Teetotum

We play a variety of games at events. Usually we try to keep them period, or at least not mundane (ie: we don't play Monopoly at our events).
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Comyn
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Teetotum

Post by Comyn » Sat Dec 09, 2017 4:39 pm

A popular betting game with ancient roots often played around the time of Christmas and Hannukah. The teetotum survives today as the Yiddish dreidel. The teetotum is a four sided top inscribed with a letter on each face. Each letter representing an action in a round of betting. Countless variations exist many with more than four sides but it is thought that the four sided variety was common right through the 1700s. The origin of the teetotum is lost to time and there are alternate theories of origin. Some rabbinic stories claim a Jewish origin but many historians believe it was carried from Rome to Europe through England to Germany.

The teetotum gets its name from the Latin - the letter T inscribed on one of the faces standing for the word "Totum" meaning "all" (the Latin word from which we derive the English word "total"). The letter A (for "aufer") meaning "take", D (for "depone") or "put down", and N (for "nihil") or "nothing" (the word nihilistic is derived from this Latin word). The teetotum was carried to England perhaps as early as 55BC with the first invasion. It was immensely popular through the middle ages and became popular on the Continent only later, becoming a big hit in Germany in the 1800s. The letters on German teetotums changed to the initial letter of the German equivalents of the ancient meanings: Ganz (all), Halb (half), Stell ein (put in), Nichts (nothing) and was called a "trundl". German jews spoke a dialect of German called Yiddish which is essentially German. To put their stamp on the trundl which they called dreidel from the German word "drehen" (to turn) they used the Hebrew letters for the German words. Gimel (for Ganz), Hei (for Halb), Shin (for Stell ein), and Nun (for Nichts).

How to play

Needed: a teetotum, items to bet

There are several variations on play.
  • Players bet money on a numbered diagram, then wait to see which of their numbers comes up, like a roulette.
  • Players agree on a set ante, then follow the actions indicated by the upward landing face until someone spins a "take all"
  • Two players spin the top and the person spinning the highest or lowest value wins the pot
The standard game
  • * At the beginning of each round, every participant antes into the center "pot". Every player antes in the pot after every turn.

    * Each player spins the teetotum once during their turn. Depending on which side is facing up when it stops spinning, they give or take game pieces from the pot as follows:
    • N, the player does nothing.
    • T, the player gets everything in the pot.
    • A, the player gets half of the pieces in the pot. (If there are an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes the half the pot rounded up to the nearest whole number)
    • D, the player adds a game piece to the pot (often accompanied with the chant "Shin, Shin, put one in"[10]). In some game versions a Shin results in adding three game pieces to the pot (one for each stem of the Shin).
    * Play continues until the pot has been won (someone spins a T)
References

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Faellon
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Re: Teetotum

Post by Faellon » Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:59 am

Interesting... Obviously being brought up as a jewish kid, I knew what a dreidel is and played it as a kid. I had no idea it had any origins other than eastern European jews.

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Comyn
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Re: Teetotum

Post by Comyn » Mon Dec 11, 2017 8:33 am

Yeah, I had no idea but it makes sense when you realize that the letters correspond to the German words for the meanings and not the Hebrew words. Of course its entirely possible that Jews played this game in ancient Rome and no one knows the origin of such a simple and obviously ancient thing like a top and there is evidence of similar "toys" in Babylon, Greece, etc.

I posted it because now that we know its a period game which could conceivably have been played in Ireland (teetotum was very popular in Ireland according to some of the sources above - although I wasn't able to find any really decent archaeological evidence) it would be great to make some for Clann gambling use! Perhaps Aonghus could suggest corresponding Irish words for: All, Half, Put, and None and then we could make some inscribed with the initial ogham letters. Brogan might be able to cast them at some point as well (hint hint)

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Aoife
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Re: Teetotum

Post by Aoife » Mon Dec 11, 2017 8:57 pm

I would LOVE to see this type of game. And I have a feeling it would be popular to show at Pennsic, just like the godstones we played with (which I'm looking forward to playing next event!)

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Comyn
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Re: Teetotum

Post by Comyn » Tue Dec 12, 2017 7:01 am

Aoife wrote:
Mon Dec 11, 2017 8:57 pm
... just like the godstones we played with ...
I am unfamiliar with this. There is an entire forum for period and period-esqe games (this one) so feel free to post a topic on it. The only rule is that the initial post should contain all the information needed to play the game - questions about games should be posted only as replys and then the original post fixed up with clarifications. That way one won't have to dig down into the thread to figure out how to play. Also it means that if you post a new game as a topic in this forum you become sort of responsible for doing this! :)

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Faellon
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Re: Teetotum

Post by Faellon » Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:23 pm

Comyn wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 7:01 am
Aoife wrote:
Mon Dec 11, 2017 8:57 pm
... just like the godstones we played with ...
I am unfamiliar with this. There is an entire forum for period and period-esqe games (this one) so feel free to post a topic on it. The only rule is that the initial post should contain all the information needed to play the game - questions about games should be posted only as replys and then the original post fixed up with clarifications. That way one won't have to dig down into the thread to figure out how to play. Also it means that if you post a new game as a topic in this forum you become sort of responsible for doing this! :)
Godstones is a game that Thorstein made (and made up) It consists of a set of 4 carved soapstone dice with various symbols on them that you play in a similar fashion to knucklebones in that the person starting the game decides what rules each round will be played under. I am the proud new owner of a set which I asked Thorstein for at Pennsic and was delivered to me at Fall Thyng.

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Comyn
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Re: Teetotum

Post by Comyn » Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:32 pm

Faellon wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:23 pm
Godstones is a game that Thorstein made (and made up)
Is it actually Knucklebones (aka Shut the Box) or did Thorstien come up with variant rules for them? I still think it deserves its own topic either way if you're up to writing them up. For Shut the Box I just posted the Norseland rules as a PDF attachment.

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Faellon
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Re: Teetotum

Post by Faellon » Tue Dec 12, 2017 8:03 pm

Comyn wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:32 pm
Faellon wrote:
Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:23 pm
Godstones is a game that Thorstein made (and made up)
Is it actually Knucklebones (aka Shut the Box) or did Thorstien come up with variant rules for them? I still think it deserves its own topic either way if you're up to writing them up. For Shut the Box I just posted the Norseland rules as a PDF attachment.
New post made!

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