Diablo 3 Preview - New Traits System, Revamped Runes, Skill Shuffle, and the Talisman!


Posted October 27, 2010 - By Kevin Kelly

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Diablo 3 Preview - New Traits System, Revamped Runes, Skill Shuffle, and the Talisman!

BlizzCon really is a nerd's paradise. Besides just letting attendees play new build of their upcoming video games, they also enjoy spraying the crowd with a datastream of facts about these same upcoming titles. Case in point this year were the Diablo 3 Gameplay and Open Q&A panels that gave us a ton of new information about the game. Although knowing Blizzard, this could all change at a moments notice.

But, they'll always be kind enough to tell us later that "Oh, that thing we showed you last year? Yeah, we killed that." So currently, this is all of the new information you need to know about Diablo 3. We told you about the Demon Hunter, and now you can read up on the new Skill system, the revamped Runes, the entirely new Traits, and where you'll be sticking your Charms. Read on for all the Hellish details.


Blizzard has always been good about admitting when something doesn't work. Like last year's skill system in the playable Diablo 3 build. They admitted that it was unwiedly and overwhelming. What players were left with was a system that was too big, covered up your character screen, and only encouraged you to scatter your skill points all over the place.

They tried out tabbed and list view to compartmentalize the system on the right hand side of the screen. But, neither one of those systems worked perfectly. So they changed to a sort of a hybrid between tabs and lists. At a glance, you know what to do when it comes time to level up. You can spend points to get new skill, or can you place a skill point into an existing skill. Skills and slots will now blink to indicate you can upgrade them.

Diablo 3 Preview - New Traits System, Revamped Runes, Skill Shuffle, and the Talisman!

During gameplay, you still get the burst of light that indicates you've leveled up (and yes, other players can see it when you're co-opping) and the familiar red square with a cross on it. Clicking it opens up the Skills tab, and you can easily see the available skills to upgrade, or if the "Purchase New Skill" option is unlocked, you can hit that and pick up something entirely new.

They also showed off some of the new Class Skills, which are looking very good:

  • Barbarian: Ancient Spear. This is a ranged attack, but rather than dealing ranged damage to the enemy, it hooks them (ala Scorpion in Mortal Kombat) and yanks them closer to you so you can pound on 'em.
  • Wizard: Meteor. This is a spell that does area damage. It's a classic Skill, re-envisioned for Diablo 3. When you put runes in Meteor, you get tons of fun.
  • Witch Doctor: Spirit Walk. This is a mobility Skill that is different than the Wizard's teleport spell. When the Witch Doctor uses it, they turn incorporeal, and can walk through enemies.
  • Monk: Wave of Light: This Skill summons a spectral blue bell that shoots out a ranged attack. It has evocative imagery to help remind you that hey, you're a Monk.


When you're talking about the Skills, you have to talk about Runes. Blizzard has revamped the Runes system so extensively that they removed it entirely from the Diablo 3 build at BlizzCon last year. Back then, the Runes had names like "The Power Rune," and "The Striking Rune," and they could modify certain skills accordingly. Now they've changed the Runes to be colored: Alabaster, Indigo, Crimson, Obsidian, and Golden. Additionally, every Rune now works with every Skill. Not only that, but the Runes won't be bound to the Skill, meaning you can mix and match as much as you want.

Diablo 3 Preview - New Traits System, Revamped Runes, Skill Shuffle, and the Talisman!

They changed the naming system because they didn't want each Rune to be tied to a particular effect, such as the Striking Rune always meaning it had something to do with striking. By using a colored naming scheme, the Runes can be semi-tied to that color, i.e. fire for Crimson, but they can deviate from that whenever they want. Each Rune affects each Skill differently, and part of the fun is testing out different combinations. The Runes also have seven ranks, and they increase as you play through. According to Jay Wilson, "Higher ranks equals more crazy. You're gonna need that in Hell." They rank like this:

  • Normal Mode gives you "stone" Runes, ranked one through three.
  • Nightmare Mode gives you "silver" Runes, ranked four and five.
  • Hell Mode gives you "gold" Runes, ranked six through seven. 

They showed off the Wizard with a Rank 7 Rune in his Magic Missile Skill, and it fires a ton of missiles per shot. Very nifty.

While we're talking about Runes, Blizzard also showed off some of the new skills for the other classes. Including:

  • Barbarian: The Barbarian has a skill that allows them to chuck weapons at enemies, conveniently called Weapon Throw. But if you slot the Crimson Rune into this skill, it does more damage, Obsidian changes it into a hammer that stuns enemies. Alabaster will confuse enemies into possibly attacking each other, and Indigo changes it into a ricochet attack. But, if you put in the Golden Rune, it changes the skill to Corpse Throw, allowing the Barb to hurl dead bodies at enemies with devastating effect. It's not clear if they'll need bodies to make this happen (like the Necromancer's Corpse Explosion Skill), or if they can just pull them out of thin air.
  • Wizard: Hydra: this classic spell causes several spectral hydra heads to emerge from the ground around the wizard and attack. If you slot a Rune into that Skill, you get corresponding new Hydras: Crimson gives you Frost Hydras (interestingly enough), Indigo gives you Lightning Hydras, Obsidian creates Acid Hydras, and so on

Diablo 3 Preview - New Traits System, Revamped Runes, Skill Shuffle, and the Talisman!

  • Witch Doctor: Plague of Toads: this skill normally calls forth a group of poisonous toads that deal damage to nearby enemies. Runes change this, of coure: Crimson makes Fire Toads, Golden, reduces their cost, Alabaster creates Blinding Gas Toads, Indigo creates a rain of toads, or a "Toad Blizzard" (zing), and Obsidian creates a gigantic toad that eats monsters whole, yet doesn't digest their loot. Ribbit.
  • Witch Doctor: Poison Dart: this skill normally has the Witch Doc blowgunning out a poison dart. Naturally. But when you slot a Golden Rune into it, you slow monsters down, Indigo will give you rapid fire, Alabaster shoots out snakes that attach to your enemies face. Ouch.


Traits are an entirely new system for Diablo 3. What are they? Basically, they are passive skills that can customize and modify your character builds. They are gained as you level up with every other level, and they alter your core attributes. They allow you to "role play" with your character. Got a Barbarian who wants to be stronger? There's a trait for that. Playing a Wizard and you want more elemental powers? There's a trait for that. They are not universal, by design, and each one contains flavor text to give you a bit of background. Some examples:

  • Barbarian: Inner Rage. This trait decreases the rate of Fury (the Barbarian's version of Mana) loss, and increases Fury gained for hitting the same target. You can rank it up five levels. "While most orders teach the merits of calming the seas of the soul, the guardians of Arreat have embraced the raging inner storm."
  • Wizard: Prismatic Cloak. This increases the effect of Ice Armor and Storm Armor by 100%, and can be ranked up three times. "An icy mist that freezes to the bone, the low hum and spark of electricity in the air ... even touching a Wizard can have dire consequences."

Diablo 3 Preview - New Traits System, Revamped Runes, Skill Shuffle, and the Talisman!

Blizzard knows that the current Trait system is not perfect, and they are currently working on it. They know that the Trait UI needs work, that gaining them every other level isn't perfect, and that there are probably too many of them, and too many ranks in each. Considering there are roughly 30 traits per class, and that you can spend up to 5 points in some of them, each class will have about 90 points worth of Traits. So, it needs work. Or as I like to say, "Yet another reason you won't see this game for quite awhile."

Worried about customization? Blizzard pointed out that with Skills, Runes, Traits and Charms, you'll have the opportunity to build 96,886,969,344 per class. That's a lot of math. Oh, and speaking of Charms...


Inventory frustration will be alleviated somewhat in Diablo 3, thanks to the fact that Blizzard is giving you a Talisman to store your charms in. Charms were trinkets that were added in the Diablo 2 expansion, Lord of Destruction. These gave your character specific bonuses just by holding them in your inventory, and came in multiple varieties and sizes. But, the problem is that they would take up valuable inventory space, and you never wanted to get rid of them.

Diablo 3 Preview - New Traits System, Revamped Runes, Skill Shuffle, and the Talisman!

They've solved this by adding a Talisman that your character has, and it contains space specifically for Charms. You don't start immediately with it, but you'll gain it through questing, and it grows in time with your character, meaning you'll have more space at about the same time you're finding more Charms. Charms have evolved as well, and they now alter your core attributes, and you can focus on shaping and changing those through customization. 

One example they showed was:

  • Bronze Cross of Brawn: Adds +6 to your Strength

Contrast that with something from Diablo 2, like the:

  • Small Amber Charm: Resists Lightning By 10% to 12%

You can see that they want to affect your character more, rather than just providing a defensive or offensive bonus to your character, which is something the traits also do. Charms now look like they'll come in just one size, unlike D2 which had large Charms that would take up three inventory slots. Between Traits and Charms, there's a lot of ways to spec out your character, so get ready to play the matching game.

Which brings us to the end of just about everything related to Diablo 3 that was firehosed onto us at BlizzCon, except for the Battle Arenas, where they're now housing all of the PVP action in this title. Look for more on that shortly, right here on G4.

Diablo 3 Preview - New Traits System, Revamped Runes, Skill Shuffle, and the Talisman!


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