Elden Ring Tips Guide: 33 Things the Game Doesn’t Tell You

Your home for Elden Ring tips, tricks, and horse-like creature appreciation.

Elden Ring tips are a tricky thing to provide. Half the fun in any From Software game (at least for many players) is discovering secrets and tricks on your own. Obviously there are some things the game just doesn’t tell you. That’s usually intentional. It’s just the From Software way. And, honestly, Elden Ring does a better job of explaining the basics than previous games in the “Soulsborne” niche. It’s still a ways off from perfect, though, which leaves some wiggle room to provide tricks for getting through the Lands Between. That’s why we’ve gone ahead and concocted yet another tips guide to speed up your enjoyment! And now that we’ve had more time with the game, we’ve even updated our Elden Ring tips to coincide with Patch 1.04.

That being said: there will be MILD SPOILERS for Elden Ring ahead. While this guide doesn’t go out of its way to describe bosses, specific side quests, secret areas, etc. it does at least, y’know, mention those things in passing where necessary. It’s a guide… for a video game. Please proceed at your own peril if you absolutely don’t want to know anything! Or just come back later if you get horribly stuck. With that out of the way, let’s continue!

ELDEN RING TIPS

Buy Every Note from Wanderers

You should meet your first “Wanderer” very early on in Elden Ring. Though the most important is Merchant Kalé, in the Church of Elleh, just north of where you exit the tutorial area. These NPCs make up the majority of merchants you encounter on your journey through Elden Ring. You can usually recognize them by their combination of pack mules and campfires. They mostly sell armor, crafting materials, and ammunition. Though each Wanderer is a bit different — particularly those who sell notes.

These items are exactly what they sound like. Each note is added to your inventory (under the “Info” tab alongside tutorial logs) and you can read them by checking the item description. The contents vary; some include esoteric enemy weaknesses while others mark the location of important dungeons on your map. A few notes even direct you to side quests you’d otherwise need to stumble onto yourself in the world. These are a huge help if you want to find the many different NPCs hidden within Elden Ring, but don’t want to just spoil yourself outright with a full guide.

Make doubly sure to buy “Note: Flask of Wondrous Physick” from Merchant Kalé right here at the start of the game. It will direct you to a vital in-game item that makes the rest of Elden Ring just a bit easier, and can have a huge impact on your playstyle.

If You See Something, It Probably is Something

Your map is also very, very detailed. So detailed that you can usually rely on it to show unique dungeons, towns, locations, etc. before ever getting near them. Things like trees and the many useless scraps of ruins around Limgrave usually aren’t worth exploring. A circular icon with concentric dots around it, on the other hand? That’s probably a tower. See an oblong glob of green that looks like a pond? That might just be a poison swamp. Elden Ring is dense. Really dense. After 70+ hours of play, I still hadn’t unlocked the full map, much less discovered everything within each region. It’s also a From Software game, meaning it doesn’t always go out of its way to point you towards an objective. You need to feel out new secrets and zones on your own. The map can help a great deal.

Return to Important Locations

You find a boss, you fight the boss, you kill the boss. Then you move on. This is the way of video games. Though it’s not quite the way to play Elden Ring. Important characters will frequently appear at locations you’ve already cleared out before. Usually this brings new dialogue and/or progresses the many hidden side quests in the game. This is usually triggered by things like killing a story-relevant boss, talking to other NPCs, or just finding items and events in the world. The point is: it’s worth doubling back to old haunts and speaking to characters you previously thought had said everything they needed. Even if those characters don’t seem fully relevant to a particular plot point you uncovered elsewhere.

Backstep Through the Gunk

Elden Ring loves its poisonous swamps. There are several scattered throughout the game. One entire region of the map, Caelid, is based around not the Poison status but Scarlet Rot instead. This is a “super poison” similar to Toxin from Dark Souls. You can only heal it without the right Incantation or very limited curative items. Naturally, you want to avoid this at all costs, but those pesky swamps make it hard. Some areas with deep muck will disable your sprint — forcing you to walk slowly through the Poison or Scarlet Rot. This increases the odds that you will become infected and rapidly start losing health.

The solution? Run backwards. No, really. For whatever reason the “backstep” skill isn’t affected by knee-deep goo. You can press the Circle/B button on your controller (without holding a direction on the analog stick) to perform an evasive, backwards hop instead of a dodge roll. This same skill works in a lot of From Software games. Though you won’t need to use it too often. It’s still a nice trick to have in your pocket during some of the more arduous swamp sections.

ELDEN RING TIPS

Don’t Be Stingy with Weapon Upgrades

Upgrading weapons works a little differently than in past From Software games. Normal weapons upgrade using Smithing Stones while “unique” weapons, such as those that come from bosses, use Somber Smithing Stones. Both types of stones are numbered according to what level of upgrade they can give your weapon. Only the numbers don’t match… A single, level one material — that is to say a Somber Smithing Stone [1] — boosts your boss weapons to “+1” status. Likewise, a single Somber Smithing Stone [2] is needed to reach “+2.” On the other hand, normal weapons use multiple level one Smithing Stones — all the way up to “+3.” Then they need multiple Smithing Stone [2]s to reach new few levels beyond tha, and so on.

It’s somehow both less and more confusing that upgrades in past games.

None of that matters, though. This is what matters: Most upgrade materials are infinite. Different stones are tough to find early on, when you mostly discover them in monster-infested mines, but you can unlock the ability to buy them infinitely from a particular merchant. Certain enemies also drop the early stones, so you don’t need to be stingy about upgrades. Godrick soldiers all throughout Limgrave specifically have a small chance of dropping a Smithing Stone [1] when they die. You can use that to farm extra damage upgrades early on if you need.

The only stones you need to worry about are the maximum level ones: Ancient Dragon Smithing Stones and Somber Ancient Dragon Smithing Stones. There are only 13 of the former and eight of the latter in Elden Ring at launch. Many of these are rewards for the final stage of NPC questlines. You can get more, of course, but only on New Game Plus. Think carefully before using them.

Ashes of War Are Swappable, Not Consumable

I couldn’t find a straight answer to this question without trying it myself. That meant I took way, way too long to mix and match different Ashes of War — as I was too afraid of losing one forever on a weapon I might not like. But it turns out that these skills (which you attach to weapons at any Site of Grace) are infinitely swappable. You can attach a spinning slash skill to a scythe and then switch it to another weapon altogether with zero penalty. Just as an example! You absolutely should, too. Weapons skills are incredibly powerful in this game. They cost FP (a.k.a. mana) to use. However, the benefits far outweigh the costs, as you blow away hordes of enemies with fire whips and poison bosses to death.

Incidentally, this is also how you add different attribute scaling and damage types to weapons. Every type of ash comes with its own affinity (e.g. dexterity scaling, fire damage, etc.), but items called “Whetblades” will eventually let you pick any scaling and damage type you want. That means you can turn a two-ton hammer into a magic mallet that complements your high intelligence score, or almost anything else you like. All of this without worrying about consumable items like the elemental gems in Dark Souls 3.

Unique Weapons Can’t Change Skills

If you’re ever swapping Ashes of War and wondering to know why a particular weapon isn’t available, this is it. Unique weapons (and I’m including shields in that category) can’t change their skills. This means any item you would upgrade with Somber Smithing Stones. There’s sadly no simple way to check this without remembering for yourself. You need to either take the weapon to a blacksmith or simply try to equip Ashes of War to it. Either one of these menus will make it clear. It’s really worth checking, however, as a surprising number of weapons in Elden Ring can swap Ashes of War. Even some unique drops from mini-bosses. The Prelate’s Inferno Crozier, for example. This is a once-per-playthrough item. Yet you can equip it with different skills as you see fit.

ELDEN RING TIPS

Shields Without Skills Are Actually Great

Listen, maybe you’re good at parrying. Like really good. I personally love it in Sekiro, but am terrible at it in Dark Souls. The latter holds true in Elden Ring. In fact, I don’t use shields much at all in this game. When I do, though, I prefer the ones that don’t have the “Parry” skill at all. That’s because not having a skill allows whatever weapon you have equipped to function normally instead. That means my trusty Icerind Hatchet, for instance, can summon its wave of frost on the ground with a single stomp. Only not if I’m wearing a shield with the Parry function. A shield without said skill (or any other) will let you block and use more offensive abilities at the same time instead.

Elden Ring also provides a sort of “easy parry” in the form of Guard Counters. This activates any time you do a heavy attack immediately after blocking. You’ll know you did it right by the sound that plays as your swing comes out. Guard Counters don’t completely drop opponents’ defenses, like a good parry, but they do build up stagger damage. Just like charged and jumping attacks. So you still have some good counterattack options regardless.

There Are Many Kinds of Scarabs

Early on in Elden Ring, you’ll probably learn about Teardrop Scarabs. These are the little dung beetles rolling blue and red balls of… something… across the fields of Limgrave. The game teaches you that these have two purposes: red ones restore your health flasks while blue ones restore your mana flasks. That’s not all. There are actually several different varieties of unlabeled scarabs that try to run away and disappear if you get near. I won’t spoil what all of them do. Just generally speaking, though, always chase after the gray-white ones. These scarabs don’t just restore consumables. Instead, they drop rare items and Ashes of War you might not be able to find anywhere else. It’s worth the risk of running after them just for the permanent unlocks alone.

Stamina and FP Are Sorta Flexible

Sorceries, Incantations, and weapon skills almost always come with a cost. They drain both FP and stamina. Stamina regenerates automatically, of course, but FP is a bit more precious. Let’s say a spell costs 10 FP to cast. If you have 50 total FP, that means you only get five uses of that spell before needing to refill your mana equivalent. Right…?

The truth is just a bit more flexible. Spells will get crossed out on your HUD if you try to cast them without enough FP. E.g., if you only have four FP left, and try to use a spell that costs five FP, the spell will fail. You then need to recharge that FP with a flask or something similar. Weapon skills, on the other hand? Not so much. Weapon skills can still be performed without sufficient FP. They usually just have a reduced effect — such as a slower cast time or less damage. Stamina, on the other hand, can be outright “overused” one last time before you run out.

Let’s say you have 10 stamina left. If you try to use an ability that costs 15 stamina, that skill will still execute normally, as if you had the full amount. Though it will still drop you down to zero stamina. The TL;DR is that running out of stamina doesn’t hamper your actions until it’s truly gone. Combine this with the weapon skill trick and you can sometimes eke out that one last attack (or dodge for that matter) needed to fell an enemy or survive a fight.

You Can See Divine Towers on the Horizon

Your earliest objective in Elden Ring is, more-or-less, to hunt down some Great Runes. These are acquired whenever you defeat a major story boss. Afterwards you can equip each rune like a piece gear, but no Great Rune works without first being charged. The in-game tutorial mentions you need to find Divine Towers via Finger Readers for this task. Honestly, though, these aren’t much help. Finger Readers are cryptic and “Divine Towers” doesn’t narrow the search down too much. There are several types of towers repeated throughout Elden Ring. Most of which have their own puzzles and rewards, but only Divine Towers will do this particular job.

To narrow things down (that is to say: learn just what the hell a Divine Tower is) look to the horizon. Watchtowers and other, smaller structures pale in comparison to these massive spires. They’re so large that you can see them standing taller than any other structure on the map from nearly any location in the game. They’re multi-tiered, topped with square battlements, and usually stand alone in the world. That should help you find them in each region. Getting past their puzzles and other obstacles, though… That’s harder.

ELDEN RING TIPS

Stop and Interact with the Candelabras

I’ve been surprised by the number of people playing Elden Ring who tell me they never realized how the candelabras work. These ghostly light sources pockmark the Lands Between. They’re not just for lighting your way, though. Hop off your mount, Torrent, and actually try to interact with one. The candelabra will briefly summon a ghost and its spectral footprints glowing in gold on the ground. If you keep up, the footprints will eventually walk to a hidden cave or dungeon you haven’t been to before. It’s pretty simple but keep it in mind.

This is What “Steles” Are, By the Way

That all-important map doesn’t do much good if you don’t fill it out. Thankfully, it’s easy to find Map Fragments that draw in the details of each new region. The in-game tutorial mentions they’re tied to “steles” out in the world. If you’re like me, this might not help very much. This might be the first time you’ve ever seen the word “steles” in print, or heard of it at all for that matter. I had no idea what Elden Ring was trying to tell me with this tooltip.

Steles (the plural of stela) are apparently stone monuments with writing on them. In this case, that means the little obelisks found in each major area of map. These would be a pain to find if they weren’t also the only thing marked on your map when entering a new district for the first time. Once the fog of war is cleared, you’re left with a blank space of clean, brownish map. That is to say blank except for a single obelisk icon someone in that section. You should make a beeline to these landmarks every time you touch a new zone. It’s much easier to get around once you have your real map in place.

Invincibility Frames Stop Damage, but Not Everything Else

This isn’t a widely useful tip, but it might save your ass once or twice. “Invincibility frames” is any span of time when you can’t take damage. The most common source of invincibility frames is when performing a backstab or critical hit. This can be used to basically “dodge” attacks from other enemies, or lingering effects from things like lava on the ground, while you stab a foe to death. More than that: you can actually use i-frames to heal. Sort of…

You see, while these invincible periods stop damage, they do not stop health regeneration. You will continue to heal from things like the Crimsonburst Crystal Tear, Blessed Dew Talisman, and Incantations like Blessing’s Boon while spearing enemies. This can give you a nice, extra padding of health mid-combat. It even mitigates the effects of Poison and Scarlet Rot! Both status ailments operate on timers that tick down as they damage you. Once that timer runs out, you stop taking damage. The timer doesn’t stop when you score a critical hit, but the damage does — reducing the total damage you take while poisoned or rotting.

The downside to this is that status ailments also continue to build up while crits or backstabs. If you stab someone while standing in a poison swamp, for instance, the poison will still accrue as if you were just standing in the muck normally. Be careful about that.

Enemies Get Invincibility Frames, Too

Backstabs and certain other moves also make enemies invincible, for the record. And not just when you’re stabbing them. They will of course take the critical hit damage you inflict on them during the animation; that’s the whole point. However, co-op partners won’t be able to wail on foes while you’re critting, and vice versa. They will need to wait for the animation to finish before resuming damage.

Even then enemies aren’t open to damage right away. Most critical hits (plus some abilities or spells) knock foes flat on their back. The character then performs a “wake up” animation — during which they stand back up to resume the fight. You can’t hit them during this animation. You can prepare a charged attack, however. Just wait a second or so before holding down your heavy attack button. If you get the timing right, you can usually get a “free” charged hit on the enemy. This deals huge posture damage which starts preparing them for your next critical hit (I’ go into more detail about how to best do this in a later section).

Different Damage Types Actually Matter

Elden Ring has multiple damage and status types split across Sorceries, Incantations, weapons, and items. Just like previous From Software games. Most of the time you can get by with whatever you want; dialing in boss weaknesses and using status effects is just a bonus. There are a few instances, however, where using the right damage type is all but essential. Particularly “Strike.”

This is the Elden Ring term for blunt damage (meaning you can find it on hammers, maces, and such). It’s also the best way to deal with stony and bony creatures like skeletons and golems. Your physical attacks won’t just do less damage to these creatures. In some cases, your hits can literally bounce off their hides without the right type of weapon. Rock- and crystal-based foes also tend to have high poise, meaning you can’t always stagger them with normal hits. Killing them quickly with a Strike weapon is often your only good option.

If you still find yourself bouncing off, there are alternatives. Whip-type weapons (like the appropriately named “Whip”) cannot be deflected. The downside is that whips also can’t land critical hits (i.e. backstabs and the finishing move you use on enemies whose posture is broken). You can also two-hand weapons to stop them from bouncing. This won’t necessarily cause stony enemies to flinch, the way using their weakness would, but it does let you keep attacking uninterrupted.

Poise and Posture Are Not the Same

Speaking of posture: this is a hidden stat in Elden Ring. It’s not exactly the same as “Poise,” which is a stat you can raise by wearing heavier armor. Poise reduces the odds that you will flinch from attacks. The heavier the attack, the more Poise damage it deals, and the higher the chances that you will flinch. Poise also “resets” very quickly. Though it’s not shown onscreen. There’s basically an invisible health meter for your Poise — which “heals” when you are forced to flinch or after a few seconds without being attacked.

Posture is a slightly different beast. It’s not actually listed anywhere in your stat menu. The player doesn’t often need to worry about it, either, except in PVP or when fighting the very few Elden Ring enemies that can parry you. Posture is another invisible health bar that works similar to Poise. Except it doesn’t regenerate quite as fast.

Every time you hit or parry an enemy, you are reducing their invisible posture gauge, which slowly opens them to a “critical hit.” This is the finisher move mentioned above: effectively a backstab that you can use from the front. A loud sound will play when you break a foe’s posture and they will usually fall to one knee. Larger enemies will even show a large, yellow weak point. You need to press forward and use R1/Right Bumper (your light attack) from the enemy’s front or back (0r their weak point if they show one). This will make you temporarily invincible while you perform an extra powerful stab. Sekiro players will recognize this as the “Deathblow” mechanic from that game, just without the visible posture gauge.

Some weapons, particularly daggers, even do bonus critical hit damage. Several talismans will also heal you or regenerate your FP when you perform one. Not every enemy can be critically hit — small beasts like dogs for example. You can still break their posture and follow up with a charged attack or something similar, though. Just listen for the sound and watch them fall. Also note that jumping attacks, heavy attacks, parries, and charged attacks all do more posture damage than other weapon hits.

Different Weapons Are Better at Different Status Effects

If you go around collecting Ashes of War and Whetblades, you’ll eventually be able to add different status effects to your weapons. There are several you can use across Elden Ring: Bleed, Sleep, Poison, Frostbite, Scarlet Rot, Instant Death, and Madness. Not to mention enemies will very quickly start throwing these effects at you. When applying them to bosses and the like, however, you should know that not all weapons are created equal. Different weapons (and particularly different weapon categories) are better at dealing specific status effects. Scythes for example usually get a huge boost to ailments.

Faster weapons often deal less status per hit, while slower ones deal more to compensate for their speed. Though scaling seems to be one of the primary factors. The more a weapon scales with Arcane, for example, the more Blood Loss, Scarlet Rot, or Poison it deals. The better a weapon scales with Intelligence, the faster it builds up Frostbite. You just have to check the numbers in the “Passive Effects” box at the bottom of your screen when applying different damage types.

ELDEN RING TIPS

Fire Resets Frostbite

Here’s an esoteric tip that remains true from Dark Souls 3. Ice damage, while rare in Elden Ring, is incredibly powerful. It inflicts the Frostbite status that does a quick burst of hurt whenever it triggers — like Bleed — but also saps the target’s stamina for its duration. In Dark Souls 3, Frostbite also increased the damage non-player enemies took from other sources by a small percentage. It’s still unclear if that’s still true in this game. What is clear is that an old Dark Souls trick with fire and ice still works. That is to say, Frostbite (identifiable the chilly fog that wafts off enemies when they suffer it) can be removed by dealing any amount of fire damage to the afflicted foe.

Why is this good? Because of that damage burst. Frostbite accrues quickly but can’t proc again until its stamina-draining aura wears off. That is unless you manually remove it with fire. Doing so lets you apply Frostbite again in rapid succession to stack on huge bursts of damage very quickly. It’s great against bosses and other extremely thick-skinned enemies.

Hunting Animals Kinda Sucks, but It Helps

I don’t like hunting defenseless animals in video games. I never have! You need to hunt at least a little bit if you want to craft in Elden Ring, though. Basic arrows are made from “Thin Beast Bones,” which drop out of everything from wolves to sheep. Beast Liver — used in defensive boosters that make you more immune to physical damage, fire, and so on — comes from herbivores like deer. The list goes on for a while: especially if you plan to use a bow on the regular.

Bows are, in fact, one of the best ways to hunt. You can lock onto animals and fire from horseback. Then ride over and grab the digital materials. Hitting anything that small with a melee weapon is a bit more annoying, but far from impossible. The rewards are quite helpful.

Either way it’s all a bit tedious. If you still really don’t want to attack the virtual fauna, or waste time hoping for them to drop what you need, different Wanderers sell various types of arrows and bolts. Just make sure you have the Runes to pay for them!

Blue Plants Are “Exceedingly Rare”

Pick up an Arteria Leaf or Trina’s Lily sometime. You might notice they look slightly different in the pop-up to the right-hand side of your screen. Crafting materials like these are marked as such because they’re “Exceedingly Rare to Find,” once you check the in-game item description. What this means in practice is simple: They don’t respawn. Most plants regrow in the exact same spot you found them as soon as you rest at any Site of Grace. These uniquely rare drops, however, do not. You should learn to recognize which are rare at a glance, using this color coding, if you intend to make powerful tools (like certain bombs and healing items) from them. That way you always know what to stop and grab, and what’s fine to ride on past without worrying.

ELDEN RING TIPS

Torrent Can’t Jump Cancel

If you’ve ever played a game with fall damage and a double jump, you may have used said skill to arrest your momentum just before hitting the ground. It’s a useful tactic for jumping from high places without suffering fatal consequences. This kind of “jump canceling” would also make exploring Elden Ring a breeze. Unfortunately, the common trick doesn’t work here. If anything, Torrent seems to take more fall damage than the player character in some cases. Previous From Software games take into account stats like dexterity when reducing fall damage. Torrent may not benefit from these same bonuses, which may account for the increased damage at shorter distances. Whatever the reason you’re better off not taking the chance if you’re not sure you’ll make it!

The Basics of Mounted Combat

Attacking from atop Torrent isn’t super well-explained in Elden Ring. It’s still pretty simple when you actually know what to do. Pressing the right bumper/R1 on your controller will do a normal attack on the right side of your not-a-horse. The same goes for right trigger/R2. This will perform heavy attacks on the right side, whereas the left set of buttons will attack on your left side.

Swapping to other weapons in this position is a little bit trickier — say if you want to switch to a bow or magic focus in your offhand. In this case, you actually need to use the two-handing command. In previous From Software games, this was a single button press, but now it’s a bit of a combo. First hold down Y/Triangle on your controller; then press left or right on the directional pad. This will switch from your main hand weapon to your offhand weapon (and vice versa) when riding Torrent. Because of this, there is no way to two-hand a weapon from your mount, but you can still swap between various ranged, magical, and melee options on the fly without reorganizing your equipment!

The Flask of Crimson Tears heals Torrent, Too

One of the absolute most common items found in Elden Ring is Rowa Fruit. You can craft this into Rowa Raisins from your inventory. This is one of a few healing items specifically designed to restore HP to Torrent. Though I don’t find any of them terribly useful… If anything, they might confuse you into thinking that the only way to heal your steed is with special consumables. But your Flask of Crimson Tears (a.k.a. Estus Flask for Dark Souls players) also does the job. Albeit at a lower rate. It doesn’t seem to affect the spectral steed as much as yourself, even after you upgrade it. Even then the flask is quite a lot more convenient than using (and constantly crafting) unique items.

You Can Just Run

Attacking, dodging, and blocking all drain stamina in Elden Ring. Except when they don’t! One nice quality-of-life feature in this game is infinite stamina outside of combat. You can sprint and stab to your heart’s desire when a foe isn’t directly targeting you. Of course, when you’re just getting from Point A to Point B, you probably want to ride Torrent. The issue is that some areas preclude you from summoning your mount. There are also occasionally times when you want to get around and over obstacles without him. Namely, it’s often much easier to jump up certain structures without the extra momentum Torrent carries. He has a wider turn radius and a slower stopping speed than your player character. Whatever the situation, don’t be too afraid to sprint!

ELDEN RING TIPS

You Can Just Run… Away

This is something many Soulsborne fans will already know, but if Elden Ring is your first such game, it’s tremendously important.

You. Don’t. Need. To. Fight. Everything.

Moreso than ever before quite a few enemies are entirely optional. Sprinting past them will often draw attention, but melee units often have a very short leash. They’ll stop chasing you relatively quickly once you leave their sphere of attention. Ranged enemies have more awareness, but you can often use the environment to block their shots while you get away. This is particularly useful during the classic From Software “boss run.” That’s where you need to run all the way from one checkpoint — usually a Site of Grace — back to the boss who just killed you. Elden Ring often puts enemies in your path on these routes. The best way to handle such situations is usually to just run and roll your way through the problem. It’s almost never worth the health, FP, flasks, and the like that you’ll need to spend fighting lackeys just before a boss fight.

Interpreted more broadly, this is true of any zone in Elden Ring. The game expects you to encounter things you can’t handle. You can bash your head against them all day but leaving and exploring somewhere else is usually the better choice. Oftentimes you’ll find an item, weapon, spirit, or skill elsewhere that makes a specific problem somewhere else seem trivial.

Weapon Upgrades Don’t Top Out at +10

This one might actually catch longtime From Software fans off guard. Weapons across the Soulsborne games — going back many years now — have almost always topped out at the +10 level. Some boss weapons might not even go that high, stopping at +5 instead. Now, in Elden Ring, they can actually go higher. Assuming you have the right materials for the right weapon. Normal weapons that use basic Smithing Stones top out at +25. Unique weapons that use Somber Smithing Stones top out at +10. Don’t assume you’ve reached the cap just because that’s how it worked in older games! You’ve got more room to grow.

Glowing Skulls Have Runes, For Some Reason

Elden Ring is populated with grass, leaves, tumbleweeds, and other items floating around. The only really important object I’ve found in the detritus is glowing skulls. I’m not 100 percent sure where they come from. I’m pretty sure I saw one fall out of the sky once. I’d rather not think about what that means, so instead I’ll just let you know that the glowing skulls hold useful items: especially early in the game. You can roll over them or crush them under torrent’s hooves to crack each skull. After which they’ll drop a single, consumable Golden Rune. You can use these from your inventory to instantly acquire a pittance of Runes. This being the Elden Ring term for XP, souls, or Blood Echoes (whatever your frame of reference). It’s not a lot, but they do tend to add up.

Undead Spirits Work Just Like Regular Undead

This is another slightly minor (but often extremely useful) tip. You know those skeletons you find out in the world? They tend to get back up again after you “kill” them. That’s a From Software staple at this point, of course, even if the rules for how and why undead enemies get back up after you slay them changes from game to game. In Elden Ring, knocking out a skeletal foe exposes its soul. You then need to attack that glowing weak point, before the bony can reform, to kill it once and for all. Or at least until you rest at a Site of Grace.

The neat thing about this passive ability? It works on your skeletons. That is to say: the undead allies you can summon as friendly spirits. There are tons of these ghostly friends in-game. Some of which, yes, are skeletons. And while spirits normally disappear after being killed — usually by a very aggressive boss in my case — skeletons can get right back up again. That’s assuming their soul isn’t destroyed first, of course. That makes skeleton warriors less useful against enemies with extremely large, frequent area-of-effect attacks. But trust me when I say having a nigh unkillable cohort to draw aggression can really, really help.

ELDEN RING TIPS

Exhaust Dialogue for Every NPC, Every Time

One more tip specifically for From Software neophytes: non-player characters usually have more than one thing to say. Even if they don’t say it all at once. Why does every game from Demon’s Souls to Sekiro do this? I don’t know. The fact remains that you should speak to every NPC multiple times to make sure. Once they start repeating the same dialogue every time you click through, then you’re safe.

Why do this? Unmarked side quests and even some items are tied to hearing absolutely everything a character has to say. Sometimes they just want to reward you for listening to their whole story. Whatever their motives (and the motives of From Software for making this unclear) it’s just how these games have always been.

Buy Lots of Things from People

One more thing you can do with NPCs is buy lots of stuff from them. Particularly unique NPCs (i.e. not the wandering merchants). Elden Ring often gives these people new dialogue after you reach a certain threshold of purchased items. It even seems to change some characters’ demeanor toward you altogether — resulting in some free stuff or new options to “Talk” in their shop menu. These bonuses are usually pretty superficial — like new gestures you can perform and kinder wording when they deal with you — but players looking to see and hear everything will want to go through with the whole thing.

Get Yourself a Spirit Calling Bell (Plus a Crafting Kit and Smithing Table)

Circling back to spirit summoning one last time, this is an extremely easy tip that’s also extremely easy to miss. You can unlock the item necessary to summon friendly spirits in combat, the Spirit Summoning Bell, almost immediately after entering Limgrave. That’s the starting zone past the tutorial. The game tries to direct you to this revelation organically. Honestly, it’s pretty good at it, too! But I’ve talked to several players now who totally missed out because of the very specific steps necessary to get the item.

As soon as you exit the tutorial area your eye might be drawn to a church in the north. It’s the first structure on the horizon whenever you fast travel to The First Step. This place is the Church of Elleh and it’s full of useful goodies. You may already know this, in fact, since it’s easy to see and enter. This is where you can purchase a Crafting Kit from Merchant Kalé. You should do that. Also take his advice about the nearby Smithing Table. It’s worth using as soon as you have the necessary materials!

The next part is where I’ve heard people get confused. You need to actually leave the Church of Elleh and fast travel back to its Site of Grace. This is something most players who find the spot are likely to do anyway, in order to use the Smithing Table and possibly buy more items. You specifically need to fast travel in, however, to trigger a small conversation where you get the Spirit Calling Bell. This is just a Key Item that goes into your inventory; you never have to use or think about it again. But the spirits you summon in battle won’t work until you have it in your inventory. Make sure to grab it early!

Upgrade Spirits by Exploring Tombs

Once you have a Spirit Summoning Bell, it’s time to… summon spirits. But you’ll want them in tiptop shape. These spirits don’t scale alongside your character and must instead be upgraded via Spirit Tuning. An NPC on the path to Stormveil Castle will eventually join you for this purpose. If you speak to her in the shack on the way up to the keep. Once you progress through her story a bit (by speaking to her and other characters in a location you’ll find later as part of the main plot) she becomes a Spirit Tuner. In exchange for items called Glovewort, she can make your spirits more powerful, almost the same as upgrading your weapons.

Glovewort is a plant — one that specifically grows in the underground Erdtree catacombs populated by stone imps and other foes. Limgrave is full of these little caves. Though they spread out a bit as you venture further into the world. Glovewort is one of those “exceedingly rare” items, too, so make sure to pick it up when you see it. It’s not something that respawns for easy farming.