(Haven't posted in a while...must use crutch to get back into the game...)
I've been very interested to read the responses to Brendan's 20 quick questions, as houserules and rulings are always cool to hear about. So, here are my replies:
1. Ability scores generation method?
3d6, distribute as you will. However, it should be noted that I don't use negative modifiers from ability scores, only positives.
2. How are death and dying handled?
PCs die when they reach below their level in negative HP (e.g. a 4th level fighter dies when he gets to -5 HP). Wounds can be bound after a battle (+d3 HP).
3. What about raising the dead?
Getting someone resurrected is such a monumental pain in the butt that it either becomes a great story in and of itself, or the player decides to just roll up a new character and save himself the trouble.
4. How are replacement PCs handled?
I let them play one of the NPCs or roll up a character 1-2 levels lower than the lowest PC.
5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
Group initiative with d6. We have two huge rubber foam d6's, one neon orange, the other neon pink. I love doing the roll off to see who goes first!
6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
Natty 20 gets double damage rolled or full damage, choose before you roll. Nat 1 means you lost your weapon and need to spend a round retrieving it. I should really make up a table of worse things for the critical fumble (stab friend in butt, anger the god of war with your incompetence, etc.).
7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
You probably look cooler, especially if it's some sweet Otus helmet.
8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
Hells yes! Though I will usually warn the shooter ahead of time that the shot looks like it might be dangerous.
9. Will we need to run from some encounters?
Only if you want to live...
10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
Yes, but only occasionally.
11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
Yes, but again, only occasionally. Most often death occurs due to failing to run, not checking for traps, deciding that this NPC is too big for his britches, etc.
12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
Not strictly at all. I find it tedious, so I just cut them off at a certain point.
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?
You must wait for down time, but don't need to do any training. Spells don't come naturally and are not usually shared. They are one of the main forms of treasure, actually.
14. What do I get experience for?
Killing, looting, playing your character even if it might get him killed, accomplishing something difficult that didn't involve getting loot or killing, whatever else I feel like giving xp for.
15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
Combo! You have to describe what you're doing and then I roll, with bonuses or negatives depending on how plausible your description sounds.
16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
Not encouraged, necessarily, but my players know their way around a meatshield. Morale is only used in battle, but is highly dependent on treatment. Meatshields and retainers will often negotiate on the spot for more cash or rewards when they're asked to do something very dangerous.
17. How do I identify magic items?
Use it or take it to a shaman, cleric, witch doctor, elder, et al.
18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
Maybe a potion, but it won't be a regular healing potion, it'll have side effects like making your hair fall out or bony protrusions grow out of your back.
19. Can I create magic items? When and how?
No one's ever tried to create a magic item, so I don't know. I use Holmes' rule for Magic-Users making scrolls.
20. What about splitting the party?
My players never split up, but they could if they wanted. Go ahead. Try it. :)