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Suppose a character dies from an effect that causes instantaneous death (but is not a death effect), such as a coup de grace, a critical hit from a vorpal weapon, or taking massive damage. Can that character be brought to life in the subsequent round by the Breath of Life spell?

If yes, what should their total hit points be for the purpose of bringing them back to life?

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Yes, no and yes respectively.

For the vorpal sword, assuming the creature died as a result of having its head cut off rather from the damage of the attack, being healed will not reattach its head so it’s still dead. You can’t Regenerate a single head so even a combination of spells wont help.

For all the others, your hp are whatever they were after the coup de grace or massive damage, noting that they may already be positive.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Unlike, for example, the spell raise dead that says that while it "closes mortal wounds and repairs lethal damage of most kinds, the body of the creature to be raised must be whole," the spell breath of life seems to have no such limitations. Can that be addressed in the context of breath of life? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 1 '18 at 21:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I have to agree with Dale that the severed head from vorpal is not reattached. Mostly because of the spell regenerate being pretty much the only way to reattach/grow severed limbs. Breath of life might bring them back, but the head still be severed so the condition returns swiftly. \$\endgroup\$ – Fering May 1 '18 at 23:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Fering I'm sorry. The spell raise dead is more specific that that first comment implies: "While the spell closes mortal wounds and repairs lethal damage of most kinds, the body of the creature to be raised must be whole. Otherwise, missing parts are still missing when the creature is brought back to life." A severed head can be plopped on a corpse—or duct taped there or sewn on if the GM insists—so as to make it whole, but the breath of life spell really doesn't have have the same degree of specificity. It doesn't even say it's like the raise dead spell! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 2 '18 at 0:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Ah, I had misunderstood. Thanks for clearing it up \$\endgroup\$ – Fering May 2 '18 at 2:28

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