A bronze titan brandishing a steel broadsword stands tall at the mouth of an ashy volcano. In front of him is a weary adventurer, helmet teetering on his head, with a plume of arrows sticking out of his back. This image, of unknown origin, was uploaded to r/EldenRing, the subreddit for the hotly anticipated new game from Souls studio FromSoftware in collaboration with Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, and thus far, it’s gathered 1,100 upvotes. “When you finally gonna defeat glaive master Hodir,” reads the title. “But it turns out there are hidden archers in the back shooting you to death.”
A casual observer might assume that this is a meme based on the collective experience of those who have actively played Elden Ring. We all remember our first encounter with the indomitable Hodir, right? What a gauntlet that was! It took me a dozen tries. But no, here’s the thing: The gaming community hasn’t seen anything new about Elden Ring since a two minute, 20-second announcement trailer from E3 2019.
That teaser featured zero gameplay, a lean montage of cryptic images, and four-and-a-half lines of equally cryptic dialogue that gave us little to no detail on the story. Since then, it’s been a famine. We’re well past 2020’s E3 season, we’re finished with the keynote showcases for the forthcoming PS5 and Xbox Series X, Gamescom is in the rearview mirror, and TGS just came and went. Throughout all of those shows, there hasn’t been a shred of new information on Hidetaka Miyazaki’s next opus, and the Elden Ring fan community is on their 15th consecutive month of having nothing to talk about. So, they’ve taken matters into their own hands by generating what can only be described as “fake lore”—images, item descriptions, and character models designed by users in order to reminisce, hypothesize, and wax poetic on the Elden Ring tidbits that FromSoftware is simply refusing to offer. More directly: If it is going to take this long to learn anything about Elden Ring, the fans are going to go ahead and create Elden Ring themselves.
Demon’s Souls PlayStation 5 Screenshots
In one image, a player imagines a dusky hubzone called Gaoth Respite, offering a scant bit of refuge from the overwhelming grimness of the rest of the wasteland. (A typical Souls UI has been added, with Health and Stamina bars covering the top-left corner, and a Soul counter in the bottom.) Here, concept art has been created for Elken Forestborn, a Knight of the Green Order, one of the many imaginary factions the fans have dreamt up after being left to their own devices for so long. Here is a thread called Best Elden Ring Boss Fights Part Four, where users are arguing over weapon mechanics, secret phases, and difficulty spikes that will never appear in the video game. “People who didn’t vote for Ring Maiden weren’t wearing the Pendant of Burdens for the fight and it shows,” comments a user named Imperialvirtue. This runs deep.
There is a concept introduced in the first Dark Souls game called “hollowing.” It refers to a degeneration that the denizens of Lordran eventually face, as the hopelessness of undeath becomes too much to bear, which results in a semi-crippled state that your player-character eventually falls into. Ironically, some of the moderators of the Elden Ring subreddit believe that a similar fate has befallen their own community.
“It’s been a slow descent into hollowing over time,” one of them, who goes by Imomushi8 on the forum, tells IGN. “You can only break down a two-minute trailer so many times before you start coming up with your own ideas”. The lore, Imomushi8 explains, is also built on constantly dashed expectations. “there’s always talk and hope about possible news, and as every gaming event passes without new information, more and more people look to the fake lore and memes for a sort of comfort.”
At first, says Imomushi8, the moderation team wondered if they should crack down on imaginary Elden Ring lore. I mean, video game forums are supposed to be about video games, right? Not mutual delusion. But eventually, the leadership gave up on censoring the mania. “[We] realized, what else is there to talk about?” adds Imomushi8. Now, it’s become something of a metagame within the fandom. This fake lore goes deep. Some of the names, like the aforementioned Glaive Master Hodir, have recurred over and over again in fake lore penned by different users—like a bizarre shared universe owned and authored by the subreddit. A true ouroborus of gamer headcannon.
Every IGN FromSoftware Game Review
“My favorite posts are probably the ones that would seem entirely confusing to someone casually visiting the subreddit,” says Imomushi8, linking out to a thread that opens with an image of a stoic grey knight embossed with the words, “Shield Master Hagvir looks sick in the new trailer.” “A stranger to the subreddit might think, Shield Master Hagvir must be from Elden Ring? And maybe Glaive Master Hodir mentioned in the comments is also from the game? Where did OP get this image because it’s not from the trailer? Why are several people discussing Elden Ring DLC when the actual game doesn’t even have a release date?”
Elden Ring isn’t the only video game that’s under a complete media blackout. You can find a subreddit for Grand Theft Auto VI, the existence of which hasn’t been confirmed by Rockstar Games. However, that forum is not full of wild artificial story beats pulled from the hypothetical future of Los Santos; instead, it is home to a lot of gamers twiddling their thumbs, praying for an announcement on the horizon. That is what makes the FromSoftware fandom unique, explains Imomushi8. The esoterism of Dark Souls and Bloodborne has always encouraged fan theories, and in some ways, everyone naturally generates fake lore in their own minds after they discover some of the mysteries in Anor Londo.
Eventually, Elden Ring will get a release date. There will be more trailers, more gameplay showcases, and a more substantial hype cycle. When that day comes, most of the fake lore will probably dry up on the Elden Ring subreddit, as there will be real lore to focus on. In the meantime though, some of the forum’s denizens are doing their best to honor the canon that they’ve accidentally established. Right now, a handful of obsessives are congregated in a Discord channel, bringing life to a project called Elden Ring: Fake Lore Edition.
The goal, says Spriteblood, the Reddit user who initially kickstarted the venture, is to deliver a fan-made version of Elden Ring as a homage to the hollowing the community has endured together. The idea came from a rudimentary gameplay demo (turn your sound down a bit) that Spriteblood based off one of the prominent fake bosses that was posted to the subreddit. After that blew up, Spriteblood petitioned the player base to see if anyone was interested in helping build a fully-fledged game in the same tradition. Before long, Spriteblood had a team of “programmers, talented artists, music creators, and even pro voice actors,” who all wanted to contribute.
The team wants Fake Lore Edition to be available before Elden Ring makes its way to retail, so fans can quench their thirst for another FromSoftware adventure with or without Miyazaki’s involvement. Naturally, the themes, mechanics, and storytelling will echo those seen in the SoulsBorne games, so aficionados will feel right at home. Just like the real Elden Ring, the developers behind Fake Lore Edition haven’t revealed any fully-fledged gameplay trailers yet, but the makeshift studio has released some concept art and 3D models to innervate the base. The origin story is as weird and eldritch as any From saga; an Elden Ring slowly gathered strength in the forgotten depths of an internet message board. Now, it’s reconstituted into an actual video game. (Fans can keep up with the progress on the project’s very own Discord channel.)
This is the true nature of FromSoftware fans. Over the years they have developed a reputation as the ultimate grognards—sneering at any wannabes who couldn’t stomach the Old City werewolves, or the brutalizing tandem of Ornstein and Smough. But that’s a total misnomer. At their core, they are shamelessly, gleefully geeky. Who else would write legends of their own, while they wait for Miyazaki to chart the next path forward?
“We are constantly regarded as the ‘git gud’ community, a bunch of overconfident ‘superior’ gamers, but in reality, we aren’t,” concludes Reddit user THE_GUY, another Elden Ring fan who is working on Fake Lore Edition. “There is evidence already that we are some of the most dedicated and helpful people to play games with. I think this project truly exemplifies our passion and caring for these games in a way that most people would consider crazy or impossible.”
Luke Winkie is a writer and former pizza maker in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter.