Some items in Diablo II are socketed items, which means that one can insert runes, gems or jewels into them. Socket Items can also be identified by having a grey name. When runes are placed into these socketed items in a specific combination, the item will get a stats bonus from each individual rune along with an extra boost on top of that. This special order of runes is known as a runeword. Once you successfully make a runeword, you’ll be able to tell when you hover over the image in your inventory.
Blizzard created Runewords for the Lord of Destruction expansion pack and therefore can’t be created in the classic Diablo II. They introduced the most powerful runewords with Patch 1.10 so you must be patched to at least this version. There are 73 runewords in total. Some of the most popular ones are Enigma, Spirit, Faith, Insight, Fortitude, Call To Arms, Chains of Honor, Exile, Last Wish, Breath of the Dying, Heart of the Oak, Infinity.
One can only use Runewords on specific items. Here’s the list of items that one can use with runewords in Diablo II:
For a Diablo II runeword to work correctly, there are a number of rules that one needs to follow. These are:
Some runes are rather rare or expensive, which means you should be very careful when creating runewords. This is because there are dangers involved. Once you’ve placed your runes into a socketed item, you cannot remove them. If you accidentally place a wrong rune, or insert them in the incorrect order, you do not get a second chance to create the runeword. Pay extra attention to runes that look similar, like Io and Lo.
Also, if you decide to experiment with unknown or rumored runewords, you must first be prepared to lose the runes if it doesn’t work. Trying to socket it into an item that has no socket, e.g. a unique item or a set item, won’t work – so there is no danger involved.
There are certain runewords in Diablo II that are only available on a ladder. You can try and make them on non-ladder, but nothing will happen.
When the ladder expires, all characters are transferred to non-ladder and any runewords created are stored. However, you cannot obtain ladder runewords in non-ladder. Therefore, if you are playing multi-player mode, the only way to get these ladder runewords is to trade with other players. Alternatively, if you are playing in single-player, you can unlock these runewords by editing the game files or by downloading a mod.
Here’s a list of the ladder only runewords in Diablo II: https://diablo2.diablowiki.net/Ladder_Runewords
Depending on your gameplay strategy, some Diablo II runewords will be better for you than others. In general, there are runewords that are great for all character classes. Expectedly, these runewords are both expensive and rare. There are also options that are more common and can work well for specific classes.
Amazon: When combined with an Amazon-specific bow, the runeword Faith can vastly increase your Amazon’s attack stats. It adds +1 or 2 to all Skills, huge extra damage and +12 to 15 to Fanaticism Aura which boosts the damage and attack speed even more . Ultimately, this is the best runeword in Diablo II for Amazons specializing in bow skills.
Assassin: The runeword Treachery is an excellent way to improve an Assassin’s body armour. It’s often named as one of the best hireling armours available in Diablo II. It’s specially designed to be used by an Assassin, so gives a +2 to Assassin Skills, in addition to a great range of other bonuses like +45% increased Attack Speed and a L15 Fade for almost five minutes after being activated. Chaos runeword is a most when you want to play a crazy whirlwind assassin as it provides you with +1 to Whirlwind.
Barbarian: If you’re playing on a ladder and are prepared to pay, then Last Wish is the runeword for your Barbarian’s axe. It gives the weapon an Enhanced Damage of between +330 and +375 as well as increasing the chance of a Crushing Blow by up to 70%. Outside of a ladder, the Breath of the Dying rune word is the ultimate addition to a Berserker Axe, giving it the best rate of damage per second for any one-handed weapon, plus a whole range of other bonuses. However, it is rather expensive thanks to the required Zod rune, which makes it indestructible. In terms of armour, Enigma is very useful runeword for a Barbarian in Diablo II as it bestows teleportation, letting a Barbarian get close enough to do some damage.
Druid:Fortitude is a very nice piece of armour for shape shifting druids as it provides you with additional enhanced damage and it has a chance to give you extra defence when casting the chilling armour. Meanwhile, higher level Elemental Druids should make an investment in Heart of the Oak. This is because it increases Cast Rate by 40% and +3 to all Skills to boost the elemental damage.
Necromancer: White is a really powerful runeword for the Necromancer using Poison and Bone skills, it provides tons of stats and you can even sock it in a Wand which has already bonus Skills like 1-3 to Bone Spear. The runes involved are also relatively cheap. If you’re on a ladder, using Spirit on a shield has many advantages, including an increase of 25%-35% on Cast Rate.
Paladin: Like the Necromancer, a Paladin can’t go wrong with Shields (e.g. Smiter Build) enhanced by the runeword Spirit, but it should be made in a Paladin Specific Shield as they can provide you additional stats like +45 to all elemental resistances. In a ladder, Grief is useful for certain Paladin builds as it adds +340-400 to Damage. When combined with the right equipment and auras, adding Grief to a sword or axe can create a bonus of more than 1000% to total damage. Enigma is a super popular runeword in the Hammerdin Build.
Sorceress: For a low-level Sorceress, one of the best runewords in Diablo II is Leaf. It is added to a stave and allows for an increase of +3 to Warmth, combatting the issue of low Mana in lower level Sorceresses. As a Sorceress has little skill in hand-to-hand combat, the runeword Call to Arms can be handy too.