Cúarapom – A Lost Dice Game

from An Etruscan Dodecahedron by Amelia Carolina Sparavigna https://arxiv.org/abs/1205.0706

Note: This post is a piece of indirect world building. The post itself is about a fictional ancestor to Yahtzee from 3rd century Rome. The world building touches on ancient Roman-Chinese trade, the rise of Esperanto, and historical records. Cúarapom is pronounced (Quar-a-pom, not the way I keep saying it, Quare-uh-pom)

History of Cúarapom and It's Language, Arcaicam Esperantom.

Flavio Biondo

Scholars had long believed that Flavio Biondo, 15th century historian, had a lost work that detailed Roman history from the time of the Etruscans to 410 AD as a prequel to his famous history, Historiarum ab inclinatione Romanorum imperii decades. Notes from his posthumous publisher hinted at note of pre-Roman times, but nothing conclusive.

Churchill Babington's Personal Effects

In 1865, Churchill Babington published An Introductory Lecture on Archaeology that points to a paper written in his early career about the Preists of Nortia. In this paper, he mentioned the famous fertility rite, but also attributes the Goddess of Fate with a relic of a dodecahedron discovery in the 1830s near the Palatine Hills. Quoting an unknown work of Biondo, he describes the twelve-sided object as a divination device for Nortian priests.

Amongst his effects after Babington's death was a manuscript of Biondo's lost work that detailed Etruscan and Roman history. This work features many pieces of works thought to be lost to antiquity, including a passage written by Livy that details the dodecahedron, its symbols, and the possible meaning of the results. Livy also mentioned that there were, in fact, four dodecahedrons, each with their own symbols. Babington appeared to have no small fascination with these objects producing a reconstruction based on citations from Livy.

Connections to Arcaicam Esperantom

Another discovery near Shenyang in the 1870s produced missing pieces of Wei lio, a 3rd century document that describes relations between Rome and China written by Yu Huan. Babington had a translated copy, but many discredit this translation as wildly inaccurate and prone historical errors. (The original document has been authenticated and current English translations have corrected these issues.)

The new manuscript describes the relationship of Lieou Tche-ki to a Roman he names Feng-Ti, "Crazy Western Barbarian". As a part of their business relationship, Feng-Ti attempts to invent a trading language to assist his men in understanding the cargo they are transporting. It even includes some of the vocabulary and grammar that clearly demonstrates Latin and Chinese root words modified by affixes.

It appears that Lieou Tche-ki rejected this idea, but entertained it enough to humor his trading partner. Over the course of his musings, he mentions a pastime of the sailors that he writes as Cuarapom, using the trading language.

Arcaicam Esperantom

After L.L. Zamenhof published Unua Libro 1887, devotees called for numerous changes to Esperanto. Zamenhoff continued to refine Esperanto by translating other works, especially poetry. This changed when he heard of the new additions to Wei lio and their publication in English. Friends had mentioned the passage describing Feng Ti's trading language and acquired a copy to study.

His goal was to recreate a language that he saw as an ancestor to Esperanto. With this ancestor language, he would then attempt to evolve it in much the same way that Romance languages evolved from Latin. This would address a frequent criticism that Esperanto had no history and felt contrived.

In 1893, he produced a manuscript for Arcaicam Esperantom, but never published it. It is believed that the attempt to create this ancestor languge was the main cause in the rejection of 1894 update to Esperanto. His 1904 changes removed many of the inventions seen in his 1894 draft.

Cúarapom's Survival

A curious exception to the rejection of Zamenhof's 1894 version of Esperanto, was the inclusion of a game he named Kvarapo, a curious game of Four-of-a-Kind. He also mentions the game by a different name, Cúarapom, apparently pointing to the so-called ancestor of Esperanto. The odd dodecahedrons described in the game were produced and the game was briefly popular in Europe.

This popularity led to uncovering the Arcaicam Esperatom manuscript featuring the full set of rules written in that language. Zamenhoff's notes made it clear that he kept all of the words of the original game described in Wei lio, but added the names of certain results and filled in missing pieces in the game itself that he discovered through playing it.

When the game was published in 1901, it was published in English and Arcaicam Esperatom along with a modified version of the history calling it "The Game of Roman Sailors". The game became popular and was enjoyed on both sides of the Atlantic.

With the advent of World War I, the game lost popularity due to the issues in manufacturing the dice. After World War II a similar game named Yacht grew in popularity and in 1956 a version of it named Yahtzee was published by Milton Bradley.

Cúarapom's Revival

In recent years, I've become interested in Cúarapom. I hope to make the dice, but I get by with a d6 numbered 1 to 3, a d4, a d6, and a d12. In the meantime, I have created score sheets and cleaned up an older version of the English rules. (There will be edits.)

I kept a few of the original names of results, but it felt like too much mental overhead to use them all. That's why Three of a Kind is in English instead of the original term, Triapom. Sinsecúom for a straight felt like a big stretch when there are already other vocabulary words. I hope I found the right balance.

In playing the game, I've found that it is difficult to score in the lower section. Most games are won by the strategic use of the upper section and the two categories that are similar to Chance in Yahtzee. It is extremely difficult to score the Pluy Gravam and attempts to roll it, even with a 4th Roll token have proven unsuccessful.

Let me know what you think.

Autonomous Biomechanical Entity

I read a post on Twitter that stirred the brain to new possibilities:

With only one stat, I scribbled a few ideas trying to make the concept work. Keying in on the word energy, I thought that the player's character should be an android of some kind.

I was also afraid of getting bogged down into endless ability and equipment lists. I was determined to write down the idea and just get to the point.

After a 45 minute sprint, the game became the character creation rules that focused on six simple things:

  • Orientation
  • One Stat
  • One Roll
  • Three Skills
  • Five Things
  • Endless Possibilities

Orientation set up the fiction. To keep the rules concise and prevent veering off into world-building minutiae, I decided that the fiction had to be stated in two sentences. In A.B.E., your character is an artificial life form that can pass as a biological creature. Your character has an overwhelming desire to find its creator(s).

The One Stat became Energy. Everything your character does costs one energy point. Damage can cost more energy. It can be refreshed at certain times. Characters start with 100 Energy and can gain more as they learn more about their history.

The One Roll because rolling d% under, but not equal to, the Energy stat. Early in the game, rolls are easy, but as your character take actions or avoids danger, the rolls because more difficult. It's an elegant little system.

Three Skills began as a large list of skills in multiple categories. There were skills for computers, fisticuffs, tactics, artificial intelligences, magic and many more. There was no way that I wanted to be sidetracked into this much detail.

Desperate for a way out, I remembered a White Star game I ran years ago. I had a friend that was brand new to rpgs. He explained what he wanted his character to be and that he wanted a trademark or gimmick that made him different. I decided on an item his character possessed that had three distinct abilities. However, instead of detailing them, I simply asked that he let me know what those abilities were as we were playing. The rules was that once he explained three abilities, the item was locked to those three. My character was thrilled and that item, a pair of gloves, ended up being the most awesome thing about the campaign.

Thinking back on that item, it became clear: the character is the special item, so let the player determine the three abilities as play progresses. If necessary, the character can start with one. Awesome! Skills boiled down to a paragraph.

Five Things originally began as an encumbrance system and endless equipment lists. I like these lists because they are tiny descriptors of the game world. Like Three Skills, though, I realized that I was getting bogged down again, so a similar rule developed that the character could have only up to five things at any given time. Unlike skills, though, these five things were not permanent. A character could drop an item and never pick it up again, leaving a space for a new thing.

That left Endless Possibilities. It was this section that defined two smaller ideas of parameters and limitations. Parameters set expectations by defining the game world in broad strokes:

  • Is there magic?
  • What technology level is the game world?
  • Are there other A.B.E.s?
  • Is this a human world, mostly human world, or alien locale?

There are more, but the idea is to sketch out, with the players preferably, what this world was like. If they are the only known A.B.E. that is significant to how the character is played. If there is no magic, then part of the game can be the character learning how they were made. The number of parameters should be small as the goal is set the stage for where the action will happen.

Limitations come from the idea that constraint applied to a fiction forces it to become more creative. These should be three to five statements that serve as laws of the land. For example:

  • An A.B.E. cannot intentionally harm a human being.
  • An A.B.E. must recharge itself every ten hours.
  • Magic requires lengthy incantations and expensive materials.
  • Clockwork technology requires a central golden gear to function properly.
  • Time travel can only go forward in time except for the extra-dimensional creatures attempting to deactivate the character.

After typing it up and posting a link to Google Drive, it occurred to me that generated a few game worlds would be fun. I wanted to create something small and streamlined like the rules.

To achieve this, I decided to make Scenario Packs that provide parameters, limitations, and story seeds to allow players to dive into action quickly. They would restate the rules so that each pack could stand alone, but since the entire rules are one page, that doesn't take up too much space.

I'll post more about the Scenario Packs in another post.

We’re Getting the Band Back Together

I posted my website on my Twitter profile and quite a few folks subscribed to the blog.

As a result, I feel the need reestablish the blog before the summer.

The kids are playing 5e thanks to their uncle. I am working on a campaign called Staff of the eXo for them. It is less stabby by their request and more exploratory. You can read more about it here: https://github.com/sycarion/StaffoftheXO

The post that best describes me is the I Made My Own Edition post. It informs how I approach D&D and lots of other games.

I am also working to expand the 864 System originally created by Dice and Pencils. Kerc has also created 52 Fates, something that is definitely worth your time.

More to come next week.

Thank you for following my website.