D&D 5E 5e isn't a Golden Age of D&D Lorewise, it's Silver at best.


Y'know, the Simarillion is one of the few fantasy books I've never, ever managed to get through. I've tried multiple times and I just can't. It's why this new Amazon series just does not interest me at all. Basing a whole series on what is, in my mind anyway, the most mind bogglingly boring book of all time is just not something I want to see.
Actually, it is not the Simarillion. IIRC, the Tolkien estate will not give anyone the rights to make an adaptation of the Silmarillion. It is mostly made up stories (that is what is upsetting some Tolkien purists).

However, I think the Simarillion, or parts of it, is perfect for an adaptation precisely because it is not really a book at all (it was never meant to be published). It is really notes that sketch out some broad historical strokes. IMO, it is ripe for a good creative team to inject their own ideas and life into.

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Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
So you agree with the OP that 5e is not the Golden Age of lore generation?
Honestly... We've NEVER had a "Golden Age" of Lore Generation and I think the core conceit of the concept is flawed at best.

Early D&D had settings that were pretty basic "Slightly different from Lord of the Rings" material that was just used as a backdrop to random dungeon crawls and lootgoblinning. Murder Hoboing was the name of the game and the story along the way was a special treat for killing the -right- people rather than -everyone-.

People complain to this day about "Railroading" because they want their absolutely freeform no central narrative game where the story is character-driven but also utterly unplanned. Which, y'know, can be cool and all, but doesn't jive with what writers can provide when they're creating adventures for mass-marketing. The story is background in that sense.

Things evolved. Settings became deeper and more complicated. Sometimes to an... offputting degree.


Don't get me wrong. There was a -lot- of lore produced for FR and other settings... But there's a reason I say it's pick and choose. 'Cause some of it was just -bad-.


In the giant 2e GLUT of material for settings they overdid everything. So much material it was sitting on shelves in TSR warehouses never to be sold 'cause they couldn't move the previously written stuff.

Does that mean 2e was bad for lore? Ehhh... It certainly had a lot of it. And a bunch of it was REALLY GOOD. But just as much if not more was Surf Druids and Dark Elf Mating Rituals.

Then came 3e... hooo boy. 3e.

3e had some decent lore-support for Forgotten Realms... Actually cool lore support for Eberron. And then one-off "Setting" books which were largely lacking. Ghostwalk, for example, needed a lot more support than it got. But rather than setting glut we got Crunch Glut. The OGL allowed WotC to outsource most of the setting design stuff, even for books like Ravenloft, which lead to weird "Is this canon or not?" questions.

And then 4e streamlined crunch and provided a fair number of campaign setting materials. Mostly for Nentir Vale and FR (because FR is always there), but, y'know. Most of what it produced was updates and retcons. Splashing a whole continent of Dragonborn into FR just 'cause you want to add a new PC Race was just annoying. And then they got rid of it in 5e 'cause they realized it wasn't actually needed.

And now 5e. Which has done the most revising and the least writing of settings so far. Rather than produce tome after tome of material for 5e they provide one or two books which provide tone and identity and let you pick and choose what to put in it from a vast back catalogue of materials that were once Canonical in their entirety. Ravenloft is perhaps the best example of this sort of update in that it basically has a Multiverse of Dread Realms slowly sliding into oblivion and each one is just as "Real" as any other so you can combine the modern ones with the 2e ones with the 3e 3rd party ones and they all work just fine. You can even ignore Lord Soth's appearance-absence-dual existence nonsense.

So... to sum up: D&D has never -had- a "Golden Age" of lore. It's had times where there was a lot, a little, very focused, very diffuse, and now referential lore that directs you to previous materials and makes room for what you want. Does that make it a Golden Age? Not really. It just makes it a 'Self Aware' age. Does having a massive quantity of lore for various settings and worlds make a Golden Age? Ostensibly it could if the significant majority of that material was of high quality. Does having a very focused growth of material only for one or two specific settings make a Golden Age? It certainly could if your setting is the one they're focusing on, sure.

But there's never been a true Golden Age of Lore for D&D. The premise itself is flawed and is going to be based almost entirely on personal opinion in a vast sea of personal opinions that either obliquely line up or find themselves at cross points.

1e had the first
2e had the most, for better and worse
3e had the most focused
4e had the most retcons (seriously, the whole new casting system required massive rewrites or retcons of three of the chosen settings. FR, DS, and Eberron!)
5e has the most accommodation of conflicting materials from previous editions

Which one is the best? Which one is the Golden Age? None. Or all. Or the one you, particularly, like best. Or the one that fits your personal criteria. But there's no one that satisfies all. And can't be. S'why 5e went for accommodating any previous edition as much as possible.
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Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
I mean, there was the most lore for 2e and 3e. Whether you think it's a Golden Age or not depends on whether you liked it or not. OP probably does!

I'm wondering: what's the business reason for the decrease in lore? Hasbro's a business, and while we may not like that artistically, the history of TSR thread shows what happens when you totally ignore the business side of things.

I'm wondering: what's the business reason for the decrease in lore? Hasbro's a business, and while we may not like that artistically, the history of TSR thread shows what happens when you totally ignore the business side of things.
I guess it's fair to say that one of the main design decisions for 5e is to keep the entry barrier low. WotC/Hasbro might see lore as a barrier for new players. Also, for quite a while, they have designed each of their books in a way, so that "there's something for everybody" (i.e. you should buy all the books, even if you are interested only in a fraction of the content). And since you mention TSR: they probably don't want to fracture their player base between different settings.
Now things have changed a bit over the course of the 5e lifecycle, so now there are setting books - assuming these did reasonably well, they might come to the conclusion that such books are also ok for their classic settings.

What did Magneto say? Oh yes. Perfection.

While I love lore I hate lore that almost or actively forces me to go in a certain direction and drives a setting. Metaplot killed the WoD. The novels killed Dragonlance as a gameable setting right out of the gate and kept driving home exactly why it was not an ideal setting for gaming because every time they set it up as a great game world they would then do novels that killed it’s gameable quality and reflect it in the setting material they published. Even Dark Sun met the same fate.

Greyhawk worked for so long because it didn’t have a timeline driven forward by a metaplot. It was plunked down and they said here is the world, have fun. Then ten years later they did Greyhawk Wars and From the Ashes and after having already lost a lot of people from the satirical takes of the late 1e and 2e era, no matter how great Sargent’s work was they gave Greyhawk a metaplot and it hurt the setting.

5e Realms works because it doesn’t have the metaplot driving it like previous editions. Yeah the timeline has updated with the adventures but it’s not monolithic, it isn’t what’s most discussed (long time fans try to drive it for sure) but you can grab a SCAG and start playing and no one bats an eye and you can say, for the first time since the Avatar Trilogy took a dump all over the place like a bad Will Ferrell movie, this is my Realms.
This is an interesting take, and quite true in the context of metaplots.

I really don't see lore that way. I only see it as the past; therefore, it lays the groundwork for geographical, cultural, and societal pieces.


Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
So I talked to my husband about this 'cause it stuck in my brain meats and he pointed out something really important that just grinds up my entire last post: Golden Ages aren't -good-. They're just popular.

The Golden Age of Cinema was the 1940s. You had talkies. You had the first real "Movie Stars" living the movie star life. You had AC in the theaters that made them a popular place to hang out. War News Reels playing before and between movies to keep people updated. The quality of the movies themselves wasn't -actually- important to it being the Golden Age.

Same thing for Comic Books. Golden Age comic books are often -terrible- compared to modern comics. Execution, writing, costumes, conceits for individual stories. Remember that classic Golden Age comic where Superman has the power to shoot miniature Supermen out of the palm of his hand? How about those CLASSIC Golden Age "Let's be Jerks to Jimmy Olsen!" line of comics?

The material itself is often patently terrible by modern standards, but it's the golden age because that's when it became popular. When it took it's "True Form". When it spawned the properties and identities that carry it forward through the modern day.

Superman and Batman aren't the most popular superheroes because they've had good consistent narrative identities and strong storylines over the years. They're the most popular because they've had the most written about them. Often to the exclusion of other, better, characters. Who was the latest DC "New Character" to actually stick? To be popular beyond a limited edition run or somesuch?

And pretty much every character who -does- stick is a legacy. Someone "Taking up the Mantle" of a previous hero. Whether that's John Stewart or Kamala Khan.

In -that- regard. In the regard not of quality but of popularity buildup cascading forward, AD&D and AD&D 2e were without question the Golden Age of D&D in general. Not "Lore Based" golden age, but -just- golden age.

2e saw major growth in the public eye, for good or ill. It produced the most powerful legacy material that carried through to the modern era where only the occasional new material has stuck it out (Eberron). It released novel lines that sold vastly more copies than any of it's rule or lore books ensuring a consistent connection to the material across generations. And it saw the birth of the D&D Cartoon and mainstream media connections.


Just like the Golden Age of Comics it's got nothing to do with the quality of work or even the quantity of work. Just the notoriety of the product.

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