Q: Dear Sage,
If a character with bull’s strength takes 4 points of Strength damage from a poison, does the damage apply to his actual Strength or does it just negate the bonus?
Both effects (the bonus from bull’s strength and the damage from poison) exist separately. Each one adjusts the character’s Strength score accordingly, and if one effect ends the other remains as normal.
Let’s walk through two examples:
A human fighter with Strength 14 drinks a potion of bull’s strength, which increases his Strength to 18. A few rounds before it elapses, he takes 4 points of Strength damage, reducing his Strength to 14. This has no impact on the potion’s effect, and the character still technically has a +4 enhancement bonus to his Strength score (so another bull’s strength spell would have no effect). When the potion’s duration elapses, the +4 bonus disappears, reducing his Strength to 10.
A halfling wizard with Strength 8 takes 10 points of Strength damage, reducing his Strength to 0. (There are no negative ability scores.) If the party’s paladin casts bull’s strength on the halfling, his Strength increases to 4 for the duration of the spell. If, during that spell’s duration, the halfling takes another 5 points of Strength damage, his Strength is once again 0. When the spell wears off, he loses the +4 bonus but is still at Strength 0.
About the Author
The Sage is a mammal classified in the bear family, Ursidae, native to central and southern China. Debate continues as to whether he is truly a bear or more related to the raccoon rather than the bear, or perhaps in a family of his own. When not eating bamboo and answering rules questions, he works under the nom de plume of Andy Collins as an RPG developer in Wizards of the Coast R&D, where his development credits include Complete Mage, Dragon Magic, and the Player's Handbook v.3.5. He can be easily recognized by his large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, ears and on his rotund body.