Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction v1.13 Rabies Druid Guide Version 1.0 Author: Harleyquin Table of Contents 1. Introduction 2. Rabies Druid basics 3. Stat allocation 4. Skill point distribution 5. Equipment suggestions 6. Mercenary selection and equipment 7. General gameplay 8. Acknowledgements and Credits 9. Contact information 10. Version history 11. Legal notice 1. Introduction Welcome to my guide to the Rabies Druid for Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction v1.13. The aim is to provide sufficient information for newcomers/experienced users in the game to play a Druid character focusing on the shape shifting tree, in particular the Werewolf skill Rabies. This character build is doable alone or with help from mercenaries and the Oak Sage nature spirit in the Druid Summoning skill tab. A note before proceeding: This is not the most original guide out there, many others variants preceding my guide exist but to my knowledge this is the only one published on Gamefaqs for the latest version of LoD. Therefore my guide will have many similarities to existing Rabies Druid builds on other websites but any source material I reference will be obtained from 3rd party websites independent of guides similar to this one. Diablo 2 is a game heavily dependent on the equipment obtainable for characters, the age of the game means that most optimal builds regarding skill point allocation have been investigated and analysed. However my guide is geared mainly towards newer players who play Single Player unmodded v1.13. Therefore all equipment suggestions I give will not include the online-only charms and runewords so prevalent on the Battle.net servers. The only "modification" this guide refers to is the use of a 3rd-party muling program like ATMA which allows players to store equipment obtained when playing through with other characters. This does not entail cheating or item generation through any means outside of playing the game legitimately and obtaining items as they are encountered. Finally, I don't play the game using any of the /playersx keyboard commands allowing players to simulate a multiplayer environment offline, the game to me is hard enough as it is on Hell difficulty without the elite equipment often bandied about in other guides. Consequently my equipment suggestions will be more realistic and the build is perfectly able to finish all three difficulty modes as long as players following this build obtain semi-reasonable equipment over regular gameplay. Related to the single player restriction above, I make no claims as to duelling or PvP advice since the only opponents faced in a single player game are the monsters themselves. Although the guide caters to newer players, I will assume most readers have at least finished the game once or have a good grasp on the game's principles. Hence some information located below are spoilers regarding enemies encountered. 2. Rabies Druid basics As the name of the guide entails, players will be using a druid concentrating on the shape shifting skill tab and the skill Rabies as the main method for slaying monsters and progressing through the game. This is a close-combat build so high physical damage through weapons and equipment will be used both to complement the Rabies skill and to slay poison-immune monsters independently as required. To help the Druid survive the damage invariably incurred, some skill points will be invested in the Oak Sage nature spirit in the Summoning skill tab for more health to outlast the hordes before they slay the character. A quick summary of the advantages and disadvantages of this build is given below: Advantages: 1. Two primary damage sources should ensure the vast majority of monsters in all difficulties can be slain without help from mercenaries. Although monsters immune to both physical and poison damage do exist (mostly in Hell difficulty), weapons inflicting elemental damage are obtainable and can be used when necessary to slay the occasional troublesome unique monster. 2. The Rabies skill is a very useful skill on its own for killing mobs of monsters swarming the character (assuming no immunity to poison). With the addition of damage synergies, a fully synergised Rabies skill (40 skill points) with no bonus to +skills will see an average of over 4k+ poison damage. Coupled with the ability's "infection" spread to nearby monsters, this means killing speed is maintained for most of the character's career without too much micromanagement involved. 3. The relative lack of skill points involved make this a simple build to develop and play through without having to memorise complicated level-up schemes. Low number of skills employed makes hotkey management simple. Disadvantages: 1. Like other melee builds, this build really shines if top-notch equipment is found and utilised. Unlike other character builds like the summoning necromancer and the single-tree sorceress, this build cannot finish the game for all 3 difficulties if equipment available is extremely poor. 2. Despite the relatively high health of this build, part of the bonus comes from the Oak Sage. If that dies (and it will die often when you're confronted by hordes) a significant proportion of player health goes with it which may well hasten the character's untimely demise. 3. Some monsters are extremely difficult to kill at close-range without the appropriate protection or offensive weaponry. Regardless of high health, if the monster horde does significantly more damage than you do over time the build loses after a war of attrition. Semi-decent equipment makes life easier when confronted with packs of Blunderbores, Megademons, Bone fetishes and Thorned Hulks. 4. Close-combat may be doable, but packs of archers and spellcasters need to be reached first before the build can start killing. Without a high enough block rate, block speed, resistances, faster hit recovery and faster walk/run speed, the Druid might not get close enough before being slain. 5. No inherent skill readily available to remove corpses. Summoning druids can use Dire wolves to some extent for corpse removal but this build is totally dependent on equipment to stop the fallen/undead/maggot/demon hordes from overwhelming you with numbers. Nihlathak is especially dangerous without the proper equipment. 6. No crowd control skills. You will get swarmed a lot during play and if you can't kill the hordes quickly with Rabies/Fury your character will die a slow death by attrition. If the above disadvantages have turned you off this build, stop reading now and start a sorceress or some other common build more suited to individual play style. For those still interested, continue reading. 3. Stat allocation Simply put, this determines what equipment the Rabies druid can use and how long it can survive on the field before being slain. With quest rewards and level-up stat points, total allocation is 505 points. Strength: All characters should only invest enough strength as necessary to meet their equipment requirements. The extra points to damage over and above the minimum investment required aren't worthwhile and better invested in vitality. For this build, casual players can aim for either 110 or 156. The former allows the wearing of War belts, in particular the Immortal King's Detail or Thundergod's Vigour. The latter is for the unique Monarch Stormshield. Dexterity: I advise using a shield for this build, two-handed weapons may help kill faster but the lack of a shield and its benefits means dying much faster when faced with monsters who can attack from a distance. More points are required for the minimum investment to achieve a 75% block rate, how many points depends on the shield obtained. The formula for shield blocking is given below: Total block = (Character block x Dexterity-15)/(Levelx2) Total block refers to final blocking percentage achieved on the character screen. Character block refers to all sources of blocking, including any on equipment other than the shield (e.g. Increased blocking from Guardian Angel) Dexterity refers to character dexterity after all points invested and bonuses from items have been factored in. Level refers to the character level, 1-99. A few sample numbers for common character block figures: 60% block = 263 Dexterity for 75% at level 99. 64% block = 248 Dexterity for the above 72% block = 222 Dexterity for the above 75% block = 213 Dexterity for the above Players who do decide to go for two-handed weapons will likely not need any points in dexterity since few of the high-damage 2H weapons have a dexterity requirement. If this patch is chosen be sure to invest in strength accordingly. Vitality: Every other point not invested in Strength and Dexterity ends up here. There is no disadvantage in having too much life, the multipliers offered by Lycanthropy and Oak Sage are heavily dependent on how high the vitality stat goes. Energy: Since version 1.10, a select number of merchants in towns offer mana potions for sale. Therefore there should be no need to invest ANY points here since potions will cover the majority of skill needs for most of normal and early Nightmare until mana steal is high enough to make skill use self-sufficient for most cases. 4. Skill point distribution Everyone who has played through the game should know by now there are 110 skill points in total, 98 from regular level-up and 4 each from quest rewards in each difficulty. In theory a level 99 Rabies Druid will have the following skill distribution 20 Werewolf (Less investment if AR isn't a problem). 20 Lycanthropy 1 Feral Rage (1-20 depending on preference) 20 Rabies 20 Fury (1-20 depending on preference) 20 Poison Creeper 9 Oak Sage (0-9 depending on preference) For variation, points invested in Lycanthropy can be diverted to Oak Sage however I don't advise this unless the character is going to be used in a multiplayer setting. Other variations include diverting points from Fury to Feral Rage according to preference. For players confident in their ability to stay alive without the need for the Oak Sage, the extra 9 skill points can be diverted to Feral Rage for better damage against single opponents or to pet summons for brief distractions. When to allocate skill points in this build is extremely simple. Very early on points should be placed in Werewolf, at least one point should go to Lycanthropy depending on the player's ability to remember to refresh Werewolf duration after battles. One point can go into Poison Creeper early on before Feral Rage is available for a minor distraction during Chapter 1. When Oak Sage is available, players should invest at least one point upon availability or up to the build's recommended maximum early on to get it out of the way. Once Rabies is available, every available skill point up to character level 30 goes there, after level 30 1-4 points can go to Fury either to unlock the skill or get enough points to reach the maximum number of attacks available. From level 35 or thereabouts, it's a simple matter of maxing out Rabies, Werewolf and Fury in that order. The last skill to maximise can either be Lycanthropy once +skills items and careful management make the short duration a non-issue or into poison creeper for the Rabies synergy. In my experience killing speed and power are bigger priorities than life and defensive benefits in general so the scheme I've used generally focuses on maxing Rabies first before maxing Werewolf and Fury in that order. Poison Creeper is then next with Lycanthropy last priority. Since most players will never see levels above 90 let alone 99, the build's damage potential can be maximised before level 70 after factoring in quest rewards. A brief summary of the skills involved: Werewolf: This is a core skill since you can't use Rabies without it. Higher investment helps attack rating and attack speed for all attacks in Werewolf form. I like investing 20 points, others may have enough AR to hit reliably without maximum investment. Lycanthropy: More points here equals a constant return on more life when shape shifted and a longer duration. Without sufficient investment here, this build will only shape shift when monsters are encountered or shortly before to ensure the duration is long enough to survive combat encounters. I advise 20 points, a life boost which cannot be taken away by any means (unlike Oak Sage) is especially important in Hell difficulty. Feral Rage: My personal preference is one point here as a prerequisite and to let +skills handle the rest. Another approach would be to maximise this skill at the expense of Fury to take full advantage of the life steal modifier. The main disadvantage being problems fighting large hordes of skeletons and other enemies immune to leeching. Players who go for maximum Feral Rage are advised to find Dracul's Grasp for Hell difficulty (more details in the equipment section). Rabies: This is the core of the build and its namesake. High poison damage over a reasonable duration at high levels as well as spread of the poison between closely packed monsters after the infection vector leaves large non-poison immune monster packs easier to kill. As mentioned above, a fully synergised Rabies skill without +skills bonuses can deal over 6k+ gross damage in less than 11 seconds. This is quite sufficient for solo-play for most parts of the game. Fury: This is the Druid variant of the Paladin's Zeal attack. Multiple attacks (up to 5) with a high enough skill level as well as a damage boost makes the skill versatile against mobs or tougher solo opponents. All Fury attacks must complete their attack cycle once started, take care using this skill amongst hordes of exploding fetish dolls. In v1.13 Oblivion Knights no longer have Iron maiden in their repertoire of curses so dying from "Fury-lock" is less of an issue in the Chaos Sanctury. Oak Sage: Arguably the most common nature spirit used by Druids, the boost to life for all party members and the Druid himself is too good to pass up. In Nightmare and Hell difficulties the Oak Sage gets a life boost and guaranteed immunity to poison (plus immunity to physical damage in Nightmare) which should ensure better survivability during combat. The AI of the spirit isn't too clever and it will often move towards enemies hastening its demise and potentially that of the character as well. Poison Creeper: This is a minor distraction in Normal which quickly becomes obsolete before Chapter 2. However the 18% boost to Rabies damage per point invested makes it a necessary and welcome component of the character build. 5. Equipment suggestions Players don't need the elite equipment mentioned in other guides to finish the game past Hell difficulty, however sub-standard equipment makes finishing the game almost impossible at times. I classify my suggestions according to "Dream", "Recommended" and "Realistic". The first is for online players and those who don't play legitimately since the odds of getting the runes/equipment involved are so low as to be non-existent if playing alone and without 3rd party hacks. Recommended is equipment which is doable assuming players grind bosses and high level areas long enough to get lucky. Realistic is for those who use what they equip or find often enough via other characters to use viably. I've played the game on and off for over 8 years dating to this FAQ and my ATMA stash of exceptional and elite uniques isn't even up to the halfway mark at collection, hence my recommendations are somewhat skewed to reflect the rarity of decent equipment. Some of the common terminology used includes "leech" (life/mana steal or both together), IAS (Increased Attack Speed), OW (Open Wounds), CB (Crushing Blow), %ED (Enhanced Damage/Defence depending on context) Weapon Mods to look out for: %Enhanced damage, life steal, Crushing Blow, High base damage, +skills, Increased Attack Speed "Dream" setup "Breath of the Dying" runeword: Highest % Enhanced damage available in single player, dual leech, Increased Attack Speed, Prevent Monster Heal, Stat boosts etc. Only thing is, players are more likely to be struck by lightning compared to the odds of finding both a Vex and Zod rune legitimately. Finding an ethereal 6-socket weapon to fit the runeword isn't exactly easy either. "Eternity" runeword: The only runeword combination in Single Player that makes weapons indestructible without the use of a Zod rune. The addition of % Enhanced damage, life steal, Crushing Blow, Hit Blinds Target, Hit Slows Target, Cannot be Frozen and Revive charges solves the problems of Crowd Control and Corpse Disposal in one package. Of course getting Ber, Ist and Sur runes legitimately is like winning the lottery several times over. "Famine" runeword: Increased Attack Speed, % enhanced damage, Ignore Target Defence, lots of elemental damage, Life steal and Prevent Monster Heal. The catch? Try finding Ohm and Jah runes without modding the game or cheating. "Call to arms" runeword: Mentioned ad nauseum for every other melee build out there, the biggest draw is the oskill Battle Orders skill granted by the weapon for even more life over and above what Oak sage and Lycanthropy can give. % Enhanced Damage, huge increased attack speed, life steal and Prevent Monster Heal are also useable in a pinch. It's better off as a weapon switch option assuming you're dedicated/lucky enough to get Mal, Ist and Ohm in a single playthrough. "Heart of the Oak" runeword: This is not selected based on its damage, it's nominated as one of the two best alternatives for a weapon switch. +3 to skills, +resistances and faster mana regeneration are the only mods recommendable for this build. Good luck getting all of the runes legitimately without external help. "Recommended" setup "Kingslayer" runeword: Before v1.13, I would have categorized this under "Dream" since all of the runes required dropped rarely if at all from the Countess. Dedicated players who have run the Hellforge enough will have the runes required. Increased Attack Speed, % Enhanced damage, % Attack Rating, Crushing Blow, Open Wounds, Prevent Monster Heal and Vengeance. Vengeance in particular is very helpful for slaying the dual-immune monsters the build is helpless against, however I've never obtained the runeword so I have no way of verifying if the skill is useable in Werewolf form. "Passion" runeword: With v1.13, the runes are very obtainable with a hundred or so Countess runs. Getting the right weapon is of course another matter to consider. The mods aren't quite up to "Kingslayer" standards but the +1 to Berserk offers one way to slay the troublesome Physical-Poison dual immune monsters. Again I've yet to make the runeword so I don't know if Berserk works when shape shifted. "Crescent moon" runeword: For the price of a rare Um rune, characters get Increased Attack Speed, % Enhanced Damage, Ignore Target Defence and Open Wounds. The biggest advantage is the chance to cast Static Field on striking which should trigger enough with repeated uses of Fury. Islestrike: Although I've yet to find one myself, this is a very nice weapon to use all the way up to Hell and beyond if players decide to upgrade it. The combination of +skills, Crushing Blow, a small boost to Fury and statistics makes this a nice weapon to use up to the end of the game. The requirements aren't too steep either. If a poison rainbow facet is found, socketing the weapon with it increases the effectiveness of Rabies. Plague Bearer: Compared to Islestrike, the stats on this unique sword aren't as desirable overall. However +5 to Rabies is unmatched elsewhere so players going all out to maximise Rabies damage will like this weapon. "Realistic" setup Dark Clan Crusher: Low damage, but +2 to skills and Crushing Blow is perfectly acceptable through Nightmare and it's useful as a weapon switch for higher skills to change to Werewolf form or to summon the Oak Sage. Fleshrender: +1 to all skills, +2 to Shape-shifting. Crushing Blow, Open Wounds and Prevent Monster Heal. Not very difficult to find like the suggestion above and perfectly acceptable to use even into Hell difficulty. Upgradeable if you have the runes for slightly better damage at almost no difference to requirements. "Black" runeword: Thanks to improved countess drops, this is not difficult to create. It's a budget option for Crushing Blow and increased attack speed, the knockback mod can be useful after poisoning targets to keep them away from retaliating range. Crafted blood weapons: War axes and their exceptional/elite equivalents can be bought in stores or found off monsters. The remaining ingredients required can be obtained from regular adventuring. Although the weapon doesn't have the Crushing Blow mod, getting a decent % enhanced damage and life steal mod makes this a useful weapon through normal and most of Nightmare difficulty. Rare club-class weapon with +2 skills: If the weapon base damage is high, by all means use it. Players will have to find Crushing Blow, Open Wounds, Deadly Strike and other special mods from elsewhere. Perfectly acceptable for using as a weapon switch option. Shield Mods to look out for: Increased % to block, faster block rate, resistances, % Damage Reduction, High base defence, % Enhanced defence. "Dream" setup Stormshield: Every other guide elsewhere mentions this shield and it's not hard to see why. Huge % Damage reduction and a high block rate are the main reasons for recommending the shield. Resistance aren't that great other than for Cold and Lightning so either a perfect diamond, Um rune, +resist jewel or a perfect ruby (Fire resist) will do for socketing purposes. "Sanctuary" runeword: Not quite as rare as Stormshield, but the combination of a Mal rune from regular play and a decent Pavise/Hyperion in Hell difficulty make this very unobtainable except for dedicated players. The Countess in v1.13 now drops Hel, Io and Lum runes with astounding regularity so finding/ cubing up to a Mal rune is doable with patience and some luck. The shield mods are solid, high block rate, +Dexterity, +resistances and even charges for slow missiles to help tackle ranged packs. "Recommended" setup Gerke's Sanctuary: Nice defence, good +resistances and a high block rate. Integer physical and magic damage reduction is also nice. Only things it lacks are % Damage Reduction and faster block rate. Don't upgrade since Aegis shields have absurdly high strength requirements. Lidless Wall: My recommendation for a shield switch option. +1 to skills on a shield isn't common and this is one of the few options available. It's better for a caster character but the mods are good for mana regeneration. "Splendour" runeword: If you don't have lidless wall, this is the next best choice for skills, magic find and a few other bonuses. The one thing it lacks is resistances which the lidless wall can provide if socketed. "Realistic" setup Moser's Blessed Circle: Empty sockets, semi-decent block chance and +resistances. Otherwise not a great choice but useable. Whitstan's Guard: Highest block rate for shields in the entire game and almost nothing else. It's possible to socket for a perfect diamond or Um rune but it offers absolutely nothing else other than dexterity savings. Sigon's Shield: Easiest source for +1 to skills on a shield. Not useful for a main shield past normal. Ancient's pledge Tower shield/Pavise: Solid resistances on shields with the best base blocking chance. "Rhyme" runeword: Probably best in a Gothic/Tower shield in Normal and Grim Shield/Pavise in Nightmare. The runes are very common and obtainable without the need to run the Countess repeatedly. Reasonable block rate (with the right base shield), +resistances and %Magic Find. Cannot be Frozen as early as character level 17 has its perks. Tiamat's Rebuke: This shield isn't desirable for its defensive mods, it's the addition of elemental damages that make it useful in Hell difficulty if the dual-immune monster turns up and players have no alternative weaponry to finish it off. Rare shields: Deflecting and resistance mods will do fine. +1 to all Druid skills isn't obtainable though. Armour Mods to look out for: High base defence, % Enhanced defence, +skills, % Damage reduction, +resistances "Dream" Setup "Chains of Honour" runeword: Even with the improved Countess drops mentioned above, I honestly doubt anyone but the luckiest and most dedicated single player gamers will ever hope to see the Ber rune required to complete the runeword. The runeword is more or less perfect for this build with the only issue finding the appropriate 4 socket armour as well as the Ber and Ist runes required. "Bramble" runeword: If you thought Chains of Honour was hard, try seeing Ohm and Sur runes without doing thousands of Countess runs or single player Hellforge rushes. The runeword isn't that amazing in my opinion bar the +100% to poison skill damage which can boost a fully synergised Rabies past 8k damage. Leviathan: Obtaining this armour isn't anywhere near as impossible as the high-level runeword armours, however it's not a common drop since the monsters that can drop it are few in number. Main draw is the nice % Damage reduction and enhanced defence. Assuming an ethereal version exists, that should be more than enough defence to last through hell. Naj's light plate: One of the few armours that provides +skills and resistances, comparable to Skin of the Vipermagi and Que-Hagen's wisdom only without faster cast rate and being far more difficult than either of the unique armours. Aldur's Deception: Considering how rare this armour is, the mods aren't that amazing. Big boost to lightning resist and +1 to shape shifting skills isn't worth running endless boss runs over. Combined with the boots the +Vitality mod makes it slightly more attractive. "Recommended" setup "Lionheart" runeword: Runes are obtainable with enough patience at Hell Countess runs with other characters. A nice mix of defensive boosts like +resistances and +HP and the offensive boosts to % Enhanced damage and +Strength. "Smoke" runeword: Before v1.13, I'd succeeded in making at least 3 of these on my characters without outside help. With v1.13, it's likely that finding the right armour to house the runeword will prove more difficult than the actual runes themselves. +50 resist all and +75% Enhanced Defence is the main draw. Duriel's Shell: Not that common as to be realistic for casual players, the perks include +resistances, +Life per level, +Defence per level and the all important Cannot Be Frozen make this useable up to Hell. Shaftstop: 30% Damage reduction is just about the only reason to recommend this armour. Good exceptional/elite rare armours: These will turn up in Nightmare and Hell difficulties, high defence with resistances could be worth keeping. "Realistic" Setup Rockfleece: I've found a couple for use on my own characters. Upgraded once or twice using the Horadric cube gives a reasonable high defence armour with a little % damage reduction and integer damage reduction thrown in. Skin of the Vipermagi: Definitely obtainable without outside help. Main boost is +1 to skills and +resistances, the drawback is defence is too low to be useable past late Nightmare even when upgraded. Helmet/Druid pelts Mods to look out for: +skills, +resistances, life steal, mana steal "Dream" setup Jalal's mane: Theoretically this pelt can drop in Nightmare, but chances are most players will have to run Nightmare Mephisto for quite a while before seeing this turn up. This is the all-round helm that almost all druids aim for, huge +skills, +resistances, faster hit recovery, % attack rating and more. Socket with an Um rune for even more resistances, a perfect Topaz for magic find or good rare jewels with nice mods. Cerebus' bite: Do enough Hell Mephisto runs and it will turn up, however getting one to turn up with +4 to Shape Shifting and high modifiers to % Attack Rating and % Life Steal is unlikely. A +4 shape shifting variant is worth socketing either with an Um rune for +resists or a Perfect Topaz for magic find. "Delirium" runeword: Finding a decent druid pelt with the right mods for this runeword isn't easy, Ist runes require far too many Countess runs to be worth pursuing, The end product is extremely good for crowd control with +skills and magic find thrown in. Shape shifting druids are far less vulnerable to the delirium effect compared to other characters since they can simply shape shift back to human form at will. Crown of Ages: Only available in Hell and only through repeated boss runs, this has almost everything a melee build could ask for. It even comes with sockets for further customisation. Beware the 174 strength requirement. "Recommended" setup Rare druid pelts: Getting +2 to skills modifiers doesn't take too long and is doable from Nightmare onwards. Vampiregaze: Dual leech modifiers and % damage reduction for an all-round nice helm. Darksight helm: Three modifiers worth recommending: Cannot be Frozen, Mana steal and Level 5 Cloak of Shadows. Cloak of Shadows is the antidote to hordes of ranged archers and gloams reducing the druid to a pincushion before he can get close to start killing. Blackhorn's Face: Attack slows target and Prevent Monster Heal are nice mods, but this is one of the few items with lightning absorb to handle the inevitable lightning enchanted monsters. Aldur's Stony Gaze: The easiest to find in the Aldur set. It's only recommendable for the 2 open sockets allowing for more magic find or anything else that suits the player's fancy. Faster Hit Recovery and big bonus to cold resist could be a useful stopgap. Sazabi's mental sheath: +1 to skills, small boost to +resists and some defence. Useable for a while and then good to pass over to the mercenary for lack of better options. "Realistic" setup Rockstopper: % Damage reduction, Faster Hit Recovery and nice boosts to resistances and Vitality make this a good helm if pelts are hard to come by. "Lore" runeword: +1 skills, decent lightning resists and mana gained per kill makes this a budget solution readily available before level 30. Magic druid pelt with +skills: +1/+2 and a decent suffix should be good enough to finish Hell for casual players. Gloves Mods to look out for: Increased Attack Speed, Life/Mana steal, +resists, +magic find "Dream" setup Good pair of crafted blood gloves: Fixed mods of crushing blow, life steal and +life can potentially be supplemented by more life steal, mana steal, increased attack speed and more. A really good pair with 4 affixes is definitely useable to finish the game in Hell difficulty. Dracul's grasp: The life steal and +life per kill is nice, but everyone recommends this pair of gloves for the chance to cast life tap on striking. If the build is going up against Burning Dead packs, this could prove a life-saver. Soul drainer: Dual leech and monster defence reduction per hit. Not as good as the other two recommendations above, but it makes prolonged fights against bosses easier with each hit from Fury softening the boss up for further attacks. "Recommended" setup Trang-Oul's Claws: The perfect Necromancer gloves, but +25% to poison skill damage isn't obtainable on any item outside of runewords and super-rare elite uniques. Immortal King's Forge: On its own not very special, but combined with another item in the set and % attack speed is obtained. I suggest getting the belt if this is considered. Venom Grip: Two of the mods on this unique are exactly the same as those offered by the blood gloves, namely crushing blow and life steal. It doesn't have Increased Attack Speed and +poison resist is somewhat limited in usefulness. Lava Gout: Increased Attack Speed, Fire Resist and semi-decent base defence. The big draw is the chance to cast Enchant which is fire damage and +AR for the troublesome dual-immune monsters. Hellmouth: This is a defensive pair of gloves limited to fire-heavy areas like the Arcane Sanctuary and Demon imp infestations. The occasional chance to cast fire spells are unlikely to help killing speed past Normal. Laying of Hands: This is an old favourite for boss runs because of the +350% damage to demons mod. It does have 20% Increased Attack Speed and fire resist as well if there's nothing better available. "Realistic" setup Bloodfist: Increased attack speed and faster hit recovery isn't found on any other pair of gloves. The latter property is less of an issue for this build because of the high base life and inherently high faster hit recovery of the werewolf form, but any bonus is welcome if confronted by really hard-hitting melee mobs. Decent rare gloves: Anything with Increased Attack Speed, life/mana steal of some kind and +resists is always helpful. Belt Mods to look out for: Belt slots, Faster Hit Recovery, +resists. "Dream" setup Verdungo's hearty cord: One of the few belts available with % damage reduction, the boost to faster hit recovery and lots of life make this a popular choice. Good luck trying to find one without repeated boss runs and a lot of luck. Arachnid mesh: Just as rare as the above, but this is better for caster characters. It's not really worth keeping just for the +1 to all skills. Nosferatu's Coil/Siggard's Stealth: Life steal and increased attack speed together on a belt slot isn't available anywhere else. Attack slows target and +mana per kill make this a good belt to hang on to if encountered. High-level Blood belt: Open Wounds, life steal and +life as pre-set mods. Potentially getting +resists and Faster Hit Recovery if lucky. Only worth creating from mesh belts and mithril coils for the belt slots. "Recommended setup" High-level Safety belt: Integer damage and magic damage reduction along with increased %defence. Again only worth making in demonhide and spiderweb sashes for the belt slots. High-level Hitpower belt: 5-10% damage to mana should help if the build lacks mana steal of any kind. Recommend using battle belts since the elite counterpart may be too heavy for some players. String of ears: The other belt with % damage reduction, this is available if you're lucky with Normal Baal. Life steal and integer magic damage reduction makes this useable for most of the game. Consider upgrading a belt with particularly good mods for better defence. Thundergod's Vigour: Along with Blackhorn's face, one of the few items with lightning absorb. +Strength and +Vitality are also nice to have. Credendum: The Disciple Set belt has +15 to all resistances and little else going for it. Immortal King's Detail: Big boost to Fire and Lightning resist, the boost to Strength and Defence is a minor plus, combine with the gloves for more defence and Increased Attack Speed on the gloves. Trang-Oul's Girth: More stamina and life, but the big draw is Cannot Be Frozen which is a crucial mod to have but not readily available. "Realistic Setup" Nightsmoke: +resists and big %damage goes to mana modifier make mana problems less likely considering the damage taken in melee. Upgrade for more belt slots if the materials are readily available. Bladebuckle: Faster hit recovery and small integer damage reduction. Decent rare belt: Depending on mods, faster hit recovery with some resists should be achievable. Boots Mods to look out for: Faster Run/Walk, Stamina Recovery, +resists, high base defence "Dream" setup Gore Rider: The boots themselves are not obscenely rare on their own, but the mods on the boots are very attractive. Faster Run/Walk coupled with Open Wounds, Crushing Blow and Deadly Strike means looking for the special mods on weapon and glove slots is less important. Sandstorm Trek: If forced to run away from extra-strong melee mobs, this is probably the best pair of boots to be wearing. Faster Run/Walk, Faster Hit Recovery, plenty of stamina and boosts to +Strength and +Vitality are good to have. High-level safety boots: A little integer damage and magic damage reduction, fire resist and enhanced defence with good random mods could be worth considering. "Recommended" setup Natalya's Soul: Nice boost to cold and lightning resist and maximum Faster Run/Walk bonus make this pair of boots worth using up to the end of the game. Immortal King's Pillar: Another candidate for combining with the gloves, 2 items gives magic find in addition to the maximum faster Run/Walk bonus and boost to life. Aldur's Advance: On its own, not that useful apart from huge bonus to fire resist and maximum faster Run/Walk, combining it with the set armour allows the armour to gain +Vitality which could be worth considering. Infernostride: Combine this pair of boots with the Hellmouth gauntlets for huge protection against fire-based attacks. Waterwalk: Faster Run/Walk and boost to Dexterity and Defence Vs. Missiles helps somewhat against ranged hordes. +Life is always a welcome mod to have. "Realistic" setup Decent rare boots: A good combination of mods may not be easily replaceable by difficult to find unique and set boots. Threads of Cthon: Budget marathon boots providing a bit of help against ranged attacks. Goblin Toe: The other pair of boots with Crushing Blow built in. Tearhaunch: Faster Run/Walk with small boost to all resistances. Amulet Mods to look for: +skills, +resists, life/mana steal, Magic Find, +Life, +Min/Max Damage, Poison length reduction. "Dream" setup High-level +2 skills safety amulet: Considering character level has to be minimum level 93 for all base amulets used to definitely have a chance of spawning the +skills modifier, this is unlikely to be ever used except in Act 4/5 Hell. The preset mods of integer damage and magic damage reduction and increased blocking in particular indirectly translate to more life as fewer points are invested in dexterity to maintain max block. High-level +2 skills hitpower amulet: Rabies can work its magic better when monsters run away from you and spread the poison to their gathering friends. The same prohibitive level requirement for +2 skills also applies. Mara's Kaleidoscope: +2 to skills and big boost to all resistances. Highlord's Wrath: +1 to all skills, Increased Attack Speed and deadly strike that improves per level make this amulet worth keeping if it's ever found. Atma's scarab: No +skills, but the % Attack rating and chance to cast amplify damage on attack provide a way to deal with physical immune monsters with high poison resistance/immunity. Rare +2 skills amulet: Similar to crafted amulets above, but mods are fewer than the crafted variants. "Recommended" setup Crescent Moon: Dual leech amulet with the other mods means mana isn't going to run out in a hurry. Cat's eye: Increased Attack Speed and Faster Run/Walk along with the other mods mean ranged attacks are less frightening than they really are. Saracen's chance: Boost to all resistances and stats. Telling of Beads: Quite rare, but if found this will likely be used for some time because of +1 skills and a boost to 2 resistances. Rare +1 skills amulet: Not as good as a +2, but the overall package may end up being used right up to the endgame. Magic +3 Druid summoning amulet: Useful if found to prebuff the Oak Sage. "Realistic" setup The Eye of Etlich: +1 to skills, life steal and some cold damage. Mahim Oak Curio: Small boost to all resistances and stats, 10% boost to attack rating. Decent rare amulet: Even without skills, amulets tend to have mods that improve survivability e.g. +resists, +life etc. Rings Mods to look out for: Life/Mana steal, special modifiers, +resists, + Attack Rating, +damage, +elemental damage "Dream" setup Nature's Peace: One of the biggest drawbacks to this build mentioned earlier is the lack of corpse utilisation skills. If this ring is found, corpses are no longer a problem. If necessary, the charges for Heart of Wolverine can be used if AR is a serious problem against stone skin monsters. Wisp projector: Not for long-term use, the lightning absorb helps against gloams and lightning enchanted monsters. "Recommended" setup Raven Frost: This is the only ring that provides the Cannot be Frozen ability, if the build does not have any equipment that provides this mod then one ring slot will have to be sacrificed to wear the ring. On the plus side, most cold damage attacks won't be an issue while attack rating gets a small boost. Dwarf Star: A situational ring, if fire attacks are difficult to take and the fire-resistant equipment above aren't available, wielding this ring until the fire threat is over should help survivability. Bul-Kathos' wedding band: +1 to skills, +life per level and life steal, however I don't recommend the ring if resistances are too low. "Realistic" setup Angelic ring: Combined with the amulet in the same set, AR does not become a problem early on when werewolf isn't fully developed. Dual leech rare rings: These do exist if gambling is done often. Players might be lucky and get them as quest rewards. Charms Mods to look out for: +Resists, +Life, +Faster Hit Recovery, +Elemental Damage. Scintillating small charms of vita are ideal but extremely hard to obtain. Small resist charms over 10% for a single element are worth keeping. Look out for spiritual grand charms, a good suffix is optional if you find them. For this build I don't advise holding on to Gheed's Fortune since charms are needed more for survival than for magic find. 6. Mercenary selection and equipment Almost all builds in single player need a mercenary of some kind to offset inherent weaknesses, this build is no exception. A quick summary of the available hirelings given below: Rogue archer: Cold arrow archer early in normal helps to slow down and shatter some monsters, not worth keeping beyond Act 1. Desert mercenary: Defiance aura early on keeps the character alive longer as blows land less often. Blessed aim could be taken but it's not as crucial early on when AR differences don't mean too much in strike rate. The Nightmare auras of Might and Holy Freeze provide the offensive and crowd control punch the character needs. The former is a huge help if Crushing Blow isn't available in equipment while the latter makes crowd control and corpse disposal less of a problem against almost all monsters. Iron Wolf Mage: Fire and Lightning are built for elemental damage, in Hell difficulty the damage dealt isn't high enough to help slay dual-immune monsters quickly while the character takes the hits. Cold is a potential option in Normal when corpse disposal is still an issue without cold damage from equipment. Barbarian mercenary: Very similar playstyle to the character, rushes in and attacks until the opponent is slain or the mercenary himself has fallen. Bash and Stun don't offer much for crowd control over and above what Rabies is capable of. Conclusion: Normal - Defiance mercenary/Cold Iron Wolf Mage Nightmare - Holy Freeze/Might mercenary Hell - Same as Nightmare. For each mercenary selected, I'll give a few suggestions on what to equip. Defiance mercenary Armour: Anything with high base defence and +resists helps for the duration of Normal. Some of the armours recommended for the character also apply to this mercenary with the added bonus that ethereal versions can be used without fear of breaking on the mercenary. Helmet: Anything with life steal and +resists will do. Weapon: Any polearm or spear with high base damage and life steal is enough for normal. Any special modifiers are a bonus. Cold Iron Wolf Mage Armour: If you can afford it, a "Stealth" runeword armour is actually useful up until early Nightmare if you choose. Otherwise high defence armour with +resists and caster-friendly mods is welcome. Helmet: High defence helmet with +resists. Weapon: The good caster swords are only available from Nightmare onwards, base damage swords don't matter much since the Iron Wolf almost never swings it. With this in mind, the best choice may well be Culwen's point or a rare sword with +1 to skills. Shield: The shield runewords do nicely, although investing a Lum rune in a mercenary that will not see past early Nightmare for the Splendour runeword may be too extravagant without help from Hell countess runs. Holy Freeze mercenary The difference in equipment between this mercenary and the Might variant is slight, but I recommend getting weapons with higher base damage for this mercenary since the main aim of this mercenary is to slow down mob attacks enough for the character/mercenary to finish them off. Consequently +skills equipment is more helpful to improve the aura's effectiveness. Armour "Dream" setup "Duress" runeword: On characters this would be a good setup to keep, but its value to mercenaries is much higher since the runes involved are less rare (Um isn't the easiest rune to find or to invest in a mercenary). A boost to all resistances, faster hit recovery, enhanced damage, enhanced defence, Crushing Blow and Open Wounds makes a solid choice for either Nightmare mercenary variant. "Gloom" runeword: The runes are rarer compared to the above, but the benefits are more defensive compared to Duress. Chance to cast Dim Vision when struck provide crowd control of a sort, the Might mercenary benefits more here than the Holy Freeze variant. Leviathan: Benefits for main character equally applicable to the mercenary. Gladiator's Bane: The argument for placing it on the main character first is there, but if better armours are available then the mods are perfectly useable on the mercenary to help the character survive. Cannot be Frozen, Faster Hit Recovery and integer damage and magic damage reduction are always helpful for the innate high-resistances and healing of the mercenary. "Recommended" setup "Stone" runeword: Two semi-rare runes and a high-demand uncommon rune for immense defence, +stats and Faster Hit Recovery. The runes are better spent on other combinations if possible. Duriel's Shell: Benefits for the main character are equally applicable to the mercenary. Shaftstop: As above. Toothrow: I've used this in at least 2 other builds which made it to Hell. It's not great for characters but mercenaries see much use from Open Wounds and Attacker takes damage. Black Hades: 3 open sockets for customisation, the remaining mods are so-so. "Realistic" setup Any armour given as a hand-me-down from the main character should be just as useful to the mercenary. Helmet "Dream" setup Delirium: Only worth giving if the main character has the elite druid pelts, the delirium effect is less problematic since mercenaries can be resurrected. Crown of Ages: Mods equally applicable to the mercenary, only worth giving as a hand-me-down though. Andariel's Visage: +Skills, Increased Attack Speed, Life steal at the cost of reduced fire resistance. Wasting a socket reward on a mercenary item is extravagant if the aim is to insert a perfect ruby to counteract the negative modifier. "Recommended" setup Vampiregaze: Equally useful on a mercenary. Blackhorn's face: As above, probably more so since narrow areas with nasty lightning enchanted monsters (e.g. Maggot lair) are easier to handle if the mercenary does the bulk of the killing. "Realistic" setup Rockstopper: Probably better off with the mercenary if found and a replacement helmet is obtained. Good rare helms: Find decent helms while adventuring and pass them to the mercenary if the character's own helmet is better. Weapon Here the main difference between the Might and Holy Freeze mercenaries comes into play. Might mercenaries will like weapons that confer some form of crowd control, Holy Freeze mercenaries need all the base damage and special modifiers they can get to compensate for their slower killing speed. "Dream" setup "Doom" runeword: This has been mentioned in other guides, but getting the runes to assemble this runeword for the Might mercenary gives all the advantages of the Holy Freeze variant along with the Might aura from the mercenary. The mods include +skills, Increased Attack Speed, % Enhanced damage, Deadly Strike, Open Wounds, Prevent Monster Heal and Hit Freezes Target. Good luck getting Ohm, Lo and Cham to drop anytime soon. Bonehew: Highest average damage unique polearm, it even comes with 2 sockets for further customisation. Cheap socketing choices would be an Amn/Life steal jewel and a Shael/Increased attack speed jewel, the best possible combination for a Holy Freeze merc would likely be Amn and Ber runes. Reaper's Toll: Less damage than Bonehew, but the chance to cast Decrepify makes many physical immune monsters lose their immunity to regular attacks. Ignore Target Defence, life steal and Deadly Strike offer a solid package for either variant. Tomb Reaver: This is so rare it's almost not worth mentioning, but it exists and works well with characters interested in magic find. The increase to resistances is also desirable but the open sockets in the weapon allow significant customisation according to available equipment. Arioc's Needle: Not the most damaging weapon available for the mercenary, a potential +4 skills and Deadly Strike makes a good enhancement to the Might mercenary. Steel Pillar: Raw damage, Crushing Blow, -% Target defence, Increased Attack Speed and % Enhanced Defence are all geared towards fast killing speed. No life steal so that has to be made up elsewhere. "Recommended" setup Blackleach Blade: Life steal and semi-decent damage for a decent stopgap for most of Nightmare and early Hell difficulty. Pierre Tombale Couant: Highest average damage of the exceptional polearms, Deadly Strike and Faster hit Recovery. This is one of the more common exceptional uniques so getting the weapon in Nightmare from regular questing is not unheard of. Grim's Burning Dead: Low average damage, but the extra fire damage and reduction to target defence is helpful in its own way. Kelpie Snare: Even with a might mercenary, the damage on this spear even when upgraded/ethereal isn't par past Nightmare. The main reason to use this spear is for the huge 75% slows target upon a successful hit meaning bosses are far less threatening after a few blows are struck before the mercenary is slain. Hone Sundan: The "Bone breaker" has Crushing Blow and three open sockets for further customisation. A cheap option for the sockets is two Amn runes and a Shael for faster killing speed and survivability. An ethereal Hone Sundan may well be worth upgrading to the elite version assuming the mercenary can handle the heightened requirements. "Realistic" setup Woestave: If found, this is a surprisingly useful polearm for crowd control. Open Wounds, Hit Slows Target, Hit Blinds Target, - Monster Defence per hit, Freeze Target and Prevent Monster Heal is quite a lot of special mods on a humble normal polearm. Upgrading the polearm doesn't improve damage much but Might mercenaries can compensate with their aura at higher levels. The Grim Reaper: 100% Deadly Strike and Prevent Monster Heal. This doesn't have quite the longevity of Woestave but it will do nicely until a better weapon turns up. Bloodthief: Open Wounds and life steal, nothing spectacular after Normal. Any rare high-damage polearm or spear: If the mods are good, let the mercenary use it until something better turns up. For rares, the damage rating is probably the biggest deciding factor. 7. General gameplay I've given a rough guide on how to distribute skill points in an earlier section, here a rough guide on how to play the character will be briefly described. Normal difficulty: Once the first few skill points are invested into the prerequisites like Werewolf and Lycanthropy, remaining points can be either be saved up for the level 6 skills or invested into Werewolf. Before level 18, this character behaves exactly like a barbarian/paladin/regular melee build with above-average health and below-average swing speed. Use the poison creeper in Chapter 1 to distract hordes and grab cheap kills. Get a decent shield as quickly as possible and invest in dexterity until shield block rate is achieved. Remaining points can be invested in Strength (enough to wear medium armour by chapter 2, afterwards it's up to player discretion but 110 by the end of Normal should be the target) and Vitality. Once level 18 is reached, Rabies is available and playstyle changes slightly. Alternate Rabies and Feral Rage attacks while the poison runs its course, if possible try and attract as many monsters so that the Rabies contagion can spread freely. Once level 30 is achieved, Fury is available and combat becomes a simple matter of cycling between the three skills until opponents are slain. Nightmare difficulty: More or less the same as Normal difficulty, only monsters are tougher and the character has all of the key skills activated. Ranged monsters like Dark Archers and the like are more dangerous so hiring the Holy Freeze merc as soon as possible will help with crowd control and corpse disposal to some extent. Some of the recommended equipment should start to drop/become available for use during Nightmare so equipment upgrades shouldn't be neglected. For stat allocation invest enough in strength until the character's base strength (and bonus strength) is enough to equip all of the desired equipment. Remaining points go into dexterity to maintain block percentage and vitality for more life. With the new respec reward granted by Akara in all 3 difficulties, any minor mistakes made during level-up can be corrected provided the player backs up the player save file before resetting skill and stat point allocations. Hell difficulty: Monsters get stronger and tougher much faster than compared to Nightmare. In addition the dual-immune monsters will make fairly regular appearances throughout all chapters. Players will either equip mercenaries with sufficient elemental damage weapons to finish the job or have their own equipped to handle the unique monsters. Some of the equipment suggestions I've given have several methods of dealing with physical+poison immune unique monsters. Bosses: Andariel in all difficulties is hard, for normal you won't do enough damage to leech back what she deals to you, for nightmare and hell her poison resistance is so high Rabies does little to no damage. Bring antidote potions and rejuvenation potions along and be prepared to run a lot back to town for healing and potions in normal. Once Crushing Blow and good shields are equipped, Andariel becomes easier to handle. Duriel hits harder than any monster encountered thus far in normal, the holy freeze aura also slows attack speed significantly. Hit and run is the only advice I can give so fast boots are a necessity. By Nightmare and Hell all core skills have been developed and it's a matter of outlasting Duriel with full rejuvenation potions and/or high damage life steal attacks. Mephisto is more dangerous at range than in melee, pretend you're fighting a pumped up Andariel with a weaker poison attack and more elemental attacks. Diablo's red lightning hose always seems to finish off my melee characters if I'm bogged down in melee, fortunately Rabies works well in a hit and run capacity regardless of difficulty. No need to bother with Feral Rage from Nightmare onwards since Diablo becomes immune to leeching. Run up to Baal quickly and keep hitting until he collapses. Full rejuvenation potions are a must to deal with the mana rift. Keep fire and cold resistances high when taking on Baal. The Venom lords in the Chaos Sanctum and Baal's throne are immune to Rabies so keep fire resistances high and stick to Feral Rage and Fury for attacks. Rabies works against the Minions of Destruction so hit and run is a workable strategy. 8. Acknowledgements and Credits Blizzard North for developing the game. Arreat Summit for the item lists and skill trees at a glance. indiablo.de for the various calculators. Various guides on the gamefaqs website for this game. Anyone who bothered reading and found the guide useful. 9. Contact information If readers have any constructive input to give to this guide, send any emails with the heading "Rabies druid guide" to the following email address: snookercue84[ampersand]hotmail[dot]com Replace the words in brackets with the appropriate symbols. Not following the instructions above is a quick delete of the message. I will not update the guide to include duelling information or the realm-only runewords, other guides on gamefaqs and other websites have more than enough info on the runewords available and how best to use them. For readers who think I can't spell, try checking my guide with an English (UK) spell check function before bothering to write to me about the "obvious" spelling mistakes. 10. Version history 1.0: First version completed. 11. Legal Notice This guide may not be reproduced under any circumstances except for personal, private use. It may not be placed on any web site or otherwise distributed publicly without advance written permission. Use of this guide on any other web site not listed or as a part of any public display is strictly prohibited, and a violation of copyright. All trademarks and copyrights contained in this document are owned by their respective trademark and copyright holders. This FAQ is copyrighted by Feng Liangju 2010 www.gamefaqs.com is the only website authorised to display this FAQ.