Ronin Round Table: Share Your Enthusiasm

One of the best things about working in a creative field is getting to see how others interact with the thing you’ve put out there. When I first started working in the game industry we often didn’t know how things were being received in the wider world unless a letter came by postal mail from a fan or someone came up at a convention to tell you about their character. Simply having access to email and message boards expanded that contact beyond what we could have thought possible in those early years and today, well, today we have all of the above plus Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube, not to mention the explosion of convention culture and the ability to get together with people who share your interests however specialized or obscure they may be.

Gaming in particular ties into so many other creative pursuits! I was thinking about this earlier in the year while on the light rail to Emerald City Comic Con when I spotted someone carrying a prop that I instantly recognized: Bianca, the named weapon of Varric Tethras from Dragon Age. The prop-crafter stopped and talked with me about how it had been put together while I gushed my admiration for the end result. Bianca was later reunited with the Varric cosplayer they were meeting at the con and they were kind enough to send me some photos of the result afterward.

bianca-viv

Vivienne and Varric Cosplay Emerald City Comic Con 2016

 

Cosplay is a beautiful (and very visible) way fans express their enthusiasm for creative works that inspire them. Sometimes that enthusiasm confines itself much more directly to the game table. We were recently contacted by Freeport fan Russell Liley who wanted to share something he’d put together for his game group. Throughout the history of Green Ronin’s Freeport releases, the city’s paper The Shipping News has served as a way to dish out plot hooks, character tidbits, and flavor text to entertain and inspire readers. Russell went a step further and put together a PDF that could be printed up and actually handed out to his group. We were absolutely tickled to see it! He has kindly given us permission to share it at this link on the Green Ronin website.

 

Art is perhaps one of the oldest forms of fan expression. In fact, many tabletop RPGs have encouraged (or even “required”) players to not just describe their characters but to draw their characters (or, for those like me who have no artistic skills, choose some sort of representation for their character from existing art). The space for character illustration did not start popping up on character sheets by accident. Going back to Green Ronin’s earliest forums we were asked to provide a place for fans to share their art and that especially took off with Mutants & Masterminds fans eager to share their four-color (and not so four-color) heroes. Even with sites like DeviantArt playing host to amateurs and professionals alike, many people still come to the forums to share their latest character concepts. Some people have even gone on to take part in the Mutants & Masterminds open license to publish their work.

 

Twitter has been particularly good at connecting us with fans of Titansgrave thanks to hashtags. In addition to getting to see people excited about watching episodes of the web show, we’ve also gotten to see YouTubers discussing the show (such as the entertaining Titansgrave Diggers who had me on the show last August) and people doing all sorts of incredible art inspired by the world and characters, like this incredible sculpt of Laura Bailey’s character Lemley!

headless2

Lemley, work in progress

When I asked Gordon about his sculpt, this is what he had to say: “I have many projects on the go, but the world of Titansgrave and the character of Lemley inspired me to take on one more. In my optimism I thought that it would take me a couple of months to make it, and I could then go on to make the other characters. This has proven to be well below the amount of effort it actually required, but I am so pleased with the way it was going I have carried on regardless. I am making this sculpture out of Milliput, taking a leaf out of the hugely talented Jason Freeny’s book. Were I to do it again from the beginning however, I’d probably opt for something easier to work with, such as polymer clay.” If you want to see what Lemley eventually looks like with her head on, you can find more pics at Gordon’s Tumblr.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that we love to see your enthusiasm, how you’re going out there and making these things your own. Doesn’t matter how that ends up being expressed, your love for the things that make you happy makes the creators of those things happy, too. Sometimes the internet can function as an amplification device for unhappy feelings and unpleasant interactions but there’s a lot of good stuff out there to share and embrace. Those of us on this side of the creation equation couldn’t be more pleased and honored to see the ripples spreading out through the pond of our game-loving community and coming back around to us. Have fun out there everyone!

via GIPHY

Sky Captain Hana Cosplay as Dorian Pavus

Ronin Round Table: GenCon 2016 Roleplaying Games!

 

GClogo-header-2016-91a751cab7b3dc33dd0ac3b3b95595ac9c4e1b4bc5f42b6388531396cb8729beAs I’m sure most folks know, the events registration for GenCon 2016 went live on Sunday. As an aid to everyone who is interested in playing some of their favorite Green Ronin Publishing roleplaying games at GenCon—or trying out one they’ve never played before—we thought we’d compile a handy list of links to those games, by game.

What follows is not a complete list of Green Ronin Publishing games ato be had at GenCon. It’s just a collection of the games we’ve helped put together and coordinate for this year’s convention. See you there!

Reminder: While some of these games are already sold out (a big thanks to all of that enthusiasm!), remember that lots of folks over-buy, and then drop events as they figure out their schedule. Moreover, things happen and sometimes people aren’t able to show for a game, so make sure to pick up some generic tickets and if there’s a game you’re really interested in, show up to it and see if there are any slots unfilled when game time rolls around. Our GMs are only too happy to help.

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Titansgrave: The Hermit’s Road (Fantasy AGE PDF)

Titansgrave: The Hermit's Road (Fantasy AGE PDF)

Titansgrave: The Hermit’s Road (Fantasy AGE PDF)

Just in time for International Tabletop Day, we have a brand-new Titansgrave adventure, The Hermit’s Road!

The Player Characters  are sent to investigate the existence of purported pre-Cataclysm ruins on the outskirts of the City-State of Karros. Here they discover more than they bargained for, as the ruins hide a secret more valuable than gold or jewels.

The Hermit’s Road is designed for characters of levels 2-4. You only need the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook to run it, though having Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is certainly helpful.

Walk the Hermit’s Road for just $3.95

Ronin Round Table: People in Gaming

Nicole LindroosI have been in the tabletop game business since 1989. In that time I have seen a lot of changes to the way business is conducted and who is conducting it. I can’t count the number of “Women in Gaming” panels I have been invited to speak on over the years.

Recently, I was in Las Vegas at the GAMA Trade Show. GAMA is the industry organization for the tabletop game business. Publishers, game distributors, and game retailers get together to talk about business-related issues, show off new and upcoming games, and to make mutually beneficial connections. I was asked to sit on a panel for the manufacturing track of programming addressing “Gender Issues in Gaming.” I truly didn’t think anything of it, I’ve done version of these panels for years now. In fact, the title not just defaulting to “Women in…” but hitting a slightly different note with “Gender Issues in…” made the topic a bit more interesting to me.

I was taken by surprise once I got to Las Vegas by the varying and strong opinions on the issue I heard from other women. More than one of my female peers expressed doubt that “Women in Gaming” panels should even be part of a modern seminar track. Other women I talked to were fatigued with the “back in the old days, here’s how it used to be when we started” history of such panels and wanted to cut to the chase: what do we do NOW, what do we DO instead of talking about women as abstracts (or worse handing out simplistic advice like “Stores, make sure your bathrooms are clean, women like that.”) Another faction of women strongly agitated for more “Women in Gaming” panels because they looked around at the seminars and noted, rightly, that women in the business are seriously underrepresented even among their well-intentioned peers. (An example from the program book from this very trade show invited attendees to a cocktail reception where they could “meet the designers” and then listed seven white guys and one woman.) Women in Gaming, what does it even mean anymore? It did not escape my notice that despite the panel being publicized with the “Gender Issues…” title, it was very much still seen as “the Women in Gaming panel” for good or ill.

I generally believe that people in the game industry are trying to do the right thing and trying to be better about how they approach issues of diversity. Occasionally there are situations where the definition of “creator” or “designer” is very narrowly applied, for example the idea that there aren’t a lot of women who are “design” games because the definition of designer in that person’s mind is one who creates a unique game or stand-alone product, particularly rules sets. Many women designers who do work on supplements and expansions, in the roleplaying game segment particularly, would argue with that definition and note that they do, in fact, create game materials even if they’re not reinventing the wheel and bringing out new stand-alone games. I have a whole, long rant on the issue of socialization and the differences between male and female creative output in gaming in particular but this is a different essay so you’ll have to wait for that one.

Back to the point, I think where we stand on the issue of women and their places in the games business is largely positive. Even so, there are inadvertent slights that undermine a lot of the good and sincere efforts made at inclusion, such as the unintended message being sent by the published list from the trade show program. It’s come up for me personally a few times in a row in recent weeks: while on the JoCo Cruise showing off our Love2Hate game, the one other seminar we had was scheduled opposite the demo event which meant that I could not attend the Titansgrave panel with Pramas and Wil Wheaton despite having been involved with the project from the start. Alone even that wouldn’t have been so bad but I was also not listed as being part of the company in the materials… as far as people knew from reading the programs, Green Ronin was a gaming event sponsor and Chris alone was the rep. As a company co-owner and General Manager, I would have appreciated the acknowledgement even as I recognized that it wasn’t any sort of purposeful slight. It was an honest oversight. After our return from JoCo, another convention that I’m attending started announcing their guests and I went looking for my listing in order to promote my attendance, only to find that I was not listed on the website…but once again Chris was. In this case, the guests weren’t being announced all at once but in staggered groups over the course of weeks, which is a perfectly common and valid way to spread out promotion in the lead up to an event. Hot on the heels of being overlooked in the JoCo materials, I did find it stung a bit more than usual to have Pramas listed as a guest for weeks ahead of me.

Just using my own recent experiences as fodder for this essay, I feel it’s important to note that no one in these scenarios is undertaking any effort to keep me from the table. In fact, these bumps came up precisely because I was invited to participate, the big gestures, the important moves forward are there: hey, demo your game at our event; please come be a guest at our convention; please sit on our panel and share your experience with us. These other issues are more about fine tuning: hey maybe you should think about how unbalanced your list of participants seems, I don’t think that’s the message you intend to send. I recently saw a reference to “shallow diversity” in the game business that seemed quite a bit more concerned about such small imperfections amidst the larger effort and I personally think that is the wrong way to approach things. I’d rather tackle the bigger things first.

Ramping up for convention season and readying Green Ronin for our big summer releases, I hope we’re doing a decent job of hitting the “big issues” on our end. I’m certainly going to continue to make the effort. I’ll be appearing at several conventions this year where I hope people can get to know me a bit and maybe remember that I’m part of this company, too. I’ll be running a Blue Rose game at the Contessa event at GenCon, where they’re providing a venue for games run by women for women. I’ll be proposing some panels for this year’s Geek Girl Con that I hope will touch on some of the things I’d hoped to say at the GAMA panel. I’ll once again be participating as an advisor on the GenCon Industry Insiders Featured Presenters programming and I encourage my colleagues to put themselves forward for inclusion as well. Over the course of these efforts, I will definitely make missteps and will work through some number of inadvertent slights because that’s the nature of life as a human being interacting with other imperfect human beings. What I won’t do is participate in any further generic “Women in Gaming” seminars or panels: the topic is too broad, too fractious, and it just doesn’t interest me to be a part of that anymore. We can do better.

Ronin Round Table: The Art of Art Direction

beastfolk

By Hal Mangold

Today’s Ronin Round Table draws back the curtain on some of the behind-the-scenes parts of creating our products. Art is an essential part of the look and feel of most games, and it’s the role of the art director (that’s me) to make sure all that art gets created. To give you all a little insight into the job, we’re going to answer a few common questions about what being an art director is all about.  

What does the art director do?

As the art director, my responsibility is to make sure that all of the art that goes into Green Ronin’s games and publications is up to the standard we’ve tried to set over the years. I select the artists, assign and approve the art, and herd cats to make sure it all comes into our hands by the deadline necessary for publication.  

How does the art direction process work?

It all starts for me with scouting out the artists who have the right style to fit the project. Games like Mutants & Masterminds have a radically different art style than Dragon Age or A Song of Ice & Fire. I contact the artists I want on the project, see if they are available during the timeframe I need them, and get them contracted if they’re interested in working on the project. Ideally, this is done about 4-5 months ahead of time, but circumstances often compress this a bit.  

The art order or brief comes next. This is a description or set of descriptions for the piece of art needed for the product. These can be written either by me or, more often, by the developer of the product, with my role being more to tweak or jazz up those basic descriptions. Sometimes the descriptions are general, sometimes really specific, and different artists work well with each type. In general, I try to art direct with a light touch when I can. I’m hiring the artist for their talents and inspiration, after all. I try to give them as much room to improvise as I can.   

The next step is to take that art order transfer it to the artist or artists. For a cover piece, this part is simple. For interior work with multiple artists, it’s a bit more involved of a process. The art assignments get broken up between the artists, taking into consideration both spreading the artists throughout the book for a unified look, and assigning the right pieces to the right artists based on their relative strengths.

Next the artists submit their sketches for the assignments. I review them to make sure the composition is as strong as it should be, that the basic look is right, that any characters depicted have the correct look, and so on. If revised sketches are needed, the artist submits them, and once everyone is happy with where the piece are going, the artist takes the piece to its final state.

If the project is for a licensed property, there’s one extra step: approval by the licensor. Most licensors require us to submit all of the original art we commission to them so they can make sure it depicts their world and characters properly. Some licensors want to see sketches, and some just care about the final result.

There was a time when there was another step: the artists physically shipping their work to us for scanning. Fortunately almost all artists today (even those working in non-digital mediums) submit digital files. Considering the international nature of the artists we work with, that’s especially fortunate today, with international shipping costs being what they are.  

Once all the art is approved, the art director gives it a look to ensure it’s in the proper color and file format, and that it will reproduce properly when actually printed. After that, the image file is handed off to layout for insertion into the product. The art director’s work is done.

Where do you find artists?

Anywhere and everywhere! The Internet is a fantastic source, of course. Sites like DeviantArt, Artstation and DrawCrowd give artists a place to put their portfolios, and I browse around on them quite often. Sites like Tumblr and Pinterest are also fantastic art resources, both for finding new artists, and building “mood boards” for how I want a particular project to look. It sometimes takes a little internet detective work to find out who created an image found that way, however. Not everyone is great about tagging sources for what they post.

Conventions are another great source for artists. Whether it’s a comic, gaming, anime or just overall sci-fi show, I always keep an eye out for creators whose style might work with one of our games. If we’re actually displaying at a show (like GenCon, for instance), portfolio reviews are another great source for me.

And finally, email submissions come in all the time, and have provided me with some great people I might not have noticed before.

Can I submit my art to Green Ronin?

Absolutely! Anyone is welcome to submit their work (or a link to an online portfolio, preferably), to art@greenronin.com.

Fantasy AGE Game Master’s Kit

Fantasy AGE Game Master's Kit

Fantasy AGE Game Master’s Kit

Today we’re pleased to introduce the latest product for the Fantasy AGE RPG: the Fantasy AGE Game Master’s Kit

Fantasy AGE Game Master’s Kit
Author: Chris Pramas
Artist: Brian Hagan
Format: 3-panel hardback GM Screen and 5 reference cards

The Fantasy AGE Game Master’s Kit is a key accessory for your Adventure Game Engine campaign. It features a three-panel hardback screen with all the essential game info you need at the table. It also includes 4 quick reference cards that put the stunts and actions at your fingertips, and a combat tracker that you can write on with wet or dry erase markers. The Game Master’s Kit is the perfect complement to the Fantasy AGE RPG and will help you kick off your game with style.

Order your Fantasy AGE Game Master’s Kit today!

Ronin Round Table: We Could Be Heroes…

If just for one game.

2523On January 10th, 2016 David Robert Jones, known to the world as David Bowie, passed away after a private and protracted battle with cancer. He was a singer, songwriter, musician, actor, and many many more things and his influence was felt far and wide.

He was not, to my knowledge, a gamer.

But he was totally a role player.

From his personas of Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke and various acting roles and constant innovation and re-invention, Bowie was great at making and playing characters. He communicated concepts and ideas not just with evocative music and lyrics, but with performance. Even his battle with cancer is depicted metaphorically through his last album, putting him it a category of unique works that range from Warren Zevon’s The Wind to John Wayne’s The Shootist.

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Green Ronin in 2016

By Chris Pramas

Happy New Year, gaming comrades! I hope you all had a good holiday, and got some quality gaming in with friends and family. As has become a tradition here at GR, I’m here to spill the beans on our plans for the coming year. Last year was a bit awkward because in January I could not yet announce Titansgrave or the fact that we were designing D&D books for Wizards of the Coast. This year will be much less cryptic! So what’s have we got in store for you? Rather a lot, actually!

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Ronin Round Table: GaymerX (GX3)

Steve's Icons players

Steve’s Icons players

As I write this, members of Team Ronin (Joseph Carriker, Donna Prior, and I) are finishing up the weekend in San Jose, CA, at GaymerX (or GX3). It’s our first time at the insurgent game convention, initially funded on Kickstarter to provide a dedicated space for LGBTQ gamers to do what we do: get together, geek out, and play games. It has since expanded to encompass this year’s theme, “Everyone Games,” welcoming all gamers to the table.

It has been a terrific con. I ran two games for the tabletop program: In “Shadows of the Singer and the Star,” for Blue Rose, a small group of Aldin envoys of the Sovereign’s Finest investigated the disappearance of two young men from a town and uncovers a far greater threat.

Donna's Titansgrave players

Donna’s Titansgrave players

In “Whatever Happened to Stonewall?” for Icons Superpowered Roleplaying, a team of randomly generated heroes (Lineage, Heavyweight, Insectoid, Insight, and Mantis) helped save the legendary lesbian hero Stonewall from the armored Invictus and protect some of New York City’s queer monuments from his destroyer robots. Both groups of players were enthusiastic and really threw themselves into the games.

It was my second time running Blue Rose using the Adventure Game Engine rules system at a convention, and it underlined just how well the system will work in the forthcoming edition. There were also games of Titansgrave and A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying on-offer from Donna and Joe, along with a room of Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons tables.

Queer as a Three-Sided Die panel

Queer as a Three-Sided Die panel

GaymerX offered a robust panel and seminar selection. We were able to bring the popular “Queer as a Three-Sided Die” panel we started at GenCon a few years ago to this con, where it found an enthusiastic audience. “Queer Divinities” talked about real world and fantasy mythology and theology and even got quoted in online coverage of the con. Sunday morning, Joe Carriker, Paizo’s Wes Schneider, and I ran a three-hour workshop on game-mastering skills, tips, and techniques, covering a wide range of topics, fielding questions, and sharing experiences along with our audience. The time flew by! GaymerX has a YouTube channel where they plan to share recordings of many of the seminars and panels.

Tim Mottishaw runs Star Wars for the game guests

Tim Mottishaw runs Star Wars for the game guests

Of course, the con wasn’t all about work. Our host, tabletop coordinator Tim Mottishaw, treated us to a game of Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars: Force & Destiny RPG and there were parties galore, from a VIP get-together to the cosplay prom and a drag show. By all reports, tabletop events and offerings did well at GaymerX. I certainly hope so, as I’d like to see them continue to grow and remain part of the vibrant, inclusive, fun-loving, creative community where everyone has a place at the table.

Looking forward to plans for next year’s GaymerX!

Ronin Round Table: The Care and Feeding of Monster Design

MedusaHeya folks, Jack here. I wanted to take a break from working on AGE and Dragon AGE content to talk to you a bit about making your own content for the Adventure Game Engine. Specifically, let’s talk about making monsters.

Since the recent launch of Fantasy AGE and Titansgrave: Ashes of Valkana, I get asked a lot of questions, from “When will they be in stores,” to “What the hell is Interlligence?!” People have a lot of questions about these books.

However, by far one of the most common questions I get asked is “so, any advice on making our own monsters?” Which makes sense. While both Titansgrave and Fantasy AGE contain some cool beasties, there’s plenty of room for more monsters, demons, and beasties. So for today’s Ronin Round Table, I’d like to talk a bit about some things to consider when building your own monsters.

Generally, it’s easy to make your own monsters in Fantasy AGE. Come up with a concept or borrow one from your favorite stories, myths, legends, books, etc… Assign statistics that match up to the rough idea of what your monster can do and then tailor it so that you’re not making it too tough or too easy on your PCs when they face such threats. Speaking of…

You might find that despite having a solid idea and being sure everything will work out, you accidentally made a monster that’s far too strong or weak for the PCs. There are several ways to do this, but some common mistakes to avoid are:

Making monsters who hit all the time or not at all. A really high Accuracy or Fighting is going to mean even very agile and defensive PCs will get nailed a lot. Remember the average dice roll with 3d6 is 11 and starting PCs usually have between 10 and 15 defense. Also, these numbers are slow to increase, so even more experienced PCs won’t become so much harder to hit without serious Ability increases, special items, and other advancements. So you don’t need to give most monsters Fighting or Accuracy of 5 or higher to hit often, and those with scores of 7 or above will hit very often, especially with appropriate focuses. Even a Fighting or Accuracy 1 monster with a focus for their main attack will hit a Defense 14 PC about half the time. Conversely, making monsters with very low Fighting and Accuracy can also be a problem, though it’s admittedly harder to do.

However, if you’re giving a monster -2 Accuracy or some similarly low Ability, consider if that will make them miss often enough they seem more like a joke than a threat.

Making monsters who do ridiculous damage or almost nothing. Sometimes you want a big scary creature who does tons of damage. A giant, dragon, and other big scary monsters should be scary and hit very hard. On the other hand, a swarm of rats might do only a bit of damage and serve to weaken PCs without seriously endangering their lives. Also, remember that damage is a combination of both the dice rolled and the Ability added in and how often you hit affects the damage monsters will do over time.

So a high Accuracy “minor” monster with a 1d6+3 damage attack and 4 Strength will being doing at least 8 damage every hit (1 on the die, plus 3 and then 4 more for Strength). That might be just want you want. Or you might find you accidentally made a minor creature than can kill a player’s unarmored low-defense mage far too quickly for what you had in mind. Likewise, a big scary beast with 3d6 damage and Strength 9 is likely really nasty (doing around 20 damage a hit). Just make sure that’s the effect you want for your monsters.

Ignoring or Overdoing Armor. Armor is both damage mitigating and a pacing mechanism. It often won’t stop a PC or monster from ever taking damage, but it increases the time it takes to damage and defeat a target in combat. So if you give a monster no or very low armor, you’re opening it up to every hit, no matter how small. This might be fine, but it means that anyone who can survive the creature’s attacks and damage can take it down reliably. This might not be what you want for certain monsters. On the other hand, very high armor can get frustrating. It might be tempting to give a heavily armored creature 10 armor rating (or even higher) but realize that without the right stunts or very high damage you’re setting up combats to be many rounds of “I hit and…nothing.”

Not Balancing Health with Other Factors. High defense or armor can make a monster a challenging foe. If combined with really high health, it can make them annoying. On the other hand, too little Health creates “paper tigers.” Again, if intended? That’s cool, but realize that many players expect to only encounter easily dispatched or incredibly tough monsters rarely and at specific times appropriate to the campaign. If your Lizardman lieutenant in a moderately difficult encounter has 150 health and Armor Rating 8 and Defense 17? Your PCs will get bored, frustrated, or discouraged long before they defeat this “mid boss” encounter.

Forgetting Powers and Special Abilities or Overdoing Them. A few cool special abilities, powers, and unique stunts goes a long way. Too many and you risk bogging down encounters. But having none of them makes monsters just collections of basic attacks and statistics. Also, don’t be shy about converting or borrowing powers from existing creatures. If you want a horde of dog-sized flesh-eating beetles to assault your PCs? Adapting Swarm Tactics from the Walking Dead entry in the Fantasy AGE Bestiary will work well and save you design time.

Ignoring the Utility of Reskinning. Sometimes a monster is just an existing one with minor changes and a new look. This isn’t “cheating”; it’s expediency. A terrifying battle-beast created by an evil sorcerer might just be a Demon Soldier with Wings, Blending, or other special abilities already detailed in the Bestiary chapter of Fantasy AGE. A flesh-eating giant “deep one” style humanoid might just be an Ogre with Aquatic and perhaps Bite and Claw attacks adapted from the Manticore entry. These extra abilities will make monsters tougher and you’ll want to consider than when balancing encounters, but it makes it fairly easy to come up with terrifying new threats for PCs to face in a relatively short time.

Also in general, it’s usually better to make weaker monsters than overpowering ones. If a monster is too weak in an encounter? Simply increase it the next time a similar creature is encountered and if anyone wonders, it was a young, inexperienced, or immature monster they faced before—this is the real deal. That’s not even a lie, as the first attempt was not as refined or evolved in many cases. It’s okay if the first demon bear-thing your PCs fight turns out to be a juvenile version of a much scarier threat. In fact, this can allow monsters to grow and evolve alongside your PCs as the campaign progresses.

So those are some of the basics. We’ll be presenting new monsters in the future, but we realize many GMs want to start hacking away at their basic Bestiary entries in the meantime. Hopefully this discussion will help them do exactly that.