Knowledge Check: Thieves’ Cant Dictionary by Richard D. Bennett and published by Fat Goblin Games is part of their Knowledge Check series of supplements, which are, in according to the publisher, intended to add a little knowledge focusing on one particular aspect. This particular supplement is a generic one, and the focus is on thieves’ cant, a now mostly defunct secret language used, to a large extent, by thieves, and other disreputable types, in Great Britain and some other English-language countries. Some parts of cant are related to Cockney Rhyming Slang and others are believed to come from gypsies, and possibly the Romany language.
The supplement is available in PDF from RPGNow and was purchased for $1, although the list price used to be higher. This is a 14 page PDF of which 1 page is the cover, 1 page the front matter, 1 page the Contents, 1 page the Foreword – half a page of which is a picture and there are 2 pages of adverts.
The Foreword gives a brief overview of Thieves’ Cant and the words provided. The rest of the supplement is arranged in an A to Z manner as a dictionary, with the various words, or phrases, in cant then followed by their meanings, in a pretty standard manner for a dictionary. There are probably a few hundred words in total listed.
Knowledge Check: Thieves’ Cant Dictionary in Review
The Contents is as thorough as could be expected, as it lists every letter as well as the Foreword, together with their page numbers, and is hyperlinked to the relevant sections. These are also bookmarked, which makes navigation above average for a supplement of this brevity.
The artistic quality of the supplement is also superb for a short supplement, with beautiful page backgrounds, filler images and cover; this may make it less than ideal to print out however, given the amount of ink that would be used.
This is a pretty comprehensive list of words and phrases from cant, although more could probably be found with some research. According to the author, some changes have been made, to remove specific location references (given the number of references to hanging, it seems possible that references to London’s notorious Tyburn Tree gallows would have been present in the original phrases) and to alter material to make it more appropriate for a fantasy setting.
Knowledge Check: Thieves’ Cant Dictionary is a good way of adding colour to a game; if there is one particular flaw it’s that there are very few fantasy references in it – although such wouldn’t have been in the original cant, in a fantasy RPG setting there would likely be many more terms for fantastic creatures and magic. Download it from RPGNow by clicking this link.