Diablo 3

Hidden Narrative of Diablo lore

diablo12 - Hidden Narrative of Diablo lore

Note: This is Part 2 of my previous post.

Just to be clear, English is not my native language, so expect some grammatical and syntactical mistakes.

Hidden Narrative

Deeper Meaning

Although the contention of the Diablo story is focused on humanity and their role between the struggle of angels and demons, foundational to this is the question: Who represents the greatest of humanity?

There are two answers: the Horadrim and the Nephalem. These answers don't mean anything unless an explanation is given why they represent humanity's best.


According to the Diablo 1-2 lore, the Horadrim order was formed from the union of wizards and multiple mage clans. Basically, the core ideals of the order is knowledge and innovation, and they have an expertise on magic, whether mystic, holy, or empirical. The waypoint, for example, is one of the application of Horadrim's ingenuity.

Through study, hard work, and perseverance, they created tools, spells, techniques, weapons, and armor to combat the Prime Evils. They not only represent the brightest and most capable of humanity, they also portray the unity of different beliefs and cultures working as one towards a common goal.


The Nephalem, as portrayed by the Sin War trilogy, has a different take on why they represent the greatest of humanity. Instead of the hard work or intense study of the Horadrim, humanity is great because they were born great, with the right type of racial inheritance. That is, until an "outside being" made it not that way. This is why only certain lucky ones can inherit this "gift by birthright" that was "stolen" from humans.

Basically, humans are "radio receivers" and when the great "radio transmitter" (Worldstone) is hacked, the once great humans become weak and nearly powerless. In this setup, the greatness of humanity is reduced to mere "radio attunement" and "hackers" (Sin War Inarius and Lilith).

Humans are also split into two: Nephalem and non-Nephalem. This stratification is dehumanizing, and has the implication that the Nephalem are the "true humans" and the other is merely a counterfeit or is universally defective.

This is why it is easy to associate this problem with the extreme ideologies of real life — the lore used to exalt the Nephalem is similar (if not an enhanced version) to what Nazism and Scientology do to legitimize their institutions and indoctrinate people to their cause.

The Nephalem in Diablo II

  • The Nephalem in D2 are just disembodied spirits. They chose three champions: a martial prodigy, an bizarre visionary, and a unifier of tribes. They aren't superhumans. They were transfigured to be immortal Nephalem guardians, which is seemingly more of a curse, as it has been for Tal Rasha, than the glory portrayed by subsequent Nephalem.
  • These champions' role is to protect the Worldstone. Before the lore additions and retcons post-Diablo 2, the Worldstone:
    • Has the power to protect the boundaries between Sanctuary and the Burning Hells.
    • Isn't there to hide Sanctuary from other beings (angels and demons are fully aware) nor inhibit humanity's powers.
    • Was neither built by Inarius from the energies of creation nor was it the Eye of Anu used to create broken and dying worlds.
    • (This last bit indicates that control of the Worldstone is merely to make a political message against the opposition, thus reducing the mystique and depth of the beings in the Eternal Conflict. It also makes the Diablo universe feel underwhelming and limited in scope.)
  • After defeating them, they turn to statues again and grant a significant amount of experience.

The Horadrim in Diablo III

  • Deckard Cain's main purpose is to instruct you how to reach the Skeleton King.
  • As I commented before, his role shifts to becoming Leah's yes-man. Then he is killed by a Disney Sugar Plum Fairy (The villain in Disney's 2018 PG-rated movie. Check the video link for comparison).
    • (Off topic: She assembles an army by enlarging tiny Kremlin men into hard but stiff soldiers through toy magic. The heroes include a nutcracker and an whip-wielding elderly woman.)
  • As the apprentice of the Horadrim, Leah was birthed by Adria just to reincarnate Diablo.
  • As the maker of the Black Soulstone, Zoltun Kulle's artifact is responsible for the devastation of the High Heavens through the Prime Evil and is also the main component to execute the genocide of humans by Malthael and his reapers.
  • Lorath Nahr is just a messenger for the Nephalem and follows along.
  • In a nutshell, the Horadrim in D3 have a diverse but disparaging role:
    • Act 1: A sacrificial goat
    • Act 2: A psychopath who created a weapon of mass destruction (also a sacrificial goat)
    • Act 3-4: A sacrificial she-goat strapped to a psychopath's weapon of mass destruction
    • Act 5: The boy who lived
  • I don't know, but it seems the D3 Horadrim weren't given redeeming story qualities, except maybe death. The message is that bloodline and inborn heritage is better than self-improvement.


I asked lutsock about whether the heroes from other Diablo titles would be Nephalem or not. Here's the response:

In conceiving the idea of the Nephalem, we intended all instances of supremely powerful human heroes (like those in D1 and D2) to be humans exhibiting latent signs of Nephalem heritage. It was meant to be in-world explanation for ANY human character with powers above and beyond the norm. You might be a competent mage, or a powerful Barbarian hero, but if you are one of those once-a-generation savants who show potential beyond that of everyone you know… you are probably manifesting some of that Nephalem heritage all humans share.

Lore is a living document, however, and some writers have retconned that concept.

Source: Original link

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