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Campaigns for PCs as Big Heroes
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Yora
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 03, 2022 7:35 am    Post subject: Campaigns for PCs as Big Heroes Reply with quote

I've been reading a lot of Star Wars RPG books recently as resources of an unrelated space adventure campaign I am working on, it always keeps me wanting to come back and run a Star Wars game as well.

But I encountered an issue that all the ideas I come up with stop sounding very interesting after a while because they don't really feel like they are capturing the aspects of the movies that make Star Wars that great to begin with. And I think the real reason behind this is that the typical perspective and interactions with the settings of new PCs that start as blank slate bit players are very different from those of Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and Lando. The way we are introduced to them, Han and Lando seem to be pretty big shots who are close to the top of the food chain of the galactic underworld. They might not have big networks of minions, but they pretty casually mingle with other major players. And Leia is an imperial senator, who seems to be part of the supreme command of the Rebel Alliance. Luke really is the notable exception as a no-name farmboy with no resources, but that's because of his function in the first movie and has changed completely by the start of the second.

In lots of RPGs it makes sense to have new PCs start the campaign at the bottom of the food chain with no resources and have them deal with pretty mundane things that are happening all the time all over the place to thousands of other new aspiring heroes. But when the idea is to capture the essence and style of the great Star Wars stories, I think this leads to a missmatch.
Of course you perfectly can play a campaign with ordinary people joining the Rebellion as little peons or trying to survive with a rusty transport on the Outer Rim, and stuff the game full with iconic Star Wars elements. But to me, this has always felt a bit disappointing.

What about instead setting up a campaign with PCs who already have enough reputation and experience to have personal dealings with Darth Vader and Jabba, and various new characters of comparable influence and presence. While I am not a fan of superweapon proliferation, having the PCs pull of deeds comparable to destroying Death Stars would be great. And in such a context, it would make perfect sense to have a third Jedi somewhere in the galaxy who managed to evade Vader and the Emperor so far but is now coming out of hiding to support the Rebellion.

There's really two big questions I have in regard to this idea:
First one would be, how do you set up such a campaign without writing the whole story already in advance for the players? I think perhaps a sensible approach would be to introduce a major antagonist with an evil plan very early on and let the players know that their gooal is to stop him. Also set up various potential allies and exploitable weaknesses, and then let the players come up with their own ideas how they want to approach it. But I am very open to any ideas or suggestions how to expand or improve that approach.
The other thing is that I don't really have any experience with the Star Wars d6 system beyond the default starting character strength. If we want to have more impressive heroes that can pull of all kinds of cool stunts, should they already start out with a lot more skill points? Are there adjustments that would need to be made to typical enemies and encounters?

A campaign like this would be very different from any kind of game I've run in the past, so any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
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Mamatried
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 03, 2022 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can get behind this high level heroes campaign indeed.

The only issue I see is the players background and this may vary and thus influence the campaign.

But the high level antagonist is a good one, maybe make a capaign where they do their "final stages" of the hero journey, base this as the background for going after the main villain in the main camaoaig, and you could do this with sort of a play through the prequals of the cmapaign, then start the capaign with this group of heroes going after this arch villain
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 03, 2022 3:04 pm    Post subject: Re: Campaigns for PCs as Big Heroes Reply with quote

Yora wrote:

There's really two big questions I have in regard to this idea:
First one would be, how do you set up such a campaign without writing the whole story already in advance for the players? I think perhaps a sensible approach would be to introduce a major antagonist with an evil plan very early on and let the players know that their gooal is to stop him. Also set up various potential allies and exploitable weaknesses, and then let the players come up with their own ideas how they want to approach it. But I am very open to any ideas or suggestions how to expand or improve that approach


In some ways, yes i do think you could potentially wing it, without having to set it all up from the get go.. BUT in others, i don't.

Quote:

The other thing is that I don't really have any experience with the Star Wars d6 system beyond the default starting character strength. If we want to have more impressive heroes that can pull of all kinds of cool stunts, should they already start out with a lot more skill points? Are there adjustments that would need to be made to typical enemies and encounters?

A campaign like this would be very different from any kind of game I've run in the past, so any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


YEs they should.. At least +1d worth of attributes, and +12d or so, in skills (+3d at most in one skill)....
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Yora
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2022 3:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When running RPGs, I regard it as very important that the players create the events of the campaign through their choices, not simply discover the plot and play along with it.
In some campaign formats it can work really well to not prepare any story and simply allow the players to go wherever their whims take them, dealing with the things they run into. But the kind of stories that Star Wars is all about revolve around a clear villain who poses an immediate threat and needs to be faced and dealt with relatively quickly, with an urgency that doesn't allow for whimsical strolls through the galaxy.

I think a workable middle ground would be in dictating the next major goal of the campaign to the players and providing them with a wide range of tools and leads to pursue. The plan they create to reach their current objective would be left to the players, and the way that plan plays out in practice will impact the conditions and resources they will have to work with for the next objective.
To me, The Empire Strikes Back is the ultimate essence of Star Wars, and that adventure consists of nothing but failures and defeats for the heroes. All the victory they have at the end is "It could have been so much worse". Experiences like that are part of the game, and they are so much more meaningful when the players understand it's not simply what the plot has dictated, but a consequence of their own choices. Which in turn means it will also be so much more meaningful when they manage to pull of stunning victories that come unexpected. And Obi-Wan died on the Death Star. Qui-Gon died on Naboo. Both of them were main characters in their adventure.

The challenge and art to of all it is to find the right amount of what to prepare and what to leave open.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2022 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have always felt that Player Characters need not start off advanced or high level to feel important or make an impact. It can all be a matter of perspective and perception. Starting small or slow does not automatically mean it has to be in a no name town on the outer rim, or some farm colony, it just means you need to scale the plots and obstacles for the level of the character. By introducing the characters in a grand manner with powerfully described settings or backdrops, memorable NPCs with strong personalities, and having larger than life events unfold around them, you can quickly create the illusion and feel that they are not just part of something larger than themselves but that their characters are larger than life.

One of the first issues to address is PCs as blank slates. It is a good idea when creating the characters to take some time and have the players work with you to flesh them out a bit. Some important things to address is the characters friends and family, hopes and dreams, maybe put some thought into their current work or life status upon start of the campaign. Of course the SW D6 classics of personality, favorite quotes, whether or not they know the other player characters at the start of the campaign and how (this is a huge one). There are out in the net lots of Character Background worksheets and questionnaires you can use or take elements from to make your own to help aide in this - or just do it freestyle by talking with the players at the time of character writeup. I feel it is best to devote an entire session to character creation (unless it is a high mortality campaign) and do these things.

The Second thing to address is getting a grand feel from the start. Imagine starting off a Young Senatorial and Loyal Retainer together - an easy way to unite them is the retainer is in the employ of the Senatorial's family. They could start on a small diplomatic run, but it doesn't have to be to the outer rim, or a back water world, it could be Corellia, Coruscant, wherever... A smuggler could either have been hired to transport them,or become the source of their woes later. Instead of traveling into a disaster imagine just barely escaping... maybe they just departed Alderaan right before the Death Star arrives (it was an unwarned attack after all)...now the empire wants recent survivors found and dealt with quickly to stamp out possible future trouble so the players quickly find the ship under imperial scrutiny when they get wherever they are going or before... already part of big events.
Perhaps the Player Characters are already part of the Rebellion and start AT Echo Base. You need not keep them there long, but throw all of the players into the action, doing things at the base to reflect their skills and templates as the empire arrives. They don't have to fight off the entire imperial army...maybe they don't even need to stop an AT-AT... but letting them hold of some snow troopers while transport get loaded makes them part of a larger event and immediately should make them feel important... Obviously have the players make it on one of the transports that gets away... maybe they even have to operate one. A great opportunity to have an interaction with one or more movie characters too - Leia could be the one to tell one or more of the PCs to get to the hangers and get those transports out because so and so and those whatchamadoodads are too important to lose.

Now, obviously these tips are a little harder if you are running a custom sci-fi setting of your own creation...but if you are you probably have done some world building and at least some basic timeline layout of important events. So it is a question of imparting all of the awe and wonder you feel for your setting to the players early on to make them feel like heroes...the die codes will always catch up.
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Yora
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2022 6:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ultimately the power of PCs comes down to how big the impact of their punches is. Since there is no need to use specific NPC stats from various sources, you can make Darth Vader and Boba Fett as strong or weak as you want. That way even PCs with relatively modest amounts of points can still be at the top of the food chain.

One neat little trick to have an easy entry into the campaign but then have the PCs become major players for most of the adventure would be to do what The Empire Strikes Back does and jump forward a good amount of time. That completely unknown guy Leia found earlier the day before he was put into a spare X-Wing is now Commander Skywalker, and Echo Base staff responds to Captain Solo's instructions.
You don't even need to give players a lot of free points for advancements. Just maybe be generous with the points for the first big adventure of the campaign. It might take a few moments for the players to adjust to the new status and authority of their characters, but I think that should come pretty easy.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2022 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's one thing I've really changed perspective on over the decades: instead of the default 'zero to hero', i.e., starting every D&D character at Level 1, I kind of prefer now having the PCs start out as quite competent. You do want there to be room to grow, so (to again use D&D terms), maybe the PCs start out at Level 3 or 4, or even 5.

Fortunately, in D6 Star Wars, the characters are already quite competent, so I don't as much feel the need to give them much in the way of anything extra.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2022 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DougRed4 wrote:
That's one thing I've really changed perspective on over the decades: instead of the default 'zero to hero', i.e., starting every D&D character at Level 1, I kind of prefer now having the PCs start out as quite competent. You do want there to be room to grow, so (to again use D&D terms), maybe the PCs start out at Level 3 or 4, or even 5.

Fortunately, in D6 Star Wars, the characters are already quite competent, so I don't as much feel the need to give them much in the way of anything extra.


Well put, I see it as the characters in fact already are heroes, or at least in a D&D sense they are in the 4-8 maybe higher starting levels.

the normal NPC does not have the full 18D for attributes, and this laone is quite something come to tranlsate ino d20 levels.

so with that I belive that the characters are heroes already, but the question is should a RP be about the zero to hero then he retires, then why become a hero?
Why no have a hero to more hero to more hero to still being a hero.
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pakman
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 28, 2022 12:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting post - as someone who has run many campaigns in many settings over the years - including ones where the party are campaign shaking heros - here are a few thoughts.


Make sure your players are on board.
Yes, you may have this desire for a larger than life story with epic characters - but make sure your players want that. They may not want to be the big heroes - a lot of players like fringe or scoundrel campaigns - but not the big events.
If you have already done this, and I missed it in the posts my apologies.

You don't always have to go big to be heroes.
In fact, this is one of the writing flaws with many stories - it is sometimes referred to as escalation. Or where the threat and the plot become THE story - as opposed to something else about the characters.
Always needing a bigger badder villain. This is not always necessary - I mean - look at seven samurai - and incredible story - just to save a single village.

maybe do something new?
Sounds like you might do the rebellion era with many of the classic characters. If you AND your players are good with this - awesome.

However, star wars is an incredibly huge and rich setting with many opportunities for adventure. I would suggest either going outside the rebellion period, or locations or something to that effect. The star wars galaxy has had war for thousands of years - there are plenty of chances to save untold billions.

Yes, you need to have the story arc done
So if you are going to do the big story - awesome.
My latest campaign is a big "save the galaxy" story (contrary to my last point).
Do you need the entire story? No.
As a matter of fact you DON"T want it - why? Because the heroes need to write their part - and players need agency.

So, how do you save the galaxy?
Then how do you do the story?

You write the bad guys side - their plan.
What will happen if the heroes Don't interfere.
You have the bad guys motives and end goals mapped out - at least at a high level. At least break this plan into a few steps - that way the party has multiple adventures to work with on discovering the plan, and trying to stop it - this drives the various adventures.

One key decision: Does the party know of this threat from the beginning, or must they discover it?

This is key, as it will influence the starting adventures.

If they will know about the big bad plot - then that has a lot of changes to the start up, and the starting adventures.

if they don't know about it - then you need to get from them what they want to start as - and figure out how they are going to discover the bad guys plans - and then give them opportunities to thwart them.

Then depending on how successful the party is - the bad guys react - and there is your next adventure... etc.

Best of luck in whatever you decide to do.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 28, 2022 1:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

DougRed4 wrote:
That's one thing I've really changed perspective on over the decades: instead of the default 'zero to hero', i.e., starting every D&D character at Level 1, I kind of prefer now having the PCs start out as quite competent. You do want there to be room to grow, so (to again use D&D terms), maybe the PCs start out at Level 3 or 4, or even 5.

Fortunately, in D6 Star Wars, the characters are already quite competent, so I don't as much feel the need to give them much in the way of anything extra.


True, even starting out, base characters, are STILL above normal folks by a far margin.. +6d in attributes for one thing!

pakman wrote:

One key decision: Does the party know of this threat from the beginning, or must they discover it?

This is key, as it will influence the starting adventures.

If they will know about the big bad plot - then that has a lot of changes to the start up, and the starting adventures.

if they don't know about it - then you need to get from them what they want to start as - and figure out how they are going to discover the bad guys plans - and then give them opportunities to thwart them.

Then depending on how successful the party is - the bad guys react - and there is your next adventure... etc.

Best of luck in whatever you decide to do.


Excellent point Pakman. One of my older campaigns, from back in the day, had a plot where some imperial moff, really wanted to do something, about slaver planets, and was looking to develop a bio-weapon, to sow amongst folks, that he knew (or suspected) the slavers, would attempt to capture, to spread it that way.

The first key the players got that something was amiss, was when a rebel mission, had them try to Rescue some slaves, from a transport ship, and 5 were very sick..

It took them almost 20 sessions, of investigating, medical rolls, more investigating and such, before they eventually figured out IT was the MOFF that did it.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2023 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thought I would make an update to this - as my players are one their second adventure in my "big heroes campaign".

Players WANT to be Big Heroes
The entire group decided, in our pre-session zero "setting up the game" meeting they wanted to be big heroes - big bold and heroic (as opposed to smugglers, rebels or something gritty) oh, and they are all force users too....

Setting up the plot - but not the story
Anyway, I figured out who my villians were, and what their overall goals were - and then worked on a timeline. It had many steps, goals and points along the way.

Some of the timeline has already taken place when the campaign starts (in fact, some of it took place in our starting "background session"), and the villains' are working on their plans as the campaign begins ...


Getting the Players involved
The players have been thrown into the middle of one of the events the bad guys have been working on - foiling that specific step.

In later investigating - the players are finding hints that something sinister is going on. now, my bad guys have a plan, are smart, and will react to the PCs. But the future is not set - but the benefit for me here - is that I know what the NPC's want to do - and I put points for the heroes to interact with those plans. This really helps me as the GM, as some of the sessions almost write them selves - as I just think "ok, with what the bad guy knows and wants - what would they do next....".

Decision Points
This gives me, the ability to decide what could happen, without scripting out the full story - thus not railroading the story and giving the players agency.

But this also means, that if the players slow down, take a break - etc. things still happen - and their past actions do things.

(in a holo news update, one of their allies got captured by the empire, because of something the party did .... events march on).

Don't make them fear choices
Now, you have to make sure that you don't make them feel like not matter what they can't do things - or be fearful of making wrong decisions - otherwise they will be paralyzed to act.

But just let them know - actions or inactions (specifically un-heroic ones) trigger other events. One thing I have let them know - there are no wrong choices, but sometimes they have to decide between the best of the bad ones.

Be careful of doors...and be flexible
There is an old piece of GM advice about not putting doors out there you don't want them to open. I put a side quest type of thing out there - kind of a secondary objective - and surprisingly, they jumped at it - and letting them roleplay it out in the group (sometimes the gm just needs to shut up for a while...) it did make sense for them to do this.

now, as the gm - since I put the bait out there - AND it makes sense for the characters to do, story wise - I have to make sure while they pursue this - there are no negative repercussions felt - otherwise they will feel they were cheated. So the gm has to be fluid in actions and reactions.

(one of my villians had an arm removed in a recent confrontation - so...he will just be delayed a bit longer in his next step of his plan....).

On to the next event...
Anyway, it is going well - as they just uncovered that the party itself - might be part of the key to one of the villian's grand plan - and the implications are potentially terrifying...

Best of luck in your games...
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2023 10:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great ideas in this thread.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2023 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If they're all jedi, are you setting the time line before the rise of the empire? OR say just after order 66?
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2023 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

garhkal wrote:
If they're all jedi, are you setting the time line before the rise of the empire? OR say just after order 66?


it is a bit complicated - but sort of. I used a plot idea I had years ago...

TLDR Version:

A group of former jedi from the clone wars, who right after the battle of mandalore where maul was defeated, their last memory was of some medical procedure of some kind.

Their next memory was of coming out of some bacta tanks in a lab while under fire from a group of odd looking clone troopers, and being rushed to a waiting ship - literally in smocks while under fire.

Shockingly they discover years have passed ...and the galaxy has ...changed.

(I created a narrative method for having backgrounds for the party, inspired by the game fiasco, which was used to spring board the party into an epic adventure crossing decades).


LONGER VERSION:

My players gave me a lot of trust in making up the story, and I gave them a lot of agency in their backstories.

Starting the Game.

We started with a background session (our session 0) which was designed to be a "how we know one another" but was basically an extended series of encounters and stories with a lot of improvised moments.

I had a series of planned locations, events and npcs to meet - but randomized many other elements - they drew cards to set up scenes and present challenges - then they would talk out a solution - and then cards would indicated how well their goals worked or failed - then they would narratively describe how it played it.

Their characters gained background contacts, some free skills and other things for it. It was an incredibly amount of fun. They did not have character sheets or anything at this time - it was all narrative and back and forth.

the characters had a very different backstories individually - and some had decided how they knew one another, others i assigned etc. Some were active padawans, some were washed out jedi, one was even the padawan of count dooku when he left the jedi order (in our canon he left before being recruited by sideous). I used their character concepts, and events from this session to help me design their starting character templates.

The backstory adventures had them crossing paths about once a year - me making up situations that were plausible - but over the years they became trusted friends - even if only seeing one another less frequently.

This helped the common "how did we meet" etc. especially for characters who were of very different backgrounds - and the players had a ton of fun coming up with ways the stories worked (or did not work). it all happened years in the past - so did not worry about any big rewards or failures etc.

Here is an image of the cards used in the session - again, some of these I picked for future campaign locations - but many were randomly used.




Conclusion of the backstory
It all cumulated at the battle of mandalore - where I had edited video of maul and his capture - delivering his lines that the republic had already fallen, but the party did not know it.

Then, right after maul's capture (which they helped in - they delt with some of his underlings etc.), they were injured and went through a ...procedure.

Creating the Characters for the game
All of that was back story - and mostly narrative with them making choices here and there - no dice, etc.

THEN - I gave them their starting character templates, their starting dice to pick skills etc, and some free skills representing some of their background adventures.

However, they were not full powered jedi - they were still starting characters - (force users in my house rules are slightly more powerful starting out, but taper off and are weaker at the higher end).

I told them there would be a story reason for them not being full power.

The talked about who could be good at what, and their skills, and some made minor adjustments to stats (I let them shift around a few pips, as long as the totals were the same).


Starting the Campaign and first adventure

Here are the adventure synopsis of some of their early adventures....

After an unknown period time, the party awakens in medical tanks with their last fragmented memories being of battling Darth Maul on Mandalore. Revived by an old companion and chased by unknown assailants the party flees to an area once in separatist space – the Minos Cluster.

With almost nothing but the smocks on their backs, they attempt to determine who they are, what is going on – and more ominously - what has happened to the republic and what is this Empire?

The party begins to suspect the unthinkable; they may be clones of their previous selves – a feat they believe to be impossible for Force users.



By the end of their first adventure - they figure out;

Yes, they are clones.
no, this is not possible.
Their memories are fragmented, and they have lost most their skills.
It has been 10 years, the republic and jedi have fallen - and the empire has arisen.

They managed to rescue an injured jedi master from an inquisitor, and found the definitive that yes, they were indeed clones - the adventure ended with this ...

The adventure ends with the weary Jedi master saying with grim resolve “If they have figured how to clone force users… that is absolutely terrifying….” as he looks apprehensively at the living evidence right in front of him – our band of outcast heroes.



This is how the party is involved in the overall plot - some unknown force has been trying to figure out how to successfully clone force users effectively - and somehow - has done it. The party is the proof.

But who? to what end? and how wide spread is this knowledge?
The lab was destroyed - does that mean the party themselves hold the last evidence on how to replicate the procedure.

(insert dark star wars force theme here....).


Final Thoughts from the GM
Kudos to my players - they had to roleplay the ultimate fish out of water type characters and events - and they did a great job - by the end of the first long adventure - their characters roughly had caught up - so they did not have to keep going "wait, does my character know that....". As a group we have a nice set of sabacc cards, and ton of metal credits we play with. Their characters had some starting credits - all republic. Then later, they got some imperial credits - and my players jumped on it saying "does my character recognize this...what is this symbol....". It was a ton of fun.

I use the "memory fragment" thing for how they can learn skills and some of their old force abilities - without having a trainer - as they have been through their first character advancement.

I have their adventure logs - if I clean them up a bit, might post them and more details in the campaign forum.

But, back to the previous posts - I made the overall goals of the bad guys - who they were, who was backing them, what resources they had and their plans - and then seeded some if itto their backstory, some into new events, and then the party right in the middle of one of the planned events.

The bad guys STILL have goals and plans - but the party is upsetting them, etc. and making their own plans in what to do - or what not to do.

Best of luck in your games ....
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Working on massive House Rules document - pretty much a new book. Will post soon....
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garhkal
Sovereign Protector
Sovereign Protector


Joined: 17 Jul 2005
Posts: 13747
Location: Reynoldsburg, Columbus, Ohio.

PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2023 12:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Noiccceeee.. Will they ever 'get their full memories' back?
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Confucious sayeth, don't wash cat while drunk!
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