The ability to play the game with other players is one of the most enjoyable, and maddening, aspects of Diablo II. There's nothing more fun than playing with a group of friends when everyone is good at the game, everyone does their share of the work, the loot is being apportioned justly, and your mixture of characters meshes well. And there are few things as frustrating as being in a party full of item grabbers, lazy players who don't pull their weight, wanna-be PKs, and rush-beggars.
Finding your way into the first type of group, while avoiding the second, is a major preoccupation of most players online, and while no wiki page can tell you how to manage that trick, knowing more about how parties work and the game mechanics underlying them will certainly help.
Forming a Party
To form a party press the "P" key to open the Party screen. This menu will list every player in the game, with their names in three different colors, depending on your character's status with them:
- Green: In your party.
- White: Neutral player. Not in your party or in another party.
- Red: Hostile player, trying to kill you (or you him).
In regards to each character, you have three possible options, depending on their status:
- Invite: Press this button to invite the player to join your party. They will receive a text notification in bright green.
- Cancel: Cancel an invitation. (Usually done so you can invite again, in case they didn't notice the first one.)
- Accept: Press this button to accept a party invitation you receive. You will instantly join the party.
Parties differ from normal unaligned gameplay in a few ways; party members on the same level share gold and experience (formulas listed below), can use each other's town portals, can benefit from each other's auras, and can see each other's current location on the party screen.
To get an invitation to a party, you can ask by typing a chat message. There is no way to ask for an invite via the party window, and it's impossible to force your way into a party. You can only invite non-aligned characters, not those who are already in parties.
Parties are entirely democratic. No one has control over them or the ability to kick out other party members, and anyone in a party can invite unaligned players to join. You can always leave a party though, and if someone in the party is being annoying and the others don't want to share experience with them, everyone can leave the party and form a new one without inviting the annoying person to join. Players who are so scorned often retaliate by going hostile, either since they want to fight or (more often) simply to be annoying.
There are several control options available while in a party, some of which are not available at other times. When you are in a party, a button appears on top of the party menu, with the word "LEAVE" in bright green letters. Clicking that will immediately exit you from the party (and dissolve the party if there was just one other player in it).
The following icons appear in the party window, beside the name of each character in your party. The first three are for all characters, but corpse looting is only available to Hardcore characters since patch v1.08.
- When you click any of these icons icons, the affected player receives a notification.
Neutral/Hostile: Clicking the crossed swords icon will declare hostility on the chosen player, and enable your character to deal damage to them (and them to you). If you declare hostility on a player in a party, your declaration affects everyone in the party at once, and exits you from that party if you are a member of it. A character can only go hostile while in town, and doing so immediately exits them from their party and closes their town portal. Hostility can only be declared once per minute/per character, to prevent grief-motivated hostility spamming.
Include/Exclude: Excluding a player from chat means they will not "hear" anything you "say" when you type messages. This effectively makes your typed messages a group whisper to every character but the excluded one. Click the button again to include (stop excluding) the player.
Squelch/Unsquelch: This button mutes the selected player, making it so that their messages will not appear on your screen.
Allow Loot: This option, available only in Hardcore mode, permits the designated characters to take the items off of your corpse when (if) you die. It's common practice for hardcore players to allow friends looting privileges, though many is the HC player who has cursed his fate when dying unexpectedly, without allowing his friends this option. Allowing it to strangers in a public game can be a risky proposition, since it might encourage them to try to go hostile on you, and even if they do not, and you die to a monster, and they loot you, there's nothing that says they have to give you your equipment back. Still, if you do not set loot you will surely lose everything upon death, and if someone PKs you you can probably exit the game after you die, but before they're able to get to your corpse to claim their spoils.
If a friend dies and you have loot, it's imperative that you get to their corpse as quickly as possible, since if they died from latency over a poor connection, their body might vanish seconds after their death when they disconnect. If you trust everyone else in the game, it's best to clean their corpse like a piranha, even if inventory restrictions mean that you must scatter the items on the ground in the dungeon. At least there they won't vanish forever, if the dead player disconnects, and you can make several trips to town to get everything squared in your stash and cube. (This logic holds true for a PK victim too, of course.)
Each player has 2 possible relationships with all other players in the game -- Neutral (the default) and Hostile. Changes to your relationships are made in the Party screen, and with on screen notices (and a warning sound effect, in the case of hostility).
Players who are hostile to each other can target each other, and each other's minions, just as if they were monsters. When another player goes hostile to you, you immediately go hostile in return. The advantage (other than surprise) is to the target, since the one who declares hostility instantly exits their party and sees their town portal close. Since hostility can only be declared in town, players who are wary of an attack are generally safe, unless they're standing very near the town exit or a waypoint. Care should be taken in public games when in such locations.
Once hostile, both players must agree to return to a friendly setting. If one player turns off their hostility they will return to neutral, but the other player will still be hostile to them. This is to prevent players from being able to simply turn off another's declaration of hostility.
All characters are neutral when they first join a game. You must declare hostility, or join a party (become friendly) to change the starting neutral state. Neutral characters can play in the same areas, but they will not share experience, gold, spell effects, or be able to directly affect each other in any way.
Characters in the same party share experience when they are on the same level together. Levels are discrete areas of the map, such as the Blood Moor, or the Den of Evil. Proximity to another character does not matter; you can be half a screen away and not share experience, if you or they have crossed over into a different level.
In addition to sharing experience, there are experience bonuses in parties. The total experience earned for killing a given monster is increased by 35% when both party members are in the same area.
Sharing experience enables weak or lower level characters to level up quickly when partied with efficient killers. During the various patches added to the game, limitations have been placed on experience sharing, to prevent very low level characters from simply tagging along and leveling up like a slot machine while standing well away from the action. In v1.11, characters need to be within 5 levels of the monsters (that are dying) to gain full experience, and the experience is divided between characters on a sliding scale, with higher level characters receiving proportionally more.
Another patch change requires that party members be near the action to gain experience. In early versions of Diablo II a character only had to be on the same level. In v1.10+ characters must be on the same level and within about two screens of the monster deaths to share experience from party kills.
Even with these changes, it's still quite profitable for low level characters to party up with higher level ones, especially past level 25, when the major limitations are relaxed.
Gold is shared evenly between party members on the same level. If a stack of 203 gold is picked up by a character with 4 others in his party, each character will receive 40 gold, with the character who picked it up receiving the 3 left over after the even shares are distributed. All gold picked up in the game is shared this way, with all other players in the area. This includes gold dropped due to the gold penalty for death, and even gold dropped and picked up in town (which will be shared with any other party members in town at that time).
To exchange gold without sharing it, use the trading screen (while in town) or else pick it up when no other party members are in the area.
Increased Item Drops
While being in a party does not improve the quality of item drops (that's what Magic Find is for), it does increase the quantity of items dropped. More characters in a game does that too, but more characters in a party adds to the benefit. (And that's not even counting the faster killing time possible when characters cooperate.)
These benefits are seen chiefly from regular monsters, and also from Act Bosses. Random bosses, champion types, and other SuperUniques are unaffected by more players in a game, since the quantity of their drops is set in the game code. Regular monsters drop far more items in larger games, and Act Bosses have a better chance to drop multiple items (up to six) in larger games.
For example, here's a demonstration of the increasing odds that a regular (non-boss) monster will drop something when it dies. If the monster has a 25% chance to drop something in a single player game, it will drop at the following % for more players.
- 1 -- 1-(0.75^1) = 0.250
- 2 -- 1-(0.75^2) = 0.438
- 3 -- 1-(0.75^3) = 0.578
- 4 -- 1-(0.75^4) = 0.684
- 5 -- 1-(0.75^5) = 0.763
- 6 -- 1-(0.75^6) = 0.822
- 7 -- 1-(0.75^7) = 0.867
- 8 -- 1-(0.75^8) = 0.900
This is a spurious example, since normal monsters don't have a 25% chance to drop something, but it gives an idea of the rate of increase.
Town Portal Restrictions
The v1.09 and especially v1.10 patches added various town portal restrictions, to prevent players from so easily "rushing" low level characters up through the game. Prior to those patches, a brand new character could simply take town portals to Catacombs 4, Tal Rasha's Tomb, the Durance of Hate 3, and so forth, get close enough to activate the quest, and then stand back while a higher level character slaughtered the Act Boss in seconds. After v1.10, this process is somewhat complicated by the so called "blocking quests."
These quests designate areas to which new characters can not take a town portal, until they have finished the quest. For instance, it's now impossible to take a portal to the Canyon of the Magi, Seven Tombs, or Durial's Lair before a character completes The Summoner quest. Other blocked areas include:
- The Tainted Sun must be completed to portal to: The Harem, Palace Basement, or Arcane Sanctuary.
- The Blackened Temple quest must be completed before a character can take a portal into the Durance of Hate.
- Rather than having to collect all the parts of Khalim, it's possible to get credit for killing the high council in Travincal, then return to town and take a portal into the Durance.
- The Rite of Passage quest must be completed before a character can take a portal into the Worldstone Keep.
- It's possible to have another player create the game, so you may defeat the ancients and walk into the Worldstone Keep without completing the quest. This is recommended, since the experience reward for killing the Ancients on Nightmare and Hell is so much more valuable when taken at level 90+, thanks to the heavy experience penalties that set in at higher levels. Save them both until level 98, if you're taking your character to level 99.
- The Secret Cow Level: It's impossible to take the red portal in, or a friend's town portal, unless your character has qualified for the quest by defeating Baal on that difficulty level.