Reaper of Souls New Character Strategy: Super Level Up Rate and Legs!

I hadn’t played a Crusader in a while, and while I’m enjoying all of the other classes (yes, even the Barb) in Reaper of Souls, I figured I needed to catch up on the new guy and his ongoing balancing process. So I fired up a new level 1 softcore Crusader, and rather than going right into Adventure Mode, I tried an experiment. It’s Reaper of Souls New Character Strategy time! How fast does a level 1 character level up, playing on Story Mode, on a high difficulty, with some +EXP gear, now that the monsters scale up along with your character’s level?

I tried that months ago when the new scaling system first went in, and didn’t notice a huge difference. That time I did it with a Hardcore Crusader, playing on Expert mode (+200% EXP) with some twinks, and I was level 18, 32, and 42 through the first three acts. Well above the curve you get in D3 today, but not wildly over it.

Quadfecta Hellfire Ring.
Quadfecta Hellfire Ring.
That was months ago, though. Since then we’ve seen big buffs to experience gain, the addition of Cursed Chests (which give huge exp bonuses for completion), boosts to the exp for quests and side-events, and a new Hellfire Ring which is worth +45% EXP and has no level requirement. I happen to have an exceptional roll on one of the new Hellfire Rings, so I put that on my new Crusader, started him out on Torment 1, and proceeded normally from there. How do you suppose his exp grew?

Level 40 in Act One.

Really. I actually dinged to 40 on the Butcher. Total play time to that point was maybe 3 hours. I could have gone faster in Story Mode, and I could have leveled faster in Adventure Mode, but it was an experiment. Also, the Crusader has seen several patches worth of huge changes since my last test drive, so I was trying out virtually every new skill each level up.

Click through for more detail on the leveling pace, info on legendary drop quantity in story vs. adventure, some oddities of early equipment, and why Torment 1 in Reaper of Souls is *much* harder for a new character than MP10 in the live version of Diablo 3.

Leveling Progression

So I hit level 40 just in Act One. Did I get to 80 in Act Two? No no no, that won’t be possible until the next expansion tacks on another 10 to the max level. And probably not even then, since the exp curve does get a bit steeper as you approach 60. Also, I didn’t go right into Act Two since I was feeling the urge for more variety. I switched over to Adventure Mode and did both double reward acts in two straight games, which took me to about lvl 50.8 in maybe 1.5 hours.

The leveling was still pretty fast, clicking about 5 times in 10 quests each game, but it was nothing like the first 40 levels, which had come so fast it was laughable at times. Several times in the early going I would ding at the start of a large battle, and by the time I’d cleared the screen so I could open the skills window, I was nearly to the next level up.

Thanks to that Hellfire Ring and +300% EXP on Torment 1, the pace was crazy right from the start. I was level 9 by the time I got to Adria’s Shack and something like level 14 after I killed Haedrig’s Wife. (You know what Haedrig was after I killed his wife? Single.) I didn’t write down all the milestones, but I was around level 22 by the Skeleton King.

There were a lot of oddities in being so far above the designed exp curve. I had an old 35% Hellfire Ring and a 25% Leoric’s Signet in my stash for my follower, but I couldn’t put them to use until I reached the Templar. And that didn’t happen until like level 20. If I’d been in Adventure Mode I could have hired a follower much earlier than that. The Templar becomes available for higher when you hit level 8, and the Scoundrel not long after that. In Story Mode though, I had to reach them working through the Act before I could employ them.

Twinking and Socketing Follies

Aside from the Hellfire Ring and a couple of low level jewelries (the standard level 6, +2-4 damage option), I had nothing to use in the way of twinks. Well, I had gems, and those are massive in Reaper of Souls. You need socketed gear before you can use gems, and without twinks or an Auction House to easily obtain low level gear, that was kind of an ordeal.

You start to find socketed weapons and helms at level 15 in Diablo 3, and that’s the same in Reaper of Souls. (There are some legendary helms with sockets at lvl 10, but with no twinks or AH, that wasn’t an option.) But you have to find them, and while I was picking up everything that dropped (mostly to salvage since I knew I’d need the low level materials for crafting and enchanting expenses) I didn’t have luck finding socketed items right at 15. Furthermore, as quickly as I was leveling up I’d have gone from 13 to 18 between trips back to town.

So I took advantage of new Reaper of Souls features. NPCs that sell rares, and the Mystic. She will only enchant rares/sets/legs. Not blue items. But since the vendors sell rares much more often than in in Diablo 3, rares were easily obtained, and I bought the first rare helm I saw at level 15 and quickly enchanted a socket into it, and I bought a rare weapon with a socket soon after that.

There’s a hook in this bait. Do you anticipate it? Do you remember a new detail that I did not?

I’ll get to that next, but I want to note at some point that you don’t really need twinks to level up quickly and have fun. This isn’t Diablo 3 with its stingy drop rate. You find tons of good gear in Reaper of Souls, lots of rares right from the start, without any need for Magic Find. I found a good number of legendary items also, almost all of which were substantial upgrades, and it was fun.

Every minute (almost literally) a new level, constant item upgrades, monsters scaling up with me so no need to skip ahead to keep the exp going, no need to pause the game to hop out to the Auction House every 10 or 15 levels to sell my current gear and buy upgrades… I still miss the AH at times for the end game, but I very much preferred just playing straight through with a new character, to the D3 style of using the AH to keep ahead of the gear curve by essentially renting gear for 8 or 10 levels, then reselling it once you’ve outgrown it.

So, back to the high level twinked gems and the economic disaster they brought upon my Newsader.

Let's just leave that in there for now.
Let’s just leave that in there for now.
In Reaper of Souls, high level gems are quite expensive to unsocket. It’s 50k to pry out a Marquise, and it increases to 100, 150, 250, and 500k at the gem levels increase. You will spend 750k to unsocket 3 Royal gems from a chest armor. Upgrading the gems costs a *lot* more than that, though, so it’s worth paying to unsocket instead of just throwing away.) I’m poor in RoS in softcore mode thanks to very profligate enchanting, back when it was much more expensive than it is now. So my plan for this new Crusader was to destroy every item I used when I found an upgrade, since you can salvage an item and get the gem back for free.

What’s the catch? You can no longer salvage items you buy from merchants! The devs hotfixed that in a couple of patches ago since players were buying white items from merchants and salvaging them into Common Scraps, which are fairly rare in the early going and required in large quantities for low level crafting. I’d forgotten that little detail, and boy was I delighted to remember it when the Blacksmith’s tooltip error message let me know!

Sadly, no negotiation was possible. I only wanted the gem; I didn’t give a damn about the material from the item, but try telling that to an angry mob. Sadly, I hadn’t just settled for using a Marquise, which I’d have just thrown away. No, I had Flawless Imperials in there, so 200k later, I had them in new items. Items I’d found. Items Haedrig wasn’t too fricking good to smash into bits, preserving only my gem from the wreckage.

Let this be a lesson to you when you do a new character in Reaper of Souls. Especially if you’ve thrown away all your twinks and must socket immediately, rather than just waiting to find something by level 17 or 18.

Also, since people have asked, here are the gem levels and upgrade prices:

  • Marquise. These you find in vast quantities past level 65ish. (50k to unsocket, per gem.)
  • Imperial. 3 marquise + 200k makes one. You can find Imperial on Torment 1+, but they’re very rare drops. (100k to unsocket, per gem.)
  • Flawless Imperial: 3 Imperial + 300k to make one = 900k total price. (150k to unsocket, per gem.)
  • Royal: 3 Flawless Imperial + 400k to make one = 3.1m total price. (250k to unsocket, per gem.)
  • Flawless Royal: 3 Royal + 500k to make one = 9.8m total price. (500k to unsocket.)
  • Including all the upgrades the net cost to create the highest level gem is 9.8 million, and one (of various flavors) is required to craft most Legendary items now. That’s quite expensive if you’re not rich from gold brought into Reaper of Souls. I’ve never played the beta really trying to make gold, but I’ve noticed my bank increasing about 1m per hour. I’m sure you could make more gold more quickly if you tried, or partied up and farmed high Torment (the gold find and gold rewards for quests increases hugely). But for most normal players, you’re looking at 6-10 hours (or more) of play time to afford to upgrade Marquise gems to a single Flawless Royal.

    That’s very worth doing, by the way. Not so much for the bonus in a weapon, since the Critical Hit Damage only goes up 5% per Emerald level above Marquise. The real value in upgrades is to add mainstat or Vit to your armor sockets, since the value per gem leaps up by 60 per level. Marquise is +60, and from there it’s 100, 160, 220, 280. I’m no mathematician and neither are you, but 5 x 220 (or 280) is a lot more than 5 x 100, when you’re looking to boost your DPS into the Torment range. And trust me, you find plenty of gems in Reaper of Souls. The bottleneck, if it exists, is the gold required to upgrade them.

    It’s wise to do what I’m not, with my 5 lvl 70 chars. (And a WD at 66 that I’m itching to level and gear up.) Play just one or two mains and concentrate all your gear finding on him/them. It’ll pay off in better equipment, and especially in high or max level gems in all their sockets.

    Legendary Drop Rate

    Legendary items are sometimes a guaranteed drop the first time you kill certain bosses on Story Mode. Which bosses? All sub-bosses? Blizzard says no:

    Just started a new character with my GF on the latest patch. The skeleton king gave us both legendaries. Not sure if this is coincidental or if lesser bosses are dropping guaranteed legends now.
    Grimiku: The only bosses intended to give a guaranteed Legendary the first time you kill them are the major “end of Act” bosses for players level 1-59.

    If other bosses are giving guaranteed Legendary items then it’s likely a bug.

    I too got a legendary from Leoric, and it was Leoric’s Crown, appropriately enough. (Not a coincidence, he’s got a boosted chance to drop that one.) I also got a legendary from the Spider Queen in the caves, which seemed like a trend. I did not get a legendary from the Warden, but then I did from the Butcher. Those facts were in my mind when I reached Act Two and considered soldiering on… but I couldn’t take more of the straight quest stuff, even with curiosity and hope for a legendary from Maghda.

    Ultimately I did return to Act Two and the story mode, just to check. I was level 55ish and rushed through the desert to Alcarnus, where no orange or greens were waiting for me. I did, however, get a helpful guildmate to create games and help me bag Belial, Azmodan, and Diablo, all at level 56-57, and they all dropped their guaranteed legendary. Which wasn’t any real use at that level in Reaper of Souls, but still… *clang*!

    To summarize the rules of the guaranteed legendary drop:

  • Only the Act Bosses.
  • Only in Campaign Mode.
  • Only the first kill of that boss.
  • Only below level 60.
  • One other amusing legendary thing. My Crusader’s first legendary item was also his second legendary item.

    Upgrades. Because scaling!
    Upgrades. Because scaling!

    I found about 8 total legs in Act One; Leoric, Spider Queen, and the Butcher, plus five (or so) random drops from monsters. All but one was an upgrade at the time. The leveling up experience for a new character in Reaper of Souls (and Diablo 3v2.0) is definitely more fun, thanks to much faster exp gain and the much higher legendary drop rate.


    This is one big and surprising change in Reaper of Souls. Torment from the start is much harder than starting out on a high MP level in Diablo 3. I’ve done plenty of level 1 hardcore characters on MP10 and never had any real trouble. It’s slower because they have a ton of hit points, but they don’t really do that much more damage, so with some decent twinks you can greatly accelerate your exp gain without too much risk of death.

    This is very different in Reaper of Souls. For one thing with monster scaling you never get much above or below the level of the monsters. (Unless you join someone else’s game who is well over or under your character’s level.) More obviously though, the monsters do a lot more damage on higher difficulty levels. I’ve heard tales from players trying to start out in Torment 6 and getting one-shotted by the first zombies outside of Tristram.

    I didn’t do that, and with minimal twinks I had no real trouble starting off on Torment, but by level 10 or 12 I started to die. Partially through carelessness, partially through not really knowing how to play a Crusader, but mostly since the monsters hit really hard. By level 20 of my Newsader, I had changed all my armor sockets from Rubies (STR for damage) to Amethysts (VIT for hit points), so I wasn’t getting one-shotted by Frozen anymore, but any two of them, or Molten explosions, or a swing of an Arcane needle, or even being hit by 3 or 4 trash mobs at once would kill me dead.

    Part of it was the way the monsters scaled up so much in level. The still looked like slow, hapless zombies, but they were level 20 or 25 or 30, which meant they were dealing equivalent damage to Act Three or Act Four enemies, as you’d see them in Diablo 3. Even once I got used to that though, I had to be really careful, kite and retreat a lot, heal, drink potions, etc. And since my whole goal was to level up quickly, and all the dying and nearly-dying was takng more time than the higher EXP was worth, I eventually lowered the difficulty down from Torment to Expert, sometime around level 30/Leoric’s Highlands.

    That made a huge difference and I didn’t die or come very close to dying after that, while the EXP still kept pouring in.

    I mentioned it to some friends online, and I think Xanth made the same point in a column sometime recently… beware starting out a new character in Reaper of Souls on a higher difficulty level, especially if you’re Hardcore. It’s not like Diablo 3. You can’t just put on a Vit Hellfire Ring and grind away on MP10. They will hit you. You will die.


    So, here’s the part at the end where I wrap things up with some questions designed to lead to discussion in comments. Magical!

    The pain of being a beta tester comes not so much during the beta, but when it ends. Now I’ve got 4 Torment-capable chars, all wearing self-found gear that’s vastly better than they had at 60 when imported into the Beta. Come March 25 I’ll have nothing but memories, and be back to my level 60s in their crummy D3 quality gear (what little is left of it after I firesale’d everything of value weeks ago), starting the process all over again. I don’t really look forward to that, but it’s inevitable.

    In a way I’d almost rather go from scratch, the way my Crusader (mostly) did. All my other chars went from 60 up to 70 and it was fairly boring, since I didn’t find many upgrades until level 70. The Crusader was more fun since he found upgrades constantly, especially once he hit 65ish and started finding some of the highest level gear, just with stats rolled a bit lower from the level. And then once he got to 70 I could put on some twinks, but mostly I dove into item finding, gambling, and enchanting, and upgraded almost every slot.

    Do you guys anticipate leveling up a new char in Reaper of Souls? Hardcore or Softcore? How will you go about that? Rush rush rush? Enjoy the experience and experiment with new skills? Store up twinks now or self find when the time comes? Or would you prefer the “instant level 70” button to get it out of the way and dive right into the end game?

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    33 thoughts on “Reaper of Souls New Character Strategy: Super Level Up Rate and Legs!

    1. I’m still waffling between starting all entirely new characters or only starting a new Crusader and just doing the 60-70 jig before endgame with the other five.

      On the one hand, I’ve self-found some pretty decent gear and don’t want to just retire that. But on the other hand, leveling is plenty fun, no more having to redo the game 4 times is a big plus, and the fact that the new loot system just feels incompatible with the old one makes me want to wipe the slate clean with everyone.

      Now that adventure mode and rifts are coming, I’m looking forward to doing bounties and rifts with random skills, and seeing how far I can get without dying depending on what RNG gives me. I plan to RNG my paragon points too, and hopefully this will give me additional cause to hold on to legendaries in case they augment a specific skill I got RNGed for me that session.

    2. At level 60, Torment 1 is NOT harder than MP10. Not even close. Hell, it’s barely MP3. Torment 6 is harder than MP10, for sure, though.

    3. I definitely anticipate leveling up a Crusader for sure. Ideally both Softcore and Hardcore, but since I’ve spent the majority of my time on SC, there first. I am really looking forward to working through the skills and synergies (I didn’t get closed Beta) and listening to the lore (this is where my GF would yawn). I’ve saved a wizard gear set and my Barb’s gear to start off with in RoS but am really looking forward to making distinct characters with gear that lends to a specific build. I don’t anticipate being the sole DPS output (which I am sometimes now) and working my char as a more support/tank (which might be usurped by a Crusader char). Either way, I’m pretty excited!

    4. Flux just a heads up you can find imperials now in master after the recent patch. I found 4 just yesterday in master on my HC character.

      After playing in beta on a monk for so long I am definitely leveling a new one for ROS since my Monk on live is dead. I haven’t decided if I will take my wizard to 70 1st in order to get a few marquise to help smooth out the leveling curve or whether I will just take a monk straight 1-70 1st. I think a lot of it will depend on when they release the loot 2.0 patch since having a week before ROS will give me more than enough time to level before launch.

      • I have not played Master, but I did find 4 or 5 Imperials on Torment 1 in recent play. They still seem pretty uncommon, but as each one is essentially a free 200k, it’s a nice prize.

    5. I’m still not completely satisfied with movement speed in D3V, but for the sake of the expansion, I’ll probably start with a brand new crusader just because it’s a new act and a new character.

      Flux, in your experience, how was the crusader’s movement speed compared to other characters? -or did you find this a non-issue? I’m not excited about skills which would slow my character down further than he already is.

      • Well he’s just like the others unless you use the passive that lets you wield 2H weapons. That cuts your MS by 15% (up from 10% pre-patch) which is basically a hard cap from gear + paragon points. Thus you only need 10% MS and more than that does nothing. (Skills and shrines and such will still boost you over 25% like any class.)

        That passive is optional of course, but most players will endure being slower for the potential big gain in DPS. My Crusader just got to 70 so I’m not real geared yet, but he is using a 2700 DPS 2H weapon, like most other Crusaders. I’m playing a Hammerdin build so movement isn’t a real premium; I move into the midst of lots of enemies, spam spinning hammers, and then beat down the last few survivors once I run out of resource. By then I’ve usually got HORSE off cooldown and I can utilize that for a few seconds of very high speed sprinting, which generally gets me to the next clump of enemies.

        You don’t notice your slowness so much solo. It’s more when you’re playing multi and everyone else is running that much faster, but HORSE is such a speed boost that over any short distance, 100y or so, you can blast past them and generally engage the mobs before everyone else enters.

        • That was my first impression when the beta started. Blizzard never seems to learn that 2h weapons in one hand is a recipe for disaster. Either the penalty is too steep, the benefits not good enough, or the penalty is negligible, and when you saw the Horse spell, you knew the movement speed penalty was going to be a non-issue. In WoW, Titan Grip was a never ending series of tweaks and overhauls; they never could seem to get it down right. Frankly, they should dump the skill, buff 2H weapons for everybody, and give every class a “quiver” like option for 2H weapons.

          • Notably, the last patch added 5s cooldown to the horse skill, and big buffs to some of the rune effects that do damage. (Most people just use the rune that gives it a second longer duration, wanting the skill purely for movement.

            There’s a bigger spread between 1H and 2H weapons in the new patch too. It’s very obvious with Rares, where you hardly ever see a 1H rare over 1900 now, with 2H Rares 2500 pretty common. Better quality legs are 2200 1H and 2850 2H.

            2H are considerably slower, usually 1.0 or 1.1 APS while 2H are often 1.4 APS. That’s a bigger penalty in RoS than it was with Life Steal in D3, since now procs and LpH are so important. I’m not at all sure the bigger DPS from 2H isn’t fool’s gold, that more testing will reveal is actually less effective. At least for some builds.

    6. Wait wait. I want to understand something, and it’s about gem drop pattern.

      From what I understood, the game drops Chipped to Flawless Square between levels 1-65, then at level 66 it jumps to Marquises?!

      Is that right or am I completely mistaken?

      • Yeah, it’s a weird progression. You find gems exactly as in D3, with chippies starting around 15, and then gradually going up through circles and triangles until you start seeing squares in the high 50s… and then suddenly around 65 all you ever find are Marquise. So you get gems 1-8 and then leap to 16. Basically, you will never see a gem above Flawless square and below Marquise in RoS.

        Really, Bliz should redo the whole system so gems scaled up more gradually, with the end game ones giving the points they do now. It’s weird to have this huge leap in quality at lvl 65ish, but unless they want to delete or reassign all D3 imported gems, they’re stuck with this.

        As with most of the itemization issues in RoS, the main problem is figuring a way to incorporate existing D3 gear into the new system.

    7. Great writeup, very interesting. The exp curve and level milestones compared to D3V Norm>NM>Hell is going to be a real change.

      I’m gonna start a HC Crusader and complete story mode in its entirety before moving to Adventure mode. Probably do that solo, since I like to experiment with skills/builds, tinker with gear, watch all the cutscenes, and clear all areas on a first playthrough with a new class.

      Then I’ll work on all my other characters in Adventure mode. The note about having 1 or 2 mains will be hard, since I play every class on SC and HC. Guess it will sort itself out based on how the new skills/features change my playstyle. Is it March yet? Can has beta key?

      • It’s funny, since I made it with my Barb just wanting something to put on his follower for some exp boost. And it rolled with the huge trifecta, and 400 VIT. I enchanted it 4 or 5x and never got STR. Just reduce cooldown time and such, with the +damage the best option.

        That’s actually sort of cool since it’s equally useful for any class, now. And that’s cheaper than re-rolling it for the appropriate mainstat each time I want to switch it between classes. It would be an awesome keepsake in Hardcore, to put on any new char. Sadly this is in Softcore where there’s no reason to ever make another new char, and it’s on the Beta test realm so it’ll go poof when they wipe the server.

        As I got it from mats when the drop rate was 100% for testing, I can’t really complain.

    8. I am seriously tempted to wipe my characters and start fresh in ROS…I’ve been having a lot of fun in the PTR and I’ve replaced just about every item my DH uses with 2.0 loot (except for her pants). I do want to give HC another go in the expansion, but I’m incredibly burned out on the story mode for this game. Ironically, the one element that makes me hesitant to delete all my characters is to keep access to all the lore/conversation progress – especially the ones for the followers. I’m curious to find out more about them…but not so much to have to repeat all the “prerequisite” stuff again. I might end up holding onto one character that has the most lore stuff and delete the others. I definitely like the improved level rate and it’s great to be able to find an assortment of Legendaries along the way. I remember feeling incredibly lucky that I was able to find two legendaries during an entire play through of Normal diff…thankfully those days are over. =^-^=

      • Heads up for everyone, remember to delete your characters AFTER RoS is installed or you will lose all paragon levels.

        • No you won`t. Progress is recorded so even when you`ve erased all your previous characters from Hardcore you still got xp points from them in future cumulation.

    9. I will for sure wipe all my chars and start from scratch..mostly because I lost a bet on RoS release date.

      For HC I intend to start with a clean inventory too, and am gonna destroy some pretty nice crafts.

      It’s the new start I’ve been waiting for.

      I did however managed to AH around 200m gold on both SC/HC and those I’m keeping because gold is..just gold.

      I guess I enjoy my games more when I get a sense of achievement.

      While the AH was a nice metagame (pretty exciting even, when a good item could get you 250$ RM), it killed some of the sense of “earned’ value of characters.

      So it’s HC, story mode, clean inventory Newsader for me too on March 27-28 (as the error 37 dust clears).

    10. In this game 2 handed weapons end up barely more dps than one handers anyways. The only reason people started using them was when they got higher crit damages, which doesn’t happen anymore. Well that and Skorn basically gave you everything except lifesteal, setting a high floor on 2 handers.

    11. QUOTE

      Yeah, it's a weird progression. You find gems exactly as in D3, with chippies starting around 15, and then gradually going up through circles and triangles until you start seeing squares in the high 50s... and then suddenly around 65 all you ever find are Marquise. So you get gems 1-8 and then leap to 16. Basically, you will never see a gem above Flawless square and below Marquise in RoS.
      Really, Bliz should redo the whole system so gems scaled up more gradually, with the end game ones giving the points they do now. It's weird to have this huge leap in quality at lvl 65ish, but unless they want to delete or reassign all D3 imported gems, they're stuck with this.
      As with most of the itemization issues in RoS, the main problem is figuring a way to incorporate existing D3 gear into the new system.

      Wasn’t there something in the patch notes like “Gem drops rebalanced”, or something?

    12. I plan on farming more Paragon levels when patch 2.0 hits Live… Then doing Bounties with my Wizard until 70 when RoS is released. Then going campaign with said Wizard to grab a couple of guaranteed legendaries. Actually, it’s going to be hard to farm XP now that I think about it, since I can’t progress beyond Leoric when 2.0 hits, or I’d be missing out on the legendary he drops at level 70… Looks like it’s going to be a pretty dull time between Live 2.0 and RoS release. Working as intended?

      • Guaranteed legendaries only drop at levels 1-59 (and only from act bosses) to prevent exactly that kind of problem. They’re meant to help make leveling interesting (bear in mind that, with how fast you level, even a relatively short patch of bad luck with leg drops can mean your last leg was a lot of levels ago) not provide legs for endgame.

    13. OK… So I guess I’ll have no problem farming Paragon in campaign then when 2.0 goes Live, I just won’t be going back to touch campaign when RoS hits and can just stay doing bounties until the next expansion. I’m at 60 on the PTR though, and Leoric has dropped a legendary every time I’ve dropped him after reseting campaign progress… So it’s probably still bugged.

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