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From channel energy:

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

What, precisely, does this mean? Must the cleric have a free hand with which to grab the symbol and present it? Is it enough to have, say, an amulet or armour with the symbol?

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There are a number of ways to have a holy symbol visible without holding it in your hand.Examples include:

A Holy Symbol Tattoo: Just have it on your forehead or other unarmoured part of your body.

The Cassock of the Clergy. Expensive, but uses the Body slot.

The Create Reliquary Arms and Shields feat. Its a feat, requires crafting, but you can churn out holy symbol weapons and armour.

You can also make your weapon or shield into a Consecrated Weapon or Sanctified Shield, which makes them count as a holy symbol. (Adventurer's Armoury)

I don't see any rules saying that you can't just nail a holy symbol to a shield, but I don't see any rules saying that you can, so it's your DMs call there.

As for amulets, I'm not sure whether you can just... thrust your chest to present the symbol.

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The term 'present' is not defined in the rules, and so we are left with the English meaning. The most relevant version of the word is to give or show a thing or state. While a little ambiguous, the text seems to imply that you need to be able to manipulate your holy symbol in some way, and make some motion with it as part of activating the channel. This would also imply you cannot channel while, for instance, paralyzed. I have asked this question previously in other forums, though, and the RAI and RAW of the rule is debatable.

As to what constitutes a Holy Symbol, the only place a Holy Symbol is defined in the rules is in Equipment. This section defines a Holy Symbol as

A holy symbol focuses positive energy and is used by good clerics and paladins (or by neutral clerics who want to cast good spells or channel positive energy). Each religion has its own holy symbol. The material used to make the holy symbol has no effect on its powers, though a religion may place special significance on a particular material.

A wooden Holy Symbol is defined as having no weight, but the others weight a pound, implying they are a little heavier than a necklace or amulet. The tattoo Holy Symbol mentions that the most common location for it is on the hand or forearm, meaning presenting a Holy Symbol Tattoo would generally work similarly to presenting a Holy Symbol held in the hand.

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Presenting a holy symbol is considered a standard action, "presenting" the symbol does not qualify as requiring a verbal, somatic or material component (unless you count the symbol or object with the symbol on it as a material component, you obviously cant present something you don't have) and therefore should work even in Silence or if your character is bound. I see nothing rule-wise that would prevent you from having the symbol on your armor or as an amulet. Meaning you should be able to channel energy through a symbol on an amulet or armor. Unless of course, your DM rules otherwise.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In order to have one on your weapon or armor, you need reliquary arms or shields. \$\endgroup\$ – BobTheAverage Mar 9 '17 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Channeling energy is a standard action. Where is it stated that presenting a symbol is a standard action? \$\endgroup\$ – Thanuir Mar 13 '17 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Thanuir I agree, plus there is the feat that lets you channel as less than a standard action. In all cases its the channeling, not the branshing that takes the action. So branishing should just be part of channel itself and is no action, but I assume there are restrictions on it such as at hand and not in a non-magical backpack. \$\endgroup\$ – Fering Mar 24 at 16:35

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