D&D 5E WotC Explains 'Canon' In More Detail

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Recently, WotC's Jeremy Crawford indicated that only the D&D 5th Edition books were canonical for the roleplaying game. In a new blog article, Chris Perkins goes into more detail about how that works, and why.

This boils down to a few points:
  • Each edition of D&D has its own canon, as does each video game, novel series, or comic book line.
  • The goal is to ensure players don't feel they have to do research of 50 years of canon in order to play.
  • It's about remaining consistent.

If you’re not sure what else is canonical in fifth edition, let me give you a quick primer. Strahd von Zarovich canonically sleeps in a coffin (as vampires do), Menzoberranzan is canonically a subterranean drow city under Lolth’s sway (as it has always been), and Zariel is canonically the archduke of Avernus (at least for now). Conversely, anything that transpires during an Acquisitions Incorporated live game is not canonical in fifth edition because we treat it the same as any other home game (even when members of the D&D Studio are involved).


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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

That's not my understanding of the past treatments of D&D setting lore. 1e greyhawk was not a separate continuity from 2e or 3e Greyhawk, the timeline advanced but the continuity was the same. Same thing for Forgotten Realms.

Exactly this blog post made no coherent sense at all. I don't know what to make of it because its so incoherent and even contradictory. This is why you don't fire your continuity editor without replacing them.

It was one thing to seperate novel/comic book/prevous edition TTRPG canon from 5e TTRPG canon, but breaking each ttrpg edition, novels, comic books, and video games into seperate canons makes.

And then they say that nothing for 5e outside the core books is canon, so basically 5e has no canon, then it contradicts this later on.

This blog post should not a exist, they did not think this through.
 

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Thank you Chris. They have responded to the calls to clarify their position. Clearly, definitively and based on very sensible logic, business and creative practice. Everyone knows where they stand now.

Now can we have a revised version of Ruins of Myth Drannor for 5e in 2022 please!

Clarify?!?!? The blog post was none sensical, self contradictory, and incoherent, and a disaster. Clarity is something this blog post had none of.
 

I mean that point was made over and over and over again during the other thread but it didn’t seem to be enough for some folks. There was so very much ridiculous hyperbole going on claiming that WotC had active hatred and contempt for fans or that this was like being spat on or whatever else. I don’t foresee this clarification meaning much to them, sadly.

It wasn't hyperbole at all, this blog post shows that its more laziness and incompetence then spite is all.
 


GuyBoy

Hero
I guess my view is fairly simplistic but it works for me:
When I start DM-I get a campaign, I accept the latest version of canon in whatever setting I’m in (Greyhawk is my personal favourite but I’m not totally monogamous) from WOTC and then whatever happens in my game alters that canon accordingly for the duration of the campaign.
Currently DM-ing Saltmarsh; whatever the players do will alter the canon for that little section of Greyhawk.
 

Scribe

Hero
Because some people believed it was imposing real world-religious stuff into D&D, and well, religious people aren't the only ones playing D&D.
I mean...it was religious in its entirety, but in a context of a world with actual gods, and an afterlife, and various 'heavens'? I guess I don't see the problem.
 


Scribe

Hero
But if you keep the alignment in the statblock and put a table of ideals, with or without alignments attached, that’s literally the same thing we have now: an official alignment with the option of ignoring or changing it, and the view that the default monster is always the same
Yes. A default with a table that provides options which demonstrate that one doesn't need to use the default.

That's the compromise.

I get what I want.
You get an official view that demonstrates that it could be something else.

Or you could drop it completely.
 

"Be Water, My Friend.
Empty your mind.
Be formless, shapeless, like water.
You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.
You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle.
You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
Now water can flow or it can crash.
Be water, my friend."


---

The canon in this edition can't be totally frozen. Not only it can be changued by the own players, but the official lore could be altered by Hasbro's business decisions. They are still choosing the roadmap/waybill. They need enough flexibility. For example horror movies produced by Entertaiment-One could become dread-domain in Ravenloft setting, even if they are set in the modern age (don't ask about firearms). WotC doesn't want to get entagled if they know, or notice, there is enough risk of reboot or serious retcons.
 

Remathilis

Legend
That's not my understanding of the past treatments of D&D setting lore. 1e greyhawk was not a separate continuity from 2e or 3e Greyhawk, the timeline advanced but the continuity was the same. Same thing for Forgotten Realms.
Explain why in 584 YK, dwarves, elves and halflings could become clerics all of a sudden and achieve higher levels in classes.

Explain why in 1372 DR, people called sorcerers began to emerge using magic without a spellbook.

Explain why in 591 YK, dwarves can now use arcane magic, gnomes can be paladins, and elves can become monks.

Explain why in 755 BC, children who were born in the Demiplane of Dread with strange defects were called Calibans, with stats similar to half-orcs emerge.

I'd like the in universe rationale for why these things changed in each setting coincidentally when a new edition changed the PC options.
If it's all one continuity, their has to be rationale explanations for such radical changes.

Right?
 




If validation moves units I'm sure they'll do that. Personally, I try to avoid expecting emotional reciprocity from a corporation. And the thing that appeals to me about the game are that the stories are mine and not the appropriated "IP" of said corporation.
That’s why I get my emotional validation from web personalities and forum posts. 😀
 

It isn't something they expect video game, novel, or film partners to adhere to, no. That is what Perkins is saying: they will hold their partners to PHB and MM details, but not to everything in every 5E book.
Honestly, this reminds me of the SRD: give more freedom to creators who want to grow your game on the reasoning that it is a net benefit for the game.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But we don't know that and we are specifically told they aren't canon and, again, an internal canon is irrelevant to the public if the public is never made aware of it. Also, the fact that those books are officially not canon is important, very important IMO. And I don't give a lick about canon!
It means that since there is no setting canon, there are no official settings. When none of it matters and none of it can be relied upon officially, then it's just a bunch of words with no real meaning. Removing the setting books as canon removes any foundation that they once provided. Anything and everything can be changed tomorrow.
 

dave2008

Legend
It means that since there is no setting canon, there are no official settings. When none of it matters and none of it can be relied upon officially, then it's just a bunch of words with no real meaning. Removing the setting books as canon removes any foundation that they once provided. Anything and everything can be changed tomorrow.
Yes, and it is awesome that they are finally being honest about it.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I dunno... it seemed to clarify it all very well for the rest of us. :)
It clarifies what their position is. And that position is a huge mess. They've undermined all of their setting books. I mean why would I ever buy another setting book that they put out when it's just a bunch of words instead of canon? They could change anything or everything at the drop of a hat. And yes, I know that they could change canon as well, but companies tend to be much more reluctant to alter canon than a bunch of words with no solidity.
 


Canon, in this context, isn't what the public thinks is canon. It's what WOTC thinks is canon when they write stuff. And I am saying right now, WOTC thinks it's canon that orcs are not inherently evil. Which is all they've been talking about here - what they think is canon for purposes of them writing stuff.
That is a good point. As they feature more Orc PCs in the artwork, it suggests that the internal WotC canon is that orcs are not evil, even if they haven’t revised the MM.
 

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