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

Bolares

Hero
That's always a little sad, and I hope some of you out there can at least understand that.
I totally get the sentiment. As I said before, if they touch Eberron and change core stuff from it's philosophy I'd flip out. It's just that... from saying, "I'm emotionally invested in X and I'm hurt that they changed X" to "WotC doesn't care about me and my money" is quite a leap
 

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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I look at this issue primarily through the prism of two of my favorite games - Legend of the Five Rings and Exalted. Over the course of both they have done some really dumb setting stuff (especially L5R's real dumb tournament win based metaplot). The newest editions of both games made me fall in love with the settings all over again largely because a lot of dumb stuff was changed to much better stuff.

Especially Lunars in Exalted. Changing them to hunters nipping the heels of the Realm and not exactly waiting on the return of Solars with bated breath has helped make the setting feel so much more vibrant and alive to me.

I really do not like the idea of being locked in to dumb decisions just because they are part of canon.
 


Micah Sweet

Legend
Did they though? Wich story has ended? The novels will keep coming... they will just not be shifting the game along with them.
Well, I'm personally not talking about FR, which I've never been heavily invested in. My favorites were always Dragonlance, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, Planescape and to a lesser degree Dark Sun. I dont expect any of those settings to continue their stories moving forward, and that's what makes me sad.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Understand, sure. Respect or empathize?

Ehhhhh
Sure, there are plenty of folk like you who dont care about that stuff; that's fine, you can be happy with what they're doing and it's no skin off my nose. But this is clearly a devisive issue in general, at least on this forum.
 

Autumnal

Bruce Baugh, Writer of Fortune
That's always a little sad, and I hope some of you out there can at least understand that.
I worry this will sound insulting but I mean it sincerely: honestly, who doesn't like feeling that they are part of a game's core audience? I can do a good job of feeling like my cats look during a really good scritching session. And yes, it very much sucks to have ever had that and then lose it. It takes more work than I wish it did to build out a platform for perspectives wider than that.
 

Well, I'm personally not talking about FR, which I've never been heavily invested in. My favorites were always Dragonlance, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, Planescape and to a lesser degree Dark Sun. I dont expect any of those settings to continue their stories moving forward, and that's what makes me sad.
That makes me actually interested to see them. I have no interest in Dark Sun where some people in some novels already solved everything.

Also Planescape and Spelljammer have cool overall concepts, but the previous execution leaves a lot to be desired. Just taking the basic idea of them and crafting one setting around that might produce something really interesting.
 
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Micah Sweet

Legend
I look at this issue primarily through the prism of two of my favorite games - Legend of the Five Rings and Exalted. Over the course of both they have done some really dumb setting stuff (especially L5R's real dumb tournament win based metaplot). The newest editions of both games made me fall in love with the settings all over again largely because a lot of dumb stuff was changed to much better stuff.

Especially Lunars in Exalted. Changing them to hunters nipping the heels of the Realm and not exactly waiting on the return of Solars with bated breath has helped make the setting feel so much more vibrant and alive to me.

I really do not like the idea of being locked in to dumb decisions just because they are part of canon.
I was also a huge fan of L5R, and you're right, a lot of the tournament-based setting elements were pretty stupid. I still loved the setting in general, and by the time they rebooted it with FFG, I had pretty much moved on and dont care about the new stuff as much. I still love the old version more than the new one, and dont feel the need to engage in the reboot. The difference is that I no longer played either the CCG or the RPG by the time the new stuff came out, so the reboot didn't effect me much. Can't say the same about D&D.
 

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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And this is why, even thought I didn't play 4E, I had a lot of respect for how they did Dark Sun. (I worked at a FLGS at the time, I had a lot of time on my hands to just read). If they go the same route, keep Dark Sun a static setting, they will 100% get my money.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
That makes me actually interested to see them. I have no interest in Dark Sun where some people in some novels already solved everything.

Also Planescape and Spelljammer have cool overall concepts, the previous execution lefts a lot to be desired. Just taking the basic idea of them and crafting one setting around that might produce something really interesting.
You're right, there might be some hope on that front. I've not been a big fan in general of 5e's lore, however (although some of it I like). Mechanically, I've finally been able to find fan work on the settings I care about for most of them that works for me though, which thankfully lessens my dependence on WotC's offerings. Like I said, official notice that they're moving on from me just makes me a little sad. I'll get over it.
 

J-H

Hero
I should be bothered by this because it's probably a politically-driven decision... but didn't most people decide to just ignore the 4e part of history already anyway?
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
I should be bothered by this because it's probably a politically-driven decision... but didn't most people decide to just ignore the 4e part of history already anyway?

IME, many fans pick and choose what qualifies as canon based on personal taste, regardless of what the publisher, movie studio, IP owner, etc. states. Even when there is pronounced "official" canon. In the case of 4e and the Spellplague in particular many, many, fans were happy to ignore official canon at that juncture.
 
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I look at this issue primarily through the prism of two of my favorite games - Legend of the Five Rings and Exalted. Over the course of both they have done some really dumb setting stuff (especially L5R's real dumb tournament win based metaplot). The newest editions of both games made me fall in love with the settings all over again largely because a lot of dumb stuff was changed to much better stuff.

Especially Lunars in Exalted. Changing them to hunters nipping the heels of the Realm and not exactly waiting on the return of Solars with bated breath has helped make the setting feel so much more vibrant and alive to me.

I really do not like the idea of being locked in to dumb decisions just because they are part of canon.

There is a right ways and wrong ways to deal with setting brain farts, decanonizing the novels isn't one of them.
 
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jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
Yeah, WotC approach is realistic, and focused on what is best for the game as a game.

I edited my post a bit for clarity. My point was that for all the outrage I'm seeing now over decanonizing long OOP products, there were many fans more than happy to discard canon in 4e when it didn't suit them personally. I think there's probably a lot of overlap in that Venn diagram. But, yes, I feel that WotC has probably done this to make the game more accessible.

I espouse on Twitter about how "true fans" were one of the largest contingents of D&D gatekeepers I encountered when I first tried my hand at GMing in the early 90s. They made it clear that anybody who hadn't scrutinized and internalized every last novel, PC game, or OOP supplement wasn't fit to DM a game in FR. And I know for a fact that I wasn't the only person to experience this. Luckily, I just found better people to play with.

I think WotC's move will potentially stop this particular form of gatekeeping, for the most part, and make the game more welcoming to newcomer DMs in that regard. Instead of being beholden to 30+ years of lore spread over hundreds of products, the most they'll be responsible for is like a dozen (or slightly more) spread over roughly 6 years (at present).
 
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Argyle King

Legend
On one hand, I can understand the stance from the perspective of making a game -and having said game be easily accessible to new players. In a similar way, the Marvel Cinematic Universe took inspiration from available material but forged something new to draw in audiences.

On the other hand, I can't help but to look in the direction of Star Wars and see how that has played out.
Similarly (for me personally,) comic book canon rebooting every few years has turned me away from being a regular reader.

I think there's a way to do it which is seen as evolutionary and inspired; I think there's a way to do it which falls flat.

For a tabletop game, I'm not sure which will turn out to be the case for D&D. I suspect the game will be fine. Over the years, I've rarely played in official settings.

For a multi-media product (i.e. movies and novels,) I think getting it right is more important. It can be the difference between a brand which makes billions of dollars and spawns movies for 10-20 years and a brand which does well out of the gate but then leads to Disney needing to remodel an entire section of a theme park.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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
If the novels are being produced in part as a means of getting non-players interested in playing the game (which I've always thought was part of their purpose, even if unspoken), then the lore in the game should 100% match the lore in the books. This includes everything - history, "rules", geography, the lot of it.

Even more important that the upcoming movie gets this right. People are going to see a character do something on the screen and expect their character to be able to do the same thing in the same way in the game; and if the movie uses an established setting (or a new one that gets side-along released as a new setting book) it has to remain true to that also.

Then, when (not if) a DM departs from this established lore those players who have been drawn in to the hobby by the books and-or movie know what's being departed from.
 

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