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

Voadam

Legend
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?
I am not aware of references to class and level limits in my copy of the World of Greyhawk Folio so edition changes to those when using the setting do not seem like something that needs an in universe explanation. :)

2e to 3e did have the Greyhawk/Ravenloft/Planescape adventure Die Vecna Die in which Vecna attempts to become an overgod and reshape the multiverse to his will, leading to his failure with but a mere reshaping of the multiverse (which could be used to explain 2e to 3e rules changes in universe) and him ascending from demigod status to only full normal god status.
 
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Parmandur

Book-Friend
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.
I mean, it's almost as if it is all make believe.
 

Bolares

Hero
It's a bit unfair for you to call @Henadic Theologian out and not also call out @a.everett1287 who been out of control with his abuse of the laugh button and insulting posts.
I think we should start by respecting each other. We don't need to escalate personal attacks because of made up worlds of elfgame. It's cool to be passionate about stuff, but taking digs ate other people, asking for people to loose their jobs, making fun of each other...
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The assumption of needing gods is part of the core books defaulting to Forgotten Realms, as are race descriptions, spell descriptions, the multiverse with a Wheel, monster descriptions, etcetera. Forgotten Realms bakes into everything.
Greyhawk also has the great wheel, almost all the same races, spell descriptions(hell, 16 wizard spells are Greyhawk specific), monster descriptions, etc. The spells, races and monster descriptions are also in multiple other settings. The section on gods includes Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Eberron and the nonhuman deities. All of the races have sidebars and more than include other settings.

The Realms, Greyhawk, etc. are all baked into the core rules, not just the Realms.
 


a.everett1287

Explorer
It's a bit unfair for you to call @Henadic Theologian out and not also call out @a.everett1287 who been out of control with his abuse of the laugh button and insulting posts.
Yeah, I will cop to my own level of culpability here. Not necessarily out of regret, because I meant most of those reactions, but out of fairness.

Also, I want to state that the like reaction I'm leaving on this post is NOT a laugh reaction; it's a like reaction, because I agree with the content, whereas before I found the content humorous.
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
Greyhawk also has the great wheel, almost all the same races, spell descriptions(hell, 16 wizard spells are Greyhawk specific), monster descriptions, etc. The spells, races and monster descriptions are also in multiple other settings. The section on gods includes Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Eberron and the nonhuman deities. All of the races have sidebars and more than include other settings.

The Realms, Greyhawk, etc. are all baked into the core rules, not just the Realms.
It is more like 5e Forgotten Realms absorbed elements from other settings in previous editions (Wheel, Feywild, etcetera).

The 5e Forgotten Realms is the default of the 5e core books.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
That's a cop out. There is context to what I'm saying. Nothing I'm arguing is arguing that his stuff is real(other than the physical game itself and the players). People put trust in canon, though. It does matter.
Only in a very loose way: recall that the largest portion of the playerbase are homebrewers who like an example, not cannonistas. WotC is pretty upfront about the goal of not overburdened their medinpartners and new players, and giving themselves the freedom to change things as desired. It all makes sense.
 

Bolares

Hero
People put trust in canon, though. It does matter.
Where I find it hard to understand is where canon is not mattering...

The way I see it this makes it easier for people to get in to the lore, but still makes the game open for those who want a complex lore. The "old stuff" doesn't dissapear, it's just not the focus, Is it really that bad to make it "read if you want" instead of "this is a must read"?
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I mean, it's almost as if it is all make believe.

When it comes to canon, I defer to Hassan-i Sabbah.

Nothing is true; everything is permitted.

Or to put it in more grounded terms-

Sure, I could have stayed in the past and remained true to canon. I could have even been canon king.
But in my own campaign, I am always king. Hail to the king, baby.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I am not aware of references to class and level limits in my copy of the World of Greyhawk Folio so edition changes to those when using the setting do not seem like something that needs an in universe explanation. :)

2e to 3e did have the Greyhawk/Ravenloft/Planescape adventure Die Vecna Die in which Vecna attempts to become an overgod and reshape the multiverse to his will, leading to his failure with but a mere reshaping of the multiverse (which could be used to explain 2e to 3e rules changes in universe) and him ascending from demigod status to only full normal god status.
So you don't feel mechanical changes are changes to the lore. Noted

It should be noted that the Apocalypse Stone was used to blow up many worlds, so technically all settings after that module are reconstructions rather than the same setting, so canon is moot at that point since WotC blew up the TSR versions and replaced them in 3e. DVD only got the settings (Ravenloft and Planescape) that weren't set in the prime when the Apocalypse Stone happened, thus Vecna had to destroy them separately by violating the Cardinal rule of each (no dark lord escapes Ravenloft, no Power enters Sigil) to complete the destruction of the 2e settings. Rather brilliant if you think about it.

Anyway, all this is too say that TSR canon ended in 1999, so all this is moot. It's been a different adjacent reality since 3e.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Only in a very loose way: recall that the largest portion of the playerbase are homebrewers who like an example, not cannonistas. WotC is pretty upfront about the goal of not overburdened their medinpartners and new players, and giving themselves the freedom to change things as desired. It all makes sense.
We've always had that freedom. Even in the most lore heavy edition(2e) I was never beholden to canon. Canon was just the foundation which I built my game on. Canon and official are important on that basis, but have never been some sort of mind control to force players and DMs into a direction.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I agree completely. It is quite a liberating perspective really. I'm not a canon person, but I would think that people like @doctorbadwolf and @QuentinGeorge who were unhappy with the lore changes in FIzban's or Eberron or MToF could be happy to know that the lore in those books is not canon. Those books present a story, a viewpoint, it is not "canon."
Eh it doesn’t really change that those changes are what’s being published now. Again, I never felt beholden to any of it.
 




Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Where I find it hard to understand is where canon is not mattering...
How can it matter if it doesn't exist as a public facing thing? Is the entire Sword Coast book hidden canon? I think probably so, but it might not be and others here have argued that it isn't. Without knowing what does it matter?
The way I see it this makes it easier for people to get in to the lore, but still makes the game open for those who want a complex lore. The "old stuff" doesn't dissapear, it's just not the focus, Is it really that bad to make it "read if you want" instead of "this is a must read"?
The old lore is all over the internet in wikis and such. It has never been hard to get into it while the stuff was canon. Or to ignore it and just play current content. This move doesn't make it easier or harder. It just removes the stability of having canon to build off of as a foundation for your game.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
What is hidden canon?
They have said that the core three are all that is public facing canon. That automatically means that there is more than the core three that is internally facing canon. Otherwise they would not have included "public facing" in that sentence. Canon that is not public facing, but is internal, is hidden from us.
 

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