Stoneshard Early Access game guide. Twenty tips for first starters

Long version: this post: circa 4,550 words, estimated reading time, excluding videos: 23 minutes.

Newbies guide to Stoneshard

Intro

With a mere sixty hours under the belt, I’m probably still a newbie myself, but I’m a fast study and I usually pay attention to things, so this guide will get you to get up and running in what is a brutally harsh rogue-like game!

This guide, like the game itself, is a work in progress and will be added to, changed and expanded over time.

There is also a shorter version if you are in a hurry: Stoneshard tl’dr starter guide.


Prelude

You can try this for free, to get a rough feel for the game, but it’s actually harder than the (free) Stoneshard Prologue intro suggests, harder even than the seemingly ridiculously tough boss at the end of the prelude*. Let’s take a look at him first, if you haven’t already.

*To clarify: Some – myself included – find the prelude boss unexpectedly and thus ridiculously tough – until they grasp the fight mechanics. See the video below.

This too is your first lesson: know your opponent. If you ‘inspect’ them, you can see their attacks, resistances, and weaknesses. Learn how to defeat them, if you can.

Inspect foes in Stoneshard
{ Inspect foes in Stoneshard }
Stoneshard ascended archon details
{ Ascended Archon, crimson vampire: details }

He has lots of attacks, rushes you, hits hard, and has lots of self-heals. Just what you want in the end boss of a demo.

Even with the best gear that I could scavage (several runs) and using Youtube guides to see where I was going wrong, this is a hard fight. The only way I could win was to use ranged attacks – firebolts and arrows/crossbow bolts – and to keep dodging the lines of attack. (Outside of the prelude, you don’t get the warnings, except for the Ancient Troll, so I guess it’s a boss thing.)

If you want to beat the Archon, learn fire, have a good bow, and keep as far away as possible, let him run into walls and do your thing. Fighting this beast with melee attacks will not go well, I found, but as the video below shows, some people can pull it off – with enough attempts. 😉


Getting started: your first character

Prelude over, you lose Verren, and all his loot, and start over with a template character. (Character creation has yet to be added). As they are low level, they look much of a muchness, at first glance – stats are similar, no skills are sets, but you get the feeling they correspond to mage, fighter, ranger, etc.

The weapons skills they have are a vague guide, it simply means they have read a skill book on that. If Jorgrim the Dwarf Reaver decided he wanted to be a pyromancer, read the book, learn the skill tree. If a spell caster wants to wear heavy plate armour, that’s their choice. The game is very free-form in that way.

First, look a little closer at traits.

Arna has ‘Vow of the Feat’. If it was a multiplayer game, she’d be the tank.
“For each enemy within your Vision, receive -5% Cooldowns Duration, -5% Abilities Energy Cost and -3% Damage Taken.”

Dirwin has ‘Sharp Eye’. That’s a hunter/ranger trait.
“The first time an enemy enters your Vision, they receive -10% Dodge Chance and +10% Damage Taken for 10 turns.”

Jonna has ‘Arcane Lore’. Spell caster, no question.
“Each learned spell grants +2% Magic Power”.

Jorgrim has ‘Berserker Frenzy’. Melee warrior, then.
“For Each enemy killed, receive +15% Weapon Damage and +20% Crit Efficiency for 10 turns.”

Velmir has ‘To Each Their Own’. Arguably a rogue, or a monk, but could be melee.
“When attacked, gains bonus Accuracy, while the attacker is applied with extra Damage Taken for the next few turns.”

Verren, who you played in the prelude has ‘Artifact Knowledge’. Not terribly useful, really.
“Each turn you have a 1% chance to reveal properties of a random unidentified item in your inventory.”

Good to know for when they add character creation, certainly, and to me hints at a (potential) multiplayer version, though that’s unlikely and is something the developers have ruled out. Sure, would have been niche, but potentially interesting.

My preference is for casters as I find ranger-types too hard, but you may be different.

 

Now, look at unique items in the starter gear.

Arna has a plate chest (+5 protection, once repaired (around 544g)) and sword (21 damage).

Dirwin has a padded chest (+2 protection) and a mediocre bow (21 damage)

Jonna has a cloth mantle (+1 protection) and great caster’s gloves.

Jorgrim has a great amulet and belt.

Velmir has a padded vest (+1 protection) and mediocre ring

When you compare the bonuses and their usefulness, arguably, Arna and Jonna have the edge. An epic bow sounds nice, but you can’t enchant it, and it’s less accurate than a hunting crossbow (as given to Velmir), which does 35 damage and has better accuracy. Also, you want to replace it with a war or yew bow as soon as possible and enchant that bow.

There is a question over bows verse crossbows for later, but loading speed does not appear to be a factor at this point. crossbows do take one round to load, but bows – unless you like missing – take a turn to aim, so it’s something to consider. Essentially though, it seems to me, crossbows are slower but do more damage.

Gear doesn’t increase in power massively, but it does increase slowly with levels. You’ll be around level 6 to 8 before you start noticing it though, usually in the form of weapons and armour costing thousands of gold from the blacksmiths, rather than in drops.


Game starter biases and favouritism (?)

Taking the above and below into account and my experiences playing mages, fighters, and rangers, in terms of early game items, raw power and survivability, the pyromancer seems uber-powerful. Others might disagree, and it may be that the way I play favours this bias, but in all games that I put any significant time into, be it WoW, GW, Diablo, or this, I max all classes. As such, I feel I can see a bias favouring pyromancers. Later game balance may well change this.

At first, I wondered if the procedurally generated maps were character-based; they are not. The towns, roads and major sites appear stable, the rest also stay in roughly the same area. Beyond that, there’s some randomness, especially for the points of interest [?]. For instance, for one character the leper hut is northwest, for the next, it might be southeast. But they are all the same features, with roughly the same content.

The witch’s hut gives a nice staff and a unique caster’s hat.
There is a water well outside this hut, which is good to remember.

The hermit’s hut gives a nice healing staff, plus a backpack, and (save for later!?) a book on herbs.

The lepers’ hut gives a unique plague doctor mask (with healing bonuses, but -1 to vision), plus medical supplies.
There’s also a shovel outside here.

The entrance to the Abbey of Holy Revelation gives a unique amulet.

(Spoiler: I’ve only seen the huts woods, not open ground areas. Open ground areas are mostly bandit camps.)

Might just be how I play, but my feeling is while a plate tank can soak up the damage to get the fight done, given space to move, a pyro caster will toast them before they get close. Rangers – in light armour* – I find are just plain squishy!

*(Rangers, mages and other classes can wear more protection medium and heavy plate, but with dodge and energy penalties. It greatly depends on how you play, so my experiences might not reflect your own).


Weapon choice is critical

Critical hit bonuses:

Sword: +50% chance cause bleeding
Axe: +50% chance increased bodypart damage
Mace: +50% chance to daze
Daggers: +220% damage IF target unaware

Bow: 100% Immobilization Chance.
Crossbow: +100% Knockback Chance.

Two-handed sword: cleaves 3 tiles with +75% bleed on each.
Two-handed axe: cleaves 3 tiles with +75% bodypart damage on each
Two-handed mace: cleaves 3 tiles with +75% daze on each
Two-handed spear: +100 immobilisation chance
Two-handed stave: cleaves 3 tiles and replenishes 10% of the character’s Max Energy.

Source: Stoneshard Wiki


Loot, so shiny!

For the hoarders amongst us, gear matters. Sometimes it might be a critical choice in defining your character. I prefer pyro mage in games; in WoW, my friend only plays Deathknights, won’t play anything else. I have other friends whose choice was dictated by the transmogs (gear skins) available more than anything else. For others, it will be best available gear. In this game, I’d argue, pyromancers have access to the best and most readily available gear, but that’s my opinion.

A less emotive analysis can be had by seeing what gear is available, especially unique items

Not all bonuses listed. I’ve focused on light armour over heavy, if only because the added protection comes at the cost of stealth, dodge and energy.

Besides character-specific items, there are no other unique belts, boots, gloves, or rings at present.

Armour

Amulet:
Melee/all: Hand amulet (damage -3%), or phylactery (quest item) for damage -5%
Casters: Pagan amulet (quest item) for +10% magic power

 

Cloak:
Melee: Jousting cloak, from a secret room in the Proselyte dungeon (skills -5%, damage -5%)
Caster: Occult cloak, dropped by occultists (magic power +5%, bleed res 13%)

 

Boots:
Norse for bleed resistance, or tanned.
(Various options for medium to heavy armour)

 

Belt:
Melee: Wolfbrother for crit 1%
Caster: Luxurious for energy +5 and energy restoration +2%

 

Gloves:
Leather bracers for crit 1% and fumble -3%
Or medium armour splint braces for accuracy and bleed resistance
(Jonna’s Casting Bracers if that character)

 

Chest:
Depends on character and class, and how you play.
I’d look to replaced Dirwin’s for the Brigand mantle (cooldown -10%), while I’d change Jonna’s for the pyromancer set as soon as I could.
Medium and heavy armour as options

 

Head:
Forester hat for accuracy 3% and crit 1%
Witch hat for cooldown -5%
Possibly Plague doctor mask for healing, but vision -1)
Pyromancer when available for that class.
(Medium and heavy as options)

 

Weapons

Many of these are reward options for completing the Ancient Troll contrast, a few can be bought from Dietrich, the blacksmith in Mannshire. Others are found in secret rooms and the like.

One-handed melee weapons
Fancy sword: farm hero sarcophagus (25 slashing, skill costs -15%)
Engraved sword: secret rooms (31 slashing, cooldown -15%)
Gilded axe: secret room, or reward option for killing ancient troll (33 slashing)
Ornate flanged mace: secret room (27 crushing, +7% crit
Decorated dagger: farm hero sarcophagus, necromancers in Mannshire cementary (skill cost -5%, crit +10%)

 

Two-handed melee weapons
Brynn Greatsword (40 slashing), reward option from Brynn
two-handed axe: no uniques, but elven longaxe (46 slashing) sold by Dietrich (Mannshire’s blacksmith) or reward from Weber.
two-handed mace: no uniques, but Brynn Polehammer (39 crushing) sold by Dietrich (Mannshire’s blacksmith) or reward from Weber.
two-handed spear: no uniques, but scorpion halberd (25 piercing, 10 slashing), reward option from Brynn

 

Ranged weapons
Carved longbow: secret room in Fortress Danbayne, or reward option for killing ancient troll (piercing 34, range 13)
Crossbow: no unique crosswords found, but guard crossbow (troll reward option) does 55 piercing

 

Staves / caster’s two-handed staffs
Pyromancer staff, sold by Mannshire blacksmith for 5,000g (21 crushing, plus 6 fire; pyro +25%)
Necromancer staff, dropped by necromancers (17 crushing plus 10 unholy; 10% lifedrain; 10% energy drain)
Orient staff (arcanist), found in hero sarcophagus, or reward from Weber (19 crushing, plus 3 fire, 3 shock, 3 arcane; energy drain 25%)

Source: Stoneshard wiki: weapons (and armor)


Bear with me! A word on bears.

“Sir, ma’am, back away from the grizzly, slowly! Then run away.”

I’ve had one of these buggers chase me into another grizzly. Did not see that coming! Another bear I upset chased me across a field, a woods, and followed me into a building. Did not see that coming either! They just don’t give up. They are the game’s Terminators!

I think it’s a mistake, but according to the Stoneshard Wiki bestiary, bears are level 30, have 600 health and hit for 50 damage. For comparison, a level 14 rogue knight mob has 200 health and hits for 30 to 42 damage. Even the ancient troll, despite having 3,000 health, is only put at level 25 and hits for 40 damage (boulder toss aside).

By level 10, or higher, as a mage, I was hunting them for food and XP, but they still pack a wallop

Also, the chance to be able to skin animals (for pelts) depends on your attacks, with piercing weapons being best (e.g. arrows, spears). Slashing and bludgeons attack can damage the pelts more, while spells will ruin the hide. See also Stoneshard Wiki: skinning


Just trolling you!

Well, level 12, full tier of pyro, caltrops, gas canisters, my best attempt got the ancient trolls down to 60% health, with 30 stacks of flame on him. Now I’m grinding levelling for dash skills to get out of the way of the killing boulder tosses. From comments I’ve read, those that beat it did so earlier in beta. The developer’s response was to buff the Troll so tricks and such are impossible. His knockdown resistance, for instance, is 250%. He’s a basically pre-Thanos Hulk.

I can kill him at 12, it may be possible earlier, just need to survive long enough to do it.

I did kill him a day after writing this. To defeat the Ancient Troll, preparation is key! In a truly heroic battle taking over an hour, one player solved the Troll problem by throwing money at it, literally.


The first rule of Fight Club…

First rules:

1. Alt loot!
Took me a while for this one and it’s a game-changer! Press ALT to show all the loot, herbs, chests etc nearby. Great for find items in the dark, for hunters to retrieve their arrows, and sometimes for potentially important items you might otherwise miss – like skill books, which mobs can drop. Or rings, iron bars, etc.

Press ALT to highlight items on the floor
{ Press ALT to highlight items on the floor }

2. Enchant scrolls
Don’t waste your enchant scroll, or any more you receive or buy. Only use it/them sparingly, on good items and, if you are OK with ‘cheating’, only use them immediately after a save. That way, if the enchant is poor or not what you want, you can reload and try again, until it is. It makes a difference. What? If you wanted to go with hardcore, to play it as it’s meant, well, you wouldn’t be reading this, would you?

Enchant scrolls over-write enchants on items. Be a waste to do that, unless it’s a rare find with a poor enchant.

Enchant scrolls create ‘uncommon’ enchanted items with 1 bonus.

‘Rare’ items have two bonuses, but are loot drops only, (apparently).

Cursed items have three bonuses, one of which will harm or even kill you! They cannot be removed as such, nor will they allow you to use your second weapon set. (Until the curse is removed with s disenchant scroll).

Unique items are given (on creation) or found in specific places, they are not dropped, as far as I can tell. Also, as unique items, they cannot be enchanted.

Legendary items are not yet in the game, as far as I can tell.

Traders do not appear to sell enchanted items.

I have not tested enchants extensively, yet, but the Stoneshard Wiki enchantments page suggests that it matters what you put the enchantment on (weapons being best), and includes:

added damage/elemental damage
balanced (accuracy, for bows, especially)
crippling
dodge
forceful (knockback)
merciless (crit)
nimble (cooldown -7%)

leeching (energy drain/siphoning 8%)
vampiric (life drain/siphoning 8%)

effective (reduced energy costs for skills)
stabilized (reduced energy costs for cast spells)
vigorous (added energy)

fortifying (added health)

My preference would be vampiric, and absolutely so for melee weapons, but each to their own. For some, the forceful knockback may prove better, or nibble. For armour, I went for reflect damage. It’s good early on, but not against the regenerating troll with 30x your health, for that you need buffs to keep you alive and running. Something like dodge. At 3% per enchant, that’s up to 30% in additional bonus dodge, so seriously worth considering putting the time to get. Or health.


3. Cursed items
Noting that some players consider certain curses worth it, consider hoarding disenchant scrolls and use them to tentatively ‘identify’ items.

Many items are cursed, so what I do – if I have disenchants to use up – is equip them. If they are cursed, I uncurse and sell the item. If it’s not cursed and still removable, then I spend the gold on an identify scroll. This, of course, ignores the value of items in their cursed form.
Unless you like being cursed, after weighing up the pros and cons. With great power comes great – troubles.

Do not equip unidentified items without a disenchant scroll to hand! One curse in particular (Curse of Gnawmaw) will kill you very, very quickly as, within as little as 3 turns, it can send your thirst and hunger levels to 75%. These debuffs cause ‘Deadly Dehydration’ and Starvation. One of the features of this is ‘Near Death’: along with massively depleting your energy, it drains your health. Resting to heal will just kill you faster.

Of all the curses, the only one I’d entertain is the Goldhoarder. This gives a 13% or better experience bonus – but slowly siphons gold from your inventory. If you had 10 items you wouldn’t hold gold for long, but you could get a 130% plus XP bonus, more with other buffs stacked on top, like vigorous from sleep (5%), optimism (5%), blessed (10%), and sleep, blessing (10%) and the Nikkaf drug (25%).


4. Mighty tree or saplings?
Probably best to stick to one skill tree, initially. Mixing might work, but spells and attacks get more powerful as passives on the tree stack up.

That said, I find one point in pyromancy for fire barrage is good for opening doors at a safe distance.



5. Locked door? Shout it out!

If you click on the Modes and Actions buttons [B], you can access rest, shout, etc.

You can also yell to get mobs to come closer and to open the door and come at you. I find blasting doors off their hinges more satisfying! Plus, shouting can attract more attention than is safe. Putting one or two is fine, pulling several will get you killed.

You can also open locked doors by throwing items like weapons at them. Don’t open chests like this though, it tends to destroy their contents.

Shouting in Stoneshard
{ You can Shout to pull attract attention, pull mobs closer, get them to open doors }
Big pull from shouting
{ Don’t Yell too long, unless you can handle the attention! }

6. Be frugal at first!
Don’t waste gold on gear, except maybe a missing item (e.g. belt or glove).
This is early on, on course. By around level 10, level 12 you should have all the best items in the game and more gold than you can spend. By level 20, with the early beta, you’ll run out of places to store your sacks of gold! Early on, just still to essentials, enchant your weapon, stay alive.

Don’t waste gold on healing pots, but do keep bandages and a splint or two close to hand.


7. Contracts.
Do NOT take the main town contract quests until you have done all the side quests and explored all the Points of Interest areas [?].
Three reasons:

Firstly, you’ll die so much in the dungeons it’s just not funny. You can and do die a LOT outside too, but at least you can usually see or hear the beggers coming, at least in the day.

Secondly, some of the areas of possible interest have great loot, as mentioned at the start.

I mostly play the sorceress, so perhaps those are what I encounter, it might be that an axe-wielding class sees something different. Seems to be the way I play, apparently, but my ranger is so squishy it’s depressing. Comments in the community suggest it’s equally balanced (hard) for all though. The point is to explore for loot – and experience. (But see also point 20.)

Finally, contrast quests have a time limit to complete and negatively impact your reputation if you fail to complete them.

Some people will scoff and say how easy they are. Either they are incredibly skilled and lucky, or they are trolling, or they are missing the all-important “now” at the end of their claim. They are not easy if you are new to the game. Full stop. The difficulty assigned (e.g. ‘high’) is based on your level, not your gear. If you play games like Warcraft you’d know all about ‘twinked’ characters. Wearing all BiS gear, all perfectly enchanted, doing a dungeon you’ve done a hundred times, of course, it will be a /faceroll.

However, though this may be changed later, you can do the contract quests without getting the quest! If you clear a castle and find a relic, for instance, you can hand it in to complete the quest, getting the rep and reward.

Or not!

Ignoring this rule, maybe keep that one quest item

Some of the quest items, notably amulets, are quite powerful. The epic Hand Amulet is free and easy to get and is one of the most powerful early on. However, for casters the quest (hand-in) Pagan Amulet is the best early item caster necklace in the game, while other class might prefer to hold onto the Phylactery quest item.


8. Save often!


9. No, really, save often!


10. Side quests matter.
As well as gold they give reputation. Reputation means more stock for traders and better deals from them. I imagine some will change, new ones are added, sometimes you’ll sell stuff and later curse the lack of storage space because they were important.

Also, a little annoying, if you are given a quest, the requirement is exact and literal. If it says bring ‘these four herbs’ you have to have all four in your inventory. Or swords, or iron bars. Whatever they want, they want it all.


11. Like for like
Talking of iron bars, this too is a pointer: ‘stick to your own kind’.

If you need ranged gear, the ranged skill books, kill ranged bandits. If you need caster stuff, do the catacombs and cult places. If you need melee gear, look for bandits, clear forts and castles.

If you need five iron bars, who is most likely to have them: ghosts, or rebels in a fort?


12. Backpacking
The backpack – while replacing the cape – is useful, but flawed. You can store a meagre few items in it, but you have to open the back and put them in your inventory to use them. Also, you can’t enchant the backpack. Still, that extra space is nice.


13. Free medicare
Unless and until you need the inventory space, stock up on fleawort when travelling the roads, it’s about the only Stoneshard ingredient without side-effects.


14. Be circuitous
Sometimes, the longer route is much faster. Skirting a wooded area full of bears or packs of wolves is wise.

Trying to kill the grizzly bear can be a world of pain, misery and death. In cases like this, farm junk, just it from the trader and take the hit on the pocket. Get what you can out of the completed quest be happy with the rep bonus.

Similarly, bison, travelling in herds, present their own problems, but I have found a bison pelt in a chest, so they are in the loot tables, just rare. Going around them to get to Mannshire might just get you there alive. Of course, when you actually want to find bison, they are never to be found.


15. Stats
Give careful thought to your stats. Sometimes a low option is best. For instance, I would not consider perception essential for my caster, but perception increases vision, increases range at certain points – and the further I can be from the things trying to kill me, the longer I’ll survive!

“Strength influences your primary combat capabilities.
It affects Melee Damage, Crit Efficiency, Block Chance, Block Power, Bodypart Damage and Armor Damage.”

“Agility influences your finesse in combat.
It affects Dodge Chance, Counter Chance, Crit Chance, Fumble Chance, Armor Penetration and Lock-picking & Disarming.”

“Perception allows you to spot danger earlier and helps you deliver precise attacks.
It affects Ranged Damage, Accuracy, Crit Chance, Stealth, Vision and Bonus Range.”
+1 Vision and Bonus Range gains are at point levels 15, 25, 35, etc.

“Vitality influences your survivability and endurance.
It affects Max Health, Health Restoration, Max Energy, Energy Restoration, Healing Efficiency and Intoxication Resistance.”

“Willpower influences your Magic capabilities and makes hardships and misery more tolerable.
It affects Magic Power, Magic Resistance, Pain Resistance, Fortitude, Abilities Energy Cost and Cooldowns Duration.”

(Stoneshard Wiki: Attributes and stats)


16. Desecrating? They don’t need it anyway!
Don’t pass up on desecrating graves, dig them all up!
Sure, most will only have yellowed bones and mouldy old clothes, but occasionally the loot tables favour you. I once found a four-slot quiver, capable of holding 80 arrows. It appeared buggy as it couldn’t be equipped, and I lost it in any case when I died before I could get to safety (ignoring rules #8 and #9), but for a short time, it was an impressive find

You can dig with your can hands, but it takes a lot longer and can cause quite substantial damage too. Shovels are cheap even. Take up, dig, discard if you don’t have space.

If you wanted to ‘cheat’ a bit more, rest (save) in the nearest bandit camp and – in the day – have at them with a shovel. If there’s nothing outstanding, go again. Timesink, but some folk have the patience for that. A massive upgrade to your weakest item can be a game-changer.

Early on some of the best items in the game can be found in graves, but these were later moved to dungeon loot from mini-bosses, secret areas and hero sarcophaguses.

This is one of those ‘spam reload for chest loot’ moments where you weigh up the time sink cost with the reward you want. It’s questionable whether it’s worth the effort, especially with the added toll to mental health (sanity and morale), but along with middling Norse weapons, you have a passable chance of finding loot that could make the effort worth it for your character, particularly:

👉 Travelling cape (dodge +6, and more)

👉 Soldier’s bolt quiver (60 bolts, skills energy cost:-7.50%)

👉 Eastern quiver (holds 80 arrows)

See also: Stoneshard wiki: graves


17. Be creative!
Mostly I use the second equipment set for a skinning knife (and crowbar), but it can also be used as emergency inventory space, maybe for an axe (and shield). You can actually save and go back for loot*, but the fewer trips you have to make the better, eh.
*(I’m a gold-greedy hoarder, what can I say!)


18. Steal if you have to! But sell, sell, sell!
There are no checks at present, so, for instance, at the start of the game, when gold is tight, you can go into the barracks, take all the weapons, and sell them – to the right vendor. Crime and punishment is being added in a later patch, but your save is going to be incompatible, so you might as well take advantage of the lax guards while you can 😀

Staves, shields, bows and such, the carpenters pays best.
Cloth and pelts, take to the tailor.
Weapons and other armour sell to the blacksmith.
Unwanted herbs, drugs and meds, go to the priest or the herbalist.
Food and booze, sell to inn-keeper or food traders.
All the other items, like read skill books, rings, statues, sell to the general merchant.

Optimally, buy and sell in the town where you have the best reputation.


19. Bookmark the shrines
Find where the shrines are and visit them often, the buffs make a big difference. You encounter the occasional one on the road, and there’s one in the church in Mannshire. Every buff helps in this game!

Stoneshard blessing
{ Buffs 101: Getting blessed by the host! }

20. Identify and hoard your potions.
Potions are game-changers, especially for real hard fights, like the Ancient Troll. Until such time as alchemy makes it into the game, saves these until you really need them.



Links

See also: Links page: Stoneshard links and other games of interest


Ack

Been playing with computers since the stone age, online since the '80s, and developing websites since the '90s.

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