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I'm in an online, voice-only Pathfinder 2e game. I'm having a lot of fun... But when the party gets in discussions about which from among a number of options to take (do we kill the bandit leader? take her weapons and send her away? tie her up and bring her with us?), sometimes they end up feeling like they drag on and on – and after a certain point, my brain seems to disengage (I have ADD/ADHD). After that happens, it can be really hard for me to reengage, even once we've moved past the discussion.

I think the situation might be different if we saw one another's faces, but that's not currently an option. I haven't talked to the DM about this yet because I want to see if there are ways I can mitigate the problem first.

So my question is twofold:

  1. I think the long discussions of options are a lost cause, but what can I do to make it easier for myself to reengage once we've moved on?
  2. Is there anything reasonable I can ask the DM for that would help with this issue?
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  • \$\begingroup\$ related: How to work with a player who cites ADHD as reason for disruptive behavior \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Aug 24, 2023 at 16:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm mentally tagging this questions as [ADHD&D] \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Aug 24, 2023 at 16:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, I don't think the system is super relevant to this question. Now, I love PF2e as much as anyone, but I don't think this is a system specific problem - I notably experience something similar a lot in my 5e group. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Aug 24, 2023 at 16:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ In all seriousness, can you say how that game experience is different to anything you might suffer in the real world? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 26, 2023 at 21:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RobbieGoodwin Well, ordinarily when my ADD leads me to disengage, whatever I've disengaged from is boring and I have no real interest in engaging anyway. (Note that whether I have real interest in engaging is a different question from whether it is something that I really OUGHT to engage in, and often this doesn't work out well for me.) Whereas the Pf2e game is actually fun—or would be if I could reengage. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 28, 2023 at 9:12

3 Answers 3

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I am going to talk a little about staying engaged and driving the game towards something you can hook into later, but first I'll start with your actual question.

Obviously we're all different and your mileage may vary, but here we go.

How can one get back into the game after mentally checking out? It's actually the same as any of your other tools for your normal life.

Leave the table and come back

You can be as up front or not about the reason, but let the group know you'll be right back (and about how long it will take), then take a minute, go to the bathroom, get a fresh glass of water, quick stretch (a minute) to get blood moving, etc.

I find breaking myself off of the task completely helps me get back into it, rather than getting stuck in this mental ADHD sludge. The trick is to not pick a break-task that's going to be distracting.

Sometimes I try to say something in character, with my character's voice, to signify to ME that I'm back in it.

Again, any of your other ADHD tools:

  • Make sure you're rested the night before
  • Make sure you're eating brain fuel - greens, protein, etc (not just beer and pretzels)
  • Make sure you're actually doing an activity that's interesting to you

If you don't have a good tool belt for handling your brain, then meet me any time in chat and myself or someone else can send you some good resources.

Find ways to be engaged with the "boring" stuff

Make sure your character can participate in the conversation and you might find yourself having to move the conversation forward a bit, while still being respectful of the other players.

And if the conversations are really, honestly dragging on to an unreasonable amount, it might be worth a quick check in with your players. Is 5 minutes a decent cap on these conversations? 10 minutes? Bring some timers? I can't give you a concrete answer here because I don't know the group, but I have been in PLENTY of boring conversations about nothing. Sometimes the players driving the nothing are just enjoying the acting exercise.

There are so many moving parts and finnicky bits to this hobby; it can sometimes be a struggle to make most of them work for most of the people.

Extra note as a DM: I try to pay attention and notice if a player is checking out and make an effort to move things along when I notice that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much! Honest I'd love to chat about resources—I'm 50 and was only diagnosed a few years ago, so I'm really behind on strategies. I'm not sure how to get to chat, though. Is there a link explaining it? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 24, 2023 at 16:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoelDerfner Role-playing Games Chat where you can "ping" goodguy5 (using @goodguy5) or just address the room in general--goodguy's not the only chat regular with experience in this vein =) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Aug 24, 2023 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 Thank you so much! \$\endgroup\$ Aug 24, 2023 at 20:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 but two things: if you are leaving the table, let the DM know (non-disruptively) that you're doing it and for how long, then let them know when you're back, it's annoying when you're engaging with a PC, getting nothing back and finally they reappear with some half-assed excuse, I can't speak for every DM but it makes me feel disrespected and doing this repeatedly after being asked not to is a firing offence at my tables. Two - if you push for limiting the discussions, be VERY careful as it can quickly take you into the asshole territory if you're too forceful and everyone else enjoys them \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Aug 25, 2023 at 10:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AnnaAG good point about communicating that you're taking a quick break. I assumed that was implied, but no reason to make such assumptions. will edit. \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Aug 25, 2023 at 16:39
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Don't disengage in the first place

By making it easier to stay engaged, you won't need to make such a big effort to reengage.

Our strategy involves a two-pronged approach:

  1. Removing distractions that steal focus
  2. Adding activities that maintain focus

Removing distractions

Closing out of chat apps and browser tabs and turning off your phone

This one's more of a test of willpower, and I have personal experience with the difficulty of it, but preventing yourself from squirreling over to some other activity is another effective way of ensuring your mind stays on the game. It takes dedicated effort to simply sit and listen to the others talk, but probably not more effort than it would take to get reengaged all over again - and, as mentioned below, you can do productive things like take notes during this time.

It can feel bad when you detect other players being distracted during playtime if you're going to all of the trouble to keep your mind in it, but that's on them, not you.

If you need the tabs or phone for out-of-game reasons, no issue; this is just an option you are at freedom to discard.

Steering discussion

The long talks are clearly one of the main causes of your checking out. As a player in the game, you do have a say what people talk about! During conversational lulls, it's often a relief when a player pipes up:

So given all that... let's get going.

You don't even have to commit to a particular option! When the other players witness someone expressing a willingness to keep moving, that's enough to bring discussion nearer to a close.

Activities that aid focus

Writing notes: and I mean notes notes.

Everything "notable" that happens in-game shows up on your paper, one way or another. This can have its own drawbacks, as you might forget to do roleplay due to being occupied with writing, so take care to only note-take when you begin to feel your eyes glaze over with boredom.

A side benefit of note-taking is that the other players and the DM will thank you when you remember details such as "the blacksmith's cat was orange tabby, not black" which may for whatever reason end up being important down the line.

Keep your hands occupied while your mind works: doodling, origami, fidget cube...

This one will depend even more on your own preferences, but another easy win for ADD is to provide a nonverbal outlet for the wandering attention. I am no artist, and certainly no student of origami, but these activities illustrate the sort of thing you might switch to in the midst of a discussion in order to remain mentally present, if not accounted for.

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    \$\begingroup\$ oooooooh. Notes and fidget. I mostly addressed the "what to do when it happens", but that's a great point. \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Aug 24, 2023 at 16:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you so much! I'll try these out and report back. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 24, 2023 at 16:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Most of this doesn't sound like it would work for someone with ADHD... or at least it wouldn't work for me (and I have ADHD). Other than notes and fidgeting, it sounds like "Just try harder". \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Aug 25, 2023 at 2:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ As someone who's practiced origami for several years, it's definitely not something that can "keep hands occupied" without occupying your mind too, unless perhaps you are already at a somewhat advanced level and are making something significantly below the difficulty you usually work at. Unless by "origami" you actually mean "just folding a sheet of paper without any end goal". It's a solid answer otherwise though so +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Aug 25, 2023 at 10:18
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I believe goodguy5's answer hits the biggest method of getting reengaged... removing yourself from the situation and returning. That has been the single most successful method for me to begin active participation again when playing Pathfinder 2e on Roll20.

However, I would like to suggest one additional thing that is useful to me. With ADHD, you are going to be distracted at some point. In addition to using a hard reset, it can be very useful to minimize the disconnect with techniques to take control of what you're distracted by. At work, for me, that means listening to music. In tabletop games, I find it useful to make low-impact distractions available:

  • something game-related that isn't direct participation
    • this could be taking notes (as order suggests), draw/doodling the scenes that you're envisioning*, browsing Archives of Nethys, posting your character's response to things like an emote, or planning what direction(s) you want to suggest for the next story arcs that you expect to come
  • something inherently low impact, or with a designated 'end' to tell you it's time to get back
    • this could be fidgeting (again, as noted by order), small puzzles such as Kanoodle or Sudoku, or humming the theme to Pokemon on mute

*For some, drawing may be less disruptive if you're still attempting to hear the ongoing conversation.

The goal of both of these is to 'wade' before "going swimming" again (vs. hard resetting by "going back to your cooler"). The first allows you to engage with the game on your own terms while not detracting from the others' experience, and the second hopefully prevents you from having as much trouble reengaging.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you so very much! \$\endgroup\$ Aug 25, 2023 at 14:26

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