*ed note: this was published over multiple days (5/13-5/16) on tumblr. it was intended to be done over the course of one day, but i got sick. i bitch about it in the blog post so you can really experience the excitement in real time. this is also very long.

part 1: pre-gaming

webcomic day is a yearly celebration of the art form concocted by the screentones podcast team as a way for people to see how the sausage gets made. my webcomic “a ghost story” has been running for over 10 years, yet i still don’t think i can say i am any good at making a webcomic. regardless, the comic is going to get made, because otherwise i become very, very sick in the head. today i would like to share with you the process of making a page of “A Ghost Story” from start to finish. either this will demystify the process or will make you think i’m so cool and strong for doing this 2x a week.


let’s get started. wait just kidding i want a cup of coffee first, hold on.

ok now im ready. i have a big glass of water. i have coffee. i have a headset for the parts of work that don’t involve typing words. i can’t type words and listen to some streamer babble in my ear at the same time, so it has to be instrumental music or nothing. i just took my meds so they should kick in after about 30 mins. i woke up late today, which is weird and annoying. but maybe i can work late instead.

first off, i need to know where i’m going beyond this one page. if i don’t know where im going with something, then i usually create something that sucks that i have to deal with later. hold on my internet died, i have to reset the router. ok, anyway.

what’s rattling around in my brain is that not only do i have to deal with maxine’s current predicament, i am also dealing with multiple plot elements i need to wrap back around to from the previous chapter. luckily, i’m about to put maxine down for a nap, which means i can get back to those other elements:

  1. i need to finish the exposition from the three ankou characters for this story arc establishing their motivations as the oppositional force in the story. the “villain” is not these three specifically, but their boss. they need to have a loose understanding of what’s going on in order to communicate this to the audience. god, this started turning into a huge ass paragraph so i’ll just keep it short there.
  2. we’ve jumped back to before jack’s horrible day from the first chapter of this storyline so we have to make our way back toward that and then lapping it, which means wrapping up his various open threads like:
    1. feeding victoria and learning something new about her
    2. finding out alice is a very exceptional employee who is getting many awards
    3. watching valdo call lily while interrupting her during something personal to ask her for help with maxine’s situation.
    4. jack meeting with valdo and lily the day after they first met so jack can just tell them straight up that lily has 4 sisters she doesnt know about.
    5. help that girl with her poltergeist problem. remember that. i’ve had jokes for this rattling in my head for like 4 years. im going insane.
    6. and also the fucking tilberi!!! that has a point its going somewhere!!! there’s a larger menace here!!!
    7. other things to set up the climax of this storyline. sexual tensions, hints at larger emotional problems not immediately evident to the reader

lots of moving parts. and i feel like i’m moving in slow motion to get to them. i can see them all weaving together in my head, its the process of putting that onto paper that’s proving difficult.

ok that took an hour starting and stopping. -_- let me write the next part as i keep brainstorming on how to approach this page. taking a “rubber duck” approach to this might help. heres an image from the last page i worked on (i have a 5 page buffer rn so the site does not match the finished pages) to get us semi-situated.

Image
 

 images will also help people understand what skill level we’re working with here. i need to be able to communicate an idea to the audience; if the art also looks good on top of that, then that’s just an added bonus. but the ability to communicate my ideas is sometimes hampered by my lack of artistic skill or comics language ineptitude. like those speech bubbles kind of fucking suck but at a certain point you have to just hit print on what you’re working on in order to keep your already glacial pace.

webcomics is a tightrope act where you’re also spinning 4 plates at once. the trick is to keep the audience from realizing how many actually fall or how wobbly they all are. the act sucks but technically its not a failure.


part 2: planning

like every single artist on planet earth since the dawn of time, i suffer from some kind of unknown malady that causes me problems for no reason and cannot be confirmed by an outside source. usually, its whatever; its fleeting muscle/tendon/join pain with some inflammation that comes and goes for no reason after a few hours. today, however, the muscle in the webbing between my index finger and thumb on my drawing hand is swollen and painful, making it annoying. it’s really only like a 4/10 when it hits and the actually annoying part is just the unpredictability. with any luck it will be gone in a few hours.

that doesn’t have anything to do with planning, i just wanted to bitch about it to a captive audience. also my guts are mad at me.


in all honesty, i’ve been sitting here sipping on my cup of coffee, staring at my screen and struggling to think of an interesting and concise way to portray what i know i want. this is a great page for me personally because it signals forward momentum, no matter how minuscule, in the plot. maxine is completely exhausted and beat to shit, so she’s reluctantly passing out. her vulnerability in this moment makes it hard to convincingly ohhh hold on ok i think i have it. i’ll spend this page putting her to bed lol.

christ this comic feels decompressed to shit sometimes and breakneck at others. since i felt like i needed to aim toward one or the other after flailing in the middle for years, i picked “trying to be more narratively slow” because it gives me more time to think and feel. but that’s really rough for something that updates serially. in this case, it just doens’t feel realistic for maxine to willingly fall asleep considering she operates with the instincts of a wild animal; she’d chew her arm off if it got stuck in a vending machine. she is not going to be happy about sleeping in a strange place surrounded by people she just got done aiming a gun at.

BUT what if she issues one last warning to this guy and then as he drones on in response, she falls asleep while tuning him out. she would want to tune him out but the falling asleep would be an unintentional side-effect of her stubbornness. no way is she actually trusting this guy or any guys. its against her will. the last panel can be her in a nice dream, so she has a reason to stay asleep instead of fighting it. this has the bonus of allowing me to draw something weird and fun by trying to draw what a dream feels like. ADDITIONAL BONUS: i don’t have to come up with a lot of dialog. it can turn into squiggles once maxine stops listening.

uhhh ok time for sketching. here’s where we’re at right now after 2 hours of work:

Image
 

uh oh!


part 3: sketch

hmmm. giving up on the first few panels for right now. here’s what i’m thinking about as i sketch this:

  1. too many of my panels were talking heads or constantly relied on one point perspective. i have been trying to work against this for a while with mixed results. sometimes the result is so bad i have to scrap what i did and start over but sometimes it’s “good enough for TV”* and i hit publish on it. no risks, no reward after all. can’t get better if you don’t try.
  2. in this first panel, i have two people having a back and forth conversation through a weird magic hole in the floor/wall. maxine is laying on a couch with hole right above her head. homestar runner will demonstrate what i mean:
Image
 

*my friend kelly had an anecdote from working in animation that im going to retell badly from memory. her boss would take the work she labored over to meet by deadline and would laugh at it, saying “ah, its terrible! but good enough for TV”. and while extremely mean, he had a salient point: it never has to be perfect. it just needs to be good enough to be seen. sometimes i seriously think about this anecdote when im dissatisfied with my own art. it’s bad. but it’s good enough for tv.

however, there are logistical problems with maxine that homestar runner doesnt have. maxine’s right shoulder is dislocated, so she can’t lay on that side, or any side that would put pressure on the joint. i’m realizing i don’t actually know what position would be most comfortable in her situation or how she would instinctually arrange her body to avoid pain. i start looking up videos from physical therapists on how they recommend patients sleep for some ideas.

also i start looking up what women look like sleeping on couches. how does the human body fold up. because this isn’t it.

Image

anyway, this was my first effort with the first panels.

Image

for reference, the last page ends like this:

Image

the top left of the sketch would have been the hopi clown back on the shelf with the “camera” tilting above it to reveal maxine. while this keeps the relevant object from the previous page in frame as a piece of connective tissue between updates…i’m struggling to fit the second character in. the one talking from the hole. maybe there’s still hope for this? it’s not terrible. initially i nuked it but maybe i can make this work.

fuck! she needs a pillow or two to make this work. this video is right, that DOES look naturally comfortable compared to the standard fetal position that would pull the affected shoulder inward. i didn’t draw any pillows into the stupid establishing shot of the office bc its not the kind of couch you are expected to sleep on!!! this is a man’s business office!!! i thought i was so smart!!

basically every couch comes with decorative pillows though, and the shot of the room didn’t include the wall the “camera” was up against. my 2-point perspective failure might have paid off here lol. if i can establish that the second character is talking through the hole, he can use his rayman hands to reach across the room and get the pillow for her. it can be part of his personal campaign to show maxine he means her no immediate harm. the pillows were just out of frame. lurking. ok let’s try it again. uhhhh after i eat some lunch


Image

ate lunch, played a little crusader kings, and helped adam unpack groceries when he got home. my stupid hand is getting worse and hits all the way to my middle finger sometimes. what a weird problem. i think its going to flare up and then deflate before the night is done but its going to go through the full paces, i guess. just keeping tabs.

anyway: panel 1 gives me enough for maxine to threaten santiago while he fetches her pillows. the clown is still in frame. panel 2 is maxine listening, panel 3 is maxine no longer listening and closing her eyes to sleep. panel 4 is maxine on the couch in a somewhat comfortable position. panel 5 will be mostly the same except maxine is dreaming around her. i gave myself more room for that. the good thing about a character going to sleep is that they don’t move much.

i gotta lie down bc i think its the stupid flares that make me need a nap. at least im taking for real cat naps now instead of 2 hour speed-sleeps


part 4: the art

this part i feel like gets done semi-easy once the rest of the shit is dealt with. yesterday, my knuckles continued to swell and feel like rotten wood so i had to cut it short. this shit happens more frequently than i would prefer. today i need to run to the store and also pick myself up a lil treat (an eighth). for right now tho i have some cbd rich stuff that should help. maybe. while the index finger still hurts, only the middle knuckle is swollen anymore. let’s see.

i started with panels 2 and 3 bc they seemed the least immediately labor intensive. ill be copy/pasting the line/flats for panel 3 to edit from there. t…there’s going to be a lot of copy/paste this page*. its not usually like that. but i usually only copy/paste the lines and flats. i will re-shade things so that they look different

*no there wasn’t

Image
Image
 

unlike the sketch, the lineart has more “weight” to it. wait thats not how the pillow would deform. hold on.

Image

 

ok that’s better. did people even notice that before i changed it. probably not. but it matters to me!!!!! these little things add up and add weight to your world!!!! ive been trying new things with line as as of [looks at watch] last week. so it looks bad right now. like someones vague idea of what good lineart is supposed to look like. practice makes perfect tho….or breeds familiarity or something.

some parts of this look weird. don’t worry. we will cover up that shit with speech bubbles. thank you comics for your ways of obfuscating bad art.

flats are easy. select everything that isnt your line art, invert the selection, and dump a base layer. then color that base layer with a mask

Image
Image
Image

this page will, blessedly, not have any complex backgrounds. i already established the scene previously and can skate on doing my textured backgrounds. the background gradients in the direction the light in the room is being cast, usually.

Image
Image
Image

first, a multiply layer at 50%. since she’s facing away from the light source, she’ll be mostly in shadow. then a white overlay layer at 50%; this is to make the first shadow layer pop and keep from getting too muddy. then a second multiply layer at 50% for the next layer of shadows.

Image
Image

 

added some sweat beads to make her look more haggard and some shine to her hair, since she’s so close to the light. i’ve started bothering doing this bc it unfortunately looks good. finally i add one more multiply layer at 40% over her eyes to make her look more over this entire thing. and then added the red glow in another overlay layer (100%) where it would land if being cast from above.

completely servicable and theres room for like. a speech bubble later. usually i do text first, but in this case its so secondary to the actions being performed, i want to prioritize one over the other.

looking at it, im not going to be able to copy/paste this after all. she’s going to settle in more and her body will rotate too much in the process. i can use this as a base to trace over, though, which will get me started.

but pain is occurring so im going to eat breakfast. what a bitch!


the page is complete as of this update. here’s how that went:

i wound up copy/pasting the first panel so i could trace over it and change it as needed. aw man, i just noticed the ear should be behind the pillow in the second panel. i might have to go change that*, otherwise it looks like she’s lifting her head back up!! i added some wiggles marks to the first panel so it looks like she’s getting comfortable.

*i did

one panel shouldnt take an entire day and yet, somehow, this depiction of a person’s body in a fetal position was shockingly impossible to draw. my friend cami helped me out with a sketch after i spent two hours moving the legs around and trying to draw a folded torso. impossible!

then it turned out to barely even matter because i copied the layer, blurred it, and then erased around her face so it feels like she’s dozing off. it all got blurred anyway.

final panel. copy/pasted the previous and then smothered it in white overlay layers at 100%. blurred the couch and a copy/pasted. slightly larger version of maxine set to 50%. a good dream for maxine is one where she’s in her natural element, the forest near where she grew up. warm rays of sunshine and a cool breeze.

back to the first, and most annoying, panel. it has many elements to deal with: the contents of the shelf, the shelf, the hole, the contents of the hole, two hands (one holding a pillow), maxine, a couch, and the floor.

at this point i was fatigued again for seemingly no reason, but more of my joints had started to freak out instead of improving like i had hoped. being stupid tired and unexplained pain goes hand in hand; i did more sleeping than i would have preferred yesterdat while dragging my way through this. it looks bad, but its good enough to communicate an idea. this panel looks the most different from the sketch because i really struggled to fit all the elements in the frame the way i was hoping to. the perspective is kind of all over the place and everything is a weird size. the background is boring. i was losing steam.

on a wednesday night, you can no longer afford to be picky about your results. if i want to meet my self-imposed deadlines, i need to give up on achieving perfection.


part 5: text

this is an easy page but the bubbles still look like ass. i was so tired at this point and desperate to get my work done in time. i knew the dialog was not especially important, but still struggled to write a back and forth that imparted some kind of information (character quirks and traits if not plot info) instead of being just panel filler.

when i first started writing and drawing AGS, white speech bubbles looked weird and wrong. they stood out WAY too much (especially since my contrast/brightness was fucked up back then lol, everything was so muddy!). as a bandaid, i used a light gray speech bubble for the first speaker in a conversation and a darker speech bubble for the second speaker, whose bubble would overlap with the first speaker.

the dead guys in the ichor suits talk in black speech bubbles with a white outline. this is probably my new standard for all ghosts who are so dead they no longer have vocal cords to communicate with, giving their voice a distinctive “otherworldly” quality. the grey bubbles are for the living and those with more human bodies/sentience. both also have a drop shadow because. i don’t know. it looked weird otherwise. they blend into the background too easily.

the line connecting santiago’s “i know.” and “sigh” bubbles becomes wobbly and takes its time getting to the sigh. this is intended to demonstrate some wavering in his confidence as he reflects on what’s happening, which he recovers by the time he asks her about pillows. likewise, maxine’s lines are strong until we get to her last few words and it becomes a little wibbly coming out of her mouth. does this come across to the audience? i have no idea. hopefully it does but in a way that’s so subtle they don’t notice it until its pointed out. that’s the dream!

santago’s bubbles get weird as maxine drifts off to sleep. this is just the photoshop ripple effect. it kind of sucks, but, well. deadline.

ripple effect+blur as she drifts off. i couldnt come up with some crap for him to prattle on about easily. boo on me tbh i was really struggling here. it looks ok i guess. its communicating the idea. i chant “its communicating” to myself like it’s a magic spell that makes my art better.

final panel required no speech bubbles at all. whew!


part 6: the end

voila. the process used to take me about a day and a half, but being sick slowed me considerably. i’ve been getting better though! if i can get back to my old pace i’ll be estatic.

uhhh, well. that’s how it goes. you don’t have to make comics like this. look at how other people do it as well because they probably have a more normal workflow and process. bye

*i’m still chipping away at my bloodborne lore explainer, but i’m also trying to keep up with my webcomic (my job) and plan my wedding. it’ll be back! i swear! in the meanwhile here’s a LONG ask i answered that i’ll use as the base of a later update.

this is a really good question because, as a lore psycho, i think the understated lore implications of the woods are genuinely fascinating. i think there’s a lot to unpeel, even if we take into account that it was one of the places in the game that was chopped up at the 11th hour and scrambled before release.

as always for these lore posts, important nouns are bolded and speculation is in italics. we are going to discuss the woods in three parts: from the gatekeeper to the windmill is “the village“. from the windmill to byrgenwerth is “the woods“. the subterranean cave shortcut back to yharnam will just be called “shortcut.” i’ll expand on this shit GREATLY when we reach this part in “you hunted” (I HAVENT STOPPED WORKING ON IT I PROMISE IM JUST SWAMPED) so considered this a light overview. feel free to ask for more details on things and ill do my best to fill in the blanks.

THE VILLAGE:

-from the jump, the village gatekeeper is a fucking weird little blip in bloodborne’s narrative. i haven’t thought about him enough to figure out if he’s more than just a spooky, unexplained element but he has some cut dialog that sheds some mindboggling information about yharnam: he seems very confused about WHEN it is and will cite the last time he had a visitor as anything from a year to a century.

-the lamps in this area lighting the way to the village are little burning fetal beasts of some sort.

i’m starting to understand more and more about how fire operates in the world of bloodborne, since most of the time it appears in the game, it’s seemingly impossible. the thing that confused me the most was how old yharnam was still burning if it happened a long time ago. i think it’s time to start thinking of the old blood as impossibly combustible and a great source of light/fire. this isn’t the first in-universe example of creatures being used as fuel: the lamps in the fishing village are slugs (also infants? they strongly resemble the hunter’s appearance as a baby great one in the “childhood’s beginning” ending). this is a whole fucking like, thing. it’s its own post.

next, the huntsmen enemies here are dressed funny. you probably noticed it but couldn’t pin down how. they’re dressed in white church clothes! the first model here is used only in the forbidden woods. the two on the left are from central yharnam. note the gloves on the first two; these are church doctors!

the forbidden woods yharnamite doctor

the central yharnamite black church doctor

a central yharnamite, for comparison

the white church doctors are the ones that were doing “experimentally backed blood ministration”. the butcher’s garb further defines it as “forbidden research“. these white church doctors are the citizens of this “village”. in the clustered buildings where the majority of the huntsmen are, you can find blue elixir and beast blood pellets in abundance. both of these items can only be purchased from the store after obtaining the choir’s badge, drawing a firm connection between the white church doctor’s research and the goals of the choir.

although, this probably isn’t too much of a surprise; it’s almost certain that this is where fauxsekfa came from. she took the same shortcut we did, right? i’m not really sure i understand the shortcut too much. but let’s talk about it.

THE SHORTCUT:

although not explicitly stated, i am strongly convinced that this cave is the entrance to the hintertomb. at the very least, it is absolutely an entrance to the labyrinth. the presence of tomb mold, blood gems, parasite larva, and pthumerian giants/corpses makes this very clear. the root chalice for the hintertomb describes it as “a cesspool of noxious snakes and insects”; i think it’s likely that the snakes came from the hintertomb given they can be found in the swamps there.

the giant graves here and further into the woods are referred to as “tombstone[s] of a great one”.

 

a pthumerian corpse, unskinned in the map program

the hunter’s mark i think would suggest these are pthumerian made. its possible that the hintertomb is spilling out into the world above but frankly all of the graves here are baffling. grave placement and appearance needs more research. the graves in the woods only are developing a strange sort of honeycomb rot pattern not unlike the head of an amygdala. this pattern shows up enough that it warrants more investigation.

the slow poison-inducing “water” here has similar properties to the slow poison pool in the research hall. they are different colors, but have similar origins: the poison pool in the research hall is from the decomposing bodies of the patients, who were exposed to bizarre blood ministration and parasitism. the pool here is likely from decomposing great ones. with this in mind, perhaps the silvery liquid is mercury.

the poison pool of the forbidden woods shortcut the research hall poison pool

the ladder leading out of this area is fucking insane and i have a hard time understanding what occurred there. like what in the hell is up with that grave you exit into in yharnam. who popped it open. why is it so cavernous. what happened to the contents.

anyway, let’s just go back to the woods.

THE VILLAGE (again):

there’s really only two more things to mention here before we move on: first, beast roar can be picked up here. it’s the undead, still twitching hand of a darkbeast. nothing touched by the old blood can truly die, and these severed limbs are no exception.

second are the butchers. these are the people who collect specimens, hack them apart, and present them to the church doctors for research. they show up in three different ways: the surviving madaras twin wears the butcher’s set (the hunter picks up the set from the other twin’s corpse), the “executioner” enemies (REMINDER: a better translation would have been “butchers” [or, literally, “dismantling men”], i have no idea why they went with “executioner” outside of their superficial appearance) wear the cape with the popped collar, and there are huntmen enemies skulking the streets below the grand cathedral hunting for victims dressed in the garb. they literally only appear there.

ah, one more thing. this is the place where you can find the suspicious beggar and interrupt him while he’s in the middle of chowing down on one of the biggest families i’ve ever seen in my life. at first i thought the devs hysterically fucked up the sizes of the corpses, but they’re dressed like the citizens of yahar’gul. while not outright stated, evidence strongly suggests that the beggar is irreverent izzy or one of his followers such as the close proximity of one of izzy’s inventions and the beggar’s clothing reflecting his past as both a veteran tomb prospector gone mad and former church agent. there’s a lot of meat on that bone, but for another time.

OKAY. LAST PART NOW.

THE WOODS:

this is the part you probably remember the most bc it’s snake hell. the first thing we absolutely need to keep in mind is that the snake-infested guys you meet are a reference to doobie from jojo. the snakes are parasites to people, but the snakes themselves are also being parasitized? they are covered in ticks, those are the huge bloated blobs all over them. given that the augurs of the great ones are invertebrates…what does that imply about the inclusion of the ticks narratively?

there’s something absolutely fascinating happening to the flora and fauna in this section of the woods but it’s hard to know what it all means. some notes:

-when enemies in bloodborne die, the game handles their corpse in different ways. some of this is lore related, some of it is to reduce hardware strain. some corpses turn into ragdolls, some explode into blood, some explode into white particles (sometimes with blood but not always). snakes explode into white particles. i got way too into the fucking weeds with this, but (outside of the slime scholars….kind of) all of these enemies either appear or were intended to appear in the chalice dungeons, the nightmare frontier, or the nightmare of mensis (the lecture hall containing the scholars connects the waking world to the nightmare). all of these locations are, arguably, the nightmare.

-there are statues of amygdala and a presumed evolution of the celestial child sprouting out of the ground. i am almost certain these are original versions of the statues in the grand cathedral and yahar’gul, respectively.

the amygdala and celestial child statues in the forbidden woods

the amygdala statue outside of the grand cathedral

the celestial child statues in yahar’gul

-remember that strange pond with the fireflies? the only place in the game where there’s fireflies? what the hell is up with that lol. i kind of have an answer:

most concrete is this: back when the original boss of the woods was snakeball, you would have faced a rematch in this pond.

insane theory crafting moment: look, this is stupid complicated and a reach so if i have to get into really defending it it, ill do it in another post. but in bloodborne people can be teleported around via “communion”. communion is the means of entering the chalice dungeons and requires three things: ritual blood (or perhaps just liquid, if rom’s arena is anything to go by), something to hold the blood (typically a chalice, but sometimes the “chalice” is a skull), and light (this is almost always achieved with candles). this pond is probably full of blood, if the rotten bodies nearby are any indication, and the fireflies offer light. but, look, this shit was cut so don’t think too hard about it.

-its in the art book but also in the game (but hard to see): the wall separating byrgenwerth from the rest of the world is melted.

the melting wall outside byrgenwerth wall detail

wait wtf there’s dudes in it. lol. what da hell!

oh my. the name for this asset is “wall of divine tomb”. cool. every day i lean some new insane shit about this game, for real.

anyway the only other point of interest is whatever the fuck valtr and the league are doing. too deep of a topic for now. anyway, those were the points of interest in the forbidden woods. i hope this was….whatever counts for informative when it comes to video game trivia


*written to entertain both hardcore fans and fandom rubberneckers

i made the mistake of thinking about dark souls lore the other day after choosing to make myself mad about the remaster again, but in the worst possible way. soulsborne fans know to fear and run from anyone who starts talking about this unseen character known only through item descriptions: velka, goddess of sin. if you start talking about velka you’re too far gone in the souls sauce and about to spout some of the most unhinged nonsense ever uttered by a human on the entire history of the planet. velka and the highly secretive “plot against the gods” are quietly mentioned in less than 10 item descriptions. no character utters her name or speaks of the rebellion she participated in, she and her comrades do not appear in the game…probably. its complicated.

her inclusion initially reads as a throw-away means of world-building; much like the now infamous line about the “clone wars” in “star wars: a new hope” that was needlessly fleshed out into a trilogy that haunts us even to this day, the item descriptions serve to establish that you have entered a world overflowing with heroes and history that you were not privy to nor took part in. these events are such a basic foundation of lordran history that no one mentions it because it would be inorganic and narratively heavy-handed. its like if we walked around talking about when lincoln was shot on a day to day basis just in case anyone wasn’t up to speed.

anyway, this thought process started after i realized how fucking weird it is that a giant crow transports you from undead asylum to firelink shrine…why would it do that??? like, yes, obviously it’s a gameplay contrivance in order to get you from point A to point B with a cinematic, fantastical flair, i understand that. i also understand that velka herself is a gameplay contrivance with story written around it to soften the landing, but unfortunately, dark souls is a thread that unravels quickly when you pick at it, revealing shocking narrative cohesion underneath. if you’re completely insane, that is.

we will do this in a journalistic manner: who, what, when, where, why. but first, it requires a lot of dark souls history/lore context. it’s a lot. stick with me.


A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF LORDRAN

in the age of ancients, the world was naught but fog, rocks, archtrees, and everlasting, immortal, semi-living dragons. then, one day, there was fire. and with fire came disparity, and that’s where the trouble really began.

drawn by the light of the supernatural fire of the first flame, beings emerged from the darkness and found a strange power in the flicker of the flame: the lord souls. those who found the strongest souls first became the most powerful lords: nito, first of the dead, the witch of izalith (not appearing in this story), gwyn, lord of sunlight, who split his flame amongst his knights (and later to those he sought political ally-ship with), and the furtive pygmy, the progenitor of humanity, so easily forgotten. “gods” in dark souls are a separate race from humans who are differentiated by their size, their innate supernatural abilities, and mortality (though they have longevity). in the wild and wacky world of dark souls, “gods” can be killed easily. humans, and by extension the player avatar, are only dead for a temporary period of time before they are restored to a desiccated, but recoverable, state.

armed with their newfound powers, the gods and the humans took on the enormous stone dragons that reigned over the earth. one albino dragon born without the stone scales of immortality, seath the scaleless, betrayed his own kind in bitter revenge over his inevitable death. this was widely acknowledged as a “bitch move” on his part, however, it did lead to victory over the dragons (though they were unsuccessful in wiping them all out). thus began the age of fire. this is when our story takes place.

but now, the fire fades.


WHO IS VELKA, GODDESS OF SIN?

i don’t know.

the clearest, objective physical depiction we have of her comes from a statue in dark souls 3. her face is hooded, one hand clutches her book of the guilty while the other is outstretched in welcome. she is kneeling before a set of lit candles, reminiscent of at least one firekeeper of old. the kneeling also obfuscates her height, which would be alarming for a human but perfectly normal for a “god”.

her hair was black.


WHat IS VELKA, GODDESS OF SIN?

by the time the player begins their journey in lordran, she is considered a heretic deity with heretic worshipers. velka’s purpose was to define sin and mete out justice. she paid particular attention to those who broke covenants or angered the gods and would provide the names of sinners to darksun gwyndolin’s (gwyn’s lastborn) blades of the darkmoon so that they could hunt the guilty down. early in development, velka and gywndolin were warring PVP factions, but this was altered before release so that they were semi-aligned hunting partners instead of rivals.

blades of the darkmoon collect souvenirs of reprisal as proof of their completed task. curiously, the only enemy you can farm this from are crow demons, who have no ears. miyazaki himself states that the crow demons were “originally designed as worshipers of the Goddess Velka whose bodies were warped by their devotion”; perhaps the ear-removal practices of the darkmoon blades are a holdover  from the original agents of justice. curiously, these demons can be found only in the painted world of ariamis, which will be discussed further in “where”. it’s complicated.

velka’s human representatives/worshipers are witches (as velka herself is described as one) and pardoners, who offer “absolution” to players who commit sins and update the book of the guilty in her absence. take, for example, this corvid looking fellow.

oswald of carim appears out of fucking nowhere immediately after you ring the first bell of awakening (for non-fans: this is the first objective of the game and can be done immediately after the third boss fight of the game with a pair of gargoyles). you’re on a fucking rooftop you had to climb 800 stairs to reach and he fucking teleports behind you like its nothing personal, kid. he’s not even in a convenient location that would make his sudden appearance a useful contrivance. he parks his ass on this rooftop forever and you have to hoof it the full distance every time you get cursed by fart gas. he just stands there in his fucking bdsm raincoat looking like he just got tossed out of the vampire freaks meetup for calling the host a slut. anyway:

oswald provides many online play related services, such as absolving the player of “sin“, a numerical value the computer keeps track of. there are two types of sin; one is accrued when you aggro an NPC by setting down your controller while standing too close to them or doing something your covenant leader hates. by paying oswald an absolutely insane amount of souls, you can (usually) restore that number to 0 and take another crack at building those relationships up.

the other type of sin is built up by invading other players in PVP and can only be cleared after getting clobbered to death by a darkmoon blade. velka, (by way of the computer) evidently makes a distinction between these two types of sins and metes out what she views as appropriate punishments. beating on someone can be forgiven with a payout. killing someone is an “eye for an eye” kind of deal.

oswald is the most direct source of velka information: he wields her rapier and talisman so that he can cast her miracles (a type of spell created by the gods with a wide range of effects), “karmic justice” and “vow of silence”. these are the only two miracles with purple auras, distinguishing them as velka’s own creations. miracles cast by other gods typically scale with the FAITH stat; velka’s weapons and spells scale with INT. INT, curiously, is the stat typically associated with the artificially derived magic arts, such as the soul sorceries or the artificial pyromancy flame. “karmic justice” is a version of the miracle emit force that is reactive rather than manually cast as a “tit-for-tat” kind of response to violence. “vow of silence” is a spell that suppresses any attempts to cast magic and is my best friend in the world. “karmic justice” can be purchased from oswald. “vow of silence” is more complicated and will be covered in “where”.

the rapier is, frankly, an insane weapon. it can only be upgraded with the ultra rare twinkling titanite used to upgrade weapons literally classed as “unique” in the game data. these are cursed weapons, blessed weapons, and the weapons of those who serve directly under the gods. her rapier deals the equally rare “occult” damage modifier. like all things in this stupid game, occult damage has its own storied history and importance.


~A BRIEF EXPLANATION OF DS1 UPGRADE MECHANICS~

the most firm proof we have that fromsoft prioritizes storytelling over gameplay experience can be seen in their approach to weapon upgrades in DS1, which feels like it was designed specifically to torture everyone who played the game. focusing strictly on what’s relevant here: you can upgrade weapons for bonus damage modifiers including adding elemental damage or auxiliary effects to target certain enemies/change the scaling. divine weapons are used to kill necromancy-involved undead and are incredibly helpful when trying to navigate the catacombs; they scale with FAITH and are associated with the gods and/or their human representatives from an anti-undead church known as “the way of white” run by gwyn’s uncle, allfather lloyd. they do bonus damage to skeletons…and velka’s crow demons.

GOOD LORD HE’S NAKED

a divine weapon that has been upgraded 5 times can be changed after the player acquires the “dark ember“, a black flame reminiscent of the dark soul. occult weapons were used to “hunt the gods” and maintain the FAITH scaling of their divine origins, with the exception of those with innate occult damage. for the most part, the player is expected to expend a huge amount of precious titanite in order to ascend one of their own weapons into a very niche special use item. otherwise, they are stuck with the massive occult infused club they have to fight a mimic for. this is also complicated and will also be covered in “where”.


there are only three weapons that have innate occult damage: the dark hand (a gauntlet that drains humanity from its victims), velka’s INT scaling rapier (designed to harm gods?!), and priscilla’s dagger, which is a small sword torn from the severed tail of the loathed guardian (and willing captive) of the painted world (complicated, “where”). occult does massive damage to the remaining sentinels of anor londo, gwyn’s knights, dragonslayer ornstein, darksun gwyndolin, and gwyn himself. this is a very pointed and specific list that is targeting a specific family tree and their servants. this is especially eyebrow-raising when paired with the discovery of the effigy shield in the catacombs, guarded by one of gwyn’s elite black knights. there are VERY few black knights in the game, and many of them are stationed in places to put an abrupt end to any nosy undead snooping:

Frightful occult shield. Defends against divine weapons and lightning.

In an ill-fated plot to destroy the very gods, the followers of the occult once attempted to steal the power of Gravelord Nito, the first of the dead.

oh my. those are some very specific things to guard against. incidentally, gwyn and his firstborn’s miracles are lightning-based. this is not true for the rest of his family. it makes sense why they don’t want to share this with the world.

oswald’s fit is black and “said to be imbued with velka’s mystical power”. the robe identifies him as being a cleric, explaining why he can cast one of the cleric-run way of white’s miracles, “great heal”. he also sells rings of sacrifice, which are made “in a sacrificial rite of velka”.

cut content suggests that velka was not unreasonable and that the player could have, at one point, requested to leave a covenant (the in-game PVP factions) by purchasing an affidavit. her approach to dealing with sin was closer to judicial practices rather than biblical, as one might be primed to anticipate from a “goddess”. after all…it’s only human to commit a sin! KEH-HEH-HEH-HEH!


WHere IS VELKA, GODDESS OF SIN?

in the room with us, right now. ha ha naw im just messin with you. however, you can find traces of her in some truly unusual places. but those unfamiliar with the series will need to be introduced to a few locations where velka’s crap was left.

WHAT IS THE undead asylum?

when the furtive pygmy picked out his tiny ember from the first flame, he had discovered the titular dark soul. we literally don’t have time to get into that. what you do have to know right now is that that the power of the dark soul burned in opposition to the power of the lord souls; as the first flame faded (as all fires do), the age of fire waned and the age of dark began to loom over the horizon. this caused gwyn to freak his ass off and set off a whole bunch of events that caused a lot of problems. the gods branded those carrying the dark soul with the darksign, a brand of fire that severely limited mankind’s blossoming powers as the age of dark drew near. the aforementioned way of white covenant would hunt the undead and lock them up in undead asylums in the hopes of prolonging the age of fire indefinitely.

this is where you, the player, begin your journey. you escape the undead asylum and a giant crow (!!!) whisks you away to firelink shrine. later, you can return to the asylum via the same crow only to discover it’s now crawling with gwyn’s special forces. the cell you once occupied is guarded by a black knight and is now host to a peculiar doll.

A strange doll in strange dress.
There once was an abomination who had no place in this world.
She clutched this doll tightly, and eventually was drawn into a cold and lonely painted world.

with this doll in your inventory, you can enter the painted world of ariamis. i don’t know how this doll gets here. someone is helping the chosen undead in a very strange and specific way. i don’t have a direct answer as to who this could be. the number of potential suspects is extremely limited but absolutely, reasonably could include one of the other crows who has taken up residence at the asylum with a love of collecting/trading trinkets.

WHAT IS THE PAINTED WORLD OF ARIAMIS?

a junkyard. it is a literal painting that the chosen undead can jump into mario 64 style or like steve from blues clues. the painting hangs in an anor londo chapel facing statues of gwyn and his family…uh. kind of. it’s a statue of gwyn, his daughter, and a space where a statue of his firstborn should be. no space is allocated for a statue of poor darksun gwyndolin. life is hard when you have snakes (which are considered “imperfect dragons“) for legs.

gwyn’s firstborn son inherited his lightning bolts and sunlight, but he upset his father and the whole world so much that he was chucked from the historical record and kicked out of the family home. in dark souls 1, it is not explicitly stated what gwyn’s firstborn did to deserve the stalin treatment, but dark souls 3 made it explicit: he allied with the dragons. its unclear if the reason for his expulsion happened before or after his father sacrificed himself to the first flame, but the expulsion itself happened after.

it is not certain how relevant this information is because there is so little to go on, but it should be noted that the painting was originally made to house a single woman: crossbreed priscilla, half-dragon (!!!) and half-god (presumably, given her height). we have no certain origin story for priscilla, but a few things can be safely presumed: seath the scaleless, who had been given a sliver of gwyn’s lord soul and the title of duke since the war against the dragons, had some kind of hand in her creation; they are both the only white dragons in the entire game (and maybe all of lordran history) and seath has a yucky habit of unethical experimentation. something about her unholy (literally, remember how her tail-weapon does occult damage?) origin imbued her with a power even the gods feared: lifehunt. priscilla represents the antithesis to the life-giving first flame; her world is cold, dark and hostile to sunlight. she is enough of a dragon to be shunned from society and now oversees her own semi-private, peaceful place where those who threaten the hegemony of the gods are exiled.

the painting is surrounded by special guardians working overtime to make sure people like you don’t get in. they are not facing the painting to make sure things don’t get out. they are facing away from it and at YOU.


~rampant speculation time~

this painting is a source of deep lore fascination for me. why would anyone keep a painting around full of people who hate you and want to kill you? why would you keep it so close to where you live if it scares you so much? one can only presume that there HAD to have been a really good reason, as the painting has been replaced multiple times by the time DS3 rolls around and its inhabitants relocate willingly each and every time. they even have people (well…crow people) moving into the painting because it feels like home. why was it kept, and in such good condition? why are the painting guardians attacking those who “threaten” the painting?

a very, very strange half-god, half-dragon (?) woman, hidden in DS3’s iteration of anor londo, calls dark sun gwyndolin her beloved brother (complicated). perhaps the kinship between this coterie of scaly freaks is more than just metaphorical. perhaps gwyndolin, yorshka, and priscilla are a branch of the gwyn family tree that was, for many reasons, cut off from public view to obfuscate the family’s close relationship with dragons, the eternal enemy of the gods.

i subscribe to the idea that seath was priscilla’s father; i think he assisted with her creation and her appearance/name in japanese is proof of his genetic influence, but i have a funnier (but entirely speculative) suggestion as for the identity of the “mother”. the japanese description of seath’s soul identifies him as gwyn’s son-in-law (?!), which is why he was given the title of duke. but we know that gwynevere married another inconsequential god, so we can strike her off the list of potential wives. so who married seath?

the thematic implications of gwyndolin sharing a boss theme with one of seath’s moonlight based creations is likely supposed to indicate that gwyndolin is the result of experimentation rather than seath’s spouse. additionally, they share much in common genetically/biologically (pale appearance, frailty, a swarming mass of tentacles where their legs should be) that would suggest direct influence rather than sexual attraction. we don’t have time to get into the concept of moonlight in “dark souls” right now so we’ll file it as “very tentative maybe, leaning no”.

so, maybe it was seath and the firstborn. can you think of a better reason to be obliterated from history than to be caught literally sleeping with the enemy? seath’s various experimentations must have been fruitful enough at one point to have spawned poor little priscilla, whose existence inadvertently birthed a terrible and frightening power that promised only death and destruction. gwyn must have been mortified. but…priscilla IS his granddaughter. so he did what he does to all his family members he doesn’t want to think about: he shoved her in a dark storage area.

there’s a point to this: let’s assume priscilla is the source of occult, god-killing power. then where better to plan a coup against the gods than in a pocket dimension they avoid out of disgust and shame? i suggest it was here that velka and her comrades began to discuss and plan an attack against the gods with a coterie of odd allies, leaving behind the dark flame after using it to blacksmith more god-killing weapons. after the coup failed, the painting guardians (who, as it turns out, guard all the female members of gwyn’s family in DS3) were assigned to keep all threats, in and out of the painting, at bay.

proof in favor of my crackpot theory: because the history of gwyn’s firstborn has been deliberately destroyed, that would explain why the guardians no longer remember the purpose of guarding the painting. gwyn’s firstborn goes on to find a new dragon husband by the time the player character finally meets him in DS3. LGBT win!


the miracle “vow is silence” is found on a corpse in the locked annex of the painted world, surrounded by a metric fuck-ton of crow demons. this annex also houses corpses from which the pardoner’s outfit, the aforementioned dark ember (unlocking the god-killing occult damage modifier), and velka’s rapier can be looted; no doubt these are the remains of previous pardoners and velka supporters who have long since passed and now their remains are fiercely guarded by velka’s crow demons. the description of the dark ember makes a point to say that no living blacksmith knows of it…likely because it was deliberately hidden from public memories like a few other things in lordran’s sordid past. such a dragon sex. maybe.

the dark ember may have come from the abyss, the birthplace of the dark soul and humanity. a spell to conjure this flame can be taught to you by karla the heretic witch. presumably, as a witch, she was one of velka’s followers.


what about the rest of anor londo?

not far from the painting, there is a secret room hidden by an illusory wall. this room is completely devoid of any of anor londo’s artificial light; even the gods don’t know about it. it contains the armor and signature weapon of a knight / way of white bishop named havel the rock (the english translation misidentifies one of his warriors as the man himself, i do not believe havel actually appears in the game), one of gwyn’s many battlefield compatriots. havel is often misunderstood to be a hater of dragons based on the description of the miracle he invented and his use of a dragon’s tooth as a weapon, but DS3 seems to strongly suggest that havel actually loved dragons (havel surely felt a kinship or envy for their stone scales and sought to emulate the dragons in his armor). havel specifically fucking hated seath for betraying the dragons and found his magic repulsive. other dragons do not have the type of magic that havel’s spell is made to resist, only seath does.

this room also contains an ordinary, but very, very heavy wooden club with an occult modifier hidden within a mimic. havel, it seems, was intended to wield this during the attempted coup and was possibly the one to turn on his old battle companion over this son-in-law BS.

havel and his knights, or at least simulacrum of them, are paling around with gwyn’s firstborn on archdragon peak in DS3, far, far away from anor londo.


WHAT are the catacombs?

a place where the dead are animated, human and gods alike. it is the domain of gravelord nito who reigns over life and death through a power unrelated to the dark soul: his lord soul gives him dominion over the power of necromancy. the dead here walk at his discretion. nito fucking decides when you’re ready to die. here, there is no light that you don’t bring yourself. this is not gwyn’s domain.

velka’s influence is subtle here. the effigy shield guarded by the black knight is the first item to outright state that there was an attempt to usurp the power of the gods, specifically nito’s necromancy. the participants are described as “followers of the occult” and the image on the shield is a stylized depiction of a blacksmith local to the catacombs.

whatever they tried to do, it didn’t work. nito is a taking a big fat nap when the player stumbles upon him in the game and traces of the rebellion are nowhere to be found.

perhaps they sought to prevent gwyn from achieving his plan to extend the age of fire. perhaps it was a contentious decision.


and where else?

in DS3, her statue is located in the catacombs/sewers of the undead (human) settlement, a place stewed in the type of curses that velka’s boys can help you with. it is extremely strange to see a statue of a god in a (contemporary) human settlement, given how little the two races think of one another by that point. velka is a god aligned with the interests of humanity, or at least HER interests are incidentally lined up with humanity’s: both seek to topple the gods.

this is reflected in the goals of the sable church, a group of hollows looking to restore man’s rightful place as the dark lords. “vow of silence” and rings of sacrifice can be purchased from one of the three founding members, yuria. yuria’s clothing is also known as “the black set“, like oswald’s, and the mask is described as “billed“. DS2 attributes the clutch rings to “a darker deity” but by DS3, they are objectively associated with the sable church. these rings depict a crow’s (!!!) claw grasping a gem in its talons.

one sister is mentioned only in descriptions. the final sister, friede, has left the church and taken up residence in the newest iteration of the painted world created by an artist known as father ariandel, a crow demon. friede is burning with a black flame and carries a scythe to evoke the memory of the former mistress of the painting.

friede’s soul is withered and black. as an unkindled she is human and would possess the dark soul, so its expected that her soul’s appearance would be a little odd. but the condition its in is horrifying. it looks sick

evidently, she was in possession of a “-bite” ring from the land of carim, but chose not to use it. oswald, of carim, sells “-bite” rings in DS1. friede has a black-clad knight/cleric (proof: he can cast great heal) who hails from carim (probably) named sir vilhelm. he has been described as a “cold-blooded hangman“; a position, one could argue, that revolves around justice.

the monster consuming the corpse of gwyndolin in DS3 is capable of dreaming using gwyndolin’s thoughts and memories. though this, it discovered lifehunt after dreaming of (likely) priscilla in hiding. perhaps she weighed heavily on gwyndolin’s mind as a kindred spirit.


WHen IS VELKA, GODDESS OF SIN?

let’s hammer out this loose timeline of events.

velka, goddess of sin, once worked in tandem with the gods during the age of fire before involving herself in a plot to overthrow lord gwyn for reasons we will describe as “political differences”. this failed, and everyone involved in this plot was never seen again. except vamos. he’s like that guy in new vegas who “wins the lottery” i guess. it would be really funny if he had no idea they were putting his face on the shield implicating them in the coup. “you guys did what.”

as the age of fire fizzles, velka’s agents continue to ferry potential chosen undead in and out of the asylums should they prove themselves capable enough to escape their prison. that’s all she can do in order to enact justice. from there, the chosen undead has to discover the truth of lordran for themselves and decide the fate of the world that’s been left for them.

canonically, the chosen undead chooses to extend the age of fire, leading to the events of DS3. oops! velka’s long-reaching influence can still be felt on every level of the current crisis the kingdom finds itself in. this is a result of the longstanding, unresolved sin gwyn committed when he selfishly chose to extend the age of fire, all just to maintain his grip on the wobbly structure of power that serves no one. an act born of pure terror and anxiety at the existential promise of non-existence and irrelevance. and it was for nothing. it was a grave and unforgivable sin.

WHy IS VELKA, GODDESS OF SIN?

in conclusion:

velka, goddess of sin is a gameplay mechanic with story wrapped around her to ease its necessary inclusion into the dark souls universe. she was created primarily to make the covenant system less of a headache and as a way to fix aggro’d NPCs. mystery solved!

but why did velka, the character, get involved in all of this insane shit?

because it was a sin. and sins must be defined, pardoned, or punished when you are the goddess of sin. for the sake of humanity; it’s only human to commit a sin.

despite my best efforts trying to keep this analysis of bloodborne limited to the contents of the game and its development, fromsoft incorporates a great deal of japanese folklore, superstition, mythology, and common knowledge that flies right over my, and evidently most people’s, heads. after the shetani’s lair video series about sekiro wrapped up, i realized i didn’t know shit about anything. there was absolutely no way that i wasn’t missing enormous chunks of cultural context. the game might take place in pseudo-victorian england, but it would be literally insane to suggest that the devs solely took inspiration from western culture.

armed with the benefit of hindsight and sekiro, a game which was much more explicit about its real world influences, we are able to better identify ideas that were toyed with in bloodborne that came to full fruition in later games. however, research into literally any of this was a task easier said than done. it turns out there’s not a lot of english language research about japanese shamanism and esoteric buddhist practices. and also i can’t read japanese. the best i can offer you is what little research i have available that i can confirm with my own two eyes. there is a lot of misinformation.

this is the purpose of these annoying author’s notes. i’m going to assume you have approximately the same amount of knowledge that i do during these explanations and not bother to translate words excessively.

anyway: shinshi are animals who act as divine messengers for the kami and are revered as such at shrines. relevant to bloodborne and this upcoming chapter: insects and invertebrates can be shinshi; one of the seven lucky gods, bishamonten, is served by centipedes1. the godly great ones of bloodborne are more like kami than the old testament god; they prefer to use terrestrial beings to communicate their will. but what does it mean to be a divine attendant…a celestial emissary…a messenger? and why would someone want to become one? who benefits the most in a relationship between a god and those that care for them?

how does it differ from parasitism?


1. an incredible resource about mukade symbolism in war. i would also like to say: i have not found anything in english that identifies centipedes as symbols of “impurity” or kegare. this appears to be bad fan lore. like, they are gross and no one really likes them, but they have qualities that lead people to associate them with a “lucky god”.

goodbye, tutorial level. now the REAL bloodborne begins. gehrman gives you what is considered a “big hint” in fromsoft games:

“The moon is close. It will be a long hunt tonight. If the beasts loom large, and threaten to crush your spirits, seek the Holy Chalice. As every hunter before you has. A Holy Chalice will reveal the tomb of the gods, …where hunters partake in communion.”

he says “the moon is close” so casually that you might think it’s some kind of local figure of speech. but no, he’s being literal; the moon is uncomfortably close. what he’s saying is that if you’re getting your ass kicked, then go find a chalice to open a chalice dungeon. sure. but…where?

“Most of the Holy Chalices lie deep within the tomb of the gods. And the few that found their way to the surface… Were lost again in the hands of men. But if the old hunter tales remain true… …one of the Holy Chalices is worshiped in the valley hamlet. Yet the town is in disarray… It was burned and abandoned, for fear of the scourge, home now only to beasts. The perfect place for a hunter, wouldn’t you say?”

oh ok that helped. not. bitch. the doll doesn’t have much to say either:

“Over time, countless hunters have visited this dream. The graves here stand in their memory. It all seems so long ago now…”

yeesh. fine. we will just be on our way then.

here’s the progression of recent events: after using a key that opens the gate in “the (underground jpn) tomb of oedon” where no tomb can be seen, you are now being sent on a quest to retrieve a chalice that will open a “tomb of the gods” underground. is it not reasonable then, to assume, that the entirety of pthumeru is the tomb of formless oedon?


on our short trek from the tomb of oedon to his chapel, we pass through a weird…sewer…drainage room thing with a ladder leading to a modest library. a note on the table reads:

“The Byrgenwerth spider hides all manner of rituals, and keeps our lost master from us. A terrible shame. It makes my head shudder uncontrollably.”

this note is REALLY weird. even cross-checking the re-translation guide doesn’t do much but reinforce the literal meaning of the note: there’s a spider at byrgenwerth (another rom, we don’t know this yet) hiding rituals, even the ritual involving the lost (or, in a better translation, unseeable/invisible) lord. bummer. ahhhh my head is rattling. but…who wrote this? about who? and why?

“ok”

 

it’s time to be a Fromsoft Lore guy in the worst way: we’re going to dissect this note down to its atomic structure in order to wring any and all possible meaning from it in a futile attempt to try to come up with a tortured explanation for nonsense. skip all this italicized text to return to planet earth.

who wrote this note? if we knew that, a lot of things would be cleared up. the potential suspect list comprised of known individuals who have passed through that area recently is pretty tiny. can’t be fauxsefka, because she doesn’t use this route to reach the clinic. alfred doesn’t seem to have much interest in the church, knows little about byrgenwerth, and seems unaware of most things in general. an unnamed and unknown NPC of no consequence? well, maybe. probably, even.

but what about gascoigne? you find this note immediately after defeating him by using a key he drops. it clear he did not progress past the library, as the incense would have driven him off (and the chapel dweller’s reaction suggests you are the first hunter they’ve seen/sniffed). there’s a possible clue left in the library that points to a hunter having passed through recently: the blood gem workshop tool. its one of three “misplaced” workshop tools found in the waking world. a hunter took this with them when they left the dream and left it in a chest in oedon chapel. that narrows down the pool of candidates quite a bit. gascoigne obviously knows what blood gems are, he gifted one to his wife. and this is before we’ve even discussed gascoigne’s connections to a “lost master”.

who is this note about?  the words used for titles in the english translation are all over the place and “master” could mean anything from “school principal” to “great ones”. this has made trying to pin the subject of this note down near impossible. the japanese is more specific: “lords” in this note is translated as “主” and is almost never in the script otherwise. the only relevant usage even remotely close is it’s use is in a different note later as a flowery way to refer to whoever has assumed the role of vicar of the healing church (essentially: “lord of blood ministration”). it is also used for micolash (“lord of the nightmare”), the japanese name of the bloodletting beast (“lord of the beast blood”), and for master willem of byrgenwerth ONLY in the graveguard set item description1. in the case of micolash and the bloodletting beast, “lord” can be read as “host” as well. but NOT like a parasite host!!! specifically like, a household host. “host of the beast blood” is intended to be literal.

now time to play “guess who?”: willem could be described as “lost” metaphorically, but he’s also like, right there. out in the open. he’s considerably less lost than our other two options, micolash or laurence/host of the beast blood. willem doesn’t use the 主 kanji usually; he’s “headmaster” willem or some other title that makes it clear he’s from a school. forget willem. it’s not him.

i’m pretty sure japanese players were supposed to intuit a connection between the “lord of the beast blood” and the “lord of blood ministration” and this nuance was lost in translation. and while there is a vacuous spider in lower pthumeru blocking access to a secret 4th labyrinth layer where a hunter can find a lost lord of the beast blood, it’s clearly not in byrgenwerth. it’s not the big doggie.

micolash, head of the rogue school of mensis, is literally lost in the nightmare acting as it’s host/lord. access to the corpse of micolash is blocked until rom, the byrgenwerth spider, is defeated. so. having eliminated any alternatives, the note is almost certainly about micolash. but. why? who in oedon chapel gives a shit about micolash?

there are a truly confusing number of connections between gascoigne and the school of mensis (and thus, micolash). the most specific and startling connection is that the music box that gascoigne has a good/bad (?) reaction to plays “mergo’s lullaby”. this exact song plays during a fight with the wet nurse of oedon’s presumed (but like, come on. it is) child, the titular mergo. if gascoigne’s daughter is sent to iosekfa’s clinic, you will obtain the level 1 formless oedon rune from her body which, as we discussed in the last part, depicts the blood moon descending during a (mensis) ritual; levels 3 and 4 of the rune are found in oedon chapel itself.

gascoigne’s garb reads:

The dingy scarf is a Holy Shawl and symbol of the Healing
Church, from which Gascoigne would eventually part ways.

“Father” is a title used for clerics in a foreign land, and there is no such rank in the Healing Church.

reads a bit differently now…perhaps father gascoigne did not bring a foreign form of worship to yharnam. gascoigne left the healing church in order to start his own, based on the foreign practices of pthumeru.

only today the church is abandoned, and some say that the residents of oedon have all gone mad.


well, whatever. let’s forget about going straight out of oedon chapel for right now (dude, trust me) and head left. there’s some new enemies here, the church servants* and church giants. datamined names reveal that the giants are references to frankenstein; giant, lumbering, undead monstrosities whose flesh is rotting off the bone. the servants, however, have an interesting translation quirk: they are called “messengers of the church” (使者) using the same kanji as the messengers of the dream…or emissaries! 使者 in bloodborne are literally the middlemen who facilitate communication. the messengers of the dream help us talk to other hunters, the church servants have a more blunt message to deliver to the citizens of yharnam (“stay out of the way”, expressed by getting your shit kicked in), and the celestial emissaries were created as means to communicate with great ones. the church servants are the worst at their comms job, since they can only point, growl, and scowl at you2 if you cross their line of sight. you get what you pay for, i guess.

quick lore recap: the giants and servants are chalice dungeon pthumerians that have been made docile by use of blue elixir, which they both have a rare chance to drop (the giants were apparently once chained up and still carry the shackles on their ankles). the blue elixir appears to have had an impact on the appearance of the church servants as, unlike their chalice dungeon counterparts, their mouths are closed. this substance appears to be sourced from celestial emissaries (the only other enemy that drops the item) and used exclusively by the choir, as it is purchasable after the acquisition of the cosmic eye watcher badge. it would have first been discovered within the celestial emissaries of isz gravestone, which was made accessible by the discovery of the great isz chalice. the healing church and the choir began to experiment with making their own emissaries in the research hall. there’s tons of blue elixir lying around the research hall but ONLY the disembodied living head enemies drop the elixir. but the drop rates are teeny-tiny…therefore, they had to run a LOT of experiments before they successfully (?) began to manufacture it in the orphanage. stay tuned.

heading up the stairs on the right splits into two dead ends. to the right is an incense laden staircase3 leading upward that terminates at a closed gate that will only open if you purchase the hunter chief emblem. again, don’t do this. instead, head left. now you’re just above the great bridge where you fought the cleric beast. don’t fall down, you’re not going to land safely. you can pick up the monocular here and have your first encounter with the crystal lizard4 analogue for this game, the wandering nightmare. if you miss him and he poofs away to the nightmare, don’t fret, he’ll be back next time you reload the area. there’s some other beasties here to deal with: crows, hunter’s minions and another church giant with a unique ball and chain weapon with a healing church shawl design engraved on it. a funny note about the monocular is that the location and corpse you pick it off of suggests that its previous owner was using it to peek at the moon. before, you know, something got him. god it’s bright. is it supposed to do that.

there’s one spot in this general area hidden behind some gravestones that’s a bit strange. there’s a corpse with another hunter’s set with a slight variation on the classic look that adds a stupid looking top hat. but linger too long at your own peril! or you’ll find yourself being dragged into the air by an unseen force before being crushed and then your head exploding from frenzy damage. if you move out of the way in time, all you’ll be able to perceive is an eerie, noisy cosmic void bearing down on where you once stood.


alright, before we move on, there’s an elephant in the room to address. if you have absolutely no or limited experience with bloodborne, then you don’t know about the cathedral ward door. you see, past the church giant with the ball and chain is a small stairway leading down to a dead-end alcove. within this little space are a plethora of incense pots and a chest with a (terrible) blood gem in it5. there is also a usable door that says nothing but “closed” when used.

but the thing is: this door will never open. there is no way to open this door, ever. other doors that you cannot open do not do this and the unspoken game-play law is that if you can interact with a door, you can open it later. multiple patches have come and gone and not a single one has removed the prompt from this door. and the purpose of the door turned out to be completely mundane: it’s simply an unused shortcut that was removed because it was too demanding on map load times. the shortcut was removed. but it’s ghost whispers “closed” to any hunters who approach.

i can only presume that the devs kept this unopenable door “closed” because…they think it’s funny. well, they’re right. it is funny to yank our chain lol. you rascals! well, we deserve a little ribbing now and then to keep us humble.


just ignore the giant fucking cathedral in the middle of town for now entirely. you heard the old man: get thee ass to old yharnam. we’re going down some stairs to another strange little chapel where a handful of yharnamites are on patrol with their rabid dogs. there’s no incense here warding these huntsmen off, so they’re free to roam as they please, building small bonfires and shooting at anyone who approaches the upper levels of the chapel. that’s probably because there’s a switch in the middle of the top floor that will reveal a secret passage under a conspicuous sarcophagus. a corpse hanging on a ledge overlooking this secret passage holds a madman’s knowledge. what lies ahead of us? were these huntsmen keeping us from getting in…or keeping something from getting out…? both?

put that aside for a second and exit the chapel through the closed door. it dead-ends here, but there’s someone to meet. alfred, hunter of vilebloods!

he’s quite pleased to see you. fromsoft does something quite devious here in his introduction:

“You’re a beast hunter aren’t you? I knew it, that’s precisely how I started out… Oh, beg pardon. You may call me, Alfred. Protege of Master Logarius – Hunter of Vilebloods! So, what say you? Our prey might differ, but we are hunters, the both of us. Why not co-operate, and discuss the things we’ve learned?”

none of that means anything to a new player, but any dark souls fan likely jumped at the chance to “co-operate” with someone with an uncharacteristically sunny disposition. the similarities to solaire are certainly intentional, as they share the same voice actor. although, if the purpose was to trick the player into inherently trusting him by invoking solaire’s charm, then his plotline winds up falling flat. i think he’s the unfortunate result of the plot-chop.

well, there’s really no reason not to trust him. he really is a polite boy, all things considered. he’s much more informative than the rest of the riff-raff, but he’s also long-winded. which means some i’m also about to be long-winded. he gifts you some fire paper and teaches you how to pray (a gesture). the “papers” in bloodborne are sandpapers scraped on the blades to apply an effect. i have an interesting theory about fire paper: its fixed locations in the game are in old yharnam and the pthumerian labyrinths. the only enemies that drop it are chalice dungeon pthumerians wielding flaming weapons (implying they were using the paper themselves). i think the fire paper was a pthumerian invention relating to their own fire-based abilities, and it’s use on the surface came about as a result of ludwig’s tomb prospecting parties. after obtaining the radiant sword hunter badge (soon), which is described as a symbol of those who are “the heirs to the will of Ludwig“, the hunter will have access to the tools of a tomb prospector, fire paper included.

asking about the healing church reveals that hunters are kept out of the loop on how blood ministration works and the current situation as we know it is that the church is in control of the blood. the translation lost a little clarity here that the re-translation clears up: when he says “the holy medium of blood healing is venerated in the main cathedral” what he MEANS is “the literal body the blood came from is worshiped in the big cathedral”. the leaders of the church can be found in the upper strata of the church. good to know. that’s a good long term goal if we want to ask about “paleblood”.

you can also ask about byrgenwerth, now that you read that note on the table about their spider problem. byrgenwerth is a university and, as a hunter, you should be familiar with the “tomb of the gods” underneath yharnam (we aren’t, we’re getting the chalice to do that right now). the students of byrgenwerth once returned from the tombs with “a holy medium” (the word used in japanese is the one used for the catholic rite of the eucharist) and the rest is history. except now byrgenwerth is abandoned and forbidden ground by the healing church; the only way to open the date is by knowing the password.

he does drop one strange statement about byrgenwerth: he isn’t sure how many of the old students are left alive. one might think he means “currently at byrgenwerth”, but that wouldn’t make much sense if the college is abandoned. what he means is: it’s unknown how many scholars are out there in yharnam at all, who they were, and where they went. but one thing is for sure: only they would know the password that opens the gate that allows passage to the decrepit grounds.

alfred wears the executioner set, sans the gold ardeo (for now). currently he wields two tools of the church, the kirkhammer and ludwig’s rifle. curiously, he carries a vial of lead elixir. when you meet him, he is praying in front of a statue he believes to depict the martyr of the healing church, logarius. his statue is enshrined in this small, abandoned chapel where the healing church hides another secret.

 


1. to a less relevant extent, it’s used to describe the “lords” being kept and watched by the keeper and watchdog of the old lords, two chalice dungeon exclusive bosses.

2. a reference to the 1978 “invasion of the body snatchers”. no real meaning, it’s just a scary thing for something to do to you lol.

3. there are no beasts in this area of the cathedral ward. not yet anyway.

4. in the “souls” half of the “soulsborne” games, crystal lizards are unique enemies who run away from you and disappear if not killed quickly. they drop highly valuable weapon upgrade materials. bloodborne is no different, except the cute lizards are now grotesque abominations of god and man.

5. im not thinking too hard about “why is there a blood gem in a chest in a weird open space and not just on a corpse” because i assume the chest was added to try to discourage players from getting too interested in “closed”. it’s blocking the door conspicuously.

6. alfred is not blood-drunk. this is another gamer lie. alfred uses the same set of eyes the players do.

* the image of the watchman with a lantern, cane and a bell clad in a broad-brimmed hat and overcoat is taken straight from the georgian era of london’s history.

using the key dropped by gascoigne and activating the cutscene into the next area triggers the progression of time. it’s very subtle, but the sky drops into a deep orange twilight. the time zone page on bloodborne-wiki demonstrates it perfectly.

lore-wise this means nothing. game play-wise, it means a bunch of flags were just flicked on and it’s time to do some side quests. some of this stuff will have you going “well, how was i supposed to know that??!” and, well. you aren’t. if the game wants you to replay it over and over again as part of the intended game play experience (and it does. completing the chalice dungeons takes at LEAST a few runs in order to gain the materials and levels required; it took me 4), then they have to keep this shit at least a little fresh the first few times you play. you get rewarded/punished in different ways for backtracking, talking to people multiple times, how you help people and some items can only be obtained on repeat runs. what i’m saying is, don’t worry about it. play the game once without a guide so you can get really confused and pissed off about what you just did. THEN you can play with a guide, and subsequently realize you missed 45% of the game’s content entirely.

the cutscene that activates the change is unremarkable, and exists to hide the map loading lol

you probably noticed the guy oozing around on the right. oedon chapel serves as your waking world safe-room and this fellow is your gracious host. you are very unlikely to know this at first and will be alarmed at his off-putting appearance. but the oedon chapel dweller is a good fellow. just look at that smile!

the chapel dweller is a blind pthumerian, as we can see from the black nails, gaping mouth, and ridiculous proportions. this is never explicitly stated, so it’s in italics but…look at ‘im. like other pthumerians we will meet from the chalice dungeons, he is draped in red and wears an incense pot around his neck. he has some of the same fashion sensibilities as the labyrinth ritekeepers, including the short stature as a consequence of having non-functioning legs. he has them. they’re just non-operational. same with his eyes. if you’re a huge fucking JERK, you can hit him once and he will “give” you a pebble (you knocked his eye out lol). but don’t hit the poor lad. he’s just trying to do his job. or something. i don’t really know what he’s doing here. people just assumed he lived here. he could just be taking shelter here as well. because its really weird for a pthumerian to be just hanging around in yharnam right? i’ll spoil this for you now: you will not meet another truly friendly, true pthumerian. there are other (unfriendly) pthumerians emerging from the chalice dungeons later tonight (spoilers!!!) also draped in red. did he come with them? who knows. we know from his comically sad dialog1 that no one prior to us liked him or believed in him, including his mother.

at one point in development, the chapel dweller would have turned on you during the blood moon and would start trying to kill all the npcs you gathered at the chapel lol. a enemy mob version of him called “demon’s fanatic” would have appeared in the pthumeru chalice dungeons alongside what is now known as the “hunting dog” (“beast of fanatic” in the file names). the spikes in the dogs make more sense aesthetically after finding out they were supposed to be paired with a guy with an equally spiky staff.

sorry for the blender UI. and the marilyn monroe pose.

this enemy version could do pthumerian fire magic and his spiked bat has spikes not unlike the spikes of the transformed bloodletter.

spikes are a very unusual feature in bloodborne weapons, even enemy weapons2. the bloodletter “is the only effective means of expelling gained blood” so let’s assume that the evil twin of the chapel dweller’s spikes serve the same purpose: bloodletting. the version that would have turned on you would have a direct interest in blood, as both he and the good twin will drop your first caryll rune of the game if you choose to brutally and heartlessly kill them: formless oedon. you should not do this, as he’s a fine chap who has done NOTHING to harm you…and you can always wait until right before you finish the game to dice him like an onion.

it’s easy to forget about oedon, of the chapel you’re currently occupying, because he literally only appears in two item descriptions and the name of two locations. and yet…if you look carefully or are completely insane…you might notice his presence seeping in where you least expect it.

let’s start with the stupid key that got you into this place, your first exposure to oedon’s name. the location where you fight gascoigne is the “tomb of oedon” and no, i don’t know why the fuck he has this key. like, literally i couldn’t even begin to guess. it’s not even the most confusing oedon and gascoigne connection in the game, somehow. the key says that the residents have all “gone mad” which seems narratively interesting until you read the translation, which is closer to “are unscrupulous”. it’s just another way to try to steer you away from trusting the chapel dweller. a n00b trap.

it’s made explicitly clear in translations that the tomb belongs to oedon and is NOT the tomb belonging to oedon chapel. however, clever players will notice a glaring problem with this tomb: there’s no tomb. a tomb is an enclosure for a corpse; it needs four walls and a roof. unless…there is no corpse to cover.

formless oedon:

A secret symbol left by Caryll, runesmith of Byrgenwerth.

The Great One Oedon, lacking form, exists only in voice,
and is symbolised by this rune. Those who memorize it enjoy
a larger supply of Quicksilver Bullets.

Human or no, the oozing blood is a medium of the highest
grade, and the essence of the formless Great One, Oedon.
Both Oedon, and his inadvertent worshippers, surreptitiously
seek the precious blood.

huh. what. that’s so much shit that doesn’t mean anything to us. functionally, it draws quicksilver from your blood to create extra bullets, but what about the rest of it?

some absolute genius figured out the visual inspiration for the rune and thank god! because otherwise it just looks pennywise. it’s the blood moon as it descends above yahar’gul! we won’t see this until later, but we know it happened at least once in the past.

oedon has a strong association with the blood moon, so much so that this moment became tied into what little physical presence he has. this is probably the closest thing to a visual representation we have of the otherwise formless oedon. somehow the “formless” part trips people up. he is metaphorically formless in the same way that the incoagulable blood has no form and literally formless in that he has no body. he literally exists only in voice. keep this knowledge in your back pocket.

now, WE know who caryll is, even if a new player doesn’t. it’s strange that formless oedon is a “secret symbol”3 when there’s a chapel dedicated to oedon like. right here. out in the open. there are 5 versions of this rune (each one offers different bonuses. for example, formless oedon 1 gives you +1 quicksilver bullet, and so on) that increase in visual clarity with each level, and the runes associated with oedon are going to be uncommonly bloody in appearance. i’ll spoil two of these rune’s locations because we are not going to organically encounter them without online play: level 2 and 5 are in the lowest levels of the pthumeru chalice dungeons4 within special treasure areas where you plunder fancy coffins containing a mummified pthumerian corpse.

wait, where was i. oh yeah, chapel dweller.

“…Hmm? Oh… you must be… a hunter. Very sorry, the incense must’ve masked your scent.”

you’re stinky, but that’s good for the blind chapel dweller who can smell you coming and going. he has a simple request for you: if you find any sane people left in yharnam, tell them there’s shelter from the beasts at oedon chapel. sure thing, boss. let’s turn around and head back to central yharnam first to weigh our options. if you head back to doctor iosekfa from the very start of the game, she has an interesting proposal:

…Oh, well, hello…
Splendid. Let me ask you a small kindness.
You’re soon off to hunt, I presume?
Then, if you find any survivors…
Tell them to seek Iosefka’s Clinic.
Upon my Hippocratic oath, if they are yet human, I will look after them, perhaps even cure them.
This sickness, these beasts, they are not to be feared.
This time the night is long. I may be trapped here, but I should do something to help.
I’ll even offer a reward for your cooperation. Tempted?
Well, off you go, then.

i was debating to myself when to reveal this, but it seems like it was pretty obvious to everyone except me: the woman you’re talking to now is not the same woman as before; its a completely different voice. this character does not have a canon name, so we will refer to her as “fauxsefka”5 to differentiate her from the original. she’s exceedingly devious in this opening monologue, yet she never lies to you at any point. in fact, maybe she’s being a little too honest in hindsight. regardless, this fake iosefka doesn’t give out blood vials anymore. instead, when you send someone to her clinic, she will give you a little insight and some items.

now you can choose to send survivors to either oedon chapel or iosefka’s clinic. there are two characters you can attempt to direct to safety at this point, the old woman from earlier who bitched us out and gascoigne’s daughter. sending the old woman to oedon chapel nets you this charming thank you:

Do you think I owe you something? Well, that’s a fine lark. I’d say. This whole mess that Yharnam’s in, it’s all your fault, you fidgety outsiders! Our blood’s ruined, tainted by your ilk! Don’t you come near me! I know your type!

you’re WELCOME, you old bag. if you send her to fauxsefka, you’ll net a point of insight, some numbing mist6 and an assurance that the patient is doing quite well. good luck fixing your crooked-ass face, bitch!

if you return to the little girl in the window, you can and should lie to her about knowing what happened to her mother. otherwise, you lose the brooch this play-through AND her quest ends here; the game will look at you incredulously with its hands up like “you really told a little girl her mom was eaten by her dad?!” and frankly, its got a point. what’s wrong with you. instead, keep the brooch and tell her about oedon chapel. next time you reload the area and kill the pig in the sewer, it will drop a new item: the red messenger ribbon, a hat for your little friends.

Red ribbon that messengers are oddly fond of.

The thick, pungent red was drawn from the organs of some unfortunate victim.

A strange choice indeed, but perhaps for the messengers wearing this accessory constitutes a form of mourning.

swag. in retrospect, it was kind of unrealistic to expect a six year old to navigate the streets of yharnam on her own while its crawling with bloodthirsty universal horror monsters, but your hunter doesn’t seem too bothered by this outcome. git gud, kid.

OR you can send her to iosefka’s clinic to get some insight and lead elixirs7. but no swag. choose wisely…!

oh! and gilbert! sweet gilbert. he’s still hacking away in his little house. he gives you a flamethrower, which really would have come in handy during the previous two boss fights, but you can’t yell at him because he’s dying. you can’t tell him about shelters, because he doesn’t have the strength to leave his home.

“What inflicted me was incurable, but this town gave me hope…

Their strange blood bought me time.
I was most fortunate. Unharmed by the plague of beasts, I can even die human. *coughing*”

that’s the spirit. while we’re gallivanting around and headed back to oedon chapel, let’s take a moment to appreciate the statues of central yharnam and what they can teach us about yharnam culture. some of the statues in bloodborne are clearly plot and lore related; others are literally just replicas from various places in france. the yharnam ones are easy to find because they look demented instead of stately and royal8.

you know, when i graduated with an art degree i knew i wasn’t going to be using it to do anything of value but this is worse than i ever could have imagined.

anyway, the statues that appear to be original feature common themes: bandages, covered eyes, lamentations toward the sky, and bizarre proportions. gotta be honest, the artist carving this rock to look like fabric bunching up might be some kind of actual prodigy. that shit’s hard.

lol at that spout placement. note the messengers at the figure’s feet. throughout central yharnam, sculptures of messengers are used to hang lamps; evidently they are a common and familiar part of yharnam life. though the figure’s face is veiled (another recurring feature), their gaping mouth reveals that they are a pthumerian. take a closer look at their hands; at first glance it may appear that they are leaning on the lamp post, but a closer look reveals that the pthumerian IS the lamp post. it’s using both hands to support the iron fixture and the messengers are desperately propping them up.

pthumerians appear quite often in sculptures. these wailing pthumerian woman turn up frequently. a weird note on this sculpture: in this depiction, they still have hair.

as for the remaining statues in this area, i don’t have any brilliant insight as of yet. i still need more time to untangle what’s appropriated from real life and what’s wholly original.

good hunters…did you REALLY look at the sky? the directions gilbert gives you and careful observation will reveal that the brilliantly bright orb in the sky right now is not the sun setting, but the moon rising. however, that’s not the surprising thing. have you noticed how the moon lays…in front of the clouds?

 

1. dialogue after the death of all npcs: “I only wanted to help… Just once in my life… They told me it would never work… My mum always told me, everybody kept telling me… I should’ve know, I shoul’ve… Gods, please, I’m sorry, so sorry…”

2. the closest i could find was the pthumerian elder’s burning mace thing, which is similar to the bloodletter in that it’s a ball of spikes on a stick. but not really.

3. some of the UK translations differ from the US in notable ways, but one is that the US may have erroneously marked some caryll runes as secret when they should not be. this is not one of those runes.

4. the root chalices, anyway

5. both characters use the same character model. iosefka/fauxsefka is always actually behind the door when she’s talking to you.

6. unsure why this is the resulting gift she gives you for nearly every character. but i presume its unused anesthetic from whatever she did to them. or just shit that was lying around. there is a more supernatural connection between iosefka’s clinic and cainhurst beyond just the appearance of numbing mist but we’ll cover that when we return to the clinic from a different entrance.

7. i don’t know what to make of this! lead elixirs are already a very enigmatic and rare item. true to its item description, it “materializes only within the most desperate nightmares” such as the nightmare frontier, the nightmare of mensis, and the hunter’s nightmare. its only appearance in the waking world is in the immediate vicinity of a portal to the nightmare frontier. this kid…does? have a connection to the nightmare? dont worry about it for now.

8. i’m like 99% sure that the gryphons and spouts in central yharnam are gargoyles from notre dame. 

ahh here we are back in the hunter’s dream with at least one insight, home sweet home. things are a little different now. the doll is now animated and speaks to you in the soft voice from the opening cutscene:

Hello, good hunter. I am a doll, here in this dream to look after you. Honorable hunter, pursue the echoes of blood, and I will channel them into your strength. You will hunt beasts… and I will be here for you, to embolden your sickly spirit.

spill blood, collect blood echoes, bring them to you to make me stronger. sure. thanks toots. if your insight drops back down to zero, the doll will return to her inanimate form (but you can still level up). if you’re an animal, you can kill her; you can still level up using her body and the next time you visit the hunter’s dream, she’ll be revived and repeat her opening dialog like its the first time you’ve met. obviously, there are gameplay reasons for you to be able to level up even if you “kill” her…is what i would say if fromsoft was a normal company!!! but there’s a huge chunk of dark souls where some jackass kills the firekeeper at your “safe” zone and it puts the fucking fire out until you finish an optional side quest. fromsoft didn’t have to be nice, so i do not know if its significant that the doll can be “used” even when killed, nor what the mechanisms of the blood echo process are. or if it even matters. you know how it is with bloodborne!

things are worth exploring here now, so let’s get into the nitty gritty. let’s stick with doll facts. most pressing, the doll bleeds what can really only be called “pale blood”. it’s a shade entirely unique to her. it is NOT cum. its NOT.

the doll has a number of randomized behaviors. she can be caught sleeping (?!), praying at plot important graves within the dream, and, before it was cut in the day one patch, would hum a russian lullaby about a wolf getting you.

if you talk to her a few more times, she has some more information for new hunters:

Did you speak with Gehrman? He was a hunter long, long ago, but now serves only to advise them. He is obscure, unseen in the dreaming world. Still, he stays here, in this dream… …such is his purpose.

we haven’t talked to gehrman yet, so guess we’ll do that. funnily enough, it IS possible to run into gehrman before this point. the first time you visit the dream, there’s a decent chance that the old man will spawn behind the workshop where you can walk up on him having a little snooze. WAKE UP BITCH!!!!!

what she means by “obscure, unseen” is that gehrman seems to be literally flickering in and out of the dream. he leaves you a note on the floor later because he’s just AWOL. when you go talk to him inside the chapel-turned-workshop, he’s dressed like a cartoon hobo and his brain is turning into mush.

Ah-hah, you must be the new hunter, eh? Welcome to the Hunter’s Dream. This will be your home, for now. I am [extremely long ass pause as he tries to remember his own name] Gehrman, friend to you hunters. You’re sure to be in a fine haze about now, but don’t think too hard about all of this. Just go out and kill a few beasts, it’s for your own good. You know, It’s just what hunters do. You’ll get used to it.

wow great advice gehrman thanks. “try killing things”. he should recruit for the u.s. army.

talk to his stupid ass again:

This was once a safe heaven for hunters. A workshop where hunters used blood to enhance their weapons and flesh. We don’t have as many tools as we once did, but… You’re welcome to use whatever you find. …Even the doll, should it please you…

alright, shut up creep! eat lead!

 

ooergh

if you simply can’t resist the temptation and hit him with your weapon, he just poofs into white sparkles (and not black nightmare clouds, curiously. other characters either leave corpses or turn into nightmare clouds). fuck this guy. what else we got in here. there’s a workshop bench to do weapon upgrades and maintenance. there’s a weird candlelit altar we can’t use yet. there’s a big huge steamer trunk for storage. there’s a weird statue with sutures on her forehead left over from an alpha build probably. and there’s a note passed to you in secret by some messengers when you approach the back corner of the room:

To escape this dreadful Hunter’s Dream, halt the source
of the spreading scourge of beasts, lest the night carry on forever

not helpful, thanks.

now, hunter: did you know you are SMELLY??? more than one character will express surprise at your smell, noting it as familiar, strange, pleasant, and “moonlit”1. in fact, your smelly smell gives your presence away in at least one failed attempt to be sneaky later. i imagine that if yharnamites are losing their eyes and turning into dogs, their sense of smell is getting a boost, right? that’s how it works in fiction? it’s a singular scent associated with hunters that’s not “blood or beasts”that seems to be a rare smell to…sniff…? in modern yharnam. that smell is probably the unique flora of the hunter’s dream!

https://www.bloodborne-wiki.com/2017/09/flowers-in-hunters-dream.html

flora vs fauna is, legitimately, one of the dichotomies set up by bloodborne as becoming unnaturally intertwined, in conflict, and corrupted. the flowers in game are supposed to be lightly analogous to real life flowers but retain unique characteristics that make them impossible to pin to just one plant. these specific flowers look like most star flowers. this is not the only time the plant being referenced has some kind of space theming, so i think it’s a reasonable guess. there’s a field we can’t access yet full of what looks like funeral lilies[link] which are also a very catholic flower for a very catholic game. these flowers do not appear in the waking world. and they do something weird and subtle later, so stay tuned.

there are two stores here in for the form of baptism fonts staffed by babies. the font that uses insight as currency isn’t selling anything cool yet. the blood echo store has expanded its inventory as a result of obtaining the sword hunter badge, now you can buy the kirkhammer3 and the hunter chief emblem. the emblem is a depiction of the act of communion. we’ll find more proof of this later.

A cloth emblem that belonged to the captain of the Church
hunters long ago. Opens the main gate that leads to the
round plaza of the Great Cathedral.

The main gate is shut tight on nights of the hunt, and could
only be opened from the other side with this emblem. In
other words, the captain’s return, and this
emblem, determined the end of the hunt.

so until ludwig returned and gave the all-clear, the hunt was considered officially “on” and the church gates closed. that’s bad news for us, because we need to get in there. for a new player, the emblem is pricey at 10k echoes. and frankly, what do you get by skipping part of the game on your first run? nothing. save the emblem for NG+.

you can also pick up the yharnam hunter set, but the lore doesn’t tell us anything WE don’t already know. it’s new info for a new player, but WE know all about ludwig and his crew and the tragedy and so on.

the doll has one last thing to say before we head off:

Ahh, the little ones, inhabitants of the dream… They find hunters like yourself, worship, and serve them. Speak words, they do not, but still, aren’t they sweet?

i guess so. the messengers are kind of ugly-cute in their own way. they’re certainly helpful little fellas. we learn from various stupid items that they enjoy playing dress up the way that children do, prefer the dark, and, though we won’t find this out until much later, they can be found in secret areas of the chalice dungeons.

alright, let’s get back to it. adios, good hunter. try not to fall in.

well, the bridge was a bust. the only person willing to help us is gilbert, so let’s go back and ask for advice.

Yes, I see… But the great bridge is the only way to the Cathedral Ward. And during the hunt, the bridge is closed… Hmm… You could try the aqueduct? There’s a rather, how shall I put it, colorful area south of the great bridge. From there, an aqueduct leads to the Cathedral Ward.
Not a place you’d normally want to visit, but… I don’t imagine you have much of a choice. Do you?

this english translation fucking sucks. for one thing, no normal person would describe where we’re going as an “aqueduct”, unless gilbert is actively trolling us. it’s a sewer. its not “colorful”, a word you would use to describe a rowdy neighborhood. its POOP. but, he has a point. we can probably infiltrate the cathedral ward from below if the route above is no good.

if you drop off the side of the great bridge, you can reach an area full of caged puppies that immediately break out of said cages and try to kill you (this happens to the hunter so often that he should probably get insured against it). one especially stubborn mutt barks directly at a house with a red lamp, where you can engage in conversation with an old woman about safe places. kinda awkward because you’re new here and you don’t reall-

Yeah, I should’ve known. Ya good-for-nothing…
No respect for the elderly is what that is! Yeah, fat lot of good you outsiders do.
Go on, admit it, you think we’re all mad, don’t ya?
Well, go and stuff it! I know all yer tricks!

wtf

the building in front of you is one of the few buildings in this game that’s completely inexplicable to me. the art book calls it the “dry dock” but that’s insane. part of the area they would have to fill up would be the open sewer in the center of town. how can these people fucking stand there and blame US for spreading the plague when there’s a major waterway filled with THEIR shit and THEIR dead bodies. fucking whatever dudes!

you can reach this area earlier by rolling through some crap near the red lantern’d house full of people who laugh at you. once you figure out that rolling into things can reveal secret locations, you can use this knowledge to break shit in the dry dock to access the rafters. you can carefully walk on these in order to cut down the strung up corpses of some unlucky bastards. it’s a good day for you, however, because one of these fellows is holding the SAW SPEAR!!!!! this thing is like the saw cleaver but better. i will never forget how it saved me in the chalice dungeons. if you know, you know.

more rolling reveals a balcony where an imposing silhouette is taking a break after a fight. her name is eileen the crow.

eileen is a hunter of hunters, a respected position given to someone “from a foreign land”(in this case, northern england, yharnamites are so xenophobic, they’re afraid of people who live 3 hours away) who is tasked with putting the hunters who have gone mad from the hunt out of their misery and severing their connection to the dream. it would be a big problem if blood drunk hunters just kept respawning in the hunter’s dream over and over again. so, eileen uses “one of the oldest weapons in the workshop”, the blade of mercy,  to “end their contract”, so to speak.

we can intuit some interesting things from the blade of mercy’s description and its relationship to the only other siderite forged weapon in the game, the burial blade, (used by gehrman to sever hunter contracts once they are “fulfilled”). both item descriptions mention that siderite “fell from the heavens”, likely in the form of a meteor based on real world siderite discoveries. both blades deal arcane damage, hinting at their cosmic origin. it all comes down to this: aliens did it.

eileen is a good natured woman who is old enough to have hung out with some of the more obscure old hunters. her iconic outfit is, of course, based on the plague doctor uniforms from the 16th century bubonic plague and late 2000s halloween parties. her mask contains “incense to mask scents of blood and beastwhich is an alarming statement, if incense is a burning corpse5. i hope what she has in there are like, ashes. and not little chunks of people.

i have some eileen speculation i’d like to review with you: eileen’s title was granted to her from her predecessor, who in turn so on and so forth. in the past, we know of a foreigner who “killed a compatriot“. if brador was the first hunter of hunters (ostensibly), then the caryll rune for the hunter of hunters depicting a bloodletting6 makes more sense.

the tradition of bloodletting hasn’t let up. eileen’s gear mentions this interesting tidbit:

Hunters of Hunters dress as crows to suggest sky burial.
[the hunter of hunters] gave the dead a virtuous native funeral ritual, rather than impose a blasphemous Yharnam burial service upon them, with the hope that former compatriots might be returned to the skies, and find rest in a hunter’s dream.

yharnamites are evidently seen as freaks for burying and burning their dead. and also probably for slicing them to fucking pieces. on the other hand, the “sky burial” is not like the somber and reserved real world practice you might be thinking of. remember the two guys hanging from the ceiling in the other room? and one of them had a trick weapon? that guy was probably a hunter, right.

eileen is pleasantly surprised to see you and gives you a warm outsider to outsider greeting. with a warning that tonight is an especially bad night to have arrived, grandma eileen gives us some great items (bold hunter marks), teaches us a fortnite dance7, and sends us on our way.

she’s got a point. we’re a hunter, and a hunter must hunt. and all toasters toast toast.

alright, now we can just fly past most of this. kill the dudes or whatever. don’t forget to pick up the madman’s knowledge some rats are chewing on. once you get into the poop water, there’s some rotted corpses sploshing around being ominously animated long after they should have died. they’re just yharnamite hunters who didn’t make it, we can tell by the bold hunters marks they rarely drop.

you also run into another common fromsoft enemy from the animal kingdom: a huge pig called the “maneater boar“. it’s been chowing down on the bottomless poop and huntsman soup down here in the sewers; now it’s huge and hepped up on blood and they will burp nasty slow poison on you. enjoy the horrible spectacle of doing a visceral attack on it from behind and pick up the saw hunter badge held by a dead hunter in the pig’s lair. this badge is unremarkable and just gives you access to the entirety of the beginner’s arsenal. the workshop that once produced it is “gone” but the bath messengers will recognize it and “entrust you” with new items to purchase. this is the purpose of collecting these badges; to expand the store. different factions have access to different items. some of these revelations are interesting…!

one of two paths down here will inevitably lead you to the origin of the off-tune ~spoooooky~ music box, a chained up house with bars on the window. knock knock. anyone home? why yes, it’s a tiny child all by herself.

Who… are you?

I don’t know your voice, but I know that smell… Are you a hunter?

Then please, will you look for my mum? Daddy never came back from the hunt and she went to find him, but now she’s gone too I’m afraid. I’m all alone, and scared.

see, you stink. sure kid, no problem.

Really? Oh, thank you!

My m-mum wears a red jeweled brooch. It’s so big and.. and beautiful. You won’t miss it.

Oh, I mustn’t forget… If you find my mum, give her this music box. It plays one of daddy’s favorite songs. And when daddy forgets us, we play it for him so he remembers. Mum’s so silly, running off without it!

sounds foreboding and ominous. thanks for the music box.

A small music box received from a young Yharnam girl. Plays a song shared by her mother and father.

Inside the lid is a small scrap of paper, perhaps an old message. Two names can be made out, however faintly.

Viola and Gascoigne.

you will not believe the fucking rumors and lies made up about this stupid item. it does have SOME mysterious qualities to it, but they will not become relevant until the very, very final portion of the game. as far as i can tell, the only intended game mechanic purpose of the tiny music box is as an assist to new players who might be struggling with the next boss. if you summon gascoigne as a co-operator, he will chuckle if you play it for him. everything else is entirely incidental as a result of the music box having an AOE effect that will accidentally jostle things around it.

the sewer leads you to the other side of the great bridge, but requires you to take a back route through what looks like a graveyard. to set the scene: you stumble into a sacred place for respecting the dead covered head to toe in pig entrails and literal, actual shit and are reasonably assaulted on sight for your behaviors and appearance. there’s a tall man8 here; maybe you recognize him, if you summoned him for the cleric beast. otherwise, you can intuit from his dress, his weapons, and his actions that he is a fellow hunter who is about to tip into full on hunt induced madness. and if all that isn’t bad enough, he’s irish.

this is father gascoigne, an old hunter once aligned with the healing church (evidently in a “honorary clergy member” sort of way9).

gameplay-wise, gascoigne is intended to be the first REAL bottleneck of the game. the cleric beast tests whether or not you can even play a soulsbourne game, but gascoigne will force you to learn how to play the game by its own standards. the parry/stagger/visceral skill is essential to playing the game and refusing to adapt to the fighting style of bloodborne will result in frustration caused entirely by YOU!!!!! stop jumping AWAY and dodge TOWARD the boss, coward! don’t stop to heal!! use the rally mechanic!! NEVER BACK DOWN!!!!

bloodborne lesson five: DON’T BACK DOON, DOOBLE DOON

ok now i can post the music:

a banger track. when it transitions to the second phase track during the fight, it matches your BPM skyrocketing as you realize whats happening. even listening to it now i get goosebumps remembering the feeling of being the hunter and suddenly having the familiar dynamic completely flipped. you are about to become the hunted.

gascoigne is a mirror match on steroids; he has a hunter’s axe and a blunderbuss he can wield one-handed due to being fucking huge. hunters who are able to connect dots will discover that playing the music box will cause gascoigne to stagger in dad-themed anguish, giving them an opportunity to move in for some hits. when gascoigne kills you (he will), he gives you this little bit of exit dialogue revealing that he’s under the impression YOU’RE the beast:

Too proud to show your true face, eh… But a sporting hunt it was.

after losing 30% of his health, he’ll transform his axe and say this:

…What’s that smell? The sweet blood, oh, it sings to me. It’s enough to make a man sick…[the laugh of a man having a wonderful time]

after losing 70% of his health, or hearing the music box three times, gascoigne will clutch his head and transform into a fearsome beast. you can use the music box ONE last time post-transformation before it no longer works. DO NOT USE THE MUSIC BOX THREE TIMES BEFORE HE TRANSFORMS!!!!! you want to put off beasthood as long as you possibly can, because that’s when shit will hit the fan. gascoigne part two has the all the hallmarks of an abhorrent beast in the making right down to having the biggest hit boxes of all time.

do what you have to do to survive, but now is a good time to just unleash molotovs like your life depends on it (it does). put the poor bastard out of his misery. once you’re able to calm down and breathe again, you’ll be sure to notice the difficult to miss corpse that’s been knocked through a wrought iron fence and onto a roof10.

she’s holding something:

A woman’s bright-red brooch, engraved with the name Viola.

Perhaps the jewel is a gift from a hunter.

ahh, poor miss viola…that’s gonna ruin christmas. according to the bloodborne-wiki’s datamining adventures, the red jeweled brooch icon is stored with the cainhurst icons, meaning it’s likely the same type of gem found in the cainhurst knight garb. 

heartbreaking, isn’t it? a family torn asunder by what is, essentially, a terminal illness caused by forces and powers far beyond what any of them could ever even begin to comprehend. this family was made to suffer for the sins of others and remained largely ignorant to the supernatural machinations that lead to their horrific demise. the hunt’s victims are not limited to the beasts. everyone suffers when someone pursues their self interests.

alright! now let’s crack this motherfucker like a walnut!

Created from a bright-red brooch, this blood gem strengthens the effect of rallying. A quintessential hunter skill, rallying symbolizes the battle-worn hunter who is often the only thing standing after a bloodbath.

look, if you give this to the kid, it’s just going to piss her off and make her cry and get all sad and shit. we don’t have time for this. i’m sure we’ll think of some sort of excuse about where mom went by the time we see that kid again.

the implicit cultural ramifications of this information are that this rare blood gem was not considered a horrific and morbid gift, but rather a prized possession meaningful enough to a woman to be on her person when she met her untimely death. there’s no proof that gascoigne was the one who actually killed her, though the narrative provided by the little girl strongly implies that this is the case. there genuinely is an equal chance it could have been the huntsmen gascoigne is carving up in his opening cut scene and we’re walking in on the final moments of his revenge. in a world (and series of game releases) that is largely sexless and in which relationships are few and far in between, the tiny slivers of romance in the actions of an unarmed woman facing the dangers of the hunt in search of her monstrous husband, in the melody of lullaby shared by two lovers, in the form of a jewel fashioned into an enviable and recognizable brooch…why not let us be happy…and revel as babes…? why not let us at least imagine that viola’s death was not so entirely horrible that it had to be at the hands of her beloved husband?

the lamp that appears after the fight and the key dropped by gascoigne will reveal that this location is the “tomb of oedon”. oedon chapel awaits us just through the gates.

 —

1. fauxsefka dialog: “Ah, moonlit scents…”

2.  arianna dialog: “Oh, my, what a queer scent… But I’d take it over the stench of blood and beasts any day. “

3. don’t overthink the use of nordic runes on the kirkhammer, fromsoft has been using runes as shorthand for magic since dark souls.

4. crowfeather garb description, presumably because of the immunity outsiders arguably present

5. and it is. when you break the incense pots in the world, human remains pour out.

6. the un-transformed bloodletter also resembles the shape of the rune. source: your eyeballs

7. teaches you a gesture. these are used to communicate with players for online play but the doll will sometimes clap, bow, or tilt her head in confusion if you do some gestures at her.

8. i dont think gascoigne’s height is a result of any external influence. he’s like a foot and a half taller than us. i think he’s just a lanky fucker. he should have been balling. also, you know, gameplay reasons.

9. gascoigne’s garb description: “The dingy scarf is a Holy Shawl and symbol of the Healing Church, from which Gascoigne would eventually part ways. ‘Father’ is a title used for clerics in a foreign land, and there is no such rank in the Healing Church.”

10. HER BODY DOES NOT DISAPPEAR AT ANY POINT DURING THE GAME. IT IS A GAMER LIE. A GAMER TRICK.

you are the hunter! you are on the hunt! rush through the streets of central yharnam in your foreign garb cutting down the twisted, monstrous citizens with wild abandon! carve your way past wooden coffins and ornate caskets-hey, what.

the abandoned carriages were one thing, but the deeper you go into central yharnam, the more bizarre your surroundings become. there’s a horse in an advanced state of decomposition stinking up the street (with like, stinky gas clouds you can see lol) that none of the locals have bothered to clean up. empty wheelchairs and baby carriages are doing some heavy environmental storytelling. coffins and caskets are propped up against confusingly placed gravestones and statues, some of which have been chained shut (to keep opportunistic body snatchers out, or to keep whatever’s in there inside). and in an act of unprecedented catholicism, the townsfolk are uh…they’re uhhh. doing crucifixions.

there are a few houses with red lanterns you can knock on. word about you has spread surprisingly quickly. if you were expecting a bravo for putting your life on the line for a city you don’t even live in, you’d be wrong.

 

when you open the shortcut from iosefka’s clinic to the center of town, there’s an alcove you can dip into with a heavy hitter: the aggravatingly poorly named “executioner“. you can easily see why people would be inclined to call them executioners based their visual resemblance to the western stock character. but the japanese is more like “dismantling man”1 or, using the parlance of the setting, butchers. they have some visual overlap with other butcher themed enemies who are chopping up bodies for nefarious yharnam purposes. and they share the same pattered hood from the butcher’s set!

before discovering this detail and learning about the loss in translation, these guys seemed truly inexplicable and confusing. the areas they appeared in felt random and they have no identifying markers to indicate which faction they belong to and what their purpose is besides kicking our ass. well, they’re dismantling/butchering people. they even keep some trophies on their belt, if you can get close enough to see.

in a central square, yharnamites sprouting fur and claws shamble toward a scourge beast they’ve nailed to a cross. more than a dozen stand around blankly staring at the beast until a church bell tolls in the distance, then they begin their slow, aimless shuffling back up the road to continue the hunt before the bell’s toll calls them back. they seem barely aware of their surroundings until they see you, which sends them into a frothing rage. they are armed with saws, cleavers, pitchforks, axes, crude wooden shields, torches, and the slowest shotguns ever created in human history. back in the old days you could just sidestep bullets if you were paying attention. oh, and there’s some dogs or whatever. like, real dogs. not people dogs. irish wolfhounds and dobermann were the dogs of choice, apparently.

new time players, you might find yourself stuck and frustrated with this part. the game wants you to realize that in every encounter, you will have two options: kill them all or beat feet.

bloodborne lesson three: if it sucks, hit da bricks!

it’s pretty hard to ignore the fucking tolkien-esque troll pounding on the gate and roaring, but closer inspection will reveal that the huntsman’s minions are just very big regular (?) boys in the process of becoming wolves who just happen to want to hit you with a brick (or an entire statue, in one case). their behavior is simple and childlike, and upon death some will plead for the warmth of a “sister” (from the church, like a nun). there no basis for this belief i have other than choosing to believe it because it’s funny: without the guidance of the huntsmen, the minions continue their masonry work without direction, resulting in the awkward piles of statues and gravestones all over central yharnam. this is why the placement of these elements are so awkward and strange; they’re just kind of on autopilot doing what they always do. i think it can be reasonably assumed that these were once children under the care of the church who flunked out of their orphanage program. or passed it. it’s not clear.

carrion crows are so bloated that they are too heavy to fly, either because they have gorged themselves on raw human corpse meat or the eyes they plucked out for a snack have hardened and turned into pebbles. quite thrilling.

i think everyone notices that the pebbles resemble eyeballs a little too closely to be a coincidence. and given the description of the blood stone shard, found in the bodies of deceased yharnamites, they probably were.

After death, a substance in the blood hardens, and that which does not crystalize is called a blood stone.

blood gems, blood stones, and pebbles all form under the same mysterious circumstances. the blood in yharnam either never coagulates or hardens into solid stone. a funny note about the crows is that they will sometimes, rarely, drop other round objects they’ve eaten such as antidotes and beast blood pellets. lol. stupid ass crows.

clearing out this area will quiet things down enough that you can hear the faint tinkle of a music box coming from a home behind a locked gate. we’ll keep that in mind and head up the stairs to the great bridge, which leads to the cathedral ward so we can ask about paleblood like our pal gilbert told us to.

this proves to be harder than it looks; there’s a pair of scourge beasts walking back and forth aimlessly just to be in your way. you COULD try to take them on now…or you could cross the road and check out the rickety scaffolding that someone has been building that leads into the…sewer? its gotta be a sewer, right? astoundingly, there’s coffins down here too…and a different type of huntsman. the large huntsman is the tipping point between man and beast…but not quite fully there; the large huntsman will NOT take bonus damage from serrated weapons, a feature unique to enemies classified as “beasts”. however, he WILL take damage from beasthunter blood gems. he is also developing an uncanny resemblance to the ailing loran cleric.

this area is also home to the first appearance of a fromsoft enemy staple: giant rats. fromsoft thinks that rats and dogs move like knight chess pieces and will attack you by changing direction mid-air somehow. these rats are called “labyrinth rats” in the art book, which is probably why they look so fucked up. they too have been snacking on the magic blood that turns you into a monster. the rats on the surface have either just started their transformation or have been above ground long enough that they no longer inflict rapid poison like the rats in the chalice dungeons with the larger boils.

i didn’t bring you down here to get the shit kicked out of you and eaten by rats. at the very end of the route is a sheer cliff and a large huntsman waiting to surprise you and push you off of it. kick his ass and take a look at what he was fiddling with: a hunter’s corpse. well, sucks to suck, bitch! let’s make like new vegas and steal this shithead’s clothes.

what a handsome boy we are now.

the quintessential hunter set was based off the fashion sensibilities of the legendary old hunter djura2 and the need for speed emphasized by the hunters of the old workshop, like maria and gehrman. your foreign set had terrible stats (except for a good resistance against slow poison (ashen blood). the stats of the set have the light implication that you, as an outsider, have an immunity or resistance to ashen blood. hence why the plague metaphor exploded into flames in your really nice dream you had. but the hunter set, with its capes and full body cover and thick leathers, protects you from all means of physical damage and beast inflicted damages. uhh. most beast inflicted damages. i mean THIS guy is fucking dead after all.

many of the conventions established by the old hunters still appear in the outfit beyond the hat; the gloves and boots are fortified with the anti microbial metals and now straps run up and down both legs, rather than just a single strap on the right.

lookin’ good! you should now look like the guy on the box. you won the game, congratulations.

armor is weird in bloodborne because it actually matters, unlike other fromsoft games where it seems to exist exclusively so we can play dress up with our little jerky man. with the hunter set, you now have a fighting chance against those scourge beasts. now you simply go into a stranger’s house so you can kill everyone inside unprompted. on the first floor, all the way in the back, is an intriguing lantern light and an item.

haha just kidding idiot. its an old man in a wheelchair who is about to or likely already has shot you directly in the face with the first handgun invented to kill elephants. slap him so you can read the lore note.

When the hunt began, the Healing Church left us,
blocking the great bridge to Cathedral Ward, as
Old Yharnam burned to the ground that moonlit night

incomprehensible if this is your first play-through. and a little confusing if you are keeping up. the re-translation is clearer:

(On the) night of the beast hunt, the Great Bridge to the Cathedral Ward was blocked off.
The Healing Church intends to abandon us.
Just like the night of that moon, when *Old Yharnam was abandoned in flames.

oh wait. shit. that’s the bridge we need to be on. what do they mean blocked. oh fuck!! they’re gonna old yharnam us!!!

head back to the great bridge and go take a look at this bridge situation for yourself. but then…you hear a deafening, but familiar, inhuman screech! it’s the sound of whatever howled at you earlier!

AND THEN A GUY JUMPS OUT AND GETS YA!!!

OOGA BOOGA BOOGA!!

i’m putting this in an author’s note because its not like. lore related. but they have footage documenting how this song was recorded. every song was performed by a live (?!) 65 piece orchestra and a 32 member choir in the lyndhurst road congregational church (a converted music studio). it took 6 composers two years to compose and they are absolutely not fucking around when it comes to their purpose in the game development cycle. when i post the soundtracks, i really do suggest you listen to them as you read along. they’re good. and you get to imagine all of them being sung by the most normal looking people in the whole world. someone’s grampy was belting out the most evil sounding latin on weekdays.

oh, and keep this in mind: boss tracks will have a distinct change midway through the track. in the game, this is usually triggered by a boss entering a second phase.

as a result of working through the timeline in chronological order, we’ve already seen cleric beasts by way of laurence. so, this is just laurence without fire. or laurence is a cleric beast on fire. whatever. he was a cleric and now he’s a beast. simple as. now that we can see him properly, we can make out some distinct characteristics. and i’m going to suggest something ~thematic~.

the cleric beast has no eyes, only sockets where they used to be. most of the enemies we run into have milky, blind eyes (including the dogs and crows) or have covered their eyes using a mask or bandages. people have often wondered why the covered eyes is a thing and how they chase you so good if their eyes are covered, and i think i have a pretty good answer: remember the beast/cosmos dichotomy? if the result of allying yourself to the cosmos is that you obtain many eyes, and given all the pebbles just…lying around all over the place…could it be that they’re just…falling out (one such case being the eye of a blood drunk hunter)? and as for how they see you, well…remember the fully blind (and probably dead) bloodletting beast WITH the head? puppeted by an enormous maggot? they don’t need eyes to get you.

the cleric beast looks like he’s been through the wringer. he’s missing huge patches of hair, he’s got nails sticking out of his legs, and frankly it looks like his head has been charbroiled. his face looks freaky and unrecognizable because it’s scar tissue and exposed skull. whoever this was likely just escaped from his own burning crucifixion. lmfao hey i just noticed he has the item he drops at the end of this fight, the sword hunter badge, around his neck.

and yeah okay he has a huge vagina cavern in his chest with a clit and everything and a huge arm that makes it look like he beats off a lot. okay. are you happy.

i’m not going to ruminate over the yonic and phallic imagery, but it is there. i can’t just not comment on it. you will see this style of chest deformation in repeatedly in those transforming into beasts and with the beasts come blood, the moon, and open wounds. the phallic cosmos (lmfao i know how i sound) is associated with infestation, the alien, and the space (literally) surrounding the moon. look there’s a c- english paper in here somewhere that dives into how both of these extremes revolve around attempting to explore the unique horror of pregnancy and birth but i’m not going to subject that to anyone. see, now you’re sorry you asked about the vagina cavern.

i will share my bloodborne wisdom with you for fights. just seeing the cleric beast will net you your first two points of insight, so if you die, you will be able to level up. since he is a beast he takes damage from fire and serrated weapons. if you are really, really struggling you can summon an ally by the name of old hunter father gascoigne3 near the fountain. i refuse to believe that you struggle so much that you have to wait a full moon cycle until you can summon old hunter alfred. i didn’t even know you could summon alfred for this fight. you cannot be that bad. it is not possible. and if all else fails, go left.

bloodborne lesson four: go left.

the cleric beast, hysterically, explodes into a rain of blood and leaves you with two more points of insight and the sword hunter badge.

use the lamp that appears to warp back to the hunter’s dream for a quick rest.

1. this is using the name for them in the art book. bloodborne-wiki has a different name for them (literally just “executioner”, which would fuck up my RANT) but it came from datamined files. so i am unsure if they are mistaken or if the datamined name is different.

2. hunter’s cap description: “Recognizable by its withered feathers, this cap is fashioned after one of the old hunters.”

3. gascoigne at one point was supposed to be a friendly NPC you meet on the great bridge to explicitly help you with the cleric beast. he has cut voice lines and a working AI and everything. i have no idea why they cut this, except maybe it made everything too easy. its too bad, it really adds a lot of sauce to gascoigne’s short arc in the game.

 

bloodborne begins just shortly after your hunter-to-be asks an unknown question regarding a mysterious “paleblood“. in the opening cut-scene, a rare moment where the player occupies the POV of the hunter themselves, a man wearing the most evil top hat humanly possible dressed like a scarecrow that just got mugged of his eyeballs (the “blood minister”) rolls toward you in his Evil Horror Wheelchair™️ and starts saying a bunch of shit that makes no sense to you or anyone, for that matter.

“Oh, yes…Paleblood…”

this lying ass bitch has no idea what “paleblood” is. i guess there’s no proof he’s actually bullshitting us, but why would he know what it is. he says it in the same cadence as someone trying to soothe a startled horse and not like he has any definitive understanding of the actual question being asked. i think this guy is just making a hard sell like a car dealer. he is truly a character of no importance in any version or build of the game. i think its funniest if he’s just some asshole who makes a commission per hunter he gets to sign up and is like “oh for sure, dude. whatever. sign here.”

the hunter agrees to “sign a contract” (create a character) which is a relatively unexciting process save for a few notes:

  • the “noble scion” origin (a set of pre-made character builds to start with) has the descriptor, “scion to a respectable line with faith in your pedigree” and specializes in bloodtinge.
  • the “military veteran” origin is the only mentions of a war that occurred recently enough for you to have partaken in it. just a little (truly) useless flavor.
  • everyone’s favorite is the low stat challenge origin “waste of skin”: “You are nothing. Talentless. You shouldn’t have been born.” y-you too.

for this playthrough, our hunter is going to be a man named hunter, in honor of all the 6-11 year old boys who get yelled at in targets across america. we too are going to get yelled at by a bunch of strangers for getting into things we are not supposed to. however, the hunter has no canon gender, age, or appearance. the only information set in stone about the hunter is that they are just some schlub from out of town who remembers very little about their life before showing up in yharnam. that, and they do not have the common sense to refuse a blood and/or unknown substance transfusion from the world’s sickliest senior citizen who looks like he hasn’t washed his hands ever in his life. the hunter is a fucking idiot lol. what a dumb ass. like, after he figures out what he’s been roped into why doesn’t he just go home and take a nap. is he stupid?? let’s kill him

“Whatever happens…You may think it all a bad dream…”

this is the only appearance of the blood minister in the entire game. he is an inconsequential character, but a bizarre one. i seriously don’t think he’s particularly important to the plot and world of bloodborne; i don’t think he’s the missing lore link who will tie all this shit together once and for all. but there are points of his monologue that come off as quite strange when you think about it too much: what the hell does he mean by “you need only unravel its mystery” when it comes to yharnam. what the fuck does he mean by that. in the japanese translation he seems to be a little more direct in his sales pitch: yharnam blood will lead you to paleblood. but he won’t talk to outsiders until they “sign a contract” and get a yharnam infusion. still weird. why would he know how to get paleblood???  well, at least we get SOME information out of him. maybe?

the minister once had a larger role in the game but, in my opinion his excision from the plot was a creative one in the game’s favor. he appeared briefly as an NPC you can speak to after you wake up from your blood transfusion. he would assign you a backstory that ehhhh, you know. it overreaches a little too much in comparison to what a completely blank slate offers us. the minister’s exposition dump fucking sucks1:

“Welcome, weary traveler. To the great city of Yharnam. The troubles you must have seen. Your homeland, plagued by a sickness that spares few. You suffer. Your loved ones suffer. It’s like a curse. But there is hope for you yet. The blood used in ministration, the trade of Yharnam, is a special thing indeed…The only thing that can cure your sickness…”

the result is a bit too on the nose and raises the same questions: why does this asshole know this? maybe we look like we come from a certain place; everyone DOES instantly recognize us as a yharnam outsider, after all. i dunno. it answers some questions but raises more that are confusing and not worth investigating (what is the disease? where did the curse come from? are we visibly sick? how so? etc). i like it better when the hunter is just some dipshit who asked a question that got him roped into an eternal shift as a dog catcher for the city as cosmic punishment for his curiosity.

the hunter does in fact have a bad dream with some heavy-handed imagery: a scourge beast2 made out of blood emerges from a puddle of, take a guess- blood before reaching its claws toward you with slow and palpable dread. on the first viewing, you may think that the beast is creeping forward to attack you while you’re helplessly strapped to a gurney, but on “new game plus” (NG+) knowing what you know about the scourge, it will realize that the beast is extending its hand toward you in invitation. then it erupts into flames for no apparent reason and dies. consider this both a metaphor for your good wholesome blood fighting off the beast scourge in the transfusion and a tutorial: dogs hate fire. the hunter reacts like “huh, well that was weird. well, back to transfusin’.” absolutely no sells this. what a pro.

suddenly, you are swarmed by what appears to be an alarming number of ghostly white, deformed, infant critter things. they slowly, almost gently, crawl all over you doing god knows what until the hunter decides he’s had enough of this shit and blacks out (as you are about to wake from this dream). as your consciousness fades away, a soft, russian-accented voice addresses these little freaks with solemn admiration:

“Ahh, you’ve found yourself a hunter…”

you wake up on the gurney alone in a strange medical ward. there is nothing to interact with or signs or any other life in this transfusion room. except a note in your own handwriting3:

“Seek Paleblood to transcend the hunt.”

now, this is very important: step one of bloodborne is to die. after leaving the transfusion room, the player will almost immediately be accosted by a scourge beast with half a health bar4, suggesting that the man he’s gobbling down put up a decent fight before he became dinner. don’t be afraid.

the first lesson of bloodborne: it’s okay to die.  

after you get your shit rocked, you will regain consciousness in a strange place. the amount of brain damage we must have from passing out so much must be incalculable.

 

before you is a garden of white cosmos (the flower, not outer space. but, get it. lol) with a cobblestone path leading to a dwelling of some kind. perhaps a chapel, judging from the empty baptismal fonts stationed near it. its doors, and the wrought iron doors opening up into a field of lilies, are locked tight. to the left, there is an item you can examine.

further up the stairs, the little baby dudes are back, weeping loudly and weirdly. they have some gifts for you: a trick weapon of your choice and a gun* to pair it with. the weapons, an axe, a saw, and a cane, are modified day to day tools or equipment and are well worn from age and use. a first time player would be wise to pick up the saw cleaver and the pistol. the threaded cane is a trick to make you hate playing video games and i don’t know who the blunderbuss is even for. having a spread shot will not be to your advantage with how we will be using it.

you can wander around a bit more, but there’s not much else here. gravestones litter the tiny landscape, but you cannot “use” most of them yet. there is one you can use right now to teleport from this location to back to yharnam by means of the strange blue-purple lanterns you will now find along your journey. these will act as checkpoints, respawn points, and your means to return to this hub world.

beyond the fence that lines the perimeter of the small, floating rock the garden sits on, there is nothing but a sea of clouds pierced with strange, wooden beams that continue up into infinity and down into whatever lies below. the pale moon hangs high overhead.

this is the hunter’s dream.

note: music does not typically appear in the overworld in fromsoft games. this allows you to listen in on enemies trying to sneak up on you or get spooked by the sound of footsteps. special exception are typically carved out for the “safe” hub areas like the firelink shrine of dark souls or uh, the other firelink shrine from dark souls 3. the hunter’s dream is no different. please enjoy the linked music, especially when we get to the boss battle bangers.

now get the fuck out of there and go kill that dog!!!!

the bottom red line blocking a doorway is the one we’ve just come through at the start; it’s now locked and can no longer be accessed for now. after respawning at the lamp, our hunter is free to fearlessly cut down the scourge beast and make their way outside. it’s twilight in central yharnam. the sun is setting.

BUT: if you return to the locked door, you’ll find that you can chat to an NPC behind it. the woman introduces herself as iosefka, who is a doctor (presumably). she informs you that you can’t be let back in without risking further spread of infection. as thanks for your service, however, she offers you a single use item you can come back and stock up on one at a time: iosefka’s blood vial. it’s uh, weird.

The product of a slow and careful refinement process,
this rare blood vial appears to be a clinic original.

girl what the fuck. what does that mean. it restores more hp than a regular blood vial but that’s not really going to help you in this game. i think this is generally accepted to be serum, which is similar to plasma except the blood is allowed to clot before it’s put in a centrifuge. the result is a thin yellow liquid with no white or red blood cells. i think the “slow and careful refinement process” is supposed to be a little tongue in cheek means of differentiating this spooky not-blood from the spooky-not blood of real life; the centrifugal process is anything but slow and careful.

after chopping the dog into mincemeat, you will gain your first blood echoes. you will carry this “collective will” from the blood until you can use it to level up (after we explore most of the first section, the challenge of this first bit is to learn to hang onto your blood echoes). blood echoes function like souls in the souls games with one exception: enemies can pick up your dropped blood echoes (!) necessitating you to defeat them to gain them back. this will also be your first experience with the rally mechanic; in order to encourage and facilitate lightning fast, high risk/high reward game play, you can recover a large percentage of lost hp by consecutive retaliating attacks within a short time limit. each hit recovers more of the lost hp. the in-universe explanation for this is that the blood from your enemies invigorates you. makes sense. just like real life.

exiting iosefka’s clinic, there’s a sight you don’t want to see near a hospital: a graveyard. it’s fenced off for now so the only way is forward into central yharnam, which is in absolute disarray. strewn about are suitcases and clothing with no owners, there are carriages that have been abandoned and the horses nowhere to be seen, and the locals are total dicks. the huntsmen roaming the streets during this twilight of the hunt keep yelling terrible things at you that hurt your feelings like “YOU ARE NOT WANTED HERE!” and “YOU PLAGUE-RIDDEN RAT!” and it’s all very unkind. also they’re hitting you with axes and shooting you in the face and such. luckily, they’re also pretty lethargic, so you can get the jump on most of these guys just by running up on them from behind. the problem is the sheer NUMBER of huntsmen stumbling around tonight. everybody is out and about.

there’s only three huntsmen in the way here and two of them are taking a little nap on the floor; this is the games way of introducing you to the different “states” enemies can be in: patrolling, alert but static, and “asleep”. after dispatching of these fellows, pull the lever on the right to drop an iron ladder down to where you can reach it.

as you climb the ladder, an absolutely HIDEOUS, but distinctly inhuman screech will echo out. don’t worry about it. keep climbing. at the top is your next checkpoint blue lantern and a very curious red lantern, hanging outside of a window covered in padlocks and chains.

the image above is a little inaccurate, the gate to the left should not be open yet. right now, there’s nowhere to go but right. but first. let’s go up to the window and have a little chat with the occupant. red lanterns indicate the presence of an NPC inside of a building you can speak to. this scottish fellow is gilbert.

bloodborne lesson 2: make friends!

he’s so sick he can’t even stand, so he’ll have to speak to you through the window. he, like you, is an outsider5 and and came to yharnam looking for a cure but got the same welcome from the locals. he warns you that the town is cursed and to get out once you get whatever you came here for. but he’s up to chat and answer some questions:

“Paleblood, you say? Hmm… Never heard of it. But if it’s blood you’re interested in, you should try the Healing Church.”

yeah, that sounds like an organization with good intentions. let’s try it. gilbert advises you to cross the valley via the huge bridge you can see from where you’re standing if you turn around. from there, we’ll progress to the cathedral ward where the grand cathedral is located. normally, gilbert says, yharnamites do not share their secrets with outsiders. but if you take advantage of the chaos of the hunt…well, we might have a chance.

tally-ho!

1. here is a lance mcdonald video about this cut content. all of this shit is from a very old build where the “ebrietas” he mentions in his cut content was the name of the moon presence. its very far removed from the end product.

2. all of the fromsoft cut-scenes are rendered in engine, but i don’t know where this guy is in the files. i would be interested to know what his eye color is. hard to tell.

3. the japanese translation clarifies that what is called simply “handwritten scrawl” in english is YOUR handwritten scrawl.

4. you CAN defeat this wolf with only your fists, but there’s no point. the game doesn’t reward you. if anything its more contemptuous of your behaviors and abilities because now if you want to progress the game you have to go and stand around waiting for someone to kill you like a total moron.

5. very strange that he’s able to determine you’re an outsider entirely by how you dress.

*completely inconsequential but funny detail: one of the messengers is looking down the barrel of the pistol lol

i didnt really intend for this blog to become almost exclusively bloodborne but this is a much more permanent and easier to access place for this kind of information for people who do want to seek it out. anyway using Methods and Resources, i have been ripping apart bloodborne models from the ps4 disc and putting them back together very poorly in blender.

WARNING: my colors spaces and shaders are not lore accurate; i’m just not knowledgeable enough with 3d to achieve that. they are not completely wrong, but they are likely to be noticeably “off” from bloodborne “canon”.

i spent a lot (A LOT) of time struggling with the various (and genuinely very impressive) tools available for futzing with fromsoft files, but none of them would load the textures, even with lots of messing around. as a result, the process is annoying and takes a lot of time “by hand” to do across like 4 different programs. if you try to request a model or ask me how i do this i will drive to your house and spray you with a hose until someone calls the police on me. i don’t have anything better going on so don’t try it, buster!

now check this out:


the first endless and eternal struggle was simple: i just wanted to peek at the unused “moon” skin for the scourge beasts. this was the result of several hours of honest effort. she’s beautiful, but not what i wanted.

several very specific blender tutorials later and i did it.

uhhh. sort of! here’s what i assume is the more lore accurate coloring from bloodborne-wiki:

mine looks a little too “attack the block” instead of the signature moonlight great sword coloring. but i was excited enough i gave him a photoshoot.

bleh!!! bleh!!

some other finds include: a hank hill ass and the space pope.


the big mergo’s attendant was chosen at random, and i was surprised to see she had this weird unused skull item. this color is unaltered, its very bright blue and blonde hair. really weird.

they also have an ass.


 

i was going through the object files while eating a snack last night and found one of the weirdest/stupidest things ive ever seen. all the files are like in the 1KB-5,000 KB range except for this 44,000kb monstrosity that im pretty sure is the carriage the cramped casket jumps out at you from in yahar’gul. i have no idea why its this complex lol.

but it had a bunch of shit inside as well. it looked like a mix of stuff layered on top of each other that was used and stuff that wasn’t or maybe was used in like, a promo at one point. peeling away layers revealed that the interior of the stupid thing has fully rendered lanterns and fire (????????).

after all that was stripped away there was a. pile. of 6 coffins. this shit made me laugh ngl. so i removed all of the coffins blocking my path (common bloodborne problem)

underneath i found what looks like a breakable incense (?) pot and some gravestones and some other shit. there were still a bunch of layers to turn off so i kept going.

i don’t remember this rose being used anywhere.

underneath the huge pot was a little statue and a lamp on a chain

and underneath that………..

was a thing

i have no idea. it looks like a hole. it doesn’t look like anything. i think this is one of the funniest things to hide at the center of such a needlessly complex collection of assets: a thingy


then i remembered the whole reason i wanted to do all this. and yes, the slimy crawler enemies ARE distended torsos and breasts.

eeek!