Hell Difficulty Part Two

It took five additional sessions for the Low Rent Legion team to make its way through the first two acts of Hell difficulty. Although the danger level had gone up substantially in Hell, we continued to make good progress in each session with only the Tombs at the tail end of Act Two having presented real issues thus far. The start of Act Three was roughly the halfway point of the top difficulty level and by now the team was running like a well-oiled machine with everyone having a good feel for their characters. Hopefully we would be able to keep things rolling along as we moved into the final threats that Diablo 2's gameplay had to offer.

We first entered Act Three at the tail end of the same session that went through the False Tombs without much time remaining on the clock. There was enough time left over to make our way through the Spider Forest where the clear pace was vastly quicker than in the Tombs. The wide open spaces of the jungles and the much less dangerous monster mix found inside them made this area a cakewalk compared to what the team had just passed through. We found ourselves facing fetishes, jungle bunnies, and thorned hulks as opponents which didn't do anything that seriously threatened the team. Everything other than the thorned hulks turned out to be Lightning Immune which meant that I spent a lot of time cheerleading on the sidelines in this region. We found the Spider Cavern in the first alcove and headed down immediately to find the quest-mandated Khalim's Eye inside. The cavern was crawling with spiders (what a surprise) which were easy pickings for Electric Tsunami's Charged Bolt. Sszark drew a friendly combination of Fire Enchanted/Magic Resistant to pair with his natural Extra Strong/Cursed and he was downed without issue. Then we headed back to the surface and cleared the rest of the Spider Forest, grabbing the waypoint but not having time to run the Arachnid Lair. All in all, an excellent start to the act with nice teamwork from everyone.

Dp101 was missing from the initial part of the next session as we began Act Three in earnest. The team picked up from the Spider Forest waypoint and immediately headed down into the Arachnid Lair which always spawns next to the beacon. The place was full of maggots and two different types of spider which were easy pickings for the group. We hit three spider bosses right away on the left side of the level but none of them rolled particularly diffcult traits. The Extra Strong boss was paired with Stone Skin + Mana Burn, the Conviction aura boss also had the Mana Burn trait, that sort of thing. Everything in this underground area also had poison immunity which presented no difficulties for the team. We rolled through here pretty quickly despite lacking our normal Might aura to buff up the physical damage dealers.

We had to repeat a fair portion of the Spider Forest as we kept trekking east towards Kurast. There was no avoiding this since the waypoints are so spaced out in the Act Three jungles and the path through the Spider Forest turned out to be completely linear. All of the fetishes were again Lightning Immune of course and this left my character with little to do. When we reached the Great Marsh, we found that the monster draw remained mostly the same with more fetishes and soul killers. Flayers are the one monster type in that group which are Cold Immune instead of Lightning Immune but we didn't see many of them for whatever reason. Weirdly, the shamans have fire immunity so Electric Tsunami was able to damage them but not the little ankle biters once the shamans were toppled over. IAndrosov's Fire Blast was the skill of choice here as its area of effect nature was perfect for downing large numbers of stationary fetish blowdart minions. The Flayer Jungle proved to be more of the same, with almost everything having lightning immunity that turned my character into a passive observer. These outdoor areas remained fairly straightforward aside from the one point in time that I accidentally ran across a river and had to portal out while drinking rejuv potions a few seconds away from certain death.

Boro had to leave unexpectedly during this session only to be replaced by Dp101 which kept our group at a team size of five. Fortunately there were no quests of significance in this part of the gameplay (the Gidbinn quest reward ring from this session was laughably bad) and therefore it didn't matter if some of our team members had to miss part of the session. The danger level ratcheted up in a huge way when we descended into the two subdungeons in the Flayer Jungle where the spaces were much tighter. Fetishes and gloams were bad enough but the real threat came from the first appearance of our old friends from Nightmare difficulty, the undead stygian dolls and their death explostions. The normal version of these enemies was bad enough but their deadliness spiked off the charts when we encountered bosses like the one pictured above. The Cursed affix increased the damage from their explosions which was already being scaled up by Hell difficulty and made it almost impossible for our melee characters to survive. The only safe way to handle these situations was to let Gario's skeleton minions tank for us by eating the death explosions. I tried to keep a wall of skeletons between Electric Tsunami and the monsters at all points in time and moved forward as cautiously as possible. No running around on my own in this place! At least the undead dolls were Poison Immune which was irrelevant for this particular group. We could hurt them but they could also hurt us - a lot.

As dangerous as the Flayer Dungeon and the Swampy Pit proved to be, we handled them well as a team overall. Party deaths were kept to a minimum and largely took place when a wave of undead dolls flooded in unexpectedly before we could get the skeleton defensive line in place. We were also lucky enough to roll a couple of floors where the undead stygian dolls were not present and they were much less taxing to complete. The bottom floor of both areas was largely deserted as always and we were rewarded with precisely nothing for completing the Swampy Pit. If there's a design lesson here for Diablo 4, it would be to include rewards that players actually care about for taking the time to complete optional areas. The gold treasure chests are basically pointless.

It was a relief to turn the last corner in the jungles and find Stormtree at the entrance to Kurast. The big guy and his minions were slow moving even with the Extra Fast trait and their Cold Immune protection did nothing to help them against this group. That brought us to Lower Kurast where it turned out that all of the monsters were once again Lightning Immune leaving my character with little to do. I spent a lot of time hauling junk back to town for selling since my character was ineffective during this session. Lots and lots of enemies who couldn't be damaged by Charged Bolt. That's not to say that Lower Kurast was particularly hard, mind you, with the vultures and faithful zealots and doom apes easily handled by the other skills that the party had available. The Kurast Baazar was more of the same with a bit less lightning immunity on the monsters and otherwise friendly outdoor draws. We found the waypoints quickly enough in each area and prepared to head into the first two temples, infamous in the Diablo 2 community for their role as potential deathtraps.

We started with the Ruined Temple and were pleased to find that Sarina's mob had not spawned on the staircase as sometimes happens. First we cleared out the two little side wings for safety, then headed through the main doorway to the south. That was when a Fanaticism-enhanced Sarina and her goons came racing towards the party and downed poor Dp101 almost before we knew what happened. The good news was that we were able to use the architecture of the temple to our advantage, as Sarina's mob choked up on the narrow doorway against the skeleton minions where they were easy pickings for Fire Blast and Charged Bolt and Dragon Talon kicks when Burninator1729 was able to get close enough to use it safely. We were able to clear out these foes with no further losses and then proceed on to the vampires in the back of the main room to claim the quest reward. (I held onto Lam Esem's tome until the next session so that we could turn in the reward with Boro present.) Dp101 remarked on our Discord afterwards that so many of these screenshots capture ArchaicMight perishing, and while that's certainly true, it's also because the fights that were dangerous enough to be worth discussing were also the fights most likely to down one of our party members. I'm generally not screenshotting or writing about the innumerable battles where Dp101 locked up an opposing boss perfectly with Smite and everything went exactly according to plan.

We skipped over the Kurast Sewers for the moment so that we could push ahead to Upper Kurast and claim the waypoint there. Upper Kurast had more vultures and zealots (both of them Lightning Immune) plus Thrasher thorned hulks that Electric Tsunami could actually damage. This was the most Lightning Immune session that I can recall since the very start of Act One Hell and the rest of the team did most of the work on this day. We had enough time to full clear Upper Kurast and find the waypoint, then polished off the two optional temples to avoid having to return for them the next week. The Forgotten Reliquary had a spicy trap at the stairs:

There were half a dozen corrupted rogue melee opponents along with this vampire boss who lit the place up with meteors. This was a good time to have max fire resistance! We had been taking care to enter each of the temples simultaneously as a group and that paid off bigtime in situations like this where a solo character likely would have been swarmed and killed. The Disused Fane back in the Kurast Bazaar had been almost as bad with monsters flanking us out of two doorways simultaneously and the skeletons only able to post up against one of the two sides. We were able to handle both of these hairballs without character losses but only because we had coordinated our entrance into both areas. The other temple in Upper Kurast, the Forgotten Temple, proved to be much easier with a bunch of snakes and enough room to fight them since we could actually get down the stairs before being attacked. We made it further than I expected in this session and hopefully we'd be able to finish Act Three next time.

That brought our session to a close where we unfortunately didn't find much of interest in terms of items. We found the unique amulet Crescent Moon which was pitifully sad for anyone who didn't want 14% mana leech. I also finally realized that I should upgrade my Lore helmet and made a new version out of a Giant Conch elite item for the extra defensive rating. Electric Tsunami actually had enough defense so that monsters missed her some of the time (their to-hit was about 60%) which was frankly amazing. I amassed more than a million gold in this session from carting stuff back to town for sale and spent it all on gambles without finding a circlet with +2 or +3 sorcie lightning skills. We were getting to the point where she could simply roll +2 all skills (not +2 lightning skills) on circlets and amulets which I believe unlocks at CLVL 90. Someday...

We were missing IAndrosov for the next session and therefore hoped that we wouldn't encounter too many Lightning Immune opponents. These hopes were immediately dashed in Upper Kurast where almost everything was invulnerable to Charged Bolt; fortunately we had already cleared the area the previous week and only needed to find the stairs down to the Sewers. It took longer than expected to find one of the entrances followed by the team descending into the dull underground region. We drew a collection of monsters which were entirely Poison Immune down there: mummies, mosquitos, and undead stygian dolls. The little bone dolls had caused no end of problems for the group in Nightmare difficulty but this time around we handled them smoothly and without much trouble. I think it was due to the vastly higher threat level of Hell difficulty: everything could potentially kill our characters so we treated everything with respect. We stayed behind Gario's skeleton minions and largely stayed out of reach of the death explosions. Progress was steady through the Kurast Sewers and party deaths were almost nonexistent.

There were two remaining temples on the Kurast Causeway and we made sure to enter them simultaneously once again. Both of them lacked stairs traps and wound up being a breeze to complete, nothing too dangerous in terms of bosses or champ packs inside. Overall the six Kurast temples were pretty friendly and we managed to avoid ever hitting a true deathtrap in any of them. Then it was on to Travincal, one of my favorite parts of the game, where for some reason we ended up clearing the outer rim of the temple city first. I think we were pulled up there by some Hierophant monsters and then kept going in a clockwise circle all the way around the area. The zealot minions were Lightning Immune but the Hierophants themselves were not and the vampires lacked any protection against our damage types. The fire and blizzard effects on these enemies look amazing in D2R and I had a blast clearing out the defenders of Travincal.

The Council was packed into the Durance entrance room and quickly raised so many hydras that we were unable to continue further. Just look at that avalanche of fireballs flying towards us from the Council in the screenshot above! We tried to fight in this spot for about ten seconds before the skeleton minions crumbled and we were forced to retreat backwards. This was the rare point in time where Gario's bony defenders were completely wiped out and there was no way that we could fight the whole Council without them. We followed the standard tactic of pulling the monsters back into Travincal to split them up for individual disposal, suffering a couple of party deaths along the way. After a minute or so of frantic combat, we were able to get Ismail and one other Council minion separated on the right side of the level where they could be taken out away from their friends. The two of them were healing one another but not quickly enough to outpace our collective damage. Then we were able to return back to the Durance entrance and finish off the last remaining Council members; I never even saw Toorc but I believe he was the last to be slain. All in all, we handled a dangerous situation pretty well here.

The first two floors of the Durance had a mixture of mummies, vampires, maulers, and undead stygian dolls. We were happy to see the mummies and the vampires any time that they showed up, with the mummies by far the least dangerous enemies and the vampires hardly more threatening despite their impressive spell effects. The ability to resist the elemental damage of spellcasters makes them inherently less deadly than physical attackers in Diablo 2 (which is why archers tend to be some of the worst opponents). Maulers turned out to be more annoying than expected since they were all Lightning Immune and we didn't have IAndrosov's Fire Blasts to help us out this week. At least the big pinheads were easy targets for stunlocking with Smite and Bash due to their huge character models. The first floor of the Durance was normal size followed by the enormous reaches of Durance 2 in Hell difficulty. We caught a major break here by avoiding the undead stygian dolls on Durance 2 and drawing the other three monsters instead. This allowed us to make steady progress and clear out the whole level in about 20 minutes of real world time. I thought that we might get stuck there for an hour or more so this was much better than expected.

The final remaining tests in Act Three were lurking down on the bottom floor of the Durance. We cut to the bottom side of the entry room and took out a champ pack of vampires without waking up Bremm Sparkfist and his minions. The sparking one proved to be much easier this time around as compared to Nightmare; since he and his minions were Lightning Immune, I had Electric Tsunami focused on killing some vampires and didn't even get a screenshot of his boss abilities. Evidently nothing too dangerous as Boro and Dp101 had him under control the whole time. We headed to the left next and killed Maffer, then decided to head over to the right and eliminate Wyand. That's when we ran into a bit of miscommunication: Boro ran LRL_PunchingBag past Mephisto and woke him up rather than walk around the southern end of the blood pool. This resulted in Mephisto casting a series of deadly blizzard spells on top of the group as we were trying to deal with Wyand and his vampires, killing Gario and Burninator1729 before we could get the situation under control:

All of the skeleton minions collapsed into bones as soon as Gario died which further complicated things. It didn't take too long to down Wyand and post up Mephisto with our melee characters, at which time the act end boss died without further fuss, but this had been a failure of communication that made things much harder than they needed to be. It's always a good idea to clear out the side wings before engaging with Mephisto to prevent this kind of thing from happening since Mephisto's ranged attacks are far more dangerous than his melee ones. He was blasting us with spells while we were still deadling with the monsters in the room on the right - not what we wanted! We grabbed our soulstone drops and headed into the red portal leading to Act Four.

The outdoor areas of Act Four were significantly easier than the challenges that we had just faced in the Durance. With tons of room to manuever and less dangerous monster types, the Low Rent Legion team made it through the Outer Steppes and the Plains of Despair without any true hairball situations popping up. We avoiding seeing any Venom Lords, probably the most difficult opponent in the Outer Steppes, while our various abilities made short work of the corpse eaters, stygian hags, and storm casters that appeared. I was particularly amused by the stygian hags which rarely had an opportunity to spawn more flesh pups thanks to being locked up with Smite and Bash. There was also one point in time where a Lightning Immune storm caster boss was getting Bashed all over the landscape while my character looked on without being able to deal any damage. That poor thing was smacked across a third of the level before Burninator1729 could walk over and kick it to death. These were easy areas and a nice chance of pace after the deadly ending to Act Three.

The one tricky situation took place at the close of the session as we entered the City of the Damned. We didn't have enough time to full clear the area and the group made a bid to run ahead to collect the waypoint, always a dangerous proposition. Our tanky characters and the skeleton army headed off to the south and I found Electric Tsunami left by herself trying to kite an enemy mob to death with repeated Charged Bolt casts. The situation deteriorated enough that I had to escape out of a town portal one step ahead of annihilation, tense stuff for a character who somehow still hadn't died yet. Fortunately we did manage to secure the City waypoint where the group could return for the next session to get a proper full clear. With the gold accumulated in this session I swiched over to gambling coronets instead of circlets and managed to hit one with +2 Necromancer skills. That wasn't as good as the +3 Necromancer Summoning item that Gario already had but it was proof that the +2 skills affixes were now available on coronet gambles. I was still hoping to find +2 sorcie skills or better yet +3 lightning skills on a circlet/coronet which had stubbornly refused to appear for the entire length of the game.

The following week I was out of town on travel and the rest of the team ran a session catching up IAndrosov through the rest of Act Three and then pushing on to the River of Flame waypoint in Act Four. This was one of Gario's screenshots showcasing a disastrous fight against Mephisto that left a bunch of player corpses on the ground. The big demon was activated early once again and killed almost everyone, somehow not triggering the quest completion for the end of the act. (My guess is that the player in question didn't click on the red portal to Act Four; that's the trigger to move on to the next part of the game.) That forced a second trip through Durance 2 where undead soul flayers appeared followed by what Dp101 described as a hellish triple boss fight in the first room of Durance 3. The group did succeed eventually and killed Mephisto again in about 10 seconds with no casualties; he's very weak when engaged by himself at melee range.

The rest of the time in that session was spent picking up the Izual quest for everyone, full clearing the City of the Damned and the River of Flame, and then finally running three Hellforge quests for the rune drops. Included above was one of Boro's screenshots with a Fire Immune boss that the team needed a fair bit of time to kill thanks to my lightning sorcie being missing in action. Stone Skin plus fire immunity reduced the damage output of the team to a crawl. I can attest to how badly we missed IAndrosov's fire damage when he was out for a session and the team definitely functioned more smoothly when we had everyone present to contribute their abilities to the overall mix.

I was back the following week and the group jumped me forward to the River of Flame waypoint and the ending stages of Act Four. We were missing Dp101 and decided to start by running another Hellforge quest in the hopes that she would be along before we finished the act. The River of Flame turned out to be heavy on Lightning Immune opponents this time around, Stranglers and Abyss Knights both completely immune, with only the Pit Lord demons lacking protection against Electric Tsunami's Charged Bolts (and they had 75% lightning resistance themselves!) This was an area where our lack of cold damage was a liability since everything had so much defense against fire and lightning elements. We slogged our way back from the waypoint and fortunately found the Hellforge off ramp pretty quickly where Hephasto rolled his old trait of Extra Strong along with some further lightning immunity. (He was naturally Extra Strong / Cursed in pre-expansion days and incredibly dangerous if he rolled another damage modifier on top of those two.) We didn't have any trouble clearing out Hey Fatso or the enemies protecting the forge, then I smashed my soulstone in return for a very nice Mal rune. It wasn't quite as amazing as that Vex rune from Act One Hell but not bad either!

We next headed back to the River waypoint and began the final push into the Chaos Sanctuary. This has always been one of my absolute favorite parts of the game and the reskinned version in D2R looks amazing with all of the hellish fire effects. The Chaos Sanctuary always has the same monster mix (Venom Lords, Storm Casters, and Oblivion Knights) and the group made for some tough going. While we weren't in too much danger of getting swarmed and pushed out of the Sancutary, the pace was on the slow side thanks to these enemies having high HP and resistances. We cleared the Chaos Sanctuary in clockwise fashion, starting with the Grand Vizier and then working around to De Seis and the Infector. Boro's Howl warcry was extremely useful in scattering the Vizier's mob of Storm Casters while IAndrosov tore them apart with Fire Blast. De Seis rolled a Fanaticism aura which made him a bit trickier than normal while the Infector's pack of Venom Lords found themselves stuck on the skeleton minions, swinging their blades uselessly as they were downed by ranged attacks. That left Diablo...

...who died in mere seconds yet again to the combined team. His Bone Prison was legitimately tougher to kill than he was. I know that I keep making this point in the written report but it's still crazy how some random Urdar boss pack can kill multiple party members and require long minutes of dangerous fighting to defeat, only to have the Lord of Terror collapse instantly without scratching anyone. The difficulty level in the gameplay is laughably out of balance in this respect. As a sign of how pathetic Diablo proved to be, Gario still had most of his skeleton minions alive in that screenshot despite the 10x damage bonus Diablo gets against them. Amazing stuff.

It was on to Act Five from there where the Bloody Foothills drew a pair of guest monsters in spear cats and thorned hulks. Since Shenk and his Enslaved minions were technically also present in this area but didn't appear until the very end, we were stuck with just the two guest enemies for the first 90% of the region. These two proved to be a fairly dangerous combination, with the spear cats dealing heavy damage when encountered in groups or when juiced up with boss affixes, and the thorned hulks serving as study melee tanks to protect them. The tree monsters were also Lightning Immune and there were several times when Electric Tsunami found herself getting chased around by a group of opponents that she couldn't hurt in any way. I had to call on my teammates to come rescue me whenever that happened, heh. All of the outdoor areas in Act Five are needlessly large and the presence of only two monsters made this a tedious place to clear out. Shenk died so quickly at the conclusion that I never managed to get a screenshot.

The Frigid Highlands did not have guest monsters, insteading rolling the pathetic Enslaved enemies and two different types of imps. These were significantly easier monsters that posed virtually no danger at all and our group made much faster progress through this second region. We seemed to spend the most time breaking down the guard towers and doors, leading to the hilarious sight of the party banging away on inanimate objects that couldn't fight back. They took longer to kill than the imps and were only slightly less dangerous! The Abbadon subdungeon was notably harder thanks to having frenzytaurs and witches present although not in huge numbers. At least those areas are pretty small.

Dp101 arrived when we were nearly finished clearing the Frigid Highlands so we pushed forward to grab the Arreat Plateau waypoint and then jumped into a new game to rush her character forward into Act Five. We seemed to hit a lot more boss packs this time around in the Chaos Sanctuary, something like seven or eight of them in total, and we were glad to have the Might aura and Smite-locking of ArchaicMight on hand this time around. The seal bosses were once again routine fights and Diablo fared even worse the second time around if that was possible. We had just enough time to run another Hellforge quest and this time scored an Um rune from the altar. Unfortunately most of the runeword that we would have liked to make with those Um and Mal runes were forbidden by the variant, no Crescent Moon due to the chance to cast Chain Lightning and no class-specific armors like Bone or Rain for the same chance to cast disallowed skills. Maybe one of our melee attackers would want a Duress armor which could be useful for the resistances and crushing blow / open wounds abilities. At least we were able to make a Lionheart armor for Boro's Barbarian with some of the Hellforge drops from the previous session and a Hel rune I had saved in stash.

The next session covered the middle portions of Act Five. Unfortunately this part of the writeup will be a bit shorter because my computer suffered a hard drive failure the same day that this session was played and then went into the repair shop for the next month afterwards. By the time that it was fixed and came back with the screenshots from this part of the journey, I didn't have a great memory of the events that took place. In any case, we picked up from the Arreat Plateau and had to full clear the area since we had rushed forward to the waypoint previously. The waypoint turned out to be located at the very back end of the area, right next to the entrance to the Crystalline Passage, and Thresh Socket was one of the first monsters that we defeated. We basically cleared the Arreat Plateau backwards and defeated a bunch of skeleton mages along the way which weren't terribly difficult as opponents.

The Crystalline Passage was full of snakes, lots of Claw Vipers shooting their bone spears along with the shambling ice monsters and their chilling breath. This pairing wasn't so bad for the ranged characters on the team but the melee players had a rough time of things. It would have been a good time to use the new Wisdom runeword with its "Cannot Be Frozen" modifier if this had been after Patch 2.4's release instead of just a few weeks before it. I have a screenshot of an Extra Strong viper boss getting a kill against IAndrosov during the course of clearing the place out. We continued to the Frozen River next which dropped the snakes in favor of two types of witches. Their projectiles filled up the screen with glowing orbs and made for a great deal of visual clutter when a bunch of them attacked at once. The team handled this area quite well aside from accidentally popping an evil urn in the middle of a fight and launching another Siren boss on top of poor Dp101. We were able to fight our way to Anya and wrap up this portion of the quest line.

The remainder of the session was spent grinding our way through Nihlathak's Temple and it was indeed a real grind getting down to the bottom floor. The group entered the red portal while I was still shopping in town and made quick work of the walking dead skeletons in there thanks to Gario raising half of them as minions before they could even rise for the first time. I never so much as saw Pindleskin on this trip. The Halls of Anguish was where things slowed down to a crawl as we drew an enemy mix of minotaurs, beetles, and the death maulers that send spikes through the ground. There were multiple bosses right near the entrance to the floor and we had a tough, deadly fight on our hands before we could clear out enough space to start making progress. Then it took a good 20 minutes to push our way through the rest of the level with the pace slowed by the lightning immunity on all the beetles. This was far from our favorite area we'd encountered.

It didn't get any better on the next floor down in the Halls of Pain where we were confronted with flayers, zealots, and stygian hags for opponents. The flayers were especially present in massive numbers and their little blowdarts were painful when rounding a corner and running into several dozen anklebiters at once. More annoying yet was the fact that all of the flayers were Fire Immune and therefore safe against IAndrosov's Fire Blast traps which otherwise would have been perfect for downing them. My character had to do most of the work against the flayers as the only other player with area of effect damage. Conversely, the zealots were all Lightning Immune and therefore Charged Bolt was useless against them. At least the breeding hags were only Cold Immune so that we could work our way through them with both of our elemental damage types. Between the hag pups and all those flayers, this was another packed floor that took quite a while in real-world time to clear out. We were getting mighty tired of slogging through these dreary brown corridors by now.

Eventually though we cleared out everything and headed to the bottom floor of the Halls of Vaught. Nihlathak turned out to be waiting in the first of the four quadrants that we explored. He was hiding in the very back portion of the chamber and I didn't get a great look at his boss affixes until it was too late. I spotted that he was Lightning Enchanted which was no big deal but then realized that his other ability was Cursed which is one of the worst possible things that he can draw. Half the damage from his Corpse Explosion is physical in nature - look out!

Despite my best efforts to keep Electric Tsunami safely far away from the fighting, Nihlathak detonated one of the corpses under her feet and did more than 800 damage. This screenshot was a lucky coincidence: I was trying to grab a picture of Nihlathak's boss abilities and happened to snap it right after the Corpse Explosion went off but before drinking a full rejuv a split second later. It was a good thing that my character had maxed fire resistance and 1150 HP or this would have been the end of her deathless streak. Even after receiving a series of nerfs over the years Nihlathak remains a dangerous customer. He died mere seconds after this image was taken, swarmed over by skeleton minions and Boro + Burninator's damage, but this was a closer call than I wanted. The other three quadrants of the Halls of Vaught were less eventful despite the presence of several witch bosses and then we were finally done with the most annoying part of Act Five. The group raced forward to the Glacial Trail waypoint where we were more than ready to call it a day.

We were unfortunately missing Boro for what looked to be the final session of the Low Rent Legion team. The group was picking up from the Glacial Trail waypoint which we had secured but not full cleared at the tail end of the last session. I was running D2R from my desktop computer thanks to the normal gaming laptop being stuck in the repair shop, thus causing all of these screenshots to have a slightly different resolution from the rest of the report. The Glacial Trail was populated by a mixture of minotaurs and skeleton mages, with the undead monsters having the same bone-white appearance as Gario's minions. The minotaurs were the real danger of course and we had to tread carefully to avoid anyone getting stunlocked and killed. There was one point where we hit a minotaur boss with the Stone Skin / Extra Strong / Stone Skin abilities who ended up Fire Immune and Physical Immune, even with Amplify Damage curse applied! Electric Tsunami was the only character who could hurt that guy so it was a good thing I was present for the session. We downed the rest of the enemy mob and then I finished off the boss while he was stunlocked by Dp101.

This area also held the notorious deathtrap of the Drifter Cavern which held goats, yetis, and corrupted rogue archers. The presence of the archers was what made this a difficult area especially when we hit one nasty archer juiced up with the Extra Strong / Multishot combo sniping away from across one of the frozen river segments. Throw in a Fanaticism aura goat boss (who luckily only had Mana Burn / Magic Resistant for the other traits) and we had quite a hairball given the cramped conditions of the underground area. We were never wiped out as a party but it was dicey for a few minutes. By contrast, the outdoor area of the Frozen Tundra was a real snoozefest with only skeleton archers and the weak enslaved enemies. I only took a single screenshot here because we were not threatened as a party by these monsters. I think we spent more time bashing down the walls and towers on the fortifications than killing the monsters.

We did clear out the Infernal Pit subdungeon which also proved not to be too dangerous. There were imps and vampires down there on the river of flame and I recall one imp that kept jumping back and forth over a barricade to be a real pain in the butt. None of these foes had enough damage to have any real chance to kill our characters though and this was pretty smooth sailing. We did have three different unique items drop in the Infernal Pit although none of them were keepers and I didn't screenshot which ones they were. Then it was on to the Ancient's Way which increased the difficulty level significantly with fights like the one pictured above. This region was heavy on the minotaurs along with yetis and quill rats though we didn't seem to encounter too many of the spike shooters. Instead we kept encountering large battles with groups of melee opponents like the Extra Fast minotaur group above. That boss was Physical Immune and Lightning Immune which meant that we were relying on Fire Blast traps from IAndrosov and Burninator1729 to handle the boss. The area of effect fire explosions were super useful when there were big clumped mobs like this one. Shortly thereafter we had another big fight with multiple bosses in the vicinity of an Evil Urn and at some point one of us accidentally clicked on the urn to release another boss into the fray. There was even a minotaur boss who was Fire Immune and Lightning Immune which meant that only Bootica's kicks could deal damage. This was one busy area.

The team also had to clear out the Icy Cellar and it proved to be tougher than the Drifter Cavern had been. This time we rolled bone-spear tossing snakes along with our old friend the undead stygian dolls, ouch! The little dolls were tough to see with their white coloring against the white palette of the ice cavern which meant that the best course of safety was sticking behind the ranks of Gario's skeletal warriors. If the monster mix was worse here than in the Drifter Cavern, at least the boss affixes that we rolled were less dangerous this time around. We avoided any truly dangerous boss abilities as we carefully worked our way through the small level. Snapchip Shatter drew the Multishot ability which made his ice blasts look ridiculous while doing nothing to stop the group.

This brought us to the Ancients who always have the potential to cause problems if they roll particularly tough abilities. We decided that we would try to focus on Madawc first since the thrower Barbarian is both fragile and has high damage output. We clicked the statues and out popped the ghostly trio with Madawc drawing the mild Extra Fast / Teleportation combo. I was ineffective against this opponent since he was Lightning Immune but I enjoyed watching the rest of the team swarm him under for a fast elimination. Burninator1729 maneuvered Bootica into perfect position and was literally kicking Madawc in the ass with his Assassin. Korlic was next and he had drawn the much more dangerous Extra Strong / Aura Enchanted combination though fortunately the aura was apparently Blessed Aim and not something like Might or Fanaticism. He didn't last long once he was the focus of everyone's abilities. The Whirlwinding Talic was last and he had drawn the defensive combination of Cold Enchanted / Stone Skin which was a non-issue as far as threatening the party. This added a Cold Immunity which was irrelevant for our group. It didn't take long for the last barbarian to hit the floor and we concluded the battle with everyone still alive for the (not-so) big experience payout. On to the Worldstone Keep.

Worldstone 1 was full of witches and the shambling undead that can charge your character at unexpected moments. This wasn't too bad as far as monster draws were concerned aside from when we would hit a particularly dense room of witches who would fill the air with their blood stars. I think there was also one moment where LRL_Psycho was hit by a couple of skeleton charges at once and perished out of nowhere. Otherwise this floor was fairly uneventful. Worldstone 2 had snakes, the enslaved Baal minions, and a monster named Black Souls which are a type of Gloam found only as a guest monster in Act Five. I don't remember ever fighting them before although I probably have at some point over the years. The guest monsters are both a blessing and a curse for the Worldstone Keep, a blessing in the sense that it helps create variation across different playthroughs but a curse because it leaves this final area of the game without much of its own identity. I've always maintained that the Chaos Sanctuary and Act Four in general were a vastly superior way to close out the gameplay.

The third floor of the Worldstone Keep was defined by the presence of little blowdart fetishes, masses and masses of the tiny ankle-biters shooting their darts at us. There were also witches present and the Blood Boss overseers that could whip up suicide minions but the fetishes were what characterized the whole floor. Their densely packed group would have been absolutely perfect for Fire Blast except that unfortunately these were Soul Killers and they were all Fire Immune, argh. Electric Tsunami was therefore in high demand throughout this floor as she had the only area damaging spell that could mow down these little squirts in groups. We had one large battle after another with dozens and dozens of the fetishes in each room before finally seeing our way clear to the staircase down.

Our party had vivid memories of the stairs trap that greeted us at the Throne of Destruction entrance in Nightmare difficulty and we synchronized our entrance to the floor. This time there was nothing present but better safe than sorry and all that. We took our time clearing out the snakes, witches, and Horadrim Ancients in the side passages to secure a line of retreat and then headed off to the boss rush sequence. Colenzo and Achmel died extremely fast and I didn't get a screenshot of either of them; I know that one of them was Cursed because I popped back to town to clear both that curse and Achmed's long-lasting poison while waiting for the next bosses to spawn. This proved to be useless when Bartuc also spawned with the Cursed affix and immediately reapplied the physical damage debuff, sigh. Ventar was more threatening with the Extra Fast / Extra Strong combination and we drew a serious break when his aura rolled as Holy Fire. That could have easily been something much more deadly which likely would have forced a retreat back from the throne room. As it was, Gario's skeleton minions were holding the line against each new wave of monsters and Gario raised replacements from the ample monster bodies as they fell. Lister was also Cursed along with Spectral Hit / Lightning Enchanted which meant that he was both Fire Immune and Lightning Immune. We worked as a team to eliminate all of his minions followed by Dp101 and Burninator1729 applying the physical pain once the boss was alone. This would have been incredibly dangerous for our party when we first started out and the group handled it by now with no problems at all.

As for Baal:

All of the act end bosses had been simple to defeat (with the exception of Mephisto when he was accidentally pulled too early) and Baal was no different from the rest of his demonic kin. We entered the Worldstone Chamber as a group and spent maybe 30 seconds hitting the Festering Appendages before realizing we could ignore them and walk over to Baal himself. The Lord of Destruction has an awful lot of health but lacks much of anything that poses a true threat to players. His orange shot was deadly in the release version of the expansion and didn't last in that state for more than a month or two. We all piled on our various skills and beat Baal like a pinata until he collapsed in less than a minute's time. It was a dull and anticlimactic conclusion to the Low Rent Legion variant.

Except wait, there was still one more challenge that we had yet to undertake. We had previously cleared out the Secret Cow Level on Normal and Nightmare difficulties, and there was enough time left in this session that we figured we could take on the Hell version as well. Gario created a new game and raced into Tristram to pick up Wirt's Leg and open up the red portal. With the five of us grouped together once more, we headed inside to face this final test:

Unlike the easy trip through the Worldstone Keep, the Secret Cow Level immediately plunged everyone into mortal peril. The red portal spawned next to the corral architecture and the Cow King was RIGHT THERE with his mob upon entry into the level. The Cow King had rolled Magic Resistant / Fire Enchanted / Lightning Enchanted which made him both Fire Immune and Lightning Immune and therefore invincible against most of the damage that we could deal. We were also starting out in the center of the level with enemy cows slowly walking towards the group from all sides like a trapdoor gradually swinging shut. The normal Hell Bovines have no immunities however they are heavily resistant (50%) to everything and they have exceptionally high base health at about 14,000 HP which was then getting multiplied by the five players we had in the game. Making matters worse, Gario had entered the portal with a full set of skeleton minions only for them to crumple in a matter of seconds with no bodies on the ground to summon replacement undead warriors.

The result was that we had no choice but to scatter in every direction at once in order to survive. Run away!!! Of course this only kept waking up more and more cows that also shambled after the team as if we were in some kind of bizarre zombie movie. I've been in this kind of situation enough times over the years that I was able to run into an open space and hop through a town portal seconds before getting swarmed under by cows; not everyone else was as lucky with their characters. It was complete chaos on our Discord voice chat for several minutes and this is a real hoot to watch on the recorded Livestream as everyone was running around desperately trying to stay alive. We tried to reestablish from the eastern corner of the level at a portal that IAndrosov had set up without success. There were simply too many cows to handle and it looked like this whole effort might result in failure.

Fortunately our previous disastrous ventures into the Secret Cow Level had achieved one objective: the area immediately around the red portal was relatively clear. This is pretty common in these situations where everything falls apart; by running away from the initial entry point, a determined team can portal park a bunch of the monsters and create enough space at the original starting location to begin making progress. We dipped into the Blood Moor briefly so that Gario could raise a dozen skeleton minions then returned as a full group to the red portal. There were only a handful of cows present and with the whole team we were able to defeat them for our first kills on the level. We headed south from there to start recovering bodies and reclaim Dp101's gear for tanking purposes. The sheer number of cows was nothing short of incredible to behold as there were hundreds and hundreds of them scattered across the Moo Moo Farm. The Fire Blasts from our two Assassins were incredibly valuable here and my character kept drinking through a dozen mana potions while unleashing endless waves of Charged Bolt before having to head back to town for more. We also would have been helpless without having the skeletons to tank for us and it was hilarious to watch more skeletons rising from the bodies of downed cows who would then race off to the front lines to join their brethren. It required a full team effort to make progress and we really felt the lack of Boro's Barbarian here. Howl would have been invaluable in preventing us from getting mobbed and may have prevented us from losing control at the start as we did.

Once we had things under control, we began a slow and methodical clear of the whole level to exterminate every last bovine. It was the lack of room to maneuver combined with the massive number of cows from every side which had caused everything to fall apart at the outset. With skeleton minions to hold the front and a safe backlines for our casters to operate within, we were able to make slow but steady progress through the level. There were three or four bosses scattered throughout the level, including a Fanaticism cow boss and an Extra Fast / Cursed cow that required great care to defeat. We didn't run into the Cow King again until the very end of the level up on the northern edge where he had been led away at the outset of the fighting. It took a full half hour to complete but we did get the full clear of the entire Secret Cow Level. This was the true ending of the game, infinitely more difficult than the pathetic showing from Baal!

The following week we were able to have everyone meet up again to bring Boro's character up through Baal. Having our Barbarian on hand made a huge difference when the group was swarmed by large groups of monsters, and the tankiness and crowd control provided by LRL_PunchingBag were greatly appreciated. The party made it way smoothly past the Ancients then hopped forward to Worldstone 2 for the final endgame levels. The boss gauntlet in the Throne of Destruction went down quickly and Baal was no more of a threat this time than he had been on the previous week. That brought us to the real test: the Secret Cow Level. Unlike our previous conflagration, this time we never lost control of the level thanks to having Boro's Howl warcry on hand. And yes, the Cow King was right by the red portal again, albeit with a less dangerous combination of boss affixes. We cleared the level significantly faster and infinitely safer thanks to having the whole team on hand. We truly did need all six members of the group present to operate with maximum efficiency.

I took one last screenshot of everyone grouped together in the Rogue Camp next to the red portal:

This brought the journey of the Low Rent Legion team to a conclusion. We ran about 25 sessions in total on a weekly basis stretching from October 2021 to April 2022. It was a total blast and I'll have more to say about my character and the rest of the team in a followup retrospective page looking back at Electric Tsunami as a character. Thanks to the rest of the team for taking part and to anyone who watched or read these reports for following along with our team!