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LuxuriousRhino

How much am I really expected to memorize?

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I don't know if I'm alone in this, I've poked around on here a good bit and not seen many people concerned about it...But my question: How much am I expected to memorize? Stems from a few things. 

• Approaches: 5 Skill Groups. 5 Rings. 5 (or more) skills. Is it reasonable to expect every GM or Player to remember all the different combinations or choices here? When is a "clever" mechanic just too burdensome? 

• Opportunity: Skill specific. Skill Group Specific. Ring Specific. Techniques (Kata, Shuji, Kiho, Invocations, Rituals). Combat Specific. I get it...But again, how in the **** is someone supposed to quickly and accurately adjudicate such a diverse set of options when there are so many to the point of being redundant? 

Now, I don't want to come off as a wet blanket here, I'm not opposed by any means to a new system for the game. The idea of bringing a narrative structure to dice mechanics and so on is admirable. But in other more narrative focused games it seems that the rules are designed to not impede play. Yet, through 10 hours of play, it still takes my 3 person group 10 minutes to figure out a single dice roll. And sure, that's largely due to unfamiliarity with the system, but it's also in large part everyone looking up all the different approaches, does this skill fit this task, how can I spend these opportunity points, how do I role play my Strife in this situation. And we haven't even gotten into combat yet. 

When you think of Samurai Fiction, you invariably think of flashing sword duels, and men being cut down rapidly. Take the first fight scene in Yojimbo as an example, Mifunes character dispatches 3 men in 3 strokes. If he were to do that with these rules, Yojimbo would be 37 hours long. A game about the romantic version Samurai should have a fast, seemless, and unobtrusive rules set. It shouldn't require me to consult a rule book or spread sheet with every dice roll. 

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It is a bit complex for my tastes too, yes. That said, this is mostly so for the GM. Combat can be convoluted for the players too, but assuming they are familiar with their own character and the Strife system it’s not too bad. The other stuff is mainly complicated if the players are trying to game the system and/or make decisions “by committee”. Just tell the GM what your character is going to do and let the GM translate that to mechanics. I really advise GMs to have exhaustive cheat sheets to consult while running a game in this edition though.

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3 hours ago, nameless ronin said:

It is a bit complex for my tastes too, yes. That said, this is mostly so for the GM. Combat can be convoluted for the players too, but assuming they are familiar with their own character and the Strife system it’s not too bad. The other stuff is mainly complicated if the players are trying to game the system and/or make decisions “by committee”. Just tell the GM what your character is going to do and let the GM translate that to mechanics. I really advise GMs to have exhaustive cheat sheets to consult while running a game in this edition though.

My character can't make reasonable decisions if he doesn't understand his opponents, which means knowing minion, adversary, and other rules.

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2 hours ago, rcuhljr said:

My character can't make reasonable decisions if he doesn't understand his opponents, which means knowing minion, adversary, and other rules.

That’s not a matter of having a gazillion different mechanical options to memorize though. Also, how much do you really need to know about these? Minions are simplified and weak NPCs, Adversaries are NPCs with mostly the same kind of workup as PCs. That’s really all my players would need to know about them.

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to answer your question, I'd say : as a GM you are expected to remember all the rules in general, and most of the detail by heart.

Now I know it's not an easy task, and you may not have the luxury to spent much time on rules for an RPG (I can understand that, for a job plus familly life takes time too - and are more important than RPG of course - ).

But L5R was never ment to be simple to play, and the other editions were quite ''heavy'' when it came to rules anyway.

Now that said, I don't think you should worry much about the approach rules : it is quite intuitive once you understand the philosophical meaning of all the elements. as for the list of all the skills, it will be like the other RPG you master : you end nowing them by heart by using them.

 

Your post raise a good point though : a GM for L5R will obviously need a screen, and I have a proposal about that : We will need 2 screens : one for starting GMs, containing all the informations you need to consult all the time, and one for the more experienced GM, who will no longer need those informations (becaus they know them by heart) but will need a quick access to more exceptionnal points of rules.

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16 minutes ago, nameless ronin said:

That’s not a matter of having a gazillion different mechanical options to memorize though. Also, how much do you really need to know about these? Minions are simplified and weak NPCs, Adversaries are NPCs with mostly the same kind of workup as PCs. That’s really all my players would need to know about them.

I mean, you need to know everything that's reasonable or you're going to make poor choices. Not understanding the different weighting of criticals on minions vs adversaries or understanding that you don't need to counter play minion stance opportunities will cause problems. I didn't say it was a gazillion rules, but every additional exception and every type that doesn't play by the rules adds to the overhead.

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49 minutes ago, Kyros Skyfall said:

 

Now I know it's not an easy task, and you may not have the luxury to spent much time on rules for an RPG.

But L5R was never ment to be simple to play, and the other editions were quite ''heavy'' when it came to rules anyway.

 

Your post raise a good point though : a GM for L5R will obviously need a screen, and I have a proposal about that : We will need 2 screens

I've run previous editions of L5R, both in the past and recently, and yes, they are crunchy, to a degree, they also don't go around calling themselves a "Narrative System." Narrative systems are smooth, don't get in the way of the game, allow for rules arbitration to be done rapidly. 

 

But the larger problem here here is that you see the game as complex enough that a GM would need TWO Screens to run this game. I don't wanna own 1 screen let alone be nearly required to own two just to run the game. Doesn't that seem counterintuitive to the philosophy of narrative system? 

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you don't understand, it's not only about this game : I think every game need two screens, but not to be used at the same time. It just occured to me that you don't need the same quick-access information when you start mastering a game than when you're a veteran master of the same game. For most of the game I master I ended up creating my own screen because I got to know by heart the informations provided in the basic screen of those games, and were in need for mor specific quick-access informations.

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7 hours ago, nameless ronin said:

It is a bit complex for my tastes too, yes. That said, this is mostly so for the GM. 

How did we get to a place where the newest "Narrative System" is simultaneously the most complex, mechanically? The kind of system they've released in Beta is so closely mirrored of White Wolf's Storyteller System, and if you or anyone has ever played that, you can run that system after ten minutes of reading the rules.

Like I said, I don't want to be that guy who just complains, so I've been thinking of ways to resolve this issue and stay with the design philosophy FFG has planted their flag on.

1) Be more succinct and concise in your wording. I.e: Remove approaches and tell me in no uncertain terms what the Rings mean. Don't mince words. 

2) Right now the charts in the book are every-****-where, knock it off. Compile them into one section label it "Appendix A: Charts" and putt all the **** charts for all the **** ways to spend opportunity in one location. 

3) Simplify and speed up combat. Your fancy Wounds/Fatigue/Critical hit system is overly strenuous. Also, if you want to use unique Critical Hits, maybe try coming up with more than 12 of them 3-4 of which are the same just progressively worse. 

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1 hour ago, LuxuriousRhino said:

How did we get to a place where the newest "Narrative System" is simultaneously the most complex, mechanically? The kind of system they've released in Beta is so closely mirrored of White Wolf's Storyteller System, and if you or anyone has ever played that, you can run that system after ten minutes of reading the rules.

Like I said, I don't want to be that guy who just complains, so I've been thinking of ways to resolve this issue and stay with the design philosophy FFG has planted their flag on.

1) Be more succinct and concise in your wording. I.e: Remove approaches and tell me in no uncertain terms what the Rings mean. Don't mince words. 

2) Right now the charts in the book are every-****-where, knock it off. Compile them into one section label it "Appendix A: Charts" and putt all the **** charts for all the **** ways to spend opportunity in one location. 

3) Simplify and speed up combat. Your fancy Wounds/Fatigue/Critical hit system is overly strenuous. Also, if you want to use unique Critical Hits, maybe try coming up with more than 12 of them 3-4 of which are the same just progressively worse. 

I don’t consider this system narrative. For me in narrative systems the narrative drives the resolution and in this system it’s the other way around, the resolution drives the narrative. 

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Things you should memorize (IMO) as a GM:

  • the basic uses of the rings
  • how to assemble a dice pool
  • how to use the various advantage and disadvantage types
  • the basic process outline for conflicts, especially skirmishes and social conflicts
  • the basic states of injury/fatigue (uninjured, minor injuries, incapacitated, unconscious; Criticals) and strife/composure (unstressed stressed, compromised, unmasked)
  • how to use the skill list and approaches list. (but not the lists themselves)
  • how to use the techniques (but not the techniques themselves)
  • how to use the opportunities (but not the list itself)

the tables for conflict actions by type, the opportunities, the crits and conditions,  weapons, etc  should be kept available. Know where to find them, don't memorize them. 

56 minutes ago, nameless ronin said:

I don’t consider this system narrative. For me in narrative systems the narrative drives the resolution and in this system it’s the other way around, the resolution drives the narrative. 

Unfortunately for you, the term has meant (for 10+ years now) a system where the primary goal is to drive the narrative with mechanics, rather than to simulate, and in contrast as well to games where the game-function and game-balance is the primary consideration in rules as opposed to driving story state. 

L5R has long run a borderline between narrativism and gamism. It's never been good as a simulation. Duels were a minigame. Mass Battles were a minigame. Social Combat was a hidden minigame in 2E and 3E; you have to tease it out of the school abilities and skills lists, but it's there if you want to use it.

 

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16 hours ago, nameless ronin said:

I don’t consider this system narrative. For me in narrative systems the narrative drives the resolution and in this system it’s the other way around, the resolution drives the narrative. 

But that is what this system is trying to do. 

• You describe you're action, giving the GM and other players your action. 

I.e: Hida Aikihiro, stands his ground against the Horde of Lost Moto, wielding his tetsubo. As the first rider and horse approach he braces himself, then at the last minute strikes at the horses legs to shatter the bones of the undead beast and unseat the rider. 

 

• GM: Okay, so obviously you're using Martial Arts Melee with the Earth Ring and in the Earth stance. Roll. 

• Player rolls then determines outcome. 

• Narrative continues. 

In this system it is very hard to fail. In the above example it would only require 2 success. And maybe if you scored two opportunity you'd be able to unseat the rider. 

Where as in DnD, you tell the GM your intent out of character, then roll the dice, then describe the narrative. In this system and other narrative systems, the action comes before the dice roll. 

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7 hours ago, LuxuriousRhino said:

And maybe if you scored two opportunity you'd be able to unseat the rider. 

Where as in DnD, you tell the GM your intent out of character, then roll the dice, then describe the narrative. In this system and other narrative systems, the action comes before the dice roll. 

Getting to unseat the rider if the roll allows it indicates the roll comes first. Obviously you have a basic intention, but the details if what happens beyond success or failure follow from the dice roll.

Now, as @AK_Aramis says, that may be exactly what makes it narrative - just not by my definition (which I wouldn’t say is unfortunate for me though: it’s not like this adversely affects my quality of life). The mechanics (although that’s mainly the Strife part of dice rolls rather than the Opportunity part) push the story.

The most common definition of narrative systems - beyond “not simulationist/gamist” - seems to involve some kind of push towards a certain type of narrative though. A genre, although it might be more specific than that. In L5R5 that would be “samurai drama”, which would be driven as said by the Strife mechanic. I think it does a poor and diluted job of that though. Diluted because Strife is used for combat as well, which turns it into a fairly abstract minigame rather than a thematic mechanism, and poor because it barely seems to achieve the desired end. Outbursts are relatively manageable (and worse, that’s build-dependent) and their impact is poorly regulated and often negligible. A player can choose to be affected as little as possible based on character stats and qualities, and when an Outburst can’t be avoided they can more often than not be ignored or at least be made to have minimal consequences.

A counterexample is Insanity in Lovecraftian horror games. Growing Insanity makes a roleplaying game a horror rpg, and the mechanics make increasing Insanity both unavoidable and meaningful. Polaris’ Zeal/Lassitude mechanic is another example: you start as a shining knight with lots of Zeal, but through failure against chivalry and through dice roll results you first lose Zeal and then accumulate Lassitude instead; when you reach a certain treshold of Lassitude, you become a monster like the ones you first fought zealously against. Not really a genre like horror or samurai drama, but a narrative theme that clearly is driven mechanically (Polaris is also a great example because it doesn't use a great deal of dice rolling, but makes it very significant when you do roll).

 

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9 minutes ago, nameless ronin said:

Getting to unseat the rider if the roll allows it indicates the roll comes first. Obviously you have a basic intention, but the details if what happens beyond success or failure follow from the dice roll.

 

 

In the above example I used it to indicate that success or failure and the difficulty of ones actions is dependent on the narrative the player chooses for his/herself. Meaning that, in most situations a player can determine how hard a specific task is to accomplish by how they choose to effect the game world. In terms of unseating the rider, it would also be appropriate for the GM to simply set a higher TN than 2. Of course failure could change that narrative. It isn't purely a narrative game. It's maybe, "Narrative-Lite." 

A game like Blades in the Dark or other games powered by the Apocalypse system or its many clones, does this, and is more of a narrative game. In the terms above I'm using narrative to show that a player has a degree of control over, both the mechanics, and the effect of those mechanics by how they set themselves up descriptively. 

I don't know if that clears up my posistion any. LoL. 

As for the Strife/Unmasking(Outburst) mechanics I'm luke warm on those. I understand the intent and desire of FFG in making those choices, but in terms of rules and narrative structure those seem to be the easiest thing to grasp. 

 

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From my perspective, L5R has always been in tension between a narrative system and a gamist system. Sometimes it wants to be one; sometimes the other. 

I think 5E is slightly more narrative than previously (if you ignore the significant memorization burden for "what do I roll when.") See for example the narrative element of Advantages and Disadvantages.

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4 hours ago, Doji Meshou said:

From my perspective, L5R has always been in tension between a narrative system and a gamist system. Sometimes it wants to be one; sometimes the other. 

I think 5E is slightly more narrative than previously (if you ignore the significant memorization burden for "what do I roll when.") See for example the narrative element of Advantages and Disadvantages.

This I'm in agreement with. I actually prefer this version of Advantages & Disadvantages. I also like the idea of taking things that used to be specific skills and turning them into Passions. I think that part of the game works really well, especially given that you can turn an Adv or a Disadv into either or, depending on the situation. 

Something like Famously Honest is both a blessing and a curse. 1) No one believes you lie (as the advantage) but 2) everyone believes everything you say...everything (possible disadvantage). 

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22 hours ago, nameless ronin said:

. Diluted because Strife is used for combat as well, which turns it into a fairly abstract minigame rather than a thematic mechanism, and poor because it barely seems to achieve the desired end. 

All game rules are abstractions... the multiple use of strife is identical to the multi-use of Strain in FFG Star Wars. Update 2 nudges that a little.

The desired end would be well served by adding a cutoff to how much can be taken involuntarily before a mandated (and opponent chosen, from the standard list only) at, say, Composure +10 or Composure × 2.

22 hours ago, nameless ronin said:

Outbursts are relatively manageable (and worse, that’s build-dependent) and their impact is poorly regulated and often negligible. A player can choose to be affected as little as possible based on character stats and qualities, and when an Outburst can’t be avoided they can more often than not be ignored or at least be made to have minimal consequences.

As currently written, yes. And that's an issue.

22 hours ago, nameless ronin said:

A counterexample is Insanity in Lovecraftian horror games. Growing Insanity makes a roleplaying game a horror rpg, and the mechanics make increasing Insanity both unavoidable and meaningful. Polaris’ Zeal/Lassitude mechanic is another example: you start as a shining knight with lots of Zeal, but through failure against chivalry and through dice roll results you first lose Zeal and then accumulate Lassitude instead; when you reach a certain treshold of Lassitude, you become a monster like the ones you first fought zealously against. Not really a genre like horror or samurai drama, but a narrative theme that clearly is driven mechanically (Polaris is also a great example because it doesn't use a great deal of dice rolling, but makes it very significant when you do roll).

good examples of the type done well. Pendrago, as well, does this on a much used and far stronger basis 7 pairs of opposed traits, plus 3 bonuses which require certain traits (Religious, Chivalrous, and Romantic), each with different mechanical bonuses. And not small ones, either.

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1 hour ago, AK_Aramis said:

All game rules are abstractions... the multiple use of strife is identical to the multi-use of Strain in FFG Star Wars. Update 2 nudges that a little.

My point is that the use of Strife in combat serves no narrative value. It’s abstracted to the point of not referring to anything thematic.

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1 hour ago, nameless ronin said:

My point is that the use of Strife in combat serves no narrative value. It’s abstracted to the point of not referring to anything thematic.

My players intuited it to be a grouchiness indicator.

At over composure, you're ready to go off, and needing that little extra on a roll is grounds to let the anger flow.

I would rather that social attacks attack a separate disposition, but since its cap would be composure anyway...

I think social conflict really needs a "timer" type limit. 
The One Ring uses a number of failures limit. While that would work well, the issue in TOR is that most of my players leveraged the situations so that they seldom failed.
L5R, I'm getting few fails - tho last night's skirmish had the most I've had, ever. As in, the 15 or so failures in session is as many as I've had in all other sessions. A Dark Moto statblock  in air stance the entire time. It took 4 hits to take him out. Took 6 rounds with 2 PC's and an allied NPC. And he still wasn't dead.

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as for my part, I think strife and composure is the real plus-value of this version. without it, all the custom dice thing serves no purpose and can easily be replaced by standard dices.

the fight between the human nature of a samurai and the face he is expected to wear is a real interesting part of this world, and if you don't want to play it, you should probably stick to  (witch is a good game anyway).

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42 minutes ago, Kyros Skyfall said:

as for my part, I think strife and composure is the real plus-value of this version. without it, all the custom dice thing serves no purpose and can easily be replaced by standard dices.

the fight between the human nature of a samurai and the face he is expected to wear is a real interesting part of this world, and if you don't want to play it, you should probably stick to  (witch is a good game anyway).

It should be the other way around. Strife and composure should not be there to give the dice a purpose, they should have enough purpose of their own. The dice should just be there to serve that purpose. Personally I don’t think the mechanics as they are make Strife a meaningful enough component of the game to be interesting.

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It helps to make the outbursts hurt... 

My players know that outbursts get things done... quickly and efficiently, but at an honor and glory cost. Not always just their own, either. If they try to make it painless, I simply say, "not enough to count as an unmask, but that sounds like a ___ & ___ action, with a forfeit of ___ honor and ___ glory." The have cost Yasuki a heap of honor. They cost Hiruma-sama even more.

I developed a (good for this system) habit of "If you fail, ___ will happen... Do you go through with it?" from playing and running Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard. It's serving me well. My players are working to retain their honor and glory, and they're shifting. A lot. Not ending too far from start, either. 

Every action, think of the forfeit or wager that goes with it, and do so for unmask actions as well, and announce those before the player commits. 

Page 22 says it's always the player's choice whether to forfeit or wager (as appropriate); page 182 makes implies strongly that the GM should be informing players before they commit to the action what the forfeit and/or wager should be.  (it could use being made clear on 22, as well, that the GM should inform the player of the forfeit/wager before they are committed; if it's too much, they can back down.) 22 is explicit that it's always an informed action. If the player isn't familiar with the tables, it's the GM's job to inform them... before they're committed. Anything less is a Wheaton's Law violation.

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13 hours ago, AK_Aramis said:

I think social conflict really needs a "timer" type limit. 
The One Ring uses a number of failures limit. While that would work well, the issue in TOR is that most of my players leveraged the situations so that they seldom failed.

I think this is probably an issue in the objectives; it doesn't feel so much of a Problem in a Ronin's Path, because the objective is explicitly "get X rhetorical points before the other guy does, when he does it's all over" - Gakuto's social checks effectively acting as your 'timer'. 

In a more open-ended intrigue scene then some sort of GM-defined time limit for the number of checks, or the number of failures, or the amount of PCs compromised, would make sense, but there's no real tools in the predefined objectives to support that.

Mind you, intrigues do feel like they're missing a few things. The fact that there's no technique-independent equivalent of the Centre action I can use to throw strife at a rival is a bit of an issue; given that one suggested objective is triggering an outburst (which, given the beta changes, is unmasking, which is an issue because you can never force someone to do that; I would recommend reading it as force them to become compromised) the lack of a social 'attack' action is an issue.

 

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4 hours ago, AK_Aramis said:

It helps to make the outbursts hurt... 

My players know that outbursts get things done... quickly and efficiently, but at an honor and glory cost. Not always just their own, either. If they try to make it painless, I simply say, "not enough to count as an unmask, but that sounds like a ___ & ___ action, with a forfeit of ___ honor and ___ glory." The have cost Yasuki a heap of honor. They cost Hiruma-sama even more.

I developed a (good for this system) habit of "If you fail, ___ will happen... Do you go through with it?" from playing and running Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard. It's serving me well. My players are working to retain their honor and glory, and they're shifting. A lot. Not ending too far from start, either. 

Every action, think of the forfeit or wager that goes with it, and do so for unmask actions as well, and announce those before the player commits. 

Page 22 says it's always the player's choice whether to forfeit or wager (as appropriate); page 182 makes implies strongly that the GM should be informing players before they commit to the action what the forfeit and/or wager should be.  (it could use being made clear on 22, as well, that the GM should inform the player of the forfeit/wager before they are committed; if it's too much, they can back down.) 22 is explicit that it's always an informed action. If the player isn't familiar with the tables, it's the GM's job to inform them... before they're committed. Anything less is a Wheaton's Law violation.

I don’t absolutely want everything to have mechanical consequences per se, and it shouldn’t be too much to ask that players want to play “properly” to a minimal degree, but I have to ask: beyond “I want my character to have high Glory and Honor”, is there any real incentive to try and manage your losses in this regard? If this is supposed to be a narrative game, where’s the narrative purpose? Objectively speaking, unless I’m missing something, Glory and Honor are basically commodities you can lose and gain and stake in more minigames, but which only have value insofar as the player choose them to have. And they’re anything but evenly distributed at chargen - for obvious reasons, but that doesn’t change the numbers.

So, when you say it helps to make the outbursts hurt... in what way are they supposed to be hurting in the first place? I mean, if it works for your group that’s great for you and your group, but if it only works for your group because your group wants to play a certain way for reasons that are their own and not inherent in the game that doesn’t point at good design.

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I actually like that honor and glory rank does'nt impact much on mechanical effects. any samurai can choose to live in honor or not, they just have to live with the concequences (and the look of others). I think strife and composure are interesting becasue the player canot really ''control'' what they're character are feeling, anyway not entirely control if they're feeling something and wheather it's gonna be a problem or not. without a mechanical system, I don't expect any of my players do ''play'' their character's emmotional journey and outburst, adventures are hard ennough so that they're not gonna willingly handicap themselves^^

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