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Wooly Rupert
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Posted - 20 May 2017 :  00:11:41  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
One minor little detail of the process for creating a dracolich has long been of interest to me: per The Cult of the Dragon and other sources, the potion that turns a living dragon into a dracolich has only a 50% chance of success. Not only that, but there's a 10% chance that it will outright kill the dragon, without turning the dragon into a dracolich.

It occurs to me that this isn't something the Cult would publicize... And it further occurs to me that odds are that it's happened more than once that a dragon has simply keeled over dead.

And the death of a loved one has always been a great motivator for revenge...

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Wooly Rupert
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Posted - 20 May 2017 :  00:11:52  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
So here's my idea. It's something I'm still working on, as part of an NPC's backstory. All of it, particularly the names, is still tentative.

There used to be this male black dragon named Varanyx. Varanyx was very ambitious, and maybe not quite all there in the head: he had decided that it was his destiny to become a deity.

To that end, he built a cult around himself. Using powerful magic, he appeared to be capable of divine miracles, and that won him a lot of worshipers. Chief among his followers was his half-dragon son Savilar, the product of a liaison between Varanyx and one of his earliest followers.

As Varanyx's cult grew, he eventually came to the attention of the Cult of the Dragon. Several Cult members joined Varanyx's followers, appearing to be faithful members of his flock. In little time, Varanyx's worshippers had been incorporated into the Cult of the Dragon, without realizing the Cult's true goals.

Eventually the Cult revealed its aims to Varanyx, trying to persuade him to become a dracolich. The dragon was immediately convinced this would be the next step towards his apotheosis, and the Cult was careful to encourage this belief. Varanyx shared his decision with Savilar, who was by that time beginning to grow suspicious of the Cult's true motives. Savilar tried in vain to convince his father that the Cult's goals were not those of the dragon, but Varanyx would not listen, and chose to undergo the ritual that would transform him into a dracolich.

Varanyx was one of those 10% for whom this decision was fatal.

Horrified by the death of their "deity," Varanyx's followers turned against the Cult of the Dragon. Many on both sides were slain, but Savilar and a handful of others managed to escape.

These survivors became the core of a new group: the Claws of Varanyx. Dedicated the the destruction of the Cult of the Dragon, the preferred tactic of the Claws is to infiltrate the Cult and sabotage it from within. Members of the Claws will reveal Cult plots to enemies of the Cult, or move against the mercantile interests of Cult members, or sometimes even assassinate prominent Cultists.

The Claws have been destroyed by the Cult several times, and the Cult has tried in vain to expunge all records of the Claws, as well as records of Varanyx and other Cult failings. They have never been wholly successful, though, and years -- sometimes decades -- after the Claws are apparently destroyed, they rise again, gathering the Cult's disaffected and giving them a new goal.

The Claws have had great success in slowing down and stopping Cult activities, but this is largely unknown to the outside world. This is partially due to Cult efforts at stamping out all records of the Claws of Varanyx, and partially because their struggles against the Cult are usually seen as the efforts of other, more known groups like the Harpers or the Zhentarim, or internal schisms within the Cult of the Dragon.

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George Krashos
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Posted - 20 May 2017 :  03:07:48  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I like this a lot Wooly. For a bit of added spice, maybe the Church of Tiamat - who I can't see being a big fan of the Cult and dracolichs - provides indirect assistance to the Claws and for some of its cells, controls and manipulates activities. Good stuff.

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Wooly Rupert
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Posted - 20 May 2017 :  03:40:14  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
That's a good bit of spice indeed, Krash!

My original idea was a bit smaller in scale for the origin, and somewhat more convoluted -- and I just couldn't spin it quite to my satisfaction.

For some reason, it's been on my mind a lot, of late... And then today, out of the blue, it hit me that it would work so much better as an unwillingly absorbed beast cult.

I was actually driving back from an event at my son's school when it hit me. I love the way that ideas can just sit and percolate in the back of the mind until they suddenly emerge, fully formed.

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xaeyruudh
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Posted - 20 May 2017 :  03:47:32  Show Profile  Visit xaeyruudh's Homepage Send xaeyruudh a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I also dig this. How far back on the timeline are you thinking Varanyx made his fateful decision?
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KanzenAU
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Posted - 20 May 2017 :  03:55:16  Show Profile Send KanzenAU a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm almost afraid to bring it up because it's 5e stuff, but just for the tiny probability you might be interested:

The Cult of Tiamat actually infiltrated the Cult of the Dragon sometime post-Spellplague, and eventually managed to take over the whole network. Their movement was based upon the idea that Sammaster got the translation of the prophecy slightly wrong, and it predicted alive dragons ruling rather than dead ones. The movement became so pervasive that the main speaker for that idea, Severin Silrajin, came to lead the Cult in the 1480s. That movement came to a climax in the Tyranny of Dragons adventure path. The "dracolich cultists" aren't ignored in 5e, they even have their own segment in Tyranny of Dragons. The underlying sentiment of ToD seemed to me to be that Tiamat herself was guiding the subversion of the Cult of the Dragon, and with her defeat at the end of that adventure path and Severin's death, it's likely that the "old school Cult" returns to power.

Not sure if that's of use.

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Wooly Rupert
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Posted - 20 May 2017 :  04:16:23  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Tiamat's interest in the Cult dates back to 2E -- it's in the Cult of the Dragon book. Interestingly, Tiamat's church is listed as a rival, because Tiamat's goals are not the goals of Sammaster, and Cult leadership is rather resistant to being replaced. A lot of the rank and file of the Cult, though, are more receptive to a draconic deity.

And as a draconic deity, Tiamat loves to idea of getting hold of dragon-worshipping humans.

If the Church of Tiamat was to learn of the Claws of Varanyx, the Church members would likely steer the Claws towards opposition of those Cultists that would stand in the Church's way.

And as the Claws have more of a reverence for dragons than for dracoliches, the two groups are natural allies. If it wasn't for the fact that the Church of Tiamat had only started infiltrating the Cult after the ToT, then they'd be the perfect angle for the periodic resurrection of the Claws.

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Wooly Rupert
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Posted - 20 May 2017 :  04:24:56  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by xaeyruudh

I also dig this. How far back on the timeline are you thinking Varanyx made his fateful decision?



I think the Year of the Broken Pillar (1059DR) sounds good. It's after Sammy fell the first time, and it's after Algashon. The Cult is well-established by then, and still growing despite the fact that the original leaders are no longer in the picture. It seems reasonable to me that the subversion of a beast cult could happen in that era.

And 1059 is far enough back that it gives the Claws time to rise and fall multiple times before the ToT -- so a cell of the Claws can be used by DMs in any era from 1E to 5E.

For the Claws, that Broken Pillar would represent Varanyx -- that which supported their beliefs was sundered and fallen.

I'm glad you asked this question, xaeyruudh.

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Edited by - Wooly Rupert on 20 May 2017 04:27:15
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dazzlerdal
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Posted - 20 May 2017 :  09:15:39  Show Profile Send dazzlerdal a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Youve actually got me thinking about the ritual itself now and how there might be variants between the different cults (it being very non uniform in the 1300s) and how other organisations might have influenced the cult and madenthe ritual worse or added other features.


For instance sammaster seeks for dead dragons to rule the world entire in accordance with his mad prophecy. Then he adds in a feature to the ritual which allows the dracoliches to be controlled. That doesnt sound in accordance with his lunacy.
It does however sound exactly like something a priest of Bane would want such as his sidekick (whose name i cant remember).

Now not every cult has access to a copy of the tomes that detail the dracolich creation process. But the moonsea and sembia cults are very prolific, having a number of uber powerful dracoliches at their disposal. The moonsea area is also home to the zhentarim (church of bane link) and manshoon was known to have secret control of a number of cells.
So what if the moonsea dracoliches use tomes secretly penned by manshoon that ultimately allow him to override control of the dracoliches or perhaps even allow him to remove cult control of them

Then we have the church of tiamat who it seems would not want undead dragons so perhaps their influenced cults have a much lower success rate of dracolichea but have a much higher rate of mutating dragons into the new spawn monsters.

Then there is the secret link between algashon and the cult of gargauth (i made a thread on it a while back and THO alluded to some conclusions being valid). So what would the great deceiver's worshipper put into the ritual. Perhaps the control over dracoliches naturally weakens over time so that ultimately all the dracoliches will ultimately break free. Algashon made a bargain with gargauth to allow him to control the dracoliches to help sammasters dream come true and gargauth twisted the deal so that the dracoliches would ultimately be free willed after a century or two and so sammasters dream really would come true as the cult would have no control over its greatest creations.


Just some thoughts. I love intrigue within intrigue.

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George Krashos
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Posted - 20 May 2017 :  09:39:10  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
There are canon references to dracolichs the pre-date the formation of the Cult. That would imply that there are various methods of creating them, and that they have been created for differing reasons over the years.

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dazzlerdal
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Posted - 20 May 2017 :  09:43:35  Show Profile Send dazzlerdal a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I know, but just for the cult method and the tome of the dracolich, over the years what non essential pieces might have crept into the ritual that augment or undermine the whole process for nefarious purposes that were not in the best interest of the cult.

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sleyvas
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Posted - 20 May 2017 :  19:24:10  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Liking your core concept for the Claws of Varanyx, Wooly.

Just some ideas to throw out and see if they help you.

Savilar. He's a half dragon... what's his other half? Is he still alive, and if he is, is it because his other half is a long lived race like elf OR because he himself has become undead OR he's used some other means to extend his life.

What happened to Savilar's spirit? I mean the potion that's used to turn them into a dracolich also binds them to a phylactery. What if his spirit is bound there, and it can take over/possess another body....but it has to be the body of his kin.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

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Markustay
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Posted - 20 May 2017 :  23:03:00  Show Profile Send Markustay a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think if the dragon (Varanyx) was still around and in the phylactory it would mean the ritual didn't fail, which it did. I like the idea that he is 'trapped' somewhere (maybe the CotD don't even realize what happens to the 'failures'), but to put him in the phylactory is too close to a success, IMO.

I like this, and I might even use it (which is actually saying A LOT, since I never liked the CotD, or anything else draconic, for that matter). I might tie this into the Elsir Vale (Scales of War & Red Hand of Doom), because of the number of half-dragns in the area. My thouhts are that the claws may like to recruit other half-dragons as cell or even regional leaders.

I don't know why Savilar would have to be 'half' of a long-lived race, since dragons are already long-lived. Is there lore to that effect? I'd like him to still be around - he could possibly even (accidentally?) obtain his own demipower (Exarch) status by 5e (some sort of 'half-dragon avenger' type). And then combining this with what I just said above, his 'lieutenants' (of his growing organization) could all be other half-dragons, and possibly a couple of those also lost family members to the cult.

And then you could have the Tiamat's Cult infiltrating it, and some double-agents on both sides (basically, the two are using each other, and both thinks they are the ones 'really in charge').

And maybe a weird half-dragon dracolich triple agent...

Good stuff.

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Wooly Rupert
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Posted - 21 May 2017 :  02:58:28  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

Liking your core concept for the Claws of Varanyx, Wooly.

Just some ideas to throw out and see if they help you.

Savilar. He's a half dragon... what's his other half? Is he still alive, and if he is, is it because his other half is a long lived race like elf OR because he himself has become undead OR he's used some other means to extend his life.


Human or half-elf, most likely. His main function is to have a personal stake in Varanyx's fate, and a desire to do something about Varanyx's untimely demise. I didn't give him much thought beyond that.

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas


What happened to Savilar's spirit? I mean the potion that's used to turn them into a dracolich also binds them to a phylactery. What if his spirit is bound there, and it can take over/possess another body....but it has to be the body of his kin.



Here's the numbers from page 103 of Cult of the Dragon:

quote:
01-10 No effect.
11-40 Potion does not work. The dragon suffers 2d12 points of damage and is helpless with convulsions for 1d2 rounds.
41-50 Potion does not work. The dragon dies. A full wish is required to restore the dragon to life. A wish to transform the dragon into a dracolich results in another roll on this table.
51-00 Potion works.


So that 41-50 slot is a permanent death, not a partial success. If it had been a partial success, the Cult could have taken the necessary steps to complete the transition, and then there would be no need for the Claws to form.

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Edited by - Wooly Rupert on 21 May 2017 03:07:04
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Wooly Rupert
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Posted - 21 May 2017 :  03:06:15  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Markustay

I think if the dragon (Varanyx) was still around and in the phylactory it would mean the ritual didn't fail, which it did. I like the idea that he is 'trapped' somewhere (maybe the CotD don't even realize what happens to the 'failures'), but to put him in the phylactory is too close to a success, IMO.

I like this, and I might even use it (which is actually saying A LOT, since I never liked the CotD, or anything else draconic, for that matter). I might tie this into the Elsir Vale (Scales of War & Red Hand of Doom), because of the number of half-dragns in the area. My thouhts are that the claws may like to recruit other half-dragons as cell or even regional leaders.

I don't know why Savilar would have to be 'half' of a long-lived race, since dragons are already long-lived. Is there lore to that effect? I'd like him to still be around - he could possibly even (accidentally?) obtain his own demipower (Exarch) status by 5e (some sort of 'half-dragon avenger' type). And then combining this with what I just said above, his 'lieutenants' (of his growing organization) could all be other half-dragons, and possibly a couple of those also lost family members to the cult.

And then you could have the Tiamat's Cult infiltrating it, and some double-agents on both sides (basically, the two are using each other, and both thinks they are the ones 'really in charge').

And maybe a weird half-dragon dracolich triple agent...

Good stuff.



I, personally, don't see Savilar still being around... Though that's really more of a personal preference, and I can't offer any good reasons why he can't still be around. I honestly didn't consider it -- I created him solely to have someone to create the Claws.

I believe there was a ruling in 3E where it was officially stated that, per the rules as written, a half-dragon could become a dracolich. I think this was more of an oversight, though, than a deliberate thing -- the 3E dracolich template said it could be applied to a critter of the dragon subtype, and half-dragons had that subtype.

I personally didn't like that ruling -- it may have been kosher per the RAW, but it certainly went against (what I perceive as) Ed's intent with creating the dracolich.

But a half-dragon lich, with some unique abilities that puts him somewhere between a "regular" lich and a dracolich? That I can get behind.

I'm just really glad that people are digging this idea.

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Markustay
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Posted - 21 May 2017 :  15:35:59  Show Profile Send Markustay a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well, if Savilar had 'ascended' (possible during the 'lost century' between editions) as I theorized, then he can both be around, and not be around.

In fact, I think he might even be a little annoyed at his 'accidental ascension' (the size of his group, plus the adulation of his followers, hit 'critical mass' and caused the apotheosis). He may even be growing more popular than Hoar in The North as a 'God of Revenge', so that the Eastern and Western heartlands are split in this regard.

That would place Savilar in a very unenvious position - Hoar is friends with Marduck (Bahamut), and Savilar has been working with Tiamat's followers, so even though Savilar is 'doing good' (fighting the Cult of the Dragon), he would definitely be at constant odds with 'the good guys'.

And whether he's around or not, the reason why I find this so interesting/useful is because we have a group thats obviously 'not good' doing some very good work, which opens up all sorts of juicy possibilities for 'strange bedfellows'. One of my favorite campaigns I ever ran featured the party working for Thay without knowing it, and even when they caught on they continued to do so, because none of what they were doing was actually 'evil'. They were just helping the Thayans with their trade routes (which makes Thay stronger, but trade isn't an evil thing unto itself). Without knowing it, they had come up against the Harpers several times (no-one major or powerful). I love stories lines that are 'shades of grey', rather than just B&W.

EDIT:
And I just realized something for the first time ('all things draconic' probably being my weakest branch of D&D lore knowledge) - the CotD would be enemies with both Bahamut and Tiamat's followers; no wonder they've 'tanked' by 5e (although its easy enough to say they're rebuilding in secret). That's rough, especially with the massive influx of dragonborn post-3e.

I could even possibly see a 'Dragonborn Wars' scenario, with the followers of the two major draconic powers going at each other, and then the two having occasionally work together to get rid of a 'nest' of half-dragons.

How do Dragonborn and half-dragons get along? It might be better (in 5e) to give one group to Bahamut, and the other to Tiamat - its sort of that way now anyway, isn't it? Most of the Dragonborn follow Bahamut, and there's plenty of evidence of most half-dragons favoring Tiamat. The only problem I see there is that half-dragons have sub-types, and Dragonborn do not (AFAIK).

Hmmmmm... I'm trying to turn FR into Krynn, and I don't even like DL.

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Edited by - Markustay on 21 May 2017 16:05:17
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sleyvas
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Posted - 21 May 2017 :  16:29:10  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Markustay

I think if the dragon (Varanyx) was still around and in the phylactory it would mean the ritual didn't fail, which it did. I like the idea that he is 'trapped' somewhere (maybe the CotD don't even realize what happens to the 'failures'), but to put him in the phylactory is too close to a success, IMO.

I like this, and I might even use it (which is actually saying A LOT, since I never liked the CotD, or anything else draconic, for that matter). I might tie this into the Elsir Vale (Scales of War & Red Hand of Doom), because of the number of half-dragns in the area. My thouhts are that the claws may like to recruit other half-dragons as cell or even regional leaders.

I don't know why Savilar would have to be 'half' of a long-lived race, since dragons are already long-lived. Is there lore to that effect? I'd like him to still be around - he could possibly even (accidentally?) obtain his own demipower (Exarch) status by 5e (some sort of 'half-dragon avenger' type). And then combining this with what I just said above, his 'lieutenants' (of his growing organization) could all be other half-dragons, and possibly a couple of those also lost family members to the cult.

And then you could have the Tiamat's Cult infiltrating it, and some double-agents on both sides (basically, the two are using each other, and both thinks they are the ones 'really in charge').

And maybe a weird half-dragon dracolich triple agent...

Good stuff.



Good point on the part about half-dragons and how long they would live. Do we actually have any kind of ruling on that?

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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sleyvas
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Posted - 21 May 2017 :  16:43:32  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

Liking your core concept for the Claws of Varanyx, Wooly.

Just some ideas to throw out and see if they help you.

Savilar. He's a half dragon... what's his other half? Is he still alive, and if he is, is it because his other half is a long lived race like elf OR because he himself has become undead OR he's used some other means to extend his life.


Human or half-elf, most likely. His main function is to have a personal stake in Varanyx's fate, and a desire to do something about Varanyx's untimely demise. I didn't give him much thought beyond that.

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas


What happened to Savilar's spirit? I mean the potion that's used to turn them into a dracolich also binds them to a phylactery. What if his spirit is bound there, and it can take over/possess another body....but it has to be the body of his kin.



Here's the numbers from page 103 of Cult of the Dragon:

quote:
01-10 No effect.
11-40 Potion does not work. The dragon suffers 2d12 points of damage and is helpless with convulsions for 1d2 rounds.
41-50 Potion does not work. The dragon dies. A full wish is required to restore the dragon to life. A wish to transform the dragon into a dracolich results in another roll on this table.
51-00 Potion works.


So that 41-50 slot is a permanent death, not a partial success. If it had been a partial success, the Cult could have taken the necessary steps to complete the transition, and then there would be no need for the Claws to form.



Or that 41-50 is some other form of death sometimes and the cult of the dragon just doesn't know it (say 9% true death and 1% is a different sort of "death"). As the spirit is getting transferred to a phylactery SOMETHING happens to it. Maybe it binds to the earth where it died (similar to the everlasting wyrm), and periodically forms a new body. Maybe there's some metaphysical place where these transitioning dracolich souls get sucked to, kind of like vestiges. Maybe as a result, this black dragon can have warlocks which pact to him. Remember the 3e dragon magic supplement and its dragonfire adepts that were a conversion somewhat of warlocks... it would fit this type of scenario.

Maybe the dragon relays that its suffering wherever its soul is entrapped, and this is why the claws hate the cultists.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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