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If a cleric decided to have their holy symbol invisible would it affect any of the uses of it? Such as the ability to channel, casting spells with divine focus, and possibly preparing spells (this one depends on DM).

What effects would having an illusion spell over it? Would it depend on the god? Would it depend on what it looks like (so good appearing as evil or vice versa)?

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The only effect is that enemies cannot identify your deity at a glance using Knowledge (Religion):

Religion (gods and goddesses, mythic history, ecclesiastic tradition, holy symbols, undead)

They still may identify the spell being cast using Spellcraft, though. But to identify the holy symbol for what it truly is, they must spend at least a move action to interact with the illusion and then attempt a will save (if the spell allows one). Otherwise, to all lookers, it will look like you are either holding nothing at your hands, or holding the symbol of another deity.

Other than that, to channel energy, your symbol must be presented, so you cannot turn/rebuke undead, for example, while having your holy symbol invisible (illusions are fine though).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ as others have pointed out, even channel energy doesn't define whether or not the symbol needs to be visible to work. \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Mar 25 at 20:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ When lacking a proper term, Id rather go with the definition of the word, it must be shown in some way. And invisible seems to be the opposite of that. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Mar 25 at 20:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ None of the definitions of the verb form of 'present' I've seen require the thing being presented to be visible...that's just your assumption. \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Mar 25 at 20:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure, @YogoZuno. Downvote and move on. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Mar 25 at 20:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Lol, I actually already upvoted, since it's a good answer...doesn't mean I can't try and improve it. Sorry to bug you. \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Mar 25 at 21:48
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There are no real defined rules around the usage of Holy Symbols, except when Channeling Energy, and when used as a Divine Focus.

The Components rules describe how a Divine Focus works, but is pretty light on detail. They describe what various classes use for a Divine Focus, and mention they are a variant of a Focus, and that a Focus is a variant of a Material Component. Nothing in any of this description mentions that you need to touch or manipulate, or be able to see any of them. If such things were required, they would likely be covered by the Somatic components to the spell, which are defined as hand movements.

The rules for Channel Energy mention that a Holy Symbol must be presented, but does nothing to define how large or small or visible the Symbol needs to be. The use of the term 'present' implies that the symbol needs to be held forth, but again, that's not exactly written clearly.

Other rules are also fairly quiet on defining what a Holy Symbol looks like, or how big it is, or how it is used. The closest you get is in the Equipment section, which is totally silent on the shape or size of a Holy Symbol (presumably to avoid limiting what shape or form a specifc symbol can take). A Wooden Holy Symbol does not have significant weight, but the others weigh 1 pound, implying they are fairly large.

Depending on the deity worshiped, hidden or deceitful actions might be encouraged, or might be against the ethos of the deity. There are too many possibilities to definitively state one way or the other, and in the end, it would be up to your GM anyway.

The rules for Preparing Divine Spells do not at all mention a Holy Symbol or Divine Focus, so there is no requirement to have one to prepare spells, hidden or otherwise. It's also important to note that not all cleric spells require a Divine Focus to cast. A quick filter on a Spells Database shows 677 Cleric spells that don't require one, and only 373 that do.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For channel energy it is written in Cleric rules that symbol needs to be presented and visible to do it. If it was meant to be presented and visible during spellcasting, it would be written right there in the rules, too. It isn't, and I believe this lack is significant. Just my two cents to support this answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Mar 25 at 10:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Molot Any presenting of a Divine Focus in spellcasting would likely be covered by any Somatic components, if any. Nowhere is there any specific definition of what is done to use material components, so we can't really know for sure. \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Mar 25 at 20:33
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I agree with YogoZuno above, the rules are not very specific on this--and I think it's to allow for a variety of playstyles and flavors. We don't all want to be a robed guy walking into battle holding a shining holy symbol above our heads shouting and summoning the will of a particular god in a booming voice and shattering skeletons helter-skelter. There are different gods as well, sure Sarenrae might appreciate this, but what about Norgorber?

Channel

The cleric section mentions holy symbols only twice and it's only in the channel section. The section reads:

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 first, to me, says nothing of needing to show the symbol at all, just that the cleric needs to have it in order to channel.

The second reference is:

A cleric must be able to present her holy symbol to use this ability.

Forums abound on debates about what "present" here means. Aside that this line seemingly, does not take into account those clerics that worship ideals and not a specific diety, it presents several questions. Does "present" mean the use of a free hand? Does it mean visible or not? Again, I would say it's unspecific on purpose. But, put together with how it would generally be read and how the class works, I think it is safe to interpret here that (again) generally the symbol would be visible--but not necessarily so.

Whether or not would be GM discretion and also it would be diety dependent, i.e. Norgorber might like a deceitful use of the holy symbol, while Sarenrae might not. That said, if the character were on a holy mission (or a mission for the greater good/evil) perhaps the diety could forgive the use of deception.

Spellcasting

As noted above the cleric entry does not mention using a holy symbol to prepare spells, and so it isn't required. There are spells that require a "divine focus," which is explained as follows:

A divine focus component is an item of spiritual significance. The divine focus for a cleric or a paladin is a holy symbol appropriate to the character’s faith.

It goes on to state that:

The divine focus for a druid or a ranger is a sprig of holly, or some other sacred plant.

Again, clerics that worship ideals are left in the grey zone. This GM would rule that they have some sort of focus as described in the ranger/druid section.

However, once again, the holy symbol must be present to cast the spell. Whether it needs to be in hand and/or visible is, once again, GM discretion.

A note...

Another note is that the Channel ability is based on the cleric's Charisma score, both the save and the amount of times per day they can use the ability. As per the Cleric entry in the CRB:

A cleric may channel energy a number of times per day equal to 3 + her Charisma modifier.

Perhaps it is truly the charisma of the character, the physical enaction of their belief (in ideal or diety) that is enough of a display--so long as they have their holy symbol on them--it is they that unleash the divine energy.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "A cleric must be able to present her holy symbol to use this ability." - This is for channel energy only. If it is relevant at all, it is only relevant in the fact that spellcasting does not have this requirement written in it. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Mar 25 at 11:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot Many spells for the cleric require the divine focus \$\endgroup\$ – Fering Mar 25 at 12:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes they do, but part about presenting said focus is not found anywhere in their descriptions, in description of what divine focus is, etc. Presenting is explicitly required for channel energy, and lack of this requirement for spellcastng is quite interesting. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Mar 25 at 12:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Molot I agree! I mention it in the answer—maybe I should be more clear? \$\endgroup\$ – TigerDM Mar 25 at 12:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, please. I have read your answer two times and still managed to miss it. I wasn't able to get any coffee today, but still... \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Mar 25 at 13:11

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