Diablo 2 rune farming of high-level runes has become somewhat of a sport for Diablo 2 players. This is can take time, and with nothing to boost the chance of finding a rune (Magic Find has no effect on finding runes), it’s up to the player to kill monsters to find these illusive runes.
The best way to find a lot of runes is through item drops. A very good way to find more runes is to kill a lot of monsters in games with a lot of other players. (Use the /players X command to simulate more players if you’re going single player.)
Rune hunting is somewhat simplified by the fact that Magic Find is of no benefit. A character hunting runes dispense with Magic Fine gear. However, this isn’t highly recommended, since magic find improves the odds of finding Unique and Set items that are useful or that could be traded (for runes). Simply put, forget Magic Find.
Rune hunting is best done on the highest level monsters that your character can safely and quickly kill. As with magic finding, a balance between killing speed and monster level must be found. Struggling to kill a very high-level monster because they have a .000001% better chance of dropping a Cham, is not a wise expenditure of time.
It’s best to kill quickly where your character is most capable of killing quickly. Levels with a lot of monsters are best, simply to increase the total number of item drops. Places like the Secret Cow Level, the Flayer Jungle, or the surface areas of Act One (with their teeming Fallen camps) are popular killing zones due to the high density of fairly weak monsters.
The only monster in the game with a substantially higher % chance to drop runes in The Countess, found on level five of the Forgotten Tower in the Black Marsh level of Act One. She will not drop high-level runes above 24-25 so do not expect anything above that as the odds are not in your favour.
Some monsters have a small loot table and have a higher possibility of dropping runes. These include Wraiths, Finger Mages, Vulture Demons, Willowisps, and the Swarm. However, it’s still going to be hard to find runes from these monsters as they don’t spawn in great numbers.
Three quests grant runes as part of their reward.
This quest does not have a Rune as part of its reward (just a bunch of gold and minor items from a magical chest) but once killed she will drop lower-level runes almost every time.
Which runes she can drop vary by difficulty level.
- Normal: El (r01) – Ral (r08).
- Nightmare: El (r01) – Io/Ko (r18); above Io (r16) is rare.
- Hell: El (r01) – Ist/Lo (r28); above Ist (r26) is rare.
A player has an increased chance of a higher level rune drop in Nightmare and Hell when the quest is first completed.
She is capable of dropping up to six runes each death, and will often drop two or three. They’re very unlikely to be higher than Tir or Eth, but reports of two Hels, and a couple of other mid-level runes are not uncommon, so it’s possible.
When a character shatters Mephisto’s Soulstone on the Hellforge in Act Four, four gems and one rune drop as part of the quest reward. The runes that may be found from this quest vary by difficulty level. Which one drops is selected randomly from the following possibilities:
Note: Do not finish this quest with other players in your party if they have not completed the quest already. There are four gems drop for every character completing the quest but only one rune will drop no matter how many are in the party.
Rescue on Mount Arreat
Chests are all objects that can contain an item. These include barrels, chests, crates, lootable corpses, hidden stashes etc. These items have different drop rates and quality of item drops.
Doing chest runs in some areas with a lot of chests is a very good way to find multiple high quality items, especially runes. While all chests are potentially useful, the super chests are the ones to hit; you’ll find one or two of those near the campfires in Lower Kurast on Act 3, for example.
There are a lot of “super chests” in the game, ones that can drop multiple items at once. Most super chests are sparkly chests but it’s not a hard and fast rule. Not all super chests sparkle, and not all sparkling chests are super chests.
For example, some sparkly chests are quest chests that contain quest items. These include the Maggot Lair chest, The Spider Cavern Chest, the Kurast Lvl 2 chest, the Ruined Temple chest (Lam Esen’s Tome). These are not real “sparkly chests”.
There are 24 Sparkly Chests within each difficulty level –or a total of 72 on the path to Hell difficulty Baal. There are five chests with identical characteristics in the False Tal Rasha’s Tombs. The Great Marsh has two Sparkly Chests with identical characteristics. The other 17 chests are each individualistic in their drop odds as they are encountered on Normal, Nightmare (NM) and Hell (H) difficulty levels
Chest Drops in Level 85 Areas
- Crypt, Pit Levels 1 & 2: TC66
- Maggot Lair lvl 3, Ancient Tunnels: TC69
- The Temples in Kurast, Kurast Sewers lvl 2: TC 75
- River of Flame, Chaos Sanctuary: TC 78
- WSK: TC87
More Players = More Runes
More players in the game increase the quantity of items found from [chest]s, by decreasing the odds that the game will select the “NoDrop” option.
Total players in the game (no party) — Chance of non-locked chest to drop nothing at all:
- 1 or 2 — 43,4%
- 3 or 4 — 29.5%
- 5 or 6 — 26,0%
- 7 or 8 — 25,2%
This must be balanced with your overall killing time; taking 3x longer to kill monsters for 2x the drops is not a winning strategy.
Rune Quality Increases with Level
The level that chests drop at is determined by the area of the game they’re found on; consult the Levels section for that information. The level of runes that can be found from chests progresses steadily as you move through the game.
The following list details the highest level runes you can find in any area. All of the lower level runes may also be found there, and in fact are far more likely to appear than the higher level ones.
- Act 1 Normal: No Runes from Chests
- Act 2 Normal: El/Eld/Tir/Nef (r01-r04)
- Act 3 Normal: Eth/Ith/Tal/Ral (r05-r08)
- Act 4 Normal: Ort/Thul/Amn/Sol (r09-r12)
- Act 5 Normal: Shael/Dol (r13-r14)
- Act 1 Nightmare: Hel/Io (r15-r16)
- Act 2 Nightmare: Lum/Ko (r17-r18)
- Act 3 Nightmare: Fal/Lem (r19-r20)
- Act 4 Nightmare: Pul/Um (r21-r22)
- Act 5 Nightmare: Mal/Ist (r23-r24)
- Act 1 Hell: Gul/Vex (r25-r26)
- Act 2 Hell: Ohm/Lo (r27-r28)
- Act 3 Hell: Sur/Ber (r29-r30)
- Act 4 Hell: Jah/Cham (r31-r32)
- Act 5 Hell: Zod (r33)
Thanks to game updates since patch 1.10, it’s now possible to upgrade to all levels of runes, which means collecting them and building toward the high-level runes required by the biggest Runewords.
For mathematical reasons, and to save your sanity, note that it’s virtually impossible to transmute the lowest runes into the highest ones. Lower-level runes are useful in cube and crafting recipes.
- Full Cube Recipes list.
It would take exactly 3,486,784,401 El runes to make a Pul rune, which is one of the first highly tradable runes, and to create your own Zod from El runes you would need 14,281,868,906,496 El runes and 1,088,393,215 assorted gems. If you are looking to make some of the highest runes you are simply wasting your time collecting any of the lower runes.
Rune Drop Odds
A pair of charts taken from Urlik’s Rune Finder Guide illustrating the scarcity of higher-level runes. These odds are accurate or v1.10+, and are based on the drop coming from a monster or object that could theoretically drop a Zod rune.