I have always been struck by the creative world building that takes place in good Fantasy or Science Fiction. In my adolescents this was limited to novels, Dungeons and Dragons, and the occasional movie. Video games like Super Mario were fun, but the adventures of plumbers was not exactly the grand epic like those of Tolkien. So, I did not view video games in that way; until Diablo. It was the summer of 1997, I was 12 years old, and I saw that burning logo with the face of a demon on the cover. How could you not be hooked, honestly? My brother and I would take turns going down into the dungeon, defeating terrible monsters, and returning with loot. D&D 2nd edition was out at the time and had the same dungeon crawl feel that I was experiencing in Diablo. Soon after, our little D&D game of neighborhood friends took a darker turn.. for 12 year olds that is. We fought demons while listening to Metallica records, and though my mother was worried, she assured herself that this was simply a phase. She was incredibly wrong as I enjoy my metal loud even to this day, and as you can tell by visiting this site, I very much still enjoy tabletop RPGs. The world of Diablo is easy enough to home-brew, however, I can’t help but crave an official release of a Diablo RPG. So, here’s my pitch on why we need a new Diablo RPG.
The first thing that sets Diablo apart is the dark and gritty setting. The world of Sanctuary, in which you find yourself, was created by both Angels and Demons that wanted to escape the Great Conflict between good and evil. After a time of this truce, and some procreation, the first humans were born. Upon discovering the untapped power of humans, both Angels and Demons were at each other’s throats to claim this new prize. The war spilled into the realm of mortals in what would be known as; the Sin War. With the Demons attempting to invade Sanctuary, it is up to adventures to explore what is causing this evil and stop it. This is the backdrop in which we enter in Diablo I. A world under invasion. Powerful Necromancers, tempted by Demons, are assisting the forces of evil reach the mortal plain, and it’s only upon investigation that the truth of this eternal conflict comes to light. A setting like this would lend itself well to a more combat or dungeon focused group of players. I can also see the setting of Diablo as a lower magic setting, as far as the general population, however, would set powerful Wizards apart. The setting will need to feel threatening and the situation dire for the players to rise to the occasion and cast out this evil. The characters power would ramp up as they gain magical artifacts from other planes to drive back the forces of Hell.
Characters and Monsters:
Diablo always used classes that felt straight out of D&D. I know Chris Metzen, who worked on the game, is an avid D&D fan. Wizard, Barbarian, Monk, these have existed in tabletop RPGs forever, and even classes like Demon Hunter, that don’t appear to have a 1:1, would be simple to create by tweaking a ranger or fighter. Adding spells and abilities from the game would add to that immersion, but the real selling point for me is the monsters of the Diablo universe. Who doesn’t want to see the hellish art and stat block for the Lord of Terror himself; Diablo. Then you have the angelic forces which may see mortals as a threat. Maltheal, the Archangel of Wisdom, that appears on the box art for the Reaper of Souls expansion, would be a worthy opponent for any party. By focusing on the eternal conflict, the setting would be able to have a monster manual that expands on Angels and Demons. Whenever I see stat blocks for Demons, they have limited options, because those games have to cater to a large breathe of stories. So, imagine a book of 200 monsters broken up between angels, demons, and a few human threats such as cultists. That would be a monster manual that one could use for variety of games, but also feels unique to the Diablo setting.
The question then becomes what system would Diablo benefit from? At its core, Diablo is still a fantasy RPG, and doesn’t have any special mechanics that would require anyone to re-invent the wheel. The smart play would be to use a system with an open gaming license (This means third party publishers can produce content). The obvious answer is partnering with Dungeons and Dragons. D&D 5th Edition is enjoying a high point in its popularity, but more importantly, there is a history between the two companies. Dungeons and Dragons produced a Diablo II RPG, however, it relied more on pre-generated characters and played more like a board game. At the very least, there is an interest from both companies in producing content for the Diablo IP. You could go the route of producing a campaign book that covers the history/setting, a few class options, flavorful spells, and monsters. This would be a standalone product, but if you take this path, I think you miss out on opportunities to flavor the setting. For this reason, I would rather see a new rulebook based on D&D 5th Edition. This way you can go into depth to flesh out classes like Necromancer or Demon Hunter to make them really feel like Diablo. Same goes with spells and magic items. Gear always played a vital part of the Diablo game play, and it would be a huge selling point if the book could focus on magic items and equipment. Another reason I would want to see Diablo split into a new rulebook, is so it could be accompanied by a Monster Manual as we discussed. Even if a DM was not planning on playing in the Diablo universe, these books would still be useful for new options when playing in a darker setting.
There are many settings that I would enjoy seeing converted into tabletop RPGs, and Diablo is at the top of my list. A dark and gritty tone that plays with the occult could be a nice change of pace as far as settings go. With Diablo 4 rumored to be announced at this year’s Blizzcon, I think a partnership with D&D to produce content in some form would be a hell of a cross over for the Diablo franchise that is posed to make a comeback.