This is my writeup of playing through Diablo II with a particular group of characters. The original writeup is in this thread on the Realms Beyond forum. This site is a cleaned-up and streamlined adaptation from there.
I've played D2 a lot over the years. I eventually settled on a preferred style: single-player offline, no mods, always hardcore, trading items between characters, generally seeking to complete the game and achieve the title of Guardian with each new hardcore character. I made many Guardians this way. But eventually I came to get really loose about the guidelines of legitimacy, with item twinking and reuse, imbue and hellforge rushers and mules, skipping ahead with the -act5 parameter and even by giving them waypoints.
I wanted to get back to basics with a new project. So here are my rules:
My favorite part of the game is arranging and allocating items between characters. I think this structure hits the sweet spot of making that interesting but not overpowered. Each character gets 7 times as much selection to pick from compared to playing solo self-found only, which should allow some solidly satisfying options but without degenerating into the known standard optimal packages. And this avoids twinking: every item travels through the game once and only once; nothing ever gets sent "backwards" to be used before it was found, nor reused through the same areas or acts multiple times. And the quantity of characters is fixed to set an ultimate endpoint rather than an open-ended sprawl of dozens of builds as I also did before.
I'll talk more about the "why" for the rules here, or you can just read on for the action.
Here's the list of character builds I selected for this team:
I'm mostly going to skip ahead to the end of normal difficulty. There's not all that much interesting to report from the early acts. The one notable item from early on was a +3 Bone Spear +1 Decrepify necromancer head, which meant he could use that and save all the prerequisite points in the curse tree up to Decrep.
So the characters proceeded through normal difficulty on their early skills. Anyone can whack their way through act 1 with any makeshift skills and equipment, not really worth talking about. Playing a single pass through on players-7, characters will reliably reach level 18 by the end of act 1 and 24 by the end of act 2, to kick in the skills at those tiers. Level-18 is the major offensive skill for several of these builds: Bone Spear, Charged Strike, Blessed Hammer. The druid and assassin had to go through act 2 with melee also until getting up to Tornado and Lightning Sentry, and the barbarian was really slow through all of the first three acts until he could finally get Whirlwind at level 30. But nothing in those acts is ever really much of any threat, particularly against the high life total of a barb and druid.
Along the way, I made Stealth armors for several of the characters; definitely anyone who can use faster cast rate (sorc, hammerdin, bonemancer, wind druid), and also the trapsin and javazon used one for a while for the faster run speed.
Towards the end of normal difficulty, interesting items started to appear:
Baal for the trapsin dropped a Rockstopper helm. Quad resist (three elements and physical.) No skills, which is usually what you go for in the helm slot. It's often merc equipment and may end up there eventually. For now I'm putting it on the paladin, who probably needs the physical resistance the most, and +skills the least (basically no passives, and BH is already powerful enough to destroy Nightmare.)
Darkglow armor (actually 2 copies of it), +5% to max resistances. The paladin also got that, since he can live without +skills in the armor slot too, and can reach the high resistance cap between Rockstopper and a paladin shield. The second copy might have gone on the trapsin, but she got something else cool: a Twitchthroe armor, but ethereal. Only the trapsin and javazon on this team can use the IAS, but the javazon gets hit more, and she also gets a Peace runeword (+2 amazon skills) instead. So the trapsin will use the eth Twitchthroe while it lasts, so far for all of act 5 and it only lost 6 durability.
Sigon's gloves and belt (30% IAS partial set bonus), gave it to the javazon as the one who uses IAS more than the trapsin. Also Sigon's helm but that doesn't add anything, along with plenty of all the usual junk set items.
Also a Wall of the Eyeless (20% FCR in the shield slot), would be fun for the sorceress or wind druid in normal difficulty, but once into nightmare (it was found late in act 5) can't really use the lack of resists.
The bonemancer shopped his +3 Bone Spear wand from Drognan as bonemancers usually do, and someone turned up a Dol rune, to account for half of his White runeword. Hopefully the Io will show up too before too long, from the hellforge in nightmare if not sooner.
Also started to find Sol runes for Lore helms, a standard early option for most characters, currently on the sorceress. Barb and druid are waiting for some good class-specific helm to load up with Lore, haven't yet found anything with enough relevant skills, though the druid does have a +1 circlet. Amazon got a great gambled circlet too, +1 skills with life and resists. A Tarnhelm also dropped, also +1 skills, currently on the bonemancer.
And Anya's class-specific-item reward for the sorceress delivered a hell of a beauty, an orb with +2 lightning skills and good life and mana and even fire resistance. That happened because of something I did right - delay talking to Anya until you gain more levels, because the item depends on that. I didn't think to do this with the other characters but remembered for the sorcie, it paid off, a +2 tree skills prefix requires affix level 40.
Ironically, I kept getting good 1H melee weapons -- the one item category I don't have anyone on the team to use. (Barbs want 2H swords, because for Whirlwind all swords count as 1H for better speed breakpoints, but deal 2H damage.) Found a General's Tan Do Li Ga and Griswold's Edge, both could have been pretty decent paladin Vengeance weapons for quite a while, cube-upgraded to exceptional. Also got one ethereal self-repair rare sword, hah.
But the barbarian had a hell of a time finding any good 2H sword option. I made all of Steel, Malice, and King's Grace runewords in various 2H sword chassis, and gambled a few rares, but wasn't really happy with any, best was Steel in a Flamberge because it reaches the best WW speed breakpoint, but it's still not great damage. He went all the way through act 5 with that, though it got grindingly slow particularly against Lister's pack and then Baal. Then gambled a rare flamberge (fastest 2H chassis) with some enhanced damage, serviceable after a cube upgrade to exceptional, but also still not great.
But then at the very last moment of normal difficulty, Baal for my last character (the sorcie) dropped a Bloodletter unique Gladius! Even as a 1H weapon, that deals more damage than any of the 2H swords! So the thing to do is dual-wield that and the next-best sword, the gambled rare (both are the same speed.) Usually dual-wielding doesn't really help a whirlwind barb (other than Grief), your best sword loses more damage dropping to 1H than your second-best sword is worth, but now it's the right setup until something better comes.
From here on, I wrote up a report for each act for the following difficulties, organized as follows, click to move on.
Home | Nightmare | Hell