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Growth of a Campaign

Character-Driven Stories (Part Two)

by Et Al
Jun 17,2003

 

Growth of a Campaign, 7th Installment

Character-Driven Stories (Part Two)



This is an ongoing article following the development of a campaign through emails between a GM, his potential players and a few "consultants" (a "Braintrust") as the campaign develops and progresses through from conception to execution. The players have no hand in the development of the campaign, and the consultants won't play in the game.

Rich

Rich is myself, the Game Master.


Hiro

Hiro, or Norwood, is an English major, a myth lover, and a savvy web creator.


J

J, or Breitzman, is an art student. J is the Clodin master (read the article, you'll see what I mean).


Grover

Grover is another myth-lover, and has a cool vanity license plate.

Player Character Plots - Emma



Greg's PC (Emily Kessler):

He wants her to be raised by an "aunt", a Black Fury who knows her mother, Leyeir (Lay-EAR). Leyeir stayed with the agency until her "death". According to what Emma knows, Leyeir is dead. I haven't settled on whether she's dead or not.

During the previous campaign, Leyeir, who was an NPC, was a captured lupus (born as a wolf) Garou from New England. She learned English quickly, and was an excellent student, but learning human emotions and duplicity took her some time. She fell in love with Seth (now Torstain), and the two had a relationship for several years until they were officially married. Leyeir had no angst about her position in the agency, and even stayed on after the campaign ended to serve as an instructor. She was the team's hand-to-hand expert. Leyeir had no ties to the Aesir, she was never given any magical weapons. She served without question, and was a valuable asset for the agency. Leyeir even donated her eggs to the company for future test tube soldiers, which is probably how Emma was born. I haven't solidified anything, but I think Emma was the first time Leyeir went against the company, she stole her away and gave her to a Black Fury she knew, Emma's "aunt".

Emma's "aunt" left her with another family (possibly kinfolk), and stayed near her, visiting from time to time, waiting for her First Change. Emma wasn't taught about Garou by her "family". In her late teens, Emma became interested in protests and activism. She left home to travel with protesting groups, and started writing for an online activists e-zine. She recently had her First Change, and Torstain found her while searching with his runes.

Greg sees the character as being an agent of change. She will probably be the proponent for bringing about Ragnarok on purpose (after Surt is assassinated). Emma will fly in the face of tradition, and this will work well since the Garou in this pack won't be "normal" Garou (serving Gaia and totems, etc.). Greg said he'd like to have Emma fighting some large corporation. I'd like to use one of PENTEX's subsidiaries, and I recently picked up a sourcebook. The big companies under the PENTEX umbrella are: a pharmaceutical company (Magadon), a beer producer (King Breweries), a TV-media company (OMNI), a huge oil company (ENDRON), a software-gaming producer (TELLUS), and a RPG company (Black Dog Games Factory). Any ideas which company to use?


Why wouldn't she be dead? Also, if she died where would she have gone? If she died heroicly in combat she could have made it to Valhalla, but what if she didn't? This could be something Emma might wish to persue once she begins to travel the worlds. Would there be a good twist to her not being dead. What would it serve? Whose ends?


I think having Leyeir die un-heroicly might give a nice twist. Perhaps Leyeir died during a training accident, or the agency experimented on her, and she died of disease. She could be in Helheim, one of Hel's thralls! I think leaving her dead is the best approach.


Always the great debater, Norwood continued to pick apart the Emma write-up (which is exactly what I want the BrainTrust to do, of course).

Uhm, test tube baby.... So, does Emma know she was a test tube baby? If she was a test tube baby that would mean the agency knew about her birth. Did they attempt to track her down? Were they successful? Does this mean that Emma will be a Black Fury?


No, Emma doesn't know about her birth, she only knows about her adopted family and her "aunt". Emma will be a Black Fury by birth, but she wasn't raised with their lore. She will have nice black fur, though. I haven't settled on test-tube baby. Do you guys think its too much of a stretch?


J dropped in to help flesh out the test tube idea.

You mentioned one character being a 'test tube baby' - do you mean like a clone; a sort of matrix/SW:AotC; raised from embryo to 'birth' in a jar; or do you mean like a real test tube baby where a bunch of eggs are fertilized in a petri dish and then implanted?

Some what ifs: Maybe there is some tie to the Clodins. Maybe this character is an early attempt that was rejected. Maybe the animal testing branch of PENTEX 'created' her and her aunt was part of a group that raided the place and liberated her. Would this branch be the same place that the Clodins would come from. Maybe in tracing her roots the pack discovers the Clodins.

As far as how Emma was raised, I hadn't decided. I think growing her in a jar a la SW:AotC is a bit too sci-fi, ules we somehow tied it to the high tech of Asgard, which could throw everything off of Norwood's ideas for her... (see below)

Maybe Leyeir leaked the information to the aunt, and as part of the bargain for the intel, she made the aunt promise to raise her. I like your idea that searching for her birthplace leads her to the Clodins, or maybe she finds the place, and returns to it for the Clodin story.


That information could set the stage for Pentex having cloning information. they aqcuired it by stealing it, and a test, from the agency.


Indeed! I really like this plotline, and tying together a character's genesis to a major threat. Beautiful!


I like the high tech, Sons of Ether stuff. Maybe Pentex stole her and the plans and tried to conduct the experiment themselves. Or, the Aesir (who are the Weaver) conducted the experiment and Leyeir took off with the child after a Pentex attack because she didn't feel the child was safe with the agency.

Perhaps the family wasn't aware that they were kinfolk. What if the agency had placed an implant into her when she was born and have been aware of her whereabouts for some time. They are watching to learn about first change :in the wold." perhaps they even had to intervene once when she was involved in some childhood accident. (perhaps a view of the agency's medical facilities will induce a flashback of that event.)


Since I don't want to have most PCs worrying about Gaia and the like, having the kinfolk family unaware of their lineage will work. When I first started this, I wanted to do a "retrieval team" story for the agency, so this implant is a great tie-in. The flashback idea is interesting. Kind of reminds me of Wolvie's flashbacks during X-Men.


Ack! Well, I am glad it was a good idea even if the movie it reminds you of was the horrible X-Men movie.


Endron and Magadon I think are good possibilities. Magadon could be involved in animal testing, which is always a hot topic. perhaps her first change involved trying to break into a Magadon facility to liberate the animals. this could mean that Magadon/Pentex is aware of her being a garou. They could be attempting to track her down to capture her- meaning her friends in the protest group could have been effected. perhaps her shift was explained away as being some chemical gas that Magadon must have used on them as they attempted to escape.

Endron could be something that perhaps ties into the larger picture of the campaign. I could see them as being more of a constant threat. Perhaps she notices Endron facilities in Iceland (or where ever is selected). This could give the group some side treks to remove the corporation's operational facilities from the island. Maybe their drilling ties into freeing Loki, if the underworlds are seen in some sense as being underground. perhaps instead of merely drilling for oil they are also attempting a passage into these worlds. What I envision is the Titus Crow adventures by Brian Lumley- Lovecraftian Cthulhu stories where the ancient ones are disturbed underground by drilling and such.

Very nice idea. I like setting up some conflict in her history, having some conflict during the early stages of the game, and coming face-to-face with the foe in Iceland. Good continuity. Plus tying drilling to Loki is genius!

Update - I spoke with Greg about the corporation possibilities, and he is most interested in Endron. He said he doesn't want an environmentalist bent on her activism, its more oriented around rights of the workers, free access to information, and the end of corporate evils. I think we can twist the break-in from an animal testing facility to maybe a break-in of some corporate offices, a kind of anti-corporate espionage she did to get dirt for her online zine.


free access.. sounds like some computer hacking plots. Rich, do you remember the computer break in adventures that CR ran fro you and I in the SW campaign he ran? I think you can incorporate some quick dice rolls and role-playing and give some great flavor without detracting from the rest of the players or forcing them to break out their War & Peace to pass the time. Anti-corp sounds very good. I especially like the zion aspect. You could give her some online "friends" which feed her information. I could whip up a quick Blogger page with some tasty anti-Corp feel. Maybe Jason could help with some of the graphics. Also, this would tie in well with Seth (Torstain).

In any case, monkey wrenching has always appealed to me as the best avenue for Werewolf.


I agree, its much more interesting than hack and slash, and uses several storytelling styles if applied properly.

Plus, from what little I know of Greg, I think he can pull this off very well. It could also allow us in the brainstorm to invent online personnae and feed information to Emma (and the PCs).


Re-reading all the Emma-mails, I wanted to throw in what I plan on using based on all the great ideas shot back and forth. This cause a small debate itself, but led to a great set of ideas for the character.

Emma is the daughter of Leyeir. Leyeir leaked information to a pack of Rogue Garou on sensitive Agency intel (location of some support facilities near a Garou Caern) in exchange for the retrieval of her daughter. Emma's "aunt" raised Emma with a family of kinfolk who were out of the loop of normal Garou society (she didn't want too many questions about where Emma came from).

Leyeir is dead. Her treachery eventually became her undoing. Her enemies within the Agency tied the missing child to Leyeir as well as the leaked intel. Now considered free game, the Agency began to experiment on her, trying to create a serum for the perfect super-soldier. After six years of experiments, the results were mixed, but Leyeir ended up with a wasting disease. She died in a hospital, and now resides in Helheim.

Emma's liberation had another unfortunate side effect. The lab where Emma was being "grown" also contained the beginning stages of what is now Project Clodin. Agents of (a PENTEX subsidiary) were able to sweep into the lab after the Garou pack tore it apart looking for Emma. This new technology, stolen from the Agency (Aesir), was the genesis of the Clodin Project.

Emma's "aunt" (need a name... something strongly Greek) is an active and respected Garou in the NY state Black Fury Sept, and until Emma left home, she visited often. The "aunt" does have a spirit tracer, and can find Emma when she wants. Emma left home to join a group of protestors on a road trip, and never came home (Greg and I haven't discussed if she ran away or just told them she's gone). She travels across the U.S. from big protest to big protest, and makes money writing for one of the online sites (haven't come up with a name for it, but its like www.crimethinc.com/index2.html).

Also of note is that the Agency has the ability to track Emma because of a biological implant (doesn't show as metal). This way I can run the retrieval squad storyline I previously mentioned.


I might be a bit confused, but isn't there some discrepency here between :

1. Emma's "aunt" raised Emma with a family of kinfolk who were out of the loop of normal Garou society (she didn't want too many questions about where Emma came from).

2. Emma's "aunt" (need a name... something strongly Greek) is an active and respected Garou in the NY state Black Fury Sept, and until Emma left home, she visited often.. .

What do you mean by "loop of normal Garou society"? Initially I took you to mean that the kinfolk are not aware of Garou society. However, reading further I am not at all sure what the initial statement means. It seems clear from the later portion that the kinfolk are active members in Garou society, and doesn't that mean they are in the loop? perhaps the aunt isn't the kinfolk and that is the cause of my confussion.

Also, just out of curiosity, what plans do you have for the spirit tracer the aunt has on Emma?


I'm not sure where you gather that the kinfolk family is active in Garou politics or culture. That's not what I meant to imply. I want them completely unaware of it. The "aunt" deciding to hide Emma away was an excuse to keep from having a PC conflicted by traditional Garou ideals, then having to tackle our new concepts (especially when the player isn't as familiar with the myths of the Garou himself).

The "aunt" can be a respected member of Garou society with only loose contact with the kinfolk family. I have several aunts with vastly different experiences and cultures who only visit and their world barely touches mine. That was what I had in mind.

Player Character Plots - Dominic



Marc's PC (Keith Dominic):

Next was the first created Bastet of the group. Marc had chosen to be the child of A.J., which was a great fit for the party heavy, or "brick". Marc took an interesting direction with the development of his character's backstory:

Marc wants Dominic to be in the military, currently working special ops on search and retrieval missions with a four person squad of specialists. He would like for the other three members of his team to be "kinfolk", or able to maintain during his changes. He is team leader. He would like these three NPCs to be involved with some of the stories.

I expressed my concern that this could interrupt party unity if he has a group of badass NPCs in his back pocket who only serve him, and he understood what I meant. He said he doesn't want to utilize them frequently, and sees them in a support role for the group as a whole.

I am excited about the idea for several reasons. This gives me an "in" with regards to ties to the Agency, and I can have Company eyes on the party. Also, it gives a bit of a military edge to the group. Plus, I get to have three cool non-super-powered NPCs to mix it up and die dramatically when I need them to.

So, what do you think about this development?

I see good conflict between the group without breaking things apart. The "in" for the Agency harkens back to the original Draupnir, and follows the Legacy theme of the game. The NPCs will be good everymen characters and could be potential love interests.

Also, Marc wants at least one of the squad to be female, he thinks it would be cool. Any thoughts you have about members of this squad would be cool. I'm thinking one will be a sniper, another could be a linguist or demolitions expert.


*What if Dominic left the group and its agency (a rival to this agency - What is it called, by the way?) and joined this agency? What if he left under bad circumstances.

* If the team was already operating within the agency, maybe the other members weren't kinfolk, but when the agency realized what Dominic was they had to fake his death to reassign him with fewer questions.

The Agency that the Draupnir (last campaign's PCs) were part of was Project Odysseus. Odysseus was opposed by Department Lillith (see Alignment of Forces below for further details).


I think this could work. So, in this scenario, Dominic had another team, but after his First Change he was moved to Project Odysseus, or an office affiliated with or under the direction of Project Odysseus.

*Maybe the other members retired and Dominic needs to find them for their unique skills - depending on the mission.


Hmmn, in this scenario, Dominic doesn't have a team and only calls on these NPCs for specific missions? This would be good to keep a distance from NPCs and encourage more dependence on the PCs, and it would explain what those NPCs do during "down time", or when the party goes traveling the World Tree. But, the downside is that there would be less interaction with character that Marc as a player wants to have near for RP purposes.


Norwood has always been an "NPC hater" (he hates having NPCs in a party, and thinks roleplaying should happen between PCs), so he contributed:

I think I like this idea. You have 4 players. That should give them fairly good chohesion. The lest number of NPC-filler the better. Players naturally tend to form relations between their pcs and other pcs, much sore than with NPCs. This isn't explainable except, I think, by looking at it from within or without. From within it is because PCs tend to be more fleshed out and almost always present. NPCs are conveniently often absent. From without it is because there is often sucha number of NPCS that players have difficulty relating to the ST one on one with each NPC as they can with individual players playing a single PC. Plus, maybe most important, there is the "us" verse "them" syndrome. Occasionally a sole NPC will emerge beyond this with a player, but usually it seems to me at the cost of how that player deals with other player's PCs. Perhaps there are other reasons, but I think these are the most obvious.

Personally, I prefer a game with few NPCs to allow the PCs to solve problems and such by themselves. The screenwriter writes, the director directs, and the actors act... or something like that.

The problem is if every pc brings along their coterie of associates and sidekicks. he shoudl be socializing with the other players. Maybe his previous team is more on a contact level because they are doing different missions. The could still communicate, but it'll be less of a group than perhaps he would like. This could be very valuable as a source of information for the group, as well as his character developement. Perhaps one of them is a female and that gives him a love interest.

Maybe his leaving the group to join with the PCs is a source of enmity with some of the other group members....


[INTRO IDEA] Maybe Dominic is leading a S&R and crosses paths with the other PCs.


I like that idea. I believe I will chuck this "gathering the flock" idea [I originally had] for starting the campaign, and have the PCs meet through "happenstance", then meet Torstain, who brought them together behind the scenes. I'll try to outline this in a future email.


With Asny, Emma, and Dominic defined, I had a core group for the campaign. While I was still working with Josh on his character, I was happy to have enough to run. But, with all the emails flying back and forth, I wanted to try and sum some details for the group.

Alignment Of Forces Thred



With everything flying back and forth through email, I wanted to take a broad look of the alignment of forces as I see them now, and see if any of you have feedback.

The Agency (aka Project Odysseus)

The Agency is now controlled by the Aesir. All outside elements have been purged or transferred. the Agency works within Midgard to hold the line against giants and the forces of the Midgard Serpent and Fenris. Opposed to Project Odysseus is Department Lillith, an agency composed of the undead (vampires, ghouls, and even some risen). [The whole Department Lillith vs. Project Odysseus was my "high level" version of Wolfman versus Dracula. It was fun to have hissable vampire villains working their Machiavellian schemes within the US govt.]

Aesir

The Aesir are corrupted elements of the Weaver. They are led by Odin, and wish to stave off Ragnarok. Their culture is accepting of technology, but their minds are stagnant, they are always preparing for Ragnarok, and little else matters.

Vanir

The Vanir are the "dead gods", forces of the Wyld. If Frey can survive Ragnarok, they would end up on the "winning side" in this brave new world. Frey is concerned about Surt, but otherwise, the remaining Vanir would love Ragnarok.

PENTEX

PENTEX is an aspect of the Wyrm, and the Wyrm is an image of the Midgard Serpent. PENTEX acts and thinks like the traditional hissable villain its written up to be in canon.

Get of Fenris

The Get wish to free Fenris, their sacred totem. Some of the Get just see Fenris as the perfect god, others realize the evils of the Aesir, others want to rampage with Fenris during Ragnarok. The tribe as a whole wants to bring about Ragnarok, but don't see Fenris as a figure of the corrrupted Wyrm.

Other Traditional Garou

The other tribes of the garou are blind to the concerns of the Aesir and Vanir, and see Ragnarok as a reflection of their own legends of Apocalypse.

U.S. Government

The U.S. government is generally a neutral force, or a tool in regards to the Norse conflict. The Agency is part of the government, and works to influence government policy and actions when it concerns the Aesir. A small group of officials in the EPA are influenced by the Vanir, and members of PENTEX influence politicians heavily with their contributions.

Fenris

Fenris wants to be free, and he knows he brings Ragnarok with his freedom. Fenris wants vengeance on Tyr and Odin for entrapping him, but he is proud enough to believe he will survive Ragnarok.

Loki

Loki is still trapped, and is working purely for himself. He is playing both sides against the middle, and wants to avert Ragnarok or "win" it, whichever way gives him the highest chance of freedom and surviving.

Midgard Serpent

The Midgard Serpent is a force of evil and destruction. It wants to destroy Midgard, and destroy the Aesir at any cost.

Giants

Giants are the traditional enemies of the Aesir. I haven't formed a strong opinion on giants. Perhaps they are forces of the Weaver, but not twisted like the Aesir. Perhaps they are evil forces of the Wyrm (especially the fire giants and Surt), bent on bringing destruction to Yggdrasil and the Aesir.

Dwarves

Dwarves have little concern for others, and rarely leave their own world. Their technology has plateaued, but they often consult with the Aesir, and create and maintain Asgard's gadgets.

Elves

Elves are also forces of the Wyld. They care little for creatures outside of Alfheim, but Frey can lead them. They could work to destroy the Aesir or bring about Ragnarok.

Thoughts? Hrm, I think I would have Pentex, in reality, not be evil. At least not in it's own view. Maybe, what was the Palladium term?, aberrent?

Aberrant is a good term for them. You're right, PENTEX should have an agenda, and a faith in their acts that they are correct and not "evil". PENTEX wants Ragnarok to happen, right now, and works to bring it about with or without completion of the prophesies.


I think that the best 'evil' people are people who have legitimate (in their minds) reasons for doing things. In my opinion, ~everything~ is both good and evil at the same time. I don't think that any action that is a good thing for one person can not be equally evil to someone else.


Wow. I have to think about this. It seems, on the surface, highly .... sensational. I think I could go so far as to agree to some sort of subjective morality. I'm not saying that you are wrong...I dunno.

Also, I love the ambiguity in "I think that the best 'evil' people are..." I understood this to mean the "best villains are"... still, I chuckled.


I was thinking along the lines of a terrorist. I appologise for touching on a tender subject, but I think even Sept. 11th was perpetrated for good intentions - from a certain point of view. A terrorist doesn't attack because he wants to do evil (or at least he feels that it is acceptable evil). Nor does a government act out of evil intentions when it bombs a factory or starts a war (an equally 'evil' act in my liberal mind). It is ~hopefully~ acting out of a belief that it is necessary for it's people in the long run. There will always someone who is hurt or disadvantaged by ANY action. Thus in my mind, ALL acts are evil (or good, for that matter).


It [PENTEX] has it's own code of ethics... it is a force of destruction, and that it why it is opposed to the Aesir/Weaver. The Aesir are trying to cut off the Wyld from having any power. Pentex could be, IMHO, a great villain without being evil. Sure the players will bite, hook line and sinker that they are- they want to kill things, but perhaps once they understand the Nordic trinity version of the forces they might realize that there is a big question to be settle .... should Ragnarok be prevented and at what cost? And if they align themselves with Pentex or other forces of the Wyld how much power should they allow them to have?


Once the players reach this decision point, I want it to be the crux of that story arc. I want evil and good characters to align on either side of Ragnarok.


I like this, it's one of those 'defining moments' sorts of ideas. I wouldn't rush into that decision though. Is there a way to involve them in the gray of it - let them see somehow both sides of it. Maybe that will only complicate things to frustration.


Of course, most modernist would perhaps see all technology/weaver as good and therefore worth saving. I would think that Emma would be against this view, but also against empowering Pentex/Get too much. A balance, but even that might be giving them too much.


As I get Emma, technology is a means to an end. She would try to strike a balance for the sake of Midgard, or she may play both sides against the middle and try to keep Midgard safe.


The three major PCs were outlined. I had very little details for Josh's PC, but I knew I could work his plots in later. We had a handle on the big picture, and now we defined more of the motivations and history tie-ins. Everything was coming along nicely, and just in time. At the end of this string of emails, I was a couple weeks away from the first game session!

Next article, I will run through some mission ideas involving Norse myths, and the resulting popcorn conversations resulting. Also, we will go through another name game. If I can, I'll add in the work on the first session, or save that for a special article 9 (all good Norse things come in 9s, you know).

- Et Al TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

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