Diablo II - Hardcore Star Team 1 - Nightmare

Act 1

Nightmare act 1 tends to be the peak of the power curve for most characters. Everyone has a major attack skill maxed and building up synergy, but monster health and resistances don't really ramp up yet until later. I blasted through this whole act at about 90 minutes per character. If you know the patterns in the map layouts to find the exits, and don't bother full-clearing the dead-ends, you can get through very quickly.

So on to the item finds:

The druid got a great pelt to load up with Lore, as he'd hoped for. The barbarian also got a decent one, +2 Battle Orders on top of Lore.

The biggest prize from the act was a Meat Cleaver, unique exceptional polearm with big damage and life leech. The team doesn't have anyone to use a polearm for melee, but excellent mercenary weapon. I gave it to the hammerdin's, he's the one who most relies on his merc for tanking.

Chance Guards, popped from an ordinary monster in the Blood Moor. I put that on the hammerdin too, since he doesn't need anything else in the gloves slot, can't get skills, doesn't use IAS or leech or crushing blow, doesn't need resistances which are covered elsewhere. Although it feels weird for him the one greedy for money, thematically the paladin should be above that.

Spectral Shard unique blade (50% FCR). Would be a good choice for the wind druid; he can't get all that much else in the weapon slot, remember no Spirit off-realm, and I'm nowhere near Heart of the Oak or any such. But it has that pesky 51 dex requirement, which isn't worth spending stat points or trading off other equipment, and too high to reach with just charms. I was hoping to get to put that to use somehow, but it never happened.

I found enough runes to make the bonemancer's White wand, three Dols and two Hels that could all cube up to the one Io. I hesitated about spending all that, but then decided to go ahead; Dol doesn't do anything else; Hel goes into Lionheart, but I should (and would) find more by the time I got the rest of Lionheart's runes. I did have to risk the cube-socket recipe on his +3 Bone Spear wand (1/6 chance of blowing it and granting 1 socket), but that went fine and he now proudly had his White.

Finally, I spent most of an evening sorting and allocating items between the characters. Mostly to balance out all the resistances, and cram in magic find whenever someone had enough maxed resistances to free up a slot. I took the druid wand shopping at Drognan, to find something good for his weapon slot, and he turned up a Jeweler's Wand of the Magus. I loaded it with my two best resistance jewels, which got his resists high enough overall that he could swap out a diamond shield for the Wall of the Eyeless instead. (Everybody but the barbarian is using a diamond shield. I'll switch the trapsin to a second claw for more skills eventually, once she gets to nightmare act 5 Anya to shop them.)

Act 2

Reaching Act 2 Nightmare opens up an important set of options: most of the best mercenaries, so let's talk about that for a moment. The default for most hardcore characters is wanting Holy Freeze, but I really wanted to get some variety in here.

The trapsin gets a rogue merc. I want one as somewhere to use any good bow that drops, since the team doesn't have a bowazon. The two characters with their own best crowd control to not need Holy Freeze are the necro and assassin, and the rogue can work best at long range under Cloak of Shadows like the trapsin herself.

Bonemancer gets a barbarian merc. Again I want one somewhere for variety, and the necro can best protect him with bone walls and curses so doesn't need any defensive aura support, but does need to rely on the merc's physical damage against magic immunes.

The barbarian character gets a Might merc. To multiply his own damage since Whirlwind's own multiplier isn't big, and also he doesn't rely on the merc to tank, between the Battle Orders life multiplier and in that Whirlwind can't really hide behind a tank anyway.

Everyone else (sorceress, paladin, wind druid, javazon) will stick with the standard Holy Freeze, they need it for lack of their own crowd control. (No, no Iron Wolves, I really can't think of any build that wants any at all, they don't tank or deal enough damage or freeze duration to matter.)

Anyway, playing through this act also took only about 90 minutes per character, even on players-7. Still at the peak of the power curve... except the barbarian, who took more than twice as long as anyone else. Partly because he had terrible luck finding the exits and had to fight through a lot of extra territory (he ended up a level higher even after dropping down to players-5), but mostly because he's still hurting that badly for any good weapon. But stay tuned.

It was dry for any fun items, the most interesting being a Razortail belt to give the javazon, and a Goldwrap belt also. But otherwise little in the way of remarkable items for the act... until my bonemancer (playing second-to-last) turned up three different hits.

First, from an ordinary beetle or maggot in the lair, a Skin of the Vipermagi! It's common for a mid-level unique and I was hoping one or more would turn up. And this one even rolled its maximum resistances! Who gets to wear it?... well, it's cliche and I wish I could be more creative with it, but it's going to the sorceress. She's the one who can use the resistances to allow the Wall of the Eyeless in the shield slot, where the other casters (paladin, necro) want a class-specific item. The druid might be the other option, but I care more about speeding up Lightning than Tornado, and also the resists can let the sorcie keep the Tarnhelm too in a slot where the druid also goes class-specific. And finally the sorcie gets more out of the +skill (quadratic with lightning mastery) than the necro or druid (just linear.)

Next, a Fal rune. Wasn't expecting that yet - I had found each rune in order up to Io, but then this skipped two entries. I also found three more Ios (needn't have worried about that White wand at all), so if cubed into Lum, all together that's enough to make the first Lionheart. That will go to either the paladin or druid, who are the ones that fight at close range and get hit; I haven't decided between them yet; it's not super important before hell difficulty and also I'll wait to find a good base armor for it too. (Defense is unreliable in general, but a few hundred points does take a little sting out of melee crowds.)

And finally, this jackpot:

RIBCRACKER. I was only vaguely aware this weapon existed. I've never had one. I didn't even know what the unique Quarterstaff was, would have thought Ribcracker was a maul. All I knew was that Ribcracker is popular for wereform druids, because they go faster with 2H swinging weapons. But after looking it up, it's also considered a top-tier Whirlwind weapon, despite the short range. When upgraded to elite, the damage skyrockets up over 400. Even as-is, it's better than any sword I've found for damage, even before figuring the crushing blow and defense.

The only problem is that my barbarian has 20 points in Sword Mastery instead of Mace, and I'd decided not to use any respecs. I tried out the Ribcracker briefly, but it didn't do any better than his other options. Ribcracker is monstrous only after elite upgrading, which will depend on a Pul rune at some point, obviously with the nightmare Hellforge being the most likely source.

The barb did get an improvement to his sword options though. After finishing the act with everyone, I kept hunting through the false tombs for the sparkly chests that have a high chance to drop unique items. I didn't hit that jackpot, but something interesting did drop along the way: a second Bloodletter sword, same unique as the barb already has and can be dual-wielded. I'm tempted to upgrade both to elite if the runes cooperate and hope it's enough for endgame usage. Man the game just keeps making the barb's weapon situation more complicated.

Besides that, more minor equipment notes. I swapped the Sigon's gloves + belt combo from the javazon to the barbarian, because someone found gloves with jav skills for her, and because the barbarian needs the 10% life leech. The javazon also got a Peace runeword armor for +2 skills and CTC high level Valkyrie. The hammerdin took the Goldwrap belt, not that he uses the IAS, but he can play with the gold and magic find because he has resistances covered elsewhere (same as for his Chance Guards), and can live with a 3-row belt thanks to the Redemption aura saving on potions. He also shopped a +2 paladin skills scepter. Also found a rare club with +1 druid skills, though I'm not sure that's better than his fast-cast wand. In other news, the sorceress reached a good FCR breakpoint between all her good stuff (Vipermagi, Eyeless, 20% rare orb, one FCR ring), and had the second ring slot open for a Great Wyrm's ring of +88 mana, really helps supply her consumption. And finally, I switched the trapsin to a claw/claw setup (instead of a diamond shield), by shopping two +2 trap skills claws from Asheara. Usually you do this from Anya in act 5, but I didn't want to wait 2½ more acts. I wanted +2 assassin skills, but the +trap claws came up soon enough to just go with them for now until reaching Anya for faster shopping and when +3 trap skills should also be possible.

The most glaring thing missing is any good weapon for the javazon, she had been using a simple maiden javelin with +1 jav skills, and just now got a +2 one at the end of this act. She'll try imbuing some eventually, once I know she's high enough level for all the good affixes. I think everyone wants to imbue class-specific items (scepter for the paladin, head for the necro), except maybe the barbarian if I decide not to respec so he'll want to keep trying for sword weapons.

Act 3

Again my roster of characters proceeded apace with little trouble clearing through the jungle. I like to think that Travincal in nightmare is where the game really begins, that's the most significant jump in enemy strength other than the start of hell difficulty.

No great jackpots in items this act, so first I'll talk about some older ones. I swapped the Skin of the Vipermagi from the sorceress to the hammerdin. These two characters are similar - they literally live by their fast-cast rate, their defense is offense, they depend on killing monsters faster than they get surrounded. Of the two, the sorceress can more easily get FCR in other slots (orb and shield) so Vipermagi is more valuable in the armor slot on the hammerdin. Following from this, I switched their helms too, Tarnhelm to the hammerdin and Rockstopper to the sorceress, because Rockstopper's elemental resists were way oversubscribed on the hammerdin.

I shopped belts of the Whale for 90+ life for each of the hammerdin and sorceress, and also the trapsin. The hammerdin and sorceress always feel fragile and hungry for more life, so I arranged everything regarding resistances in order to free up their belt slots for that. Plus also Whale armors for the sorceress and necromancer.

Those Whale armors replaced Stealth runewords. I decided to remove all of the Stealth armors now. Stealth doesn't really do anything besides the FCR, which is fun early on but now I'm more worried about survivability. In particular the hammerdin and sorceress have had the most problems with close calls going down to low health, getting hit too much at close range with no monster crowd control, same fate as my two previous dead hardcore hammerdin attempts long ago. You'd think the wind druid would be the same, casting at close range too, but he feels much safer; the grizzly plus the cold slowing from Hurricane do a ton to keep monsters off him.

And the trapsin took off her Stealth for a Smoke runeword armor, Nef-Lum. I just keep finding Io runes endlessly, now a total of ten of those and only the one Fal above that. Io doesn't do much beyond White and I can easily spare three into a Lum for Smoke now. Smoke is 50% resist all, which is great on the trapsin since she's going claw/claw for skills instead of a shield for resists. And I decided not to wait for an elite base armor for it after something fun happened to drop, a 2-socket ethereal cuirass. Making a runeword in an ethereal armor is cheeky, but on a long-range trapsin actually stands a pretty good chance of lasting all the way through the game, or if not I can remake another Smoke or something else.

The best new item was a Lidless Wall shield. That would be a straight upgrade from the sorceress's Eyeless -- but it's going on the wind druid for now, he gets more out of the +1 all skills to help his summon tree too. But for hell difficulty I expect to switch the Lidless back to the sorceress and the druid back to a three-diamond shield.

And the druid found an Earthshaker unique hammer, +3 to druid elemental skills. Perfect, well, sort of. It requires 100 strength which is fairly high, I don't want to spend 40 more points there instead of vitality. But... enter Lionheart! +25 strength on the runeword armor plus a couple charms is enough and now he's proudly wielding that. Also Lionheart's 30 resist all is enough that he can pick up the Lidless Wall now, although he'll have to replace that shield with resists once into hell difficulty.

And another good item with a challenge in usability. Moser's Blessed Circle is strictly better than a 3-diamond shield, with higher resists and blocking. But this one is ethereal. Well, it's still worth using until it breaks -- actually going by the original intent of ethereal items for temporary use, rather than exploiting some way to circumvent the temporaryness. In fact 33 durability might even last all the way to the end of the game. It's going to the javazon, she doesn't get hit all that much, and also she's the only one with any amount of dexterity to get some use out of the block chance.

Aldur's set boots, 47% fire resist is great. The 95 strength requirement means the barbarian and druid are the only ones interested. It went to the barbarian, in hopes the 10% damage taken goes to mana might help against mana-burn boss packs which are a huge pain, although later I found that didn't really help and switched the Aldur's to the druid instead.

Also Infernostride boots, 10% to max fire resistance. Definitely going on the hammerdin, he's by far the most likely to get wiped by a Fire Enchanted explosion, he's the only one that must kill a FEB at close range with no meat shield or teleport to keep it away.

Mercenary gear: Also rigged this fun piece, an ethereal lance with 4 Amn runes socketed for 28% life steal. That goes to the barbarian's hireling, since he is the least able to support his merc (can't feed potions or run him away during Whirlwind), and also his Might aura multiplies the life steal. More mercenary gear besides that: a Duskdeep helm with 15% all resists, and a Rockfleece armor which is a decent 500+ defense after exceptional upgrade, plus 10% physical resist.

And act 3 nightmare is where +skill grand charms can first appear... and I found my first one, except it's for someone who's not on this team, sorceress fire skills. The second one was barbarian combat masteries, not the greatest but he'll take it, plus the charm came with a lightning damage suffix too.

And finally the barb got a modest weapon upgrade. His own Mephisto drop was this rare, which I upgraded to exceptional. A little more damage than the Bloodletters, but most importantly that 40% IAS reaches the fastest Whirlwind speed breakpoint, that's supremely important, 50% more attacks. Also 147 lightning damage is fun.

Also the javazon tried her first two imbue quests, on maiden javelins. Got one with +2 jav skills and 10% IAS, good enough for now. Everyone else is waiting a little longer on the imbues, to get a better chance of higher skill mods on a class-specific item, but amazon items don't have that so now was fine.

Finally, the top prize of the act was a Lem rune, found in the Great Marsh by my bonemancer who was the last character to play. Could be a Treachery assassin armor, or maybe a Passion weapon for the barbarian if I don't get to upgrade the Ribcracker. (No, not doing a Wealth armor.) I'll decide more regarding runes after the Hellforge, coming up next.

Act 4

Here we go with the most anticipated episode of the project, Nightmare act four.

Act 4 is my favorite place in the game. Finally no interminable fetch quests or twisty mazes or side errands, just sheer intense combat the whole way through. And Nightmare is the most important iteration of the act, with the single most important reward point of the game, the Hellforge runes. The Hell hellforge goes higher, but the Nightmare ones are more important with an entire difficulty remaining to use them rather than just one last act.

The Hellforge collection came out great, as well as I could have expected: Um, Pul, Lem, Fal, Lum, Shael, Sol. I had to run the math on how likely that was.

Multiplying out all those percentages comes to a chance of 20.3% of doing this well or better. So this was in the 80th percentile of possible outcomes. Also I got two more Lum and a Lem from random drops elsewhere in the act.

The two biggest prizes there are both going to the barbarian's benefit, the Um for a Duress armor and the Pul to upgrade his Ribcracker. I think I have to take that bird in hand rather than hoping he'll get a sword upgrade that may never come. Pul doesn't have any other compelling use; the other option is an Enlightenment sorceress armor, but the rune package also came out nicely to another Lionheart that I think I'd rather have on her for the life and resists. Um does have many uses, most notably a Crescent Moon weapon; but with the barb's weapon slot covered then a Duress for him does seem to be the best use of it. Um and Pul together can make a Stone or Gloom, but it's better to get both the weapon and an armor.

A Lem goes into a Treachery for the trapsin. I was debating whether that was worthwhile enough over Smoke or Lionheart or a Whale suffix, but I'll say it is, the trapsin isn't desperate for life and could really use the +2 skills plus the other goodies too (although now she really needs resists everywhere else with none on her armor or hand slots.) Finally, I want to put another Lem into upgrading the hammerdin's Vipermagi to elite; he does care about defense, with some points going into Holy Shield. (But that upgrade formula also needs a Ko which is the one I never hit on yet. I had three cubeable Lums but one went into the second Lionheart.)

Besides the runes, there was zilch all else for interesting items from the act. Diablo's quest drops were all garbage, the best were a second Rockfleece armor and Undead Crown for merc use. And a Haemosu's Adamant set cuirass, 700 defense and 75 life, which the barbarian can use for a bit until I find an elite base for his Duress, but then that's also merc offal.

So I'll use this space to talk a bit more about the character builds now. In the high 60s for levels, everyone has maxed their main attack and most or all of the synergy for it. Working great so far, but presently I rethought some of the details to make some slight adjustments, for one reason in part to create some distinction from previous Guardian characters that I'd done.

Necromancer: 20 Bone Spear/Bone Spirit/Bone Wall but then going with Corpse Explosion. Twice previously I did the standard build of max bone synergy with Prison after those, on both my own Guardian and one online team group. I need to change that up somewhere. But he doesn't really need anything in summoning or any of the curses like Dim Vision or Decrepify, with bone walls to lock down monsters. So I'll go with Corpse Explosion and a bit of Amplify to match the radiuses. I've never liked Corpse Explosion because it's literally win-more, it only works if you already have corpses hitting the floor, which means you don't need it. But I've never gone with high CE before, and just bonemancy all the time is a bit boring, so let's do it. Finally, the pieces do fit in that he's not using a Holy Freeze or cold rogue merc, so no corpses shatter, so at least CE does get its maximum ammo.

Assassin: 20 Lightning Sentry/Death Sentry/Fire Blast then Shock Web for max trap synergy. My previous trapsin Guardian did the first three of those but then max Shadow Warrior instead. So I'll change it up this time by leaving Warrior at 1 point and going for max trap damage instead. Which means she definitely wants +assassin skills on equipment like Treachery to boost Warrior, rather than +trap skills which is already high enough.

Amazon: 20 Lightning Fury/Charged Strike/Plague Javelin/Poison Javelin. Unfortunately that's almost the exact build that I Guardianed before, and there's really no room to deviate, you need both types of javelin damage maxed and synergized. At least my old javazon was a little different - she never finished the Poison Jav synergy, instead she was a slight hybrid into bow skills with 1 point up to Guided Arrow and some in Pierce. So this javazon will differentiate by skipping those to finish the Poison Jav synergy.

Barbarian: 20 Whirlwind/Battle Orders/Sword Mastery but then Mace Mastery. I originally intended the fourth skill here to be Berserk. But my old barbarian Guardian was exactly that same build. So skipping Berserk answers two different problems: how to distinguish this barb from my previous, and how to free up skill points to max Mace Mastery for the Ribcracker without respeccing. The old barb was built to be a Travincal gold runner, where Berserk is best against the council's low magic resistance, but this barb has no goal other than reaching Guardianship so can live with 1 point in Berserk.

Druid: 20 Hurricane/Twister/Tornado/Oak Sage. Standard build, but I never Guardianed a wind druid so this is fine.

Sorceress: 20 Lightning/Charged Bolt/Lightning Mastery then Blizzard. I previously Guardianed the same lightning build, using Frozen Orb for cold backup, so now simply changing that out for Blizzard instead. It's a little less optimal without much synergy to Blizzard (Orb doesn't need synergy), but it's the one way I can do something different, and I've actually never played a Blizzard sorceress before.

Paladin: 20 Blessed Hammer/Concentration/Vigor then Holy Shield. Both for the defense and for Smite damage as the obvious backup plan to deal with magic immunes. I've been worried about dealing with magic-immune zombies and greater mummies, which was a recent patch change in 1.13 that Blessed Hammer no longer ignores those immunities. Holy Bolt still does, and I had thoughts of diverting this hammerdin into that skill for that purpose. But then I decided that was silly, that's a very narrow use of the skill points and there's a much more straightforward solution. And Smite as part of his offensive plan means I want some elite paladin shield with high smite damage, so that means he will try his imbues on Sacred Targe shields rather than scepters, which was something else I'd been debating.

Act 5

This episode took longer, three or four hours per character and about two weeks in real time. Because I went to fully clear most of acts 4 and 5 with most of the characters. This is the sweet spot of finding useful mid-level uniques and runes, against monsters of no more than medium threat level in nightmare before they really ramp up in hell. Like this one:

That was the biggest prize, a Guardian Angel armor. I'd forgotten it existed and didn't even know what it was when the base item dropped. But it made me rebuild the hammerdin's entire equipment loadout around it. I always need to put more defensive capability on him, he still tends to take a pounding from every monster pack at close range. Defense rating doesn't do everything, but can help with Holy Shield, but his Skin of the Vipermagi wasn't enough, and I was really trying to figure out how to improve his resilience. So Guardian Angel is excellent for both physical defense and the max elemental resists.

The challenging point is the strength requirement of 118; he like most casters had stopped at 60 for plated belts and gloves. First I spent a socket quest and a Jewel of Freedom (with a useful lightning resist prefix as well) on the Angel to bring that down. Then I shopped a belt and gloves with strength, which plus some charms added up to wearing the Angel. But the downside was losing his belt of the Whale, a big cost to his life total. But... with max fire resistance on the Angel, now he doesn't need the Infernostride boots... and now higher on strength, he can take the Aldur's set boots found earlier with +50 life. He also took back the Rockstopper helm, now more in need of its physical resistance with a lower life total, and able to use its elemental resistances too with the extra-high max from Angel. I also shopped a Rose Branded Scepter of the Apprentice to make up some of Vipermagi's lost FCR, and finally loaded him up with the best +life charms from everyone.

The one unresolved piece of the hammerdin's loadout is the shield. He's currently using a 4-diamond with 110 resist all. That's fine but overkill on the resists and I do want something more versatile for skills or blocking. Still anticipating using his imbues on Sacred Targe shields when the base item comes up, since that's the highest blocking and smite damage and good defense for a reachable strength requirement.

Disposing of the stuff the hammerdin gave up: the Vipermagi goes over to the bonemancer, because the sorceress is more desperate for the life of Lionheart instead, and she has FCR in the shield slot which the necro doesn't. The Chance Guards also find a home on the bonemancer who doesn't have any important need in that slot. Infernostride went to the sorceress, who has the lowest life total to want the extra max fire resist, and she can live with only 20% FRW thanks to Teleport. Tarnhelm gets retired, everyone has a better circlet or Lore now.

And this:

Tal Rasha's set helm, with 10% dual leech, 60 life, 15 resist all. It's often merc gear, but here it's going on the barbarian, I'll trade off Lore for all that stuff. Because it lets me improve his amulet slot too, which had been used for mana steal but now the helm covers that.

And while we're on the barb, here's the Ribcracker now at full power, elite upgraded plus a socketed Shael to reach maximum Whirlwind speed. This did indeed perform as advertised, clobbering down monsters on players-7 in typically two Whirlwind passes. I had thought the short range would be a downside, but it's really not, in fact it can even be better to focus on and kill monsters at the center of the WW path rather than spreading out the damage. But what really surprised me was the effectiveness of life stealing. I've been diligent about packing life steal equipment on the barb (both rings, Blood crafted gloves/belt/boots), but it didn't add up to all that much with the earlier weapons... but wow, Ribcracker's damage can refill almost his entire 2000 life ball in a single Whirlwind pass. I've always known "leech is life" is the mantra for meleers, but it's startling to see it demonstrated so drastically, even if it will decline in hell with the additional penalty and physical resistance. In fact, I'd restate it this way: melee doesn't come with the downside of needing to use life leech equipment, but rather the upside of getting to use life leech equipment.

The other best find: a Hone Sundan spear, a spectacular merc weapon. It goes to the hammerdin's merc, since he's the one most important for tanking with no summon or teleport. This triggered a chain of passing down each next-best merc weapon to the next-most-important merc: the Meat Scraper from there to the sorceress's and an upgraded eth Battlebranch from there to the javazon's. (The druid's merc has a different function, a rare with CTC Amp, since that helps Tornado, and he doesn't really need to tank with the grizzly on hand.)

Runes worth noting (above Io): Pul and Fal, both found in the nightmare cow level actually. Pul has no particular high-priority use; the only runeword it would make is an Enlightenment sorcie armor, but she'll stick with Lionheart instead, needs both the resists and life. So I put the Pul to use in upgrading that Hone Sundan. I really like how the closed environment of this team encourages decisions like this, commit something like this Pul for whatever use it can be right away, even if it's unspectacular, instead of saving it forever for some undefined future character that may never happen.

The Fal could be a third Lionheart, but actually I don't have anyone else who really wants it after the druid and sorceress. The hammerdin has Guardian Angel, the amazon Peace (the CTC high level Valk being the most important feature), the barb Duress, and the bonemancer Vipermagi. The trapsin was my toughest choice, but in the end I decided to keep her Treachery over a Lionheart: traps really need the +skills pushed as high as you can go, and the IAS also matters a lot because the claws she's using aren't all that fast (one is a rare of 0 base speed because it has +2 assassin skills and a cold resist prefix.) She's not desperate for the life of Lionheart, she's a long-range attacker and does have a Whale belt, plus Fade means she's not desperate for resists either.

Some minor useful finds: Natalya's set boots for the trapsin, Laying of Hands set gloves for the barb, Crown of Thieves for the hammerdin's merc (+25 dexterity too which is critically important for the upgraded Hone Sundan's dex requirement.) Bartuc's Cut-Throat claw, awesome for a fighter assassin, not really for a trapsin, but she'll keep it on switch anyway just because it's too cool to toss. Blastbark bow to upgrade for the trapsin's rogue merc, although that was then superseded by a rare with more damage. And an ethereal 5-socket Zweihander sword for an Honor runeword for the necro's barb merc. Finally, also the usual flood of low-level set and unique items, not worth noting, except for the curious case of another ethereal Twitchthroe, and a gambled Naj's circlet.

Some assorted shopped items too, since Anya right next to her portal is always the fastest place for shopping: Lancer's gloves of Alacrity and Spearmaiden's Throwing Spear of Quickness for the javazon, dual Echoing weapons on switch for the barb, an assortment of Cunning and Shadow and Witch-hunter's claws for the trapsin.

Updates on older items: The sorceress socketed the Lidless Wall with a diamond and intends to keep it to endgame; not just for the skill and FCR, but actually the 300 physical defense with a low-level cold armor skill actually does take a little sting out of small groups of monsters. The trapsin built her Treachery in a mage plate, giving up her Smoke armor for it, which ends up on her merc. The barb hasn't built his Duress yet, that is worth waiting for a good elite base. The javazon still has the ethereal Moser's shield, which still has 30/33 durability remaining after two acts of use so far.

Finally, skill charms. One of the high points of this project was supposed to be those, since there's 49 different combinations of someone to find one and the proper someone to use it. But I keep finding mediocre ones, this time druid summoning and barbarian warcries. Still usable, but where are the trap or bone or lightning skillers...

And so that is the story thus far, of seven heroes entering the nightmare of Mount Arreat, and seven Conquerors now leave for hell difficulty.

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