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

Status
Not open for further replies.
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."


despair.jpg


"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.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

While I get salty sometimes about how the MCU has so many great villains as one-shots that come and go with a single movie (Killmonger for example), I get that they don't have the decades to tell their stories across thousands of comic book issues.

I've heard so many good things about the Fraction Hawkeye run, I really need to pick up a copy next time I'm at my local comics store.

I have a friend who complains after every MCU how it doesn't match up with the comics. He'd rather it took 40 movies, rather than 10, to set up Infinity War, for instance. Everyone -- and we go with a big cadre of comics super-fans to see the movies together -- all roll our eyes collectively.

It is, as you say, its own continuity and for the most part, it's a great streamlined improvement over trying to slavishly adhere to decades of Marvel/Timely continuity. (I do think they dropped the ball with Hawkeye, since Matt Fraction's run on the character showed you can tell a compelling modern tale with him, as opposed to the MCU version, which they seem very unsure of what to do with. Looking forward to the Kate Bishop show ushering him off-stage.)

Since no one has invented an MIB flashy thing, yeah, these works are still there. The copy of Old Empires I'm currently reading didn't suddenly turn blank. And I'm sure that there's a copy of that same book on file at WotC headquarters that they'll refer to if they were ever to do something with Unther or Mulhorand.

And for generations, D&D players have been ignoring canon. How many people killed off Elminster or Drizzt? How many PCs ended up on Waterdeep's Council of Lords? How many claimed land of their own in The Shield Lands, or rebuilt the Moathouse as their base of operations? In my Waterdeep, there's a small shop where a very old dwarf named Ralif Redhammer (one of my earliest characters) will turn out some very fine weapons and armor, when he's not taking a nap at the front desk. He's been there across different campaigns, different groups of players.

This is the right direction for overall D&D continuity as well. I don't personally love that Acererak and Vecna now belong to D&D canon as a whole, rather than Oerth, but "my" versions still exist back where they started and if their new versions bring enjoyment to other players, so be it.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Something I've been thinking about a bit since the second quarter earnings report was released.

Even if they kept all the canon content, the books aren't going to be what drives the story lines in the future. If you want to continue following all the lore moving ahead and treating everything like canon, it doesn't mean you'll get more numerous or more meaningful novels. It means everyone reading the novels will be forced to play the video games to get the full story. The video games are a bigger part of the long term plan the the novels now, and increasingly tell more (and more complicated) of the critical plots. They have complete arcs for that affect multiple characters, locations, and timelines.

Of the people clamoring to keep the old novels canon, how would you feel if you had to play a video game in between two books to get the whole story?
 


TheSword

Legend
Something I've been thinking about a bit since the second quarter earnings report was released.

Even if they kept all the canon content, the books aren't going to be what drives the story lines in the future. If you want to continue following all the lore moving ahead and treating everything like canon, it doesn't mean you'll get more numerous or more meaningful novels. It means everyone reading the novels will be forced to play the video games to get the full story. The video games are a bigger part of the long term plan the the novels now, and increasingly tell more (and more complicated) of the critical plots. They have complete arcs for that affect multiple characters, locations, and timelines.

Of the people clamoring to keep the old novels canon, how would you feel if you had to play a video game in between two books to get the whole story?
Urgghhh. I’m getting flashbacks to FFXV and Kingsglaive.

Painful.
 

RFB Dan

Podcast host, 6-edition DM, and guy with a pulse.
Something I've been thinking about a bit since the second quarter earnings report was released.

Even if they kept all the canon content, the books aren't going to be what drives the story lines in the future. If you want to continue following all the lore moving ahead and treating everything like canon, it doesn't mean you'll get more numerous or more meaningful novels. It means everyone reading the novels will be forced to play the video games to get the full story. The video games are a bigger part of the long term plan the the novels now, and increasingly tell more (and more complicated) of the critical plots. They have complete arcs for that affect multiple characters, locations, and timelines.

Of the people clamoring to keep the old novels canon, how would you feel if you had to play a video game in between two books to get the whole story?
I have around 150 figures to paint, including a pirate ship, thanks to Reaper's Bones V Kickstarter. I have books I haven't read yet. Music I want to listen to. And I still need to finally finish up LoZ: Skyward Sword. So no, I do NOT want to play a video game between two books to get the whole story. ;)
 

a.everett1287

Explorer
Something I've been thinking about a bit since the second quarter earnings report was released.

Even if they kept all the canon content, the books aren't going to be what drives the story lines in the future. If you want to continue following all the lore moving ahead and treating everything like canon, it doesn't mean you'll get more numerous or more meaningful novels. It means everyone reading the novels will be forced to play the video games to get the full story. The video games are a bigger part of the long term plan the the novels now, and increasingly tell more (and more complicated) of the critical plots. They have complete arcs for that affect multiple characters, locations, and timelines.

Of the people clamoring to keep the old novels canon, how would you feel if you had to play a video game in between two books to get the whole story?
Personally, no.
My sense of schadenfreude? Absolutely wants this.
 

Of the people clamoring to keep the old novels canon, how would you feel if you had to play a video game in between two books to get the whole story?
The inverse of this is Blizzard's historical insistence on putting World of Warcraft lore in novels and other books, and not just in the game. While some of the books are good (I think the novels are terrible, myself, but the guidebooks are really good), the general consensus among WoW fans is that this is a terrible system and it gets hated on constantly. (If they showed a limited version of all the big lore news in the game and then expanded it in a novel, that would be one thing, but there have been times when in-game events have been incomprehensible if you didn't either read a novel or a fansite summary of it.)
 

I have around 150 figures to paint, including a pirate ship, thanks to Reaper's Bones V Kickstarter.
That ship and related piratical mini sets are so sexy. If I actually used miniatures with any sort of consistency, I would have gone broke. (I actually downgraded my pledge when I realized I wouldn't even use the great Dungeon Denizens boxed set that was part of that campaign.)
 

Dire Bare

Legend
The Star Wars Holiday Special is not canon. It shared the same fate as the Ewoks and Droids cartoons and the live action Ewok TV movies.

When they hit the reset button on the "Expanded Universe" in 2012, the official continuity was comprised of Episodes I to VI (the films, not the novelizations) and The Clone Wars (the CG series, not the earlier Tartakovsky series from 2003-2005). Everything else was retroactively given the "Legends" designation.

All of the new material has been designated canon, but of course with a property as massive as SW, inconsistencies will creep in (so I've heard; I don't read the novels or comics).

Just wanted to clear that up. ;-)

I think that Jaxxon may have appeared in a comic in the new continuity, so I guess he is canon. Not really any more ridiculous-looking than Ben Quadrinaros, TBH.
They won't even release the Holiday Special on Disney+, they just cut out the good part, the animated Boba Fett story, and gave us that. Disney+ has both Ewok movies, the Droids cartoon, and the Ewok cartoon. The Holiday Special is almost anti-canon at this point. However, they did release a LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, which was an homage/satire of the original . . .
 

Dire Bare

Legend
See... I'd be more willing to believe you if it wasn't for two things.

The Time of Troubles
The Spell Plague.

Both are consistently mentioned as horrendous attempts to address the lore in a wide sweeping manner, and generally hated.

In fact, I think the only major shift in Canon I have not seen utterly panned is The Sundering (and this includes me seeing discussions of the Dark Sun Prism Pentad thing, the Greyhawk Wars, the Time Wars, ect ect ect) and I think that the reason the Sundering isn't hated is because it was a single moment that reversed a lot of things hated about the Spell Plague and Time of Troubles. It was less a change and more a single use reset button.

So, actually... no, I don't think it has pretty much ever been better to address these things in-universe. Every attempt that has been made is generally met with derision.
Heh, by the time The Sundering came about, we were so many RSEs in (Realms Shaking Events) that one more didn't seem far out there . . . .
 





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.

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.

You seem to be suggesting that have a game centered around a default setting with a set-in-stone canon of lore comes at no cost to those of us who don't use that lore in our home games. I would contend that this is false, because game books that are oriented around established lore can be and often are quite opposed to the emergent, sandbox character of gameplay that I employ. This thread has made me realize that this is part of why I find OSR products so compelling, as they sketch their settings very thinly, with explicit room for players and dms to manuever, subvert, and create. Even better, they provide tools for imaginative world creation hex by hex (e.g. Worlds Without Number). If 5e produced books as helpful, I would consider buying them. If they are going to produce books like Volo's that fill their page count with set in stone lore, less useful for me.

If your response is that I can always just ignore the lore for my table...well then why am I buying the book? That is, if the audience for the game product is you, it's less useful for me. What you are asking is that the products continue to treat you as the default reader, and the rest of us can do the work to adjusting to your preferences.

I will say that adjusting to other people's preferences is not a big deal. I'm an adult, I can take my business elsewhere and have grown up conversations with other people at my table. I don't need to mope in a corner about how hasbro hates me, or something.


The authority is important, because that's a fundamental aspect of the nature of canon: it's a determination that's made entirely external to you (in the general sense of the word "you"). That externalization grounds it, making it more real, because it gives it a quality of immutability - or at least, immutability in terms of personal whim - which is something it then shares with the real world.

I suspect that this is where a lot of our inability to reach a consensus is coming from, because I'm of the opinion that canon is more than simply agreeing on the history/lore/rules; as mentioned above, it requires an authoritative determination of what's part of the imaginary world and what's not, and in so doing removes personal issues of agreement from the equation entirely. Even if you have different universes, storylines, or alternative takes on the same body of work, their canonity ("canonicity"?) is determined by the individual(s) who have authority over that particular work; not by the fans or other people who engage with the material.
Thanks for your posts on this topic. Following from this theory, canon is in rpg gaming (as it is in religion and literature) inherently coercive. Those who enjoy the game through canon need other people, in particular a central authority, to validate lore. If it's just them and their game, then that lore is less meaningful and enjoyable. This means that the official source (wotc in this case) needs to take a stance on whether goblins are evil, they need to print this stance in the MM and in adventures (along with a little alignment tag), and that's the baseline. This baseline is required in order for canonophiles to have fun. Implicitly, everyone else needs to also accept that baseline, even if we are "free" to ignore it in our games (thus making a large part of our purchased book irrelevant). (Contra to this, OSE has a one-sentence physical description and a statblock, the rest is up to the dm). So where 'canonoclasts' can say live and let live, canonophiles require others to at least acknowledge the baseline lore before they adjust anything. (that's phrasing is intentionally harsh so as to make the contradicting styles clear, obviously there's lots of middle ground (and with stakes much lower than in religious discussions)).


I've come to see tabletop RPGs as an inherently transformative medium. Transformative from the jump, with little room for the curative approach. TTRPGs are tools to create your own stories. We can argue over the specific processes and methods of play until the cows come home (who knows how many times the "system matters" discourse has been dragged out of its grave back into the world of the living), but at the end of the day, no matter if the story has been prepared beforehand or if it is spontaneously generated at the table, if it's the GM or the players who are the primary drivers of the story beats, each table creates their own stories, limited by the rules of the game, but after that only by their own imaginations. This applies just as much if they're playing in an already established IP's setting as it would to them playing in a world of their own creation. Basically, tabletop roleplaying is collaborative fanfiction, and since when have fanfic authors given the slightest hoot about canon?

I totally agree. IMO, if wotc should extend the 'rulings not rules' ethos from mechanics to lore as well. I'd return to 5e if they were more focused on tools to help dms and players creature transformative, emergent stories (like just about every major indie rpg does). I'd be similarly more willing to buy an adventure book if it wasn't so strictly tied to a setting.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
I want to add to this that the insistence on "canon" in terms of literature acts as a terrible and overhwelming weight on a lot of fanfiction writing.

Until a year or so ago, I thought fanfics were just... the worst. I'd heard that they were bad, generally just self-inserts, "Sues and Stus" and shipping.

Then I found sites that had Fanfictions in them... and they were phenomenal. Exploring concepts the original work never touched upon, or offering a different take that highlighted a different message. The fact that the medium is mocked is a true tragedy I've come to realize. Especially when you start zooming out and realizing that things like "Dante's Divine Comedy" could be described as a Fanfiction. Or Wicked. Or dozens of other incredibly good and successful properties.

Lots of bad ones too, I won't deny it, but the good can be REALLY good, and it is ignored and dismissed just because it isn't the original.
I have a background in community and university theatre, as an actor. I used to think there was a qualitative difference between amateur theatre and professional theatre. But after seeing sooooo many terrible professional productions, and so many wonderful community theatre productions . . . I was disabused of that notion. But still, that's the common wisdom. I think the same thing applies to fanfiction . . . amateur does not equate to poorer quality, nor does professional equate to higher quality.

You can see it in D&D fan-design too. Some of the stuff put out under the OGL, or on the DMsGuild, or even just for free within online fan communities is amazing. Not everything produced by professional game publishers is top tier.

Of course, especially in the TRPG scene, the line between fans and professional designers is rather vague . . . .
 


Dire Bare

Legend
I'm not going back through the thread to look for the original post, but . . .

The linked article on curative vs. transformative fandom was excellent, thanks to whomever posted it. I think it's a good framework for viewing the current discussion on D&D canon. I wonder, is this divide over D&D canon heavily gendered as the broader divide between curative fandom and transformative fandom is described in the article?

Your home game can be seen as a type of fan-fiction, as can semi-pro OGL and DMsGuild releases for the game. Is there a site out there that caters to actual D&D fan-fiction? Narrative storytelling? I would be interested in checking that scene out, if it exists.
 

Mirtek

Hero
What I take from this discussion is that people who like canon need it to be "official," i.e. as a default or baseline. Their enjoyment relies on other people's recognition: they need other people to recognize the specific history and texture of the shared fictional universe for that universe to feel real and worthy of engagement.
Not other people, the publisher specifically. If there's a novel wherer Azoun dies or Tilverton gets blown up, the enjoyment relies on future products set at a later date picking up on this. If after Azoun's death at 1371 DR in a novel future supplements set in 1373 DR have him alive and well ruling Cormyr as if those events never happened, than the enjoyment of reading this novel is lessened if not gone (knowing prior that this would be the way it's done a certain quantity of people would have never read the novel to begin with).
 

MGibster

Legend
Of the people clamoring to keep the old novels canon, how would you feel if you had to play a video game in between two books to get the whole story?
I'm not exactly clamoring to keep the old novels or even the book canon, but I #%#%#^A# hate when a video game series expects me to read a novel between games to keep up with the story. Mass Effect 3 I'm looking at you. Goddamn Kai Leng shows up and everyone's acting like he's some kind of badass and I have no idea who the hell he is or why I should be quaking in my boots. Or Aria? I know she tells me in the second game "Don't #$%@# with Aria" but I never found out why the hell Shepherd should respect her. Gah! I need to head butt something now.
 

Status
Not open for further replies.

Visit Our Sponsor

Latest threads

Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top