Damage over Time
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DoT = Damage over Time.
Damage Over Time does what it sounds like; these effects deal X damage over Y duration. Such effects are generally things like poison, where the initial damage is lower (generally speaking) in exchange for lingering effects. Diablo 3 also includes big damage attacks that tack on some DoT as well, such as fire attacks that may also set the target aflame.
The damage "tick rate" varies in many ways in Diablo III. Sometimes it's "X damage per second for Y seconds" but other DoT effects have different calculation rates, and may be tied to the type of weapon that inflicted the damage.
In Diablo II DoT it was fairly simple, with Poison, Open Wounds, and a few other modifiers and properties dealing X damage every second for Y seconds. The stacking and combination of multiple such effects could be complicated to calculate, but the functions were fairly straight forward.
The mechanic is of much increased importance in Diablo III, and it has many more variables now. For one thing, the "tick rate" of the damage calculation varies depending on numerous factors, such as the attack speed of the weapon used to inflict the damage.
In early beta testing, fans noted that the DoT varied widely, especially for characters dual wielding weapons. In December 2011, Bashiok delivered an informative forum post on the subject, which you can read below:
We’ve been thinking of changing the tooltips and going with “ continuously does X% weapon damage”. The reservations we currently have are:
- Even though we say continuously, there’s a pulse rate under the hood, so do players want to know this pulse rate?
- If we did show a pulse rate, we’re adding more complexity to an already complicated tooltip.
This info is all subject to change before and even after release, but it's interesting to get some insight into the more complicated combat mechanics in Diablo III.