For the past decade, the Dark Souls trilogy has been known as one of the most difficult challenges in gaming. You might say Dark Souls is the Dark Souls of video games. And any veteran player of the series will tell you that for every supportive, wholesome, sun-praising friend you encounter in the dismal kingdom of Lordran, there seems to be a plethora more of selfish, manipulative monsters who want to stab you in the back. Both figuratively and literally.
Just like in real life, it’s important to be able to identify and protect yourself from toxicity, and with the release of Elden Ring right around the corner, we thought now would be a good time to review ten of the most toxic characters in the Souls series so you don’t get hurt down the road.
The most obviously toxic piece of garbage on our list, this guy just won’t leave you alone. Patches appears in every Dark Souls game (except DSII), including Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne, andevery single time, lies to your face to get you into a sticky situation. He even follows you to the end of days in the Dark Souls III DLC “The Ringed City” just to kick you down a dark hole one last time. To make matters worse, if you manage to escape his traps, he tries to gaslight you into forgiving him, and bribing you with a gift if you refuse to let his transgressions slide. Do not forgive him. You deserve better.
Patches may be the most obvious person to avoid on our list, but he does have redeeming qualities that save him from a higher-ranking spot. For one, he’s motivated by a desire to punish the greedy and help the helpless. He even saves another NPC’s life in DSIII. And in every instance where he’s tricking you, he’s really just testing how greedy you are. Patches exists to make the player consider their own motivations, but he is still a slimy, gaslighting son of a bitch. Since he has appeared in every Souls game From Software has made under Miyazaki’s direction, he may even appear in Elden Ring. If you see a bald man in leather armor standing near a precarious situation, be very wary.
9. Maughlin the Armorer – Dark Souls II
Every time I get to Majula in DSII and meet Maughlin, I’m always reminded of Instagram and TikTok hustle culture bros. The kind of guy that worships Musk and Bezos and lives by the phrase “rise and grind.” Maughlin left his homeland to start an armor business, and he’s eager to be your friend at first. But as soon as he starts to see some success, he starts to revel in his wealth and forget the people that got him to where he is. He even forgets you at one point, despite you being his number-one customer.
Maughlin seems like the kind of person to use other people to propel their career and then discard them when they’re no longer useful. He’s fake, and he’s not worth your time. Visit him for the occasional armor set, but don’t let him get too close. Spend your time with the real ones in Majula.
8. Licia of Lindelt – Dark Souls II
On the surface, Licia seems to be a well-meaning travelling priestess who only wishes to teach people the power of miracles. But talk to her long enough and she’ll slip up, revealing she’s a simple con artist looking to make a quick buck (or a small fortune of souls). After you meet her in a tower in Heide’s Tower of Flame, she will move to Majula, where she’ll “help” you open a door you need to progress… for a hefty fee, of course. If you call her out on her schemes, she will fight you to the death. Winning the fight will allow you to progress without paying her price, with her ironically paying the ultimate price.
Con artists who try to rob you of your precious souls are not uncommon in the Dark Souls series, but they can be avoided. Just like in real life, if a bargain seems suspicious, it probably is. Particularly if progression seems to be blocked until you can pay a toll, there is always a way to avoid it. Save your souls and treat yourself to an extra level or a stockpile of firebombs. You. Deserve. It.
7. Hawkwood – Dark Souls III
For most of the game, Hawkwood is a friendly, if majorly pessimistic, character who gives you a little lore context for your grand adventure. He mostly keeps to himself and hands out helpful items at key points in the story. He seems to have all but given up hope of ever amounting to anything. But late in the game, you run into him in an unlikely area – Archdragon Peak, the hidden final home of the descendants of the everlasting dragons. You can choose to help him acquire a set of two ancient dragon stones. If you do, you each take one relic and part ways peacefully… at least until his bitch ass decides he wants both dragon stones for himself. The two of you then duel to the death to decide who gets to keep both stones.
Hawkwood is a fair-weather friend. He’s more than willing to help you and be your friend until you have something he wants. Then he’ll stab you in the back for it with a smile on his face. Always be a little suspicious of helpful characters until you know you can trust them. There are plenty of friendly characters with whom you can foster wholesome friendships, just be sure to trust the right people.
6. Yoel of Londor – Dark Souls III
Yoel may be a controversial inclusion to this list. After all, his only goal is to help you grow into the lord of hollows you deserve to be. Ultimately, he is a good fellow with noble goals. But this isn’t a list about the most evil characters in the Souls series, it’s a list about the most toxic, and Yoel is definitely toxic. After you save him from certain death, he offers to “tease out your true strength,” giving you five levels for free! Nifty! Little do you know he conveniently forgot to tell you that you’ll start to slowly go hollow, making you look gradually more and more like an old raisin.
He’s not technically lying to you, but he’s not really telling you the whole truth either. He also really, really wants you to be hollow, which makes the whole relationship feel selfish and one-sided. He basically tricked you into getting irreversible plastic surgery, which is definitely not cool. And if you do find a way to reverse it, he’ll even get angry and ghost you, a tell-tale sign of an abusive relationship. All jokes aside, getting five free levels in Dark Souls III’s early game is extremely valuable, and you can always just wear a helmet. Always invite Yoel to Firelink shrine in DSIII, but avoid people like Yoel like the plague in any other situation.
5. Mild-Mannered Pate and Creighton the Wanderer – Dark Souls II
I’m including Pate and Creighton here as a single entry because their questlines are so intertwined, but both of them are terrible. Pate is basically the DSII version of Patches, a swindling trickster who manipulates you the first time you meet him and several other times through the game. Creighton initially seems like an innocent man who was victimized by Pate, but is later revealed to be a bloodthirsty serial killer. And to make matters worse, they’re ready to let their friendship fry as they try to convince you to help them kill the other.
Pate is another slippery bastard like Patches who continually tries to put you in harm’s way, and Creighton is, again for the people in the back, a serial killer. I’d normally advise anyone willing to listen to not get involved in other people’s personal drama, but in this case there’s potential loot involved. Kill one of them and talk to the other to get a reward. Then kill the other to rid the world of two brigands and come out richer for it.
4. Ringfinger Leonhard – Dark Souls III
This guy is one of the most obviously evil characters in the series. From the first time you meet him it’s all “invade and pillage” this, and “give yourself to Rosaria” that. He introduces the player to the game’s invasion system, which allows you to enter other players’ worlds and attempt to murder them for sport. While invasions are some of the most fun you can have in DSIII, Leonhard is a terrible influence and is clearly disliked by other NPCs in Firelink Shrine. If you have a conscience, it should be abundantly clear why Leonhard is toxic. Just stay away from mass murdering cultists. Period.
3. Knight Lautrec – Dark Souls
Lautrec is kind of like the original Leonhard. While he isn’t as obviously evil as Leonhard early in the game, he does murder the firekeeper at Firelink Shrine to steal her soul. He also charges you an arm and a leg for a “tip” about the cleric Reah’s whereabouts in the Tomb of the Giants. He clearly does not care about her safety.
You may be wondering why Lautrec is higher than Leonhard on this list. Again, this is a list about toxic NPCs, not objectively evil NPCs. Leonhard is an evil psychopath, but an honest evil psychopath. He may have a longer rap sheet than Lautrec, but at least he’s based. Lautrec is your friend until you’re off killing half-naked spider women somewhere between the sewer and hell and then he kills your favorite firekeeper behind your back. It may be best to take a page out of Patches’ book and kick him down a flight of stairs before he can do too much harm.
2. Frampt – Dark Souls
He’s a fucking giant snake with horse teeth and saggy moustache skin! He manipulates you into linking the fire and continuing the cycle, sustaining a world where mankind suffers, enslaved to the few remaining gods. He has an identical twin brother who tells you to do the exact opposite, only adding to your confusion. Neither brother’s motivations are entirely clear, and your only hope of understanding which choice to make is to take a deep dive on Dark Souls lore (likely guided by VaatiVidya’s YouTube channel).
Frampt knows that what he’s telling you to do is incredibly difficult and will ultimately cause more pain and suffering for the player character and for humanity as a whole. He’s cunning, manipulative, and serves humanity’s captors without clear motive. Manipulative people are the most toxic snakes you can let into your garden, and Frampt just happens to be a literal giant, ugly-ass snake. I would be shocked if this happens, but if Elden Ring happens to have a big ugly reptile giving you orders, be very suspicious. Even if it doesn’t, always be suspicious of the one giving you commands, especially if you don’t fully understand what’s going on.
1. Gwyn – Dark Souls
The man himself. The god, the king, the legend. While Gwyn isn’t strictly an NPC in any of the Dark Souls games, he is the most important character in the series’ lore. He tricked humans into bearing the dark sign and enslaved them in the city of Londor like cattle whose only purpose was to sustain the first flame. To make matters worse, the legend told in the opening cinematic of the original Dark Souls frames Gwyn as a great hero who saved the world from the influence of the dragons, and conveniently forgets to mention the cowardice that followed.
Like Frampt, Gwyn is a manipulative liar who selfishly tricks people. Unlike Frampt, Gwyn tricked the entire human race, while Frampt only had to trick a single naïve undead. Gwyn is, without a doubt, the most toxic character in the whole Dark Souls universe. Unfortunately there’s no way to distance yourself from Gwyn, since he’s responsible for the state of the entire world, but he is a perfect example of the kinds of vile behavior you see in characters throughout the lands of Lordran, Drangleic, and Lothric. We don’t know much about Elden Ring lore as of yet, but if there’s a powerful, seemingly benevolent deity or king at the center of the mythology, I would ask some questions.
Hopefully by going through some examples of characters we let get too close in the past, we can avoid making the same mistakes in the future. There are bound to be some new types of unsavory characters we’ve never seen before in Elden Ring, and we may even get hurt again by trusting someone we probably shouldn’t have, but we’re only human. We can only ever hope to be better (or in this case, git gudder,) than we were in the past.