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

Faolyn

(she/her)
Do you feel that Durnan, Masked Lord of Waterdeep and checks Neutral-aligned child-rapist deserves to stay within the canon? And that by his alienation, you feel excluded, because as a 30-year FR veteran, I sure as hell do not.
Out of curiosity (and having checked the FR wiki on Durnan, and yeesh) would you prefer that he get booted out or rewritten so he hadn't impregnated a 14-year old (or, this being a magic world, the child had somehow been magically aged up)?
 

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Chaosmancer

Legend
When discussions of representation or problematic issues come up regarding older material we're often told "fiction matters." And what they mean by this is that fiction can provide us with new and interesting points of view, it can teach us lessons we apply to the real world, it can comfort us, entertain us, and change our minds. We can have an emotional attachment to fiction. I'm used to be a big Star Trek fan (orthodox Trekkie), and I have an emotional attachment to the original series, the next generation, and Deep Space Nine. These shows mean something to me and to a lot of other people as well. I know it sounds silly, but here's a nice story about astronaut Ronald McNair for whom the original Star Trek was something he eagerly devoured as a teenager.

If fiction matters then it matters what people do with it. If a new Star Trek series were to come along and suddenly tell me everything from TOS was invalid it would piss me off. Eh, for a certain value of pissed. I'm an adult so it's not like I'm going to fly into a rage or anything but I'd definitely be unhappy. So I can understand why some people are unhappy with something they've invested in for many years is suddenly not canon. When Disney declared the extended universe to not be canon I was overwhelmed. It was as if hundreds of thousands of nerds suddenly cried out at once and were suddenly silenced.

Edit: And I say this as someone who doesn't mind if they change the lore. I just recognize that for those who have a connection to the lore it kind of sucks for them.

I get why people are upset, but again I think the impact is overstated.

I have a friend who's recently been quoting a trivia fact. Do you know which version of Dracula has the Vampire being shot by an American Cowboy? The Original Novel by Bram Stoker. Is Bela Lugosi's 1931 Dracula a lesser movie for changing the canon to not include Mr. Quincey Morris? Is the Original Bram Stoker novel lesser because most versions of Dracula no longer include the character?

If someone came to you today and said that they were going to make a new Nightmare on Elm Street movie, but this time the main victim is one of the parents that burned Krueger alive instead of a teenager, would that make the original movies less impactful or important? It would be a clear departure from the "canon"... but the original story is still there and still whole. It just isn't the version people are working from anymore.
 

grimslade

Krampus ate my d20s
Do you have a page citation for that? All I've been finding is "You can use old Forgotten Realms Novels for Inspiration" and similar phrasings.
I don't have a citation but this is a departure from the earliest of days of 5E going by the DMG and SCAG. I do believe it is their design rationale. WotC/Crawford are only going to use the lore they present in current books. You won't have to reference old materials to know what is going on and the new adventures/ rules companions will provide heavy amounts of lore. If a bit of old lore contradicts current lore it is ignored. There seems to be a conscious effort to leave a lighter mark on the Realms and other settings going forward. There will not be a lore reset but the Toril will be fuzzier and more 'forgotten'.
I am parsing a lot of what happened with PanzerLion into this revelation by Crawford. It is not so much that WotC is worried about contradictions. (Lord knows there have been some canon gymnastics over the years.) Looking at my 5E books especially from Avernus on, there is a lot less history put into the books. There is history/lore but it is hazy and either super specific to what is happening with a specific character/town or muted so as to not be needed. The adventures take place in the Realms, but not it is a mutable Realms.
I originally thought this 'announcement' was no big deal, it was Crawford stating the obvious light lore touch 5E has had. I now think I see it as a change in philosophy of what 'settings' are. The lore and history of a place are not the setting. The style of the gameplay is. Ravenloft is the horror setting. Forgotten Realms are the high fantasy setting. Eberron is the pulp action setting. You can have horror in the Realms, ie RotFM, but the lore presented in an adventure should not bleed into the setting as a whole. What happens in Ten Towns stays in Ten Towns. It is a philosophy of every table's Realms is different and nothing should contradict anyone's table. It is an interesting choice.

TLDR: I think the divorce from canon is going to result in very generic setting content in adventures and rules. This is more like the initial World of Greyhawk style where there is deep lore hinted at but not provided unless in a module.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I didn't feel the need to mention the movies because we all know they're in a different timeline/universe. The point is that each Trek series didn't invalidate what had come before it.
Saying that the Abrams take on Star Trek didn't invalidate the original universe is an understatement. The very first Abrams ST movie has the characters overtly acknowledge that they're in an alternate universe. It also adds lore to the original canon, by acknowledging that the original Spock has not only moved between the original universe and the alternate one, but also telling us about a new event that happened in the original universe (i.e. the destruction of Romulus).

It is, in other words, a spin-off more than a reboot.
 


Dire Bare

Legend
On one hand, you can't tell the players that their experience "doesn't count". I mean, imagine how it would go if to play Storm King's Thunder you had to say that Zhentarim agents stole most of the treasure from Tiamat's horde, leaving the Lord's Alliance nearly penniless. And then Storm King's Thunder meant that the Emerald Enclave was shattered, so that when Out of the Abyss came then there were no forces of good to aid you... a thing that might not be true in a campaign where the players laid claim to large swathes of the treasure and founded a new force for good that also has an alliance with the King of the Storm Giants allowing you to recruit the Stone Giants to fight the Demons.
They've certainly done that at times in the past, and . . . it was not well received. The original Baldur's Gate video game got a series of novelizations that not only crystallized the main character, Abdel Adrian (human fighter), but also crystallized the canon ending to the very open-ended video game. The character of Abdel Adrian even became one of those ridiculously long-lived Realmsian heroes. Ugh.
 

MGibster

Legend
I get why people are upset, but again I think the impact is overstated.
Fair enough. I don't particularly care about WotC saying that older products aren't necessarily canon. At this point it's been so long since I've even read Dark Sun, Forgotten Realms, or the old Ravenloft boxed set that I can't even remember what was canon.

If someone came to you today and said that they were going to make a new Nightmare on Elm Street movie, but this time the main victim is one of the parents that burned Krueger alive instead of a teenager, would that make the original movies less impactful or important? It would be a clear departure from the "canon"... but the original story is still there and still whole. It just isn't the version people are working from anymore.

I don't really see this as being the same but I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time trying to explain myself further. I don't object to WotC declaring past material is no longer canon. But I can certainly understand why people are unhappy about it. Can you empathize with those folks at all and understand why they might be unhappy with the announcement?
 


To really and truly have a canon in a living world, you need to have canonical endings to events. And we have a few kind of things like that, but for the most part I'd say DnD is in a very hard position.

On one hand, you can't tell the players that their experience "doesn't count". I mean, imagine how it would go if to play Storm King's Thunder you had to say that Zhentarim agents stole most of the treasure from Tiamat's horde, leaving the Lord's Alliance nearly penniless. And then Storm King's Thunder meant that the Emerald Enclave was shattered, so that when Out of the Abyss came then there were no forces of good to aid you... a thing that might not be true in a campaign where the players laid claim to large swathes of the treasure and founded a new force for good that also has an alliance with the King of the Storm Giants allowing you to recruit the Stone Giants to fight the Demons.

Eventually, as the AP's came out, more and more people would have less and less reason to run them, because they are assuming "canonical" events that didn't happen for those tables.

Pathfinder, at least, took the interesting route of releasing a bunch of adventure paths that didn't affect the broader setting until Pathfinder 2E was released, at which point canon endings for those adventure paths were established that had an effect on the campaign world.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I don't really see this as being the same but I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time trying to explain myself further. I don't object to WotC declaring past material is no longer canon. But I can certainly understand why people are unhappy about it. Can you empathize with those folks at all and understand why they might be unhappy with the announcement?

Barely?

Like, I can understand being invested and feeling like the rug got pulled out from under you, but I've never understood the feeling people have that not being "canon" makes the previous things they loved a waste of time.

Actually, thinking about fanfics, I just remembered I encountered something kind of like this. I was reading a story someone was writing that was a light dnd/dungeoncore type story. I got to the "end" which was still very early in the story to see that the author had left for a while, came back and was wanting to do a reboot.

The new version kept some of the things about the story and the setting, mostly the barebones of some of the characters. But instead of being in a dungeon, it was in the destroyed holy city that had been hinted about. And instead of the angel being... a horribly dead mess fused into the MC, she is a tortured abomination creature.

The author, quite literally came in and changed the canon. The old story is not true anymore. The events didn't happen that way, the main character has some significant changes, many of my favorite side characters are altered and due to that alteration are never going to resume their old roles in the story.

That doesn't change my enjoyment of the original. That doesn't make me feel like I wasted my time reading that original story, even as I was honestly feeling like we were just hitting a good stride and many investments were going to pay off. I'm still enjoying the reboot, even if it is in a very different way.

So, I really don't get the people who, when a company says "this old material is no longer canon" begin declaring that the stories they have loved for years are now trash. That everything is ruined and tarnished. I remember people declaring that those Star Wars EU books they had spent decades collecting and loving were going to be sold and tossed, because now they aren't "canon".

I get continuity. I get investment. I don't understand the idolization of "canon". It just... isn't that important. FR lore from 1e til 4e can be your personal "Original Canon" it just isn't "the new canon" or "the current canon" and I don't understand how that is such a big deal.
 


Chaosmancer

Legend
It's not how many in-universe years of lore that is the issue, but rather how many words, or pages of lore. The Realms has got everybody beat on that count.

On word count? Probably.

On depth? I'd give Eberron a lot of credit. Baker has been continuing his lore on his blog for years, and his lore is tight. Things flow very naturally from one place to the other, and he has a lot of lore written for Khorvaire, Sarlona, Aernal, Xendrik, and the Oceans now. As well as multiple planes of existence.

None of which really leans on existing DnD lore. None of the major forces of evil are from general DnD lore. None of the races are left untouched and just on their default mode. And most of it is tightly tied into the stories of the regions and fits together very well.
 


MGibster

Legend
So, I really don't get the people who, when a company says "this old material is no longer canon" begin declaring that the stories they have loved for years are now trash. That everything is ruined and tarnished. I remember people declaring that those Star Wars EU books they had spent decades collecting and loving were going to be sold and tossed, because now they aren't "canon".
I don't think most of those people stop loving the material just because the owner says it's no longer canon but I can see why they're upset. As with everything in life, we can reference The Simpsons to illustrate a point. In 1997 an episode called "The Principal and the Pauper," it's revealed that the man we thought was Principal Seymour Skinner was actually Armin Tamzarian. The real Skinner was a POW in Vietnam and then worked in a Chinese sweatshop for twenty years before it was shut down and he was able to return home. In the meanwhile, Tamzarian had adopted Skinner's identity and of course everything returns to the status quo by the end of the episode. But the damage had been done.

Skinner was a character Simpsons fans had grown over the course of nine seasons as audiences got to know him. Harry Shearer, who voiced Skinner, says that after he read the script he told the writers "That's so wrong. You're taking something that an audience has built eight years or nine years of investment in and just tossed it in the trash can for no good reason, for a story we've done before with other characters. It's so arbitrary and gratuitous, and it's disrespectful to the audience." It remains a fairly divisive episode with many Simpsons fans hating it.

Now I happen to think that WotC has a good reason to declare everything before 2014 to be non-canon. They don't necessarily want players born in 2001 to feel as though they need to read or understand setting material that was first written fourteen years before they were born just to be able to follow the Forgotten Realms. I have no doubt that they also want the freedom going forward to shape their settings to the needs and desires of a contemporary audience. And just so we're clear, I think WotC is making the right decision here and I'm not criticizing it. But from the point of view of long term fans who have strong attachments to it I'm going to paraphrase Harry Shearer: You're taking something that an audience has built 25 or 30 years of investment in and just tossed it in the trash can. It's disrespectful to the audience.

It's not a mystery to me why some people are upset and I empathize with them. But I also think WotC made the right decision for D&D.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
because 1) that getting will get all the new lore and in time that lore will become an obstacle to new players. Establishing lore and unreliable in canon is a better long term strategy. Though that is what I think they are doing they have not confirmed that yet.
To be fair, it took decades for FR lore to build up to "obstacle" levels. If they did create a brand new setting, whether Points of Light or something more built up, it would take a long time before it got to be unwieldy. And they could start out with pointers (maybe just for the setting's writers and not in the books) about what to do and what not to do, to help the lore from becoming unwieldy.

Will WotC do this? Almost certainly not. But they could.
 

Autumnal

Bruce Baugh, Writer of Fortune
I have a friend who's recently been quoting a trivia fact. Do you know which version of Dracula has the Vampire being shot by an American Cowboy? The Original Novel by Bram Stoker. Is Bela Lugosi's 1931 Dracula a lesser movie for changing the canon to not include Mr. Quincey Morris? Is the Original Bram Stoker novel lesser because most versions of Dracula no longer include the character?

This leads nicely into something I was thinking about tonight. Thanks, Chaosmancer. :) I re-watched the 2011 film version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Now, John Le Carré is one of my favorite authors, the George Smiley stories are my favorites of his, the original novel is maybe my single favorite of those. I'm also a huge fan of the BBC mini-series, which is an intensely faithful adaptation in myriad ways. The movie actually takes a bunch of liberties: it doesn't just condense and consolidate as a movie must, it introduces changes to many details and some larger elements. And yet it feels - to me and many others, to judge reviews - like a close reading and faithful rendering, in ways that would take a whole lot of space to usefully describing. I watch it and it feels like I'm seeing the story that was in the book.

The same is true in other cases as well. L.A. Confidential is maybe a particularly good example. The film literally drops half the book - there's an entire second plot line about a thinly veiled Disneyland and its development that's altogether gone - and makes significant changes to the half it keeps. But again, you (or at least I) watch the movie and it feels that you got the story.

Which is to say that legacy is weird and complicated, and that while fidelity to the data that comprise a piece of legacy is a thing to consider, it's really far from the only thing, and overriding it may well lead to work that feels closer because of how the new work as a whole goes about its job.
 

Scribe

Hero
Excessive lore that is still considered canon for the purpose of the world's lore does not help (and thus is a detriment to) new DMs.
No, you choose to make it a detriment of you wish.

Your table, your game, your choice.

As it was before this declaration, and is now.

Only you got to choose if it applied to you. Not me.

Now, it's non canon for everyone, yay progress.
 

a.everett1287

Explorer
No, you choose to make it a detriment of you wish.

Your table, your game, your choice.

As it was before this declaration, and is now.

Only you got to choose if it applied to you. Not me.

Now, it's non canon for everyone, yay progress.
Score one for progress.
 

Hussar

Legend
A recent back and forth in the [URL='https://www.enworld.org/threa...and-why.681490/']PC Races the DM has Excluded thread made me want to go up and give Crawford a great big kiss. In that thread, a poster was waxing at length about how Aarocockra should not be a PC race. Only thing is, the poster was quoting material from more than twenty years ago that isn't true in 5e. Virtually nothing that was posted applies to 5e. And the only way I would know the older stuff is if I did a deep dive into lore - we're talking some seriously fringe products here.[/URL]
So, yeah, count me as totally on board when WotC cuts the canon strings. Fantastic. It makes those kinds of conversations so much simpler. No, this race is not like that. At least not in 5e. End of discussion.
Great.
 
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Scribe

Hero
Score one for progress.
Nobody gained.
A certain segment, no matter how small, lost.

So either spitefulness, leads one to think anything improved, or no, there is no progress.

Just like a few other things that literally every table and DM could solve for themselves, Wizards has to to seemingly take away (spite) some, for the sake of....nobody.

No surprise at this point how people can cheer for a change that subtracts joy from others, I've seen it multiple times here.

Like that post about PC lineages right there.

Your table has them? Great.

Mine maybe doesn't, and you don't need canon to say so.

'Nah, nothing beyond the PHB' or 'No Fly' or 'No Drow.'

Simple.
 

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