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Grim Dawn: Beginner Tips for Basic Gamers

Just a collection of tips and information on the basic mechanics and core concepts. Intended for people who are new to Grim Dawn and playing on Normal / Veteran difficulty or those who feel they’re still not quite on top of some of the mechanics or unsure of their early decisions.

This is not meant for comprehensive or detailed endgame information. Other guides will be able to provide better and far more detailed information for more specific cases.

Other Grim Dawn Guides:

What should I be? (Class / Mastery)

This question comes up quite often and can be fun to contemplate – Grim Dawn offers quite a bit of theory crafting potential.

One thing to note. Unlike most other ARPGs Grim Dawn is fundamentally built around the concept of multiclassing. You don’t pick a class before starting the game. Instead you unlock your first mastery at level 2, the second at level 10 (but you can wait to choose a mastery if you want to). The combination you choose determines the actual ‘class’ you become.

However, for a beginner the real question should be – What style do you want to play?

* Melee weapon + Shield
Then you should consider Soldier or Oathkeeper(xpac). They’re the only two masteries with Shield specific skills.

* Dual Wield Melee
Nightblade has a skill that grants dual wielding. Otherwise you need to get lucky with a specific item drop.

* 2 handed Melee or Range
Shaman has skills that benefit using either type of 2h weapons.

* Dual Wield Pistols
Inquisitor (xpac). Similar to the Nightblade situation, it’s the only class that has a skill to provide dual pistols, otherwise it’s item based.

* Pets
Necromancer(xpac) and Occultist. There are a few other classes with pets but these two are the ones who are most geared towards the use of other units.

* Spellcaster
Arcanist should be the obvious choice. There are other options for spells but this is the closest to a traditional Wizard available.

Again, not intended to be comprehensive, just broad stroke concepts to pick your first mastery. It’s not to say these are the only mastery options that offer particular skills but these are the more focused ones in my experience.

It also doesn’t hurt to take a few minutes examining the skill screen for each Mastery once it unlocks. At the minimum take a look at the top level “exclusive” skills – see if any of them really click with you and go from there. There’s not much point in investing into a mastery if you don’t like the best it has to offer.

As for a 2nd Mastery you’ll want to consider compatible elemental skills or passive / support skills.

Fire – Demolitionist
Lightning – Shaman
Ice – Nightblade
“Tank-y” passives – Soldier
Vitality / Life Steal – Shaman or Nightblade

Just remember there’s no wrong choice. If it looks like a good time to you then it is absolutely the right decision.

What should I do? (Skills)

So you’ve decided what Mastery you wanted to follow. Next are the skills. Hover over the skill icon to get a detailed description.

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Active Skills are assigned to number keys in the hotbar under the Health bar. Right click on the box to open a selection panel and assign the specific skill.

This can also be done to modify your Left and Right mouse button skills. This is especially important for skills that are intended to replace your default weapon attack.

Passive Skills that need to be toggled to remain in effect (such as auras) also need to be assigned to a spot in the hotbar.

Note – Mastery Bar

The Mastery Bar is easy to miss for a new Player – it runs along the bottom of the Skill Panel. The way things are laid out in the Skill Panel it almost looks like the top level skills only unlock at level 50. Right?


The flashing + sign that you click to unlock the fist set of skills for any given Mastery is the first point in the Mastery Bar. You get 3 of those points every level until like level 50 or so (then it drops to 2). So in theory you could have top level skills unlocked before level 20. The Mastery Bar is also how you buff your Character stats. Hover over the + sign to see how your stats are impacted per point.

Generally speaking a maxed out skill will be super effective early on, but a maxed out Mastery Bar will make your character a lot tougher to kill as the game progresses.

* Stat Points – Physique / Cunning / Spirit
When you level up you’ll also get 1 Stat point as well as the 3 Skill points. These are applied on your Inventory screen – just to the right of your character panel.

Generally speaking, all Stat points go back into Physique regardless of your Mastery. The exception would be if you have a nice piece of gear that requires a few extra points in a different stat to equip. Like so much else in this game you can hover over each Stat to get more information.

What should I worship? (Devotions)

As you progress through Grim Dawn you’ll find both Ruined and Cursed Shrines along the way. They each grant a single Devotion point for resolving them.

Ruined – Needs specific crafting components
Cursed – Will spawn a boss mob or three

You get to the Devotion screen from the Skill panel. The button is tucked across the top between your Mastery selections. They’re a neat way to further customize you character and their abilities.

There are 5 color coded affinities for the Devotions (Red, Green, Blue, Purple, Yellow). Stronger devotions require specific amounts of the previous affinities to have been spent before unlocking (like 3 purples, 2 greens, 2 yellows). Completing a full Devotion constellation provides a specific amount of affinity, hover over it to see the completion bonus.

There are also two main types of Devotions. If it has a glowing Star at the end of its shape it will provide an ability once a Devotion point is dedicated to it. The ability needs to be associated to one of your existing skills in order to benefit from it. If it doesn’t have a glowing Star then no extra ability, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s useless – it probably offers stronger bonuses.

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It’s also possible to gain certain Devotion abilities without completing the full constellation. Example – it’s possible to get the Giant’s Blood ability from the Behemoth constellation with just 3 points.

The only Devotion that I’ll really push for a new Player is Tortoise. It’s part of the group that unlocks when you spend your first Yellow point. The ability it provides is a 100% going to happen shield that triggers as soon as you hit 40% life. It creates a big glowing yellow ball around your character and absorbs a bunch of damage.

– It’s also a good way to recognize when you getting close to death and might want to consider running away.

What should I wear? (Gear / Resistances / Damage Types)

Some equipment in Grim Dawn can have an overwhelming amount of information associated with it. It’s almost intimidating at times – but it shouldn’t be. So let’s try to cut through the wall of stats.

The main thing to remember is that higher level / quality does not automatically mean better gear for your character.

For example you might find a cool sounding Blue helmet that has a chance of causing Ring of Steel, but the Yellow helmet you’re currently wearing is providing a 18% resistance to ALL elements. Do you really need that slight chance of triggering a free skill? Is it worth taking more damage from so many sources?

On that note I’ll talk Resistances.

The main purpose of armour pieces (aside from flat defense and looks) is to improve your resistances. There are 10 different types of basic damage in the game and an associated Resistance for each. They’re all indicated on the Inventory screen in the right side panel (on the 1st of 3 tabs). If you hover over any of the icons (snowflake, lightning bolt etc.) you’ll be able to get more information about the specific damage type and your current rating. Resistances cap at 80% but it’s possible to have ‘extra’ resistance – hover to see your true total.

The reason for ‘extra’ resistance is that some enemies have abilities that will lower a given resistance. So for example say a boss has an aura that reduces your Fire res by 20%. If you’re just at the cap then it gets dropped to 60% for the battle. But if you’ve got excess Fire res… say 92% total, then it drops to 72%. Still a reduction but not as significant.

When playing on Normal be aware of your Resistances but don’t stress about needing to max them out unless you start struggling. And keep an eye open for Swampdweller pants – they always have great poison / acid resistance.

Most Resistances / Damage types are also colour coded. So if you’re having a problem with a glowing green monster then you need Aether resistance, meanwhile yellow-ish green on the ground is acid etc.

The flipside of Resistances – Damage Types

Just like armour is intended to provide resistances, weapons are intended to provided damage types – and there are lots. Not only are there equivalent damage types to each Resistance there are also associated damage types for residual effects – fire causes burn, ice causes chill etc.

Typically you’ll want to try focusing your damage to a limited amount of types. You can verify your damage output on the 2nd stat panel in the Inventory screen (where you check your Resistances). This will show damage totals for the skills associated to your right and left mouse buttons – swap the skills to see different damage potential. Hover over the damage total to see the breakdown in damage types. This is more so you know it exists and where to check it out more than anything to concern yourself with before higher difficulties.

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NOTE – # Damage vs. % Damage

Weapons typically don’t offer more than 1 additional damage type. Example: a sword that does 11-42 physical damage might give an extra 4-9 Fire damage.

Meanwhile that same sword might offer +38% Acid / Poison damage and +92% Chill damage. Those lines are irrelevant unless you have something else that provides that sort of damage. Example if you have an aura that causes Chill for 10 points then all of a sudden it’s causing 19.

In short a weapon stat line that specifies actual numbers of a damage type create new damage when attacking. A stat line that specifies a percentage modifies previously existing damage.

Personally, when it comes to armour I look for the word Resistance before paying attention to much else. Weapons aren’t as superficial as Diablo 3 but I tend to pay more attention to their potential special effect / free skill more than anything else unless I’m struggling with a boss.

Where should I go? (Story Progression)

Grim Dawn is pretty open and the expansions aren’t really story blocked so it’s up to you to decide how you want to progress. The “intended” course would be –

Vanilla / Base game
Hidden Path / Port Valbury
Ashes of Malmouth
Forgotten Gods / Shattered Realms

I put “intended” in quotes because it only matters if you’re primarily concerned with story and that’s fine.


If you chose to jump around in the content and complete expansions prior to finishing the vanilla / base game you WILL be overpowered and the game will feel easy. All enemies in a given area will scale to a certain extent but it’s entirely possible to get beyond their cap by skipping around the story.

It’s not the end of the world and I like the fact that Crate provided the Player with the freedom to make this decision – but if you’re concerned with story consistency and challenge follow the path.


Hopefully this made getting into the game a bit clearer for new people coming into the world of Cairn. Grim Dawn is a terrific ARPG even if it can feel a bit overwhelming to start. Don’t forget that you can respec your Skills and Devotion points in Devil’s Crossing as well (top North corner) so don’t stress too much when allocating those. The Ashes of Malmouth expansion provides potions that do the same as well.

Main thing – relax, have fun.

While it is possible to create ‘broken’ classes that can’t ‘finish’ the game that’s really more about Ultimate difficulty. You shouldn’t need to read this guide if you’re concerned about that, and if you needed to read this guide, then you really shouldn’t be concerned about that.

Go forth god slayer and bring back the head of the Loghorrean!

Written by panbient

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