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Headscratchers / Dark Souls
aka: Dark Souls

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Weird geography of Lordran
Taking a survey of the land from Firelink and from the shores of Ash Lake, I'm inclined to conclude that Lordran is actually supported by the archtrees, resting atop them in some sort of weird Above the Earth fashion. If nothing else, it would help to explain the huge numbers of bottomless pits in this country. But then where does the Lava in the Demon ruins come from? Izalith isn't really underground, so there can't be anything coming from the planet crust... right? My first guess would be that it's something to do with the magic of the Bed of Chaos, and possibly Ceaseless Discharge leaking everywhere, but I'd like to hear more ideas.
  • The Ash Lake is something else altogether. In Dark Souls 2 a place very, very similar to the Ash Lake, Things Betwixt, serves as a metaphysical gateway between Drangleic and the outside world. The Ash Lake might be a sort of spirit world, as transitioning between Ash Lake and Lordran proper, and Things Betwixt and Drangleic proper, both occur in similar ways.
  • I think Ash Lake is indeed below everything else, and the world we see is supported on the branches of the archtrees. That's much more interesting than another extradimensional space, if you ask me.
  • The Ash Lake is definitely physically below Lordran. You can see part of it from the Tomb of Giants, from above.
  • As for where the lava comes from, whatever portion of it didn't come from Ceaseless might have come from other demons in general (Queelag also had the ability to spout lava) or the Chaos Flame itself.

What's up with the "Illusion!Gwynevere/Gwyndolin/Frampt Conspiracy" theory?
Something I've seen often on these tropes pages and elsewhere is the idea that Frampt knowingly lied to you about succeeding Lord Gwyn, and that Gwyndolin was in on it because he projected an image of Gwynevere to encourage you to go along with it. But does the game really back that up? "Succeeding Lord Gwyn," taken literally, would have to mean becoming fuel for the Flame in his place, so it's not like that part of the tale Gwynevere and Frampt tells you is inaccurate - the only thing that might be thrown off is player expectations. As for Gwynevere being an illusion, the only thing I can think of that supports the idea is that there's an item description somewhere that mentions that ALL of the gods (including, presumably, the Princess) have left Anor Londo, but that might be a lie as easily as anything else. There's also the part where shooting Gwynevere makes her vanish, but that happens to every other unique monster you kill, too. The fact that Anor Londo goes permanently dark if she is killed lends support to the idea that she's actually real, and just has crappy HP for a woman of her size. What else is there to support the theory?
  • The issue with becoming the fuel for the First Flame is not that you're going to be the fuel. The issue is the motivations of the characters in question. Are they arranging for you to Link the Fire to save the world, or are they doing it to prolong what essentially amounts to a dying world of undead simply to keep themselves in power? And if you're going to assume that an item description is lying to you, then you can't trust any of the lore in the game, period. Gwynevere isn't in Anor Londo. You don't get any souls for shooting her - every other deity you kill yields a unique soul, but Gwynevere doesn't. If she was powerful enough to have such wide-ranging effects on Anor Londo, then she would yield significant amounts of souls for killing her, but she doesn't. Also, there is a specific item that explicitly says that Gwynevere left Anor Londo to marry "the Flame God Flann," and this is for a ring that is only obtained if you join the Princess' Guard covenant. The Darkmoon Seance Ring supports this, noting that Gwyndolin is the only deity remaining in Anor Londo. And again, if you're going to assume that the item descriptions are untrustworthy, then there's nothing you can trust in the game's lore at all. But the items generally do seem to have accurate and reliable descriptions about some aspects of the setting, so they can be assumed to be reliable about others.
    • The Silver Knight Shield's description explicitly says that Gwynevere is an illusion.
  • Lying by omitting details is still a lie. Frampt tells you that you're succeeding Lord Gwyn, but he doesn't tell you what that means. Ditto for the Gwynevere illusion. The implication for "succeeding Lord Gwyn" is that you're going to become the king of the gods. And the simple fact is that leaving out the detail that you're going to turn yourself into the eternal self-immolating fuel for the Flame instead of becoming the next king of the gods is, well, pretty damned deceptive. You can argue that they implied it more subtly, but it's pretty notable that ALL they talk about is how great Linking the Fire is using flowery language like "Succeeding Gwyn" and "Inheriting the Fire". It's the sort of language you use on a child when you're trying to trick them into doing something they don't want to like only talk about eating your vegetables by how they'll make you big and strong but omitting the part about how they taste. You can do that and genuinely have good intentions, but you're still trying to manipulate them, and in the context of burning alive for who knows how long, you really can't be coy about it without being a dick.
    • It's also worth noting that the fact Gwyn sacrificed himself to Link the Fire is not readily available information for most people. Sure, you can come across it, and realise the deception, but that's the entire point of it being a deception to begin with, they're giving you incomplete information in order to mislead you.

Gwyndolin raised as a girl?
I've seen that line on the wiki, and I haven't seen anything in the game to back it up. Gwyndolin is a bit androgynous, yes, but he's also part squid. A lot of people seem to make much of the former and disregard the latter completely. I have an idea that he was cursed when he lost his godhood, and that's why he looks like he does now - not just debateably male, but debateably humanoid.
  • His armor explicitly says that he was "raised as a daughter" because he was strongly aligned with the moon.
    • But what does that mean exactly? Is there something in the lore that says the moon is natively feminine? I could never find it.
      • The moon has historically been considered feminine, and the sun masculine. Goes back centuries, and was a major part of mysticism and alchemy.
      • Specifically in this case, his name in the original Japanese is 陰の太陽グウィンドリン. The first character is "yin" from yin and yang, which has the attributes of female, moon, and darkness, compared to yang, which is male, sun, and light. The "Dark" in Dark Sun thus comes from a word also associated with the moon and the feminine. Saying he was "strongly aligned with the moon" likely is meant to tie in with the Japanese player's mental association with traditional Japanese astrology.

Would the Dark Lord ending truly create the Age of Humans?
If the introduction is anything more than Gwyn's 'Official History' (the existence of the Everlasting whelp and the Archtrees is evidence that it is), the world originally belonged not to the Darkness but to the Stone Dragons and 'humans' were scraggly... things until four of them managed to grab the Souls of Lords (from where is not explained either). The condition of humans at the beginning of the game proper is partly a product of the Age of Fire and any magical effects thereof, so once the Souls of Lords and the First Flame are extinguished the result should be an Age of Undead rather than an age of Humans — unless there's some unrevealed original source of Humanity besides other humans and monsters (which as one WMG suggest may have gotten it from human victims).
  • All Souls came from the First Flame, including the Lord Souls.
  • Speculation points towards humanity being fragments of the Dark Soul that all humans are born with. Word of God hints toward this being the case as well.
  • The Dark Soul doesn't appear to be dependent on the first flame.
  • Regarding the Age of Darkness, there really is absolutely no telling what will happen to the world when the First Flame dies.
  • Humanity (shards of the Dark Soul) are used to feed bonfires. This implies that Fire depends on the Dark more than the other way around.
What is up with Frampt, Kaathe and the Primordial Serpents in general?
They seem important, and claim to be as old as the other major players, yet I have seen nothing about them in any of the game's flavor text.
  • This troper speculates that the Primordial Serpents may in fact be the servants/friends/comrades/lieutenant of the Furtive Pygmy, with their powers and appearances strongly linked to the Dark Soul. Even after the Pygmy's death/disappearance, they still remain loyal to him and his cause, and effectively consider the Player Character to be his successor when they proclaim "Our lord had return'st" in the Dark Lord ending. Frampt is the outsider among them, possibly due to forming a friendship with Gwyn and/or Gwyndolin, and turning against his original purpose to instead support the Age of Fire.
    • Hey, the Pygmy's one trait was to be "easily forgotten." If the primordial serpents served the Pygmy, it makes perfect sense no lore would mention them.
  • The Covetous Serpent Rings state that snakes are incomplete dragons. Kaathe and Frampt, being Serpents, are likely incomplete Dragons, similar to Seath in that regard except far more incomplete.

What exactly do souls do in Dark Souls?
Souls are described as being the currency of choice in Lordran, while coins are in general useless, but why exactly is this? Souls were traded in Demon's Souls because they allowed a mortal in Boletaria to remain sane (to some degree) in the wake of the soul-devouring demons, but no such justification seems to exist here. Do they have a similar function in preventing the Undead from turning hollow? Is it because the Lords took to trading souls between themselves for goods and services (which would have some dark connotations), and they thus became became the official "minted" currency? Do souls act as a kind of Applied Phlebotinum in the use spellmaking, smithing, and crafting? Or what?
  • This troper's best guess is that they're essentially magic energy that surpasses known magic, considering that you use them for leveling up. Also, unlike the first game, in here it's somewhat stated that nearly everyone you encounter is in a similar state and can do the same things that you do, meaning that they too can "level up", so they gather souls in order to become stronger themselves.
  • In the Cursed trailer for Dark Souls II, the narrator says that "souls may mend your ailing mind." It would seem that souls may have an effect on helping an undead preserve his sanity after all, though the specifics and how well they work are unknown.

Is it really all lies?
After my first playthrough on Dark Souls, I checked everything about it and how the "To Link the Fire" ending was apparently me being tricked into becoming a willing sacrifice.

But playing the game for a second time, I've come to wonder: Is this assumption really real? I'm listening carefully to everything that Frampt and Gwynevere (or Gwyndolin) have to say, and I'm finding no lie whatsoever in their words. Sure, they tell me I must success Lord Gwyn, but it's NEVER stated this is about succedding him as ruler. If anything, if one knows of Gwyn's fate when he linked the fire, one should know best when you're told to inherit the flame AND to link the fire. In this playthrough, I'm getting the impression that Frampt is telling me - even if not in detail - that becoming this sacrifice is my destiny, and that my character is walking willingly towards this for the sake of the world.

So, is the player really being tricked? Or just deluded by missasumptions?

  • I think part of the beauty of Dark Souls is that there's no definitive answer to that question. There are definitely elements of truth to what Gwyndolin and Frampt tell the player character, but they also omit some important details from what they say as well.
  • Speaking to Frampt after satiating the Lordvessel is revealing: he claims you will be the new Great Lord, successor to Gwyn. Further, he always says "succeeding" Gwyn and never mentions having to fight him, while Kaathe states outright that Gwyn will have to be destroyed. Frampt isn't to be distrusted because of any contradictions in detail: he's to be distrusted because he's unusually cheery and pompous for a Dark Fantasy world. He comes off like someone trying too hard to sell you something.
  • The player is being tricked by the game, yes, but the player character is not being tricked by the NPCs. It's all in the item descriptions, right? But where do those come from? They're not written on the items themselves, that'd be silly. And they're these slightly odd snippets of information that are often only tangentially related to the actual item in question. So my theory is that the item descriptions are what comes into your character's mind when he or she looks at items. They're recollections. Associations. Which means that your character knows perfectly well what's going on in the world and what fate awaits them.
  • There is also the R in the RPG word. In my first run I kinda understood how I was being manipulated but... is that really bad? Not everyone is a power hungry Lord. Some of us may prefer something else for them. Easily, a character such as mine (a Paladin) choose by himself to drop in there and burn himself. In particular after visitng Oolacile, in particular because linking the First Flame is the only way he had to preserve the world in which he lived, in which his (once) loved ones live.

So, even further plotholes...
Everyone in the fandom seems to assume that Gwynevere is an ilussion cast by Gwyndolin due to the information given in some items.

But then... how exactly can anyone explain that she's still there and gives you all the information she usually offers, AFTER you've killed Gwyndolin?

  • The illusion obviously has some sort of autonomy, like a prerecorded message or something similar.
  • Agreed. My guess is that the illusion was created by Gwyndolin, but doesn't require constant maintenance or supervision to function properly. I think it's pretty safe to assume that the illusion of Gwynevere says the same thing to all Undead who manage to make it to her chambers, and doesn't deviate from the 'script' that Gwyndolin provided her with.
  • Indeed. Just because it's an illusion and a spell, doesn't mean that the effect ends when the user dies, as "proof" look at most interpretations of curses and the such: the effect lingers for as long as there is energy fueling it. In this particular case it just means that Gwynevere will indeed disappear at some point in the future.
  • All indications are that the whole thing is a long-term enchantment cast over all of Anor Londo, and that Gwyndolin deliberately drops it when you shoot the fake Gwynevere because that's not fooling you anymore.
    • Either that, or he perceives your gesture of aggression as highest blasphemy, a sign that you bear no respect or love for the gods, and strips the illusion because you don't deserve to see the glory of Anor Londo, only the withered shell left behind.

What's the deal with those Snake People in Sen's Fortress and the Duke's Archives anyway?
With snakes traditionally symbolizing the undead, are they somehow related to the Undead? Are they a creation of Seath's? Are they just another race that serve the gods of their own accord, or are they slaves? There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of information about them.
  • Could be that they're Seath's experiments, especially if you take into account that he seems to enjoy creating halfbreeds or weird hybrid monsters in his spare time. Maybe some of them were sent from his Archives to guard Sen's Fortress? The only flavor text I know of about them comes from the Man-serpent Greatsword, which just says that it's the "choice weapon of the slithering serpent men of Sen's Fortress".
  • Word of God indeed confirms they are one of Seath's creations during the interview about the artwork.
  • I'd lean towards them serving the gods (in spite of creation by Seath) as some of them - the female ones? Always thought of them as female - use lightning-element ranged attacks. Lightning is close to entirely an element of the Giants and Gods, being accessible by Warrior of Sunlight miracles, or via the Giant blacksmith, who probably forged items for the gods when they were more active. Perhaps they're there just to continue testing the Chosen Undead; if they can't deal with these little miracles, how would they be able to deal with later challenges?

Who is this Sen person anyway?
So Sen's Fortress is obviously named after a Sen, but none of the flavour text so much as mentions such a person. Was he a leader of the snake-men? A general of the gods tasked with defending the entry to Anor Londo? The engineer who devised the advanced mechanical traps that litter the fortress? That invisible force that somehow always redirects the boulders to where you are?

The world may never know.

  • Sen is almost certainly one of the servants of the deities in Anor Londo. But we don't know who exactly he or she was or is, because, y'know, the entire country is filled with either hollows or hostile monsters, and the only people feeding you info are untrustworthy.
  • It may be worth noting that Sen is Japanese for "one thousand." It's possible "Sen's Fortress" was a play on words in the original Japanese (something to the effect of "fortress of a thousand traps," maybe).
    • Sen is written in katakana in original Japanese name, suggesting it is indeed a name, not a Japanese word.
      • Probably not official, but I couldn't help but notice that Sen is NES written backwards...
      • And the area is named such because it's Nintendo Hard? :D
      • But it wasn't called the NES in Japan, it was the Famicom, and Sen's Fortress isn't Mocimaf's Fortress in the Japanese version.
      • Might be a reference to Senhime (Princess Sen) and Osaka Castle, where she was famously rescued from.

What's the deal with the empty chest in Firelink Shrine?
Given all the crazy rumours and theories and stuff I've heard relating to this game, it's strange that the only thing I've heard pertaining to the chest behind where Frampt chills is a possibility for placing the Pendant. Granted, From Software has dummied out a copious amount of stuff from the game, but they also tend to remove it from the game completely. So why leave this in if it was an orphaned plot device?
  • If you feed him an important key item, like the Orange Charred Ring, or the Cat Covenant Ring, it appears in the chest.
    • That... sounds oddly disgusting.
      • Perhaps he just spits it out when you're not looking?

What is the connection between the Chasm of the Abyss in the DLC and the Abyss in the main game?
Did the former become the latter, like it's hinted Oolacile and the Royal Woods became the Darkroot Garden and Basin? And wasn't killing Manus supposed to halt the spread of the Abyss?
  • The way I see it, the Chasm of the Abyss is what all of Oolacile will eventually turn into, which is why you can't see most of the ruins in the present. Really, all Manus did was drive the humanity in the residents of Oolacile wild and corrupt the ground Oolacile was sitting on; the entire kingdom is sinking. Think about it this way: Oolacile disturbed Manus's grave, they didn't breach the Abyss itself.

Why does Petrus stick around?
Maybe this is just some form of Gameplay and Story Segregation, but why does Petrus stay in Lordran after abandoning/murdering Reah? He has no reason to. Going off how he first reacts to the Undead Hero, he isn't himself Undead, so the Bells of Awakening would hold no fascination for him. And isn't he at all disturbed by Frampt's stench?
  • Petrus is undead, like all the other characters you meet. I don't think there's any mortals in Lordran who aren't undead, its just that Petrus is trying to keep his distance from you because he doesn't trust you.
    • Sieglinde isn't actually undead; her father outright states this in a conversation, but she is in Lordran for a reason. Petrus may also not be undead, since there's very little hinting to the fact that he is. On the other hand, I'm leaning towards him actually being undead after all since it seems like standard practice for the Way of the White to ship all their undead clerics to Lordran in order to die horribly. Vince and Nico are undead, Rhea is undead, either Petrus himself is undead or he somehow screwed up so badly in Thorolund that he's been given the job of overseeing an undead mission and likely cannot go back.

Where did all the other gods come from?
We know that Gwyn, Nito, the Witch of Izalith and the Pygmy became Lords by discovering the Lord Souls from the First Flame, but where did all the other deities come from? What was Gwyn's father, Allfather Lloyd before light and dark became separated? How about Velka? There seem to be many unaccounted gods whose origins don't have anything to do with the First Flame, but they still seem to belong to the world of humans, not the old world of archtrees and everlasting dragons.
  • It appears to be that the other gods were created by Gwyn or the other Lords by giving humans or giants parts of their respective Lord Souls. That's how the Four Kings and Seath became so powerful. Going by their feats in-game, they're not that extremely powerful either, considering that a single human with a fragment of the Dark Soul can match and overcome them, so it stands that fragments of the other Lord Souls are the source of the "godly" power that these beings exhibit. It is also possible that they're genetic descendants of the original Lords, much like how humans are the descendants of the pygmy, and each of them carries a bit of Gwyn or the Witch's original Lord Soul in them.
  • Just because the known "gods" of this world just happen to be simple humanoid creatures who happened to acquire Lord Souls, we can't discount the possibility that real gods may exist. Considering her unseen presence but highly powerful effects capable of challenging even Gwyn, it's possible that Velka may actually be one. This would also explain the idea that even Gwyn and his followers weren't above Velka's judgement, even if the old man himself was too powerful for her to directly destroy him. Allfather Lloyd is much more simple. If he's Gwyn's father, then he's simply one of the original humanoid beings from which Gwyn was spawned, who was then gifted with power from his son just as Seath was.
  • Presumably, "god" is simply the name of the race Gwyn belongs to, with the more powerful ones being bona-fide deities (even without a Lord soul), while the lesser ones are just incredibly powerful individuals.
    • Another thought is that "Gods" such as Allfather Lloyd and Velka the Goddess of Sin are more embodiments of the humans faith, given form by magic

If the undead NPCs go hollow and we have to kill them... why don't any of them respawn?
What is even the point of killing hollow NPCs? Why don't any of them respawn?
  • Lore-wise, it's more than likely that the NPCs who turn Hollow have all succumbed to the Darksign completely, which would mean that they've lost their minds completely; meaning that respawning would ultimately be pointless for them at that stage. Gameplay-wise, it's possibly more in line with making the player feel awful about it.
  • Maybe they do respawn. Picture it: you kill them and they respawn, driven even further into hollow-ness and madness. Over time their clothes, armour and weapons decay and tear and break; they lose their sentience (and thus their faith) and intelligence, preventing them from using sorceries and miracles. They wander, broken, until they stop one day and stand there for the rest of their unlife, perhaps having picked up a stray weapon from the ground in a moment of lucidity. One day they see an undead, someone they would have recognised once, but they attack anyway because this one has retained their sanity and they can't stand that. And the hollow is killed, and revived, in an endless cycle of death. In the end they are indistinguishable from all the other hollows in Lordran.

At the arena during the Iron Golem boss fight, there's a giant wall that appears to have been chipped away at, was this supposed to be some shortcut to Anor Londo before the gods abandoned it?
  • One would presume that, back before the whole Undead curse situation, there was a way to get to Anor Londo from the Parish, simply by walking. People would have had to trade with the city somehow. That wall is most likely the remains of that path, which either caved in during the centuries of decay or was boarded up to block access to the city of the gods except by those who managed to pass the test and defeat the Iron Golem.
  • To this troper, it looked like it was the main entrance that had been intentionally bricked up. It probably happened at the point where the Gods abandoned Anor Londo and it became the Forsaken City. Or the Gods just decided that they really didn't want vistors and Sen's Fortress wasn't quite stopping everyone, so they just decided to seal the entrance. Luckily for you, there just happen to be some demons ready to fly you over the wall.

Is there a special reason as to why Seath the Scaleless captured the Chosen Undead?
Like....I bet Seath wants to experiment on them, but what kind of experiementing would he do? And why imprison the Undead specifically? Because they happened to be there and Seath was feeling bored that day or does he know of their feats and has a specific interest in them? Just curious.
  • I don't think he's at all discriminating in his subjects of experimentation. You just happened to walk into his lair, rather than him having to go through the trouble of gathering you.
  • It's quite likely that Seath, being interested in researching immortality, knows very well about how the Undead curse works. And then this undead just barged into his lair and tried to murder him, and he knows killing them will just make them respawn (the revival mechanic being Gameplay and Story Integration in this game, and all), so it's to his benefit to make the player character respawn in prison, where they may go hollow and stop with the whole murder thing. How he changed the respawn location for the playable charcter is the real question here.

What is He?
  • Nito, unlike the others who were gifted some of Gwyns' Lord Soul, unlike everyone else who is at the very least humanoid, unlike the Witch of Izalith who mutated and Seath who was a Dragon from the get go, Nito, is a big skeleton (weirdly enough his apperance in the intro makes him seem like a reference to Barragan from Bleach), Did Gwyn find his skeleton in the Tomb of Giants and reanimate it with the Lord Soul fragment or what? out of all of the main Lords he does confuse me the most.
    • Perhaps Nito is/was some form of ancient Giant who was either already an animated skeleton (courtesy, perhaps, of his knowledge of "Death", or he assumed that form as a result of his apotheosis and use of his powers.
    • Nito has his own Lord Soul, he didn't have any relation to Gwyn at all. The game points in the direction of him having been a giant, and his Lord Soul gave him access to a different kind of undeath from the curse that afflicts the humans. Each Lord Soul appears to have gone to a different humanoid race, and eventually morphed that race into what best suited their Lords.

What did the Dragons actually do?
  • The opening cutscene depicts the war with the Everlasting Dragons, but at no point does it ever mention that the Dragons themselves actually did anything to warrant the attack? even the cutscenes beginning just shows them chilling at the base of the Archtrees, the only one who actually seems to have a (petty) reason is Seath, who was outcast (according to him) for not being immortal.
    • Presumably, they fought to extinguish the fire and maintain their Age of Ancients, for the same reason Gwyn fights to preserve the Age of Fire.

What are Souls exactly?
This is something I never understood, when I first heard of the game: The Hollows entry in The Soulless page, I linked them to my more familiar concept of souls, but the existance of Ghost and the seeming lack of sentience in the souls threw me for a loop. Can someone please explain them to me in more comprehensible detail?
  • Ok, being brief and clear as I can: There are actually two types of souls, Light Souls and the titular Dark Souls. Humans have both, Light Souls are generally the "divine" ones associated with Gwynn's faction of the gods and the "light lord soul" that Gwynn has. These are dropped by some enemies and found on dead bodies, and are generally equivalent to the XP mechanic of "Souls" that you gain by killing things. Their item descriptions show them being bigger and more impressive (and even named) for stronger enemies and bosses. These light souls generally are where magical power and physical ability reside, and probably memories too given you can transform them into items or spells associated to a boss. Dark Souls are also known as "Humanity", they are generally what is needed for a human to be cognizant and aware. They aren't evil necessarily, but are strongly associated with "wanting" things, desire in good and bad forms, and if overwhelmed by it due to proximity causes falling into a ones base urges and turning into a beast (see Oolacile). It's generally believed that Gwynn linking the Dark Soul of humanity to the First Flame when it was about to die cursed everyone with Undeath. This is a slow draining of a person's Humanity or Dark Soul as the First Flame feeds on the Dark Souls of humans. (Think of it as everyone sharing the water in a bath tub, Gwynn put in a crack that linking the flame plugs). A person losing their Humanity generally is what removes their self awareness, which is why in DS1 there are factions like the Dark Wraiths who would steal other people's Humanity to stave off their own insanity. Ghosts are weird, afaik they're loose Light Souls with only limited self awareness, like Wellager's soul in DS2.