D1 Differences

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This article explains the major differences in game play and technical details between Diablo II and Diablo I. It's written for the player who has gone through Diablo II first and wants to try out the predecessor

Diablo I is quite similar to Diablo II, and will feel like a version of the same game to any player who tries it out. The isometric view is the same, the interface is similar, with the red/health and blue/mana bulbs, a belt for potions, icons that map skills to the left and right mouse buttons, a similar paper doll inventory, a character window, and so forth. D2 players will have no trouble picking up the gameplay nuances, interacting with NPCs, moving around the screen, and so forth.

This article is focused on Diablo I, though it includes some mentions of Hellfire, Diablo's expansion pack. Hellfire added 3 new characters, some new types of minor items (oils and runes), eight additional levels, and various conveniences such as fast walk in town. See the Hellfire page for more information about the expansion additions.

Diablo I Basics[edit]

Diablo I is well worth trying; it's a smaller game created by a much smaller design team, but it's very polished and well-balanced, and has a much more atmospheric and creepy tone. There isn't as much to do in Diablo I: the character choices, item variety, play styles, dungeons, and monster types are much more limited, but what's there is very well-presented, and the loot system and addictiveness are just as potent as they were in the sequel. Diablo II added very little to the basic game; it just expanded on features, and while most players feel it was an improvement, there are still Diablo I loyalists willing to argue the point.

Diablo is highly replayable thanks to its randomly generated levels, with every map that the player encounters being unique compared to the last. This randomness extends to the monster population as well, though they are generated from a group appropriate for that level. In addition, in Single Player mode there are only three core missions as the rest of them are drawn from several pools, making it impossible to complete every quest in one setting. Either way, only the last two quests are compulsory (although it is recommended to complete the voluntary missions to gain experience and items, and to learn more of the backstory). Given this arrangement, no two playthroughs of the game are ever exactly alike. By contrast, Diablo II is much more linear even though many of its maps are randomly generated as well (only noticeable in the wilderness areas), as the player will encounter the same levels and quests (many of which are compulsory) upon each playthrough.


The biggest difference a new player notices, going from D2 to D1, is the pacing. Diablo feels very slow, especially as your character walks around Tristram, and one of the best innovations added in Hellfire was the ability to doubletime jog in town. Thats not an option in Diablo, so players just have to accept it and get used to it. Fortunately, Tristram is rather small, and the slow walking speed isn't noticeable in the dungeons (aside from when you must move through a long, already cleared out section). Also, all characters can learn the Teleport skill, and while this cannot be cast in town (except in some mods), it enables very rapid movement around the dungeons, all of which are much smaller (though more monster-packed) than any of the dungeons in Diablo II.

Movement and Physics[edit]

Another big change between the games is that everything in Diablo is laid out on a rigid X/Y axis. The game world can be thought of as a large sheet of graph paper, and every item, character, and monster can only take up one square. This is evident when you drop items, since 8 will surround you, and the 9th will fall where you are standing, and it's impossible to drop any more. Only 8 monsters can fit around a character, and if you put yourself into a corner only 3 can get into range. This makes using the terrain in the dungeons a major part of the game's strategy.

Players and monsters will always stand exactly in a square when they finish their movement. It's impossible to attack or cast a spell while moving between two squares. This can be used to your advantage, since monsters that are hit while moving between two squares will be knocked back to the last one they were standing in. Thus if a monster is trying to advance on you and you keep hitting it before it can move entirely into the next square, it will be repeatedly pushed back.

Characters using ranged attacks are advised to fire down the straight lines, especially at monsters that advance along them, such as Knights or Skeletons. Monsters (and characters) are very hard to hit with a projectile when targeting them diagonally. If a group of enemies is coming in, shoot in a straight line, move over a step, shoot down that line, etc. By the same token, characters attacking arrow or spell-firing enemies should move in a zig zag pattern to greatly reduce the number of hits they will take on their way in.


There is no stash in Diablo. When you create a new game, only the items your character is wearing or carrying go with them. Items can be left lying on the ground during games, and in fact that's usually what players do, since the inventory needs to be cleared out to stock up on potions. Just don't forget to pick all of your stuff up before you quit the game.


Diablo has only three character classes, each of which is designed to be played in their own unique, iconic way. The Warrior is a melee battler, best suited to using a sword/shield, with some magic for support. The Rogue is the archer, deadly and masterful with the bow, but capable of using magic quite effectively as well. The Sorcerer is a pure mage; slow and weak with weapons, he must use spells to kill, and while getting started with a Sorcerer can be a challenge, at high levels he is by far the fastest killing character.

Character Abilities[edit]

As in Diablo 2, characters are good at different things. Warriors swing melee weapons much more quickly than Sorcerers, who cast spells more quickly than Warriors, while Rogues leave them both in the dust at bow firing speed. The differences are extensive and more or less what you'd expect when it comes to hit recovery time, blocking speed, spell casting speed, and so forth.

The three classes are different, but not balanced. Since high level spells are the most effective weapons in Diablo I, Sorcerers are by far the most powerful/fast characters on most dungeons at higher levels. Rogues are the second fastest, since they can use magic much more effectively than Warriors.

Players who prefer fire or lightning Sorceresses in Diablo 2 will find many of these spells in Diablo 1. The Sorcerer is the only Diablo 1 class to be able to play like the D2 Sorceress, since only he has sufficient mana to regularly use Mana Shield, Teleport, Fireball, Flamewall, and Chain Lightning late game. Bone Spirit in D1 works similar to the Sorceress spell Static Field in D2, as both take off a fixed percentage of an enemy's health making it useful for fully-healed monsters.

The Rogue is somewhat like the Amazon "Bowazon" subclass. While the Amazon can shoot fire-enchanted arrows (Fire Arrow and Immolation Arrow), the Rogue is able to supplement her arrows with the occasional Firebolt and Fireball. Whereas the Amazon has to use spears and javelins (weapon types found in D2 but not D1) to make use of lightning elemental damage skills, Rogue can inflict this damage directly by casting lighting spells.

The Warrior has no multi-hit nor multi-target skills like the Barbarian's Whirlwind or Paladin's Zeal. However, a Warrior can use the spell Teleport for "Telekilling" in a similar manner to a Barbarian using Leap or Leap Attack to reach those pesky monsters that are prone to running away. The Warrior can also use Holy Bolt as an offensive spell against the Undead like the Paladin. The Warrior may also make use of Stone Curse followed by a Fireball to take out a group of enemies around his target.

In D1 the only minion available to the character is the Golem, so it is much more important for the player (especially the Warrior who lacks crowd control skills) to hug walls carefully and engage monsters piecemeal in order to avoid being surrounded. By contrast D2 introduced hirelings/mercenaries, while certain classes (Amazon, Druid, Necromancer) can summon minions to fight on the character's behalf, so being swarmed by monsters is less of a problem.

Skills and Spellbooks[edit]

While the Diablo characters are very different in their design, they have a great deal of overlap as well. There are no unique skills/spells in Diablo, and other than one "ability" each character can use inherently. Magic exists in the game, but it comes from spells which all characters can access, either from scrolls, charges on staffs, or by learning the spell by reading a Spellbook. Spells increase in power and decrease in mana cost with each book that your character reads, and they are hard capped at level 15.

All characters can read all the same spellbooks, though since there are magic requirements to read them, Rogues and especially Warriors need special +magic equipment to learn higher level spells, and to read higher levels in the same spells. D1 spellbooks have no skill trees of any type (no spell prerequisites nor level requirements), although certain spells such as Nova or Apocalypse do not have a spellbook and instead are only available on staves or scrolls. However the type and frequency of spellbooks available to the player are generated at random which is often to the player's frustration, a player searching for a particular spell that they wish to level up will end up making several different trips to Adria's shop until the desired spellbook comes up for sale, if that spellbook is not found in the dungeon (usually a tomb or bookshelf). In D2 the skills/spells for that particular class are immediately available to level up, as soon as a player reaches a certain level and as long as they have the prerequisite skill(s); although it is generally recommended that players spend their skill points wisely which typically means focusing on only a few core skills.


The four attributes are very similar in name and function in D1 and D2; strength, dexterity, and vitality are identical, and the fourth is the same in all but name, Magic vs. Energy. The attributes have about the same purpose in each game, and just as in D2, different characters gain different benefits from points in each attribute. Sorcerers get more mana per magic point, Warriors get more life from each vitality point, etc.

A big change from D2 is the fact that all attributes are hard capped in D1. Diablo characters get 5 attribute points per level up to spend as they see fit, but all the attributes have preset maximum values, at which point they turn gold and can only be boosted further by equipment. For instance, all Warriors max out at 250 strength, 50 magic, 60 dexterity, and 100 vitality. In addition to the five points per level up, elixirs may be found or purchased that add one to a given attribute. It's necessary to consume a couple hundred elixirs to max out the overall stats.

The maximum values for each character's attributes are very different, providing strengths and limitations to each. Warriors max out at 60 dexterity, and therefore need equipment to obtain a sufficient to/hit. Rogues only get 55 strength, so must specialize their equipment to wear the heaviest (90 str req) plate mail. And so forth. See the individual character pages for more details.

Life and Mana[edit]

Typical inventory for a Sorcerer heading down into the dungeons.

There is no life or mana regeneration in Diablo, and life and mana leech are very rare properties, and only work with melee weapons. As a result the game is a bit of a potion fest, with the high level play style (especially for Sorcerers) punctuated by regular trips to Adria the Witch, where the entire inventory is filled with mana potions. Pepin the healer sells healing potions, but most life for Rogues and Warriors comes from the Healing skill. Sorcerers have very low hit points and very high mana, so they use the very effective (overpowered) Mana Shield 100% of the time.


Death in Diablo comes to everyone, sooner or later. It's a non-factor in single player. When you die in SP you can only start a new game, or load from your last save point. There is no "restart in town" option. It's wise to save often in single player, since few things are more annoying than dying after a long play session only to realize you'll have to repeat all those areas since you hadn't saved for an hour.

When you die in a multiplayer game, your corpse "pops" and everything your character had equipped falls to the ground. This makes recovering your loot after death a real challenge, one that's compounded by the smaller dungeons, more persistent monsters, and the lack of a running speed. On the bright side, telekinesis can pick up anything you target it on, and all characters can learn the teleport spell. Rogues and Warriors are advised to carry (at least) a spare weapon they can leave in town, since it's usually necessary to kill a few monsters to get your stuff back.


There are only three types of resistances in Diablo I: fire, lightning, and magic. All direct damage spells fit into one of these categories, with one exception, Apocalypse, which deals a special type of damage that can not be resisted and that nothing is immune to. Players can raise their resistances to 75% at most. They max out there, and cannot be raised any higher by any equipment. Many spells can be blocked by characters who are standing still and equipped with a shield, though this isn't always desired (low damage spells like Charged Bolt can cause you to block and interrupt your attack animation).

Monsters are resistant and immune to the three types of magic as well. All monsters with a resistance have 75% to it, without exception. Monsters that are immune to a type of magic are totally immune to it; fire immune monsters won't be touched by flame spells, or even notice them. Many monsters are double immune, and a few types are "triple immune" and cannot be hurt by any type of spell except for Apocalypse. No monsters in Diablo have a resistance or immunity to physical damage though, so immunities and resistances are of little concern to most Warriors and Rogues. Sorcerers must join them in bashing sometimes, since they can only use Stone Curse and their weapon (and perhaps a Golem) to kill triple immunes.


Items are more limited in Diablo. Characters wear only body armor, helms, two rings, an amulet, and perhaps a shield. There are no gloves, boots, or belts. Weapons are divided between axes (all two-handed), swords, maces, staffs, and bows. Bows come with unlimited arrows, but they have durability just like other weapons. There is no item switch option, so if you want to change around your equipment, it requires opening up the inventory window and clicking and dragging. Gold is a physical item as well, and it takes up room in the inventory; 5000 per inventory spot is the limit, which means a character can only hold up to 200,000 gold.

There are no socketed items, runes, jewels, or charms, and no Horadric Cube or any sort of item conversion or crafting recipes. There are no rare or set items in Diablo, and no exceptional or elite types either. You can find the same quality of items on normal as on hell, and item finding works virtually the same in the deepest levels of normal difficulty as it does in nightmare or hell.

Item durability is hardcore in Diablo -- items that drop to 0 durability are destroyed in the process. No taking them back to town to repair; if they hit zero, they vanish forever. It's not wise to press on with a battle once the golden "low durability" icon appears for your weapon, and if it goes red, stop fighting right that second. The pain of breaking your favorite weapon trying to kill one last monster is one of the true heartbreaks in Diablo.

Items in Diablo can be equipped without being identified, though you will not gain the benefits of the item. There are cursed items in Diablo and Hellfire, prefixes and suffixes that lower your attributes or damage. (Some variants, such as the Beyond Naked Mages, wear these items exclusively). To identify items take them to Deckard Cain. He charges 100 per identify, and while there are identify scrolls to be found and purchased, there are no tomes to put them in, making it impractical to carry enough to ID everything in the dungeon. (Bards can Identify as their inherent ability.)

Finding items that have dropped on the ground can be a challenge. Hellfire added the Search skill, but in Diablo you have to find it with your eyeballs, or by moving your mouse around and looking for the hover description to pop up. Rogues and Sorcerers are often tormented by the "ding" of a ring or amulet dropping off the screen, since they know how much trouble they'll have finding it.

PvP and Friendly Fire[edit]

There is a hostile button in Diablo, but the only difference it makes is allowing you to select the other player as a target. The button is almost irrelevant, since it's trivially easy to swing, shoot, or cast in the direction of another player, and since there is unlimited friendly fire in Diablo and Hellfire, they're dead meat whether you've gone hostile or not.

Playing multiplayer Diablo requires skill to avoid killing other players. Warriors can play in close proximity without accidentally chopping other players, but Rogues have a lot of trouble not hitting other players (usually when they walk into the Rogue's firing line), and Sorcerers have a hard time playing on the same level, much less the same screen, as other players. It's surpassingly easy to kill a friend with a stray Fireball or Chain Lightning, even if they're well out of visual range. When the inevitable happens, clear the area as quickly as you can and use a resurrection scroll or else cast a safe Town Portal (if they've restarted in town) near the pile of items your dead friend popped.

Dungeon Elements[edit]

The world of Diablo is much smaller than that of Diablo II. The only town is Tristram, beneath which there are 16 dungeon levels grouped into four sets of four levels each. Going down, they are referred to as the Church (or Cathedral), the Catacombs (Cats), the Caves, and Hell. The uppermost level of each new dungeon section has a stairway up to town, and in multiplayer games it's possible for characters of a sufficient level to descend directly to level 5, 9, or 13.


Shrines in Diablo play a much more important role than they do in D2. Shrines may have positive or negative effects, and some of the negative ones are permanent. It's essential that you view a list of shrines and note (write down) which ones you absolutely do not want to touch. It's recommended that players never hit a Goat Shrine or Cauldron, since those create a random shrine effect which could permanently damage your character.

Single vs Multi-Player[edit]

There are very few differences between playing single-player or multi-player Diablo II. This is not the case in Diablo I. Most obviously, single player Diablo characters are truly single player. They cannot play in any sort of MP game. Single player games are saved exactly as they are; all the monsters, level layouts, items on the ground, etc, are preserved exactly. Be sure you save frequently, since if you didn't you will have to load from the last save point, and it's no fun to have to clear a level for the second time since you forgot to save for the past hour. Diablo does not support nightmare or hell difficulties for single player characters (Hellfire does). There is a work around possible in Diablo, though. If you play a multiplayer game, then exit it and start a single player game, the difficulty of the SP game will be the same as the MP game played beforehand.

Multiplayer Diablo I is equivalent to singleplayer Diablo II. Characters are saved on your computer and can be played solo or with friends in a TCP/IP or LAN game. There are no saved games; just your character's state and the equipment they're using and carrying is saved. There are only 4 quests in multiplayer Diablo I, and they occur in every game. Multiplayer is also much harder on Nightmare and Hell, where the monsters have about double the hit points they do in single player. You must be level 20 to create a nightmare game and level 30 to create a hell game.

Another major difference between SP and MP Diablo and Hellfire is level up speed. Multiplayer monsters have more hit points, and are worth far less experience. Characters gain no more than 200 exp/Clvl in MP Diablo or Hellfire (up to 10,000 at level 50), while there is no cap in SP, and each monster in hell can be worth 100,000 and more. A SP character can reach level 44 or 45 in the time it takes to get to level 29 or 30 in multiplayer, and getting an MP character over level 40 requires many dozens more games than it does in singleplayer.


Diablo was the game that Battle.net was launched to support, and you may still play the game online via Blizzard's service. Diablo also supports modem-to-modem, serial port, and LAN via IPX (NOT TCP/IP!) play, and though these generally provide lower latency than the Battle.net servers, they are much more difficult to configure properly. There is no security on Diablo games or characters, and it's recommended that you back up your character files before playing online with anyone you don't know, since character corrupting hacks abound.


Monsters are fairly similar between the games. There are no champions or random bosses in Diablo, but there are a fair number of superuniques, most of whom spawn with minions who are stronger than regular monsters of their type. They do not gain extra random abilities on Nightmare and Hell.

Monsters display kill counters in Diablo, and each time you bag one of a given type, the number of killed goes up. At 15 kills you get some information on the monster's resistances, and at 30 kills you are shown the full resistances and immunities.

One special monster to note in Diablo: The Black Death is a bright yellow zombie found on levels 3-5. You will permanently lose one of your hit points each time they strike you, and should be avoided at all cost. Do not fight them melee, if you can help it, and do not let them hit you or that's a hit point you will never get back.

Overall most Diablo I monsters were of demonic or undead origin likely due to the "imported" from the Burning Hells thanks to the Lord of Terror's influence underground, mostly being influenced by European Middle Ages folklore. This is in contrast to Diablo II, where a significant number of monsters were natural animals of the outdoors who had been corrupted by the Dark Wanderer's presence, with Diablo II moving beyond Diablo I's medieval period to find inspiration from other cultures like Middle East (or North Africa) and Mayans of Central American jungles. When comparing monsters common to both games, Diablo II bat demons have a much more feral appearance than Diablo I Winged Fiends.

  • See the Diablo Monsters page for a general overview of monsters in Diablo. This wiki also holds pages listing the stats for every monster and boss monster in the game.

Further Resources[edit]

  • Freshman Diablo - a set of guides aimed at helping new players learn to play the classes effectively, defeating tough bosses, etc.
  • Jarulf's Guide - Covers Diablo (and the Hellfire expansion) in extreme detail. Formulas, item prefixes/suffixes, monster lists, bugs, and more.


This article was adapted from Diablo for Diablo II Players, by Greg Kennedy.