According to the Pathfinder rules as written on temporary ability bonuses and penalties, gaining a bonus to your ability scores that lasts one day or less would not actually increase your ability scores, but instead increase related checks and statistics by 1 for every 2 points of bonus. Similarly for penalties, if it is not specifically ability drain it doesn't change the relevant score, and instead decrease related checks and statistics by 1 for every 2 points of penalty. To further complicate things, ability damage seems to be a separate idea from penalties, but functions the same, with the caveat that it can kill you or render you unconscious if it exceeds your actual ability score.
So my question is, how exactly are these mechanics supposed to work together?
- If I had a -2 penalty to Strength, it would give me a -1 penalty to all Strength based checks. But if I gained an additional bonus +1 bonus to Strength, would I still receive a -1 penalty to Strength based checks, or would it first be stacked with the penalty and then recalculated to a net -1 penalty and therefore -0 penalty to related checks, since they seemingly work on the same grounds?
- If my Strength score was 10 and I received a -5 Strength penalty from ray of enfeeblement (-2 to strength related checks regardless of whether my initial score is odd or even), and I then took 5 points of Strength damage, would I be considered unconscious? If the effects happened in the opposite order, and I took the strength damage first and the penalty second, would I then be unconscious, seeing as the rules state that ability penalties cannot render you unconscious or dead?
- If my Strength score was 10, and I received +4 enhancement bonus to Strength, then 11 damage, would I be conscious? If the damage had been drain instead, would I be conscious?
- What if I had 10 Strength and took -11 ability drain. If I then receieved a +4 enhancement bonus to Strength, would I regain consciousness? If so, would my Strength score be 4 or 3?
Ability Modifier | Temp Bonus Temp Penalty Damage Drain | Result? 10 +0 | +1 -2 0 0 | 10 (-1) or 9 (-1) or 10 (-0)? 9 -1 | +1 -2 0 0 | 9 (-2) or 8 (-1) or 9 (-1)? 10 +0 | +0 -5 5 0 | Unconscious? Order Matters? 10 +0 | +4 -0 11 0 | Unconscious? Order Matters? 10 +0 | +4 -0 0 11 | Unconscious? Order Matters? 10 +0 | +4 -5 9 0 | Unconscious? Order Matters?
*In this table for the first two rows 10 (-1) means that the ability score stays at ten for the purposes of feats, etc. and the modifier you apply to skill checks and whatnot would be -1.
Here are some quotes from the above link, emphasis mine. This one pertains to ability damage.
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.
And then this one pertains to ability penalties.
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.
Trish pointed out a comment from the creative director at Paizo, which can be found in her answer. The creative director initially had the rules wrong, but after re-reading them he stuck with rules as written, and gave a little bit of additional clarification. This seems to indicate to me that Paizo didn't really think this part of the game through. Most people probably don't play it rules as written anyway.
topquark left us a link to the FAQ at Paizo, indicating that Paizo admits to using a sort of quick-rule implementation in the RAW to make it so you don't have to rebuild the character each time. This seems to indicate that RAI and the way it's actually supposed to work is different, but there is no information as to exactly how.