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I know I haven't been around much, but my real estate career and real life has kept me quite busy.

But something amazing happened today that has prompted me to comment.

Today, the Canadian dollar reached parity with the US dollar. Briefly today, a $1 CAN = $1.0003 USD.

In the past 5 years, the Canadian dollar has risen 62% against the US dollar.

5 years ago, GoO started to run into financial difficulties ... partly due to the strength of the loonie, partly due to my inability to run the company profitably. I kept holding on, though, thinking it would get better.

Imagine if I had tried to hold on until now: a 62% loss in income after converting US sales to Canadian income.

Let's say that GoO grossed $500,000 USD each year in business. That's close enough for illustration purposes.

$500,000 USD used to give the company $810,000 CAN. Now it would give us only $500,000 CAN.

Without any loss of sales or decreased production, GoO may have lost over THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND dollars a year if we kept trying to publish.

I love GoO. I love BESM. But folding the company was the best decision I could have possibly made.

I only wish that I saw the light a couple of years earlier and managed to exit the gaming industry with more grace than I was forced to do.

Though sad about the loss of a company very dear to me, I and my family are much, much happier now. I wish I could have the best of both worlds.

Now if there was just a way for Arthaus to keep the BESM line running strong....

Thanks for listening.
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I just returned from Ambercon this past weekend after having a blast. Man, do I miss role-playing -- something I didn't get much chance to do (outside playtesting) over the past 8 years.

So I've decided to start a new campaign. Not Amber, though -- I want to play BESM 3. A diceless version of it.

Now some of you may have noticed that BESM was designed to make it easy to eliminate random elements ... and this trend was continued and advanced in BESM 3. I thought I'd throw out some comments here, partly to get feedback from those who'd care and partly to help me solidify my ideas. None of these ideas have been playtested; they are just ideas I'm toying with.

Taking 6 on All Actions

Rather than rolling dice, all actions (attacks, skill checks, etc.) will use the "Taking 6" rule from page 135. That is, all dice rolls have a result of 6 and no roll is done. For opposed rolls, this functions the same as "Taking 0." This is an easy decision when making a diceless version of BESM.

One Attack Value

Although having separate Attack and Defence Combat Values allow for specific differentiation in character concepts, I find that most characters have similar values. For example, it is rare for someone to have ACV at 12 and DCV at 6. To make diceless combats easier -- much easier -- there is only CV now.

This means that modifing CV now costs the combined totals of modifying ACV and DCV. For example, Attack Combat Mastery is 10 Points/Level and Defence Combat Master is 10 Points/Level -- and thus "Combat Mastery" is now 20 Points/Level and adds +1 to CV. Similarly, Ranged Attack (3/L) + Ranged Defence (3/L) creates a new Attribute "Ranged Combat" costing 6 Points/Level.

Diceless Combat

Here is the ideology for diceless combat:

  • There are no rounds. A single specially modified Combat Value comparison determines the outcome of the entire battle.
  • Better attackers have the combat advantage.
  • Inflicting more damage gives you an advantage.
  • Having greater health gives you an advantage.
  • Having a form of damage resistance gives you an advantage.
  • Having extra attacks and defences gives you an advantage.
  • Being able to re-roll dice gives you an advantage.
  • Using personal reserves to focus your combat abilities gives you an advantage.

So how is this executed, exactly? See if you can follow the logic herein ... which may seem a little complex at first, but I think will be quick once game play begins. A character's combat roll is determined as follows (rounding down to calculate each value):

Combat Value (modified by Attributes/Skills as appropriate)
+ 1 for every 10 damage the attack inflicts (before CV is added) AFTER the target's Armour Rating is applied
+ 1 for every 20 current Health Points of the character
+ 2 for every Extra Attack the character has IN EXCESS of the target's Extra Defences
+ 2 for every re-roll applied from the Divine Relationship Attribute
+ 1 for every 10 Energy Points burned to fuel and focus the attack

For example, take a look at Tabitha Yamamoto from page 106. Let's assume her Combat Value = 7, and she is fighting with a blaster pistol (Level 4 Weapon). Her base combat roll when fighting an unarmed opponent is:

7 (Combat Value
+2 (damage = Level 4 Weapon x Damage Multiplier 5 = 20; 20÷10 = 2)
+3 (Health Points = 60; 60÷20 = 3)
+0 (No Extra Attacks)

This base combat roll can be modified by +2 (to 14) if she uses one re-roll from Divine Relationship. It can also be modified by +1 for every 10 Energy Points she burns. Since her correct number of Energy Points = 65 (is incorrectly reads 60 in the book), she can add a maximum of +6 to her base combat roll for a single combat if she wants to burn all of her energy. Consequently, the maximum combat roll she could have by pouring everything into it is 20 (12+2+6).

Now Tabitha's combat roll is compared to her opponent's combat roll, and the highest roll total wins. The margin of difference between the roll totals determines the length of the combat. For example, a difference of only 1 could go on for many minutes (or even hours for dramatic campaigns), while a difference of 10 or more will probably be over in mere seconds.

Let's look at two opponents Tabitha could be fighting going all out (burning all EP), based on the occupational templates: a normal detective and a samurai. Here are the vital stats:

CV=6; Damage Multiplier=5; Weapon=light pistol (Level 3); HP=45; EP=40

CV=11; Damage Multiplier=8; Weapon=Magical Katana (Level 5); HP=80; 1 Extra Attack; EP=90

The Detective's combat roll = 6 + 1 (damage 15) + 2 (HP) + 4 (EP) = 13
The Samurai's combat roll = 11 + 4 (damage 40) + 4 (HP) + 2 (extra attack) + 9 (EP) = 30

So in combat, Tabitha beats the Detective by 7 and handily defeats him very quickly. The samurai beats Tabitha by 10 though, and can cut her down in just a few seconds (provided he can get close enough to her to use his katana...).

A Few Extra Combat Thoughs

Just a few extra things before I wrap up this post:

  • To be fair to all players, the GM must decide how many Energy Points NPCs are using in combat when battling PCs BEFORE the PC announces how many he is using.
  • Since low margins of difference between opponents indicate long combats, the participants may use the opportunity to flee or use powers before they are defeated.
  • Similarly, in long combats, any participant may choose to spend addition EP to change the course of battle or cut it shorter. Descriptive flavour is important to give all players the real understanding of what their characters are experiencing in combat.
  • When several attackers are facing off against one defender, the defender suffers a -1 for each extra attack beyond the number of Extra Defences he has (rather than the normal -2 from the rulebook). For example, if 4 opponents attack a defender with 1 Extra Defence, the defender suffers a -2 to his combat roll (4 - 1 normal free defence - 1 Extra Defence = 2). In these situations, the defender compares his combat roll to each attacker individually to determine the outcomes. Also, the defender may select the opponent he is facing.

That's it for now. Comments?
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Wow, it's been a while since I've updated this blog. Real Life gets in the way sometimes.

I was looking over the collection of GoO publications, and thought how neat it would be to have templates for the Sailor Senshi in BESM 3. So here's my initial crack at it:

+1 +10 Soul Stat
+1 +2 Alternate Identity (Senshi Form)
+1 +10 Attack Combat Mastery
+1 +4 Aura of Inspiration
+1 +4 Companion (140 Points)
+3 +6 Divine Relationship
+8 +4 Energy Bonus (Activation -2, Charges -6, Emotional -4)
+5 +6 Healing (Activation -2, Charges -6, Emotional -4, Unique: Self Only -2)
+10 Item (Various)
+8 +16 Weapon "Combined Attack" (Select Variables 8, Assisted -2, Deplete -2, Emotional -2, Unique: Must Shout Attack Name and Gesture -2)
+4 +8 Weapon "Senshi Attack" (Select Variables 6, Deplete -2, Emotional -2, Unique: Must Shout Attack Name and Gesture -2)

So my favourite Sailor Senshi character, Sailor Mercury, could be created as follows (representing her in Season 2 of the TV series). It's a simplified version of her, but it's easy to create. You can refer to the Sailor Moon RPG for more information about her attacks and items.

Name: Sailor Mercury/Ami Mizuno
Size: Medium
Points: 300

4 40 Body
10 100 Mind
5 50 Soul

Attack Combat Value 7 (Sailor Senshi Attacks 9)
Defence Combat Value 6
Damage Multiplier 5 (Sailor Senshi Attacks 6)
Health Points 55
Shock Value 11
Energy Points 85

1 2 Alternate Identity (Senshi Form)
1 10 Attack Combat Mastery
1 4 Aura of Inspiration
2 8 Companion (Luna and Artemis; 140 Points Each)
3 6 Divine Relationship
2 4 Energy Bonus
8 4 Energy Bonus (Activation -2, Charges -6, Emotional -4)
2 2 Features (Appearance 2)
5 6 Healing (Activation -2, Charges -6, Emotional -4, Unique: Self Only -2)
20 Item (Miniature Super Computer and VR Goggles)
1 4 Massive Damage (Sailor Senshi Attacks)
2 6 Ranged Attack (Sailor Senshi Attacks)
1 2 Sensory Bock (Sight; Area 2+1=3, Dependent on Weapon "Mercury Bubbles Blast" -1)
2 6 Skill: Acrobatics (Jumps)
2 4 Tough
8 16 Weapon "Combined Attack" (Select Variables 8, Assisted -2, Deplete -2, Emotional -2, Unique: Must Shout Attack Name and Gesture -2)
0 1 Weapon "Mercury Bubbles Blast" - Alternate Attack (Area 3, Irritant 3, Deplete -1, Emotional -1, Unique: Must Shout Attack Name and Gesture -2)
0 1 Weapon "Mercury Ice Bubbles Freeze" - Alternate Attack (Incapacitating 4, Range 1, Deplete -2, Emotional -1, Unique: Must Shout Attack Name and Gesture -2)
4 4 Weapon "Shine Aqua Illusion" - Alternate Attack (Accurate 1, Penetrating 2, Range 1, Spreading 2, Deplete -2, Emotional -2, Unique: Must Shout Attack Name and Gesture -2)
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I'm obviously quite pleased how BESM 3 turned out. As our swan song, it's pretty spiffy.

There are some aspects of the new game that I just adore, though, and I thought you might like to know what a designer feels is important about his game:

Unified Modifiers
Probably the best part of the new game. All bonuses/penalties/target numbers now follow the progression of ±1, ±3, ±6, ±12, ±18, ±24. This unification cuts down on too many rules and exceptions.

Sizes and Modifiers
As mentioned in an earlier post, sizes now make much more sense and are much more elegant than before. Nuff said.

This is such a great addition to BESM, but it's quite unfortunate that more about it might not see the light of day. I had the general concept of what I wanted, and David wrote some great stuff that completely captured the concept. It's tasty.

Roll High
Although I initially didn't see the need for rolling high, after the mechanics took form I fell in love with them. Much, much superior to what I created in BESM 1.

Standard/Custom Variables and Restrictions
First, these customisations a much better implementation of PMVs from Silver Age Sentinels. Having each Attribute function as written was a huge improvement. Almost as big an improvement was the reorganisation of the chapters to segregate customisation in a separate section. Chalk that change up to great playtester comments. The entire customisation of the baseline simply rocks now.

Weapons and Damage Multiplier
David takes credit for this one. [Weapon Level x Damage Multiplier] is brilliant. A vast improvement over how sloppy we handled some aspects of weapons and damage in BESM 2. Everything flows much more smoothly now.

Skills as Attributes
Making Skills just like all other Attributes was logical, efficient, and easy. Rather silly we didn't do it that way to begin with, but the Point values wouldn't really accommodate it in BESM 2.

Dimension Walk
Amber and Anime -- two great flavours that have finally come together. Don't worry if you don't understand what this means.

Dynamic Powers
The way it's supposed to be written without any of that hand-holding shit that I wrote the first time in SAS. It's a mature role-playing tool for mature role-players. If you don't "get it" when you read the description, then it's not for you.

Making all non-character things simply cost one-half is a spectacular time-saver and cohesive container Attribute. No categories, no fiddly rules. Much improved.

Skill costs vary by Genre
Loved this idea when we first came up with it, and I still love it. A great system mechanic that reflects role-playing, rather than the other way around. I don't know of any other game that does it.

Not an essential component of the game, but really handy for introducing the game to beginners. Would have been a godsend in supplement creation. And it helps reinforce the Metamorphosis Attribute. The Power Templates finally help magic click for me too ... which was one reason we never really addressed magic much in any BESM 2 supplement (I couldn't figure out how I wanted to do it).

Finally: and explanation that proves how deadly BESM can be if you want it to be. Take that, realism critics!

Item Chapter
It's great to finally have an extensive list of weapons, armour, and misc items in one place. Great for many genres.

Layout and Graphic Design
Big time Kudos to Adam. We have established a high standard for ourselves regarding graphic design (BESM 2, Tenchi Muyo, Silver Age Sentinels, A Game of Thrones), and Adam certainly proved himself up to the challenge. An excellent design that reinforced anime 1000%.
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It's very difficult to publish a book without any errors. Yes, there will be typos. In BESM 3, there have been several more significant errata issues identified to be so far.

The first is a simple math error in the Slime template (page 117). Features was indicated as costing 2 Points/Level instead of 1 Point/Level, meaning that the template should be +7 Points instead of +10. In keeping with units of 10 for all templates, I suggest making this simple change: all Slimes have an additional 3 Features of their choice to reflect the sub-races/colour of slimes. This adds +3 Levels of Features, which is +3 Points. The template cost is now correct at +10.

The second one is an even small math error. The Guardians Gryphon (page 124) should have an unarmed Damage Multiplier of 14 rather than 8 to account for its Superstrength.

The third errata is a formatting issue in three tables:

* Table 11-2: Attack Situation Modifiers (page 154)
* Table 11-3: Defence Situation Modifiers (page 154)
* Table 12-2: Armour (page 168)

The PDF proof that I had before Adam sent the files to White Wolf shows the tables formatted correctly, so I'm unsure where the problem crept in. I'm sure that White Wolf will have an errata section on their website, but until they do, I have uploaded the pages to my website. Please note that I'm doing this as a service to the fans, rather than to step on WWP's ownership of BESM.

You can visit the errata download page by clicking here.
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Ah, yes, the complaints about the character sheets have started again.

It's not a surprise. We (and most game companies) hear it about every book they publish. In fact, when Adam and I were discussing the character sheet design, it went something like this:

"So do we want 1 page or 2?"
"2 will make the index smaller, right?"
"And no matter what we design, we're going to get complaints, right?"
"Of course."
"And scores of people will then design their own sheets and claim superiority?"
"Just like it happens every time."
"Naturally. So make it a single functional page."
"Which no one will use, but everyone will complain about."
"I'll make it pretty colours then."
"And people will bitch about how it looks muddied when they print it in black-and-white."
"Or that it will use too much ink."
"Doesn't matter. Use pretty colours on 1 page."

So please design away! Our BESM 3 character sheet probably isn't what you're looking for anyway.

(BTW, we were going to have a 16-page character folio for the game that would hold all the information you could ever dream about your character ... but those plans naturally never came to fruition.)
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When comparing the costs of Stats in BESM 3 to 2, they have increased proportionally more than anything else in the game. This decision was not made lightly, nor was it a mistake.

Stats have been cheap since BESM 1, and people have called us on it. When we designed BESM 2, I still thought cheaper Stats were the right decision. It was easier to have them at a low point cost, and characters could be created quickly without much math. For BESM 2, it was the right decision.

In BESM 3, we had a goal to streamline and balance the system much more ... and it was evident that Stats were terribly underpriced as they were. If you look at many of the point costs (especially the Attributes) in BESM 3, you'll see it's roughly double those from Tri-Stat. Healing was 4 Points/Level for +20, now it's 4 Points/Level for +10; Invisibility was 3 Points/Level, now it's 6 Points/Level; Dynamic Powers was 10/15/20 Points/Level and is now 20/30/40. The doubling gave us the gradation that we needed.

Following this logic, Stats would go from 2 per in TSS to 3 per in BESM 3. But we decided to price them at 10 per instead, to reflect our new balance. Consider all the advantages to Derived Values that +1 Body Stat gives a character, when compared to other Attribute effects:

+1 Body = +1/3 Attack Combat Value
Attack Combat Mastery costs 10/Level for +1, so this is worth about 3 Points.

+1 Body = +1/3 Defence Combat Value
Defence Combat Mastery costs 10/Level for +1, so this is worth about 3 Points.

+1 Body = +5 Health Points
Tough costs 2 Points/Level for +5, so this is worth 2 Points.

+1 Body = +1 Shock Value
Hardboiled Combat Technique costs 2 Points and increases SV by +10. So this is worth about 0.2 Points.

So based on Derived Values, +1 Body Stat should cost at least 8.2 Points/Level. Then consider that it gives extra lifting capacity and adds to every Body-based Skill roll, and you can see why it's 10 Points/Level. It could have even be higher given it's obvious benefits (12, 15, or even 20), but I think that 10 per works well.

So, finally, Stats are priced correctly.
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I don't think we ever really handled sizes correctly in BESM ... until now.

In BESM 1, I wrote the Size Change attribute. It allowed characters to grow or shrink, but didn't provide for anything else such as extra damage or lifting capacity, etc. This worked fine for BESM 1s rules-light approach, since the players and GM could fill in the gaps and handle secondary effects from changing sizes with simple game logic.

In BESM 2, Size Change was expanded to include other effects as well. For example, Level 5 represented a 1000% increase in height, and added +10 damage to muscle-powered attacks. Unfortunately, this caused several problems. First, the damage increase was not in proportion to the size increase. Then, the cost of the Size Change Attribute wasn't balanced with the cost of the Focused Damage Attribute (which could also add damage to attacks). And I won't even go into the problems associated with the muscle-powered special attack ability, which we applied unevenly. Finally, all the other things associated with size change was not accounted for.

In Big Ears, Small Mouse (BESM 2 supplement), we presented an alternate system for dealing with really small creatures. Small characters inflicted "Scratch Points" instead of "Health Points" -- roughly on a 1/5 ratio. This worked fairly well when two mouse-sized characters were fighting each other (they just deliver normal damage in Scratch Points, rather than reduced damage in Health Points because they were small), but didn't integrate well with normal-sized or larger-sized characters.

In BESM 3, I wanted to get it right. I wanted a template system that was easy, logical, and internally consistent. I turned to the different size templates in D&D for a peak at how they handled things. While it wasn't perfect, it gave me the basis of the Size Templates in BESM 3.

Now BESM 3 has 17 size categories, ranging from Speck (1-4 mm; bug-sized) to Monumental (500 m; mega-kaiju-sized). Each size rank that differs from Medium (ie. human) change the following:

* height
* mass
* lifting capacity
* damage delivered when hitting others
* damage received when being hit by others
* hitting with a ranged attack
* being hit with a ranged attack
* thrown weapon distance
* running speed

It might sound a little complex, but it's not. For most games where everyone is playing a medium-sized human, there's no need to worry about size. In a mixed-size game, though, the size ranks make a lot of sense. Consider the following classic fantasy combat situation: a hobbit (Small) fighting an giant (Huge).

The hobbit inflicts -4 damage when striking the giant, since he's not as strong. He also suffers an extra 4 damage from attacks. Being small, the hobbit gains a +1 to defend against all ranged attacks (it's hard for thrown rocks to pin-point him) and a +1 to hit other the giant with a sling (since the giant makes a big target).

It's the reverse for the giant. He gains +8 damage when striking the hobbit, because he's big, and has 8 Armour. He suffers a -2 penalty to attack and defend against all ranged weapons due to his size -- smaller opponents are hard to see and the giant is the proverbial "broad side of a barn" because he's so big.

The net change for the combat is: hobbit's damage is reduced by 12 when hitting giant (-4 damage + 8 Armour), while giant's is increased by 12 when hitting hobbit. Hobbit has a +3 advantage in ranged attacks (both defending and attacking) against the giant.

What really works with these categories, though, is the independence of the modifiers on the opponents. When I say the giant "giant +8 damage when striking the hobbit," I'm really saying "gains +8 damage when striking any opponent." If the giant is attacking a red dragon (Monstrous), he still gains +8 damage ... but that isn't enough to overcome the dragons 24 Armour due to size.

What if the entire game uses non-Medium characters? Say, a pixie game where everyone is 9 cm tall (Fine).That seems like a lot of modifiers to use in every single combat situation! This is where the brilliance of the system really shines. A Fine-sized pixie reduces attack damage by 16 ... but also receives an extra 16 damage when attacked. The next effect cancels out when a pixie attacks another pixie: subtract 16 damage, but then add 16 damage. So a pixie-pixie fight is handled without modifiers the exact same way as a human-human or giant-giant or dragon-dragon battle. The modifiers are only relevant when different sizes are battling.

As you can tell, I'm pleased as punch how size now works in BESM 3: easy, logical, and consistent. And best of all, if you don't want to deal with those modifiers, just discard all size rules and you have the system from BESM 1.

I deserve a cookie.
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Here are some of the more interesting Variables and Restrictions for the Weapons Attribute that you may not have encountered before:

Blight -- double damage if target fails Body Stat check, or only 1/5 damage if successful. Great for representing poisons.

Helper -- Allows others to use your weapon, like several weapons on a mecha Item. Used to be "alternate weapon," but now it's rolled into the Attribute.

Insidious -- Attack bypasses Armour. Extremely powerful!

Reach -- Character attacks first in melee, regardless of initiative (think lance vs. sword).

Targeted -- Weapon only damages a specific type of foe (like a holy avenger sword).

Hands -- Weapon requires two hands to operate. Think big-ass guns!

Ingest -- Weapon must be ingested to be effective. Mainly for poisons.

Imbue -- OK, this is actually not a Restriction for Weapons but for other Attributes. Still really neat though. The character does not use the linked Attribute directly, but instead grants its use to others for the duration of a scene or event. This is great for blessings, wish-granting, technical upgrades, etc. For example, a shaman might have Healing (Imbue), which allows a chosen character to heal others while away from the tribe on a sacred mission. A great addition to BESM.
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When Arthaus released the cover image of BESM 3, many on the net expressed their displeasure and wondered why such a shitty choice was made. "Surely you could have done better!" some exclaimed!

Well, the cover was designed by Adam Jury with consultation with me ... and it is exactly what I was hoping for. So I'll have to disagree that it's a crap cover.

Fans will naturally look at a cover in a completely different light that I needed to, since I was approaching it from a marketing point of view. In such a competitive industry with thousands of products released each year, it was vital to build the relaunch of BESM 3 as a strongly identifiable visual brand as well as a game brand. This brand would have several distinguishing features that would help it stand out on shelves:

1. A single strong character focus. For the core book, we featured a Skeleton Key character archetype (dimensional traveller) that displayed visual elements from many genres/worlds. This helped reinforce the game as a multi-genre anime game. For future supplements/world books, we would feature a Key character archetype from each relevant world (for example, a demon Key on the Bazaroth/horror book).

2. Strong distinct logo in the top 1/3 of the book. This is essential to ensure that the title can be seen when shelved on a tiered rack (like how comics are displayed).

3. Strong, duo-tone colour theme that will stand out. The red of the core book is so strong that it is easily identifiable from a very long distance away. The duo-tone format provides a unique brand identifier for the line, so that even when we used different colours for each supplement (duo-blue, duo-green, duo-purple, etc.), the line maintains a uniformity.

4. Abstract elements (squares) that are intended to be more designy than illustrative. Squares on the core book, circles or lightning or triangles on others. The design adds balance to the offset character and provides a more modern appearance.

5. The BESM logo itself was chosen for it's modern/graffiti/sk8r style. Something a little edgier and less rigid (but still readable) was created to position BESM as a brand in touch with the newer generation of gamers and anime fans, rather than one that reached back to the old-school gamer.

While you may not agree that BESM 3 is an exceptionally strong cover, you cannot deny that a lot of thought when into its design. We weren't just creating a game, we were creating a brand ... and we envisioned a line of books that would form a strong visual identity as a whole, yet were unique unto themselves (with distinct colours identifying each supplement).

I think we succeeded, and that Adam did a great job. Unfortunately, the line will not materialise as we envisioned, so the BESM 3 cover must stand on its own.

Which I think it does proudly.
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