Since release of Diablo 3, I've been playing mainly in Hardcore mode (being the video game masochist that I am) . This mode essentially means, if you die, it's game over for that character. You keep all of your gold, artisan skills and anything in your stash, but your character becomes unplayable going forward. Now that I'm writing this, my Hardcore character will likely die as this will inevitably jinx my Barbarian, but I'd like to share some of the strategies I've been using to stay alive in Hardcore.
1. Play through the whole game on a "Softcore" character (up into Nightmare at least) before playing Hardcore - This will give you a good feel for the game and help you avoid surprise while you're playing through on Hardcore. Things such as Maniacs and boss mob skills (Nightmareish, Vortex, Waller, etc...) can really screw you if you're not sure what to expect.
2. Pay attention to boss mob skills - As mentioned in point 1, it is important to notice which skills these mobs have to determine the best way to fight them. It's not abundantly obvious at first which skill they have, so when you run into boss mobs, back up and take a second to determine what skill they have.
3. Be patient - Take your time when going through each section of each act. Treat each fight as if it could be your last; meaning that you approach it carefully and don't just jump in swinging every time. Being patient really does get hard to do when you get rolling, it's hard not to get overly comfortable after you clear out an entire section with ease. I try a few different things to force myself to slow down.
-Smash Objects - There are usually achievements available for breaking things and sometimes even for breaking specific things. Looking for things to smash will help you slow down a bit and will get you some achievements as well.
-Remind Yourself You're Playing Hardcore - This is especially true if you play a lot of Softcore Diablo. It may sound obvious, but just mentally reminding myself that I'm playing Hardcore every so often helps me slow down.
-Do Side Dungeons - Going through the dusty cellars in Act 2, random crypts and caves in Act 1 are all good ways of slowing down the game without making it boring. Usually, these places are random and some even have quests that need to be done for achievements. More importantly, they're slowing you down and giving you more experience making Hardcore seem like less of a grind.
4. Avoid playing Hardcore with strangers - This is a no no. There is nothing worse then playing with someone who is unpredictable and whose play-style is unfamiliar. Plus, you don't want to be responsible for some random person losing their character because they thought you were going to stay and fight, but chose to run. The arguments can be never ending.
5. Avoid playing with more then 2 people - This one is one I try to follow, but is really more of a personal preference. As more people play, not only does the game get harder, but there is more room for mistakes to be made. An accidental Leap, an improper Teleport by one member can lead to you jumping in and trying to save your friend and end up with all of you dying. This is obviously a problem when playing with only 1 other person, but the chances of it happening are significantly reduced and easier to fix.
6. If you're soloing, play with an NPC at all times - Which one you use is entirely up to you (I personally prefer the Templar for his healing and stun abilities). The real benefit from these guys is their most annoying attribute, their voice. These guys will let you know when boss mobs are approaching, which can be incredibly helpful when you're already engaged in a fight. Being made aware that a boss is approaching before they're even on screen in some cases gives you a little extra time to reassess your situation and fall back if need be. Their abilities are all pretty helpful and if they can keep 1 or 2 mobs off you in a fight, what the heck. Also, they do not reduce the amount of XP you get or increase the difficultly of monsters while they're with you so there really is no downside.
7. Farm easily accessible main bosses for quest XP - There are a few bosses that you can get to quite easily using the replayable quest feature in Diablo 3. For instance, running Mag or Kulle in Act 2 takes about 5-10 minutes a run and will give you 6,000-10,000 XP per quest turn in. I leveled my most recent Barbarian from 21-26 in under 2 hours running Mag over and over again. I'll recommend a few more safely repeatable quests in a later post.
That list of 7 should get you through the first few sections of D3 on Hardcore. I'll have several more suggestions coming in future posts as I play through Hardcore more and more. Hopefully, part of those posts will not be an obituary...
Diablo 3: Hardcore Tips and Tricks (Part 2)
Diablo 3: Hardcore Tips and Tricks (Part 3)
Diablo 3: Hardcore Tips and Tricks (Part 4)
Diablo III Guide