Dabbling includes everything from Shamanism to Diabolism and everything in-between, with the primary point being that they neither excel nor flourish in the field they're practicing. Recently inducted practitioners without much support can be called dabblers. This includes: people who get recruited after surviving an encounter with Others or cursed item, people who were being prepared to replace another practitioner but were prematurely thrust into the magical world, and innocent people who have managed to buy a copy of Essentials.
Dabbling is frowned upon, at least in Jacobs' Bell, due to the fact that it is dangerous and leads to more mistakes if you aren't careful, and the practitioner isn't showing commitment and trying to master a specific field, even if they have more proficiency in one than another.
Someone who uses multiple arts to greater effect, rather than mere bits and pieces, is a Sorcerer.
↑ 1.01.1Where is the line drawn in the sand that separates Dabblers from Practitioners? What makes The knights of the basement different from the Sisters of the Flame even though the knights have taken on Ur (tried to, at least) and can fight side by side with Blake?
Mainly the depth, breadth, and quality of knowledge they have access to. Nothing's stopping them from getting stuck in pretty intense or dangerous situations. The lack of depth, breadth, and quality knowledge may hamper them in getting out of said situations, mind.
Are they almost always recruited and trained by Others or Practitioners in some fashion akin to Maggie's situation , do they stumble across a strange antique shop with conveniently bizarre items, or are books like essentials mass produced (and if that's the case then why don't people like Maggie who don't have a lot of texts pirate them) ?
This is a pretty complex question. So...
It's karmically risky to clue people in. You essentially own their mistakes. This is in effect to encourage keeping the damage contained, and Others are encouraged to follow it. This is both the case explicitly, via. Solomon's oath, and to a lesser degree through ambient convention: because it's enforced and obeyed by just about everyone, just about everyone suffers if they don't obey or help enforce.
Others are generally limited from targeting and hunting the uninitiated, and they're limited by this karmic risk. A wraith can hunt and kill people, but if those people get away, the wraith can suffer for it. If those people get away with proof, it's a disaster for the wraith. This includes corroborating witnesses - which is why the sole survivor trope is a thing. For Others that feed on propagating fear (Bogeymen) or spreading like living curses (some Wraiths, dark Fae), it's fine or even encouraged to have one person get away, if that person can't prove anything and they still spread the word or sow doubt.
By a similar token, cursed items are often put out there with a design that puts them in the hands of people who aren't going to go to the media. High schoolers are often a favored target, as they tend to be wrapped up in their own world, not so young as to be innocent, but young enough to make bad decisions. The item promises power with a drawback or makes the person the architect of their own demise, and through the sacrifice or built-in ritual, the item gathers power which then goes back to the item's creator (if it doesn't feed back into the item itself). The effect is somewhat like fishing.
Many sole survivors and people who have cursed items pass through their hands come away with some knowledge. In a way, when one is caught in the vortex of a powerful Other, curse, or cursed object, the information relating to that Other or curse becomes more available. Safeguards in dealing with the awakened come off and suddenly it's easier to find info on Mares, Bogeymen, Wraiths, Goblins, or whatever it is that's after you, well-meaning practitioners may be more able to share info (and to notice), etc. There's a window of opportunity given that many of these hunters or curses want to take their time... the high entry cost for initiating a hunt means they don't want to wrap it up or be inefficient.
For example, Kayleigh woke up from a nightmare to find herself paralyzed, what looked like a naked homeless woman sitting on her chest and staring her in the eyes, the woman's 30-foot tongue sticking about 29 feet down Kayleigh's throat. After several repeat incidents, each nightmare and summary waking-up worse than the last, she connects the dots of recurring elements in her nightmares (which are becoming things she sees while awake), finds the one girl at her college who remembers a fairy tale they heard growing up in South America, does her own research, and captures the Mare.
What happens next? Kayleigh knows weird things exist. She might aim to forget. But if the area has a stable council, then the local lord(s) might reach out, acknowledging that there's a gap in the local council's knowledge that let the Mare slip through. They offer to initiate Kayleigh if she'll keep an eye out in the future. Kayleigh gets some basic knowledge, a basic awakening, and some loose contacts, with some connection to other practitioners of a loosely appropriate stripe for her new duties. There's a kind of security that comes with that knowledge, following a nightmarish period of time.
...Which answers about half of that question. But I chose Kayleigh's example because it leads into the second half neatly.
Generally, councils have duties and things that they're doing. Part of these duties include protecting people. Some councils and areas are set up to keep something contained, to keep an eye on the future or keep wards up, to keep track of a phenomena (a crossroads dangerous Others tend to pass through, a font of goblins, a place where reality is just a bit thinner), or because people in that area are more vulnerable for some reason. Sometimes a certain town is just the only town within a 1000 mile radius that doesn't have anyone keeping an eye out for more violent Others.
Practitioner families are often families because families offer a stability and families self-perpetuate. That self-perpetuation is a counter to the fact that many Others are immortal and can simply bide their time until their nemesis dies. But sometimes families can't keep going. Stuff goes wrong, the Others play a long game and the family finds itself infertile.
If the danger or the need is severe enough, then practitioners of a dying or ended family may simply take measures to ensure that essential knowledge spreads and that 1000 mile radius has its protection from Least gods, wraiths, or goblins. They adopt the karmic backlash because if they don't, the harm will be much greater. To balance this out, they may have some second-stringers prepared and groomed, gradually easing them into the knowledge and ensuring that they won't spread the knowledge once they're initiated.
Sometimes those second stringers become full practitioners. Sometimes the people preparing them die (or are eliminated) prematurely, the information, tools, or libraries they were to inherit are lost or destroyed, and the second stringers end up dabblers, with a responsibility foisted on them.
But just because the council is working with them doesn't mean that the council has the means of elevating them above dabblers (or the willingness to share family secrets). Instead, it ends up being a situation where they say "Hey Matt, your theology tutor had a certain responsibility that he's passing onto you. There's a cave just outside of town, something lives in that cave, and we don't know what she is. We do know that she grinds kid's bones into dust while those bones are still inside the kids. If you don't step up and figure out how to set up the wards to keep her in there, that pain and suffering is on your head. Here's a copy of Essentials, we really hope your mentor taught you something."
Sometimes the powers that be have an interest in keeping a certain practitioner as a dabbler. If Matt is stationed as a warden with a duty of setting up essential wards, the local council may not want him to get the knowledge to be anything more than the guy who keeps a certain Other contained and gets killed first if she gets out. In another case, it could be that a lesser god wants a practitioner as a priest but doesn't want that practitioner to know enough to start making demands or bucking the god's rules.
And lastly, of course, you get the cases where banks foreclose on a house and sell the property, and the deceased practitioner's books do enter circulation. Sometimes this is intentional, second-stringers set up without the effort. By the time councils finish the cleanup job, a book can be in someone's hands, and the council may not have the ability or willingness to take the books away.
- What do Dabblers have in terms of resources that religions that try to practice magic like Wicca's don't? On one side we have people who do magic mainly as a side hobby and they can help fight demons, goblins and incarnates, and on the other there are people who dedicate a large part of themselves to the idea of magic but would probably be lucky to get a "hey" from a ghost.
Someone or something opened the door. Covered above.
What exactly is the fatality rate among Dabblers? I mean, the occult doesn't exactly draw your average Joes, so are incidents like "Edgy kid tries to summon a demon to get revenge on Chad (but has the resources to do it right)", breaking a vow when they're still fresh at the practice and becoming forsworn, or anything else that would be haphazard in a vein similar to that happen frequently?
Not the demon thing - that's often avoided, but those incidents can be engineered. Goes back to what I said above about curses and others, and the sole survivors. The wrong kind of practices can be a curse unto themselves, and spreading knowledge with steep enough prices can be just as sure a doom as any curse. The Fae spread knowledge of how to enter a realm of the faerie, elevating people to dabbler, and an excited group of friends go back and forth in longer and longer visits to the fae realms... until the group starts dwindling in size.
A fatality rate is a hard thing to nail down, though. Varies wildly from place to place and circumstance to circumstance.
How do Dabblers even manage to get started as Practitioners when many materials that they'd need would spark some attention from not only the public but also some trigger happy witch hunters?
More or less covered above.
What does your average dabbler look like in terms of familiar, implement or demesnes (if they even have any)?
Depends on family strength. Top tier = probably all 3 by the time they're old. Keeping in mind that the three major elements are answers to really big questions about who you are, what your place in life is, and who you interact with, most don't have answers to these questions until they're older. People change careers at least once in their life, nowadays, and I would gently posit that most who try to rush to get familiar, implement, and demesnes before they're 35 is going to come to regret it.
More out of Curiosity, but how would Dabblers play out in Pactdice?
Weak Family, maybe/probably weak across other areas as well. I might posit Dabblers as a way of filling a gap in the group/campaign. If your Augur leaves and your group's Chosen isn't really focusing on the Divine side of things, maybe you drop the player in as a Priest dabbler, with some advance knowledge of the campaign, lower rankings in some categories, and some other perks.
Part of the reason Pact Dice is organized with schools and players eliminating schools as they do is that it keeps the bases covered. It encourages sharing of resources and leaning on one another for answers. Councils want the bases covered, and much as Kayleigh was brought on to study Binding and watch out for things from the realms of death, sleep, ruin, memory, etc, people will be called in (or pulled in by a vacuum) to fill roles.