So it has become clear that on top of running the ultimate D&D (meaning ultimate role-playing) universe, I will also have to develop the ultimate edition of the D&D rules. The whole Empire city-building phase that I'll be adding to my Battlegrounds with the help of the upcoming TaleSpire [ > ] is already a massive addition to D&D, but I've recently realized that I'll have to go beyond that. The project will have two dimensions.
1. First off, realize that the 2nd Edition is the best, not only in terms of settings and adventures—which should be plain to everyone—but even in terms of rules. No other edition has quantified and codified so many fantasy themes and elements as the second one, and though other editions might have done a better job on some particular aspect of the rules or other, none of them have anywhere near 2E's sheer scope. So the BASE of my Ultimate Edition will be the 2nd Edition, and from there I can add and modify as many rules as I want. Take for example the 3E sorcerer class, which is lacking in 2E. He is a wizard who instead of memorizing spells based on his intelligence, can cast any of his repertoire based on his charisma. He's a kind of wizard/priest hybrid, in other words, using wizardly spells, but in a priestly manner. He's stronger at lower levels than a wizard, precisely because he doesn't have to commit to any particular spells every day, but weaker at higher levels because his repertoire is smaller than a wizard's. Moreover, his prime requisite is charisma, which aside from paladins is a dump stat in 2E that no one takes seriously. So adding the sorcerer to 2E to flesh out both the wizard class and the charisma ability is a no-brainer, and you can expect tons more additions like that from all editions. Moreover, when another edition has a superior rule, I will be replacing 2E's existing rule with it, and making the necessary balancing adjustments throughout the rest of the ruleset. Ultimately, we'll end up with a rule system that can accommodate so many different class types and archetypes that no two players will ever end up with similar characters. That's already true in 2E if you include character kits and the dozens of specialized handbooks in which they are elaborated, but if you add in all the classes and skills and rules from all the other editions and supplements too, you'll end up with a truly insane level of complexity—and my goal will be to add it as a custom ruleset to Fantasy Grounds Unity too, exportable to all who might want to run it for their own campaigns.
2. But I plan to go even Beyond that. Pun intended because D&D Beyond is really a cruel joke: the moment you hear of it, and see that it's a digital service, you imagine that WotC finally stepped into the VTT realm with an official D&D product, but instead it's just some bullshit online character sheets that all VTTs already do anyway. Instead, what it has really given to role-playing is the awesome LOGO, which I will take, scrub the BEYOND from it and replace it with my own ULTIMATE label. So how does one TRULY go BEYOND D&D? Definitely not by adding random classes like the sorcerer or making tiny changes like how attack rolls are calculated, that nowadays no one even sees anyway since the computer handles them. That's what the main accusation against 2E was from its hipster and charlatan abusers: that THAC0 was the reason we had to destroy tens of thousands of pages of 2E rules and settings and adventures, and replace them with the sheer poverty of 3E and beyond. And time has shown that charge to have been bullshit, as everyone who understood role-playing already knew 20 years ago. But the past is the past, and there's no use lamenting it; let's look FORWARD instead, into a glorious future that I will take us if you stop for a moment and listen to me and help me out to make my plans reality.
So, in my estimation, the way to truly go beyond D&D is to add a concrete strategic dimension to it. That's the endgame for fantasy fiction anyway, as even Conan became a king in the end, as I've already pointed out. The problem is that role-playing's abstract nature runs counter to strategy's demands for hard rules and numbers and territories with concrete borders, and fortifications where every last wall and beam and moat and keep play an important part in the resolution of the conflicts. And 2D maps simply can't hack it. They couldn't hack it in the old BATTLESYSTEM days, and they still can't hack it in current-gen 2D VTTs like Fantasy Grounds, Roll20 and whathaveyou. And this is where TaleSpire comes in, to add the third dimension, and videogame production values on top of that. So that's why my Empire phase will be using it as an interface. However, I have yet to explain how the Empire phase will precisely work, and as it turns out it will work in an incredibly complex way that will really take D&D and role-playing in general, to the next, Ultimate, level.
The problem that I was dealing with is that establishing and building a settlement in my D&D universe using TaleSpire will be extremely complex work. We are talking that you will have to buy every last brick that you want to place with money earned from adventuring. It might take a lifetime of adventuring for a group of characters to even place a basic keep down. Many will not manage it at all. So it would be kind of a bummer to lose all of it just because the party got wiped in an adventure somewhere, as it almost certainly will. And then they are supposed to just roll new characters and start from level 1 with nothing? That's okay, sort of, when they have no possessions in the world, but when they have whole castles and towns and maybe cities that they have built brick by brick on TaleSpire... that's not quite okay, is it? Besides, it's unrealistic to expect all that stuff to be built in one character's lifetime. Medieval rulers would sometimes take generations to finish a castle, or even a big church, let alone to found a city from scratch, which TaleSpire will allow by blending SimCity with role-playing games. So the way I will adapt my Empire phase to historical reality while fully exploiting the technical possibilities allowed by the next-gen 3D VTT TaleSpire is to introduce Succession Mechanics to D&D that I will devise. We have to find a way to pass the scepter on to the next generation of characters, which means we will need Procreation Mechanics, which means we will need Seduction Mechanics lol, because that's where the whole shebang starts: with sex. Now, I've always held a dim view of DMs who try to role-play seduction with their players. It always felt gay to me to see two guys role-playing seduction, and I sure as hell refuse to go that far in my DMing. If the player is a girl, it would actually be a treat to try to seduce her with an NPC, and conversely a female DM should be able to play seduction out with male players, but good luck finding decent female DMs or any female DMs at all lol. So instead, I propose to handle the whole matter with maximum rule focus, and only light role-playing. In my Ultimate Edition, the (mostly male) players will be on the lookout throughout their (published) adventures for female NPCs. Not female NPCs that I dreamed up for them specifically to serve as wives, but female NPCs FROM THE ADVENTURES. And it is THOSE that they'll be trying to seduce in order to secure their lineage, and thus their holdings, passing them down to future generations, and thus getting to continue their adventures even if daddy dies, and thus continuing to built up their TaleSpire holdings and engaging with wars with NPC or PC adversaries and nations, across the planets and planes and space too, if necessary.
Now the published adventures are rife with female NPCs, from lowly barmaids to mighty Athasian sorcerer-queens that would likely fuck YOU instead of letting you fuck them. So first off, I need to devise Seduction Mechanics based on stats and rolls, probably charisma above all, but also strength, intelligence, and so on. Those in the know might have realized by now that we're getting into pick-up artist territory, and as it happens I am also the best PUA in the world—I've even written a book about it—so there's no one more qualified than me to model these interactions and devise these mechanics. We're not talking about a single roll either: we're talking about a complex relationship between your stats and her stats, and many interactions and rolls involved, just like in real life. I may end up introducing a "status" score, because as I explain in my book, that's the number 1 thing that females (and weak males also) care about when evaluating others. But other factors matter too. There is a minority of females for example that prizes physical strength above all, and they tend to go for lifters and body-builders, so if your character is low-status you should still be able to get laid and attract a wife if you're buff, or intelligent, or merely rich and so on. The catch though is that the higher the female's stats, the higher status score it will require from you to become attracted, because that's how it works in real life too. And that's where my Procreation Mechanics come in, as your offspring's stats will be determined by yet another complex interaction of your stats with hers, so that the mightiest female NPCs in the published adventures will give you the best offspring (which will be your future characters). THEY will be the real prize of the adventures, and not the actual missions or loot involved. That's how it worked in medieval times too and I believe that's what the videogame Crusader Kings tries to capture. I am not a fan of CK, as you may know, because it doesn't zoom in to show you anything, and it models very few things (no tactics for example), but that's what my Empire phase will accomplish, being a kind of Crusader Kings on steroids, mixing in SimCity/Strongholds city-building and castle-building mechanics, with Age of Empires tactical wars, with of course tons of adventuring and role-playing. It will be freakin' insane dude.
So right from the start of the game the players will be going through the published adventures scanning for and evaluating every last female NPC—JUST LIKE REAL GUYS LOL. Or how about competing for them lol? What if a party tears itself apart for a female with insane stats? (and note that every notable female NPC in published adventures comes with complete stats, and even with inventory, so I won't be making anything up). Who'll fuck the D&D equivalent of the Lady of the Lake? Who'll take her as wife and shut her in his mighty castle and raise strong offspring with her? Don't even get me started on the Raising Mechanics. Raising your offspring well with good tutors and so on that you have hired with resources gained from adventuring will be a big thing. We'll bring in Dark Sun's Character Tree rules to handle multiple characters per player, but instead of doing it lamely as Dark Sun does it (which is why I won't be using those rules the way they were written with my Dark Sun groups), we'll do it properly in the Empire phase with the proper mechanics. You won't be playing two characters at the same time, you can't have fun role-playing a five-year-old anyway, but if he gets to say 16, and daddy's not dead yet, he can play the role of henchman as described in 2E rules. And when daddy dies, he becomes your character, or any of your sons you decide to set as "Primary" character in the Battlegrounds app.
As you can understand, we're talking about extremely complex rules that will take some time and effort to devise and playtest (though I will be setting a basic version of them in play from day 1 later this month, so be ready), but we have years ahead of us, and over two dozen thinking heads (17 at last count), so we'll be alright. Remember that the sprawling D&D rulesets were a collaborative effort. There's always been some vision or other guiding them—and in the case of my Ultimate Edition, that would be mine—but hundreds of people contributed to them, so feel free to help me devise the details of how this stuff will work. I already have some basic ideas in mind and will be sharing them soon.
P.S. If anyone can make me a D&D ULTIMATE logo just by replacing the BEYOND in the image above with ULTIMATE, let me know, I would appreciate it.
P.P.S. There are three places left in our three groups before they are maxed out, one in each group, so if you haven't joined in and want to, speak up!