Everything Is A Designable Surface

I came across this thing today and it made me think of this topic:

Terry Riley’s “In C”

It’s kind of a applying the same ideas re: designable surfaces to music. “All players play from the same group of 53 sequences […] each performer having the freedom to
determine how many times he or she will repeat each pattern before moving on”

You can listen to an example in practice here. It starts off a little slowly, but the end result is quite interesting. It made me think about the role of music in gaming, and how cool it would be to have a game where making sound is central to play.


wow, I mean it seems so simple and obvious, but how often do we push the boundaries of designable surfaces? now I’ve got t add a “designable surface” generator on top of the normal game design generator I use


This reminds me of what William Forsythe does with dance as well. Tons to learn from adjacent disciplines.


Maybe this slogan could be used to make interesting design exercises? First, define a designable surface and then try to design a functional roleplaying game using only that surface.

For example, sound, noise and music is a thing you can design for a game. But can you design a game exclusively using that surface?

Or food?

Personally I can’t immediately think of a way but experience shows that in game design, when something seems impossible someone is going to do it :slight_smile:


Food sounds like a fun one! I can definitely picture hosting a dinner, telling everyone to bring two ingredients, and then have the game be about explaining why this is all that’s left while we try to make a good meal out of it.


I agree, having to find stuff like different card sets, tokens and so on can really hinder a game, especially when you acquire a game that needs them but doesn’t provide them along with the rulebook.
I’ve recently wrote a simple narrative game and decided to put a short list of suggested things you could use to help speed up the game but I also stated that you could do with just pen and paper, as the game itself is designed to be played with just that.


I’ve been using tokens a lot in my recent games, but I’m trying to get better at emphasizing in the “what will you need” part that any small object works as long as it’s easy to handle doesn’t draw too much attention. I like saying “you could always just take notes”, though personally I’d rather go get some coins or something instead of having to keep writing and erasing on paper.

The cool thing about playing online is that we have a lot of visual resources we can use and easily propagate


Nice idea in theory, maybe, but it was maybe the most-criticised element of the design, for reasons you can probably guess:

  • Not everyone has figures, paints, brushes, etc.
  • What about players whose vision or other factors don’t make it easy for them to paint?

And those are all fair points

Truthfully, I’ve found that whenever you mention miniatures in context of a game, you’re fighting upstream against attitudes that go far beyond the two criticisms you mentioned.

Also, Krasnoarmeets was a neat idea!

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What happens when we deliberately isolate participants, either physically or procedurally?

One game that isolates participants is Beastfucker by Julian Hyde and Wendy Gorman. I think it helps evoke a feeling in discomfort in both groups, the chanters and the isolated player. All creative power is in the hands of the isolated player at this moment, while the others are setting tone.


I am now imagining a sort of rap-battle or troubadour game where you have a list of words to use, like in Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, but you’ve got to also fit it to a beat (rap-battle) or a structured rhyme (like a lymerick or a “kwatrijn” (don’t know the word for it in English) with musical accompaniment (either live, or pre-recorded))

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Where can I find this game?

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Grandma’s Drinking Song is available in the Gauntlet’s own Codex: Joy 2! https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/268168/Codex--Joy-2-Nov-2018


Thank you. I might pick it up!

About food as a designable surface, I’m sure I’ve read a game where you’re all playing gingerbread men/women and as you get injured. You take a bite of your gingerbread cookie. Your gingerbread cookie is your character sheet. Somebody here surely will remember the name of the game, I’m guessing.


Probably Annie Rush’s The Secret Lives of Gingerbread Men?

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Beastfucker is a great example of that. There’s a ritualistic component to the removal and return of the isolated person and it is absolutely chilling.

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@Jmstar Yes, that’s the one.

“For Mature Audiences” was a game with a similar, twisted procedure:

Each player would create a “doll” to represent their character, and gradually mangle that doll when their character suffered harm.


Now I’m imagining a game where you have a paper heart representing your character’s emotional well-being and occasionally having another player wad it up into a ball or make tears in it, and then you have to smooth it out again or repair the tears with tape or something.