Is Negative Channeling Evil


Rules Questions


So our cleric (Pharasma True Neutral) just threw out a negative channel at our enemies, and my paladin is trying to gauge his reaction. Should he flip out, or just give him dirty looks.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Nope, not evil.


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Lannister2112 wrote:
So our cleric (Pharasma True Neutral) just threw out a negative channel at our enemies, and my paladin is trying to gauge his reaction. Should he flip out, or just give him dirty looks.

While a lot of evil things do use or are powered by negative energy, negative energy by itself is not evil. A good-aligned cleric can cast inflict light wounds (and others), which uses negative energy.


He might consider it distasteful and it's questionable, but it doesn't have to be evil. You can decide if your paladin knows that or not. Only evil or neutral clerics can channel. Good clerics probably don't prepare inflict spells too often as there are other spells that are more effective. Some good religions may even forbid the use of negative energy. It's the stuff that powers undead, so it definitely ain't good.
If it were me, I'd have my paladin give him a look of shock then use detect evil on him. Detecting no evil, he would be suspicious of him until they had a heart to heart talk about their beliefs and world views... and ask why he chose the dark side over the light sonce he was on the fence (neutral). Again, that's what I would do.


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He should react the same way as if a fireball was used. If he gives the wizard a dirty look for fireball give the cleric a look. If the paladin doesn't care about fireball he shouldn't care about channel.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber

Negative energy is to positive energy what anti-matter is to matter.
It's just a base force of the Pathfinder setting's universe. It has intrinsically destructive properties because most things are positive energy based.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Actually, the intrinsic destructive properties come from pushing things out of balance.

An explosive result can be also attained from the use of Positive Energy either via spell or via creature special attacks.


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As well, negative energy is less destructive than positive energy. Ever notice how holy water (which uses a positive energy carrier) damages undead, but unholy water (and its negative carrier) don't damage every living creature? or how an undead on the negative plane will last indefinitely, but a living creature one the positive plane will quickly die?


The fireball analogy is only good, if the paladin was a water elemental. Negative energy isn't evil. Most uses of it are. There's no peaceful use for channeled negative energy unless you're using undead... which is evil. Or, you have a dhampir in the party, which was made from something evil. Paladins use positive energy which is the opposite of negative energy. Again, I never said the energy is evil, but anyone using that energy might be viewed with suspicion until they got to know each other. It also opens it up for some good roleplay... Or you could just ignore the whole roleplay aspect and simply go by game mechanics. "It doesn't say my good cleric can't inflict wounds, so it can't be evil".

I wouldn't have the paladin "flip out", but like I said before, I'd use detect evil, then have a nice sit-down to discuss things.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Chuck Mount wrote:
It also opens it up for some good roleplay...

This can be true, but it isn't always.

While this may well not apply to you personally, probably about 3/4 of the times I have seen 'opens it up for good roleplaying' or 'this is what my character would do' it is actually just an excuse for a player (more than a character) to be a jerk to the other players (not necessarily their characters.)

Usually a very little of this sort of thing goes a long way, and many players aren't interested in having to have 'good roleplay' every time their character does anything that another player can find any reason at all to disapprove of.

It is a team game. Finding ways to be a good team member, rather than looking for ways to fight among yourselves is more frequently 'good roleplay' in my opinion.


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Chuck Mount wrote:
Negative energy isn't evil. Most uses of it are.

Leaving aside undead and focusing on the use of negative energy for its damaging capabilities, in what way does the above quote apply to negative energy but not to fireball?


Fire is a tool. It's good and bad. It can warm you when it's cold or cook your food. It can also burn the city to the ground.
It's the energy that I'm talking about. Fireball is a destructive spell that uses energy that's both good and bad. Inflict Light Wounds is using energy that does no good to inflict harm on another... unless, like I said, it's undead or undead spawn.
There's no helpful or peaceful use of negative energy. There is for fire. Fireball is a destructive spell, but I'm not talking about specific spells.

Dave Justus said wrote:

While this may well not apply to you personally, probably about 3/4 of the times I have seen 'opens it up for good roleplaying' or 'this is what my character would do' it is actually just an excuse for a player (more than a character) to be a jerk to the other players (not necessarily their characters.)

Usually a very little of this sort of thing goes a long way, and many players aren't interested in having to have 'good roleplay' every time their character does anything that another player can find any reason at all to disapprove of.

It is a team game. Finding ways to be a good team member, rather than looking for ways to fight among yourselves is more frequently 'good roleplay' in my opinion.

I'm sorry you've had bad players in your group. I'm sure we all have nightmare stories where we could sit around and laugh about... And there should be a thread for that. LOL But... Don't let those people sour you. In this instance, it isn't just to be a jerk. The OP knows best if a ropleplay discussion would be welcomed, since it's his group. I just gave a suggestion and example of what I would do. Every group is different. I've played with others where, in this same situation, I would just ignore it and treat it like a fireball. It would bother me, but I wouldn't bring it up to the other player because he might get offended that I'm criticizing his character.

Look at it from the OP's standpoint. He has a character that he's role-playing, not roll-playing. Otherwise, he would never have asked for advice. By telling him to not be a jerk about it, it's an insult to him for wanting to roleplay his character. Give him advice. Give him examples of why you feel he should ignore it, but don't imply that he's a jerk if he wants to roleplay his paladin having a problem with a buddy channeling negative energy. That's basically bullying someone into thinking like you do.


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You can dance around it all you like, but you're basically saying that snuffing out the enemy's life force with negative energy is somehow "more evil" than burning them alive.

Want a peaceful use for negative energy? Have a low-level cleric come by and clear the dust mites and bedbugs from your ratty mattress.

Edit: That being said, of course the paladin should react from the paladin's perspective, and many (though not all) paladins are likely to approach it using your reasoning.


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blahpers wrote:
That being said, of course the paladin should react from the paladin's perspective, and many (though not all) paladins are likely to approach it using your reasoning.

At the very least their perspective should be informed by a Knowledge(religion) roll before they jump to conclusions.


Fuzzy-Wuzzy wrote:
blahpers wrote:
That being said, of course the paladin should react from the paladin's perspective, and many (though not all) paladins are likely to approach it using your reasoning.
At the very least their perspective should be informed by a Knowledge(religion) roll before they jump to conclusions.

A character's perspective may be informed by her knowledge, but ultimately it's up to the player to decide how that knowledge affects her outlook. You can know from all your studies that people use X for ostensibly good purposes but still believe with all your heart that X is evil. Multiply this effect when religion is involved.


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Let's just assume for the moment that we're adults who've been friends for 30 years who like a little role-playing and not jerks who just met.

He's been hiding this ability for a long time (or using it in secret), afraid of what people would think. There's been a lot of bad clerics around lately.

Personally, I cheered the use, and there was no better time. We ended the session with an in-game dirty look across the now quiet battlefield. A heck of a battle it was too.

Oh, and the GM had my intelligent sword very upset at the use of a negative channel.


A good wizard can cast a fireball, but a cleric who channels negative is in one of the following groups:

(a) Any evil cleric who worships an evil deity.
(b) Any evil cleric who worships a neutral deity.
(c) Any neutral cleric who worships an evil deity.
(d) Some neutral clerics who worship neutral deities.

So while it isn't inherently evil, most clerics who do it are evil or evil-adjacent, and none of them are good.

A paladin would reasonably be suspicious of you.


While this discussion has moved in more "advice" mode, as the rules question is addressed, I will also chime in that a paladin of mine would definitely be suspicious of any party member who suddenly started throwing around negative energy.

Roleplay-wise, this is a great opportunity to be a paladin. Even if it were evil, and your friend suddenly started using it, that is still more of the time to talk and influence and encourage. After all, you are all part of the group should work together until it is no longer possible (if they progress to committing unlawful and/or blatantly evil acts).

My response to this would definitely not be a cheerful pat on the back and thanks for helping out, as Dave suggested. That seems more of a non-roleplay response to this situation.


My question is what skill roll the paladin made to ID the channel? And of what type it was? I can understand IDing the symbol used but what channel? From the description is seems like it was a given that the ability was known.

IMO the paladin shouldn't be any more or less upset than when he noticed the clerics holy symbol for the first time. The channel isn't an aligned act and his god was noticeable every time he cast a spell or used an effect that required a holy symbol so I fail to see how this should change anything. Paladins can associate neutral allies and neutral gods with neutral followers can channel negative energy...

For me, I'd hope none of the group had a RP reaction as it doesn't seem like it would/should provoke one. He didn't do anything out of alignment and it was approved by his god [which I assume is already known from his symbol]. This is way less controversial than healing orphans with infernal healing...


In Kingmaker I played a cleric of Pharasma who could channel both positive and negative energy (she had the Versatile Channeler feat). Despite religious differences she got married to the party paladin (of Abadar).

Negative Channeling was never a problem between us, although over the course of the campaign my alignment changed from Lawful Neutral to Neutral Good, and so in time I lost the ability to channel negative energy and re-trained Versatile Channeler for Alignment Channel (Evil).

Of course Abadar is Lawful Neutral and so his clerics may channel negative energy. This may be the reason why my wife (yes, we played a lesbian couple) never objected to my use of negative channeling. That said she was pleased when it became apparent that I'd lost the ability.


Wouldn't it be possible for there to be a Lawful Good Cleric of Abadar who started Lawful Neutral, or even Lawful Evil, made their spontaneous casting choice, then changed alignment to good? After all, once the decision is made, it can't be changed.


technarken wrote:
Wouldn't it be possible for there to be a Lawful Good Cleric of Abadar who started Lawful Neutral, or even Lawful Evil, made their spontaneous casting choice, then changed alignment to good? After all, once the decision is made, it can't be changed.

You can't change the decision voluntarily, but your GM might rule that an alignment change would result in an involuntary channeling change. If not, it certainly reinforces the view that negative channeling isn't inherently evil.

(My Pharasmin cleric was a positive channeler who gained negative channeling through the Versatile Channeler feat. When she changed alignment she no longer met the prereqs and so lost the ability to channel negative energy.)


An alignment change should also change the channeling energy. If the cleric started as evil and changed to neutral, it could stay the same, but when he changed to good, the energy should change to positive. It says that good clerics channel positive energy, evil channel's negative and neutral can do either one.
By that ruling (which is a Pathfinder rule), then your decision can (and will) change with your alignment.


Chuck Mount wrote:

An alignment change should also change the channeling energy. If the cleric started as evil and changed to neutral, it could stay the same, but when he changed to good, the energy should change to positive. It says that good clerics channel positive energy, evil channel's negative and neutral can do either one.

By that ruling (which is a Pathfinder rule), then your decision can (and will) change with your alignment.

The ability is quite clear: "Once this choice is made, it cannot be reversed." There is no proviso for the ability to change for later alignment shifts. I DM could houserule it otherwise, but as it stands it "cannot be reversed".


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Exact text:

PRD wrote:

Channel Energy (Su): Regardless of alignment, any cleric can release a wave of energy by channeling the power of her faith through her holy (or unholy) symbol. This energy can be used to cause or heal damage, depending on the type of energy channeled and the creatures targeted.

A good cleric (or one who worships a good deity) channels positive energy and can choose to deal damage to undead creatures or to heal living creatures. An evil cleric (or one who worships an evil deity) channels negative energy and can choose to deal damage to living creatures or to heal undead creatures. A neutral cleric who worships a neutral deity (or one who is not devoted to a particular deity) must choose whether she channels positive or negative energy. Once this choice is made, it cannot be reversed. This decision also determines whether the cleric casts spontaneous cure or inflict spells (see spontaneous casting).

A good cleric channels positive energy, and an evil cleric channels negative energy. Whatever you chose as a neutral cleric only matters so long as you are neutral. If you shift to good, it don't mean diddly.


graystone said wrote:
The ability is quite clear: "Once this choice is made, it cannot be reversed." There is no proviso for the ability to change for later alignment shifts. I DM could houserule it otherwise, but as it stands it "cannot be reversed".

Yes. You're right, but the key word there is 'choice'. You make the choice to either use positive or negative. The class FORCES a good or evil cleric into a specific energy type. Only Neutral clerics can make the choice. Once you change to good or evil, the choice is out of your hands. It's no longer a voluntary decision. It's an ability based on alignment.


I've noticed in these positve/negative energy conversations that people seem to forget that things living on the material plane are comprised of BOTH positive and negative energy. Just as they are of fire/earth/water/wind (not gonna go there Captain Planet), all the inner planes mingle to create the material plane.

Humans are healed by positive and harmed by negative because of this. Positive encourages growth, closing wounds. Negative encourages entropy, compromising vital systems. An undead is significantly more tuned to negative energy, but it still has affinity for positive energy. But its dead cells CAN'T grow, can't heal, so the energy backfires. Personally, I see it as the few remaining motes of positive energy in it overload with the new power and explode just like living creatures do on the positive plane, but thats just my interpretation to justify awesome cleric exploding undead in bursts of light.

Undead aren't the opposite of a living creature. The opposite would be something with neither positive OR negative energy in its composition. People seem to think that positive to negative is two sides of a coin, with life on one and undead on the other. I submit this isn't true, that positive/negative energy is a spectrum, lets say 1-10. Here is where I would benchmark some things (vague aproximations and personal opinions aplenty here)

1 Pure Positive energy
2 Souls/Stars
3
4 "Common" positive energy (channel, cure)
5 Newborns/Children
5.5 Living creatures
6 Venerable/Dying
7 "Common" negative energy (channel, inflict)
8 Undead
9 Black holes
10 Pure Negative Energy

To restate, undead aren't an opposite, they are a mutation, something that exists outside of the normal, natural bounds. By definition abnormal, unnatural.

But again, just my opinion. Still, its worked for me.


Chuck Mount wrote:
graystone said wrote:
The ability is quite clear: "Once this choice is made, it cannot be reversed." There is no proviso for the ability to change for later alignment shifts. I DM could houserule it otherwise, but as it stands it "cannot be reversed".
Yes. You're right, but the key word there is 'choice'. You make the choice to either use positive or negative. The class FORCES a good or evil cleric into a specific energy type. Only Neutral clerics can make the choice. Once you change to good or evil, the choice is out of your hands. It's no longer a voluntary decision. It's an ability based on alignment.

My point is that there is NO mechanism for change: in fact, it says that it's set in stone after you gain the ability. And it's not from the god as it's based of character/player choice and the god grants both. IMO we at best have a grey area. It may be meant to reset as you say but that's not expressed anywhere.


The Black Bard said wrote:
I've noticed in these positve/negative energy conversations that people seem to forget that things living on the material plane are comprised of BOTH positive and negative energy. Just as they are of fire/earth/water/wind (not gonna go there Captain Planet), all the inner planes mingle to create the material plane.

I don't think I forgot... I just don't see that as true for any of the published settings. I would agree that all energies seep into the material plane, but that's different than being comprised of it. There's bits of earth, water, air, fire, negative energy, positive energy.... But I wouldn't say it's made of them. I would say, it's unique because it houses all the elements and energies... even if it's just a little.

It's an interesting concept, though. I just don't agree with it. But when you GM, your world/ your rules.


graystone wrote:
Chuck Mount wrote:
graystone said wrote:
The ability is quite clear: "Once this choice is made, it cannot be reversed." There is no proviso for the ability to change for later alignment shifts. I DM could houserule it otherwise, but as it stands it "cannot be reversed".
Yes. You're right, but the key word there is 'choice'. You make the choice to either use positive or negative. The class FORCES a good or evil cleric into a specific energy type. Only Neutral clerics can make the choice. Once you change to good or evil, the choice is out of your hands. It's no longer a voluntary decision. It's an ability based on alignment.
My point is that there is NO mechanism for change: in fact, it says that it's set in stone after you gain the ability. And it's not from the god as it's based of character/player choice and the god grants both. IMO we at best have a grey area. It may be meant to reset as you say but that's not expressed anywhere.

Your point has been addressed in the text you quoted. If you are a good or evil cleric, you channel positive or negative energy, respectively. Your choice didn't change, but it also doesn't matter because your class feature says it doesn't matter.

Grand Lodge

Graystone, their position is that the ability says that good clerics channel positive, evil clerics channel negative, and neutral clerics get to choose which one they channel and can't change it. And if your alignment changes you refer back to that text based on your new alignment.

No decision is being reversed because you are no longer a neutral cleric.


graystone said wrote:
My point is that there is NO mechanism for change: in fact, it says that it's set in stone after you gain the ability. And it's not from the god as it's based of character/player choice and the god grants both. IMO we at best have a grey area. It may be meant to reset as you say but that's not expressed anywhere.

I wouldn't say there's NO mechanism for change. The alignment is the mechanism that will cause change. It doesn't say that it's set in stone. It says after the neutral cleric chooses what to channel, he can't change his mind later. Changing alignment changes the energy since it literally says, a good cleric channels positive energy and an evil cleric channels negative energy. You're alignment changes to evil, you can't channel positive. It's no longer your choice, as it was when you were neutral. You're right that it isn't expressed anywhere because it's the logical conclusion that a good cleric can't (no choice) channel negative energy... without special abilities or magic items.

Yo have to read the intent because, otherwise, the books would be twice as big. Why would they make it acceptable for a LG deity to allow their cleric to channel negative energy? It must be at least a little evil since the rules say good clerics can't channel it. So, why would a LG deity give them that power? Makes no sense.


Jurassic Pratt wrote:
If your alignment changes you refer back to that text based on your new alignment.

Yes I understand their point/position and I disagree. Nothing says their choice is invalidated by a later alignment change.

Let's say I start N with channel negative, and turn G. They are saying I change to channel positive right? Then what happens if I go back to N?

For me, the text refers to your initial 'choice': good and evil get only 1 option while N gets 2. Later changes don't alter that 'pick' as initial one "cannot be reversed". They are free to disagree.

Grand Lodge

Ah, see I don't see not having a choice as being a choice. Thus the choice part only applies to Neutral clerics. And if you went back to neutral then you've already made your choice and would have to stick with it.


Chuck Mount wrote:
Why would they make it acceptable for a LG deity to allow their cleric to channel negative energy?

Someone would have to have switched gods to do that and that god doesn't grant it so there is NO issue. This is only a factor for N gods that grant both.

G and E gods only grant one type of chanel. No issue.


graystone wrote:
Jurassic Pratt wrote:
If your alignment changes you refer back to that text based on your new alignment.

Yes I understand their point/position and I disagree. Nothing says their choice is invalidated by a later alignment change.

Let's say I start N with channel negative, and turn G. They are saying I change to channel positive right? Then what happens if I go back to N?

For me, the text refers to your initial 'choice': good and evil get only 1 option while N gets 2. Later changes don't alter that 'pick' as initial one "cannot be reversed". They are free to disagree.

I'm unaware of any of them saying you can go from N negative to N positive by dipping good. I think they're saying that if you go from N negative to G that it's positive. That you can't somehow get negative while being good.

So are you proposing that a N to G can keep negative? If not then I think you are arguing that you agree with each other.


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Abadar the Lawful Neutral deity of Cities and Civilization would find a fumigant that leaves no pollutants behind handy. Negative energy is probably also an effective sterilizer for removing parasites and diseases from the water supply.


Jurassic Pratt wrote:
Ah, see I don't see not having a choice as being a choice.

IMO it's a choice because the god grants both: it's your initial alignment that forces you to only pick one only the other.


Chess Pwn wrote:
So are you proposing that a N to G can keep negative?

IMO it's not can but 'must' keep negative. Their god allows negative channels and they aren't allowed to switch. This is of course a non-factor if your god is G or E as they don't grant both.

Allowing a change by altering alignment invalidated their choice. And as they have set up how many evil/good spells it takes to alter alignment, it shouldn't be hard to figure out how many 'prot from' spells you have to cast to switch your channel as you please. :P

Paizo Employee Customer Service Manager

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Removed a couple earlier posts.

Grand Lodge

That "rule" isn't actually a rule. Horror Adventures never hard codes how many it is, merely suggests and then mentions that the GM gets to decide. Goodluck to anyone trying to find a GM who lets them manipulate their alignment for mechanical benefit like that.


Jurassic Pratt wrote:
That "rule" isn't actually a rule. Horror Adventures never hard codes how many it is, merely suggests and then mentions that the GM gets to decide. Goodluck to anyone trying to find a GM who lets them manipulate their alignment for mechanical benefit like that.

If you have a DM that alters your alighment for infernal healings for instance, I find it hard for them to argue that enough 'prot from' spells wouldn't do the reverse. Once you put a system in play to alter mechanics, it's unsurprising to find players AND characters that use it to their advantage.

PS: For those on the other side, if a G cleric of a N god changes to N, are they stuck with positive channel or do they now get a choice?


Nothing in the rules states that a cleric cannot change what type they channel. They simply cannot change the choice they make for what they channel while neutral. If they are no longer neutral, it doesn't matter if they chose "rutabaga"--they channel what their class writeup says they channel.

You're looking at the class writeup as a list of things that set your character's abilities at the moment you get each class feature. That isn't quite how it works--while you often do make decisions when you get each class feature, the class continues to be a representation of your abilities at any given moment in time. If your character state changes such that the text now grants different abilities, you now have different abilities. (In a clumsy coding analogue, a character does not acquire its class features by copying them from the description "by value" at the moment of acquisition and then throwing away the class description. Rather, a character refers to its class description "by reference" using its initial choices to inform decision points.)


graystone wrote:
Jurassic Pratt wrote:
That "rule" isn't actually a rule. Horror Adventures never hard codes how many it is, merely suggests and then mentions that the GM gets to decide. Goodluck to anyone trying to find a GM who lets them manipulate their alignment for mechanical benefit like that.

If you have a DM that alters your alighment for infernal healings for instance, I find it hard for them to argue that enough 'prot from' spells wouldn't do the reverse. Once you put a system in play to alter mechanics, it's unsurprising to find players AND characters that use it to their advantage.

PS: For those on the other side, if a G cleric of a N god changes to N, are they stuck with positive channel or do they now get a choice?

Since they never made that choice, they now get one.

As for GMs who alter your alignment for you based on how many times you cast protection from evil/good/smurfs, as always, you can't solve out-of-game problems with in-game rules.


blahpers wrote:
Nothing in the rules states that a cleric cannot change what type they channel.

I disagree as I pointed out in previous posts. Your god gave you the option of 2 channels and you either pick one or you got stuck picking 1 because of the alignment you picked. Either way, you pick: "Once this choice is made, it cannot be reversed."

An E cleric picked, a G cleric picked and a N cleric picked and it can't be reversed. I don't see that says you CAN change channels, at least without switching gods. And to be clear I'm looking at the specific clause "it cannot be reversed" and not a 'snapshot' of the class.

G to N: Well I do understand your position but I'd disagree. IMO they 'picked' and keep positive channel.

Grand Lodge

Graystone, your alignment determines what you can channel if you are good or evil. You did not make a choice of what to channel, you chose an alignment completely seperate from the class ability which dictates which channel you get and whether you get a choice. That's an important distinction.

The best I can offer of proof of this outside of the definition of a choice is the formatting of the "spontaneous casting" segment of the cleric.

Cleric wrote:

A good cleric (or a neutral cleric of a good deity) can channel stored spell energy into healing spells that she did not prepare ahead of time. The cleric can “lose” any prepared spell that is not an orison or domain spell in order to cast any cure spell of the same spell level or lower (a cure spell is any spell with “cure” in its name).

An evil cleric (or a neutral cleric of an evil deity) can’t convert prepared spells to cure spells but can convert them to inflict spells (an inflict spell is one with “inflict” in its name).

A cleric who is neither good nor evil and whose deity is neither good nor evil can convert spells to either cure spells or inflict spells (player’s choice). Once the player makes this choice, it cannot be reversed. This choice also determines whether the cleric channels positive or negative energy (see channel energy).

Here good, evil, and neutral are each their own paragraph and the "choice" text is deliberately lumped with the neutral section. Considering how closely this and channeling are related I'd say this is a fairly good indicator of how it's supposed to be read.


graystone wrote:
blahpers wrote:
Nothing in the rules states that a cleric cannot change what type they channel.

I disagree as I pointed out in previous posts. Your god gave you the option of 2 channels and you either pick one or you got stuck picking 1 because of the alignment you picked. Either way, you pick: "Once this choice is made, it cannot be reversed."

An E cleric picked, a G cleric picked and a N cleric picked and it can't be reversed. I don't see that says you CAN change channels, at least without switching gods. And to be clear I'm looking at the specific clause "it cannot be reversed" and not a 'snapshot' of the class.

G to N: Well I do understand your position but I'd disagree. IMO they 'picked' and keep positive channel.

The cleric cannot change their choice. Her choice, however, is irrelevant once she is no longer neutral.

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