Defenses for Beginners

In Diablo IV dealing damage is the most important thing for dealing with Hell's minions, but you shouldn't forget about your defense. After all, staying alive is necessary to deal any damage at all. In this article we dive into different stats and mechanics that help you protect yourself even against the toughest minions of hell.

All information in this article is from the Press Preview Access of Diablo 4. The content presented here is subject to change, and will be updated as we learn more.


The most basic way to increase your total defense. Your Life stat measures how alive you are. When it hits 0 you die, and at that point the only thing you can do is respawn at the last checkpoint or get revived by your party members.

You get some Base Life for leveling up, starting at 40 Life at level 1, up to 420 Life at level 25. There are several other ways to increase your Maximum Life:

  • +Max Life roll on your Chest (scales with item power)
  • +%Life from Rubies in armor (scales with gem quality)
  • +20% Life while Enhanced Challenging Shout is active (Barbarian only)
  • +5% Life per rank of Imposing Presence passive (Barbarian only)
  • +8 Life from some Altars of Lilith

Restoring Life

There are also a few different ways to restore your life after you take damage. First of all, every class has access to Healing Vials. Using one will instantly restore some flat amount of your Life (based on the level of the Healing Vial) and also 35% of your Maximum Life over the next 3 seconds. You can store several charges at once (boosted by the Renown system) and you regain these charges by killing enemies or damaging Elites and Bosses past a certain threshold.

Other than Healing Vials, there are some more ways to restore Life:

  • +Life Regeneration per Second rolls on Helmets and Amulets
  • +Life On Kill rolls on Helmets, Amulets, Rings, and Focuses and from Skulls socketed into weapons
  • Certain Skills and Passives can heal you for a percentage of your Maximum Life
  • Healers in towns
  • Healing Wells

On top of that, you can boost all these different ways of gaining Life with the Healing Received stat, which can be rolled on Amulets and also comes from Skulls socketed into armor.

Life On Kill and Life Regeneration bonuses are very weak compared to the damage you take, so unless your build can make a very good use of the few skills and passives that can restore Life, you will be healing mostly with Health Vials.

Barrier on your Life Orb


Barrier is a mechanic very similar to Life except it has no set maximum but only lasts for a certain duration. When you take damage, it first depletes your Barrier and then the remainder goes into Life. When you have multiple Barriers their amount is added together, but the duration of each Barrier is tracked separately and when one of your Barriers expires, your total Barrier goes down. So far we've found only 6 ways to gain Barrier:

  • "Your Potion Also Grants 30% Maximum Life as Barrier" roll on Pants
  • Various Legendary Aspects such as The Protector
  • Ice Armor and Deep Freeze skills (Sorcerer Only)
  • Protection passive (Sorcerer Only)

You can increase the amount of Barrier you get from any source with Barrier Potency stat, that can roll on Helmets and also comes from Diamonds socketed into armor. However, since nearly every Barrier scales with your Maximum Life, it's usually better to just focus on your Life and that will also make your Barriers stronger.

Armor & Resistances

Armor is one of your main ways of reducing damage. You get Armor from every armor piece and its amount scales linearly with the item power. Additionally, you also get 1 Armor for each point of Strength. You can further increase your Armor by socketing Skulls into jewelry or by rolling it as a stat on your Pants, Boots, and Chest.

Armor reduces all incoming Physical damage by a percentage that is based on your total Armor and on the level difference between you and the enemy. For Elemental (Cold, Fire, Lightning, Poison, and Shadow) damage, Armor is less effective. In PvE the damage reduction you get from armor is halved for Elemental damage, while in PvP you get 65% of your Armor's damage reduction.

To reduce Elemental damage further, you need to stack corresponding Elemental Resistances. Unlike Armor, Resistances don't come as an enigmatic number that transforms into damage reduction percentage through a complicated level-based formula. Instead, Resistances come as a percentage already. 10% Fire Resistance sounds pretty self-explanatory, but there are a few caveats:

  1. Resistances stack multiplicatively. If you get two sources of +50% Fire Resistance, you don't become completely immune to Fire damage. Instead incoming Fire damage is cut in half and then the remaining half is halved again. So you only take 25% of original damage. In other words, the outcome is 75% Fire Resistance.
  2. Resistance works at reduced effectiveness. Since your Armor already reduces some of the elemental damage, the Damage Reduction you get from Resistances is multiplied by the inverse of your Armor's contribution. So in PvE you get only half of what you'd expect from your Resistances, while in PvP it's even worse: you get only 35%.

This make Resistances quite weak as a defense stat. Usually you'd only take Resistances when they don't compete with anything else.

Damage Reduction

The most important way to reduce incoming damage is Damage Reduction. This stat comes in a certain percentage and it does exactly what it says: reduces all incoming damage by that many percent if the conditions are met. You can get damage reduction from:

  • As a primarily melee class Barbarians get 10% base Damage Reduction
  • Every class gets an extra 92% Damage Reduction in PvP
  • Chests can roll a variety of Damage Reduction stats, such as Close Damage Reduction or Distant Damage Reduction
  • Skills
  • Passives
  • Legendary Aspects

Similar to Resistances, Damage Reduction stacks multiplicatively. That doesn't mean that Damage Reduction becomes less effective as you stack it. If you get a new effect that gives you 20% Damage Reduction, you will take 20% less damage than without this effect, simple as that. What it does mean, is that it's impossible to become invincible just by stacking Damage Reduction.

The only time when Damage Reduction stacks additively is when something stacks with itself. For example when you put multiple ranks into a Damage Reduction passive, or when using Rogue skill Dark Shroud, which gives up to 5 shrouding shadows and a stacking Damage Reduction value for each shadow you have.


Barbarians have access to a unique source of Damage Reduction that comes with its own set of mechanics to increase their defense. There's a number of skills, passives, and Legendary Aspects that can give you some amount of Fortify. When your Fortify is greater or equal to your current Life, you become Fortified. Fortified characters have 10% Damage Reduction. This number can be increased by Defensive Posture passive and by Sapphires socketed into armor. When you are Fortified, incoming damage reduces both your Life and your Fortify by the same amount. The amount of Fortify you get can be increased by Bonus Fortify rolls on Rings and Helmet.


When you are hit by any attack you have a chance to dodge it, completely nullifying all damage and other harmful effects. You can't dodge individual ticks of Damage over Time (DoT) effects, but you can dodge the initial attack and prevent the DoT from being applied to you in the first place. There's a few ways to get dodge chance:

  • 0.025% Dodge Chance per point of Dexterity
  • Rolls on Pants and Boots
  • 3% Dodge Chance per rank of the Agile passive (Rogue only)

Much like Damage Reduction, Dodge Chance stacks multiplicatively, so it's theoretically impossible to become invincible.

Defense Summary

Understanding how defense works in Diablo 4 is very important if you want to spend your time slaying monsters rather than decorating the carpet. To put it simply, defense comes down to stacking your Life and/or Barrier as well as lots of different kinds of Damage Reduction and not chugging Healing Vials like your life depends on it (because it does).


Written by Rob
Reviewed by Echohack, Teo1904, and wudijo


Dec 7th 2022
Article Created based on the Press Release Version of Diablo 4.