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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Theros also has the Iconoclast . . . and doesn't have a system like the Wall of the Faithless that actively punishes non-theists.

That's why it isn't a problem, and FR's Wall of the Faithless is.
I agree. There are at least four differences between Theros’ treatment of piety and the Forgotten Realms:
1. Theros has options for non-pious characters: both the Iconoclast track and a race that is particularly noted to reject the gods: the leonin;
2. There is no equivalent to the Wall of the Faithless: characters that reject the gods aren’t punished for rejecting the gods;
3. All of the Theros gods are presented as profoundly flawed. Even LG Heliod has a section devoted to Heliod as a campaign villain (and not just for evil parties) and a section devoted to schemes by Heliod the players may attempt to thwart.

But all this pales compared to the actual difference between Theros as nd the Forgotten Realms:
4. Theros actually IS about the character’s relationship with the gods. The Forgotten Realms campaign setting ISN’T. Remove every page from the Theros campaign setting concerning gods, and you are removing 33% of the book. The “Creating Adventures” section basically takes every single god and says “here are adventure hooks for this god, this is how the god could be a villain in your campaign, here are creatures and monsters associated with that god”. That is not the case for FR. I no longer have my 4e FR guide, but in SCAG, if I remove the passages concerning the gods, 22 pages out of 154. For Theros, I would remove over 100 pages out of 256.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
You asked whether the Wall is something that players can affect. A game in which there are fictional elements that (i) the players would like to engage with, and (ii) can't, is a railroad.
Wait wait…you’re now claiming that a campaign wherein there are elements that the PCs cannot meaningfully impact…is a railroad?

So…if the PCs can’t kill God and break his throne, and then burn the entire multiverse and remake it in their image, it’s a railroad?

The good news is that D&D is getting rid of alignment so there is no more good or evil in D&D.
Well, no, obviously not. D&D never needed alignment to have good and evil.
 


Remathilis

Legend
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.
So where do ghosts come from then?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
This is what I view being an FR Atheist as. A choice to opt out of the cosmology, and choose oblivion.
That is objectively only a single perspective among many, though. It would be completely absurd to claim that all atheism is that.

Not only that, what you propose being true would only ever be the result of writing choices. It isn’t inherent to the premise of the world. Having gods be real doesn’t require that atheists cease to exist when they die.
 



doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
What is this, a JRPG?
If you’ve nothing to actually add to an exchange I’m involved in, please don’t waste my time with interjected silly quips that have nothing to do with anything.
No good. No evil. Just realpolitik and enlightened self interest. Kinda brings the game back to it's roots in a way...
Gross. Keep it.

Luckily, it’s also not remotely true on any level, since good and evil absolutely still exist in D&D.
 


Remathilis

Legend
If you’ve nothing to actually add to an exchange I’m involved in, please don’t waste my time with interjected silly quips that have nothing to do with anything.

Gross. Keep it.

Luckily, it’s also not remotely true on any level, since good and evil absolutely still exist in D&D.
I responded to your quoting me. The quip was free.

That said, I won't respond to you any further so you can get back to your Serious Business .
 

Scribe

Hero
Having gods be real doesn’t require that atheists cease to exist when they die.
Of course not, its not a requirement in the real world, but it IS within the former canon of FR.

Ultimately though, its retconned out, so I dont understand why I'm continuing this lol. Good day folks.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Of course not, its not a requirement in the real world, but it IS within the former canon of FR.

Ultimately though, its retconned out, so I dont understand why I'm continuing this lol. Good day folks.
Right it’s gone, and nothing else had to change. Thus, it was never necessary to begin with.
 


pemerton

Legend
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”.
No, it's not backwards. I'll explain:

Orcs​

Assertion: the presentation of Orcs in much FRPGing, especially some bits of D&D, replicates racist tropes (eg "primitive", "inherently evil", "subhuman" etc).
Reply: no it doesn't, because in the fiction, the Orcs aren't humans, aren't Black, aren't Mongols, etc.
Reply to the reply: I'm not making a claim about the in-fiction truth; I'm making a claim about trope and theme, and which ones of those are picked up on by the Orc stuff.

Atheists
Assertion: the presentation of "the faithless" in FR and its Wall does not replicate real-world attacks upon atheists; rather its about conviction and the consequences of detachment
Reply: but in the fiction, the ones who suffer are atheists.
Reply to the reply: I'm not making a claim about the in-fiction truth; I'm making a claim about trope and theme, and which ones of those are picked up by the Wall of the Faithless.​

(For the sake of clarity, in both cases I am the one making the assertion.)

In summary: just as the symbolic meaning of Orcs isn't settled by their in-fiction nature, so the symbolic meaning of "the faithless" isn't settled by their in-fiction nature.
 

pemerton

Legend
You don't think being denied the ability to spend eternity with the people you love is a punishment?
That is a rather profound, question. The answer is very far from self-evident. (There are many factors that explain changes in norms around the permanence of marriage, but the growth in life expectancy is probably one of them.)

Calling a person a resource in the way you did is dehumanizing.
This is also a complex topic. Many ways contemporary people are described and are treated are dehumanising: that's a huge part of the romantic and conservative critique of modernity. But to make that observation isn't to show that the romantics and conservatives are correct.

If Good isn't Good then why do we call it Good?
We have to make some allowance for genre and literary conceits more generally, don't we?

As I already posted, FR posits the possibility of just and good feudal rulers - LG paladin nobles of Cormyr and the like. This is controversial, in multiple ways: not all people in mediaeval times accepted the legitimacy of extent social structures (see eg St Francis, at least on one interpretation of his life and teaching); and fewer now would do so. Does this mean that WotC is obliged to retell the story of FR with all those nobles as evil and with the heroes' mission being to establish liberal democracies; or the sorts of utopias that St Francis perhaps envisaged?
 

Sure. 5e Eberron did that, and people loved it. (I know, different circumstances. I'm just being cheeky.)
Baator was Eberron's Mopee.

In fact, the term “Mopee” has become a label for stories that “purport to alter a significant fact in a character’s established history and are so universally reviled that mutual amnesia is engaged and the story is ejected from the canon, never to be mentioned again.”
 

pemerton

Legend
Or a setting element that isn't supposed to be messed with.
Yes, as I said, a railroad. (Who else is creating the "not supposed to be" except the GM? Not the players, presuming that they object to the Wall and what it stands for.)

Wait wait…you’re now claiming that a campaign wherein there are elements that the PCs cannot meaningfully impact…is a railroad?

So…if the PCs can’t kill God and break his throne, and then burn the entire multiverse and remake it in their image, it’s a railroad?
If the players want to engage with the cosmology of the game - eg they judge it unjust, and want to rework it to make it just - then yes, a game in which the GM decides they're not supposed to or not allowed to do that is a railroad.

What reworking the cosmology might look like will depend on further details of setting and system - but given we're talking about D&D, where the PCs are located cosmologically from the outset (qv clerics, warlocks, paladins, etc) and quickly grow to have vast supernatural powers, then I think a number of possibilities quickly suggest themselves.

I've GMed games that include such themes in Rolemaster and in 4e D&D. In the former, the PCs allied with a god who had been exiled for interfering with the laws of karma, with that god's help were able to step outside the laws of karma, and therefore were able to reconfigure the chaining of an ultimate evil so as to free from eternal torment a dead god who had been left to his fate by the rest of the Heavens as a cost of chaining the evil. In the latter, among other things the PCs sealed the Abyss, ended Lolth's reign over the Drow and thus the sundering of the Elves, and held off the Dusk War.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
This is also a complex topic. Many ways contemporary people are described and are treated are dehumanising: that's a huge part of the romantic and conservative critique of modernity. But to make that observation isn't to show that the romantics and conservatives are correct.
I don't do philosophy.

In my mind, treating people as things is bad. The only sin, as Granny Weatherwax would say.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Yes, as I said, a railroad. (Who else is creating the "not supposed to be" except the GM? Not the players, presuming that they object to the Wall and what it stands for.)
It's the writers of the setting making the railroad, not the DM
 

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