Welcome to the Darkstone database Mizu,
1) it's good that you enjoy playing darkstone and it does suck when you lose you old characters.
2) the playerbase isn't that large due to being an old game but you can find people sometimes on programs such as gamespy arcade and game ranger.
3) Not that active but the most active darkstone forum i have seen since the game is so old. there may be a new active forum that has been inspred by the GOG (Good Old Games) release of darkstone, yet I have not seen any.
4) yes it is.
5) only suggestions i can think of is due to compatibility, the IPX will be disabled by the O/S if you are jusig vista or above due to them not natively supporting it yet it should be able to load the TCP/IP protocol. i would try using program to set the game up for you (see point 2)
Hope this helps