The Generic Villain on Specialization

Of the traits we can acquire, specialization is one of the most two-edged of all. It makes us stronger but can leave us more open to other angles of attack, and can both add to and subtract from our overall personalities. But is it worth it, and if so, how specialized does it make sense to be? We’ll only know when we understand it.

Let’s not confuse specialization with areas of specialty, at least as I use them; they are not the same thing, and one can have both. Areas of specialty, as I define them, are more like favored strategies, or like common patterns for Dramatic Necessity to hook onto, best for figuring out what sorts of overall approaches to take. Specialization, on the other hand, is focusing on one specific tool or area of study; it’s focusing on a point or small set of points rather than an area. Areas of specialty bring us our opponents; specialization crushes them (or gives them room in which to crush us).

Remember also that specialization comes in degrees. Lightly specialized is anything from just having an area of specialty to having a slightly greater interest in a more narrow skill, and it runs along a continuum until you get so absurdly specialized as to be almost incapable of doing, or even thinking of, anything else.

The greatest strength of specialization is, well, its strength. When we focus on many things, we can get good with them, but focusing on a few gives us room for mastery. If we can manage mastery, we’re better against other specialists, or even others with strength in our specialties; we overwhelm theirs with ours. On the other hand, focus on a few areas leads to neglect of other areas, sometimes to the point where we don’t even realize that something might be a weakness; yes, we may be near-invincible against people with a certain set of powers, but if they usually bring friends with a different set, we might be caught with our armor unstrapped.

Specialization can give us quirk and distinction. It’s not just that we’re good in one area, it’s that we’re good in one little sub-area that many of the others don’t focus on. That makes us different, and if it’s the kind of specialty that one can get a little extra personality out of, possibly unique. On the other hand, if we cleave too hard to our specialties, to the point where everything we do, say, think or combinations of the above relates to them, it’s easy to see us as “That villain that does X”, and not as full personalities, and that’s not good either.

Specialization is a choice; whether you do or not, and to what degree, is entirely up to you.

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