Thoughts on CDev Q&A – Canon, or Non-Canon?

The Creative Devlopment team disappointed me a few days ago. Overall, I liked the Q&A. It’s just one answer that felt like a letdown. You might be thinking I’m disappointed that they said the RPG books are non-canon. If so, you are… well… not quite right. I mean that in a “close but not quite correct” sort of way. Not a “something a little crazy about you” sort of way.

Don’t tell people I said you aren’t crazy. I simply said that’s not how I meant “not quite right” this time.

Here’s the Q, as well as the A from Bashiok:

Q: Are the Warcraft and World of Warcraft RPG books considered canon?

A: No. The RPG books were created to provide an engaging table-top role-playing experience, which sometimes required diverging from the established video game canon. Blizzard helped generate a great deal of the content within the RPG books, so there will be times when ideas from the RPG will make their way into the game and official lore, but you are much better off considering the RPG books non-canonical unless otherwise stated.

A lot of folks read that and get, “No, the RPG books are not canon.” I read it and get, “No, the RPG books are not canon… except for when they are.”

That’s my problem with the answer. It sounds to me like we’ve been told some of it is canon, some of it’s non-canon, and it’s best to just assume it’s non-canon unless you’re specifically told it is. This isn’t really an answer on what’s canon and what’s not; it’s a piece of advice. Like, “Hmm… I don’t know what to tell you. Just make sure you take an umbrella with you, I guess.”

A Sensible Way to Apply the Advice

The answer to the question says you’re better off considering the information non-canon “unless otherwise stated”. I’m not looking for Blizzard to start slapping stickers on things anytime soon that say, “RPG books are CANON on this subject! :) ” A sensible way to apply this would be to discount the RPG books in cases where they conflict with other canon sources, but accept the RPG books as a source of specific information (such as the population of a city) when it doesn’t conflict with anything else.

That’s been my biggest use of information from the RPG books… details that don’t exist anywhere else. Especially about the world. Azeroth is bigger than it looks in game. In Christie Golden’s Arthas, Arthas and Jaina set out with a group traveling from his home to Dalaran. (Think : Undercity to Dalaran Crater.) They have to stop and make camp for the night after several hours of traveling. Does it take YOU that long to make that trip? In The Last Guardian, Khadgar and Medivh fly all night on gryphons… Khadgar even falling asleep during the flight… to make it from Medivh’s tower to Stormwind as soon as possible. (Why didn’t Medivh just open a portal? I don’t know.) Have YOU ever taken that long to fly from Stormwind to Karazhan?

The RPG books have been handy for giving approximate population numbers and descriptions of parts of cities we don’t see in the game. In my opinion, this is a situation where it would be sensible to assume the information is valid unless it’s explicitly stated that it is not. The reverse of the advice the CDev Q&A gave us.

Lorenerd rage is Not Sensible

You might be a lorenerd if…

You have written blog posts to respond to a lore point on someone else’s blog because your comment was just getting too damn long.

New lore debates spawn within the comments on lore posts.

You get paid to write about lore when you were already doing it for free.

If you had to describe Vrykerion in one word, it would be “lorenerd”… and you mean it as a great compliment.

You’ve let cookies burn because you were following a lore debate on Twitter. (I can’t find the tweet about it now, but trust me… it happened!)

Most a of the folks I consider my “fellow lorenerds” are very reasonable people. We love discussing the story, and when we disagree it gives us a chance to look at why we see it differently… which gives us a chance to look at an old detail in a new way. I probably should make a “You Might Be a Lorenerd If…” post one day, because this was really just a teeny, tiny sample. It doesn’t even count as a crumb from the Delicious Chocolate Cake of Lorenerdom.

There are lorenerds I’d rather not discuss lore with, though. You know them. If you haven’t come across them in WoW, you’ve probably come across them somewhere else. The “rules lawyer” in a D&D group, for example. That one guy who has memorized every freakin’ detail of every freakin’ EVERYTHING that even remotely seems to be a valid source, just so he can insist that ignoring the spirit of the rule in order to follow the letter of the rule makes it perfectly acceptable for him to do something he shouldn’t, or for someone else to be forbidden to do something they should.

Unless Blizzard did start slapping that, “RPG books are CANON here! :)” sticker on things, this breed of lorenerd will argue until the death that RPG books are not a valid source no matter how reasonable it is in a particular case to see it as such.

Likewise, others would find a way to argue almost ANYTHING is reasonable if they want it to be true. They would find some way to say two sources “don’t really contridict each other when you look at them THIS way”, even if they had to make half of it up on their own. Which could be exactly why the advice was to assume it’s non-canon unless stated otherwise.

The REALLY Important Issue With This Answer!

I was going to do a post on Brann Bronzebeard soon. Of all the fictional characters in all the books, movies, games, etc I’ve seen in my life, Brann Bronzebeard is my fictional hero. I want to be more like him. If he were a real person, I would LOVE to meet him! I think the world needs more Brann Bronzebeards. I would love to tell you why.

But I have very little in the way of canon sources for that now. I don’t know anymore what Blizzard agrees Brann has or hasn’t done in a lot of cases.

I could argue that the letter he supposedly wrote to King Magni about the fighting in Alterac Valley isn’t outside of his character, nor would it be outside of King Magni’s character to feel it wasn’t the best thing to follow his little brother’s advice in that case. I can’t see that it does any harm, or becomes “game changing”, to believe Brann Bronzebeard wrote that letter. But it comes from the RPG books.

Much of what we know about Nerubians (>8<) comes from what Brann supposedly learned when he supposedly got safe passage and supposedly got the ones who weren’t undead to agree to work with us against the Lich King. But… that comes from the RPG books.

What makes Brann Bronzebeard so wonderful in my opinion can only be explained if I can tell you the whole story. I can no longer promise that what I see as “the whole story” really is part of the story at all.

A Line in the Sand

The Battle of the Alamo was, in many ways, the Thermopylae of Texas, as the Wrathgate was the Thermopylae of Azeroth.

(I know, I know… the Battle for Light’s Hope CHapel actually references it, but the defenders WON at Light’s Hope Chapel. Wrathgate was more like Thermopylae. DO NOT MAKE ME LORENERDRAGE ON YOU!)

There is a plaque on the ground at the Alamo where a line is permanently drawn in the dirt. The story is that one of the defenders drew a line with his sword and informed the men there that they would, almost certainly, die at the Alamo if they stayed to fight. He then called for any who were willing to fight anyway to cross the line with him. Some legends tell that one of them so was too sick to get up from his cot, but had a couple of other men carry him across the line. Most of the stories say only one man didn’t cross the line, ad I forget exactly how his story ends but it is something to the effect of, “So he left, but then bad things happened because that’s what you get when you run from a righteous cause.”

I remember reading something many years ago where someone said there is no way of knowing for certain whether that line was draw or not. It likely didn’t happen, but it could have. And they said it does no harm to believe it. The fight happens the same way, and the end result is the same, whether the line was drawn or not. The men fought and died for the same reason, whether they crossed a line first or not. So why argue that an absence of proof means it shouldn’t be believed? Why not just point out there’s no proof either way, then let people believe it happened if they want to?

That is, at times, the approach it seems necessary to take with the lore in WoW. Blizzard has woven a tale that has multiple dead ends in places, multiple versions of one event that what you believe depends on which race you are, and they don’t always come along and clear things up for us. Exploring the lore is like exploring history. It often seems one thing happened, and there’s the documents to back it up. Then you get further down the road, new documents show up, someone who was supposed to be dead is alive, and you have to consider that your first source was biased. And maybe this source is biased, too. So you have to decide what you believe happened.

Some things can be proven. Look at your map. Ironforge is not in the middle of Mulgore. This is not up for debate. But maybe we need to give each other some wiggle room and make it acceptable to say, “This is how I see it…” and agree to disagree more often. Because, really, Blizzard’s answer wasn’t much of an answer. They just told us to take an umbrella with us.

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8 Responses to Thoughts on CDev Q&A – Canon, or Non-Canon?

  1. Apple says:

    Amen! I am not as big a lorenerd as some, but I like to know what’s going on, and you don’t always get that with the in-game info. I am a big fan of interpretation, figuring out how two apparently conflicting pieces of “canon” might actually fit together, and people being allowed to have their own (logical, well-thought-out) theories that can’t be proven or disproven that they can treat as canon if they need to fill a gap for one reason or another.

    Also, SO looking forward to the post on Brann. :D Lis met him! She liked him quite a bit.

    • So… I should go ahead with the Brann post? Even if a bunch of it might be non-canon?

      • Apple says:

        Definitely. Just make a note of when something comes from the RPG books, and maybe lead off with a paragraph about how the canonicity is questionable, but there’s nothing in the game currently that contradicts it and you are inclined to take it as canonical.

        I mean, some things being different because of gameplay things I get, but there’s no reason Brann backstory should be non-canonical, y’know?

      • Oh, please *do* make the Brann post! I want to read your thoughts on the clever old codger :)

  2. Rades says:

    The Brann/Nerubians is a perfect example of how I interpret their Q&A answer. Yes, Brann’s letter told us much about Azjol-Nerub, and about the Nerubians, who we never really knew anything about until Wrath of the Lich King. And up until that point, Brann’s info was the only info we had to go off.

    Well, what do you know? Wrath came out and we got to see inside Azjol-Nerub, and some of the things he had written about were accurate. And then Cataclysm came out, with Nerubian artifacts, and more of what he wrote became canon.

    So obviously some of the facts in the books came true. Also, some things are obviously true and based off the other established WoW lore – there are four elemental lords, there are Pandaren, etc. These are 100% verified and true, so anyone saying “Everything in the RPG books is false” is purposefully ignoring basic common sense.

    I shrug and don’t personally get too concerned about what they said. It’s important to realize that the Q&A didn’t say “The RPG books are FALSE” but rather, they’re not 100% confirmed until we see them in-game. And you know what? I’m completely fine with that. I’ll continue to use the books as legitimate sources until the game proves me otherwise.

    One such example from the RPG books is how Neptulon is cruel and evil, the only one of the Elemental Lords to be so. Now, we haven’t personally seen him display an evil side (yet), though we HAVE seen a vicious – though not necessarily cruel – side in the form of books that tell of when he destroyed the Gurubashi. Does this mean the book is wrong, and that he’s a nice guy? Do the in-game texts that tell of the Gurubashi demise indicate that the RPG books are 100% RIGHT? Nope, neither. It just means that we haven’t seen this side of him yet, or that he’s changed since the book was written, etc. Just because A doesn’t equal B right now doesn’t mean that A was completely wrong.

  3. Vrykerion says:

    Despite my own humorous rantings on the topic (thanks for the link btw), I thought the answer that was given was logical although poorly worded. The way I see it is: “Assume the RPG books are canon until they are contradicted” if something in WoW contradicts something in the RPG books, WoW is correct. Otherwise, assume the RPG books are correct. This is, as some prefer to call it, “tiered canon”. Tier X canon is only canon unless contradicted/clarified/corrected by a higher tier of canon (WoW currently being considered Tier 1, the novels are probably tier 2, and the RPG books are tier 3.)

    That info isn’t necessarily worthless as it is possibly subject to change. If you want a more in-character explanation for how this would work, go with Rades explanation. Or the one used with quite often with the Draenei (“Yes, we the players know that’s incorrect, but would the people of stormwind who don’t have WoWpedia know that?” ie seperation of player knowledge and character knowledge)

  4. Rades, Vrykerion… the two of you have kind of illustrated my problem with the answer. It makes sense to assume it’s canon until there’s a contridiction, then always assume it’s the RPG book that is non-canon in those cases. But thinking is not a popular hobby these days, and I don’t look forward to running into lore discussions where this becomes an issue. It’s not just the fact that they did NOT definitively say “the RPG books are false” (though some people will take it that way), but that they said to do the opposite of this thing that makes so much sense. I don’t look forward to explaining why I’m more than willing to ammend my view of things once there’s a contridiction, but until that happens I’m going off what’s availble… and then have the other person say, “Blizzard said just assume it’s not canon unless they say specifically that it is.” Because, sadly, that is what Blizzard said.

    I’m not really concerned about having to change my own view of the lore. It just gives me one more reason not to want to talk to people.

    • Vrykerion says:

      If you want some kind of overall rule to go by when discussing lore with other people -

      “so there will be times when ideas from the RPG will make their way into the game and official lore…non-canonical unless otherwise stated”

      There’s the key. :D “Otherwise Stated” is “When it’s in WoW.” Otherwise it’s non-canonical. Full stop. Because at that point, it’s no longer RPG Book Canon, it’s WoW Canon that just happened to be originally mentioned in XYZ book.

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