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D&D 5E What is canon about older-edition settings in 5E?

Count yourself lucky.

It's one of the worst adventures in D&D history, not because it's a terrible adventure - it's a somewhat mediocre one, or perhaps even a good one with a crap ending to rival Battlestar Galactica or pre-patch Mass Effect 3 - but because of the lasting vandalism it did to Sigil and Planescape.

Monte Cook had written a number of Planescape adventures previously, ranging from "good" to "amazing". So people had high hope for him. Faction War destroyed literally everything good or interesting about Planescape (except the Blood War, but I forget if that predates Planescape). Swept it away. All the in name of drama. Basically took a giant crap on the setting from a very great height. Imagine if someone took Dragonlance and just killed off all the dragons, and said they were permanently dead and never coming back, oh and also the Knights of Solamnia and the Wizards of High Sorcery all died or quit their jobs. And so did the bad guys. Except it's worse than that. Or like Eberron, and suddenly Dragonmarks all stop working, and everyone with a Dragonmark gets murdered, and there's no mystery, everyone knows why it happened, but Dragonmarks are over, and also the magical technology? That stopped working too.

That's basically what happened in Faction War, because Cook has (almost) all the Factions either wiped out entirely, or driven out of Sigil, never to return.

As I've noted before, Cook swears blind that he didn't mean the situation to end this way, that most of the Factions would have been restored in the next adventure (which never happened), but frankly, I'm skeptical, because he killed off some Factions outright, disbanded others, exiled the rest, and many of the most interesting ones were wiped out or disbanded.

Basically it was massive vandalism. Monte Cook had absolutely nothing to do with conceptualizing Planescape (that was all Zeb Cook), and it seems to me like he wanted to do "Monte Cook's Planescape", just like he did Monte Cook's this and that later (like his hilariously bad take on World of Darkness, which is near-legendary, and not in a good way - I love his Arcana Unearthed though). Anyway, it was a crime, and should be put right. Ignoring crummy canon from the past would allow it to be put right.

Anyway, when people say how much they like Planescape, they're referring to pre-Faction War Planescape. The vast majority of D&D fans, even deep lore ones like you often have here, don't know much about Faction War or even that it happened in many cases, let alone that 4E (psychotically) canonized it (I think 3E did too, to be fair, but 4E really dragged Sigil through the mud lol - and in such an otherwise-good book as the DMG2!).
 

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ersatzphil

Adventurer
They'd better have retcon'd in the Factions coming back to Sigil, and not going with the absolutely disgraceful setup they had in 4E Sigil (mentioned in the DMG2, in some detail), which has Sigil being run by incredibly boring, no-philosphy, no-attitude, no-style, zero cool three-letter-acronym agencies, like some sort of small, forgettable flyover-state city in the US in the 1970s or something. A diverse and wonderful thing replaced by the most boring possible kind of technocracy.
...good lord, I had to look it up and see for myself. The "Sigil Advisory Council" and the "Mutual Trade Association"? You really weren't kidding.
 

Faolyn

Hero
They'd better have retcon'd in the Factions coming back to Sigil, and not going with the absolutely disgraceful setup they had in 4E Sigil (mentioned in the DMG2, in some detail), which has Sigil being run by incredibly boring, no-philosphy, no-attitude, no-style, zero cool three-letter-acronym agencies, like some sort of small, forgettable flyover-state city in the US in the 1970s or something. A diverse and wonderful thing replaced by the most boring possible kind of technocracy.
If this is the case, I am so glad I didn't buy any PS adventures or read the 4e take on it.
 

JEB

Hero
Personally, I think you are being a bit literal. I don't think the 5e DMG was written with plans this far down the road in mind, and I don't think WotC will be too bothered about changing something they said earlier in 5e if they have reason to do so.
I'm not just being a bit literal, I'm being deliberately literal. As I said, I'm taking them at their word.

Besides, as @Ruin Explorer indicated, this still likely gives us an idea of their "big picture" vision for each setting, even if the specific details change.

You missed the sidebar for Vampires about Strahd, and the mention of Ravenloft in the Shadowfell in the DMG.
I figure Ravenloft, Eberron, and the Realms have already been given the setting treatment in 5E, so there's no point in covering lore references there. We already know the 5E canon for them.

It would be useful to also flag things that are different in 5e from other editions.
I'll keep an eye out!
 
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JEB

Hero
ELEMENTAL EVIL PLAYER'S COMPANION

Dark Sun
  • The sidebar "Genasi on Athas" describes their version of genasi, as people "touched by elemental power" whose are viewed as "seers, prophets, and chosen ones"; genasi births are supposed to be auspicious
  • Athas is also described as a world where "elemental forces hold greater sway" than on other worlds, and has slaves, nobles, and desert tribes
VOLO'S GUIDE TO MONSTERS

Spelljammer
  • Nautiloids are described at length in the section on mind flayers: they can fly through the worlds of the Material Plane, as well as cross through the Astral Plane; modern mind flayers have lost the secret of making them (not explicitly tied to Spelljammer)
  • In a sidebar next to the nautiloid details, Elminster mocks Volo's tales of "ships that sail between the stars" and "jokes" about a "talking hippopotamus that walks on two legs and carries a bow", an oblique reference to the giff (not explicitly tied to Spelljammer; the giff later appear in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes)
  • The entry on Neogi references their "spidery" ships, some of which traverse the planes (not explicitly tied to Spelljammer)
Greyhawk
  • Erythnul, Iuz, Tharizdun, and Vecna are suggested deities for the yuan-ti.
  • The entry for Spawn of Kyuss references Kyuss, a priest of Orcus, as their creator (not explicitly tied to Greyhawk)
Dragonlance
  • Chemosh and Sargonnas are suggested deities for the yuan-ti.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
ELEMENTAL EVIL PLAYER'S COMPANION

Dark Sun
  • The sidebar "Genasi on Athas" describes their version of genasi, as people "touched by elemental power" whose are viewed as "seers, prophets, and chosen ones"; genasi births are supposed to be auspicious
  • Athas is also described as a world where "elemental forces hold greater sway" than on other worlds, and has slaves, nobles, and desert tribes
VOLO'S GUIDE TO MONSTERS

Spelljammer
  • Nautiloids are described at length in the section on mind flayers: they can fly through the worlds of the Material Plane, as well as cross through the Astral Plane; modern mind flayers have lost the secret of making them (not explicitly tied to Spelljammer)
  • In a sidebar next to the nautiloid details, Elminster mocks Volo's tales of "ships that sail between the stars" and "jokes" about a "talking hippopotamus that walks on two legs and carries a bow", an oblique references to the giff (not explicitly tied to Spelljammer; the giff later appear in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes)
  • The entry on Neogi references their "spidery" ships, some of which traverse the planes (not explicitly tied to Spelljammer)
Greyhawk
  • Erythnul, Iuz, Tharizdun, and Vecna are suggested deities for the yuan-ti.
  • The entry for Spawn of Kyuss references Kyuss, a priest of Orcus, as their creator (not explicitly tied to Greyhawk)
Dragonlance
  • Chemosh and Sargonnas are suggested deities for the yuan-ti.
Don't forget to look at the Adventures: Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Rise if Tiamat, and Princes of the apocalypse have tidbits about using other Settings. PotA is actually pretty extensive and detailed.
 

...good lord, I had to look it up and see for myself. The "Sigil Advisory Council" and the "Mutual Trade Association"? You really weren't kidding.
Yup. I wish I was kidding or just talking smack. The level of "Oh my god why did you do this what is actually wrong with you?!" when I read that was literally the most extreme I have ever experienced reading an RPG. Which is saying something. Like, WoD:Gypsies, I can at least understand the insanity, and it's clearly a juvenile attempt to "do good" that backfired hard.

It's basically this but in word form:


Except like it's actually worse than that, because whoever wrote this, decided "Nah to hell with the Factions, screw 'em, who cared? Philosophy is for nerds and theatre majors! You know what's cool? Bureaucracy! Technocracy! That's what we need more of in the fantastical city of Sigil. People filling out forms. Trade Associations! But not that Kafka-esque stuff, that's going too far - this should all be sensible and moderate!".

I honestly feel like whoever is behind it should be asked "Why?! WHHHHHHYYYYYY????!!!!".
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Except that people who don't know Planescape might think that Factol is a name, whereas everyone knows what Guildmasters are.
Sure, so what I was driving at with asking Paramandur about their familiarity with Faction War was that there were two specific choices made in the caption labeling for the illustration involving Rhys.

The first was selecting Rhys as the NPC to be portrayed and described. They could have selected any number of Planescape character, including for instance Factol Alisohn Nilesia (who theoretically survived Faction War, by virtue of being sold into slavery on the Lower Planes IIRC). They could have said "Guildmaster Erin Darkflame Montgomery", for example. Instead they opted for the one ruler who was explicitly left alive and active in Sigil.

Then the second choice is using the title Guildmaster, as opposed to any number of other titles: Lord, Ruler, Leader, etc. They could have used no title whatsoever. They chose guildmaster. Which is relevant because in the aftermath portion of Faction War, when the factions were kicked out of Sigil they were replaced by the Sigil Advisory Council – which consisted of various guilds, and Rhys was a member of that group. "Guildmaster" in this context strongly evokes the aftermath chapter of Faction War.

Taken separately, if we had just "Rhys" or if we had "Guildmaster Montgomery", I think your assertion that it's just looking for a term everyone understands, would be more plausible. But together, they form a picture of two deliberate choices, both of which point toward Faction War.
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
Sure, so what I was driving at with asking Paramandur about their familiarity with Faction War was that there were two specific choices made in the caption labeling for the illustration involving Rhys.

The first was selecting Rhys as the NPC to be portrayed and described. They could have selected any number of Planescape character, including for instance Factol Alisohn Nilesia (who theoretically survived Faction War, by virtue of being sold into slavery on the Lower Planes IIRC). They could have said "Guildmaster Erin Darkflame Montgomery", for example. Instead they opted for the one ruler who was explicitly left alive and active in Sigil.

Then the second choice is using the title Guildmaster, as opposed to any number of other titles: Lord, Ruler, Leader, etc. They could have used no title whatsoever. They chose guildmaster. Which is relevant because in the aftermath portion of Faction War, when the factions were kicked out of Sigil they were replaced by the Sigil Advisory Council – which consisted of various guilds, and Rhys was a member of that group. "Guildmaster" in this context strongly evokes the aftermath chapter of Faction War.

Taken separately, if we had just "Rhys" or if we had "Guildmaster Montgomery", I think your assertion that it's just looking for a term everyone understands, would be more plausible. But together, they form a picture of two deliberate choices, both of which point toward Faction War.
My point is, that given the current stated position on canonicity, we cannot read too much into the use of a particular title: WotC may have decided to keep "Guildmaster" but dropped the Faction War. One does not lead to the other, as they are free to mix and match,
 


Quickleaf

Legend
My point is, that given the current stated position on canonicity, we cannot read too much into the use of a particular title: WotC may have decided to keep "Guildmaster" but dropped the Faction War. One does not lead to the other, as they are free to mix and match,
Yep. Their position makes a grey murky middle ground of unknowns. You might say "they're ripping it all apart and will mix and match as they please with no regard for past" and I might say "they're carefully retooling and stitching back together problematic elements while honoring the well of past lore", and we might both be right. It's all a matter of perspective.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Yep. Their position makes a grey murky middle ground of unknowns. You might say "they're ripping it all apart and will mix and match as they please with no regard for past" and I might say "they're carefully retooling and stitching back together problematic elements while honoring the well of past lore", and we might both be right. It's all a matter of perspective.
Oh, believe me, I think their current approach is positive. And they may try to do something with the aftermath of the Faction War, but I think they will probably want something closer to the original status quo.
 

Which is relevant because in the aftermath portion of Faction War, when the factions were kicked out of Sigil they were replaced by the Sigil Advisory Council – which consisted of various guilds, and Rhys was a member of that group. "Guildmaster" in this context strongly evokes the aftermath chapter of Faction War.
Wait so you're telling me (and has been like 20 years since I read Faction War and I basically threw it across the room) that it was Monte Cook who is behind the utterly ghastly three-letter-acronym organisations?

I'd be totally fine with a post-FW Sigil where said three-letter-acronym organisations were recently vanquished and destroyed and burned to the ground and the Factions are back baby back! (And maybe the Lady of Pain is taking a break to think about what she did, possibly an enforced one). I'm just terrified we'll get the trash one with the acronyms.
 


Quickleaf

Legend
Wait so you're telling me (and has been like 20 years since I read Faction War and I basically threw it across the room) that it was Monte Cook who is behind the utterly ghastly three-letter-acronym organisations?
I don't think you need any more fuel on your fire concerning Faction War. ;)

I tend to be an optimist and take people at their word, unless they've given me reason to do otherwise, and even then I look for the best in people. I guess that makes me an outlier on internet discussion boards. Anyhow, that preface was to clarify that I did take Monte Cook on his word when he posted years ago about Faction War supposed to have had a followup adventure to weave the factions back into Sigil, but it was interrupted by the PS product line ending. I know I dug up the quote years ago and linked it on ENWorld, but don't feel like it right now. I believe you have a strongly dissenting opinion, however?
 

I don't think you need any more fuel on your fire concerning Faction War. ;)

I tend to be an optimist and take people at their word, unless they've given me reason to do otherwise, and even then I look for the best in people. I guess that makes me an outlier on internet discussion boards. Anyhow, that preface was to clarify that I did take Monte Cook on his word when he posted years ago about Faction War supposed to have had a followup adventure to weave the factions back into Sigil, but it was interrupted by the PS product line ending. I know I dug up the quote years ago and linked it on ENWorld, but don't feel like it right now. I believe you have a strongly dissenting opinion, however?
I don't really disbelieve him entirely as much as I feel like given he had various Factions destroyed or disbanded (I'd look up which, but it'd make me feel kind of sick, honestly PS was the only D&D setting I've ever been a "fan" of, well maybe Taladas too but that's it, despite my dozens of FR books, I've only ever "liked" that), that his intention, when he "wove them back in", wasn't to bring back all the Factions, or the most important Factions, but only the Factions that Monte Cook liked (as opposed Zeb Cook, y'know the dude who actually came up with all this), and to probably reposition Factions and introduce new Monte Cook Factions so on, and I don't think Monte is half the genius Zeb is (Arcana Unearthed notwithstanding), so that would still be like the old lady "repainting" that poor saint in that church, with all the same "Well I think I did a good job!" attitude too. That his objective was to create "Monte Cook's Planescape".

So I buy he was going to do more. I just don't buy he'd have brought back destroyed or disbanded Factions, or put Factions back into the roles they previously played, or even fully got rid of those godawful beige 1970s three-letter-acronyms.

If the quote contradicts my belief I may ease up on him a little but IIRC the quote is more like "I was gonna bring back [some] factions to Sigil I swear", without any detail or comment on which or how many.

4E doubled down on this by portraying the setting as having moved on several years and almost all the Factions still being exiled/destroyed/disbanded (I think the Dustmen or someone were back but that was it).
 

ersatzphil

Adventurer
That his objective was to create "Monte Cook's Planescape".
That's the vibe I got from an ancient interview here on ENworld: article.

What was the real purpose behind the release of Faction War? Was this a creator decision based on the feeling that the current Faction system was too complicated, a way to "go out with a bang" since the setting support was coming to an end, or something else entirely?

Ray: Ah, the question that won't go away. Lemme tell ya: Monte and I wrote Faction War after the whole PLANESCAPE group came up with the basic idea for the adventure. The setting was so heavily faction oriented that we wanted to see what would happen when that support system was taken away. How would the residents of Sigil react? What would the former faction members do? How would this impact their beliefs and philosophies? The creative possibilities were compelling, and the war was a plot point that had been brewing in the background of just about every product since the launch of the setting. And, as I said at the time, we always planned to restore the factions to power after seeing how they reacted to being knocked flat for a while. It just so happened that PLANESCAPE itself got knocked flat right after the release of Faction War, so we never got the chance. A total coincidence. I can see the lure of all the conspiracy theories that have developed, but they're just not true.

Monte: Faction War was never meant to be the final product. It's kind of a real kick in the teeth that it ended up that way. I look on it as though the setting ended on a cliffhanger, I guess.
 


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