Runes are small objects that, like gems and jewels, have no function until they are socketed into an item.

How to use a Rune

Runes add different properties to shields or armor vs. weapons, and sometimes shields and armor differ as well. See the full runes listing here. Runes can be upgraded; 2 or 3 of one type, plus a particular gem type/quality, can be combined in the Horadric Cube to upgrade to the next higher level rune. Runes are most powerful when combined into special runewords, so be sure you check the recipes for those.



This is where Runes really become awesome. A “Runeword” is the term for an item that has been socketed with special Runes in the correct order. Runewords can only be fashioned in regular (gray name, ‘normal’) socketed items, with the precise number of sockets required for that recipe. No more and no less.

The majority of the most powerful weapons and armor in the game are runewords, though they can be difficult to obtain, since the powerful ones require very scarce, high level runes. In addition to the runes, a suitable item must be found to create the runeword in. It makes no sense to create a high damage runeword in a weapon with a low base damage, so expert players search long and hard for just the right item with just the right number of sockets, while working to store up the runes they’ll need to fill them. Runewords offer all the individual bonuses of all the runes used, and in addition usually add several other bonuses. For example, any runeword containing the rune “Zod” will have the indestructible trait, along with other bonuses of the particular runeword. Runeword items may also be reset to the original unsocketed item state via a cube recipe (Runeword + Hel rune + scroll of town portal) removing all the runes, and destroying the runes in the process. Once a rune is placed into an item, it is impossible to get it back, so it is best to make sure the runes are placed in the right order, and the right weapon/armor class is used.

Diablo II Rune Item Generation

Runes are not like gems, they are not dropped in equal amounts, they are more like items. There are common runes, and there are runes that you’ll find once in your character’s life, if that often. Runes drop pretty regularly, you’ll often find several a game, but only the common ones. The less common runes are very hard to find, and the rarest of them all are virtually imaginary. On or in multiplayer games, you will have a better chance of finding more runes if there are more players present in a game, as the number of players in a game increases the total items dropped.

So how do Runes generate? A quick overview of how the game decides which items to drop when is needed.

  • When you kill a monster, the game picks a treasure class based on the monster’s level (Mlvl).
  • A random roll takes place, and the game either drops an item from that treasure class, drops nothing, or goes down to a lower treasure class.
  • Once in the next lower treasure class it can again drop an item from that treasure class, drop nothing, or move to the next lower treasure class.
  • It will continue calculating what to drop until selected an item, or selecting to drop nothing at all.

Here’s a quick list of comparative Rune scarcity.

El = 144,238
Eld = 96,159
Tir = 69,209
Nef = 46,139
Eth = 43,530
Ith = 29,020
Tal = 32,998
Ral = 21,999
Ort = 21,133
Thul = 14,088
Amn = 11,822
Sol = 7881
Shael = 6028
Dol = 4019
Hel = 2899
Io/Po = 1933
Lum = 1343
Ko = 895
Fal = 606
Lem = 404
Pul = 267
Um = 178
Mal = 115
Ist = 77
Gul = 48
Vex = 32
Ohm = 19
Lo = 13
Sur = 7.2
Ber = 4.8
Jah = 2.4
Cham = 1.6
Zod = 1

Further Information

You can find out more of the essential information about rune in one of these articles:

  • Rune list – All the runes in the game, and how you can create a Zod rune from a fourteen trillion Els.
  • Runewords – Get help to create runewords.
  • Sockets – Get to know more about the socket mechanic.

Rune FAQ

Most players have gotten the hang of runewords by now, but we saw a lot of errors in the early days/months after Diablo II’s release. Of those mistakes, 99% were:

  • Tried to make it in a magical/Unique/set item.
  • Tried to make it in an item with more than the required sockets.
  • Tried a weapon recipe in armor, helm recipe in shield, sword recipe in bow, etc. The recipes work only for the items that they are listed to work for.

Do RuneWords work in single player or over Open

Yes, for the most part. In v1.10 and later, some runewords were added that only worked for characters on the ladders; not on the open realms. Some of these ladder-only runewords work for single player, but not all. See the full listing for more details.

Do RuneWords work on Mercs?

Yes, they do work on mercenaries. There were some bugs with this in early versions of D2X, but they’re long since fixed.

Does +Magic Find gear work to find more or better Runes?

No, +MF% doesn’t make more Runes or higher quality Runes drop. It doesn’t hurt your odds either. Playing in games with more players is the best way to find more runes, since monsters drop more of all types of items in larger games.

How do I make a RuneWord?

To make a runeword, you must be sure you follow all of these steps exactly:

  1. The item must be a low quality, normal, or superior normal item. The name should be in grey. You can not use Set, Unique, Rare, or Magical items, even if they have the correct number of sockets!
  2. The item must be of the correct type. If the recipe says “swords only” it means it! Maces, axes, etc won’t work.
  3. The item must have exactly the correct number of sockets. This means no more and no less than the number of Runes. You can’t put a three-socket RuneWord into a 5 socket item, it won’t work, you’ll just get the bonuses from the individual Runes.
  4. You must insert the Runes in the correct sequence.
  5. You must use a recipe that works for the realm, ladder, or single player mode, depending on which you are playing.

Can I personalize a Runic Item?

Yes, via the quest reward in Act Five. Personalized Runewords now display correctly in all gold, but in some earlier versions of D2X they showed up in odd mixed colors.

Can I make a RuneWord in Wirt’s Leg?

No. Wirt’s Leg is classified as a special item, and will gain bonuses from socketed runes, but will not turn into a runeword.

Can I make a RuneWord from an Ethereal Item?

Yes, and it will keep the Ethereal property, greatly boosting the damage or defense of the item. This can be very useful for mercenary weapons or armor, since the durability will not run out. A few runewords include invulnerability or repairs over time bonuses, and they can be good choices for ethereal items too.

Do items with inherent bonuses keep them once they become RuneWords?

Yes, as long as the item is a normal item with bonus skills, and not a magical item. The items allowed are wands, staves, scepters, and all seven types of the class specific items.

These are the best types of items to use for Runewords , since they keep their inherent bonuses, and stack them with the RuneWord bonus. You can get huge bonuses to individual skills this way, such as the wand Runeword White. The various Paladin shields are very popular choices for Runewords as well, thanks to the substantial damage or resistance bonuses such shields may be found with. For example, here’s Ancient’s Pledge made in a Paladin Shield, or this Leaf staff with huge skill bonuses.

What’s a “Runic Item”?

A term for an item with a Runeword combo in it. Once you get a three-socket shield and stick RalOrtTal into it, you have a Runic Item. This term was the official one created by Blizzard North, but it’s largely fallen from common use over time.

Are RuneWords better in Superior Items?

Yes, the bonus to durability or defense or damage from an item being Superior is preserved with the Runewordbonuses once it becomes a Runic Item.

Can I make a RuneWord out of a magical or Unique, Set, Rare, Crafted, or Magical items?

No, items must be normal or superior socketed items, (grey colored-text names) to make a Runeword from them. You can find or make the socketed items with the socket-adding quest in Act Five. Note that some Uniques and all the items in the Griswold’s Legacy Set have two or more sockets in them as inherent properties, but none of these can become a runeword. Neither can magical or rare items with two or more sockets.

Is there any way to take a Rune or Runes out of a socket?

Not prior to patch v1.10. In later versions there is a Horadric Cube recipe (Hel rune + scroll of town portal) that will empty the sockets in an item, though the runes (or jewels, or gems) in the sockets are destroyed in the process.

Can I make two RuneWords in the same item?

No, Runewords can only be made in an item with the exact number of sockets the recipe calls for. If you try to put two two-rune recipes into one four-socket item, you’ll just get the bonuses for the 4 runes.

Can I socket a Runic Item and add another RuneWord to it?

No, there’s no way to add sockets to a Runeword . Even if there were, it would still be a magical-type item and ineligible for a further runeword bonus.