A PC of my group has been poisoned last session, not long before it was over.

The poison damages Strength, and he is about 5 points now, probably he'll be helpless soon, as the rules state for ability damage that bring Strength to 0.

What I can't find clarification on is whether the poison stops working (his Strength won't go lower 0, this too described by the rules, I believe?), or, if he heals at least 1 Strength point, the poison will start acting again and make him hopeless once more.

And also, as a subquestion: Can a PC shrug off poison after some successful saves in a row (like in diseases)?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What kind of poison? And has the PC been poisoned only once or multiple times? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 4 '16 at 13:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan He was bitten by a spider. Injury poison (1d4 str/1d4 str), only once. \$\endgroup\$ – Punkgeon Apr 4 '16 at 13:08

Poisons usually only have a chance to affect a creature twice

Most poisons have an initial damage (often before a slash or on a table like the 1d4 Strength from the venom of Medium monstrous spider) and a secondary damage that's dealt 1 min. later (often after a slash or on a table like the 1d4 Strength from the venom of Medium monstrous spider). Poison says

When a character takes damage from an attack with a poisoned weapon, touches an item smeared with contact poison, consumes poisoned food or drink, or is otherwise poisoned, he must make a Fortitude saving throw. If he fails, he takes the poison’s initial damage (usually ability damage). Even if he succeeds, he typically faces more damage 1 minute later, which he can also avoid with a successful Fortitude saving throw.

Thus a creature makes a saving throw against both the initial and secondary damage. But even if the first saving throw is successful, the creature must still make the second. The poison has no further effects.

Although hp can be negative, an ability score can't be

These are different kinds of damage with different effects following different rules. The condition Ability Damaged says

The character has temporarily lost 1 or more ability score points. Lost points return at a rate of 1 per day unless noted otherwise by the condition dealing the damage. A character with Strength 0 falls to the ground and is helpless. A character with Dexterity 0 is paralyzed. A character with Constitution 0 is dead. A character with Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma 0 is unconscious. Ability damage is different from penalties to ability scores, which go away when the conditions causing them go away.

Unlike hp, the game makes no mention of creatures being capable of having ability scores of −1 or less, the ultimate effect (like, for example, death) occurring instead when a creature has an ability score of 0.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, so my mistake was to suppose the poison would just keep damaging over time, once each 1 minute, just like diseases do (except daily) until cured or shruged off. The PC already made (and failed) the two saves, so no more I guess, right? \$\endgroup\$ – Punkgeon Apr 4 '16 at 13:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user28089 Unless there's something weird going on that you've not mentioned, if the PC's made two saves, the PC need make no more saving throws, the poison having run its course. Pathfinder and some other derived games handle poison differently, but most poisons in D&D 3.5 deal their damage twice and are then done. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 4 '16 at 13:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much. Video game habits got the best of me, I suppose. That or I was ruling as odd something being "not so lethal" in D&D 3.5. \$\endgroup\$ – Punkgeon Apr 4 '16 at 13:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user28089 You're welcome. I suspect you wanted the poison to be even more lethal because the venom of Medium monstrous spider seems like it should deal more than just a couple of points of Strength damage; the thing is, after all, the size of a human! And were poison the monstrous spider's only toy, I'd agree; however, a cunning monstrous spider should trap its lair with webs and throw webs at foes then poison those who're trapped and flee resistance is met. I mean, really, if able, a monstrous spider should always flee a fair fight and go hunt for some sheep or kobolds instead. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 4 '16 at 19:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ To be honest, the way I was thinking, poisons would be broken and too annoying. Like, "reviving" someone from 0 ability score just for them to probably fall one minute later? Better leave the guy at 0 and try to cure the poison at the nearest town. \$\endgroup\$ – Punkgeon Apr 4 '16 at 20:19

Don't have the books to hand, from the wiki though:

Keeping track of negative ability score points is never necessary. A character’s ability score can’t drop below 0.

So while you wouldn't keep track of the negative strength the poison won't be healed and healing 1 strength point would only make the PC not helpless until the poison reduces their strength to 0 again.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In this case, “the wiki” page you cite is part of the SRD, the official rules, so it’s just as valid as the books. However, that wiki has a very poor reputation; it has weak quality control and things are often mislabeled as official rules when they are not. You can find the same statement on d20SRD.org, which had a very good reputation and has only the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 4 '16 at 12:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, I just did a quick google search looking for the rule to back up my answer. I'll use d20SRD henceforth. \$\endgroup\$ – gaynorvader Apr 4 '16 at 13:21

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