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The "Nightmarish" elite mobs have a certain chance to cause a fear effect on the player, which causes him to run away for a few seconds. While I'm running away I'm not hitting the monsters.

Sometimes the chance of being affected is so high that I spend more time running away in fear than actually hitting the monsters.

What affects the chance of this effect happening, and how can I defend myself against it?

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Don't get hit. :P More seriously: what class are you playing? – Raven Dreamer May 18 '12 at 18:31
I'm playing Monk currently – Mad Scientist May 18 '12 at 18:32

The best way to avoid fear is to use stuns/controls/interrupts and work at range when possible.

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Reducing impairing effects

Is not possible preventing fear effects (dodge is does not work with status effects) but there are few possibilities to reduce the duration of its effect.

As Monk you have only one option to be more resistant to fear, but you need to reach level 50 first.

Mantra of Evasion with Perseverance rune, reduces duration of all control impairing effect by 20%.

As Barbarian unfortunately you have no skill that can help you resist fear effects. Other 3 classes, Demon Hunter, Witch Doctor and Wizard are almost ranged, therefore they should be less affected by this threat.

It should be possible also use items that reduce the duration of control impairing effects, like this one (disclaimer: do not look at the red circle; this screenshot was used in another answer and I attached here only as example)

enter image description here

The best defense is a good offense

Finally, in my experience, having a lot of crowd control (stun, fear, etc.) help dealing with nightmarish mobs because when they are impaired they not trigger fear to you.

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