From the Nexus to the Firelink Shrine to Majula, From Software’s dark fantasy realms have always had a place of respite to hang out, resupply, and talk to a variety of collected NPC guests gathered from adventures around the world. Access to Elden Ring’s hub realm, known as the Roundtable Hold, does not come right away when starting the game, though it may be possible to speed access given the player fulfills the right conditions. Sometimes when you come across a site of lost grace (checkpoints similar to bonfires in the Souls games) and rest, Melina will appear and offer some interesting words of guidance or commentary on the Lands Between.
During an early encounter, Melina is the source of Torrent, the Spectral Steed, and the ability to level up. On my quest, I encountered Melina again at a site of lost grace up the hill from Stormveil, right before entering the “second” zone, a sunken biome filled with shallow waters, deep waters, half-submerged buildings, giant lobsters, turtle warriors, and more. It’s important to note that you can just walk into this area (and the area to the east of Limgrave, foreboding wastelands with a blood-red sky) without ever dealing with any bosses at all. Potentially, one could head to this checkpoint and trigger this meeting with Melina almost immediately after picking up Torrent, but it’s impossible to tell what the exact circumstances were that led to the meeting. During this event, Melina whisks the player away to the Roundtable Hold, a place where tarnished ones guided by grace convene. The Roundtable Hold can only be accessed via fast travel and exists outside of the world map.
While many of the player upgrade functions can be accessed at any site of lost grace checkpoint, there are additional services for the player to unlock and upgrade here, alongside many NPCs. There are many NPCs that normally exist here, but some others will come along after you meet them in the world. Roderika the “spirit tuner” that I met in a broken-down shack came along after I met her, as did the enigmatic undead hunter “D” that I met near the battle with the Bonebeckoner Mariner. In fact, D has some new information for me and marks my map with a red X where I can locate someone relevant to the Beast Clergymen. I never got to go check that out, but I’m assuming it’s worth investigating.
“Collected” characters join an impressive roster here in the Roundtable Hold, which is a place of majesty, a sort of darker version of an Arthurian round table aesthetically. Blacksmith Hewg is located here, a prisoner, hammering away on finely crafted weapons – this is where the player can come to upgrade gear past the paltry +3 that’s offered at the do-it-yourself anvils in the overworld. Hewg is quite similar in appearance and demeanor to Souls’ Andre, which isn’t all that unexpected. However, he has quite a few dialogue options beyond the normal “hey, I want to upgrade my sword,” for players to dive into.
The Roundtable Hold contains a curiosity that I never found the functionality for during my extensive play session, The Two Maiden Husks. This rather morbid duo asks the player for “bell bearings” which I have no idea how to obtain – or what the rewards would be for turning them in. The Two Maiden Husks are just one mystery in this hub, another which lies below off a balcony in a wide arena area. Listen, in any From Software game, when you jump into or enter a wide arena with lots of bloodstains, you know what’s going to happen, even in an area that’s otherwise considered safe. Taking a jump off a balcony, I enter an incredibly one-sided battle with a Frenzy-Tongue, ostensibly some kind of amped-up superhuman that’s not too happy to see me. Using a huge scythe (Yes, I would say he looks and acts kind of like Gehrman from Bloodborne) and ice magic, this character tears me apart in seconds. Clearly, I’m probably supposed to peek down into the depths of the Roundtable Hold later in the experience.
Many other NPCs and blocked-off rooms exist in the hold, but we’ll highlight just one more. Fia, the deathbed companion, embraces the player in a small bedroom. This embrace gives the player a special consumable that increases poise, and ostensibly you can return to collect more if you’re not already holding one.
The Roundtable Hold, even at the early stage of the game that I visited, was absolutely alive with characters and conveniences. Extrapolating the hub out from the early game, it’s fairly safe to say it will be From Software’s biggest hub yet in terms of characters, interactions, and development.