So, long ago I had argued that Spell Mastery is an Ability according to the core rules and that all Abilities have specialties according to the core rules, therefore Spell Mastery should have specialties. For example, you might have "in Divine Auras," which would help counteract one botch die and one point of casting penalty in such an unfriendly Aura.
But those who disagreed pointed out that canon examples of magi with Spell Mastery don't have specialties in it. I had searched through my books and not found an example with specialties, so I shifted to the other side of the argument.
Recently, though, I did find a canon example of a magus with Spell Mastery specialties in Semita Errabunda. That means there is at least one example showing there can be specialties in Spell Mastery to go along with the fairly clear logical implication of the core rules that Spell Mastery should have specialties. Of course, it could always be that an author erred and it wasn't caught. Thoughts?
My reading from spells and abilities is they are completely separate, so I would not assume any spell mastery has a specialty.
I use metacreator to help keep track of things in my saga and they seem to be pretty on point when it comes to having the system match the rules and there is no ability to list a specialty for spell mastery in that either beyond selecting the options for spell mastery (fast cast, penetration etc)
Finally, I'd say that if you wanted to look at spell mastery as an ability then the different options for spell mastery, penetration, fast casting etc ARE the specialties available for spell mastery - and if your players wanted to add an additional specialty, perhaps you could model that along the lines of a minor (or maybe major?) hermetic breakthough?
Which magus would that be? I just looked and at a cursory glance it seems that magi from Semita Errabunda have only the "bonus abilities" listed after the Mastery score.
While I do agree that spell mastery is defined as an ability and as such should have a specialties... it does open a can of worms. What counts as "mastered" then? A spell with a mastery score of 0(1)? A spell with a mastery score of 0(1) used "within" the mastery specialty? So can I just spend 1xp on any Ritual that I plan to use on a consistent basis to avoid all botch dice most of the time? E.g. an Aegis mastery with a specialization "on the winter solstice"? Can I spend 1xp on a spell so that I can gain, under appropriate circumstances, the mastery ability "learn from mistakes" (sure, I need an appropriate justification for access to this Mercurian mastery during apprenticeship, but for the cost of 1xp thereafter...)?
I count at least 7 instances where Spell Mastery is called an Ability in the small section on Spell Mastery on pages 86 and 87. Yes, spells and Abilities are completely separate, and Spell Mastery is pretty clearly an Ability.
I can't speak much about metacreator, but I do know they truly messed up Affinity and have never fixed it. That shows up with a lot of characters. So many characters created in metacreator do not follow the core rules properly.
Found it again:
Yup. That's why I'd been fine moving to the other camp despite to follow the apparently consistent examples over the written rules. And then I found this example, making the examples not actually consistent.
Aren't the Solomonic Arts Arts? Arts don't get specialties, while Abilities do. Which Abilities don't get specialties? (Note, for example, Faerie Sympathy is not an Ability, it just advances using that experience column.)
Since there's one product with examples of Spell Mastery with a specialization, and at least a dozen examples of products where they don't, I don't find the one example very compelling. Semita Errebunda was one of the earliest products, before even the House books. Occam's Razor insists that it is simply in error.
If I had to say which was intended then having specialties doesn't seem to fit. So if say it would be errata'ed away.
However it's not unreasonable HR to allow, adds flavour, and fits in the current mechanics well.
For AA, I don't see why there shouldn't be a speciality. Those are still abilities. Besides Banishing has a speciality (see HOHS p119 first column). Warding and other AA's should too.
As for spell mastery, they are quite a special type of ability. Firstly they are not decided by the SG which is in my opinion a big indicator. IMO players can't create abilities like they want (well, they could, but the SG can then decide to never use them, and those XPs are just definitely lost). SG agreement is very important.
For spell mastery? you create a spell, there is an ability. Your ability may not be the same as your neighbour (hence a talk when similar spell is required for MR mastery or even laboratory mastery).
Besides, what would be the point? it's really boring to check the specialty for an ability (you have to ask the SG if it applies, or not. Only he can decide that, you cannot.)
If you have a speciality, because of "the rules", and the SG don't like it, he will either say "no" everytime, or say "okay, but roll 1 botch die more, or the RM of your opponent is 1 higher", which is quite vexating. (Otoh, some SG like to give players boosts with no reason, but you can just decide to change the rules clearly if that's your decision.)
So, why would we bother to ask such question? It would only slow the pace of the game.
Thus, IMO, no reason to have them because it brings nothing in play and contradicts all examples of magi in published books, from the first I remember to the last I remember. (And yes, there may be a freebie on atlas website which does give a mastery a speciality... but the authors are far from perfect. There are many mistakes in the books, characters, spells or whatever. We must deal with it and take the best, and discuss the conflicted parts... which this is not really because everyone I know irl just took the "mastery is without speciality" approach.)
For some non-Accelerated examples, IIRC, the Divine and Infernal methods and are also Abilities that lack specialities.
Of course, in a game where spell masteries are given specialities, an appropriate Faerie Correspondence is particularly wonderful. FC+Mastery reduction in botch dice, added to casting total, perhaps added again to Penetration....
I find the FC rules problematic. If not for those rules, letting masteries have a speciality is no big deal, even though I think the intent is that they do not.
I will concur with most that say that, when taken as a whole, the intent seems to be that Spell Masteries don't seem to have specializations. I also agree with Ovarwa that, by and large, it's not really all that big a deal. (Although I'm not familiar enough with the Farie side to make a comment on that.)
However, there are explicit examples that have them, even if they're from early in the series - and I do agree that's further evidence that they probably should be errattaed. But...they haven't been. So, I will treat this as currently (and technically) RAW, but will immediately house-rule it away as an honest mistake by the author early in the game line.
Oh, that's ugly. Why call them "Arts" and on top of that, not list them with Abilities but after them like Arts when they're Accelerated Abilities? Yes, at a quick glance I haven't spotted any specialties for them.
On pages 36-37 in RoP:tD and 91-93 in RoP:tI the books explicitly list sample specialties for, I believe, every single one of them.
Hmm, can't help but feel we're entering 'turtles all the way down' territory when it comes to how the term ability is used in the rules.
For instance, did you know that each mastery levels allows you to select a "special ability" such as fast casting, penetration etc (Core rules P87)? These are called abilities repeatedly but I don't think anyone would be arguing that each option you chose when you level up spell mastery should have a specialty itself - most likely because they do not earn experience like abilities. That really is the problem - the word ability is used a lot without meaning 'ability in the sense of abilities as explained in chapter 5 of the core rules you use to resolve tasks'
I'd also point out that the rules do state (in a round about way) that spell mastery is not an ability -
Spell Mastery is not listed - and so is not an ability in the sense of abilities in chapter 5 (which is also the chapter that states abilities have specialties)
To my mind spell mastery should not get specialties because instead you are getting the "Special abilities", and can have more than one of them, which makes them sufficiently different from how normal abilities work where you can only have one specialty at a time and don't get anything additional per level.
I have to admit, looking back through I've always assumed this because I have, in my head, split apart the magic system and the use of abilities. I'd say it also comes down to the fact that mastery gives bonuses to an 'ability' - in this case a particular spell which is just a magical ability using the hermetic arts rather than something like achieving a mystical effect using a supernatural ability - mastery already gives a bonus to the 'ability' - whilst specialties for abilities can only ever give a +1 in specific situations.
To me, this could just be another way of showing how much better Bonisagus' theories are than innate abilities - Hermetic magi are not naturally slightly more powerful when trying to effect certain people / things (virtues and flaws not withstanding), instead they can be much more powerful affecting anyone/thing so long as they put the study time in.
Tangentially, a minor but fun effect is that Puissant Accelerated Ability grants +2 and Puissant Difficult Art grants +3. The former is especially bad compared to an Affinity and the latter is rather good.
For those of you who are in the camp of 'Spell mastery is an ability and should have specialty', when my Flambeaux has a mastered Pilum of Fire (specialty Burning Heretics), does that mean if I"m targeting a Cathar, my spell mastery gets +1, and lets me have multicast now?
My personal ruling would be that it doesn't add an additional mastery, but it does count in all other ways - ie, it reduces botch dice, but only adds to penetration/multicasting/etc. if you already have those masteries.