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Diablo II v1.09d
Diablo II: Lord of Destruction v1.09d

Anti-PK Guide
by M. Fitzpatrick
mattfitz at oco dot net
Release 3: Fri 22 Nov 2002

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     Well, call me a Lazy Lou.  I haven't updated this thing in nearly a year,
and in all that time, PK'ers have become so much more efficient, employing a
doubly-dastardly variety of cheats to delete other players' characters.  For
this I apologize deeply, and I only hope the guide will be more complete for
the wait.

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Introduction

     In this new day and age, massively multiplayer online games enjoy a broad
player base: from across national boundaries and age generations we can all
enjoy common interests through Internet gaming.

     But with this broader and broader player base each year, an exponentially
increasing problem arises: how to safeguard those who choose to be cooperative
in their play from those who enjoy being malicious and destructive against
others.

     Though Blizzard has made great leaps from Diablo to Diablo II in terms of
limiting PK-- player killing or player killers-- and protecting those who do
not wish to partake of it, there remain gaps that malicious users can and will
exploit.  The best defense against these exploits is knowledge, and so this
guide begins:

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Player Killers: Who, Why, Where?

     Player killers are rampant in Diablo hardcore: ask anyone.  Expansion or
classic, they're everywhere.  To complicate the problem, the playerbase is
almost universally unsympathetic to those who are PK'd: in their words, anyone
who gets PK'd had it coming; it's good you got killed because that's how you
learn.  So it goes; it's a jungle out there.

     Simply being cautious isn't enough.  Most PK'ers cheat, that's a simple
fact, and the only way to avoid the cheats is to memorize them, really.
Between hacked items, intentional lag, drop hacks, and various specially-
written PK hacks, avoiding death in open hardcore games has become quite a
difficult pursuit-- sadly, difficult enough to force many people to go back
to softcore or play less-fun but more secure games.  I'm not one of the
players who's left the hardcore scene, but I will be very careful to buy
only secure products in the future....

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Basic Precautions

     First off, don't play open hardcore.  Battle.net is nowhere near a
secure environment, and hardcore is truly pointless unless you play only with
trusted players.  The cheats and hacks PK's have at their disposal to delete
your character are numerous and astounding in their efficiency, so just say no
to open hardcore.

     Second off, if you MUST play open hardcore (so sorry), be distrustful of
high-level characters you don't know joining your game alone.  If high level
characters join your group, they might be looking to run the cow level or
level their mercenary, or just may be sincerely wishing to help you, but keep
your guard up-- too much of the time, they're PK.  Be distrustful-- but be
polite.  Until they actually go hostile on you, you should at least be civil. 
They may, after all, be one of the rare few hardcore players not out to commit
cybervandalism at your expense.  Alert the party that 'a level 62 sorc just
joined' but please refrain from accusing them outright.  I play high-level
helper characters, and PK accusers bug me almost as much as PK's themselves.

     Third, don't accept favors, party with, or even play in the same game
with known PK's.  No matter how smart you think you are, completely new hacks,
glitches, and intended-but-stupid features are discovered (and subsequently
abused) all the time!  Though I'll try to keep this document as up-to-date as
possible, a decade of Internet use should have taught the world one thing:
never underestimate a malicious user's ability to get to you when you were
sure they couldn't.

     Not to mention most PK's are liars and cheats.  One time, a sorc
hostiled me and offered to let me 'win' all her items if I could just dodge
her Meteor spells.  She almost had me fooled-- I was so naive like that!--
until I rememberd I'd played a nightmare cow level with her while playing one
of my other accounts, and the only spell she used the whole time was Nova...

     For now, at least, it seems you're completely safe while in town; on the
other hand, you're completely vulnerable from the instant you step outside
town until you successfully return.  Don't step away from the game without
going back to town first, no matter how deep in the dungeons you are.

     Once you hit level 9 in hardcore, resists and blocking become the primary
focus for your equipment: maximum resists maximizes your chances of surviving
a sorceress's waypoint ambush, while good blocking increases the survival rate
against barbarians and amazons.  Even if you don't think you need resists or
blocking for PvM play (and you may very well be right), there are just too
many PK's out there; statistically, sooner or later, it'll happen to you.

     Also be mindful of who you invite to join your party.  If someone warns
you that a player is PK, consider cancelling the invite or (if they've already
joined) leaving the party until you get more information.  By leaving the
party, if the person in question is PK and does go hostile on someone in the
party, he won't automatically go hostile on you without having to click a
second time.

     The squelch buttons are also a valuable tool-- if you decide to make a
new passworded game to exclude the PK, you can use the "ear" squelch button to
ensure the PK can't hear.

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PK Exploit One: Map Hack

Danger level: Low

The rundown >

     The map hack, a trainer-like utility which modifies a user's interface,
is popular because it makes the more irritating levels in the game more
manageable.  Full-screen light radius, entire maps, monster and treasure box
locations (within a few screens' length), and allied player locations (within
the same act but not separated by stairs) are available at a glance.

     Most users of the Map Hack don't use it for PvP uses, since the vast
majority of its functions are of equal use to cooperative players.  In the
hands of a PK, however, it becomes a tool to find unsuspecting players and
kill them.

What you can do >

     When you hear the Hostile warning, always assume the PK already knows
your precise location.  More often than not, the PK has already been invited
to your party, as well, and party-mates have very long-range map-vision to
spot you until the moment they leave the party.  It's also a simple matter for
the PK to just ask someone else where you are, and in every party there's
almost always a trusting newbie or maybe a non-English-speaker who doesn't
understand what you mean by PK....

     By assuming the PK already knows where you are, you've made the first
step toward protecting yourself.

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PK Exploit Two: Color Hack

Danger Level: Low

The rundown >

     People using the color hack can send text in any color they like in-game. 
Though this has non-PK uses, the only reason I've ever seen this used is to
fake a PK's own death to entice other players to come out of town.  It's a
simple matter to fake a death message by wrapping a line and using color hack.

What you can do >

     Don't leave town while someone's hostile to you, even if you think
they're dead.  They might just be color hacking.

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PK Exploit Three: Thorns/Conversion

Danger level: Low

The rundown >

     Two spells in the game: the Paladin's Conversion attack, and the
Assassin's Mind Blast, can cause monsters to become "converted"-- they become
friendly to the party for a short period of time, and begin attacking
non-converted monsters.

     The problem with this is that Paladin auras will "stick" to them while
they're friendly, but will remain stuck to them for a few seconds after they
become hostile again.  For most auras this is not much of a problem, but with
Thorns, it's deadly.

     Thorns auras typically return in excess of 1000% of physical melee
damage, and a PK character specifically designed to exploit Thorns/Conversion
will more likely have it closer to 2000%.  Basically, you touch, you die. 
Thorns mercenaries likewise have very high percentages, so an assassin can
abuse this trick just as well as a paladin.

What you can do >

     The "converted" symbol is easy to spot.  So is the Thorns aura.  The
minute you see either of the two, be on your guard.  Thorns/Conversion used to
be a popular and valid PvM build, so ASSUME he's out to get you, but again, be
civil just in case he's not.  Don't scream and rant at him, just don't fight
in the same spot he's fighting in and you'll be fine.
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PK Exploit Four: Waypoint Ambush

Danger Level: Medium

The rundown >

     Blizzard did well to make Hostile mode available only while the aggressor
is located in town, but care must still be taken: player-killers all know very
well how to enable Hostile and traverse waypoints very quickly.  Other town
access points are also prime targets for ambushes: direct town boundaries
(Blood Moor, Rocky Waste, Spider Forest, Outer Steppes, or Bloody Foothills),
as well as the Lut Gholein sewer grate, side sewer entrance, and harem
entrance.

What you can do >

     If you're a large distance from any town access point (waypoints, town
gate boundaries, and other act 2 exits), you may safely create a town portal,
return to town, and wait it out.  However, anytime you are near a town access
point, be prepared to quit the game immediately upon hearing the Hostile
warning.  Again, assume the PK knows exactly where you are.

     In Windows, Alt-F4 is generally the best method for escaping ambushes of
this type: most Windows users are familiar with the keystrokes already, and
it'll quit your character from the game immediately.  Exiting normally through
the menu is also an option, if you're quick, and will save you restarting your
application, reloading any hacks or trainers, logging back into battle.net,
etc.  This Esc-Down-Enter keystroke combination (to exit through the menu) can
also be a lifesaver thusly.

     My solution: anytime I take a waypoint, my fingers hover over the Alt-F4
escape sequence, every time-- I just make it a habit.  Same when I'm exiting
town normally.  I've had a few false alarms, but it's still quite worth it.

     Another solution: there exists a hack called the Chicken Module which
scans the incoming and outgoing game data-- as soon as it spots someone
hostile you, it automatically sends the necessary commands to open a TP and
immediately use it.  This module has declined in popularity but remains
useful at times.

     Hopefully patch 1.10 will include a timer forcing players to remain in
town a few seconds after going hostile.  That should fix it!

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PK Exploit Five: Piercing/Guided

Danger level: Medium

The rundown >

     This is why most softcore duelers play zon-- the Piercing/Guided imbalance
just makes it so easy.  A guided arrow zooms in on a victim, pierces through
him, turns around, pierces again, turns around... etc.  Four full-damage hits
for each arrow.

What you can do >

     This imbalance makes dueling quite silly, but fortunately its application
to hardcore PK is limited.  The arrow has to hit you first before it can do
quad damage on you-- just Alt-F4 when you get hostiled and you're safe.

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PK Exploit Six: The Infamous Hydra PK

Danger Level: Medium

The rundown >

     If a sorceress, while in the same party or neutral, lights a fire wall
beneath you, casts blizzard or meteor over you, raises hydras around you,
etc., it won't hurt you because in Diablo II friendly fire can't target you
and will pass harmlessly through you.  However, if she uses a town portal,
the fire wall and hydras stay lit, and if she goes hostile-- well, you might
not guess what happens next, but because of a game misfeature (I suspect
it's an outright bug), the spell effects can turn from neutral to hostile
where they lay without needing to be re-cast, and the PK can kill you
remotely just like that, from within the safety of town, with zero risk
to herself.

     Also be aware that there's likely some form of Hydra Hack out there-- 
since it's an easy matter to wait in ambush at a waypoint, continuously
casting Hydra, and have a bot running to watch for a victim's appearance and
immediately send a command to go to town and hostile when it spots one.  I
haven't seen such a hack personally, but I know enough about hacks to know
it'd very easy to do-- it's functionally similar to the Chicken Module,
which most people have seen to exist.

     Hydra PK is, to put it shortly, D2's closest thing to D1's "town
killing", and it's the number one PK method for just that reason.  This bad
game feature may be changed, since Blizzard was careful to make sure Assassin
traps cannot function the same way.  Keep your fingers crossed.

What you can do >

     PK's who use this ambush will usually ask you a question before opening
the town portal to distract you, or be partnered with someone else who'll
distract you-- sounds crazy, but it has happened.  If you must type a
response, open a portal and do it in town.  Better yet, if you see a hydra,
just don't play unless you've got great hit points and godly resists.

     Here, maximum resists will again be of use: a person with 75% fire
resistance and even mediocre life need not fear a Hydra trap too much, as long
as they make an attempt to move away.

     Hopefully patch 1.10 will include a second timer forcing players to
remain in town a few seconds BEFORE going hostile.  That should fix it!

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PK Exploit Seven: Poison Math

Danger Level: Medium

The rundown >

     I'll be honest.  Like 99.9% of D2 players, I have no idea how poison
damage adds to itself.  All I know is there's a lot of weird math involved,
and where weird math and damage calculation collide, PK's have a weapon to
use against you.

What you can do >

     They can't poison you to death if they can't hit you.  When you get
hostiled, just leave the game.  Poison resist gear is also a nice layer of
protection, just in case they use an additional hack to stop you from leaving.

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PK Exploit Eight: Dupe Fever

Danger Level: Medium (Expansion only)

The rundown >

     Hacked items abound in expansion, thanks to the several duping exploit
cycles of the past-- in fact, people deal in hacked items almost more actively
than they deal in duped or bot-harvested legits.  They remain extremely rare
in Classic, thankfully, since most of the original hacks abuse expansion-only
features.

     Hacked items tend to have strange names... "Ith Weapons" or "Oculus
Rings" to name two of the more popular ones.  They have massively unbalancing
properties and though Blizzard has taken steps to delete hacked items as
they're discovered... well, apparently, they haven't been completely
successful.

     Most sorceresses who hostile in Expansion Hardcore will be proud bearers
of matching Oculus Rings... most amazons who hostile you will be using an Ith
bow... etc.  These cheat items expand their damage-output capability high
enough to kill most other players in one hit, even with the 75% PvP damage
reduction.

What you can do >

     Always assume the PK is capable of scoring a one-hit kill against you. 
PK's custom-tailor their character to damage and nothing but damage-- the math
is on their side, and they have no qualms over cheating to get an extra edge. 
No matter how much they taunt and belittle you, call you a newbie or
unskilled, claim their equipment is all legit, it's all just a ploy to get you
to step out of town.  Virtually all PK's cheat in one way or another, so don't
take that risk.

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PK Exploit Nine: Drop Hacks

Danger Level: High

The rundown >

     Like any computer program, the Diablo 2 client isn't 100% bug-free.  When
the client receives invalid info from the server, it automatically crashes
itself as a debug mechanism, instantly cutting off all communication to the
server.  It doesn't even send a signal that it's crashing so the server can
gracefully log your character out, so the server will treat you as still
connected for several moments after your client drops.

     PK's can hack their own client not to exhibit this behavior, then send an
appropriate sequence to the server which causes all other players to drop.  He
is then free to hostile them and kill them at his leisure.

What you can do >

     Fortunately this sort of hack is usually addressed by Blizzard on a
timely basis, and individual drop hacks rarely last longer than a week or so. 
When you hear verified reports of drop hacks, consider playing softcore or
playing hardcore only with trusted players until the drop hack is fixed.

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PK Exploit Five: Intentional Lag

Danger Level: VERY High

The rundown >

     A malicious user can download a variety of packet senders and bots that
can execute game commands much faster than a human player transmitting through
the proper client can.  For instance, they can quickly lay down four thousand
piles of 1-gold each at the Frigid Highlands WP, causing people coming through
the waypoint to lag for a full ten seconds.  During that time, they're free to
exploit the usual hydra tricks or otherwise before the victim has a chance to
escape.

     (I'd bet this hack is probably bundled with a Hydra Hack.  PK's love that
kind of easy-bundle stuff.)

     This sort of hack is difficult for Blizzard to detect-- as the server
sees it, it's receiving perfectly legal input, just very very fast.  It
probably won't be fixed, thus making lag-maker hacks a popular PK substitute
for drop hacking.

     Additionally, necromancers have been known to amass gigantic animated
hordes for the express purpose of causing lag to all the other players just by
entering the cow portal while they're fighting.  The necromancer doesn't have
to go hostile on anyone-- the cows will do the work for him while the other
players' clients are all frozen.

What you can do >

     Exercise special caution playing games centered around popular
"killpoints"-- the Arcane Sanctuary and Frigid Highlands waypoints, where
gold-drop hackers usually set up, and also the Act 2 Sewer entrances.  If
someone's already in the game who you think could kill you if they got 10
free timestop seconds on you, don't use the killpoints or leave the game. 
If you spot people using these hacks, screenshot them if possible and report
them to Blizzard-- that's the only way Blizzard can catch this type of cheater
and revoke their access.

     Also, keep an eye on necromancers joining cow games.

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Correspondence and Questions

> David H. writes:

     Why doesn't Blizzard add a feature to give the user the option to
     *prevent* PK'ing in games *they* create? (checkbox perhaps?)

Beats me.  During my stint as a MUD-coder, the first thing I coded was a
victim-side (as opposed to aggressor-side) pkill toggle.  Flag was on, you
were OK to duel.  Flag was off, nobody could touch you.  My best guess is
that the playtesters on Blizzard's payroll are really fun, nice guys who
in all their niceness are unaware know how bad PK's exploit the game, and
so think PK is a neat addition to the game that everyone should love.

> King writes:

     Is there any way I can prevent a pker from seeing how much life I got
     left on me when duel?  That's strange because there are times that I
     see players runing short of life as he got hit by me, and other times
     I don't see any change ... when I put my mouse point onto the
     characters as if he was stone skin character or something....

First off, there isn't any way to stop someone else from seeing your life
bar.  For the most part, the life bars are accurate though they may be a
little time-delayed due to lag.

Characters tailor-made for PK generally have maximized their damage but have
also done a good job raising their life points and resistances.  A character
that's not meant for PK will generally find themselves doing little damage
back-- just as though their opponent had stone skin.  They don't have stone
skin, it's just hacked items.  PK's generally will have very high life,
physical damage reduction, super-high damage, and other unbalanced attributes
from their hacked items.

> Phoenix writes:

     Just wanted to say thank you for this excellent guide - it introduced
     me to a number of different aspects of PKing and techniques that can
     be exploited by PKers that I hadn't recognized before.

Precisely my intent!  Thanks for the mail, and do be sure to spread the news.
Only by knowing the exploits can hardcore players take steps to safeguard
themselves.

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Contact

     All contributions, clarifications, questions and concerns are
welcomed and appreciated-- I'll be happy to credit you in the next update!
My email address is mattfitz at oco dot net.  Please identify this guide
in the subject of your email so I know it's important and has nothing to do
with the diploma-mill spam I get on a daily basis.

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