Can a Cleric use Channel Positive Energy to damage and heal at the same time?

For example: An undead and a living human are 10 feet from the cleric. The cleric Channels Positive Energy. Does he damage the undead and heal the human?

If he can only heal or cause damage, and not both at the same time, why not? There is not much sense behind this. If it is a burst of Positive Energy shouldn't it affect all in the area in some way? How does Positive Energy stops healing living creatures or stops causing damage to undead?


4 Answers 4


The rules as written clearly state:

Channeling energy causes a burst that affects all creatures of one type (either undead or living) in a 30-foot radius centered on the cleric.

So each use of Channeling can either heal or damage, not both.

"Why not?" - I suspect the answer is game balance.
From an in-universe perspective, maybe there is a "soft" (healing) energy burst that is not intense enough to do damage, and a "hard" (damaging) energy burst that is not gentle enough to heal.


It may happen. You only chose what type of creatures to affect, the way they are affected depends on the type of energy you channel and how the creatures are affected by it.

From the cleric Channeled energy class feature entry:

Channeling energy causes a burst that affects all creatures of one type (either undead or living) in a 30-foot radius centered on the cleric.

Some feats may give you the option to chose what type of energy you channel on the fly like Versatile Channeler:

You can choose to channel positive and negative energy.

And some powers like Death embrace may change how a creature is affected:

At 8th level, you heal damage instead of taking damage from channeled negative energy. If the channeled negative energy targets undead, you heal hit points just like undead in the area.

What you cannot do, unless a specific power allows you to, is to simultaneously select to affect undead and living.

Thus, you will usually heal or damage, but not both, with a single use of channel energy.


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 a neutral cleric 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 a neutral cleric who worships an evil deity) channels negative energy and can choose to deal damage to living creatures or to heal undead creatures.

It seems pretty clear that there are four main ways to use Channel Energy, two per energy type, and that you have to pick one each time you use it.


Having been answered completely and thoroughly by Balacertar and Adeptus from a mechanics perspective, I would like to answer your question from a different point of view.

Intent Determines Use

Most magic systems I'm aware of interact with emotions or intentions on some level or another. At a minimum, concentrating to produce the desired result. Given this is effectively positive energy magic, this might easily apply here. If you intend to harm undead, that aggressive emotion and intent shapes the magic differently than the intent to harm allies would, and vice-versa. Because you are assumed to not be able to feel aggressive destruction while you feel supportive healing, you cannot pull off both at once. The effects are both bursts of energy, but of slightly different manifestations

Honestly I house-rule that you can do both at once because I agree, it's two different bursts of the same type of energy, it should be able to do both in one burst, but there is a potential in-world explanation for why it's a choice if you would rather maintain the intended balance of the game.


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