Masteries. They’re kind of a big deal, especially once you get start getting past the 200 Reiatsu mark. Everyone knows they’re good to have- they let you do some really wild stuff after all, they reinforce what’s important to your character, help you become a force to be reckoned with, and can even make you famous throughout the world of BG. Win friends, curbstomp enemies, etc etc. Well, all of that’s great, but how do you get your hands on these pesky things? First, go read the first post of Milestones for Dummies for some great advice on how to craft your request. The same things that apply to milestones apply here.
The Criteria Generally speaking, when crafting a request, the generic mastery depends on a few critical criteria. Note that some skills, such as Zanpakuto Resonance or Hollow Resonance, focus almost exclusively on the relationship defined therein. A list of skills that might need other focuses will be provided later.
Understanding Hopefully one of the least surprising categories, mastery includes a level of understanding and knowledge over the subject you want a mastery in. After all, it’s hard to become a master if you don’t understand what you’re doing, right? This doesn’t need to be technical, but a growing understanding of the core concepts of your skill is required. Especially for Mastery, which can largely be described as understanding the ins and outs of your desired skill to a point far beyond what most people will ever reach. Grandmastery, of course, is another step beyond that. If Advanced is a four year degree from your average university, Mastery is the professor who’s spent a decade in your subject of choice actively researching material, and Grandmaster is someone who revolutionizes the science entirely.
Practical Use Another obvious one. If you want to master something, you better be prepared to do some pretty awesome stuff with it! And I’m not talking about “Fight ten guys into the ground using only the sword at once”, although that could be the setting for the kinds of awesome deeds you need here. This is the point at which all of your theoretical understanding needs to be put into practice. Be it as simple as sniping an enemy using your bow or Cero while leaving their hostage untouched, or as complex as creating a new Forbidden Kido using all new advances and principles, you’re taking it beyond the plateau of Advanced.
Story Yup, it’s the dreaded S word. A story will greatly help you out here. We all start somewhere, even the people destined to become Masters, and it’s that growth and progression that matters. Early on, this is simple. All you need to do is show a bit of change and evolution from thread to thread. This mean that, no, you should not in fact start out in the beginning with actions befitting a Master. The request is all about your growth. As you gain more masteries, this becomes one of the most important criteria. Not just jaw-dropping performances, but the development to go with it. Threads dedicated to your evolution are good as well. Early on though, it’s fine if the development is a side effect of your powering toward those higher ranks.
Integration Whoa whoa whoa, what does that mean? Maybe not what you think.
How much does this skill matter to the identity of the character? Is this something that he does in his sleep, something so core to who he is that it’s, quite frankly, reflexive? This is something that starts to become less important as you have more masteries, but it still plays its part. When you start to become so good at something that it ceases to be a conscious consideration until you’re advancing it in as-of-yet unexplored dimensions. On the other side, this is also how much the skill means to you. Someone attempting to take the title of Flash God is going to be known for their speed, and might even base some of the core of their identity around their skill with it. A researcher might care greatly about his Reiatsu Perception, while a healer is of course going to go for Kaido first. Frankly put: Masteries that make sense for your character to master.
This is, however, more or less a tertiary criteria. Focus on the top three, especially once you’ve got a few masteries tucked in under your belt.
Note that each level of Mastery counts as another Mastery. So Master counts as 1, Grandmaster counts as 2, and Transcendental counts as 3.
The first step beyond being merely Advanced in the skill. Mastery usually focuses on understanding the concepts of a skill to an intimate level. You still need to have to use of the skill in order to make it, but understanding takes a large role. You know all the tricks of the trade thoroughly, and have probably started to invent a few of your own. There’s nothing really special about this level. If you want a Mastery, show understanding and use that’s beyond what everyone else can do.
At this level, constantly regenerating the wounds caused by a field of fire as it crisps your skin off would be a good example. Outspeeding the explosion caused by a high level Hado while snatching your ally out from the blast radius. Using your Reiatsu Perception while blinded to keep track of your opponent's moves well enough to continue to fight.
If Mastery is understanding everything that people in Advanced and below thought there was to know about the skill, Grandmastery puts all of that behind. Grandmastery takes all of the concepts and knowledge you learned as a Master, and demands you explore possibilities. There’s nothing you can read in a book here, but based on your experiences and understanding of the skill, you’re finding things that should work. Things that grant you unexpected insight into the skill. If a Master wrote The Book others can use as a guide, a Grandmaster is writing whole new chapters that nobody has ever considered before, because no one else has reached to the point to ask those questions.
For Grandmastery, you might use the air pressure that comes off of a sword strike to blow apart a Cero before it reaches you, or land a strike so perfect they don’t even realize they’ve been struck until their arm lies at their feet. Invent a new Forbidden Hado that uses all new science for the Demon Arts. Using the vibration effect of Seele Schneider to cut apart even things it wasn’t in direct contact with, disintegrating chunks out of the world for you to work your magic with.
A rank few people can earn, let alone do. The difficulty here should speak for itself. At this point you are no longer aiming for mere understanding or manipulating of concepts- you’re shooting for something that should seem to be impossible. Regardless of how many masteries you’ve earned, you’ll need to do some crazy things in order to get this that expand the very definition of the skill. Note that this rank can only be earned by Broken or Transcendental themselves.
Really want to know what kind of insanity and redefinition we’re talking about? Previously, people have regenerated an entirely new person from a few specks of blood. Another turned from the internal power source for Shunko, and instead linked herself to the Shakonmaku to grant herself access to a far greater source of spiritual energy, despite the two sources of energy being nothing alike. You might also see Hoho being used to traverse the worlds instead of space; a Cero that has such perfect feedback that it feeds off both itself and the surrounding air to allow for an infinite loop, used as a jail cell.
Number of Masteries You’ve probably heard by now, and let me tell you if you haven’t, that masteries become more difficult to gain as you get more of them. This is absolutely true. Let’s break down the ranges.
0-2 Hurray for beginnings! These are two very easy masteries to get. All we ask for is general evolution of the skill, a healthy amount of understanding, and plenty of use. Story isn’t really required at this stage, and Integration, understanding and practical use can get you these two no sweat.
3-4 Now we’re starting to turn up the heat. General use no longer cuts it. See the examples above for Mastery? Make sure you’re hitting those solidly. Several important realizations around concepts and then putting those concepts to use are now required as well. Constant reliance upon the skill still helps here, but you need to start reaching well above the kinds of achievements that you had before.
5-6 Five to six Masteries is where a lot of people cap out. You should start thinking about stringing together a coherent story, even if it’s just a few threads long, that shows the progression upward. The quality of your impactful moments of advancement need to be higher as well. Starting around here is when your quest for your masteries needs to have an impact on the character, rather than the other way around.
Welcome to the upper crust! Act like it. If you want this many masteries, you’re almost assuredly Prestige. Remember those examples up there? Maybe now instead of cutting air to slice that Cero in half, your sword is creating a small, but measureable, rift in space to cut it apart. That’s the kind of quality we’re talking about now. Real growth, with your character trying to improve his skills consciously, is required. No longer is Mastery something that just ‘happens’ as you thread. Threads that have a focus on that increase are an excellent idea. Abrupt jumps in understanding count against you, because both the understanding your character needs of those concepts and how she applies them should be top quality in both smoothness of storytelling and the impact of those applications.
9-10 The gloves are off. In their place are iron fists. Did you think it was difficult again? Did you want to skate by without a solid story? Think again. Now an excellent story is required. A full story arc just devoted to getting Grandmaster or Mastery is now required. Regenerating a field of fire shouldn’t just be burning your skin off, but the flesh as well as you stride through it like a titan, glowing from the heat.
11+ Welcome to Dark Souls, but you have one life. Your request must be perfect. An incredible story, amazing understanding, actions that make jaws hit the floor and make others reevaluate exactly what you can do with that skill are now expected. This should be just as difficult as requesting a milestone once you’re past 6500 GP.
You mentioned Resonance Skills, what about them? There exist a number of skills on BG that don’t fit into the generic guidelines. Skills that deal with a relationship between the character and the source of power, an evolution of a Hollow or Zanpakuto Spirit…none of these really lend themselves well to the Practical Use part, although you can find those there. But evolving them isn’t a matter of finding new badass ways of using your power. Instead, Resonance skills must be mastered by showing the evolving relationship. Zanpakuto Spirits begin to align more with their wielder, or maybe the wielder begins to dominate them entirely. A Hollow evolves itself by gorging on a horde while blindfolded- using nothing but instinct to devour its prey and in doing so comes closer to the primal part of itself. Some custom skills will fall into this category as well- use your own judgment or ask a staff member on how you might come to master that skill.
But I really want to get a Trans rank skill while not being Post-Prestige Just like everything else on BG. You can always try. I wouldn’t get your hopes up though.
What about masteries you get from being Broken Royal or Transcendental?
Those don't count against you. The mastery count in the previous post only counts masteries that you've requested. Broken get a free one in their Concept, and Transcendental get a free step up in every skill (if they have the GP) which doesn't count for the purposes of how difficult each consecutive one is.
If I request more than what mastery at once, what happens?
The grader considers your masteries in the order of your request. If, say, you requested Zanpakuto Resonance, Zanjutsu and Shunko, that would be the order graded in. Assuming you get any of them, your total number of masteries increments, and the difficulty rises for the next one in the series. So if you're doing that, make sure that you have your most ironclad mastery last!
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