The Diablo franchise is one of the best-known series in all of gaming. Developed in 1996 by Blizzard Entertainment, it remains one of the most influential hack and slash roleplaying games ever created. The wide spread success of the first venture into the depths of Tristram's Cathedral spawned one of the most popular and well respected series in gaming. Followed by the wild success of Diablo II and its expansion Diablo II: Lord of Destruction and the mediocre final installment Diablo III. Diablo's multiplayer is still used as an example of how to do online hack and slash action due to the addictive quality of its gameplay. Not only was the gameplay renowned as being some of the best, spawning countless clones and copycats across a cornucopia of systems, players often mention the games characters and lore as a major sticking point for the trilogy.
While most characters backstories are presented through in game conversations or journals found in the game world, some characters back stories are still steeped in mystery or intertwined in ways that are in the shadows of Sanctuary. From some of the most memorable bosses, to the main characters that make the world of Diablo turn, there is no shortage of lore for players who are hardy enough to dig. Characters are tied to angels and demons alike and the storylines of certain characters can become seriously convoluted. With that, lets dive into the depths of hell to dust off some of the lesser known tomes of lore in the Diablo series.
15 The Butcher
First mentioned by the Wounded Townsmen outside the cathedral of Tristram, The Butcher is the first boss you’ll face in the original Diablo. If you proceed back to town to inquire about him with the town’s people, they’ll tell you tales of slaughter and terror brought back by the few surviving members of the first search party sent into The Cathedral’s belly. Towering, bloody, and frustratingly brutal for lower level players, The Butcher is one of the most memorable bosses in the entire Diablo franchise.
Surprisingly, he almost didn’t make it into the game. Whilst completing a room adorned with blood-spattered tiles, the developers joked that the room looked like a butcher’s. Thus, the infamous first boss was born. His rise to popularity in the franchise could also be due to the fact that he was the sole boss present in the original Diablo demo. The butcher makes another appearance in Diablo III’s Anniversary dungeon, where you can even obtain his cleaver.
14 Deckard Cain
“Stay awhile and listen.” The single phrase that is at once comforting and maddening to all Diablo fans, spoken by none other than the flagship NPC, Deckard Cain. Cain is one of two characters to appear in all three Diablo titles, sharing the honor with the titular boss of hell, Diablo. Cain is a village elder that offers advice and gossip about quests and enemies, and also identifies items. He is the last of the Horadrim, an ancient race of sorcerers that eradicate evil from the world.
He serves as the main catalyst of the first two games, providing information and quests that allow you to advance. Although his purpose seems simple, as he drives most events and crucial discoveries, Cain’s personal life is a dark and sorrowful one. As the schoolmaster of Tristram, Cain grew farther and farther removed from his wife Amelia and son Jered, instead focusing on scholarly pursuits. This forced his wife and son to leave town, only to be killed on the road by bandits.
The prince of the royal family of Kurast, Aidan’s family travels and sets up their royal court in the abandoned Cathedral of Tristram, which is the dungeon world of the first Diablo. Essentially, if you pick the warrior class in Diablo, you are playing as Aidan, as evidenced by Ogden’s welcoming you back and informing you of the evils that lie in wait under your family’s old stomping grounds. As the game goes, Aidan eventually makes his way to the bowels of the Cathedral and defeats Archbishop Lazarus and Diablo and returns to the surface in victory.
It is noted however that he is obviously changed, as he took to solitude except the company of Adria, the witch that sells you magic tomes and mana potions from her hut outside of Tristram. Eventually, Aidan impregnates Adria with Leah, a prominent NPC in Diablo III, and essentially the reason Diablo returns in the third game. Aidan is also the Dark Wanderer from Diablo II, the hooded figure that essentially spreads evil’s influence through the world. Aidan never defeated Diablo in the first game; he was merely the dark lord’s puppet and vessel, continuing his reign, and thankfully, the Diablo series past the first entry.
The witch that assists you with all things magical in the first Diablo, Adria’s story is essential to the franchise. She was purportedly responsible for killing her merchant father at a young age after he murdered her mother following a string of financial failures. She then fled into the arms of a witch’s coven, later showing up in Tristram to profit from the subsequent spelunking of the Cathedral’s lower levels and to offer services to the band of warriors tasked with ending the evil frothing from below.
Unbeknownst to her at the time, she would become the sole confidant of Aidan after he plunged Diablo’s soul stone into his head in an effort to defeat him. After many nights behind closed doors, she would become impregnated with Leah, Diablo’s planned vessel to become the only primary evil in Diablo III before Aidan became the Dark Wanderer and sparked the events of Diablo II.
Known to most as the narrator in Diablo II, Marius is the man that eventually ends up following The Dark Wanderer; after he stops into the same bar and ends up unleashing demons from portals to hell, killing everyone inside, save Marius. Marius then follows The Dark Wanderer through the plot of Diablo II, until they arrive in the Temple of Light where The Dark Wanderer turns into Diablo and crosses through a portal into hell.
Marius refuses to cross through the portal with Diablo and flees, ending up in the asylum where he is seen in the beginning of the game. The hooded figure that visits Marius in the opening cutscene of Diablo II, who identifies itself as Tyrael, asks for Baal’s soulstone, which Marius has come into possession of through his travels with the Dark Wanderer. After he turns over the soulstone, the hooded figure turns out to be Baal himself, who then kills Marius and burns the asylum to the ground, triggering the events of the Lord of Destruction expansion.
Tor’Baalos, more commonly referred to in the Diablo universe by his short name Baal, is the titular Lord of Destruction from the Diablo II expansion of the same name and one of the three prime evils, along with Mephisto and Diablo. He plays a major role in in the Great Conflict—a never-ending war between heaven and hell—fighting along side his brothers to defeat the forces of light before Diablo’s treacherous turn to become the main prime evil.
Baal is freed in Diablo II by Diablo after The Dark Wanderer transforms into the Prince of Terror and crosses into hell. Baal then finds Marius, procures his soulstone, and proceeds to Mount Arreat in his attempts to become the only prime evil. He is, of course, defeated again at the end of the Diablo II: Lord of Destruction expansion and banished into the black abyss along with his brothers.
The titular Lord of Terror that sparked the series in the first place, Diablo is an obviously major character in the franchise. It’s your sole mission to find and defeat Diablo through all the games, in one convoluted form or another. The youngest of the three brothers of the Prime Evils, Diablo was created from one of the seven heads of Tathamet, a dragon made up of the expelled evils of Anu, the pure entity of creation.
After a battle between Tathamet and Anu, heaven and hell were created from their deaths and the Eternal Conflict between good and evil followed. Diablo’s main compulsion in the franchise is to become powerful enough to become Tathamet again, plunging the world into chaos. Although Diablo is the youngest of the three brothers, he is often seen as the most powerful and the one responsible for much of the evil that has spread throughout the world.
One of the Lesser Evils in the Diablo franchises hierarchy of hell, Azmodan is the Lord of Sin. According to Deckard Cain, Azmodan’s prowess as a commander and fighter on the field of battle during the Eternal Conflict was unparalleled, making his presence in Diablo III and his planned invasion of Sanctuary particularly harrowing. Because of the Lesser Evils exclusion from the three Greater Evils waging of the Sin War, Azmodan and the other Lesser Evils tried to rebel against Diablo and his brothers.
After the Lesser Evils’ rebellion is put down, Azmodan’s followers were then turned into The Fallen Ones. He also fought a civil war with Belial, Lord of Lies, for control of hell and all its denizens. After defeating Belial, he sets his sights on the realm of humans, having to be defeated at the end of Act III in Diablo III.
The most prominent angel in the Diablo franchise, Tyrael is the Archangel of Justice. He is seen throughout Diablo II and Diablo III, not only in cutscenes like when he confronts and battles The Dark Wanderer; he also helps in numerous battles in Diablo III. He is billed as being one of the most battle worthy angels in the Eternal Conflict and also defeated Diablo on several accounts during the endless struggle.
This is in stark contrast to his past history; in Diablo lore, Tyrael began as one of the most rigid angels in heaven, adhering to all the rules. Like most angels, he saw the duality of humans, being that they are made of good and evil, as disgusting and regarded them with disdain. After the Sin Wars however, he has a change of heart and decides that humans are not abominations and that he should fight to protect Sanctuary at all costs.
The archangel of Valor, Imperius is the greatest fighter in all of creation, at least according to Diablo lore. He fought by the side of Tyrael through most of the eternal struggle and his battlefield presence was renowned as being one that could turn the tide of any fight. When Tyrael and Imperius were able to corner Diablo during the Eternal Conflict, instead of trapping him in a soulstone, Imperius showed a moment of weakness and allowed his rage to overcome him. He slayed Diablo, knowing that he would return again in time to lead the forces of hell again.
The council of angels saw this as an act of treason and Imperius was then looked down upon from then on. Imperius appears in a few quests in Diablo III and aids you in your pursuit of destroying evil once again.
Leah is the progeny of Adria and Aiden, the result of Aiden—actually the vessel for Diablo before becoming The Dark Wanderer—and the witches time spent after the events of the first Diablo. The only reason she is conceived is to serve as a vessel for Diablo to return in Diablo III, unbeknownst to her father after the events of the first game.
After her father becomes The Dark Wanderer, Adria and her fled from the town of Tristram to the largest eastern city of Caldeum, where her upbringing was difficult. Her mother gradually fell into madness as she was in contract with demons and the stigma surrounding her mother transferred to Leah. Leah was created to replace Deckard Cain in the Diablo franchise, due to Cain’s increasing age. She does fulfill some of the same duties as Cain, such as relic study, before she becomes possessed by Diablo and must be defeated.
Farnham is the drunk encountered in Tristram during the events in the first Diablo. Why so drunk? Apart from typical conventions about village drunks and their habits of spewing on the streets, Farnham was one of the original band of warriors led into the depths of the Cathedral by Archbishop Lazarus to rescue Prince Albrecht. Unbeknownst to them, Lazarus had already made a pact with Diablo and the entire rescue operation was a trap, leading them into The Butcher's lair to be slaughtered.
Farnham was able to save himself and Griswold by escaping to the surface, where he proceeded to drink himself into a stupor. He reentered the belly of the Cathedral several times in an effort to look for his missing wife and daughter, eventually emerging with his daughter. However, she was so wounded that Aidan chose to end her life by cutting her down. Farnham then proceeded to lose foreseeably lose himself in the bottom of a bottle.
3 Archbishop Lazarus
The advisor to King Leoric, Archbishop Lazarus was one of the driving factors for Diablo’s influence in the original game. Originally an inhabitant of Kurast, Lazarus was one of the original guardians of Mephisto’s soulstone. Over time, he began to be corrupted by the forces of evil and was expelled from the church. A member of King Leoric’s posse, he was the one responsible for bringing King Leoric to Tristram in the first place and setting up the families homestead in the Cathedral itself.
Under the influence of the Greater Evils, Lazarus is tasked with awakening Diablo in the catacombs under the Cathedral in the original Diablo. Before his boss fight, Lazarus is seen with a youth on a sacrificial altar before forcing you to fight him near the end of the first game amongst a swarm of succubi. Although he isn’t usually thought of past the first game, without his intervention, the Diablo franchise wouldn’t exist.
The only surviving elder of Harrogath, the base city in the Diablo II: Lord of Destruction expansion. After the elders construct a protective barrier around the town to keep the forces of hell at bay and all die, Nihlathak becomes a real shmuck. When you meet him, he constantly nags at your inability to change the course of events against Baal’s siege and is also one of the only NPCs in the game to become hostile, and an extremely difficult boss on Nightmare at that.
After the protective spell is cast around the city, Nihlathak sets out to make a deal with Baal to allow him access to the summit of Mount Arreat without facing any of the ancients in return for sparing the barbarian city. After this all goes to crap as you undue Baal’s siege, he eventually runs off in shame to the Halls of Vaught where you can fight him as a super annoying unique boss. At least when you defeat him, his death animation shows him being dragged into hell, foreseeably to be tormented for eternity for striking a deal with Baal.
1 The Cow King
The boss of the Secret Cow Level in Diablo II, The Cow King seems simple enough in the games context: he’s the king of all the Hell Bovines. He drops the unique Cow King’s Leathers armor set that requires at least three separate playthroughs to obtain the full set of, meaning that killing him in someone else’s game is a major offense and often grounds to be kicked from an online party. Seems self explanatory enough, right?
Except for one thing: The Cow King has udders. Even though he has a male voice and carries the moniker of “King,” his udders would indicate that he is a female. Further complicating The Cow King’s gender is the inclusion of the Cow Princess and Cow Queen in Diablo III, which don’t have voices at all, let alone female ones. Could The Cow King be a transgender, anthropomorphic, homicidal heifer? Silence from Blizzard can only leave the fan community to speculate.