D&D 5E The Debate of "Canon" in D&D 5E

Faolyn

(she/her)
And if WotC were to strip out 95% of their lore, and this was not a positive for you, what should your response be? What I'm inferring from some posters here is that the only acceptable responses to change are meek acceptance or quiet abandonment.
Butting in here, my response would likely be to either not even notice the change (if it were minor) or to compare the change to what I had known before and take the bits I like best from both versions.

So a question for you: in the 5e Monster Manual (and possibly in 4e as well), there were a bunch of changes to things like monster origins. Creatures that used to have "natural" origins are now created by demons (gnolls, lamias), through divine transformations (harpies), through regular curses (peryton). Orcs and goblins went from being evil because they're evil to being evil because they're micromanaged by their evil gods. Beholders used to be born. Now they're created in dreams. Did you notice? Did you care? If so, why? Did you just "meekly" accept the change, did you ignore it in favor of an earlier interpretation, or go "huh, this could be interesting?"
 

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Micah Sweet

Legend
Butting in here, my response would likely be to either not even notice the change (if it were minor) or to compare the change to what I had known before and take the bits I like best from both versions.

So a question for you: in the 5e Monster Manual (and possibly in 4e as well), there were a bunch of changes to things like monster origins. Creatures that used to have "natural" origins are now created by demons (gnolls, lamias), through divine transformations (harpies), through regular curses (peryton). Orcs and goblins went from being evil because they're evil to being evil because they're micromanaged by their evil gods. Beholders used to be born. Now they're created in dreams. Did you notice? Did you care? If so, why? Did you just "meekly" accept the change, did you ignore it in favor of an earlier interpretation, or go "huh, this could be interesting?"
I prefer natural origins whenever possible. If I dislike a change, I express that dislike, but eventually just choose whatever version I'm happy with and go with that. WotC's new approach to canon has just convinced me that what they say no longer matters.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Ackually, there was a dragonborn listed as a possible reincarnation for Tatyana in VGR, and it suggests that there's a population of them in Darkon.

Personally, I prefer a human-and-mostly-human-only Ravenloft, though. I don't even like having native elf, dwarf, or halfling PCs.
Not sure how this disproves my assertion, but thanks anyway.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
I prefer natural origins whenever possible. If I dislike a change, I express that dislike, but eventually just choose whatever version I'm happy with and go with that. WotC's new approach to canon has just convinced me that what they say no longer matters.
So why not continue doing that? The monsters I mentioned are as much canon as anything else in D&D, but got changed--and not just this time, but frequently throughout the editions.

But seriously, has the canon ever really mattered to the game you play? I don't mean as a plot point that inspired an adventure (because that's what lore is supposed to do), but in the sense that it directly shaped how your campaign went? Have you ever said "I must (or must not) do this thing in the adventure I'm running because of canon?"
 


Micah Sweet

Legend
So why not continue doing that? The monsters I mentioned are as much canon as anything else in D&D, but got changed--and not just this time, but frequently throughout the editions.

But seriously, has the canon ever really mattered to the game you play? I don't mean as a plot point that inspired an adventure (because that's what lore is supposed to do), but in the sense that it directly shaped how your campaign went? Have you ever said "I must (or must not) do this thing in the adventure I'm running because of canon?"
No, the canon doesnt matter on the tabletop. The thing is, I got really into D&D with 2nd edition, which presented a reasonably consistent history and story for its campaign settings. Since I didn't get to play often, my engagement with the game most often took the form of reading the books. To me, those stories were no different than novels, film, or TV. It was fiction to be consumed and expanded upon. Even in 3rd ed, I could still mostly make it work. 4th ed was so different that I could compartmentalize it and ignore it. When 5th ed began, I recognized that it was a great system mechanically, and the lore was still close enough for me. As time went on, every book seemed to pull further and further away from what I enjoyed about the stories of D&D, until recently they up and told people they're going to do what they want, and the past doesnt really matter anymore. This has been hard to get over, but eventually I came to realize that I dont care what WotC does either. They're doing what they think people want whether I like it or not.
I'll miss the old stories I grew up with, but I wish WotC luck in chasing the new hotness. Like you said, canon doesn't matter at the table.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
No, the canon doesnt matter on the tabletop. The thing is, I got really into D&D with 2nd edition, which presented a reasonably consistent history and story for its campaign settings. Since I didn't get to play often, my engagement with the game most often took the form of reading the books. To me, those stories were no different than novels, film, or TV. It was fiction to be consumed and expanded upon. Even in 3rd ed, I could still mostly make it work. 4th ed was so different that I could compartmentalize it and ignore it. When 5th ed began, I recognized that it was a great system mechanically, and the lore was still close enough for me. As time went on, every book seemed to pull further and further away from what I enjoyed about the stories of D&D, until recently they up and told people they're going to do what they want, and the past doesnt really matter anymore. This has been hard to get over, but eventually I came to realize that I dont care what WotC does either. They're doing what they think people want whether I like it or not.
I'll miss the old stories I grew up with, but I wish WotC luck in chasing the new hotness. Like you said, canon doesn't matter at the table.
That's pretty similar to how I started--2e, didn't get to play for a while, mostly read the books over and over again (mostly the monsters, since that's always been my favorite). I guess I just never really cared about the history or canon, or ever felt that they were the One True Story; I preferred the images I created in my head.
 


Micah Sweet

Legend
A lot of 2nd edition was written to be read rather than played. 5e is written to be played rather than read. I welcome the change.
Well, I'm happy for you. But if you engage with something in one way, and get invested in the story that way espouses, it is jarring and off-putting when they decide not only to stop doing things that way, it is implied (by both the content creators and the new batch of fans) that that way is wrong and kinda stupid. That's what I've been struggling with, and that's why WotC no longer has any elevated position among 5e publishers for me.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Well, I'm happy for you. But if you engage with something in one way, and get invested in the story that way espouses, it is jarring and off-putting when they decide not only to stop doing things that way, it is implied (by both the content creators and the new batch of fans) that that way is wrong and kinda stupid. That's what I've been struggling with, and that's why WotC no longer has any elevated position among 5e publishers for me.
Drama Queen GIF by plastik
 




teitan

Legend
I wanted to add on from my previous post: canon has always been hotly contested in every media with companies saying one thing, the creators saying another and fans wanting one thing and none of them agreeing with each other. To use a recent example, Netflix released Masters of the Universe: Revelations and people lost their minds about "canon" and "continuity". Nevermind that MOTU has never once had a singular, locked in continuity. WHen Filmation was producing the animated series they had a story bible but often their stories contradicted previous episodes and characters would, what we would call nowadays, act out of character. On top of that Mattel had their mini-comics packed in with the toys that were different from the animated series and then there was the DC mini-series which preceded the animated series and was followed by a short lived Marvel Star Imprint all ages comic book.

Then MOTU went away for a short period of time and re-emerged as New Adventures of He-man and it ignored some of the later issues of the mini-comic like the last issue hinting that SKeletor was He-man's uncle. It was not a good time period!

Then you had the 200x tightly written Mike Young Productions reboot for He-man that had comic books that were written around it's storylines and lasted two seasons on cartoon network. Funny, back when this was on, people lost their minds about canon then as well. But I digress, this series established solidly that Skeletor was He-man's uncle and all sorts of other things that would now be "canon" for the next handful of years but wait... in this one He-man daddy was a mere captain in the Army named King by the elders of Eternia. The series did give us a name for the blue skinned people and a geography for Eternia and a solid backstory or skeletor.

Then it died and we got... another story with the MOTU CLassics line that had it's own mini comics and continuity and it's own Snidely Whiplash type brand manager saying "this is it, this is the super story that gives you a unified He-man continuity, it's official". It's not. It's convoluted, contradictory, contrived. Randor and Skeletor are both princes with Skeletor the elder true heir to the throne who has it stolen from him etc etc. It was meant to be a continuation of the 200x story but it contradicts that as well.

SO here comes Revelation and canon folks, with their misremembered or half remembered pieces of cartoons and storybooks, conflating of MOTUC materials with other materials and... head canons, making YouTube videos about Kevin SMith and Netflix changing MOTU continuity and canon. Like gnashing teeth and fighting over it.

Essentially... canon is your thing. It's your head game to play with. Different creators will tell you oh that's continuity, that's canon and others will tell you the opposite. When Grant Morrison was writing Batman he was saying "everything counts" and when new 52 launched editorial was saying "this is a new beginning, not everything happened" while Morrison was still writing from the "everything counts" philosophy. Geoff Johns was still writing GL from the same angle. DC was saying it wasn't true and even partway through the new 52 changing things so that published issues were different from TPB collections. Characters got new names, word balloons changed, references removed to fit editorial vision.

Stick to your head canon, it's all that matters. If it is what you love, then that is your story. Especially in Roleplaying games where that is the whole idea. Your story. Not Ed's. Not Salvatore's. Not Gygax's. Not Perkins'. Not Mearls'. Not any of them. It's your story. Like life, live your story instead of having someone else tell you what it is.
 

I wanted to add on from my previous post: canon has always been hotly contested in every media with companies saying one thing, the creators saying another and fans wanting one thing and none of them agreeing with each other. To use a recent example, Netflix released Masters of the Universe: Revelations and people lost their minds about "canon" and "continuity". Nevermind that MOTU has never once had a singular, locked in continuity. WHen Filmation was producing the animated series they had a story bible but often their stories contradicted previous episodes and characters would, what we would call nowadays, act out of character. On top of that Mattel had their mini-comics packed in with the toys that were different from the animated series and then there was the DC mini-series which preceded the animated series and was followed by a short lived Marvel Star Imprint all ages comic book.

Then MOTU went away for a short period of time and re-emerged as New Adventures of He-man and it ignored some of the later issues of the mini-comic like the last issue hinting that SKeletor was He-man's uncle. It was not a good time period!

Then you had the 200x tightly written Mike Young Productions reboot for He-man that had comic books that were written around it's storylines and lasted two seasons on cartoon network. Funny, back when this was on, people lost their minds about canon then as well. But I digress, this series established solidly that Skeletor was He-man's uncle and all sorts of other things that would now be "canon" for the next handful of years but wait... in this one He-man daddy was a mere captain in the Army named King by the elders of Eternia. The series did give us a name for the blue skinned people and a geography for Eternia and a solid backstory or skeletor.

Then it died and we got... another story with the MOTU CLassics line that had it's own mini comics and continuity and it's own Snidely Whiplash type brand manager saying "this is it, this is the super story that gives you a unified He-man continuity, it's official". It's not. It's convoluted, contradictory, contrived. Randor and Skeletor are both princes with Skeletor the elder true heir to the throne who has it stolen from him etc etc. It was meant to be a continuation of the 200x story but it contradicts that as well.

SO here comes Revelation and canon folks, with their misremembered or half remembered pieces of cartoons and storybooks, conflating of MOTUC materials with other materials and... head canons, making YouTube videos about Kevin SMith and Netflix changing MOTU continuity and canon. Like gnashing teeth and fighting over it.

Essentially... canon is your thing. It's your head game to play with. Different creators will tell you oh that's continuity, that's canon and others will tell you the opposite. When Grant Morrison was writing Batman he was saying "everything counts" and when new 52 launched editorial was saying "this is a new beginning, not everything happened" while Morrison was still writing from the "everything counts" philosophy. Geoff Johns was still writing GL from the same angle. DC was saying it wasn't true and even partway through the new 52 changing things so that published issues were different from TPB collections. Characters got new names, word balloons changed, references removed to fit editorial vision.

Stick to your head canon, it's all that matters. If it is what you love, then that is your story. Especially in Roleplaying games where that is the whole idea. Your story. Not Ed's. Not Salvatore's. Not Gygax's. Not Perkins'. Not Mearls'. Not any of them. It's your story. Like life, live your story instead of having someone else tell you what it is.
That is a phenomenal example. And the fact that you know it all, blows my mind. Thanks for teaching. :)

If I had to guess the primary problem between any two camps is that the definition of canon changes; therefore, the debate shifts between which lore has an impact on rules, and then how those rule changes are perceived.

But again, great explanation. And your conclusion is (y) in my book.
 

Aldarc

Legend
SO here comes Revelation and canon folks, with their misremembered or half remembered pieces of cartoons and storybooks, conflating of MOTUC materials with other materials and... head canons, making YouTube videos about Kevin SMith and Netflix changing MOTU continuity and canon. Like gnashing teeth and fighting over it.

Essentially... canon is your thing. It's your head game to play with. Different creators will tell you oh that's continuity, that's canon and others will tell you the opposite. When Grant Morrison was writing Batman he was saying "everything counts" and when new 52 launched editorial was saying "this is a new beginning, not everything happened" while Morrison was still writing from the "everything counts" philosophy. Geoff Johns was still writing GL from the same angle. DC was saying it wasn't true and even partway through the new 52 changing things so that published issues were different from TPB collections. Characters got new names, word balloons changed, references removed to fit editorial vision.

Stick to your head canon, it's all that matters. If it is what you love, then that is your story. Especially in Roleplaying games where that is the whole idea. Your story. Not Ed's. Not Salvatore's. Not Gygax's. Not Perkins'. Not Mearls'. Not any of them. It's your story. Like life, live your story instead of having someone else tell you what it is.
I think the problem is that many fans view these properties through the lens of in-universe canon rather than how they actually exist: i.e., corporate IPs.

There are multiple iterations and reiterations of Batman, for example, throughout various media properties. The DCAU, for example, didn't strictly adhere to the DC "canon," but it made innovations to the stories and characters that were so influential (e.g., Mr. Freeze's new origin story, Harlequin, Renee Montoya, Terry McGinnis, Mercy Graves, etc.) that they reverberated back into DC Comics, and some fans primarily know these stories through the lens of the DCAU rather than the actual comics.

I prefer that these characters, including He-Man, are reinvented through new media rather than strictly adhering to some mythical canon. It keeps these properties fresh, updated, and alive.
 


I wonder, if, back in the day, folks argued about which version of Arthur was "canon". :D "Lancelot?!?! WTF BBQ!!! Totally ruined the story!"
I mean, on one hand, I don't think the idea of it really got set in place this hardcore until largescale publishing and regular stuff, to the point the idea of canon didn't coalese for a while longer

But on the other hand. of course they did. There's at least one story about the Greek gods that's set up with "Hey there's this bloody ghost haunting this vinyard and he says he was actually at these events and knows the actual way things went down, which aren't what people say"
 

teitan

Legend
I mean, on one hand, I don't think the idea of it really got set in place this hardcore until largescale publishing and regular stuff, to the point the idea of canon didn't coalese for a while longer

But on the other hand. of course they did. There's at least one story about the Greek gods that's set up with "Hey there's this bloody ghost haunting this vinyard and he says he was actually at these events and knows the actual way things went down, which aren't what people say"
There were wars fought over canon in the medieval period. We called them the Crusades. They were never settled.
 


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