[RPG] Why doesn’t the Criminal background give Thieves’ Cant


Is there any reason why the Criminal background in 5th edition D&D does not give you the bonus language of Thieves' Cant? With an admittedly limited understanding of the criminal world, I still know that thieves are not the only members of a criminal organization. Though the Rogue does have three different paths, none of them are the equivalent of a fighter or barbarian in terms of "muscle" for a thieves guild.

Best Answer

Thieves' cant is a fluff ability that will rarely if ever have a significant impact.* If you believe Criminal background should grant it, you won't break anything by modifying it. If you're really concerned with balancing the changes, consider that all basic backgrounds give a total of two tool proficiencies and languages, in any combination. Replace one of the tool proficiencies criminal background grants, and you're set.

There is no particular reason for the way it's written. While it's possible to speculate on the designers' intent, we're unlikely to ever know without their direct input.

* it's not just my speculation, here's a quote from Unearthed Arcana:

On the R&D team, any ability meant to convey flavor rather than a mechanical advantage is referred to as a ribbon—a thing that’s mostly for show. Thieves’ Cant is a great example of a ribbon ability, and Storm Guide also falls into this category.