Matt Bird writes all sorts of nonsense, but he dedicates a large chunk of his time to writing game walkthroughs.
Character creation can be a two-second or hour-long process, depending on the player. Picking a class, an origin, a body type, a skin color, facial features, build... all of it tends to get hidden under armor, of course, but the character creation process is still an important step towards getting started in many video games. Elden Ring is no exception, though here you have an extra wrinkle in choosing a Keepsake. Keepsakes are items that get thrown into your inventory from the beginning, and you have the option to pick just one from a sizable list of items. Which one should you choose?
This guide will help you choose a Keepsake when starting a new game of Elden Ring. Don't fret too much over this selection if you've already started the game, as the Keepsake won't make or break your playthrough. None of them are bad... it's just that some are better than others.
Let's start by having a look at each of the Keepsakes in turn and seeing what they do.
This option will forego taking a Keepsake altogether. If the process is stressing you out too much, or if you just want more of a challenge, none is the way to go.
Crimson Amber Medallion
An accessory, the Crimson Amber Medallion will increase your maximum HP while it is worn. This is a handy item for newcomers to the Souls genre, as you'll likely be getting hit a lot. In the long run, however, the Crimson Amber Medallion will probably wind up forgotten in your inventory as you get better accessories.
Lands Between Rune
A simple item. The Lands Between Rune is the same as the many other Runes you'll find in the game, and when used will grant you 3,000 Runes. Not a bad way to start out Elden Ring, as 3,000 Runes will instantly earn you a few levels within the first hour of play. It's gone after that, though, so if you want something with a more lasting legacy this is not the Keepsake of choice.
A word of caution: The Lands Between Rune is added to your equipped items, and can be used accidentally, similar to your Flasks, Firebombs, etc. Unequip the Lands Between Rune immediately. You won't get to use the Runes right away, and you risk losing them all if you get killed before you unlock leveling. Save the item for later.
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A crafting item of sorts, Golden Seeds are used to upgrade your Sacred Flasks at Sites of Grace. Though later on you'll need multiple Golden Seeds to upgrade your Flasks, from the beginning you'll only need one. This will add one more use to your HP and FP restorative items, which can go a long way early in the game. The Golden Seed is a fantastic choice for your Keepsake.
Fanged Imp Ashes
A summoning item, the Fanged Imp Ashes will call in two Spirit Imps to aid you in boss battles. This is a solid item for new players, as the Imps are great at distracting enemies while you slip in behind for a kill. You can purchase the Fanged Imp Ashes later in the game from a merchant, however, so if you just want the Ashes for completion's sake you need only wait a while.
A crafting item. Cracked Pots are used in the creation of certain items, specifically bombs, which you can use to hit enemies from a range. There are lots of Cracked Pots that you can find later in the game to fill out your repertoire - the merchant in the Church of Elleh has them for sale, for example - but grabbing one this early is not a bad idea. You'll save yourself a lot of grief as a melee character by having a ranged option.
A consumable item used at specific imp statues. Stonesword Keys are used to access areas locked by the statues. There are many places to use them throughout Elden Ring, though there are also plenty of Stonesword Keys to be bought and found as you travel. If you're a returning player and know exactly how you plan to use the Key, this is a good choice; newer players, however, might regret leaving the Stonesword Key to rot in their inventory.
A consumable item that instantly bewitches a nearby enemy, turning them into your ally for a short while. You'll gain five Betwitching Branches if you choose this Keepsake, and they can make some of the earlier trials easier. That said, Bewitching Branches can be crafted later in the game, and some of the other starting items are more helpful in the long run.
A consumable item that will boost your physical damage negation. When used, in essence, these will cause you to take less damage from enemy attacks. Similar to the Bewitching Branch these are handy at the start, but given that you can get them later and they don't help that much, there are better choices you can make.
An accessory, Shabriri's Woe is a dangerous choice for new players, as having it equipped will constantly invite aggression on you. Any nearby enemies will know you're there and will come running for you. Handy if you're an experienced multiplayer tank who wants to get into trouble, but newcomers to Elden Ring absolutely should not choose Shabriri's Woe as their starting item. (Also, you can find this later, so if you want to test it out wait until you run across one.)
Which Keepsake should you choose?
Now for the big question: Which Keepsake is the one for you? They're all good to varying degrees, though it ultimately comes down to your level of experience. If you're brand new to Souls games then your choice should probably be the Golden Seed. True, Golden Seeds lose value over time as you need more and more for a Flask upgrade, but having an additional Flask use early on is of massive benefit when you're getting smack around. You also won't have to agonize over when you should use it like most of the other items.
If you're experienced, however, the Stonesword Key is probably the better choice. The Key will allow you to unlock the Fringefolk Hero's Grave right at the start of the game. Inside is a boss, the Ulcerated Tree Spirit, and beating it will earn you a Golden Seed. You can also find some other stuff in here. Bear in mind that the Ulcerated Tree Spirit is a harsh fight for newcomers, so don't go this route if you're uncertain of your abilities.