[[quoteright:200:[[Film/HarryPotterAndTheChamberOfSecrets http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/200px-RonBrokenWand.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:200: Ron isn't going to have a very good year.]]

->'''Beastmaster:''' ''I summon... ah... ah... [sneezes]!!!''\\
-->-- '''Beastmaster''', ''[[VideoGame/{{Warcraft}} Warcraft III]]''

The Inept Mage is not a charlatan or fraud; he actually does have the ability to do [[FunctionalMagic Real Magic]]. However, he lacks finesse and actual skill. His spells [[MagicMisfire frequently backfire, producing an effect other than he intended]]. This can be a source of comedy.

This differs from HowDoIShotWeb in that the Inept Mage understands the theory, but can't make it work in practice. Also, HowDoIShotWeb is usually temporary while the Inept Mage usually remains inept. Quite often, though, an Inept Mage will have moments of CrouchingMoronHiddenBadass when things he tries ''finally'' go off without a hitch, in spectacular fashion, in a critical moment, reminding characters and audience both why they're there. (As a consequence, it can be an excellent ObfuscatingStupidity mask. Be wary of all characters whose spells always work when really needed.)



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* Urd from ''Manga/AhMyGoddess'' is explicitly stated as being more powerful than Belldandy, yet ranked lower because she has little control over it. This is contrasted against the [[ThreeFacesOfEve youngest sister, Skuld,]] who can barely muster any magic. Skuld's best spell is to basically print words across people's faces, something that can be achieved with a common sharpie. Otherwise Skuld is pretty hopeless with magic, displaying neither of her sisters' raw power.
* ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'':
** Renji has poor magical skills. He attempts to use magic to create a ball of light to guide his group's way through dark tunnels, but only manages to produce a tiny marble-sized ball that gives off barely any light. Rukia chastises him for trying to cast magic non-verbally since only talented shinigami magic users can get away with that and Renji isn't good enough to do it. Later on, he uses this habit of spells backfiring on him in battle against Szayel Aporro, deliberately casting the same spell (this time properly chanted) so that it explodes on both himself and Szayel at point-blank range. They both survive, but Szayel has to call a temporary time-out from fighting to pull himself back together.
** Omaeda is also noted for having poor magical skill. When he attempts to cast a spell during his fight with Barragan, it doesn't work at all well and he bemoans the fact he lacks the magical ability that certain other lieutenants are famous for.
** Iba chastises Ikkaku for his lack of magical skill. Ikkaku states he's not cut out for it, but Iba implies that he could be if only he wanted to be.
** Zaraki is the only captain with absolutely no magical ability whatsoever. Although he's not the only captain who doesn't use it, others (such as Komamura) do have some small level of ability, even if the ability is only poor. Zaraki, however, has zero ability for it. [[TheBrute Not like he really cares though]]; if anything, it just makes [[BloodKnight the fights funner]].
* Louise from ''LightNovel/TheFamiliarOfZero'' is a partial example. She can't cast any spells (they instead manifest as comically powerful explosions), [[spoiler:but later in the series it's revealed that this is because she's the legendary void mage, capable of casting (only) void magic. Naturally this is about the point in the series where she [[TookALevelInBadass takes a level in badass]].]]
* Sae Sawanoguchi from ''Anime/MagicUsersClub''. Her magic is by far the most powerful, ''if'' she can control it, and ''if'' it comes out in the first place.
* ''Manga/MahouSenseiNegima'':
** Early on, Negi Springfield himself appears to be one of these, until it is revealed that [[spoiler:the target of his spells has an [[AntiMagic anti-magical aura]] that cancels out or messes up any spell used on her]].
** Negi's father is an interesting case in that he is considered one of the most powerful mages of all times (reputed as the "Thousand Mage", because he supposedly knew a thousand spells... and supposedly had a thousand women), but he just needed to bring spark notes into battle to remember how to do his spells. Out of his head, he really only knew six spells.
* ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'': Naruto almost failed his [[WizardingSchool ninja academy]] exam in the first episode due to being unable to make proper Illusion Clones (any attempt resulted in a duplicate that looked pale and sickly and malformed). He later gets the upgraded form, the Shadow Clone technique, and finally passes. It is hinted that the reason Naruto can't form basic illusory Clones is because he has so damned much chakra that he consistently overloaded any illusion Clones he tried to make, a weakness not shared by the more chakra-intensive Shadow Clones.
* ''Anime/OjamajoDoremi''. "Ojamajo" is a {{portmanteau}} of the words for "clumsy" and "[[CuteWitch witch]]". Doremi, the titular character, fits this particularly during S1, when many of her spells simply work differently than what she was expecting. These include turning into a police cruiser when she tried turning into a cop, ending up in a butterfly costume when she tried turning into a butterfly, and conjuring a large steak instead of the required dish when taking the level 9 exam.
* ''Anime/RuneSoldierLouie'''s eponymous character [[BookDumb is too lazy to study]], because [[GoodOldFisticuffs he'd rather use his fists.]] So Louie only knows how to use simple magic and can even get ''those'' spells wrong since he often gets the incantations mixed up, or simply forgets how the spells themselves work. Which is where [[{{Meganekko}} Ila]] [[TheSmartGuy usually comes in.]]
* In ''LightNovel/{{Slayers}}'', the abundantly competent white-magic user Shilfiel tries her hand at black magic to balance out her repetoire and be more useful in combat. She's so woefully incompetent at this (her spell creates a [[spoiler:magic carrot]]) that Zelgadis later asks her to cast the spell for him, relying on her inability to make it harmful, since he wants to use it to snap a teammate out of their trance. Subverted in the second season, when [[spoiler:she uses the Dragon Slave against Phibrizzo, and later says she learned it to be more like Lina so she could travel with Gourry]] proving that she has no inherent weakness in offensive magic, is just unpracticed at it.
* Nina Sakura in ''Manga/UltraManiac'' is one of these. Eventually it is revealed in the manga that [[spoiler:this is because her magic potenital is so ''high'' that any magic she casts is over powered and thus messes up, she just needs specialist training.]]
* Koyomi of ''LightNovel/YokuWakaruGendaiMahou'' knows ''one'' spell. She can turn a spell into a falling washpan. ''Any'' spell, belonging to anybody. A cantrip, a fireball, a nuke, a {{MacGuffin}}.... Yeah, once the implications are realized, the other mages see her usefulness, although she doesn't quite realize what a GameBreaker she has.
* The Black Bulls division in ''Manga/BlackClover'' are full of these types, each of them inept in different ways. Asta, the protagonist, can use magic only through his sword and cannot use magic in any other way. Noelle has incredible potential for magic, but her spells always veer in unexpected directions and more often than not hit her allies instead. Gauche is too obsessed with protecting his sister to be of any use in combat when she's not involved. Luck is too bloodthirsty and reckless to know how to use his magic for anything ''but'' combat or get along with anyone else. Averted with their captain, Yami, who is scary competent and likes recruiting misfits in hopes that they'll one day become as strong as he is.
* The eponymous character of ''Manga/AkazukinChaCha'' is this. For example, she'll summon a spider when she means to produce a cloud. (This is because the words for "spider" and "cloud" are similar.)
* ''Anime/LittleWitchAcademia'': Akko is one of these, not even able to fly a broom. This initially seems like a combo of her being both of {{muggle}} heritage and just not taking her studies seriously, but even when she rectifies the latter, she still struggles. Then it's revealed that it's because [[spoiler:her magic was unintentionally taken by her idol, Shiny Chariot, while attending the magic show that inspired her to become a witch in the first place. This also reveals that Diana was also once this, as she attended the same show.]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* The hero of Creator/KurtBusiek's ''The Wizard's Tale'' is fearfully inept, partly because he knows he is supposed to be evil and can't pull it off.
* Mongo Iron-Hand from ''Comicbook/TheWarlord''. Mongo is an eccentric who has considerable skill at performing small-scale magical feats, but has difficulty in performing large-scale ones. He somehow has knowledge of the Earth of our present day, which enables him to conjure up cigars and martinis for himself.
* In ''Franchise/{{Superman}}'' Mr. Mxyzptlk briefly became one during the Day of Vengeance event when the Spectre declared war on all magic and completely messed up the mechanics behind it. The powerful 5th dimensional imp was reduced to a pitiful broken figure trying desperately to remember how to get back to his home dimension -- he was so messed up he couldn't even remember that all he had to do was say his name backwards.
** An obscure [[UsefulNotes/TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks Silver Age]] character, Yellow Peri (real name Loretta York), often tried to assist Superman with her magical powers. While she was powerful, Superman [[UnwantedAssistance tried to get her to retire because her ineptitude caused more harm than good]].
* WesternAnimation/DonaldDuck in the early issues of ''ComicBook/WizardsOfMickey'', which gets him in trouble with someone he owed money too and tried to get out of the deal by turning spoons into gold. But it turns out his magic does work, but is slow acting. Which, okay, is still pretty inept.

[[folder:Eastern Animation]]
* Juga from ''Animation/QumiQumi'', thanks to not bothering to pay attention and believing he's better than he really is. The biggest issue is the fact that his ''entire tribe'' is built around magic. His magic staff is also ridiculously finicky, a simple tap on the ground can cause an out of control magic burst.

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* Mickey Mouse in the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment of ''Disney/{{Fantasia}}''. As noted in the introduction to the segment, Mickey knew enough about magic to bring the broom to life and have it fetch water for him, but not enough to make it stop.
* Schmendrick The Magician in ''WesternAnimation/TheLastUnicorn'' bumbles around ineptly for most of the film. Even when his magic does the thing he wants it to, he wasn't controlling it directly, instead instructing the magic to "do as it will".
* ''Disney/TheLittleMermaidIIReturnToTheSea'': None of [[BigBad Morgana's]] magic works by itself; Morgana depends on items such as Ursula's leftover magic and Triton's trident to actually pose a threat.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* From the film ''Film/{{Krull}}'': Ergo the Magnificent, whose transformation spells always affect himself regardless of who he aims them at. Good thing he has a spell to turn someone into a ''tiger''...
* The ''Film/HarryPotter'' films feature Seamus Finnigan. Where the books usually had Ron or Neville be the one whose magic backfired, Seamus became the victim of a RunningGag where whatever it was he was casting magic on [[MadeOfExplodium had a tendency to explode]] (including, memorably, a feather). It's even lampshaded in ''Goblet of Fire'', where he's chatting with Ron about how it always happens. It is then ''weaponized'' by Professor [=McGonagall=] in ''Deathly Hallows Part 2'', where he and Neville are the ones who destroy the bridge into Hogwarts.
* Mr. Magorium's magic went all wonky [[spoiler:near the end of his life]] in the film version of ''Film/MrMagoriumsWonderEmporium''
* In ''Film/TheSorcerersApprentice'', Dave starts out as this when Balthazar begins his training. Naturally, given the name of the film, there is a recreation of the famous scene from ''Disney/{{Fantasia}}', as a result of which Dave is nearly electrocuted.
* The High Aldwin in ''Film/{{Willow}}'' is the only mage in Willow's Nelwyn hometown, and a big deal is made when he has to choose an apprentice each year. However, he resorts to superstitious trickery when he "consults the bones", instead supplying his own judgment on the matter, and a bird he materializes from an apple flies back to the village instead of leading the quest as he intended.
-->'''High Aldwin:''' ... Ignore the bird. Follow the river!

* Linmer, the Great González's apprentice, in ''Bellacrín y la Sombra''. He can't even stand up straight in his master's clothes. Zigzagged with the Great González himself, since he doesn't really do magic... but has a lot of cool gadgets... that ''also'' fail to work spectacularly.
* Schmendrick, from ''Literature/TheLastUnicorn'', who is ''so'' inept that his teacher Nikos decided it meant that he had some kind of incredible potential, and made him immortal so that he could live long enough to sort it out. Turns out Nikos was [[spoiler:absolutely right, as Shmendrick is actually UnskilledButStrong - he has immensely powerful magic but zero way to control it, making him more of a conduit for powerful WildMagic than an actual wizard. At some point in the future, he learns to control his magic and becomes a [[TheArchmage truly great wizard]].]]
* Rest in ''Literature/LoyalEnemies'' is still an apprentice (and TheKlutz at that), who actually forgets how to use his magic in situations when it might come in handy and is so insecure about it when he ''does'' use it, that it comes out to forceful and everything goes heads over bucket.
* Questor Thews, from the ''Literature/MagicKingdomOfLandover'' novels.
* Neville Longbottom from the ''Literature/HarryPotter'' novels. Until [[TookALevelInBadass the fifth book]]. It doesn't help that he's been using [[spoiler:his father's wand]] for most of the series instead of a wand better suited to him.
** Ronald Weasley is rendered fairly inept for much of ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheChamberOfSecrets'', when his wand is broken. See the page image. Amusingly, it ends up saving him and Harry when [[spoiler:Lockhart gets his hands on it and tries to wipe their memories. It backfires.]] It being second-hand also hindered him in Philosophers' Stone as well, and once he got his own he showed considerably greater competence.
** A similar thing happens to Harry in ''The Deathly Hallows''.
** Gilderoy Lockhart may count: [[CripplingOverspecialization The only thing he seems to be good at]] is memory charms. He was initially a very promising (but self-entitled) student who was sorted into Ravenclaw due to his brilliance, but he just decided at some point that he could get by on that and his natural charisma alone. (And he very nearly did.) Years of neglect rendered his skills at magic besides memory charms faulty beyond repair, leaving him barely competent enough to be considered a wizard in adulthood.
* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'':
** Rincewind is a borderline case. By all rights he is a proper wizard: he can see octarine, see Death (he does not seem to have the proper wizard [and witch] ability to know their death when it nears, but that probably has more to do with all the stuff he's been involved in messing up his timeline so much that even ''Death'' does not know when Rincewind will die), detect magic, and act as a magical lightning rod just like all other wizards. Thing is, he can't actually cast any spells, because during his short time at Unseen University he read one of the eight spells that created the universe, which made itself at home in his head and ruined his chances of ever learning any other spells. He actually does say it (along with the other seven) at the end of the second book, [[VancianMagic freeing him of them]], but apparently his ineptitude for magic was permanent. In at least one of the books, it's noted that, when Rincewind finally dies, the average spell-casting ability of the human race will actually ''increase'', very slightly.
** Magrat Garlick's magical skill can impress even Granny Weatherwax (as in the incident where she turned a centuries-old oaken castle door ''back into a tree''), but she tends to have problems getting the magic to do what she wants, because she's caught up in the romantic ideas of mystical runes and what not. She has absolutely no luck with a fairy godmother's wand, in spite of wishing for results just as hard as she can.
** In ''Discworld/{{Mort}}'', Cutwell is a wizard who can do magic, knows the theory, but can't even manage a basic fire spell (he burns his fingers when he tries).
** Some of the novice witches from the Tiffany Aching subseries have difficulty working magic, although in ''Discworld/AHatFullOfSky'' that's mostly because Annagramma won't stop criticizing them.
* Fizban the Fabulous in the ''Literature/{{Dragonlance}}'' books, although [[GodWasMyCoPilot he's more than he appears]].
* Ditto his {{Expy}}, Zifnab, in ''Literature/TheDeathGateCycle'' by the same authors. For that matter, Alfred too, through a case of BecomingTheMask of his ObfuscatingStupidity.
%%* Geraden, from the ''[[Literature/TheMirrorOfHerDreams Mordant's Need]]'' duology.
* Wodehed from the ''Literature/WelkinWeasels'' series never has his spells work out the way he wants them to. In one memorable instance, he gave a boar holding the group captive some magical wine that would turn whoever drank it into a frog. Because the wineskin the wine was in was made from leather, the wineskin turned into a frog instead. It ''is'', however, subverted in a CrowningMomentOfAwesome in the third book, where [[spoiler:HE SUMMONS A KRAKEN.]]
* A short story, set during Myth/KingArthur's childhood, has a character who ''appeared'' to be a severely inept mage; during his final exam to earn a mentor wizard, he attempted to make a rock turn into a pig -- it floated in the air, turned invisible, and then when he tried to undo the spells, it became a (visible) dragon. [[spoiler:Subverted when he turned out to be a chaos magician -- that dragon was vital to taking out a Saxon invasion a moment later. His magic never does what he ''wants'', but it always does what ''needs'' to be done.]]
* Creator/AlanDeanFoster[='=]s ''Literature/{{Spellsinger}}'' series:
** Jon-Tom Meriweather can produce magical effects via [[MagicMusic music]], but the lyrics have to be ridiculously specific, and are likely to produce unwanted effects; when he conjures up a ship with the song "Sloop John B." and names himself first mate, he spends the entire voyage feeling badly drunk.
** Clothahump is mostly competent, but he also has his moments. In his first attempt at using magic that the readers see, he attempts to conjure up gold coins, but produces chocolate coins instead.
* In Creator/JamesThurber's ''Literature/The13Clocks'', the Golux explains that both his parent fell under this trope. His mother was a witch who tried to turn people into fish but only got mermaids; his father was a wizard who cast his spells upon himself when he was drunk. It's an open question how much the Golux keeps up the family tradition.
* In ''Literature/TheMagicians,'' the Physical magician Josh is unable to get his magic to work consistently, but when it does work, it's very powerful: for example, when casting a spell to dispell a magical light, he ends up going over the top and producing a ''black hole.''
* In ''Literature/KingsQuestTheFloatingCastle'', the spells of Alexander's apprentice wizard sidekick Cyril actually ''do'' in fact do what they're intended to. His ineptness instead comes from the fact that he's an [[DoesNotKnowHisOwnStrength inherently powerful wizard who hasn't yet developed control]], so his spells all do what they're intended to so overwhelmingly that they [[GoneHorriblyRight go horribly right]].
* ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'':
** When Harry Dresden gets an apprentice, she alternates between terrifying and being an adorable example of this trope. Once, she ''literally'' glowed with praise. Her potion-making adventures have involved her getting her clothes covered in acid and the potion then exploding, which Harry then had to remove and give her CPR right as his girlfriend lets herself in. (She gets better after finishing her training.)
** The White Council tries to accomodate this trope by teaching [[IneptMage young]] [[PersonOfMassDestruction wizards]] [[KillItWithFire fire magic]] as far away from civilization as possible.
** Harry sometimes notes that he lacks the finesse and knowledge of most members of the White Council, only making up for it through brute force, stubbornness, and cheating. Harry tried to fly once; in some combination of this and not knowing how to fly to begin with, [[NoodleIncident it didn't go so well]]. Harry's track-record with potions isn't very good either, as they've done things like [[GoneHorriblyRight make him so unnoticeable he can't warn someone there's a werewolf approaching]].
%%* The poem ''Der Zauberlehrling'' (''The SorcerersApprentice'') by Creator/JohannWolfgangVonGoethe.
* Wyrdrune, from Simon Hawke's ''The Wizard Of _____'' novels, is as powerful as a fully-credited wizard, but was never certified due to his tendency to rush through his spells. He frequently makes mistakes with his magic, especially when he [[RunningGag teleports with his companion Kira]]: ''he'' appears wherever he intends to, but she appears on/in fire escapes, rooftops, closets or dumpsters nearby.
* ''[[Literature/{{Chrestomanci}} The Magicians of Caprona]]'' sing their spells, and Angelica Petrocchi is tone-deaf. Her spells always do ''something'', but they never work as intended. She may never live down the day she turned her father green.
* In Creator/PoulAnderson's ''Literature/ThreeHeartsAndThreeLions'', Hugi recounts how Mother Gerd had {{curse}}d a peasant's field -- and only killed the thistles.
* ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'' series does a good job of [[DeconstructedTrope deconstructing]] this, though Rand's ineptitude is really more a case of HowDoIShotWeb. Rand has no one to teach him to channel for four books, and he's the most powerful channeler ever. He learns bits and pieces by luck and maybe past-life memory, but when things go wrong he's apt to accidentally pull down half a mountain or set a forest aflame.
* Same for ''Literature/WindAndSparks'' series. Shen and PosthumousCharacter Kavalar are magicians with a rare set of skills -- so-called "Healers". Male Healers are stronger and more versatile than female healers, they are born once in several centuries, thus nobody can teach them. Their biggest problem? All the world's spellweavers use the power of either heaven or hell, but male Healers need both. Until the middle of the second novel the only weave Shen managed to use more than once was HealingHands. Though readers get to see only one spectacular failure: Shen tried to light a campfire and instead blasted dozens of square yards of steppe; nobody got hurt.
* Martin starts as this in ''[[Literature/Magic20 Off to Be the Wizard]]'' after discovering the [[RewritingReality file]] and fleeing to Medieval England. Figuring that he can pass himself off as a "genuine" wizard while simultaneously scaring away charlatans, he puts on his [[HarryPotter Draco Malfoy]] costume, teleports to the White Cliffs of Dover in the 12th century, and travels to the nearest town. Arriving there, he walks into the tavern and suggests free food and lodging in exchange for "real" magic. As proof of his powers, he produces a plastic bag, which the locals find fascinating. The tavern keeper has the local wizard Phillip summoned to meet Martin. Martin, naturally assuming Phillip to be a charlatan, produces more plastic (by teleporting to his parents' house in the present and taking two rolls of heavy-duty plastic wrap from their kitchen). Finally, he challenges Phillip to a WizardDuel, using the Android app he wrote to levitate several feet off the ground (a very shaky and uncomfortable affair). In response, Phillip effortlessly flies off into the air, creates a cool light show, and then blasts the helplessly floating Martin into the nearby forest. It turns out Martin isn't the first to discover the file and end up in Medieval England. He gets better after becoming Phillip's apprentice.
* In ''Literature/TalesOfTheFox'', Gerin the Fox had less than a year of wizard's training before being called home, yet desperation sometimes drives him to attempt magic anyway. But only when he's ''really'' desperate, as he knows full well just how dangerous an unskilled mage can be.
* ''Literature/TheWorstWitch'': Mildred Hubble. Though it's worth noting that -- while abysmal in the classroom -- she does prove quite good at thinking on her feet with using magic in tight situations.
* Harry Turtledove's ''Literature/DarknessSeries'' has one wannabe magician who attempts to cover up his squad's tracks with a spell of his own design and ends up making them glow.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Udonna's apprentice, Clare, from ''Series/PowerRangersMysticForce'' starts out as IneptMage and remains so for the duration of the series; but a major crisis turns her into a HowDoIShotWeb case, and she ends up competent when all is said and done.
* Aunt Clara and Esmerelda, both from ''Series/{{Bewitched}}''.
* In the first seasons of ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'', Willow always messed up her spells, with unfortunate results. She got better. She continued to have her inept moments in later seasons, such as when she accidentally gave the entire Scooby gang amnesia in season six. After that, she rarely screwed up spells.
* Eureka from ''Series/EureekasCastle'' had her off-moments.
* Merlin in the French series ''Series/{{Kaamelott}}''. He once tries to cast a spell to make plants grow, and ends up giving Arthur and Léodagan brightly glowing eyes. He tries to explain it via NotThatKindOfMage, as he's a druid: supposedly all his nature-aligned powers take a sharp dive when there's a roof over his head, i.e. in his laboratory. However, his talent as a druid is dubious as well: he can't even read the Druidic language.
* Lisa from ''Series/WeirdScience'', in that her own powers constantly play the JerkassGenie to her. Usually she can make anything happen with a snap of her fingers, but if it's something important, it'll typically turn out sooner or later it's GoneHorriblyWrong.
* Mannitol from ''Series/TheLegendOfDickAndDom'': his incantations tend to backfire horribly, for example, turning a friend into a [[BrainInAJar disembodied head]]; impressive, given that at one point non-mages successfully cast a spell.
* Marnie Stonebrook from ''Series/TrueBlood'' doesn't have a clue on her spells. But, whenever she gets possessed by the ghost of the witch, Antonia Gavilán, she becomes one of the most powerful villains in the show.
* ''Series/SabrinaTheTeenageWitch'': the title character. Also Dreama, a minor character from season 4.
* Max Russo in ''Series/WizardsOfWaverlyPlace'' regularly has his spells go awry although there is no doubt he can work magic; he's just inept, especially in contrast to his older brother Justin, a hard worker, and older sister Alex, a slacker but naturally gifted.

* Music/AllaPugacheva has a song (in Russian) about a wizard who didn't pay attention in school and ended up as one of those. From the examples given, it seems that their attempts to cast pretty much any kind of magic result in the spontaneous creation of malformed animals.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'':
** The 2nd edition ''Tome of Magic'' introduces the Wild Mage. Although able to master "wild magic" spells otherwise forbidden to other wizards, the level of power of their magic is variable, and they run the risk of causing a "wild surge" -- a totally random effect -- with every casting. Wild Mages aren't actually inept (unless that's how you play one). Just ''crazy''. Consider their signature spell: "Nahal's Reckless Dweomer"; a spell that the mage casts in order to attempt to shape it into any other spell he knows without having the spell memorized. Wild Surges can be extremely deadly if you're lucky; casting Magic Missile has an equal chance of making your opponent (and everything in ten feet of it) explode messily as it does the chance of summoning harmless squirrels. The thing that really drives them toward possibly being inept mages was that whenever they cast a spell, not only do they have a chance of a Wild Surge, they also have a variable applied to their caster level, which can cause them to cast it at either a higher or lower level than they actually are. If they cast it at a level that is below the spell's minimum caster level, the casting fails completely. For example, Fireball has a minimum caster level of 5, so if they roll a result of 4th level, the spell fizzles.
** Supplements for the ''TabletopGame/{{Mystara}}'' D&D setting on the wizard-ruled nation of Glantri include rules for playing underage wizards, whose spells are prone to malfunctions that [=DMs=] are encouraged to [[PlayedForLaughs play for laughs]].

* ''Theatre/{{Wicked}}'':
** Elphaba. Things get ''way'' out of hand.
** Elphaba's sister, Nessarose is a truly tragic example. She tries to use a spell from the Grimmerie to make Boq fall in love with her. [[spoiler: She pronounces it incorrectly, accidentally destroying his heart instead. Elphaba saves him by turning him into the Tin Man and Nessarose accepts the title of "Wicked Witch of the East".]]
* In ''Theatre/TheWiz'', Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North, seems prone to MagicMisfire. Her Magic Slate gives six inaccurate guesses about Dorothy's name, and she also needs to wave her wand multiple times in order to leave Munchkinland (In the play, she laments having to take the bus due to how unreliable her teleportation spells seem).

[[folder:Video Games]]
* The Wild Mage class also appears in ''[[VideoGame/BaldursGate Baldur's Gate 2]]'', this time with a set list of results, but an incredibly variable one. They can [[GenderBender change a random target's gender]], [[DropTheCow summon a cow right above their target's head]], [[MagicMisfire accidentally target themselves with the spell]]... At least in this case you get the benefit of SaveScumming.
* Dio? [[spoiler:Odie]] from ''VideoGame/SoulNomadAndTheWorldEaters'', though it's only prevalent in Cutscenes, whereas in gameplay he's pretty strong.
* Viki from the ''VideoGame/{{Suikoden}}'' series fits roundly. She is quite competent, and can even be used in the player's parties in many games. It just so happens her area of expertise is teleportation magic, and when she's tired/been drinking/sneezes, she tends to wind up in strange places. Or times. She is one of the few characters to be featured in every game in the main series, despite the fact that it covers a period spanning centuries. She was even in one game ''twice''. Oddly enough, she appears to be getting more and more powerful as the games go on. In the first games she had a random chance of accidentally harming her party with her spells, by the fifth she has a random chance to ''[[GameBreaker cast multiple spells in a row at no additional cost]]''
* All spellcasting classes in the ''VideoGame/{{Wizardry}}'' series are like this at first, barring alchemy-based casters, until they build up their Oratory skill-a low Oratory gives spells a chance to backfire or fizzle. However, backfiring spells are no joke in this series-a backfiring spell can easily kill a party member, if not several, and force the player to quit and reload.
* Lilka from ''VideoGame/WildARMs2'', though not as inept as most examples: she's still learning some things, but...
* Marie from ''VideoGame/AtelierMarieTheAlchemistOfSalburg'' is an Inept Alchemist. While she has a lot of passion for the art, her [[TheDitz absentmindedness]] often leads her to put in the wrong ingredient, screwing up the formula. Because of this, she has the lowest GPA out of anyone in her school.
** In her appearance in the MassiveMultiplayerCrossover game ''VideoGame/CrossEdge'', she tries to treat York with a bottle of Athena Water after he suffers injuries in battle, but winds up creating a GargleBlaster that floors him instantly. When the party meets up with ''{{VideoGame/Ar Tonelico|MelodyOfElemia}}''[='=]s Lyner later, she tries the same thing. Despite York's protests, Lyner guzzles the drink, saying that it's rude to refuse a gift. The result is... [[HilarityEnsues rather predictable]].
** The ''VideoGame/{{Atelier}}'' series also gives us Jess from ''VideoGame/{{Mana Khemia|AlchemistsOfAlRevis}}''. She's a competent alchemist most of the time, but she likes to experiment, and her experiments like to explode. [[EpicFail Even with completely stable ingredients]]. This may be for the best since her idea of "medicine" terrifies the cast.
* The weakest Imps in the ''VideoGame/DragonQuest'' series, and especially ''VideoGame/DragonQuestHeroesRocketSlime,'' are really terrible at magic. They continually attempt to use the [[StuffBlowingUp Bang]] spell, only to blow ''themselves'' up. Standing still while an Imp tries to attack you will cause his magic to explode in his face. Running will cause him to chase you, trip, and ''explode'', damaging everything in the area around it, meaning you, other enemies, and itself. This is all they can do.
* Jowan from ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins''. Between the generally inherent power of Mages and his dabbling in BloodMagic he ''should'' be very, ''very'' powerful. Alas, he's much weaker than almost every other Mage in the game, and only turned to BloodMagic out of desperation. It becomes a tragic plot point through the series: magical prowess varies widely from being barely able to light a candle with magic to the [[GameBreaker freakishly enormous raw power]] displayed by playable mages, but since powerful mages once lorded over the whole continent and enslaved the Muggles, society in general and templars tasked to watch over the mages in particular tend to assume that every mage is a powerhouse capable of slaughtering a village with a thought and as a result treat them all with extreme distrust and use increasingly oppressive methods to keep them in check. Many inept mages (or simply competent mages who aren't good at fighting) suffering from said oppression but lacking the firepower to actively fight back eventually turn to blood magic to even the field, get possessed as a result, which in turn increases the distrust and prejudice toward mages even more. To add insult to injury, it's made abundantly clear as the story progress (especially to players who select a Mage as their PC) that the circles and templars cannot really contain the really powerful mages: characters like Wynne, Vivienne, Morrigan, a mage Warden/Hawke/Inquisitor can come and go as their please and often ignore the harsh rules imposed on their peers, meaning the harsh treatments supposed to contain dangerous mages are mainly used against those who [[SelfFulfillingProphecy wouldn't even become a threat to society had they not been driven to the brink by the aforementioned rules and mistreatment]]
* Jormund from ''VideoGame/ArcanumOfSteamworksAndMagickObscura'' plays with this trope. He's a [[SquareRaceRoundClass Dwarven Mage]], and he's not incompetent ''per se''; He's fully skilled with the Force and Fire spell trees, and he knows the Disintegrate spell [[note]]It's a mana-heavy spell that instantly destroys any NPC, door or chest it hits, along with any items it may be holding[[/note]], but he is also a dwarf, so his spells cost double the mana to cast. Not only that, [[ArtificialStupidity his AI cannot cast spells in an intelligent way]]. His AI seems to have a pathological obsession with the Fire Elemental spell, the single most mana-heavy spell in the game. Also, Disintegrate in the hands of a properly specced player character is a GameBreaker, but it is horribly unwieldy for [=NPCs=] and can lead to accidental UnwinnableByMistake moments. This means Jormund is a terrible choice for a spellcaster; more often than not, he simply gets into a fight, chucks a few Disintegrates or becomes an Elemental, and [[PsychicNosebleed drops down]] [[HeroicRROD unconscious]] after about 30 seconds.
* Downplayed with Merasmus from ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2''. He's a competent wizard, but not a ''stellar'' one, and his design of the Wheel of Fate is [[TacticalSuicideBoss dubious at best]].

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* Shirou Emiya starts out this way in the ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight''. He only knows three spells in the beginning, and only two he can do well. What's more, until he's corrected by Rin, he's doing them wrong because he misinterpreted his only teacher's instructions. (Granted, if you've read ''LightNovel/FateZero'', you'll get the feeling that said teacher probably wasn't in the best condition to teach magic.)
* The player character of ''VisualNovel/ShallWeDateWizardessHeart'' was mostly self-taught before being invited to attend the WizardingSchool, and even after she begins attending classes, her magic misfires more often than it works. SchoolIdol and prefect Klaus Goldstein speculates that she has some kind of rare talent that she simply hasn't been able to make proper use of; his theory is given support during his route when, fueled by the protective enchantment he put on an amulet for her, the protagonist's magic spontaneously [[spoiler:causes her to time travel]].

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* Fumblemore in the ''Machinima/YogscastMinecraftSeries'', particularly ''Machinima/ShadowOfIsraphel''. His main speciality is [[StuffBlowingUp blowing things up]]. And [[MagicMisfire not always on purpose]]. He is surprisingly dangerous to the enemy, but apparently he blows things up so often that LetsPlay/LewisBrindley and LetsPlay/SimonLane are able to blame him for a series of creeper explosions.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Gwynn from ''Webcomic/SluggyFreelance'' very rarely gets a spell completely right. She enchants some monkeys to attack someone who's annoying her, without considering that, when someone else annoys her, the monkeys will change targets. Or she tries getting a demon to leave Riff alone, but ends up making it possess her instead. Or she tries getting her and Zoe's hair to grow back, but, thanks to the spell relying on a JerkassGenie, it makes them turn into fully-furred [[Franchise/StarWars wookie]]-like creatures. Basically anything she tries other than [[{{Psychokinesis}} moving things with her mind]] or [[PowerGlows making pretty lights]] isn't going to work as planned. It seems to be the rituals that give her trouble. If she has to blast something with lightning or force, she has no problems at all, and can be [[LetsGetDangerous downright]] ''[[BewareTheNiceOnes dangerous]]'' when she's pushed.
* Abraham of ''Webcomic/ElGoonishShive'' is an interesting example. Although he is a very powerful spell caster, and deadly in combat, his lack of common sense has earned him a bit of a [[http://egscomics.com/?date=2009-06-09 reputation]] for incompetence.
* In ''Webcomic/{{Doodze}}'', [[http://seguemediagroup.com/doodze/?p=775 accidentally turning the sh'leep into ravening monsters]].
* Trystan from ''Webcomic/TheForgottenOrder'' has failed every magical entrance test. She also broke a window with an enchanted scrub brush.
* Two in ''Webcomic/{{Unsounded}}''. One of the Red Berry Boys, Bette, casts spells by reading them directly out of a book with no understanding of the underlying principles, and Duane finds it trivial to seize control of his pymary. [[spoiler: Duane's daughter Mikaila]] also makes a number of dangerous mistakes, although the fact that she's doing it at all at [[ChildMage her age]] shows she has an aptitude for it.
* [[http://uberquest.katbox.net/comic/what-kind-of-healing-magic-is-that/ Kibbles']] introduction in ''Webcomic/UberQuest'' consisted of her trying to demonstrate a healing spell, and incinerating one guy and setting some others on fire.
* In ''Webcomic/PennyArcade'', [[http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/6/15/ Jim Darkmagic]], at least in his comic appearance. In the actual podcasts where he made his debut, Jim tends to be about as competent as the rest of the party, somewhat surprising considering that his player, Mike Krahulik, has never played ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' before in his life.
* in ''Webcomic/SlightlyDamned'', Jakkai and Earth Demons can only learn a couple of spells.
* ''Webcomic/VampireCheerleaders'': Charlotte comes from a family of Wiccans and her spells have remarkable power... when she can actually remember the proper incantations for them. Which accounts [[MagicMisfire for only half the time]], especially when she's nervous, [[http://www.vampirecheerleaders.net/strips-vc/gotten_way_out_of_hand or under pressure.]] So she often [[http://www.vampirecheerleaders.net/strips-vc/bring_the_lightning_1 resorts to simply making one up]] [[http://www.vampirecheerleaders.net/strips-vc/bring_the_lightning_2 and hoping for the best.]]
* Astyr Kaedermos of ''Webcomic/{{Sombulus}}'' frequently fumbles his transmutation spells, but rolls with the results anyway [[http://sombulus.com/comic/52]].

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''Roleplay/TheGamersAlliance'', [[WanderingMinstrel Leon]] [[TheWoobie Alcibiates]] is initially a very inept mage when he first tries to access his [[DivineParentage Andain]] powers. At first he can only turn into a kestrel because of a goddess's poison that affects him, and he sucks at most spells. It's only after he's gone through many years of training under various masters and coming to terms with who he is and how to distance himself from his AbusiveParents that he becomes a better mage who decides to safeguard the Land of the Living from the ambitions of both gods and mortals.
* Leaving chaos in their wake is something of a hallmark of the "three little witches" -- Abracadabra, Palantir, and Clover -- from the eponymous story set in the ''Literature/WhateleyUniverse''. May well yet turn out to be a case of HowDoIShotWeb, though; they ''are'' only kids (younger than the regular students at Whateley, even) at this point, after all.
* Perf, of ''WebVideo/JourneyQuest'', is an excellent example of this: he has precisely three spells he can cast without recourse to his spellbooks: ''Conjure Milk''[[note]]which, when used against a party of orcs that had captured him and his friends, earned him the appellation "lactomancer"[[/note]], ''Mend'' [[note]]a sewing spell[[/note]] and ''Vague''[[note]]the effects of which are kinda hard to nail down...[[/note]]. The one time we see him casting ''with'' a spellbook, he's trying to heal the party cleric, and [[MagicMisfire fails so badly that said cleric dies]]. And becomes an [[GoneHorriblyRight entirely new form of undead]]. Just before that cleric showed up as said new form of undead, Perf tried to use the Gust of Wind spell from the book and blew his own clothes off, so he in fact used the book exactly twice.
* ''Podcast/DNDIsForNerds'' has one player and his wizard Krifpum Pumkrif, who failed to become a court mage because he was deliberately taught a selection of useless and goofy spells as a joke. He eventually resorts to just trying to punch people, taking Improved Unarmed Strike at level-up. Compounding this is his relationship with his cat {{Familiar}}, which progressed from being useless to disobedient to an active pest, to attacking him in alley and nearly mauling him to death.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In "A Giant Problem" on ''WesternAnimation/TheBackyardigans'', both Tyrone and Pablo are inept mages who lament "It's hard to be, so yeah hard to be a wizard." At least until the end, when they finally manage to get it right.
* Morgana in ''WesternAnimation/DarkwingDuck'' casts a spell wrong more often than she casts it right. It's implied, if not outright confirmed that her magic is affected by her emotional state.
* Uncle Oswidge from ''WesternAnimation/DaveTheBarbarian''. It's eventually revealed that his incompetence is because he's not a qualified mage; he was actually a cook at magic school.
%%* "Presto" from the ''WesternAnimation/DungeonsAndDragons'' animated cartoon.
* Kyle from ''WesternAnimation/FanboyAndChumChum''. His poor skills in magic are often used as the reason behind his failures, and it even becomes an important plot point in "Sigmund the Sorcerer".
* Fuddy, Merlin's apprentice, in ''WesternAnimation/FilmationsGhostbusters''. Jake could ''count on'' this guy to get his requests wrong, yet everything seemed to work out all right in the end.
* The Magician from ''WesternAnimation/FrostyTheSnowman''. His only "magical" trait was his amazing top hat, which brought Frosty back to life. Even his pet rabbit hated him!
* In ''WesternAnimation/{{Gawayn}}'', Elspeth's spells don't always work right, and it takes her three to four times to get it right. She sometimes misinterpret the instructions on the Great Book of Magic.
* Zummi from ''WesternAnimation/GummiBears''. Though his ineptitude can be excused by the fact that he is an autodidact. He doesn't seem to have had any teachers who practiced magic with him, instead he has to read it all by himself in the Great Book of Gummi.
* Orko, from ''WesternAnimation/HeManAndTheMastersOfTheUniverse1983''. {{Justified|Trope}}, however. His home dimension, where he's actually a master mage with exceptional abilities, has completely different rules of magic to Eternia. His magic only functions on Eternia due to a special medallion (original series) or wand (2002 series) which is lost soon after he arrived on Eternia when he saved Prince Adam's life. As a result of the incompatibility between his native magic and Eternia's magic rules, he comes across as an IneptMage to Eternians.
* Junior Genie Babu, from both ''WesternAnimation/{{Jeannie}}'' the AnimatedSeries, where he was her SideKick and apprentice; and in Creator/HannaBarbera's ''WesternAnimation/LaffALympics''. In the latter series, Fondoo would be his [[EvilCounterpart Really Rotten Counterpart]].
* Despite being one of the most powerful and gifted unicorns in the world, Twilight Sparkle from ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' occasionally messes up critically. Mostly when it's funny, or when casting a spell successfully would resolve the plot too early. Examples include making a snow plow come to life, only to go out of control and make things worse; magically altering a parasprite swarm's metabolism to stop them from eating all the food, only for them to eat buildings and inedible things instead; trying to turn an apple into an orange, only to get startled by Pinkie Pie each time and zapping something else by accident.
** A straighter example is Sunburst, Starlight Glimmer's childhood friend. His magic is not '''abysmal''' for an average unicorn, but it is for someone whose talent is supposedly magic. Turns out his talent is '''learning about''' magic, not casting it, making him a walking encyclopedia of the magical arts that cannot actually cast anything but the most basic spells.
* In an earlier Pony-related example, ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyAndFriends'' did this to the witch Draggle, a technically villainous character who had first appeared in ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyTheMovie''.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/TheNewAdventuresOfWinnieThePooh'' episode "A Knight for a Day", Rabbit becomes one of these in Piglet's fantasy. Whenever he tries to cast a spell he only succeeds in turning himself into random animals.
-->'''Rabbit-tortoise:''' ''What is going wrong with these spells?!''\\
'''King Pooh:''' Oh, don't feel badly. [[{{Pun}} I can't spell very well either]].
* On ''WesternAnimation/ReBoot'', the episode "Wizards, Warriors, and a Word from our Sponsors" has Dot take the part of a sorceress in one of the games. The extent of her magical prowess amounts to pointing at something, exclaiming "abraca-whatchama-dabra-callit," and hoping for a favorable result.
* The Winter Warlock from the ''WesternAnimation/SantaClausIsCominToTown'' Christmas Special. He was a fierce mage until his heart melted from a kind gesture... and [[RedemptionDemotion then he could only do little tricks.]]
* Madame Razz from ''WesternAnimation/SheRaPrincessOfPower''. She actually very powerful, but is so ditzy and absent-minded that she tends to mispronounce words. Fortunately, her mistakes still beat up bad guys. For example, when she tries to conjure a wall to stall the bad guys, she says, "ball", and the conjured ball bounces and smacks the bad guys around.
* The titular character of ''WesternAnimation/StarVsTheForcesOfEvil'' is this. So inept, in fact, she was shipped off to Earth before she caused any more natural disasters from her inability to gauge what she's capable of actually pulling off with that wand. She can usually manage spells that are ''meant'' to be destructive pretty easily, but anything else is bound to go awry, and once or twice her wand has even ''gone off accidentally''. For example, when she creates rainbows purely for show, they tend to be ''on fire'' and the fire will easily spread to things that shouldn't be flammable, like stone and metal.
-->'''Marco:''' ''[='=]Suck'?!'' Why was the word 'suck' in that spell?!
%%* The Eggplant Wizard from ''WesternAnimation/CaptainNTheGameMaster''.