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Dungeons & Dragons: Cannonicity

Published by Deer Lord in the blog Deer Lord's blog. Views: 195

So, as you know I've been doing a lot of calculations for D&D as of late, and I figured I would at some point make a respect thread to compile all the feats and lore and stuff.

But in order for that to make sense, I'll make a few blogs to make sense out of some stuff.
This one, in particular will deal with different levels of canon in D&D.
I'll make a few more later this week to deal with other things like Cosmology, High powers of the verse, etc.

There's a tl;dr at the bottom if you can't be arsed to read all of this

So, the first thing that I should clear up is that D&D isn't so much a franchise, or verse as it is a system to build franchises upon.

That said you can roughly divide material regarding D&D into four groups:
  • "Core" material
  • Specific settings
  • 3rd Party
  • Homebrew
To make sense of that we have to ask a few questions.

What is a 'Campaign Setting'?

The Campaign setting is the world in which the game is played.
Most settings have a few things in common like the existence of a Material plane as well as other planes of existence, the presence of monsters in the world, existance of gods, etc.

A campaign setting can be entirely made up by the DM, however there are some settings that have been given "official" support and status by Wizards of the Coast (the guys who make D&D).
These settings include: Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Eberron, Dragonlance, Mystara, Spelljammer and others.

Its important to note that each of this is its own continuity, and even though some characters can appear in more than one, scaling between them is shoddy to say the least.

If you don't wish to use an established setting and just want to play by the basic rulebooks then you are essentially playing the "core setting".

Which brings us to...

What is 'Core'?

Core = The essentials.
Player's handbook, DM guide, Monster Manual and all the various supplements to them (like manual of the planes, complete divine, various compendiums, etc.)
All the sourcebooks not pertaining to a specific setting are considered 'Core'.
For this reason, Core material is generally canon to most settings unless stated otherwise.

To expand on this we have to get into Editions.
Every once in a while the game system goes through revisions and a new Edition of the game is put out.
'Core setting' usually changes along with that.
The Core setting was pretty much based on the Greyhawk setting (which is the original setting in D&D) upto and including 3rd edition, its cosmology, pantheon, famous figures, everything was lifted off of Greyhawk.
This changed with 4th edition.
4th edition overhauled everything to the extreme, mainly borrowing from Forgotten Realms (which has become the most popular setting). To be honest, 4th edition Core is so different many players consider it it's own beast (it even has a fan name- "Points of light setting").
WotC have also basically retconned all of it with 5th edition anyway...
Nowadays with 5th edition D&D there is no official setting Core is modeled after. The player's handbook and DM guide for this edition just give a layout and leave much of the things that make a setting, such as the world itself, pantheon and such for the DM to decide.
WotC are however pushing mainly the Forgotten Realms as their go-to setting.

So to sum it up, Primary canon thus far is Core material+official settings

What is 3rd party material?

Exactly what it sounds like.
These are supplements made by 3rd parties using the D&D system.
Stuff made by 3rd party isn't canon to the things I wrote about above, but all those materials are canon to stuff made by 3rd party.
3rd party material is were crazy things like Neutronium Golem comes from.
It's sort of like the EU of D&D if you will.


That's the easiest to explain. Homebrew is everything the DM/Players make up as they go.
You made a new race for the game? and new world? a new pantheon of gods?
Congrats you just made homebrew.
In a vs setting including Homebrew would get you into crazy fanfic territory, but it's still relevant in the meta level I guess (yes, there's that...).

  • Campaign setting = worlds to play in of which there are official ones supported by WotC
  • Core Material = all the stuff in the basic rulebooks and its supplements
  • 'Core setting' = The default setting presented in the core material, used to be Greyhawk before 4e, then became weird, now with 5e there isn't really a default setting
  • Primary canon = Core+official settings
  • No you can't scale between settings, but feats from Core material can apply to most
  • 3rd party= secondary canon = sorta like an EU
  • Homebrew= stuff people make up at home

And that's it for now, I'll use my next blog to discuss cosmology, which is another headache.
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