In Diablo 2, how should I use the bonus points at time of level up for my Paladin? I haven't been putting much into mana since I usually use an active skill for defense or attack. I stick with using my weapon instead of using his magic skills as well. My health gets depleted rather quickly so I don't know if it's an armor/resistance thing, or if I'm not putting the right points where they need to go.
This depends highly on what you want your paladin to do in the late game.
In almost all cases, you want to hit the 75% block after holy shield (max block) by putting enough dex to get to that point.
For smiters and hammerdins, you'll need the minimum strength requirement to wear all the gear you plan to wear. Any points left over should be dumped into vitality (though its arguable for a poorly equipped hammerdin to get some energy).
If you plan to go melee oriented, such as a zealer or charger, you'll want some strength instead of all vitality (its a balancing act) for more damage.
For both smiters and zealers, it helps a lot if you can find yourself a cheap wand has charges of life tap). Putting it on bosses and large groups greatly increases survivability. You can try searching shops for one pretty easily (I think on nightmare but its been a while).
This rule will optimally cover about 99% of all possible builds in Diablo II. If you have all your gear ahead of time, you can spend some time with a calculator to figure out how much Strength and Dexterity you need, and just plug the rest in Vitality. I typically do not bother with quite that much planning in a character, so I leave myself a little cushion (either extra points in Str or Dex, or unspent points) until the end of the game when my gear is finalized. (I also don’t like respecs.)
Two Major Exceptions
The only major exceptions to the above rule are glass cannon amazons (who will sacrifice some Vitality for extra Dexterity, purely for the damage) and energy shield sorceresses (who use Energy mostly in place of Vitality, though some Vitality is still absolutely necessary).
Importance of Vitality
The reason for this rule is simple: opportunity cost. Vitality gives you Life, and therefore keeps you alive. It allows you to travel and fight more safely, and reduces the chances of being killed faster than you can react to whatever’s killing you (especially important on Battle.net due to lag issues). The damage you get from Strength is very minor compared to skill bonuses; the bonus from Dexterity isn’t any better but ranged amazons can safely drop some Vitality.
Strength: Obvious minimums, strong incentive to make them the maximums
But of course, you do want to equip the best weapons/armor, which means you need Strength (even so, equipment with high Strength requirements have that fact counted heavily against them; equipping an Ogre Maul or Myrmidon Greaves requires a lot of forethought).
Dexterity: To block or not to block, that is the question
Dexterity requirements on most weapons aren’t too high (with bows as a major exception already noted), but blocking is an incredibly valuable option. As a Paladin, you have holy shield and the excellent paladin shields, so you should be blocking (Chargers are the only real possible exception, and even they should strongly consider a shield), but it won’t require too much Dexterity with the right shield (Herald of Zakarum is a popular option that can actually be reasonably found, and many cheap shield runewords like Spirit or Sanctuary go very well in paladin shields; to get Exile legitimately takes quite a bit of dedication).
Other classes may not bother with blocking if they need a two-handed weapon (or dual wield, for barbarians and assassins), or if the shield they want has terrible blocking properties. Stormshield, Whitstan’s Guard, Rhyme, and Sanctuary are common non-paladin-shield choices for max-block on these classes. Spirit Monarchs, with the 156 Strength requirement and atrocious blocking, are the most common shield with which builds will ignore Dexterity (between the 156 Strength and huge Dexterity, very little indeed would be left for Vitality, and Spirit-using classes typically don’t have the best base Life to begin with). Other poor-blocking shields with desirable properties include Wall of the Eyeless and Splendor.
Energy: You (almost certainly) won’t need it
Energy is the big loser. Mana concerns, for most characters, evaporate almost entirely in the latter half of the game, due to base Mana bonuses from leveling, the prevalence (and desirability) of Mana Stolen or Mana Per Kill mods, and the fact that Insight (a runeword, Ral Tir Tal Sol in a 4 socket polearm, that gives a high-level meditation aura when equipped, and can be equipped by an Act II mercenary) can be equipped at level 27 (when playing untwinked, finding a Sol rune by level 27 can be mildly tedious; I typically wait until Nightmare Countess to get one, at which point I’m usually in the upper half of the 30s).
Unfortunately, this is a trap for many new players, since Mana is extremely tight and unforgiving at low levels, implying that Energy is an important investment. With the new respec ability, of course, you are free to invest in Energy early on, when it’s useful, and then swap that out for the more important Vitality later on, once you have decent Mana Steal and/or Insight.
Note that some builds (war cry barbarians, nova and/or frost nova sorceresses, frozen arrow amazons) do require a great deal of Mana, since they rely on spamming high-Mana-cost skills. These may be forced, depending on available gear, to invest in Energy. And of course energy shield sorceresses turn everything on its head and make Energy the most important stat.
I discovered this Charger build, which I call The Thunder Charger.
This Paladin build uses the aura Holy Shock fused with the skill Charger. We know how much damage holy shock can do at maximum level with the bonus damage added by the gear and other skills such as lightning resist.
It can dish out more than 4700 light damage.
We also know that charge improves damage at very high rate by more than 1000% only when we Max it with other skills such as the Aura might which powers it.
Here is the skill distribution:
With a powerful two handed thunder maul or a very heavy damaging weapon will dish out More than 18k
PS. I recommend a little ice damage with your weapon to give it a bit of cold touch
If you are playing online then you should level-up ASAP. Levels 1-15 in Tristram, lvl 15-25 in the Tombs(end of Act 2), 25-45 normal Baalruns, at level 45 you go to NM, get to act 5 asap, level up till 75ish on NM baalruns, then go to Hell and repeat Baalruns till you have a decent level and somewhat of a decent gear.
Concerning stat points: enough
But since patch
So try to achieve max block(75%), enough
I haven't played D2 in ages, but when I leveled my Paladin, if I didn't have a piece of gear I wanted to use, I would always put 2 points into Strength and 2 into Vitality and 1 into Energy.
I relied on my auras (like Spikes and Might) and Zeal to do most of my damage. This worked great until I came across a lightning enchanted boss. Hitting those guys rapidly caused more harm than good! Yikes!