Captain Rumford is one of the first NPC (non-player characters) that players interact with in New Tristram. If you’ve been playing Diablo III for a long time, you probably skip over the dialogue that involves Captain Rumford. You’ve heard it at least a dozen times by now.
His story is worth taking a second look at. Not only does it tell quite a bit about who he is, it also gives a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived in and around New Tristram when the dead started rising.
Assuming that you play in Story Mode, your character starts out on a quest to find the Fallen Star. You kill off the invading zombies, and get sent to speak to Captain Rumford, who is inside the gates of New Tristram.
I’m going to take the dialogue of Captain Rumford out of the order that it is presented in. If you put it in chronological order, it tells you a lot about who he is. This is a man whose life has drastically changed, much more than many of the other villagers in New Tristram.
Villager: Lots of good farming in these parts. Well, before all of this started.
This Villager, who stands near Cain’s house, says something significant. “Lots of good farming in these parts.” New Tristram used to be surrounded by farms before things changed. Those who lived in New Tristram had access to plenty of fresh food. Travel through the Fields of Misery, and you can find pumpkins, chickens, and fields that may have produced grains. One could assume that other food was grown on those farms as well.
Now, those farms have been destroyed. No food is produced from them. The farmers who worked on those farms basically lost everything. There’s a food shortage going on. The farmers who could no longer safely tend their farms would have to look for a new profession. What’s hiring right now in New Tristram? The militia!
Captain Rumford was among the farmers who became soldiers. He couldn’t possibly have had much training, considering the circumstances. It is unlikely that he ever envisioned himself as part of the militia. Yet, here he was, thrown into extremely dire circumstances.
Captain Rumford: When Leah told us the dead were pouring out of the cathedral, we quickly went to put an end to it.
Captain Rumford is describing what happened on one of the first missions he was involved in. Leah told the militia that the dead were “pouring out of the cathedral”. That cathedral isn’t too far away from New Tristram. At the time, Rumford wasn’t a Captain. He was just part of the group of soldiers who were sent to “put an end” to the problem in the Cathedral. He was likely one of the most inexperienced soldiers in the group.
Captain Rumford: At first, it seemed we were succeeding, but th- but they just kept coming. We – well, we were overcome. Captain Dalytn and the men fought valiantly.
We learn what happened to Captain Daltyn, (and the other men). You can find Captain Daltyn in Adria’s Hut. He’s been turned into a zombie. Captain Dalytn is a gold zombie, which means he is tougher to fight than the couple of former-militia-now-zombies that accompany him. They got bit by the risen dead in the Cathedral, and seem to have tried to return to New Tristram. They only made it as far as Adria’s Hut before they turned.
Captain Rumford: They protected me. I am no soldier. I am – I was a farmer. I should not have been out there with them.
In this piece of dialogue, Rumford is expressing many different feelings. He appears to feel guilty that the other soldiers tried to protect him. It is as though he thinks it was his fault that they got turned into the undead. If they weren’t trying to protect him – they might have been able to put more focus on fighting.
He says with regret “I am – I was a farmer, I should not have been out there with them.” Rumford is pointing out that he had not been properly trained to do what needed to be done in the Cathedral. He feels that his presence was a liability – and actually caused more harm than good. This is how dire things are in New Tristram. Farmers, who haven’t been trained to fight, are sent off as though they were properly trained soldiers. There is no other option.
Captain Rumford: I do not know how I made it back here. None of the others did. And now, somehow, I’m supposed to lead the militia.
This part of the dialogue tells us exactly how Rumford, a farmer who was far from being an effective soldier, became Captain Rumford. He’s got absolutely no background in leading soldiers, barely knows how to fight, and has no idea what to do about the zombies that surround New Tristram.
It is not the life he wanted for himself. Now, he’s stuck in a job that he has no idea how to do, and with no one to guide him. Even worse, the mistakes he undoubtedly will make are going to cost people their lives. He’s already feeling guilty about what happened to Captain Daltyn and the rest of the men who went into the Cathedral with him. Captain Rumford must be absolutely terrified.
Captain Rumford: I volunteered to help because it seemed the right thing to do. But I’m no leader of men.
I don’t think Captain Rumford is saying that he volunteered to become the new captain. Instead, he’s saying that he volunteered to join the militia after his farm was overrun and destroyed. He couldn’t continue to farm. He felt that the right thing to do would be to help the people of New Tristram to survive the invading monsters. Captain Rumford never imagined that he would one day (very soon) be put in charge of the militia.
At this point in the conversation, the player character says something encouraging to Captain Rumford. It differs slightly from one class to another. In short, the player character basically says “You can do it!”.
Captain Rumford: That’s a simple thing for you to say. You were born to fight monsters like the risen dead, Me, I’m just a farmer.
It’s clear that Captain Rumford is feeling completely overwhelmed by his new responsibilities. He’s trying his best, but it’s not enough. Walk through New Tristram, and it’s clear that the remaining soldiers are defending the town. Too many have been lost, and he doesn’t want to put anyone else into a situation like the one he went through (and somehow survived).
In this screenshot, we see two of the militia who are stationed in New Tristram. Although they aren’t in immediate danger, their lives are far from easy. The younger soldier is named Eran, and the older one is named Joshua.
Eran: Did you hear? Old Rumford has us down to half rations. How are we to supposed to fight if we’re starving?
Joshua: The rest of the town is down to a quarter. Including my wife. But you can quit if you want.
As I mentioned before, there is a food shortage in New Tristram. The farms are destroyed. Captain Rumford has been put in charge of rationing the food that remains. He’s smartly decided that the soldiers would need more food than the other villagers, since they could be called upon at any moment to defend the town from invading monsters.
Ironically, we have a situation where a farmer, who lived to grow food and feed people, is in charge of rationing food. The soldiers are starving. The villagers are starving. Everyone is blaming Captain Rumford, who never wanted to be a Captain in the first place. This brings us to the first piece of dialogue that players get from Captain Rumford, shortly after they arrive in New Tristram.
Captain Rumford: Thank you for your help. But, could you talk some sense into Leah? She won’t give up on rescuing her uncle.
Captain Rumford thanks the player for their help in fighting the risen dead that were at the gates of New Tristram. He truly is thankful – he’s only got a minimal amount of soldiers at hand to defend the town. Every bit of help he can get is sorely needed!
In the meantime, Leah has returned to New Tristram after the Fallen Star crashed down on the Cathedral. She and her uncle Deckard Cain were inside. Leah got out, but was unable to save her uncle. She’s now made it clear that she will return to rescue him. Captain Rumford doesn’t want her to do that – and hopes that the player can “talk some sense into” her.
He had very good reason to attempt to prevent Leah from returning to the Cathedral. His recent mission there resulted in the rest of the soldier’s deaths (or undeaths, considering that they became zombies). That mission is what killed Captain Daltyn (who became a zombie that was stronger than the zombie soldiers that he used to lead). That failed mission is what forced Rumford to become Captain of the remaining militia.
Of course, he sees Leah’s desire to go rescue her uncle as a suicide mission. He can’t spare any soldiers to accompany Leah, and he doesn’t want to see this bright, helpful, young woman go off and get killed. He’s unable to talk Leah out of her plan, and hopes the player character can convince her to stay in New Tristram. Instead, the player character goes off to rescue Deckard Cain on his/her own.
Later, the player character picks up a quest that requires them to go to the Fields of Misery. Captain Rumford has something to say about that.
Captain Rumford: I hear you are going to the fields. It was a place of great beauty before the dirty khazra fouled it with their presence.
Captain Rumford: Kill some of them for me, will you?
We know that Rumford started out as a farmer. His farm must have been located somewhere near New Tristram. This last bit of dialogue implies that his farm was located in “the fields”, which are now referred to as The Fields of Misery.
It is likely that the khazra – the goat men – were the monsters that destroyed his farm. If it wasn’t for them, Rumford might still be living a happy life as a farmer – instead of a frustrating, scary, intense life as a Captain of the militia. It’s no wonder he wants the player character to kill some khazra for him!