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June 6, 2012, 7:56 pm

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Tuner Mages


A group of mages that can alter the strength and properties of spells or enchanted items slightly but cannot cast a spell themselves


Tuner Mages are half way between normal people without any affinity to magic and full mages. They are in tune with magic but cannot shape it in its raw form. Consequently, Tuner mages cannot cast spells themselves. However, once the raw magical force has been channeled into an enchantment, then a Tuner Mage would be able to manipulate the enchantment. That is, a Tuner Mage has the ability to increase/ decrease the strength of a spell or an enchanted item as well as changing its properties. The amount of “tuning” that can be done on a spell, though, is limited by the degree of similarity between the original spell and the desired change as well being dependent on the skills of individual Tuner Mages.

Currently, the most sizable group of Tuner Mages resides in the Dragon Empires and is regulated by the School of Tuner Wizardry. There are other Tuner Mages scattered around the world but whether their talents are recognized varies by locales.  

Origin- The Story of Tao Yuan

The father of Tuner Wizardry was a man by the name of Tao Yuan, who was born in the Qi Dynasty. It was recorded that he was originally a mage apprentice who his Master saw much potential in. Having the ability to memorise entire books at a glance and almost instantaneously grasping the most difficult of arcane concepts, he was a favoured apprentice right from the start. Once the focus of their studies turned away from concepts into actual practice, however, Yuan somehow never managed to actually cast spells. This was first attributed to a wandering mind as sometimes wont to happen to young apprentices who had not yet attained the level of mind discipline required. As this persisted, however, suspicions started to form of the other possibility. Whispers started that Yuan might be one of the “Dead Mages”, destined for the awkward social station that is above commoners and yet perpetually ridiculed and sneered upon by actual mages.

Meanwhile, Yuan, being of persistent mind, was determined to prove the rumors wrong. According to records, the turning point in his life came about in the following way:

Tenth Year of Heaven's Decree

This marks the discovery of a controversial but influential sub-field of magic, Tuner Wizardry. Through pure chance, Tao Yuan, a mere apprentice at that time and showing potential signs of being a Dead Mage, was attempting to cast a flame spell while one of classmates in the proximity was casting a smoke spell. A thin column of smoke came out and changed mid-way into a tiny flame…..

~ excerpt from A Chronology of Developments in Magic


The Emperor, ever eager to fund the pursuit of new knowledge, endorsed Yuan’s status as a formal mage immediately after the incident. With the full backing of the Emperor, Yuan soon made substantial inroads into grasping the potentials and limits of this completely new form of magecraft. He also discovered that this talent was not unique to himself only but rather shared by many of the “Dead Mages”. Feeling a bond to these individuals, Yuan requested and gained permission from the Emperor to work in partnership with them. As one could only attain full mage status in the Dragon Empire through having a widely acknowledged signature spell, however, Yuan could only take these individuals under his wings as apprentices.  Moreover, since these ‘apprentices’ were quite numerous in number, Yuan had to give his “lessons” in a spacious venue and thus spawned the concept of a school for individuals with the same ‘magical’ talents as himself. In such early days, there was no official name for this unique form of ‘magic’ and the school was known briefly by some obscure name which can no longer be found in records. The term Tuner Wizardry came about later from a remark by one of the students at the school during a theoretical session. It was recorded that this student was an accomplished player of the *guzheng and likened the fundamentals of this novel magecraft to the tuning for this particular instrument.

*guzheng is basically a stringed instrument that belongs to the zither family (see for details), also known as Chinese zither.


Tests to distinguish between a full mage and a Tuner Mage at the initiate level are as yet undiscovered. However, Yuan was able to devise a test for whether an individual is attuned to magic. This created a large ripple within the circle of magic as previously there was no reliable test* at all for who actually has the capability for practicing magic, hence the large number of “Dead Mages”. Given this new development, the phenomenon of “Dead Mages” quickly died out as no one without a genuine potential for becoming a mage was mistakenly admitted to an apprenticeship.

There are currently two ways that individuals gain admission to the School of Tuner Wizardry. Firstly, there are agents travelling throughout the Dragon Empire who actively recruit potential students. These would invariably be those born to the lower and common classes since more affluent families would have their children tested for magic affinity once they come of age.  Many of these recruited students might turn out to be a full mage instead, in which case they are referred to the School of Magic. In return, the School of Magic reciprocates by notifying of any initiates admitted who are discovered to have their talent in Tuner Wizardry instead.

*Previously, admission to a mage apprenticeship was based on the successful demonstration of an understanding of basic arcane concepts. This creates an inherent bias against common citizens who are not particularly wealthy, among whom the proportion who can read and write is quite low. In addition, many born to wealthy families or nobility were admitted through “special recommendations” i.e. bribes.

The Here and Now

Over the generations, the School of Tuner Wizardry has evolved from a place used exclusively by Tuner Mages to undertake training and collaborative research to an institution widely open to the public. In contrast to the early days when Tuner Mages tend to be largely of an academic nature (as all mages in the Dragon Empire invariably were and full mages still are), their main activities as a group nowadays is the inspection and adjustment of enchanted items which they offer as a service to paying individuals of all social classes.

This has often been sneered upon by other mages who would never ‘deign to associate themselves with the common rabble’. Nevertheless, the School of Tuner Wizardry now has a partnership with the School of Magic for which it is paid an annual fee for services rendered. In particular, The School of Magic has always had an active agenda in the research of spell variations. Naturally, this is an area in which the knowledge and assistance of a Tuner Mage are invaluable to the chance of success. To this end, there is a long standing agreement between the 2 Schools in which Tuner Mages can be contracted out for collaborative research.

There are also additional ways in which Tuner Mages interact with other magic practitioners. Specifically, in a kingdom as wont to corruption as the Dragon Empire, mage apprentices have been known to buy the services of a Tuner Mage in order to cheat at tests. It was even rumored that one or two of the senior mages, desperate to hold onto their positions and influence in their old ages, have resorted to underground dealings with the Tuner Mages.

Plot Hook/Roleplaying Use:

1. Spells are going wrong everywhere in the Dragon Empire. A high level Tuner Mage gone rogue? A campaign by the School of Tuner Wizardry to gain power? Someone masterminding a discredit campaign against Tuner Mages? Or something else entirely?

2. Afflicted by a curse or discovered a cursed item? No worries if you can find a Tuner Mage. 


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Comments ( 18 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

March 14, 2009, 4:04
Maybe they could paint themselves as 'safe' mages. In a world, where there is plenty of magic items, there are also many quirky, dysfunctional and downright cursed or 'evil' items. And for that, you could call one of these mages to tune the magic item in question. They would have great abilities in identifying their properties and some potential to adjust them. They would be all about safety, that could make a good selling point.
March 15, 2009, 18:54
Thanks for the suggestion above. As always, it's a good idea and I can easily incorporate it into the sub.
March 16, 2009, 18:01
My thought would be that Tuner Mages would hire themselves out to those magic-users that simply aren't that good at their craft. All sorts of plot devices could result of a partnership of this nature (especially if they didn't like each other personally!)
October 21, 2010, 23:28
Update: Still incomplete sub at this stage but at least have a substantial part of the underlying logic worked out. Promoting this to in work status to give myself incentive to complete it.
June 6, 2012, 19:55
Update: This work has finally shaken itself from the grasp of Mathom after 2 years. Also, a special thank you to those who've commented and suggested ideas for this sub (previously a stub).
Voted Cheka Man
June 6, 2012, 22:11
Voted Forganthus
June 7, 2012, 4:00
I think they're pretty respectable. You don't need to know how to build a computer to hack the internets.
Voted chilled
June 7, 2012, 4:56
Only voted
Voted Dionysus
June 7, 2012, 8:38
Only voted
Voted Mourngrymn
June 7, 2012, 9:03
Only voted
Voted Kassy
June 7, 2012, 10:45
Only voted
Voted Silveressa
June 10, 2012, 4:32
A fun class of mage, and an excellent NPC companion to toss in a party of spell slingers that won't over power the rest of the group.
Voted MysticMoon
June 21, 2012, 20:21
I like these kinds of subs; they explore ideas that aren't about uber-powerful characters or powers. Not every mage will attain greatness but they can still be worth noting. Also, it would be interesting to see how a tuner mage PC could fill out and enhance a larger party. And, being more accessible to the lower classes means that the party may be more likely to interact with them.
June 21, 2012, 21:14
Thanks for the comment, this really helps me to know whether the underlying formulation of this sub got across or not- this is in essence a sub where I'm trying to provide a particular glimpse into a particular society- the Dragon Empire as well as writing about the concept of Tuner mages. I know this is a 'game site' and most are here to grab ideas and a sub like this one that is quite specific to a given 'world' is bound to be received somewhat indifferently by most. But the bunch of votes w/o any comment at all is starting to get me a bit disconcerted over whether that is due to the issue I mentioned or there's sth wrong with the write-up. Anyway, after this comment, I feel more easy abt this aspect now.
Voted Strolen
September 18, 2012, 14:57
These are a great idea! Wonder if you could hire out some outcast Turner mage mercenaries for certain adventures when you know you will need a little more oompf to you mages current list of spells.

Love your thought that they could fix a cursed item!! Bonus points for that idea!
Voted valadaar
June 13, 2013, 10:28
This is an interesting idea - spellcasters who only perform metamagic.

Fixing cursed items is a very interesting concept as well, though I would expect such an undertaking to be equivalent to disarming unexploded munitions. Could make for some dramatic scenes.

Voted Murometz
December 3, 2013, 12:37
What they all said. A fascinating and original class of casters! PC mage support!
Voted Scrasamax
May 23, 2015, 0:47
Interesting, makes me think of those atypical magic users who aren't slinging spells, the bards, rangers, druids, and a handful of other classes. I like the idea of them being organized together.

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