The Ironborn #3: The Many Different Flavors of Diablo 3 Self-Found Play


Mix and match flavors.

Mix and match flavors.

If you’ve been to a modern movie theater, you’ve probably seen a soda mixing machine; it lets you pick two or more soda flavors, and blend them to create something different.

The same concept exists behind self-found play in Diablo 3. Just as there’s no “perfect” soda flavor for everyone, there’s no one “right” way to play self-found. Although Ironborn players all agree to avoid using the Auction Houses, each player has to decide for himself what (if any) additional rules to put in place in their endless journey for better loot.

Here are a few of the things you should consider before creating your first self-found character.

Whether To Trade Items

Since Ironborn love to use items they find themselves, it’s easy to see why many of them classify trading as a form of cheating. In this view, anything not found yourself is as bad as using the Auction Houses. After all, one of the main joys in playing self-found is relying on yourself – and for many, that means finding your own gear upgrades, without any outside help.

But some feel trading is okay, so long as both people are in the game when an item drops (though there’s no way to know when this happens). Trading in this limited sense can be seen as improving the multiplayer experience and building trust and collaboration between people, without creating the massive devaluation of gear that occurs when people use the Auction Houses. Also, unlike trading on a grand scale with people you’ve never played with before, donating and swapping gear with friends is arguably a core part of the Diablo experience.

Click through to continue the article…

Whether To Allow Item Swapping Between Characters On Your Account

If all your characters are self-found, it’s easy to tell which items you found yourself. But what if your account is shared between both self-found and non-self-found characters? Trying to keep track of which items belong to one group and which belong to the other can become an inventory nightmare.

To solve this problem, some self-found players prefer not to allow gear sharing between their characters, including their self-found toons. In this way, the gear on each individual character reflects the time you actually invested in that character, and makes the items she finds truly her own – not the result of outside help, either from other players, or more well-geared characters on the same account.

Still, other SF players feel it’s a waste of time to not share self-found items. Though the gear you find on the Auction Houses is obviously out-of-bounds, as long as you found it yourself, using a self-found character, why not divide the spoils of battle among each of the characters you play? Most players who take this approach have a character of each class, and treat their self-found characters as one unified team, making every item they find a potentially helpful gear upgrade – at least, for one of their characters.

Whether To Buy Items From Vendors

Vendor gear can be beneficial to characters in the early going – especially in Normal. While including this rule has a negligible impact in later difficulties, some like to add it for an extra challenge at the outset.

Whether To Allow Crafting

Some self-found players feel crafting recipes – especially the helpful patch 1.0.8 BoA recipes – break the game and make finding better gear drops from enemies virtually impossible. Others balk at this idea, relishing the chance to craft gear that rivals and often beats some of the rare gear that can be purchased by their AH-using counterparts.

The List Goes On…

There are many other minor rules Ironborn players sometimes like to employ. Some think selling items on the AH is fine, as long as you’re not buying anything. Others painstakingly track their gold while playing self-found so their characters won’t gain an unfair advantage earned from selling items that were found by their non-SF characters. A sizeable chunk of the community thinks you shouldn’t accept help from more powerful players in order to speed-level new self-found characters.

Your Thoughts

What rules make sense to you all when playing self-found? Do you worry about whether other SF players are using a different ruleset than you – or do you embrace diversity of play styles, and adopt a live-and-let-live attitude? Are there rules you think are ridiculous, or absolute must-haves to make it worthwhile?


Waterfiend is a writer and avid gamer who follows Diablo 3 news religiously. Say hello at his forum profile.

Tagged As: | Categories: Diablo 3, Diabloii.Net Columns, Ironborn

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  1. It is called IRONMAN not IRONBORN since D1 times

    • Game of Thrones wasn’t as popular back then…

    • I don’t get why flux tries to enforce this term so hard either.

    • My understanding was that Ironman is a variation of self-found / “live off the land” style play from the early days of D1 / D2, with the added restriction that you’re not supposed to return to town at all.

      If that’s not right, I hope you’ll correct me, as I’m curious about the roots of self-found play.

      • Yeah, Ironman was a common term mostly in D1, and it referred to a game, usually MP, where you never went back to town. Just deeper into the dungeon, entirely self found, and it was Hardcore so if you died you were done. That was a significant mode in D1 since the game never required you to return to town or interact with NPCs while doing the quests, and the game made it VERY difficult since there was no mana or life regen, gear broke forever if it ran out of durability, etc.

        There’s never been a real Ironman equivalent in D2 or D3, since you get resource regen, you have to go back to town for quests, items don’t break forever if they wear out. Thus there is no Ironman in D3 since the game just doesn’t support it.

        What there is, entirely by player creation, is the Ironborn. The term comes from Game of Thrones (the books; it’s not really put forward in the TV show) and it matches up so perfectly with the no-AH mentality. In GRRM’s series, the Ironborn are the Iron Islanders, a clan and a people who are intensely warlike and savage, and their defining characteristic is that they only regard loot and treasure as legit if they loot it or take it off of your dead body. They scorn buying anything and regard anyone who pays the “gold price” as soft and weak.

        I can only assume that a lot of players harbor guilty consciences about their AH use and resent the implication of not being Ironborn, which is why we so often hear squeaking about it from people who seem annoyed that anyone attempts to play in this fashion.

        • BTW, I’m not doing it myself and am a dirty AH whore in almost every way, so it’s not my thing. But I find it interesting and wish to help support that play style and the people who are into it. And I’d love if Bliz implemented some support for it in D3X, and I’d probably throw a new char into it for variety if they did… but I don’t t expect that they will.

          Perhaps long term we might see some Selfie support, via ladders or something? I’m not sure it’ll even matter though, as Bliz keeps saying they want to make self found and crafting and the Mystic and other gear sources so much better in Loot 2.0 that the gap between those who pay the iron price and the gold price will narrow. We might need to get into some Ironborn hair splitting in the future as to whether Mystic enchants are allowed, how much you can craft, etc.

  2. my rules to self-found hc mode:

    1) no AH
    2) no trades

    3) (its because of no ladders) play completely alone

    Im planning play this again when RoS come! As Crusader.

    • Seems like no AH and no trading is the one thing most SF players agree on. Most other things are minor in the grand scheme, but they do add a little flavor to the main idea.

  3. The Ironborn mode is an interesting idea and I understand the ‘No-AH’ but playing like an Amish dude is stupid IMO.

  4. The correct way to play – pretend you’re playing (legit) offline play in D1/2. All other ways are Wrong and Shameful. So It Has Been Declared!!!

  5. seems like the writers for this site are compelled to put up a pointless, rehashed article on ironman/ironborn/self-found or whatever you wanna call it every couple days. is it really that important? everything else with the game is rosy? i think not

    • Waterfiend’s column focusses on self found and Xanth’s deals with HC.

      News and commentary on other additional subjects can also be found on the news page.

    • “everything else with the game is rosy? ”

      you mean stuff like loot ? crafting ? skills ?

      all things they have already previewed and have scheduled to fix in the patch and expansion ?

  6. I do SFHC (MP10 for extra “fun”), no AH, vendors and crafting ok. I don’t really use the stash at all.

    • Wow really? I find I run out of space. I find it difficult to know what to throw away and what might be needed later on. I wish I found it easier to make decisions when it comes to loot.

      • It need to be said that I haven’t gone that far when I play SFHC MP10, I’m quite new to this way of playing. It takes a long time to kill/kite mobs.

        I tend to salvage bad magic items and try and craft stuff with Vit + class main stat. So not needing that much space in stash.

    • Several of my friends are playing exactly the same as you are. They keep encouraging me to try it, but the thought of dying permanently sort of worries me. Do you have any suggestions for a good build to start off with?

      • I felt the same. Then I thought that I already have a lvl 60 of each class. SFHC is more about the journey and the thrill/scare of loosing the char than just grinding gear. If nothing else I would say just try it and see if you like it. At worst you will get a funny story about how you lost a character. I lost two sub 20 characters in one day, almost in the same area. 🙂

        Instead of going MP10 you can also just try SFHC MP0 first. I did that with a barb and made it to act 2 NM. I only had 1-2 scary moments, and he is still alive.

  7. I do various self found things, mostly solo play except for some hardcore multiplayer with a noob friend of mine whenever he forgets he’s pissed at dying. I really like doing tournament style or themed builds, but playing through normal-nightmare-hell is too boring and painful (and with no worthwhile loot) for me to do it HC. Instead I just start in act 1 inferno with a normal char and buy starting loot from vendor.

    Currently doing a playthrough mp0 with a monk with fully randomized skills, runes and passives. When he dies or finishes inferno the next char will use gear he gathered (and crafted if he finds the plans personally), perhaps on mp1 and repeat the cycle. It is keeping loot interesting for me and forces me to try some underrated runes and change up my playstyle.

  8. If blizzard is going to implant ironborn, they will have this problem. What is ironborn? the solution is to create more than one mode,

    ironborn: no action house sell/buy, no sharing items, no trading “off” game, can use venders.

    Goldenborn: can sell in AH, can share items with other charecters, can trade with others goldenborns, can use vendors.
    And if needed other modes…

    • You make a really good point. A couple of us have been talking about how to sort of bring more people into alignment around a common playstyle – in other words, keeping a few rules flexible (crafting, buying from vendors, etc.) and limiting others (trading, AH use).

      We’ve spent several nights on RaidCall talking about how to help legitimize and promote the playstyle without necessarily needing Blizzard’s intervention (though, having a SF matchmaking tag would be helpful.)

  9. I’m self found and would like to trade with people who were as well. One thing I don’t like is each new character already has upgraded artisans and gold is shared. I think both of those would be a easy checkbox to implement.

  10. I’ve been playing self-found (I personally find “self-found” to be the best term to describe this playstyle, though it does seem that “ironborn” has stuck) since D1. In D1 and D2 it was to avoid getting hacked or duped items from people, as I’ve always felt strongly about playing legit. In D3 it’s of course to avoid the auction house. It’s funny, Blizzard was/is so against people cheating to get the best gear without any work, and yet the atmosphere they’ve created with the AH is frighteningly similar to how it was back in D1 with everyone hacking. In D1, you’d get yourself the best gear instantly by hacking and you’d go off and one-shot everything in your path while taking virtually no damage yourself. In D3, you do the exact same thing. You buy the best gear in seconds on the AH then go on to play as a near god. Granted the items you bought on the AH had to be found by someone at some point, but is it really that different? Has Blizzard just legitimized and institutionalized cheating?

    • Funny you should mention this. The two guys who I interviewed for the previous article said yesterday that the AH has radically changed people’s perspectives on finding gear, and it shows in the forums.

      Instead of congratulating others on finding an item in-game, people now say “Oh, you could have bought that in 10 seconds on the AH…” It’s demoralizing.

      I think, independent of having better loot with future patches and expansions, the hope people have for playing SF is to be completely insulated from the AH and the “flipping” mindset that it has created.

  11. I’ve been playing Diablo since 1. I loved it, loved D2 and I really loved a few things about D3 for a while.

    I have AH characters in soft core. But, recently I’ve been playing HC without using the AH and I love it. I feel like I’m finding useful items in every game. upgrading constantly without hitting the AH. However … My strongest character can barely handle MP1.

    Also, crafting is so expensive that it’s really tough to rely on at all for good items.

    My biggest problem, however, is storage. In D2 … I created several different accounts and I would have entire characters full of boots, or gloves or armors or gems … I had it pretty organized like little closets.

    I don’t like dying, but when I do, playing self found. It’s nice to have an inventory full of items I’ve found along the way to get back to where I was a little faster.

    unfortunately, storage space is SO limited that I can’t keep very much leveling gear.

    My final note: I think it might be good to sell play self found … but, sell gear on the AH just to have gold for crafting. I wouldn’t feel this was necessary if there was a better way to generate gold for crafting.

    • The storage space problem is solved in the console edition of the game. You’re still limited to 10 characters, but that’s per account on your console. So you only have to add more accounts on your console, and voila: 10 extra possible characters.

      This works for offline play. Not sure what will happen if you want to do this with online play.

  12. Incgamers should do a pool!
    What are the rules for ironborn/self found:

    AH Sell: yes/no
    Vendors: yes/no
    Crafting: yes/no
    Trading with others ironborn out of the game: yes/no
    Trading with others ironborn same game: yes/no
    Separeted stash for wich character: yes/no
    Separeted level for artisans: yes/no
    Sharegon levels should apply: yes/no
    others…

  13. I also play self-found and here are my rules :
    – No AH of course
    – Self-found items are shared amongst all my characters in the common stash
    – I do not trade with other players except with friends I really know in real life when the item drops in the same game.

  14. Good idea Dovahkiin.
    My goal is to play “legit”, having pleasure to upgrade my own gear and not to loose time so :

    AH Sell: no
    Vendors: yes
    Crafting: yes
    Trading with others ironborn out of the game: no
    Trading with others ironborn same game: yes/no (not so important)
    Separeted stash for wich character: no
    Separeted level for artisans: no
    Sharegon levels should apply: yes

  15. I don’t see a problem with storage space.

    Even if you had a full set of gear for every class in your stash it would take up less than 2 pages. Theres no reason to keep novelty items, even legendaries, if they have worse stats than something else you own. The only exception would be set items since set bonuses might make them better in the future even though finding several pieces is highly unlikely.

    You can’t store a grail like d2 with atma, but farming for one would be mindblowingly boring anyhow.

  16. My rules
    – no AH at all (selling or buying)
    – no other form of trade
    – I share loot between the different characters of the account
    – I use vendors and crafting
    – I play mostly solo. If I play with friends that are not self-found, I do not accept gifts (although I probably leech some XP while playing with them). Anyway, not so much of a problem anymore: no one I know has been playing for the last couple of monthes or so.

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