Every character in Path of Exile has access to the passive skill tree . The passive skill 'tree' is a large network of stats and raw attributes increases for the player's character. All classes use the same tree, but start in different places. When a character levels up or completes certain quests, he or she gains one skill point. A skill point allows the player to allocate a node on the skil tree, provided that it is already connected to an allocated node. This is how the character's passive 'path' is formed.
While the passive tree (sometimes referred to in-game as the Skilldrasil or Skill Web) may seem complicated, it actually only has two parts. It can be thought of as a map, with suburbs and roads.
The clusters of related passive nodes that boost a specific area (swords, maces, archery, damage types, evasion, and so on) are like suburbs. These will form the bulk of a character's build. The pathways between these clusters, comprised entirely of nodes that give +10 to a certain attribute, are like roads. Some of these roads can cover a great distance much quicker than if the player detours through the suburbs: what may look like a short path with passive boosts could in fact be much longer than taking the +10 to attribute path.
Pressing 'c' in-game and hovering over each of the three attributes will show what these do. Anything the attributes don't do, such as increase ranged damage or attack speed, will likely be handled by passive nodes on the skill 'tree'.
Ascendancy skill trees
- The tree can be divided into three primary sectors of equal size, one third of the relatively circular tree, surrounding a central wheel. They are the north or blue sector, the southwest or red sector and the southeast or green sector.
- The north or blue sector is also known as the magic sector; passives there boost intelligence, elemental damage, energy shield, wand damage, minion stats, etc...everything related to magic, and the skills normally found on blue gems.
- The southwest or red sector is also known as the melee sector; passives there boost strength, armor, physical damage and nearly every known aspect of melee combat, as well as all skills normally found on red gems.
- The southeast or green sector is also known as the Ranged sector; passives there boost dexterity, ranged projectile damage, evasion, most known aspects of ranged combat and all skills normally found on green gems.
- As the player moves to the borders between sectors the passive skills available there become more hybridized between the two.
- When a new game is started, each character starts at the border of the inner wheel of the tree at a different location; the Witch for example starts at the due-north border of the inner wheel, smack in the middle of the blue sector showing her preference for magic. The wheel of character images (on the right) shows which position each class starts in and therefore their preferred method of combat; the Marauder starts in the middle of the red sector showing a preference for melee combat and the Ranger starts in the middle of the green sector for ranged combat, with the other characters starting in a position to put them in more of a hybrid role to start.
- Although it takes some extra skill points to do this, there is nothing stopping the player from choosing passives to quickly get into a different sector than his or her character started out with to, for example, make a melee-combat Witch, given that there are no set equipment limits on which character can equip what, other than what their passive stats allow. However, keep in mind that the campaign quests that give skill gems as rewards, gives gems related to the natural preference of that character, i.e. the Witch will usually only see magic-type gems. So even though making a non-standard character is possible it really isn't recommended other than for show.
Jewel sockets are notable passives that can be filled with jewels. By default, they are empty and don't grant any bonuses. There are currently 21 sockets distributed around the tree. There is no cap on the amount of sockets the player can allocate.