This page will cover resistances for both the player and monsters, damage types and their ancillary effects, and the effects of equipment, skills and difficulty on resistances.
In addition to physical damage (and the much more rare non-elemental magic damage) there are four forms of elemental damage in the game - cold, fire, lightning and poison. The damage you take from these elements is increased or decreased based on your resistances, which can vary depending on what gear you have equipped, any charms in your inventory, certain character skills, and what difficulty you’re playing.
Elemental damage is usually inflicted via spells or spell-like attacks, and unlike melee and ranged attacks (the primary source of most physical damage), there’s usually no hit/miss chance. Attack Rating, Defense and Block Chance often don’t matter - you’re either in the spell’s area of effect, or you’re not. Of course, some sources of elemental damage vary, and can often accompany other attacks - fire/cold arrows shot by some Corrupted Rogue variants, a Mummy’s touch may inflict poison, etc.
The normative maximum for each resistance is 75%, but equipment and skills can raise this maximum to 95%. The lowest a resistance can drop is -100%. While the player cannot achieve a resistance value higher than 95%, monsters can, and in Hell difficulty, almost all of them do. When a monster has 100%+ resistance to an element, they’re immune to that form of damage - information which is displayed under the monster’s name when highlighted (on consoles this is reduced to a less player-friendly icon).
A common form of damage, it’s used by Megademons, Vampires, Fetish Shamans and, of course, Diablo himself. Fire Enchantmented enemies will also deal fire damage when they die. It deals a moderate amount of damage with a moderate range between maximum and minimum damage.
Relatively uncommon, cold damage is usually lower than other forms of elemental damage, but it also has the least variation between minimum and maximum damage. Cold damage also freezes characters it damages, slowing down their movement and attack speed. Your Cold Resistance doesn’t affect whether nor for how long you end up frozen when sustaining cold damage - that’s a separate mod that can be found on some equipment. Duriel and Mephisto both deal cold damage, as do cold variants of Skeleton Magi and Abyss Knights and Oblivion Knights. Cold Enchanted creatures will unleash a potent Frost Nova when defeated.
Another uncommon element, lightning is both the most damaging of elements and the least damaging, with a huge gap between the minimum damage (usually 1 point of damage, in fact) and maximum damage any attack will inflict. The high variability of lightning damage can make it more dangerous, as a low roll might lull you into a false sense of security. Mephisto uses lightning, and it’s also a component of Diablo’s insanely damaging “Lightning Inferno” attack. Worst yet are Willowisps, incorporeal spirits who are fond of barraging you with lightning bolts from off-screen. Death Beetles and Lightning Enchanted enemies will unleash a ring of Charged Bolts when they take damage, making them dangerous to engage in melee.
Poison damage is relatively common, being inflicted by all manner of creepy-crawlies, including Giant Spiders, Sand Maggots, Mummies and Greater Mummies (the former inflicts poison damage with their melee attacks and leave behind a cloud of poison gas when they die, the latter can exhale a gout of poisonous breath) and Andariel. Unlike other elements, poison doesn’t deal damage all at once when inflicted, instead dealing damage-over-time. Poison Resistance reduces poison damage inflicted per tick, but does not reduce the duration of poison - that’s a separate mod that can be found on some equipment. Poison damage cannot kill players (their summons and mercenaries are another matter), but being reduced to 1 Life will leave you incredibly vulnerable.
Resistances and Difficulty Level
In normal mode, all your resistances are normal, as in, set at a base 0%. At the start of the game, aside from the odd Fallen Shaman, Skeleton Mage or Misshapen’s lightning ball attack, you’ll face little in the way of elemental damage, nor do the assorted bits of gear providing relatively small boosts to resistances seem to promise any significant protection. By Act 2, half the enemies on most maps will be dealing elemental damage of some sort, and this isn’t a trend that’ll change as you keep playing. When it comes to surviving higher Acts and difficulties, elemental resistance is a necessity.
Even the worst of Normal difficulty is a breeze compared to Nightmare and Hell, as your resistances are cut by 40% in the former and 100% in the latter. If this reduces your resistance below 0%, the number will appear red on your character screen, indicating a vulnerability to said element. Enemy elemental damage output seems designed with the idea that it’ll be reduced in some form, so having a vulnerability to an element is a huge liability in Hell difficulty. The damage output Burning Souls can achieve against characters with 75% Lightning Resistance is terrible enough - getting into a fight with some foes while vulnerable to their attacks is tantamount to suicide.
Fortunately, gear scales with difficulty, too, and the rising stakes behooves you to seek out higher-tier arms, armor and charms to… well, frankly, keep your head above water. Specialized sets and unique items can boost a single resistance immensely, and significant boosts to multiple - or all - resistances aren’t uncommon.
A rare form of resistance, Magic Resistance reduces non-elemental damage a character sustains. Sources of this damage include Necromancer skills like Teeth, Bone Spear and Bone Spirit, the Paladin’s Holy Bolt and Blessed Hammer skills, the Barbarian’s Berserk skill, from the projectiles cast by Abyss Knights and Oblivion Knights with purple auras, and from Succubi projectiles. Greater Mummies are one of the few foes regularly immune to magic damage in Hell difficulty. A character’s Magic Resistance is not displayed on the character screen, and characters do not suffer penalties to Magic Resistance in Nightmare or Hell difficulty.
Physical damage can be resisted just like elemental damage, although this is something of a unique case. First, the items that grant physical resistance via the mod “Damage Reduced by X%” are relatively few and rightfully cherished - examples include the Harlequin Crest, [String of Ears], [Vampire Gaze], [Shaftstop] and [Stormshield]. Unlike elemental resistances, Physical Resistance is capped at 50%, is not displayed on the character screen, and characters do not suffer penalties to Magic Resistance in Nightmare or Hell difficulty.
While not technically a resistance, damage absorption is certainly a related property found on some equipment. It comes in two forms, flat damage absorbed and percentage damage absorbed. Damage absorption is calculated after damage is reduced by resistances, and heals a character whenever they sustain damage from an element they absorb, functionally reducing damage further. A character with a [Raven Frost] ring - which grants the mod “Cold Absorb 20%” - would recover 20 Life via absorption after sustaining 100 cold damage, for example. If that same character had 50% Cold Resistance, they’d negate 50 cold damage from the same attack, and only end up regaining 10 Life, reducing the damage sustained to a net 40.
Enemy Resistances and Immunities
While the player gains resistance penalties as the difficulty increases, enemies will gain resistances, and unlike the player, monster resistances are not soft-capped at 75% or even hard-capped at 95%. Enemies can - and in later difficulties will - gain 100% resistance to various forms of damage, rendering them immune. Few enemies are immune to any form of damage in Normal difficulty, and immunities are still relatively rare in Nightmare difficulty. In Hell difficulty, however, they’re ubiquitous - expect every enemy in the game to be immune to some form of damage or another, with the four main elements being the most common immunities, while physical and magic immune foes are thankfully rare.
Most enemies in Hell difficulty will natively be immune to a specific element, and this include unique monsters, who share the same immunities as their more generic counterparts. However, since uniques gain random properties as the difficulty level increases (they have one random modifier in Normal difficulty, two in Nightmare difficulty and three in Hell difficulty), they can become immune to several forms of damage just by gaining more and more resistances from the random unique modifiers they posses. A list of the unique modifiers and the resistances they bestow can be found below:
|Cold Enchanted||Cold Resistance +75%|
|Fire Enchanted||Fire Resistance +75%|
|Lightning Enchanted||Lightning Resistance +75%|
|Magic Resistant||Cold, Fire, Lightning Resistance +40%|
|Spectral Hit||Cold, Fire, Lightning Resistance +20%|
|Stone Skin||Physical Resistance +50%|
Fortunately any one enemy can only possess two immunities. Still, even in areas that are “safe” for certain characters to run, a unique enemy may spawn with immunities not normally seen in that area - a “Cold Enchanted” unique in Hell difficulty will almost always end up cold immune, for example.
For information on how to deal with immunities, check out the page [How to Deal with Monster Immunities].