As often occurs as a developing culture forms its own rules, codes, and such, it often develops a unique argot of its own. Amongst adventurers, the slang they use is known as the Cant, similar in concept to the infamous Thieves’ Cant found amongst many guild thieves.
The Cant includes a large number of strange words, terms, phrases, and idioms derived from the adventuring lifestyle. For the most part, these words are also part of the Common speech, or closely related to Common words, but with a different or unique interpretation. A civilian listening in on a discussion held in Cant would understand many of the words, and yet completely miss the conversation’s true meaning.
Words and phrases of the Cant vary from one realm to the next, although underlying concepts translate well. Adventurers from disparate kingdoms can converse in Cant even if they only just met.
Like all languages of jargon, Cant focuses on ideas, needs, and expectations important to adventuring and adventurers. Complex philosophical or theological debate, for example, lie beyond the Cant’s limits.
For game purposes, assume all player characters possess knowledge of the Cant. The DM should determine whether Cant constitutes an actual language and should be so noted on the character sheet or not.
This wiki includes a list of more popular words and phrases found in the adventurer’s cant.
Words & Phrases of the Adventurer’s Cant
All grown up: Refers to an individual who has betrayed a friend, family member, or fellow adventurer, often in a spectacular or lethal manner. “Black Bailey’s all grown up, or so says his brother.”
Bearded up: Indicates a place with a large number of dwarves. This can be a good thing or bad, depending on the circumstances involved.
Blacker: A bounty hunter.
Bonebag: Describes a zombie, ghoul, or similar animated undead creature with skin or similar outer covering.
Blighter: A commonly used word for describing the ratkin.
Cack: A curse word, which loosely translates into “covered in shit.”
Caught your skin: A phrase used to remind someone of a previous lifesaving event. “Don’t forget, I caught your skin last year.”
Crown on legs: Refers to an employer, especially one who is free and easy with his gold (a crown being an imperial standard gold coin).
Cupper: A useless or helpless person, not worth saving. An individual without useful knowledge or ability. Thus, a “ruddy cupper” would be a corrupt person not worth the bribe. “I wouldn’t spend a shekel on that ruddy cupper.”
Floater: An aquatic creature of a predatory nature, usually lurks in caverns and dungeon environments. Such creatures often lie hidden and ambush approaching swimmers.
Floods: Refers to a city’s sewer system.
Give him the wall: Delay someone for as long as you can. “When the blacker shows, give him the wall.”
Gob: Short for “goblin.”
Gruck: A description of something that is disgusting, ruined, a mess, or completely ruined. “The plan’s all grucked up.”
Gruel: A euphemism for revenge. “I’m the one to feed him his gruel.”
Hangnail: A phrase used to indicate a person is being followed or watched. “Looks like you got a hangnail, might want to have that fixed.”
Inquisitor: The “formal” name for a demon hunter, otherwise known as one of the Brethren of Kane. Inquisitors and adventurers almost never get along well. Some adventurers refer to inquisitors as “black hats” (a wide-brimmed black hat is often part of the inquisitorial ensemble).
Jake-boy: Insult, usually reserved for an incompetent individual. A person only fit to clean a latrine (the jakes).
Kiss before bed: A euphemism for assassinating or otherwise intentionally murdering someone. Not used to refer to murders of passion, monsters slain, or death brought about through accident.
Leech: A term used to describe a vampire.
Meat wagon: A diversion or decoy, especially for hungry monsters. “Send the meat wagon around the cave mouth while we go around back.”
Piker: Reference to a city guard or town watchmen; any local law enforcement individual.
Piss: Another word for poison; any toxin, natural or manmade. Thus, “piss on him” would be an order to use poison against someone. A creature that is “full of piss” is venomous.
Puke: A hireling, henchman, or even a civilian who wants to be an adventurer, but doesn’t have what it takes to survive.
Raven bait: A walking dead man. Describes an individual dying of a wound, or most likely to be dead (regardless of cause) in short order, often for attempting something reckless or suicidal. “Everyone who goes down into that crypt is raven bait.”
Redpatch: Another word for a healer, physician, or a cleric capable of healing. Similar common terms include “sawbones” or “leech,” among others.
Ruddy: A corrupt individual willing to accept bribes or exchange information for gold.
Quick salute: A term used to request a drink of the house’s most popular beverage. The term originated with soldiers and mercenaries. An adventurer might approach the barkeep and say, “Give me a quick salute,” and end up with a mug of ale or similar brew.
Scar: A tough, veteran adventurer. Describes a dangerous, possibly unstable adventurer no one should insult or harass.
Scruffy: An insult used to describe a novice adventurer.
Skullmeat: Refers to one’s brains, or lack thereof.
Shekel: A small or insignificant sum of money, usually referring to a handful of copper coins.
Squishy bag: Describes a kindhearted or gentle individual, a good mark for a con or for squeezing gold from. “Don’t worry about him, he’s a squishy bag.”
Spooky: An intimidating and dangerous individual. Often used as an adjective, as in “he’s a spooky scar.”
Stay cold: A phrase used to tell someone to stay calm, don’t go anywhere, and remain patient, don’t do anything foolish or brave.
Supper: Reference to payday, bonus, or a reward. “We get supper tomorrow, so stay cold.”
Tance: A short span of time – usually a day or less. “We only have a tance before the piker shows up.”
Tastes like piss: A code phrase to indicate the food or drink is poisoned, or is likely poisoned.
Teeth and claws: A code phrase indicating people should prepare for close quarters combat. “Things will be all teeth and claws down in the floods.”
Time for the sermon: Indicates a religious individual such as a cleric or paladin is about to lecture his compatriots or audience about the virtues of good or the evil of their actions. This phrase often comes up when an adventuring party does something to earn reproach from their paladin or priest.
Torchie: A term used to describe a hireling of any sort, as in torchbearer or pack-bearer. Sometimes used as a nickname. “Where you going, torchie?”
Trinkets: Refers to magical and/or religious jewelry and accoutrements, including holy symbols, warding talismans, and protective amulets.
Without ears: A phrase used when an adventurer wants to continue a conversation in private, without strangers or civilians nearby. “I need to talk to you about a package, but I need you without ears.”