Monday, July 29, 2013

[Q&A] Dave Noonan (Primeval Thule)

[19:03] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Hi! I'm Dave Noonan, one of the three principals of Sasquatch Game Studio. Our inaugural product is Primeval Thule, a Conan-meets-Cthulhu campaign setting for 13th Age, Pathfinder, and 4e D&D.
[19:03] <+Sasquatch_Dave> We're in the last few days on our Kickstarter campaign (, and the trend has been really good the last couple of days. (done!)
[19:04] <~Dan> Thanks, Dave!
[19:05] <~Dan> Would anyone like to start us off with a question?
[19:05] <+Abstruse> Why did you decide to make the setting for three completely different rules systems?
[19:06] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Well, the three systems share a common heritage--they're all part of the d20 family tree, if you will.
[19:07] <+Abstruse> (Don't say that at my game store...people will lynch you!)
[19:07] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Beyond that, a campaign setting like Thule is a good candidate for a cross-platform approach, because the continent and campaign "building blocks" are the same no matter what rules you use.
[19:07] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Our approach was to identify settings where we have design chops, where there's sufficient audience, and where there are obtainable licenses/permissions.
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[19:08] <~Dan> (Howdy, BPIJonathan!)
[19:08] <+Sasquatch_Dave> And that led us to these three start. We've certainly had interest in other systems, too (most prominently Savage Worlds and FATE), so that's something we
[19:08] <+Sasquatch_Dave> we'll look at once the KS campaign is over.
[19:08] <+Sasquatch_Dave> (whew. done.)
[19:08] <~Dan> Can you give us an overview of the setting?
[19:08] <+Abstruse> You mentioned licenses...did you run into any problems with keeping to both OGL and GSL and...whatever 13th Age is using?
[19:09] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Overview: It's a sword-and-sorcery world right out of the pages of Weird Tales: Howard, Lovecraft, and Ashton Smith are our three biggest touchstones.
[19:10] <+Sasquatch_Dave> The continent itself has a lot of jungle--but with glaciers creeping in from the north. Malevolent, possibly alive, possibly epic-powerful glaciers.
[19:10] <~Dan> (Sounds like the movie Fire & Ice.)
[19:11] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Likely enemies for PCs include innumerable cults, raging beastmen, and sinister Atlanteans trying to restore their sunken continent by sinking Thule.
[19:11] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Licenses: No problems, really. It's setting material mostly, with less mechanical bits than, say, 256 pages of new character classes would be.
[19:12] <+Sasquatch_Dave> PF and 4e are such mature systems that there are plenty of game elements already out there. And with 13A, it's so new that I think people still want to just play a whole bunch with the stuff in the core book.
[19:12] <+Sasquatch_Dave> (done)
[19:13] <+Pony_Knight> You talk about lovecraft as an influence. How does it manifest in the setting? There is a differance to me between lovecraftian foes and "mere" abberations. Lovecraftian threats are ones we are ultimately helpless against, even if we manage to deal occational blows to them. And whose mere presence can threaten our sanity. Abberations as they normally show up in dnd, are wierd looking outsiders with little connection to Lovecraft.
[19:13] <+Abstruse> How did you manage to attract all the names you have attached? Rick Baker, ToddLockwood, Ed Greenwood, Owen Stephens, Jason Bulmahn, Mike Shea, Scott...scott...I just realized, I don't know Scott's last name...
[19:14] <+Abstruse> The Angry DM. That guy ^_^;;
[19:14] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Lovecraft: Manifests in the setting in a couple of different ways. First and foremost: fuel for monster design (not the GOOs themselves, but all their servitor folk). Beyond that, they're definitely an existential threat to the continent of Thule.
[19:14] <+Abstruse> Those names are very prominent either in game design or in the gaming blog circles. How did that come about?
[19:15] <+Sasquatch_Dave> But most Thule campaigns won't be inevitable descents into madness. It's more of a high-adventure setting with periodic excursions into Lovecraftian horror.
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[19:15] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, fenriswol7!)
[19:16] <+Sasquatch_Dave> People: Rich, Steve, and I are old friends from our days at Wizards, and we still game together every Thursday night. We (honest to God) met in a bar one night (like any proper adventure), and Thule was born.
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[19:16] <+Sasquatch_Dave> From our time at WotC, we have pretty good rolodexes when it comes to contacting artists and other contributors. It's easy to sell them on the promise of "Conan vs. Cthulhu."
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[19:17] <+JustinMayhew> Amen
[19:17] <+Sasquatch_Dave> And then we've spotted some really talented newcomers. Our concept artists, Justin and Klaus, fall into this category, and Angry and Sly as well.
[19:17] <+Abstruse> (Sorry, think the flood of new people is my fault. Just tweeted out the link and then TheAngryDM retweeted me.)
[19:17] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Oh, and jinx. Angry's here. Hi Scott!
[19:18] <+Sasquatch_Dave> (done)
[19:18] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, those who just arrived! You can set your name with the /nick command! :) )
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[19:18] <+TheAngryDM> Hello.
[19:19] <+DLIMedia> It's been five years since I used IRC, but this seemed worth it.
[19:19] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, DLIMedia!)
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[19:19] <+BPIJonathan> (Generally speaking it is always worth it DLMedia)
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[19:20] <~Dan> You mention sabretooth tigers on the Kickstarter page... Are the "normal" animals in the setting of the ice age megafauna variety?
[19:20] <+Abstruse> Sasquatch_Dave: Do you feel that Mythos-influenced games can still be interesting long-term with the sort of super-powered protagonists you end up with in systems like D&D 4e or Pathfinder?
[19:21] <~Dan> (To late arrivals: The floor is open to questions, but please watch for question pauses. If you haven't done so already, please set your name with the /nick command. And welcome to #rpgnet! :) )
[19:22] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Animals: Often, yes. My monster designs were deeply influenced by a trip I took to the Natural History museum at the Smithsonian. The first floor: dinosaurs and prehistoric megafauna. The second floor: world's biggest gems. It was like the D&D museum.
[19:22] <+DLIMedia> This is David F. from Darklight. No questions here... just watching. Carry on. :)
[19:23] <~Dan> (Speaking of which... are there dinosaurs on Thule?)
[19:23] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Mythos: When PCs get really powerful, you're definitely playing in a Mythos-influenced environment, not a straight-up Mythos environment. Meaning that the threats, the tentacles, and the ookiness are there, but the PCs are hardly powerless. The "largely powerless PC" thing can definitely work (see: CoC), but the whole table really has to buy in.
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[19:24] <+AncientHistory> 'lo the channel
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[19:24] <+AncientHistory> 'lo ladydragona
[19:24] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Dinos: Yes, but it's not full-on Jurassic Park. It's mostly fantastic, never-existed, defy-actual-science kinda monsters.
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[19:24] <+Sasquatch_Dave> (done)
[19:24] <~Dan> (Howdy, AncientHistory! Q&A in progress! #rpgnet2 open for general chat! :) )
[19:25] <+Pony_Knight> Your project is gaining steam fast, with today looking like it will break your highest $$ per day in pledges =). But if for whatever reason, it falls just shy of its mark, are there plans to continue to project regardless?
[19:25] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, Tim_Eagon!)
[19:25] <+ladydragona> Hi all.
[19:25] <+Sasquatch_Dave> My plan, step one: gnaw through straitjacket.
[19:26] <+smmacm> I have seen a few Kickstarters meet there goal, get the product out, and then have to continuing material released. What are you plans for future content?
[19:26] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Seriously, though, my 10-year-old son told me today: "You know, you guys could actually make it." So I think we've got it in the bag.
[19:26] <+Abstruse> (I'd like to think the boost is because I berated my readers two weeks in a row, "Why have you not funded this yet?!?!")
[19:27] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Future content: definitely in the works...both from us and from other publishers. That's been one of the pleasant surprises of the campaign: lots of people wanting to work with Thule. You can expect adventures and probably some player-focused stuff.
[19:28] <+xyphoid_> so there's been a lot of Weird Hyperborean Pulp Fantasy Adventure-style games and settings - what's new here?
[19:28] <+Sasquatch_Dave> It's easy to justify future "design work" on Thule when a lot of it is stuff we'd do for our Tuesday/Thursday campaign anyway.
[19:28] <+Abstruse> Other publishers? Is Thule getting released under the OGL or Creative Commons, or are you licensing it out?
[19:29] <+Sasquatch_Dave> What's new: It's _not_ really new--we love the Weird Tales heritage. Think of thule as the intersection of all that old-school Hyperborean goodness + top-notch art and design + relentlessly cross-platform.
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[19:30] <+Sasquatch_Dave> That's a busy intersection, come to think of it. We may need a roundabout.
[19:30] <~Dan> (Howdy, Squide! Primeval Thule Q&A in progress! :) )
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[19:30] <&Le_Squide> (Oh! Neat!)
[19:31] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Other publishers: We're thinking licensing under really generous terms. Like "just keep the plasma rifles out of the setting" generous. That's the broad-strokes approach, anyway. Contracts are their own sort of eldritch wizardry.
[19:31] <~Dan> So just to clarify: Is the game to be sold as complete rulebooks for each system?
[19:31] <+smmacm> Are there currently any plans to adapt the ruleset to D&D Next?
[19:32] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Rulebooks: We're printing Thule in three flavors. There's a Pathfinder version of the book, a 13th Age version, and a 4e version. Much of the setting info is the same across all three versions, but monster stat blocks (for example) are designed for that particular version.
[19:33] <~Dan> But each contains the core rules?
[19:33] <+JustinMayhew> Dave, I was examining the map of thule trying to imagine what might be across the landscape. Given that much of Thule will be rugged, savage and dangerous I was curious if there are any city states, where some law and order exist, a haven if you will? A King who keeps it locked down either for the good of the people or to keep his coffers full?
[19:33] <+Sasquatch_Dave> There's also a CoC conversion guide planned, but it's not integrated into the book the way the other three versions are. The reason is simple: CoC stuff takes up a very different amount of space. Sixtystone Press in the UK is handling that part of it.
[19:33] <+ladydragona> Are their going to be a lot of original monsters.
[19:34] <+DLIMedia> I know you intend to publish adventures for Thule (I admit that's why I'm here). How will that work when there are three versions to design for?
[19:34] <~Dan> (Question pause. Please wait for a "(done)" from Sasquatch Dave before resuming questions. Thanks!)
[19:34] <~Dan> (After DLIMedia's question, that is.)
[19:35] <+Sasquatch_Dave> The Thule books all have the same topics covered in the rules, but they aren't "core rules" in the same way that a Player's Handbook is. You'll still need the PF book the 13A book, or the 4e books to play. (I realize you probably knew that, Dan, but I wanted to clarify.)
[19:36] <+Sasquatch_Dave> D&D Next: We're following their development with some interest, and we drink beers with those guys with some regularity (though less regularity than I'd like). It boils down to market size (probably not a problem) and license availability (who knows?)
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[19:37] <+Sasquatch_Dave> City-States: Definitely yes--that's probably the largest political organization we have (no big, region-spanning nations). We think of cities a bit differently than most campaign settings, though.
[19:37] <+Sasquatch_Dave> For us, a city is "a dungeon with really good signage." They're dangerous and full-fledged adventure sites in their own right.
[19:38] <~Dan> (Howdy, LeftWingPenguin! Primeval Thule Q&A in progress! #rpgnet2 open for general chat! :) )
[19:38] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Designing adventures for Thule: For licensees, we wouldn't insist that everyone publish everything for every system. We love cross-platformitude, but we don't insist on it in others.
[19:39] <+Sasquatch_Dave> (done, I think. If I missed your question, re-ask it!)
[19:39] <~Dan> What tweaks to the three systems do you introduce, and why?
[19:40] <+ladydragona> Are their going to be a lot of Original Monsters?
[19:40] <+Abstruse> Elephant in the Room question: Why are the pledge levels so expensive? $40 for PDF, $60 for hardcopy, and $85 for a combo package. That seems pretty high for a 256 page book. What cause the price to go so high?
[19:40] <~Dan> (Question pause.)
[19:41] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Tweaks: In general, we're extending existing rules elements more than actually changing them. Examples that come to mind are the character narratives (which blend the existing background/origin elements in each of the three systems)...
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[19:42] <+Sasquatch_Dave> ...and monsters that invoke "otherworldly horror." For Things That Should Not Be, we have some still-in-playtest rules that cover supernatural fear without straight-up stripping players of their agency. (As a DM, I hate eliminating player agency because then they can no longer make poor decisions :))
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[19:43] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, Style75! Here for the Q&A?)
[19:44] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Elephant: Our biggest line-item costwise is art. Because we're a brand-new company doing a brand-new thing, we have no existing art to work with (unlike a reboot of a setting or a new edition of a ruleset).
[19:44] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Our artists (Todd Lockwood, Lee Moyer, Claudio Pozas, Justin Mayhew, Klaus Pillon, probably others I'm forgetting) are pros, and we want to pay them like pros.
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[19:45] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, mib_2hl51g! Please set your name with the /nick command. :) )
[19:45] <+Style75> How will the Primeval Thule barbarian be different from standard barbarians in 4e and PF? (not sure about barbarians in 13th Age)
[19:45] <+Sasquatch_Dave> After art, second-biggest cost is printing. There, we're at the mercy of short print runs. It's easy to make the numbers work at a low price point if you assume a print run of 10,000 or hundreds of monthly PDF sales.
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[19:45] <+Sasquatch_Dave> But we were more conservative in our projections. Thus the price points we have.
[19:46] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Original Monsters: Absolutely yes! Especially for 13A gamers (who just have a smaller monster supply right now), that's one of the best ways to really evoke a campaign setting's flavor.
[19:47] <+TCLynch> Very disappointed in the pricing, though I am looking forward to seeing the book as it sounds like something that would be very cool
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[19:47] <+Sasquatch_Dave> (done)
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[19:47] <~Dan> Sasquatch_Dave: Did you see Style75's question that came in during the pause?
[19:49] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Barbarian: Mechanically very similar, but Thule gives the barbarian PC a wide array of options to really ground the character. Compared to an "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" setting, we've got scores of specific barbarian cultures and tribes your PC can hail from.
[19:49] <+JustinMayhew> I was curious if there are any of the distinct classes that are of the evil orientation, are the players able to access these harrowing powers and or creatures from beyond the rift as it were?
[19:49] <+Sasquatch_Dave> And also be rival tribes, allies, etc.
[19:50] <+Style75> I'm also curious if you'll give advice to DM's on how to design dungeons with a Primeval Thule flavor. What would make a PT dungeon different from every other RPG dungeon?
[19:51] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Evil/Harrowing: Not distinct classes, but PCs who prefer the sinister will have plenty to do in Thule (and plenty of rivals, come to think of it). Contact and summoning with other dimensions/planes/planets was key to a lot of great Weird Tales era stories, so we have in abundance in Thule.
[19:51] <+Sasquatch_Dave> And yes, some of that summoning/contact will be in PC's hands. I expect they'll hang themselves with it :)
[19:52] <~Dan> Can you give us a rundown on any new PT-specific races and classes?
[19:52] <+JustinMayhew> :D
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[19:53] <~Dan> (Howdy, Gemini! Primeval Thule Q&A in progress!)
[19:53] <+mib_2cd1la> any chance of a beastman pc race?
[19:54] <~Dan> (Question pause.)
[19:54] <~Dan> (mib_2cd1la, you can set your name with the /nick command.)
[19:54] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Thule Adventures: Definitely a "How to make your adventures more Thulean" section. Advice ranges from the thematic to the structural (pick these monsters, not those monsters) to the mechanical (for PF and 4e, higher % of encounters at above-PC EL/level -- it's "up or out;" if you live, bigger rewards for you).
[19:56] <+Style75> Have you picked the cover art yet?
[19:56] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Thule Races/Classes: No new classes. PF and 4e already have plenty, and 13A players (I think) are still in the "let's explore our new rulebook!" phase. One new race: Atlanteans. Think of them as "highborn" humans. Maybe a little numenorean? Their continent is gone, but they cling to some colonies and city-states on the southern shore of Thule.
[19:57] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Beastman PC race: Probably not, although designing your own from the monster description should be fall-off-a-log simple. Something we're still going back and forth on.
[19:58] <+ladydragona> How big is Thule. A large continent (North America) for example or is it larger or smaller than that.
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[19:58] <~Dan> (Just a reminder that a question pause is on. Please wait for a "(done)" from Sasquatch_Dave before resuming questions. Thanks!)
[19:59] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Cover art: Todd Lockwood (yay!) is booked with other clients (boo!) for the rest of the summer, so he can't properly begin for some time. I expect we'll have a barbaric-looking PC on the cover....being overwhelmed by a properly Cthulhoid monster.
[20:00] <+Style75> Gotta have some ancient ruins on the cover. Maybe barbaric-looking PC fights cthuloid monster in *ancient ruins*.
[20:01] <+Sasquatch_Dave> How big: Take a look at Greenland (minding that some map projections are particularly distorted up there). Turn it 90 degrees, melt most of the ice, and boom--there's an alternate past Thule. Put another way, Thule is about as big as western Europe. It's not a megacontinent like Eurasia, Faerun, or Golarian.
[20:01] <+Sasquatch_Dave> (done)
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[20:01] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, Stogoe!)
[20:01] <+Style75> You just passed 500 backers! Congratulations.
[20:01] <~Dan> What is magic like in PT?
[20:02] <+Sasquatch_Dave> 500 awroo!
[20:03] <+Abstruse> How far is the project to completion at this point? Do you have a final draft, or is it still being written?
[20:03] <+DLIMedia> Gonna run, guys. Happy to be involved and look forward to when it finally gets funded!
[20:04] <+Style75> Good luck to you all, I have to go be father to my crying children. Will this chat be logged anywhere? I really hope this gets funded! Get the word out!
[20:04] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Thule Magic: Magic in Thule is rare in the world (though not necessarily rare at your table). Wizardry/arcane magic in particular is in the 'Things Man Was Not Meant To Know" category--to the average Thulean, it's scary stuff.
[20:04] <~Dan> Style75: See the link in the topic for the log! :)
[20:04] <+Style75> cool thanks, gotta run. GL!
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[20:06] <~Dan> Is magic any different mechanically? Or is it still fireballs and lightning bolts?
[20:06] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Completion: The game-mechanic elements are in active playtest right now; we don't foresee huge changes there, but a lot of numbers will probably bounce around. Our broad-strokes view of Thule's history, geography, etc. is complete as well. We still have work to do filling in the map and giving GMs as much easy-to-adapt material as possible.
[20:08] <+Sasquatch_Dave> That's the big push for me right now. I get kinda ranty on campaign maps that lack "information density," and I want just COVER the place in cool adventure sites, interconnected webs of adversaries, all that fun stuff.
[20:09] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Magic mechanically: No big differences mechanically. Fireball the Lurkers of Tohr-Kahn all you like :)
[20:09] <+smmacm> Are you expecting higher lethality in Thule than in other settings/.
[20:09] <+Sasquatch_Dave> I have 5 minutes left--daughter's swim lesson. Let's use 'em! done.
[20:09] <+BPIJonathan> Will you be running any demos at GenCon? When do you expect the books to be available to non backers?
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[20:11] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Lethality: Maybe a slosh higher. Players are adaptable creatures--especially after a couple of 'em die--so I expect that body counts in Thule will be only incrementally higher than an ordinary setting.
[20:12] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Gencon: We'll be there. We have playtest sessions everyday, but I think tickets have been sold for all seats at this point. There's also a seminar where we'll talk about Thule UNTIL WE TURN BLUE at noon on Saturday. Come one, come all for that. Rich and Steve will be there, but I'll be running a playtest at that very moment.
[20:12] <~Dan> Are the Lovecraftian creatures the Lovecraft standards?
[20:13] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Lovecraftian creatures: Some mythos standards, and some D&D-style classics with a Lovecraftian twists. We'll say more on that once we're further along artwise.
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[20:13] <+Silverlion> That sounds cool.
[20:13] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Done.
[20:13] <+Silverlion> This is for Pathfinder correct?
[20:14] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Yes, Pathfinder, or 13th Age, or 4e D&D. You get to pick.
[20:14] <+Sasquatch_Dave> backing us at
[20:14] <+Sasquatch_Dave> (shameless)
[20:15] <~Dan> :)
[20:15] <+Sasquatch_Dave> (done)
[20:15] <+smmacm> Thank you very much for sharing Dave. I am looking forward to Thule!
[20:15] <~Dan> If you have time, do any of the standard classes have any unusual manifestations in Thule? Paladins, for example?
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[20:16] <~Dan> (And for those of you who showed up for the Q&A, you're more than welcome to hang out with us after! :) )
[20:16] <+BPIJonathan> (Did my questions get lost in the mist?)
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[20:17] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Quick answer to standard classes: Yes, we've got specifically Thulean spins on all of them (mostly flavor). One example for paladin: You aren't a paladin. You're _the_ paladin. As in the only one. You have a whole continent of evil to smite. Get to work!
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[20:17] <+Sasquatch_Dave> Daughter tugging at sleeve. (done and done). Thanks, everyone! Great questions!
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[20:18] <~Dan> Thanks, Dave! The log will be posted shortly!

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