I already briefly touched on the talent selections for Diablo 3, but I want to give a bit more detailed information on this unique approach to character powers. First off, here is a link to a workable talent calculator (much like what Wowhead has).
As I already mentioned, there are 9 spaces total that unlock as your character progresses. 6 active skill slots, and 3 passive skill slots. If you’re anything like me, you could easily spend a lot of time just tooling around with this calculator and seeing what you can come up with. The best part of this is that there is no right or wrong way to build your character. Whatever abilities you want to use, that’s what you can pick. The power is really in your hands.
Now, in addition to just the baseline talents, D3 introduces runestones that can augment or change the functionality of each individual active skill. You could sort of think of this like the glyph system in WoW, only the runestones attach directly to the skill instead of your talent tree as a whole.
There are 5 different types of runestones: Crimson, Golden, Alabaster, Indigo, and Obsidian (or red, yellow, white, blue and black). Each runestone will do something different depending on the active skill you attach it to. Unfortunatly, the runestones are not in the beta so my experience with them is limited to hearsay, and the limited information released by Blizzard.
The way I understand it is that there will be a different levels for each color of rune stone. This is a sort of way of adding extra power to your spells as you level, even after you’ve unlocked all the abilities for your class. Let me give an example using this very simple build. Mousing over the Cleave ability, you will see that it deals 115% weapon damage. Socketed with a crimson runestone (we’ll call this a level 4 crimson runestone) it increases the ability to 150% weapon damage. Now a level 7 crimson runestone may give you 200% weapon damage, whereas a level 1 crimson runestone may only give 125% weapon damage. Another example would be this witch doctor build. Haunt, by itself does 500% weapon damage over 15 seconds. With a level 4 obsidian runestone socketed, it also slows the target by 37%. A level 7 obsidian runestone may slow the target by 60% whereas a level 1 obsidian runestone may only slow it by 10%.
The level cap in Diablo 3 is 60, but as you can see, you get no more new abilities at level 30. However, I feel that the runestone system is a way of giving new flavor to the abilities as you continue to progress past the point of getting new skills. As I understand it, socketing runestones doesn’t cost anything, but removing them in order to slip a new one in it’s place will. This cost will, presumably, scale with either your character’s level, or the runestone level you’re removing. At this point, I’m not sure how switching talents out will affect runestones. To me, the way that would make the most sense is to have a runestone tied directly to the active skill, and if you swap that skill out for another skill (say.. swapping Haunt out for Poison Dart), the runestone will stay attached to Haunt. This keeps you from having to spend unnecessary gold removing runestones you don’t want from new abilities, or from accidently destroying them. It also keeps you from having to go back into town every time you want to change out an ability (which is part of the reason they removed the Nephalem Altars in this most recent beta patch).