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I’ve made a huge mistake in Elden Ring

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I killed an apparently harmless dragon, and now I feel terrible

In Elden Ring, it’s killed or be killed — brutally. The game is designed to put you ever on the defensive, ready to lash out before you yourself can be lashed. But that shoot first, ask questions later mindset led to an event I truly and deeply regret. I killed a dragon, and I feel really awful about it.

In Elden Ring, even the damn flowers are dangerous, but contrary to the game’s reputation, not everything in the Lands Between wants to kill you. There are those cute rodents that scurry about and delightful little donut-rolling sheep that exist only to bleat at you as you zip by them on Torrent. I’ve had so many peaceful moments sitting on the edge of a cliff, gazing in wondrous awe at the golden Erdtree with a convocation of eagles for company. I’d never think to kill any of these creatures because, for one, they’re worth a pitiful amount of runes, and secondly, they’re harmless. (Editor’s note: killing the calm, wise old tortoises should be punished by a full game restart, even if it’s an accident.)

Dragons inspire no such reverence. Dragons are assholes. So when a friend told me there were lots of runes to be had for an easy dragon kill, I was all ears. He told me to bring a weapon that’ll cause the bleed status effect, showed me the place on the map and sent me off. I found the dragon sleeping in Caelid, the closest place Elden Ring has to a living hell. It was a huge creature, five times bigger than the smaller dragons that prowled around it. I had to be very careful, deathly afraid that aggroing one of the smaller ones would wake the big one. As instructed, I snuck around to the dragon’s tail and started wailing on it.

The dragon didn’t move. It didn’t seem to register the tiny human astrologer with the samurai sword poking it in the butt, kinda like how I don’t really notice a mosquito bite until long after it’s gone. I’d been warned that the dragon’s roar would bring the smaller ones crashing down upon me, but that didn’t happen. It only roared once, affecting me with a couple of debuffs, but I remained unharmed as I slowly whittled its massive health down to nothing, the bleed effect taking out big chunks at regular intervals.

Then the dragon died with barely a whimper to mark its passing, and I felt like the biggest piece of shit.

That was not how dragons in Elden Ring behaved. I already defeated the dragon in Limgrave that drops down on players’ “surprise motherfucker” style, and I attempted to fight the Glintstone Dragon in Liurnia before its magic breath one-shot my pathetic ass. I expected to run for my life the minute this dragon showed an ounce of fight, and it never did, and I can’t help but feel like I’ve committed some grave sin.

This mistake is part of the reason why I should have waited longer before playing Elden Ring. I wanted to give Tarnished lore enthusiasts time to explain what all these creatures are, their motivations, and their storylines. It is unusual for a dragon to just let a player kill it unanswered, so now I think I’ve killed some gentle creature who’s actually really cool. Maybe it just wanted me to help it cure the blight that’s infecting its children — something I’d know if I had done some obscure quest instead of just showing up with a sword. And now I’ve destroyed any chance of resolving that plotline and earning some kind of “Friend of Dragons” achievement. I don’t even know its name. When a player aggros a boss in Elden Ring, usually a giant health bar appears at the bottom so you know the name of the foe that will likely kill you several times before you figure them out. This dragon just died, nameless and sad.

Now, did I spend my blood money to go up nine levels in one big chunk and one of the five dragon hearts I earned to get a fancy new dragon incantation?

Yes.

Did I feel terrible about it?

Also yes.

Hell is a real place in Elden Ring, but it’s not Caelid — it’s my own soul.