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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Krampus ate my d20s
But Slut Street was critical to the feel of Waterdeep... /s
The view of canon has internally existed at D&D for a while. It certainly adds more information to the editing of Graeme Barber's adventure in Candlekeep Mysteries. Maybe that incident and the changes to Ravenloft prompted the design team especially Jeremy Crawford to reveal their view of canon policy.
I love deep lore, but this policy seems to be accepting of the realities of continuity in a product with a much greater lifespan than a decade. If the Realms continues to exist as long as Marvel or DC properties, there would be a breaking point when the lore needed consolidation or fracturing. WotC has just pre-emptively fractured the lore with resets built-in to edition changes for the RPG. Pretty much like it has been all along.

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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
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.
It seems to have been true of WotC's D&D, though. 4E had a different cosmology than 3E and 5E's cosmology isn't exactly the same as either of those.


Perkins writes, "This is true not only for lore but art as well."

So different genres of D&D can have monsters and lineages that look different as well.

I feel this was also a subtle nod that certain artwork and things like maps (that he directly mentioned) are going to be changed going forward because they no longer stand the test of time.

Though, this also does help with things like Purple Worms or Trolls that have looked VASTLY different in different editions.

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