Compendium Arcanum, Volume 1: Cantrips & Orisons (PFRPG) PDF

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Compendium Arcanum Volume 1: Cantrips & Orisons introduces "multi-variable" spells to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

A multi-variable spell is a spell which, once learned, you can cast as a spell one level higher or lower than the original spell. This mechanic was first introduced in Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved. Multi-variable spells gives spellcasters great flexibility and so Tim decided to begin by adding the Heightened and Diminished qualities to Pathfinder spells.

So, in addition to the normal Pathfinder spell details, you will see one or two new bits of text, specifically, either a “Diminished Effects” line, a “Heightened Effects” line, or both. This is the first book of a set intended to include all spells from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, Advanced Player’s Guide, Ultimate Combat, and Ultimate Magic, now with heightened and diminished effects.

This section describes changes to the spell if it is cast using a slot one Level lower than normal. You must be able to cast a spell at its regular Level before you can use the diminished effects. If you use a diminished effect, treat the spell as one Level lower than listed for purposes of spell slot used, saving throw DCs, magic item pricing, and so on. Spells that are 0-level (or 1st-level alchemist-, paladin-, or ranger-only spells) have no diminished effects.

This section describes changes to the spell if it is cast using a slot one Level higher than normal. If you use a heightened effect, treat the spell as one Level higher than listed, for purposes of spell slot used, saving throw DCs, magic item pricing, and so on, regardless of what Level slot you use. Spells that are 9th Level (or 6th-level alchemist-only spells or 4th-level paladin- or ranger-only spells) have no heightened effects.

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An review


This pdf clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages SRD, 1 page "Thank you for buying note", leaving us with 14 pages of content, so what is this actually about?

Yet another spellbook? No, actually, this is something different. Remember Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved? One of the better d20-systems and variants of Dungeons & Dragons released in the 3.X days of old, its spells had a particular, rather rewarding mechanic- they could be cast in two additional ways - one heightened and one diminished way, each modifying the spell's level by +1/-1 respectively. The effects were modified thus and the overall result was a more interesting spellcasting system, especially with regards to counterspelling. Fast forward to Pathfinder.

In this book's pages, we are introduced to an array of cantrips and orisons (which have no diminished effects, already being 0-level spells), which can thus be upgraded to 1st level. The pdf contains all cantrips and orisons from the core rules, the APG, Ultimate Magic and Ultimate Combat, all upgraded and studded with the heightened effects. Now the respective spells are organized by letters and the heightened effects per se are interesting - take acid splash: Its heightened version allows you to hold the orb of acid for exactly 1 round - any longer, and its blows up in your face. However, if you hold it for 1 round, it instead deals 1d4 points of damage AND 1 point of str-damage. While usually I'd complain about low level attribute damage, the cost of holding the orb and planning make this a valid option. Killing word-count/space-limitations, dealing damage to elemental/ [fire]-subtype creatures via create water, rolling a faster detect magic into one spell with identify, ability to detect poison behind thin barriers... Have I mentioned programming ghost sounds? Or affecting magical objects with mage hand?

It is rather surprising, really, to see so many small options adding rather than detracting from story-telling potential, with just about every option making the respective cantrip/orison MUCH more interesting and versatile.


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column, mostly b/w standard with thematically fitting stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with excessive, nested bookmarks and the pdf comes excessively hyperlinked. Publishing has in my opinion a great series at their fingertips here - in contrast to some of the more problematic first products of the company, this one looks professional, has solid rules-language and sports a lack of glitches I consider the hallmark of a good pdf. Author Timothy Wallace delivers a pdf that is humble, yes, and its premise looks boring, doesn't it? Well, it's not. Contrary to what one would expect, namely to pay for miniscule new content and double for the spells, the modifications enrich the respective cantrips and orisons to an extent that is more than awesome and enriches one's game. My only gripe with this book would be that it's not a massive tome of all spells, including 3pp-spells...Hey, one may dream, may one not? ;P Seriously, this is one of those little, humble pdfs that just are cool and fun and it made me rather excited about future installments of the series. Not all is perfect, though: I do think that the pdf ought to explicitly spell out how counterspelling, CL, metamagic etc. works with heightened/diminished spells for those not familiar with Arcana Evolved et al. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down by a margin to 4.

Endzeitgeist out.

Great concept, with it was bigger.


There isn’t much to say about this product, which is a good thing and a bad thing.

The good is that it is a very simple and wonderful concept. You can cast zero level spells with first level spell slots in order to get a stronger effect. Spells that grow into stronger spells always made more sense than spell cherry-picking so I like this idea. While prepared casters don’t care so much, spontaneous casters effectively get a free spell known, which is amazing for versatility.

The bad is that I almost feel like I should ding it for not being expansive enough. Imagine if these spells had 1-9 spell levels of effects. That would be amazing.

Past that there isn’t really much to say. The product does what it says on the box.

So would I play with it?
Are you kidding? If I were a spontaneous caster or a half-caster these are a gold-mine even if they are just zero level spells that turn into 1st level spells. Its fun and makes for more versatile casting. I am somewhat disappointed that they’re effectively reprints of zero level spells. I would have loved to see level evolving new spells.

So would I allow it at my table?
This is a bit tougher. On one hand I’m adding free spells known to casters, and while this isn’t all that powerful its still free, which makes me want to add a feat or two to get these options. As far as I can tell there are no glitches or exploitable rules so despite not being totally comfortable with extra spells known its still useable and still a good concept.

4 / 5, I’m probably going use this.

Webstore Gninja Minion

Now available!

The Exchange

Thanks Liz!

Anyone have any questions? This was written by Timothy Wallace. Depending on how well this one does will determine if I can afford to do the rest of the series. The word count is VERY high, higher than anything I've done yet so it's risky.

I like it. The idea of giving spells variable effects that allow you to memorize them as one higher or lower level (increasing or decreasing the spells power) is great. I'm really interested in seeing how this idea would carry over to 1st level and higher spells.

The PDF looks good, I really like the background on the pages.

I allways thought about feats that modified cantrips to raise their utility sometimes per day.

Like :
Slippery Frost
Requisits: Can cast Ray of Frost Cantrip, can cast 3rd level arcane spells.
Benefits: Three times per day, any square hit by a casting of ray of frost become slippery as per a casting of Grease by the same caster level that casted the original Ray of Frost.

Anything like that ?

More along the lines of boosting the spells power, Ray of frost deals more damage, virtue lasts longer and grants more temp hp, that sort of thing. Some of them are really creative. And I didn't see any that I thought were overpowered. Its a really good idea.

I started reading the description and thought (before it was mentioned) Arcana Unearthed style casting. Then the next sentence said that. :D

I've loved that idea ever since I read it in AU. Buying this one. I want to see them all.

The Exchange

I'll be glad to post a sample here as well. Glad you all are liking it so far!

The Exchange

Note that this book is 0-level spells only. If this does well enough (and it's looking like it will) I'll move on to increasingly higher-level spells. Here's one example:

School necromancy; Level sorcerer/wizard 0, witch 0
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M (a drop of sweat)
Range touch
Target creature touched
Duration 1 round/level
Saving Throw Fortitude negates; Spell Resistance yes
You channel negative energy through your touch, fatiguing the target. You must succeed on a touch attack to strike a target. The subject is immediately fatigued for the spell's duration.
This spell has no effect on a creature that is already fatigued. Unlike with normal fatigue, the effect ends as soon as the spell's duration expires.
Heightened Effects The spell’s duration increased to 1 minute/level and the target suffers 1 point of Dexterity damage for the duration of the spell.

I am very excited to see such a positive response! So far I have converted all of the 0-2nd level spells from the CRB, APG, UC, and UC. And I am about halfway through converting the 3rd-5th level spells (working on M & N spells right now). After that I will begin work on the 6th-9th level spells. I really hope that this project produces enough interest for to be able publish all 10 spell levels (0-9th). It has been a fun ride so far.

Tim Wallace

As a whole I like the idea. It always struck me as weird to be able to cherry pick the best spells rather than spells to grow into other spells, (Ray of Frost should turn into Frotbite and then into Frigid Touch ect) but either I missed something or I think there should be a limiting factor. Wouldn't these essentially be free spells that don't take up pages in a spellbook for wizards and free spells known for sorcerers?

Granted I haven't taken too deep of a look into how these are supposed to work but they feel like huge versatility boosts to casters and I may houserule an 'Evolved Arcana' feat or make the boosted spells function as separate spells for the purposes of selection.

Either way this is an exciting product that opens a lot of doors and strikes me as an idea that is more 'new' than others I've seen. As far as I can tell it is considerably less glitchy than previous products.

Hi Malwing,

Thank you for stopping by and asking probing questions! =D

While scaling each spell throughout the spell levels would be awesome, it would also be a lot more work (and therefore take a lot more time). As of now, the only time I really have for game design is my breaks at work and a few hours on the weekends, so this is a bit more in the scope of my abilities right now.

While, in effect, these could be considered "free spells," each casting still costs a spell slot. A good example would be the multi-variable version of invisibility:

School illusion (glamer); Level alchemist 2, antipaladin 2,bard 2, inquisitor 2, magus 2, sorcerer/wizard 2, summoner 2; Domain trickery 2; Bloodline arcane 2
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M/DF (an eyelash encased in gum arabic)
Range personal or touch
Target you or a creature or object weighing no more than 100 lbs./level
Duration 1 min./level (D)
Saving Throw Will negates (harmless) or Will negates (harmless, object); Spell Resistance yes (harmless) or yes (harmless, object)
The creature or object touched becomes invisible. If the recipient is a creature carrying gear, that vanishes, too. If you cast the spell on someone else, neither you nor your allies can see the subject, unless you can normally see invisible things or you employ magic to do so.
Items dropped or put down by an invisible creature become visible; items picked up disappear if tucked into the clothing or pouches worn by the creature. Light, however, never becomes invisible, although a source of light can become so (thus, the effect is that of a light with no visible source). Any part of an item that the subject carries but that extends more than 10 feet from it becomes visible.
Of course, the subject is not magically silenced, and certain other conditions can render the recipient detectable (such as swimming in water or stepping in a puddle). If a check is required, a stationary invisible creature has a +40 bonus on its Stealth checks. This bonus is reduced to +20 if the creature is moving. The spell ends if the subject attacks any creature. For purposes of this spell, an attack includes any spell targeting a foe or whose area or effect includes a foe. Exactly who is a foe depends on the invisible character's perceptions. Actions directed at unattended objects do not break the spell. Causing harm indirectly is not an attack. Thus, an invisible being can open doors, talk, eat, climb stairs, summon monsters and have them attack, cut the ropes holding a rope bridge while enemies are on the bridge, remotely trigger traps, open a portcullis to release attack dogs, and so forth. If the subject attacks directly, however, it immediately becomes visible along with all its gear. Spells such as bless that specifically affect allies but not foes are not attacks for this purpose, even when they include foes in their area.
Invisibility can be made permanent (on objects only) with a permanency spell.
Diminished Effects The duration is reduced to 1 round/per level (maximum of 5 rounds).
Heightened Effects The spell confers invisibility upon all creatures within 10 feet of the recipient at the time the spell is cast. The center of the effect is mobile with the recipient. Those affected by this spell can see each other and themselves as if unaffected by the spell. Any affected creature moving out of the area becomes visible, but creatures moving into the area after the spell is cast do not become invisible. Affected creatures (other than the recipient) who attack negate the invisibility only for themselves. If the spell recipient attacks, the spell ends.
Notes This spell combines the effects of the following spells: invisibility, invisibility sphere, and vanish.

So, say you are a 7th level magus, and you know you just want to go invisible long enough the stab someone with your spellstrike-imbued longsword. You are going to prepare the diminished version of invisibility. But if you are a 5th level wizard and you know that you need to sneak your party through a den of lizardfolk. Then you are going to prepare the heightened version of invisibility.

I have been told that this system is also really helpful if you are using a spellpoints spellcasting variant.

Also, I think as a GM it would be entirely appropriate for you to require a Arcana Evolved feat for your players to gain access to the multi-variable versions of spells.

I hope my answers were somewhat helpful.


Reviewed first on, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and's shop.

Endzeitgeist wrote:
Reviewed first on, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and's shop.

Thank you for taking the time to review this, Endzeitgeist.

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