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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The MM is quite clear that Alignment is mutable and not absolute. They can make it more clear, and are moving in that direction.
Which is good, but the MM says that alignment is mutable if you want it to be. Otherwise, what's in the book is the default.

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Butting in. I would imagine that for comics it’s because we, the readers, are reading stories created by professional writers, editors, and artists working together. If the story doesn’t stick to something akin to canon, then we lose faith in the abilities of those professionals to tell a good story.

Well, I do see that comics have a different emphasis.
But, I mean, WotC's professional writers, editors, and artist do work together to put together a story that stick to something akin to canon. Hence Crawford and Perkin's statements!
but for RPGs, we are the ones creating the story. So even if there’s a common starting point in an official adventure, each group then goes off its own way. And if it’s just a shared official world, then groups don’t even have that starting point in common. And if its a homebrew world, then the only thing groups will definitely have in common are the basic rules.
I do see that the kitbashed homebrew spawning of our own canon/timeline, which is inherent to RPGs, could somewhat shift the interest from how comics readers follow detailed parallel continuities.


Morkus from Orkus
Yeah, saw the clarifications later.

Personally... I don't get it. You want the canon to be unchanging so you can choose to change it. It being mutable is a problem because then you have to go and decide what you are using and what you aren't.

Practically, there is no difference. The only difference is whether or not there is a feel of "being right" about what is included. Something I noted you care about when you responded to JEB with the idea that if they stuck the core books they wouldn't be "led astray".

Led astray? From what? There is no single road and a deep dangerous forest to be lost in if you step off the path. You can't possibly be "led astray" unless you think that there is some truth that you must adhere to. Which is a frankly odd position to take.
I want for it to be so that when I've done the work to figure out what is canon for my game, I don't have to redo the work when they release a product that has lore on the Realms.


Funny, it seems to me that Bladedancers changed from the Forgotten Realms book to Tasha's.
How? SCAG is the Realms; Tasha's is generic. I don't recall anything in Tasha's saying that the way Bladesingers work in the Realms is any different.

That's not an if.
Really? Tell that to all the DMs whose players never bother to do so.

This is entirely irrelevant to anything that I've said.
Then what is or isn't canon doesn't matter.

This is also irrelevant to anything that I have said.
Then again, what is or isn't canon doesn't matter.

And this I already answered.
Didn't see your answer. Want to copypaste it?

So we have one change already, one that is already the case, two that are irrelevant, and the last one that I answered is the issue.
So we have one non-change already, because nothing in Tasha's changed the way the Realms works, one thing that seems to be a your table problem, and two things that you admit means canon doesn't matter.

No. Go back and re-read what I said. Communication is not the issue.
Then there is no problem, and you're making a mountain out of a molehill here.


Mind Mage
Did they force FR gods in to Eberron? that's news to me
Yes, 5e did. Quite upsetting.

My making Eberron "isolated" from factually existing Forgotten Realms gods, they killed the tone of the Eberron.

Originally, Eberron was a setting with an agnostic mystique, where the divine power source is real but subjective, and the factual existence of a divine being (whether monotheist, polytheist, monist, or whatever) couldnt be demonstrated one way or an other.

But after 5e connected Eberron to the factually existing gods of the Forgotten Realms, the citizens of Eberron are simply ignorant idiots who dont know the Truth.

Quite disappointing.


I want for it to be so that when I've done the work to figure out what is canon for my game, I don't have to redo the work when they release a product that has lore on the Realms.
You never have to. Absolutely nobody but you is saying that you have to include everything they publish.

Because Marvel, DC, and Transformers are passive participant media. You read them, you watch them, you very very rarely play them. And when you do, they are very clear how noncanonical those games are.

DnD is an active participant media. The primary way to interact with DnD is by playing the game. Yes, you can read, and have comics, and those are great, but they are no different in canonicity than your second campaign or your fourth campaign.
I do see that there a some different emphasis. You make a valid point.

Yet please don't take me as a Canon Hierophant. I'm actually for "rolling up your own Campaign Setting" as the default "setting" for 6e. But I also "like" the existing D&D worlds, and would like all their variant timelines and continuities to be graspable and supported.

BTW, despite my questionm, I myself don't believe that D&D fandom isn't interested in a meta-continuity system. Because I am a member of D&D fandom, and I am interested in it. Not to mention the various D&D designers who wrote meta-continuity-related products (Jeff Grubb's Alternate Prime Plane system in 1E MotPlanes, Bruce Cordell's Superspace system in Alternity Tangents and Die, Vecna, Die!). And the consumers who purchased those products.

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