A Guide to Starting Dark Souls and Character Builds

By Published On: November 13, 2021Categories: Gaming

With Elden Ring around the corner, many players are either revisiting the Dark Souls Franchise or are starting for the first time. Looking at the different classes and options can be intimidating, I mean looking at the gifts alone can leave people confused. Here will be covered a starting guide for classes, builds, and starting gifts.

Some things to consider when starting:

Starting Class

Starting Item

Character Build (PVP and PVE)

Covenant

When choosing your starting class it is always good to pick the stats you want to base your playthrough on. This can be PVP, COOP, or even PVE, however, I should add that regardless of what you pick you can still make a build with any kind of character you want. This is a good thing because every player has a different style and will have room to make adjustments later on. So if you start out with a spellcaster but decide you are better hitting enemies with a fat greatsword you can go full tank.

Character Stat Breakdown

Any character you build will have different statistics to start. While leveling your character you will eventually pick a build to go with and need to utilize stat priorities. This means dumping points into certain stats to increase them. These statistics are Vitality, Attunement, Endurance, Strength, Dexterity, Resistance, Intelligence, and Faith.

Vitality is the stat used to increase character health. Each point dumped into vitality increases per level, however, there is a drop around level 30, and a huge drop at around level 50.

Attunemnent dictates the amount of slots the player has to equip spells. These consist of sorceries, pyromancy, and miracles. This stat is also increasable by wearing certain rings. Most require one slot, but some abilities do require two. An additional slot is gained every few levels give or take and caps at 10 slots.

Endurance is used to increase a characters stamina, equipment load, and bleed resistance. Increased stamina determines how many times you can complete actions before needing to rest a second to let it refill. For example, attacking and dodging eat at your stamina bar. Equip load also effects stamina and determines whether you can even run or how fast you dodge or attack by how heavy your equipment is. Bleed is a debuff that eats away at a characters health every few seconds.

Movement penalties occur at 25 percent usage of equip load.

Stamina caps at 160.

Srength is a stat that increases damage output, and is a requirement for the majority of weapons. When holding 2 handed weapons for example, srength is increased by 50%. Srength should generally be capped at 50 due to diminishing returns.

Dexterity is a stat similar to strength, but increases damage per modifiers. It also decreases casting time for most spells between 35-40. Usually required for most weapons, more so light and fast weapons like the Uchigatana.

Resistance increases resistance against fire, poison, magic, and lightning damage as well as increases defenses from regular, thrust, strike, and slash damage. Most players avoid this stat due to most armor providing better resistance than the stat itself.

Intelligence is a modifier for catalysts that increases the potency of sorceries. Sorceries have intelligence requirements in order to use them. This also acts as a weapon modifier for damage in intelligence weapons like the Moonlight Greatsword. Pyromancy Flame also scales with this stat.

Faith is a modifier for talismans to increase the effectiveness for Miracles. It also acts as a weapon modifier for unique faith based weapons. Miracles also require a base faith stat to use and increases magic defense.

When choosing your starting class, as I said before it won’t matter as much since you can change to whichever way you would like to go. However, each class does come with specific stats that can contribute to the playstyle you may want to go with as you play. These classes are Warrior, Knight, Wanderer, Thief, Bandit, Hunter, Sorcerer, Pyromancer, Cleric, and Deprived.

Warrior

Warriors are great classes to start with given their high strength and dexterity. These stats allow your character to be able to use most equipment you come across. The starting weapons are the longsword and heater shield, and they come with no magic ability. It’s an optimal choice for those who want a more aggressive playstyle that does not care for miracles, spells, or pyromancy.

Knight

Knights are the Tank starting class in the sense that they usually have high health and heavy armor. They are meant to eat damage and hit hard, but the movement is usually slow and hard to knockdown. They come equipped with a broad sword and the tower kite shield. This class is great for players that don’t want to focus on dodging or magic and have the patience to eat damage and slowly kill.

Wanderer

The wanderer is a high dexterity-based class that uses scimitars. They are a bit more limited in weapon choice early game and are basically glass cannons. Players that choose this class will need a lot of patience and good timing due to the fact that most of their time will be hitting and retreating. However, due to also having high intelligence and attunement stats, they get the ability to use spells and or a bow allowing ranged combat. They will also come equipped with a leather shield at the start.

Thief

Thief is a class that comes not only with the Master Key but also has extremely high dexterity. They come equipped with the Bandit’s Knife which leads to a plethora of critical hits. However, due to the lack of vitality and endurance, they are a bit harder to use. Players will need to master parries and backstabs to get by. In addition to the Knife the class comes with a Target Shield.

Bandit

Bandits come with high strength and endurance and mainly use hard-hitting weapons like greatswords. They do not come with the best armor, and fat roll due to the equip load. They also have few points in intelligence and faith making magic, not an option. This class is a great pick for players that want to hack their way through with big damage.

Hunter

Hunters are a great class for those who want to pack ranged damage with bows. They are a high dexterity class meaning they can utilize high dex weapons but have average points in other stats. This class comes with a short bow, shortsword, and a large leather shield. Learning magic will be hard and is not optimal for this class, but it can be done.

Sorcerer

Today we talk about the subheading of doom. Replace the heading text, keep it as a h1 style, 30pt font. Do not adjust the font of this text box. Type a paragraph, and when you are ready to start a new sub-section, add a new container of this same subheading template. If you do not wish to start with a subheader, just remove this and add a new container of a normal text block.

Pyromancer

Pyromancers are arguably the best starting class in the game. Not only do they have early access to Pyromancy starting with Fireball, but they wrack up good damage. They also have the advantage of starting at level 1, making it the ideal choice for PVP builds. (Note that PVP players cap at 120). Their starting armor automatically comes with fire and poison resistance, and their starting weapon consists of the Hand Axe.

Cleric

Clerics are known for their miracles and strong melee weapons. The class starts off with the heal miracle and high faith stat. While their defense is little, they make up for it with strong hits and their miracle abilities that generally aid with healing or buffing. This class is also good for PVP with a starting level of 2, and automatically is part of the Way of the White Covenant. They start with a Mace, East-West Shield, and Canvas Talisman.

Deprived

This class is good for people that want a challenge, for Deprived comes equipped with nothing but a club and Plank Shield. They have no armor, and all their stats start at 11. This class is the best for experienced players that want an even starting ground, and flexibility for build variety. They can be good for both PVP or PVE.

Starting Item

There is a variety of starting items that you can choose only one of when starting the game. There usually is one go-to depending on the class picked. These items are the following:

  • Goddess’s Blessing- Fully Restores HP and status ailments. Comes in 3 and does not remove curse.
  • Black Firebomb- Explodes on impact and is more damaging than the standard bomb
  • Twin Humanities- Gives players 2 humanity instead of one, can be used for removing hollowing and increasing HP
  • Binoculars- Used to see distant sights
  • Pendant- Can be traded with Snuggly the Crow for a Souvenir of Reprisal
  • Master Key- A reusable key that unlocks any basic locked door in the game
  • Tiny Being’s Ring- Boosts players health as long as equipped
  • Old Witche’s Ring- Allows the Chosen Undead to understand what Quelaag’s sister is saying

The Master Key is generally the best item to pick, seeing as it can get you through any basic locked door. However, those playing thieves automatically come with the key, therefore it is not the go-to every time. I recommend in that case going with twin humanities.

Character Build (PVP and PVE)

While Dark Souls builds have endless options, there are some that can make the game for you regardless of how you play.  These builds will help you get the best of your abilities and last you as many playthroughs as you want. They also will feel the most rewarding late game. These are in my opinion the top 5 builds to aim for.

Giant Dad

  • Giant Armor Set (Sold by Gian Black Smith in Anor Londo)
  • Zweihander Sword (Located in the Graveyard Area by the large tombstones in the Firelink Shrine)
  • Grass Crest Shield (At the bottom of the Darkroot Basin guarded by a Black Knight)
  • Mask of the Father (Dropped by Pinwheel, sold by Patches for 8000 souls, or a 2% drop by Pinwheel Servent)
  • Havel’s Ring (Obtained after defeating Havel the Rock whom is located between the Undead Burg and Darkroot Basin)

This build is notorious, not only for the humor but also because it packs a serious punch. This design is meticulous to build, but very rewarding and OP. Some of the items can not be obtained until late game, but it can be done on the first playthrough. The idea behind the build is to hit like a tank but still be mobile. The Ring, Mask, and Shield greatly increase mobility by increasing stamina regeneration and equip load while the Sword can do insane damage and swing 4 times before stamina depletion. In addition to the sword, Pyromancy is always a good plus for this build, especially using the Black Flame Spell.

Bleed Scythe Build

Requirements:

  • Lifehunt Scythe ( Forged from either a +10 Scythe, Whip, or Halbeard combined with Priscilla’s soul at the Giant Blacksmith)
  • Black Iron Set ( Located in Anor Londo, to the left of the painting)
  • Bloodbite Ring ( Sold by Oswald of Carim, located in the Undead Parish in the tower. Cost is 10,000 souls)
  • Bloodred Moss Clump needed to reduce bleeding

The idea behind this build is to kill with stacks of bleed damage. The Scythe is a double-edged sword causing 50 bleed to enemies, but also inflicting 40 bleed on the user. The armor and ring will boost resistance significantly, but if all else fails use a moss clump. This is a great PVP build and counter for turtlers.

Pure Pyro Build

Requirements:

  • Quelaag’s Furysword ( Upgrade any +10 Curved Sword or Curved Greatsword with Quelaag’s soul at Giant Blacksmith)
  • Pyromancy Flame ( Starting equipment for Pyromancer, recruit Laurentius of the Great Swamp)
  • Crown of Dusk ( Found in Darkroot Basin after Dusk of Oolacille)
  • Bellowing Dragoncrest Ring (Can be bought by Griggs of Vinheim for 20,000 Souls)
  • Great Chaos Fireball
  • Power Within
  • Great Combustion
  • Fire Tempest
  • Poison Mist
  • Fire Whip

For players that want an extremely aggressive build that deals massive damage between pyromancies and the Furysword, this is the perfect build to obtain. It’s not too hard to obtain and most of the items are available early to mid-game. Fire damage also does not scale with stats, and is easily paired with melee builds. This build is more geared for PVE, but can be used in either situation. However, for PVP there are far better options like the Dad build.

Moonlight Greatsword Sorcerer

Requirements

This is mostly a pure sorcery build. Players will rely on spells to keep others at bay using the greatsword for anyone that gets too close. The build can be used for either PVE or PVP and requires a bit of patience.

Kirk Knight of Thorns

Requirements:

  • Barbed Straight Sword ( Possible drop from Kirk in any of the 3 encounters)
  • Spiked Shield ( Possible drop from Kirk in any of the 3 encounters)
  • Full Thorns Armor Set ( Defeat Kirk all 3 times)
  • Havels Ring ( Defeat Havel the Rock in shortcut between Undead Burg and Darkroot Basin)
  • Pyromancer Flame
  • Great Chaos Fireball
  • Fire Tempest

This build is designed for PVP and PVE and is extremely annoying to deal with. The build is designed not only for the look but also to intimidate and deal damage in literally anything you do to touch enemies. It also can lead to bleed potential.

Covenants (Location and Bonuses)

Covenants consist of factions in the Dark Souls franchise that generally come with some item that only members of the covenant can use. They are joinable and missable, requiring specific interactions with individuals. Unfortunately, unlocking all of them is impossible in one playthrough. Each covenant has a purpose for PVE or PVP, and there are a total 9 covenants in the first game.

Warrior of Sunlight

Warrior of Sunlight is a cooperative-based covenant featuring the famous Solaire of Astora. In order to join the player must meet certain requirements.

  • A faith stat of 25
  • Find the Broken Alter
  • Pray to the Alter

The effects of joining the covenant are that players will appear as golden when summoned as a phantom. Players are more likely to match members of the same covenant when playing online coop. Sunlight medals are gained upon killing bosses including other members of the party. When joining the players gain the Lightning Spear, and trading in 10 medals and Gwynn’s soul will gain them the sunlight spear.

Princess Guard

This covenant belongs to Gwynevere, the daughter of Gwyn and Princess of Sunlight. The covenant is coop and healing based.

Requirements for Joining:

  • Defeat Ornstein and Smough

Players will gain the Ring of the Sun Princess upon joining and can use Soothing Sunlight and Bountiful Sunlight. Players sharing the covenant are matches up more easily and gain more miracle synergy.

Way of the White

The covenant is the third and final coop-based one and is meant for helping others online. Miracle Resonance is easier to perform and it helps block players from PVP covenants.

Requirements for Joining

  • Speak with Petrus of Thorolund at Firelink Shrine or Reah of Thorolund after rescue.
  • Knight and Cleric classes automatically start with this covenant

Darkwraith

This covenant is a hidden one and PVP-based. It is obtainable after meeting certain requirements and then speaking to Darkstalker Kaathe in the Abyss. Players will obtain the red-eye orb and the Dark Hand.

Requirements:

  • Kill Great Grey Wolf Sith to gain the covenant of Artorias
  • Do not speak to Frampt after obtaining Lord Vessel (Unless you killed Ingward to receive the key to the Abyss)
  • Beat the Four Kings
  • Speak to Kaathe

Players gain the cracked red eye orb and the Dark Hand. Players do not lose human status if they fail an invasion.

Forest Hunter

The covenant is pure chaos PVP. There are no requirements to joining other than going into the dark dark forest and speaking with the cat known as Alvina. She will give you the cat covenant ring that will summon you at random to invade other players. Defeating trespassers will give you titanite shards or chunks at random. If killed, you are returned to the last bonfire rested at and do not lose any souls. At 3 kills the Ring of Fog is rewarded.

Path of the Dragon

This covenant is based on invading players that have Dragon Scales. There are no requirements but finding the Everlasting Dragon is a bit difficult. Upon joining you obtain a Dragon Eye and Dragon Head Stone.

How to Find:

  • Go out to the swamp of Blighttown.
  • Find the bonfire, and while leaving make a hard left towards a tree
  • Climb the root that looks as if it were a ramp, and once at the dead-end, hit the illusionary wall. You now have entered the Great Hollow.
  • Proceed forward until you eventually reach Ash Lake
  • There is an optional boss which is the Hydra, and once you run past or defeat it keep going forward until you reach the Ever Lasting Dragon
  • Pray to it to unlock the covenant

Benefits of joining are obtaining the Dragon Eye, and Headstone immediately. At 10 you obtain the Dragon Torso Stone. As you progress you increase the damage and range of these items.

Blade of the Dark Moon

The Blade of the Dark Moon acts as an assassination PVP. It is the covenant serving Dark Sun Gwyndolin. The objective is to assassinate players that have sinned or broken covenant vows. The two ways players can invade is the blue-eyed orb or the Darkmoon Blade Covenant Ring. When players are assassinated the servent gains Souvenir of Reprisal.

Requirements:

  • Players must have the Dark Seance Ring, locate the catacombs, and access to Anor Londo
  • Go to the Elevator in the Middle of Anor Londo and make it so it goes all the way down
  • Equip the Ring to make the nearby statue vanish, go through the opening and towards the fog wall DO NOT ENTER
  • It will prompt the kneel gesture, do so to join the covenant

Benefits to joining the covenant are obtaining the Darkmoon Blade and Talisman after offering 10 souvenirs. After that, there are buffs to Miracle Power. You can also use the blue-eyed orb regardless of being hollow.

Gravelord Servent

This covenant is owned by Nito himself and acts as a way of invading other players and cursing their worlds. Cursing is caused by using the Eye of Death and results in powerful enemies known as Black Phantoms.

Requirements:

  • Only joinable before killing Gravelord Nito
  • Triggering requires going to the Catacombs, defeating the titanite demon, and interacting with the coffin that’s jutting out.

The benefits of joining are gaining Gravelord Sword and the miracle Gravlord Sword Dance.  As you kill players the amount of kills leads to damage buffs for the sword and miracles.

Chaos Servent

This covenant has no real objectives but gives you the two most powerful pyromancies in the game. The covenant is led by the Daughter of Chaos in Blighttown after killing Quelaag. The 2 pyromancies given are the first for joining which is Great Chaos Fireball and the second for 30 humanity which is Chaos Storm. You also gain entrance to Lost Izalith.

About the Author: Shinobi

Veteran Gamer Star Wars Fanatic Final Fantasy Lover Praise the Sun