Untimately posted some questions and I, like a zombie, must answer the siren call to blab.
- Ability scores generation method?
Throw 4d6 seven times. For each 4d6, drop the lowest number. Then drop the lowest sum of the seven. Arrange to taste. Players should play the character that they want. It's not poker.
Also, I grant max HP to all first level characters. This seems to have blunted the mortality rate of PCs only slightly. I recommend this to all DMs.
- How are death and dying handled?
Expeditiously. But to echo Jeff Reints: hp 0 requires fast medical attention, hp -1 requires raise dead.
- What about raising the dead?
I generally do not encourage resurrecting low-level characters. I make it expensive for high level characters.
- How are replacement PCs handled?
Party meets replacement back at the tavern/keep/city hall/guild
- Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
Group initiative: party and monsters. d6. High roll wins. Tie goes to the party (in my current campaign).
- Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
I don't think I have these rules as you probably mean them. 1 always, always misses. 20 always, always hits. Your L1 MU with a dagger can still hit Lolth with her -10AC (that's right, -10). Your L20 fighter with his +5 Sword of Awesome can still miss a wounded kobold.
- Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet? They make you look rather dashing, I think. Those with face masks will disguise your identity.
- Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
- Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
That's not really up to me, is it? Every encounter has its tactical options. Sometimes, you can't run.
- Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
Yes, but I try to make it fair for the players. I don't think wights should have level-drain, for example. I am fine with vampires having this ability (and it fits with their backstory better).
- Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
Of course. Isn't that the point of saving throws? What the heck are you kids playing? Save vs. ennui? Save vs. crippling doubt?
- How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
Loosely, but there are limits. One dude isn't carrying 100,000 coins without a bag of holding or a floating disk or something.
- What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?
I used to be a "levels immediately" guy, but I have backed off that. Now, you need time, materials and gold to level at a guild or its moral equivalent. It is a good way to keep the PCs attached to a home base and drain excess coinage from them. It solves the problem of where and what spells magic-users can have too.
- What do I get experience for?
To level, silly! Oh, you mean how do PCs earn XP? Killing beasts, gaining treasure (in gold pieces), achieving quests, making moral choices. That's right, moral choices. If you don't genocide a goblin village right down to non-combatant women and children, I'll give you some XP for that. I don't allow chaotic PCs. If you want that, go thrill kill in an MMORPG.
- How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
I generally want PC thieves to find them. However, obvious mechanical traps (e.g. the covered pit, pressure plates, etc.) should be discoverable through careful role playing.
- Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
Retainers are white listed. Morale works as per Labyrinth Lord rules when I need to them to work that way. It is a game, so when elements do not produce fun, I ignore them.
- How do I identify magic items?
Local guilds, pawn merchants and other professionals will offer this service for 100 gp or more.
- Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
If a merchant sells them and you have the gold, you can buy them. Supply and demand is at work here. I allow and encourage the sale of healing potions. Heck, I give the party healing potions to keep them in the dungeon longer (see the 15 minute workday).
- Can I create magic items? When and how?
This hasn't come up yet. This is in the rules, so I'll have to concoct some mechanic for it, but I don't really want to encourage it. I'd rather have the PCs fighting or adventuring than screwing around in a lab (which is essentially what I do every day in real life). Might be interesting to have an adventure in which a potent magic item or ritual is needed to save some McGuffin. I need to write that down...
- What about splitting the party?
This has yet to come up, but it could. I would allow it, but the players whose PCs aren't present would have to leave the table/chatroom/etc.