Back on October 12, 2013, at the New York Comic Con -- Micky Neilson told me there were plans for a novella based on Morbed. Today Pocket Star released the new digital book Diablo III: Morbed by Micky Neilson (Blizzard publishing lead & New York Times best selling author). This character was first revealed within the pages of Diablo III: Book of Tyrael, foreshadowing things to come.
Details of this digital book were kept in shadows until barely four days ago when I stumbled upon it at Amazon. I check Amazon.com nigh daily in search of upcoming Blizzard books, and Diablo III: Morbed wasn't in Amazon days ago. The digital book is now available today and can be read. I started reading it sometime around midnight.
**Note: There might be spoiler elements beneath this line. Be warned.**
What is Morbed, and where is it based on in the timeline? The story seems to happen a few months before the events of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. The King of Westmarch was still alive, and it had not been invaded yet by Malthael's forces. Here are a few details to share.
Morbed was a former thief. A band of adventurers defeated the King of bandits in Aranoch; and word quickly spread about their feat and reached the ears of Justinian the king of Westmarch.
Justinian summoned this band of adventurers to find a hooded vagabond who was seen entering some of the ruins hidden beneath the Bloodmarch. It's said this vagabond collected relics from the catacombs and possibly pillaging the Tomb of Rakkis.
The band is composed of Morbed, Jaharra (wizard), Aedus (druid), Clovis (crusader), and Vorik (necromancer). Clovis the crusader was in this mission because he wished to find the bones of Akarat to renew the faith of his religious order. The crusader thought this mission would help his quest.
Now what most catches my attention about this story is the inclusion of, both, a druid and a necromancer to a story that took place sometime before Reaper of Souls. At one point, Jay Wilson said to MTV Multiplayer some of the previous classes might return in future Diablo III expansions.
[bluepost]Jay Wilson: "There's a lot of people on our team who aren't happy with our class choices,” he admitted. "But after we've established 'Diablo III' as its own game with its own type of gameplay and experiences, I wouldn't be opposed to looking at old classes. We are trying to design [the Witch Doctor] class so that if we did bring back the Necromancer, there's room for him. We're looking out ahead of time at what our expansions are going to be, so we've got to keep room open for some of those other classes down the road."[/bluepost]
We have seen a necromancer NPC in Diablo III already, and most recently Zayl the Necromancer was among the five heroes recruited by mortal Tyrael to steal the Black Soulstone from the High Heavens (as seen in Diablo III: Storm of Light); but we had not heard of a druid in a very long time in-game or in the printed media based on Diablo.
Like in comic books, some characters are heroes -- like Superman (DC Comics), Captain America (Marvel Comics) -- while others are anti-Heroes with traits of heroism such as Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, even Batman. They are not 100% noble or moral. They have shades of grey. Willing to kill, or to follow their own personal agendas.
I think this is the first time I see a Diablo character such as Morbed. The only other Blizzard character I can compare him with is Prince Arthas (at Stratholme and Dragonblight).
Prince Arthas and even Kael'Thas were formerly noble, and righteous in their own way. Then their lives changed drastically. Dramatically. The scars were deep. Their emotions a maelstrom. Eventually, their morals shifted, and they turned to evil.
Morbed comes from a different background. He was a former thief. He is changed his old ways, but other non-heroic traits have stuck around. The way he is pictured in this story he is going from a scumbag to someone seeking redemption for his past deeds. That gives Morbed some depth as a character. As well as bringing up controversy. Why should we care about the character? Well, look at how Wolverine has boomed the Marvel Comics and films. It has been proven that Anti-Heroes, well written, are a formula that do work. Especially, if you as an author craft a good complex story with twists and drama. The reader becomes entangled into the story, and starts to care about the anti-hero, and wishes to learn more. The reader gets hooked to the anti-hero.
I have no doubt Morbed eventually becomes a hero, but in the first half of this story, Morbed is anything but a hero. He is selfish, he betrays, he won't risk his life for his own band; and above all else... he is a survivor. He knows his way out of trouble. He uses all the abilities he learned as a former thief. He is no hero. The problem with Morbed is that he won't risk his hide to help his own teammates in the battlefield. He is willing to leave behind his platoon. Yet, he is filled with guilt.
That element on its own can be exploited by the author. There is a potential way lingering in the air to redeem his past mistakes with this guilt element roaming his mind.
The question is ... what is Micky Neilson planning to do with this new anti-hero? Diablo III: Reaper of Souls launched barely a month ago, and there is no trace of this character as a new NPC. Is he slated to appear in a future content patch? Or the next expansion? That is something to ponder about.
More questions inbound. Are we going to see more of Morbed in a full-fleshed novel in 2015? A graphic novel based on him? Otherwise, why write about a nobody character if you have no plans to expand? Makes no sense right? So, one must assume there are plans for this character.
Those characters birthed through the Diablo III short stories came to life in Diablo III: Storm of Light, and they assisted Tyrael -- a central figure in the Diablo universe.
Hopefully, we will hear more from Micky Neilson on what plans he has for Morbed, when he is ready to share details.
I do recommend Diablo fans to read Diablo III: Morbed. If this story is foreshadowing things to come either in printed media or in-game at some point, then it is a must-read. We not only learn about a dark anti-hero who gains strange power through this enigmatic lantern, the reader also learns about an ancient history.
In Warcraft, we know the Amani Trolls lived in the region we know now as Quel'Thalas. The High Elves traveled there, decimated the trolls, and usurped their sacred lands to build Quel'Thalas.
In the Diablo universe, on the other hand, we have heard for years how Rakkis fought his way into the west lands and founded the city of Westmarch. However, have we ever learned who Rakkis fought and who originally lived in what we now know as Westmarch and Bloodmarch?
Indeed, Blizzard did never delved into that. Diablo III: Morbed gives us a glimpse into this when the hooded vagabond faces Morbed, and the vagabond reveals to Morbed his motives to pillage ancient artifacts from the Tomb of Rakkis and adjacent underground ruins.
What if this people -- exiled from the former Blooming Moors (now known as Westmarch) -- became a new class in the next Diablo III expansion? That's another one to ponder. This short story would then be the prelude to that. Would you dare not to read even out of curiosity?
Diablo III: Morbed Giveaway
Winners will be contacted through Facebook or Twitter. Winners will be listed beneath this line of text so check back. Make sure to check out your social account inbox. Giveaway ends Wednesday, April 23 at 11:59pm EST (New York).
Morbed (former thief) Jaharra (female Wizard) Aedus (druid from Scosglen) Clovis (crusader) Vorik (necromancer)
The fisherman - a merchant, posing as a fisherman, who brought the band to the isle. The vagabond - descendant of the original inhabitants of the Blooming Moor (now known as Westmarch) who were exiled by Rakkis.
Kasha, Roshan and Ishkara (spirit wolfs summoned by the druid)
Aranoch (mentioned) Westmarch House of Bulkhan Glooming Moors