When it comes to superheroes, their motivation and their super powers get a lot of attention. You have the nemesis who plagues their lives with (often thematic) danger, allowing the heroes to display their heroic virtues. Throw in a love story, maybe a nosy normal who is one step away from discovering the hero’s secret identity and you have yourself a decent savior of wherever.
The fun thing about role-playing these characters is that we don’t only deal with the melodrama and the “you’ll never get away with this!” speeches, but the most potent of interactions that let you peek at the inner workings of a person: Awkward silences. It’s with this in mind I want to tell you about a LARP I played in called “Dr. Dolotts” and how five chairs, a ticking clock and dead silences led me to love playing supers more than ever.
An often unexplored side of super people is collective honesty, where the character drops all pretense of secrets and obfuscation to just talk about themselves without many adventures interspersed between the revelations to stretch it out. The game “Dr. Dolotts,” which I played at the Dreamation Convention this year, takes that idea and says “yeah, but what if you’re getting charged by the hour?”
The premise is simple: The session is group therapy for a kind of super (or side kick/hench person) that is struggling with a specific problem (low self-esteem, poor time management, compulsively uses fake accents, etc) and establishes the setting as a “no-combat” area. There is a doctor, a circle of chairs and a group of supers struggling with something that their powers simply can’t help with. Something so crushingly human that they have to seek help.
See, we like superheroes because they can remind of us of the best that we can be, the thing we can strive to become. Superheroes in therapy can show us a different kind of strength than the one needed to save the world, and it’s actually very fun because it’s the antithesis to a superhero setting. (I’m making it seem more dramatic than it is- it can actually become extremely funny, since the Doctor was only there to mispronounce people’s names and ask “how does that make you feel?”) The elements that we as players recognize are there, though: People simultaneously do and don’t want to be there and no one knows when to start talking.
When they do start talking, though, is when you set aside the powers and start getting at the person, and that’s where the fun stuff is. Larger questions like “why do we do this?” eventually give way to the minutia that makes us all who we are: Star Wars vs Star Trek? What song do you sing in the shower? Which celebrity would you like to save from a super villain?
(Star Wars; “Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car” by Billy Ocean; Anderson Cooper because that’d be like saving Hipster Elrond from an attack on Rivendell.)
So next you’re searching for a unique setting for some Superhero Deconstruction and just want a character-driven scene, consider something disarming like a doctor’s office and a theme to get the ball rolling. (More importantly, if you’re at a con on the East Coast and have a chance to play Dr. Dolotts, do it, it’s super fun.)
So what about you? Do you have any stories where your hero just got honest about something totally mundane? Do you have an answer for the above questions (Star Wars vs. Star Trek, what song do you sing in the shower and which celebrity would you like to save from a super villain?)
Most importantly: How does that make you feel?
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