Exquisite Corpses

“Exquisite Corpse: Game of folded paper played by several people, who compose a sentence or drawing without anyone seeing the preceding collaboration or collaborations. The now classic example, which gave the game its name, was drawn from the first sentence obtained this way: The-exquisite-corpse-will-drink-new-wine.”
–André Breton

My new project involves a book of ‘creatures’ which can be used, mixed and matched, to create new creatures. As I say in the introduction:

Introduction: In the 1920s, surrealist artists would gather and amuse one another with acts of pure fantasy. One of their amusements was to take a piece of paper, fold into several sections, and then each surrealist would draw a section of a figure or creature on that paper, folding it over so the next participant could not see what had already been drawn. The first artist might draw the head, the next artist would add the torso, the third the hips and legs, etc., and when finished they would unfold the paper and admire the drawing that had been created. Thus they might end up with fantastic creatures that might have a head shaped like a house, the body of a nude woman and the feet made of curling tree roots.
We often played this game when I was a youngster. I remember spending more than a few days in a cabin up in Wisconsin, with my sister, cousins and aunt, when it was too rainy to play outside, drawing, folding and passing the paper and enjoying the fantastic and improbable creatures we created. I loved monsters and improbable creatures and it seemed a great way of combining those interests into a game that left you with some pretty amusing drawings as souvenirs. We still play the ‘Exquisite Corpse” game today. All that is needed are some pencils, paper and some willing participants (although a bottle of wine or a few beers can add to the fun).
In 1978, I had just acquired AD&D “Monster Manual” by Gary Gygax. It ripped the roof off my imagination like no other book had before it. Here was an encyclopedia filled with some of the most improbable creatures that myth, fantasy or Gygax could create. Some had the torsos of beautiful women, the faces of hags and the wings and feet of vultures. Others had the heads of bulls and the bodies of men, or beaks instead of mouths, tentacles, etc. Still more improbable creatures combined the worst (or best) aspects of birds, lions, owls, bears, fish, etc. And the improbable and fiendishly fascinating combinations were increased tenfold when you turned to the sections on Demons and Devils. In the page of Gygax’s seminal bestiary of the fantastic, the improbable creations of myth and unhinged imagination sprang to life… and Gygax included many fascinating details (like how fast the creature moved, where it lived, how tough it might be and what (or whom) it might eat…).
This little book, then, is really just a love poem to some of my favorite things (the Exquisite Corpse, Gary Gygax’s “Monster Manual,” monsters of all kinds and realms of the imagination). Use it for your own amusement, and, if you like role playing or fantasy games, use it to create your own “Dr. Frankenstein on acid” creatures who will hop, slither, slide, plop, run or flutter into the world that you and your players create.

At current I have about 10 drawings done and plan to finish 16 more. The book will probably measure 5-7 and be about 40-50 pages (26 of which will be one-sided) and will include guidelines for how to use the book in a fanatsy game, adding special abilities, etc.

At present the plan is to offer it through Lulu or similar means.

Leave a Reply