Borderlands/Skill Specialties

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Some mental skills and skill-like advantages have required (or optional) specializations that are very campaign-world dependent. Here's a quick rundown on how they fit into Borderlands.

Language and Culture

The various Races do not have "ethnic" languages, instead speaking languages appropriate to their culture.

All Civilized people speak Greek, as fluency in Greek is part of the definition of Civilized (see also: familiar with Greek history, Greek literature, Greek politics, and Greek religious practices). Civilized foreigners also speak whatever native babble they grew up with, and Greeks often learn foreign gabble for the purposes of trade and diplomacy.

Barbarians might speak Greek (badly), and always speak their their harsh and ridiculous sounding native languages.

Greek monsters should speak Greek at least partly, and barbarian monsters are probably not worth talking to.


The various races do not have "ethnic" cultures either, but some other cultures are dominated by nonhumans - one example is Egypt, which is populated by many beast races, including Catfolk, Coleopterans, and Lizardfolk.

Naturally, the best and most widespread Cultural Familiarity (CF) is Greek, and is the default for Civilized people. Being Foreign precludes your native CF from being Greek, but doesn't prevent buying familiarity with Greek culture.

Many monsters are Greek or at least familiar with Greek practices, but some are barbarians with their own weird customs. Note that even Greek monsters may indulge in people-eating, on account of being monsters. But at least they'll cook you like Greeks, speak Greek over your dismembered corpse, and probably bury your cracked bones with a proper Greek funeral afterwards.

Languages and associated CFs

  • Greek (Greek CF, naturally) - almost everyone starts with this.
  • Minoan (Greek CF) - the greatest "rival" nation to the Greeks. More centrally organized than the Greek city-states, and their religions are "all wrong" but otherwise very Greek.
  • Re Na Khemet (North African CF) - "Ancient Egyptian", a good choice for wizardry, alchemists, and doctors. Dominated by animal people (including catmen and minotaurs), with small dwarf, human, and reptilian settlements.
  • Ancient Greek - Uses a very different writing system from modern Greek. Also a good language choice for wizardry, as well as for religious characters.
  • Hebrew (North African CF) - A nomadic desert people, with strong medical and mystical traditions. Good choices for desert dwelling scouts and barbarians. Also a good choice for wizards and doctors.
  • Berber (North African CF) - Another desert culture, frequently involved in fights with the Hebrews. Famous for their horsemen and swashbucklers, and a good choice for desert dwelling scouts and barbarians.
  • Etruscan (Mediterranean CF) - in another world, these might have become "Romans". But here they're mostly a race of gloomy, ghost-haunted astrologers. Excellent choice for necromancers, wizards, and clerics.
  • Phoenecian (Mediterranean CF) - the language of the Sea People is a good choice for sea-going barbarians and piratical swashbucklers.
  • Amazonian (European CF) - the Amazons are a central european people, and a perfect background for any female adventurer.
  • Celtic (European CF) - the Celtic regions are dominated by cattle herders, and heavily populated by the fae races. The Celts are famous for raging barbarians, thieves and scoundrels of all types, bards, and of course druids.
  • Norse (European CF) - Another famously gloomy people, the Norse are humans, dwarves, shadow elves, and trolls (and giants). Norsemen make for solid knights and barbarians, arctic-friendly scouts, and the very physical kind of clerics and holy warriors.
  • Kitan (East Asian CF) - a west-Chinese culture. A land of knights and monks and mystics.
  • Manji (East Asian CF) - a south-Chinese culture. Also a land of knights and monks and mystics.
  • Taika (East Asian CF) - ancient Japan. Ninjas, Knights, and Swashbucklers using Katanas!
  • Sanskrit (South Asian CF) - ancient India. Another good source for monks, knights, and giant barbarian/monk wrestlers.
  • Ancient Titanic (Requires a 5 point Unusual Background and a really good story for the GM)


Specialty by species is required for many skills, e.g. Diagnosis, First Aid, Psychology, and Sex Appeal. However, needing a gazillion skills for all the fantasy races isn't fun, and many DF species really aren't different enough to warrant an entirely new skill.

Instead, use the following four "species" groups. All four groups default to each other at -2. If your character sheet doesn't specify a group, I will treat it as specialized in the group that your character belongs to. I will also assume your character is NOT familiar with the "exceptional" races noted as having familiarity penalties below, unless you are one, or the group starts with one. Spending a day working with an exotic race removes the penalty.

TLDR; All the "standard" fantasy races are Anthropoi.

Some Required Specialties
  • Anthropoi
    "Men". Includes Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings, and all Goblin-kin. Winged and Sea elves are at -1 for Familiarity.
  • Gigantas
    "Giants". Gargoyles, Kabeiroi, Ogres, Trolls of all types, and full fledged Giants. Gargoyles are at -1 for Familiarity.
  • Pnevmatodi
    "Spirits". Faerie Folk, Half Spirits and Dark Ones. Dark Ones are at -1 for familiarity.
  • Ktinoi
    "Beasts". Cat-folk, Coleopterans, Kentauroi, Minotaurs, Reptilians, Wildmen. Coleopterans are at -2 for familiarity (they're exceptionally weird). Other misc. beast-men will also be Ktinoi.
Optional subspecialties

Any specific race. Elves and Goblin-kin must be specialized in a specific template (e.g. High Elves, Hobgoblins), not "All Elves" or "All Goblin-Kin".


For Hidden Lore, Psychology, and Physiology.

Some Required Specialties
  • Daímones
    Demons, vehicles of divine vengeance and punishment, and anything else transformed into monsters by curses. This includes some dragons, as divine guardians of sacred locations.
  • Stoicheiá
    Elementals, and other creatures empowered by elemental forces. This includes some dragons, as wild monsters.
  • Neráides
    Fae creatures, including sundry nature "spirits" of specific bodies of water.
  • Oinopnevmatódi
    Spirits (Divine or Titanic), and the small gods of places and regions (Except water spirits, which are Neráides, see above). Includes worshiped dead heroes with formal shrines.
  • Gérontasónton
    Elder Things of all description (or indescription). A new option for Scholars and Wizards (lucky you). This includes some things described as "dragons" by people who have run out of nouns.
  • Fantásmata
    Undead, both physical and spectral.

Creatures belonging to another category who have been transformed by a curse are usually Daímones or Fantásmata.

Some Optional Specialties

Any specific creature category ("Gorgons", "Oreads", "Mind Warpers"). A single unique monster is a valid Hyper-Specialization perk (Power Ups 2, page 16) (eg: "Medusa", "Kynosoura, the Oread of Mount Ida", "[Unprintable][1], the Lurking Darkness under lake Haali").


There's only one, so you can just write "Naturalist" if you like.

  • Kosmos
    The world.


All the Basic Set specialties are available, but the aquatic ones are not likely to come up unless something really unexpected happens. Arctic is also a bit of a long-shot but more plausible. Add a new specialty to the list:

  • Subterranean

This is something like "Survival (Radioactive Wasteland)" might be in a post-apocalyptic setting. It is available to all characters.