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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Well, I save them a lot of time and research, by putting it together for them here:

WotC is free to take my concepts whole cloth. I just ask for attribution. And a penny.
That way these poor folks can just focus on making RPG books.

These things do matter. Lucasfilm lost a lot of people due to its heavyhanded+fuzzy-minded shoving of Story Group Canon overtop of the Star Wars Legends. If it had just recognized that the Story Group Canon was actually a distinct Universe (which it is!) and given it a proper in-universe name, and that the Legend Universe(s) still exist from an in-universe perspective, and that the Story Group characters could even have cross-overs with the Legend Universes, then all would've been well.

This is the approach Star Trek has taken, with the Kelvin Reality and Prime Reality.

I suggest that WotC take the latter approach, which has an even more complex precedent in the Transformers Omniverse.

Star Trek had the right approach. Not telling people they were buying products for the "Kelvin" Timeline of Forgotten Realms and allowing folks to think it was the Prime Timeline is defrauding folks. My disgust and rage has reach levels.
 

Geoff Thirlwell

Adventurer
I’m kind of a bit confused why they’d do this. The Sundering was their big reset button. If anything, I thought they might tighten the canon up as there are already contradictions. Obviously as soon as you start playing an adventure that has some sort of bearing on the setting you are diverging from any canon. An NPC may die in my game but survive in the default canon. Canon is a good starting point but by the very nature of the game it shouldn’t be a restraint.
 

You're not getting it. They aren't jettisoning anything. They are saying that in a choice between some change they intend to make to the setting and keeping continuity with some novelization, the novelization is going to lose. I suspect this is so they can make changes to certain aspect of lore (such as the way formally evil races are handled) or to keep certain media from influencing their work (such as "Elminster can't be in the D&D movie; according to the Year of the Wailing Gnome, he was trapped in Grazzt's prison beneath Myth Drannor)

I get you want to rage on, but this is purely a move to allow the game makers (and the media makers) some leeway. If Baldur's Gate 3 blows up Neverwinter, don't expect that the next IP set in Faerun is going to reference it.

They said the novels aren't canon, what is so confusing to people that they don't understand they are dumping 90% of the lore, which has not appeared in the 5e RPG products?
 

think they're going more for a DC comics continuity where you have the Crisis/ Sundering and everything before may or may not have happened and lots of things are rebooted entirely
And we can look forward to them doing it all over again with 6th Ed when they erase the continuity again
True.
Well, I'm all for reboots...as long as the other Official Timelines are recognized as still existing. Star Trek style. Not Star Wars style.

A more holistic approach is to have a Crisis which forms a new exciting Timeline, but where unaltered versions of the original Timelines still continue off-stage, and can be visited in later stories. Because, that's what ends up happening anyway! And especially since the previous stuff is perpetually available on PDF.

This situation is different than DC, in that DC doesn't have the "rules lens / edition shift" to deal with. Its stories are all in the same format. (Except for videogames and films, etc.) My Realities concept (which is Official, from D&D Brand Manager Bruce Heard), holistically addresses the in-world implications of edition shifts. In a way which has never been done before, and which would've saved TSR and WotC a lot of fan-grumbling and loss-of-interest. Instead of only a "Multiverse Shattering Event" resulting in ONE NEW CANON (and erasing / decommissioning the rest)... instead, there's a Multiverse Shattering Event...and at the same time, all the previous timelines and Realities continue to have a notional place in the meta-cosmology, which can be visited occasionally later. Which is the Star Trek approach.
 



Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
These things do matter. Disney lost a lot of people due to its heavyhanded+fuzzy-minded shoving of Story Group Canon overtop of the Star Wars Legends. If it had just recognized that the Story Group Canon was actually a distinct Universe (which it is!) and given it a proper in-universe name, and that the Legend Universe(s) still exist from an in-universe perspective, and that the Story Group characters could even have cross-overs with the Legend Universes, then all would've been well.

Checks the Force Awakens box office; $2 billion.

Yeah, sure they did.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I’m kind of a bit confused why they’d do this. The Sundering was their big reset button. If anything, I thought they might tighten the canon up as there are already contradictions. Obviously as soon as you start playing an adventure that has some sort of bearing on the setting you are diverging from any canon. An NPC may die in my game but survive in the default canon. Canon is a good starting point but by the very nature of the game it shouldn’t be a restraint.
I think us not having context for why Crawford said this is a big part of the problem.

Was this a response to a question about Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft?

Was this Crawford passing around the cover art to the new Drizz't novel and talking, off the record, about their plans for the Forgotten Realms?

Was this about how the movie and TV show will affect the core game?

Without that info, we have people going off in a lot of different directions.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
They said the novels aren't canon, what is so confusing to people that they don't understand they are dumping 90% of the lore, which has not appeared in the 5e RPG products?
Because there's no indication that they've actually exercised that option, which they've had in place since purchasing D&D. Can you point to anything in the 5E Forgotten Realms game books that contradicts previous novels?

Sure, it's Chekov's Gun/Crossbow and you, especially, are eyeing it with a whole lot of suspicion and apprehension, but it doesn't appear like WotC has actually used it yet*.

* Ravenloft fans may disagree. I personally think we're meant to view as what happened in Darkon caused the other changes to Ravenloft.
 

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