I guess I forgot to actually link my post back to Vector Theory.
I don't think everything needs to feed back to Vector Theory but since I titled the blog post "Vector Theory #29", it probably should.
What are design objects from the perspective of Vector Theory?
Any aspect of the narraton's path can be manipulated by design objects. The wavelength of the narraton can follow a certain pattern (a specific array of stats, or a group of traits), and this can be defined as a design object. The nodes themselves can be design objects.
If I want to handle combat the same ways that they do in "Riddle of Steel", I take the design patterns that form the combat system and I know that my narraton will follow through a certain set of procedures every time I get into a combat sequence.
If I love the magic system in "Mage: The Ascension", I take the nine spheres, the concepts of Arete, Coincidental and Vulgar magic, and I find a way to interlock these with the randomisation mechanic I'm using.
I had a game like this just over a decade ago, using the magic system from Mage, but the rest of the game was played using the systems of Amber, and in fact we didn't use character sheets at all, and had no idea about the true capacities of our characters. It was all about immersion without the distraction of rules, everything was about the story and the roles of the characters within that story.
But this just serves the point, the GM in that game was trying to create a story that would follow certain tropes and he knew that those systems had a good chance of providing the types of twists and turns that suited his storytelling method. He certainly wouldn't consider himself a game designer, and this is probably the first time public notes have been revealed about it, but it was one of those moments in gaming that really got me thinking about how games can be something more...communal literature.
All from the gathering of a few suitable component objects.