"This is the place we know as the mortal realm. This is our world. We must pause a moment to think upon this. Our world, unlike all the other worlds, was created by both angels and demons."
"This is Sanctuary. To protect it, you must cross many lands. Where forgotten evils linger. Yet you must go without fear. Into the heart of the unknown. This burden falls to us. A chance to fight the darkness. To ensure our home's survival."
Sanctuary is a large world, and a harsh, dark, and unforgiving one. Its biomes range from frigid mountains to sand-swept canyons. Filled with horrific monsters, one must be merciless towards their enemies if they are to survive in this world. Even the wealthiest areas in Sanctuary are challenging to exist in.
The forces that shape Sanctuary are unknown to most of its denizens. It resides in a pocket dimension, separate from both Heaven and Hell. The Priests of Rathma believe that Sanctuary lies upon the back of Trag'Oul. At times, over the centuries, Sanctuary and Hell touch in a manner that allows the summoning of demons into the mortal realm to be easier than it might otherwise be. Some of Hell's most dangerous creatures have made their way into this world.. The world possesses a single moon that has lunar phases.
Sanctuary has seasons such as autumn and winter, both of which occur late in Sanctuary's calendar year. Harvest is carried out in the former, in order to survive the rigors of the latter. On the last day of harvest season, the wisest folk lock their doors, hang their wards, hide under their beds, and wait for dawn. Winter can be harsh, but those who survive the winter fever retain the strength of the madness it brings.
Maps of Sanctuary depict two major landmasses, separated by the Twin Seas. The eastern landmass is referred to as the Eastern Continent. This is boarded by the Sea of Light, while the western landmass is bordered by the Great Sea. To the north of both continents lies the Frozen Sea.
Various regions and countries exist/have existed over the course of the world's history:
Lands of the West
Aranoch lies on western shore of the Twin Seas, with the Tamoe Mountain Range separating it from the lands of the West. These lands are collectively known as the Western Kingdoms, and consist of Khanduras, Entsteig, and Westmarch. Off the coast of Westmarch lies Greyhollow Island.
In the north of the western continent lies the Dreadlands, formerly known as the Northern Steppes. To the east of this realm lies Ivgorod, though as a country, these realm no longer exists bar a single city-state.
Lands of the East
The eastern continent is dominated by the empire of Kehjistan, which encompasses a full third of Sanctuary's eastern hemisphere. Kehjistan can broadly be defined by its northern desert and southern rainforests. To its north lies the Dry Steppes, and further still, Scosglen. Off Scosglen's western coast lies the island of Xiansai.
Lands and countries are known to exist/have existed whose locations are unclear. These included the now-defunct Samuren Empire, the nation of Wojahn, the island nation of Uie, and the Bakuli Jungle.
"You don't get to make things right. This world isn't made for redemption."
Sanctuary has always been a deadly world—even before the coming of demons. It possesses a bloody history, filled with struggle and conflict. A number of its casualties have been lost to history.
"Inarius and his new companions altered the frequency or dimensional alignment of the Worldstone, using its power to conceal it from the angels and demons still fighting the Eternal Conflict. They shifted the massive crystal into a pocket dimension, and there they shaped a garden paradise around it: a world of refuge they would call Sanctuary."
For eons, the High Heavens and the Burning Hells have waged an endless war against each other to dominate the whole of Creation in what is known as the Great Conflict. Yet, neither side has ever been victorious, as each side always finds one way or another to change the tides of the war to their favor.
Inarius, who was once an adviser to the Angiris Council, serving under the command of Tyrael, Archangel of Justice was tired of the endless battle so he decided to create a world where he and other similar-minded Angels and Demons can live together peacefully. This world became known as Sanctuary, and along with it the Worldstone was used in order to hide Sanctuary from both the High Heavens and the Burning Hells. The various angels and demons within Sanctuary partnered together and bred the first generation of humans known as the nephalem. Inarius partnered with Lilith, and Rathma was their child. The nephalem turned out to be powerful beings, even stronger than both angel and demon.
Lilith had a plan of her own for this Sanctuary however; she wanted to use its population as her own personal army. She murdered all the other angels and demons in Sanctuary except for her loved one, Inarius. He didn't approve of her plan at all for he wanted the nephalem to worship him and fuel his ego. Inarius then altered the Worldstone so it not only cloaked Sanctuary from the High Heavens and Burning Hells, but to also dampened the powers of its Nephalem population slowly over each generation. Inarius wanted control over his creation, and that no one else should surpass him.
Inarius followed suit and created his own religion. The two opposite religions slowly grew in size and strength sending missionaries to the whole of Sanctuary.
Following the eventual capture of Inarius with the help of Uldyssian and the Edyrem, the High Heavens also became aware of the existence of Sanctuary. The Angiris Council decided upon Sanctuary's fate, which ultimately voted for its survival. Mephisto then approached the Angiris Council and a pact was made; Mephisto would leave Sanctuary alone and he would get to have Inarius as a prisoner. It was agreed that they wanted to leave Sanctuary alone to see how it would turn out. However, it was also decided that everyone's memory on Sanctuary had to be wiped clean of the events occurred so that mortals as a whole could properly start anew, unaware of the forces that had created them and, ultimately, might bring them to their imminent destruction.
After the destruction of the Worldstone, blight began to overrun the world's oceans and forests, and a wasting sickness began to spread through its cities. Where once the Worldstone had hid Sanctuary from Heaven and Hell, now the world was open to the eyes of angels and demons, and both stared intently at the mortal realm. The essence of Sanctuary itself and every person on it began to change. By this stage, human civilization was fragmented, with only a few functioning cities left on Sanctuary.
After the defeat of Malthael, monsters became an issue all over Sanctuary. Scouts regularly reported to Tyrael on these events, so he could best send The Nephalem to where they were most needed. As time wore on, Tyrael began to realize that the tasks of The Nephalem were never-ending. Decades since that time, Sanctuary has become a bleak and shattered hellscape, bereft of hope and beset by demons. Chaos threatened to consume Sanctuary as evil and impiety continued to spread. Depraved demons and wildlife roamed the land unchecked, as terrified townsfolk huddled in dark corners, trying to survive one more day. With the power vacuum that resulted, some rose up to attempt to fill the void, including the Zakarum church and a resurgent Temple of the Triune. With the return of Lilith to Sanctuary, a new wave of cultists and worshippers were spawned, but regardless of one's faith, all prayers remained unanswered.
"Sanctuary should always be items glittering in dark dungeons. Tales of powerful heroes standing against the onslaught of hell. Lands where trials, treasure, and terrible monsters lie around every corner, equal parts familiar and boundless in its possibilities."
- The nature of the Diablo setting (dark fantasy) existed as far back as the original design document, though the name "Sanctuary" was not in use in this time. What was also pitched, but never implemented, was the idea of a "living fungus world."
- While developing Sanctuary, Blizzard Entertainment took a lot of inspiration from pop culture references. These came from comics, TV shows, movies, and especially roleplaying games.
- In comparison to the real-world, much of Sanctuary is comparable to the Medieval period.
- The original creation of Sanctuary and the initial period of peace has been referred to as (the equivalent of) Eden.
- Sanctuary has been referred to as appearing as a "pale red dot" to Heaven and Hell, though it is unclear if this is a literal statement.
- The term may be based off the Pale Blue Dot; a picture of Earth, and phrase used to describe Earth later popularized by Carl Sagan.
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