Sharing my experience leveling and building my char this time. [warning: long essay]

General Discussion
This post is to share some of my own experimenting and learning from the past 3 months of play.

Before I start, to give a bit of my personal background. As many of you have read some of my earlier posts, I used to play D2 a lot when I was a uni student. Back during version 1.09 days, I used to not even play on ladder at all, because playing D2 for competitiveness is just not cup of tea, and also back in 1.09 days there was no ladder only items, so that was even less reason for me to play on ladder.

Then come 1.10, this was when I started creating ladder characters, but not for the reason of being competitive, but rather because some of the items are ladder only and I wanted to try them out.

However, life got busy. I need to have a job, support a family, etc... and I stopped playing towards late year 2000s altogether. I only just came back very recently, some 3 months ago. So having been absent from the game for 8+ years, my technique is now rusty, I no longer remember a lot of things, essentially I kind of need to rediscovery and re-learn many things from scratch and it is not exactly a smooth sailing experience.

So I won't talk about what skills to use or what items to use for any particular build as I am still in the process of re-studying a lot of those. Instead I will talk about my own experimentation with leveling up and trying out my characters. So here goes.

Normal difficulty:
Despite this being the lowest difficulty, I actually find this to be the most annoying. Because firstly, although monsters are weak, but you also don't start with any "primary" skills that you will use in later difficulties. Secondly, for the skills that you have to make do in the beginning, they eat up your mana rather quickly so you have to constantly go back to heal or obtain mana potions.

So to make this experience a little more bearable, there are a few techniques that can be used. Primarily there are 2 methods.

Method 1 -- Join experience run games while study your character carefully.

Between level 1 and level 15, Tristram seems to be a good place to fight a variety type of monsters (fallen, goat man and goat archers, skeletons and skeleton archers, etc... on top of that you get to fight Grisword, there are usually 2 unique monsters at bottom left corner of the map and a pack of champion monsters in the center of the map). It allows you to gain a good amount of experience while you get to fight quite a few different type of monsters. You can experiment with early skills here. Once you reach level 15, you should be able to tackle Andariel and progress to act 2.

Between level 15 and level 20, just progress as per normal throughout the game, until you reach either Arcane Sanctuary or Tombs. Arcane run used to be very popular when 1.10 first came out, but now days it appears nobody does Arcane run anymore. However, tomb runs are still popular now days.

Between level 20 to level 25, just progress as per normal and you should reach level 25 by the time you finish act 4. And then just progress as per normal throughout act 5.

Method 2 -- Have a high level SORC to enchant you.

There are a lot of debates on this topic. Some people are outright against it. As for myself, I personal don't mind getting enchanted, but I only do that up to character level 25 and then I stop getting enchanted and go back to normal game play.

However, for those people who choose to get enchanted by a high level SORC, I urge those players to take 2 things into consideration:

1. While getting enchanted saves you a lot of time leveling up and allows you to breeze through normal difficulty, but you shouldn't get so caught up with gaining levels that you forget to experiment and build your character. It appears a lot of people just complete normal difficulty without doing much experiment and without trying out skills / property try to build their characters. So they reach NM difficulty when they are only in their early level 20s and they get stuck in NM difficulty. So even if you do get help from a high level SORC with enchant, make sure you still take your time and analyze and plan your character build so you don't get stuck in NM.

2. I would strongly recommend staying in normal difficulty until at least your character is in high level 30s or even into level 40s. I personally had my SORC to stay in normal difficulty until she is level 42. I did that because I needed to find some items that can allow me to play effectively in NM as well as to gain levels so I can put points into my primary skills. That way I can test out those skills and learn to use those skills before I try to tackle NM difficulty. If I messed up, there is a chance for me to reset my skills with Akara before facing NM.

NM difficulty:

To me, this is actually the easiest part of the game. Even though it is harder than normal in terms of difficulty level, but by then I am already in level 40s (I was level 42 when I started NM), so I have a primary skill with sufficient skill points that I can rely on. Monsters are not immune to anything in NM and there is no global 50% resistance to everything. So life is actually quite easy in NM.

I just played as per normal in NM difficulty. But I purposely stayed in NM until I was level 75. Again, the reason why I purposely stayed in NM is so I can ensure both my primary and secondary skills are maxed out (synergies are not maxed out yet), and I learn to use both skills. Such as where to position myself, when to use which skills, as well as quickly switching between different skills. This is to prepare myself to face Hell difficulty.

Hell difficulty:

This is the hard part. Monsters are all immune to at least one element. Even for the element that the monsters are not immune against, they have a global 50% resistance in most cases. This is where the experimentation and learning from normal and NM difficulty finally start to impact your ability to survive.

For me, because this time, I stayed in NM to build my character and skills for so long, as well as using cheap low level gears that ensures my survival even in Hell difficulty, I felt comfortable solo completing the entire Hell difficulty unpartied (with the exception of act 3 where I got someone to provide me Kurast WP and then Durance WP). The progress of completing Hell difficulty was quite slow, but I was able to do it on my own.

So there we go... a long essay, but this outlined my own personal experience playing through my starting MF SORC character after the ladder reset.

Unfortunately, since I only get to play for 1-2 hours per day, my starting MF SORC is the only character that even reached Hell difficulty. The rest of my characters are all in normal difficulty and I more or less haven't really touched them yet.
Once my SORC completed Hell difficulty, I started choosing areas for me to grind and MF.

I tried a few different approaches:

Approach 1:
Create my own password protected game -- This is mainly done to avoid having to compete against other players for loot. A lot of the time I lose such competition. When a boss dies, sometimes I don't even see what items are generated before other players just pick them up. It gets annoying so I create my own password protected game to MF on my own.

Approach 2:
Join public MF run games and hopefully I get to pick up things faster than other players. -- Unfortunately this method just doesn't work, so I gave up after a while.

Approach 3:
Join public boss run games, but purposely solo kill on my own in a level 85 area rather than run the bosses with the rest of the players. -- This is the latest approach I have been using. In otherwords, I don't really care if the other players are doing Diablo run or Baal run or Meph run or what ever. I just choose to go to an area that the other players do go to, and I solo kill in that area.

For example, if everybody else is in Chaos Sanctuary, then that's fine, I go to WSK instead. Likewise, if everybody just skip WSK and teleport directly into Throne of Destruction, then I go to WSK instead.

So that way, I don't really care who the other players are or where they are. I just make sure I am not in the same area as them. This way, due to more players in the game, the drop chance hopefully becomes better while I don't need to compete against other players for loot.

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