Pathfinder - Practical Guide to Channel Energy
I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
Channel Energy is Pathfinder's version of the "Turn Undead" from 3.5. Late in the days of 3.5 WotC finally figured out that Channel Energy was situational, hard to use, required constantly referencing a table, and was so ineffective that many players preferred to ignore it rather than the take the time to learn how to use use Turn Undead. To address this, many 3.5 supplements include "Turning Feats" which allowed Clerics, Paladins, and other characters to use their daily Turn Undead uses to produce other effects, such as energy resistance, bonuses to saves, or healing.
The folks at Paizo learned from these events, and Channel Energy is instead an AOE burst of positive or negative energy. This serves as both an AOE heal and as an AOE blast which targets undead. With a little bit of optimization, Channel Energy can be turned into a powerful addition to your character's other abilities.
The first step in using Channel Energy is to select a class. Several classes and archetypes provide access to Channel Energy in one form or another. Remember that Channel Energy depends on Charisma for its DC, and often for its uses per day, so classes which already depend on Charisma are generally your best bet.
Cleric: The iconic Channel Energy user, Clerics get Channel Energy at first level, but most can't afford to devote enough Charisma to be truly skilled with it. Clerics get 3+Charisma uses per day.
Cleric (Merciful Healer): The Merciful Healer gives up the ability to channel negative energy or to use Channel Energy to harm undead for the ability to remove status conditions when channeling.
Oracle (Life Mystery): The Life Mystery Oracle only gets 1+Charisma uses per day of Channel Energy, but with enough Charisma to be a full caster, this should be plenty to beat Clerics and likely enough to beat Paladins at any given level. The Oracle's DC is also likely to be higher than that of a Cleric or Paladin.
Paladin: Though Channel Positive Energy uses two charges of the Paladin's Lay On Hands ability, a Paladin will generally have more Charisma than a Cleric, and by level 12 can get 3+Charisma uses per day. Because they depend on Charisma more, a Paladin's DC will likely be higher than a Cleric's.
Paladin (Hospitaler): The Hospitaler gives the Paladin a base 3+Charisma uses per day of Channel Energy, but adds a -3 level penalty to your effective Cleric level, handicapping your damage.
Paladin (Sacred Servant): In addition to the Paladin's already fantastic ability to Channel Energy, the Sacred Servant can enhance their holy symbol with abilities which buff Channel Energy.
Warpriest: The Warpriest can use Channel Energy, but gets reduced healing/damage. Fortunately, the Channeled Blessing feat adds a cool new way for the Wapriest to buff allies.
Witch (Hex Channeler): An awful waste of the Witch's Hex slots.
Wizard BNecromancy School): Access to Command or Turn Undead, two of the least interesting uses for Channel Energy, and you can't change the usage with feats.
- Alignment Channel: Situational.
- Channeled Blessing: Potentially a good way to deliver Warpriest Blessings.
- Channeling Force: Most classes with access to Channel Energy don't get access to force spells. If you can find some, the damage is decent, but not spectacular.
- Channeled Revival: Breath of Life is fantastic, but must be applied within 1 round of the creature's death. Because Channeled Revival requires a full round action to use, you need to be adjacent to the target when they die or use something like a Quickrunner's Shirt to make sure that you are in position to rescue them.
- Channeling Scourge: Inquisitors don't get Channel Energy, but a one level dip into Cleric or Oracle can get you 3+ or 1+ users per day, and this feat allows your damage and DC to continue scaling as you level in Inquisitor.
- Channeled Shield Wall: Clerics have plenty of ways to get Deflection bonuses to AC, but none of them are swift actions with minutes/level durations. If you're using a shield, this is a fantastic and reliable way to use your Channel Energy uses.
Fantastic if you channel negative energy, but positive energy channelers won't
see a lot of use.
- Greater Channel Smite: The best use of this ability would be to pool all of the dice on your best attack, which totally defeats the purpose of the feat.
- Command Undead: Essential for undead-themed characters such as Necromancers.
- Elemental Channel: Situational.
- Energy Channel: More reliable and easier to use than Channeling Force, and twice as much damage.
- Extra Channel: If you want to be good at Channel Energy, you want to be able to do it a lot.
- Improved Channel: If you use Channel Energy offensively, this is a must.
- Life Lure: Very situational, and not very good.
Burns through your Channel Energy uses very quickly, but channeling as a
swift action opens up a lot of options. If you only take one Channel
Energy feat, make it this one.
- Reactive Healing: This will absolutely save your life, especially if there isn't anyone else in the party who can cast Breath of Life.
Essential if you plan to use Channel Energy offensively.
- Contingent Channeling: Give your allies the same protection that you get from Selective Channeling. Only available to Merciful Healer Clerics.
- Versatile Channeler: Greatly improves your versatility when channeling.