Choosing and developing a character in TQ is not easy. Sometimes, what you read on that little fold-out sounds better than what happens in the game. Having now tried out all the masteries, I have a fair idea of what is good or not-so-good for each of them.

Keep in mind this is being written for the solo gamer, playing through on normal. Matters will be different if you’re going MP, where some group skills become important. I haven’t done MP, nor have I tried Epic/Legendary.

One Or Two?

In general, stick with one mastery. There are some exceptions that I will mention in the discussion of the individual masteries. However, your character will be most potent if you stay with one and develop it correctly. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time later in the game when you come up against the more powerful opponents.

Staves

The staff is the primary attack weapon for the mage types. Many offensive spells have cool-down times or use a lot of energy, so you need a staff. They never run out of juice or have cool-downs, so you can shoot them off as much as you like. It’s best to have two, each with a different element. If you come across enemies who are resistant to one kind, switch to the other. Fire and lightning seemed to work best for me.

In the early going, all classes can benefit from having a staff as a ranged weapon. They are a little faster than bows (slow vs. very slow). You pick up one early after killing the Dark Shaman at the start of the game, and it’s usable by everyone. Later on, non-mage types will probably want to move to a bow, as the intelligence requirements for the staff start to rise.

Summoned Creatures

All the spellcasting masteries have a Summon skill. While abilities of these creatures vary, they all have a few things in common. They can’t be controlled in combat; their philosophy is: “See enemy, kill same”. However, they do have to see it. If your pal is looking the wrong way, it will just continue to gaze at the scenery while the hordes approach. In that case, move and that will wake it up.

Summons fight to the death; they never run from combat. Outside of fighting, they typically stay close to you unless they see an enemy, and they’re good at that. All summons heal and regen energy on their own, usually faster than you. However, they can also be healed if you have the skill to do it. You cannot give them healing potions, unfortunately.

Energy is used by summons for their special attacks. Wolves, for instance, can have a Maul. This is powered by the creatures’ energy supply. When you see a skill related to a summon that has an energy cost, this is the cost to the summon, not you.

Summons disappear when you reload the game. Even if they were in perfect health, they won’t be there and have to be called up again. All summons can be called anywhere, including towns. And of course, you get the experience for whatever they kill.

Offensive Spells

Happily, these work as in Diablo 2: they have no effect on allies, summons, NPCs (all NPCs in the game are friendly), or you. So you needn’t worry about dropping a Volcanic Orb right where you’re standing, or shooting off a Flame Surge in the direction of your Core Dweller. Of course, that works for monsters, too: they aren’t affected by spells cast by their own mages. Fair is fair ;)

Stats

You can see from the mastery what the designers consider important. Typically, this is strength for fighter-types and intelligence for mage-types. However, do not overlook dexterity. Most items have either a strength/dex or an int/dex requirement.

My Huntress had trouble in the later stages with armor. She wasn’t strong enough for the heavy stuff, and she wasn’t “smart” enough for the light stuff. While she had points in intelligence, I’d been concentrating more on dex/health/energy.

So be aware of this factor. If you’re building a spellcaster, be sure to put a little in dex from time to time, ditto for fighters. Or if dex is the main stat, add to either intelligence or strength. Otherwise, you may not be able to wear better armor as the game progresses.

Building UP The Tree

Naturally, most of the better skills are high up, typically 10-16. However, since you can put as many skill points as you want (to the 3 max) in a mastery, you can work your way up rather quickly.

This is a good thing to do, since opponents early on aren’t too tough, if handled with care, and you gain experience levels at a good rate. My suggestions below are based on building at a 2/1 split, 2 points in mastery and 1 point in skill. You could go for 3 in mastery if you’re really impatient, but I don’t advise that, as you’ll have no skills at all. That’s okay at level 2, but beyond that, you’re just asking for trouble.

My Huntress finished the game at L30. I did a lot, but not every little mystery cave and temple, and I did miss a side quest here and there. Also, I went straight through, without going back to fight regenned enemies.

So it’s possible to finish even higher than 30, and with careful allocation of skill points, you can certainly reach M32 before the end of the game. I didn’t get that high myself, having made a few errors along the way. Play and learn ;)

If you do keep to 2/1, you could reach M32 by level 17. Of course, all your skills will suffer a bit from that, since you have only 1 point per level to add in. If you’re playing a mastery where you only add to a few skills, this could be worth doing. But only you can decide that from what’s happening in the game with your character.

The Masteries

Magic

EARTH has the fun spell: Volcanic Orb. This is a bomb and literally blows enemies sky-high. To get the most from it, you should work up the tree through Conflagration and Fragmentation. This one does have a cool-down, so can’t be used continuously. It’s best against monster clusters, or if you’re surrounded.

Core Dweller is the important one. This summon is potent, and becomes more so as you work up his skill tree. The best aspect, though, is that CD draws enemies to it; most of them will ignore you and go for him. Pair that with Volcanic Orb, and you have a wonderful tactic for disposing of nasties: they group around the CD, and you drop an orb on them. Also, when the Core Dweller gains Wildfire, it can throw fire patches on enemies besides beating them up.

Flame Surge is weak. Not only does it have a cool-down, its range is limited to melee distance. Good if something is close to you, otherwise, (ahem) not so hot. Still, you will be needing this from time to time, especially early on before you can get a Core Dweller. Even later, it will be handy against nasties provided you build it up. Some monsters will go after you, regardless.

Heat Shield, with some points in it, provides good fire protection. Unfortunately, it has a very long recharge time. If you want to use this, you’ll have to build it up so it can last longer as you get deeper into the game and come up against enemies with heavy fire attacks.

Ring of Flame isn’t worth much. The damage is low unless you add a lot of points in, and those can be best used elsewhere.

Stone Form does protect you absolutely while healing you. However, using this while surrounded is useless, as monsters will still be there when the effect ends. This is more a multi-player skill, where you hide to heal while your friends take out the opposition.

Earth Enchantment is another that is more useful in MP games than solo play. The whole idea is to stay out of melee combat, so putting fire damage on your weapon is a waste of points.

So best results with this mastery come from building up Volcanic Orb, Core Dweller, and Flame Surge, with perhaps Heat Shield secondary.

In working up the tree, I suggest 2M/1S per level so you can reach Volcanic Orb quickly and then Core Dweller. The skill points should go to Flame Surge and Orb until you reach Core Dweller. The you can either continue with 2/1 to build up CD, or slow down to 1/2 to build up the orb and maybe heat shield.

STORM has the best quick offensive spell: Ice Shard. Unlike the Flame Surge, this one can be cast as long as the energy holds out; there is no cool-down time for it. Also, it is a ranged attack and can be used over distance. Definitely build up the tree for this skill. It will be important in the middle and late stages as your staff won’t have enough damage for the tougher critters.

Thunderball works best when you have it up to Concussive Blast. This spell damages enemies and stuns them for a short period of time. Works best on monsters that are grouped together, perferably when they haven’t seen you yet, or if you find yourself surrounded. Likely it won’t kill them but you’ll have time to back off.

Energy shield protects you from cold and lightning damage, as heat shield protects from fire. It, too, has a cool-down period and needs building up to be effective in the later stages of the game. This is worth having, since you get two protections instead of one.

Wisp I found to be useless. If it was doing anything besides floating along behind me, I didn’t see it. Once in a rare while it would go after an opponent, but most of the time it just seemed to tag along and nothing else.

Squall is something geared towards multi-player; in solo gaming you don’t want to disrupt their aim, you want to take the enemies out fast. This is not the way to do that.

Spellbreaker is mildly effective, but has to be built up quite aways to be really good. This is probably another skill more useful in multiplay rather than solo.

Lightning Bolt is pretty powerful, but has to be used with care. The bolt comes down where you put the cursor, and is useless against any monster heading your way. It will be long away from the bolt’s landing point. So this one is useful only against stationary monsters.

Freezing Blast isn’t really worth having. Its only purpose is to stop an enemy for a short time, and you can’t damage it while frozen.

Storm Nimbus, like Fire Enchantment, puts damage on weapons, in this case cold or lightning (you can’t choose which). Again, since you want to stay out of melee combat, it’s better to put your points elsewhere.

The one exception is if you have a combat-type character: Warfare, Hunter, or Rogue. In this case, a point in Storm with a few in Nimbus can add some extra oopmh to your attacks.

Storm does have some retaliatory ability, mostly from Storm Surge, which goes off with a burst of cold and lightning. Despite the low chance of activating, I found it went off with a fair degree of regularity. Then again, I was getting hit often, too ;) Note that the effect triggers from any form of attack: melee, ranged, or magic. This could actually work to your advantage: being hit by an archer while surrounded by foes could kill or severely damage them. But that’s not something to rely on.

So for Storm, the best development is with Ice Shard, Thunderball, and Energy Shield. Going up the tree, 2M/1s for getting Thunderball early. After that, concentrate more on Ice Shard and work up to Velocity and Torrent, along with some points in the Thunderball branch.

SPIRIT is really necromancy, and I don’t know why they couldn’t be honest about that. Anyway, Life Drain is a must-have spell. It damages enemies and gives those points to you, but only for healing. Works best when you’re actually damaged. This one can easily kill weak opponents. Of course, it has a cool-down so you can’t use it continuously.

Ternion Attack is the main offensive spell. It can be used at range, and built up, is pretty strong because of its multi-bolt attack. There is no cool-down, which is another plus.

Summon Liche King is handy, although it does not attract enemies the way Core Dweller does. However, the King is very fast with his spells, and since Spirit has no area effects, having a friend along is a good thing.

Deathchill Aura works only at melee distance, so its usefulness is limited.

Spirit Ward is good to have against the undead, although the three skills seem somewhat redundant. Nonetheless, Spirit Ward and Spirit Bane are useful, since there are plenty of undead in this game.

Working up the tree, 2/1 (take Life Drain first) to get Ternion Attack, then continue with 2/1 to reach Liche King. Points along the way should be added to Ternion and Spirit Ward. After that, you can work on improving the liche and the Ternion, with points now and then in Life Drain and the anti-undead skills.

NATURE is the weakest of the magic group. It has only one offensive ability: Plague, which sounds better than it works. Even at maximum level, the effect lasts only a few seconds and is not likely to kill many opponents. Its main purpose is to soften up enemies rather than take them down outright.

So what you do with this mastery is concentrate on summons. They do most of the dirty work for you. The first one is Wolf, and you must build this up so you can have two at a time (the maximum), and you certainly should add Maul as soon as possible.

Also you need to work up the tree for Nymph, who provides more firepower and ranged attacks. You can have two wolves and a Nymph with you at the same time. However, none of these draw attention the way Core Dweller does, unless an enemy is attacked by one of them first.

A few points in Regrowth are handy for healing up after combat. If you take it up to Dissemination, you can heal everyone with one spell, including yourself.

Since this mastery is so weak, you should consider adding a second, either Earth for Volcanic Orb, or Storm for Ice Shard. I chose Earth myself, but if I had it to do over again, I’d go with Storm. You only need one point in it for the shard, and shard is more useful overall.

Building up at 2/1, take Wolf first, and add Regrowth in there as you work up to getting a nymph. Most points until then should go to Wolf and then Maul. At L8, add the second mastery for offensive power. Continue building Wolf so you can call up a second, thus giving you three “pals”, and work up Maul, which makes the wolves most effective.

Fighting

ROGUE is the fighter with dirty tricks, and plenty of them. There’s so much good stuff here, that allocating points is a tough decision.

Calculated Strike gives a powerful shot every fourth hit. This is not every fourth enemy. If you hit one opponent three times, and the next one once, that one will take the punishment. CS lasts only a short while, and is automatic. This is a primary attack and should be on your left mouse button all the time.

Blade Honing is a reserve skill, which will diminish your energy a bit while active, but is worth it for the extra damage.

Envenom Weapon, another reserve skill, is good, because it works with Throwing Knives (see below) as well as melee weapons. If you build up the tree, you can have some potent effects here.

Note that the above three skills are “always on” when active and have no cool-down times.

Lay Trap is the premier skill, and really amazing when you can build it up to Rapid Construction so as to drop traps more quickly (three maximum at a time). All traps last 30 seconds. They go off automatically when enemies are in range. The best tactic is to put down two quickly, then lure enemies into a devastating crossfire. Also, traps are good as indicators of nearby hostiles. Throw one ahead of you and wait to see if it goes off. Very good for caves and other enclosed areas.

Throwing Knives is the ranged skill. It always does penetration, so you can sometimes hit two targets at once. Unfortunately, you have to build up to M32 to get Flurry of Knives, which I consider a mistake on the designers part. Regardless, this is a good skill to have, since with Envenom active, your knives do both bleeding and poison damage.

Lethal Strike is a one-shot attack, suitable for the heavy-duty specials. It may or may not take them out, but they’ll certainly be in a bad way afterwards.

Disarm Traps you don’t need. There are ways of handling traps from a distance when necessary. For example, those pesky blade, fire, and cold traps in rooms can be attacked with your own traps. Chuck one ahead of you and wait. Depending on the power of your traps, you may need more than one. Save your points and skip this skill.

Poison Bomb was something of a disappoinment. This is an area effect, so you need monsters grouped together, and then you have to edge up close enough to get it off without being seen. It will certainly poison any that are susceptible (living creatures; poison, of course, has no effect on undead), but this is more a weaken them skill unless you build it high and add Shrapnel. Of course, you could always drop a couple of traps, toss the bomb, and that combination will usually wipe out most enemies quickly. Overall, though, I consider the bomb a secondary skill.

So building up the tree here is tricky. You should be going up at 2/1 to reach Lay Traps as fast as possible. What to take in the meantine is the tough choice. Either Calculated Strike or Blade Honing to start. At M4, add Throwing Knives. At M6, add Envenom Weapon. After that, put the points where you find them to be most effective. After reaching Lay Trap, continue to build at 2/1 for Rapid Construction. After that, you can take your time with the tree, and add more points to skills rather than the mastery.

WARFARE is the tank. For all that, always rushing into a crowd is a fast way to find yourself at the nearest Rebirth Fountain. Even a fighter can’t take on big mobs. A few at time is the way to go.

You will have to decide early whether you want to dual-wield or fight with sword and shield. Two weapons can give you more damage ability, while a shield gives more protection, and can add to magical boosts. If you want to play a killing machine, go with two weapons. If you’re more prudent, sword and shield.

Either way, the important early skills are Weapon Training and Onslaught, which should always be your primary attack.

War Horn is a temporary daze effect and very useful when surrounded. It gives you time to back up, or use with War Wind to attack multiple foes. This is the standard tactic for fighting several enemies at once.

Building up the tree at 2/1 to reach War Wind, start with Onslaught, and add War Horn at M4. As you continue up to War Wind, split the points among Onslaught, War Horn, and Weapon Training. If you’re going for Dual-Wield, the choices are tougher, since you’ll have to skip one of those three to put points in DW.

HUNTER was a disappointment for me. I was a big fan of the Rogue in Diablo and the Amazon in Diablo 2. Unfortunately, the Hunter class doesn’t measure up. For one thing, bows ought to have been fast weapons for this mastery, but they aren’t. They are very slow for Hunter as they are for all others. Big mistake on Iron Lore’s part there.

Also, there is no effective crowd control. Not until the top of the tree, M32, do you get Scatter Shot, a shrapnel effect, and Volley, a big (ha) three arrows fired at once. With this mastery, you end up doing a lot of backing up and shoot-and-run.

The one really good skill is Ensnare. Except for the very large monsters, such as the Cyclops, it will net anything, and enemies take damage while trapped. Add Barbed Netting, and you can usually “net and forget” most creatures. The problem is Ensnare has a cool-down so can’t be used as often as you’d like.

The Hunter can also get a couple of skills for using the spear, but those seem almost an afterthought. If you want to go melee, Warfare is much the better choice. Hunter is really designed for distance combat.

So what do you do with this mastery? Good question. Fast building to M10 is the way to go. At 2/1, take Ensnare first, and at M4, Marksmanship. Build those up until you reach Barbed Netting. Then you can start adding some of the other skills: Wood Lore, Herbal Remedy (the poison resistance is quite handy), some Art of the Hunt and Call Of The Hunt.

Monster Lure never worked well for me. Perhaps I wasn’t using it correctly. You may want to try that, and if it isn’t working for you, buy back the points from a Mystic and use them elsewhere.

DEFENSE is not the choice for a first mastery. It’s all about shields and using them offensively and defensively. This is the skill one takes as secondary for multiplayer or for the higher difficulty levels. The only skill you might really want from this is shield charge. It’s much like the Paladin’s charge in Diablo 2: you move very, very fast and smack into the target doing considerable damage.

Unfortunately, you don’t get that skill until M10, which is a long wait, especially if you’re taking this as a second. Skip this mastery entirely if you’re going solo.

Final Thoughts

Remember that these are only guidelines. I’ve indicated what seems best to me for each of the masteries, the most effective ways to develop a powerful character quickly. Your approach to the game, and your playing style, may require a different building strategy. That’s perfectly all right. There’s always room for variation. What matters is that you have the best possible character. Good luck!