This page contains details about how to craft runewords, included rules regarding rune order, the correct number of sockets and using the correct base item.
While sticking runes you find into socketed gear is a fine way to improve said gear, the real draw of Runes, what really differentiates them from Gems, are Runewords. If you put several runes in a socketed item, with exactly the correct number of sockets, in the right order, you’ll get a Runeword. For example, the humble [Steel] Runeword requires you to put the runes Tir + El in any 2-socket axe, mace or sword. First Tir, then El. While the normal effects of Tir is “+2 to Mana after each Kill” and El otherwise yields “+50 to Attack Rating”, when socketed in order in a 2-socket axe, mace or sword you get the following properties:
- +25% Increased Attack Speed
- +20% Enhanced Damage
- +3 to Minimum Damage
- +3 to Maximum Damage
- +50 to Attack Rating
- 50% Chance Of Open Wounds
- +2 to Mana After Each Kill
- +1 to Light Radius
Quite a difference.
There are quirks abound with runewords. First, as mentioned earlier, the target item must have exactly the correct number of sockets for the runeword. Putting Tir + El in a three socket weapon will only yield disappointment. Second, the Runes must be placed in the correct order. Steel is Tir + El, not El + Tir. They’re not interchangeable. Third, some runewords are very specific about what gear they will work in. [Insight], for example, requires a 4-socket polearm or stave as its base. Spears will not work, even if you calmly explain to the game that a spear is just a staff with more fun on the end. Likewise [Heart of the Oak] will only function in maces and staves - not hammers.
As rare as Runes can be, finding a suitable base for a runeword can be troublesome, too, given the specific requirements laid out above. The Spirit runeword is a fine example, as it can only be created in 4-socket, one-handed swords and 4-socket shields. Seems simple enough, except there’s a limited variety of 4-socket swords - Broad Swords, Crystal Swords and Long Swords (and their exceptional and elite variants), and even then, these weapons won’t have a sufficient iLv to spawn with 4-sockets until Nightmare difficulty, so don’t waste your time hunting for one in Normal Act 2. Fara will let you down every time. As for shields, only the Aegis, Monarch and Ward shields will spawn with 4-sockets, which will start spawning around Act 3 in Hell difficulty (Paladin shields with 4-sockets are much more common).
Long story short, you must have the correct type of item with the right number of sockets (not too many, not too few) to serve as a base for your runeword. It’s worth hunting for a good base, too, given the rarity of some of these Runes.