"Strength Penalty" and "Strength Damage". Are they the same thing?


Rules Questions

Silver Crusade

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Ability Damage: Certain creatures and magical effects
can cause temporary or permanent ability damage (a
reduction to an ability score). Rules covering ability
damage are found on page 554.

Ray of Enfeeblement
School necromancy; Level sorcerer/wizard 1
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S
330
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Effect ray
Duration 1 round/level
Saving Throw Fortitude half; Spell Resistance yes
A coruscating ray springs from your hand. You must succeed on a
ranged touch attack to strike a target. The subject takes a "penalty
to Strength" equal to 1d6+1 per two caster levels (maximum 1d6+5).
The subject’s Strength score cannot drop below 1. A successful
Fortitude save reduces this penalty by half. This penalty does not
stack with itself. Apply the highest penalty instead.

I have searched and I can't find anything about a "strength penalty", only the section about ability damage. Now this does come from a magic effect, it hurts someone's ability score and it is temporary.

So where does that leave us?


I've always been under the impression that the penalty is only temporary to the duration of the spell. In fact, what other reason would there be for a duration of this spell to be multiple rounds?

Ability damage has a set and defined healing rate of 1 point of ability damage per day. Certainly restoration changes this, but you get the idea.

I'm fairly certain that this is classified as a penalty because it's not as lasting and immediately goes away at the end of the spell's duration.


Reposting my response to the other thread, since you created a new one:

PRD wrote:
Some spells and abilities cause you to take an ability penalty for a limited amount of time. While in effect, these penalties function just like ability damage, but they cannot cause you to fall unconscious or die. In essence, penalties cannot decrease your ability score to less than 1.

Ability penalties are essentially the same thing as ability damage, but there are a few key differences.

The biggest is the one quoted above; ability damage lead to unconsciousness or death when you receive enough of it, while ability penalties can never do that.

Also, most of the effects that impose ability penalties specify they can't stack with themselves. Ability damage, however, stacks.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

From the glossary:

Ability Score Damage, Penalty, and Drain

Diseases, poisons, spells, and other abilities can all deal damage directly to your ability scores. This damage does not actually reduce an ability, but it does apply a penalty to the skills and statistics that are based on that ability.

For every 2 points of damage you take to a single ability, apply a –1 penalty to skills and statistics listed with the relevant ability. If the amount of ability damage you have taken equals or exceeds your ability score, you immediately fall unconscious until the damage is less than your ability score. The only exception to this is your Constitution score. If the damage to your Constitution is equal to or greater than your Constitution score, you die. Unless otherwise noted, damage to your ability scores is healed at the rate of 1 per day to each ability score that has been damaged. Ability damage can be healed through the use of spells, such as lesser restoration.

Some spells and abilities cause you to take an ability penalty for a limited amount of time. While in effect, these penalties function just like ability damage, but they cannot cause you to fall unconscious or die. In essence, penalties cannot decrease your ability score to less than 1.

Strength: Damage to your Strength score causes you to take penalties on Strength-based skill checks, melee attack rolls, and weapon damage rolls (if they rely on Strength). The penalty also applies to your Combat Maneuver Bonus (if you are Small or larger) and your Combat Maneuver Defense.

Dexterity: Damage to your Dexterity score causes you to take penalties on Dexterity-based skill checks, ranged attack rolls, initiative checks, and Reflex saving throws. The penalty also applies to your Armor Class, your Combat Maneuver Bonus (if you are Tiny or smaller), and to your Combat Maneuver Defense.

Constitution: Damage to your Constitution score causes you to take penalties on your Fortitude saving throws. In addition, multiply your total Hit Dice by this penalty and subtract that amount from your current and total hit points. Lost hit points are restored when the damage to your Constitution is healed.

Intelligence: Damage to your Intelligence score causes you to take penalties on Intelligence-based skill checks. This penalty also applies to any spell DCs based on Intelligence.

Wisdom: Damage to your Wisdom score causes you to take penalties on Wisdom-based skill checks and Will saving throws. This penalty also applies to any spell DCs based on Wisdom.

Charisma: Damage to your Charisma score causes you to take penalties on Charisma-based skill checks. This penalty also applies to any spell DCs based off Charisma and the DC to resist your channeled energy.

Ability Drain: Ability drain actually reduces the relevant ability score. Modify all skills and statistics related to that ability. This might cause you to lose skill points, hit points, and other bonuses. Ability drain can be healed through the use of spells such as restoration.

Dark Archive

So the answer would be no.


Seems to me that the former is a temporary (and less lethal) version of the latter.

Silver Crusade

Guess that's it then. Thanks Diego!


Well both are temporary, but penalties will have far shorter durations than damage which can take days of rest to recuperate.

One important thing to note is that ability damage stacks and ability penalties do not. Penalties are like negative versions of enhancement bonuses, so subsequent castings of spells or effects that cause penalties do not multiply the penalty. Multiple castings of effects that cause ability damage do stack and can reduce an attribute to zero.

So you use a ray of enfeeblement and roll a 1+5 str damage for a -6 penalty. You cast it again and get a 6+5, resetting the duration and making it a -11 str penalty. For some reason you cast it again and get a 3+5 or -8 penalty, which has no effect since the existing effect of -11 is superior.

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