Comments about Canon

Likewise, I'm sure.

Yes, it is. Or it can be. Words often have more than one meaning, but you're aggressively ignoring any except one narrow use, in your narrow context. And the fact that you're refusing to admit that doesn't change the truth of it.

Only authorities determine canon - we agree on that. In this case, the Authority is Atlas and their editorial staff. And that staff allows writers to create canon - we agree on that. They edit it, but the canon comes through that process. Cool.

Then who is it for?

Because "canon" is meaningless until its applied. It cannot exist in a vacuum, since "correct" is meaningless unless "incorrect" is a possibility. In religion, "canon" is doctrinal interpretation and world view, as practiced and understood by priests and the faithful. A priest does not create canon, but he does practice and preach canon. So altho' religious canon is not affected by the masses, canon does exist in and through those masses.

And that's paralleled by StoryGuides and players. And just as canon can be changed by religious authorities (How "saints" are viewed/created, as a recent RL example), so the AM authorities can change game canon. But until you do change it, it remains constant as played and previously understood.

If the Pope decided that Saints needed revising, but didn't tell anyone, there would be one canon according to the Vatican, the (for sake of argument) "Authority", but there would be another "canon" as understood and practiced by the priests and the masses. And they're both "canon" in one sense of the word (just not the same sense). The moment the Authority announces the change, that second "canon" now becomes heresy and outdated - but not until then.

(And while this change in "edition" raises questions with other parts, no other part is changed unless officially changed.)

Because just like RL religions, unless you claim that 5th ed AM is an entirely different and completely unrelated game (and then we wonder why it's called "Ars Magica"), those relations exist - and part of that is the carryover of previous understanding of canon. You can deny it (and I'm sure there is some RL religious parallel there between practitioners and authorities changing religious doctrine), but the fact remains that in practice until it's changed, it's not.

There is canon as decided by the authority, and that canon is then understood and practiced by the masses. These need not be different - hopefully they are not, until a new version comes out. And then, oddly enough, only what has changed has changed.

(Edit - In hindsight, comparing AM to a religion is, perhaps, not the best choice. Certainly some parallels fail. But the dynamics of "canon" within the hierarchies works for me.)

Ah - I see. All this is based on your assumption of that. Or perhaps on some unpublished knowledge, not available to players. Or can you point somewhere in 5th ed core book where I should have understood that?

I'm happy to admit that I'm assuming the opposite, but based on pre-existing canon, as opposed to... whatever your view is based on. If that's the only difference in our views, then... meh.

Not only that, but that has become mainstream acceptance by previous editorial decision (as opposed to any confusion or misinterpretation).

The Houses, the Tribunals, even the Spells, all had quirks and personalities from previously established AM doctrine, from "canon" - I'm saying that those were not changed by default until they were changed by act. The moment a new book came out, they changed - but until then, for players, they had been continuing exactly as they had been pre 5th ed. Call it intertia, call it "assumption of facts not in evidence" - butcha can't say it didn't happen - because for every 4th ed player (who was not privy to internal Atlas secret ninja stuff), it did. :wink:

The problem is that the word "canon" is dancing between usages, between an editorial theoretical canon and a player's practical canon.

When you or any editor states "there is no canon", that makes sense if it means that no writer should feel constrained by what was written before - it's open season. If you want to write that House Bonisagus were the ones to become vampires, or that Tytalus are lepers, go for it (might not eventually be accepted, but "there is no canon", so don't let anything previously written stop you as a writer - "no canon").

However, for players, there is an effective canon until those changes are published, even if writers are encouraged to ignore it. There has to be, because players don't know what will/won't be changed. There even has to be for editors, because unless they are, indeed, creating a brand new world from whole cloth, they view the new writing in the shadow of the previous (...say it with me...) "existing canon". They are free to ignore that shadow, just as a new tide ignores sandcastles, but it's still there until it's not.

So - concerns of canon are the concerns of players who care about meshing their world with published material. But concerns of canon are not concerns of players who are not advancing that canon for the product line. And concerns of canon are not concerns of writers if that "canon" is from a previous ed, and the editorial policy is one of change. But concerns of canon are of concern to writers with regard to any aspect that's been concretized, that has been given the official editorial "this shall not be changed" stamp of approval.

The only "wrong" statement is to claim that only some of these apply, or that some are false because others are true.

Yes, it is. Or it can be. Words often have more than one meaning, but you're aggressively ignoring any except one narrow use, in your narrow context. And the fact that you're refusing to admit that doesn't change the truth of it.
The narrow context is the use of the term in Ars Magica fandom. That seems a relevant context.

And so your bit before about David running the OED was...what? Flummery?

Then who is it for?
It is a continuity tool for authors.

Its application is as a continuity tool for writers and playtesters.

Your interpretation of religious canon is both wrong (because the masses can reject canon in all major denominations of Christianity, including Catholicism) and irrelevant in this case.

No, it doesn't because the function is not one for the "masses". Canon is not for players. It is a tool for playtesters and authors.

If the Pope makes no pronouncement he isn't acting as Pope: announcement ex cathedra is necessary for him to change canon. Therefore your example fails due to your lack of understanding of the role of Pope.

It's also not relvant, because there are no "masses" in Ars canon. Canon isn't for players.

All parts of all previous editions have been offically placed outside of canon. All users of the canon (authors and playtesters) have been told that this is the case.

Canon in Ars is pracitced by authors and playtesters, not by players. Your paralell fails.

Not, it isn't. I think you might do better to compare to the Holmes canon, or the continuity of comic books, than the Catholic canon. 8) ArM5 was Year One. Things started from scratch. Now if they seem to be unfolding in a familiar pattern in some ways, that's not because of an underlying canon that they are holding to, it's because the new canon happens to share ideas that were in the old canon, before it was decommissioned.

That's not existing canon though, it's decanonised material. I'm not saying people do not use decanonised material. Of course they do. I'm just saying your inistence that its "canonical" is false, because that's not what canon means. In Ars Magica canon is specific: it's a continuity tool. Canon is explicitly not some sort of guide as to the way you should play, as demonstrated by the factthat everyone says they do not play a strictly canonical saga. The setting and the canon are different, not simply because of your negotiations with your players, but because the setting is designed with a certain amount of flex in it, so that it has ideas which are canonical but not part of the core setting, like many of the Mysteries, for example.

Now, in your home game, you can choose to reuse ideas from the old canon if you wish, and that's all fine. We only argue when you insist that this is somehow partof current canon. It simply isn't. You, as someone who does not use the canon, then inists that it works the way you say it works, when, to me as someone who uses it, it clearly doesn't wotk that way, and is not designed to work that way. When I point this out, you tell me that's just my opinion. Actually, no, it's not. Things works the way they work. At the bootom of all thesemantic games, there's a point where the physical process of the construction of the material in the books put a ruler of actual real outcome over the whole thing, and at that point the idea that the canon is a thing for players fails, because that's not what the tool'sfor, and its not how the tool's used, and if you are using the next tool in the box and calling it the canon, well, I'm sorry, but that;s just not what it is.

You're absolutely right, the word "canon" is dancing between usages and that is the problem.

I think if we could agree on more precise words that distinguish the different usages then not only would this debate be over, but a lot of other debates would be more lucid and probably less heated. Certainly there would be more understanding in the "what makes you say that?" kinds of discussions.

I'm still a bit frustrated that Cuchulainshound is using the word "canon" to mean something different from what I (and Timothy, and Mark Shirley, and David Chart...) use it to mean. However I'm convinced that the concept-that-Cuchulainshound-calls-canon is of great practical importance.

The unfortunate thing is that this debate leaves us without the very thing that is so important to being able to discuss the game and the game world: a shared understanding of exactly what that game world includes (and what it excludes).

Well, the thing he's talking about is what I'd call the previous canon in loose speech. It actually wasn't the previous canon because, for example, you have things in it like "Sanctuary of Ice", which was deuterocanonical rather than canonical. (What does duterocanonical mean? It meant I was allowed to ignore bits of canon and do high fantasy-for-the-then-baseline stuff without binding other authors to it.)

If what he means is those bits of the old canon which people use, in their own games, to fill in the blank bits of current canon, then, I've often seen it called "apocrypha" on this forum, and I'd be happy with that. I'd be even happier if apocrypha didn't mean "hidden". So, I tend to think of it as Old Canon, even though I know that its not actually 4th edition canon, because it has a lot of Sanctuary of Ice in it, in my case.

In discussions of the book, I often see the rules-as-written, the canon and what used to be called the "vanilla setting" mistraken for each other. I distinguish them as follows:

  • the rules as written are the rules as errataed. I know that's not what we say, but its clearly what we mean when we use the RAW in ddiscussion.
  • the canon is made up of the facts which authors cannot change in setting without a special dispensation from David. This means that things like the Marco stories in Covenants aren't canon (and indeed, that's how they were designed.) and back when 4th had a canon, SoI wasn't canon.
  • the vanilla setting, a name I dislike because I personally think vanilla is a smashing flavour for ice cream and pudding, are the facts known in game by characters, or discoverable by them, which have been described by the canonical books. This has led to some debates as to if the rules as written model the setting, or the setting models the rules as written, which to my mind demonstrated clearly that the RAW and the vaniila setting are not the same thing. I don't wish to reignite the "should the book rules model the experience rules or the setting as so far described" debate here. Thwe vanilla setting is a play contract negotiation tool.
  • your game is your twist on the vanilla setting, or whatever else you are doing and calling Ars. You -cannot- play a game in the vanilla setting. No-one does and people who -try- are still not doing it, because the vanilla setting isn't sufficently complete. It's just a dfoundation for your discussion of how you want your game to run. You have a game contract and you are playing to that game contract, even if you don't go through a formal process of creating it. That's not in the vanilla setting, and indeed cannot be the vanilla setting, because it has deliberately vague bits in it, bits that are neither in nor out. Ancient Magic, for example, doesn't posit that every, or any specific, story is true in the vanilla setting. The vanilla setting does not include every, or any specific, Mystery Cult, beyonf the Exoteric House Cults. It includes Mysteries, but then deliberately doesn't say what that means, and tells you to work that out in your own game. It implies that at least some of the Ancient Magics exist, but no specific one is in thecore setting. In your game, at the point it matters for a story, Ladon can't be kinda-of-in-and-kind-of-out of the setting.

So: example: Ladon's combat stats are rules as written. He is described in the canon, so if another author wants to describe him, he's constrained to use him much as he is. He's described as a possible but not certain part of the vanilla setting. He may or may not exist in your home game.

Now, the question I think Cuchulainshound is feeling toward is, in my language, "What's vanilla?" He posits that the things which were mentioned in ArM4, but not mentioned since, are part of what I'd call the vanilla setting, I believe, with his sand castle argument.

Now, my answer is that, no, they are part of your game, and my game, and Andrew's game, but they aren't in the vanilla setting, because the vanilla setting is deliberately kept a little bit sparse and bland, so you can put your game over the top of it.

So, for example, do hopolitic marshals exist in the vanilla setting? No, I don't think they do. I don't think they have ever been mentioned in an ArM5 book. I could well be wrong...they might be in Rhine, say. This is a trick, of course because Hopilitic marshals have never been in canon (because they were in SoI and it wasn't canon.) Do the turn up in my games? Sure. Am I going to sneak them back in at some point? Sure! Actually, I might have done it in Normandy in Confluensis. It sounds like the sort of thing I'd do. I don't remember if I did, though.

So, what do we call this mass of stuff which people mine for ideas, but which isn't in the canon-as-the-authors-use-the-word and so isn't in the vanilla setting, although it turns up in the games of virtually everyone who was here in 4th edition? Extending it to include useful stuff everyone uses but which isn't in the rules, like some of the stuff which has come out of the magazines, we have a mass of inspirational but non-canonical material. Now, I presume that this is where the name "apocrypha " came from, because that's the function of he apocryphal books of the Bible: to inspire but not to be seen as prescriptive. And so, for lack of a better word, for me, that material's "aprocryphal". I also sometimes call it old or historical, in which case I'd argue a sort of paralell with the Deposit of Faith.

Now troupes, when creating their own setting from the vanilla, an opening gambit, often tacit, in the negotiation of the play contract is that all uncontradicted 4th edition material be accepted as part of this game;s setting. That's fine, but it is still part of the negotiation at a gaming table of a particular troupe. That's not in the vanilla setting, A group who has not played Ars before 5th doesn't use any of this material because they don't negotiate it into their play contract.

Now -here- is where Cuchulainshound and I part company. You may have thought we parted company before, but no, here's the real humdinger:

What I like about "aprocryphal" in this sense, is that it doesn't differentiate between inspiring things which have been replaced in canon (Tremere vampires) inspiring things which people have heard about but which have never been in canon (most of Ben and Lachie's stuff in SR), inspiring things that might or might not have been canon back when presented because none of us know those old guys (lightning magi were presented in a throwaway line in the House Flambeau section of 2nd edition "Order of Hermes" and may have been a plot hook, and plot hooks arguably aren't vanilla setting or canon.)
and inspiring things which have not been replaced in canon (The Queen of the Maddehoffen Woods).

And I like that. I like that the acknowledgement that there's no difference between a "Presume ArM4 unless contradicited" agreement and a "Presume Tremere vampies" agreement and a "We only have three books and haven't played before, let's add Xena!" agreemnt, because in fact there isn't any difference between these options, in your home game. The big difference is that CH seems to be suggesting that the Presume ArM4 agreement is nominal, part of every game where it is not negotiated away. That may be how he playes his home games, but that's not the intention of the current line of books, where players are meant to be able to use ArM5 as a jumping on point, as I understand it. "Presume ArM4 unless contradicited." is popular, sure, but its not the vanilla setting, it is part of the play agreement built on top of the vanilla setting, which only includes material from ArM5.

Canon's not for players, and so the relationship of their inspiritational material to the vanilla setting matters, for their discussions of their game contract if it uses the vanilla settign as a starting point, but the relation of their inspirational material to the canon doesn't matter. Now, you can crank the "Knowledgable players argue if you change stuff" line, but I'd point out that's because you and they have entered into a tacit play contrat in which you have agreed "Presume ArM4 unless contradicted". That's not canon: that's a your play contract, and its no different than if I say Players get annoyed in my Ars Julian May Game if Creativity is can be done with Abilities and Free Expression" because we had a tacit agreement that Creativity was Creo. It similarly has no bearing on canon or the vanilla setting because canon is a tool for authors, and the vanilla setting is a play contract negotiating tool.

If I may?

CH, think about World of Darkness 2.0

The moment it was released, all previous WoD books ceased to be canon, as, in practice, WoD 2.0 was a new game.
Some bits of the old WoD may come back in WoD 2.0, and thus become officially a part of it (and thus canon) or they may not.
Some GM may take bits of that old WoD ("old canon") and use it. Sometimes, it'll be contradicted, sometimes not.

That's the way you gotta think about it: Ars 5th is like a reboot of the game, so all previous books have no "official" value, no binding value. Authors and players can mine them for inspiration (and they do!), but that's all.

The difference between Ars and WoD being that there are more differences between the WoDs that Ars editions, that all.

I hope this helped you a bit.

I think the common usage and definition of the word as its used in at least all gaming communities i know of or is a part of is a good start dont you?
Of course, that means Chuch is more correct and you less so.

And separately for the players. Saying that canon isnt for the players is like saying the game isnt meant for the players.

Ah, so in your worldview the players are irrelevant to a game? :unamused:

And as a player that is a completely impossible way to start a game, because this means there is no background world until additional publications(except the one that already exists but we are not allowed to use because its not officially proper...).
Being able to allow players to rely on previous canon material UNTIL its been replaced by CURRENTLY canon material is one of the biggest advantages Ars Magica has.

Its similar to when B5wars made its reboot to 2nd edition, rules changed completely and the system was totally rewritten, but the background wasnt changed unless specifically so. The background that was canon in 1st ed was still valid and useful except when superceeded by any modifications, even though the gamesystem was new.

The original "unseens" from 1st ed Battletech are still canon in 5th ed background even if never pictured in original form due to the copyright fight FASAs unthinking borrowing of pictures from some animes caused.

You seem to be putting alot of the definition for RAW into the meaning of canon.

No - I just can't be bothered.

I'm not going to debate you, I'm just going to point out that I've never said anything of the kind and ignore you from now on.

Saying that canon is not for players, no that pretty much IS saying that players are irrelevant.

Its a pity if you consider such a simple and basic statement reasons for ignoring.

As so much other you have said in this thread, its pettyminded and lacking objectivity and selfdistance.

Dont bother then.

What is it that people want from this discussion. It just seems self-defeating.

It's pretty clear that the official line is that a new edition of the game (and it does feel strange alluding to the fifth edition as "new") wipes the slate clean as far as "canon" is concerned. That's the meaning that's being adopted by those who are in a position to decide upon canon. I'm a (very) small part of that and for what it's worth I agree with that definition.

As a long-time player, do I still love and use content from previous editions? Of course I do. Am I geeky enough to contrive stories for my players that explain the transition between what previous editions says and what's canon now? Of course I am. Three sessions to explain one paragraph about the ex Misc Council of Four? You bet! But I'd think twice before trying to do that in anything that might actually get printed. I'll use and abuse Sub Rosa for things that skirt the canon issue.

We could make up any number of names and phrases to denote one simple idea: I'll use anything I want when I want and why I want. For some, that's a complete rejection of whole Houses, for others its a House rule on penetration, and for others it's the dogged determination that their story around vampiric Tremere is the best (I do fall into one of those categories but I won't muddy the water by stating which one... but I will say that House Flambeau rocks and wards do need to penetrate).

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter. The writing of the line takes a very sensible view that there are very few sacred cows (which would probably be outside paradigm in any case). And such holy bovines as there may have been have probably all been addressed by now. And that's canon. That's what the word means in context.

But as players, without the obligation to the purchasing public to put aside previous editions, we will draw upon everything we've absorbed year after year. If I send my players to Rome, I'm going to layer on all the bits I love from the Roman Tribunal book (many more than you might think). That's not canon, that's my bookshelf. And I reserve the right to use my bookshelf for any and all stories I write for my loyal, long-suffering, wonderful players.

Keep your apocrypha or your "old canon" or your deuterocanonicity. I'm calling it bookshelf. Canon is what I write, bookshelf is what I play.

Isn't there one sense in which canon is for players?

A player or Storyguide might ask, 'is this canon?'; meaning, 'if I incorporate this into my game, will it be coherent with everything else that has been written in the official books, and will efforts be made to ensure that what is written in the future is consistent with it?'

Have I got that right? Or am I misunderstanding?

I wouldn't say that it's impossible. Some troupes manage to play for years with nothing more than the main rulebook.

It's a term as good as any other, if you can get everyone to use it when we have these discussions. 8)

I was hoping to get to a point where Cuchulainshound and I could get some sort of agreement in basic terms. You never know: it might happen one of these iterations.

But, yeah...right now I'm just not feeling that the thread's worth the effort.

Well, I can't speak for others, but can tell you what I want from this discussion.

When someone says something like

I want to know which House Flambeau he's talking about, without having a massive flamewar to find out. Houses of Hermes: Societates, or Tribunals of Hermes: Iberia? Or some fusion of the two? (Thank you, btw ... I think :wink: )

That, to me, is what canon is for. Somebody says something, everybody knows what he's referring to. I do not feel that the definition of "what is House Flambeau" should really require a lengthy discussion to sort out. ("What should House Flambeau be?" or "what is House Flambeau in your game" are separate questions entirely, and definitely would require a lengthy discussion.)

You hit the nail on the head. Yes, that is the fundamental reason canon exists. That's the reason why the Line Editor has to make decisions about what is canon and what isn't.

If you're talking "canon", there's only one to worry about.

If you're talking "bookshelf"... take your pick. I can't reach my old first edition copy so I can't check whether House Flambeau is even mentioned in there, but that leaves at least four bookshelf versions to choose from.

That's the problem. According to your definition of canon and mine (which are the same AFAIK) there is just one. According to some other people's definition of canon, there is a whole lot more room for doubt and ambiguity because their usage of the word is a lot closer to your "bookshelf."

It's not. Houses were introduced in Second Edition. I remember because at the time I thought they were a bad idea.

OK, so this is a different question to the one we have been batting around, which is "What's in the canon?"

Irt's right as far as it goes, but I think you are missing an important step. Well, for me it's an important step.

Canon is a tool to make makes the core setting coherent, sure. You use the core setting to negotiate your setting with your troupe. Your game's not set in the core setting, because no-one's is.

Now, this brings up a point: there's material which is fully canonical but is not embraced completely by the core setting. Mysteries and ancient magic, for example, exist, but which ones, precisely exist is not part of the setting. Canonicity doesn't help you to make that decision, because its a decision only you and your troupe can make as part of your play contract for your personal game. "Its canon" doesn't, in this case, IMO, tell you that its contents will be embraced by all future books in the line.

My take on the canon is this:

The whole game is a tool designed to help you with your home game. That's the point.
The core setting is designed to help you negotiate your home game's setting.
The canon keeps the vanilla setting consistent.

The canon therefore is, for a player, less important than their home setting. I'd like to flag here that changes in the core a setting don't affect your home game unless you decide you want them to.

Once you have a game going, accepting a new book, regardless of if it is "ARM5 canon" or "not ArM5 canon", forces you to renegotiate your play contract and your home setting. Let's give you an example:

You have a home setting which is a saga set in Transylvania.
The core setting gives you some ideas for Transylvania, and you've taken some and left some.
The canon says very little about Transylvania.

So, your game is chugging along and ToH:Transylvania comes out. It doesn't matter that it is canon. You are your players need to decide how this impacts on your home game. Now, many people seem to have a tacit agreement that if a new book comes out, its contents will likely be adopted wholesale. The thing is, even if you have your book, and its completely canonical, and you are running it as written, that doesn't mean that your saga isn't going to get another shock when, say "Dark Faeries" comes out and you find out that in the core setting your covenant is in a town with an Infernal aura, or whatever. Again, you need to decide what's going to happen in your home game.

Now, your decision should be based on what you are your players like, not what's canon or not canon, IMO. Once you are actually running a home game, canon, and the core setting, aren't actually all that relevant to what you are doing. Adding in a new book doesn't make them relevant again, IMO. So, the canon's not for players. It produces the core setting, which is for players while they are making their home settings. After you have your home setting the question if "Is it canon?" doesn't guarantee it won't disrupt your game, even if the material in the book doesn't disagree with previous canonical work.

I think that desire illustrates part of the problem central to this thread: canon, as it's being officially defined by the Atlas-associated, really can't be used for much of anything other than guiding the authors. In your example above, I'd argue that marklawford's notion of what House Flambeau is very much a function of all of the House Flambeau related stuff he's taken in. For some people, maybe that's just the 5th ed rulebook (though then I can veer off on an epistemological discussion of knowledge and perception), but it's more likely he's also got some experience with 4th ed, games he's been involved in, etc, etc. And while everyone's memories are differently muddled, I'd be hard-pressed to believe that anyone is so unmuddled as to have their mental pictures of these cross-edition concepts be purely 5th-ed canonical. Certainly, plenty of discussion in my own saga and on these boards have made it clear that, based purely off canonical sources, how people would describe the Tremere can vary widely... in part because the canon is intentionally broad-stroked, I'm sure, but also just because that's the nature of subjective experience.

(This discussion also reminds me of the many other canonical questions that arise in other long-lived arenas... Marvel, DC, Star Trek, and Star Wars being obvious examples. At least AM doesn't have TV shows, movies, novels, comic books, and game rules to try to define as being canonical or not!)

I agree with all of that.

Thank-you for the detailed reply.

Hey, I got one right. 8)