So, last weekend, while we were playing our Dwimmermount campaign (I'll post full details of the latest session in a couple of days), my 10 year-old daughter, who plays Iriadessa, the teenage magic-user, decided that her character wanted "a pet owl," which she then clarified as "a familiar." Now, there are no explicit rules for this in OD&D, but, as it happens, I had just received my copy of Goblinoid Games's awesome Advanced Edition Companion the other day and it included the 1st-level spell Summon Familiar, which seemed to nicely meet the reasonable desire my daughter had for her character. While the characters were in Adamas resupplying, I allowed her to purchase and learn the spell and to then use it in order to summon an owl, which she called Eveningstar.
Looking back on it, I don't regret simply plucking Summon Familiar out of the AEC and dropping it into my game. One of the many great things about the AEC is how seamlessly it works with non-advanced versions of D&D. It really does a superb job of providing the flavor and texture of AD&D without all fiddly bits that most of us never used anyway. Still, I won't deny that there's a part of me -- a small part, admittedly -- that feels as if I "wimped out" by dealing with my daughter's request by simply opening up a rulebook and pulling out a spell rather than coming up with something on my own, as I've done many times in the past.
No one should think I'm beating myself up over this, because I'm not. I don't regret my decision, as I said. But the decision has gotten me to thinking: when should I go with a "canned" answer to an in-game problem/question and when should I make up the answer on my own? This is particularly relevant right now, because, as I've admitted many times before, I'm very fond of AD&D. Even though I'm using OD&D in Dwimmermount, I am regularly tempted to start adding bits and bobs from AD&D in order to restore some of the Gygaxian flavor I associate so strongly with D&D, a process made all the more easy with the publication of the Advanced Edition Companion, a book I can't gush about enough.
At present my feeling is that, when I don't really care about a particular game/setting element, I'll just grab an "old standby" and run with it rather than waste unnecessary time trying to be "original." On the other hand, when I do care about something, I'll go my own way. A good case in point are paladins, which, as I imagine them, are somewhat different than their AD&D forebears and thus deserve their own presentation. On the other hand, if I ever felt the need to include illusionists in the campaign, I'd probably just use the one in the AEC and be done with it, since I don't have (at present) any strong opinions about the class that demand an original approach. Since I don't like every element of AD&D, I'm sticking with "OD&D plus" for the foreseeable future, since it better reflects the way I play the game and doesn't set up any expectations in my players about what I will include or how things "ought" to work.