Hey guys, I wanted to make a beginner guide or crash course for new players who want to check it out, it's very long to watch in one go but it can be something to watch or listen to while you're doing something else and we've added timestamps to the video so you can skips to parts! Thanks to Ors for helping with timestamps
3:02 - Passive Tree: travel nodes, notables, and keystones. 4:45 - More vs Increased: the secret mechanic of Path of Exile. 5:10 - Build Guides: don't be afraid to use them. Path of Exile Forums: https://www.pathofexile.com/forum
5:35 - Tip for your own tree. 5:52 - Starting Off: Twilight Strand and setting up your character. 6:56 - Sockets and Links: how to use them and the variety in Path of Exile. 8:14 - Rarity of items and what they mean. 8:56 - poetrade, pricechecking for beginners. Mathil's Guide on Checking Prices: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDtuk...
9:58 - Currency: don't get scammed of your Mirror of Kalandra or Exalted Orb 11:00 - Crafting orbs and what they do. Crafting Mods Website: www.exilemods.com Vorici Chromatic Calculator: https://siveran.github.io/calc.html
So you finally bought Dark Souls 3, now what? For as fun and rewarding as the Dark Souls series is, these games have a steep learning curve and the "tutorials" are more like trial by fire than actual instructions on playing the game. That's part of what makes this and other Souls games so great, but it's also a very daunting experience for a new player. Perhaps you're like me and DS3 is your first Souls game which you bought on a whim, or maybe you played a bit of some other Souls games but need a short refresher - either way, this is the guide for you.
This guide will do exactly as the title promised; it will be a crash course in the basic game mechanics of Dark Souls 3. This is not a walkthrough, nor a recommended build, nor will it help you decide which armor set is the most dope for your anime cosplay. The idea is to explain the fundamentals of classes, stats, weapon scaling, a few items, and online play. By the end of this guide you will be armed with the knowledge to design your own build and play through the game blindly without risking spoilers or TMI by looking up certain mechanics elsewhere. So without further ado, let's start with your first decision.
The first decision any Ashen One must make is class. There are ten classes to choose from, all with unique starting stats, weapons, and armor. Some classes also get a free starting item. Most brand new players will want to pick either Knight, Warrior, or Mercenary. That said, you are free to choose what you want. Some of the classes such as Sorcerer or Pyromancer require some deeper knowledge of game mechanics and some ability to swap items/weapons on the fly to play effectively, so they are best reserved for experienced players or the truly daring newbie. It's important to note that no classes start with a "stat advantage" over other classes. That is to say that while some classes have higher values for some stats or are a higher level overall, every class will have the same total number of stat points once they reach any given level. Here's a brief rundown of the classes:
Knight - Probably the best choice for brand new players, the knight is versatile and comes with great starting armor as well as a good shield. Well-rounded class, good for "quality" builds. (More on stats and builds later).
Mercenary - Highest starting dexterity of any class, starts with reasonable armor and weapons. Best choice for players planning to do a dexterity build.
Warrior - Highest starting strength of any class, starts with an axe and good armor. Best choice for strength builds.
Herald - High starting faith. Starts the game with a healing miracle, a catalyst and a rather lackluster spear. Nothing special, but a good choice for specialized builds.
Thief - Has high luck and dexterity, making it a good choice for bleed builds. Starts with a dagger that has bleed, and also the only class that starts with a bow.
Assassin - Has good starting dexterity and intelligence. Starts with a popular thrusting straight sword and a spell that prevents fall damage. Good class for a combination of spellcasting and melee.
Sorcerer - Highest starting intelligence. Starts game with a dagger, very weak armor and a good ranged spell. Also starts with a ring that boosts sorceries. Best class for pure magic builds.
Pyromancer - Good starting faith and intelligence. Starts with a small axe, a pyromancy flame, one pyromancy spell, and a ring that boosts pyromancies. Best class for pyromancer builds (shocker, I know)
Cleric - Highest starting faith of any class. Starts with a mace, a chime, and two miracles. Best class for faith-based builds, and the mace ain't half bad.
Deprived - Worst stats of any class, but also starts at level one. Has a shitty club and a useless shield. Best class for experienced players and masochistic newbies. Early game is rough, but the ability to "create your own class" is cherished by experienced players. Best avoided until you have beaten the game at least once.
One final note on classes is that unlike many other RPG's, Dark Souls 3 does not require you to assume any sort of role or skillset depending on what class you pick. You can realistically start with any class you want and build however you want, but some stat points will be wasted if you, say, picked sorcerer and then went a pure strength melee build. Since you are constantly leveling up, you can change your mind on a build once you've cleared a few areas and there will still be time to go in a new direction. How viablee your build is depends on your creativity and skill. So now lets talk about
There are nine stats in DS3, and they are all useful, but which stats you level will depend on your goals. Depending on which weapons you choose, you may want to pump a lot of points into some stats and completely ignore others. You may also spread your levels between many different stats as you progress. It's important to note that most stats have a "soft cap" and a "hard cap", which means that you will start to experience diminishing returns beyond a certain point if you keep leveling them. In order to decide what's best, you will need to understand what the stats do:
Vigor - Vigor mainly determines how much HP, or health, you have. Gives a little bit of physical defense and resistances. Soft caps at 30, caps a little harder at 50. Most players finish the game with between 30 and 40 vigor.
Attunement - Determines how much FP, or mana, you have, as well as how many spell slots you have. Attunement is important for magic builds, but can be mostly ignored for pure melee/physical builds. Soft caps at 35, hard caps at 99. See here for a table of how many spell slots you get from varying levels of attunement.
Endurance - Determines how much stamina you have as well as gives lightning resistance and a little physical resistance. Pretty firm cap at 40, so don't level it more than that. Most players end the game with 20-40 endurance depending on weapons.
Vitality - Increases your "equip load", or how much weight you can have equipped and not "fat roll" (more on that later). Gives physical defense and resistances as well. How much vitality you need depends on your build, since heavy weapons and armor require more vitality. Strength builds often take points in vitality to wield large weapons. It is also the most important stat for "tanking up" (besides vigor, of course) since each point can essentially be thought of as a point of armor.
Strength - Determines which strength weapons you can wield, and increases damage in weapons that scale with strength. Also provides some resistances. This is the primary stat of strength builds (also shocking, I know). Soft caps at 40, firm caps at 59, hard caps at 99.
Dexterity - Determines which dexterity weapons you can wield, as well as increasing damage in weapons that scale with dexterity. Also increases spell casting speed. Gives a little bit of defense/resistances. Obviously this is the primary stat for dex builds. Same caps as strength, but high dexterity (above 60) can still give some extra damage with each level.
Intelligence - Determines how effective sorceries are and which ones you can use. Adds damage to weapons/catalysts that scale with intelligence. Soft caps at 40, firm caps at 60, hard caps at 99. Primary stat for pure mage builds, also used by pyromancers.
Faith - Determines how effective miracles are and which ones you can use. Increases damage in weapons/catalysts that scale with faith. Main stat of faith builds dealing with miracles, and also important for pyromancers.
Luck - Determines how often the enemies drop items, increases resitances a bit, and determines how often bleed and poison "proc" on an enemy. This stat is primarily leveled by people doing bleed builds.
It is with some combination of those nine stats that you will create you custom build to romp through the lands of Lothric and defeat the Lords Of Cinder. Simple, right? Well, even with all that information, I'm sure you're still a little lost as to where to start, what to level, and what kind of build you want to pursue since this is all still a bit foreign at this point. Let's talk about the next most relevant topic which is
Thus far you've heard me refer to strength, dexterity, quality, and several other types of builds. In truth, there are seemingly endless possibilities for how you can build your character in DS3 since there are so many weapons, infusions (we'll get to that), stats, and spells. Once you get a good handle on the game, you will have all sorts of ideas for novel builds, and indeed that is half the fun of this game. Your first playthrough is only the beginning, and soon you'll be daydreaming about build ideas in your spare time, rabid to get home and start a new file to test it all out.
From now until the end of this guide, I'm going to exclude all discussion of magic builds including pyromancy. At the end there will be a brief section about magic basics, but in truth the spells and miracles of Dark Souls are a whole other guide in and of themselves, and are not particularly noob-friendly. If you're the adventurous type, or just want to prove me wrong, then by all means read the magic section at the end and experiment to your heart's content. For now though, lets discuss some common melee build types.
A Quick Word On Armor
Armor is important in DS3, but what's most important is that you are wearing some form of armor in every slot. There are many different sets in the game, and most will drop as individual pieces from enemies wearing them. You will occasionally find full sets, which you can equip or mix and match to your liking. Typically, heavier armor comes with better resistances, but there are some exceptions. For most new players, you will want to wear the best armor (most resistances) that you can while still keeping your equip load reasonable. If you open armor in the Equipment screen, you can hover over different pieces and it will show you how they stack up to what you currently have on. Blue values mean a piece is better at certain stats than what you are wearing, red means it's worse. You will find that some sets have high physical resistance but low elemental resistance, and some are the opposite. Most armors have a decent mix of physical and elemental resistance. Play around a bit to see what works for you.
It is important to note that for all builds you will want to keep your "equip load" below 70% at all costs. If your equip load is 70% or higher, you will "fat roll", which is a much slower roll with one frame less invulnerability. You will also be slower to recover from a fat roll, so ALWAYS make this one of your top priorities with any build. Lowering equip load to 30% or less will result in faster move speed and will also make you roll farther, but this is not typically a viable way to play the game since it limits armor options dramatically. Equip load can be found near the top right of the Equipment screen, and remember that if you need more equip load, you will need to level vitality or choose lighter armor/weapons.
Strength builds focus primarily on acquiring a (typically heavy) strength weapon, and putting points into strength, endurance, and vitality. Strength builds tend to result in tanky characters whose weapons swing a little slow but do a ton of damage. Heavy weapons use a ton of stamina, and that is how the game is balanced. If you could swing an ultra-greatsword as fast and frequently as a straight sword, no one would ever use straight swords since the larger swords do much more damage. Strength builds can take some getting used to since the slower weapons mean that positioning and timing are very important. It's easy to get overwhelmed by a mob of enemies when you can only do one attack every second or two. A typical strength build might look something like this by late game:
With the rest of the stats at about where they started for their class of choice. Dexterity will usually be at the minimum possible value to wield the weapon of their choice. The ideal weapon for a strength build typically either has very good natural strength scaling or is infused with a heavy gem. Common weapons include ultra-greatswords, axes, and hammers. We'll get to weapon scaling next but for now just keep that in mind. Most strength builds will use the weapon with two hands, which grants a strength bonus of 50%. This is why strength builds should never level strength beyond 66, since with the two-hand bonus you essentially have 99 strength, which is the hard cap.
Dexterity or "pure dex" builds focus on acquiring a fast weapon that scales well with dexterity and putting stat points into vigor, endurance, dexterity, and maybe a little strength or luck. Since dex weapons are on the lighter side, dex builds don't require high vitality unless the player wants to wear heavier armor. You may have heard jokes about dex builds being for "casuals" or that you shouldn't tell anyone that you level dex. While I am a strength player to the core, it shames me to admit that dexterity builds are indeed viable. A dexterity build might look something like this by late game:
With vitality at the minimum needed for armor of choice and maybe a few points in luck or more strength depending on weapon.
The ideal weapon for a dexterity build is one that scales naturally with dexterity or has been infused with a sharp gem. Katanas, straight swords, and twin blades are classic dex weapons and do well with sharp infusions typically. Dexterity builds focus on elusiveness by rolling in and out of combat while unleashing a flurry of attacks when possible. Dexterity weapons swing fast and often, so many hits can be landed subsequently by a skilled player. It is common for dex builds to either use a shield in the off-hand, or occasionally dual wield weapons in the case of something like a twinblade. Many shields in the game grant some sort of passive effect that couples well with dex weapons, so often the shield can serve as a pseudo-fifth ring slot. Try out a few options and see what works for you if you choose this path.
"Quality" builds describe builds that have equal (or close to equal) amounts of strength and dexterity. This name comes from the first Souls game, Demon Souls. Quality builds are a great build for a new player since they offer respectable damage and the ability to use a fast weapon while still gaining some of the benefits of leveling strength (more physical defense and resistances). Additionally, many weapons scale naturally with both strength and dex, which means that they will have more damage when both stats are leveled than if you prioritized just one. With weapons that scale equally with strength and dex, you will start to get diminishing returns on damage once you hit the soft cap of 40 with either stat. For this reason, the goal is usually to have at least 40 strength and 40 dex by end-game. A typically quality build might look like this:
With vitality high enough to equip the chosen weapon and armor. Many weapons will work well with a quality build naturally, but even more weapons can work with a quality build when infused with the refined gem. As aforementioned, quality builds are a great choice for a new player since they provide a little of both worlds and there are so many weapons that work well with 40 in both stats. A specialized dex or strength build with the right weapon in the hands of a skilled player will typically outperform a quality build, but quality builds are so named for a reason - they are solid, and they just plain work.
I had considered typing a description of bleed builds here as well, but while they are certainly simple enough for a new player, there are a few different types and there are lots of guides out there already pertaining to more specific builds like bleed, dex/faith, hybrid pyromancer builds, etc, so if you are interested then I would encourage you to explore them but not to get in over your head with a complex build before you are ready. Regarding bleed builds, suffice it to say that there are some weapons that have inherent bleed, which is dictated by luck, so by putting points in both dexterity and luck, it is possible to make a build with respectable damage and high bleed potential. These builds often rely on either sharp infusion or hollow infusion. Speaking of infusions, it's time to talk about.
Almost all of the weapons in Dark Souls 3 have some sort of natural scaling, which means that their damage is directly related to one or more of your stats. All weapons also have an "attribute requirement", which means that in order to wield it, you will need sufficiently high strength, dex, or sometimes even faith or intelligence. All weapons in the game (except one) can be upgraded, and most can be infused. To upgrade or infuse a weapon, you will need to visit Andre the Blacksmith at Firelink Shrine.
In order to upgrade a weapon, you need:
Titanite (Shards, Large Shards, Chunks) - This is for most weapons.
Titanite Scales - This is for weapons made from boss souls.
Twinkling Titanite - This is for unique weapons, typically dropped by tough enemies or NPC's.
In order to infuse a weapon, you need the appropriate gem. Gems will be found as you progress through the game, and in order to use some gems you will need to find and give Andre the appropriate coal. Since this is a no-spoilers guide, we won't get into gem and coal locations, but suffice it to say that sometimes you will find a gem that you cannot use to infuse a weapon until later in the game when you find the appropriate coal. Some gems, such as the refined gem and the raw gem, can be infused by Andre without the need for a coal of any sort.
So what is weapon scaling exactly? To explain, lets bring in my trusty Uchigatana +5. Take a look at the area of the screen under the picture of the weapon and you will see a few things. The first is attribute bonus, and the second is attribute requirement. You will also notice that there are little pictures to represent stats. There is a flexed bicep (STR), an open hand (DEX), an open book (INT), and a star (FTH). So we can see that the Uchigatana requires 11 strength, 16 dexterity, and does not require intelligence or faith. Easy enough? Good.
Above that we can see "attribute bonus", and this is what people refer to as scaling. So for this plain old Uchigatana with no infusions, we can see that it has "C" scaling in dex and "E" scaling in strength with no intelligence or faith scaling at all. Because the Uchigatana has higher scaling and requirements in dex than strength, we can tell it is a dex weapon.
The attribute bonus scale goes S-A-B-C-D-E in order from best to worst. That is to say that S scaling is the best, A is the second best, and so on down to E which is the worst. If S seems out of place, just pretend that it stands for "Superior", or "Supreme" or "Stupididiotwhydidyouleveldex", whatever you want. Just know that S is the best, but S scaling is also very rare. Having a weapon with A or B scaling in your primary attribute(s) by late game is usually more than enough.
So how can we improve (or in some cases worsen) a weapon's scaling? Infusions!
Let's take a look at a few different types of infusions to see how they affect stat scaling. I didn't take screenshots for every single infusion and we won't go over all of them, but once you learn how they work, you will be able to figure the rest out just fine. Bear in mind that all of these screenshots were taken from a pyromancer build with very average dex, low strength, high intelligence, and high faith. You will see that as a result, the infusions that add intelligence and faith scaling perform much better for my particular build. If your character has high dex, high strength, or quality stats, the damage totals will be much different.
Let's start with a common one:
Raw infusions are interesting because they actually remove all stat scaling from a weapon, but they boost the base damage to compensate a bit. Raw infusions are best for the early game when you need a weapon to hit harder, but you aren't high enough level yet for your stat scaling to be relevant.
Take a look at this raw Uchigatana. We can see that there are now dashes under all the stats in attribute bonus and the weapon damage has been set at a flat 213. Now because my character did have about 25 dexterity, 213 actually happens to be the exact same amount of damage that the regular Uchigatana had, but that won't always be the case. In the very early game, raw infusions will almost always be the best choice for sheer damage. Once your stats become more impressive, switching to a more appropriate infusion will always be better long-term. So let's look at another example.
Here's the same Uchigatana +5 but infused with a refined gem. We can see that compared to the original that dex scaling is still a C, but strength scaling has improved to C as well. That said, it came at the cost of some base damage. Infusions will almost always reduce the base damage of the weapon a bit to compensate for the added stat scaling. So with my pyromancer build, refined gem is defintely not the right infusion, but if I had a quality build then it would be a lot better since I would have higher dex and strength to really benefit from the better scaling.
Here's the same exact weapon with a sharp infusion. So we've maintained our E scaling in strength but oh baby, now we have A scaling in dex. Even with just mediocre dex stats, the A scaling has boosted our total damage quit a bit up to 235. You can really see how a dex weapon benefits from a sharp infusion, and you can imagine how much higher the damage would be if I had 40 or 50 dex.
Here's our classic Uchigatana back again with a heavy infusion. As you can see, we have lost all dex scaling and now have C scaling in strength. If you recall, we had C scaling in strength with the refined gem, but we also still had C scaling in dex, so the heavy infusion on this weapon is in fact hot garbage. Typically, heavy infusions on dex weapons are terrible. Likewise, sharp infusions on strength weapons tend to be very bad. The main goal of using the sharp gem or the heavy gem is to enhance the natural scaling of either a dex or strength weapon, not to change the primary stat scaling. Avoid infusing strength weapons with sharp and vice versa.
So with those physical infusions out of the way, let's discuss elemental infusions. Elemental infusions add some form of magic damage to the weapon, and either remove all scaling or add scaling in faith/intelligence. In general, elemental infusions cannot be buffed with resins or spells, which means if you infuse a weapon with fire damage, you can't add lightning to it with Gold Pine Resin like you can with physical infusions. This can be a bit of a double edged sword, no pun intended. That said, elemental infusions are a great way to mix up your game play, or to get really good weapon damage on a build that has most of it's stats in faith/intelligence. Let's start with one of the most basic infusions:
The fire gem is available very early and can really boost your damage output for the first few areas. That said, it comes at the cost of removing all weapon scaling, so it's best reserved for builds with low stats, or sorcery/pyromancy builds that don't plan on leveling strength or dex. Here's our beloved Uchigatana infused with a fire gem. You can see that the fire infusion has removed all stat scaling, but if you look in the "attack power" section, it has gained 136 fire damage and the base physical damage is 136 as well. At first glance, this seems great because it's 278 combined damage, but in practice it may not always be as powerful as 278 physical damage. It will greatly depend on the enemy you are facing, since some enemies (or players in PvP) are resistant to fire. Again, the fire gem is best used when you have limited other options for damage, or occasionally as a backup/alternate weapon for enemies who are particularly weak to fire.
Crystal infusions are the first example of an elemental infusion that adds intelligence scaling. Oh boy oh boy, I really infused this Uchigatana five times for this guide. We can see that crystal infusion maintained a little bit of dex and strength scaling, but also gained B scaling in intelligence. The base damage was lowered a bit to compensate for the fact that it now scales with three stats. If we look under Attack Power, we can see that it now does 128 physical damage and 176 magic damage. Since my character has high intelligence, it's benefiting from the B scaling in intelligence. You can really start to see how the right elemental infusion for your build can boost the damage of a weapon. This is better exemplified with other infusions.
Chaos infusions add fire damage just like the fire gem does, BUT chaos infusions add scaling in faith as well as intelligence, while also preserving some strength/dex scaling. Here is my late game fire weapon on my pyromancy build, a Chaos Lothric Knight Sword +10. I know you were hoping for another Uchigatana, but bear with me. I chose this particular sword for this build because I saw that it gained very high (A) scaling in both faith and intelligence when infused with chaos. Since those were my highest stats, it was a no-brainer. You can see that on my build, the sword now does 147 physical damage and 349 fire damage, for 496 total damage. While this seems excellent, please bear in mind that since most of the damage is fire, this sword can become quite weak against a fire resistant enemy. For this reason, it's always good to have a backup weapon if you rely on elemental infusions. An excellent choice is
Hot damn, I have a dark version of the Lothric Knight Sword too. The dark gem, like chaos, adds faith and intelligence scaling while preserving some strength and dex scaling. The difference is that it adds dark damage instead of fire. Many enemies - particularly some bosses - are weak to dark, so dark infused weapons can be good provided that you have the faith and intelligence to make the damage high.
So overall, elemental infusions can either be very mediocre, or extremely potent depending on your build. If you like the idea of dealing extra magic damage during a fight, but you need to infuse your weapon sharp, heavy, or refined, then you can always buff your weapon with either resins or bundles. Resins last longer than bundles, and there are many types of each. You will find both resins and bundles out in the world, or you can purchase some from the Shrine Handmaiden. Giving her various ashes will unlock new items, including new resins, sometimes in limited quantities. If you are really having trouble with a boss, try buffing your weapon with a resin to make it easier. You may find that a certain boss is weak to lightning, so buffing with Gold Pine Resin makes the fight a cake walk. The best way to find out is by experimenting.
A final note on infusions is that not all weapons can be infused or buffed. Typically boss weapons that upgrade with titanite scale cannot be infused or buffed, and often weapons that reinforce with twinkling titanite cannot be infused either. There are a few weapons that reinforce with regular titanite but still cannot be infused or buffed, and this is typically because they have some sort of auxillary effect. A good example of this is the Butcher Knife, which has a slight lifesteal effect, and thus might be too strong if it could be buffed or infused.
In this section we will briefly discuss a few items that you will encounter during your game that may seem confusing at first. We won't get into item locations, just instructions on what to do when you find them.
Estus Shards - Take these to Andre the Blacksmith and use them to reinforce your estus flask, increasing it's number of uses.
Undead Bone Shards - Burn these in the Firelink Shrine bonfire to make your estus flask restore more HP or FP.
Embers - Consume embers to gain 30% more HP and gain the ability to summon phantoms for areas or bosses. Comes with risks, more on that later.
Ashes and Coals - Take ashes to the Shrine Handmaiden to unlock new items. Take coals to Andre the Blacksmith to unlock new infusions.
White Sign Soapstone - Use to place a summon sign on the ground to allow yourself to be summoned to help other players.
Black Separation Crystal - Use to send friendly phantoms home or to leave a world you have been summoned to/invaded.
Boss Souls - Every boss you defeat will drop a boss soul. You can either consume these for a large amount of souls, or you can take them to Ludleth at Firelink shrine and have him make an item/weapon out of them. You will need to give him the Transposing Kiln first, which you will get once you beat an early boss.
Resins and Bundles - Put in your quick item slots and use them to buff your weapon before a fight, provided it can be buffed. Typically applies about 90-120 damage of the element of choice. Resins last 60 seconds, bundles last about 10 seconds.
There are many more items in the game, some a little confusing, but the descriptions do an okay job of telling you what they do. If you are really lost on a particular item, you can always Google it. Let's move on to the penultimate section:
If you have a valid internet connection, Dark Souls 3 will typically start in online mode by default. While playing online is not necessary at all, it does add a very fun and exciting element to the game. Sometimes it will make the game easier, such as summoning help for boss fights, and other times it will make the game harder, such as when you get invaded. There are also several covenants in DS3 which have various roles and also various rewards for fulfilling your duty as a covenant member. We'll briefly discuss invasions and help summoning, then get into covenants.
Embers, Phantoms, and Invasions
Consuming an ember will grant you 30% more HP and will make summon signs appear on the ground if there are other players in your same area looking to help. The caveat is that any time you are embered, you can be invaded. An invasion is when another player comes into your game to try and kill you. While some people invade just for fun, there are also some perks to invading since if they kill you, they get your ember and also a Pale Tongue, which is a reward for one of the covenants. You WILL get invaded eventually if you play online, so prepare yourself accordingly. When you get invaded, a notification will appear on your screen and you will become unable to rest at bonfires or use your homeward bones. You are stuck in the area until either you or the invader dies, you enter the boss arena, or they leave via Black Seperation Crystal. The good news is, you have some options.
If you feel bold, you may want to just attempt to kill the invader. All invaders will be roughly the same level as you with similar weapon upgrades, so it's rarely a hopeless fight. You also have the advantage of being embered, and you have more estus charges since when you invade your estus gets cut in half. Additionally, you also have the option of summoning phantoms to help if other players have left summon signs on the ground in the area where you're at. If you're killed by an invader, you will lose your ember and drop all of your souls wherever you die, so it's worth trying your best against them.
A good beginner strategy is to run back to the nearest bonfire so that if you do die, your souls aren't far away. Bonfires also tend to be a place where people leave summon signs, so you may get lucky and find some help. This isn't the most honorable thing, but save the honor for your next few playthroughs. You're new damn it, how dare they invade you? If you think you may need help, then summon it. You will sometimes hear invaders complain about always facing multiple enemies or "gankers", but frankly that's what they signed up for, so don't feel bad about bringing in help.
You also have opportunity to invade other players if you want, and I encourage everyone to try invading at least once or twice in their first playthrough. To invade, you will need either a Cracked Red Eye Orb, or just a regular Red Eye Orb, which can be acquired from an NPC eventually. Invade to your hearts content, but beware that you may run into a group of three bloodthirsty phantoms who all surround you and kill you quickly. That's the risk you take. You will drop all of your souls wherever you died during the invasion, so it's best to invade only after spending most of your souls.
Whenever you are embered, you may see summon signs on the ground near bonfires or boss arenas. If the summon signs are white, orange, or yellow, they are friendly summons. If they are red, they are enemies. If they are purple, it could go either way, but odds are they are enemies.
You can summon friendly phantoms to help you work through an area, or to help you fight a boss. These phantoms may be other players, or they may be in-game NPC's that you have either defeated or spoken to. If you summon a phantom to help with a boss, be aware that the boss will gain a bit more HP, so there is a slight tradeoff. That said, if you are really struggling with a boss and need help, often having a phantom present to distract them from you occasionally is well worth the additional HP to chop through. I recommend that you try to beat every boss at least a few times solo before summoning help, but it's ultimately up to you.
As you progress thorough the game, you will discover certain covenants, and they all have a slightly different purpose. When you find a "shrine" for a covenant, typically you will get the covenant item, and then you can equip it on the Equipment screen to join that covenant. As you complete your "duties" for that covenant, you will gain covenant items, which can then be taken back to the shrine and turned in to advance your rank in the covenant. Typically you will get an item or spell as a reward for turning in ten covenant items at the shrine, and then again when once you've turned in thirty. You can change which covenant you are affiliated with at any time by just removing the covenant item from your equipment screen or replacing it with a new one. You can flip flop from covenant to covenant all you want, but beware that joining some covenants will change NPC interactions since they may be allied or enemies of that covenant. Here's a brief rundown of what the covenants do:
Way Of The Blue - The first covenant you can join. Having the item equipped will make it so that occasionally friendly phantoms are summoned to help you when you get invaded.
Blue Sentinels - This is the covenant that gets automatically summoned to help members of Way Of The Blue when they are invaded.
Blades of the Darkmoon - Late game version of the Blue Sentinels. Same duties and shrine.
Warriors of Sunlight - Primarily serve to help other players defeat bosses. You will see their summon signs outside of boss arenas. Join this covenant if you really like fighting bosses and helping other players.
Rosaria's Fingers - The invasion covenant. You don't need to be a Rosaria's Finger to invade, but invading is the main purpose of this covenant and you will gain this covenant item every time you kill a host as an invader regardless of what covenant you are in.
Mound Makers - Unpredictable covenant. Can invade or be summoned, and will always be a purple phantom. Some members choose to help the host, others choose to kill the host. Beware purple phantoms.
Watchdogs of Farron - Automatically summoned to invade "trespassers" of a certain area of the game. If you equip this covenant as soon as you get it, prepare to get summoned a lot. Since summoning is level-dependent this covenant becomes pretty useless once you pass a certain level since all players in the area you are "defending" are much lower than you.
Aldrich Faithful - Same concept as Watchdogs of Farron but for a different area later in the game. Becomes similarly useless past a certain level.
Spears of The Church - DLC only covenant, summons players as part of a certain bossfight.
It is not necessary for you to join a covenant, but it can add a new dimension to the game since it adds incentives to either help or annoy other players. Although this is guide is not meant to tell you exactly how to play the game, you may want to consider equipping Way Of The Blue early on if you are having trouble with invaders. In addition to helping you with invaders, it will get you used to seeing phantoms early on and familiarize you with online mechanics.
We'll wrap up with a few general tips and tricks.
If you are not planning to use much FP, visit Andre the Blacksmith and have him allot all of your estus into orange estus instead of having one blue estus charge like the game starts you with. This will give you more HP regen early on which can help a lot.
Get in the habit of talking to all NPCs to exhaust all dialogue. This game has various quests and storylines that can only be accessed by repeatedly talking to NPCs and sometimes doing other things for them. You can beat the game without ever interacting with NPC's besides the Fire Keeper, Andre, and the Handmaiden, but it's worth exploring all the NPCs on your first playthrough.
Don't get in the habit of selling armor or weapons early on just because you don't need them now. You never know when you might want a certain weapon because your build has changed, or when you might find a really nice piece of armor that you can't equip yet due to it's weight. In those moments, it's nice to have some random leggings/gloves/helms laying around that you can mix and match to make your armor set work.
The most important thing in this game is to have fun with it. There will be times when you are more frustrated than you have ever been at a video game, and times where you are more proud than you have ever been of yourself. This game is both punishing and rewarding, but I promise you that if you stick it out when the game is toughest, you will improve your skills and enjoy the game that much more.
I hope you have a better idea now about the basic mechanics of the game and feel confident to go out into Lothric and slay all who stand in your way. I will likely periodically edit this guide to keep it up to date or to tweak any errors/omissions. Feel free to leave feedback below, and don't forget to praise the sun.