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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TheSword

Legend
Certainly, but that's not hard canons fault.
It is, if hard cannon makes writers tie themselves up in knots, or stretch suspension of disbelief to breaking point. The sad tale of 30 years of Myth Drannor story ends ups with
Its Mythal being destroyed and then the city of Shade being dropped on it. Destroying both Thultanthar and Myth Drannor.
Thanks very much hard cannon. If I want the rich, wondrous and interesting multi-factional Ruin of Myth Drannor in my campaign… and to stay on canon, it’s now screwed. Cheers!
 


Scribe

Hero
It is, if hard cannon makes writers tie themselves up in knots, or stretch suspension of disbelief to breaking point. The sad tale of 30 years of Myth Drannor story ends ups with
Its Mythal being destroyed and then the city of Shade being dropped on it. Destroying both Thultanthar and Myth Drannor.
Thanks very much hard cannon. If I want the rich, wondrous and interesting multi-factional Ruin of Myth Drannor in my campaign… and to stay on canon, it’s now screwed. Cheers!
Sometimes retcons are needed for any number of reasons. This whole thread is a different issue though.
 



a.everett1287

Explorer
Sorry, I should have been more clear that I was being facetious, and gently (or not so gently) mocking the posters who do feel that way. I definitely agree with you and Umbran that they're not wholesale ditching previous lore and continuity
That is not correct. They are using it for inspiration (and in most cases just straight up using it), but the are not beholden to it. It is not at all like disposing of it in a pit, not even 4e did that.
 


Mirtek

Hero
It is, if hard cannon makes writers tie themselves up in knots, or stretch suspension of disbelief to breaking point. The sad tale of 30 years of Myth Drannor story ends ups with
Its Mythal being destroyed and then the city of Shade being dropped on it. Destroying both Thultanthar and Myth Drannor.
Thanks very much hard cannon. If I want the rich, wondrous and interesting multi-factional Ruin of Myth Drannor in my campaign… and to stay on canon, it’s now screwed. Cheers!
Actually dropping Thultanthar on Myth Drannor returns exactly that. Before Myth Drannor was reclaimed by the elven crusade and no longer an interesting multi-factional ruin but a driving city with public services, watchen, burocrats, shopping districts, etc.

Now you once again have your interesting ruin of New Myth Drannor, mixed up with the stuff from the ruin of Thultanthar and even some leftover from ruined Myth Drannor that new Myth Drannor had sealed and pacified and that now again became an untamed part of the new ruin mix

Sometimes retcons are needed for any number of reasons. This whole thread is a different issue though.
Also a matter of taste. I also like the ruins of MD better than the city of New MD, but I disagree that it needed to have been restored (least of all through a retcon).

An important part of a moving metaplot is that plotlines get resolved. New stuff comes up to replace it. Even if I personally like the new stuff less than the old (cough spell plague) I would hate it even more if nothing ever happened. Nothing would move forward, nothing would be resolved.

During the end of 4e there was a lively discussion on whether 4e should be resolved with a retcon vs. resolving 4e by moving forward. I was vehemently for the later and glad that was what happened.

I like Cyric very much. If Cyric were to be killed off in canon I would be upset/sad, but I would just have to get used with an FR continuing without Cyric, made hope for him to be resurrected like many dead deities do, but I would have if 3 years later that would be retconned, even though it would restore an element I used to like


The MD thing is actually a good example of how to undo a progress that they later thought they maybe shouldn't have done. Instead of declaring all events of Last Mythal not canon and retconning the whole thing they restored it through further progression of the setting.
 
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For you maybe, for others it's one of the if not the reasons for chosing a setting.

My interested in Eberron died the moment I learned that it's a "dead" setting that will never move, never resolve the current issues in favor or progress and new issues, etc.
I know. Everyone tells me to watch Firefly, but there was only one season and a movie, so it's basically dead with no chance of expansion so I'm not going to waste my time.
What

I've never heard of this mentality. Are you saying that a long running series is automatically better than a standalone work, simply on the virtue of being longer? Because I can name quite a few books, movies, and single season TV shows that were good even though they were short or never received any follow-up, and a lot of bad long running book series, movie franchises, and TV shows that really should have quit while they were ahead but are currently stuck in sequel hell.
 

Ok, now, if your argument is that canon is good because you happen to like it, fair enough. I certainly can't argue what you enjoy. That's fine. And, really, I have no issues with that.

But, it never stops there. Canon arguments are always used to try to justify why someone's personal preference should be given preferential treatment. It's an appeal to authority in a fake mustache. "I like this so, I hope it doesn't change" is perfectly fine. "I like this, so I'm going to claim that it's canon and you must not change it because it's canon" is very self serving.

That's the point where I find canon so distasteful. And it's why I think Crawford has done a great service to the hobby. Heck, the World Tree/World Axis is canon in 5e. It's right there in the DMG. If they wanted to, they could do a Nentir Vale/Dawn War Adventure Path and all the Great Wheel/Planescape fans wouldn't have a leg to stand on to complain. Which, frankly, would make me very, very happy.
I've noticed that you seem to derive a fair amount of glee from the idea that canon fans are upset. Am I reading that correctly?
 

TheSword

Legend
Actually dropping Thultanthar on Myth Drannor returns exactly that. Before Myth Drannor was reclaimed by the elven crusade and no longer an interesting multi-factional ruin but a driving city with public services, watchen, burocrats, shopping districts, etc.

Now you once again have your interesting ruin of New Myth Drannor, mixed up with the stuff from the ruin of Thultanthar and even some leftover from ruined Myth Drannor that new Myth Drannor had sealed and pacified and that now again became an untamed part of the new ruin mix


Also a matter of taste. I also like the ruins of MD better than the city of New MD, but I disagree that it needed to have been restored (least of all through a retcon).

An important part of a moving metaplot is that plotlines get resolved. New stuff comes up to replace it. Even if I personally like the new stuff less than the old (cough spell plague) I would hate it even more if nothing ever happened. Nothing would move forward, nothing would be resolved.

During the end of 4e there was a lively discussion on whether 4e should be resolved with a retcon vs. resolving 4e by moving forward. I was vehemently for the later and glad that was what happened.

I like Cyric very much. If Cyric were to be killed off in canon I would be upset/sad, but I would just have to get used with an FR continuing without Cyric, made hope for him to be resurrected like many dead deities do, but I would have if 3 years later that would be retconned, even though it would restore an element I used to like
Frankly if 30 years of ‘lore’ from novels, accessories, games etc, returns the campaign world to the place it was in before the action started then you haven’t moved the meta plot at all… you’re just recognizing that the previous plot was a mistake and are undoing it. I’d rather people do that honestly and reboot then come up with some elaborate twist and then feel smug about it.

Same with Bane, Myth Drannor, Elminster etc etc. have the courage of convictions writers or don’t bother.
 


Scribe

Hero
So the canon isn’t that hard at all then? Or rather it’s hard, until it isn’t. Helpful.
Well no. The degree that I would prefer isn't really done. Retcons happen. I'd rather they don't, but I've given up on expecting no changes in the settings I follow.

Still I'll take canon over 'anything can be true, and nothing is true' because that's a pointless exercise to me.
 
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The Time of Troubles is a -part- of the Canon. I'm referring to the elements of it from the Baldur's Gate games and the Avatar novel series which go into deeper details and lore on it, which are no longer Canon.

It's still a "Thing" in Forgotten Realms, but it's not as big a narrative thing as it was.
If the parts of the story are not directly contradict in the rpg, then can / could still be canon. Any nothing changes for the novels, it is still canon for those stories
 

Dausuul

Legend
So what function does canon serve?
You've asked this several times, and I've been trying to frame an answer. I think I've finally got it. (Before I start, I should emphasize that I agree with WotC's decision to decanonize old material, for reasons I will get to.) Here goes:

Canon serves two functions: To enhance immersion for the audience, and to help creators establish background.

The first goal is about helping the audience to fully inhabit the world of the story, remembering past events in the story just as they would remember past events in reality. Establishing past storylines as "canon" allows the audience to do this confidently. It's disruptive and distracting to keep having to rewrite the fictional history in your head.

The second goal is about the mechanics of storytelling. Canon allows you to cut back on the amount of exposition you have to do--instead of delivering a long backstory, you can stick to the barest essentials: "These are the Daleks and they want to kill everybody." "Bilbo Baggins once went on an adventure and came back with a magic ring." Canon can then fill in the blanks for most readers. Moreover, a blank filled in by a previous story will always have greater resonance than a blank filled in by exposition; it was shown, not told.

But.

Too much insistence on canon will degrade both functions and create additional problems. In the first case, immersion suffers when bad writing and bad ideas are added to canon. This is why stuff like the Star Wars Christmas Special gets decanonized: Pretending the Christmas Special never happened is less immersion-breaking than trying to incorporate it into your mental model of the Star Wars universe.

In the second case, when canon gets too extensive, it just stops being able to fill in the blanks. "Doctor Who" can rely on its audience knowing who and what the Daleks are, but it can't rely on the audience remembering the existence of a Special Weapons Dalek in one show back in 1988.

And in both cases, the growth of canon steadily constrains what creators can do within the shared world. The more canon there is, the smaller the percentage that can be used in any given story--but all of it constrains what can be put in that story. Too much canon becomes an obstacle rather than a foundation. And this is particularly a concern in D&D, where each audience member is also part creator.

So there has to be a healthy balance, and that does require cleaning house every so often. Keep the parts of the canon that best serve immersion and exposition; get rid of the parts that don't. And it is good to let the audience know when you're doing this, so they can recalibrate their expectations instead of having to wonder constantly "Has X been decanonized now?"
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
I'm shocked that nothing official has come out yet, not even an acknowledgement of what Jeremy Crawford might have said. If not for this 1 article we'd never have heard of this. No other news outlets at press conferences have confirmed it, I checked, just the one source. I'm starting to wonder if it was CB misunderstanding something and/or just an off the cuff comment from Jeremy Crawford. For now its not official policy and the alleged decanonization of the comics/novels/pre 5e ttrpg books is still unofficial and unverified. I've checked James Wyatt's, Jeremy Crawford's, Chris Perkin's, and Ray Winninger's twitters, no evidence this ever happened.

I'm starting to think this whole thing was comicbook.com click baiting us.
I mean, they probably don't consider it that big a deal, based on previous comments on canon.
 



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