Diablo went down! I can hardly believe it, especially since I started the fight with only 3 potions (full rejuves) and I did not even need to drink the last one! I was sure I was only going to make a valiant effort in a futile fight and then go on to play a new Ironman character. Here are my SP Ironman rules: - Hardcore, so no reloading if I die. Loading is only done to continue where I left off last session. - Town interaction may only be done before entering the dungeon. The exception is that I may give the Staff of Lazarus to Cain so I can progress with the game. - Using town as storage area and as a travelling hub is fine, as long is the townspeople are not involved. - Diablo is to be killed last. Every other monster must be dead and all barrels and chests that I have found must be looted before taking on the Dark Lord. - If Diablo dies, the game is to be saved as the blood splutters. Whatever the character carries at that stage is transferred to the next difficulty. - In the lucky event that I reach another difficulty, town interaction may be done freely before taking on the next dungeon. The only limitation is that a maximum of 16 potions may be purchased (2 full belts). The Axeman variant has some additional rules: - Must sell the starter sword, club and buckler. - May never use a bow, club, sword or shield. - While not technically forbidden, fighting with a staff is discouraged but less so in the following situations: 1. if I find a staff before I find my first axe 2. if fighting with the staff makes a lot of sense in combo with the magic charges on it (e.g. Fire Wall or Stone Curse charges). Axl had a good start, found his first axe on level 1 and drew the King Leoric quest and therefore got the Undead Crown. He used a Holy Bolt staff to kill Leo (and a whole lot of Black Death on later levels). Did not get the Valor quest. Used an armor 17 Studded Leather for quite some time. IDed an armor 27 Scale Mail on DL9 and it turned out to be of Absorption (-3 damage from enemies); sort of a poor man's Valor. Used a magical Large Axe (not IDed) in most of Catacombs. After seeing the Chamber of Bone loot, I decided to ID a Broad Axe: Blue (12%) of Zest (+7 VIT). This was his weapon for a long time. This game was generous with early spellbooks but very much not so with late ones. Got a total of 7 Healing, 3 Firebolt, 3 Holy Bolt and 1 Fire Wall. That was pretty much it for useful spells. Axl eventually ended up with investment up to 33 Magic (so he could use Stone Curse scrolls without any item help). This was a pretty good identifying game, with a total of 8-10 scrolls AND a Glimmering Shrine on level 6. In hindsight, I used that shrine and some of the scrolls way too early so I still ended up with potentially awesome loot I could not ID in the late game. I seem to never learn to be more conservative, but it's SO damn tempting at the time... First ring I identified gave +15 DEX and the second was one 'of Harmony'. The Harmony ring was later replaced by a Gold ring, so Axl was pretty good with the to-hit number in the late game. Not a single random amulet dropped! Just the Optic from the quest. It was not IDed until I used the Glimmering Shrine, and not used until the Veil of Steel was obtained (the +light makes more enemies see you - this is cancelled by the darkness "bonus" of the Veil). Great luck with Purifying Springs both on level 4 and level 7 but it was a long walk from town to either of them. Reaching either of them from the mausoleum short cut involved passing through a really long, silly corridor on level 5 (and going through levels 1-3 was even longer). The caves shortcut was not good either, because that involved going a very lengthy way between opposite ends of both levels 8 och 7. I still took the long walk every time I was about to enter a new dungeon level and I was low on life/mana. Level 10 was really tough with Lava Lords and Storm Riders. Two bosses - The Flayer and Blackstorm. I managed to fool Blackstorm's pack by going to the Anvil peninsula and I could burn the whole pack except two minions with a few Fire Wall staff charges from there. Nice! I found two Healing staves, with something like 17 and 35 charges, respectively. These allowed me to go through the entire Caves and level 13 with very little potion use. I spent a few level-ups' worth of stat points to Vitality to give me more margin for error and nastiness in tough fights. Going without a shield means that you do take a lot of damage, especially if ranged attacks are involved. Near the end of the caves and a bit into Hell, I took strength from 50 to 65, which opened up a few more item types. It was somewhere around here I used the Glimmering Shrine to ID, among other things, an armor 43 Field Plate of Deflection (-4 damage from enemies) and a Jade (27% resist all) Battle Axe, his new main weapon. Monster draw on the Hell levels: 13: Lava Maws, Succubi and Storm Lords 14: Blood Knights and Gold Vipers (Fangskin) 15: Doom Guards and Hell Spawn (Bloodlust) This was far better than one could fear. Both the level 13 and 15 draws are quite tame compared to some of the alternatives. Since I took a lot of damage against the Blood Knights, I cleared out level 15 before level 14. Even with my Jade axe, the Hell Spawn shots hurt like hell. I adopted a slightly different tactics than what I have when I use a shield. Waking up a few as possible at a time was done just like usual but instead of pushing the witches to a corner, it was better to try to nail/stunlock them when they peeked around a corner or failing that, pushing them straight into a wall and try to whack them when they moved sideways to get away. I ran out of Healing charges on my staves when I played level 14. I took a break from clearing out level 14 and hit all the Goat Shrines and Cauldrons (6 in total) I had found, hoping to recharge those staves. No recharge and no ID shrine, but I did get a Thinking Cap (un-IDed) up to 11 durability, converted about 25 potions to rejuves, got a +2 Vitality boost but unfortunately, also lost 5-6 max mana from Fascinating shrine effect (+2 to Firebolt). I found a total of three elixirs (2 Magic, 1 Vitality). Found Lachdanan after about half of level 14 was cleared. Got down to the empty level 15 and fetched the elixir for him. During the rest of level 14, I had to drink some of my big supply of yellow potions. Every second or third small yellow I drank, I had enough mana to cast a Healing spell. Tried to recharge my healing staves on the last Cauldron but that was not to be. I had saved my last ID scroll for the Veil of Steel, and using that on the Unholy Altar level was a big success. Maxed resists (Veil + my Jade axe) meant that those witches and Advocates could not hurt so much. With the penalty from the Veil, my mana pool was now only 29. Very nice that I could cast my usual FW in the final fight (costs 28 mana!). Of course I ran from the room to spread out the witches. All three bosses were handled with Stone Curse scrolls. Saved the last scroll for Sir Gorash later. All three bosses dropped insignificant loot (forbidden weapon types). I brought my three Fire Wall staves for level 16 (with 7, 9 and 11 charges left) along with my Fireball staff with 48 charges. The latter required a Helm of Brilliance (ID-ed in the big shrine ID fest) for me to be able to use it. Zero resists when it was equipped, so I used it in cast-and-duck maneuvers to take out a couple of wizards in awkward spots. When I was chased by Blood Knights and moved to string them out, I (on the run) always switched to a Great Axe I had found (the STR boost on the helm allows me to equip this). The extra damage (both from the bigger axe and the STR bonus from Veil of Steel) allowed me to regularly stunlock the knights as they moved in and I often took no damage from them. So, I slowly cleared my way through level 16. The full rejuves last for quite a while, as I did generally not take much damage. When I was low on life, I retreated. If life was 31 or higher, I took off the helm so I could cast a Healing, which restored life to full (210 with the helm on). I had to take it off, otherwise my mana would be too low (30, and Healing cost 37). Twice, I was lower than 30 life, so I had to go to town and put on my Plate of Sorcery so I could cast Healing without taking off the helm. These times, I later walked to the PS and filled up. I eventually realized (too late, or at least I thought so!) that going on like this would leave me with few to no potions for the Diablo fight. This is when I resigned to the fact that it would probably be a dead end here. But with 3 full rejuves left, I stopped drinking them and went back to the PS every time I needed to. I left a portal by it, so one of the four walks needed was eliminated every time (from level 7 and back to town). Portals stay around if you do not use them from town or cast another. What was good was that there was very little walking needed on levels 14 and 15. In the area with the two levers, one of the Advocates dropped a unique Great Axe. I checked my D1 info and saw that there is only one such axe, the legendary Messerschmidt's Reaver. Not sure if I have ever seen it before. Man, that is some HUGE damage! Pretty big drawback with the -50 life, but my vitalilty investment and the +30 from VoS should make it bearable. I'd have 170 life with it. I need the VoS to be able to use it anyway. But, enjoying that was only to be if I could proceed to NM, as I could not ID it at this stage. Still, I used it un-IDed instead of the plain Great Axe. As usual, I portal parked Diablo behind the obstacles by the two levers. Lured him over with a Lightning from scroll (everything else is immune) and got out the portal when he showed up. Cleared out the other guys. Still 3 big rejuves left. Planned for the fight and for a possible graduation to NM, even though my hopes were not high. Brought a bunch of unindentified Field- and Gothic Plates, Undead Crown, Thinking Cap, an unknown ring. I switched out a few pieces. Decided to wear my Plate of Brilliance for two reasons. It allowed me to cast Healing while still wearing the Veil of Steel, and it also allowed me to use scrolls of Guardian and Golem. Also, I stashed the +15 DEX ring and equipped the Harmony ring instead. Used Infravision to see where Diablo was. Yup, still where I left him. Placed myself in a wall corner. Cast two Fire Walls ("double cast", got way down in the mana negatives) in front of me, in the direction I thought Diablo would come from. Used the Golem scroll in the direction away from Diablo, "double cast" my Guardian scroll towards Diablo, around the corner. All these five spell castings were done as fast as I could without rushing. Diablo comes. Whack with the axe until I drop so low in life that I have to drink. Cast Fire Wall on him. Whack some more. I hear that the golem is doing a good number on Diablo's back. Great. Have to drink the next yellow. Cast another FW. Whack some more...and VICTORY! Axl has started in NM. One of the Field Plates was a really classy Jade Plate of the Stars and one of the Gothic Plates was Saintly. I have 170 AC with it. Should keep the hits I take from the early NM monsters to a minimum. Adria had no books for sale but I bought an ID scroll and a Staff of Healing. Griswold sold me a Ring of Wizardry (nice reading glasses along with my Plate of Brilliance!).