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Everything you could ever want to know about using the Lightning skill in Diablo I and Hellfire. Original guide by Moriah in 1997, archived in this wiki with some grammar and formatting fixes in February 2009.
...so how does LIGHTNING really work?
Glad you ask, my friend, because here is the answer.
This discussion will deal only with Diablo, is only tested in multi player and is designed to give people a better understanding of the use of the Lightning spell during gameplay.
What exactly is Lightning?
Lightning belongs to the Lightning based spells, which also include Charged Bolt, Chain Lightning and Nova. Lightning is a utility spell for all classes of all levels for a variety of situations. All dungeon levels up to and including level 15 have monster types which are susceptible to Lightning at all the difficulty settings. According to Jarulf's Guide v1.20 Lightning's damage unfolds as:
- Min. Damage: 2
- Max. Damage: 2 + clvl
- Length of bolts: 4 + [slvl/3] (uncertain)
The mana costs of casting Lightning start at 10 for a lvl 1 spell and decreases by 1 mana per spell level down to a minimum of 6 mana at spell level 5. The damage is done on a continuous basis, as long as a monster or player is subjected to a stream of Lightning, it or s/he will lose hit points continuously. Please note that Lightning damage is based on a character's own level and not on the character's Lightning spell level. Thus a level 1 Lightning from a level 5 character will only do a fraction of the damage compared to a level 1 Lightning from a level 45 character. however, the level 5 character can increase his/her Lightning power simply by gaining Lightning spell levels to create longer streams of Lightning for more damage potential.
- Where can you find Lightning, and in what form?
Generally books of Lightning will start to appear towards the end of the Church levels and are abundant in the Catacombs as well. The requirement for a level 6 Lightning spell is 46 magic, within the natural limit for Warriors, so Warriors and Rogues will have little problem raising their Lightning spell levels to a very usable level. This is in contrast to Charged Bolt which needs a high magic attribute to be used effectively. Higher levels of the Lightning spell can easily be attained through the use of Sorcery and Wizardry items as well as hitting Enchanted Shrines (ignoring the remote possibility that Lightning will decrease every time an Enchanted Shrine is hit). Adria the Witch will sell books of Lightning for 3000 gold pieces once a character has leveled up to 4. The spell can also be found on staves with a minimum of 20 magic, having between 20 and 60 charges inclusive and on scrolls without any requirements.
Who uses Lightning?
All the classes will benefit from the proper use of Lightning. It is generously used by most characters until they learn the more powerful Chain Lightning spell. For Sorcerors, Lightning usually takes over from Charged Bolt for its faster kill rate, its immediate effectiveness (Charged Bolt may take a few level raises before it delivers a good punch) and for Warriors and Rogues it is usually the first of the Lightning based spells they use.
What monsters do you use Lightning on?
All monsters in the Church are susceptible to Lightning, as are all Catacomb monsters except Familiars. In the Caves, only the Storm Demon types and Death Wings are immune and in Hell, its the Blood Knights, Advocates and Cabalists. There are a handful of monsters which are immune to Lightning on Hell difficulty, yet merely resistant on Normal and Nightmare modes (not listed here, but can be found in Jarulf's Guide) Hell Spawns are immune to Lightning on Normal and Nightmare, yet are susceptible to Lightning on Hell difficulty. You can hit other players with Lightning and Golems, even your own Golem, but you cannot be hurt by your own Lightning.
How does Lightning deploy itself?
As far as I know, it strings together a set of bolts which make up a Stream. The Length of the stream depends on the spell level of the caster with casts from staves and scrolls at the level of the spellbook entry, but always a minimum of spell level (slvl) 1. Lightning travels in a straight line until it hits a solid surface. These solid surfaces include walls, pillars (big ones, but not small ones) and stairs. Lightning will travel right through monsters and players, sarcophagi, chests, barrels, skeleton tomes, impaled bodies, gratings (both perpendicular and parallel), cauldrons and will even travel and kill monsters and players offscreen.
What tactics do you use with Lightning?=
For a simple spell, the use can still be very varied. Lightning does most damage when the monsters are constantly exposed to the stream or streams, so try to line up with the monsters as much as possible, even catching a few lined up in a row. This can be done most easily with Stone Curse, but using walls, corridors and doorways is a good ploy too. If the monsters can't be lined up along the tiles, try to get them at a 45 degree angle. This too will ensure maximum exposure to the Lightning stream(s) and thus maximum damage.
When casting Lightning on several monsters which are hitting you, cast 1 or 2 game-tiles *behind* the monster you want. Casting close-in in a crowded area may result in a stream of Lightning being sent to the wrong monster, with potentially disastrous results. Consider a Lava Maw and a Storm Demon trying to claw away at you at the same time. The Lava Maw can be killed by Lightning, the Storm Demon can't. Casting behind the Lava Maw will ensure the stream goes through the Lava Maw and not be diverted through the Storm Demon by the Diablo Game Engine.
=There are 4 main tactical applications when using Lightning
Mainly used by Warriors and Rogues to kill ranged attackers, this is an effective ploy to get skeleton and goat archers as well as succubi with good efficiency.
2. Kill off screen.
Use this technique when you suspect a bunch of hard-to-get monsters in a certain corner of the level. This can be used successfully on Spitters and Goatarchers in the Catacombs and the Caves, as well as others you may care to experiment on. But please note that this is a mana intensive use of Lightning.
Very much like the offscreen killing technique, but mainly performed on monsters actually coming at you (magma demons, melee goaties and skeletons) or circling in a confined space (ranged goaties, balrogs and, to a degree, some witch types). This is more mana intensive than single casts, so a supply of mana potions is recommended as well as reasonably high mana point attribute for the character using this technique. It is great for those in co-op games who don't want to hurt their playing partners and don't want to limit the spell-casting ability of others. The game allows a maximum number of active spells at any one time and Chain Lightning, if used instead of Lightning, will eat up a lot of the available spell "slots" the game has. This technique can simulate a small arc of Chain Lightning with less damage, but with a lot more control and partner-friendliness.
The Empty-All-Mana approach can be used effectively against melee monsters who close in on you like Steel Lords. These are resistant to Lightning and have many hit points and thus need a lot of Lightning damage before they go down. Be sure to have plenty of Mana Potions on your belt to use as required. This can be used effectively by Warriors who don't have too much mana, but do use a weapon "of Vampires" to top up their mana at a steady rate. Frequently these Warriors end up with more mana they can use, even casting Heal and Heal Other on themselves and their playing companions, so using this extra mana in other spells is a good excuse to weaken Steel Lords and other hard-to-kill monsters like Fire Drakes, then recoup the mana in melee combat.
Some caveats when using Lightning.
You may be aiming at a Lightning vulnerable monster and activate more Lightning sensitive monsters behind the first one. This may cause more monsters coming at you than you intended. An example here would be aiming at Soul Burners in Normal or Nightmare Hell and waking up a tribe of Balrogs. The Soul Burners are relatively easy to dispose of with Lightning, the Balrogs are not. Sometimes you have aimed a stream at a monster at an angle and it comes towards you in a zigzag fashion. As stated before, the monsters will only take reduced damage from the Lightning as they weave in and out of the Lightning streams. Try to get the monsters in a straight line, either along the tiles horizontally and vertically or else diagonally. Use the Lightning spell in combination with other tactics. A new character with a level 2 Lightning is unwise to rely on Lightning when tackling the Horror archers surrounding the Skeleton King. Some form of Fire is much more effective against Horrors. Use Lightning against the Burning Undead skeletons instead.
Good luck with your games and may you enjoy some electrifying magic :*)
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