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 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." "If you’re looking for what’s official...

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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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Saracenus

Always In School Gamer
I'm not convinced that the Gen-X demographic is unimportant to WotC . . . we're just not the only demographic being catered to anymore, so it sometimes feels like we're being left behind. Welcome to getting old, I suppose! And I'm also not convinced that the majority of Gen-X gamers are opposed to the changes announced in recent weeks (focus on diversity, removal of problematic elements, less focus on maintaining canon, shorter adventure chunks) . . . a lot of us are fully on board and celebrate the changes to the game.

In fact, I have Gen-X friends who never played D&D as kids . . . but are now curious to try! And once you get a taste . . . .
I completely agree with you on this. Otherwise why would they put NPCs from the D&D cartoon into The Wild Beyond The Whichlight and have WizKids create minis for them. That is a win-win for them as it provides a touchstone for those that imprinted upon them growing up and get to re-imagine them for a new audience. Gen-X is not unimportant but design decisions are not being driven primarily by us anymore. Also count me in as one of those older gamers that is all for removing problematic elements from older material and re-imagine them for a newer, more diverse audience.
 

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Saracenus

Always In School Gamer
The good news for you is, since Wizards already revisited a section of Greyhawk in Ghosts of Saltmarsh, and it's been referenced a number of times throughout 5E, any Greyhawk setting update for 5E it will likely be closer to how they've treated the Realms - updated, with some retcons, but still broadly resembling the setting you remember (or some iteration of it). Your plan to fill in gaps with your favorite old lore will likely work.

I'll also be surprised if the Forgotten Realms gets a major reboot in this likely setting guide. Again, some retcons are possible, but it'll probably stay blandly compatible with old lore without being officially bound by it. Why mess with an approach that's worked well? Besides, they clearly said 5E game books will remain canon, and so much old Realms lore has already been brought forward.

The approach to other classic settings, however, is likely to be different, if 5E Ravenloft is any example. 5E Ravenloft shares many concepts with the original setting, but everything is just different enough that using the old material in the new setting would take some extra effort - enough that it might not be worthwhile for many older fans. This announcement may very well signal one or more similarly sweeping reboots for other settings. So some anxiety over how settings will be updated under this new policy seems fair.
Oh, I am well aware of Ghosts of Saltmarsh and its hard connection to the World of Greyhawk campaign. As a reformed Greyhawk canonista I could see where the designers paid homage and where they deviated from the previous published sources. In fact, Crawford’s post about what is D&D canon for 5e makes those deviations make sense.

For example, the Direwood’s connection to the Shadow Fell is something borrowed from the Dim Forrest farther north (though the Dim Forrest has a Shadow Dragon haunting it rather than a Night Hag). Another change is bringing a conflict from Keoland’s past forward about a 150-ish years. It makes for a more dynamic start to the lore as the tensions between Keoland and the Sea Princes are still fresh rather than the ossified state in the original publication.

Considering the self-contained nature of the Saltmarsh adventure (which is in the mode of how the publish FR material than say Ravenloft, Exandria, or Eberron) I understand how the deviations from what was published in the past serves the story they are trying to tell right now. I personally love that book and my last Greyhawk campaign (pre-COVID) used it. Right now I am adapting the Candle Keep adventure for use in a different campaign making the players part of the founding of the Great Library of Greyhawk. I will prolly steal some stuff from Strixhaven when it comes out as the Library campaign will also be tied to the schools and colleges in the City of Greyhawk. Right now I am playing in a Ravenloft campaign that my wife is running that started in heavily alternate Greyhawk and is now off and running in the domains of dread. Just wish my character had not drawn a major arcana during his tarot card reading… actually all the PCs drew major arcana…
 
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jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
The novels, at the time, were big business

They had been. Many articles and books covering specifics of the downfall of TSR indicate that, at the At the time Random House returned them (1996), they weren't. Which is why Random House returned them unsold. And, of course, the bad business deals played a part (which is why I mentioned them) but the reliance on fiction and video game tie-ins was, according to every book or article I've ever read on the subject, a part of the problem.
 
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They had been. Many articles and books covering specifics of the downfall of TSR indicate that, at the At the time Random House returned them (1996), they weren't. Which is why Random House returned them unsold. And, of course, the bad business deals played a part (which is why I mentioned them) but the reliance on fiction and video game tie-ins was, according to every book or article I've ever read on the subject, a part of the problem.
My outsider observation says that the novels were big business from the mid 80s to the early 90s, but the Star Wars EU basically swept them aside as the big geek shared novel universe by the mid 90s
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Wow! this is still going, 3 times I catch up and something intervenes before i get a comment of and I catch up again.

What kinda surprises me is that people are surprised (though not that some are overreacting) I thought it was pretty clear that is what WoTC were doing anyway. Otherwise, why publish lore in character? If not to be able to contradict other characters lore. Volo's commentary on Orcs might not match that in Deakon Scalesinger's "Ballad of Klarg Skullsplittor"

Lore/Canon/Continuity maintenance is expensive and there are practical limits to how much time and effort WoTC is going to put into that activity. A fact referenced by @Ruin Explorer already in this thread (and maybe by others).

WoTC also does not care about any single individuals money. It does not have a personal relationship with it customers. We do not buy directly from them. Even if we did they would not care because they are a mass market seller, selling a generic product to as large an audience as they can manage not creating bespoke product for individual customers. This self identification people seem to have with brand utterly confounds me.

Overall i do not expect anything to really change. The old lore will still be referenced, some new lore will occur and some setting may get a reboot or not. Time will tell.

Nothing to get too excited about.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
They had been. Many articles and books covering specifics of the downfall of TSR indicate that, at the At the time Random House returned them (1996), they weren't. Which is why Random House returned them unsold. And, of course, the bad business deals played a part (which is why I mentioned them) but the reliance on fiction and video game tie-ins was, according to every book or article I've ever read on the subject, a part of the problem.
Hence my use of the phrase, at the time.

At the end, when all of the unsold novels were returned . . . was it because the novels weren't selling as well anymore, or because they had been overprinted? And was it the inclusion of novels as integral to the D&D franchise that was the problem, or was it the crappy deal with Random House?

The same goes for another aspect that gamers tend to blame TSR's demise on, the Dragon Dice game. Was the actual game a mistake? The award-winning design? Or was it the overproduction of the game, resulting in unsold overstock in warehouses?
 

Dire Bare

Legend
My outsider observation says that the novels were big business from the mid 80s to the early 90s, but the Star Wars EU basically swept them aside as the big geek shared novel universe by the mid 90s
Yeah . . . the novels were best-sellers, big business, and well-liked by many fans . . . for a time, a time measured in decades. Then at some point, their popularity began to decline. But at what point exactly and by how much? To the point novels became unprofitable? Or was it more TSR's inability to recognize the winds of change and adjust accordingly, not overproduce product? Both in the number of titles released each year, and the volume of each title printed?
 

Yeah . . . the novels were best-sellers, big business, and well-liked by many fans . . . for a time, a time measured in decades.
If it was for a time measured in decades the measurement is 1. The first Forgotten Realms novel appears to be 1987 (with Dragonlance starting in 1984 and Gord the Rogue in 1985) and TSR was dead a decade later.

But given Realms novels kept coming even after WotC took over it appears to be TSR's management that was the problem.
 

TheSword

Legend
I think there are three parts to the issue with Canon.
  • Our need to nail things down to specifics and really get into the details
  • The completionist/collector urge that makes us want to have possession or be comprehensive in our understanding.
  • The written nature of cannon (or at least reference-able in the case of computer games). We all love a good reference.
It’s not a healthy combination. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of treating your hobby as an academic discipline rather than a collection of made up stuff by creatives.

The 5e unreliable narrator method is very clever because it doesn’t invalidate lore for those that want to use it. While at the same time it can’t be used to bind future publications and writers.

No one at WOC is saying that Lord Mourngrym Amcathra can’t be lord of Shadowdale between 1353 DR and 1375 DR. Just that they aren’t obliged to refer to it, or even stick to it if their story needs to go another way.

I sincerely hope they retcon the prism Pentad when they do Dark Sun because that series did away with the most interesting villains in the setting. Doesn’t mean I don’t really enjoy the books. They inform the flavor of the setting. All of 5e is a reboot and as long as what it releases is fun and doesn’t d!€k all over the previous incarnations by describing how all people’s favorite characters explode in flames I think they are fine.
 

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