Player Killers abound in most online gaming worlds, and since most players want to avoid PKs, it's useful to learn what sorts of tricks and traps PKs will use to try to take you down. Some of these tips were essential in earlier versions of the game, but are no longer necessary thanks to various anti-PK changes made in post-release patches. Those are listed next, with various tips and advice to avoid PKing further down the page.
PK Protections in Diablo II
Player Killing was virtually uncontrolled in Diablo I, with full friendly fire damage from spells or projectiles. There was a war/peace switch to click that allowed melee combat to hit, but it wasn't something that most Sorcerers or Rogues even needed to bother with. Diablo II was designed to allow non-consensual PVP, but added some limitations to make it more sporting and give protections to players who didn't want to engage in PvP.
- Friendly fire was eliminated in Diablo II.
- Players could only declare hostility in town.
- Damage dealt in PvP is only a fraction of the full damage counted in PvM.
There were more anti-PKing fixes added in patches as well.
- A feature was added so that the PK's town portal closed the instant he went hostile, preventing quick trips back to the dungeons.
- A timer was added to "going hostile" that gave players additional time to prepare or escape before attack.
- Spells with a length duration were tweaked so that they would not deal huge damage to other players, if the caster went hostile while the spell was already in place.
Basic PK Advice
The best way to avoid PKs is to return to town or leave the game the moment someone goes hostile. You may not always want to; sometimes low level characters join games and declare hostility just to startle others, but if you are fear for your character's life, especially in Hardcore mode, get thee back to town. You'll be safe there.
It's always possible to fight back against a would-be PK, but it's seldom a good idea. Characters who are optimized for PvM, or killing monsters, aren't well-equipped to deal with a PK, who is set up for killing players. Most PvM characters have magic find, fairly low resistances, some free inventory space to pick up items, might have a variety of skills to kill all types of monsters, etc.
PKs, on the other hand, are entirely optimized to kill other players. They have usually placed all their skill points to give them one huge damage skill, since players don't have immunities. They have all of their equipment focused on dealing or surviving damage. Enormously high resistances, lots of absorb, tons of hit points, etc. Plus they're experienced at PvP and know how players react in a duel. If you're used to killing monsters, taking on another person is a very different challenge, and even if your equipment doesn't put your character at a huge disadvantage, your tactics probably will.
To declare hostility a character must be in town. Once they declare it, they can not go through any existing portals, and their own portal will vanish. The PK can go out into the field and cast a new portal and use that one though, so if someone has just declared hostility, they can't get to you quickly unless you are by town or a waypoint. They can't come through a town portal immediately. However if someone has been hostile for a while, you certainly don't want to be near their portal.
The inability to go through a portal once hostile means that areas that can only be accessed through a portal are totally safe from PKs. This includes Tristram, the Secret Cow Level, and the three River of Flame dungeons under the Act Five surface areas. Other places are safer, since they can't be reached quickly, but aren't totally safe, for example Pindleskin's Garden, through the red portal by Anya in Act 5, can be reached by running up through the Halls from the waypoint, but that would take a few minutes.
PKs often go hostile, and surf waypoints, checking to see if any other players are near one and can be attacked, so when someone goes hostile get away from the town entrance or any waypoints as quickly as possible.
Near Waypoints is always a dangerous place to be, since a PK can go hostile and pop through one an instant later. You never want to hang around a waypoint, or go to one when someone else is right on the Waypoint in town, watching you. They might go hostile just as you click it, and appear just as you do. If you are suspicious, go to a different waypoint first, just to see if they go hostile unexpectedly.
When you take a waypoint, town portal, etc, your character instantly appears at the destination. The second+ delay before you see yourself and can move it the time it takes the server to send and your computer to load the new location. So if there are monsters or a hostile player there, they can hit you the second you click the Waypoint, giving you no chance to defend yourself.
Be careful also when giving a friend a waypoint. If you are talking about it, anyone in the game knows that you are at Durance 3, or River of Flame, or Cats 2, etc. A PK could be somewhere else, see an opportunity, and go hostile and pop down the waypoint, hoping to catch you or your friend napping.
Anywhere with a lot of machine load is dangerous also, such as near Shenk during his death animation, or in the Throne of Destruction when Lister is loading. Always be cautious in such locations, around players you don't know/trust. They could have a faster machine and be ready to attack you before you can react. Especially beware characters with long-lasting attacks, such as Hydra, Firewall, Meteor, some Assassin Traps, etc. They can cast these, portal to town, and go hostile, and their spells will attack you, and if you are stuck in loading animation and can't run or drink a potion, it would be bad.
Never get into a position where you can't quickly move. Examples are narrow hallways (Sand Maggot Lair) with characters on both sides of you, stairs (such as the ones out of town in Act Four), or any other spots with limited maneuverability, especially if they are near town.
You can of course use this against the PK, if you see them go hostile and you are right by a Waypoint, you know they're going to appear there in seconds. Start shooting. There's nothing more fun than bagging a PK who thought they were slick, and found out otherwise. ;)
This is the PK technique of visiting an area to get it loaded on their machine, and then returning to town. As you've noticed playing, the first time you visit an area each game takes longer to load than each return trip. PKs exploit this by going to that location, then returning to town and asking for a portal there. If you come to town and say you'll give it to them, they'll wait as you go to the waypoint, and then turn hostile and go down after you. If you take 2 or 3 seconds to load the level, they'll already be there and may kill you before you even see it coming.
It's unfortunate, but you really can't trust anyone you don't know, and especially can't trust a waypoint you've not been to yet in a game, it could be monster trapped or a pre-loaded PK trap.
This technique needs to be avoided anywhere level loading takes some time, but it's especially dangerous on Waypoints, since a hostile player can use them with no delay at all.
This isn't PvM, this is using hordes of monsters to try and kill other players. Anywhere you are taking a blind leap into a dangerous area can be dangerous, so be prepared. This means any waypoint to a nasty level, or any portal that you don't know is clear.
Waypoints are often trapped by accident, if some character runs into an Extra Fast Cursed Extra Strong Blood Lord pack they might run for it, and escape the monsters through the Crystalline Passageway waypoint, and if you come along 5 minutes later and take that waypoint, you'll probably be dead before the screen even loads. This is just as true if someone traps the waypoint on purpose. Don't take a waypoint if you aren't sure it'll be safe, and always be sure you're powered up when you go to a dangerous location. Have your full hit points, protective spells enabled, minions cast, etc. If you have to leave town to power up, such as with a Barbarian, go to a safe waypoint first, one that's not going to be potentially trapped, and then go from there to the possibly dangerous one.
The entrance to the Secret Cow Level is especially dangerous, as the red portal appears anywhere and everywhere, and can be swarmed by cows seconds after a player goes through, much less several minutes later, especially if someone inside the portal has lead cows to it and left them there. It's not a good idea to take the red portal more than a few seconds after another player has done so, since you never know what you'll find through it.
This is especially true in non-cow run games. If someone else has opened up the portal and gone in first, it's their level, and if you come along several minutes later there is nothing that says they can't have trapped the portal to keep the level for themselves. Ask if you can come in, ask if you can party, and if they say "fine" then have fun, but if they say "no" you should find your own game to open up your own level, or play in public cow runs games, where everyone is there to do the cow level.
If two players seem to be arguing and preparing to fight, let them fight, don't get involved. Quite often two PKs will work together and act like they are dueling, and if other players come to watch, they'll be hostile to one of the PKs, and suddenly find themselves the target of attack, rather than a spectator.
This often happens when you are in a party with some guys, and some PK comes in and hostiles all of you. If one person in your party starts with the, "Come on guys, we can take him!" stuff, always consider that guy might be friends with the PK, trying to lead you into a trap. Especially if they start saying the PK is somewhere else, or that a waypoint is safe.
Beware of undercover PKs also, they can be in your party but whispering your location to the PK, opening you up to sneak attack. They'll reset your Battle Orders just as you go to fight, say they'll support you with an Aura and change it at the last second, unsummon the Oak Sage, etc.
If you are going to fight, never assume anyone else in the game is going to help, or is even neutral. Always assume that they'll try to back stab you, or help the PK. It won't happen often, but at least when it does, you'll not be caught off guard. When you duel, un-party with everyone you don't know for sure to be your friend.
A common trick, PKs use various in-game text buffer overload tricks, or a packet sending hack program to make their text colors change. They'll then spoof a death message, in the correct color, making it look for all the world like they were just killed by another player, or a monster.
The goal is to trick you into coming to loot them (Hardcore only, after v1.08, when softcore looting was removed) when they are of course waiting by the waypoint to kill you the instant you appear. Beware of teams using this one, with one guy saying he's dead, asking his friend (who isn't hostile to you) to loot, and the friend saying he can't, and then asking if anyone else in the game can "plz lewt!! tak my potal!!!".
This is a crafty scheme, since it uses your desire to clean their corpse against you. This one is often teamed with the fake duel scam, where one PK pretends to fight the other, and with the fake death message the winner will ask, "Does anyone have loot?" and of course the dead one gave you loot, not at all coincidentally, and if you don't think about it you'll rush right to where they are, hoping to get there before the dead guy leaves the game. But he's not dead, he's waiting at the Waypoint or fake winner's portal, and will kill you when you appear.
This scam has lately been used mostly by PKs to fake a death to a monster, and they'll then ask you to come loot them, saying they were just kidding about the hostile, they hit the wrong button, they didn't mean it, and offering you your pick of their items, or all of them, if you'll just return one special item, etc. They then start listing all the godly equipment they have on, and your eyes light up with the thought of getting it. Maybe you want to keep it all, after all the PK wouldn't have given you your stuff back if they'd killed you, or maybe you really would give them back some or all of their stuff. It's irrelevant, since they aren't really dead. But you will be if you fall for it.
If you really want to try it, see if you can get to where they are without going through a nearby portal or waypoint. Go to the next Waypoint and run back, for instance, you'll see them on the map and can see if they are alive or dead before they are in range to kill you. But be careful, they might see you coming and attack from a distance.
This is one that Blizzard should have made impossible long ago, and it's really a poor job on their part to have not made such a simple fix to a nasty trick that kills lots of players. All that needs to be done is make any character's existing spells vanish the instant they go to town, or go hostile, and this trick would be broken completely.
The exploit is that any spell that lasts for a while can be cast, then the caster can pop to town and go hostile, and their spell will attack you, if you are near by. This is most often done by Sorcs with Hydra, and many HC players now won't even play with a Hydra-using Sorc, or if they do they won't stand anywhere near the little fire dragons. Hydras last for 10 seconds, and you can cast a new one every 3 seconds, so it's possible to have 4 of them active at once, dealing near 1000 damage per shot, if you have very high level Hydra and Fire Mastery. It takes half a second to portal to town and go hostile, so a PK Sorc can have 3 or 4 Hydras firing at you while they are safely in town.
This is to be avoided with numerous other attacks as well, anything that lasts long enough after being cast for the caster to pop to town and go Hostile. Meteor, Firewall, and numerous Assassin traps, though Hydra is the worst, since it's the biggest damage.
Perhaps the most annoying part is that the PK is sitting in town when you are dying; there is zero personal risk in it for them, which makes it the most gutless, spineless, loathsome tactic in the entire game. Be sure to heap scorn and derision on anyone who does this in a game, whether they tried it on you or someone else.
This is especially dangerous when it's used in slow-loading areas. Do not stand around while Shenk dies, and be extremely cautious with a Hydra Sorc around in the Throne of Destruction. If they try this trick while you'll have 4 or 5 seconds of machine lag coming up from Shenk's death, or Lister's loading, you're probably dead. Run away from the area before the lag begins.
Thorns & Conversion
The v1.10 patch removed this one, since auras no longer transfer to converted monsters.
This is another very cheesy trick, and can often be dangerous by accident. If you are a melee character, never play anywhere near another player who is converting monsters, and has the Thorns Aura, either on a Merc or a Paladin, or even a Druid who might be using the Spirit of Barbs, though the damage on that is so much lower it's not a real risk. The reason is that when Conversion ( the Paladin or Assassin type) wears off, the monster will go back to hostile, and be hittable, but the Thorns aura will still be on them, invisible, for several seconds.
Auras are refreshed every 3 or 4 seconds, when the game checks them, not perpetually, like the aura under the Paladin's feet. If you are doing big melee damage, you can instantly kill yourself on a monster with an aura you can't even see. This has been a problem since D2, and is worse in D2X with thorns on mercs. However since only Paladins and Assassins can convert monsters, and an Assassin has to have a Thorns Merc, it's not too hard to see this one coming, and avoid it.
Game Crash Tricks
There are, on and off, scams appearing that allow players to cause other players to disconnect. These are invariably used by PKs to cause you to drop when you are right by a waypoint or town entrance, and they can go hostile, and return to kill you before you time out of the game. There have been in-game techniques for this, exploiting bugs that Bliz has fixed after some time, and none are currently active in v1.09d, to the best of our knowledge.
Unfortunately there are also game crash hacks that are working now, involving packet sending and other outside programs. One we've gotten a number of reports of causes the hacker and any other characters in the area to crash out. This one is exploited in teams, by one PK crashing you and themselves out, and then another PK coming down the waypoint and killing you, but not their friend, before you both time out.
None of these crash hacks are that prevalent now, but we still get reports from time to time of players who got a fatal error, often after some other player said, "now you die" and found their character dead next game.
If you see this happen or see listed methods for it, mail the info to [email protected].
Fixed Scams and Suggestions
Many players want a hostile yes/no button on game creation. If you didn't want some PK to have a chance to ruin your day, you could just click "no", and that would be that. Blizzard has refused to do this.
Most players (all but the back-stabbing PKs) would like a delay upon hostility. If you clicked Hostile, and everyone got the warning then, but you weren't actually hostile for 5 or 10 seconds, other players wouldn't be sneak attacked. This would also mostly or completely ruin the various lingering spell tricks. This would have no effect on dueling or the ability to go hostile and get some item-stealing leech out of your game, which a useful aspects of hostility, but would ruin sneak attacks and several other dirty tricks. Blizzard has never commented on this, despite it being a very popular suggestion.
Despite the fact that Blizzard doesn't appear to care what players want in the game, and instead sticks to their own pre-game design concepts, even the ones that prove to be quite flawed in practice, they have managed to fix a few exploits over time.
You used to be able to use your own or neutral player's town portals the instant you went Hostile. This was a very quick way to attack from anywhere, and now you can't do it, you can only go down your own portal, and only if you cast it after you go Hostile.
Softcore looting was removed in v1.08, since it was only used for an exploit, or PK tricks. The tricks remain, but at least they are only a problem for Hardcore characters now.
Blizzard added a notification of loot and no loot in v1.08. Prior to that you got a notification of loot being enabled, but not disabled. This was quite ridiculous, since PKs could allow loot, making you think they were okay guys, and that you could allow them loot also. But you didn't see the message when they disallowed loot, so had no idea if it was still on or not. It's hard to see how Blizzard didn't anticipate this in their play testing, but at least it's fixed now.
Not a pk'ing scam, but there are timers now on how often you can go hostile. It used to be a popular annoyance for idiots to spam hostile, so you'd have it clicking on and off every .5 seconds until they got tired of hitting the button. And there's was no way to squelch this.
Blizzard lowered the duration of a lot of skills in v1.08 and D2X, which broke a number of ones that could be used on the lingering spell trick. Blizzard, Firewall, Immolation Arrow, and a few others used to last much longer, but don't last long enough now to be a real threat.