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The player is making a Death Attack with a poisoned (injury) blade and wants the poison save to happen before the save from the Death Attack ability. As far as I can tell, these effects are simultaneously triggered by damage. His poison does Constitution damage. So he is hoping that a failed save on the poison will make the Death Attack save harder.

Death Attack (Ex): If an assassin studies his victim for 3 rounds and then makes a sneak attack with a melee weapon that successfully deals damage, the sneak attack has the additional effect of possibly either paralyzing or killing the target (assassin's choice). Studying the victim is a standard action. The death attack fails if the target detects the assassin or recognizes the assassin as an enemy (although the attack might still be a sneak attack if the target is denied his Dexterity bonus to his Armor Class or is flanked). If the victim of such a death attack fails a Fortitude save (DC 10 + the assassin's class level + the assassin's Int modifier) against the kill effect, she dies. If the saving throw fails against the paralysis effect, the victim is rendered helpless and unable to act for 1d6 rounds plus 1 round per level of the assassin. If the victim's saving throw succeeds, the attack is just a normal sneak attack. Once the assassin has completed the 3 rounds of study, he must make the death attack within the next 3 rounds.

Poison

Injury poisons are primarily contracted through the attacks of certain creatures and through weapons coated in the toxin. Injury poisons do not usually have an onset time and have a frequency of 1 round.

What is the proper order of resolution of these two effects?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I recall something about the person who's initiative it is deciding which order simultaneous events are resolved in... but I'm not sure if it was this game system. I'll try to look for a source. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Aug 6 '18 at 13:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso Yes, pathfinder has that, but it's not written officially anywhere. It's a carry over from 3.x. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Aug 6 '18 at 13:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ should probably have the [poison] tag. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Aug 6 '18 at 13:43
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The order is undefined by the rules

If the poison's effect are instantaneous, then the penalties are applied as soon as damage is taken and the attack is resolved. This is the case for most Injury poisons, such as the Black Adder Venom:

Type poison (injury); Save Fortitude DC 11

Frequency 1/round for 6 rounds

Effect 1d2 Con damage; Cure 1 save

If the poison has an Onset period, then it won't take effect immediatelly and will only apply it's penalties when that period has passed. Such as Wolfsbane (Onset 10 minutes), as described under Afflictions.

If you read Death Attack carefully, you will see that the conditions for it to work are making a successful attack (with sneak attack) that deals damage, so whatever effects of the attack have to be resolved before the character can use her Death Attack.

If an assassin studies his victim for 3 rounds and then makes a sneak attack with a melee weapon that successfully deals damage, the sneak attack has the additional effect of possibly either paralyzing or killing the target (assassin's choice).

This means that before you finish resolving the attack, you must roll all the damage (including sneak attack dice), with the possibility of your damage being reduced to 0 by defensive effects that are applied on damage, such as Damage Reduction, which could cancel the poison and the death attack ability.

However, since both the poison and the death attack are additional effects, the order of which must be applied first is undefined by the rules.

But usually the attacker chooses

There is a (unwritten) rule for Pathfinder that you resolve in the order that would be the most benefical to the creature. It is a carryover from 3.5's FAQ (has no working links left, but can be seen on this other answer, but never actually a written rule (or FAQ'ed) for Pathfinder, so GMs will have to fiat their own answer here.

For Pathfinder, as evidenced by the multiple threads on similar subjects, the community usually accepts that the attacker chooses the order of her own abilities, and the defender chooses the order of her own abilities. Other than that, the GM has to carefully read the abilities and use his own judgment there.

PS: Note that the answer given back then, for 3.5, is not valid for Pathfinder (vulnerability or energy resistance?), as we have a developer clarification in order of which to apply first, vulnerability then energy resistance, as seen on this other answer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That still doesn't solve it for a poison without an onset period. The condition for both things to take effect is that the attack deal damage and both could be called "secondary effects" of the attack. \$\endgroup\$ – Mr. Sandman Aug 6 '18 at 13:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mr.Sandman Yes, but poison applies on damage, not attacks. While the death attack applies after both the attack AND damage. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Aug 6 '18 at 13:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't quite get what you mean by "poison applies on damage, not attacks." What's the difference supposed to be? (sorry, I'm not trying to be fussy, I really don't understand it) Have you got a reference to the rules? SRD says, with regards to injury-delivered poisons, "These poisons are primarily delivered through the attacks of certain creatures and through weapons coated in the toxin." (paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/ultimateEquipment/gear/…) This seems to indicate that it is related to the whole attack, not specifically the damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Mr. Sandman Aug 6 '18 at 13:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mr.Sandman I will quote how Onset works, on the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Aug 6 '18 at 13:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mr.Sandman I see what you mean now, your reading is making a distinction between attack and damage as two different phases of combat, and that makes some sense. From DR: "Whenever damage reduction completely negates the damage from an attack, it also negates most special effects that accompany the attack, such as injury poison". \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Aug 6 '18 at 13:29

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