Unleash the Lorenado: Humans and Nephalem in Diablo 3 Lore


A fan asked about the use of the word “humans” in some item modifiers, and others wanted to know what the Nephalem were, and now we do, thanks some lengthy Loretastic blue replies and quotes from the DiabloWikiBook of Cain.

I was doing some browsing through the items and this word kept coming up….”Humans”. What are they? Are they anything like Nephalems? Any clarification would be appreciated.
Vaeflare: I reached out to our lore team for a more precise answer to this question, and the answer has quite a bit of depth! In brief, humans are the descendants of the first nephalem.

Basically, when angels and demons intermingle, their offspring are nephalem – and they are incredibly powerful beings that are long lived, if not eternal, and have the potential to be stronger than either their angelic or demonic heritage. Before and following the Sin War, the nephalem interbred, and their children were also nephalem – and so it continued for several generations.

After discovering Lilith’s betrayal, the Archangel Inarius (who had been Lilith’s lover) tuned the Worldstone to suppress the powers of the nephalem. Because of this, each successive generation of nephalem thereafter became less and less powerful. After enough generations, their magical powers disappeared, and they became weak, mortal creatures that could die easily. Soon they spread to be great in number – these were humans.

Humans still have the latent nephalem potential in them – indeed our hero characters in Diablo III are nephalem – perhaps because of the destruction of the Worldstone years earlier. But most humans are just that – weak mortals.

Click through for much more of this answer, including the Book of Cain quotes and some follow ups. There’s some teasing about how the plot/story of Diablo 3 expansions might unfold, and the old (disappointing) issue of the D3 barb being the same individual as the D2 barb gets unearthed…

Barb-male-story

Here are some excerpts from Diablo III: Book of Cain that might shed a bit more light:

The first generations of nephalem were called the ancients. It is believed that they set out exploring, seeking answers, attempting to understand their curious world, and that they adopted numerous philosophies as they spread across Sanctuary.

Lilith, the first mother of the nephalem, was driven into a mad frenzy by the threat of her children’s extinction. She morphed into a far more horrific form than any had ever seen—of tooth and claw, of spike and blade—and hunted down her fellow renegades. She ruthlessly murdered each and every follower of Inarius, leaving only him to discover the carnage she had wrought.

Inarius was horrified by the loss of his comrades and the terrible deed that his lover had committed. Though enraged, he could not bring himself to kill Lilith, but instead banished her from the sanctuary they had made.

Inarius then attuned the Worldstone to cause the powers of the nephalem to diminish over time. He then disappeared—though some say that he still walks amongst us in a form more closely resembling our own.

Years became decades, and then centuries, leading to millennia of time elapsed.

Generations of nephalem, even with the remarkably long lives they were said to have possessed, passed away. With each generation, those events which might have been truth turned to legend, eventually settling into myth. The angels and demons faded from consciousness. The nephalem themselves slowly became mere mortals not unlike ourselves.

Humankind began to populate the world. As with its nephalem ancestors, humanity set about building cities of its own and collecting knowledge from the far corners of Sanctuary.

This is all related via lore books and quests in the game, which do a pretty good job of sharing the Lore. There’s some interesting Nephalem info midway through Act One with the quests in and around the Festering Woods. You fight ancients in that area, and there are 2 events in the Festering Woods that have Ancients ghosts and talk about the fall of the Nephalem. And lore books in Act Four cover all the Lilith and Inarius and creation of Sanctuary and birth of the first Nephalem, etc.

You can argue that the “story” of Diablo 3 isn’t great (as many players have) but the lore is certainly intact, if you take the time to read/listen to it.

Could Covetus Shen possibly be Inarius “in a form more closely resembling our own.” ?

You know that makes a lot of sense. In his lore it states.

“he is searching for a particularly rare gem, one he suspects you may have an eventual hand in finding.”

Could he possibly be looking for some kind of soulstone/gem that he desperately wants to slam into his forehead?

P.S. Vae if your still following this thread I am still very curious if you could touch on how the Bonus vs humans/nephalem/elites/talking meatsacks that got linked in the OP will be iterated in the upcoming item changes.At the present time, we don’t have any details on how/if the bonus to humans may be iterated upon in the upcoming itemization changes.
Vaeflare: Lorewise, if something is a clear mystery up until this point, I’m not really at the liberty to divulge any juicy answers, but I’m happy to now and then offer clarification on existing lore if I’m able to. We realize that not everyone cares about game lore, and that’s totally fine. I personally dig Diablo lore, so I am keen to jump in now and then on these types of threads. 🙂 The reality is: posting in a thread like this also in no way slows development on the gameplay aspects of Diablo III we’re currently working on.

As a point of clarification that I feel needs to be said: I’m not a developer, I’m a Community Manager just like it says on the left-hand side there. While the vast, and I mean vast majority of the threads I post in pertain to gameplay in one manner or another, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t loads of other topics being eagerly discussed by players (such as lore), and it certainly doesn’t mean that I’ll be dissuaded by posting in them as well. There’s a lot that goes into Diablo, including everything from gameplay, through to art, lore, sound, cinematics, and more, and they all come together as a whole to create the Diablo series. I simply tend to post in gameplay threads more often because those are commonly the most prevalent discussions taking place here on the forums. But they’re not the only discussions.

As a note that some of your lore aficionados might enjoy: I happen to know that many of your lore-filled discussions are indeed watched by … interested parties … on this end as well. >;)

I’ve played through the game a few times, I almost have 4 level 60’s and one at paragon 35. I still don’t know how I became a Nephalem even after trying to pay attention to game NPCs explain it through all the quests through one entire playthrough to 60 (on my monk).

Could you clarify?
After the destruction of the Worldstone (which occurred prior to the start of Diablo III), each person was born with a chance of being a nephalem, both magically and physically stronger than regular humans. So it wasn’t that your character underwent a physical transformation to turn from a human into a nephalem, it was simply that your hero was born that way. But since at face value humans and the historic nephalem look similar in physical appearance, it likely wasn’t until adolescence or later that they became fully aware of just how “different” they were from their peers.

In other, rarer cases, a human who undergoes extreme physical or emotional trauma can tap into the latent nephalem potential inherent in all humans. This (extremely rare,) occurrence is another effect of the Worldstone’s destruction. Again, this is not so much a transformation into something new, as someone realizing their full potential.

Okay lore wise as a Barbarian you can talk to tyrael about the worldstone but the barbarian seems to not know what happened there, i was under the assumption that he was the barb from diablo 2 and you were there to kill baal. is there something im missing?
Vaeflare: The reason your hero is unaware of the details pertaining to the Worldstone’s destruction is because the Barbarian you play in Diablo III is not the same hero from Diablo II. Also, twenty years have passed between the events of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction and the start of Diablo III, so much of what transpired is not common knowledge.

According to Jay Wilson, the Barbarian in D3 IS the same one from D2.

http://www.diablowiki.net/WWI_2008:_Denizens_of_Diablo_Panel

Barbarian

How we approached d3 design. Barbarian concept. This is actually the same char from Diablo 2. He’s aged twenty years, and he’s got a personality. Look at his gear; his armor has points on which he could impale himself. It’s extra protection for the harsh environment, but it’s also dangerous to him. The day to day life they have to lead is very hard.

Updating a classic. The Barbarian was exciting for us to work on. To take a classic char we all love to play, and bring him back to life. What’s this guy been doing for the past 20 years? As Leonard was saying, this guy’s 8 feet tall and 300 lbs of tall pure muscle. He saw stuff in d2 that would kill most people. Giving him some age, graying his hair, giving him some scars. What Leonard and Jay wanted to accomplish, we pulled that together with how we wanted to sell the story visually. Scars, gray hair, how he wears his armor. All that helps us tell the story visually.
Jay’s statement was accurate when he made it, but during the development process we later revisited the idea and instead decided that our Diablo III heroes should be unique to Diablo III. Sure, you may see references to the exploits of past heroes scattered around Sanctuary, but this story belongs to a new group of heroes. 🙂

The male Barb’s backstory brought up here is a nice illustration of how long game dev processes do odd things. The idea that he might be the same individual from D2 was current in early d3 dev, as the Jay Wilson comments from Blizzcon 2008 reference, but Bashiok revealed that bit of story was gone back in Nov 2010 and was never mentioned since.

Yet as you see in the blue thread, at least two players remembered the 2008/2009 story teases, and had never heard that was changed more than a year and a half before release, and had presumably spent the past year of D3 wondering why the male Barb didn’t seem to remember hanging out with Tyrael, or killing Diablo 20 years earlier.

Tagged As: | Categories: Blizzard People, Blue Posts, Lore and Story

Comments

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  1. “According to Jay Wilson,”
    Let me stop you right there…

  2. Game Lore by Leonard Boyarsky; this is good.
    Game Story by Chris Metzen; this is bad.

  3. Yeah. The grotesque steroid-abusing Liefeld reject man-barb is supposed to be about the same age as the female wizard! Once you figure that out, you can just stop taking the game seriously.

    • Who said anything about their ages?

      • The wall of Blizz-blather above did. Everyone born AFTER the worldstone was shattered by Tyrael can be a Nephalem. Liefeld-Barb is supposed to be Nephalem. Therefore, Captain barbarica had to be born sometime in the 20-30 year span between D2X and D3.

        In other words, they just didn’t care.

        • It is so badly implemented the whole thing, that I ignore the Blizzard sayings (and facts..), and still consider the D3 barb to be the same who beat the D2, or at least his cousin. It cannot be otherwise. The age difference is also a good reason for this.

        • Oh, and ofcourse, there is another thing… The game is so easy, that I can solo inferno without ever visiting the AH. I killed Diablo – Hell without a single potion or health shrine. This HAS to be the same barb that killed D2 as well, he knows how to do it. It’s obvious 😛

        • “In other, rarer cases, a human who undergoes extreme physical or emotional trauma can tap into the latent nephalem potential inherent in all humans. This (extremely rare,) occurrence is another effect of the Worldstone’s destruction. Again, this is not so much a transformation into something new, as someone realizing their full potential.”

          I guess that’s the explaination.

    • Who said anything about the game’s lore ever being taken seriously?

  4. Its just lazy from blizzard, something that would made the game special, i mean what they need to do, just 20 sentence more in the game to connect tyreal and the old barb, or the fact that (by lore) the female wizard knows the sourceress from d2. but no!! nerf story buff annoying diablo and azmodan blabla

  5. Can not say I like either the explanation or the story. Couldn’t they have just kept it simpler?
    I also dislike their happy-clappy attitude towards their clients. They’re not being serious, and that’s outrageous.

  6. Eh, it was a fine decision. What kind of mystery or suspense could they build for a character who has already been to Hell and smacked Diablo around? The characters need to learn the story and the plot along w/ the audience. The old D2 barb already had his hero’s journey and saved the world. He doesn’t have anything left to discover about himself and the universe.

    • And what does he really discover in D3 now? How could that ruin the thoughts and sayings of your barb if he already had slain diablo? Obviously they wouldnt make him say “what a boring dungeon, I been here already. Can we do something else?

      Tyrael is in a complete new form, and Diablo as well. And Diablo is supposed to be alot deadlier than Diablo2 if I have understood correctly (black soulstone). Not that the player ever gets this feeling, but anyway.

  7. God damn it.. I was one of the people who still thought the barbarian from D3 was the same from D2. I missed the news where they said they abandoned the idea, exactly as described on the end of the post. God damn it.. Sad.

  8. The sad removal of any unique backstories to the characters of Diablo 3 is just another example of the over simplification and homogenization style of Blizzard South.

    They always seem to be afraid of having something a little different then the rest in the game. Oh no! We got a class that has a different backstory then the rest. Quick! generalize that mofo’s background so everything is samesy in the game!

    Personally, most of the classes have little of anything interesting to say most of the time. It would have been fun, and interesting, to have the barb from D2 commenting on the events. He would be as clueless as everyone else as to exactly whats going on, but would have a different perspective on things with his past experience.

    R.I.P the idea of uniqueness in D3.

  9. lol the fact he had to run to someone to tell him the backstory reveals how much the incompetent Community Managers F’in suck, and it definitely reflects on Actiblizzard as a whole.

  10. I like Covetous Shen, he has an interesting dialogue and he gives me shiny gems and amulets (for an inflated price).

  11. Whats with the spam messages? Can they be removed?

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