(This is part of the series ‘D&D: Chasing the Dragon.’ Read more from the home page.)
Imagine for a moment that you were unexpectedly handed the reins to your favorite television show of all time. A business exec knocks on your door and tells you – doesn’t ask you – that you’re now responsible for writing and producing the show from week to week. You’ll need to carry the existing plot to a logical and satisfying conclusion, tie all the characters into the main arc, make sure everyone gets enough screen time, hit all of the emotionally resonant notes of the show’s identity, and maintain its current level of quality, all on a strict weekly deadline.
Could you do it? No, honestly: could you really do it? Could you fill the shoes of the writer of your favorite show? All the DMs out there probably noticed that the job description sounds a lot like running a weekly roleplaying group, but remember: this is the big leagues. There is a built-in audience of millions, and all their expectations ride on your back. This isn’t just about you and your own opinion of the show anymore. You will be ruthlessly judged by many other people based on your ability to produce top quality television week after week after week. Could you do it?
I think it’s fair to say that unless you’re already a professional writer, the answer is no. There’s no shame in that. Writing is hard to do. It takes a lot of practice, and if you practice the wrong way, you might still be bad at it. No one would expect you to be able to just leap into that role.
But now imagine the same scenario, and this time the original writer of the show stayed on to help. Ultimately it’s your call how the show is run week to week, but now you have the guiding hand of a successful industry professional to give you advice and pointers. Now you have someone in the know to offer critique and give you the tricks of the trade, the secrets to churning out great show material on a regular basis.
I bet that changes things considerably. It’s probably still a little intimidating, but now at least you don’t have to flail in the dark on your own. In fact, this sounds like fun! You get to take over your favorite show, see it go all the places that you find most interesting. And just in case, you have a safety net, a sanity check, to ensure that you don’t run it into the ground. When can you start?
How about right now? Because that last scenario is not that far off from what it’s like to play a well-designed RPG. Like any RPG, you as a player are still in control of the story. But a clever designer who understands good stories can put whispers in your ear through the very rules of play. As the game plays out, the system shapes the narrative, even as you fill in all the details. You still get to be writer, producer, and actor all in one, but you also get a professional mentor to help you get the story right. That’s what it’s like to play a great RPG.
Rules for Stories
What do I even mean by “narrative shaping?” It’s an understandable question since many RPG players don’t stray much outside of D&D and have probably never seen a game with story-focused rules. A good number of RPG players even seem wary of such things. They don’t want something as crass as rules getting in the way of story and stymieing their creativity, which should definitely tell you something about the rules of D&D if players are so wary of them.
But in reality, there’s all kinds of rules and guidelines to good storytelling. You probably already know a good number of them. You apply them in stories you tell without thinking about it. When you hear them, they resonate with you. These are things like Shakespeare’s “Brevity is the soul of wit,” which means keep it simple and don’t waste time with irrelevant aspects of the story. Another one is “show, don’t tell,” which just means it’s a lot more powerful if your story demonstrates your premise rather than simply stating it.
There are even formats for specific genres of stories. In a horror story, there’s an establishment of an object of dread, a build-up of tension surrounding that dread, and a horrific payoff in the form of a character death before the tension resets to do it all over again. There are rules for mystery stories, rules for romance novels – any popular genre has an established pattern or scheme that enables its success.
Games also have rules, and those rules inevitably push players into patterns of behavior whether they realize it or not. If a game is about telling stories, its rules should put players in a place where telling a good story is the logical outcome. Not all stories work the same way, and not all story games will have the same rules. But they all need to have rules that drive the kind of story they’re trying to tell, even if they can only tell just one. All rules shape play, it’s just a question of how.
The D&D Story
What does D&D do with its rules? To answer that, just look at what the rules govern. The domain of the rules imply the values of the system, so the more a game stipulates on a particular thing, the more the game becomes about that thing. Rules are suggestive of the game’s expectations of its players. While players theoretically have unlimited freedom, in the practical case the rules have a way of pointing players at particular solutions to their problems.
So it should come as no surprise that the most important thing in a D&D game is fighting. It’s readily apparent just from the content of the books. Over half of the page count of the Player’s Handbook from any edition is dedicated to class abilities and spells. Add in skills and feats (just more abilities, really), equipment (modifiers to abilities), and the general rules of combat itself, and you’ve easily got three quarters of the book or more. Now take into account the sections on adventuring, a Dungeon Master’s Guide that talks about making dungeons or other suitable locales, huge sections on magic items and other loot (often the largest part of a Dungeon Master’s Guide), and rules that dictate how much stuff your character can realistically carry with them, and it’s crystal clear what D&D wants you to do. The game is most at home when players are killing things and taking their stuff.
More importantly, the more you aren’t telling that story, the more you really aren’t playing D&D. If some kind of fighting isn’t happening, the game falls away almost entirely. Occasionally the game might call for a single dice roll to resolve a minor contest, but often the game books try to talk you out of it. Anything involving social interaction is frequently glossed over, left to free-form roleplaying – play you could’ve done all on your own without the help of any books at all. The only time the game system itself really gets going is when swords come out.
So what’s wrong with that? Well, nothing if all you wanted to do was play a series of wargames as a team. But what about telling good stories? If we want a gripping narrative, we’ve got to have more than just fighting going on. The motivations and the stakes behind the fighting need to matter, or else the conflict is little more than a sporting event played for fun.
Let’s return to Harry Plinkett. Click here to watch another section of his review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace that I talked about last article. At the climax of the story, we have three space wizards with four laser swords between them in a glowing purple generator room fighting to the death. That sounds for all the world like it should be a pretty gripping moment. But the lack of meaning behind the fight causes it to fall flat. We don’t really know anything about the three characters involved or why they specifically need to fight. The stakes are ambiguous (what will killing each other in the city’s basement achieve exactly?), the characters are forgettable (I still know basically nothing about the silent automaton that is Darth Maul), so the scene ends up as boring despite the exotic locale and the highly choreographed fight scene.
Fight scenes aren’t memorable or emotionally compelling just because they’re fight scenes. We have to care about the motivations and the feelings of the characters involved. Conflicts are about people and how their humanity clashes with other people – without that it’s just a meaningless spectacle.
Contrast The Phantom Menace with The Empire Strikes Back. The climax features a lightsaber duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. The plot has led both characters inexorably to this point. Luke is facing the man who killed his mentor while Vader is testing his own son’s competence in hopes to recruit him. There’s a lot of nuance to the relationship that grows more complex every time they meet. We care about the fight because of what it means to both characters and the competing stakes involved. The individual moments of attack add color and detail to the conflict – for instance, the way that Vader toys with Luke not only implies their difference in skill but also hints at Vader’s intentions. But these details of the fight are done in service to the overarching interpersonal conflict. The fight itself rests upon the greater foundation of the plot.
D&D doesn’t have anything like this codified into the rules. Characters are bundles of combat stats with hair and eye color. Conflicts are framed as hit point piles comparing their damage per round until one dwindles to nothing. From the perspective of the system, there’s no such thing as a “plot” or a “theme,” only an “encounter.” On a mechanical level, the D&D story looks more like The Phantom Menace instead of The Empire Strikes Back. By putting all emphasis on the fight scene itself rather than the surrounding plot structure it serves, D&D offers precarious foundations for good storytelling. That’s your job.
The Realism Story
But it’s hard to fault D&D for being so bad at stories – that’s not what it’s trying to be. All of its rules, even the ones not specifically about combat, all swirl into a single, larger trend: the rules aren’t meant to be about stories, themes, and plots at all. Rather, they’re all about world simulation.
The assumption of the quintessential D&D campaign is that the players are dumped in a world where they can do anything they want. The game heavily suggests fighting by expressing the vast majority of player actions in terms of combat, but many players also carry the expectation that the world is open-ended and anything goes. Whatever the players decide to do, the game system will come up with a way to resolve it, even if the DM has to spontaneously create a frankenrule to cover it.
In other words the game doesn’t steer – it only reacts. When a character swings a sword, the game tells the player if they hit. When they ride a horse, the game tells them if they fell off. Drinking booze? Let’s roll fortitude to see if you pass out. Hunting? Roll survival to see if you got anything. Some versions even dwell on some pretty esoteric stuff like whether or not a character knows the answers to trivia questions or can sing well.
The answers to all these questions are based on the physical or mental abilities of the character as documented on the sheet, which seems innocent enough. But that forces the system to resolve player actions purely on an axis of “realism.” The game is designed in such a way that success or failure is determined solely by its plausibility. Yes, we want our stories to be believable, but using realism alone as the ultimate guide for story decisions is questionable at best and randomly catastrophic at worst.
Remember your favorite show’s author or screen-writer from the beginning? Well, the way that they commonly make story decisions is on the level of “Should this happen?” There are many, many, many dimensions to that question. What would an event add to the story in terms of excitement or emotional investment? Does it contribute to a character arc or deliver on an overarching theme? Is it a good use of time in the story? Is it in keeping with the tone? Does it call forward to future events while not invalidating all the previous ones? All these and many more are things a story-writer needs to consider and weigh against each other when deciding on even the simplest happening.
D&D bypasses this entire thought-process, and instead of stacking the question with storytelling concerns, it stacks the question with pure realism. It replaces “Should this happen?” with “Did this happen?” This is a very subtle difference, but one that makes all the difference. There are many reasons why the most believable thing might not be the best thing for the story, and I can all but guarantee that your DM not only knows this, but has changed many a dice result for exactly that reason.
But again, remember what I said in Part One: we’re operating under the assumption that we’re playing this game straight and just going where the rule system takes us. So any instance of cheating by the DM, even if the system is technically empowering them to cheat, is still a Rule Zero violation, and is a deviation from the impact the game would otherwise have. So that forces us to comply with a game system that isn’t created with an eye toward storycraft decision-making. Instead it’s “whatever happens happens” no matter how random.
In that way, D&D is not so much of a story engine as it is a physics engine. Things happen because that’s how the world works, storytelling be damned. There are no rules to guide or even document character arcs, themes, or plot, so the system trundles along oblivious to any kind of story concerns. A few bad rolls will make characters die at inappropriate times in inappropriate ways, interrupting an otherwise compelling arc. A few good rolls will dissolve away the tension of an otherwise climactic conflict. A roll on the random encounter table will throw in senseless filler, and possibly throw a red herring at the players to derail the plot entirely for weeks. It’s no wonder that the writers of the D&D source books lean so heavily on Rule Zero in the text. The rules-as-written system has no sense of storycraft, so rather than a system guiding players toward a good story, it’s the players who need to guide the system.
Shaping the Narrative
This simulationist trait has seeped out to many other RPGs. There’s been a long-standing trend in the RPG space that the selling point of an RPG is the campaign setting – histories, maps, alt-tech, and lore. Too often, however, the actual rules of the game are some timid iteration on the status quo, firmly retaining their purpose as being nothing more than a realism referee. Second edition Vampire: The Masquerade feels it necessary to quantify and differentiate no fewer than fifty-eight models and makes of firearms. And since no part of the system ever forces guns to appear in the story at all, we can infer that the game doesn’t value the guns themselves so much as the anal-retentive portrayal of an ultra-realistic world. That’s the sort of tool the game offers its “storytellers:” a big pile of guns.
It can be hard to find an RPG that forsakes the tradition of being a pure mechanical simulator, and it’s even harder to understand how one might work without ever seeing one. But a game about storytelling needs to break that tradition. The job of a storytelling game isn’t to coldly calculate the world state. It’s to shape the narrative, offer character frameworks, and influence player behavior to put the story first.
The simplest, most straightforward example of a system that shapes a narrative has to be Dread. Designed by Epidiah Ravachol and Nathaniel Barmore, Dread is a game about the horror stories I described further above. The experience playing the game is meant to evoke tales of supernatural creepies, suspenseful and deadly sci-fi, murderers driven by madness, and all other manner of unsettling drama. And it does all this without a single page dedicated to world-building, setting, or lore.
And yet players get the story right every time. How? With a deceptively simple mechanism: instead of resolving actions with pass/fail dice rolls, it’s done with a Jenga tower. When players take consequential actions, they are invited to make pulls on the Jenga tower. A successful pull means a successful result – and a more unstable tower.
As it happens, the format of a game of Jenga is exactly the same as the format of a horror story, where tension slowly builds up to a catastrophic climax before starting all over. So as players make pulls on the tower to get what they want, they also systematically ratchet up the tension of the game. The tower sways unnervingly, and players know a collapse is imminent. Their sense of dread sharpens when it’s their turn to make a pull. Suddenly and only half-unexpectedly, an unlucky pull knocks it all over, and that character dies, goes mad, or is otherwise removed from the story.
The format works brilliantly. You never really know when the tower could fall, so every action carries a lot of risk. Even the constant stream of successful actions made by successful pulls only serves to highlight the sense of dread, since each success only makes the next pull that much scarier. The mechanical aspect of the game is a self-regulating system that drives an accumulation of minor victories accentuated by one crushing tragedy.
Note also that Dread respects player input to the story. The narrative rules are loose enough to accommodate players’ interpretation of the resolution. A tower fall doesn’t specify the cause of death, like simulator D&D would – Dread leaves that to the narrators to work out as appropriate. It’s usually abundantly clear from the circumstances how to remove that character from the story, and even when it isn’t, the game has provisional rules for that (e.g. “walking dead” characters who could die any moment). Dread doesn’t worry about stipulating on the exact details of the story, allowing players to still make the game their own.
It’s the structure of the story that’s important, and that’s where the game takes unequivocal control. Deviate from the structure of the game at your peril – the format of the tower and the threat that it poses are fundamental to the experience promised by Dread. By choosing to tell only one kind of story, Dread hones that story to a bloody razor’s edge whose intensity makes it quite unforgettable. And it does so with a design so simple, it’s fair to call it the most elegant RPG of its time, possibly ever.
But maybe you’re not sure about all this. Is it really as simple as playing a game of Jenga? Maybe you really hate the idea of the game taking that kind of authority in the story. Maybe it’s bothering you that characters die in Dread based on some game outside your control instead of when it’s logical. You might not trust something as inhuman as a system enough to give up the reins of something so personal.
If so, you’re not alone. It’s not always easy to see the impact that a few rules in a book can have. But take it from a fellow skeptic, Adam Dray, who wrote the foreword to Annalise, the game I mentioned last article:
“Nathan writes sneaky games. I had read [his game] ‘carry’ before playing it with him, and I totally didn’t understand how it was special. I had the same experience when I read Annalise for the first time – while editing it, in fact. I didn’t see how the rules you’re reading now could produce anything special in play. Later, when I watched while he and some friends played for a few hours, I realized there was something very interesting going on. I had to play it myself to finally get it. I understand it a little better every time I play.
…There’s something about how the Claims work that can make everyday things downright creepy.
…You develop characters – rather, you discover them – through play and you never really have full control over your character. There’s a sort of spooky Ouija board action as the hands of every player pull the story in different directions.
…Whether you play the game about a literal, blood-sucking vampire that stalks the characters or more figuratively about some terrifying horror that the characters must confront, Annalise provides a solid framework for creating dark and suspenseful stories.”
Sometimes it’s not obvious how a game’s rules will play out until you play it straight. Sometimes you won’t know why something is made the way that it is until it shows you. This is doubly true for systems that don’t work the way you’re used to. For as many flavors of RPG that exist, a large number of them play almost identically to D&D, in large part because they’re designed as passive simulators. It can be kind of mind-bending the first time you play something that takes an active role in shaping the plot.
But sometimes you need to let go of how you think a game “ought” to play. One of the big lies that D&D-likes have sold us is that the ultimate purpose of the rules is to promote a sense of “realism.” But realism doesn’t drive narrative. Realism doesn’t inherently create tension or play with emotion. Realism is the story of a world simply existing, of causality dutifully tracking the internal logic of all its events. Dread doesn’t care about any of that. Does it matter what the odds of a particular character death are in some specific situation? Dread says “Fuck, no! Can’t you see I’ve got their emotions wound up absolutely tight? Time to let it snap!”
Sometimes you need to just trust the designer to know what they’re doing. Someone made this game just the way they thought it should be, and that means there’s something very human about any system. Maybe folks only think systems are inhuman because the ones they’re used to playing are soulless simulators that too often stomp all over the story if you let them. But there’s so much more to the design space of RPGs. There’s so many ways to infuse a game with the human experience.
So if you find yourself pulling against an unfamiliar RPG, resist the urge to load it down with house rules and tweaks to make it more recognizable. Let go of your expectations, and let it speak. You might be surprised by what you hear.
I would like to question the assumption that if there are no rules for a particular thing, the game cannot be about that thing. This is maybe more intuitively obvious when looking at strategy games: There are no rules for how you as a player should strategize. “Strategy advice” is not part of the rules. Precisely because strategy games are about making strategic decisions, they don’t have rules for how to do it. I think this works as an analogy: A roleplaying game telling me how I am supposed to roleplay sort of feels like a strategy game telling me how I am supposed to strategize. If the rules do everything for me, why am I even here?
I have never played Dread, but the system sounds really interesting. Considering how hard it has always seemed to me to make horror really work in tabletop roleplaying, it would certainly be worth a try.
I agree that realism, while certainly nice, is usually overrated.
Okay, let’s go with your strategy game analogy. No, a strategy game doesn’t tell you specifically what to do. The point of it is to explore a strategic space. It asks for your input and resolves it based on the rules and inputs of all other players.
But a strategy game still has constraints! The strategic space you are exploring is specifically bounded by the purview of the game. There’s no such thing as a universally good move in strategy games – the “goodness” of a move is entirely contextual to the system under which it is made. If the game were different, it might not be a good move. Strategy is 100% dependent on the game, and as such games are a little bit like mind control. The way a game is built implies the behavior you’ll see from its players.
So your statement that there are no rules for how players should strategize is false – every rule informs the strategy that players will use. It doesn’t tell players exactly what they should do, but it leaves them in a place where the players, left to their own devices and agency, still arrive at an expected destination. Good roleplaying games do exactly the same thing. While they are prescriptive to some degree, they still leave enough of the experience to the creativity of the players to make them feel like they can make the story their own. The game prompts their creativity with leading questions. The game doesn’t care what the players say so long as they answer those questions. Those questions also happen to be really good questions for a storyteller’s craft. By leading the players’ thinking in certain ways, games can help them discover stories they didn’t know they could tell.
This discovery is not the same as pre-authoring the story. Just as the strategy game doesn’t make all the players’ decisions for them, the storytelling game doesn’t prescribe the answers to its leading questions. The entire point is to put the player’s head in a particular place that’s productive to telling the story. Instead of leaving the players to their own devices, these games lay out a framework for the story while allowing players to fill in the flesh of the story any way they want.
D&D also does this! D&D’s leading questions just point a different direction. A story has to have characters, and D&D asks its own leading questions as to what those characters are, as we found out in Part Two. The framework of the plot of D&D has everything to do with monsters, traps, loot, and fighting. Those are the inputs and outputs of the game! Spatiality matters to the game by virtue of explicit ranges and areas of attacks, and thus players’ movements in combat are informed by those spatial relationships. And with power in the form of loot and XP weighed against permanent character death, the game itself actually acts a lot like a strategy game!
But then when exploring, fighting, and looting aren’t going on, suddenly the rules slow down significantly, if not disappear entirely. Hmmm. It’s like the game is leading players to want to do a particular thing.
If a game can be about more than the space allotted by the rules, than every game is equally good at every kind of story. All you have to do set the game aside once in awhile and give free narrations about the mayor of town who is secretly a werewolf in Settlers of Catan, or who is sleeping with who in the hotel on Pacific Ave. in Monopoly, or the back-stabbing political intrigue of rival states in Battleship. These are not so farfetched as maybe they first appear! Hell, they might even sound fun to play for some people. Just understand that if you do play them that way, the game isn’t lifting a finger to help you out. That isn’t what the game cares about.
And even if a game can be about more than what’s in the rules, having well-crafted rules that address the story you’re trying to tell and help to guide it in productive ways is much preferable to just doing it on your own. If doing it yourself is all you wanted to do, that’s more akin to writing a book than playing a game.
Thanks for reading!
Yes, the value of a move in a strategy game is entirely dependent on the rules and the gamestate. However: There are still no rules for which move you as a player should make. This decision is supposed to come from the player themselves, who is informed by the rules but whose actions are not controlled by the rules. And if the rules of the game are such that all the players eventually arrive at the same strategy, simply because it’s just the best strategy there is, this strategy is usually called dominant/degenerate/overpowered and the game is usually called imbalanced/broken. In other words: The strategy games that are the most effective at teaching their players the best strategy are also the most boring. I think it’s sort of similar with strong narrative rules: They are really good at telling the story they want to tell… But once you have heard that story 2 or 3 times, there isn’t really much point in continuing to play it, because all you’re going to get after a few session is hearing that same story a 6th or 7th time. Kind of like why there isn’t much point in continuing to play an imbalanced strategy game once you know the dominant strategy.
And yes, these narrative games often give me a lot of “creative freedom”, but that’s mostly just the freedom to decide on the set-dressing of a story that’s pretty much set in stone from the moment we started playing. After all, if we as the players had the freedom to tell a significantly different story than the one the designer envisioned, then the story we come up with could actually have some risk of being bad or “uninteresting”… And according to this narrative rules philosophy, we can’t have that, right?
To continue the strategy game analogy: Imagine a strategy game where every time you as a player get to make a move, an ingame “strategy advisor” shows up and tells you what it thinks the best move in this situation would be and why. Would this be a good way to teach a new player to strategize effectively in this system? In the beginning probably yes, but eventually one of two things happens:
-> One: You become good enough that you no longer need it and can make better decisions yourself.
-> Two: You discover that the strategy advisor basically has this game solved already and your input as a player isn’t needed at all.
In my personal opinion, the first option is much, much better. Why would I even want to be a good strategist in a game that’s already solved? Isn’t it much more interesting to experiment with my own strategies, even if they end up being weak? Analogy: Why would I use the medium of RPG (where interactivity is kind of the whole point) to re-tell a story I already know? Isn’t it much more interesting to tell my own story, even if it ends up being “bad” according to traditional notions of what makes a “good story”?
I’m not saying that the rules don’t matter. D&D definitely pushes you in a certain direction via it’s rules, as you have described. I just don’t think this means that we need strong narrative rules. Freeforming is fine actually.
I think you’re vastly overestimating the similarity between subsequent plays of a narrative game. Players aren’t just “along for the ride” as though they were playing a CRPG that only happens exactly one way. The player input matters. You really don’t know how the story is going to come out, because players are still pushing their own directions. Story structure is not the same as a story script. You’re still expected to play an active role in where the story goes. Narrative games push a narrative style, not a “story in full.”
And anyway aren’t your D&D stories all the same anyway? You fight guys, you level up, and you get loot. It’s just the set dressing that changes. It’s just the same boring story over and over, right? Of course not! The player input matters there just as much as it does in any other RPG. So what’s going on there? Either games have a lot of space to explore different iterations on the same style of narrative, or you’re just as bored with the D&D story as any other RPG, and you’re off on your own doing your own thing. D&D isn’t inherently free-form. You can ignore the rules of any narrative RPG and start free-forming if you like. D&D is no more uniquely situated to tell more than one kind of story than any other game.
I also feel like you think you’re going to find one narrative RPG and play that one game over and over again forever. No, that probably won’t happen, and in fact that’s not even desirable. It’s the reason we watch all different kinds of movies or read different books. If you want to tell a lot of different stories, you need a lot of different games to help explore those stories. Many times you won’t know you even had a particular story in you until the game shows you how. The game system needs to match the kind of story you’re telling. But even from within that framework, there’s a lot of room for variance, and no two groups will tell it exactly the same.
Using the strategy game metaphor, sure we want to play a game that has a lot of depth. But in the real world, we still play a lot of different strategy games regardless of how individually deep they are, regardless of whether or not we’re “done” with solving the last. Each one offers a new experience, a very different space to explore. Even the ones that we do manage to solve, we still had a great time doing it. And often times we only think that we’ve solved a game – until a new person comes along and shows you parts of the game you’d never thought possible.
Ok, maybe I am overestimating how similar the stories of these games end up being. Yes, they are usually pretty fun the first few times, as long as they still feel fresh and unfamiliar. And for people who think playing a tabletop RPG for 2 or 3 sessions (or maybe a little longer) and then moving on to the next game is fine… Yes, narrative games are fine. I am just used to playing campaigns that are longer than that (sometimes much, MUCH longer), and most narrative games can’t really deliver on that.
The thing is: D&D doesn’t get boring after 2 or 3 sessions… I am now admittedly at a point where I don’t really want to play much D&D anymore and instead play mostly homebrew-stuff (still pretty D&D-adjacent mostly), but that is after I have played it for many years. And I think one of the main reasons why I could play it for so long is because it doesn’t have strong narrative rules, and allows me to just do what I want.
I think spending a lot of time on one really deep strategy game is good, if that’s what you want to do. It certainly isn’t a point AGAINST that game.