These are some preliminary thoughts on the character build that I'm planning on pursuing for the Low Rent Legion team variant in the remastered version of Diablo 2. (For more information on the Low Rent Legion variant concept please click here.) I plan to run a Charged Bolt Sorceress that I've dubbed Electric Tsunami. The Low Rent Legion variant concept only allows each character to make use of CLVL 1 active skills, i.e. the skills that each class has available from the beginning of the game. Passive skills and synergy skills are fine to use for support purposes but only CLVL 1 skills can actively be used against the monsters of Sanctuary. For the Sorceress class, that means choosing between the three basic spells of Fire Bolt, Ice Bolt, and Charged Bolt. Fire Bolt definitely does the most raw damage out of these options but there are multiple other classes that have fire element build paths and one of our players was already interested in running a Firestorm-based Druid. I didn't see any need to double up with another fire-based caster given the other options for sorcies. And between Ice Bolt and Charged Bolt, the latter options simply seemed more interesting. I've run a lot of cold-based sorcies and never really had one which relied entirely on lightning damage.
Charged Bolt is a bit of a weird skill in many ways. The base damage is very low, almost insultingly low compared to most other skills. Charged Bolt averages about 15 damage per electric bolt at SLVL 20, and even when pumped up to SLVL 30 with a bunch of +skills gear, Charged Bolt still averages a little less than 30 damage per bolt. However, this overlooks the other critical aspect of Charged Bolt: the number of bolts goes up with more points in the skill. It begins with three bolts at SLVL 1 and then goes up by one bolt per skill point invested, capping out at a maximum of 24 bolts at SLVL 22. These bolts move in uncontrollably random fashion and the skill looks pretty sad at low skill levels as a few dinky electric bolts wander around after casting. This changes at higher skill level though as Charged Bolt turns into a wave of electric death rolling outwards in a cone from the sorcie's position. I found this picture of high level Charged Bolt in action at the Amazon Basin:
This screenshot was the inspiration for playing a Charged Bolt sorcie in the first place, since it just looked like so much darn fun to cast out a net of white electric death! Anyway, the surprising result is that Charged Bolt becomes considerably less random and more predictable at higher skill levels, almost like a form of Inferno radiating outwards in a thick cone. Unlike some skills in D2, the same monster can get hit by multiple charged bolts at a time; it's even possible to hit with the maximum 24 simultaneously against some monsters if the sorcie is willing to get into melee range. Should all of those innumerable bolts hit their mark, suddenly the player is looking at 30 * 24 = 720 damage for SLVL 30 Charged Bolt which is a lot more viable as skills go.
Then there are the synergy skills to increase Charged Bolt's damage further. The obvious one is Lightning Mastery which has a flat increase in damage for all lightning element skills. It should be pretty simple to reach SLVL 25 or so Lightning Mastery which will boost the damage of Charged Bolt by roughly 350% (times 4.5). The only true non-mastery synergy skill for Charged Bolt is Lightning which increases damage by 6% per skill point. Like all true synergy skills the benefit only comes from actual skill points invested, not +skills gear, but that still amounts to 120% additional damage (times 2.2) for the full 20 point investment - and it's not like there are a lot of other places to invest skill points under the Low Rent Legion ruleset! Add it all up and we're looking at something like 30 * 2.2 * 4.5 = 300 damage per bolt. If all of the bolts hit their target, that's 300 * 24 = 7200 damage! Now realistically a good number of them are going to miss unless the party's Paladin has a boss stunlocked with Smite or something like that but we're still talking some pretty serious damage output here as the electric tsunami crashes over the enemies.
Did I mention that Charged Bolt has no casting delay whatsoever? The mana cost is modest (2.5 + (0.5 * SLVL)) and the only limitation is how much fast cast gear the sorcie in question can manage to stack. Here's the reference table with regards to casting speed for the Sorceress class when using any skills other than Lightning/Chain Lightning:
If you're new to Diablo 2, this is a great example of how even a small amount of fast cast gear can make a huge difference (and also how there are severely diminishing returns at the upper end). It should be pretty straightforward to get 37% faster cast to drop down to 10 frames then the next drop to 9 frames will depend on what sort of gear shows up. Since this is a pure game without twinked gear it feels very unlikely that I'll be able to hit 105% faster cast but who knows, we'll see what we get. Many of my other Diablo characters that I've written about on this website have been either tanks or Hardcore characters, both of whom have to emphasize defensive gear quite heavily. This is especially the case for Hardcore characters who can never afford to make a mistake. Electric Tsunami will not be a Hardcore character and she certainly won't be a tank, which will allow me to push her offensive output in reckless fashion. I plan to focus on as much fast cast and +skills gear as possible, with defensive stats a secondary priority. I think that I have decent odds to reach +10 skills across the sum of all equipment although as always it will depend on what uniques appear along the way. I'll be pleasantly surprised if I can get Charged Bolt anywhere beyond SLVL 30. Targeted runewords include a Memory staff (need Io and Lum runes) or more easily a Spirit sword along with obvious stuff for a casting character like Lore and Stealth. Maybe I could make a Splendor shield if we wound up with a bunch of Lum runes and I had a one-handed weapon to pair with it. Sadly, there are some fantastic runewords like Enlightenment which are disallowed by variant rule because they have the chance to cast non-CLVL 1 skills on them. If only we could turn those abilities off somehow!
For stat points, I plan on taking Strength to 43 since that's the requirement to use a Crystal Sword for a potential Spirit runeword. (Keep an eye out everyone for a Crystal sword with exactly 4 sockets!) This is also enough Strength for a potential 3 Diamond Large Shield and enough strength to wear the 4 potion exceptional belts and basic exceptional armors. Obviously Strength could be taken higher if needed to wear a desirable unique item. I do think this character will need at least some points in Energy to boost her total mana pool; I'm thinking of targeting about 75 Energy and seeing how that feels. Obviously nothing goes into Dexterity and everything else goes into Vitality. Even a Softcore glass-cannon fast-cast sorcie wants to avoid dying as much as possible.
The skill path for Electric Tsunami is about as linear as it gets. I'll put the first skill point into Charged Bolt and then the Den of Evil skill point into Warmth. Everything else goes into Charged Bolt until it's maxed out, then points go into Lightning for the synergy until Lightning Mastery unlocks, followed by maxing Lightning Mastery and then Lightning. Once all three skills are maxed, then I'll belatedly go back and max Warmth as well for the extra mana regen. Frozen Armor is also allowed under the Low Rent Legion ruleset so I suppose it will be worthwhile to put a single point there as well for the minimal defensive rating bonus and chilling protection that it offers. That's pretty much all that I can think to mention for right now - wish us luck!