Before recounting my Mutants and Masterminds game from this past Saturday, I thought I would answer the following 20 questions for no real reason whatsoever. Brendan seems a nice enough chap though so let's give a go shall we?
As a special bonus, I will try to answer them with specifics from my D&D-But-Not games, as most of these questions only apply to some form of D&D.
Here goes nothing...
Ability scores generation method?
Common Folk get 3D6, arrange as you like.
Gifted Folk get 3D6 re-roll ones, arrange as you like.
Special Folk get 4D6 and drop the lowest, arrange as you like.
Super Folk, get 4D6 drop the lowest, re-roll ones, arrange as you like.
Most of my campaign fall into the Special or Super category.
How are death and dying handled?
Zero is dead. What is this minus X crap? Hit points are life. If you have zero hit points you have no life (One could argue that...never mind). When you have no life you can't get less no life. Negative hit points always confused me.
If you take more than half of your HP in a single attack you must make a fortitude save (or System Shock or whatever) to avoid being knocked unconscious. At 75% you are considered dying.
What about raising the dead?
Good luck. Rare ability. Can be expensive or free depending upon religion, region, nature of recipient's death, etc. Difficult to do. Nasty side effects if performed incorrectly or the Gods are in a foul mood or not on great terms with the caster or recipient.
How are replacement PCs handled?
You roll them up and I find some logical way to have them meet up with and join the others. The player may help me find a place for them to fit in.
Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
Everyone rolls a D6 and adds their Dexterity Bonus. People with the same number attack at the same time.
Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
Rolled a 20! Critical hit or success - double damage or effect.
Rolled a 1! Critical miss or fail - weapon is dropped or breaks or situation worsens.
Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
Uh-huh. It protects your head.
Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
You can if you fumble/critical fail. Otherwise, quite contrary to most D&D games I've played in, you are not assumed to suck. If Robin Hood or Hawkeye can do it so can you.
Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
Short answer: you will sometimes need to run.
Long answer: If you are 4, 3rd Level characters and the monster you are facing just leveled a manor house with a single swing of its tail, you may want to rethink charging it. Your call.
Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
No. Never liked that power. More annoying then fun or interesting.
Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
Rarely. Maybe very rarely.
How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
Resources are tracked dramatically most of the time. You only run out after a long battle and a bad roll (fumble), etc.
Encumbrance? Is that some kind of vegetable?
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?
Normally we wait until the end of a session to record XP and yes, even if we end the game in the middle of a battle you can level up if you have the points. You gain new spells as it is assumed you were either studying their basics already (Wizards), you'd been praying for them for days now (Clerics), the spirits of Nature smile upon you (Druids) or the forces of some hidden realm grant you a new spell or power in exchange for a small favor (my Sorcerers).
If you are looking to obtain a rare spell or special ability you will have to return to some place you can learn said power before gaining full access to it.
What do I get experience for?
Playing in character, teamwork, exploring or developing the plot, exploring or developing a subplot, creative use of your abilities, spells, powers, etc., entertaining the GM and other players.
How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
Combo with bonuses to rolls given for creative search methods and/or good role playing.
Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
Retainers are neither encouraged nor discouraged really. Morale is an RP thing based on your (the PC's) attitude and the mindset of the retainer. I do not roll randomly for morale.
How do I identify magic items?
Begin by looking at them. Kidding (sorta).
There are a number of NPCs with the ability to identify most items (for a modest to elaborate fee) but PCs can learn the technique as well.
Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
Yes. You can purchase magic items. The prices of some items will be much lower then those in the books. Some will be higher. Most Mage Shop owner would rather barter or trade items. They may have what you're looking for if you can get something for them.
Can I create magic items? When and how?
Sure. When? When you acquire the skill or talent for it, find the right materials or ingredients, have free time to make it, etc. How? Ask me how to make a work of art. Each one is unique unless you are churning out shlock.
What about splitting the party?