The Definitive Approach to Diablo 4 Itemization

Hey there!

I’ve been a fan of the Diablo Series since the beginning and I’ve been like all of you, excited about Diablo 4 and so passionate that they do this one right.

Itemization is the most important part of Diablo for me. There’s plenty more about Diablo systems that I feel the need to articulate, and items are the core of that foundation.

Items are the roots of Diablo, supporting everything in the game. Without a sturdy foundation for us to build our character, the gameplay, the drive to slay monsters, and its longevity suffers.

So let’s break down what actually constitutes a good item system for a game like Diablo.

The core tenents of a great itemization system

  • A deep core stat system to manipulate
  • Stat goals with multiple paths to execute it
  • Multiple methods of growth
  • Item variety with positives & negatives
  • Randomization infused that allows for a constant chase
  • Interaction with abilities
  • Item individuality

Let’s dive into each of these.

A deep core stat system to manipulate

  • The Roots

Items are nothing without a strong stat system. What are my items doing? What am I hoping to see?

The current Attack | Defense | Life system is terrible and I imagine it’s a placeholder. It’s antithetically causing more confusion in its simplicity. If it’s the actual system, then it needs to go.

Weapons should only impact the damage of attacks, or in some cases add some defensive bonuses. Armor should detail how they help defensively. Don’t mash it all it together, doing so creates a lack of ubiquity.

  • On The Attack

For attack modifiers: Give us damage ranges, skills that attach to spell or weapon damage, items that directly impact those numbers, attack/cast speed breakpoints, and so many more.

Don’t be afraid of “excel spreadsheet” for damage. If you create a system where the difference 600 dps vs. 620 dps is all we care about, you’ve built up the other modifiers and skill abilities incorrectly.

We need varied methods to improve how we kill things. Quickly, harder, better recovery after attacks, elemental focused, bow focused, axe focused, bleeding, all of it.

  • A Strong Defense

Defensive can be damage prevention chance, hit recovery, elemental resistances (CAP THIS, specific legendaries can then raise the cap), thorns but “stored”, not instantly applied (for each hit taken, deal 56 damage more in your next attack), and more

Survivability should be a focus instead of pure glass cannons. Give us modifiers that expand how we survive and for different scenarios.

  • What is Life?

Life is important, but raising it should be harder to achieve. Throwing life on everything - such a crucial element to survival - devalues it. Make it earned and rare.

Stat goals with multiple paths to execute it

  • The importance of attributes

This ties in a bit with the first point, but it makes for a nice transition.

This isn’t a debate about if “STR/DEX/VIT/NRG” should be in the game, but granting items specific attribute thresholds to reach is important as it can limit the item path. Want wear a super heavy plate of armor? Well then you can’t wear those boots that grant FCR and Movement Speed because you need to raise your STR stat more.

It can be even more interesting if you remove the ability to pump stats on levels, with innately stronger characters (Barb vs. Sorc, for example) having a smaller threshold needed to wear that heavy plate armor. But those gloves that grant increase fire damage? Well, they need Wisdom…that Sorcs are innately better at.

These are good decisions. Increasing interactivity between items is always a positive.

  • The beauty of Diablo 2’s limitations

Because of Diablo 2’s framerates, we had to know Breakpoints, and once hitting them, we didn’t need to invest in another 5% or so. This is excellent . 8% vs 9% is innately better in D3, but adds no interaction, just slot in the higher number. Adding breakpoints gave us a goal and made us consider items like Trang-Oul’s and Magefist to reach the Faster Cast Rate breakpoint. Multiple paths to reach 120% FCR or Faster Hit Recovery. Add more breakpoints - Chill/Stun/Burn/poison on Hit, Sprint speed, Critical Hits, Damage prevented, etc.

There are so many elements to add if you think of it as breakpoints. A flexible build of offense/defense that each requires a specific array of legendaries to reach

It makes me wonder, maybe %'s are wrong? Maybe simple integers would be best, +2 FCR with breakpoints at 2,3,8,21, etc.

  • All Legendaries Matter

Do you want to hit 30% Crushing blow? Well, the lvl 15 gloves you found are the highest on a legendary. Or another that has the affix that turns frostbolt into a fan of frost knives. Don’t limit build defining items to just the endgame, present them constantly.

Legendaries can be special just by being the items with specific modifiers, tying into the breakpoints concept earlier. Grant a random unique modifier that makes it a consideration for being the only Gloves with Faster Hit Recovery. It adds so much.

  • Plateau, not Peak

The fewer OP items, the smoother the playing field for what you find. Why play a fireball build when frozen orb is so much better? Develop items that are OP on playstyle, not on sheer 10,000% increase - or even 100% increase at a smaller level.

  • Nerf Nerf Nerf

Don’t be afraid to make changes after launch - it’s natural for players to flock to min/max. Be quick to change how items work - not just introduce new “better” ones - and more options will open.

Multiple methods of growth

  • Endgame pursuits

Random crafts chasing specific affixes, mythic item hunts, upgrading (not re-rolling) previously found items, there need to be varied ways to obtain new items, giving balance across the end-game challenges.

Runewords are also a major part of this. At its core, it created a system of “7” hard to acquire items to come together for one viable item. That’s a great feeling and one that should be preserved - it’s yet another layer of the item hunt and creates another exciting possible drop during each barrel destroyed. Do not limit this to just endgame, add the ability to find these ultra-rare items from the very beginning - even at the smallest of chances. It only adds to the excitement of gameplay.

  • Upgrading already found items

Those gloves you found at level 11? Sorry, you’re level 21 now and they just don’t have the base stats to compete. Presenting a system (with a large sink) to allow them to keep using their favorite already found items is a huge positive and opens doors for more viable items by the end. D2 had this via normal/exceptional/elite and it granted interesting options.

  • Crafting perfection

A legendary item dropping in Diablo 2 vs. Diablo 3 is completely different. In D2, that item was what it was . 199% damage Eth Titans vs. 160% were each exciting, but in D3, no worries! Just re-roll it until it’s perfect. Giving players a direct chance of something better creates a disdain for imperfections. Imperfections are IMPORTANT. D2 players chase perfection continuing to fight monsters or expanding their wealth. D3 players sit in town cycling re-rolls.

  • Trading needs to be hard

Trading needs to exist. The feeling of getting a 200% Eth Titans not only is great since your Amazon is going to be incredible, but also because it opens the doors for what you can do in the game. “I can use this to get that belt I’ve always wanted!” Every drop now matters and could be something that pushes you further even if you don’t need it.

The auction house failed because it was too good. It was too easy to find deals and simply improve on the fly. Trading has to be an inconvenience, but never limited as limitations create questions of worth.

Bound on pickup is a horrible feeling - you got lucky but the wrong lucky. Every top tier item drop should grant of a feeling of gain, the excitement that you are in a better spot now than before. This shouldn’t exist.

How to limit market flood is intriguing and difficult, creating the necessity for the act of trading to be somewhat cumbersome.

I’ve seen concepts of an interactive trade where both parties need to participate in an event and that could work, it’s not a quick transaction. Other ideas would be “markets” of ~50 players akin to 8-player trading posts in Diablo 2, where each player would have their own item shop to display with a price attached to it. It’s not the millions of people scale of the Auction House but creates the fun of exploring for items and interactivity of dealing.

Flagging items for a limited number of trades is intriguing, but it removes one aspect - if I trade for an item that is now bound to me, I’ve only lost currency in the deal. Trading should be a means of raising your own wealth or at least staying on the same level. (Maybe with a “bound for x days?” I’m not sure)

Whatever the end system, it needs to exist in some fashion and all items need to be traded. It’s the best way to encourage social interaction without feeling overwhelmed and stuck in an MMO.

  • Currency items

Runes and SOJs. They made the world go round and having a direct way to see what you could and couldn’t get is important. Path of Exile’s orb currency system is brilliant in how they are consumable and powerful on their own. I cannot recommend something akin to this in Diablo 4 enough.

Interaction with abilities

  • “Whoa, I can do what?!”

Nothing feels cooler than getting a weapon that makes your character feel different. D3 legendaries did this well to an extent, but it focused plenty on damage modifiers instead of the skills itself. Moving skill runes to items is a fantastic idea and I encourage this choice fully.

  • SOJs for days

Pushing your skills past the normal limits is a fantastic way of making players feel stronger. We’ve already seen this in D4 and it’s imperative it sticks around.

  • Playing Out Your Fantasy

Sometimes you just want to look like a vampire. And that’s really cool.

Item variety with positives & negatives

  • Give and take

To prevent “stat sticks”, items need to come with decisions. Am I willing to take a direct hit to my health to use this item? Can I sacrifice a lower faster hit recovery? What about casting just one spell per second? Give us positives and negatives for real choices

  • Negativity in simplicity

What if an item granted just one stat? You could use other items that have all these necessary elements, but this one has this one really good thing. Make items have variety by simply not granting them all the same things and this great ability.

Randomization infused that allows for a constant chase

  • “What is truly rare?”

The idea of crafted and rare items theoretically being the best items is crucial. These should be nigh impossible but create excitement still for these drops even when the hunt is for legendaries.

Item Individuality

  • The core item

D2 had Circlets that had different properties from other helms. Wands and staves had different properties from swords and axes. Giving different innate properties to items - more block chance, critical chance added, FCR, etc. - only helps create build diversity.

This ties into damage types - axes should not innately help a charged bolt, while wands should not slice like an axe. Physical vs. Spell types of damage are incredibly important to allow items to emphasize certain builds.

In addition, seeing a gold “Shako” on the ground instead of an identified legendary or “helm” adds so much. Chasing a legendary by first finding its white core version then going through hoops for a chance to upgrade it to a legendary version adds yet another layer of excitement and item hunt.

  • The properties

This ties into another point above, but give legendaries modifiers that make it distinct. Specifically, predetermined modifiers that come with a range, not “5 random attributes + this skill ability”. We need the ability to target certain legendaries for their stat attributes, not just their legendary ability.

This also applies to Mythic items. Please don’t turn this into “four random abilities”. Give us a set of already helpful modifiers that speak to a certain build. It makes the hunt for that mythic, not any mythic.


Phew. I care a lot about item economy and how it’s treated moving forward. We need a large variety of impact affixes that open the door for hundreds of items to stand on their own. Paths for different builds are created at the root by a meaningful and massive stat pool. Legendaries need to stand on their own and have an impact in multiple ways with individuality.

I’m curious how the rest of you feel about this, let me know! I hope this sparks a fun discussion about crafting the exact systems themselves.



Excellent post. 10/10


Thanks! I so strongly believe that a large pool of meaningful affixes are the foundation for great itemization.

I hope this helps D4 in some way!


Nice post. You make some good points, I certainly dont agree with all of them. In particular, I think trading is harmful to the core gameplay experience and should never be allowed.
Also I dont think stat requirements on items are a good idea, it just limit options and pigeonhole you into more specific builds, which is exactly what we want to avoid imo.

Interaction with abilities is especially important though. And individual, specialized stats that interact with our characters/builds in different ways - not merging everything into a few generic stats. Different builds should desire wildly different stats. A basic foundation for any good itemization system.

I can only agree that being able to upgrade lower lvl items is important, so items found while lvling, are not made instantly pointless.
And your point about imperfections being important is likewise good. The Mystic in D3 was a band-aid to a problematic loot system, but a better loot system shouldn’t really need it. And if it does, it indeed should happen through more meaningful crafting systems, than clicking reroll in town.
Like trading, endlessly rerolling items that way kinda goes against the base gameplay experience of going out and killing monsters for their loot.


I don’t necessarily think stat requirements improve build diversity. I think the stats the item gives make the diversity.

Like a heavy hitting barbarian isn’t going to wear Magefist because why would they? None of the stats apply.

A caster isn’t going to wear those boots that give piercing and crushing blow, because why would they?

The reason for wearing specific types of gear can be weighted solely on the stats they give to the build, and not with requirements.


Thanks for taking the time to provide thoughtful constructive feedback, friend.

I definitely agree that the devs need to not be shy about overwhelming people with stat options–that’s not most peoples’ problem with Path of Exile, for example; most people look at the skill tree and go “uhhhhhhhh NOPE.”

My personal problem with POE is that I find mapping to be very solo-unfriendly, and tedious (plenty of people love the mapping system, and fair enough–more power to you!) But my largest problem with POE is that it’s all about speed, and that’s just really boring to me. I don’t find it compelling to wipe out 2 screens at a time. That isn’t fun gameplay. From a gameplay aspect, I think D3 did a pretty good job–it’s not nearly as fast as POE, but it’s still a bit too fast in my opinion. But I LOOOOOOVE the systems in POE. They’re so frigging good. To me, if we could just get POE, but with a different endgame progression system from mapping (“keyed” dungeons sound fine to me? Just saying…) and being less about quick clear times–I’d love it.


Great point! I’m honestly fine either way, in the end I think it’s an interesting discussion.

I think it stems from the ideas of items working with each other to open the possibility of using other items, less so of “Sorc vs. Barb item.”

Having a stat component and relying on other items to helping reach that threshold is a fun idea, allowing for a variety of other items to open the door for another.

Just another element that could add to the decision making.

What about the people who just want to use normal Frostbolt at the end game and don’t want to be forced to use modified skills (from Legendaries).

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Sure! It’s all about adding choices.

You didn’t talk about it.

Best way to get around that is to, uh, not trade.


This post, is just beautiful, spot on…

spot on.


I did! A good itemization provides options for multiple play styles.

You could use a legendary that has an effect on Frostbolt…or you could use that spot for a different item that affects your build differently.

It’s about providing multiple choices that are all meaningful.

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Itemization alone doesn’t provide multiple play styles. The content also needs to support multiple play styles.

One of the reasons D2 had multiple builds was the content had a limit. It became a challenge to make builds work through hell that normally wouldn’t. Like bow paladin.

Also there were multiple farming spots and challenges. Smite paladin was for big bosses. Hammers for baal farming.

The power leveling aspect also made many builds possible because you just skip most of the game challenge and then equip amazing gear to make a build work to then fulfill a role.

The reason there’s so few builds in D3 isn’t just the itemization. There’s only one thing to do, and that’s push GRs. I can build a tonne of builds that run subpar gr levels. But… well that’s just that. They are subpar.

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This “100% LINEAR” item power progression from D3 really needs to go.

Let different item from different levels/rarities be meaningful. Let their power overlap, specially mid-late game. The game doesnt have to be about “skill changing legendaries” ALL the time. Like, seriously. You’ve made D3 like this.


I mostly disagree. I think linear progression for power can work just fine if the numbers are kept in check.

D3 the game didn’t start until 70. You could only get lvl 70 items, some sets only drop at 70, and the main power of items is the effect itself.

To make a linear progression while still keeping low level items feasible you need to make the lower levels still count for something along the way. You could do that with random rolls on stats.

If D4 had say a magefist with 100 attack, 100 defense, 25% faster cast at level 30, and a magefist with 120 attack, 100 defense and 20% faster cast at level 35.

Well you have to think about what’s more important. Attack or cast rate. You’d consider still using the low level one.

I’m honestly not sure if the devs really care for the 1-40 gameplay. That’s something that D2 did care about at least in the normal game play rather than rush to lvl 77 or whatever to equip Enigma.

An idea could be to have a special item that drop and allow us to trade those items (weapons, armor, etc). This special item could be a rare drop. This would limit the amount of items, increase their value and would make us think two times before we use it.


I think Diablo would do a lot better in general to realize that the game isn’t actually all about items. Diablo 2 was all about items because the rest of the game was actual trash, hence why the only thing anyone ever did was power level, bot, or follow baal bots.

I used to create fake Baal runs games (Baal run-003) just to bait people into actually playing the game for once and by fighting to throne room manually. You’d be lucky if 1 in 50 people would even be willing to do that. These were people’s level 80+ character and they didn’t even want to play it. They just wanted to play that slot machine.

A simple test is to remove all items entirely. If that causes the game to suck, then you’re doing something wrong. You haven’t even reached the basic qualification of being a “game”.

The item system should exist to enhance the game, not replace it. The longer devs and players fail to understand this, the longer we are gonna be stuck with crappy Diablo games.

I like the idea of each player being their own shop for trading. Would work well with the open world concept too.

Each player could have 20 item slots in a shop screen and anyone within a certain distance or town could see your shop in a menu. This would limit trading to a small area and make people actually excited to see new people in the world. (which should remain a low rate occurrence.)

This would also make the prices people charge for items quite varied since sellers are not competing against the world and real bartering would take place.


I think having multiple goals to accomplish with your items (resists, armour/evasion) is one of the key things people are talking about when they talk about complexity.

“A good roll” means every facet of an item is working toward one of those build defining goals.

Some goals, like how breakpoints or resist breakpoints are common and global to every build. Other goals like damage can be solved in many different ways which is what sets your build apart.

.I think this is really the essence of the game, and I completely agree that the items are absolutely core in that design. They must get it right.

I think they believe that simplifying those goals to simple attack/defense stats will destroy any and all build customization and will kill that aspect of the game.

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