Diablo 2

From Before I Play
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Before You Play

  • Get the expansion, if you can. Comes with a whole extra act, new items throughout the whole game, two new classes, and several quality of life improvements, including a much larger item stash. Plus, you can get both it and the base game on the Blizzard website for $20.
  • Even if you only play single player, connect to the internet long enough to get updated to the current version (1.14 as of this writing).
  • A third-party mod called PlugY will let you have cross-character stashes on SIngle-Player, in case you get a really good Barbarian drop on your Amazon, or what-have-you, and a few other QoL improvements. Make sure you're only playing single player if you decide to mod your game, it takes some version finagling to set up, and some versions of the mod straight-up lock you out of connecting to BNet.
  • The multiplayer community is pretty much dead, and some poorly-timed lag can easily get you killed, so stick to single player unless you're specifically playing with friends. If you do decide to play online, typing /players 8 into the chat will make the server set difficulty and drops as though there were the maximum number of people on the server. Dangerous, but very lucrative.

Character Selection/Development

  • Don't play Hardcore unless you've already beaten the game.
  • The best classes for a new player are Barbarian or Paladin, but all of them are totally playable. Necromancer and Druid are probably the worst, as their only easy builds (summon spamming) are both slow and boring.
  • For your first time through, you should be fine leveling up whatever skills seem interesting, just don't spread yourself too thin. If there's a late-game skill you want, hover over it to see which early skills give it bonuses. This should give you a pretty decent idea of how to allocate your skill points.
  • Strength and Dexterity are mostly important for meeting attribute requirements, but provide some damage bonuses. Melee should focus on Strength, Ranged should focus on Dexterity, shield users should pay attention to both. Vitality is good for everyone. Energy is probably your dump stat, even for casters, since the game will happily drown you in mana potions and mana-boosting gear, if you want it to.
  • Azhara can reset your stats and skill points... once.

Questing/Exploration

  • Press Tab to toggle a full-screen map overlay. Hold Alt to get a name pop-up for all items on the ground.
  • Buy a book of Town Portal scrolls as soon as you can easily afford it, and don't be afraid to use them regularly. 200 gold for a bit of TP is much better than a messy wipe.
  • Finding the teleport pad in each zone is much more important in multiplayer than single player, but even in SP, it's still worth tracking down just in case you get surprise-killed and have to run back to grab your gear.
  • Before you go into a zone/boss fight you think you might lose, open a town portal scroll but don't go through it. Then, if you die, you can come through from the other side, grab your gear, and run back out again.
  • You'll eventually get a quest reward where Charsi will imbue a non-magical item for you. The optimal thing to spend it on is probably a late-game piece of expansion-only headwear called a Circlet/Coronet, which have some crazy potential for what they can be enchanted with.

Gear and Gold

  • Make sure to stash your gold; you can spend it directly from your stash, and you won't lose as much if you die.
  • Check on the blacksmith's normal inventory every time you return to town, they can end up with some pretty decent magic gear in stock every now and then.
  • Things that sell particularly well: Mana potions, throwing potions, Superior-quality armor (especially socketed), and any magic gear that you identify because you might want to use it.
  • Don't underestimate the value of elemental resistances, especially Fire and Lightning.
  • Better belts give more rows for your potion slots. Sashes/Light Belts give 1 extra row, Belts/Heavy Belts give 2, Plated Belts give 3.
  • If you're playing with the expansion, mercenaries can use gear you don't want/need, and ethereal equipment they're wielding doesn't degrade when they use it.
  • Never sell: Gems/Skulls, Runes, Rings/Amulets, or Rejuvenation Potions. About a third of the way through Act 2, you'll unlock a way to fuse three of one type into the next highest rank, (3 Chipped Ruby -> 1 Flawed Ruby, etc.) and Rejuvenation/Full Rejuvenation Potions can't be bought anywhere in-game and heal you instantly instead of over time.
  • Don't be shy about using gems/runes/jewels if you want to, just be aware that once they're in an item, they're in there for good. Save them for a Superior or magical socketed item, if you can.
  • Sets are a pain to collect and usually not worth the effort when you do, so unless you happen to luck into one, just treat them like any other item.

Gambling

  • Once your stash gold max is reached, the best way to spend whatever gold you've got left is Gambling.
  • Gambling inventory is unique because you can immediately quit out of the conversation and back in to refresh the inventory. This can be used to easily 'farm' through several screens of stock to find better-quality base items. These tend to be worthwhile to gamble on even if they end up being stinkers just for the higher base stats.
  • Theoretically, you could sit refreshing Gheed's inventory for hours and get all kinds of way-out-of-depth gear to buy through gambling, but you might as well just spend that time playing the game.

Post-Game

  • Once you defeat the final boss of the last act, you will unlock what is essentially a New Game+ campaign difficulty called Nightmare. This includes new items, more powerful and varied unique enemies, and generally a much more difficult experience. If you beat it on Nightmare, you then unlock Hell, which is the same, but moreso.
  • Theoretically, a well-built character could get through Nightmare without a guide, but if you're going to go into Hell, or aren't 100% certain about your ability to take on Nightmare, you should look up a character-build guide and build one from the list that seems interesting to you, before going into Nightmare/Hell. Going into the new difficulty refreshes Azhara's reset, but doesn't let you keep one that you wasted.
  • After you beat the game, but before you go to the next difficulty, return to the Rogue Encampment and fuse Wirt's Leg from Tristram with a Scroll of Town Portal. You're welcome.
  • Eventually, once your level's in the 50s or 60s, you may want to start looking up Runewords. They're specific combinations of runes, in a specific order, that grant special bonuses to nonmagical items they're socketed into.
  • The most important gear attributes in Nightmare/Hell are elemental Resistances and Skill bonuses.