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

For you, we can only accept that.

But, they don't make their decisions for you, in particular. At best, they make them for the health of their properties.

Much of the canon is no longer easily accessible - it exists in decades-old novels and other publications that they'd need to put into wide distribution and have the new audience pick up before they could fully engage with new material that furthered that canon.
And even if they were to do so that's how many tomes we'd have to read to get caught up? Even if it was all available it wouldn't be accessible to people with limited time.
 

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Scribe

Hero
Yes. For me.

It makes it exponentially easier for Wizards to do whatever they want, and point to the big sign that says 'nah not canon.'
 
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jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
Consumers only have the choices they know about and trust. That you're pretending this isn't a thing is damn silly, frankly.
Look, I feel like we've gotten antagonistic here, and that may have been my fault for starting off being a bit crabby/snarky, so I'll take a deep breath and dial it back.

I just don't understand the mindset that a setting only "counts" if it's published by WotC.

I also don't like that mindset. I think the current model, where WotC can provide a few basic options and other companies can develop more niche settings, is a good one that results in much greater choice for the consumer.

You talk about knowledge and trust. If a consumer truly wants something that isn't one of WotC's options but isn't willing to (a) put in the effort to find out what else is available and (b) take a chance on buying something that doesn't have the WotC logo ... well, I just don't find that to be a reasonable attitude on the consumer's part.

Would a setting published by WotC probably sell better than most third-party ones? Sure, but I don't see that as really getting at the underlying complaint here.

So it actually seems to have the opposite effect, and not an effect you listed - people skip that thing entirely, and focus on the same, smaller number of similar things.
I read a lot of settings, and all I can say is that this is not my experience. Perhaps it's just a case where you and I find different things interesting.
 

Add me to the Gnome Squad as well!

dance celebrate GIF by Mochimochiland


The most important take for me in this thread... at least 4 other people like gnomes in enworld. GNOME LOVERS UNITE!

Yeah, I said just that, albeit far upstream in the thread. People are absolutely going to continue to use these resources, including me. DMs have long drawn from and ignored lore, and that's not going to change.

@Ralif Redhammer … 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…. Um I think not. Anyone remember I want a Tatun Tatun for Christmas. So, some fan stuff does into Lore.

One thing I think that bears saying is that by declaring pre-5e works non-canon, that does not mean that they don't exist. Canon merely refers to their level of authority. It's not like every previous edition hasn't ignored what came before if it suited the creators.

Also, hey, I just remembered that my brother's first AD&D character was named Canon. I guess I need to break the news to him about this...
 

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In the tabletop the DM chooses and says what is canon or it isn't but if we talk about fiction from other multimedia sources (movies, cartoons, novels, comics..) the things are different. The "canon" can change totally, because in the future Hasbro could merger with other company and the IPs by this to be added to D&D metaverse in the same way than Magic: the Gathering.

We are RPG players, this means we love to create our own fanfic, sometimes altering the canon stories. If we want, the Star War legends is canon and the character Ray from the last movies is totally different (learning slowly, not behaving like a Mary Sue who knows everything).

My own question is if WotC should add the concept of parallel worlds within the D&D metaverse.
 

jeremypowell

Adventurer
Some people are reeeeeeeeeally invested in D&D canon (particularly FR canon, IME) to the point that it's a huge part of their identity.
Yes—I'm one of them. And I'm a member of the small minority who, in that recent survey posted here, answered "I follow the canon as much as possible."

But I also don't get too upset when WotC plays around with FR canon—which, so far as I can tell, places me in a vanishingly small Venn diagram sliver of folks who are passionate about the canon setting and who follow it very closely when DMing that setting, but who don't lose sleep over new canon developments they don't like.

So those are my priors. Now here's my take:

Crawford saying "only 5e RPG supplements are canon" doesn't matter inherently. It only matters if it means that upcoming RPG supplements will rewrite canon history more than previous RPG supplements did, or if it signals impending setting reboots.

It might indeed be a signal (one of many) of impending reboots of Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Dark Sun, and/or Planescammer. Such reboots would either account internally for their divergence from—or, more likely, would simply ignore—elements of the canon lore established by pre-5e novels, adventures, and sourcebooks. When these settings are brought into 5e, I think they'll be treated as Ravenloft was: all pre-5e lore will be treated as an early rough draft for a reinvention of the setting, rather than as the previous installment of an ongoing story. If I were a big fan of those settings' canons, and if I had been hoping that those settings' canons would be picked up again and extended, this might be disappointing news.

But they won't do that for FR. If they do another FR reboot, it would surely be an internal reboot using the
Netherese obelisks
—but I just don't foresee that happening.

So the remaining question is, do Crawford's comments signal an importantly different, new approach to existing FR lore? And I suspect that, again, the answer is "no."

Why?

Because they've already wiped FR's slate more or less clean in continuity, and they haven't written all that much on that slate yet. The results of the Second Sundering are still quite sketchily detailed for 95% of the setting. Cormyr (thanks to Erin Evans's second Brimstone trilogy) and Damara (in the most recent Drizzt novels) are just about the only two regions we know anything at all about post-Sundering ... unless we learned it from a 5e RPG book, and those are still "canon."

So, for FR, there's essentially no newly non-canon material to contradict.

And when contradictions do arise within 5e lore, there will be ways of explaining them "off-book," as there always have been. The effects of both Sunderings are said to have "rippled through time"; voila: a pre-established, in-continuity "Get Out of Contradiction Free" card. You might call that cheesy, and I suppose it is. But FR fans, in my experience, too easily forget how much "Marvel No-Prize" work they've had to do all along to resolve canon contradictions, even in the TSR days; if you don't want to play the Sundering-ripples card, then by all means, come up with a different explanation, the same way you did if you wanted to reconcile (taking just the novels of a single author, for example, and an author with a well-deserved reputation for being above-average in the care she took with FR lore) the fact that the Starlight and Shadows trilogy is explicitly set prior to Elfshadow, but in it Danilo Thann is already a Harper, which he doesn't become until the end of Elfshadow.
 

RFB Dan

Podcast host, 6-edition DM, and guy with a pulse.
And it's not like they haven't done this before. This is directly from the 4th Edition Dark Sun Campaign Setting book. And what they say here is what I'm assuming they will be doing with any of the classic settings they'll be releasing.

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Dausuul

Legend
My attitude on "canonicity" is that one must always remember Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap.

This means 90% of the lore produced for 5E is crap. 90% of the lore produced for 1E was also crap. However, with the 1E lore, we have had forty years to sift through it and pick out the 10% that is actually good, while the 5E stuff is still all mixed up.

Therefore, it is vital for D&D to retain the gems that were produced in 1E--it'd be insane to throw away the benefits of those forty years of hindsight. (Wizards already does this; that's why you can crack open the DMG of any edition, flip to the Artifacts section, and find the Hand and Eye of Vecna.) But it would be equally insane to go back, resurrect all the crap that was rightfully discarded over forty years, and enshrine it in crystal.
 
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Parmandur

Book-Friend
Yes—I'm one of them. And I'm a member of the small minority who, in that recent survey posted here, answered "I follow the canon as much as possible."

But I also don't get too upset when WotC plays around with FR canon—which, so far as I can tell, places me in a vanishingly small Venn diagram sliver of folks who are passionate about the canon setting and who follow it very closely when DMing that setting, but who don't lose sleep over new canon developments they don't like.
I tend to be loosey-goosey with the canon in play, but I too get a kick out of pouring over older Edition books for morsels and tidbits. Dontbink that is all that rare, actually.
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

Autistic DM (he/him)
Not.The.Point. I've said as much. Multiple times.
I did have more to my post than that. I explained why I liked the change and how it was beneficial to me and new players. I don't get "the point" if it's "I like having a mountain of lore". I have just repeatedly pointed out that you still have "a mountain of lore" free for use, it just isn't considered strictly "official" anymore. I'm sorry if that upsets you, but the previous system upset and hurt me.
Everyone refuses to acknowledge what I'm saying, while cheering that DM's are free. They have always been free.
But that wasn't always made clear.
This is literally just one more example of something being taken away in an 'official' way, where it could have coexisted as it always has, and I'm being told that not only is what I would prefer wrong, but that I am a bad person because of it.

:censored:
No one has said that. I've repeated multiple times that liking the piles of lore wasn't badwrongfun.
 

Autumnal

Bruce Baugh, Writer of Fortune
The part of this I always find morbidly fascinating is when people invent and tell each other stories about how people currently at WotC hate, despise, and otherwise dislike all the stuff from before their time, and then I tab over to social media to look at the feed of friends and acquaintances at WotC, Paizo, Green Ronin, and other local companies and find write-ups of their latest campaigns using AD&D 1st and 2nd editions (and some using earlier versions of D&D), in a mix of home-brew and old published settings. I'd have to do a careful tally over several months to be sure, but I am reasonably confident that many people working at those companies are, at a minimum, about as likely to use old stuff as current for their personal play.

Which is to say that so nearly as I can tell, all the hateful-attitude stuff is pure invention, drawing on bad-faith reading and willingness to extrapolate tiny snippets in isolation from the whole of their passages, and then subject to zero check for plausibility and such.

The truth is that someone who actually does loathe one or more prior editions of any game that's had multiple editions (or equivalently distinct eras) is unlikely to last at the publisher of the current one. Even when there's no publisher-side interest in using old details, there's a bunch of legacy in ambience - overall tone and style - that darned few publishers ever successfully jettison wholesale. "Absolutely everything you ever knew is wrong!" turns out to be a well-paved road to ruin, as opposed to much more selective revision of the "Learn the shocking new truth about bits X and Y!" sort, or even more temperately, "See what's become of A & B!".
 


Micah Sweet

Legend
Would openning up DM's Guild for that setting count as unretiring it?
See now, if they opened up the rest of their settings to the Guild, I would stop having any issues with this. Someone out there is bound to make material for my favorite settings that works for me if they're allowed to do so. I just no longer expect that person to be WotC anymore.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
The part of this I always find morbidly fascinating is when people invent and tell each other stories about how people currently at WotC hate, despise, and otherwise dislike all the stuff from before their time, and then I tab over to social media to look at the feed of friends and acquaintances at WotC, Paizo, Green Ronin, and other local companies and find write-ups of their latest campaigns using AD&D 1st and 2nd editions (and some using earlier versions of D&D), in a mix of home-brew and old published settings. I'd have to do a careful tally over several months to be sure, but I am reasonably confident that many people working at those companies are, at a minimum, about as likely to use old stuff as current for their personal play.

Which is to say that so nearly as I can tell, all the hateful-attitude stuff is pure invention, drawing on bad-faith reading and willingness to extrapolate tiny snippets in isolation from the whole of their passages, and then subject to zero check for plausibility and such.

The truth is that someone who actually does loathe one or more prior editions of any game that's had multiple editions (or equivalently distinct eras) is unlikely to last at the publisher of the current one. Even when there's no publisher-side interest in using old details, there's a bunch of legacy in ambience - overall tone and style - that darned few publishers ever successfully jettison wholesale. "Absolutely everything you ever knew is wrong!" turns out to be a well-paved road to ruin, as opposed to much more selective revision of the "Learn the shocking new truth about bits X and Y!" sort, or even more temperately, "See what's become of A & B!".

It's truly bananas to me that people could ever think, "Oh, the employees at WotC just loathe everything pre-5E."

Like, most of them worked on D&D before 5E. They all played D&D before 5E; they clearly love those editions. Their product releases for 5E show they feel the same nostalgia.

It reminds me of the "Kathleen Kennedy is a monster who hates Star Wars!" nonsense.
 


Micah Sweet

Legend
well, but there is a BIG difference here. D&D is not, and should not, be focused on its stories. It's a game first and foremost. Books, old lore, NPCs, should not come in the way of the game. And that's why other media is not canon for the game. Novels still have their continuity, they still matter in their own medium. They just don't make the game obligated to follow their steps. Games can be inspired by the novels, when D&D often is, but they sould not be canon
See, I think it should be about the game more than the stories too. Intellectually. Emotionally, I began my serious investment in D&D in the 2nd ed era, and back then, the stories were at least as important as the game, maybe more. I can't help looking at things from that perspective, and feeling sad that they've decided to officially end those stories (even if most were unofficially ended a long time ago). It's not an abrupt shift; they've been doing this for a while now, I know. What it is is an official acknowledgment that the kind of fan I am is less important to them than it used to be. That's always a little sad, and I hope some of you out there can at least understand that.
 


a.everett1287

Explorer
Understand, sure. Respect or empathize?

Ehhhhh
See, I think it should be about the game more than the stories too. Intellectually. Emotionally, I began my serious investment in D&D in the 2nd ed era, and back then, the stories were at least as important as the game, maybe more. I can't help looking at things from that perspective, and feeling sad that they've decided to officially end those stories (even if most were unofficially ended a long time ago). It's not an abrupt shift; they've been doing this for a while now, I know. What it is is an official acknowledgment that the kind of fan I am is less important to them than it used to be. That's always a little sad, and I hope some of you out there can at least understand that.
 

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