a while, so he resumed his business. Life returned to as normal as it was likely to get for Joe, until one late-October luau when he called out his traditional greetings and thanks to the god of the sea and the goddess of the volcano, and they answered back. The island rumbled and the sea threw large waves. He called again, louder, and again the ground rumbled more and the sea churned higher. Joe drew the breath into his huge lungs for a third call, and his guests and employees, who until now where standing stock-still and saucer-eyed, turned and ran from the beach screaming. Kanakanui Joe spent his third breath not on worship but on roaring laughter. On a now-empty beach he laughed until he could neither stand nor breathe.

    The next morning, he visited the Navy recruitment office that had accepted him nearly five years ago. He knew from what he’d heard on the radio news–news that grew stranger and more unnatural by the day–that the Navy still needed him. And now Kanakanui Joe had something new to offer them.

  6. John Bruscoe grew up in Chicago’s Back of the Yards, surrounded by the waste of America’s largest slaughterhouses. One of the few ways out was through politics, and Bruscoe had ample reason to be a motivated convert to Socialism. In 1937, when he was 17, he joined the Abe Lincoln Brigade in Spain, and fought with them until their disintegration in ’38. Returning to the States, he became a union organizer, and was a member of the Merchant Marine by the time the United States entered the war (being at sea was a lot safer for him at the time!) in ’42. His life took a glamorous turn when the ship he was on was torpedoed and the lifeboat he was on also had a travelling movie star. They hit it off together, and after they were picked up, the two of them lived together in Los Angeles for several years. She was in New York on Serpentfall, and was killed by the crushing tidal waves that immediately followed. As a known ‘Red’ and without a wealthy benefactor, Bruscoe soon found himself hitting the road again, only now he is ten years older, and has seen both his political and romantic dreams drowned in poison. He is deeply driven to make the world a better place, but between his checkered past and his current withdrawn state, there aren’t many places that will take him. Still, he knows people all over the place, even if they don’t like him much, and he’s no slouch with either a wrench or a rifle. Those years spent fighting oligarchs has shown him more than a few dirty tricks as well.

  7. I don’t know who that other Joe is. It’s not a very common name. I will clearly have to fight him for the title of Joe.

  8. I am Damascus. I was young and naive the first time Syria professed its independence from France. I was older and resolute the second time. And in the throes of freedom, Serpentfall. And with it a whole new imperialism. The British, the Dutch, the Soviets, they fight over land that isn’t there’s and never was. France’s ruination is righteous justice for its colonial transgressions. Still the others do not learn. God has ordained that I and my fellows will take the fight to them. If this is to be the end of the world, then we will die as men of a free nation.

  9. Lifbrass or “Leaf” to his friends

    When the call came out to stop the nazi war machine, Leaf did not hesitate. He joined the army and fought with valor and courage. His platoon hit the beaches on D-Day and kept pushing forward. While fighting through France, Leaf took what many thought was a lethal wound in the chest and was left underneath the branches of a great tree, while his platoon kept moving forward.

    He awoke to a great thundering that signaled the end of the world. The great tree has shielded him from the serpent’s fall and somehow he has survived his wound sleeping for nine days. With nothing left in the world he now works for BP, drilling the worm that destroyed his platoon. His only goal is to raise enough money to hire someone to take him back to the ruins of Washington. Before he left for the war he put on a ring and made a promise to Lif his one true love that he would come back to her no matter what. He will keep his promise.

  10. Bret Smith “Wyrmtongue”

    It all started when his unit was tasked with taking out a dragon stomping around the Grand Canyon. They knew most of them wouldn’t survive, but somehow Bret was able to grab the bazooka after Pvt. Wills dropped it, and blow the thing’s head off. Then came the burning. Some of the dragon’s blood had splashed his face and mouth, causing unimaginable pain.

    He woke to a soothing voice, warning him more Things were on their way. It was only after he opened his eyes that he realized it was a nearby wren. He could understand the language of birds.

    A year later, Bret found himself as part of a diplomatic mission. The U.S. needs all the allies it can get, so when President Warren heard rumors of a giant mystical bird in Persia, he sent a group to check it out. Again, Bret was the only survivor, but when he came down from the mountain six months later, he brought a friend. He also brought back a promise of aid from the Simurgh.

    Now he and his hoopoe “familiar” Suleiman are part of the group trying to bring eastern cities back into the United States. The horrific scars on his face are a bit off-putting, but normal enough for the Poison Lands, and Bret has found he can be surprisingly persuasive, when he needs to be. When that doesn’t work, and hope seems lost, he can call on Suleiman to gather 29 other birds together, and form the Simurgh, a gestalt entity of great power. Then even the monsters flee from the beating of immense wings.

  11. Bruce Brodsky, Cynical Cult Leader.

    What’s the best thing about the end of the world? All the opportunities to get laid. And what’s the best way to do that? Start your own cult.

    A magician before the serpent fell, Bruce managed to calm a panicked crowd with his conjuring tricks and stage skills. The result was better than he could have hoped for. Not only did the crowd calm down, they hailed him as a prophet. One thing led to another, and many of those people still follow him.

    Of course, this life is not without it’s own complications. It’s not all just spouting a few words of fortune cookie wisdom and then selecting a few of the prettier girls to come to his tent for a “private prayer session.” As the group’s spiritual leader, he is often called upon to venture out into the world and do/acquire things for the cult that no one else seems to either know how to get or have assumed that he’s the ONLY one who can do them! Sometimes, he needs to go out on “pilgrimages” just to get away from all the neediness.

    Of course, when he returns, there are always plenty of welcoming arms waiting for him.

  12. Glenn Sherlock “GothiUllr”

    a Texan and an early Norse revivalist Glenn became a priest to Ullr at just 16. He learned in that same year that Ragnarok was soon to come. He quickly discovered that people wouldn’t listen to his prophecies of doom. So he began to prepare in more mundane ways.

    Two years later when the serpent fell, Glen was ready. He gathered his family and friends and fought his way through pirates and monsters along the gulf coast. His group of nearly 200 refuges made the journey of 300 miles from Corpus Christi to Austin mostly on foot. It took a month but due to Glenn’s preparedness he lost only a handful of people on the long journey.

    Somewhere between the two cities people stopped calling him Glenn and began using his priestly title “GothiUllr” as his moniker. Only 18 years old and leading an exodus takes it’s toll however and not long after arriving in the capitol city he left again. Saying only that there must still be others who need rescuing.

    Now he wanders the whole of Texas, sometimes in a car or truck, sometimes on a motorcycle or horseback, he walks if there’s nothing else. He’s on a continuing quest to bring the word of the fallen Gods to the people, and to tell them of the safety to be had in the capital city. Maybe he’s even on a personal quest of redemption for some unknown transgression against the Gods.

    Few now know his real name and even fewer care. But all throughout Texas people talk of this wandering warrior priest. Most say he’s salvation on legs from the monsters and bandits. A modern knight in shining armor to tell stories about to your kids. Others say he’s only a myth; a campfire story told by people who are scared of this strange new world and need the comfort.

    And the last those that know him as a man say only to never cross him.

  13. Sgt. Benjamin Washington

    Benjamin “Ben” Washington was always good with a rifle. Living as a impoverished “negro” living in rural West Virginia his shooting prowess was sometimes the only thing keeping his family from starvation. Benjamin was 17 when the Serpentfall occurred and while he survived by virtue of living in the Appalachians, it wasn’t long until he was picked up by Klan slavers. Ben spent eight months being relentlessly worked to death in a Mississippi labor camp, until being liberated by the Free Colored Army.

    After recovering from his ordeal, Ben joined the FCA to help free other blacks from racist oppression. His superiors were quickly impressed with his markmanship, and soon he made an NCO in the Army’s grown sniper corps. By 1948, Sergeant Washington collected 113 bloodstained Klan hoods, including those belonging to three Grand Wizards.

    The Klan is currently offering a $1000 dollar bounty to the man who brings Washington in dead or alive… preferably dead. Meanwhile, he has achieved Robin-Hood-like status among Southern blacks who hopes he and his M1903 Springfield rifle, “Harriet” (after Harriet Tubman), will help end the Klan’s tyranny once and for all.

  14. Horst, just Horst is a German POW (“Army not NAZIs” he’ll say in his broken English) brought back to the states to one of the prison camps. When the camp was overrun by giant toad demons, national origin suddenly wasn’t as important as basic humanity. Horst and a handful of survivors made their way west. When the guns run dry, the sword he picked up serves him fine. Old steel, but sharp enough for snakes. Just another new barbarian.

  15. Neil “Blonde” Dixon, tank pilot

    Born and bred in Kentucky, Neil Dixon joined the US Army in 1941, against the wishes of his fiancee, his parents, and just about everybody he knew. Coming from a rural area, his kinfolk argued that it would be too difficult on his family if he didn’t come back–and after all, what business was it of his what a bunch of foreigners did? Deep down, though, he knew that he couldn’t turn his back on his country at a time of need. Even as they wept, his parents doted on him; they had raised him to be too damn upright for his own good.

    Basic training went by in a blur, and Neil found himself in the tank corps (driving a tank weren’t too different from driving a tractor), piloting several tons of rolling steel across France. A few months of that would have been enough for anyone, but halfway through 1942, he went and got hisself blowed up real good. And lived. Neil Dixon was the only man in his tank to survive its destruction, and his hair turned light and near-white from the shock. In the French hospital they sent POWs too, his nurses took to calling him “Blonde,” since he couldn’t speak a damn word of French.

    “Blonde” Dixon reunited with American troops when Paris was liberated in 1944, and was sent home just in time for the Serpentfall to demolish the East Coast. Now, he and some of his buddies (those who fought and those who stayed behind alike) are struggling to hold together a couple of counties in the middle of some of the worst monster-infested wasteland in America. But he’s got three things on his side that the monsters don’t: the mountains of Kentucky, which he knows like the back of his hand; military training, which they lack; and a will to survive that kept him alive through the complete demolition of a tank. The only thing working against him is the chunk of that tank still lodged in his chest; it aches something powerful at times.

  16. Sir Walter Callaway, “big game” hunter

    Son of a British governor and brought up in a world of luxury and comfort, he became a world-renown trophy hunter and traveled the world to kill every animal worthy of note. While most saw the Snakefall as a catastrophe, Walter felt only excitement from the new and terrible creatures that came with it. Creatures that nobody had hunted before. Already he has ventured into Ras al-Thuban and brought back horrific trophies, and he is currently planning a trip to the poisoned plains of America. His most challenging hunt, however, will earn him a frost giant-skin rug from the cold wastes of the Soviet Union.

  17. Josef Kaplan is a man who lost everyone he ever loved to the Nazi death camps.

    He is also one of the finest sorcerers ever to come out of the B’nei Baruch, the yeshiva-cum-boot-camp operated by the occult branch of the People’s Jewish Republic intelligence apparatus, where he was apprenticed to its chief Kabbalist, Yisrael “Baba Sali” Abuhatzeira himself.

    He is also a loose cannon who’s gone AWOL, severing contact from his ertswhile PJR masters, hell-bent on a one-man crusade against the Nazi butchers, travelling the globe armed with the secrets of Kabbalistic sorcery, and the restless urge to bring G-d’s justice to the war-criminals who took his life away from him.

    Josef Kaplan is equal parts Solomon Kane, Simon Wiesenthal (or is it Yakov Lieberman?) and Baal Shem Tov.

  18. An American Private Investigator from Los Angeles who has seen what has happened and has decided it is up to him to travel the world and figure out how to help humanity.

    He is a skinny man, of medium height and has a sharp intellect. He beleives the way to save humanity is to understand the things man was not meant to know.

  19. Gabriel Marquez…

    A wild and unhinged Spaniard whose exposure to many things that man ought not see and survive has left him wired to within an inch of insanity. He stalks the world like a humanoid typhoon laying aside those who cry “You shall not Pass!”.

  20. Harold “Modi” Jones.

    A massive man with long thick red hair and a beard wanders the wastelands playing do-gooder on the back of his Triumph motorcycle.

    Standing well in excess of six feet he earned the nickname Modi from the feats of strength he can accomplish.

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