Runes were first introduced in Diablo 2’s expansion: Lord of Destruction. There are runes in different kinds of rarities, that will help your character to become more powerful. They can be socketed into other items. You can also unite specific runes, to create Runewords. These Runewords offer tremendous power and will drastically improve your items, adding additional bonuses to them.
Follow the next couple of sections if you want to know what kinds of runes and runeword combinations there are and how to use them.
Runes can be organized into the following 3 groups, based on their rarity: Low Runes, Mid Runes and High Runes.
Low Runes aren’t really that rare at all and most can be found early in the game and have low level requirement. The bonuses of the runes are not that great, but they can also be used for other things.
Mid Runes are harder to find in the wild. You have to play on higher difficulties to find them, or you can craft them with Low runes in the Horadric Cube. You can craft an “Hel” with 3x ”Dol” and a chipped Emerald for example. So always check for recipes, if you have some low runes left that you are willing to use.
High Runes are very rare runes. The “Zod” rune for example is the rarest and has a drop rate of 1:5171. They are also harder to craft and only drop on hell difficulty. Use them wisely, as it will usually take a longer period of time to get them.
You can craftrunes of a higher rarity: Mid Runes or even repair broken Items or upgrade them. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation with broken items and no gold left. A Ral rune can be used to repair your armor and an Ort can be used to reapair weapons. All of the crafting can be done in the Horadric Cube.
The Horadric Cube is a quest item that you obtain in the second Act of the story. It is located in the Halls of the Dead. The Horadric Cube allows you to transmute certain items, if followed the recipes correctly.
Some recipes allow you to turn an item into a better one. You can also repair items or turn them into different ones.
If you need Mid Runes, transmute Low Runes, often with other items to craft them. For example: 3x “Dol” rune + chipped Emerald = “Hel” rune.
Runes can not only be used in the Horadric Cube, but they can also be put into so called “sockets”. What’s a socket?
Weapons, Shields, Body Armor and Helmets can contain sockets. In these sockets you can place runes, gems and jewels, which will buff your item.
On normal difficulty an item can drop with a maximum of 3 sockets, on nightmare 4 and on hell up to 6 sockets. Sockets can also be crafted in the Horadric Cube, or obtained as quest reward. If you messed up and put the wrong item into a socket, you can use an expensive recipe and remove the item. Your gem, jewel or rune will be then destroyed in the process.
You can also add sockets on weapons or armor. In Act 5 there is a quest called Siege On Harrogath. After completing the quest, Larzuk the blacksmith will add a socket on an item of your choice as a reward. You will get the maximum amount of sockets for the particular item. The later in the game you get an item, the more sockets it can have.
As already mentioned above, specific runes can be combined, and if in the correct order, a Runeword is being created. There are also different kinds of Runewords. Some require 2 runes, some 3, 4, 5 and others even 6. The strongest runewords require often High runes, some even multiple.
Keep these important things in mind before putting runes into your items:
To create a runeword, your base item (the item you want to put your runes in is called base) has to have the same amount of sockets as runes needed for the word. For example: if you want an “Enigma” on your Body Armor, it needs 3 sockets, as Enigma is a combination of Jah, Ith and Ber.
So 3 runes and 3 sockets.
Another necessary thing is the order. You can’t just put in Ber first or Ith to create Enigma. The first rune you put into your Body Armor has to be Jah, the second has to be Ith followed by the last rune Ber. Some Runewords can also be used for specific items only. The example Enigma is a Body Armor only Runeword. It won’t work on weapons, shields or helmets.
These are all things you need to make sure before putting any of your hard earned runes into items!
Runewords are also very popular because you can use some abilities that come with them on any class you want. A sorceress can turn into a bear for example. You can try various of fun and weird combinations and always explore new builds and new perspectives.
Runes can drop from monsters, bosses and even from objects, so always destroy/interact with everything you can and open every chest.
Low and Mid runes can be found in Act 1, Black Marsh, The Forgotten Tower by beating The Countess. She will nearly always drop at least one rune. The higher the difficulty, the rarer the runes that can be dropped. But don’t expect High runes to drop. They only drop extremely rare from The Countess.
Another popular location is The Hellforge. It is located in Act 4, River of Flame. You have to finish the quest, but to enter you need Mephisto’s Soulstone. This is a nice spot to farm mid runes, the higher the difficulty the better. You have a 1:11 chance to drop runes between Sol and Um on nightmare difficulty.
Popular locations to farm High runes are: Arcane Sanctuary (Act 2), Tal Rasha Tombs (Act 2), Flayer Jungle and the Kurast Docks (both Act 3).
And also high density monster areas on higher difficulties in general.