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


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Chaosmancer

Legend
That's your takeaway from this? If Superman was actually powered by people's faith in him - as in instead of solar powered, he was powered by people believing that he was Superman, would a group of people who refused to believe in him be viewed as good? Oh, and how are relatives of the Faithless being punished? The only "punished" people in the setting are those that CHOOSE not to believe. And, the alternative to their being put in the Wall is being captured and tortured for eternity by demons.

Or are you claiming that gods shouldn't even have the ability to control who goes to their afterlife?

You don't think being denied the ability to spend eternity with the people you love is a punishment? Someone earlier in the thread literally made a character who worshipped Kelemvor, so that when they died they could be next to the wall that was torturing and killing their wife.

And, sure the gods can choose who goes into the afterlife. A truly good being who understands what compassion is would offer shelter and succor to people with no where else to go, even at personal cost. That is what being good means. They wouldn't stare out at people being tortured for eternity and say "Well, you never did anything for me, so why should I help you?"
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
And, oh look, every single one of those save maybe Amaunator (who is dead and has been for quite a while) is evil or at the very least, not good.

And so that's why death no longer existed when Cyric (an evil being) stopped being in control of death?

So... why did it exist when Cyric and Myrkul, who were both evil, were in charge but not when the others were in charge?

Also, love how Sehanine Moonbow, Naralis Analor, Dumathoin, and Segojan Earthcaller are all now evil. Or at least "not good"
 


Chaosmancer

Legend
Ok, let's drill down a bit. ((Yes, I realize that the whole Wall argument is WAYYY off topic, but, frankly, we've done the Canon thing into the ground and this is interesting to me. :D))

People have pointed to Theros as a good way of doing it. (sorry, did I spell that right?) That using the carrot is acceptable but not the stick. Which, basically, shoots in the foot any argument that forcing PC's to be religious is unacceptable. At the end of the day, it's the same thing - the players choose faith for their characters. Why you are doing it doesn't really matter at the end of the day. At the end of the day, you don't have an atheist character.

That you, (whoever you are) are okay with it because of the carrot approach, simply is a point of preference. I get that. But, that doesn't make the Wall bad and Theros' Piety rules good. It's simply a case of preference. Both are doing exactly the same thing - pushing players to create characters that have Faith/Piety. Because, in those games, in those settings, having Faith/Piety is important to play. It MATTERS.

If you remove the Wall from FR, as has been done, and tell players that it doesn't matter one whit whether your character has faith or not, then, well, faith isn't very important in that setting. If something is important in a game, then there must be mechanics or at the very least, lore, that reflects that. I'd argue that they probably didn't go far enough in FR. The Wall is there to make Faith important in the game. That's it's function in the game. If you play FR, the game is intended to have characters that are participating in this HUGE element - how many Faith's and Avatars books are there? - of the setting.

IOW, you can't complain about the Wall enforcing consequences of you playing a character without faith and at the same time not complain about Theros' Piety rules. There's no difference at the end of the day. They are both telling you, in no uncertain terms, that faith is important in this setting and you are expected, if you play in this setting, to engage in that.

If I offer someone a thousand dollars to build me a fence, that is vastly different than cocking a shotgun and saying I'll blow their head off if they don't build me a fence. In fact, it is so different that doing one is perfectly acceptable, and the other gets me arrested for committing a crime.

Rewards for certain actions is VASTLY different than punishments. Conflating the two and saying that we must accept a model that punishes because we are okay with a model that rewards is completely false. Because the issue isn't pushing the narrative that religion in FR matters. The issue is punishing people based on their beliefs and their beliefs alone.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Yup, but, it also serves a purpose. After all, without the Wall, it's now just a lottery system. Do you get to go to your appropriate afterlife? I hope you successfully run the gauntlet of demons lining up to snatch you up for all eternity with no hope for release.
What? That's dumb. Without the Wall, then people would just go wherever Kelemvor tells them to go to. Which is wherever the writers want them to go.

What? In what way is considering people a resource even remotely evil? That would mean that virtually all of human existence is evil. I'm a parent of two. That would make me about as evil as it could possibly be.
Do you think of your children as tools that exist entirely for your benefit? I hope you don't. Because that seems to be what the Faerunian gods think of humans.

Calling a person a resource in the way you did is dehumanizing.

Yes, because the alternative is that those souls are fueling the demonic war engine that wants to destroy all of creation. Note, we're not talking evil people who made deals. These are perfectly good individuals who are kidnapped and either spend eternity being devoured by demons or turn into demons themselves.

At least that Banite cultist goes to whatever afterlife Bane has and doesn't become an enemy of all creation.
No, the alternative is whatever the writer wants it to be. I've given several possibilities that don't involve demons--and if that's your worry, then did you miss that demons will snatch souls out of the wall to turn into more demons? If the goal is to keep souls away from demons, maybe don't stick them in a wall to be tortured.

And did you mean to say that you think atheists are literally just one step away from being an enemy of all creation? Or that atheists deserve to become demons while "good individuals" don't? Because that's what you're saying right here. And you told me to tread carefully!
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Excellent. Had I used it, you'd have a point. It wasn't whataboutism. It was about demonstrating that your ideals would remove all bad stuff from the game if they were applied everywhere they should be.
It was absolutely whataboutism.
I agree. Tables should be making these decisions for themselves, not having individuals who are uneasy making it for them. If slavery, murder or unfaithful people being stuck in a wall makes you uneasy, remove them.
Right, so you’re just opposed to ever criticism the game on an ethical level. Great. We are definitely done, then.
That's also a good fix for your game.

Why? I mean, it wouldn't make sense, but other than not making sense for the good kingdom to have slaves, why would it be unacceptable?
Because art says things, regardless of whether you want to recognize that this is true. Having the Good kingdom, that is so good that nearly every monarch it has ever had was Good, and it’s order of famous knights have had basically no villains amongst them, also have chattel slavery, would say that chattel slavery can be good. That should not be part of the game.
But they couldn't use a cantrip and swing a sword at the same time or within the same few seconds like they can now. The lore has changed. And booming blade is an exception built into booming blade. It doesn't counter what I'm talking about. I'm talking about swinging and hurling a firebolt and the like. That's a significant change to the lore of the class.
No, it isn’t. They absolutely could do both in the same few seconds. The other player turns don’t allow happen before your turn comes back around. Your actions happen one right after another, and the specific relationship between distinct movements in fiction and the action economy (a fully meta game concept) are wholly abstract.

How a Bladesinger would be described in a story has not changed.

Also you gotta be joking with “booming blade is an exception” nonsense. It’s part of the archetype. It is there literally to serve the Bladesinger archetype.

Absolutely the only thing that changed is how well the mechanics represent the fiction.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Again, define Good and Evil. I think the Good gods, would stand up as 'good', but nobody is perfect.

I don't think basic compassion and empathy is reaching the level of perfection. If you want a full discourse on the Philsophy of Good and Evil... sorry, I've been on this thread for three hours already, and I don't have time to write a novel.

Basics? Kindness, Compassion, Empathy, and a willingness to go out of your way to help people is good. All of those things seem to be lacking in a world where the Gods accept the Wall of the Faithless
 

The lore had to change. Before the lore of Bladesingers didn't involve them having the in-fiction ability to attack and cast a cantrip at the same time. After the changed the lore changed to allow that. When mechanics have an in-fiction impact, there is lore involved.
What about divine souls in Xanathar’s? Prior to Xanathar’s, it was impossible for divine magic to express itself in a sorcerer’s bloodline. Did that change canon in FR? If so, how?
 


Scribe

Hero
Basics? Kindness, Compassion, Empathy, and a willingness to go out of your way to help people is good. All of those things seem to be lacking in a world where the Gods accept the Wall of the Faithless

I disagree that the existence of the wall, negates all other things which Good deities do, but fair enough.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Ok, let's drill down a bit. ((Yes, I realize that the whole Wall argument is WAYYY off topic, but, frankly, we've done the Canon thing into the ground and this is interesting to me. :D))

People have pointed to Theros as a good way of doing it. (sorry, did I spell that right?) That using the carrot is acceptable but not the stick. Which, basically, shoots in the foot any argument that forcing PC's to be religious is unacceptable. At the end of the day, it's the same thing - the players choose faith for their characters. Why you are doing it doesn't really matter at the end of the day. At the end of the day, you don't have an atheist character.

That you, (whoever you are) are okay with it because of the carrot approach, simply is a point of preference. I get that. But, that doesn't make the Wall bad and Theros' Piety rules good. It's simply a case of preference. Both are doing exactly the same thing - pushing players to create characters that have Faith/Piety. Because, in those games, in those settings, having Faith/Piety is important to play. It MATTERS.
But you're not punished if you don't pick a god in Theros. It means you don't have to track Piety and get bonuses--or penalties, if you're impious. And there's a supernatural gift you can take that reflects your unwillingness to worship a god that actually gives you some magical protection from their machinations (in the form of protection from evil and good and things like that).

It's like being a warlock that doesn't take eldritch blast. You can do it, but there aren't any cool invocations for the other cantrips so you won't have all the bennies that other warlocks have. But it means you get to spend those invocations on other things.

There's absolutely no way to compare piety in Theros and the WotF.
 

pemerton

Legend
There is a subtle difference however. Orwell was attacking the ideas and policies of orthodox Communism. The people who were killed and had their lives ruined for their beliefs. IF Orwell was writing that it was right and just to hate your brother because he believes in Communism, then I would criticize him for it.
Like many anti-Communists, Orwell seems to have regarded leftist intellectuals' adherence to Stalinism as a threat in itself. He passed information about them to the British spies; I would imagine that, as a result, some suffered. (In Australia intellectuals who had their names given to ASIO as suspected Communists suffered - eg they couldn't get jobs with government agencies, for reasons that were opaque to them at the time - and I doubt Britain was different in this respect.)

There is a degree of irony in both (i) writing 1984 and (ii) collaborating with spies in the way that Orwell did, but he wouldn't be the only person whose life exhibited that sort of internal contradiction. Humans are complicated beings.

Whether or not I think Orwell did the right thing, I think he did not do anything wrong in writing the works he did.

Yes, Fiction is about questions of conviction, allegiance and what is or isn't valuable, but at the end of the day, I default to Vonnegut's answer to the meaning of life. "Be Kind to each other."
If we are going to object to any fiction that departs from that view, we may be stuck with a rather anodyne library. That motto will not take us very far in answering many of the questions that actually confront us.
 

pemerton

Legend
Objectionable to explore? No.

Objectionable to say is the foundation of Good being possible? That's a bit more objectionable.
It's one thing to disagree with the claim good cannot be secured except by treating some people as means rather than ends, for instance by conscripting them into service (whether literally - conscription into a just war - or more figuratively). Different people will have different views about that.

But it's another thing to say that it is objectionable to make that claim. For a start, the whole of modern government seems to depend upon taking it as a given (see eg Weber's "Politics as a Vocation"; or for a more technocratic treatment of somewhat similar ideas, the contemporary work on "nudging").
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It's also changing between editions. In 2e Orcus, Demogorgon, Yeenoghu and Baphomet were actual deities (and demonlords). Graz'zt however was not
I really think D&D would be better off with either;

1) No evil “gods”, just The Gods and The Fiends

or

2) No fiends, just good and evil gods.

No they didn't. They always fought using both sword and spell, but not at the same time. That's a change.
Booming Blade and Green Flame Blade. They are literally a weapon attack and also a spell.
The idea that the FR "faithless" are stand-ins for real-world atheists strikes me as no different from the idea that FR's Orcs can't be a racist trope because they're not humans: it's treating the in-fiction as literal and ignoring the actual trope and theme that are at work.
This seems backward. Rejecting the criticism of the wall is the same as rejecting the criticism of orcs. In both cases, a thing reflects, whether intentionally or not, a thing in the real world, and is problematic because of it. Meanwhile, some folks want to pretend the association doesn’t exist or is invalidated by “it’s fiction”.
 


Faolyn

(she/her)
I would go further. The more evil deities (as well as demon lords and devils) are precisely the type of entities that aren’t likely to grant healing to their followers even if they could.

So what distinguishes a priest of Bane from a priest of Yeenoghu?
Well, that depends a great deal on the individual interpretations of demons and whatnot--and whether or not Yeenoghu would have warlocks, and of what sort, and if the DM requires worshipers of Yeenoghu to be fiendlocks when, let's face it, the types of powers in the fiendlock archetype are not flavored right for Yeenoghu anyway (fiendlocks are almost entirely fire damage-based). And Yeenoghu isn't going to have warlocks that pretend to be good healer priests.

But Grazz'zt, Fraz-Urb'luu, Moloch, or Titivilus? I could see it.
 



doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I'd rather oblivion, than an infinite number of refusals of the gods, personally.
Okay. No reason you shouldn’t be able to choose that.

Oblivion can literally just be a loss of all knowledge and memory, it needn’t be fully existential. Ie, reincarnation could come with a total erasure of anything that came before, turning your soul into essentially an entirely new soul.


Or the universe/the gods could not care about or need souls, and you can choose to fully cease existing.
 

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