The universe of Diablo has a surprisingly rich backstory, and on the first day of BlizzCon, some of the writing team for the new Reaper of Souls expansion sat down on the panel stage to answer attendee questions. Many of the questions dealt with those little minutae and side characters of the world lore nerds (such as myself) love so much, but there were also fun and interesting insights into Reaper of Souls and future stories in the Diablo world.
Q: Could we have a failure cinematic if we die to Malthael?
It would be too expensive and time consuming, and would require dropping other features. That said, the team is considering special events if you die or fail, but can't promise or reveal anything on that front yet.
Q: While Bul'kathos appears to be the main Barbarian hero, the Immortal King set refers to someone called Worusk. Who is the true supreme Barbarian and who is Worusk?
Worusk was a demi-god who predates Bul'kathos and united the clans. Many years later, after the clans had once again splintered, Bul'kathos repeated the deed. His was given the title "Immortal King" in honor of this feat, and shares that title with Worusk himself.
Q: Where is Trang'Oul, the dragon worshipped by the Necromancers?
There are no current plans to tell his story, but he is likely out there somewhere, the team said.
Q: How are the Templar and Crusader orders different in origin and Ideology?
They differ quite a bit. The Templar order is a new arrival that arose from the ashes of the Paladin order, and as we know from the Templar's story, use questionable methods to coerce their acolytes and initiates. The Crusaders, on the other hand, are an order of the Zakarum religion founded at the same time as the Paladins. However, when the Paladins went east, they went west. In Reaper of Souls, they have returned from the marshes of the east , bringing with them an older, purer version of that Zakarum faith, such has not been seen in many years.
Q: How is the archangel Imperius going to react to Malthael?
The factions of heaven will, of course, have their unique reactions to Malthael. In the case of Imperius, it seems likely he will at least sympathize with the anti-human portion of Malthael's campaign.
Q: While many other classes have long histories, Demon hunters seem new to the scene. What is their back story?
When the events of the first 2 games started affecting the world, the demons attacked many people. Survivors of these attacks wanted vengeance for their dead family and friends. So, some of them banded together and began training, promising to do whatever it took to bring the demons down.
Q: Did any non-Christian religions inspire the world of Diablo?
While Judeo-Christian mythology is a huge influence, the team feels that by now the world has grown enough that it has its own mythology to draw from. They also pointed to the monk as an example of inspiration from non-western sources.
Q: Could Leah's soul be saved or redeemed?
While the team feels bad about it, this was one of those "we're not going to say" moments. They did go on to say that they had no current plans to address it. They said that a sacrifice or loss of that magnitude had to endure for a time to be meaningful, though they did not specifically rule out a redemption or return.
Q: What is the story behind the floating coffins in Zoltun Kulle's lair?
They are the remains of the experiments he conducted while alive.
Q: Where is the Worldstone now?
It has been shattered, so the remains are scattered. The team did not reveal anything about where those remains are or who might have them, but seemed open to telling that story in the future and hinted it was a story worth telling.
Q: Tyrael appears human, but is he really a human, or something else?
Tyrael is a mortal. He deliberately chose the form of a human when he denounced his angelic powers and chose to cast his lot with humanity. However, as he does not have the demonic heritage that humanity has, he does not have Nephalem powers and he is not completely one of them.
Q: Are there any references to Deckard Cain in Reaper of Souls?
Yes. Cain is a powerful presence in the world of Sanctuary, and there's no way this story could play out without his influence being felt in some way.
Q: Cain's death felt premature. Was that meant as a way to advance Leah's character?
It was meant not only to advance Leah's character, but Tyrael's and the hero's as well. It passed the torch to Tyrael, and made the stakes that much higher. In addition, if Cain had survived, he might have figured out what was going on and stopped Adria.
Q: Did the Nephalem of old have a unique culture? How did losing their powers affect that?
When they lost their powers, the Nephalem panicked. The Drowned Temple shows an example of how they fled or tried to make pacts to regain their power, leading to a Dark Age in Sanctuary. At the same time, there were unique cultures. Bul'kathos and the Barbarians are one example of this. When Inarius changed the worldstone to dis-empower the Nephalem, some kingdoms noted it right away. Others took some time, assuming their new weakness was due to a plague or curse. The new expansion should shed more light on the ancient Nephalem.
Q: What Gods do the monk class pray to? Are they related to angels?
Monks see gods in everything, and see them divided into spirits of Order and Chaos. This may, in fact, be a reflection of demons and angels. Most religions in Sanctuary have a small glimpse into the greater reality of the world. Another example are the Witch Doctors. They can truly talk to the spirits of the dead, but get back somewhat vague answers.
Q: What is Adria doing? Is she still a disciple of Diablo or has she joined Malthael?
Adria has not been forgotten, and her time will come. She is definitely still a disciple of Diablo.
Q: Could the Angiris Council have reinstated Tyrael's angelic powers? If so, could he have defeated Malthael in the cinematic?
Malthael would have defeated even a fully angelic Tyrael. This is because Malthael has gained new powers by becoming the angel of death, and is now able to consume human souls, including those of the Horadrim he killed, to gain more power. Tyrael could not have stood up to that.
On the subject of returning Tyrael to full angelhood, it would not be as simple as a vote from the council. Much as with Leah, the team feels that for a sacrifice like that to have meaning, it needs to at least stick around for a while.
Q: Where do human souls go after they die?
The team is not ready to reveal that, but noted that one of the reasons that defeating Malthael is so important is because he consumes the souls of the dead rather than let them proceed to their final rest.
Q: It feels like our hero characters never really get their due. In Diablo 1, they become Diablo. In Diablo 2, they disappear. In Diablo 3, Tyrael seems to take the spotlight. What happened to the Diablo 2 hero, and will heroes get more credit in the future?
The Diablo 2 hero, assuming it survived, likely retired due to the pressure of fighting the prime evils. They do want to tell those stories, but it's a matter of finding the right place to do so. Some stories have been told. The Sorceress' fate was revealed in a short story, and the Necromancer took on an apprentice at some point as revealed in-game. They had also originally planned to make the Barbarian male hero the Barbarian from Diablo 2, but had to scrap it after writing different dialogue became too prohibitive and too confusing for a new player.
On the subject of future credit, one of the big reasons the hero was often in the background in past games is that they can't show the hero in cinematics due to the customization that would be lost. However, they acknowledge that there's been a lot of feedback about this, and are working on plans to make the hero seem like more of a force and less like Tyrael's hired muscle.
Q: Could we see more of Covetous Shen's story? Will we get to see Kingsport with the Scoundrel?
A: The team loves the side characters, such as artisans and followers, and plans to continue their stories in the expansion. For example, you will learn more about the Enchantress' sisters' fate and the mysterious prophet, the Templar will want vengeance on his order for their crimes, and while you won't be able to visit Kingsport, Westmarch is close enough you will meet people from the Scoundrel's past. You may also have the opportunity to accompany the artisans on quests. For example, Shen is still after that gem.
Q: is the prophecy of the end days Dualistic? Are you writing the rest of the story based on that prophecy?
The team noted that prophecies are often hard to take at face value and have many layers. However, the hero, as a Nephalem, is not written in the book of fate, and thus is able to turn the tables on the prophecy itself, allowing the story to continue down other paths.
Q: Is Inarius still alive?
The last we knew, he was still being tortured in hell. So, unfortunately for him, yes.
Q: There has been a lot of debate over Zoltun Kulle and his moral ambiguity. Is he really that bad?
The team noted that there's not often room for moral ambiguity in a world like Sanctuary where you want to fight overwhelming evil, so they like to fit it in where they can. In the case of Zoltun Kulle, he is definitely pro-Human. He thinks they're the best. However, he also thinks he's the best human, and while angels and demons may not have our best interests at heart, Zoltun may not either, ultimately. They do enjoy the debate and love seeing power argue, however.
Q: If the Black Soulstone fell out of Heaven in the final cinematic, how did Tyrael get his hands on it?
The soulstone actually only fell to one of the lower tiers of heaven, where the angels recovered it and bought it to the council chambers. An upcoming novel, Storm of Light, will cover how Tyrael decided he needed to reform the Horadrim order and hide it away from the angels.
Q: Will some of the new characters introduced in the Book of Tyrael appear in game?
Some may, but many will feature only in fiction such as short stories and novels.
Q: Could all angels remove their wings and become mortal like Tyrael? What would happen if they did?
Tyrael removing his wings was not the main cause of his mortality, but more a symbolic gesture to show his shrugging off of his angelic powers in order to ally with humanity. That said, angels could choose to become mortal, but if they all did it, there would be chaos. However, Sanctuary would have a lot more nice people, and a few more jerks.
Q: Will the Pandemonium Fortress from Diablo 2 make a return?
A: It wlll. However, the fortress itself has changed hands between angels and demons many times, and can change in shape and looks depending on who owns it, so it won't be recognizable as the fortress we knew before.
Q: Back when the amber soulstone cracked, why couldn't Tyrael just make a new one?
The soulstones were made from pieces of the Worldstone, and Tyrael did not have time to make a new one. Thus, they had to take more drastic measures and rely on Zoltun Kulle.
Q: Why has no Archangel of Justice formed at the arch to replace Tyrael?
There's many reasons for this. The Arch does not simply create a new angel to replace a dead angel right away. Instead, it works on its own time and must be in specific alignment. In addition, Tyrael is still a live, so that may be holding things back. His transformation is unprecedented, and the ramifications are still not completely known or understood.
Q: How have the demons returned if the Worldstone was destroyed?
The Worldstone was destroyed not to seal off Sanctuary from Hell, but because it was corrupted.
Q: How did the Prime Evils return if we destroyed them when we shattered their soulstones?
Their souls were sent to the Abyss, but Adria managed to mark them and spent 20 years figuring out how to bring them back.
Q: In the Heroes of the Storm cinematic, we saw Tyrael take on Kerrigan. If he couldn't tale on Malthael, how could he expect to defeat Kerrigan?
The team noted that Heroes of the Storm takes place in a non-canon parallel universe, and thus the powers of the characters may be different. However, Tyrael could totally defeat Kerrigan, no question.
Q: Could Adria and Belial be the same person?
No. Adria is her own person, and Belial has been defeated.