This started as a response to Erik Tenkar's post on the subject, but it got big.
In my elementary school D&D/AD&D days, dead was dead. No one had a character high enough level for Raise Dead so that was that - there was no such thing as NPCs except the ones in the adventures. Heh. Okay, there were, but no one allowed this.
In my junior high school and then high school AD&D days, it was possible but rare. We finally read the right section of the DMG, I guess. I can't tell you now why it was rare - probably cost and availability - but it did happen. I don't remember anyone losing a mid to high level character permanently. I'm not even sure if anyone died temporarily.
In my Rolemaster games and early GURPS games, you were out of luck. No one came back from anything. The spells just weren't available. The last 1st edition GURPS game I ran back in the day featured PCs getting resurrected, but man, it cost them long-term servitude to a powerful wizard.
In my previous GURPS game, Resurrection and Elixirs of Life were expensive and rare. Couple that with GURPS's aging rules meaning it wasn't a useful long-term cure for infirmity, just violence, and that took care of the larger world. The King gets resurrected from assassination and such but he's doomed in the long run anyway barring longevity magic, and that's a different issue. "Won't Die of Old Age" is nice, but it's not the most useful advantage for an adventurer with treasure to get or bad guys to deal with right now. Even with it available, it wasn't without issues (the cascading penalties per day for being dead for one, cost for another.) A few characters died and came back - off hand I think of three who each died once (one may have died twice, I'll ask his player when I get a chance.) Only one came back without permanent harm, and she had some temporary harm for a while (migraines from the head injury that killed her.) No one saw it as a non-issue; dying was huge and costly and possibly forever even with access to lots of money and world-class magic. Even then, the purveyors of such spells knew they had you over a barrel and bargains almost unfairly.
In my DF game, you can just go and pay $15K to be Resurrected at the local church. We even have a posted price list! As Mike aka Galen Longtread says, it's a paper Roguelike. If you want to spend in-game resources to keep playing your guy once he blows a Death Check, it's fine. GURPS has pretty strict rules on how much damage you can suffer and still come back, too - no bone fragments turning into a fully-healed character here. You die automatically at -5xHP and above -10xHP you're not coming back. Even our toughest PC in this over-the-top game has only 25 HP, which means 275 damage (high but not crazy given fire, lava, acid, hungry trolls, etc.) and you have to make a new PC no matter what. Even so, my players keep talking about a party Resurrection fund and wondering if you can pre-pay for one. It's that kind of game.
(One tiny addendum - in my GURPS games, it's a spell and a roll - and it's a one-shot roll-in-front-of-everyone one-try spell. An elixir is more sure - no roll - but more expensive and takes too long to prepare so you need to have one ready to go. No one has had that usually 15 or 16 or less on 3d fail, but it's possible, and I don't allow you to use Luck . . . )
So that's death and resurrection in my games. How about yours? Share here or at Tenkar's Tavern (or both!)