here is a recap of the state of affairs when it comes to the chalice dungeons: byrgenwerth scholars discovered the pthumerian underground labyrinth, wherein they discovered the holy medium ritual blood and the pthumerian labyrinth chalice (currently being worshiped in old yharnam). by combining these items at an altar surrounded by candles, a process called “communion”, (a play on both the catholic act of eating the body and blood of christ and the healing church’s attempts to communicate with great ones) they were able to enter deeper parts of the labyrinth via the same sort of teleportation used by hunters to get to and fro, by passing through the nightmare. that black garbage below is nightmare mist. there’s a few more times it shows up later where it continues to establish itself as the substance the nightmare is made out of.
by receiving communion ( from the labyrinth (not “taking”, specifically the language used across translations makes it clear that the act of communion is bestowed) hunters and prospectors for the church could explore more dungeons and could stock up on the rare materials for more communion which meant growing closer and closer to the great ones. the healing church doles out blood so that hunters can continue to explore the dungeons and open deeper seals in the labyrinth: “blood ministration is, of course, the pursuit of communion”. of course [leans over to you] what the fuck is he talking about
after being temporarily sidelined by beasts in central pthumeru, the church rallied and carved through the remaining layers. more chalices and labyrinths were discovered including the hintertomb, a peripheral dungeon of lesser, more informal graves. the hintertomb and the “entrance” (like the collapsed cave in cainhurst) in the forbidden woods near byrgenwerth was flooded with a toxic sludge by-product of decomposing great ones.1 that’s the most exciting thing about the hintertomb. awful place.
hunters with interest in the arcane passed through the lower pthumerian labyrinth and left one of their tools behind. 2 upon reaching the third (and usually final) layer of the dungeon, the tomb prospectors ran into one of the most inconvenient lore discoveries of all time: rom the vacuous spider. if we’re following my chalice dungeon progression theory, rom would be the first kin they encountered with a corpse that didn’t teleport back to space after it dies. don’t worry about what a kin is for now. the loosest explanation is that it’s a mid-step between human and great one. we will get deep in the (milk) weeds of this later.
we should talk about what little we know about rom here because i think it might be relevant to the current point in the timeline. i’m not going to pretend like i understand rom though. she3 is one of the least comprehensible aspects of the story by a wide margin.
we’ll start with a view of what you see when you run into this weird lump in the chalice dungeons rather than the base game. she’s the big weird lump covered in shit. the little white faces around her are her nasty little romlings (“children of rom” officially”) whose special power is doing 10000000000 damage per hit. the hunter shrugs off the huge meteors rom summons out of the sky to crush you but when a bug touches them they die instantly. same, i guess.
no one likes that rom exists in the chalice dungeons, me included. not only because she’s an absolute slog to fight (made worse by the fact that the fight takes place in a broom closet with pillars that block your swings) but like, why is she even here. she’s in the game later as a (equally annoying) non-optional boss battle that drops the game into its third act and ends up probably one of the most consequential encounters in the entire game. her narrative purpose makes it weird to think there might be more than one vacuous spider named rom.
my suggestions on how to rectify this perceived inconsistency is pure cope but if it works, it works:
technique one – rom and ebrietas are no different from the beasts and are merely different species of kin. a rom. an ebrietas. however…this is kind of a big perspective shift in general as to how great ones are perceived. the wording on various items that reference these specific great ones would be rendered too awkward and the item description wording is usually deliberately precise to the point of being almost comedically literal. but rom and ebrietas ARE kin and not REALLY great ones, so its not nuts to suggest there might be more than one that was “made”.
technique two – there’s nothing that indicates that the chalice dungeons are a nightmare/dream/time travel or that the great ones have a separate “consciousness” that exists only in the tombs (wtf lol). but perhaps the purpose of the repeat fights is a more direct and unsubtle part of the process of retracing the historical journey taken by the first tomb prospectors. as a result of time constraints/choices, they shifted focus away from boss fight challenges4 and more original bosses to instead try to establish where base game monsters originate. rom came from pthumeru. this is the information the game is trying to deliver and here is how its going to do it. inelegant, but we’ve had worse reasons for fights in fromsoft games.
i greatly dislike the explanations people come up with for the chalice dungeons involving “consciousness” or “different planes of reality” or whatever. its more intellectually honest just to say that that they were subject to the treatment given to all games during the fromsoft dev cycle than it is to just invent a new plot mechanic out of thin air. in the end, what we should be extrapolating from this stupid encounter is that rom, or knowledge of how to “make” rom if there’s more than one, came from the pthumerian labyrinth.
okay, let’s ACTUALLY talk about rom. we can get into the details and the nitty gritty here so we have way less to cover by the time we actually reach her in yharnam.
WARNING: WE WILL NOW DISCUSS A SPIDER-bug thing!!! THIS INCLUDES IMAGES!! there will be no irl images of spiders but still: READER BEWARE!!!!
ok now let’s get a close up.
most of rom doesn’t make a lot of sense to me and what little i can discern doesn’t really elucidate things any more. her tail (left) has a superficial resemblance to the fiddlehead ferns5 found around yharnam. i do not know what the plants are growing out of her body and do not think it appears anywhere else in the game. the plant-y bits glow with an eerie white light. the rest of her is dead, cracked, grey, and shriveled. there are deep holes in her body on her flanks and her legs are tiny, ant-like. at a certain point her body becomes segmented, and those segments are peppered with dark eyes that continue to dapple her calcified, pale, helmet-esque head.
her eyes are dark (but pupils can be discerned!) and her mouth is perpetually gaping and open. her nose, while askew, can be discerned with careful observation.
she drops “kin coldblood” upon defeat, . her little romlings drop “madman’s knowledge“. they are truly less vacuous, i suppose.
here’s the canon on rom: she is NOT!!!!! a byrgenwerth scholar! this is an early theory that everyone ran with for years until very recently when it was pointed out that literally nothing says or implies this. if anything, given her location in the pthumerian dungeons and her facial features, more evidence points to her being of pthumerian origin.
rom is kin. officially. i’m putting my trust in the brave soldiers of the bloodborne-wiki who are willing to crunch the numbers7 that i really do not want to. however, rom has an unusual quality for a kin: most kin bleed a smokey grey color (pale? not pale enough…). rom bleeds grey from her head…but her body bleeds red! this is, curiously, a quality not unique to rom. but it’s very rare for a kin.
she is “vacuous” meaning stupid, not empty. this might seem like a weird distinction but in other languages she is something like “rom the idiot spider”. this matters i guess. why are they so mean to her…..consider this: rom’s eyes are on the outside. she probably does not have eyes on the inside. vacuous indeed…
you will find a corpse/statue later in the game that resembles rom. that corpse is NOT rom!!! it has a full set of much larger legs!! we can compare her to one of her romlings and see that she’s missing her legs and her sickle arms. i assume they took them to keep her from wandering too far.
the holes on her body are NOT where her legs used to be!!! the romlings have them as well and their big legs are attached to their underside!6 the holes were probably eyes harvested for byrgenwerth research. that would make rom and her kids have an appearance similar to brains lined with eyes…no?
maybe. there’s a common theory that rom and the romlings are cocoons (they could be both eye gardens AND cocoons!) to facilitate the transformation of others. there’s no proof to support it…but there’s NO proof to NOT support it. there’s plenty of references to the concept of metamorphosis, including two runes named after the concept. keep it in mind for the next page i guess.
rom has an (latent?) ability that is not expanded upon well at all during the game and the execution of which was so baffling it left people confused as to what even happened. she hides rituals(?) by obfuscating evidence of them occurring. two different notes in yharnam describe the byrgenwerth spider of “hiding all manner of rituals”. information so nice, you repeat it twice…how she does this is a complete fucking mystery. illusions are not well understood and are utilized in the stupidest ways possible. in the base game, there’s a ritual actively being hidden, explaining her presence. but underground there’s nothing going on. she’s just the final boss of lower pthumeru.
hold on, why is there another layer in this dungeon. don’t they stop at 3??
1. the slow-poison causing goo in the forbidden woods is odd and has a milky appearance, but i can’t tell if that’s just fromsoft water texture quality lol. the poison pool colors in other places are inconsistent: isz and the nightmare frontier are opaque navy blue, inside the hintertomb its just kind of mud colored, pthumeru has oil? who knows. thanks for reading this note about goo. oh, also the forbidden woods goo that’s the likely the entrance to the hintertomb contains arcane, “nourishing” and rapid poison inducing blood gems
2. it’s an awl for some reason. your guess is as good as mine as to how this one works. cow tools.
3. confirmed by miyazaki in an interview.
4. this incredible lance macdonald vid shows off the cut content for the chalice dungeon bosses, including a cut boss rush mode….don’t even get me started on how mad i am this didn’t make it in. they really want me to do ALL the chalice dungeons AGAIN to fight yharnam?! there’s some wild shit in here but focus on the amount of cut shit instead of the contents for now.
5. the ferns were at one point going to be of some importance. they can be seen in some environments, such as yahar’gul. means jack shit to me though. some enemies in the chalice dungeons have a hysterical animation where they eat grass and heal though. its VERY rare and VERY stupid looking. hold on i need to eat this honeysuckle to restore my whimsy
6. trying to get a clear picture was impossible so you’re going to have to “trust me bro” with this fucking blurry ass screencap
7. kinhunter blood gems have become the definitive standard on what is or isn’t kin. if it takes bonus damage, its kin.