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Skills are the legendary powers that define heroes: the ground-shaking strikes, waves of flame, and frightful invocations that flash across the battlefield, scattering groups of minor demons and wracking Hell’s most murderous lieutenants with pain.
Each class has its own unique skills, specialized to complement that class’s particular talents. For example, the Barbarian can use the Whirlwind skill to spin in an arc and attack all adjacent enemies at one time, perfect for taking on an entire group of monsters and smashing them into gory paste.
Some skills are defensive in nature, while others are utility-focused. The overwhelming majority of your skills, however, are attack skills, suited for killing different types or numbers of enemies quickly.
Most skills are powered by your class resource, a limited reserve of strength, like your Life, that depletes as you use your most powerful attacks and abilities. You can keep your eye on that resource—and, by extension, how much power you have left to use your abilities—by glancing at the colored globe opposite your Life on your screen.
All classes possess their own unique resource. You can find out more about them on the appropriate class pages.
To get the most use out of your skills, you should place them in your action bar. On PC, open your Skills menu (default key: "S”); on Consoles, open the Character menu (Xbox 360: BACK; PlayStation®3: SELECT) and navigate to the skills pane. Depending on your platform, your skills will be automatically assigned to a number key on your keyboard or a button on your mouse or controller.
You can use any skill in your action bar by clicking on the icon or by pressing the corresponding number key or button. To target a monster with an attack skill, make sure the monster is highlighted, then press the key or button that corresponds to the skill you want to use.
If you’re successful, the foe you’ve set your sights on should melt away into a ruin of smoking flesh and burnt blood. Well done.
As you kill monsters and complete quests, you’ll gain experience, a numerical representation of your increasing power. Reaching a new experience threshold (for example, going from level one to level two) is called “gaining levels.” Often, you’ll unlock one or more new skills when you gain a level. The new skills you’ve unlocked appear on your screen; you can view them at any time on your Skills pane.
You unlock more space for skills on your action bar at levels 2, 4, 9, 14, and 19, up to a maximum of 6 active skills, so you’ll grow in versatility as well as power.
Once you reach Diablo III’s “level cap,” you’ll stop gaining standard levels, and the experience you gain from that point on won’t unlock more skills or runes. But you can still go further.
Paragon levels, which you’ll begin earning experience toward after reaching maximum level, are similar to normal levels in a few respects. You’ll keep increasing in power as you achieve new Paragon levels – your attributes will rise with each level, and experience bonuses (like those from item affixes and shrines) will apply to your rate of Paragon experience gain.
One major difference: there's no limit to the number of Paragon levels you can accumulate, and each one confers a point that you can allocate to one of several potent abilities (like increasing your offensive and defensive powers, movement speed, the size of your resource pool, and more. These bonuses are innate; they’re not tied to any gear you’re wearing. Your current Paragon level is the sum of all your Diablo III characters in a mode (“normal” or hardcore), so even new characters you make will be able to spend Paragon points.
Lastly, you’ll unlock striking new additions to your character portrait as you increase your Paragon level. Your updated portrait will be visible to you at all times, and, in cooperative games, it’ll serve as constant evidence of your progress.
As you reach levels 10, 20 and 30 (and 70 with Reaper of Souls), you’ll unlock a passive skill slot. Passive skills don’t appear on your action bar and aren’t used by clicking on them or hitting buttons. Instead, they grant bonuses that enhance you at all times. For example, they might make you harder to hit or make your defensive spells last longer.
You’ll increase your repertoire of monster-slaying skills quickly, and you’ll soon find yourself with more options than you can place on your action bar.
Changing the skills at your disposal can be done from your skills menu: simply choose the skills you’d like to use. If you want to assign your skills in a non-standard configuration (for example, choosing four defensive skills), first open your game menu, choose “options,” then “gameplay,” and check the “elective mode” box. Though you can swap your active skills instantly outside of combat, if you try to swap passive skills while you’re roaming the wilderness or crawling through a dank dungeon, they'll be unavailable for a brief recharge time (a "cooldown").
Skill runes are a means to customize your skills beyond their basic powers. Beginning at level 6, you’ll start unlocking runes for your skills, allowing you to drastically modify their functions. For example, you might increase the range or duration of a particular skill or change it so that it sends enemies flying away (where previously it only did damage). A skill that you once had to carefully aim at a group of foes might now seek them automatically.
You can access your skill runes in the Skills menu. After selecting the skill you’d like to use, you’ll see a list of the runes below it: just choose an unlocked skill rune you’d like to apply. You can only apply one rune to a skill at a time.
To experiment with the full list of Diablo III’s skills and runes, try out the PC
As you slay Diablo III's monsters, they may leave behind power globes—golden-colored infusions of energy— that you can pick up by moving nearby.
Picking up a power globe triggers a burst of energy that strikes nearby enemies for a percentage of your damage, and also grants you and nearby allies the Nephalem Glory buff. Nephalem Glory lasts 60 seconds, after which a secondary damaging energy burst will also be triggered.
Picking up additional power globes while Nephalem Glory is active will level up the power of this energy burst by up to three times; it will also reset the duration of the buff to 60 seconds. Picking up health globes will extend the duration of Nephalem Glory by 5 seconds, and every five health globes will also level up the power of the effect by 1 (again, up to a maximum of three increases).
While you make every effort to dispatch and dismember your foes, they’ll be doing the same to you. If a monster hits you, your Life (represented in the red globe on your screen) will be reduced.
Your Vitality attribute (in conjunction with any passive skills or vitality-boosting gear you're using) dictates how much Life you have. You can recover lost Life quickly by snatching up health globes dropped by slain monsters.
Walk over a health globe and you (along with any nearby allies) will receive a small portion of healing. More dangerous foes will drop more potent, larger health globes. There are other ways to recover Life: some equipment and skills increase your regeneration rate, and certain friendly characters and allies can restore you to full Life both in and out of combat, but health globes are by far the most common way to heal yourself.
When your Life gets dangerously low, you’ll see a red halo encompass your screen: that’s a sign that you need to escape from battle, heal, or both. When the red globe is empty, you’re dead.
The chance of health globes dropping–and precisely when they’ll drop during a battle–is tied to the type of monster you’re fighting. The triangles in monsters’ health bars represent points where they might drop a globe, so keep your eyes peeled to predict when you’re likely to get a lifesaving infusion of health.
Death isn’t the end in Diablo III, but neither is it something to be taken lightly. When you die, you have the option to reappear at the place where you died (unless you’re fighting a boss), in town, or at your last checkpoint. Checkpoints are invisible spots on the map that track your progress through the game.
You’ll return to life with full health, but any consumables you’ve used will be gone permanently, and any items you have equipped will suffer a small amount of damage (10%) to their durability. Damage to your items’ durability will cost gold to repair. More information about item durability can be found in the Equipment section of this guide.