D&D General WotC: Novels & Non-5E Lore Are Officially Not Canon

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At a media press briefing last week, WotC's Jeremey Crawford clarified what is and is not canon for D&D.

"For many years, we in the Dungeons & Dragons RPG studio have considered things like D&D novels, D&D video games, D&D comic books, as wonderful expressions of D&D storytelling and D&D lore, but they are not canonical for the D&D roleplaying game."


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"If you’re looking for what’s official in the D&D roleplaying game, it’s what appears in the products for the roleplaying game. Basically, our stance is that if it has not appeared in a book since 2014, we don’t consider it canonical for the games."

2014 is the year that D&D 5th Edition launched.

He goes on to say that WotC takes inspiration from past lore and sometimes adds them into official lore.

Over the past five decades of D&D, there have been hundreds of novels, more than five editions of the game, about a hundred video games, and various other items such as comic books, and more. None of this is canon. Crawford explains that this is because they "don’t want DMs to feel that in order to run the game, they need to read a certain set of novels."

He cites the Dragonlance adventures, specifically.
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I totally get where they're coming from. Having to keep X number of iterations straight and decide which one they're going with, then have people getting mad when they make changes to the lore, has its difficulties. I get it that you don't want new DMs to feel bound to five editions of history. It's like when I tried to pick up the X-Men comic for the first time in decades, and found that everything was just too much to catch up on.

But at the same time, if they're still directing people to the 3e FR Campaign Setting, how does that fit into that statement? D&D has a rich tapestry of lore going back decades, and 5e has used that to make the current edition all the richer. Heck, just look at how many dragons from the old Wyrms of The North column have shown up?

I do wonder what the reason for making this announcement now is? The first new Dragonlance novel is coming at the end of the month, if Amazon's date is correct, though the timing could be incidental.

I'm still going to mine older editions' lore for use in my games, but certainly would defer to the most recent 5e information where possible.
WotC sells the Grey Box, the 2E box, the 3E FRCS, and the 4E FRCS. I've seen Perkins recommend any of those books as good for 5E. DMs aren't bound by anything.
 

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Sad, but I am not too surprised. The question is about if the changes will be to better or worse. I can understand some retcon about kenders, gullys and draconians, or in the new novels Theros Ironfeld is an artificier but also one of the heroes of Dragonlance, Tika is darksin but redhead (both are possible simultanealy in the real life), the order of the seekers are masters of the psionic powers, Goldmoon is a favoured soul and Riwerwind a barbarian, Kitiara is found in the bed with a boy and a girl by the dragon highlord, there are gem dragons in Krynn, Raitslin now shows tribal tatoos on his face, some warlocks have got pacts with Ariakan, Jiathuli, and Artha..

But some changes could be too risky. Tass can be now a girl (but the time when she found that cursed talisman with gender swap) but we need the right key to be fun character and not annoying.

It was really horrible the "edition war", and now I don't want troubles about "Rey is a Mary-Sue" and the new "Master of the Universe" is Teela's show.

Some changes may be wellcome, for example there was not Chaos War and the age of the mortal never stated but not all the new ideas.
 


Scribe

Legend
Some people enjoy that shared setting. The fact that I can appreciate the same thing as someone from the other side of the world, 10 years ago.

A history, a tapestry of bits and pieces woven together over potentially decades, which again is shared.

Dumping that can never be a good thing to me, but it sure let's them wipe their hands of anything they believe to be seen as problematic.
 

Unsurprised
So, in other words, WotC is telling longtime D&D fans they aren't welcome in 5e and that decades of learning lore isn't appreciated, in fact it's scorned?

Retroactively rebooting all of D&D lore, in all settings and core lore effective 7 years ago?

Telling Realms fans that the Sword Coast Adventurers Guide is the only canonical Realms book?
Pretty much
Is WotC actively trying to alienate dedicated longtime fans? The last time I felt WotC was doing this was when 4e came out.
Actively? No
They just don't care about them anymore
Cause anyone who remembers or played an edition before 5th Ed is the minority
All the new players don't know the lore and won't notice the changes

Why put in the work of researching when you can just invent the details and most of your audience won't be able to tell the difference?
 

Mercurius

Legend
It's weird how people in this thread can't seem to figure out why some people like setting canon. They like it in RPGs for the same reason they like it in any other media: part of their enjoyment from the thing is based on its consistency and internal logic.

Partially because "setting canon" means different things to different people. Take the Realms, for instance. Some are Gray Box purists. Some take the whole thing, from the 1980s to present. Others jettison the Spellplague and 4E completely. Still others just play in the somewhat nebulous 5E version, which is focused on whatever is in the adventures and everything else is just kind of "out there somewhere."

If we must compare RPGs to movies--even though they're very different--then I think it is better to compare them to James Bond than Star Wars. Think of each new edition as more like a new Bond actor; it is a reboot, and all the past "lore" is source material to draw from, but no longer applies. Of course each new edition is not a complete reboot, but it is a partial one. I mean, this is the case with the rules: there is some continuity, like HP, AC, Ability Scores, etc, but there are usually new takes, and learning how things work in the new edition is an intrinsic feature of a new edition.

But I still think the basic idea that every game table and group creates their own canon is central and needs to be re-stated, again and again. This is where it differs from films altogether. The real and only "canonical" game world is whatever you decide it to be, at your table.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Some people enjoy that shared setting. The fact that I can appreciate the same thing as someone from the other side of the world, 10 years ago.

A history, a tapestry of bits and pieces woven together over potentially decades, which again is shared.

Dumping that can never be a good thing to me, but it sure let's them wipe their hands of anything they believe to be seen as problematic.
This doesn't take away from any of that.
 

Stormonu

Legend
DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica - these and many more franchises have already jettisoned old lore.

Still, WotC can do what they want, I still have my old books and I will keep what I want and jettison the rest. For example, I like the new Ravenloft, but I’ll stick to my Gray Box FR.
 

Reynard

Legend
But I still think the basic idea that every game table and group creates their own canon is central and needs to be re-stated, again and again. This is where it differs from films altogether. The real and only "canonical" game world is whatever you decide it to be, at your table.
Why does it need to be restated? It is self evident. And I don't think that's what people unhappy with this are talking about at all.

They want their knowledge of who Jarlaxle is to remain correct, because they have invested some portion of their enjoyment of D&D in The Forgotten Realms and its lore.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica - these and many more franchises have already jettisoned old lore.

Still, WotC can do what they want, I still have my old books and I will keep what I want and jettison the rest. For example, I like the new Ravenloft, but I’ll stick to my Gray Box FR.
Indeed!
 

Norton

Explorer
A little weird to have to make such a statement given there is no such think as game canon police, but adventure continuity for 5e seems wise if you also push the idea of connecting 5e adventures in a larger campaign.

The canon I use is whatever gets the best search engine ranking during a session or quick prep plus whatever actually makes it into the game based on my failure to read it carefully enough to get it right.
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
In terms of why they are saying this now, I've seen people assert that there is a "cabon" ending to Descent into Avernus because of the setup of Baldur's Gate 3. Which is absurd, Descent into Avernus won't have a "canon" resolution.
 

jgsugden

Legend
The comparison to Star Wars lore is missing one pivotal piece of information: In D&D, we - the fans and players - change the lore ourselves. All WotC gives us is a jumping off point. You might jump off from a pretty defined point if you use an adventure path, but we all end up making changes to the lore to suit our needs. And, many DMs will reboot their setting often.

I usually run a homebrew that is distinct from, but relatable to, the Forgotten Realms. It ran for 230 years game time before I moved. At that time, I rebooted it for new players with some changes. I take inspiration from official product, and adapt the setting to the current rule set, but in the end it is my own beast and I really enjoy being the master of that domain. Official story from the settings is not binding on that world.

When I run a published setting, it is my intention to run them from the point in time I am best prepared to run them, and to modify them freely and with little regard for maintaining the continuity for future campaigns as I will always reboot back to the same point of time when I run them. When new product is released for them, I look for things I can weave into my setting, and will always allow a player to work elements of what they see in books into the setting, but I am more focused on 'my version' of these settings than the WotC version.

When I run Eberron, I run it when it was intended to be run. I always start the Eberron campaign at the same point of time, and each time it runs I plan to run the PCs through a full campaign, with the world of Eberron being forever changed by the events of the campaign - although, at the end, we close out the campaign and leave it behind. The next time I run Eberron, it will be starting all over at the same point in time.

When I run FR, I do it at the same point in time - the Time of the original boxed setting. I have fleshed out some of the setting, but I am far from a FR lore master. However, just as with Eberron, when I run there, I run from the same point in time, allow the events of the campaign to change the world, and then let it end. Interestingly, Waterdeep never does well in my FR campaigns - I have leveled the city 5 different times (Demonic Invasion, Cult of the Dragon, Underdark Invasion, Planar Gates to the Elemental Plane of Fire, Submerged Coastline....) My longest term player's last character in the FR before I moved was a wizard merchant who made a fortune by betting on the destruction of Waterdeep...

Same thing for Krynn and Athas. I have run the Dragonlance Chronicles adventures, and done my reinterpretation of them as well. I have run Freedom before abandoning the railroad Dark Sun modules, and also run free form adventures in Athas. However I would always start running campaigns in those settings at the start of the War of the Lance, or at the time that Kalak falls and disrupts the status quo.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I don't think that is what @wingsandsword is saying. I think they are fans of the setting and like many fans, they prefer that new material builds on old, rather than replaces or obviates it.

Yeah, but that makes said lore a barrier to entry for new folks to grasp what the devil is going on.

As many have noted - this changes nothing in individual table practice. And they are correct. But, it is important to note it for the rather large number of new players that have come along in recent years, to set their expectations, and let them know there's no intent of having a barrier to their entry.
 

Weiley31

Legend
Matt Mercer: Hey Crawford so you wanna hear what the next season of Crit Roll is gonna be about? It's important to have that canon DND lore for the fans.

Crawford: LOL your so funny Matt, everybody knows that Crit Ro-suddenly remembers what was one of the 5E books released past 2014-BUGGER ME!!!

Matt Mercer with a wide grin on his face: How do you want to do this?

Cue montage scene of Matt Mercer riding a giant celestial Lobster, with his hair flowing gallantly in the air, unto the heavens of Canondom as Crawford, now fully realizing what he has done, falls to his knees crying while Baka Mitai starts playing in the background.

 
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Yeah, that's the thing here. It's not like Star Wars, where it's a one-way street between creators and fans. With D&D, fans are creators. The resources aren't going away and people will use them.

Still from a design philosophy, it's been pretty clear from the beginning that 5e, for all its nods to the past, wasn't going to be bound by the hundreds of novels, modules, and sourcebooks that've come before. And it makes sense.

Did anyone really get that worked up over say, Falkovnia being a zombie apocalypse domain ruled by Vladeska Drakov, instead of yet another oppressive land ruled by the most blatant Not-Dracula of Ravenloft?

WotC sells the Grey Box, the 2E box, the 3E FRCS, and the 4E FRCS. I've seen Perkins recommend any of those books as good for 5E. DMs aren't bound by anything.
 

Kurotowa

Legend
Some people enjoy that shared setting. The fact that I can appreciate the same thing as someone from the other side of the world, 10 years ago.

A history, a tapestry of bits and pieces woven together over potentially decades, which again is shared.

Dumping that can never be a good thing to me, but it sure let's them wipe their hands of anything they believe to be seen as problematic.

A shared love for a movie or novel is one thing. Everyone experiences the same thing, give or take the unique personal perspective they bring to it. But an RPG is different. Everyone at the table is an active participant and every table writes their own story.

Maybe in one table's campaign, the PCs kill Elminster. Does that mean everyone else has to acknowledge that it was a fair kill, by the rules, and he's dead in their campaigns too? Of course not. That would be silly. The same applies for campaigns where Elminster abandons his swinger life for a committed monogamous relationship, or where Elminster usurps Mystra as the new god of magic, or where Elminster turns out to have died decades ago and it's been three halflings in a robe keeping his name alive. Everyone's campaign is a unique and discrete take on the setting, theirs to shape as they please.

A shared love for an RPG setting is a good starting point, but those settings have to remain tools that people use to craft their own campaigns. A shared love for tie in novels and comics and such is nice, but those can't become shackles that constrain future game design or the "heroes" of the setting that force their way into everyone's campaign. And the WotC psionic ninjas aren't going to break into your house to steal your books and erase your memories. If you want Drizzt to be canon in your game, he still is! But that's your choice for your game, and they're not going to write official books with the assumption that everyone has to follow that choice.
 

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