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Hats Off to the Harlequin Crest

Everything you would ever want to know about the Harlequin Crest.


Hats Off to the Harlequin Crest

 

Perhaps the most highly praised exclamation in Diablo 4 is, “I finally got a Shako!” The relentless pursuit of this most coveted of all Unique Items has been going strong ever since early access players began their race to 100 during the first weekend in June of last year. Given the nearly universal application of this gear item, it’s no surprise that so many players are willing to do just about anything to get one.

Thanks to the honorable Iron Wolves clan being added to Helltides in Season 4, many more players, including yours truly, have since joined the ranks of those who can now proudly equip a Harlequin Crest. Believe it or not, a gamer friend of mine just recently salvaged a spare one just so he could get the transmog. To commemorate these milestones, let’s take a closer look at the history behind this famous headpiece.

French Shako
A French Naval Fusilier’s shako, c. 1830

Etymology

So, where did the the Harlequin Crest, a.k.a Shako, get it’s name? Well, although it would make for a more interesting backstory, it’s not named after the blonde bombshell with pigtails from the Suicide Squad. The term Harlequin refers to a mute character in traditional pantomime, typically masked and dressed in a diamond-patterned costume. The word Shako, according to a commonly referenced online encyclopedia, originated from the Hungarian word csákó (peak, projecting point of a cow’s horn), referring to the peaked top that Hungarian border soldiers added to their previously visorless stovepipe-style hats circa 1790.

It’s interesting that the early Diablo designers decided to use either of these terms since their descriptions in real life bear no resemblance to how this type of helm looked in the games. Be that as it may, the Harlequin Crest helm has breathed new life into some very old European terminology.

Diablo I

In the first Diablo game, the Harlequin Crest is a jeweled magical cap that can be obtained in only single-player mode. It is a gift given by Ogden the Innkeeper as a reward for completing the optional Ogden’s Sign quest. Ogden  tells us that, “This cap was left in one of the rooms by a magician that stayed here some time ago. Perhaps it may be of some value to you.” This helm still had pretty decent stats even way back then:

Diablo1 Harlequin Crest
Original Harlequin Crest
  • +2 to all Attributes
  • Armor Class: -3
  • -1 Damage from Enemies
  • +7 Hit Points
  • +7 Mana
  • Requirements: None
  • Durability: 15

Diablo II

In Diablo 2, we first see the term “Shako” used for a base Cap that drops at the Elite (higher than Normal or Exceptional) level of quality with the following stats:

  • Defense: 98-141
  • Level Requirement: 43
  • Strength Requirement: 50
  • Durability: 12
  • Sockets: 2
  • Quality Level: 58
Diablo 2 Harlequin Crest
Diablo II Shako

The Unique version of the Shako in Diablo 2 is called a Harlequin Crest. Every Act Boss can drop this item; however, the chances are greater when farming Baal, Mephisto, Nithlathak, and Andariel, on the Nightmare and Hell difficulty levels. Besides its bonuses to skills, life, mana, and damage reduction, this helm also bestows a very high boost to magic find, which can be further enhanced by socketing the helmet with an Ist Rune or a Perfect Topaz. It’s also a good all-around helm for nearly any class and build in the game and it has the following stats:

  • Defense: 98-141
  • Required Level: 62
  • Required Strength: 40
  • Durability: 12
  • +2 To All Skills
  • +1-148 To Life (+1.5 Per Character Level)
  • +1-148 To Mana (+1.5 Per Character Level)
  • 10% Damage Reduction
  • 50% Better Chance of Getting Magic Items
  • +2 To All Attributes

Diablo III

The role of the Harlequin Crest in the third game of the series is fairly minimal compared to its predecessors. During the annual Darkening of Tristram event, this Magic Helm can be obtained simply by defeating an elite Fallen named Snotspill, the leader of the Dark Ones, who can be found on Dungeon Level 4. The Diablo 3 version looks the essentially same as it did in Diablo, but it is of relatively little value as an actual gear item compared to legendary set helms and is really just a legacy souvenir.

Diablo 4 Harlequin CrestDiablo IV

Although the term “Shako” technically does not appear in the current game, many players still use that name to refer to the Harlequin Crest as a nod to its appearance in Diablo 2. Nevertheless, this helm’s most recent iteration as an Ancestral Unique item is, by far, its most robust version to date. The two principal reasons for this are that its boost to All Skills was increased from +2 to +4 and its Damage Reduction was increased from 10% to 20%. The character level required to equip it is only 35 when no gem is socketed, which makes leveling your Alts much easier if you’re lucky enough to get one with your main character.

Considering that a character such as my Frozen Orb Sorceress has points put into to seven different applicable skills, this one gear item adds the equivalent of 28 skill points to my build. The buff to damage reduction is also invaluable, especially when pushing higher endgame content like The Pit. For example, equipping the Harlequin Crest was the principal factor that got my Sorceress past the Tier 61 breakpoint and squarely into Neathiron-level materials farming for Masterworking.

It Gets Even Better

With the rebirth of Helltides in Season 4, obtaining a Shako is, thankfully, no longer limited to the purview of the Top 1%‑ers. In previous Seasons, these Diablo gaming GigaChads spent all of their waking hours farming Uber Duriel for a chance at this extremely rare dropWolfs Honor Rewards. However, this is no longer the case as a result of two very important changes that were recently made to the game. The first is the introduction of using Resplendent Sparks to craft Uber Unique items at the Alchemist. The second is the addition of the Wolf’s Honor reward system, where the Level 18 Cache contains one Resplendent Spark.

Combine these two features, along with continually farming Helltides to achieve the final Wolf’s Honor cache with four separate characters, and crafting a Shako is guaranteed. That might sound like a lot of work until you consider that defeating the Blood Maiden will reward 200 Wolf’s Honor points each time regardless of the World Tier. So, just spam the Blood Maiden in Helltides on World Tier 2 and then ride around and open Tortured Gifts at 100 Aberrant Cinders apiece for an additional 120 Wolf’s Honor points per chest.

Employing this strategy can earn you one Resplendent Spark for about every 6 to 8 hours of gameplay with each new Seasonal character. You can save even more time by reaching out to a community Discord and taking advantage of offers for free Capstone carries for all those new characters. Free Tormented Boss and Echo of Lilith carries are also regularly available, both of which reward one Resplendent Spark for the very first kill of the Season. Compare that to farming Uber Duriel for weeks and still possibly coming away with zero Harlequin Crests and the choice of which strategy to use is clear.

The Fall of House Aston

King Leoric
King Leoric

The tooltip flavor text for the Harlequin Crest reads as follows:

“This headdress was once worn by an assassin disguised as a court mage. Her treachery was unveiled, but not before she used its magic to curse the king’s entire lineage.”

You may remember that Ogden told us that the Harlequin Crest was left in one of his rooms by a magician who had once stayed at the Inn. Considering that the same magician used the crest to curse the king and his family, it stands to reason that she ultimately escaped House Aston and then stayed at Ogden’s Inn, leaving the crest behind when she checked out. Unfortunately, the few remaining remnants about this story make no mention of exactly who this king was. However, given that the lore of the first Diablo game includes only one king, it’s not really that difficult to figure it out.

Leoric originated from Kehjistan and was a devout disciple of the Zakarum faith. At some point in the 13th century, his chief advisor, the Archbishop Lazarus, persuaded him to move to the lands of Khanduras and, in the name of the Zakarum, declare himself to be king. However, there is currently no reference to be found anywhere in Diablo lore regarding Leoric’s family name. Therefore, it’s not that big of a leap to conclude that House Aston may have belonged to Leoric before he became the King of Khanduras. The fact that every member of Leoric’s immediate family eventually met with some horrific misfortune only serves to strengthen this conclusion.

World War II

Aston House
Aston House in the 1940s

It turns out that the name House Aston has historical value in real life as well. According to the same online encyclopedia, Aston House was a prominent 17th-century residence that was located opposite the parish church in Aston, Hertfordshire in Southern England. The site was developed and named Yeomans Drive in memory of Arthur Yeomans, the last owner in 1939 when it was requisitioned by the War Office.

Beginning in 1940, Aston House became the Research and Development Centre of sabotage explosives and weapons for the Special Operations Executive (British version of the CIA). Aston House was the first to experiment with plastic explosives for sabotage. The house was demolished in 1961 by the Stevenage New Town Development Corporation after occupying it as its initial headquarters. The clandestine and tactical nature of this research facility does sort of fit in with the story of the assassin who cursed House Aston, and so this could quite possibly have been the inspiration for whomever wrote the tooltip flavor text for the Harlequin Crest in Diablo 4.

See You Next Time

The PureDiablo community would like to know your opinion on this topic, so please sound off in the comments section below, or contact me on Twitter. Let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions for future topics here at PureDiablo. In the meantime, be sure to keep an eye on the news feed so you’ll have all the up-to-date info you need to get the most out of your game.

If you believe that any of the information shared above is inaccurate in any way, please let us know, along with a reference for the correct information, so we can update this document accordingly.


Gazerrick ArmsGazerrick is a staff writer for PureDiablo who focuses primarily on casual gaming interests and lore for the Diablo community. When not hacking and slashing his way through a new Season, he can be found participating in, and presenting at, various pop culture conventions in southern Arizona. You can follow him on Twitter @Gazerrick9000 for even more of his gaming indulgences. A collection of his creative media is also available at Cactus Palm Perspectives.



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