Language – Thieves’ Cant
WHO IS BATTLEBARDS
Built off of the tremendously successful Realmsound Project, BattleBards (www.battlebards.com) is the premier provider of the best tabletop gaming specific audio ever created. Through the careful selection of audio project, talent, and tracks, the BattleBards Listing is quickly becoming the gold standard for a new market for gaming music, sound effects, soundscapes, and voiceovers. BattleBards will provide gamers not only world class audio content but the digital tools needed to implement said audio in their games practically.
BattleBards will Buyout one track in full and may offer licenses to promising auditions for listing on the BattleBards platform. Although young, the BattleBards platform is allowing licensed talent to build a fun and lucrative career within the tabletop gaming space.
Low-man’s slang, street talk, spy double speak, peddler’s French, rogue’s cant, thieves’ cant, whatever label you have for it, a form of language exists where secret messages can be passed from person to person right in the middle of a crowded marketplace. Thieves, beggars, con-men, hustlers, and the like relied on this street language to both identify fellows in the trade and communicate sensitive information between associates when unfriendly ears maybe listening. Thieves’ cant is by no means a fantasy invention, having roots in 16th Century Great Britain where some of the more common vernacular has made it to modern day.
The purpose of this Gig is to provide a collection of phrases that would see common use in a fantasy tabletop game to allow both player and Game Master to inject this colorful language when applicable. Again, it’s extremely critical that the phrases are constructed in such a way to make them usable in a variety of gaming situations
We’re looking for 20 phrases, which you create. More are welcomed but not required for Buyout or License consideration. Please include your ‘translations’ in the “Note to Client” section for each of your phrases so we know what you’re trying to convey. There is to be no background voices, soundscapes, or accompanying sounds. The only sound should be of the voice over.
The underlying language is English. Your thieves cant should be a combination of
• Normal English words
• Normal English words meaning something other than their normal meaning; “Rust” = Copper
• Inventive phrases with a meaning tangential to its literal meaning; “Ridin’ the rope” = execution by hanging
• Made up or original new words to take on a specific meaning; “Mort” = Woman
Use made up words sparingly. As audio that needs to be sold to a fantasy tabletop gaming community, we need to separate between creating an effective covert language and one that’s seemingly organic and conducive to gaming. Although one can argue that a completely made up language would make for an effective cant, this will come off as selling gibberish on BattleBards and won’t as enticing a sell as something that ‘sounds’ like it should.
Bonus points for including fantasy words and concepts (spells, wizards, dragons, goblins, potions, magic items, etc) as both normal words, words with double meanings, and the real meaning of made up words (see Context below).
When choosing words and sentence structures, we recommend that you put together phrases that are not clearly understood without a bit of explanation but with an explanation in hand, one can easily see its meaning.
For example, say we wish to communicate “The house to rob is located 2 blocks from the tavern”. A poor phrase would be something that requires too much translation, sounding almost like completely random words strung together, “By the by shell follows on couple skips of forth town”, that doesn’t work. Alternatively, a phrase that you can almost pick up on their own with a little thought would be best, “The ken to game is la bayn from the beggar maker”.
Armed with the knowledge that ken = house, game = rob, la = two, bayn = blocks, and beggar maker = tavern, one can easily see the meaning. Moreover, even without translations, it’s not a stretch to think that ‘game’ would mean to do something illicit and ‘beggar maker’ could possibility mean tavern so we have something that ‘sounds’ right.
Moreover, as stated before, with such a construction, a Game Master can use this phrase to mean many different things, providing a valuable audio asset that can find use in many gaming scenes and situations, increasing its marketability which is key. IF I COULD MAKE THIS LAST SENTENCE BOLD I WOULD, IT’S THAT IMPORTANT.
For advanced talent, consider mixing the position of noun and verb for that extra exotic flair but remember, don’t go too far since we need to maintain that veneer of fiction and efficacy.
Fantasy: Ideally, we’d like to have at least 1/3 of your phrases related to a fantasy gaming subject or context. Planning to rob a local wizard, seeking to sell a fire enchanted sword, looking to purchase illicit potions, and so on are classic fantasy fair.
Criminality: Not EVERYTHING you include must involve something criminal, nefarious, evil, underhanded, or illegal, but most should. Including several phrases as simple statements are likely to have their place like “The backdoor to the castle is located under the 4th parapet on the west wall”.
Perspective: In every case, the listener is either being told the phrase directly or overhearing the phrase as it’s spoken to someone else.
The most iconic accent associated with thieves can’t is cockney so that’s a plus if you can nail it but it’s not mandatory.
Mega points if your phrases follow some rhythm, song, or similar cadence style.
Male, female, young, old, all voices welcome.
We’d like to get a good collection of phrases spanning a range of subjects and context. We’re shooting for 20 phrases with each phrase running from about 5 words up to 35. It’s up to you for how many of phrases at different word counts you wish. Again, this is a soft limit, just create your phrases for the lengths that are appropriate.
There’s a lot out there folks and a little reading is likely to go a very long way. Consider the following sources as inspiration for your thieves cants!
The Thieves Guild
What an awesome resource for both simple and advanced thieves cant. The advanced stuff might come off as overreaching for the purposes of this Gig so check that out, learn some cool tricks, but don’t lean on it too hard.
1811 Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue, by Francis Grose
Whoa! An actual dictionary of thieves cant written in 1811, talk about getting inspiration right from the source.
The most successful talent in our experience are those that those who are thrilled to dive into the details, doing a bit of research and enjoy doing so. The most important piece of advice we can give is to have fun creating your own thieves cant! If you have questions, ask.
If you have any questions, please shoot us over a message through Audio Catch, we’ll try to answer all of it, don’t be shy. We can’t wait to hear how you bring this scene to life! Good luck!!!