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Some preface: The Worldstone of Sanctuary was changed after the hybrid of angels and demons (the nephalem) was seen to be too powerful. The stone's new goal was to reduce the power of the nephalem so they would not be as great of a threat. However, after the events of Diablo 2, the Worldstone was destroyed and allowed nephalem to come about again.

Now what confuses me is the timeframe of the whole ordeal. In the Drowned Temple in Diablo 3, players can find a lore book that has a nephalem that says "The Worldstone has been changed. Our children are born weak and suffer short lives.", implying that the effect of the Worldstone does not come into effect immediately but rather, affects the newer generations. In other words, the first nephalem were unaffected (Kalmor is an example of this) but their children suffered. Over time this lead to a lack of nephalem and the oncoming of humans.

Since the effects of the Worldstone appear to be generational, how are characters obviously born before its destruction, like the male barbarian (older and experienced/lived on Mt. Arreat prior to big boom) or witch doctor (old), nephalem? Shouldn't nephalem only begin to appear in the generation born after the Worldstone's destruction?

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    I don't know enough about it to post an answer, but I can see this as logically consistent if the Worldstone affected their ability to become strong, rather than their ability to be strong. The older nephalem were already strong and would stay that way, their children would not be able to become strong, and would stay weak like they were born, and the already living heroes would gain the ability to become strong after the worldstone was changed, as seen in D3.
    – DCShannon
    Nov 30, 2016 at 22:04

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Nothing seems to indicate that the "weakening" of the Nephalem was a permanent effect. Before the games, Uldyssian, a nephylem who was "awakened" by Lilith, alters the Worldstone, allowing the nephalem to regain their powers more quickly. He himself wields great power, and obviously his birth pre-dates his own alteration of the worldstone. In the end he undoes Lilith's spell on the worldstone and returns to mortality, but I'm not sure it's clear if his changes to the stone could be undone. Either way, his changes seem to show that the Nephalem's power is not set at birth.

This seems to indicate that while the initial effects of the spell laid upon the worldstone were subtle (generational), they were not permanent changes to the nephalem themselves. So when the stone was destroyed, and the spells failed, the potential for these powers returned. Since few people believed any nephalem remained in the world, it may have taken 20 years for the main character to unlock/realize/manifest their potential.

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