I'm coming to a decision point with the new project, and that is how to animate the characters. The initial prototype of the Golem3D engine I'm hacking on used simple vertex-keyframed animations, but I'm toying with the idea of adding a small amount of component-based character appearance modification, so skeletal animation will most likely simplify this job. I've got basic (very basic) skeletally based animation code in the works, I just need to tweak and tune for better performance. I may end up switching over to a 3rd party library for this, however, assuming I can find a decent one with a good open source license. (Preferably zlib or BSD style, rather than LGPL, since I want to retain the option of statically linking if possible.)
I've also been hacking around with ODE, but I'm still sitting on the fence in regards to how realistically I want to model the physics for this game. I'm not really making an action-packed shooter, so I more than half believe ODE would be overkill and would overly complicate the engine. If I do incorporate ODE physics, most likely I will limit it's scope to various brands of barrel-breaking and rock tossing. I've no interest whatsoever in trying to build any thing as complicated as a ragdoll physics simulation or other such systems into this thing. Such gimmicks add nothing to a game for me, so I fail to see any necessity for them, and have no real desire to include them.
All in all, though, it'll be good to be moving beyond the basic 'engine' stage with this thing, and into the realm of 'game'; I seem to spend a great deal of time on framework programming, even though in actuality I detest framework programming. My level of enjoyment in this hobby vastly increases once I actually start building a 'game' as opposed to yet-another-framework. Hopefully time will prove this engine design to be solid and stable enough to support a game, rather than collapsing under the weight as previous attempts have done.