Sunday, January 22, 2012

Found Objects: The Crystal Egg

A Truly Curious Found Object: The Crystal Egg

Before there were Palantir Mister Wells gave us The Crystal Egg, a marvelous mass of unearthly crystal that had been pain-stakingly worked into an egg-shape and brilliantly polished by some person or persons unknown. A shew-stone of clear crystal, a bit like John Dee's obsidian one, it allows the user to Skry or view scenes of distant worlds. In the story itself, they saw images of Mars, just prior to the launch of the fateful Martian Invasion and the subsequent War of the Worlds of 1898.

Some Details Regarding The Crystal Egg
"The dirty little place was impenetrably black except in one spot, where he perceived an unusual glow of light. Approaching this, he discovered it to be the crystal egg, which was standing on the corner of the counter towards the window. A thin ray smote through a crack in the shutters, impinged upon the object, and seemed as it were to fill its entire interior."
"It occurred to Mr. Cave that this was not in accordance with the laws of optics as he had known them in his younger days. He could understand the rays being refracted by the crystal and coming to a focus in its interior, but this diffusion jarred with his physical conceptions. He approached the crystal nearly, peering into it and round it, with a transient revival of the scientific curiosity that in his youth had determined his choice of a calling. He was surprised to find the light not steady, but writhing within the substance of the egg, as though that object was a hollow sphere of some luminous vapour. In moving about to get different points of view, he suddenly found that he had come between it and the ray, and that the crystal none the less remained luminous. Greatly astonished, he lifted it out of the light ray and carried it to the darkest part of the shop. It remained bright for some four or five minutes, when it slowly faded and went out. He placed it in the thin streak of daylight, and its luminousness was almost immediately restored."
H. G. Wells, The Crystal Egg
The Crystal Egg requires only a minute amount of light in order to begin writing with interior illumination. A slender ray of not more than a millimeter will do nicely. It also helps a great deal to place the Crystal Egg in an otherwise very dark place, or to fold a heavy piece of velvet over it, as Mister Cave does in the story. Too much ambient light usually drowns-out the inner luminance of the Crystal Egg, making it appear as just a nicely polished bit of egg-shaped crystal.
"Unless we dismiss it all as the ingenious fabrication of Mr. Wace, we have to believe one of two things: either that Mr. Cave's crystal was in two worlds at once, and that, while it was carried about in one, it remained stationary in the other, which seems altogether absurd; or else that it had some peculiar relation of sympathy with another and exactly similar crystal in this other world, so that what was seen in the interior of the one in this world, was, under suitable conditions, visible to an observer in the corresponding crystal in the other world; and vice versa. At present, indeed, we do not know of any way in which two crystals could so come en rapport, but nowadays we know enough to understand that the thing is not altogether impossible. This view of the crystals as en rapport was the supposition that occurred to Mr. Wace, and to me at least it seems extremely plausible. . ."
H. G. Wells, The Crystal Egg
So What Can You (or your players) Do With This Thing?
Once the interior illumination is set into motion, The Crystal Egg will reveal scenes of distant worlds. However, whatever it reveals to you, it also provides a similar view to those who are on the other side of the connection. You can see those other worlds, but the inhabitants of those worlds can likewise see into your world. They can see you.

It may be possible to tune the thing through various technical, scientific, or sorcerous techniques. If so, this could be a very powerful variant Crystal Ball, one that might well attract attention both from the Powers That Be and Those Who Watch From The Otherside.

The Crystal Egg might be a very dangerous artifact to have in one's possession, either knowingly or not. If the location of The Crystal Egg were to become known, there are almost certainly dozens of individuals, groups, factions, cults or worse who would very much like to recover it or prevent it from falling into the 'wrong hands.' It might be a strange sort of alien probe sent off in advance of an impending invasion. It could be a relic left-over from a civilization that employed a very highly advanced form of opticks. Maybe it is a ritual object from a cult of sorcerers who maintained a covert form of interplanetary communications through-out the so-called Dark Ages. Who knows? But it could be fun to find out...The Crystal Egg is only one of the Curiosities and Antiquities we're including in the random tables associated with Schroedinger & Cave: Naturalists & Dealers in Curiosities, Prodigies & Antiquities (discrete). Coming soon.

Table One: Worlds & Places Revealed by the Crystal Egg
  1. Mars (see A Fighting Table of Mars)
  2. Yuggoth
  3. Tekumel
  4. Middle Earth (roll to avoid attracting Sauron's notice)
  5. Yezmyr
  6. The Lost World
  7. Mysterious Island
  8. Kepler-11
  9. Planet Algol
  10. Xiccarph  (more details at Eldritch Dark)
  11. Zalchis
  12. Carcosa
  13. Altair 4 (IA! IA! Krell Fhtagn!)
  14. Metaluna
  15. The Planet of the Apes
  16. The City
  17. Skartaris or Pellucidar (30/70 odds)
  18. Smithverse: Roll save or the Eddorians have you, otherwise you're talking to a bored Arisian.
  19. Otherwhen
  20. Special--pick some other fictional universe or wait for more tables like this to pop up, or click here for a really good list of Fictional Planets.

Table Two: Tuning It In and Getting Good Reception
  1. Egg remains opaque. Perhaps you've broken it.
  2. You've done it now--the Egg unfolds from its fractally-condensed state into a fully functional Interocitor and Trey is on the other end wondering why you called.
  3. Egg explodes Irwin Allen style, with lots of sparks and noise, a good bit of smoke and the floor rocks back and forth a bit, but with relatively little damage (everyone save or take 1 point damage). Once the smoke clears, you get to roll on the Irwin Allen Sub-Table to see where the Egg now connects to--with a base 30% chance that it will form a temporary portal to this location.
  4. Egg reveals the location of 2d10 other, similar Eggs and casts Quest or Geas upon everyone within 10' radius to go forth and collect these Eggs. The Egg will perform a strange form of Plane Shift to take the group to each of the other Eggs, one at a time on a once-a-week schedule. When the set is completed, it will merge into a translucent mass of hyper-intelligent--oh, but that would be telling. Finish the Quest, then you can roll on another table...
  5. You see nothing. Those on the Other Side see everything, even your underwear.
  6. Egg imprints the means to cast ESP once a day into the mind of one lucky(?) viewer.
  7. Egg grants 1d4 viewers the ability to cast Clairvoyance once a week. Unfortunately each use of this ability has a cumulative 5% chance to burn their brain to a cinder from inadvertent feedback.
  8. Egg becomes a gateway into whatever realm is currently being viewed.
  9. You watch speeded-up old newsreel footage from the Great Depression that runs continuously for 1d4 weeks after which time egg displays a flashing green prompt.
  10. The Egg displays every single episode of every single TV broadcast from across the Earth during 1950-59. It re-runs them all endlessly. Often out of order. The commercials are the worst. Save or go insane with a 30% chance of becoming convinced that you're caught up in some twilight realm. Your character needs to roll a save or be fixated by the flickering light of the dreaded cathode ray tube and slowly lose 1 point of wisdom or intelligence every hour they are mesmerized by this never-ending stream of images.
  11. You can now view episodes of alien soap operas. There are subtitles if you know how to work the remote.
  12. Egg bonds to one person and can only show scenes from their life, over and over again until they die or the Egg bonds to someone else. However, victim must save or die if they attempt to pass along the Egg.
A Fighting Table of Mars
  1. Barsoom
  2. Wellsian Mars
  3. Kline's Mars
  4. Le Roux's Mars with the Erloor-Vampires
  5. Leigh Brackett's Mars
  6. Podkayne Mars
  7. Pope's Mars
  8. Edison's Conquered Mars
  9. Gulliver Jone's Mars
  10. A Socialist-Utopian Mars
  11. Nyctalope's Mars
  12. Aelita, a Mars in Decline
Irwin Allen Sub-Table
  1. Land of the Giants
  2. Lost in Space
  3. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
  4. The Time Tunnel
  5. Swiss Family Robinson
  6. City Beneath the Sea
  7. Towering Inferno
  8. Poseidon Adventure
Bonus Video: The first 9 minutes of City Beneath the Sea

Additional Background and Sources
H. G. Wells wrote The Crystal Egg in 1897. You can find a version of this story at Online Literature, or at Many Books, or within the collection Tales of Space and Time over at Project Gutenberg.

You can also watch a modernized (1950s-style) adaptation of The Crystal Egg for the classic scifi TV series Tales of Tomorrow either at YouTube (Below), or over at Hulu or


  1. Nice object, great description. shot milk out my nose when you wrote that krell line!

    Lazarus Lupin
    art and review

  2. Aberrant Hive MindApril 21, 2011 at 6:32 PM

    Cool man! I posted up a similar idea the other day, I like the table of distant worlds idea.

  3. No milk, but I'm no less impressed. You do this so well.

  4. Agree, amazing stuff. I like watching I Love Lucy reruns on my egg.


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