Shadow of the Crystal Palace: The Props
Written by Chris Lockey on August 22, 2019
Keeper of Arcane Lore Taliesin Jaffe has already taken us on a guided tour of his personal notes detailing the investigators and the setting of our Call of Cthulhu one-shot, Shadow of the Crystal Palace. Now, we’ll take a closer look at the physical props that were implemented at the game table, which were selected by Mr. Jaffe with certain narrative and mechanical implications in mind. Those items that could not be sourced were hand-crafted or modified by a small cadre of artisans (i.e. yours truly and our friends at Flip This Bitch, Inc., who also brought the incredible Crystal Palace set to life) and expertly implemented by our cast and crew.
If for some dreadful reason you haven’t been able to watch Shadow of the Crystal Palace just yet, by all means: take a jaunt to our YouTube channel and treat yourself to an epic tale of cosmic horror, brought to life by an incredible cast of players including Ashly Burch, Erika Ishii, Phil LaMarr, Liam O’Brien, Marisha Ray, Travis Willingham, and Taliesin himself. The story of Shadow of the Crystal Palace was created to serve as a loose prequel to the “Edge of Darkness” scenario (featured in the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set), and takes place some 30 years or so prior to that occurrence. Whether or not you decide to incorporate the events from our humble one-shot into your own home game is up to you — but we’d be delighted to hear about the results. We’d also like to extend a special thanks to the team at Chaosium for helping us bring this remarkably macabre story of shadow-haunted London to life. But enough small talk, let’s get to the goods. Taliesin, take it away…
It was important to me that the props used for the game all be relatively inexpensive and easy to reproduce. No physical object that affected gameplay should be out-of-reach for any audience member who wants to incorporate it into their game.
The Map: The map we used was a floor plan of a small chunk of the Crystal Palace. We more or less ignored the proper labeling of exhibits to better fit with our game build — partially to make our lives easier, and partially because we had begun the construction of the game with a different map then the one we ended up using. The map itself could have interfaced with…
The Jade Planchet: This artifact could have been used on the map to reveal a secret map beneath. Magnets had been imbedded within the map that would have reacted with the green magnetic field viewing film set in a poster board circle, revealing the location of several artifacts.
The Stirling Engine. There are many different models available online. A Stirling engine requires temperature differential. The greater the difference in temperature between the top and bottom of the engine, the faster it runs. I thought this would provide a great “hourglass effect” with the added anxiety bonus of not knowing how much sand was left.
The Ruby Crystals: These chemical hand warmers come in a variety of shapes and colors (they’re also reusable, which is nice). Once you set them off you can get 30-40 minutes worth of heat out of them. The black bag I placed them in was used to cut the run time of the Stirling Engine down to approximately 20 minutes. They were decorated with spooky black Sharpie.
The Lanterns: Basic LED lanterns with a candle flicker mode.
The Elekiter: The simplest puzzle box I could find with a shape similar to the real historical object. I specifically went for a simple puzzle due to the time constraints of the game. A coin was left in the hidden compartment to provide a simple auditory hint that there might be more to find. We had a sticker printed for the box to make it look like the historical object. The actual elekiter was in fact built by Gennai Hiraga in 1776. It was a static electricity generator which used a pulley system that would then store electricity in a set of jar batteries. It was based off of similar devices Gennai had seen in the Netherlands. Gennai was a fascinating character that I recommend doing further reading on. And yes: he did write a pamphlet on the joys of farting and reviews of gay brothels across Japan. Big 18th century gay energy.
Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Crystal Palace originally aired Monday, July 29th on the Critical Role Twitch channel, and is available on-demand now for Twitch subscribers and via the Critical Role YouTube channel. Don’t forget to leave the light on…