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What does Dabbler do?

Can someone with the Dabbler talent try to make a D5 petty enchantment at 3x the Ingredient cost?

Yes, you should be able to at least try to make any type of Petty Enchantment at any level of Difficulty.

You must spend three times the number of reagents needed before making any alchemy test to build a petty enchantment for which you do not have the Master of Formulae talent.

So you could spend 3 Ingredients instead of the usual 1 Ingredient to prepare a single use of , for example, Hellish Brimstone at Epic Difficulty (D5), causing, if successful, 6[CD] damage with the Qualities: Area, Fearsome, Incendiary 4.

Alchemical devices that are damage dealing, are already quite a bit overpowered for a Sword&Sorcery game, considering that you can easily start out with high TN and Focus, spending a lot of Gold during the Downtime to prepare an arsenal of “hand grenades” and “demolition charges” etc.

Of course, as a GM you want to keep up with this kind of “arms race” and give your NPCs some equally potent weapons of mass destruction to see how your PCs like it eating their own medicine.

Back to the Dabbler (Alchemy) Talent, it is a very useful and cheap (only 200XP minus Focus discount) compared to having to acquire the Master of Formulae (Alchemy) Talent for each different type of Petty Enchantment separately (at a cost of 200XP minus Focus for each and every single Petty Enchantment).
Having the Dabbler Talent makes you a much more versatile and powerful alchemist - taking it, even if you have a few Master of Formulae Talents already, is very recommended.

One Ingredient costs 2 Gold with a very easy Availability of 1. If you see that you have plenty Gold available - maybe your party members will finance your preparation of high damage, highly dangerous weapons and protections? - then having to pay 6 Gold instead of 2 Gold to try ANY Petty Enchantment of D0 up to D5, that is quite an advantage.

Another thing is, that poisons are usually considered to be alchemical preparations, too. You don’t need the Poisoner Talent to prepare those, if you have the Master of Formulae for the Lotus Pollen for example, and maybe for other poisons (take a look at the King sourcebook, there are plenty of those), too.
That means with the Dabbler Talent you can go for D5 poisons, too. (Although the Poisoner Talent (from the Thief sourcebook) is useful in addition of the Dabbler, too, as you can research new Poisons and apply those differently.

My recommendation would be:

  • Alchemist (the root Talent of the Alchemy Talent tree) 200 XP
  • Dabbler 200 XP
  • Poisoner 200 XP

Only add Master of Formulae once to later obtain Master Alchemist to save on Ingredients, if you are short on Gold. If you got plenty of Gold, then you don’t need those at all.

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A question regarding Alchemist-Sorcerers: getting the Patron Talent is considered to assume having the Alchemist base Talent. Does this mean that for Sorcerers who wish to advance in their pursuit of alchemy, that they don’t need to buy the base Talent? I.e. are they considered to have met the requirements to purchase tier two Alchemy Talents?

No, where does it state that it includes the Alchemist root Talent?
You get one Petty Enchantment as per Master of Formulae - as an exception, granted by your Patron. That does not make you an actual Alchemist.

You don’t get to re-roll Alchemy tests, and you cannot make an attack using Alchemy with a Petty Enchantment as a weapon. That requires the Alchemist Talent. If you want the advantages of the Alchemist Talent, you need to buy that in the first place.

And if you desire more than this first Petty Enchantment, you need to buy the tier 1 Master of Formulae Talent. This Talent has as requirement either Alchemist or Patron, so you can buy those additional Petty Enchantments right away without having the Alchemist Talent.
And you can buy the tier 2 Master Alchemist Talent as this only requires the Master of Formulae Talent.

You will not be able to learn the tier 1 Dabbler Talent without having the Alchemist Talent, though.

In retrospect, I think my belief that this was the case is founded on a line in the Sorcery FAQ:

Q. What’s the difference between a Patron and a Pact?

A1. The Patron talent models the initial training of a sorcerer. It includes the ability to purchase petty enchantments, acting as if the character had the Alchemist talent.

Looking at the way this is written though, I agree that it is less than definitive and open to interpretation.