There’s something of an implicit understanding to the Pathfinder rules; we all take it for granted that the rules are finely-tuned for game balance. Now, certainly it’s true that the game does make an effort to maintain balance, but there’s a corollary that if we mess with things too much, what balance the game has achieved will begin to fall apart. What I enjoy about The Genius Guide to Spell Variants Volume 4, from Super Genius Games, is that it helps to remind us that that assumption isn’t true (or at least, isn’t as severe as we sometimes think).
A fourteen page book, the fourth volume of Spell Variants opens with a discussion of making variant spells, and the formatting used herein. Class spell lists are given, before we move to the variants themselves. Fans of the previous books will find the same style of presentation used here, as each spell is numbered for where it appears among the 110 given in this volume. The variant spells themselves are presented only in terms of how they differ from the original spells (which are always referenced in the descriptive text).
If this makes the book sound prosaic, then it’s only because I’m not doing the contents justice. When you have a spell like Wall of Molten Tar, a sixth-level sorcerer/wizard spell that acts as a Wall of Iron that deals damage as per a Wall of Fire, there’s some great innovation going on. Of course, a few seem to be questionable in their utility, such as Antijuju Field, which only blocks hexes and the magic of hags…but apparently witches are okay.
The occasional error also managed to creep in, mostly in the form of some spell names being unitalicized, and the rare grammatical error. For the most part though, the book is fairly free of technical issues.
Overall, the fourth volume in the Spell Variants line lives up to the high bar set by its predecessors, giving us dozens and dozens of new spells, all without the huge presentation that would normally come from making full descriptive blocks for each; by referencing existing spells and making the necessary changes, class spell lists can be massively expanded without nearly as much effort, or text. See how a few small changes can go a long way in The Genius Guide to Spell Variants Volume 4.
[5 of 5 Stars!]