In the Shadowrun 5e core book, all knowledge skill examples are shown with specializations, do you need to designate a specialization whenever you take a knowledge skill? If not, does designating a specialization for a knowledge skill cost karma (or points during character creation)?
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As far as I see, not all knowledge skill examples are taken with specializations. For example, if you look on p91 on James' skills choice, he took:
Of these, only Matrix Security Measures has a specialty ("IC"). Remember that (Street) and (Interests) are just categories of Knowledge Skills.
Furthermore, all the ratings in that example add to 15, while the characters has 16 free points. This seems to indicates that the one specialty was bought with the 16th free point.
No, not required, the examples are there just to be examples of what you can buy (a question often asked at shadowrun tables). You can look at the pregen characters and say "hey, my guy should know about fixers and corp security too, i will take this". A problem that happens on 5ed is exactly the lack of examples that we had in 4ed, we had huge tables of knowledges and their specializations, but 5ed went with the idea that you can buy anything you want, which has always been the case for knowledge skills.