From the Nexus to the Firelink Shrine to Majula, the dark fantasy realms of From Software have always had a place of serenity to hang out, resupply and chat with a variety of curated NPC guests gathered from adventures around the world. Access to the hub realm of Elden Ring, known as the Roundtable Hold, does not come immediately upon starting the game, although it is possible to speed up access if the player meets the right conditions. Sometimes, when you come across a site of lost grace (checkpoints akin to bonfires in the Souls games) and rest, Melina appears and offers some interesting words of guidance or commentary on the Lands Between.
In an early encounter, Melina is the source of Torrent, the Spectral Steed and the ability to level up. On my quest, I met Melina again in a place of lost grace on Stormveil’s hill, just before entering the “second” zone, a submerged biome filled with shallow water, deep water, semi-submerged buildings, giant lobsters, turtle warriors, and Lake. It’s important to note that you can just walk into this area (and the area east of Limgrave, foreboding wastelands with a blood-red sky) without ever dealing with bosses. You could potentially go to this checkpoint and start this encounter with Melina almost immediately after getting Torrent, but it’s impossible to say what the exact circumstances were that led to the encounter. During this event, Melina drags the player into the Roundtable Hold, a place where tainted, guided by grace, gather. The Roundtable Hold is only accessible via fast travel and exists outside the world map.
While many of the player upgrade features are accessible at any location of the lost grace checkpoint, in addition to many NPCs, there are additional services for the player to unlock and upgrade. There are many NPCs that normally exist here, but a few more are added after you meet them in the world. Roderika, the “ghost tuner” I met in a broken-down cabin, dropped by after I met her, as did the enigmatic undead fighter “D” I met near the battle with the Bonebeckoner Mariner. D even has some new information for me and marks my map with a red X where I can find someone relevant to the Beast Clergymen. I’ve never been able to watch that, but I suppose it’s worth investigating.
“Collected” characters join an impressive roster here in the Roundtable Hold, a place of majesty, sort of a dark version of an Arthurian round table aesthetic. Blacksmith Hewg is here, a prisoner, hammering away at finely crafted weapons – this is where the player can come to upgrade gear beyond the paltry +3 offered on the DIY anvils in the overworld. Hewg is quite similar in appearance and behavior to Souls’ Andre, which is not so unexpected. However, he has quite a few dialogue options beyond the normal “hey, I want to upgrade my sword” that players can dive into.
The Roundtable Hold contains a curiosity that I never found the functionality for during my extended play session, The Two Maiden Husks. This rather morbid duo asks the player for “bell bearings” that I have no idea how to get – or what the rewards would be for turning them in. The Two Maiden Husks are just one mystery in this hub, another that’s under a balcony in a wide arena. Listen, in any From Software game you know what’s going to happen if you enter or enter a large arena with a lot of bloodstains, even in an area otherwise considered safe. When I jump off a balcony, I engage in an incredibly one-sided battle with a Frenzy-Tongue, supposedly some sort of augmented superhuman who isn’t too happy to see me. Using a huge scythe (yes, I’d say he looks and acts like Gehrman from Bloodborne) and ice magic, this character is tearing me apart in seconds. Obviously, later in the experience, I’ll probably have to look into the depths of the Roundtable Hold.
There are many other NPCs and blocked rooms in the hold, but we’ll highlight one more. Fia, the deathbed companion, hugs the player in a small bedroom. This hug gives the player a special consumable that increases balance, and apparently you can return to collect more if you don’t already have one.
The Roundtable Hold, even in the early stages of the game I visited, was definitely alive with characters and conveniences. If we extrapolate the early game hub, it’s pretty safe to say it will be From Software’s biggest hub to date in terms of characters, interactions, and development.