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

teitan

Legend
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.
Yep, there are people who are actually shocked that the original Silver Age Green Lantern was a white dude and not Jon Stewart and got mad that they "replaced Jon Stewart" in the GL movie!

WHen a new continuity is done well it almost rewrites on the public consciousness. Alan Moore did a take on this when he took over Supreme for Rob Liefeld back in the late 90s and completely reinvented the character causing Liefeld's universe to "reboot" to reflect those changes in the character. The Timmverse was so well handled that even the comics set there were often the better comics from DC in the time period.

It's all based on your first exposure to a character or concept. Transformers for example, for me, was the OG G1 series. I was one of the "Trukk, not Munky" people but now I dig the Beast Wars designs and have quite a few but I know people who are die hard Unicron Trilogy and Prime Trilogy fans because that's what was on when they were the target audience.

I wasn't an FR fan until 3e. To me 3e is the best FR but I recognize that the OGB is the best published version and not just because it was first. It is the most accessible and well written. Some people it's 2e era. But it's that exposure. For new fans it's Sword Coast. For new 5e fans... it's not really any defined setting. It's just the game.
 

log in or register to remove this ad


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.
That's an interesting take. I don't quite grok that myself, and while I haven't kept close tabs on the thread, it certainly doesn't jive with my position.

When you say "quiet abandonment," what do you mean? Because that sounds to me like "oh, I guess FR isn't what I like, I'll do other things now...I guess..." I find it more like "annoyed rejection": committed fans stick with what they like, to hell with "canon." Because settings aren't confined fictional spaces. They're open-ended, by definition. Two groups, both playing equally "canonical" FR etc., will have different experiences, because of (entirely good and healthy!) induced DM bias. Such bias is unavoidable. DMs are the players' window into the world; all info the players get is, necessarily, conditioned on the DM thinking it's worth knowing. Again, this is not a bad thing, but it is a thing.

To the best of my knowledge, most people in the thread seem to have an opinion of, "Who cares what the setting authors say? Do what you find fun. You don't need to be legitimized."

WotC's new approach to canon has just convinced me that what they say no longer matters.
I believe the point most folks are trying to make is that it never did matter. There never was a meaningfully privileged position for WotC over other publishers, because the DM herself effectively is The Publisher for her group's table, and if they play in an FR that's been half-intersected with Eberron or that has had a chunk of Greyhawk transported onto it or never experienced the Time of Troubles, that's her prerogative.

Hence why I spoke of the goal/purpose/intent of a setting, and appreciated another poster's addition of talking about the ease of using resources for a setting. That is, the things that matter to a DM are not, really, the causal self-consistency and cohesion of the setting, but rather (a) what the setting communicates to the players (its purpose) and (b) what DM resources are easily used with low to minimal alteration. These two axes, purpose and ease-of-use, are what can meaningfully affect the DM's job as The Publisher for the table's setting of play.

Under these lights, your idea of "meek acceptance or quiet abandonment"--at least as it reads to me--actually takes shape and make sense. Because, apart from expressing one's opinion on the matter (which is always valid), there's really not much you can do about a setting where the original authors/publishers have made it clear that the purpose(s) you valued about them aren't relevant now, nor where they have taken it in a direction that is no longer fully compatible with the resources you own. You can either accept that that's the new state of affairs, and figure your way out through that space, or keep doing what you're doing and just ignore the new resources that conflict with the old ones.

You really can't do much of anything that will make the new products re-align to the purpose(s) you value or the resource(s) you'd prefer to use. Consider how much of a problem the Mass Effect 3 Extended Ending was for many artists in the video gaming field: a significant number of people saw this as outright betraying the very idea of being an artist, by changing the artistic work rather than saying that art is what it is and controversy about its merits should stand as part of analysis of the work (as opposed to controversy over disrespecting real people or cultures, that is).
 

Aldarc

Legend
Yep, there are people who are actually shocked that the original Silver Age Green Lantern was a white dude and not Jon Stewart and got mad that they "replaced Jon Stewart" in the GL movie!

WHen a new continuity is done well it almost rewrites on the public consciousness. Alan Moore did a take on this when he took over Supreme for Rob Liefeld back in the late 90s and completely reinvented the character causing Liefeld's universe to "reboot" to reflect those changes in the character. The Timmverse was so well handled that even the comics set there were often the better comics from DC in the time period.
I do have my quibbles with the DCAU/Timmverse, but that's mostly because of how poorly it treated the Robins (namely Dick Grayson and Tim Drake) and its creepy Batman/Batgirl ship.

It's all based on your first exposure to a character or concept. Transformers for example, for me, was the OG G1 series. I was one of the "Trukk, not Munky" people but now I dig the Beast Wars designs and have quite a few but I know people who are die hard Unicron Trilogy and Prime Trilogy fans because that's what was on when they were the target audience.
I had earlier exposure to G1 and then caught the G2 wave and subsequent reruns as a kid. Despite that, I was a big Beast Wars fan. Part of the fun was simply as (1) a kid obssessed with animals, and (2) it was something completely new as a Transformers fan. The writers were apparently winging-it at first, but when fans began asking them questions about how mention of "the Great War" tied in with G1, the writers actually began bringing in Transformers fan consultants and trying to synthesize the TF mythos between cartoon, US/UK comics, and BW. It's fairly fascinating though how influential BW would become in the wider Transformers mythos, such as including the concept of "protoforms" and the "spark," which in turn would bring the creation of an "Allspark" in the films.

I wasn't an FR fan until 3e. To me 3e is the best FR but I recognize that the OGB is the best published version and not just because it was first. It is the most accessible and well written. Some people it's 2e era. But it's that exposure. For new fans it's Sword Coast. For new 5e fans... it's not really any defined setting. It's just the game.
FR is not my thing. My first exposure to the setting was also the 3e FRCS. It was good. I have the book. However, it never really tickled my imagination nearly as much as other official and 3pp settings that were released around the d20 System era did: i.e., Eberron, Dawn Forge, Monte Cook's Diamond Throne, Blue Rose, etc.

I suspect one of my biggest problems was that FR always felt to me like a setting bogged down by its outside literature. In retrospect, it reminds me of the complaints some people have about the lore in Warcraft, where people have complained that in order to make sense of the lore in-game, one has to read all the books, comics, short stories, etc. that are outside of the game.
 

teitan

Legend
I do have my quibbles with the DCAU/Timmverse, but that's mostly because of how poorly it treated the Robins (namely Dick Grayson and Tim Drake) and its creepy Batman/Batgirl ship.


I had earlier exposure to G1 and then caught the G2 wave and subsequent reruns as a kid. Despite that, I was a big Beast Wars fan. Part of the fun was simply as (1) a kid obssessed with animals, and (2) it was something completely new as a Transformers fan. The writers were apparently winging-it at first, but when fans began asking them questions about how mention of "the Great War" tied in with G1, the writers actually began bringing in Transformers fan consultants and trying to synthesize the TF mythos between cartoon, US/UK comics, and BW. It's fairly fascinating though how influential BW would become in the wider Transformers mythos, such as including the concept of "protoforms" and the "spark," which in turn would bring the creation of an "Allspark" in the films.


FR is not my thing. My first exposure to the setting was also the 3e FRCS. It was good. I have the book. However, it never really tickled my imagination nearly as much as other official and 3pp settings that were released around the d20 System era did: i.e., Eberron, Dawn Forge, Monte Cook's Diamond Throne, Blue Rose, etc.

I suspect one of my biggest problems was that FR always felt to me like a setting bogged down by its outside literature. In retrospect, it reminds me of the complaints some people have about the lore in Warcraft, where people have complained that in order to make sense of the lore in-game, one has to read all the books, comics, short stories, etc. that are outside of the game.
Diamond Throne was a beautiful setting. It was elegant and had a quality to it, a romance that I hope this new version can capture without Monte.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
That's an interesting take. I don't quite grok that myself, and while I haven't kept close tabs on the thread, it certainly doesn't jive with my position.

When you say "quiet abandonment," what do you mean? Because that sounds to me like "oh, I guess FR isn't what I like, I'll do other things now...I guess..." I find it more like "annoyed rejection": committed fans stick with what they like, to hell with "canon." Because settings aren't confined fictional spaces. They're open-ended, by definition. Two groups, both playing equally "canonical" FR etc., will have different experiences, because of (entirely good and healthy!) induced DM bias. Such bias is unavoidable. DMs are the players' window into the world; all info the players get is, necessarily, conditioned on the DM thinking it's worth knowing. Again, this is not a bad thing, but it is a thing.

To the best of my knowledge, most people in the thread seem to have an opinion of, "Who cares what the setting authors say? Do what you find fun. You don't need to be legitimized."


I believe the point most folks are trying to make is that it never did matter. There never was a meaningfully privileged position for WotC over other publishers, because the DM herself effectively is The Publisher for her group's table, and if they play in an FR that's been half-intersected with Eberron or that has had a chunk of Greyhawk transported onto it or never experienced the Time of Troubles, that's her prerogative.

Hence why I spoke of the goal/purpose/intent of a setting, and appreciated another poster's addition of talking about the ease of using resources for a setting. That is, the things that matter to a DM are not, really, the causal self-consistency and cohesion of the setting, but rather (a) what the setting communicates to the players (its purpose) and (b) what DM resources are easily used with low to minimal alteration. These two axes, purpose and ease-of-use, are what can meaningfully affect the DM's job as The Publisher for the table's setting of play.

Under these lights, your idea of "meek acceptance or quiet abandonment"--at least as it reads to me--actually takes shape and make sense. Because, apart from expressing one's opinion on the matter (which is always valid), there's really not much you can do about a setting where the original authors/publishers have made it clear that the purpose(s) you valued about them aren't relevant now, nor where they have taken it in a direction that is no longer fully compatible with the resources you own. You can either accept that that's the new state of affairs, and figure your way out through that space, or keep doing what you're doing and just ignore the new resources that conflict with the old ones.

You really can't do much of anything that will make the new products re-align to the purpose(s) you value or the resource(s) you'd prefer to use. Consider how much of a problem the Mass Effect 3 Extended Ending was for many artists in the video gaming field: a significant number of people saw this as outright betraying the very idea of being an artist, by changing the artistic work rather than saying that art is what it is and controversy about its merits should stand as part of analysis of the work (as opposed to controversy over disrespecting real people or cultures, that is).
What I meant was that I perceived a desire from those who like the new changes for others to either accept them without complaint or go and do their own thing...also without complaint. As you said, it is your right to express disappointment with unwanted change. But you're also right that nothing can be done about it.
As I mentioned upthread, I became most invested in D&D during the 2nd ed era, when TSR made an effort to present a largely coherent story across its campaign settings. I read and enjoyed that story through the game books and novels, while treating the game itself as a separate entity that could use the story to draw inspiration. For a while after 2nd ed, I could still believe that was the story. In the last couple years, WotC has officially killed and buried that story, and that's why I no longer hold their lore in any special esteem.
 

In the tabletop the DM is who has got the last word about what is canon in that world, but if we are talking about D&D as multimedia franchise then the things can be totally different. For example the official comics published by different companies.

The solution I have suggested is allowing alternate timelines in the D&D multiverse, and even creating a new setting focused in the chronomancers and the "time spheres". This also could allow 3PPs to create their own stories or art with famous characters, promoting these as brand, for example a story where a character from Gamma World dies and her soul is reincarnated in a irda (race from Dragonlance) and potential lover of Raitslin, and mother of her future daughter. Really they are in a "akasha realm", a "clone world" created by the collective memories, something like the zone visited by the half-elf in the novel "Tanis the shadow years".

Sometimes the retcons and reboot and necessary but a total erasure of the lore may be too risky. Would you buy any novel when you suspects those characters will disappear in a future reboot?

If they want to republish old novels...are these to be rewritten? Maybe some details to be changed because today the rules are different, for example about when the elves get old and longevity.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I'm typing this up before I finish this thread, because I want to touch a little bit more on the ideas expressed earlier about the differences between changes that are additive and those that are destructive. I'm going to be talking about a few different IPs that not necessarily everyone knows about or likes, but I think they run the gamut of showcasing the different types and reasons of changes that accompany reboots.

And I want to focus on reboots because I think that these are the biggest pain points with regards to canon. No one really has debates over the canon of say, Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive, because there is only one body of work by one author. It is when things start changing that things get whipped up into a froth.


Now, first off, are all changes forever bad and wrong? Obviously not. Not following canon doesn't make a piece of media bad. I know these are "kids media" examples, but She-Ra and Carmen San Diego got reboots that were incredibly well received. Did they change canon? Absolutely. I haven't watched more than about three episodes of either, but I will guarantee you that they utterly ignored canon over and over again. And I think when you are doing a reboot, that's healthy to a degree.

You can't just repackage the same story and re-release it with new actors or new art. You have to change something. I was going to talk about the anime Full Metal Alchemist (which I do want to touch on anyways) but I'm also reminded of remade movies like True Grit, or actually there is a very strong example of this in the story of Moses. The Story of Moses has been told and retold dozens if not hundreds of times. And each take is different. The Prince of Egypt is not The Ten Commandments, and that's a strength.

There is however a... quirk that I think Full Metal Alchemist highlighted for me, though I can pull in other media that does something similar. The original Full Metal Alchemist TV series was very good, amazing even. Engaging characters, complex world, deeply compelling plot. And years later I discovered they had done a reboot of it, which shocked me, called Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. And it was vastly different. Key, fundamental aspects of the original plot and the original story were gone. And, I later learned that this version of the story was closer to the original books. And I love it. It was actually far better. It was grander, and frankly I'd say almost every aspect of it was better (personally). But, watching a review of the series and a comparison, a reviewer pointed out something that I didn't notice. In the original show, they spent about... 20 episodes let's say, on the first few plots. They really dug into those plot lines and they were significant for the show... but in Brotherhood these same plots were handled in around 8 episodes. It was incredibly fast-paced and frankly done in a poorer manner than the original.

The reason that I didn't notice this is the same reason that the studio likely did this... because we all already knew the story. This wasn't a reboot ten years later or anything like that, it was fairly recent from the original and the studio figured that the people who would come to watch Brotherhood, likely already knew the plots from these episodes, and so they condensed them, to rush forward until the point where the story started diverging. I'll note that the new Spider-Man movies have done something similar. The MCU Spider-Man doesn't have an origin story, or Uncle Ben. We just sort of start in the middle. Which... is perfectly fine. We don't need to show the story everyone knows, even with slightly different details, because that part doesn't actually need to be shown.


So, with all that said, where do we have instances of Reboots gone bad? Where are the troubles? Well, I want to start first with two movies that I will never see, because of how much I hate what they did to franchises I loved. The Last Airbender and Eragon.

Both of these movies could be argued to be bad because of the changes to canon. The Last Airbender made significant changes to the canon of the original show, some which may seem minor to people not familiar with the material (such as firebenders not creating the flames they use) others which everyone would agree are radical changes. However, it wasn't just the changes to the canon that were bad, but The Last Airbender would also fail the "know nothing" test. Which is, even someone who knows nothing about the canon of the original can recognize that The Last Airbender is a bad movie. The special effects are bad, the pacing is bad, the acting is bad. You don't have to be a fan to see this movie and say it is a bad movie. So, why do we even talk about canon with regards to this movie? I think because we feel it is indicative of the reason why everything else failed. Because these changes weren't seemingly made to tell a different story.

See, Carmen San Diego's reboot changes just about everything about the character, but it was done because the studio was telling a new story, and many of those changes were necessary for that story to function. They couldn't tell the story they wanted to tell, without making those changes, but in the case of The Last Airbender, many of those changes were for "realism" to make this world seem more consistent or real or fair. They weren't made with a story purpose in mind, they wanted to tell the same story, but they want to tell it in a way that is faster or that "corrects" the original without seeming to ask if "correcting" it is the way to go. If they are actually doing more harm than good.

Which brings me to Eragon briefly. I don't actually know if Eragon passes the "know nothing" test or not. No one even talks about the movie, so I'll assume it was a bad movie anyways, but it does something a bit different in its changes that is worth bringing up. See, Eragon the book, is book one of the a four book series, and so you'd expect that the movie would have a sequel, right? Except... it can't.

The plot of the sequel book is kicked off and revolves around two characters known as "The Twins" who were introduced in the first book. They are vital to the plot. In the movie Eragon.... they were killed off. And the entire movie was done in a way that meant that the planned sequel, the planned story cannot possibly go forward. And, if I had to guess, this wasn't on purpose.

I'm going to call this being careless with canon. See, if you know the canon and move forward to intentionally change it to tell a new story, then generally it can work out. Whether or not your product succeeds then is based almost exclusively on the merits of the piece. But, if you change canon out of ignorance or a lack of care towards the source material, you can end up ruining the story. Because you aren't trying to make something new, but you stumbled face first into either being required to make something new or making a mess, and many many people end up making messes.



There is one last thing I want to talk about, and it mostly goes beyond the ideas of story that I've been talking about. Devil May Cry is one of my favorite game series. Love it, it is really good. And, a few years back, there was a very controversial reboot of the series in the game DMC. Most of the controversy of the changes centered around the changes to the main character, Dante, because the game play was actually mostly unchanged.

See, in classic 90's style, the original Dante was a wise-cracking almost campy anti-hero. He was goofy at times, he went to bars and ordered strawberry parfaits, and his design was sometimes over the top, white hair, red coat, ect. He also had that edgy backstory. He was a demon hunter whose father was a demon who had fallen in love with a mortal woman. And I know, there is some camp and some cringe in this character. He wouldn't really work as a modern character.

And the changes to him in the DMC game were extensive. Instead of being a late 20's early 30's wise-cracker, he was a foul-mouthed teen. Instead of buying pizza or getting a strawberry parfait, the game opens with him having sex with a succubus in his trailer. Instead of being the son of a demon and a mortal, he is the son of a demon and an angel. And they made him dark haired.

I keep mentioning the hair, there is a reason for this. But, if I'm brutally honest, the majority of the changes aren't exactly bad on their face. Yes, I think opening with a sex scene and the constant foul-mouthed cussing are just stupid and trying to hard to be edgy, but if the game had been good I would have maybe forgiven them? And the game play is certainly good, the story is just... way too try hard edge. Even if they didn't mangle a beloved character, it wouldn't have gotten far.

But, the controversy over the changes certainly got to the creators, because they did something that I think people often accuse creators of, but that I rarely see. They mocked the fans.

See, early on in the game, New Dante is thrown through a building and as he stumbles out he sees a mirror. On his head, perfectly placed, is a white wig that makes his hairstyle look exactly as it originally did. He then says something to the effect of "Yeah right, not in a million years" and throws the wig to the ground while staring directly into the camera. It is blatant. And I can understand the Schadenfreude of wanting to hit back at the rabid fans who hated these changes... but it is also petty and attacks the older character.


And I know, this sort of accusation occurs all the time. Plenty of people accuse creators who change the canon of hating the fans, or insulting the old fans, or giving fans the middle finger. I bring up this example because, to me, this is what that actually looks like. Looking directly into the camera and saying "No, your thing is stupid". And, yes, it is a hard line to walk knowing whether the changes are made in this sort of pettiness... but generally it is blatantly obvious. And if your argument is that it is an insult to change things... no, it isn't. Changing things alone is not an insult, in fact, it can be a compliment to the original. "Your work was so good, I want to make my own version of it, but I want to make these changes to tell this new story" isn't spitting in the face of the old work, it is celebrating it.


So, sort of in conclusion, I think this can all be summed up in some oversimplified ideas. Not all changes are bad. Changes to create a new story can be really good, and done with love towards the original. Careless changes that seem to serve no new purpose are not a good sign. They aren't attacking you unless they are actually attacking you, if you can point to something direct and explicit, fine, but if it is conjecture based on them simply changing things, then you likely aren't being attacked.

And most importantly, take a chance to ask non-fans if they think the material is good. Not if the original is better or worse than the new version, just simply if the new version is good. If someone who doesn't have nostalgia for the product says it is trash... it is likely trashy. If they say it is good, then while you may even be right that the original is better, that doesn't mean the new one is bad. No one can make lasagna like my grandmother could, that doesn't mean all other lasagna is trash, they just aren't as good. Maybe Tolkien's Middle Earth is the best, but that doesn't mean that the new version is bad, it's just a different take. Looking to explore different ideas.
 


Chaosmancer

Legend
Yep, there are people who are actually shocked that the original Silver Age Green Lantern was a white dude and not Jon Stewart and got mad that they "replaced Jon Stewart" in the GL movie!

WHen a new continuity is done well it almost rewrites on the public consciousness. Alan Moore did a take on this when he took over Supreme for Rob Liefeld back in the late 90s and completely reinvented the character causing Liefeld's universe to "reboot" to reflect those changes in the character. The Timmverse was so well handled that even the comics set there were often the better comics from DC in the time period.

It's all based on your first exposure to a character or concept. Transformers for example, for me, was the OG G1 series. I was one of the "Trukk, not Munky" people but now I dig the Beast Wars designs and have quite a few but I know people who are die hard Unicron Trilogy and Prime Trilogy fans because that's what was on when they were the target audience.

I wasn't an FR fan until 3e. To me 3e is the best FR but I recognize that the OGB is the best published version and not just because it was first. It is the most accessible and well written. Some people it's 2e era. But it's that exposure. For new fans it's Sword Coast. For new 5e fans... it's not really any defined setting. It's just the game.

Yeah, this is one thing that I think throws a wrinkle into the discussion. Some people who are super vocal about hating changes to canon... don't know the canon as well as they think.

And first exposure is HUGE. I have plenty of shows I can't stand... just because I saw a different version first.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top