Diablo : Unearthing Tristram

Quest Log is a feature in which I set out on adventure to learn how something works. This might be game mechanics, social issues, or technology. The goal is to gain a greater understanding of the topic and spread awareness.

When David Brevik briefly mentioned that the name for his game was inspired by Mt. Diablo, the mountain which cast its shadow over his hometown of Danville, I began to wonder what other elements of his town made it’s way into the game. I began to wonder whether there was a real Tristram.

Diablo 3‘s release reignited my interest. Running through the dark, doomed world of Sanctuary, I questioned at every turn whether the road to Tristram had a real world analog. Were any of the characters inspired by Danville and the surrounding towns? Buildings? Clubs? Anything? I decided to investigate and what I found was not only interesting, but some of it is a either an amazing stroke of coincidence or a nod from the game designers to Dave’s neighborhood.

I began first with Danville itself. Nothing of note emerged from it, so I decided to scout the interwebs for other towns in caught in Diablo’s shadow. Being a native of Northern California, a lot of that scenery is very familiar for me and therefore added a personal layer of interest in the story of Tristram. I went in feeling confident there were other things in the game which were inspired by my world.

The next town I looked at was Lafayette. This turned up the most interesting information yet. But first, a brief recap of the lore of Tristram.

Tristram is fairly unremarkable in Diablo lore. Nothing significant exists about it except that it was the seat of Westmarch King Leoric’s power and the Lord of Terror showed up soon after. It’s a small agrarian town which looks more like a ranch whose geography is dominated by the cathedral.

Tristram SS

It was here that Diablo awakened, drove a King mad, possessed his son and slowly opened the gates of hell in Sanctuary. The most notable features of this town are that it’s dominated by a church with a sizable grave yard; it’s economy is driven by cattle; and it lay in a valley below large mountains.

Lafayette, Danville’s nearer-to-Diablo-neighbor share these same characteristics.

Lafayette was founded as a ranch over an ancient burial ground belonging to Native Americans who’d been there for over a 1000 years [1]. Cattle was it’s prime product. It lies in a valley beneath Mt. Diablo.  Finally, the oldest relics on the site are human skulls and bones, no doubt due to the presence of the burial grounds.

Hall PicIn 1855, the Lafayette Community Church was established at the intersection of a road called Oakland and Mt. Diablo (seriously). It was known as the “Church on the Hill” and later was converted to the Good Templars Hall [2]. In 1927 the building was “sold and remodeled for use as a sanctuary.” So: we have a cattle town built on a burial ground, dominated by a church built on Diablo, home to local Templars (and/or their members) and called a sanctuary. Intriguing coincidence or clever story design? You be the judge.

The trek to the summit of Mt. Diablo is very long and hard, as the trails meander in and around the mountain. A place of interest just across from it’s peak is an area called Devil’s Pulpit. Is this where Diablo’s own throne used to be? I don’t know. But there’s only one way to find out.

Send photos of your adventure to doone at trredskies dot com.