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Training the Gift of Magic

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"Oh, you do know something of the Art. Do you have the Sight?"
Merlin, Excalibur

In some settings with functional magic (or magic-like powers), the ability to work it properly is an innate talent that not everyone possesses — and if you haven't got it, you'll never be a high-power spell-caster. But you also need training to use this gift to full effect.

This is not the same as magic as an innate superpower, used instinctively; magic-working still requires study, and high levels of skill give a large advantage over under-trained casters. But you still need the "gift" to start with. Where magic works and is a matter of education but this trope isn't in play, anyone with enough smarts, determination, and training can be able to use magic as well as anybody else.

This trope, then, has two assumptions:

  1. One must have an inborn gift to practice magic.
  2. One must train in order to use it effectively.

The combination has various social and narrative consequences.

In some cases, it is impossible to work magic without the gift, although it may be possible to operate some enchanted items. Perhaps more often, though, someone who lacks the gift can only work magic by the use of lengthy, complex, and unreliable rituals, whereas the gifted can learn to cast spells quickly and reliably, making them, for example, useful in combat.

Likewise, in some cases, even a person with the gift can only work magic after learning the requisite skill or otherwise having it "unlocked" in some way. In others, the gifted can produce magical effects, perhaps when under stress or through intense concentration, but can't control them properly. The latter situation usually makes gifted but untrained individuals highly dangerous to themselves and others; magic-workers may consider locating and training the gifted to be an important social duty. If too many untrained gifted individuals have done too much accidental damage, they—and sometimes other magic workers—may be the target for semi-justified Witch Hunts. More trivially, the ungifted may be at once jealous of the gifted and puzzled about why they spend so much time in laboratories and classrooms, not understanding the importance of training.

The gift itself may be defined as the ability to perceive magical forces (so un-gifted spell-casters are in effect working blind), the ability to channel magical energies from the environment into spells (so un-gifted workers probably need a different source of energy), or the personal favor of some gods or spirits whose help is needed to make magic work. Or it may just be left vague.

Related to the Inherent Gift option described in Functional Magic, but that also encompasses magic as a "superpower" that requires no training. Wizarding School may be one source of training, and perhaps the only one. See also Our Mages Are Different, which describes various ways of training or channeling magic, any of which may be required to enable someone with the gift to work effectively or safely, and Mage Species, which covers situations where magical power (usually specifically "witchcraft") is a hereditary gift, to the point of defining a separate human species, but these "witches" may or may not need some degree of training. Compare The Spark of Genius, for settings in which super-advanced science and engineering are a form of de facto magic for which certain individuals have an inherent talent.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In The Ancient Magus' Bride, Elias buys Chise in the first place to teach her magic. He says it's a common last resort since magically-talented children are rare in the modern era.
  • Magic involves both some kind of gift and training in The Familiar of Zero, though the details are vague. The protagonist, Louise, is notoriously bad at casting magic, so much so that she's been nicknamed "Zero" by her classmates (and the fact that she is able to summon a familiar is seen as a miracle), but it's unclear if ranks on the Fantastic Measurement System are in-born or achieved through training.note 
  • In the Lyrical Nanoha franchise, only those who have a Linker Core, a magic organ that not everyone is born with, can have magic, and even then, mages are born with different levels of magic potential. However, to reach the higher mage ranks, you still need to train a lot to use your magical reserves effectively and master the formulas needed to perform the spells at a drop of a hat. Nanoha, the main character and a mage so powerful that Artificial Super Soldiers question if she's actually human, reached her level because she was born with a high magic potential and constantly studied and trained herself every moment of her life.
  • "Ninjutsu" in Naruto is available only to those who have the inherent gift of manipulating chakra, and unavailable to those without the gift like Rock Lee. Some ninja have more chakra to manipulate than others and with intensive training, they can learn to use their chakra more efficiently. Sakura is noted to be Weak, but Skilled, with a smaller chakra pool that she uses more efficiently than the Unskilled, but Strong title character, at least until he trains with Jiraiya and takes several levels in badass.
  • Of Fire and Stars: In order to learn control over their gift, mages need training. Dennaleia, whose control has been dangerously nonexistent, enters training in the sequel for this.
  • One Piece: Potentially all living beings can use Haki, a supernatural power based on ambition, although training is also necessary (and many people perhaps think that Haki is a rare gift). However, very few can use a rare type of Haki called "King's Disposition", which lets you subdue weak-willed people through force of will. It is described as a gift ("no amount of training will give you that Haki if you just don't happen to have it"), and only a handful of people (at least, overall) have it. And like the other Haki types, it has to be trained.

    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics
    • While the metaphysics of the DC Comics universe is often confused, it seems that some characters (such as Zatanna) are "Homo Magi", members of a subspecies of humanity with the ability to work magic quickly and easily, while others (such as John Constantine) have to work through rituals and hard study.
    • Many members of the Legion of Super-Heroes come from worlds whose denizens have the same powers they do. Chameleon Boy, for example, is a Durlan with the natural ability to shapeshift. However, because of the intense training and breadth of experiences they undergo as Legionnaires (combat, rescue, exploration of strange phenomena, helping with scientific experiments, investigation and more), members tend to become far more adept at the application of their abilities than other examples of their species, growing stronger by constantly working to overcome their limits. To use Chameleon Boy again, the average Durlan is a recluse who never leaves their home planet, while he's personally gone out into the galaxy and learned about all kinds of different creatures with amazing abilities he can utilize in their forms. Some like Saturn Girl or Cosmic Boy also start out as above-average examples of their kind and only get better with experience.
  • Mutants in the Marvel Universe are sometimes described in similar terms, although their powers are explicitly not magical; these powers usually kick in at adolescence, and it's sometimes said that mutants need training to prevent them harming themselves and others. However, in practice, many mutants seem to get their powers to work pretty well without much or any training, with at worst twinges of megalomania or outbursts of Power Incontinence.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm:
    • The ability to sense and wield magic is an inborn gift, though it's implied that with the right Magitek, you can manipulate it, as it's also the fifth fundamental force of the universe. In fact, that's how a lot of Asgardian technology works (and, for that matter, the Ring of the Green Lantern and Pandora's Box) - in essence, they function as a much more sophisticated form of ritual.
      • Aside from that, it takes training for a magical gift to go anywhere beyond Power Incontinence: in the case of Wandless Magic in particular, even a naturally strong gift can fade away into nothing if it is resolutely ignored. On the other hand, the genetic potential remains, it can be inherited, and it can wake up again if given a suitable outside stimulus. Likewise, while raw power is dictated partly by birth, it's also dependant on training.
    • X-Gene mutations in general are inborn, and so are power levels, though it's implied that Harry would have been blissfully unaware of his own vast psionic powers if they hadn't been forced out of dormancy. Some need more training than others, particularly Psychic Powers - which, not coincidentally, are repeatedly noted to partially overlap with magic.
    • Chaos Magic also seems to run in families (or at least, it does once it's in a family), as Hermione demonstrates. Wanda hints that it's not impossible to use otherwise, implying that a lot of more ordinary magic is much closer to chaos than its practitioners would like to admit. However, it's a pretty rare and unique form of magic that needs special education because it's dangerous, and because Magic A Is Magic A absolutely does not apply.
  • Dedicated Hearts made Fullmetal has this slowly happen as the Elric Brothers help teach the Humans of The Walls about the art of Alchemy as a means to help better their society along with updating their scientific capabilities and technological understanding, with Hange Zoe and Armin Artlet becoming the first two Alchemists of the Scouts. After realizing the danger that this development poses, Reiner convinces Bertholdt that they need to capture at least one of the Elrics and take them back to their homeland in order to extract the knowledge of Alchemy for the sake of Marley.
    Reiner: Unlike our Titan powers their abilities can be taught and spread.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Onward, Ian discovers he has magical ability on his 16th birthday, but he has no clue how to use it. Fortunately, his brother Barley is an avid fan of a D&D-like game that's based on a time when magic was more common, giving him the knowledge he needs to train Ian into a proper mage.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Excalibur, when Merlin assesses Morgana as a possible magic-worker, he tests her knowledge of "the Art" — training in magic-related lore — and then attempts to determine if she has "the Sight" — innate magical sensitivity.
  • In the Star Wars franchise, not everyone is "strong in the Force"; a Badass Normal like Han Solo could meditate on hokey ancient religions all he liked, but it would be no match for a good blaster at his side. Without training, most Force-sensitives can use their powers only unconsciously, rendering them lucky in ways subtle enough to only be identified through statistical analysis of gambling patterns, or enhancing their reflexes in ways that render them not much different from a Badass Normal. With training, they can do all the flashy quasi-magical Jedi tricks we see in the films, novels, video games, etc.
  • Mythica: The highly experienced Wizard Gojun Pye wants to train Marek, and she wants his help, but events keep on getting in the way.

  • Magic in An Outcast in Another World requires not only an innate spark of potential to utilize, but takes years of rigorous study to use effectively. Unless you’re an Archmage.
  • The Black Magician Trilogy: Magical power is an innate gift, but mages need to be taught how to use it for anything more sophisticated than brute-force strikes, like telepathy or Healing Hands. Sonea becomes the first non-aristocrat in Imardin's Wizarding School because her magical gift is great enough to threaten a Superpower Meltdown if left untrained.
  • The Broken Earth Trilogy: Orogeny is a trait that one must be born with, and is usually but not always genetic. The Fulcrum believes orogeny is inherently dangerous and actively conscripts orogenes in order to control their powers, in all senses of the word. In an inversion of how it's usually portrayed, orogenes are naturally capable of massive, dramatic displays of power — what the Fulcrum teaches is subtlety.
  • Circle of Magic: Mages have a law whereby, if a mage discovers anybody with untrained magic (usually children, but the occasional adult does pop up), the mage is required to become their teacher, or find someone better for the job — the reason being that magic can be quite dangerous to people if they don't learn to control it.
  • Darkover: There's a saying that "an untrained telepath is a danger to themselves and everyone around them". Thus at least basic training is considered a must for anyone who manifests actual Psychic Powers. A properly-trained psychic, aided by a matrix crystal, can perform feats of what is Magic by Any Other Name.
  • Discworld: This trope is at least implied in several places in the series.
    • In the earliest books, wizards (and presumably witches) are said to be able to see "octarine", the eighth color of the spectrum, the "color of magic", because of special octagonal structures in their eyes as well as rods and cones. This isn't mentioned much in later books, but it still seems in those that magic is some sort of innate gift.
    • It also seems that people with strong magical gifts, such as Eskarina Smith, can be dangerous to everyone around them if not properly trained. Even partly-trained but powerful casters can be dangerous to themselves; for example, "borrowing" an animal's mind can lead to a witch becoming lost in the animal's senses. Unseen University has a gymnasium lined with magic-proof materials where students are required to practice.
    • The one big attempt we see by untrained and ungifted characters to work significant magic, in Guards! Guards!, involves lengthy rituals and external sources of power. It sort of works, very spectacularly, but does not end at all well. (The first edition Discworld Roleplaying Game compares it to driving a car with no lessons, while blindfolded — if you do manage to achieve anything, your problems have only started.)
    • The interplay between training and gift is emphasised in the short story "The Sea and Little Fishes", where someone says that recurring series character Granny Weatherwax has a "natural talent" and her friend Nanny Ogg replies that no, she works bloody hard at it. It’s sometimes hinted that Nanny herself may have a stronger gift, but can't be bothered with training it much — though Granny is very definitely gifted in her own right, as are many members of the Weatherwax family. (Granny’s sister Lily was a powerful fairy godmother who ruled Genua as the Man Behind the Man for decades, and Galder Weatherwax — a distant cousin — was Archchancellor of Unseen University back in the Klingon Promotion days.) Granny's hard work certainly more than makes up any deficit in her gift compared to Nanny’s.
  • Dragonvarld: Draconas trains Marcus over several months to use his magic, which would end up killing him otherwise, sending him off home afterward.
  • The Dresden Files: Ordinary humans are limited to being able to make a circle (which just requires a drop of blood and an effort of Will) and work a ritual, which Dresden describes as "a cosmic vending machine" — perform ritual, insert sacrifice, get result, because the power comes from the being you're invoking. You need to have magical potential to work proper spells, but how hard you train ultimately affects what you can use your magic for, it being explicitly stated that even a relatively minor talent, properly trained and given time can "grow teeth." Harry starts out as Unskilled, but Strong - he's one of the top 50 strongest mages in the world in his mid-twenties, despite the fact that practitioners hit their magical prime at around 100 years old. However, he's not overly subtle, lacks control and stamina, and often wastes power as a result in the earlier books. Over the course of the books, he learns a lot about using far more precision and focus (especially after he takes Molly as his apprentice, meaning that he gets a much better understanding of the basics after re-examining them as an adult). This is made most apparent in Skin Game when he encounters another mage who he says has a similar level of raw power, but because she's only ever practiced fire magic and neglected everything else, she's ultimately the weaker of the two. At the end, even though he's tired and carrying a number of broken bones, while she's relatively fresh and backed up by Lasciel, with extensive knowledge of most of his offensive and defensive skills, he still beats her comfortably, even while trying to talk her down. As he says afterwards, sickened, "that wasn't a fight. It was murder."
  • Human magic may work this way in Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea. Ged is first taken as a trainee by a witch when he shows a remarkable ability to cast simple spells after hearing them once, then recruited for (extensive) training at a Wizarding School after showing greater but still limited power. It's possible that anyone could achieve something if they knew the right true names, but most people would probably be dangerously clumsy at best.
  • In The Fire's Stone, Chandra has done most of her studying on her own, and the Big Bad tempts her with the knowledge he can share with her to increase her natural abilities.
  • In the Harry Potter series, you're either a witch/wizard or a "muggle." Witches and wizards can only perform minor and largely uncontrolled magic without training and the assistance of a wand, but a muggle can study all they like, they'll never be able to do it. "Muggleborn" wizards exist, so the gift isn't always inherited directly from your parents, but Word of God is that they must all have some wizard ancestors.

    (There is a possible middle ground in the form of "squibs" like Argus Filch — the children of wizards who don't have magical powers. Most of them can at least sense magic, even if they can't use it. Filch tried to use a lesson series to use some magic but he never developed any abilities and it's highly implied those lessons were a scam.)
  • Usually played straight in the works of Mercedes Lackey.
    • In the Heralds of Valdemar series, True Magic and MindMagic (Psychic Powers) are both inborn abilities. Untrained Gifts suffer from Power Incontinence; an untrained telepath, for example, could drive herself mad through Hearing Voices and needs to learn a Psychic Block Defense to stay sane. Gifts tend to activate at puberty. Gifted persons with the potential to be Heralds attract the attention of the Companions, who Choose likely youngsters and carry them off to the capital to be trained. Others get training with Healers, Bards, independent magic schools, or even foreign mages like the Tayledras.
      The strength of Gifts varies wildly, with Mage gifts in particular being divided into tiersnote  by the strongest source of magical energy they can access without backlash. Each power source offers upwards of an order of magnitude more energy than the last, yet it's oft-noted that a Weak, but Skilled caster can still defeat somebody at a higher tier that does nothing but clumsily throws their weight around.
    • Magic in the same Elemental Masters series appears to follow this pattern. Marina specifically points out in The Gates of Sleep that while she may have the potential to be an Elemental Master, she doesn't have the training to claim that title.
    • In her Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, magic is the ability to manipulate the Tradition, and it doesn't appear to be an innate ability. What is needed is more the right set of traditional circumstances, a savvy tutor, and a good stock of magic already at hand to learn on. Some characters receive the blessing of the Fae, which makes the magic visible and helps a lot, but it doesn't seem to be strictly necessary.
  • In Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments and its prequel series The Infernal Devices, Warlocks and Shadowhunters are an example of this. Warlocks are the Half-Human Hybrid offspring of demons and possess an innate ability to wield magic. But they can only do so in the most crude ways without training in magical languages, writing, and spells. Likewise, the Shadowhunters have angelic blood that gives them the potential to scribe magical runes from the language of Heaven. However, this is akin to learning calligraphy, as the runes are often very complex. They also have to be drawn with focused intent using an implement called a stele (analogous to a wand) in order to work. Most Shadowhunters only know a fraction of the runes originally given to them by the Angel Raziel.
  • In My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, the magical power a magic-user has is more or less determined when their powers first manifest at about four or five; any training only gives improvements at best. Training, however, improves the user's control over their magic. This is important to people like Keith whose magic is both very powerful and very difficult to control; Power Incontinence is part of his Dark and Troubled Past.
  • In The Irregular at Magic High School, magic requires not just the right bloodline, but high-level understanding of physics and technological aids, which magician schools also teach. Untrained magicians tend to overheat the Magic Calculation Areas in their brain, crippling themselves forever (the Juumonji bloodline has particular problems with this, which is why training is mandatory for them), or they use magic before their bodies have developed enough to handle it, which has adverse effects on the child's growth.
    • In the Maidens of Cygnus spinoff, a character plays magic tennis mainly to train herself. The idea is that it teaches her to conjure multiple shields quickly and intuitively, and keep track of a competitor's moves the same way she might have to someday in real combat.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch (Series), the Others are born with the potential to do magic (except for humans turned by vampires and werewolves). However, in order to become a full-fledged Other, one must first be discovered by an Other (usually by Aura Vision) and then initiated (an unspoken rule states that, if an uninitiated Other has been found by a Light or Dark Other, then an Other from the opposing side must not attempt to "poach" him or her; generally, an Other will attempt to subtly manipulate the uninitiated into a certain state of mind before their first trip into the Twilight). At the moment of initiation, the new Other's alignment (Light or Dark) is determined by their current emotional state. Using magic requires spells, which an untrained Other would not know. Both the Night and the Day Watches have school facilities in their headquarters, where the newly-initiated Others are educated in the history of the Others, rudimentary magic skills, and the need to maintain The Masquerade. Those who subsequently join their Watch can be trained further in magic, although true mastery requires centuries. (It helps that the Others are, effectively, The Ageless.)
  • In Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner series, most of the Aurënfaie and many humans with 'faie ancestors exhibit some Inherent Gift. It is usually very minor unless they work to develop proficiency with it. The Third Orëska of Skala actively seeks children with magical potential and recruits them as apprentice wizards.
  • The Queen of Ieflaria: In order to safely use magic, people must be trained, as otherwise they can't control it.
  • Schooled in Magic: You need to be magically gifted to use most forms of magic. Using it well and safely however requires training, which schools like Whitehall provide (some rich magicians get tutors).
  • In Skin Hunger, there seem to be different ways to work magic. Sadima is born with the ability to communicate with animals, while Hahp just learns to do magic. It is left unclear whether Hahp had some magic talent to begin with.
  • In Slayers, the magical gift comes in two measurable parts: "bucket capacity" (how many "spell points" you can use with one spell) and "pool capacity" (how many "spell points" you can have in total). High levels of either attribute are an in-born gift, but if you have those, you also need to study and learn magical lore. Gourry Gabriev, for example, has magical gifts but lacks the intelligence and memory to learn magical skill. Furthermore, only pool capacity can be increased through training and practice; bucket capacity is something determined at birth, so the only ways to increase it are by magical "cheating" (e.g. wearing extremely rare and specialized power-boosting talismans, or undergoing the chimera process with magical creatures like Brau Demons).
  • In Tanya Huff's Smoke series, protagonist Tony Foster demonstrates the potential to wield magic in the first book, but does not become truly proficient at it until repeated supernatural problems compel him to seriously apply himself to study and practice.
  • Sword of Truth: People who have the gift need training for them to use magic (this requires touching their "Han", or life force). The gifted are trained in the Palace of the Prophets. When sorceresses, this is fairly easy. However, if they're wizards this can take centuries. As a result, the Palace is under a spell that stops people aging while they're there so they don't simply die of old age before this is possible. Wizards used to be trained in the Wizards' Keep, but the old wizards have died out except for Zedd by the time of the series (he's too busy to train anyone as well).
  • Third Time Lucky: And Other Stories of the Most Powerful Wizard in the World: In "And Who Is Joah?" Magdelene can tell Joah has vast magical power, like her, but without any training she'll be hugely dangerous. So she takes Joah as her apprentice, something Magdelene would never do usually.
  • Uprooted: Only those born with the gift of magic (like Agnieszka) can cast spells. There are a lot of spells out there to learn, and casting them gets easier with practice. It's still possible to use your gift in small ways without spells, even if you don't know that you have a gift, but you're not going to get very far. Hence the king's law that everyone with the gift must be trained.
  • In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, approximately one percent of people have the ability to touch the True Source and draw on the One Power, but they'll never do it unless they learn the proper form of meditation; then they have to learn the precise ways of arranging the Power into weaves to create a specific desired effect. This attribute is partly genetic, partly spiritual, which basically means it crops up more often among families, but the main characters are more capable than most Because Destiny Says So. Of those who can channel, about one percent have what is called the "spark", and will eventually channel whether they try or not, often killing themselves in the process. A handful of those survive by putting an instinctive 'block' on their channelling, which makes it harder for them to learn how to do it correctly when they get official training.

    Live-Action TV 
  • After her Superpowered Evil Side's Roaring Rampage of Revenge at the end of Season 6, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Willow Rosenberg undergoes magical training in England. This is a slightly odd example, in that she had already reached a pretty advanced stage of development as a witch, but it's implied that she relied too much on raw power, with almost no discipline, and Season 6 certainly saw the development of a very unhealthy approach to her power. Her post-England attitude to magic is noticeably more Zen, or at least more focused and less wild, than it had ever been up to this point. Characters in the series such as Giles who possess sufficient education but no apparent gift can work magic but must perform complex rituals and are a lot more tentative about it.
  • In Charmed, witches are born with their abilities, and plenty of people are shown as being unable to use magic. And while you're born with your specific gift (other than the ability to cast spells and scry, each of the witches has their own skill — telekinesis, empathy, etc.), you have to learn to use your abilities and hone your skills. Powers can also be "bound" (repressed) or transferred from one character to another. Characters can also power up over time with abilities changing to more powerful forms.
  • Motherland: Fort Salem: Magic is a largely hereditary and inherent ability. However, it requires training to be used properly. In the US, that's a military issue, with witches conscripted and trained at Fort Salem.
  • The Ocampa on Star Trek: Voyager have absolutely enormous potential for Psychic Powers, with the possibility of even becoming Energy Beings and Ascending to a Higher Plane of Existence. However, this is something that the vast majority of them will never achieve, as it usually requires a great deal of training (or something pushing them into Super Mode) to get them to this point. The Sufficiently Advanced Alien Suspiria has made it her mission to train a small group of Ocampa to reach their full potential and join her in Another Dimension. It also doesn't help that the Ocampa have an average lifespan of only 9 years, limiting their training time.
  • In WandaVision, it appears that witch-magic is an inborn gift that must be trained to work at all dramatically; Agatha apparently has a lot of inborn power, but first had to be trained by her mother’s coven, and then surpassed them through self-teaching from books of Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. She deduces that Wanda, on the other hand, was born with a small gift that would have faded through lack of training, but then had it unlocked and amplified by exposure to an Infinity Stone, eventually making her a quite terrifyingly Unskilled, but Strong being — the legendary “Scarlet Witch”. Agatha seems to be simultaneously awestruck, jealous, and nervous of Wanda’s ability to defy the trope, but has her own response to this.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Ars Magica, full-power magicians have to possess "The Gift", although some other people can work slightly less impressive forms of magic. The Gift must be "unlocked" to be useful, but even before that, characters who possess it tend to be perceived as creepy and dubious by other humans and animals, often causing them to be persecuted by their neighbors.
  • In The Dark Eye, one has to have both magical talent and a long, involved education to become a full mage. A person who wasn't trained, or whose talent was weaker, is a "quarter-mage" or "magic-dilettant": they have a limited number of spells they can cast as a supernatural ability, but they can't learn other spells and have a smaller spell point pool. Half-mages are in between (depending on a character's culture and profession, they may have had more or less magical education). Only some humans are capable of magic, but all elves are, and every half-elf is at least a quarter-mage.
  • The Sorcerer character class in Dungeons & Dragons. In contrast to wizards, sorcerers have an Inherent Gift for magic. However, like all other character classes, they have to accumulate experience points and gain levels in order to expand their spells known and how powerful the spells they can cast are. On the other hand, how much level advancement represents "training" really depends how one views the nature of the game world. There are also prestige classes that they can pursue in order to gain more specialized abilities.
  • Pathfinder (which derives from D&D as described above) features the Arcanist class, which is described as a person with the sorcerous gift who learns to channel and control it by wizard-like studies. While not meant to be more powerful than sorcerers or wizards (for balance reasons), by default they can be described as more magically adept than sorcerers, in that instead of the bloodline changes sorcerers develop arcanists get various tricks related to spells and magic.
  • GURPS: This kind of distinction is represented in the basic magic system by the "Magery" character advantage (also known as "Magical Aptitude"). In some settings, only characters with Magery can cast spells; in others, in areas of "high mana", anyone can do so, but levels of Magery give a bonus.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The powers possessed by "psykers" aren't called "magic", but they might as well be. Psykers are randomly born, but they have a very strong tendency to get possessed by demons if not found and trained by the Imperium, a process that takes years and is extremely detrimental to the psyker's mental health (and since being a psyker involves hearing voices pretty much all the time, they aren’t generally all that sane to begin with).

    One version of the Emperor’s backstory (which may or may not still be canon) had him being the combined reincarnation of all of Earth's shamans (ancient psykers) after they committed mass ritual suicide. When his powers awakened, he also inherited the sum total of their memories, and with it their lifetimes of training. Thus he had the good fortune of inheriting both the gift and the knowledge needed to actually control it.
  • In Mage: The Awakening, anyone has the potential to "Awaken" to a Supernal Path and begin to develop their powers in various "Arcana" of magic through a Point Build System. However, each Path is associated with specific Arcana and a mage is limited in how far they can progress in other Arcana without outside help; for example, an Acanthus can master Fate and Time on their own, but needs a tutor to progress beyond the basics in Matter.'
  • Shadowrun magic users work this way. Around .1% of the Earth's population are born "Awakened" and able to perceive magic at all, which in gameplay terms means having a Magic stat higher than 0. Within the Awakened population, there are also varying talents that decide how you can use your magic. Gameplay-wise, your talent determines what you can use your Magic stat to actually do, by limiting which magically active skills you can learn. One's talent is also limited by birth; full-blown magicians (who can learn any magic-related skill) are extremely rare setting-wise and a tiny percentage of the overall Awakened population. Finally, there is how much raw power you have, which is decided by your Magic stat, your known spells and rituals/Power Points (for adepts), and your skill rating(s) in your magical skills. This final part can be changed over time by improving characters with Karma and money, representing training your gift. A sorcerer (a magic user who can only cast spells, not perform rituals, summon spirits or enchant items) with a high Magic stat, training in spellcasting, and knowing the right combat spells can and will ruin the day of a full-blown mage who is less trained, but will never be able to match the latter's flexibility.

    Video Games 
  • In Destiny and Destiny 2, being a Lightbearer requires one to be risen from the dead by a Ghost that believes they displayed the right qualities to deserve empowerment (commonly parsed as "devotion, bravery, sacrifice, death"). Once that's done, however, one's facility with the Light depends wholly on their willingness to exercise it and push their boundaries — while some characters are said to be naturally strong in the Light, nothing stops anyone else from attaining the same level with enough experience. Even Ikora Rey, one of the strongest Guardians in history, began her career only marginally more capable (at best) than average. As she explains to a self-described "low power Guardian":
    [...] the possibility of your Light is unlimited. I mean this very seriously. A novice go player has the exact same power to place stones as a 9-dan master. The only difference between them lies in their knowledge and ability to choose [...] the only difference in "power" between you and me lies in what we have learned and practiced.
  • In the Dragon Age series everyone (except dwarves) is connected to the Fade, a magical realm that exists alongside the normal world. Mages are those who are born with unusually strong connections that allow them to draw power from it by shaping wisps into spells. While potential is at least partially genetic, it is impossible to say who will or will not be a mage at birth as the power usually begins to manifest at the onset of puberty. When discovered, a mage is required to join the Circle of Magi immediately and permanently to receive training in using their powers. Those who fail to receive training as soon as possible risk stunted magical potential, dangerous accidents, and Demonic Possession.
  • In the Mass Effect series, those individuals exposed to element zero in the womb and not born with defects become biotics. Asari are the only race, all of whom are biotic, due to the high concentration of eezo on their homeworld and genetic engineering. All biotics except asari need to have implants in order to generate and manipulate mass effect fields strong enough for practical applications. However, their control is extremely basic and unfocused until they undergo appropriate training. It takes many years for a biotic to achieve his or her peak.
  • League of Legends:
    • Ezreal was born with the potential to be a powerful mage, but he wanted to be an explorer too much to waste time in magic lessons. His gift went untapped for many years, but eventually his explorations turned up an artifact that would channel his power for him. In his old lore, he 'paid' for the artifact by letting it summon him into League matches — in his new lore, the cost is not yet known.
    • Syndra had an immense gift, to the extent that her teacher locked most of it away and trained what he considered to be a safe level. She realized he had limited her power and made her displeasure known. Violently.
    • This formerly applied to Twisted Fate, who wanted to be a mage but had no gift; he bought one through a Zaunian experiment and paid for it by handing over his best friend Graves. In the "Burning Tides" retcon, however, TF always had the gift and his 'betrayal' of Graves was over a different matter (and partially Graves' own fault).
  • In Lunar: The Silver Star, whether someone is capable of casting magic is determined by taking a visit to Black Rose Street in the huge city of Meribia, where what potential you might have is unlocked; in-game, protagonist Alex has a propensity for flame and healing magic unlocked, and muggle Ramus doesn't have a lick of magic within him. Newly-unlocked mages can then travel to the floating Magic City of Vane to study and train their skills. Note that this aspect of Black Rose Street isn't used in the later 32-bit remake, as Alex's skillset changed up to downplay his magical prowess.

    Web Comics 
  • In Girl Genius, "the Spark" is a rare, largely hereditary personal attribute that grants access to mad science that frequently verges on the magical. "Sparks" primarily possess a capacity for insane levels of hyperfocus on technical tasks, and can function without training — but obviously, a good technical education helps; an excellent example being a baker with the Spark, whose proficiency is almost entirely limited to the production of pies with varying effects. They also need to learn to channel their own abilities relatively safely, and some are lynched by the non-Spark general populace when their abilities manifest uncontrollably for the first time.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Only a select number of individuals are able to use magic at all, and the differences in power between the three mages introduced in the story come from the amount of training and practical experience that they've each had.
  • In Yokoka's Quest, spells involving a Magical Incantation require the caster to be able to speak the words in the correct elemental language, and characters have an "edge" element that they should be naturally good at using. Yin teaches Yokoka a spell to see in the dark, and Yfa fails to learn it due to not knowing the language for that spell. Inky also fails to teach Yokoka any Light magic, despite Light being her edge element, as she can't comprehend Light language.

    Web Original 
  • The purpose of Brakket Magical Academy in Void Domain. One must not only have the ability to use magic, but they must also learn how to use that magic.
  • Telepathy is an innate ability of a small percentage of humans (and possibly other species) in Pay Me, Bug!, but telepaths must receive special training during their early adolescent years or their power could break their minds.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: This is how "bending" works. One is born as either a "bender" or "non-bender". Without training, Katara's "waterbending" is little more than a parlor trick; you could move more water just by splashing with your hands. With training, she is capable of healing, manipulating, freezing, and thawing large quantities, and even (under the right circumstances) manipulating water in people's blood to make People Puppets out of her enemies. It does appear to be possible for some prodigies (such as Avatar Korra of The Legend of Korra, who is seen bending three of the four elements at a very young age with little or no formal training) to be self-taught, but it is very rare. One exception to the inborn aspect of bending shows up in the third season of The Legend of Korra. The Harmonic Convergence at the end of season 2 somehow grants Airbending to people all over the world (presumably to restore balance after the genocide of the Air Nomads by the Fire Nation).
  • Elena of Avalor: Everyone has some level of amount of raw magic potential, but this can be changed through powerful spells and other magical processes.
    • Elena herself became a powerful magic user from the 41 years she was inside the Amulet of Avalor. This allowed her to unlock the magical properties of the royal Scepter of Light as well as being able to see spirits, but the downside is that it's Cast from Hit Points; The first time she used it to the full extent she passed out for two days. She did lose this weakness once she became fully magical, however.
    • We also learn that magic potential is genetic, although inheritors don't always pursue learning magic. For example, Rafa de Alva never pursued magic like her father because it was outlawed during Shuriki's reign over Avalor and she had no interest in it, but her son Mateo taught himself magic when he discovered his grandfather's cache of magical items. Additionally, Rafa is shown to be able to use magic if she wanted to.
    • Magic can be given if granted by another sorcerer, malvago, or exposure to magic crystals — similar to Elena with the amulet, Elena and Esteban gain more magical powers from falling into the Crystal Forge, but require training to perfect them.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: All unicorns can use active magic, but this takes training to truly perfect. All unicorns can use basic telekinesis, but for more specialized and powerful magic they need to spend a long time in a specialized school or being tutored by a more experienced magician, practicing spells, and poring over textbooks. Even so, not all unicorns are equal — some are innately much more powerful than others and can cast much stronger spells, while others simply don't have any inborn talent and won't be able to change this no matter how much they study.