League of Extraordinary Felines: 1856

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For this year’s League of Extraordinary Felines game at Big Bad Con, I am looking to switch systems.  While I really like M&M, I find it difficult to teach and run in a four hour timeslot, so I am looking for something easier.

My first attempt at doing the game with the same characters in a different system is “Marvel Heroic Roleplaying”.  I just finished taking a run at all the characters so I thought I would put them up here for perusal and critique.

A few notes on the design:

Every character has the “Feline” powerset, which consists of six powers.  Generally, three of them are at d6 and three of them are at d8, though in a couple of instances I have reduced one down to a d4 to boost another to d10 (could have boosted a d6 to a d8 instead, but it never worked out that way.)

Almost every character has a second powerset with three powers, normally rated at d8, though in some cases I dropped one d8 to a d6 and improved another power to d10.  In cog cat’s case I gave the character 1d10 and a bunch of d6s for extra powers.

Each powerset got one SFX and one limitation.  There were two reasons for this – the first was because the characters are supposed to be closer to super agents than superheroes, and the second was because the character sheet template would have  required me to write in 6-point font if I used more than one.

Specialties either went for 1d10 Master and 1d8 Expert or three 1d8 Expert specialties.

Because I want one of the issues of the game to be infighting amongst the League*, pretty much everyone has some sort of milestone that brings them into conflict with others in one way or another.  There will be a couple of milestones pertaining to the adventure as well, so the conflict averse may dump their more contentious milestones in favor of something more story driven if they want.

Because I had requests from Tabitha Twitchet’s players to make the character less complicated, I evolved the Cog Suit so she can be the League’s equivalent of Iron Man.  I also added wings to the Dinah picture this year.

So – here they are:

White Heather

Fate Accelerated Ehdrigohr

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After running a test game and getting feedback from the players, I decided that converting Ehdrigohr to Fate Core was a bit too complex and confusing, so I took a look at the simpler and easier to teach Fate Accelerated.  That seems to have worked well, though I have yet to playtest it.  I modified the Fate Accelerated system somewhat to make it better fit with my vision of Ehdrigohr:

  1. Increased base Refresh to 4
  2. Added one “2” stress box to all characters
  3. Developed a magic system to fit the setting

#3 was the most time consuming, and I confess that I didn’t make a comprehensive attempt, but only got some generalized ideas and worked out the mechanics for each character individually.  In Ehdrigohr magic is highly differentiated based on the Mysteries (Elements, Essences, Natures, Principles), each of which is subdivided into four “Ways”.  Finally there are traditions of magic that personalize the way a given character performs magic.  All in all it is a very colorful system with a great deal of variability even for casters within the same Mysterious Way.  But it did require a bit of modification to fit in with the streamlining design theory of Fate Accelerated.  Here’s what I came up with off the top of my head.

  • The various Mysterious Ways are generally taught only to a relative few (though of course among PCs it’s pretty common).  It requires a Stunt dedicated to learning to do any sort of magic.  This is usually combined with membership in one of the many Societies of Ehdrigohr (like Crow, Dove, Jay, Owl, etc.) but doesn’t have to be.
  • Each of the Ways is a specific form of magic, and is based on one of the character’s Approaches.  If I was going to expand on this I would list the Approach needed for each Way, but for this I just picked one that seemed appropriate for the character and their magic.
  • The Mysteries determine which characters can Help others in casting magic.  Any character who knows one of the Ways of a given Mystery can Help another character in casting their spells.
  • Characters who know magic get one use of their magic for free each episode.  Paying one Fate Point allows a character to use their magic for the remainder of the scene.  (I’m not sure about this one – it’s something I really want to playtest to make sure that the spellcasters have enough juice.)
  • Failing a Magic roll costs Stress equal to the difference between the Difficulty number and what was rolled.
  • The various traditions modify how an individual casts magic in some way (reducing stress, specifying who the character can and cannot Help with their magic, etc.)

Overall I think that despite being a lot simpler than the Fate Core version the Fate Accelerated version will work quite well.

Gender Roles in Ehdrigohr

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[PRELIMINARY WARNING – cishet guy here.  You have been warned]

I’m going to be running Ehdrigohr as one of my Games on Demand games at this year’s Big Bad Con.  Ehdrigohr is primarily a fantasy horror and adventure game, but within it are some interesting social nuggets that I wanted to explore a bit without making the game “about” them.  Though it was originally created using the Fate system, I wanted to run my game with the newer Fate Core rules so a few adjustments and modifications to the game system, and particularly character creation, became necessary.

One nugget of interest to me was the way Ehdrigohr treated the concept of gender.  Though somewhat muddled and buried in an obscure section of the rule-book,  the gender concepts of Ehdrigohr cultures, which don’t map directly to the gender concepts of the real world, got me thinking a bit.  On the one hand, Ehdrigohr isn’t a game about gender exploration, it’s really a game about fighting horrible monsters and being heroic.   On the other hand, the unique cultures of Ehdrigohr (which the author based on Native American myth and culture) are something that I felt really SHOULD be incorporated into my game in order to give it the proper feel, and done right the gender rules from the original might give players  some of that feel for their characters.  Moreover, Big Bad Con has a well-earned reputation as a safe space for supporting games that can deal with personal issues.

So I thought to myself, “lets give it a try!”

This article is about my current thoughts on incorporating gender ideas into my Ehdrigohr game.  Feedback is welcome, particularly from the non cis, non-hetero community.  For this issue in particular, I am outside my areas of expertise, and perhaps even outside my comfort zone a little – which is good because it pushes me to learn, but potentially bad because getting it wrong can result in hurt.

BACKGROUND – Gender Issues in original Ehdrigohr

Image result for ehdrigohr imagesOne of the big, driving factors that all cultures on Ehdrigohr share is the protection and nurturing of children.  Ehdrigohr is a hard world – its got lots of monsters, unforgiving climate, and continual friction between tribes that often breaks into conflict.  Infants and children are weak and vulnerable, and without extreme measures their mortality rate would be higher than the population could maintain.  The  bearing, nurturing, and protection of children is therefor considered one of the most important things that a person can do.  If it takes a village to raise a child here, on Ehdrigohr it takes a whole society.

At the same time, Ehdrigohr societies have mostly avoided becoming patriarchal.  Women are not relegated to a secondary status as baby factories and men are not let off the hook for child care (Ehdrigohr doesn’t cover this in detail, but I imagine that abandoning your children, or children in your care, is one of the worst crimes one can commit).

In Ehdrigohr there are four recognized genders.  Male, female, two-spirit, and gatherer.  They are not well defined in the rules in terms of who fits in which category, although one can make some guesses based on the names of three of them and extrapolate from there who fits in the fourth.  The mechanical effects of gender are limited to use of the magic skill, with a particular stunt based around magic available to each gender

BACKGROUND – Gender Issues in Fate Core Ehdrigohr.

Image result for ehdrigohr imagesThough the gender identities in original Ehdrigohr were interesting, I was uncomfortable about a couple of things.  First was their nebulous definitions – is a trans person considered to be their physiological gender or their identity gender, for example; and as a group, who are Gatherers?  Also, why set it up so gender matters to some characters and not to others?

There were also issues related to the mechanics of the gender stunts that made them problematic for one-shot convention play.  All of the stunts in the original Ehdrigohr were time sensitive – they only worked at specific times (summer and during the new moon, for example).  While the idea of a single adventure spanning a year certainly got the wheels turning in my head, it concerned me that the original descriptions might leave some of the gender powers unusable, while others might be highly useful based on when an adventure was set.

In the end rather than trying to beat the gender rules from original Ehdrigohr into shape to fit the Fate Core system and my vision, I decided that it would be best to simply take the idea of alternate gender identities from the original Ehdrigohr and use it as a springboard for my version of Fate Core Ehdrigohr.  I wanted a system that was inclusive (covered everyone), positive (you get good things for whatever gender you choose and the only down side is not getting the good things from other genders), and simple (using Fate Core rules, without having to come up with complicated new mechanics).

I started off with the importance of children on Ehdrigohr.  Child bearing and child rearing have been one of the defining factors of gender for most of history, so it seemed like a good place to start, and moreover Ehdrigohr is a place that places extreme importance on children.  But I DIDN’T want gender to be based on traditional physiology-based roles as in real life where people with uteri are often forced by circumstance and societal mores to be baby factories and people with penises are often granted wide latitude and dispensation for not taking responsibility for the children they produce.  I also wanted a system that wasn’t perfect, that had problems, not because I wanted to include a lot of gender issues in my game, but because I didn’t want to paper over the gender issues that cause so many in our own society to be treated disrespectfully with some Utopian ideal.

Based on these criteria, I came up with the following for Fate Core Ehdrigohr.

The societies of Ehdrigohr recognize three separate genders, but these genders are not based on physiology.  Rather, they are specific and ritual roles that people adopt and commit to based around the role they wish to play in bearing, caring for, and protecting children.  The three genders are

  • Bearers – these are people who wish to conceive, bear, and raise children.  This isn’t a job, so much as a social responsibility they take on.  This is the largest gender in Ehdrigohr society.
  • Gatherers – orphans are very common in Ehdrigohr society.  The dangers of the land, coupled with social pressure to defend the children at all costs too often results in parents perishing while their children survive.  Gatherers are those who are for whatever reason not willing or able to bear children, but are willing to adopt the children of others and/or assist Bearers in the raising of their children.  They are teachers, childcare workers, adoptive parents, etc.
  • Hunters – these are people who for whatever reason, do not bear or  directly care for or raise children.  They support the community’s children indirectly by donating a portion of their labor (or money in the cultures that make use of it) to support the community’s children.  In situations such as “the village needs to run but someone needs to stay behind to hold off the monsters”, they are also the ones who stay.

In addition to their practical roles in society, each of the three genders also have ritual roles to play – particular parts they sing in communal songs, dances and stories that are theirs alone to tell, patterns which only they can weave into baskets, rituals and prayers that are theirs alone to enact, sacred spaces that are theirs alone to maintain.

The system isn’t perfect and has issues that could be explored in longer-term games, but I think it is good enough for a one-off.

MECHANICS – gender rules for Fate Core Ehdrigohr

Related imageAs previously mentioned, I don’t envision my game as being primarily about gender issues.  Consequently I want a simple and easy-to-use mechanic, one that is distinctive between the three genders, but doesn’t involve the players having to learn a lot of special rules about their characters.  I also want it to be something that the players can select for themselves based on what they feel most comfortable with (or most interested in trying) so I don’t want it tied to specific character sheets.

My plan at the moment is to treat a character’s gender as a selectable stunt Extra, which players select for their character at the beginning of the game.  It is treated as an Extra so it doesn’t cost any Refresh to have.

The stunts are

  • Bearers – because I am a Bearer, once per session I may activate my Mystery Aspect for free on an Overcome action, and gain one Fate Point.
  • Gatherers – because I am a Gatherer, once per session I may activate my Mystery Aspect for free on a Create Advantage action, and gain one Fate Point.
  • Hunters – because I am a Hunter once per session I may activate my Mystery Aspect for free on a Defend action, and gain one Fate Point.

(In Ehdrigohr the various aspects of the essence of existence are known as the Great Mysteries.  Those who study the Great Mysteries extensively are able to manipulate them and become spell-casters, but in addition everyone has at least one Mystery Aspect that can be invoked like other aspects, and which is inherent to heroic characters – an instinctive link to primal creation which allows characters to go beyond their physical limitations.)

I like these particular stunts because 1) they are simple and easy to understand, 2) they are thematic (Bearers get that “I can lift a car off my baby” ability, Gatherers can inspire others through their actions, and Hunters become particularly good at hopeless last stands allowing others to escape).  I added the ability to regain a Fate Point because it is unusual in Fate Core to get a Fate Point for being more effective – usually players earn Fate Points for being less effective – because I wanted another opportunity for players to earn Fate Points, because I wanted to give players interesting choices for their gender stunt (“Do I use my stunt now on a roll of minor consequence because I need the Fate Point, or do I save it for later?”) and because thematically it seemed appropriate for the universe to reward people for taking on their symbolic and ritual responsibilities.

My current idea is to fill out a few 3’x5″ index cards for each gender role, giving the basics of their responsibilities in society and the stunt that they get for that gender role, and then just let players pick.

MORE – Expanding Gender Roles in Fate Core Ehdrigohr

Obviously these rules are just a bare skeleton of what could be done with gender roles in Ehdrigohr.  There is a lot more societal flavor to be worked out (what are the rituals specific to each gender?  What sort of identifying dress or marking do they wear?  What are their songs?  Are there differences between specific gender roles between the various cultures?  How do stratified Edhrigohr cultures such as the Mic’talan, who practice slavery, resolve gender roles between stratum in their society?  How easy is it to change gender roles?  What happens to people who transgress their gender role?).  There is certainly a lot that can be done with gender roles in terms of how the various genders interact with the Great Mysteries (are there any gender roles that have particularly close ties to a particular Great Mystery, for example.  What spells and abilities from the Great Mysteries are proprietary to a given gender role?)  But I think that these simple rules, as they stand, will be enough for a one-off game.  Of course if the plot takes me in a direction requiring more development of the Ehdrigohr gender roles I can always put more depth into them.

Big Bad Con 2017 – Making Plans

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I have submitted my games for Big Bad Con 2017.  This year I decided that instead of trying to run a variety of games in the different time slots I would pick one game and run it twice as my scheduled game, and pick two games and offer them twice for Games on Demand.  This means half the work of previous years, when I tried to prepare two games for the schedule, and four games for GoD duty, but I will need to put in extra effort to make sure that what I run is worthy of being run twice.

Scheduled Game:  League of Extraordinary Felines – 1854

Last year my League of Extraordinary Felines game went well and I wound up running it twice, so I thought I might as well make it official this year.  For those who do not recall, League of Extraordinary Felines is a game about super-powered cats who serve Queen Victoria in a somewhat steampunky England.  Last year had the League defending England’s first cat show from the Cheshire Cat and a mind-controlled Charles Babbage.  This year the League takes on ghoulies, gheisties, and other supernatural threats when the newly opened London Necropolis Railway Company starts experiencing weird paranormal phenomena.


I’ll once again be running this using Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition.  Most people are familiar with D20 systems in general, and it is pretty easy for me to take on the responsibility of telling players what happens for those not familiar with the M&M system specifically.  This year I will also remember to bring the plastic standies so I can put all the charts on the table for the players to refer to.  Finally, I hope to have actual paper minis this year for all the members of the League and their opponents.  Since I can build upon last year, and I already have the characters made, I should have plenty of time to do bells and whistles this year.

(I am also hoping to convince my very talented wife to do a group portrait of the League, but we’ll see).

GoD Duty I:  War of Ashes – Fate of Agaptus

Since Mutants and Masterminds is a rather crunchy system, I decided that for GoD duty I wanted to run games that were easy for me.  I considered something powered by the apocalypse, but in the end decided to go for Fate games because 1) a lot of people know them, 2) they are easy to teach to people who don’t, 3) Fred Hicks is an awesome individual who has been very kind to Sophie and I, 4) Sophie works for them (nepotism for the win!).

For the first of the two possible games, I selected War of Ashes – Fate of Agaptus.  Sophie and I both worked on the game (it was her baby, but I helped a little), I was involved in playtesting it, and we have two boxes of WoA minis kindly donated by Zombiesmith that were used for Sophie’s games to promote the product.  All these factors will make it easy for me to write up a scenario, and the minis should make it visually exciting to play.  Plus I can just use the main characters from the book (Rustica Bibulus, Iva the Stubborn and her fawn Kuri, Ulf Long-Tooth, and throw in Bura Bibulus Ven Proudheart if I want a fifth character).  I even have minis for them all!

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GoD Duty II – Ehdrigohr

This Fate game produced by Council of Fools focuses on a dark fantasy setting based loosely on Native American mythology and culture.  We have had the game for awhile now, but I have never tried to run it and thought that this would be my opportunity to finally do so.

Ehdrigohr departs in several places from the core Fate system, and has extensive background material to the setting, magic system, etc.  As such it is almost certainly the game I will spend the most time on for the convention, both to master the setting (the core book is 346 pages long, and you know that the rules section for Fate isn’t that extensive, so there is a lot of flavor and setting there) to get comfortable with the rules variations, and to come up with interesting characters that work well together (starting with a decision on which of the nine tribes to include as Player Characters and which to exclude – or alternately the decision to include nine pregenerated characters and let players pick).  There’s also setting jargon to master.

But it looks like a lot of fun to play and run in, so I am willing to give it a whirl.  Particularly since I am saving myself a lot of effort by running the same games twice, I feel like I can afford to tackle something a little bigger and more complex than I usually want to run at a convention.

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So there you have it in sum – the games I am going to run at Big Bad Con this year.  I hope that they pique the interest of players and attendees, and help provide Big Bad Con with a small amount of the diverse and colorful gaming opportunities for which it is well known.

2016 – No Justice. No Peace.


I spent 2016 feeling largely like someone had taken a bat to my head and wielded it with conviction.

To be honest the last few years have not been good ones.  For very good and sufficient reasons we left Seattle and the friends I had made there (making friends is hard for me – making friends outside of gaming is almost impossible) and moved to Eureka.  That turned into a disaster as the economic downturn robbed Sophie of work.  When we came to the Bay Area it was functionally as economic refugees.  And we’ve been economic refugees since.  My mental health deteriorated to the point that I wind up spending at least a day a week as a complete or near non-functional, and my sleep schedule is now so erratic as to be effectively random.

Throughout the last twenty years Sophie has been a foundation of strength for me.  Recent years have put strains on our relationship and on her, as tough times frequently do.  They were almost too much for us.  That happens, and usually earlier than it happened to us, but we came back from it, and in 2016 we were on the way back up in our relationship.

Image result for breast cancer ribbonThen came that goddamned motherfucking cancer.

In truth, if terrifying, life-threatening cancer there had to be this was pretty much the best terrifying, life-threatening cancer ever.  It was caught early due to Sophie’s diligence with breast cancer exams (lesson to all of you out there – DO YOUR SELF-EXAMS!  That applies to everyone, of any gender – I’ve started doing them for my he-boobs).  It was big and scary when found, but responded well to chemotherapy.  Surgery was as successful as it is possible for surgery to be – we couldn’t have hoped for a better result.  Radiation therapy seemed to go by very quickly, and didn’t develop any of the side-effects which might have slowed treatment (thus reducing its effectiveness).  We got lovely support from friends and family – scarves and money and ointment for radiation burns and physical presence and love.

But cancer is shite.  Now that we’re getting out of the crisis portion of treatment, it’s easy to look back and say “Hey, that wasn’t so bad – we were really lucky!”.  But cancer never feels lucky.  There are few people out there who are diagnosed with cancer and rejoice.  There are few people who go through the weeks of discomfort and nausea and weakness of chemotherapy and rejoice.  There are few people who lie on a gurney waiting to have pieces of them cut out and rejoice.  There are few people who have to go in five days a week to get shot with a radiation gun that rejoice.  Hindsight is a great comforter, a defense mechanism for softening unpleasant experiences, but it fools us into thinking things were less unpleasant than they were.  Going through the experience of cancer is nothing short of catastrophic – even if the end result of the treatment is a good one – and going through the experience of cancer in the United States for-profit medical system where you also have to worry about the six-figure costs of your treatment and receiving bills for more than every single thing you own on a regular basis – is soul-crushing.

Lots of people also died this last year.  I’m really not that much into the phenomena of celebrity deaths, but the drum beat was constant and loud this past year.  It was a phenomena that was frequent enough to be nigh inescapable no matter who you were or which celebrities you loved.   I guess we should get used to it – our idols are typically older than we are, and so we are likely to lose most of them before we go.

Image result for Trump vs ClintonPolitics in the US were also a disaster this last year.  To be fair, politics in America have been a disaster since the redistricting  in 2010, but most of us weren’t paying enough attention to realize just how bad things were getting.  We knew that Obama held the White House.  We were aware that Republicans held Congress.  But we didn’t pay that much attention to what was going on at the state level outside our own states (and in California, with its super-majority in Sacramento, it was admittedly difficult to see just how far down the toilet state politics had gone nation-wide).  Nobody could quite believe that Donald Trump could become President – it just HAD to be some sort of a mistake.  Worse even, because we hadn’t been paying attention we didn’t quite realize that the Democrats were in such a huge hole.  Two weeks before the election progressives, even those who weren’t all that hot about Clinton, were confidently predicting her easy victory, a Democratic majority in the Senate, and four years of Supreme Court nominations.  Election wonks were predicting the end of the Republican party.  It wasn’t until one day after the election that we woke up to discover that not only had Clinton and the Democratic party somehow failed to prevail over Trump, but that the party that we thought was one of the two political powers in our two-party system was a smoking ruin, not only shut out of the Federal government but in many states – the majority of states – irrelevant and powerless  as far down as the county level.  That it was so far gone that the Republicans were close to the super-majority they needed to call and implement changes to the Constitution without even needing the consent or involvement of Democratic controlled states.  That all those things we had supported – women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, minority rights, disability rights, immigrant rights – were now sitting on the chopping block waiting for the ax.  That somehow all the victories that we achieved over recent years, and even victories that we thought were won and settled decades ago, had lost much of their protection.

It was bewildering.  It’s still bewildering.  Like many of us I am still stunned by it, still coming to grips with it, still trying to figure out what to do now.

So many things piled one on top of another.

Image result for Big Bad ConTo be sure, 2016 had good times too.  Let not the crap cause me to forget what was good about the year.

  • Big Bad Con was one of the best things that happened to me this year
  • The visit by Sophie’s mother (though a bit stressful) was a happy occasion and fun
  • The cats give me joy on a regular basis
  • the visit by our friend Paul was great
  • the visit by our friend Bryanna was also great
  • I attended Pride Day in San Francisco for the first time
  • the numerous visits to our friends Steve and Dorene, and their support during Sophie’s cancer treatment, were touching and uplifting
  • I read some really good books
  • I had some very good meals
  • Although FTF gaming was sparse, I had a wonderful time in some of the online RPGs I ran/played in

It’s important for me to remember these things because my natural tendency is to forget or disregard them.  I am pessimistic and depressive by nature, and spend far too much time focused on the crappy things in life, and not enough time focused on the good stuff.  And there certainly was a lot of good stuff to be thankful and grateful for this past year.

Image result for Middle fingerSo yes, 2016 was an incredibly toxic year.  It was a year I will certainly look back on with a great deal of fear and loathing.  It was a year of scary, a year of not nice, a year when my eyes were opened to shit going on in this world that I had blinded myself to in the past, and a year when I was reminded to my horror and dread that all things come to an end one day.  But it was also a year that I resolved to see – a year that I learned and grew.  It was a year that held precious memories in addition to the horrible ones, a year that held friendship and support, a year that taught lessons that I needed to be taught, and were necessary to see me have a chance to successfully navigate 2017.

It would be nice if I could say now, looking back on the year, that if I could do it over I wouldn’t change a thing.  But that’s just sentimental claptrap.  There’s ALWAYS something – we humans are fallible creatures (so unlike cats!) and we make mistakes both big and small all the time, some of them for important reasons that we think are justifiable, and some for dumb reasons like we aren’t paying attention or didn’t think things through.  We SHOULD have regrets about some of the things we have done, it’s a sign that we learned something and that even if we didn’t figure out what we should have done, even if we couldn’t fix the damage we did, there was still something learned even if it was simply that the previous way of acting or thinking was wrong or inappropriate or over-general.  We can improve.

There are a lot of things I want to tackle in 2017.  There are a lot of things I am looking forward to in 2017.  And of course there will be things that come up that will be painful and awkward and even downright embarrassing or shameful or uncomfortable that I will need to learn from in 2017.  Politically, 2017 will almost certainly be pretty horrible for a lot of people that I care about – 2016 was just the trailer for that, 2017 will be the beginning of the movie.  Sophie will still be dealing with her cancer through early 2017 and to a lesser extent beyond.  My depression isn’t going to magically go away.  But Big Bad Con will still be there this year, as will (hopefully) Kublacon.  I have some writing ideas.  I live in a beautiful place for photography.  My wonderful wife is alive and improving thanks to her own hard work and the work of her physicians and care teams.  I still have friends, and maybe I will make more this year.  There’s plenty to do, a lot to get involved with, and maybe even orks to fight in Warhammer 40k (if I make enough soup for Sophie).  There will be good moments in 2017.

2017 will be OK.

Misha B

Just your friendly neighborhood ego striker.

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