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Skills refers to the Active Skills, the class-specific character abilities in Diablo III. There are around 25 skills per class, (down from 30+ in earlier versions[1] of the game) and they are wildly-varied, ranging from physical strikes to spell attacks to buffs, debuffs, mind control abilities, and many more.

Diablo III divides skills into Active and Passive. The skills selected to use are all Active, and these are attacks, debuffs, auras and other such abilities that only have an effect while they are being actively used. Passive skills (initially called traits) are limited to 3 per character, and they remain in effect indefinitely once they are enabled. (Though it may take special circumstances to trigger their effect, such as using a ranged attack.) There are dozens of passive skills per class, they vary widely between the classes, and add bonuses such as +damage to ranged attacks, faster movement speed, increased chance of critical strike, faster resource regeneration, improved healing, and many more.

In Diablo III, skills are seldom used in their basic form, since the five types of runestones greatly modify every skill, always in beneficial fashion. There is thus no good reason to ever use the base skill once a runestone is available. (Some players dislike this design, but the developers have said that at least one runestone in each skill will not modify the basic function, and will only add damage or some other improvement that doesn't change the basic function.)

Essential Skill Links[edit | edit source]

Active Skills[edit | edit source]

This skill system has changed as often as any game feature during development, but seems at least semi-finalized as of January 2012. (See the archived skills page for details about the numerous earlier skill systems, many of which varied wildly from the final form.)

Characters now have six active skill slots, which are unlocked at Clvl 1, 2, 6, 12, 18, and 24. Active skills become available to assign to these slots regularly, one every level or every other level, until the highest level skills are unlocked at around Clvl 29 (the number of skills and max level varies slightly from class to class). There are no skill points in Diablo III; skills are either selected or not; on or off.

With the current system, a new character starts off wit one skill that they can not change or switch out, since only one skill is available at that level. Very quickly, as soon as the character reaches Clvl 2, another two skills are enabled, and a second active skill slot is unlocked. This gives the player a choice of three skills, two of which can be usable at a time. For example, a Wizard starts off with Magic Missile, and no other skills available. At level 2, a second active skill slot comes online, and the skills Frost Nova and Ice Armor are enabled. Either of those can then be assigned to the second slot, or both can be used if one is swapped in for Magic Missiles.

Additional active skill slots come in at level 6, 12, 18, and 24, with new skills available every level or two until about Clvl 29. At that point each class has about 24 active skills, of which six can be active at once.

View the images below to see a character at level 1, level 2 with the second active skill slot unlocked, and level 13, with 4 active skills slots, to see this progression.

  • The icons of skills that are available but not currently active are bright and colorful.
  • The icons of skills that are not yet available (due to a character not being high enough level) are dimmed out.
  • The icons of skills that are currently selected have a small silver border around them, for ease of identification.

Passive Skills[edit | edit source]

Passive skills for a Witch Doctor, Jan 2012.

The Passive Skill system has undergone numerous changes as well, but it also seems mostly finalized as of January 2012, during the beta test.

In the current system, players can choose from 3 passive skills, with their passive skill slots becoming available at level 10, 20, and 30. Switching these in and out works much as it does with active skills, except that passive skills are first available at Clvl 10, when 2 of them are enabled. Additional passive skills come online every level or two thereafter, until each class has around 15 passive skills to choose by level 30.

You can see full lists of all passive skills on the appropriate class skill pages.

Respecs[edit | edit source]

Respecs are readily-available in Diablo III, and players are encouraged to experiment with a wide variety of skills, as well as swapping them around between situations. This system has undergone much change during development, and remains in flux, with the final system of skills and runestones not yet finalized.

While the developers initially shrugged off player complaints that total freespecs were an exploit that would prevent players from getting any sense of "ownership" or "identity" to their characters, the skills system during the beta has gradually changed to limit respecs, first by the Nephalem Altar, then with a 30 second cooldown on using or changing any skill slot after it's been swapped.

Skill Points[edit | edit source]

Skill points were removed from the game during development. The developers felt that skill points were a max skill cap by another definition, since most skills had to be maxed out to retain high utility. Skill points also proved difficult to balance, as additional points in some skills were of minimal importance, while they were essential in combat/damage skills.

Without skill points players can experiment by regularly swapping skills (respec) in and out, low level skills can scale up to remain useful long term, and equipment becomes much more important, as skill damage comes largely from equipment bonuses such as +attributes.

Skill Requirements?[edit | edit source]

Cooldown on skill switching, Beta v10.

Diablo III has no skill requirements or prerequisites, other than minimum Clvls. Skills are no longer arranged in trees or grouped by tiers, and a new skill becomes available nearly every level up until Clvl 29 or 30. (The numbers vary between the classes.)

This system, along with respecs and several other changes, is designed to let players freely experiment with skills and different builds.

There are requirements on how many skills can be used at once. Characters start out with one skill, and unlock additional Active Skill Slots at Clvl 2, 6, 12, 18, and 24. Passive Skill Slots are enabled at Clvl 10, 20, and 30.

Resource Costs and Cooldowns[edit | edit source]

Skills in Diablo III vary greatly in their resource costs. Some low level skills and signature skills have a low or even zero cost to cast, thus allowing players to spam them in all circumstances. More powerful skills have higher resource costs, to make using them more of a strategic choice. The highest level skills have very high resource costs, and/or cooldowns, forcing players to wait considerable times (up to 120 seconds for the highest level skills[1]) between uses.

The point in resource costs and cooldowns is to give Diablo III's skills greater variety in effect and usage.[2] In Diablo II there were very minimal cooldowns and resources costs became irrelevant to high level characters with lots of leech, regeneration, or potions. As a result, every player could use their best skills constantly, without delay, and thus there was no reason to use lower level skills at all.

Diablo III has been designed to encourage a wider mixture of skill types, with spammable skills mixed in with big damage/big delay skills, and others that fall inbetween. Lower level skills are meant to remain useful as their damage and effectiveness scales up with the character level.

  • See the cooldowns article for more detail, Blue quotes, and specific skill examples.

How Many Skills At Once?[edit | edit source]

Only 6 skills can be active at once, with the number available increasing as a character levels up. Characters start out with one skill and gain an additional active skill slots at Clvl 2, 6, 12, 18, and 24.

The maximum number of skills changed repeatedly during development. The first word that there would be any skill limit at all came in September, 2010. [2]

You can spend into seven skills at a time, total. These are active skills and don’t include passives. --Diablo

This was at a time when skills were arranged in trees with tiers, which were arranged at Clvl 1, 2, 6, 10, 14, 20, and 26. Characters could activate multiple skills from any tier -- not just one from each tier -- and gained an additional skill point every level up.

The final game system bears almost no resemblance to that early design.

Skill Tooltips[edit | edit source]

Simplified tool tips.

Skill tooltips were changed to be short and lacking in details (such as numbers) during late game development. Players reacted poorly to this change, but the developers insisted it was for the best and would be more accessible to new players. Slightly more detailed skill information (showing damage types, some functions, numbers, etc) can be viewed by hovering on a skill while holding down the Control key.

An side-by-side example can be seen to the right.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Jay Wilson Interview @ - IncGamers, October 2009
  2. @Diablo - IncGamers, September 2010