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I am playing my way through Nightmare Diablo 2 on Battle.net closed servers and because of the swarming that's occurring I've decided to bite the bullet and get a hireling to come help out.

My act 1 hireling seemed to be restricted to bow weapons. My act 2 defensive hireling comes with a spiffy cold effect but seeems to be restricted to pole arms, without a shield regardless of the class of pole arm (ie 1 handed pole arms should allow a shield, but don't).

What are the restrictions on hirelings and what other bonuses might I discover?

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Those Hirelings are also known as Mercenaries. As listed on Diablowiki.net only the weapon and off-hand slots have restrictions as followed:

Rouge Scouts (Act I)

  • Only Bows (NO Crossbows or Amazon only Bows)
  • can use Cold Arrow or Fire Arrow in addition to Inner Sight

Desert Mercenaries (Act II)

  • Spears, Javelins and Polearms (no Amazon only equipment)
  • use Jab Attack and have a Aura dependent on type and difficulty they were bought in

Iron Wolves (Act III)

  • Shield and Sword
  • skills depend on type:

    Inferno or Fireball for Fire
    Glacial Spike, Ice Blast, Frozen Armor for Cold
    Charged Bolt and Lightning Bolt for Lightning

  • they will not hit much with the sword - look for caster-bonus on it!

Barbarians (Act V)

  • Barbarian class-specific items, one sword (no dual-wielding)
  • use Bash and Stun

Additionally to the type restrictions, mercenaries follow the items requirements for Strength, Dexterity and Level. Back when I played Diablo II, act II Mercenaries were the most common choice due to their buff-auras.

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Mercenaries follow the following sets of equipment rules:

Act 1 - Rogue Scouts

Armor, Helms, Bows (NOT crossbows or Amazon specific bows)

Act 2 - Desert Mercenaries

Armor, Helms, Spears or Polearms (NOT Amazon specific spears)

Act 3 - Ironwolves

Armor, Helms, Shields, 1 handed swords

Note that the Ironwolves do not actually physically attack with the sword, so finding one with good casting stats for whatever element you choose is is a better idea than finding one with good weapon damage.

Act 5 - Barbarians

Armor, Helms, Barbarian class specific helms, Swords (both 2h and 1h variety, though they cannot dual wield)

Also note that Mercenaries follow STR/DEX requirements for items as well as level, though generally speaking this is not usually an issue.

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