King of the Paladins - A 1.05 Adventure

DariusTriplet

Diabloii.Net Member
The best way to pick up from tantalizingly close attempt at making King/Queen is to try again :D

This time, I'll be playing a Paladin in 1.05b. I chose 1.05b due to how Blessed Hammer displays on the LCS:

1.00-1.03: no Concentration boost displayed on the LCS
1.04: No Concentration ED% at all for Blessed Hammer!
1.05-1.06: Concentration bonus is displayed properly on the LCS

After doing enough hand-calculation of stats to last me a lifetime on M'avina, and wanting Holy Water Sprinklers to drop (1.04-1.06 only), 1.05b was a natural choice. It'll also provide a nice contrast to 1.14; I've made Guardian with Hammerdins there, so it'll be interesting to compare the two experiences.

Build-wise, Hammers only require 43 total skill points:

20 Hammer
20 Concentration
1 Holy Bolt, Blessed Aim, Might

Leaving lots of room for secondary attacks! Two immediately jump out - Smite and Charge. Smite is nearly entirely gear-independent - it draws attack speed from your weapon+bonuses, and damage from the shield - and has some nice effects (stun, knockback, auto-hits). However, the damage is pitiful, and it cannot leech. Charge also auto-hits, knocks back, and leeches, but won't stun and requires weapon damage (so no wands!). I've played neither a Smiter nor Chargadin before, so I'm looking forward to trying out both skills before committing to one. Thankfully, they're both prereqs for Holy Shield (necessary, as blockrate is hard to boost in Classic), so I won't need to waste points trying them out.

The rules that I'm setting for this are as follows:
- Single-pass, more or less - a King has no patience for re-running areas.
- Players 8 only - a King needs his court, after all (and I don't have the patience for P1 Classic...).
- Untwinked 1.05b HC

(n.b. - I thought about playing a Necromancer, but I've heard that they struggle against Diablo, and I think I can be forgiven for wanting to avoid that right now :p)
 

DariusTriplet

Diabloii.Net Member
The ancient Paladins would prove their faith by undertaking great quests. Recently-discovered texts tell of the hero that would be king...

And we're off! Once again, roll up a character - this time, Cheeseburger the Paladin - and seven town-sitters. @Fruit spotted this stellar name in an old bug report; given that he'll be a Hammerdin, cheese seemed like an obvious upgrade :p

A quick glance through the skill tree, and something immediately catches my eye:
Screenshot3.jpg
An auto-hit skill with +attack! Thanks, Blizzard.

The Den was unremarkable as usual - first point into Might, bash with the Short Sword, pick up every last item, et al. I tried Smite a few times, but wasn't impressed - although, at this point in the game, most skills aren't as useful as just Normal Attacking. My guess is that Smite gets better when single monsters get scarier (e.g. stunlocking Teleportation bosses, and it supposedly can stop LE bolts from firing?), but for now it's not very exciting.

Blood Raven, on the other hand, was more dangerous than usual. I had to sell off some of Cheeseburger's equipment + nearly every last item he found to afford this:
Screenshot4.jpg
My hope was that the damage would make up for being short on potions. Needless to say, it didn't - I went completely broke, ran out of potions, and wasn't able to finish the job. Playing a Normal Attack character doesn't help this fight at all, since it's easy to just get swarmed->hitlocked, or tied up fighting Hungry Dead. I had hoped that Holy Bolt's 8-16 ranged damage would help, but it felt like it did less damage than Normal Attack against undead!

With Blood Raven still at 40% health, and no way to continue the fight, I needed a new plan, which was...to retreat into the Mausoleum and hope for 1-2 levels and lucky drops. Thankfully, I received both; in particular:
Screenshot7.jpg
Factor in the +30% ED from Might - and a Sash-ful of red potions - and Cheeseburger was able to apply some real damage to Blood Raven.

The fight was hard, but the reward was very sweet:
Screenshot5.jpg
A useful set, a big seller, and what turned out to be Gloves of Readiness! Quite the find for level 9.

On to the Stony Field and its waypoint. Astonishingly, it took a while to find the waypoint and wrap up, but Cheeseburger's mercenary was still alive by the end. Hopefully this is a good omen :cool:
 

Fruit

Diabloii.Net Member
Oh boy, here we go!
Cheeseburger the Paladin
Excellent. :D


blockrate
Yeah, the only item increasing block speed is a unique sword. The stat can not even spawn on Magic/Rare shields!

Block chance also is another story. Firstly, block chance is not reduced to 1/3 while running in pre-LoD patches, so you can run around with up to 75% chance to block. Secondly, you will only play the blocking animation if a missile would have dealt more than 1/12 of your maximum hitpoints in physical damage. This is extremely rare to happen for a Paladin in 1.05, especially since Might does not increase the physical damage of monsters their ranged attacks. This also means that against melee attacks, blocking will never interrupt you, and you have a block length of 0 frames, meaning being able to block multiple attacks in the same frame!
Holy Water Sprinklers to drop (1.04-1.06 only)
I'm not sure if they're able to drop, still. They did fix that Grand Scepters would properly upgrade to Holy Water Sprinklers in 1.04, but.. there is no monster in NM or Hell that drops a Grand Scepter!

If
they can drop at all, it might be a rack, container, or something hardcoded. (Wish I could tell you, but I don't have those notes anymore!)
 

zemaj

Diabloii.Net Member
Don't you also not need to boost dex in classic? As in the chance to block on the shield's stats is its blocking, end of discussion? If so, there is that anyway...

Not sure how it is in Classic, but in LoD Charge has more bugs than the O. Orkin Smithsonian exhibit... very fun though.
 

DariusTriplet

Diabloii.Net Member
The corruption of Anguish had nearly extinguished the Word in Khanduras...

I had expected Act 1 Normal to be easy for a character with melee skills, but it was honestly rather difficult. A big part of the issue was that Cheeseburger was using a two-handed weapon, which dealt decent damage, but left him vulnerable to getting swarmed. Bosspacks were a real concern; Cheeseburger's only real strategy was to flee and try to break up the pack before working through the monsters one by one. Charge helped a bit by providing a high-damage attack, but the 9 mana cost was steep without any source of leech and a tiny pool.

Tristram in particular had a nasty surprise: two goat packs, plus Griswold, all near the red portal! Cheeseburger was level 12 by this point, but Charge didn't help much; it's a wonderful skill when it chains Charge -> knockback -> repeat, but it's crummy when you're surrounded. For the first (and certainly not the last) time, Cheeseburger parked half of the packs in a far corner, TPed out, and came back through the red portal to deal with the other half first. Act 1 Normal and he's already parking bosses - not an auspicious start!

Akara's ring may be useful sometime in the future:
Screenshot8.jpg
Although I'd really like something a bit better.

The Forgotten Tower was absolutely packed with bosses, which gave Cheeseburger a hard time. Again, the old trick of running deeper into the area -> TP out -> reenter allowed him to split packs and deal with monsters one-on-one. There was a lot of gold - which is highly relevant this act - but no great items.

Right outside the Outer Cloister, this dropped:
Screenshot9.jpg
Between the decent damage, +AR, and +3 Smite, I took it for a spin. Even with a crummy 1 MDR Buckler, Cheeseburger felt much hardier; even being unable to see block animations, I certainly felt the difference. This ring also helped out:
Screenshot10.jpg

Unfortunately, while Cheeseburger was sturdier, his damage output wasn't very great. It took 10-12 blows to fell most monsters, and he encountered his first park-and-flee boss in the Outer Cloister:
Screenshot12.jpg
For a while, he was running gold-negative - repairing the Scepter cost more than selling dropped items could recoup. Not great, especially when I was aggressively saving for a certain item.

Thankfully, a rare Trident dropped (forgot to screenshot, but it was 12-22 damage with 2-7 poison), which traded protection for damage. The Barracks were another area full of bosspacks and champions; the Trident + leech helped, but I was really starting to worry about Cheeseburger's viability. In particular, desync was terrifying - I tried to play Cheeseburger tactically to survive against bosspacks, which went out the window when the pack would suddenly warp behind him :p

The Smith required multiple trips back to town, and lots of melee -> flee while potions kick in -> Charge loops. For the first time, I legitimately thought about using the Malus as a weapon.

In addition to struggling in the Barracks, Cheeseburger looked really goofy:
Screenshot13.jpg
Fear the farmerdin.

The Jail wasn't as bad as the Barracks - a Ring of the Bat dropped, which meant that Charge could be used more liberally. The Inner Cloister, on the other hand, was a deathtrap. Flamespike put up a good fight, since Cheeseburger had to Charge in and take the needles with no block; on top of that, as soon as he opened the Cathedral doors:
Screenshot14.jpg
A champion Ghost pack, a boss Ghost pack (naturally, the boss teleported), and some Tainted to keep things exciting. Standing and fighting was completely out of the option, and flee-and-Charge wasn't viable against stacks of Ghosts. I couldn't park the packs, since there's nowhere in the Inner Cloister to put them - the far corner is still too close to the Jail entrance. What's a Paladin to do?
Screenshot15.jpg
Get the Ghosts stuck on some terrain and fight the stragglers :D After three iterations of running, getting the Ghosts stuck, and dealing with 2-3 monsters at once, Cheeseburger prevailed.

In the Catacombs, Cheeseburger hit level 18. Concentration was a nice boost to damage, but Blessed Hammer at slvl 1 is just too weak to bother with - it only deals 19-25 damage after Concentration. It looked like he was going to be bashing monsters for a few more levels, but his damage output was really becoming a problem. Thankfully, starting at clvl 17, a very important item became available:
Screenshot16.jpg
It took 15-20 minutes of running Gheed to get this to finally spawn. I had scrimped, saved, and picked up everything worth selling to raise the 44k; thankfully, selling that old Scepter pushed Cheeseburger over the top. The result wasn't too exciting (although it's a cool Classic-only affix), but it's really the base damage that matters:
Screenshot18.jpg
I suppose I used all my early gambling fortune with M'avina :p

And the result:
Screenshot20.jpg
Very nearly enough to pay for Charge after 7% mana leech!

With his new weapon (really putting the hammer in Hammerdin :cool:), Cheeseburger was able to clear out the front of Catacombs 4 easily. Andariel gave me a good scare with her poison bolt, melee damage, and accompanying pack of Ghouls, but I settled into a pattern of Charge -> retreat -> repeat. This put out a lot of damage, kept Cheeseburger out of melee range, and leeched back enough that only the occasional small purple was needed to keep going.

I was starting to get irritated at how long it was taking to gamble a Maul, but I'm glad that I stuck with it, as I don't think I could have beaten Andariel without it. I don't expect to gamble another in Act 2 - 44k is a lot, and Blessed Hammer ought to come into its own soon - but it should help get Cheeseburger into his early-mid 20s.
 

DariusTriplet

Diabloii.Net Member
Don't you also not need to boost dex in classic? As in the chance to block on the shield's stats is its blocking, end of discussion? If so, there is that anyway...

Not sure how it is in Classic, but in LoD Charge has more bugs than the O. Orkin Smithsonian exhibit... very fun though.
AFAICT, block in Classic is whatever's printed on the shield + external bonuses (additive), so dex will be left at base all game. What I'm aiming for is 70 hard points in Strength (already done), base Dex/Energy, and the rest in Vitality, but we'll see if that's really viable.

One of the nice things about Paladins is that they don't require Twitchthroe to reach max block with a 3 Perfect Diamond Tower Shield - Holy Shield provides exactly enough (54 + 21) to hit max. It opens up a lot of interesting gear possibilities; M'avina had to squeeze resists out of every last slot, but I expect Cheeseburger to hit max resist+block with gear slots to spare.
 

DariusTriplet

Diabloii.Net Member
The Light was brought upon the darkness of the vipers...

The story of the front half of Act 2 is really the story of Charge. Cheeseburger's AR was really starting to suffer (base dex, no +AR items, no AR from skills), so he was almost entirely reliant on Charge to deal damage. It takes a few levels for Blessed Hammer + Concentration to catch up to slvl 1 Charge + Concentration - plus it takes more mana than it's worth - so I played Cheeseburger as a (mostly) pure Charger for a while. There's a lot to say about it!

The Sewers posed no trouble against Charge + a Maul. Who would've thought that +100% damage on Charge, plus 60% from Concentration, plus 50% more from a blunt weapon, would be good versus skeletons :D I was able to pull most of the skeletons away from Radament, Charge them out of his revive range, and pummel him with Charge without much of a headache.

The desert, on the other hand, was where Charge started to become an issue. Being able to hold left-click on a Leaper and Charge it down was fantastic; on the other hand, this was where I noticed some of its more egregious bugs. A short list:
  • Charge cannot damage stationary monsters (Nests, Sarcaphogi, but oddly, not Coldworm); Cheeseburger would land the hit and leech, but the health bar wouldn't change. Worse, this seemed to put the monster in some weird semi-immortal state, where its health bar wouldn't move no matter how many hits I landed, even as Cheeseburger leeched off it.
  • Monsters hit by Charge will often show the pink spark, get knocked back, and...take zero damage. Not the best outcome.
  • Charge should auto-hit, but even if a monster is clearly in range, it'll sometimes just outright fail to land.
Needless to say, this made it somewhat exasperating to Charge through the desert. When it works, the skill is a blast to use; the built-in knockback and high damage mean that you can zip around landing huge blows, and the skill chains with itself. It just so often doesn't work that it's at least as aggravating to use as fun.

In addition, much as it was for M'avina, Act 2 was very crashy. Thankfully, nothing was lost this time, but it's still very frustrating to have to wait out a crash.

It became increasingly obvious that Charge wasn't a long-term option for Cheeseburger, so I started spending money a bit more liberally. I gambled a Skull Cap hoping for Tarnhelm, and on the first try:
Screenshot21.jpg
Something even better - five solid affixes for Act 2 Normal!

Also in the desert, Cheeseburger's first unique:
Screenshot24.jpg
Unfortunately, it's not very good :p

With a few more levels, I was able to start using Hammers against large groups of undead. It was a big help in the Halls of the Dead - the pattern of Charging down Unravelers, then Hammering down the skeletons/zombies, worked really well here. In addition, a useful item dropped:
Screenshot25.jpg
Finally, FR/W! With the helm and Arctic Furs, this puts Cheeseburger's Fire Resist up to a healthy 60%.

Next up, the Hammerdin's nemesis:
Screenshot27.jpg
And it certainly lived up to its reputation:
Screenshot28.jpg
I really felt the bugginess (hah!) of Charge here - Cheeseburger's poor AR meant that Charge was his only real option for making headway, but it often either failed to deal damage or whiffed entirely. Hammers were almost completely out of the option - although I could occasionally set up corners where I could fire off some Hammers - so I spent most of the Lair trying to whack monsters with Normal Attack. I got through, but until the final chamber, it was a real slog - I burned a lot of the small purples in Cheeseburger's stash just staying alive and refueling from bad Charges. Mercifully, Coldworm isn't subject to the same can't-Charge-stationary-monster bug as Nests, so after Hammering away the maggots, I was able to Charge her down.

On the way through the Lost City, this dropped:
Screenshot31.jpg
60% block, +life, +mana, and MDR - almost everything I could have asked for! This accelerated my decision to try going Hammer+Smite. A note on mana - I'm trying to keep Cheeseburger's Energy at base, given how poor the return on mana/point is versus life/point (1.5 and 3, respectively) - in other words, a point of +mana from items is worth twice its weight in +life, points-wise. As such, any source of +mana is very valuable; hence my excitement over the shield!

By the time Cheeseburger made it to the Viper Temple, Hammers were becoming viable as a primary damage source. As such, I could bait out Vipers, Charge them down, then use Hammers to clear the undead. Fighting Fangskin Charge-to-Charge would've been a losing proposition, so instead Cheeseburger ran to the Altar and used Hammers to hit the Viper pack. To answer @Maltatai 's question about Vipers climbing up the altar steps - they seem to be able to, although undead will block the steps first.

Following the Viper Temple, I decided that it was time to make the switch. The bugginess of Charge was becoming increasingly frustrating, and Hammers had surpassed it damage-wise anyway. Time to go shopping:
Screenshot32.jpg
I was holding out for Drake's of Sorcery, but the +2 Concentration was enough to tempt me.
This, plus the shield, put Cheeseburger's mana slightly above 100. We'll see if that's enough to stay afloat, or if I should start thinking about investing in the Defensive Auras tree for Redemption.
 

Fruit

Diabloii.Net Member
Bummer about the crashes. :( Also sucks to hear Charge is that buggy -- I wonder if some of it is caused simply by de-sync. The netcode/syncing in earlier patches is abysmal compared to later patches, 1.07 players also know this. :p

Nice mana pool though, not to be underestimated when you can't buy mana potions. :) Wall of the Eyeless is a very nice Hammerdin shield imo, although it may be tough to get sufficient resistances when using it.
 

DariusTriplet

Diabloii.Net Member
Bummer about the crashes. :( Also sucks to hear Charge is that buggy -- I wonder if some of it is caused simply by de-sync. The netcode/syncing in earlier patches is abysmal compared to later patches, 1.07 players also know this. :p

Nice mana pool though, not to be underestimated when you can't buy mana potions. :) Wall of the Eyeless is a very nice Hammerdin shield imo, although it may be tough to get sufficient resistances when using it.
Charge definitely suffers from self-MP; desync is enough of an issue normally, and Charge exacerbates it badly. It'd probably be markedly more enjoyable in true single player; it looked like a complete blast in @Barl's video :) Unfortunately, Cheeseburger won't ever be fighting monsters outside of self-MP, so Charge is a no-go for him.
 

DariusTriplet

Diabloii.Net Member
He brought the Word to places beyond comprehension...

I was a bit concerned if Cheeseburger would have enough mana, post-transformation into a caster, to support Hammers. The Palace didn't do much to assuage these worries - the low monster density, small rooms, and twisty halls meant that Hammers just weren't very good. For the first time in ages, I completely skipped Fire Eye; I usually make a point of fighting him, but mana issues made it unenjoyable.

The Arcane Sanctuary, on the other hand, was where Hammers really came into their own. The near-completely open layout, high number of undead, and possibility of clever maneuvering meant that Cheeseburger could clear screenfuls of monsters without much effort. Mana was still a problem, but the raw efficiency of Hammer meant that Cheeseburger could push forward -> clear a screen -> TP back to Fara for mana and gold. Even though the Summoner was on the fourth path that Cheeseburger checked, it was one of the quickest runs through the Sanctuary that I've had in a while. I was able to stockpile plenty of blues and purples - Cheeseburger's inventory was filling up with potions, which would soon become relevant.

This certainly helped a bit:
Screenshot33.jpg
A nice upgrade over his old +8 mana amulet - and enough +Strength to equip Tower Shields!
I gambled some gloves to replace Cheeseburger's now-irrelevant SIAS Heavy Gloves, and picked up these:
Screenshot34.jpg

The False Tombs were similar to the Sanctuary; Cheeseburger rounded up monsters, unloaded a mana bulb's worth of Hammers, and sifted through the loot. Much like M'avina, he struggled against single monsters - I'm still getting a feel for aiming Hammers reliably - but tore through large packs easily. I imagine that getting more MPK will make this even more pronounced; it felt like a full bulb would clear 90% of monsters, and the last 10% required another. Given his decent resists, 2 MDR, high life, and 60% block, I opted to just leave stragglers behind - no need to slow down when they presented no threat.

In the third False Tomb that I checked, Cheeseburger found his quarry:
Screenshot35.jpg
Magic Resistant is a blank modifier versus Cheeseburger's physical Hammers, but Extra Strong LE is no joke. Ancient Kaa was no match for Hammers, however, and Cheeseburger was sturdy enough to eat bolts without risking death.

Next up, Duriel. Unlike M'avina, who had to devise entirely new strategies to handle Holy Freeze + Charge, Cheeseburger's plan was to lean on 60% block + high life while throwing Hammers. It wasn't terribly complex, but was sound: Cheeseburger could block Jabs, but not Charge, and Holy Freeze meant that keeping distance was out of the question. Since cast rate is unaffected by Holy Freeze, he didn't need a special skill a la Jab to rapidly apply damage. The lack of life leech was worrying - M'avina survived by attrition, whereas Cheeseburger would be wholly reliant on potions - but Paladins have no fixed-rate melee attacks to fight through Holy Freeze.

The LCS before going into the Chamber:
Screenshot36.jpg

Pop down, and the mercenary is immediately instagibbed by a Charge. I get Cheeseburger into position - right next to the south wall, so Hammers would hit Duriel while keeping Cheeseburger in place through Smites - and start spamming Hammers:
Screenshot38.jpg

And...it worked! Once again, by negating most of Duriel's attacks, I was able to turn it into a battle of attrition that favored my attacks. Thanks to having saved all those potions from the Sanctuary/Tombs, Cheeseburger could drink reds/blues/purples to stay topped up even under Duriel's assault. Under a hail of Hammers, Duriel fell.

The reward - one rare Bone Shield and two junky magics - was intriguing:
Screenshot39.jpg
Two decent resists and 70% block rate! The tradeoff is losing +13 mana and 1 MDR from Cheeseburger's current shield - and frankly, one I'm unsure I can make right now. Mana is still tight, so unless I can find a +mana belt/ring/armor soon, I'll probably keep this in the stash.

Next up - a much less crashier Act 3.
 

DariusTriplet

Diabloii.Net Member
Guided by faith, he encountered Hate...

Act 3 is going to be a quick update, since it was a quick act. Blessed Hammer continues to be absolutely stellar at clearing screenfuls of monsters, and I was fortunate in the jungle layout. Cheeseburger quickly located the Spider Cavern, then Flayer Jungle soon after - no Great Marsh needed! Between the sheer efficiency of Blessed Hammer, some FR/W, and a good map, Cheeseburger made it to Lower Kurast in record time.

For perspective at how strong Blessed Hammer is in Normal, at slvl 12/14 for Hammer/Concentration, each Hammer deals an average of 362 damage. At 20/20, Hammers deal 738 average damage, with 100% pierce and before additional damage versus undead. As a point of comparison, M'avina, using bugged Strafe and with high Dexterity, dealt 500 average damage per arrow at the end of her journey - and had no problems in the Hell Chaos Sanctuary. Granted, M'avina Strafed much faster than Cheeseburger will ever throw Hammers, but in raw damage/projectile he'll likely outdo her by early Nightmare.

The main issue with Hammers is that it's absolutely dreadful versus single targets, and awkward to use against small targets. Since Hammers follow a fixed spiral, it's easy for monsters like Fetish to stand in the gaps and fire projectiles at Cheeseburger. The best that I've come up with so far is to find a pack, unload 6-7 Hammers, then take a few steps to the side before repeating. This provides decent Hammer coverage, but it's not foolproof - one or two Fetish inevitably slip through, which leads to either tracking them down or just ignoring them. Hammers is also limited in its range, so ranged monsters across a river are impossible to hit - and, unlike M'avina, Cheeseburger can't simply drop a summon next to them. For the sake of speed, I opted to just run past monsters like this, although I don't know if that will continue being viable through Nightmare/Hell.

The Ormus ring wasn't stellar, but is surprisingly useful:
Screenshot40.jpg
This replaced Cheeseburger's old life leech ring, which he still used for its 1 MDR.

This also dropped, which is much less exciting than it looks:
Screenshot43.jpg
Normal sets in Classic are absolutely dreadful (ref. http://web.archive.org/web/20010401004931/http://www.battle.net:80/diablo2/items/sets3.shtml); even if I found the rest of the set, I can't see this being very useful.

The Ruined Temple was shockingly painless - Cheeseburger ran into the main chamber, fired off a mana bulb's worth of Hammers, and two bosspacks of Flesh Hunters fell. Easiest 5 stat points yet, which was surprising given how difficult this quest was for M'avina.

I suspect that I was playing a little too quickly, as it felt like there was a real difficulty spike in Travincal. Hammers are crummy when you need to target healers, and awkward to aim at single targets; as such, Sexton were a pain. A Cursed bosspack spawned near the waypoint; I had hoped that Cheeseburger could just tank them while Hammering, but even on Normal, they can deal real physical damage with Amp Damage active! The Council was also tricky, since they have a habit of fleeing, which can take them out of Hammer's path. I don't think I'll need Smite for Act 4, but it's definitely something I need to start boosting soon - even at slvl 1, it can lock down a single monster from fleeing/healing/Teleporting, and it may be possible at higher levels to set up Smite->Hammer combos.

Against Mephisto, the same plan as Duriel prevailed:
Screenshot44.jpg
Stand in place, throw Hammers, drink potions as needed. He dropped a golden Gothic Shield, which excited me for a moment, until...
Screenshot45.jpg
...I found that the +30-50 resists were added in 1.09! This is worse than most rares, and only very marginally better than a Devious Tower Shield.

On to (Normal) Hell. It's a bit odd, not being excited for clvl 30 - I'd like to shop a +Redemption scepter to try it out at some point, but it's not really a priority.
 

Fruit

Diabloii.Net Member
He dropped a golden Gothic Shield, which excited me for a moment, until...

...I found that the +30-50 resists were added in 1.09! This is worse than most rares, and only very marginally better than a Devious Tower Shield.
pff :') Why did they bother with this. And it has such a cool inventory graphic!
On to (Normal) Hell. It's a bit odd, not being excited for clvl 30 - I'd like to shop a +Redemption scepter to try it out at some point, but it's not really a priority.
I believe that in Classic (1.00-1.14) you can not get level 30 skills as automods at all. :(
 

DariusTriplet

Diabloii.Net Member
Even in the heart of Hell, the Word of Zakarum was unshakable...

Act 4 Normal tends to mark a turning point for most characters. The following all happen during this brief act:
  • Characters hit clvl 30 (assuming they aren't on players 1!)
  • Top-end normal items drop, opening up all possible uniques and potentially exciting rares
  • Lots of Grim Wands, War Staves, and War Scepters drop, meaning lots of gold for gambling
  • The Izual quest for 2 free skillpoints, right when characters can be a little tight on them
All this held true for Cheeseburger, although clvl 30 isn't terribly exciting for a Hammerdin.

I started the act off with some gambling; Cheeseburger's resists were on the low side, since most of his gear were crummy magicals. His belt was a particularly weak point (Plated Belt of Stability), so I took my chances on upgrading at Jamella. On my first try:
Screenshot48.jpg
Two decent resists and +13 strength - not bad! Still not satisfied, I gambled some Sashes - it's hard not to, for only 2300 a gamble - and it paid off:
Screenshot49.jpg
Mana was still Cheeseburger's main concern, so +15 mana and +30% regen was much appreciated; the +5 resist all was a nice bonus as well. I tried Lenymo out for the Outer Steppes, and while it helped a bit, the 2 belt slots were really a problem. Cheeseburger uses potions rather heavily, so he has to carry a lot of blues and purples; losing belt slots is equal to losing inventory space. In addition, Lenymo isn't bad, it's also not good; I really needed something caster-y that was better.

Thankfully, my luck continued:
Screenshot50.jpg
+10 resist all, +20 mana, 2 DR, and 50% damage-to-mana - what an item! This helped patch up Cheeseburger's mana issues a bit, and the damage-to-mana should pay increasing dividends as monsters hit harder in Nightmare. I gave it a spin against Izual; ironically, Cheeseburger's 70% block meant that it was difficult to trigger damage-to-mana :p

Combat-wise, Cheeseburger is plowing ahead almost effortlessly. Hammers continue to clear screens at warp speed - esp. given the high rate of undead in Act 4 - and the wide-open spaces of the act mean that Cheeseburger can move up, unload Hammers as a pack approaches, then clean up / run past stragglers. I expected to do the act in two parts - the grey plateau, and the River of Flame / Sanctuary, but ended up blasting through everything in one go. At this point, my main risk is complacency: while Cheeseburger feels invincible, he's really not, and all it takes is one MSLE boss / Amp Damage cast / Extra Fast Might-y pack to end the adventure. Hephasto made this point clear; he's the first monster in a while that Cheeseburger couldn't just tank, and while he's Smite-able, it doesn't really do very much at slvl 1. I ended up running -> Hammering -> running, and counting on blocking to stop any attacks.

The Hellforge dropped a Perfect and Flawless Skull, but zero diamonds. Looks like the +57 resist all shield will have to wait.

Speaking of resists, this useful amulet dropped just in time for the Chaos Sanctuary:
Screenshot52.jpg

In the CS itself, the main danger were Oblivion Knights. Cheeseburger's resists were solid but not stellar, so their ranged attacks stung, and various curses were terrifying as always. I didn't want to risk Hammering at melee range in case it would trigger Iron Maiden (OUCH), so I did a lot of Hammer -> run -> repeat. Other than De Seis' pack, which is awful to hit with Hammers - they either stand in place and sling magic, or run off-screen - there wasn't much difficulty here.

I did see one very interesting drop:
Screenshot53.jpg
Stormeye! I don't know what this item does, but given that Ume's Lament is an all-star and that the Iron Jang Bong is respectable, surely it must be a decent Paladin weapon....
Screenshot54.jpg
What.
Really.
What.

From what I can tell, the design philosophy of uniques in Classic was in the same vein as Diablo 1: that uniques should have special stats that can't spawn on magics to make them feel, well, unique. This worked out really well in Diablo 1, where the generally lower numbers and lack of rares meant that something weird like Schaefer's Hammer or the Harlequin Crest would merit consideration, since they did things no other item in that slot could.

When this moved into D2, though, it didn't always work out. For certain items like Magefist/Frostburn (fast cast/mana%), Goldwrap (SIAS/MF), Greyform/Boneflesh/Silks (leech), etc., the special modifiers can put them above most rares, as they may provide the only source of an affix in a slot. For many others, though, the result is trash like Stormeye - the only source of life replenish on a weapon, but with no other good affixes to support it. I suppose that not every item can be a winner, but sometimes the numbers supporting the "unique" affixes are just dreadful.

I had the good fortune of finding a Skill Shrine right off the pentagram, so Cheeseburger's LCS going into the big fight:
Screenshot56.jpg

Given how much M'avina struggled with Diablo, I expected the fight to be difficult. My plan was to stand in melee range, which would hopefully put Cheeseburger right in the gap between Diablo and where the pink hose starts, and Hammer away:
Screenshot57.jpg
Contrary to my expectations, this fight was rather easy - blocking staved off his melee attack, 70% fire resist mitigated the fire snakes/rings, and while Cheeseburger wasn't completely out of the pink hose's path, it only barely stung. After a few almost leisurely minutes of Hammering and potion-ing:
Screenshot59.jpg
None of the rares were failed uniques, alas.
(EDIT) I lied; the Gothic Shield was a failed Ward. Ironically, this makes it more interesting :p

Welcome to Nightmare, Count Cheeseburger.
Screenshot60.jpg
 
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DariusTriplet

Diabloii.Net Member
He sought the church at Tristram, where Terror rose...

A short post for a boring act. Act 1 is no fun for a Hammerdin; monster density is quite low (and NM/Hell's extra bosspacks only started in 1.10+), there are tons of archers that tend to stand in place, and the drops skew towards low-end items. On top of that, monsters do start hitting harder here, so Cheeseburger can't afford to reload on mana by eating hits like he could in Act 4. As if that wasn't enough, the extra modifier on bosses mean that our nemesis, Teleportation, can appear twice as often - and Hammerdins are uniquely dreadful at handling them. If the boss teleports offscreen, Cheeseburger has to run over to them, get in position, and start Hammering - by which time they've likely teleported away again. His only real chance is if they teleport on the Hammer spiral; when that happens, the fight tends to end very quickly :D

The front half of the act was unremarkable, although Blood Raven fell within seconds - revenge for the headaches she gave me on Normal! Treehead and Griswold, on the other hand, were much tougher - Treehead could deal real damage to Cheeseburger, forcing him into Hammer-and-run tactics, and Griswold had Teleportation in addition to his piles of hit points. I made a good-faith effort in defeating Griswold, but gave up after a few rounds of Teleportation, and just dealt with being Amped all through Tristram.

The Cain quest reward was very bad, although not dreadful:
Screenshot62.jpg
Although the game really showed off its sense of humor by giving one of the town-sitters this:
Screenshot68.jpg
Which, being untwinked, Cheeseburger can't use. Sigh.

The Forgotten Tower had a nice stair trap (Blood Clan bosspack), although Cheeseburger was able to run past them before getting trapped. Down on the 5th floor, some weirdness happened:
Screenshot63.jpg
For whichever reason, these Dark Stalkers kept running back into the corner above, and never once approached Cheeseburger. This was very annoying, as I was counting on their attacks to trigger Nightsmoke and recover mana! Cheeseburger had to TP out and pop back down to re-activate their AI.

At this moment, I realized that I had forgotten something in Normal:
Screenshot64.jpg
Hammerdins are good against cows; news at 11. The King was thankfully right near the portal, so this was a quick excursion - his rare drop (Great Maul) was garbage, although this helpful trinket dropped as well:
Screenshot65.jpg
Unfortunately, I had to replace Cheeseburger's FCR ring, bringing him back to a 13-frame Hammer, but the tradeoff was worth it.

The Smith was scary - even at 30% to-hit, his melee attack hurts - but Cheeseburger prevailed. I'm saving his imbues until he can get +2 Paladin skills (qlvl 40), so he'll soon go shopping for War Scepters. I haven't tested if imbues keeps staffmods; if so, a +3 Hammer War Scepter would be quite the imbue base.

The back half of Act 1 wasn't notable, other than Flamespike being obnoxious as always. Cheeseburger did find 3 more Arctic Furs, which was starting to get old by the end; he also found a Sigon's Shield, which is nice but doesn't outclass his rare Bone Shield.

The Andariel plan was the same as ever:
Screenshot67.jpg
Junk drops, but she coughed up a Diamond, which I cubed up into a Flawless. 1/9 of the way to 3 Perfects!

Next up: Act 2, swarms of undead, and Duriel.
 

sir_cyclops

Diabloii.Net Member
Nice update! Do imbues work different in older versions?

Also, a lot of your pictures in yours posts will just say Screenshot67.jpg (or a different number). I see this on dii sometimes and just assume the hosting removed it but you just posted 15 min ago!
 

DariusTriplet

Diabloii.Net Member
Nice update! Do imbues work different in older versions?

Also, a lot of your pictures in yours posts will just say Screenshot67.jpg (or a different number). I see this on dii sometimes and just assume the hosting removed it but you just posted 15 min ago!
Good question re: imbues - there's http://web.archive.org/web/20010304125121/http://www.lurkerlounge.com/2s/misc/imbuing.shtml, but it isn't terribly informative. My guess is that, due to better magic affixes (+40-49 to one resist) and less complex affix pools (each pool is separate, so you can get up to 3 sets of big resists), imbues tend to be better than in the expansion.

re: images - good question! I'm uploading them directly to the forum, so they aren't expiring, and they load for me. I've had issues with images in the Amazon thread, though; dunno what's happening to them. I'll check for more information on posting images here.
 

DariusTriplet

Diabloii.Net Member
Across weird dimensions, he sought ancient evil...

In a few ways, Act 2 NM felt like the beginning of the "real" game for Cheeseburger. On the one hand, a few major milestones were reached this act, which made him start to feel like playing a full-powered Hammerdin. On the other, the monsters started to hit much harder - his block + considerable life pool were no longer enough to just cruise through hordes of demons. I'd have to start playing him more thoughtfully from here on out, instead of just, well, cheesing through the game.

Radament was a real wake-up call; while the Sewers weren't too troublesome, Radament spawned Cursed, and was able to quickly deal damage to Cheeseburger in melee. This was one of the first fights where I had to flee, restock on potions, and regroup before Hammering back into the fray, and it certainly taught me the value of a more defensive tactic:

1) Walk a few steps away from scary monsters
2) Throw Hammers until they catch up
3) See 1)

After picking up the Book of Skill, I went window-shopping at Drognan, and found something really special:
Screenshot69.jpg
I nearly overlooked this, but I'm glad that I took a second glance. Wyrm's/of Wizardry is the best possible +mana combination in Classic, providing +62-** mana on a weapon. +78 isn't perfect, but it's as much as Cheeseburger can ever hope to find, so I'm more than pleased with it :D This went a very long way in resolving his mana issues; while he still drinks blue potions frequently, Cheeseburger is able to get through longer fights without needing to crack a potion.

Moving on through the Desert, Cheeseburger encountered his greatest challenge yet:
Screenshot71.jpg
The last time that Cheeseburger went through these accursed tunnels, he was (buggily) Charging down bugs with a Maul. How well did he fare with Hammers?

To nobody's surprise - very poorly.

While there were a few tunnels where Hammers still worked, there were a great many where they did not. Notably, tunnels running southeast were complete no-Hammer-zones, which the first floor was absolutely full of. Thankfully, I had the foresight to invest a few points in Holy Shield, which brought Cheeseburger's (slvl 1!) Smite damage to ~30-50 - not much, but enough to eventually wear down Maggot Young. I was able to use Smite's knockback to shove Maggots into corners and run past them; luckily, there weren't any bosspacks in these southeasteast-bound tunnels, so Cheeseburger could slip past single Maggots and move into more favorable Hammer territory. Getting into Coldworm's chamber was a headache - Cheeseburger could only Hammer a few feet of tunnel at a time moving northeast - but once he was in there, it only took seconds to clean out.

As usual, the Claw Viper Temple was no problem at all - for once, I was excited to see Charging monsters! - although the Palace was mostly skipped. Horror Archers/Mages are no fun for a Hammerdin at all. The Sanctuary, on the other hand, is a blast; lots of melee monsters and undead, and no pillars/terrain to get in the way. I was fortunate to find the Summoner on the first branch, which was a nice stroke of luck.

Moving on to the False Tombs, I once again sought a true challenge. At first, I only found truly horrendous demons like these:
Screenshot78.jpg Screenshot79.jpg
Needless to say, these were both parked.
But, after five False Tombs, Cheeseburger found his quarry:
Screenshot80.jpg
Fortunately, no Teleport/Multishot, so Cheeseburger could stand between the sparks and spam Hammers.

Sometime in the Tombs, Cheeseburger hit a major milestone:
Screenshot86.jpg
At 20/20 Hammer/Concentration, each Hammer deals 727-749 damage. On the one hand, this means that Cheeseburger is near-unstoppable in Nightmare; 738 average physical damage per Hammer is far above what monsters are really built to handle. On the other hand, this means that his offensive capabilities will be difficult to increase from here on out. Monsters will only get tougher from now on, and Cheeseburger's damage output won't increase any more (barring +skill items). I mentioned before that complacency was a real risk with an early Hammerdin, and this is especially true starting now, where monsters will only get more difficult. The approach that I'll likely take is to improve Cheeseburger's defensive capabilities from now on by plowing points into Holy Shield, using a Perfect Diamond'ed Tower Shield, and emphasizing resists/+life/MDR.

Speaking of planning and stats, here's Cheeseburger's readout from right before Duriel:
Screenshot82.jpg
Zero FCR, though, which is a problem. I keep trying to gamble Magefist, but to no avail.

My Duriel plan is the same as Normal - pop down, get into a corner, let the mercenary eat a Charge, and Hammer away. This time, though, I was a little slow getting into position, and Duriel landed a Charge on Cheeseburger. ~50% of his 707 health gone in one hit :eek: Thankfully, I was able to find stable footing, spam Hammers, and do the usual drink-potions-and-hold-left-click until Duriel fell.

Next up - Act 3, another shot at a decent rare ring, and those damned Fetish.
 

DariusTriplet

Diabloii.Net Member
Quick update - I tested imbuing a Scepter from Normal Akara with staffmods, and the +skills rerolled from +2 Blessed Aim into +1 Concentration. I imagine that Normal Akara can't sell items with clvl 18 skills, so it seems that the staffmods are reset using the ilvl of the imbued item. The good news is that it seems like Cheeseburger can imbue plain ol' War Scepters and potentially get +Hammer/Conc, although I was really hoping to shop a +3 Hammer/+3 Conc War Scepter and rare-ify it :(
 
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