"At twelve, I swore the oath, leaving home and family. At sixteen, I saw my master die. I took up his shield and his name, and on that day, I became a crusader; armored by faith, driven by duty, bound to kill the enemies of Zakarum. Sworn to live as a crusader, and to die as one. Now, corruption returns to the hearts of men. I see it in the eyes of the mad, hear it in the howling of the damned. A falling star in the west leads me to the town of New Tristram. The crusade calls me, so I go."
— A Crusader(src)
The Crusaders are a knightly order devoted to the Light.
"I recently met a returning crusader, and now I understand. Each crusader took an apprentice. When a crusader fell, his apprentice would take up his armor, his place in the order, and even his very name! When the first generation of crusaders fell, their own apprentices took up their identities. And so it has continued for two hundred years. "
Resourceful and resilient, Crusaders are an entirely different breed of holy warriors, trained to wield sacred powers unlike any before. Unbending champions of faith and law, Crusaders' formidable skills and abilities set them apart on the battlefield, wading through scores of foes and leaving demonic bodies in their wake. Experienced veterans, Crusaders often spend their lives on the move, in the wilderness and city alike, they take part in thousands of fights from epic battles to back alley brawls. The thick of battle is unforgiving, but Crusaders rush in without hesitation, relying on holy magic and heavy armor to guarantee victory. Well-trained Crusaders are adept at deflecting attacks entirely, often shrugging off massive blows that would fell lesser combatants. If pressed, they can sacrifice speed and mobility for pure staying power.
Crusaders take zealotry to a whole new level, finding comfort and strength in their unshakable confidence in their undying cause. Their only goal is to find a way to save their faith; any other objectives will fall to the wayside should it ever threaten to impede their quest. Each Crusader swears an oath to follow this goal to the death. The oath does not prohibit Crusaders from romantic attraction. Unlike other Paladin orders, the Crusaders have never fallen to corruption. When one of these divinely empowered warriors joins battle, blazing fire and blinding light follow, smiting entire packs of enemies who dare to resist judgment. On the whole, they are a group of men and women chosen not only for their formidable prowess and cunning on the battlefield, but also for their uncompromising and unyielding dedication to the Light. Tracing their origins to the early days of the Zakarum faith, they represent an older and perhaps purer version of the faith than it is currently known on Sanctuary. Many Crusaders often show signs of their nephalem heritage, and their belief states that the mingling of angel and demon produced the only truly balanced beings in Creation (humanity).
Crusaders live off the land, and never stay in settled places for longer than is necessary. Crusaders have developed secret symbols and hand gestures to communicate with other Crusaders should they encounter by chance. It is rare for Crusaders to interact with one another or the public as a unit, which is part of the reason why they've remained unnoticed for so long. Individual Crusaders make no attempt to mask their presence however, and it is rumored they speak openly about their quest to anyone with the courage to ask. Because of the presence of lice in the Swamplands, many male Crusaders (and some female) shave their hair off, in order to reduce the chance of lice infestation. That, and it reduces the time needed to spend bathing between battles.
The quest of the Crusaders is eternal. Their goal is not only to remove the taint of Mephisto from Zakarum, but purge Sanctuary of all evil through discipline, honor, and unswerving vigilance. Thus, as long as Hell's influence lingers in the mortal realm, the Crusaders will not rest until their task is done. Crusaders believe strongly in signs and symbols. The Crusaders believe that the discipline of their lives ennobles them, and they are to find meaning within the quest itself. Each Crusader is sworn to live and die as one. The fate of criminals among the Crusaders is unknown, however it is suggested to be incredibly harsh.
Crusaders have been operating too long to take anything apart from their crusade seriously. This allows them to generally be relaxed individuals, and they enjoy witty conversation whenever possible. Excitement comes only from the thought of ending their crusade.
"It is said that the cleric gave these crusaders a seemingly impossible task: to scour the far-flung lands to the east and find a means, however it might manifest, to purify the Zakarum faith."
The origins of the Crusaders lie during the time of Rakkis's crusade against the Western Kingdoms, a campaign that would end with the founding of Westmarch. As Rakkis's Paladin forces pressed west,the cleric Akkhan sensed Mephisto's taint in the Zakarum faith, and independently (and secretly) founded the Crusader order. Akhan specifically avoided calling his recruits paladins, for he saw paladins as a product of the corrupted church's errant ways. The Crusaders were specifically founded as a separate entity from the Paladins for fear of carrying over corruption into their new sacred duty.
For his new order, Akkhan searched far and wide for warriors of unparalleled strength, for believers who burned with inner Light—young recruits chosen for honor, goodness, and most importantly, an unwavering devotion to duty. After rigorous preparation, that involved training in the use of weaponry and flesh-scouring magics, the Crusaders departed Travincal and pushed east on their mission, traveling the same path Akarat was rumored to have taken in the last days of his life. They later entered the Swamplands in the far east of Sanctuary, seemingly disappearing without a trace, making no further contact with the Church. Some clerics scoffed at the possibility of the Crusaders achieving their goal, but they pressed forward nonetheless, having sworn to dedicate their lives to the search. Akhan stayed behind to fight Mephisto's corruption directly, a task which cost him his life. Because of the cleric's belief that the Church was corrupted, the Crusaders refrained from communicating with Paladin orders. As a result, only very high level members of the Zakarum Church are aware of the Crusaders' existence, and they suppressed knowledge of the Crusaders as best they could, including those of their own order.
Over the centuries, the Crusader order was hardened through relentless, brutal combat with the foul evils plaguing eastern Sanctuary, as their centuries-long quest to cleanse the Zakarum from Mephisto's taint and the corruption of Sanctuary as a whole drove them. A goal they were intent on achieving by any means necessary, though they did not know the form the redemption of their faith would take. Over this time, they remained a mostly secretive sect. According to the studies of Deckard Cain a member of the Horadrim, it appears that some Crusaders investigated legends of lost Zakarum writings and holy relics from bygone eras. Others were driven by stories of infants born with an inner Light so pure it would cleanse the faith of its affliction. However, he could find no definitive evidence that a Crusader actually uncovered a means of completing their quest, and that they had exhausted most, if not all promising leads. Over two centuries after the beginning of their search, members of the order began returning to Kehjistan, by which time Mephisto's corruption of Zakarum had become visibly manifest. Cain speculated that this only strengthened their sense of purpose. From what he could gather, the remaining Crusaders began to fix their gaze on the unplumbed lands of the West. In recent times, with the sighting of a fallen star in Khanduras and the Reaper assault on Westmarch, this remains true. Coming from the East, the Crusaders found a different world from the one they had left behind.
Strength and Succession
"Our eyes are everywhere—in the tallest mountains and the lowest valleys. We go everywhere, and we see everything. We learn from our masters, who walked the lands before us. Our enemies may think we journey alone, but they are mistaken."
— Crusader proverb(src)
Because of the focused purpose and lifestyle of the Crusaders, the order is quite small. The first generation of Crusaders who set out for the east numbered 427, and their number has diminished over time. Each Crusader took an apprentice with them. When a Crusader passed away in battle, the apprentice would take their master's armor and weapons as their own, along with their place in the order and even their very identity. The rationale behind this is that by taking the name of their master, the former apprentice will live up to their sacrifice.
At least early on in an apprentice's training, a Crusader has the right to release them from their vows and allow them to return to normal life. Crusaders of subsequent generations have repeated this cycle of succession, choosing a single initiate to train. Initiates are chosen from local populations, and the choice is based on a number of factors such as the initiate's affinity for the teachings of Akarat and talent for the Light. Apprentices are generally recruited from the wilderness or working-class parts of a city. When they identify a child as their intended apprentice, they often negotiate with the child’s family to start the apprenticeship. Rich families are less likely to initiate their children into such endeavors, so Crusaders usually come from peasant or lower class families. To become an initiate, an individual must expunge any vestige of their former life. Affinity with the Light by itself is not enough however, and initiates train extensively throughout their apprenticeship to master their innate abilities. Only when they take their master's place do they achieve the rank of Crusader themselves. The number of current active Crusaders is at least 341 (the number that returned to the west). Crusaders often travel in pairs (master and apprentice,) however, some Crusaders travel alone, having inherited the mantle from their masters, but not yet taken an apprentice of their own. If a Crusader perishes/disappears without having taken an apprentice, their name is struck from the Crusader rolls. The lives of at least some Crusaders are recorded in the order's annals. Crusaders' lifespans tend to be short, and their lives are filled with hardship.
The Crusaders of the present also differ physically from their forebears;Abd al-Hazir referred to them as "tall blonde warriors," very different from their Kehjistani forefathers. While these Crusaders still bear the name of their forefathers, they are ethnically of Sanctuary's far east rather than Kehjistan.
"Armored by faith, driven by duty, bound to kill the enemies of the Zakarum."
Crusaders are traditionally equipped with flails and towering shields. To brandish a Crusader's shield requires extraordinary training, as they're used for more than just protection. Crusaders hew about with their shields, flinging them like javelins or bashing their opponents into a daze. Veteran crusaders learn to grip a giant two-handed weapon in one mailed fist or swing a one-handed weapon with incredible speed.
A Crusader's life is fraught with peril and they must dress accordingly. For armor, fledgling Crusaders use gear light enough for wide-ranging travel, displaying distinct Zakarum iconography. Crusaders who’ve spent time picking over battlefields furnish themselves with heavy mail and wrought gorgets, guarding the sensitive areas of their body. Most distinct are Crusaders who clad themselves from head to toe in plate armor, along with carefully selected regalia. A Crusader's armor is an emblem of their identity. Over the centuries it is constantly molded and reshaped to fit the needs and personality of its current master. It is a crime for anyone who is not of the order to wear the armor of a Crusader, and its members are duty bound to kill anyone they find doing so.
The Crusader appears as a spray in Overwatch.
"Crusaders must be stronger than other warriors. We cannot trudge homeward after a victory, instead we return to the open road. We bend into the wind, the rain, the snow. Our search will not end until our faith is redeemed."
- Harrel the Unbreakable
- "Master Crusader"
The following individuals are/were affiliated with the Crusaders, but not Crusaders themselves:
- "Crusader" historically refers to one who took part in the Crusades. Crusader garb bears resemblance to the style of tabardry Crusaders used.
- Book of Tyrael
- 2013-09-06, New Wallpaper: "The Crusader". Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2013-09-08
- 2014, Crusader. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2014-06-22
- 2013-09-25, Crusader and the Templar. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2013-09-25
- 2014-03-10, CRUSADER LORE AND HISTORY Q&A. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2014-06-30
- The End of Her Journey
- 2013-09-12, Deckard Cain was the last living Horadrim. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2013-09-17
- 2013-12-08, BlizzCon 2013 – Diablo III Lore and Story Q&A Panel Transcript. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2014-03-11
- 2013-09-26, Crusader and the Templar. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2013-09-26
- 2013-09-27, Crusader and the Templar. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2013-09-27
- 2014-08-15, PATCH 2.1.0 PREVIEW: SEASONS. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2014-08-20
- 2013-09-18, Reaper of Souls - Crusader Lore Sound Files. YouTube, accessed on 2013-12-21
- Diablo III, Kormac Dialogue
- 2013-08-22, GamesCom 2013: Blizzard Press Event - Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Revealed (Part 2). YouTube, accessed on 2013-09-08
- 2013-10-18, What if a Paladin and Crusader runs into each other?. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2013-10-22
- 2014-03-10, THE HISTORY BEHIND THE CRUSADE. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2014-03-07
- 2014-04-03, Was Akkhan actually a Crusader?. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2014-04-04
- 2012-08-21, Press Release – Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Unveiled. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2013-08-22
- 2013-12-05, BlizzCon 2013 – Diablo III: Gameplay Systems + Crusader Panel Transcript. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2014-02-21
- Diablo III, Act V
- Diablo III, Guard of Johanna
- Diablo III, Johanna's Argument
- 2015-06-02, JOHANNA HERO WEEK. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2015-07-02
- Diablo III, Eirena Dialogue
- 2013-10-01, BlizzCon In-Game Goodies!. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2013-10-02
- 2014-11-08, BlizzCon 2014 – Heroes of the Storm | Concept Art: Upcoming Diablo Heroes & Battlegrounds. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2014-11-25