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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


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Keldryn

Adventurer
I agree that it's a ridiculous narrative . . . except that Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau ARE totally the good guys, jedi-knights even!! They don't work alone, of course, but they have their hands on some of the best modern Star Wars content out there . . .
Oh yeah, don't get me wrong, they're definitely good guys. It's the vilification of "those who made stuff I didn't like" versus the franchise being saved by "those who made the stuff I liked" that gets to me. The Mandalorian is great, but it does regularly stray into Fan Service: The Series. It's safe and comfortable for anyone who grew up on the OT. There's a place for that, but I also want more content like The Last Jedi, which is by far my favorite of the Disney era.

Far too often, what "should be canon" ends up coming down to "if I liked it, it should be canon." Bringing it back to D&D, many fans seem to have no problem ignoring 4e changes to a setting's lore, but don't they dare change anything that was established in 2e!
 

JEB

Hero
Not many of the new fans care for FR despite it being the featured setting. FR didn't bring the new fans.
I don't think FR in and of itself brought a lot of new fans into 5E. But it would take some strong evidence to convince me that FR and its lore were actively turning fans away from 5E, especially since it was doing pretty well from the first. It seems to me that the old lore either didn't hurt, or was irrelevant to, new fans' interest. (In the meantime, the restoration of old lore brought some lapsed fans back.)

So again, since older-edition canon didn't seem to be an obstacle to 5E's success before, this seems to be a solution in search of a problem... or a pre-emptive solution to an anticipated problem. (In other words - big changes are coming.)

But, no, I havent seen ''most fans'' being convinced that their favorite settings have been modified beyond recognition in the last years.
I meant "most fans" who were bothered by the older edition material no longer being canon. I apologize for being unclear.
 

JEB

Hero
Personally, I doubt advance warning will do much to ameliorate the complaining, but at least WotC are trying.
No, I don't imagine it'll have much effect at all on making fans of the original franchise sad. They'll still be sad. But advance warning might have an interesting effect on sales, since Dragonlance fans who care about the canon might just skip it, knowing that there's nothing in it for them.

Or not, if legions of new fans offset any losses. Guess we'll see!
 

JEB

Hero
One can see this as meaning "older editions are no longer canon".

But another perspective is that the canon for classic D&D fans ended with 3E, and it's 5E that's now non-canon and meaningless to that story, much like 4E was before it for those fans. So if you bought 5E products before under the impression that it was part of the continuing story, now you know otherwise, and have a pretty legitimate reason to stop.

I can only hope whatever change Wizards has planned will be worth giving a segment of its market - however small - a reason to drop out. They could have just kept playing it coy and followed exactly the same strategy, but quietly, and likely kept that segment buying forever...
 

Azzy

KMF DM
I got to page 27 and decided to skip the rest. Hoo boy! There's been some ridiculous assertions in this thread.

So, Crawford essentially said that they aren't beholden to novels and pre-5e setting material when creating new materiial for the game... Anyone that's read the 5e lore should have already guessed that. And this isn't something new, either. In every edition they've ignore or changed whatever they've wanted to regardless of its "canon status". Jeremy just said the quite part out loud.

As a Greyhawk fan, this isn't an issue for me—in the GH community we've always picked and chosen what is personal "canon". As a fan of the DL books, I'm all for ignoring anything past Legends (hell, even Legends is optional) and fixing problematic issues. As for FR, I tend to be more of a Greybox purist (the Time of Troubles made me not like the Realms from that point onward).

This changes nothing for me. I always default to 1e lore (except where I find something newer more interesting) for older sttings and most homebrew.
 

Autumnal

Bruce Baugh, Writer of Fortune
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.

It's far from obvious to me that this is the case, particularly since I can point at big obvious counter-examples: the Marvel and DC universes. They've got comics, live-action movies, animated movies, live-action TV shows, and animated TV shows which don't at all sync up, and yet they're widely popular. And I can sit somewhere folks are chatting about them and find that the public at large seems pretty okay with the whole concept of "this is one version, that's another, yonder is a third, and we don't expect them to line up". Having written game books and tie-in novels, I know that even when you've got a single brain - mine, in this case - handling related material in what amount to two different media, priorities diverge early and often. On big, long-time projects, much more so. And, well, it's not obvious to me as well that there are any substantial benefits to the general public in aiming for 100% congruence.

That kind of match-up is a very big deal to a very small part of the audience. More of it honestly doesn't care much.

Now for a digression, or at least for a tangency. John Rogers, creator and showrunner for Leverage, mentioned at one point that they get access to station-gathered viewer data, and how fascinating it was. Including the revelation that there was a small chunk of audience - 3%, if I'm remembering right - who never, ever understood the plot, or so they said. They never got what was up. And yet they were faithful viewers because...various reasons. They liked the actors, or the production style, or whatever, and so they tuned in week after week to watch this show they never understood but enjoyed.

I would never in a thousand years have thought to make up a demographic segment like that, and I'll bet no one else here would, either. The public is weird.
 

Can we not?

Really. Can we not? Because this thread isn't about Star Wars. See, up at the top, this is not the Star Wars forum? Not that you can't make a passing analogy, but let's not spend a bunch more time on it.

Can you please clarify if this is a request as a moderator or a normal board member?
 

Keldryn

Adventurer
The LEGO Star Wars animated shows are decidedly non-canon. But that doesn't make them any less enjoyable, and they are absolutely worth watching (if you find them funny and entertaining of course).

Likewise, the upcoming Star Wars Visions anime short films are also non-canon. They don't even have to fit into the existing timeline, period. From a certain point of view, one could say that the Star Wars setting is potentially re-imagined for each of the Visions short films.

I struggle to understand how the non-canon status of these would make them less enjoyable or nullify my investment in Star Wars -- and over the span of 44 years that amounts to 2500+ action figures set up in my basement.

I really liked the Dark Empire comics from the early 90s. I enjoyed reading them at the time, and I can still enjoy them now, even if they are no longer part of the official continuity. I don't get how they are suddenly "worthless" -- I got a lot of enjoyment out of them, and that's worth a lot

But Star Wars is a traditional media property primarily meant to be consumed. D&D has always been something where each group starts with the core and then makes it their own. How is an "official" status really that relevant?
 

mcmillan

Explorer
So again, since older-edition canon didn't seem to be an obstacle to 5E's success before, this seems to be a solution in search of a problem... or a pre-emptive solution to an anticipated problem. (In other words - big changes are coming.)
The fact that this seems to be the approach they've been taking is why I find the reaction to be so over-the-top. They've already been treating new books coming out as mostly self-contained, with references to older material people might recognize but aren't required to know to run an adventure or use sourcebooks. This just seems to be confirming this as an intentional policy. I don't think we'd necessarily see the treatment of the Realms much different than what we've been seeing, but there's now a ready answer for if there's something that doesn't quite fit in the old structure, but makes sense for where they want to go. For example with the talk of new types of drow - rather than having to come up with an explanation of how they haven't shown up in any of the Realms history, can just say they haven't shown up in the parts we've focused on yet, and the fact that they're involving Salvatore in that change suggests they don't want to just throw out old history completely.
 

Magister Ludorum

Adventurer
From D3 (Vault of the Drow) AD&D 1e

Special Note Regarding Drow Cloaks, Armor and Weapons: All of these items have special properties, although none of them radiates any magic. The items are made under the conditions particular to the strange homeland of the Drow, for this place has unknown radiations which impart special properties to these cloaks, armor and weapons. When such items are exposed to direct sunlight a rotting process sets in. The process is absolutely irreversible, and within 2 weeks the cloaks will fall to shreds, while armor and weapons become pitted and unusable.

Destruction of Drow items by direct sunlight may be faster now, but it was the rule from the first introduction of the drow.

Sorry if someone posted on this before me. This thread grows really fast.
 

JEB

Hero
The fact that this seems to be the approach they've been taking is why I find the reaction to be so over-the-top. They've already been treating new books coming out as mostly self-contained, with references to older material people might recognize but aren't required to know to run an adventure or use sourcebooks. This just seems to be confirming this as an intentional policy.
I'm pretty sure most D&D fans - whether they liked the decision or not - assumed that 5E was a return to the continuous D&D canon that stretched from the original game to the end of 3E, with some bits of 4E and the occasional more noticeable retcon (that didn't invalidate the general feeling). Wizards gave no one reason to think otherwise, with the careful usage of old lore you describe in largely self-contained books, while the Forgotten Realms chugged along as it had since 1E, complete with another unnecessary in-story explanation for the 4E->5E reverses. 5E Ravenloft might have put some cracks into that assumption, but even Ravenloft's reboot could be rationalized within the bounds of older canon (the Dark Powers do what they want).

Now Wizards has made clear that whether or not this was always the plan, nothing before 5E counts anymore, unless they say it does. So folks who liked the continuous story know their fun is over - they can't assume it's all "true" anymore, just waiting in the wings for a chance to return. And if anything does return, they fear it won't be as they remember it.

Putting it very simply, those lore fans feel as if they've lost something. Some folks may be eager to belittle or dismiss that loss - I'm not sure why they like picking on folks who are obviously upset, but there it is - yet the lore fans will still feel it.

I don't think we'd necessarily see the treatment of the Realms much different than what we've been seeing, but there's now a ready answer for if there's something that doesn't quite fit in the old structure, but makes sense for where they want to go. For example with the talk of new types of drow - rather than having to come up with an explanation of how they haven't shown up in any of the Realms history, can just say they haven't shown up in the parts we've focused on yet, and the fact that they're involving Salvatore in that change suggests they don't want to just throw out old history completely.
Agreed, the new drow would be pretty easy to reconcile with the old canon. But it doesn't sound like that's something that concerns them now, if it ever did.
 

Zeromaru X

Arkhosian scholar and coffee lover
they can't assume it's all "true" anymore, just waiting in the wings for a chance to return. And if anything does return, they fear it won't be as they remember it.

As if a DM needed some book to tell them what is true or not in their game world. Just saying.
 

I'm kind of reminded of the way Doctor Who fans insist that everything in the history of Doctor Who is canon for the tv series, even the bits that contradict other bits and the three different versions of Atlantis.
Same with Star Trek. And that makes sense; that's actually what 'canon' means. It is just the body of work. The stuff that is official part of the thing. It can be contradictory. It originally refers biblical canon, and that definitely has contradictions. People often confuse it with 'continuity'. So perhaps Crawford should have said 'continuity' rather than 'canon.' 🤷‍♂️
 

JEB

Hero
Putting stuff together for another thread, and found this interesting bit in the 5E DMG (page 4):

Even if you're using an established world such as the Forgotten Realms, your campaign takes place in a sort of mirror universe of the official setting where Forgotten Realms novels, game products, and digital games are assumed to take place.

So as of when 5E started, game products, novels, and video games were all assumed to be canon for the default version of the Realms. Guess this was a change of plan, then.
 

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.

This is a hugely good point, they say the pre 5e stuff isn't canon, then WTF have they been directing up to 3e FR Campaign Setting when the SCAG isn't enough as the excuse not to do a proper setting?

This even more confirms in my mind that we are getting a new FR setting book, with a Realms changing event or two, but it feels like a faustian bargain, we finally get the book, but at the cost of wrecking the setting and destroying canon by the myopic minds at WotC that never seem to learn from their mistakes.
 

I agree that it's a ridiculous narrative . . . except that Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau ARE totally the good guys, jedi-knights even!! They don't work alone, of course, but they have their hands on some of the best modern Star Wars content out there . . .

To me Jon Favreau will always be to me the rich, determined guy that Monica Gellar dated on Friends.
 

This is a hugely good point, they say the pre 5e stuff isn't canon, then WTF have they been directing up to 3e FR Campaign Setting when the SCAG isn't enough as the excuse not to do a proper setting?
Because they are available via print on demand/pdf download and they present it as a option for folks that want to branch out into geographic areas of FR WotC has not published in the 5e era. They are still pulling inspiration from the broad swaths of TSR/WotC published FR sources when they do publish something set in the Forgotten Realms, but they are not beholden to it. That is a subtle distinction.

This even more confirms in my mind that we are getting a new FR setting book, with a Realms changing event or two, but it feels like a faustian bargain, we finally get the book, but at the cost of wrecking the setting and destroying canon by the myopic minds at WotC that never seem to learn from their mistakes.
I am baffled by this assertion. They have said that the current publishing format is to make an adventure set somewhere in the Forgotten Realms and that they are not going to do another guide like Sword Coast. In fact, Ravenloft was the first of three older non-FR campaign settings they have been working on. So, no there is no confirmation that an FR campaign setting is coming out.

I am a big fan of The World of Greyhawk (I have been running it since 1980 when the original folio came out and I run of the larger Greyhawk themed Facebook Groups). I have lived through the multiple versions of the campaign that have been published. I would love to see a Greyhawk specific adventure or even a campaign setting (because it would open the campaign up to the DMs Guild).

But guess what, you and I are not the target demo for WotC. We are not the ones driving the record profits and sales success that is 5e. If you are Gen X like me, we are just too small a group to cater to. There is a massive Millennial market that is discovering D&D and their culture references for fantasy RPGs are way broader than the ones we grew up with. The stuff that lands for us just isn’t going to cut it for them. A massive wall of published material is not going to be seen as a welcoming to new players (and as has already been said here, not everything is available still).

You got a few choices here. You can continue to lament that WotC is not catering directly to you and be angry about it, casting dispersions on the WotC designers, Or you can continue to play with the material you got staying in an older system or adapting it to your 5e game with your personal gaming group (hermetically sealed away from the rest of us), Or you can see the massive opportunity presented by a dynamic and growing audience where you find new people to play with and use your extensive understanding of FR to fill in the blanks left by WotC (the win, win).

I am going to go with the last option for my beloved Greyhawk. I want more people to play with. I am willing to deal with changes to the campaign because I know that whatever they publish I will be able to bring to bear my knowledge of Greyhawk lore and transform some of it into active story moments with my players. And that brings me to my final point…

Lore, is the lonely fun that we can sit down and read, argue about, and research forever. However all that lore means nothing if it does not engage with the players at my table. Lore is static by nature, story is dramatic and moves. So, does your campaign serve the player’s and their character’s stories or does it serve the lore you so love?

I know the answer at my table.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Star Wars has always had a priority approach to continuity, ever since Splinter in the Mind's Eye was totally ignored in favour of The Empire Strikes Back and the Christmas Special was ignored in favour of pretending that it never happened. Meanwhile those of us who were there 20 years ago remember that the Prequel Trilogy really didn't fit very well with the books, and George Lucas considered himself entirely unbound by anything that happened in any of the books. And then there's the Clone Wars vs The Clone Wars issues.

If you expected the Legends Continuity to be given pride of place rather than the core continuity to be based on visual media that far more people engaged with you simply weren't paying attention. Swearing at Disney for continuing in the footsteps of George Lucas is ... ironic.

I understand why they did it but just not gonna go down that road.

They also failed to follow it up though with their new novels which have had a very mixed reception although Lost Stars and Thrawn books are apparently good.
 

JEB

Hero
You got a few choices here. You can continue to lament that WotC is not catering directly to you and be angry about it, casting dispersions on the WotC designers, Or you can continue to play with the material you got staying in an older system or adapting it to your 5e game with your personal gaming group (hermetically sealed away from the rest of us), Or you can see the massive opportunity presented by a dynamic and growing audience where you find new people to play with and use your extensive understanding of FR to fill in the blanks left by WotC (the win, win).

I am going to go with the last option for my beloved Greyhawk. I want more people to play with. I am willing to deal with changes to the campaign because I know that whatever they publish I will be able to bring to bear my knowledge of Greyhawk lore and transform some of it into active story moments with my players.
The good news for you is, since Wizards already revisited a section of Greyhawk in Ghosts of Saltmarsh, and it's been referenced a number of times throughout 5E, any Greyhawk setting update for 5E it will likely be closer to how they've treated the Realms - updated, with some retcons, but still broadly resembling the setting you remember (or some iteration of it). Your plan to fill in gaps with your favorite old lore will likely work.

I'll also be surprised if the Forgotten Realms gets a major reboot in this likely setting guide. Again, some retcons are possible, but it'll probably stay blandly compatible with old lore without being officially bound by it. Why mess with an approach that's worked well? Besides, they clearly said 5E game books will remain canon, and so much old Realms lore has already been brought forward.

The approach to other classic settings, however, is likely to be different, if 5E Ravenloft is any example. 5E Ravenloft shares many concepts with the original setting, but everything is just different enough that using the old material in the new setting would take some extra effort - enough that it might not be worthwhile for many older fans. This announcement may very well signal one or more similarly sweeping reboots for other settings. So some anxiety over how settings will be updated under this new policy seems fair.
 

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