My approach to the game in a nutshell
Beyond having fun I encourage or discourage nothing. If the rules and campaign matrix don't specifically forbid something? You can try it. For instance, your fighter usually can't cast magic spells, that's outside of the game's reality. But, if your fighter wants to use his spear in an attempt to pole vault a 30 foot deep pit? No problem.
0. The Rule of Cool
This rule covers a lot of possibilities. Sometimes something will just happen because it's cool and makes the game more fun.
For example: your fighter is engaged in mortal combat with the hobgoblin king. You're both down to a few hit points and you've won initiative. You roll a 20 for your attack and a 6 for damage. Sure, I could blandly say you've slain your opponent and now his soldiers must roll against their morale. Boring! Your dice rolls are noteworthy so the rule of cool says the hobgoblin king's head flies from his shoulders at your mighty blow, sailing through the air and landing at the feet of his general. A moment of shocked silence follows as the general and the hobgoblin soldiers arrayed behind him stare at the king's severed head. Then, a collective shriek splits the air as they drop their weapons and flee in terror.
1. Ability scores generation method?
3d6 in order. I offer two methods for altering ability scores during character generation. First, you may use the point buy system proposed in the rulebook and slightly modified by myself. Or, you may swap any one ability score as rolled with the prime requisite of your chosen class. You may use one method or the other but not both.
2. How are death and dying handled?
Your player-character is dead at zero hit points or below. Barring massive hit point loss, promptly applied curative magic (e.g. cure light wounds) stands a chance of bringing the player-character back from death's door.
3. What about raising the dead?
The capability certainly exists within the milieu but this isn't a quest lightly undertaken.
4. How are replacement PCs handled?
They are worked into the story as quickly as possible. I like to use some pretext, however thin, to insert them into the action. Still, I've been known to have them appear in a flash of light and puff of smoke with a very confused look on their face if nothing readily suggests itself.
5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
Group. Each faction rolls d6 with high roll winning the right to act first. Action may be delayed if desired. Ties are rolled again.
6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
No critical hits or fumbles. My house rules do state a natural 20 is always a hit (with the exception of opponents only hit be special attacks) and a natural 1 is always a miss.
7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
A protected head! Otherwise “1 in 6 hits in melee will be at an unarmored head” as per the rules. If you do wear a helmet and are AC 5 or AC 3 it is further assumed you are wearing a chain coif with padded hood or cap beneath that. All this must be removed if your player-character wishes to attempt to listen at doors or hear noise.
8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
Yes. It may be a fantasy milieu but getting shot with an arrow still hurts, whether fired by friend or foe.
9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
You, the players, decide your own tactics. If your party of first level adventurers is foolhardy enough to take on an ancient red dragon you'll surely get what you deserve. I'll never arbitrarily throw you onto the sword but if you see an outstretched blade and still want to run onto it, that's your decision.
10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
Yes. And to further illuminate; without some high-level restorative magic a drained level is gone for good. You'll have to regain experience to regain your previous level. Level draining is scary, but it's supposed to be scary.
11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
Yes. Adventuring is a dangerous and deadly pastime, player-character death is a very real possibility.
12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
I feel both are integral to the challenge of the game so I track both. The rules themselves are somewhat lax regarding encumbrance: the weight of your armor and weapons plus 80 coins (8 pounds) of gear. If you're carrying more than a backpack full of stuff I'll probably take a closer look at your inventory to see if you've incurred a movement penalty. Encumbrance becomes an issue when treasure is found and the player-characters wish to cart it off. There's only so much one can carry and gold is heavy!
Some resources are more stringently checked. I'll often give you tokens such as poker chips or printed chits for certain expendables such as arrows, quarrels, torches, or vials of holy water. Every time you use one I'll take a token back from you and, when they're gone? You've reached the end of that particular resource.
13. 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?
In order: nothing, no, no for magical types and yes for divine types, no, yes.
14. What do I get experience for?
Recovering treasure is the main source of experience. For this reason clever adventurers will attempt to gain maximum treasure with minimum combat. Other sources of experience are defeating or outwitting monsters, solving problems, outstanding role-playing. In short? For good play.
15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
Description, augmented with die rolling in some situations for certain characters (particularly scouts).
16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
If you want them, hire them. They will be played as persons balancing a greed for treasure against a strong sense of self-preservation, modified by how you treat them. They may also have their own agenda which will affect their behavior as well. Morale is outlined in further detail in my rules document.
17. How do I identify magic items?
By using/wielding/wearing/etc. the item. For instance, small sips of potions will often give a hint as to their use. NPC sages and wizards will often identify items for a fee.
18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
Generally speaking, no. Some relatively common items, such as healing potions or first level spell scrolls, might occasionally be found for sale but a wise player won't count on it.
19. Can I create magic items? When and how?
Short answer? Yes, with lots of money and time. Meanwhile, the world keeps on spinning. Opportunities may be lost and your enemies will still be working on their nefarious plans. The official rules should give you an idea of time and effort, as well as the level of player experience, required to create items, I'll give you more exact information if and when the need arises.
20. What about splitting the party?
There is safety in numbers but if the slowed and rather awkward play arising from splitting the party is how you wish to spend your gaming time? Have at it.