Grim Dawn New Player Knowledge Compendium
i - Introduction
There’s a fairly steep learning curve to get into Grim Dawn (as far as min/maxing and understanding builds and the more subtle game mechanics) and I was fairly bemused when I started, despite an extensive background in Diablo 1-3.
Starting out, I wished for a good beginner’s resource that went beyond the content of Crate’s Game Guide. This is my attempt to consolidate a lot of the answers I searched for when I started out plus tips learned from playing, to help other new players acclimate to the game.
ii - Table of Contents
I - Resources
 Guides and References
II - Game Mechanics
 Classes, Attributes, and Skill Points
 Skills and the Skill Tree
III - Gameplay
 Miscellaneous Info
 Factions and Reputation
 Kymon’s Chosen vs Order of Death’s Vigil
 Challenge Dungeons
 Notable Bosses
 Boss Fight Mechanics/Tips
IV - Gearing and Leveling
 Farming for Items
 Items to keep in your Stash
I - Resources
 Guides and References
Grim Dawn Game Guide - Crate’s official game guide
Official Grim Dawn Wiki - Officially endorsed and well-updated Wiki
ForgottenKane’s Hardcore Survival Guide - Great guide for any new player, hardcore or not (still relevant and useful, although see below for his new guide)
ForgottenKane’s Survival Guide AoM Edition - Updated guide for expansion, with boss mechanics and suggestions; a highly recommended read
The Maphack - Great tool to plan out routes, find secrets, and spawn locations; now also includes Expansion maps
Grimtools - Incredible site by Dammitt, with item database, build calculator, and now a monster database
Please note: When looking at someone’s build link, hover over an attribute name, such as Physique, to see how many points have been assigned. To see skill points without +skills, hold CTRL+SHIFT on the skill screen. You can also see an item’s min/max values by clicking on the Cog icon in the top left, selecting “Item attributes” and “Show min/max values”.
Forum Build Compendium V - Lots of pre-expansion builds
Vitality Conjurer - Beginner friendly; oft cited as the easiest character to start as with no gear, guide by ForgottenKane
Witchblade - Beginner friendly; a top Crucible build, effective even without end gear (this was my first 85 to clear Ultimate), guide by Drizzto
Witch Hunter - Beginner friendly; a top DoT caster Campaign build, decent without end gear (my first character, first to reach Ultimate before I switched to Witchblade, but second to hit 85 and clear Ultimate), guide by TomoDaK
Pet Pyromancer - Beginner friendly; the top pet build pre-expansion, guide by DaShiv
Forum Build Compendium VI - New builds post-AoM expansion
Powerful Gladiator Crucible Builds - An excellent thread compiling tested builds that can quickly/easily clear Crucible on the hardest difficulty; I’d suggest looking through this thread and picking one that suits your play style (these are optimized builds with very specific gear; don’t expect to get this type of gear quickly and in some cases the builds require very specific items to even work)
Vitality Cabalist - Strong starter build built with only bought faction gear (i.e. no need to farm gear since all gear is purchasable) that can get you through all Campaign content through Ultimate; includes detailed leveling guide
2H Lightning Elementalist - Great starter build with faction and crafted gear; includes detailed leveling guide, by Stupid Dragon
Gunslinger Tactician - Another great starter build by Stupid Dragon if you want to be ranged
A few general notes about build choices:
- The version in front of a build such as [126.96.36.199] indicates when the build was created; it’s rare for a build to be completely invalidated by a later version and if things have changed to a large extent there’s usually a later post in the same thread explaining what to tweak – basically, don’t avoid a build because it’s for an “old” version; it’s still probably very relevant!
- For beginners, most any class combination that includes Soldier is a good choice, since it provides natural tankiness without requiring gear; it also makes for decent Crucible farmers, who can help you gear up as Crucible is one of the most efficient ways to get legendaries.
- Excellent starting builds also include vitality damage based casters, which are not gear dependent (decent damage just from skills). Vallenhael’s Ravenous Earth Ritualist is another good example in addition to the Vitality Cabalist above.
- A note about builds you find on these forums: I have over 400 hours played at this point and have only put together one legendary set (Kriegs), and that’s only because its pieces are farmable from specific bosses. Most everything else is randomly dropped, so while many builds look cool and are good to work towards (and in many cases work fine without ALL the pieces), a lot will be out of your reach for a long time. Focus on builds starting out that do well with self-found/use faction gear, like the two links above for AoM. You’ll be happier you did, rather than running into a wall in Ultimate because you’re missing all the important pieces for that awesome build you found on the forums.
- To that end, look for builds that require g3 or less in the build compendium; Chthon in particular has a lot of fairly new player friendly builds available and there are of course many others if you take the time to look.
II - Game Mechanics
 Classes, Attributes, and Skill Points
- You will choose one of six (eight with expansion, marked with ) classes (Soldier, Demolitionist, Occultist, Nightblade, Arcanist, Shaman, Inquisitor, Necromancer*) at level 2 and can choose a second class at level 10.
- Once you multi class, your class name will change depending on the combination; until you learn them by heart, here’s a class table on the wiki.
- After selecting a class, you invest skill points into the class mastery to unlock skills in that class (more skills are unlocked the more Mastery points you invest).
- Max level is 85 for base game with 100 as cap with Ashes of Malmouth expansion.
- At max level, after all bonus attribute/skill point quests are completed, you will have 90 attribute points and 223 skill points to distribute (base game) or 105 attribute points and 244 skill points (expansion).
- Note: this is not enough points to even max out all skill points in a single tree, let alone two, so there’s a great deal of build diversity (not to mention different gear, devotions, and component possibilities).
- You gain 1 attribute point per level.
- You gain 3 skill points per level to level 50, after which you earn 2 points per level. After 90, you earn 1 point per level.
- Attributes are Physique (health, health regen, reduced chance to be critically hit), Cunning (bonus physical, pierce, and bleed damage, chance to hit, critical hit chance), and Spirit (bonus magic damage, energy, energy regen).
- You can refer to build guides for attribute allocation but the general rule is: enough Spirit and Cunning to wear your end game gear at max level, the rest in Physique.
- With exception for certain builds, Cunning is often completely ignored and a mix of ~70/20 Physique/Spirit is fairly common for base game, with a similar ratio or all Physique in expansion.
- It’s a good idea to save attribute points in the last 5-10 levels in case you find a piece of gear for which you’ll need to invest more points in a category you’re short in.
- Attribute points cannot generally be changed after investing, except with the Tonic of Reshaping, an item rewarded after first side quest in expansion that also has a small chance to be dropped by Nemesis bosses.
- Skill points (including Mastery points now, although only down to 1; you can’t change Masteries once chosen) and Devotion points can be altered at a cost at the Spirit Guide, which is cheap to start but goes up the more points you change.
- Additionally, Devotion points can now be reset with Tonic of Clarity, a reward from one of the first expansion quests, with small chance to drop from Nemesis bosses.
- Skill points invested in Masteries not only unlock more abilities but provide base stats (Physique, Cunning, Spirit, as well as Health and Energy).
- While you can level as a pure class up through Normal/Veteran, it’s recommended to multiclass for higher difficulties (due to the skill synergies this opens up, as well as the additional class’s Mastery points adding more raw attributes/health/energy).
- You can hover over the “+” Mastery icon or the Attribute name to see how many points you’ve invested.
 Skills and the Skill Tree
- Active skills (that must be cast or toggled) have square icons and passives have circles.
- Toggled skills need only be cast once (at start of play, usually, to toggle them on), but reserve a certain amount of your Energy bar (i.e. if you have 1000 Energy and a skill reserves 150 Energy, after toggling it on, you will only have a max of 850 Energy to use).
- You can only have one “Exclusive” skill active at a time, from ANY tree (so you can’t have an exclusive Arcanist and exclusive Soldier skill active at the same time, for example).
[li]After placing a point in an active skill that starts a path (i.e. the horizontal line progression of abilities), you do not need to take points in all sequential abilities to put points in a higher tier. For example, you can do this:[/li]
[li]Transmuters are the offshoot/branch abilities in any particular skill progression. For example, the transmuter for the base skill Dreeg’s Evil Eye (DEE) in the Occultist tree is Focused Gaze:[/li]
- Transmuters are 1 to 3 point passives that fundamentally change how the skill works. In this case, it adds a cooldown to DEE, but adds significantly more damage and AoE.
- Many skills (active and toggled that you can put on your skill bar, as well as passive, which you cannot) are available only through components.
- Components are random drops that can be added to specific item types (depending on component).
- Many builds/leveling guides will advocate leveling with component skills as your primary skill, which can be confusing for new players who might not know how to get this skill. For example, Arcanists often level with Olexra’s Flash Freeze (OFF). While OFF deals cold damage, it’s even better when paired with the Searing Ember and Flintcore Bolts components, which can be added to your main and offhand. These grant Fireblast and Greater Fireblast respectively, skills that can be added to your skill bar, and deal fire damage (obviously), which pairs well with the fire resists reduction (RR) provided by OFF.
- Devotions are accessed from the skill tree menu and consist of a series of constellations, in which each individual star takes a devotion point and provides a permanent passive bonus or new ability.
- Stars with a red aura are Celestial abilities that can be bound to an existing active skill that will have a chance to proc when that skill is cast (click on the star to see available skills to bind to and select from).
- You can use the Spirit Guide to respec points (unlearn points), as well as use the new expansion Tonic of Clarity to refund all points.
- With the exception of the center (the Crossroads), every constellation has an affinity requirement before you can place points in it.
- There are 5 affinities: Ascendant (purple), Chaos (red), Eldritch (green), Order (yellow), and Primordial (blue).
- All tier 1 constellations require only 1 point in their affinity to unlock, which you can get via the Crossroads, since it contains each affinity.
- Once you complete a constellation, it will provide bonus affinity points to unlock further tiers.
- There are 3 tiers, with tier 3 providing the most powerful bonuses and abilities (tier 2 usually requires ~5 affinity points, and tier 3 has high requirements with no completion bonus).
- Constellation completion bonuses can pay for themselves. For example, you put one point in the blue Crossroads (top star). You now put three points into Eel (requires 1 blue), to complete it. The completion bonus for Eel grants 5 blue. You can now unlearn the point in the blue Crossroads and you’ll keep Eel, since you have 5 blue points (which counts towards the 1 required for Eel).
- Commonly, builds will spec into and out of various Crossroads as they unlock more things/complete constellation bonuses.
- Devotion points are gained by cleansing shrines found throughout the Campaign (locations are set, although each difficulty removes more shrines).
- There are 59 shrines in total, 28 in Normal, 17 in Elite, 14 in Ultimate (base game); you can cleanse them all but only gain a maximum of 50 devotion points (55 in expansion).
- See the wiki for a list of shrine locations, including the new expansion shrines (6 more locations, some appearing in only certain difficulties).
- Even after max devotion points, shrines are still worth cleansing, since they provide a decent set of item drops.
- Alternatively, you can use the Crucible DLC and spend tribute points earned therein to gain devotion points (more on the Crucible and tributes later), or a combination of both shrine cleansing and tributes.
III - Gameplay
 Miscellaneous Info
- On Campaign mode, there are three difficulties: Normal, Elite, Ultimate; whereas on Crucible these are Aspirant, Challenger, Gladiator.
- You unlock the next difficulty in Campaign after killing the final boss in Act 4 (you’ll unlock it even if you don’t turn in the quest) and unlock the next difficulty in Crucible by completing all 150 waves without dying.
- Each successive difficulty buffs monsters and provides a penalty on your top row resists (-25% on Elite, -50% on Ultimate, with additional -25% on bottom row on Ultimate). This Reddit post contains additional details.
- Normal has an optional “Veteran” checkbox that will have more mobs spawn as well as more hero monsters; if you have any ARPG experience, Veteran is the way to go unless you’re speed running through to a higher difficulty.
- Normal/Veteran is for approximately character levels 1 to 50-55, Elite 50-55 to 70-75, and Ultimate 70-75 to 85 (base game).
- You can open a rift gate from the map (press M), then toggle to the world map, and teleport directly to that rift (without having to open your own rift gate by pressing L).
- Whether or not you have the Crucible DLC, your first play through should absolutely be through the Campaign, full clearing maps to flesh out the map/explore/read lore/etc.
- The general map layout is always the same (not randomly generated). However, impassable blocks are randomly generated in different play sessions, so you’ll have to take a slightly different route to go through the same area.
- There are secret areas that don’t show up on the minimap, but you can wander off the trail (or destroy a breakable wall to enter). You can use the maphack site for these locations or find them yourself.
- Secrets often occur by following points sticking out on the map (i.e. if you keep following this little “finger” there’s usually a secret area).
- Some secret areas are only accessible after destroying non-clickable environment (like wardrobes).
- One-shot chests are chests that are only available to open once per difficulty (Normal/Elite/Ultimate); after opening, they will not be present in future sessions on that character in that difficulty.
- One-shot chests are guaranteed to drop an epic with a chance for a legendary on Elite/Ultimate difficulties; items are scaled to the level of the area, not level of the player.
- One-shot chests appear as “Exalted Stash” when mousing over.
- See the wiki for one-shot chest locations.
- Pick up and read lore notes (they’ll be in your inventory) for good XP as well as some fascinating lore reading (truly, Grim Dawn has awesome lore).
While not obvious in game, outside resources divide the game into four acts (in base game, two more in expansion), which consist of the following (locations in parentheses are where Challenge Dungeons are located):
Main town is Devil’s Crossing, set in the swamps and backwaters of Burrwitch; you primarily fight Slith and Aetherials; final boss is Warden Krieg
Rift Locations: Devil’s Crossing, Lower Crossing, Wightmire, Foggy Bank, The Flooded Passage, Burrwitch Outskirts, Burrwitch Village, The Warden’s Cellar, Underground Transit, Hidden Laboratory
Explore the other side of Devil’s Crossing, the ancient ruins of Old Arkovia; you fight the undead of Arkovia and Cronley’s Gang; final boss is Darius Cronley
Rift Locations: Arkovian Foothills, Old Arkovia, Cronley’s Hideout, Twin Falls, Broken Hills (Steps of Torment), Smuggler’s Pass
Involves reaching Homestead to help with Devil’s Crossing food shortage; you’re introduced to the Chthonian threat; final boss is Karroz, Sigil of Ch’thon
Rift Locations: Deadman’s Gulch, Prospector’s Trail, Pine Barrens, Homestead (Port Valbury), Rotting Croplands, Sorrow’s Bastion, The Blood Grove, Darkvale Gate
Set in the mountainous region of Asterkarn, main town becomes Fort Ikon; you work with the Black Legion to address the Chthonian threat; final boss is Loghorrean, the Voice of Ch’thon
Rift Locations: Asterkarn Road, Asterkarn Valley, Fort Ikon, Gates of Necropolis, Necropolis Interior (Bastion of Chaos)
Set in the forests north of Burrwitch Village while en route to Malmouth; final boss is Ekket’Zul, Progenitor of Darkness. Spoiler: The act ends after rescuing Ulgrim.
Rift Locations: Gloomwald, Gloomwald Crossing, Coven’s Refuge, Ugdenbog, Barrowholm
Set in the city of Malmouth, infested by the Aetherials; final boss is The Master of Flesh ~ Theodin Marcell.
Rift Locations: Lone Watch, Malmouth Outskirts, Malmouth Sewers, Malmouth Steelcap District, Crown Hill
Some quests will only be available after a certain point (such as inventor quest for Origin of the Slith or to break down items; need to get to Act 2 and get Dynamite before he offers it, even if on later difficulties you already have Dynamite).
Turn in the final quest (Bane of Cairn) after level 50. It will provide a guaranteed legendary (legendaries can only drop at monster level 50+ but quest turn in takes into account your level instead).[/li]
Several mutually exclusive choices are available in campaign. For your first play through, just do whatever you think best. You can change all your choices at each difficulty level, so nothing’s permanent. However, you’ll want to make certain decisions in Elite/Ultimate for your build for endgame. There’s no way to reverse the decisions once you’ve taken them in a difficulty (besides starting a new character).
For the arguably “best” choices (or a discussion of options), see below spoilers:
Act 1: A Cultist in the Midst
Kill Direni, gives Devil’s Crossing rep and rare material Blood of Ch’thon; letting him live means fighting him later, no rep, and while you get a guaranteed Strange Key to enter the Depraved Sanctuary, this is easily dropped by cultists nearby
Act 1: The Ironclad Chef
Let Ulgrim know about Devil’s Crossing (otherwise you miss out on rep, XP, and some lore conversations)
Act 1: The Origin of the Slith
Give him formula to get some iron bits in addition to XP, as well as a follow up quest/XP in Act 6
Act 1: Tale of Two Blacksmiths
Side with Duncan for more XP in normal, makes no difference in later difficulties, so choose for your build; generally speaking, Angrim is the better choice because his bonuses are more useful for endgame content like Gladiator Crucible
Act 2: Paying Tributes
Bribing Silas will get you 3 scrap, but lose out on some XP and additional quests, though people are happier; otherwise can give him scrap/kill him to unlock further quest and more XP
Act 2: Vengeance
Believe Isaiah, he’ll be a vendor in Homestead, with better prices if you don’t extort him
Act 2: The Lost Elder
Return talisman for more rep and iron; if you keep it, you’ll get a relic, which can be nice early on lacking other choices, and each difficulty gives you an upgraded version
Act 2: A Family Crisis
Choose the second line of each dialogue option to convince him to come to Devil’s Crossing for XP and an item
Act 2: Cronley's Secret
Destroy crystal and keep some for some Aether Crystals
Act 3: Allies Among the Ashes
Depends, see Kymon vs Order section; generally, pick the faction you want for endgame in Ultimate, and choose the other faction in Normal/Elite
Act 3: Burn the Taken
Save her and she will appear in Act 5 and reward you with XP and reputation
Act 3: Trapped and Alone
Kill her in crypt will yield Rover rep; helping Kalista will yield a Riftstone
Act 4: Precious Resources
Give to Black Legion, since it’s harder to get rep with them
Act 4: The Aetherial Witch
Side with Anasteria for best Aether resist augments, can optionally kill her for access to Ikon Prison dungeon which yields great Black Legion rep and can farm Anasteria’s legendary helm. See the Notes section in link for more discussion on how to handle this quest, see her wiki entry
Act 5: The Wraith of Ugdenbog
Help Ugdall for Coven of Ugdenbog rep; if you kill him, you miss the rep but do gain more XP
Act 5: A Witch's Bargain
If you befriend Scorv, you’ll become Friendly with Barrowholm and have access to their faction augments and the uber boss similar to Avatar of Mogdrogen called Ravager, the Wendigo Spirit; if you attack him, you’ll have access to the Barrowholm Nemesis.
Act 5: Meddling Witch
If you kill her, you lose 250 rep with the Coven, but can farm her as a boss; if you spare her, she’ll end up dead anyway but you don’t lose the rep and you get a Wendigo Spirit rare crafting material[/spoiler]
[details=Act 6: The Bloodsworn Damned]help them escape for a Blood of Ch’thon; you can leave them to die for more XP and Black Legion rep if needed
Quests can be completed in each difficulty level and some you should definitely do for extra skill/attribute points. These are:
Act 1: Kasparov's Experiment
Give him 4 Aether Crystals (1 skill point)
Act 1: The Hidden Path
Kill all hidden path bosses to unlock final temple, kill The Sentinel and speak to the Attendant (1 skill point, 1 attribute point)
Act 2: A Merciful End
Kill Lutra, the harpy (1 attribute point)
Act 6: The Other You
Expansion quest (1 skill point awarded on Ultimate difficulty only)
Quests that provide an inventory bag (to a maximum of 5):
Act 1: And Not a Drop to Drink
Slay Viloth to clean water for Devil’s Crossing
Act 2: Clearing the Way
Act 3: Culling the Swarm
Kill swarm queen
Act 4: Precious Resources
Recover Legion supplies
Expansion quests that provide the new tonics to reset attribute and devotion points:
Act 5: Desperate Measures (Tonic of Clarity)
Act 5: Lost Father (Tonic of Reshaping)
Act 6: A Sister's Love (Tonic of Clarity)
Some quests only become available after certain reputation level with specific factions:
Act 2: A Royal Remedy (Rovers)
Act 3: Lost Armaments (Black Legion)
Act 3: A Final Salute (Black Legion)
Act 3: Lumber for the Legion (Black Legion)
Act 5: Wendigo Wards (Barrowholm)
Act 5: Travelers Beware (Barrowholm)
Act 5: Mine Pests (Barrowholm)
Act 5: Meddling Witch (Barrowholm)
Act 1: Dangerous Curiosity (Devil’s Crossing)
Act 4: Black Heart of the Void (The Outcast)
Act 5: Power in the Circles (Coven of Ugdenbog)
Act 5: The Feast (Barrowholm)
Act 6: The Blackiron Docks (Malmouth Resistance)
Act 1: The Origin of the Slith (Devil’s Crossing)
Act 2: Rhowari Legacy (Rovers)
Act 3: Making a Deal (Homestead)
Act 3: The Search for Uroboruuk (Order of Death’s Vigil)
Act 3: Kymon’s Secret (Kymon’s Chosen)
Act 4: Legion Retribution (Black Legion)
Act 5: The Final Seal (Coven of Ugdenbog)
Act 5: Cast Off the Flesh (Barrowholm)
Act 6: The Other You (Coven of Ugdenbog)
Act 6: Rise of the Insurgence (Malmouth Resistance)
There are some secret quest chains that are worth doing, but you may or may not want to discover these for yourself. If you want to learn how to access these and are OK with spoilers, read on:
Guides for secret quests
 Factions and Reputation
- On your first character, once you hit Honored with a faction, buy a Writ to increase rep gain by 50% on that character for that faction.
- Once you’re Revered, you can buy Mandates to put in your shareable stash. Other characters can then take/use these items to get 100% rep gain with that faction (but it’s a one time use item, so for multiple characters, you’ll need to buy it multiple times).
- The Outcast, if you choose to be hostile, does not have a Nemesis at Hated, but she will be more powerful, with increased spawns in her dungeon
[li]Once you reach the end of the Hated bar for various factions (primarily by killing members of that faction), it will unlock a Nemesis boss monster that will spawn in certain random locations for that faction. These are:[/li]Aetherials: Valdaran, the Storm Scourge
Undead: Moosilauke, the Chillwind
Cronley’s Gang: Fabius “the Unseen” Gonzar
Chthonians: Benn’Jhar, the Colossal
Kymon’s Chosen: The Iron Maiden
Order of Death’s Vigil: Zantarin, the Eternal
- Ashes of Malmouth expansion Nemesis bosses are:
Aetherial Vanguard: Archmage Aleksander
Beasts: Kubacabra, the Endless Menace
Barrowholm: Reaper of the Lost
Chthonians: Grava’Thul, the Voiddrinker
- There’s a chance on killing a Nemesis to get a Warrant, which, when used on another character (can put in shared stash), will increase your reputation loss with that faction (to get to Nemesis faster, similar to a Mandate but for negative rep gain).