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It's not clear to me whether a poison whose "effect" is 1d6 Dex is dealing ability damage that must be healed, or has an effect that vanishes when the poison's duration is over.

My question is primarily about whether or not poison typically does ability damage, as opposed to a penalty that would end after the poison has run its course.

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No, the effect doesn't end when the poison does, because poisons typically do ability damage.

Per the SRD, poisons do ability damage. I realize the table on that page might be slightly ambiguous, so have an example of each type, contact, ingested, inhaled, and injury. The examples further clarify that the damage is indeed ability damage (although, one of them also does ability drain separately from its ability damage, keep an eye out for poisons that do other things besides just ability damage).

I found a better general explanation, on the afflictions page (which poison is considered one of):

Effect: This is the effect that the character suffers each time if he fails his saving throw against the affliction. Most afflictions cause ability damage or hit point damage. These effects are cumulative, but they can be cured normally. Other afflictions cause the creature to take penalties or other effects. These effects are sometimes cumulative, with the rest only affecting the creature if it failed its most recent save. Some afflictions have different effects after the first save is failed. These afflictions have an initial effect, which occurs when the first save is failed, and a secondary effect, when additional saves are failed, as noted in the text. Hit point and ability score damage caused by an affliction cannot be healed naturally while the affliction persists.

This means that the decrease does not go away when the effect ends.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Looks good, that’s unambiguous. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 3:17
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No, when you receive damage, that damage does not end when the effect causing it ends. Damage has to heal on its own. This applies to both hit point damage and ability damage.

This is different from an Ability Score Penalty which some spells give; penalties end as soon as the effect generating them does.

Check out the headers Ability Score Damage and Ability Score Penalties on the Pathfinder SRD, here:

http://www.d20pfsrd.com/basics-ability-scores/ability-scores

(Unfortunately I cannot link directly to their respective parts of the page)

Unless otherwise noted, Ability Damage heals at a rate of 1 point per ability score per day.

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