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The SRD describes Death Attacks as follows:

Death Attacks

In most cases, a death attack allows the victim a Fortitude save to avoid the affect, but if the save fails, the character dies instantly.

  • Raise dead doesn’t work on someone killed by a death attack.
  • Death attacks slay instantly. A victim cannot be made stable and thereby kept alive.
  • In case it matters, a dead character, no matter how she died, has -10 hit points.
  • The spell death ward protects a character against these attacks.

The assassin's death attack is an instant kill, is even called "death attack", but is not protected by death ward as it's (Ex), not (Su). Is it a "death attack", and does raise dead fail to work on someone killed by an assassin's death attack?

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I will note that I can see both sides of this logically from the RAW, but precedent-wise, no D&D game I have ever been in has contemplated assassin kills as being immune to raise dead. – mxyzplk Aug 31 '11 at 17:52
up vote 11 down vote accepted

The text you quoted defines death attacks (as a keyword); also known as death effects. It tells us what usually death attacks are and which special rules govern them.

However it does not say that all abilities that share some features with death effects are death effects. The Assassin's Death Attack shares some features with the most common death effects, but is not explicitly marked as a death effect.

By contrary, the Death domain granted power is explicitly described as a death effect (so the victim cannot be raised through Raise Dead, and Death Ward protects against it).

So, no. A victim of the Assassin's Death Attack could be resurrected normally by the Raise Dead spell.

That said, the lack of a death effect descriptor to the Assassin's Death Attack could be a minor design flaw that slipped through various editions (3.0, 3.5 and even in Pathfinder). I'd feel confident in house ruling it as regular death effect.

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Sidebar: The folks at Paizo agree with the no reply. Assassins in Pathfinder can't prevent Raise dead until 10th level in Assassin: (See Angel of Death (Su)) – Cthos Sep 6 '11 at 22:49
Exactly...Death effects are supernatural or a result of spells. The Death attack is just a very accurate sneak attack with the potential to instantly kill the target (aka stabbing them in the heart or the like) unless something else modifies it. – ZanathKariashi Jun 25 '12 at 22:24

As phb says,

death attack: A spell or special ability that instantly slays the target, such as finger of death. Neither raise dead nor reincarnation can grant life to a creature slain by a death attack, though resurrection and more powerful effects can.

Assasin's death attack is a special ability that instantly slays the target. Therefore, raise dead won't work.

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You have the direction of the implication wrong, and thus an invalid syllogism. Your argument boils down to "All men are mortals. All women are mortals. Therefore all men are women." – Snowbody Nov 17 '11 at 21:52
er.. more like "Raise dead doesn't work on creatures slain by A. Assassin's death attack is A. Thus, raise dead doesn't work on creatures slain by Assasin's death attack". What I got wrong is that assasin's death attack ability is not instantaneus (3 rounds studying are part of the ability) and is not marked as death attack or death effect. – Jeor Mattan Nov 23 '11 at 22:26

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