Javelins are primarily a throwing weapon, but can be used for melee combat as well. In Diablo II there are no magical throwing weapons, and it's very hard to succeed with a javelin in melee. Crushing Blow is mandatory, usually in the form of Goblin Toes, and Lightning Fury or Plague Javelin are used for the majority of the damage.
In the Expansion this should still be the way, but with the bigger damage elite javelins, and Magical/Rare/Set javelins, they will be more viable melee weapons, and of course Crushing Blow is still a helpful addition. Javelins also now have their damage bonus 50/50 Str/Dex, which helps a lot, adding damage from points in Dexterity as well as Strength, and since most javelins require a lot of Dex to equip, that's a natural fit.
There are some differences between D2 and D2X Exceptional Javelins:
D2 Throwing items are always low quality or normal or superior, never magical/rare/set/uniques. In D2X throwing items can be magical, rare, crafted, unique, etc, though there are no Set throwing items.
Throwing items are indestructible when used for melee combat in Diablo II. In the Expansion all throwing items have a listed durability, and when used in melee they lose durability, but at 1/3 the rate of normal weapons.
Like throwing axes/knives, javelins can be used as melee weapons, but they do very little damage that way, and are never a good choice. Their only advantage is that like all throwing items, they have no durability, so can be used indefinitely without needing repair. That one loophole aside, throwing items are made to be thrown. One major penalty to javelins is that they are non-magical and can not be socketed either. The only variety in them comes from cracked and superior javelins, which are slightly better and slightly worse than normal, respectively. There are no unique or item set javelins.
The Amazon can execute all ten of her Spear and Javelin Skill Tab skills with a javelin, and can use the throwing skills at point blank range. The Barbarian has a Throwing Mastery, and also various melee weapon masteries, but these do not "stack". Spear Mastery does not apply when throwing the item, whether he has Throwing Mastery or not. Spear Mastery will work however, when using a javelin for melee combat.
The Barbarian's Weapon and Throwing Masteries do not stack. So when using a javelin for melee his Spear Mastery is in effect, but if he throws it Throwing Mastery can help. Never both at once. The Amazon also has a number of passive skills that boost her throwing attacks substantially, including Critical Strike, Pierce, and Penetrate.
- Damage Bonus: This determines how you multiply the item damage by your stats to reach the actual damage. Javelins in Diablo II are 100 Str, like most other melee weapons. Add 1% of the weapon damage to your total damage per point in Str. In the Expansion however they are all 50/50 Str/Dex, so add .5% weapon damage in bonus damage. This is useful since most javelins require much more Dex than Str to equip.
- Item Level: Used in many in-game calculations. Monsters must be of this level to drop the item, and it factors in when you get to gamble for this item type as well. Check Mlvls on Darkness.
- Weapon Speed: A relative comparison to other weapons of the same type. 0 is the base -10, -20, etc is faster, 10, 20, etc is slower, always in increments of 10. Each 10 is equivalent to an SIAS item. Characters are abbreviated to their first letter, with Am = Amazon and As = Assassin.
- Melee Range: Goes from 1 (least) to 5 (most), and is identical for all weapon types. I.E. a 3 sword = a 3 spear = a 3 hammer. All dagger-class weapons have one range, same as most melee weapons.
- Stack Size: Applies only to throwing weapons. Min = the smallest stack a monster can drop. Max = the largest a stack can possibly be. Throwing weapons stack only on others of their exact same type and mods, if magical.
- No throwing weapons are socketable in D2 or D2X.
- All characters throw at the same rate, and this speed is not affected by increased attack speed modifiers. Those only effect melee attack rates.