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Over the years, the world of Sanctuary has seen many changes as per its lore over the aspect of its inherent races. These changes can be seen through the writings of Richard A. Knaak and various others, as well as the appended lore for Diablo III. This page's purpose is to narrowly describe and catalog each race, with some specifics in origins, if applicable. It will be separated in to actual races, sentient elementals, and races that are a product of demonic corruption.
The Branches of the Nephalem
Note: Information for this section is also taken from the Nephalem article here on our Wiki.
The Nephalem are the progenitors of the human race, beings of ancient power. When their power was suppressed by the creation of the Worldstone, their offspring slowly but surely became the line of humanity that is present in Sanctuary. Different races of humanity in Sanctuary can be traced from the known Nephalem.
The followers of the Nephalem Rathma are an elusive priestly race, in the order of the Cult of Rathma. Rathma, himself, is the son of Lilith and Inarius (more on him personally in his article). The race of Rathma's line is know as the Necromancers.
Bul-Kathos' branch of humanity is manifested in the form of the Barbarians, dwellers of the far Northern Steppes. They worship their progenitor as a deity and have many legends drawn from him. They guard(-ed) Mount Arreat and the Worldstone with their forts and fortresses.
The Zann Esu are the descendants of the great spellcaster Esu. A race of mainly women, this race values female leadership to an extreme, the most adept girls being chosen to become Sorceresses at a young age. It is documented that at some point centuries ago from the time period that Diablo II is set in that a coven of fourteen Esu witches gathered and discussed at great length something of importance, though exactly what it was remains a mystery, and then disappeared in to the Eastern Jungles.
Other Races in Sanctuary
Fetish Shamans are always borne upon the shoulders of a lesser Fetish. Undoubtedly, they believe that this appearance of added height makes them look more ferocious and is befitting their station. Their ability to resurrect their dead and breathe great gouts of flame ensures that none of their brethren will argue with their "lofty" requirements.
- Arreat Summit Bestiary
Shamanistic creatures that attack with knives the size of their own bodies, or at range with blow darts, the Fetish are native jungle inhabitants. Known cannibals, they are small, intelligent beings in league with the forces of Hell. Individually, Fetishes are weak and easy to kill. However, they are much more formidable when attacking en masse. When accompanied by a Shaman, they are doubly dangerous, as their Shaman possess the power of resurrection, the ability to revive their fallen kin. The Shamans are often borne upon the shoulders of a lesser Fetish. Undoubtedly, they believe that this appearance of added height makes them look more ferocious.
- World of Sanctuary Act III Bestiary and the Diablo II manual (page 121)
Dwellers of the jungles of Kurast, in Diablo II, Act III, the hero(es) venture in to countless swarms of these creatures, listening to their strange grunts and cries, watching as they stand atop one-another's heads and spit fire, and observing their small villages filled with barbaric displays of grizzly carnage. It is intuitively obvious to the casual observer that these creatures represent men in many ways, although their bodies are somewhat malformed. They have developed to the level of communities, building, and more.
Large but agile, these creatures are most often found in the wilderness, but are also reported to occupy the caves and dungeons of the Western Kingdoms. Sadly, the Gargantuan Beast, Brute, and Yeti (Wendigo subspecies) were previously known to coexist peacefully with humans, avoiding contact whenever possible. Chaos' ill effects have changed them, as they are now quick to anger and attack with huge, sweeping blows of their massive claws. Once provoked, they do not relent until their opponent is slain or they themselves have fallen. Few live to tell the tale of an angered Wendigo, but those that have exclaim how nothing is more terrifying than the sound of these angry creatures bearing down on the attack.
A slightly different breed from its southern brother the Wendigo, the Abominable is very similar in nature. They are large but agile creatures often found in the caves surrounding the mountain range of Kae Huron. The main difference that separates the Abominable from the Wendigo is the temperature it can survive in. The Abominable appears to like it cold, very cold. None have ever been spotted in an environment where the temperature wasn't below freezing. Just as the Wendigo, the Abominable were previously known to coexist peacefully with humans, avoiding contact whenever possible. However, chaos has tainted them, as they are now quick to anger and attack with huge, sweeping blows of their massive claws. Once provoked, they do not relent until their opponent is slain or they themselves have fallen.
It is made clear by these evidences of the small bit of lore behind the Wendigo that they had, at one point, coexisted with humans, quite possibly meaning that they lived as sentient, knowledgeable beings with the human race. The legitimacy of this is somewhat debated.