"And, alas, we are of our fathers and mothers, alike and yet opposite, one decay and the other light. Indeed, the union of angel and demon created a third essence. And we are those children. We are the nephalem. We exist as half angel and half demon, yet fully a new entity. And because of our lineage, they loved us. And because of our difference, they feared us. Within the trembling balance between love and fear is the relation of us to our fathers and mothers."
"Many outsiders believe that the fantastic stories about our ancestors, the Ancients, are but fables. However, I believe that the Ancients were more than human -- that mankind has fallen from what it once was."
"You…all humans…are the spawn of our coupling! From demon and angel came the nephalem, greater than anything ever created in the cosmos! The force I stirred within you, the force which I found begging to be released, is nothing less than your birthright!"
Sanctuary was created by the rogue angel Inarius and his demon confidante, Lilith. They led a group of renegade demons and angels where they created a new world through the Worldstone, one where they would be free from the Great Conflict. In an act without precedent, Inarius and Lilith mated and created offspring. In time, other renegade demons and angels did likewise and produced offspring of their own. Thus, the nephalem were born—the children of both angels and demons, yet a new entity in their own right.
The first generation of nephalem were called the Ancients. It is believed that they set out exploring, seeking answers, attempting to understand the world in which they lived. Millennia after their birth, Deckard Cain speculated that thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of these Ancients existed, though by the time of his life, only the names of Bul-Kathos, Vasily, Esu, and Rathma were remembered, and treated more like deities. It is known that these Ancients developed along different lines from each other, including the cultures they fostered. Tyrael would later believe that some early nephalem were born more demon than angel, resulting in Phantasms that would haunt Sanctuary far into the future. The Temple of the Firstborn was constructed in honor of these early nephalem.
Yet not all was well among the nephalem's parents, for they were far more powerful than either angel or demon. Their forebears feared that not only might the nephalem become a threat, but might draw the attention of the High Heavens and the Burning Hells to Sanctuary. They knew that the co-mingling of their kind would be declared blasphemous, and that they would be destroyed if their refuge were discovered. Thus, some of the renegades called for the nephalem to be eradicated, while others believed they should be spared. The dissension troubled Inarius, who called for a period of reflection, so that each of his subjects could consider the matter in solitude.
The Rise of Man
"The day of the nephalem is, as they say, long over. One by one, I and my kind will cease to be. There are fewer now than during the battle even. The future is what is important."
Lilith was driven into a mad frenzy by the threat of her children's extinction. Morphing into a horrific beast, she hunted down and murdered her fellow renegades, lest they do the same to the nephalem. Enraged at her actions, Inarius could not bring himself to kill his beloved and thus banished her to the Void. Subsequently, the angel attuned the Worldstone in such a manner to cause the powers of the nephalem to diminish over time. Thus, the nephalem became weaker over each subsequent generation, their lifespans declining. Some of the nephalem knew what had happened. Those who protested were crushed by Inarius, and the others scattered. Others were unaware of what Inarius had done, and thought they were succumbing to some kind of plague. As they weakened, the civilizations the nephalem had established began to splinter, and they fell into a dark age. Eventually, the nephalem became mortals, giving rise to the race called humanity, a weaker, mortal species, without knowledge of its birthright. It was still possible for nephalem and humans to produce offspring together.
Yet the potential to reclaim its old glory still rested in humanity. It was this potential power that drew the attention of the Prime Evils to humanity, beginning what would become known as the Sin War. In the last stages of the conflict, the Worldstone was altered by Uldyssian, who began to manifest powers befitting a nephalem, as did his Edyrem followers. However, as the last battle raged, he realized that the power being regained was too much over too short of a time, and if the nephalem were to be left unchecked, it would doom all of Sanctuary. In an act of self-sacrifice, he brought back his raging energies into himself before releasing them one final time, resetting and suppressing the power of the Worldstone, and stripping his followers of their powers. It was an act that ended the Sin War and convinced the Angiris Council to leave humanity to its own devices, seeing that they could follow the path of light as well as dark.
Return of the Nephalem
"Your strength rivals that of our greatest champions. What now do you think you are?"
In 1265, the Worldstone was destroyed by Tyrael, lest humanity be turned to Chaos through Baal's corruption of the relic. Thus, the mortal realm was left exposed to both Heaven and Hell. However, within a generation, a new nephalem walked in the world, their powers rivaling that of their distant ancestors. Ultimately, these nephalem defeated Diablo himself, bringing an end to the Great Conflict and saving both Heaven and the mortal realm from destruction. Soon afterwards, Sanctuary was saved by the Nephalem again, after defeating Malthael and his Reapers.
By the time of the rise of the Blood Cult, a number of nephalem had arisen within Sanctuary. Few in number, but great in strength. The demon Vidian used the cult and his own machinations to lure these nephalem into the Temple of the Firstborn, where their blood was spilt and drained. Vidian was eventually defeated by the same nephalem that had defeated Diablo and Malthael.
When the Black Soulstone was destroyed, a number of its fragments wound up in Sanctuary, still carrying the essences of the Great Evils. A number of nephalem sought out these shards, but they had to be careful, given the allure of such power.
- Daedessa the Builder
- Ezek the Prophet
- Lidar the Noble
- Madawc the Guardian
- Korlic the Protector
- Talic the Defender
Sin War (Edyrem)
- "The Nephalem"
- Possible identities (race otherwise confirmed)
The following individuals have had nephalem powers manifest, but aren't necessarily nephalem themselves:
In Diablo III, each player character is a nephalem, and referred to as such when described in a narrative sense. It has been stated that because of the requirements of the narrative, and as such, no angel class is available in the game.
- The nephalem are possibly based on the Old Testament Nephilim, though Biblical Nephilim are the product of angels and humans.
- Though first-generation nephalem were apparently a great deal larger than humans, this has not been reflected in-game as their ghosts are the same size as normal humans. So too are the nephalem to have arisen since then.
- Book of Cain
- 2013-12-08, BlizzCon 2013 – Diablo III Lore and Story Q&A Panel Transcript. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2014-03-29
- Diablo III, Enraged Phantasm Lore
- 2016-11-04, Necromancer Blizzcon Diablo 3 Fact Sheet. Diablo.net, accessed on 2016-11-07
- 2017-06-23, Deadly Roots: The Lore of the Necromancer. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2017-06-30
- 2021-09-17, Diablo II: The story so far. Blizzard Entertainment. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2021-09-21
- Diablo III, Act I
- Moon of the Spider
- Diablo III, Act IV
- Diablo III, Act V
- Diablo III, Cultist Missive
- Diablo III, Adventure Mode
- 2021-12-12, SEASON 25 | THE LORDS OF HELL | NOW LIVE. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2021-12-12
- 2014-03-10, CRUSADER LORE AND HISTORY Q&A. Blizzard Entertainment, accessed on 2014-06-30
- 2013-01-02, Archangel and Deathangel classes for diablo 3. IncGamers, accessed on 2013-02-07