The biggest difference between the Path of Exile and other games is that PoE abandoned the gameplay that each class only has a skill, and created a new core gameplay: Skill Gems.

Skill gems in PoE can usually be divided into active skill gems and support skill gems. Active skill gems grant an active skill for the player to use and are further augmented by linked support skill gems.

Obtaining gems

Earned through a quest reward.

Purchased from town vendors once a certain quest is complete.

  • Vendors in Acts 1-4 sell leveled skill gems. The available gems are based on the character's class and quest progression. But there are restrictions (such as the marauder can't buy Glacial Cascade)

  • Siosa in Act 3 sells all unleveled skill gems that can be received as quest rewards for quests you've completed, across all classes.  (except special skill gems such as Remote Mine Support, Portal, Empower Support, Enlighten Support, etc.)

  • Lilly Roth in Act 6 sells all unleveled skill gems after completing the Act 6 quest "Fallen from Grace". 

Vendor recipes.

Random drop from monsters, chests and strongboxes.

Vaal skill gems are obtained from Vaal Vessels in corrupted areas or by corrupting a regular skill gem.

As a reward for turning certain sets of divination cards.

Gem experience

  • Socketed gems gain 10% of the experience your character earns, calculated before any level penalties.

  • The number of gems you have equipped has no effect on the rate of experience gain.

  • Gems do not lose experience when you die.

  • Items with +experience% gain do affect gems.

  • Gems socketed in inactive weapon slots do gain experience.

  • Gems may be traded like normal items and they will retain their experience.

Once a gem has enough experience to level up, it will stop gaining experience and a level–up icon will appear on the right of the screen and in the inventory menu. Left–clicking it will level up the gem, right–clicking the icon will hide it on the side of the screen, but it will still be accessible in the inventory menu. Not levelling up a gem is useful in some situations (For example, Cast when Damage Taken Support, it needs to be frequent activated at low-level to make sure the safety of the player. If the level is too high, it will have no effect.

As gems level up, the abilities they grant get better, but the requirements to equip them also increase, as well as the mana cost for active skills. Each gem level, the exile must have both the attribute corresponding to gem colour and a character level high enough to meet its increased requirements. If a gem gains enough experience to level up, but the exile currently does not meet the requirements, the level–up icon will appear greyed out and not be useable until the requirements are met. For specifics, see the lists of active skills and support gems below.

Gem level

Generally, level 20 is the maximum level a gem can get by gathering experience. There are, however, ways to increase the level of a gem beyond 20. They can be placed in items with modifiers such as the Paragon's prefix or certain Corruptions, or certain unique items such as Frostferno. They can also be linked with the support gem Empower Support, and corrupting a gem can raise its level permanently. By combining these three methods, the level of a skill gem can get as high as level 32

One way to do this is to have a Frostferno with two corruptions such as "+2 to level of socketed fire gems" and "+2 to level of socketed ice gems". Then, socket a corrupted level 21 Elemental Hit gem in that Frostferno. This is now a level 29 Elemental Hit. Then, support it with a corrupted level four Empower Support, increasing the Elemental Hit's level by 3 to bring it to level 32.

These gems don't follow the regular experience curve.

Blood and Sand, Brand Recall, Detonate Mines, Empower Support, Enhance Support, Enlighten Support, Flesh and Stone, Portal, Vaal Breach

Vaal Skill Gems

These skill gems can be acquired in corrupted areas or by using a Vaal Orb on a normal skill gem. These skills are similar to their uncorrupted versions but have new effects that radically change their utility in combat.

Vaal skills must be charged before each use by collecting souls. Each slain enemy gives one soul to each equipped gem, similar to the flask system. Collected souls do not transfer between zone instances - changing zones or resetting the instance will start a new soul counter, but returning to a prior instance will restore the souls you left with. Vaal skill gems in a second weapon set do not receive souls.


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