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Old 09-26-2017, 07:45 AM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Absent-Mindedness and Short Attention Span

Absent-Mindedness is a 15-point mundane Mental disadvantage. It's kind of a self-control problem, although it doesn't have a self-control roll. Rather, you have trouble paying attention to anything except whatever you're currently interested, in the manner of clichéd eccentric geniuses.

You get -5 to all IQ rolls and IQ-based skill rolls that aren't part of your current interest, which will handicap you severely in dealing with anything else. If there is nothing interesting to do, you'll come up with something within a few minutes, and while you're thinking that up, you also have -5 to Perception rolls to notice anything subtler than injuries. To stay focussed on something that isn't interesting and engaging, you need to make a Will-5 roll every five minutes. You also tend to forget routine things, like paying bills or changing batteries; you get an IQ-2 roll to avoid this when it matters.

Combining this with Short Attention Span means you aren't going to manage to do or learn anything difficult. That disadvantage is also mental and Mundane, worth -10 for a 12- self-control roll. It requires you to succeed in a self-control roll to succeed in any long task, irrespective of how interesting it is. The GM might grant you a bonus for really important things. The difference between these disadvantages is that Absent-Minded characters have no trouble sticking to an interesting task, but can't cope with boring ones, and have several ways of distracting themselves. Short Attention Span just means any lengthy task is a problem.

Neither of these disadvantages was in GURPS 1e, but they are in 3e with almost identical wording to 4e. I suspect Absent-Mindedness may have appeared in the first edition of Horror, but I don't have that book any more. 3e Compendium I contains a precursor to the 4e self-control rolls, and specifically calls out Absent-Mindedness as not being appropriate for that mechanism since it doesn't involve a choice by the character.

The way Absent-Mindedness is written seems to assume above-average IQ to avoid it being absolutely crippling (think about what it would be like with IQ 10). If we guess that it assumes about IQ 14, which was the start of being really bright under 3e, and all those -5 penalties give it an effective roll of 9-, then you could make Absent-Mindedness a -10 disadvantage with a self-control roll of 12-, if you really wanted. That brings the 9- roll out at -15, a 15- roll at -5, and a 6- roll at -20. The self-control roll would replace all the rolls in the disadvantage RAW, and wouldn't take the -5 or -2 penalties.

Absent-Mindedness is a fairly common option on templates for scientists, sages and magicians, and both disadvantages can be used for modelling creatures that don't concentrate well, such as sparrials, Banestorm kobalds, noble swashbucklers in DF, or the fairies of Alchemical Baroque. Bio-Tech has a mitigator for both, in the form of TL8+ "smart drugs" and it, High-Tech and Horror point out that these conditions can be caused by psychiatric medicines. Absent-Mindedness is a really bad disadvantage if you need to masquerade as a resident of a different one of the Infinite Worlds, and there are quirk-level versions of both in Power-Ups 6. They can be a result of crippling in Psionic Powers, one of the plagues in Reign of Steel or a spell casting critical failure in Thaumatology. They are quite unhelpful to learning and teaching in Back to School, but Ultra-Tech has brain implants that can help.

I've never used either disadvantage, as player or GM. As a player, they don't seem like much fun, since players lose or confuse enough information already, without the characters joining in. As a GM, I don't seem to have ever thought of them as disadvantages for NPCs, but I suspect my players would get bored with them quite fast.

What have you done with these disadvantages?
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Old 09-26-2017, 08:39 AM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Absent-Mindedness and Short Attention Span

I have full blown Absent-Mindedness IRL, as one of the consequences of a "small" brain injury. It's something you can mitigate (not remove!) these days by relying heavily on software assistants - I refer to my Android phone as my "outboard brain" because of how much I need Google to keep my everything together.
I quite literally have "Eat breakfast!", "Eat lunch!", and "Eat dinner!" notifications on my phone, because "eating" is one of those things I need an IQ-5 roll to remember to do when I'm paying attention to something. I also use a (very very cheap) smart watch to remind me to drink water regularly, because I forget that too.

This would be a partial Mitigator, a device that can be stolen pretty easily

At a lower TL this can be done by a "minder", better than Google does but rather expensive to hire. A personal assistant, butler, nanny, squire, or very understanding spouse or sibling, depending on the era, culture, and financial means. To a lesser extent professional colleagues (lab assistants, administrative assistant, an Igor) can also fill in at the workplace, but they don't follow you home and make sure you can find your car keys and pants.

That's an Ally of course :) Frequency of appearance dictated by if they're your personal sidekick vs someone in the workplace you lean on.

Both are ways to reduce the cost of the disad, because they reduce the impact.
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Old 09-26-2017, 01:06 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Absent-Mindedness and Short Attention Span

Yay, new "X of the Week"!

In my hypothetical GURPS rewrite, large chunks of these disadvantages would be replaced by lowering Will in an aspected way. As written they're quite restrictive – I know, 15-point disads are meant to be – but they don't seem to offer as much opportunity for enjoyable role-playing as say Combat Paralysis.

(And while Short Attention Span might be only a ten-pointer in a dungeon bash, it would be crippling in any game that needs surveillance, or watch-standing, or extended academic work.)

I don't have Horror 1e; 2e doesn't mention it, but of course that's post-GURPS3.
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Old 09-26-2017, 02:30 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Absent-Mindedness and Short Attention Span

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Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
... they don't seem to offer as much opportunity for enjoyable role-playing as say Combat Paralysis.
They have potential if you want to annoy your fellow-players, but I'm not keen on introducing more of that into the game.
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(And while Short Attention Span might be only a ten-pointer in a dungeon bash, it would be crippling in any game that needs surveillance, or watch-standing, or extended academic work.)
I suspect I have the Attentive perk; I get absorbed in things, which produces good results, but I fail to notice interruptions. However, this means that features of modern GUIs that seem to be intended to amuse people with shorter attention spans are amazingly annoying and have to be turned off.
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Old 09-26-2017, 03:00 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Absent-Mindedness and Short Attention Span

I don't think I've seen short attention span in play. I have seen absent mindedness. Its been fun, though most of the time its been played for groans.

Characters complete their tasks quite well, but abysmally fail perception rolls. Its always fun to add up all the modifiers and watch the monster move right past the techie busy bugging suspects.
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Old 09-26-2017, 04:11 PM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Absent-Mindedness and Short Attention Span

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
I suspect I have the Attentive perk; I get absorbed in things, which produces good results, but I fail to notice interruptions. However, this means that features of modern GUIs that seem to be intended to amuse people with shorter attention spans are amazingly annoying and have to be turned off.
I first met this as "deep hack mode" and I think a lot of good computer-wranglers can do it. But researchers in paper libraries do nearly the same thing. Certainly I wouldn't be unhappy with any character with a scientific or technical skill taking it. (Even the televisual starship engineer who has to run around pressing buttons and giving commands may do this when he's sitting down with the schematics trying to work out what's gone wrong.)
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Old 09-26-2017, 06:53 PM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Absent-Mindedness and Short Attention Span

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I first met this as "deep hack mode" and I think a lot of good computer-wranglers can do it.
The term in psychology for it is "flow", other careers often refer to it as being "in the zone". It's also known as Wu wei in Taoism.
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Old 09-27-2017, 07:39 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Absent-Mindedness and Short Attention Span

In one of my campaigns, a PC has a focused form of Absent-Mindedness ... specifically, she has difficulty remembering to take her psychiatric medications. These are the medicines that normally serve as a Mitigator for her Voices, Flashbacks, and Nightmares, so slipping up can be quite unfortunate -- and entertaining.
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Old 09-27-2017, 09:34 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Absent-Mindedness and Short Attention Span

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The term in psychology for it is "flow", other careers often refer to it as being "in the zone". It's also known as Wu wei in Taoism.
I think most of us have experienced that when reading a really really good book.
I once forgot to eat for two days as a teen because of such a book. Then my stomach woke me out of that, painfully.

Sadly, my present anxiety makes me unable to go back into such immersive fun activities for fear of being "trapped".
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Old 09-28-2017, 10:37 AM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Absent-Mindedness and Short Attention Span

Its worth remembering "Focused" in this discussion. It gives a +3 for certain tasks, but in effect gives a temporary absent mindedness effect.

If I took both, would I get -10 to notice my surroundings, or would it just be -5 at all times? would you as a GM allow it?
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