Diablo 3 lore and backstory: an interview with The Order author Nate Kenyon
PCG: Deckard Cain is a monk, and that class plays a big role in this book. How did you go about finding out what defines a monk in the Diablo universe?
NK: A lot of different pieces of the book came about in different ways, but in terms of the monk specifically, that was something that came about very late. I don't think it was in the original outline that we hashed out together even. I think it came up as I began to write. I really felt strongly as I started and moved on in the early chapters that we needed somebody else, we needed something more.
The monk was a natural fit for me, because one of the goals of this book was to reboot or reset the Diablo franchise. That was a goal of Blizzard's coming into it that they made clear to me. They wanted this to take the novel line in a new direction. They wanted to take this chance to inform both new players coming in now and the die-hard fans of the events of D1 and D2. But we also wanted to set the stage for Diablo III.
So I really felt like we should have a new character class—something from D3 in the book that would form a bridge from characters appearing that were way back in D1 and D2 and a major character that is central in D3. I thought the monk was perfect because I really love the juxtaposition of an old man and this very physically fit, very athletically gifted young monk, with Deckard Cain and a little girl. That was, I thought, a really interesting traveling party to mess around with for the book.
PCG: A lot of people who play the Diablo games get involved in the lore. How would you convince someone that loves Diablo, but has never really gotten into the lore before that this book is worth their time?
NK: There's a lot of different reasons, I think. I think if they enjoy the game, I think understanding a little bit more about the background: how people and the situations in the game came to be would be interesting to people, even if they're not a die-hard sort of lore hound fans. But I think more than anything else, I would say that, as with [the] StarCraft [novel]— if I had a list of top five or six goals [for The Order], one of my main goals was to make this a very readable book.
I didn't want these books to get bogged down in lore and summary and going back and regurgitating a lot of stuff. I don't want to get bogged down in that. This book is accessible to anybody. I think somebody who has never even heard of Diablo could pick this book up, and it will, I think, flow and be an interesting story. They will get it, they won't be lost.
And that was a real challenge. Because Blizzard wanted to reboot [the novel series] and bring new players up to speed on the IP and put new, fresh spins on old stories from D1 and D2, I didn't want to bog down the current plot. So I put a lot of thought into how to do that, and I think Deckard Cain was the perfect vehicle, because he's been through it, he's been through all of it, he's a scholar, he knows the history of Sanctuary. He's seen it with his own eyes.
That allowed me to do, in brief and focused flashbacks and memory sequences, some very important scenes from earlier games and earlier lore that inform the plot of the novel itself and Cain's history. We learn a lot about Deckard Cain. These scenes are some of my favorites in the book because they're so focused on one thing particular happening that's pretty intense... Like Deckard Cain being caged in D2. That sort of thing, where you're dealing with some very intense stuff. So I think that helps, it keeps the book flowing.
PCG: What is one cool fact you learned about Diablo's universe that you weren't able to get into the book?
NK: Oh... I mean, there's a lot that I can't talk about... [laughter] There's a lot of really big reveals in the game that I would love to spoil here, but I won't. Those are the things, I think, that stick out to me the most. Beyond that... I was really surprised. One of the things I did when I went out there for our session was sit down for an hour and a half or so with one of their head lore team members.
She basically took me through the Diablo history, the universe, from day one of creation. And it's, obviously, an alternate universe and alternate history. I found that fascinating, I had no idea [the universe's history] was that developed. I don't think a lot of people do know it's that developed, that they do really have it down from the original being that starts it all. The fracture in that early going that creates the angels and demons and burning hells and heavens... That was really interesting to me.
Now, obviously, there's some of that stuff in earlier books, but I wasn't going to go back to that level and work it into this book. I still found that stuff interesting, and it wasn't until I talked to them and began to really read a lot of the stuff that's been written before that I began to understand it.
PCG: When the game launches on Tuesday, what class are you going to play as and why?
NK: Ha! You know, probably the monk, because I just I connected to that for various reasons, and I really liked [one of the monk characters in The Order], I think he's really interesting. We didn't get much into the back histories of these characters, but that was one of the most interesting things for me: creating the histories of these characters. Both for the existing ones that people know and then the new ones that I've created. The Dark One, who's the villain of this book, and [the monk]. Making them, as much as I could, fully fleshed-out characters with strengths and weaknesses and histories and trauma and things they've had to struggle with—their own demons so to speak—that they have to overcome. So I'll be playing the monk, and I'll be loving it.