D&D General WotC: Novels & Non-5E Lore Are Officially Not Canon

At a media press briefing last week, WotC's Jeremey Crawford clarified what is and is 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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I suspect a number of old Ravenloft fans, despite previews, assumed up until release that the 5E Ravenloft book would be a continuation/update, rather than a sweeping reboot. Warning old Dragonlance fans well ahead of time that a reboot is exactly what's in the works should be an interesting test of your theory.
Personally, I doubt advance warning will do much to ameliorate the complaining, but at least WotC are trying.
 


Thunder Brother

God Learner
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?
Speaking as a new player (I hate the term fan), the Forgotten Realms have been almost completely irrelevant to my enjoyment of D&D. I imagine other new players might say the same.

Part of the problem for me is that the Forgotten Realms feels more like Marvel comics than it does Lord of the Rings; the former is a fustercluck of nonsense while the latter is a fairly cohesive world with strong ideas and themes. Both are good in their own unique ways, but I would much rather spend time in Middle-Earth than the 616 (or whatever it is now).
 

Echohawk

Shirokinukatsukami fan
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.
The article linked to in the original post says pretty much the opposite of this:

"While certain works might no longer be considered "in canon", that doesn't meant that the Dungeons & Dragons designers don't think highly of past stories or that certain characters or pieces of lore will never be re-inserted into "official" D&D lore. "We ourselves take inspiration from those things and eventually bits of them will find their way into official RPG products," Crawford noted.

That's quite different from the designers "summarily dismissing" and "no longer even pretend[ing to] care about" past lore.

I'm heavily invested in D&D lore (both figuratively and literally). I spend chunks of my free time poring over obscure D&D sources to see how various "facts" from across the editions might fit together or be reconciled. I squee in delight when the designer of a new product takes the time to make that product consistent with prior lore, or when they simply insert a fan-service Easter egg. But I'm also pragmatic. D&D is absolutely riddled with inconsistencies and continuity problems, and almost always has been. Early (A)D&D products were shoehorned into Mystara or Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms after the fact, sometimes awkwardly. The abilities used by monsters and characters in novels often do not match how those abilities work in game. And don't get me started on the consistency of characters' travel times in fiction compared to the distances shown on maps!

WotC's statement doesn't for a second make me believe that the designers no longer care about the decades of lore, or that they are dismissive of it. So many of the 5th Edition products I've read are love letters to D&D's history, packed with nods to the past and sly references to things that only a fan would notice. I am comfortable that the designers will continue to honour the body of D&D lore while making interesting game products that don't depend on acknowledging all of it.

What I appreciate about WotC's statement is that it provides me with a welcome level of certainty. I now know exactly what their current approach is, and I can manage my expectations about how closely new products might reflect the contents of the tomes in my library accordingly.
 

The article linked to in the original post says pretty much the opposite of this:

"While certain works might no longer be considered "in canon", that doesn't meant that the Dungeons & Dragons designers don't think highly of past stories or that certain characters or pieces of lore will never be re-inserted into "official" D&D lore. "We ourselves take inspiration from those things and eventually bits of them will find their way into official RPG products," Crawford noted.

That's quite different from the designers "summarily dismissing" and "no longer even pretend[ing to] care about" past lore.

I'm heavily invested in D&D lore (both figuratively and literally). I spend chunks of my free time poring over obscure D&D sources to see how various "facts" from across the editions might fit together or be reconciled. I squee in delight when the designer of a new product takes the time to make that product consistent with prior lore, or when they simply insert a fan-service Easter egg. But I'm also pragmatic. D&D is absolutely riddled with inconsistencies and continuity problems, and almost always has been. Early (A)D&D products were shoehorned into Mystara or Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms after the fact, sometimes awkwardly. The abilities used by monsters and characters in novels often do not match how those abilities work in game. And don't get me started on the consistency of characters' travel times in fiction compared to the distances shown on maps!

WotC's statement doesn't for a second make me believe that the designers no longer care about the decades of lore, or that they are dismissive of it. So many of the 5th Edition products I've read are love letters to D&D's history, packed with nods to the past and sly references to things that only a fan would notice. I am comfortable that the designers will continue to honour the body of D&D lore while making interesting game products that don't depend on acknowledging all of it.

What I appreciate about WotC's statement is that it provides me with a welcome level of certainty. I now know exactly what their current approach is, and I can manage my expectations about how closely new products might reflect the contents of the tomes in my library accordingly.

They are trying to suck and blow at the same time, if the old stories mattered to them, they wouldn't decanonize the novels, their actions contradict their words.
 


Echohawk

Shirokinukatsukami fan
They are trying to suck and blow at the same time, if the old stories mattered to them, they wouldn't decanonize the novels, their actions contradict their words.
To me, neither their words nor actions say "old stuff doesn't matter to us". Instead, I'm getting "old stuff matters to us a lot, except when it gets in the way of making new stuff". I'm fine with that, but understand that not everyone is.
 


akr71

Hero
So all that stuff I have been ignoring isn't canon? Oh no!
My campaign is set in the FR, but I'm one of the few at the table that hasn't read any of the novels and it hasn't impacted the game a bit. I mine lore where I need to and make stuff up where I want to. What happened in previous editions, books or games is irrelevant. I have always viewed it as a "What if?" One of a million possible outcomes.

I loved the DL books back in Jr High, but if I played the War of the Lance, it wouldn't be to try to recreate the story but to see how another group of heroes overcomes the situation. Plus, looking back, I'd have some serious problems with Krynn as a setting if it were just lifted from the 80's and dropped into today.

If you love the lore, great. Chris Perkins & Jeremy Crawford likely don't play at your table. If you include some or all of that lore from the past few decades at your table, and your players love it too - great! Keep doing it. No one is going to take your old books away. WotC may put out a future publication that contradicts that old lore, but now you have the freedom it ignore that new lore. Actually you have always had that freedom...
 

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