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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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Not yet, but if they ever actually bring PoLand back in 5E, they've basically indicated that they'll feel free to change everything about it, if they think it'll make a better product for modern audiences. If they still think warlords are a waste of time, for example, they won't bring them back, or they'll just say "fighters are also called warlords"; or they could alter Bane to match his Forgotten Realms portrayal.
If you don't think they would have done that anyway, may I point you to Heroes of the Vale?

That's kind of the point, right? None of this is actually new. At all. This has been the practice for years, decades even.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
If times have changed why not create something new to reflect that.

Because survivor bias makes us forget that new things are a complete crap shoot. We can each give a long list of favorite fantasy books. But the list of fantasy books that fell flat, didn't become famous, and were relegated to the dustbin of history is far, far longer.

Yes, Critical Role took off. But there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of other actual play shows that went absolutely nowhere.

Plus, the problem with Dragonlance isn't the setting. It is that the major issues of the setting were solved by canonical characters, along a canonical path. I think it made for entertaining fiction that probably sold well. But it doesn't make for a setting that gets players engaged, because players generally prefer to play their own characters, and make their own way through the issues of the day.

The War of the Lance, done up as some number of WotC's large adventures, with some cool subsystems for managing a war in D&D would be far more attractive today.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
If that's so, how did 5E manage to attract so many new fans, despite the Forgotten Realms - a world with decades of lore - being the featured setting?

By largely ignoring that lore. The major adventures are not tie-ins to old lore. They are freestanding, local, with the minimum of lore required to make it work presented within the adventure.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
For lack of a better way to describe it, I would prefer an absolute mountain of lore built up over decades, some contradictory, some that I personally despise and 'head canon' into non-existence, an near unfathomable edifice that I seek to reconcile, than 'new edition, forget what came before.'

I would fire 4e lore, and what it contributed in terms of art style, lineages and so on INTO THE SUN. At this point in time however, I still try and reconcile it as canon, and that loops in novels that I enjoyed, and some that I didnt, AND it informed the lore of 5e. That continuation matters to me. Way way more than it should, but it does.

Retcon's happen, the errata stealth delete of the Wall of the Faithless or perhaps other things (Volo Orcs?) happens too. Things can also simply not be referenced and forgotten over time or seen as 'canon but...not really relevant'. Any setting that grows too large sees this type of thing happen, I get it.
But what's stopping you from still doing all of that?
To flat out state 'nothing before X' is canon is different. It absolutely does have an impact for one who is invested in that unwieldy mess for it to be summarily dismissed and stated to no longer be something that the creators will no longer even try/pretend, to adhere to or care about.
You keep stating this, and I'm trying to understand how it's different. What impact does it have? The continuity of the novels isn't ending. You can still sort through the mountain lore and reconcile it or discard it as you see fit. What are you actually losing besides the label of "canon"?
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Because survivor bias makes us forget that new things are a complete crap shoot. We can each give a long list of favorite fantasy books. But the list of fantasy books that fell flat, didn't become famous, and were relegated to the dustbin of history is far, far longer.

Yes, Critical Role took off. But there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of other actual play shows that went absolutely nowhere.

Plus, the problem with Dragonlance isn't the setting. It is that the major issues of the setting were solved by canonical characters, along a canonical path. I think it made for entertaining fiction that probably sold well. But it doesn't make for a setting that gets players engaged, because players generally prefer to play their own characters, and make their own way through the issues of the day.

The War of the Lance, done up as some number of WotC's large adventures, with some cool subsystems for managing a war in D&D would be far more attractive today.

That's why I'm against heavy metaplot. Dragonlance, FR, Darksun all had elements of "look at this cool new world". And we blew it up via NPCs.

New players probably don't care to much old players might.

If they're willing to recycle the names I suspect the 5E system is carrying the books as each release sems to do well regardless if what's in it or the quality of said product.

Eberron has been handled fairly well imho. More of that please.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
See previous response. You have to hook me with your world or your characters.

If you change them there's a decent chance you're changing what I like about them.
In which case, don't buy the new ones. What's the problem?
Also you're taking my money now but in a few years it's badwrongfun.
Who says anything is badwrongfun?
Either future proof your products better, make something new or just focus on something else conforming to the new paradigm.
They are making something new, built on the bones of something old.
What happens if they reboot DL it gets a 4E reception just reboot again in 10 years?
Exactly that. It gets a reboot again in 10 years. This is just begging the question - it's only a bad thing if you already consider reboots a bad thing.
 

Scribe

Legend
You keep stating this, and I'm trying to understand how it's different. What impact does it have? The continuity of the novels isn't ending. You can still sort through the mountain lore and reconcile it or discard it as you see fit. What are you actually losing besides the label of "canon"?
The unspoken assumption, that the owners of the IP actually care enough about the continuity to consider it before making retcons.

When they indicate that 'no, thats not actually canon' its a big Green Light, to the concept that while they could of course make any change they wanted before (as people keep pointing out for some unknown reason) I, who want that continued line of lore/history/setting, have no reason to believe they care about that at all.

I can care, but I dont own the IP. If THEY dont care, why would I even bother trying to make things work, when to THEM anything 'pre-X' is not worthy of consideration to make it work anyway.
 


Zardnaar

Legend
In which case, don't buy the new ones. What's the problem?

Who says anything is badwrongfun?

They are making something new, built on the bones of something old.

Exactly that. It gets a reboot again in 10 years. This is just begging the question - it's only a bad thing if you already consider reboots a bad thing.

I'm heavily against reboots. Updates depends how they're done.

And yes I don't buy. I stopped buying novels in 2007 or so and the lead up to 4E.

Doesn't seem rebooting works out that well most times anyway looking at movies, games etc.

D&D is probably a bit safer but I suspect they could just do whatever for the most part and it well sell well.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The unspoken assumption, that the owners of the IP actually care enough about the continuity to consider it before making retcons.

When they indicate that 'no, thats not actually canon' its a big Green Light, to the concept that while they could of course make any change they wanted before (as people keep pointing out for some unknown reason) I, who want that continued line of lore/history/setting, have no reason to believe they care about that at all.

I can care, but I dont own the IP. If THEY dont care, why would I even bother trying to make things work, when to THEM anything 'pre-X' is not worthy of consideration to make it work anyway.
Ah! Ok, I can understand that.

I don’t think WotC has ever cared about that. But I suppose I can understand being let down if you thought they did.
 

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