Local and Global Modifiers and Skill Types


As a quick replacement for the now missing guide on game mechanics with info you’ll probably not find elsewhere. No plans to make it one guide to rule them all, but everything not covered by the official game guide that I consider important I plan to cover here. Thread name might be changed later on.

WIP, if something isn’t covered you’re free to ask.

Local and Global modifiers

There’s a variety of bonuses and modifiers a player will find on gear, skills and constellations. Various bonuses do not behave the same in the way they are applied. To make it simplier to understand, I will separate modifiers into two large categories – local and global. If modifier is global then it affects your whole character, while if I say modifier is local then it’s limited in a certain way – e.g. it applies to specific gear piece or skill only. Some modifiers can be either local or global depending on where you find them.

Bonuses and Modifiers that are Global unconditionally

  • Attributes - physique, cunning and spirit bonuses always simply apply to your character's total.
  • Health, Energy, and their regeneration, also Constitution
  • Speed modifiers - attack speed, casting speed, movements speed and total speed are always global.
  • Offensive and Defensive Ability
  • Resistances - all of them
  • Avoid melee and projectile, energy absorbed from spells

Flat Damage on gear

From the game guide:

Damage on equipment comes in two forms: Flat Damage and Percent Damage. Flat Damage applies only to your weapon attacks and does not increase the damage from your skills unless they include a % Weapon Damage component. If found on a weapon, the Flat Damage bonus applies only to that weapon.

Essentially, “flat” is a broad term used for plain number bonuses, most often for damage, but it’s not uncommon to see terms like “flat RR” on forums.

As game guide says, flat damage on gear is only for your weapon damage, it does nothing for skills that do not inflict weapon damage.

Now something game guide doesn’t tell you – flat damage attached to the weapon is applied only to that weapon. If you’re dual-wielding and your main-hand weapon has extra 10 cold damage then it’s not applied to your off-hand weapon.

To contrast that, flat damage bonuses found on following is applied to both of your weapons:

  • armors;
  • accessories – rings, medals, amulets
  • relics;
  • set bonuses;
  • buffs;
  • non-proc constellation stars

Flat damage found on caster off-hands (books, etc) is applied to your main-hand, in general caster off-hands follow same rules as accessories.

Flat damage found on shields applies only to the shield, because in Grim Dawn shield is a weapon. Yes, really. It has base damage in tooltip like all weapons do, and some shield-related skills utilize that, e.g. Blitz, Forcewave and Aegis of Menhir.

Flat Damage-over-Time on gear

While it’s similar to flat damage, it doesn’t follow the same rules. In all situations where flat damage applies to both weapons a flat damage-over-time bonus will apply only to the main-hand.

Attack Damage Converted to Health on gear

From the Game Guide:

Percent of Attack Damage Converted to Health is a form of life steal available in Grim Dawn. It functions differently depending on whether you find it on equipment or on a skill. When on equipment, life steal applies only to your weapon attacks. If you use a skill with % Weapon Damage, that component of the skill benefit from the life steal. In either case, only the direct damage is considered for life steal. Damage over Time, such as Bleed or Poison, does not trigger it.

Actually, on gear (“equipment” in Game Guide terminology) Attack Damage Converted to Health behaves exactly like flat damage. If it’s found on weapon then it only affects damage done by that weapon, and if it is found on rings, relics, etc then it affects both weapons. Same as flat damage, if Attack Damage Converted to Health is applied to shields then it only comes into effect when you use a skill that hits with a shield.

The game guide is incorrect on life steal from gear only affecting the % Weapon damage part of the skill. For example, if you’re playing with Primal Strike, you will leech off the in-built physical and lightning damage as well as % Weapon damage part. If skill does less than 100% weapon damage, the lifesteal is scaled down accordingly, but if it has more then lifesteal simply remains at full value.

Flat debuffs

Besides damage and life steal the game has flat resistance reduction, flat percent resistance reduction (e.g. on Viper constellation), flat OA & DA reductions. They aren’t very common on gear, but when they appear they apply to your weapon as well, and follow same rules as flat damage and life steal. They are downscaled accordingly if you channel them through a skill with % Weapon damage lower than 100% and stay at 100% value if it’s higher.

As a general rule, multiple sources of flat debuffs do not stack, only the highest one of each kind will be applied. Due to that it’s considered wasteful to get more than one source for your build, although exceptions exist.

Skill types

By their working principles skills in Grim Dawn could be separated in four broad cathegories:

  • Offensive skills
  • Buffs
  • Debuffs
  • Summon

Offensive Skills are skills that can only have offensive stats. What’s offensive stats? Well, that is “flat” stats we discussed above! Most skills that don’t have duration are offensive, and they tend to scale well with %attack speed, %casting speed or %cooldown reduction. There are exceptions, e.g. Blackwater Cocktail, Grasping Vines, Sigil of Consumption and Ravenous Earth – all have duration but they are genuine offensive skills.

It’s common for offensive skills to have %damage modifiers on second or third skill node, but unlike similar modifiers commonly found on gear these are local - they are applied only to the skill.

Buffs are skills that give stats to your character. There are permanent, temporary buffs and passive skills. The former two can be spotted by their presence in buff panel once you activate them while the latter are usually standalone and have circular shape in the skill tree.

Buffs are fundamentally different from other skill types since everything they do is global. E.g. if any other skill type has flat damage listed then it will be inflicted upon the enemy, while if it’s a buff skill then that damage will be added to your weapon damage, as if it was a stat on gear. Percent damage modifiers found on buffs also affect your whole character rather.

While all modifiers that buff provides affect your character for the whole time while buff is active, burst heal that often comes on some temporary buffs (e.g. Blood of Dreeg, Word of Renewal) is instant and only applied when you activate the buff.

Debuffs are the crossover between offensive skills and buff skills. If debuff has damage listed then it’s inflicted upon the enemy, but the skill doesn’t scale from either attack, casting speed or cooldown reduction, because reusing the skill will simply refresh the duration. Debuffs inflict damage in standard “tick” intervals that doesn’t depend on anything.

Compared to flat debuffs, which are basically a form of offensive stats with their own duration, debuff skills usually don’t have individual durations for each of their effect, instead all the effects are applied for as long as enemy is under the debuff effect. And compared to flat debuffs, similar effects coming from two different debuff skills will stack properly.

Summon skills are those that summon entities, most often called as “pets”. There are pets that scale with pet bonuses and pets that scale with player bonuses. Tooltips usually state which one it is.

Pets tend to have their own set of skills that could be of any of the former three types.

Further Reading

  1. Official Game Guide - Combat

  2. Advanced Mechanics Guide

  3. tqFan’s Critical Hit Calculator

  4. Secondary Skill Modifiers


An excellent break down with great information.

I’m struggling a bit with a Mod that attempts to remove all the multipliers & percent based effects. A core problem I’m running into is the difference between Armor Vs Resistances.

As you progress in the game it’s rather simple to keep acquiring Armor and balance it vs an increasing Physical Damage. (Which is actually just an increase in the creatures Strength stat which is then calculated into physical damage).

When it comes to all other forums of damage this is much more problematic. You can only scale down cold damage by a percentage instead of just mitigating the damage by (x) points.

Is there a simple way around this? Is Magic Damage itself (no element) reduced by Armor or in the same fashion?

I would check if there’s a passive template that allows flat absorption, then you can make a 200 level passive and give it to enemies with level of skill == char level condition (this way various pets scale their armor e. g.). The downside is flat absorption works against physical damage as well so you’d have to review armor… Also, it’s interaction with DoT damage is pretty silly, so it necessiates extra tuning.

The somewhat roundabout way is to just flatten the damage scaling. If your skill is doing 10 damage at level 1 and 1000 damage at level 100 because there’s 80% resistance then you can just rescale damage to 10 at level 1 and 200 at level 100, and removed all sources of resistance.

I’m puzzled why you want to achieve something like that. Part of ARPG’s fun is the feel of scaling up.

Thank you. Those are some decent suggestions, but probably not a full resolution.

The Mod relies on static stats instead of scaling mobs. That way you do feel true progression in getting more powerful as you overcome each area. It also prevents weaker builds from becoming obsolete as you could simply level a little slower or play less optimally, while maintaining the build you want. It also corrects for 1 shot meta and builds that simply can’t perform. It also balances range vs melee and eliminates issues that multipliers create.

It appears Grim Dawn attempts to cover this up by a large variety of damage types. That way in the normal game it’s impossible to just max out every resist. However, imagine how that scaling breaks if you made the original game 10x’s larger. All the percentage based resists would just cap out or they would simply be unavailable.

A proper 1:1 scaling allows for infinite growth. I can create a creature with 29,000 Strength and give the player 24,000 Armor to mitigate it.

Balance is just numbers, there is usually more than one way to achieve a desired effect. No need to be fixated on perfect solutions, they are usually either clunky or impossible. :slight_smile: