Ramanan recently answered Brendan’s twenty questions about the rules used on his blog. Here’s how I’ve been running my campaign over the last years.
(Update: I’ve answered these twenty questions two years ago. The answers are practically unchanged. How embarrassing!)
Ability scores generation method? 3d6 in order.
How are death and dying handled? Roll on the Death and Dismemberment table every time you reach 0 hit points or whenever you get hit after reaching 0 hit points.
What about raising the dead? The highest level cleric in the area is a player character. A long time ago they’ve met another cleric but never returned to that particular town. I would require the fulfillment of a quest upon returning to life.
How are replacement PCs handled? Start at level 1, gain no more than one level per session. This works well because in the long run, you’ll simply loose a level (as XP requirements essentially double for every level).
Initiative: individual, group, or something else? Group initiative using a d6.
Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? A natural 1 is always a miss. A natural 20 is always a hit and does max damage.
Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet? Some entries on the Death and Dismemberment table take helmets into account.
Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly? I used to say that targets will be picked at random but nobody ever risked it. After seeing Legolas shoot orcs at point blank I was ready to toss the rule but my players wanted to keep it. Effectively the rule is that you cannot fire into melee.
Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? As in all good sandboxes, some fights require more preparation, so retreats will be necessary.
Level-draining monsters: yes or no? Absolutely. There comes a time when simply hitting each other is boring. Level draining is a change in game play that keeps things interesting.
Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? There comes a time when simply hitting each other is boring. Save or die spells are a change in game play that keeps things interesting.
How strictly are encumbrance and resources tracked? Not at all. Sometimes we make fun of people if they carry too many weapons. In a chase, the rule is that wearing metal armor halves your speed and that carrying more than 800 coins also halves your speed. You may not carry more than 1600 coins. In practice, money is converted into buildings, salaries for specialists and the like in order to gain experience, and gems are most likely kept, so that I stopped tracking. Thus, the only real rule is that metal armor halves your speed in a chase.
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 gain most of your experience when you spend money. Therefore you usually gain levels between sessions. Training is not required. There are no new spells gained automatically. Spells are always taught from one magic user or elf to another. No copying of spells from spell books or scrolls.
What do I get experience for? Killing monsters and spending treasure gained on adventure.
How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination? Description or dice rolling will work.
Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? Retainers are encouraged but you can only bring two along for an adventure. The others will perform other duties in your name such as running ships, guarding estates, ruling over towns, and so on. Morale will only be used if you’re giving unreasonable orders.
How do I identify magic items? Experiments, sages, and sometimes I’ll just tell you. There is no identify spell and there is no questing for command words or the like.
Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions? You can buy potions from alchemists and they cost around 500 gold per potion. You might get scrolls from clerics, magic-users or elves if they have a high enough level (finding such non-player characters is very rare) and only in exchange for service, never for gold.
Can I create magic items? When and how? If you reach the appropriate level, you might. We’ll talk about each one of them individually and make sure to turn it into an adventure. Sometimes you can pay for other people to go on adventure for you, but that just means next session we’ll be running the low level scum trying to get those ingredients you need. There will be an adventure.
What about splitting the party? Your call.