The History Behind the Crusade

Delving into the backstory of the class coming in 'Reaper of Souls'

From Concept to Crusader
One of the main features of the upcoming Reaper of Souls Expansion is the new Crusader class. The details of the class are going to be explored over the next week, on the official Diablo III blog. Here is the first look, delving into the history of the Crusader, an order of the Zakarum faith.

Faithful of Akkhan. Bastions of the Light. Stalwart redeemers of the Zakarum. All of these names could very well describe the newest hero class available in Reaper of Soulsâ„¢.

Unlike other orders of the Zakarum, the Crusaders bring a distinctly grittier version of a traditional holy warrior to the world of Sanctuary. But where did they come from? What is their role in the Zakarum faith? How will they tackle the looming threat of Malthael on the horizon?

The answers to these questions and many more lay below, so let's kick off our week-long inside look at the Crusader class with some delectable servings of lore!

The Rise of the Zakarum

The Zakarum faith was founded many years ago, sometime after the Mage Clan wars by the prophet Akarat, a wandering ascetic from Xiansai. According to many historical accounts, it was during this pivotal time (in which humanity was beginning to reject magic for the comforts of religion) that Akarat received a startling revelation from a being he referred to as Yaerius, or "son of light" in his native language.

While there is some debate among scholars as to the true nature of Akarat’s prophecy—specifically, whether the "being" Akarat saw was the archangel Yaerius or simply an echo of Uldyssian’s sacrifice at the end of the Sin War—its significance is undeniable. It is said that the vision, manifesting as a magnificent flash of light and energy across the sky, ignited the fundamental belief within Akarat that humans were powerful vessels of light, and that all should seek their "inner light" in order to live good lives.


Upon receiving this revelation, Akarat set out on a grand journey to the cities Kehjistan, spreading word of his findings and encouraging others to embrace the Light he knew existed within them. Although Akarat would eventually vanish from all historical record, his teachings lived on through the people of Sanctuary, serving as the spiritual basis for the Zakarum faith and church. (Fun fact: The name "Zakarum" comes from "Zakara," meaning "inner light.")

Light's Dawn: The Birth of the Crusader

During the reign of Emperor Tassara and shortly before General Rakkis’ historic march to the West, a priest by the name of Akkhan sensed a foul taint growing within the Zakarum church. This taint, unknown to Akkhan at the time, was caused by no other than that of the Prime Evil Mephisto, Lord of Hatred, his darkness steadily seeping from the soulstone which lay beneath the Temple of Light in Travincal.


Determined to redeem his beloved faith, Akkhan sought out the most devout, talented warriors and issued them a sacred mission: find a way to cleanse the Zakarum of decay and corruption once and for all. These warriors traveled to the east, directly opposite the Paladins traveling with General Rakkis, following the rumored path Akarat took in the last days of his life before disappearing.

And so the Crusader order was born.

Amongst the Zakarum: The Crusader's Role

Long time players of the Diablo franchise are likely familiar with the Zakarum faith and may even fondly remember time spent with their Paladin, the playable holy warrior from Diablo II. While Crusaders and Paladins share a devotion to the Zakarum faith, they aren't directly related to one another nor necessarily serve the same goals.

So how exactly do the Crusaders fit into the picture?

Of Paladins Past and Present:

Let's go over what we currently know: a quick overview of the well-beloved Paladin. Paladins are devoted warriors of the Zakarum. Over time since their founding, different sects of Paladins began to form, with separate goals and bases of operation.  This includes the Knights of Westmarch, the Order of Paladins, and the Hand of Zakarum.


During the events of the Zakarum Inquisition, the Hand of Zakarum was discovered to be corrupt and collapsed shortly after the events of Diablo II. The Order of Paladins, disgusted by the corruption of their faith, broke away and fled to the west, eventually settling in Westmarch. The Knights of Westmarch, already established from General Rakkis' conquest and eager to diminish their connection to Mephisto's corruption, absorbed the Order of Paladins and disassociated themselves from the Zakarum faith.

These different orders, some intentionally while others as a result of malevolent misdirection, evolved their arts and practices over the years, eventually developing into the Paladins we see today.

The Crusade Continues:

Unlike the Paladins, the Crusaders are an elite and insular group that has seen very little change since their founding, maintaining beliefs and practices most close to the original teachings of Akarat. Though Crusaders may exhibit similar ability to wield and bend the Light to their will as their Paladin counterparts, their fervor comes from a much more pure sense of righteousness. This is in part by design. During their formation, Akkhan made certain to only recruit those with the strongest conviction and battle potential. He also actively avoided bringing in anyone with Paladin training, fearful of any existing defilement or corruption carrying over into his crusade.


As a result of this focused purpose and very guarded lifestyle, the order itself is actually quite small. In total, only 427 Crusaders were sent east, and over time, their numbers have dwindled to the 341 known today. In practice, the Crusaders remain a loosely organized group, often traveling alone or with, at most, a single apprentice—a partnership which will persist until the Crusader's death. When it comes time for the Crusader to lay down their weapon, generally by falling in battle, their apprentice will not only take up their shield and armor, but their name as well, continuing a legacy set in motion so many generations ago.

Starting the Journey: The Nephalem Crusader

As with the other Diablo III classes, the Crusader is a nephalem, their blood pulsing with same hidden power. Hearing the tales of a mysterious star falling from the sky and having exhausted their search in the East, the Crusader has traveled to New Tristram, hoping to discover anything that might save their faltering faith.

Will you take up the flail and shield in the name of the Zakarum? Are you eager to smite your foes with the pure, unblemished power of the Light? Let us know in the comments below if you'll be rolling out your living, battle hardened tank on launch day!

Read on for a Q&A about the Crusader lore, with the Diablo III loremasters.

Last week, we asked followers of @Diablo to send us their burning questions about Crusader lore and history.

After pouring through all the wonderful tweets we received in response, we then worked with lead writer Brian Kindregan and Blizzard historian Justin Parker to provide answers to some of your most popular inquiries below. Check it out!


Answer: A heavily armored, deeply driven warrior is traditionally depicted with a flail or mace. Maces generally learn towards the clergymen or clerical type of character, and the Crusader definitely leans more towards the martial side of things. Plus, they’re just awesome!


Answer: The Crusaders are searching for anything that might redeem their faith. They don’t know what form it will take, whether an item, a lost text, or perhaps an ally. However, they do strongly believe in signs and symbols, and a falling star raining down on a small town not yet explored by their brethren could be a very good lead.


Answer: As detailed above, the Crusaders are very different than Paladins! While it’s true that the etymology of the term "Crusader" has its origins in the term "cross" and carries some real world connotations, it has grown in meaning (at least in the English language) to represent a faithful soldier of any kind, particularly those who devote themselves to a powerful cause or life-long task. This is exactly the kind of mission the Crusader is on, and their faction as a whole can certainly describe their journey as a "crusade."


Answer: Crusaders generally recruit their apprentices in the wilderness or working-class parts of a city. When they identify a child who exhibits talent with the Light, 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.


Answer: When the Crusaders departed on their journey, they weren't heard from again. They didn't keep in contact, and Akkhan's belief that the rest of the church was corrupted kept them from communicating with the other sects. As a result, only very high level members of the Zakarum church are aware of the Crusaders' existence. Crusaders respect other devout and pure worshipers of their faith, but are wary of those who may have been corrupted. Depending on their Order and rank, some Paladins might react poorly or not at all to a Crusader.


Answer: In the Swamplands to the east, many male Crusaders (and some female!) would buzz their heads to reduce the chance of carrying lice infestations. Gross, we know, but for some that was a less cumbersome option than having to bathe more thoroughly and regularly between battles. Ain't nobody got time for that!


Answer: Mostly, from the same place Paladins do! The Crusaders follow the tenets of the old Zakarum faith closely, which in its simplest form states that all humans have the Light somewhere within them. While many Crusaders often show signs of their ancient nephalem heritage, simply being born with strong affinity to the Light is not enough. Crusaders train extensively throughout their apprenticeship to master their innate abilities.


Answer: Akkhan only knew some force was corrupting his beloved faith. He had no way of knowing the cause was Mephisto, and therefore couldn't act directly. He believed everyone above him in the Zakarum hierarchy was corrupted in some way, and without any real knowledge the best he could do was form the Crusaders to find the answer and solution to that corruption.


Answer: Not at all! As adherents to the Zakarum faith, they believe in the ascent of man, and that the melding of demon and angel produced the only truly balanced beings in creation.


Answer: Crusaders are incredibly experienced veterans. As they 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. They see allies and enemies alike fall in combat. Even the very act of becoming a Crusader involves seeing your master die. Despite the core of seriousness and discipline that drives them deep within, they've been around too long and seen too much to take anything aside from the crusade itself 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.


Answer: Many Paladin orders have been disbanded at this point. Some have formed into new orders, such as the Templars, while others have gone rogue or freelance. Others have simply died. The Knights of Westmarch have become a largely secular order, separated from the Zakarum faith and more focused on the defense of Westmarch from physical harm rather than spiritual. In Reaper of Souls, Lorath Nahr is a newly introduced character who has close ties to the Knights of Westmarch. If you'd like more information on this particular group, I recommend speaking to Lorath in-game once the expansion launches, or reading through Storm of Light by Nate Kenyon. 

Thank you to everyone who sent us questions! We look forward to sharing even more information about the Crusader class all this week—so stay tuned!

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