Invader Guide by ErichPryde
Version: 1.6 | Updated: 06/16/16
Table of Contents
Hello all, and welcome to the Invaders Field Manual. I'm going to go over invasions in Dark Souls 3 today. Some of this information will be old news to many of you, in fact, most of it will be, but I hope you enjoy the read anyway!
Throughout the years, invasions have always been a good way to blow off some steam, make up for insecurities in real life, or do something more challenging after running through the campaign for the umpteenth time has lost its luster. Throughout the years, invaders have been hated, despised, and called all sorts of names that we're all much too familiar with- Invaders are the bad guys. Throughout the years invasions have also changed a lot- partly because the community has grown and changed, partly because design changes from game to game make certain tactics work better than others, and partly because From has made constant adjustments to keep the game “fair” (i.e. mechanisms designed to give new players more of a chance to grow the player base).
In this guide, I'm going to be talking about the current state of affairs in Dark Souls 3 PVP. I'm not going to be talking about what adjustments anyone wants MADE to the game, but how to succeed as an invader with the current mechanics in place. If you're reading this guide and you want to be good at conducting invasions, the first thing you must do is accept the current game framework. When you invade, it's likely you'll be outnumbered. Sometimes, to a degree that seems completely impossible! It's probably not going to change, and complaining about things you find unfair won't make you a better invader. If you have difficulty accepting the way the game works, step back, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that this isn't Dark Souls 1, or 2 (or maybe totally UNLIKE anything you've ever played), and some of your tactics will have to change and grow, just as the series has.
But, who AM I? Why should you listen to me? Well, to begin with I've been playing Dark Souls since, well, Dark Souls. Like most players new to the franchise, I was unsure of what to do when I encountered my first invader, and for me, the experience was quite polarizing: A DWG flipping, vacuum-stabbing witch beatrice who invaded me in the Undead Burg made instant mincemeat of me (with what I later decided must have been) a Lightning Zweihander +5. I was frustrated, antagonized, resentful, but most of all, determined to improve my skills enough that I would at least give an invader a challenge some day, for Gwyn's sakes!
Since then, I've racked up more than a thousand hours on each Dark Souls title and have 100% completion/perfect gamerscore on Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, Scholar of the First Sin (XB1), and Dark Souls 3. I've completed multiple no-bonfire, no-death runs (I FIRMLY believe that a strong grasp of what makes you survive in PVE is essential to being a solid invader). Many, many of those hours were spent playing in hotspots like the Undead Burg/Forest/Oolacile/Kiln (DkS); Cardinal Tower/Heide's Tower of Flame/Iron Keep/Eleum Loyce (DS2); and Highwall/Crucifixion Woods/Anor Londo (DS3). Dueling can be fun, but I was always more drawn to the thrill of the chase and the no-rules chaos that invasions offer, so countless more hours were spent invading just about anywhere that a red eye orb isn't grayed out.
Lastly, and most importantly, I learned the most by having a good attitude when I lost COUNTLESS invasions/duels and by taking time to examine the tactics, weapons, and spells that were successfully used against me by the other player.
Let's get on to the guide!
Invasions are an interesting (and unique) game mechanic because one player is able to “force” player vs. player combat on another, often against the other player's will. Since invasions are “forced,” they are often messy, cat-and-mouse chases that can be a ton of fun, or equally messy ganks/gonks that sometimes are a lot less fun. The host doesn't want you there. You want to kill the host. There really aren't any rules at all- if you've invaded someone, you've essentially broken into their house, so expect a load of buckshot headed your way.
That being said, there is a smart “rule” to keep in mind when you're invading: follow only the rules you wish to follow, regardless of what anyone says the rules may be. My first rule used to be “survival is all that matters,” and this is often the first rule that SHOULD be observed by a host. But since this is a video game, you're welcome to do anything that you please. Want to attempt to kill all the phantoms first? Decide you want to drop some items for the host instead of killing them? Want to ambush them at the worst possible moment? Don't want to bow or alert them to your presence? Want to use estus? Decided to honor duel the host because he chugged all his estus, then bowed? Anything you want to do is within your power.
This same rule, or really, LACK thereof, applies to the host as well. There isn't a single thing that a host can do to you that is “unfair.” After all, you're breaking and entering. Jumped you with multiple phantoms? Used a seed of the tree of giants? Ran through the fog gate but didn't start the boss fight? Acted like he chugged all his estus, but actually switched to Ashen estus (which was empty) and you fell for it? Disconnected on you? All of these are things that, although they don't occur every single invasion, happen enough that you need to be mentally prepared for them. They can be super frustrating, but don't let it get to you. You ARE invading to stunt another player's progress, after all, and there are plenty of tactics that can counter at least some of these annoying host behaviors.
Community agreed-upon rules have their place in duels, but this is an invasion, so there really aren't any other rules. Do what you like, cause some chaos, or spread some holiday cheer. It's totally up to you. Just remember that there aren't any rules, and fairness is an illusion. Accept this, and you'll be well on your way to not being pissed off when someone uses a tactic you would normally think of as “unfair.” There simply is no such thing as fair when you're invading.
The mechanics of player vs. player in Dark Souls 3 are pretty straightforward- most of the time. There are a total of 6 multiplayer slots in any given online session, but most of the time only 4 slots are active:
The use of a dried finger activates 2 additional slots:
Note: there is an exception to these rules in areas governed by auto-summoning covenants, which I cover below.
--Summon slots can be occupied by any phantom the host summons (friendly OR hostile) and any blue phantom that is summoned in to help the host when they have been invaded (if they have way of blue equipped).
-Summon slots are filled in the order that phantoms are summoned/assigned by the server. This means that if a host summons two hostile phantoms, they will fill the normally available summon slots, and the host will be unable to summon phantoms friendly to him or her.
-Summon slots can only be used to summon "friendly" phantoms in areas where the boss has not been defeated. You can use summon slots in these areas for hostile phantoms via red soap stone for duels.
--Invasion slots can be filled by any phantom that is INVADING: Phantoms that have either used a cracked red eye orb, red eye orb, or have the Watchdogs of Farron or Aldrich Faithful covenant items equipped.
--Invasion slots can ALSO be used by the host to summon hostile phantoms. This means that it is possible to have 5 phantoms in a world, with every single one of them having been summoned by the host of embers.
-Invasion slots can ONLY be occupied by phantoms "hostile" towards the host (but remember- that doesn't NECESSARILY mean friendly to you!).
-Invasion slots are ONLY active in areas where the boss is alive.
Because of the way summoning and invading works in Dark Souls 3, the most common PVP setup is going to be 3v1 or 4v2, but in some areas this easily becomes a 2v2 or even a 3v3. It is possible to have a 1v5 if a host summoned five hostile phantoms (although generally, these groups will be hostile towards an invader intent on killing the host). As I said, you're almost always outnumbered when you're invading, so it is generally necessary to rely on the environment and mobs present to win!
In areas that are patrolled by autosummoning covenants, some slightly different rules apply:
Slot #3, normally reserved for summoned phantoms, is designated for an additional invader INSTEAD of a summon. These areas include:
Watchdogs of Farron: all of the invadable sections in the Road of Sacrifices up to the Abysswatcher's boss door are governed by this rule. Hosts can only summon 1 friendly phantom in any of these areas, 2 phantoms if they used dried finger.
Watchdogs of Farron invasions occur in the the "glade" like area near the Halfway fortress and Crucifixtion Woods bonfires. Although watchdog invasions almost never occur in Farron Swamp itself, or at halfway fortress, they can occur in these areas if the host has just left the glade via either the ladder or shortcut while the game is assigning an invasion.
Aldritch Faithful: Irithyll Valley right after Pontiff's bonfire up until Aldritch's fog gate. Hosts can only summon 1 friendly phantom in any of these areas, 2 phantoms if they used dried finger.
Aldritch faithful invasions occur are assigned after the host has left the initial landing after the Pontiff's bonfire, and can be assigned until the host sets foot onto the spiral elevator leading up to Anor Londo proper. Just like with the Watchdogs, it is possible to have an Aldrich Faithful invasion if it was assigned by the game before the host left this area.
All autosummon covenants currently active in the game are a blue/red color that changes based upon the angle they're viewed at, kind of like a hologram, or a “foil” (you know, those foil cards you used to get when you played magic the gathering back in the day? Or was that just me? Anyway…
The color of a phantom can sometimes tell you quite a story.
White: A phantom friendly to the host that was summoned via soapstone, not belonging to the Mound-makers or warriors of Sunlight covenants.
Yellow: A phantom friendly to the host belonging to the Warriors of Sunlight covenant.
Blue (blue/black): A phantom friendly to the host auto-summoned when the host has the Way of Blue Covenant item equipped. Their goal is to kill the hostile phantom(s) present. Blue phantoms are players with either the Blue Sentinel or Darkmoon Blade covenant item equipped. Blue phantoms can only be summoned by the server as aid in response to red eye orb/cracked red eye orb invasions; Autosummon covenants will not trigger way of blue.
Red: The color assigned to most players invading, and most players who have used their red soapstone (RSS). Generally, A red invader's goal is to kill the host and get a pale tongue, but they can be hostile to, and hurt, any player in the game world.
Orange (Red/gold): These are invaders (or RSS summons) who have the "Warrior of Sunlight" covenant item equipped. Their goal is to kill the host, and all invaders present will get a sunlight medal for having participated in jolly co-operation. They also can be hostile towards, and hurt, any player in the game world.
Purple: Invaders that have the mound-makers covenant item equipped. Upon invading, A message that reads "kill X phantoms or the host of embers" pops up. The "x" value relates to the number of phantoms present in the host's world. Because Mound-makers can get covenant rewards for killing a given number of phantoms, they bear watching! If they've killed one phantom friendly to the host, they may turn on you if they think you'll be easier prey. This doesn't mean that they will, and I've had plenty of co-operative invasions with purples.
Purples can also be summoned by the word host to help "clear" zones. If they are summons via White Soapstone (WSS), their phantom "tag" will be in white lettering. If they were summoned via red soapstone or if they invaded, their tag will be in red lettering.
Foil (Red/Blue/Silver): These are invaders summoned by the server to invade players when they are in certain areas of the game. Typically, their goal is to kill the world host in order to obtain a covenant item. Like any other invader they can choose to be hostile towards any player in the game world except other invaders summoned by the same covenant.
Phantoms that are primarily hostile to the host have phantom tags that are in RED lettering, Phantoms that are primarily friendly to the host have phantom tags that are in WHITE lettering. this is true even if a phantom is attempting to obscure their identity with one of the untrue rings; although the ring will change the descriptor (i.e, "Host of Embers," or "Phantom,"), it will NOT change the color of the descriptor.
It is important to know how many people can be in a given area at once, or what the color of the phantom may imply. Awareness increases your chance of surviving. If you've invaded in Crucifixion Woods and you see two phantoms friendly to the host, it immediately tells you that the host has used dried finger, A blue cannot be summoned unless a phantom dies because the “friendly summon” slots are full, and if another invader isn't in already, they probably will be soon.
Finally, It's also important to know that when you invade, the game attempts to assign you to a world within your present location or “bonfire zone,” so invading from different bonfires and areas will get you different invasion locations and spawnpoints. This can be very handy if you want to invade near the “middle” of a long level (like Irithyll Valley or the Grand Archives).
The invasion formula in dark souls 3 is your character's soul level + 20 and 10% of your soul level upwards, and 10% downwards. This means that a level 70 character can invade up to 97, and down to 63.
According to the fextralife Dark Souls 3 wiki, Mound-makers follow the same rules except that they invade upwards 15%, not 10%, which means that a level 70 character could invade upwards to level 100. Mound-makers are also more likely to invade worlds with phantoms already present (according to the Official Prima Guide), so if you want true chaos, consider invading as a mound-maker.
Because invasions generally go UP, you'll want to be AT the recommended level for a given area, or slightly below it to maximize your world-overlap potential and zones you can invade in. Because you are typically somewhat underleveled compared to your opponents, and you're almost ALWAYS invading into a world that has at least one phantom, the way you have your stats arranged is critical. World hosts may be working towards multiple stat goals at once, but a truly dedicated invader cannot afford to have wasted stats.
It's strongly recommended that you overlevel vigor somewhat, as you're invading a host that may have more HP than you simply from the ember bonus. Losing a couple of points of damage may be worth the exchange in HP. I also feel like stamina is super important for potential chase/flee scenarios, but you'll have to decide what stats are most important to you.
Blue Sentinels and Darkmoon Blades typically invade into host worlds where the host is a lower Soul Level than themselves. From has adjusted the summoning ranges to attempt a fix of this covenant so I don't know what the exact ranges are, but expect Blue Sentinels to be at least 20 levels over the host. Since most invasions are going up as it is, Blue phantoms may be WAY over your level! This really reinforces just how important stat layouts can be!
Also, earlier I mentioned that blues utilize a summon slot. Oftentimes a host will equip way of blue when moving through an area with a full group of phantoms. The intent of course, is to use the blue as "backup" if an invader shows up. Many times the host doesn't realize that since all of the summon slots are being used, the blue CAN'T enter their world! This doesn't really cause an immediate problem for the host, but it can cause an immediate problem for YOU: Upon killing off one of the friendly phantoms, a summon slot becomes available and Way of Blue will immediately try to place a waiting DMB or BS into the host's world. This means that the host doesn't even have to run for a bonfire to get help!
However... you CAN turn this back onto the host's head pretty easily. Because a lot of hosts don't understand exactly how way of blue works, killing one of their phantoms can often make them retreat to a bonfire to attempt summoning another phantom (most likely their friend who you already eliminated). Meanwhile, the game tries to find a suitable blue, and "assigns" it to one of the blue spawnpoints. Oftentimes, the blue will have to fight its way through some crowds to get to you. Oftentimes, the blue will be so ecstatic that they got summoned, that they will come charging straight at you! And for whatever reason, oftentimes the host and phantoms (especially if they are primarily gonkers) go into a passive "bystander" mode. After all, you're here to PVP and so is the Blue, right? On many, many occasions, I've had hosts and phantoms back off and let me fight the blue, one-on-one. That's why I call it bystander mode: If something goes terribly wrong, but someone LOOKS like they've got it under control (or if a figure of authority is on the scene), oftentimes bystanders will just go on about their business.
This does seem to depend upon your behavior at the point the blue is spawned: even if you were incredibly hostile to the co-opers a moment before, backing off and waving/gesturing can often get you a "fair" fight, especially if you leave the co-opers to go search for the blue, and they are hesitant to chase you. Breaking into a run to get the flip out of dodge, however, often triggers everyone's "chase" instincts, and you might just get mobbed. If the blue's already on scene though, this might happen anyway.
This bystander mentality is responsible for a lot of unnecessary (but not from our perspective!) blue deaths, and if you can control the situation so the co-opers take on this mentality, you may want to. It won't work every time and players who just want you OUT and have some PVP experience often won't fall into it UNLESS they also think that there is some sort of "honor" system in place when you let a blue and red fight by themselves (you know, the ancient conflict between good and evil- it doesn't involve ashen bystanders, right?).
A FINAL thought about blues (trust me, I thought I was done typing about them, too!) is that since many hosts don't realize that the blue is taking up a summon spot, AND since they've headed back to a bonfire to summon their friend, this can cause a huge time delay and even a server lockup. Especially in the autosummon zones, you can use this to your advantage as the phantoms will often be busy with other invaders, and they don't always retreat with the host. If the blue is killed, you can bet your buttons that the host is looking for their friend's glowing summon sign- and it won't pop until the blue is well and truly dead (disconnected). At that moment, it's even possible the game might assign ANOTHER blue to come save them! This total disruption to the host's plans can often enable you to pull off an assassination, or for multiple invaders to overwhelm a host while he's waiting to summon his friends again (at the same time the server is trying to assign more "saviors!")
In addition to the traditional Soul level matchmaking, This game has included weapon matchmaking to discourage twinking. The game matches you with players +/- 2 (regular, +10 path: items that max at +5 count at double) upgrade levels within that of the highest level weapon your character has ever possessed, regardless of whether or not you threw it away, sold it, put it in your box, or WHATEVER. The game knows what you've made, so it's very important to know how much a host has (probably) been able to upgrade those weapons if you're trying to invade a specific area. I recommend being at the maximum level a player COULD be for the start of the area you're invading, and not higher, because not everyone is going to mosey back to firelink to immediately upgrade their gear, and not everyone upgrades only a single weapon. Some people spread it out. I'll talk about that in a second when I go over area breakdowns, but before I do, I'd like to talk about the “meta” level invader.
Most players complete their first playthrough somewhere between levels 80 and 100. It's really hard to pin this down exactly and there will be extremes on both sides of the spectrum. Levels 70-100 are good levels to invade at and be able to invade most players during their NG+ cycle in almost any location. Level 70-80 (+6 through +8 weapons) will get you invasions slightly under the “meta,” from Irithyll to Lothric castle in NG, and Levels 80-100 (+10 weapon) will typically catch players in NG+.
The higher level you are as an invader, the more likely that people will have completed their builds, so you're likely to get some people ready for a fight, with their stats EXACTLY where they want them. There is a diminishing returns, to a degree, on invasions. More free levels means that the host is going to start stacking heavier and heavier gear, and invading 3 havelmages with great shields at lvl 200 may not be your cup of tea.
This doesn't mean that higher level invasions are impossible- far from it. More powerful weapons and more stamina often mean that you can kill players much more quickly than would be possible at lower levels, but it's a two-way street. Additionally, at higher levels sometimes you're more likely to catch lone hosts who are just trying to play the game and complete their achievements.
Nor does it mean that lower level invasions are easier- they're not necessarily.
If you want a character that can invade both players at the meta level and slightly under, participate in fight clubs, AND be summoned for the occasional jolly co-op in NG+, I recommend leaving your invader between 90 and 100. I personally have found that a slightly lower character at SL70 can invade anywhere from Irithyll to the end of the game with ease and this is probably my favorite invasion level, but that's all personal preference! The lower level you are, the more thoughtful you must be with stat investments. It's entirely up to you!
Every build is going to be different, but there are some items that I find absolutely critical to a successful invasion. I won't go into too much detail because everyone is going to be using different weapons and armors, but there are a few of items I would recommend situationally.
Cracked Red eye orb/Red eye orb: Obvious, right? Maybe so, but I'll cover it anyway! Cracked eye orbs can be farmed from darkwraith enemies. Ringfinger Leonhard will also give you five the first time you talk to him. These are single use items, so it's much smarter to get the red eye orb if you're going to be serious about this! The Red eye orb is obtained after- you have at least one pale tongue in your possession (the first one is found in the undead settlement on a hanging body bag near the chaos demon fight, or you can kill a world host via cracked eye invasion), and talk to ringfinger leonhard. He will give you the lift key. Warp to Highall of Lothric- tower on the wall, and proceed through the locked door at the bottom level of the tower. Kill the darkwraith, get your red eye orb!
OBSCURING RING: A more important piece of invasion equipment possibly doesn't exist- and it isn't because the obscuring ring allows you to dash to within backstab range- it does, but that just makes it good. What makes it truly exceptional is the ability to gather information about the world you've invaded without being antagonized. There isn't anything more important to warfare than the ability to gather information on you enemies without being seen- and you can do this with the obscuring ring.
How many phantoms does the host have? Have they used a dried finger? Should you just get in there, and attack, or wait? Are they approaching a cliff or other obstacle that you could use to your advantage? Without the obscuring ring, your enemies will position themselves much differently and sometimes rush you in a group. It is, in my opinion, the single most essential tool that an invader can use to gather information and make educated decisions on how to proceed. Invade with this ring, and learn exactly where the sightlines are, where you disappear again if you're forced to reteat, and it will make things much, much easier.
You can obtain this item after giving 10 pale tongues to Rosaria. Please refer to the wiki article for more details: http://darksouls3.wiki.fextralife.com/Obscuring+Ring
SLUMBERING DRAGONCREST RING: Many enemies are much more aware of sound than of sight in DS3, especially if you are approaching them from the sides or behind. If you've invaded a world that's been seeded, This can save you some trouble of being chased by some mobs. Additionally, when coupled with the Obscuring ring, it shuts down those obnoxious headphone users that are able to find you based upon hearing alone, and seemingly track you even though you're invisible.
This ring is obtained from Orbeck of Vinheim, after delivering a scroll to him and purchasing certain sorceries. Refer to the wiki for further information: http://darksouls3.wiki.fextralife.com/Slumbering+Dragoncrest+Ring
UNTRUE DARK RING: A situational item that can cause serious confusion to other invaders, the untrue dark ring nevertheless has its place. When coupled with the obscuring ring, many players will pass close enough to you to be in visual range, and STILL not spot you because they're looking for the bright warning colors of an invader- Orange, Red, or Purple. This can be especially useful if you're wearing armor that blends in to the surrounding environment. Situational, but great for ambushes.
Note that a hostile phantom wearing the untrue dark ring still has a tell- “Host of embers” under their name (when targeted) is displayed in red, as opposed to white. That doesn't mean every invader out there will take the time to look for this, and may attack you on sight anyway if you have this item equipped.
This ring is obtained from Yuria of Londor, which means you will need to level up with Yoel five times before entering the catacombs (or she won't appear). More can be found about these questlines here: http://darksouls3.wiki.fextralife.com/Untrue+Dark+Ring
SILVERCAT RING: Jump off of a cliff face and survive the fall when trying to escape? No problem. Need to perform a drop attack onto an unsuspecting cluster of prey? No problem. This one is situational, but self-explanatory.
This ring is obtained from Sirris of the Sunless realms AFTER you are summoned into her world to defend against Creighton of Mirrah on the Irithyll bridge. Note that Sirris turns hostile to you if you join Rosaria's fingers! More information can be found here: http://darksouls3.wiki.fextralife.com/Silvercat+Ring
These are the major, most important things you can have equipped. There are a lot of other useful items- make sure to stock up on all sorts of consumables and actually USE them. Undead Hunter charms, Resins, throwing knives, kukri, firebombs, duel charms, poison moss- all of the little things that you can use to survive just a little longer, and whittle down the host. Spellcasters can use spells like chameleon, spook, hidden body.
When I go through the area break down, I'll make more direct recommendations for consumables and some other items!
BLACK SEPERATION CRYSTAL (BSC): Remember that you can't necessarily win every single engagement. If you invade into a 3 on 1 and you have determined that the fight will be incredibly long, or impossible, and you don't want to “waste” the time engaging the group, consider separating and invading somewhere else. This isn't a strategy I practice, because every time I get wrecked by a group of gankers, I analyze the tactics and situation, look at my own behavior for mistakes, and do my best to learn what to do differently. Additionally, if you'd like to break up a good gank, it typically costs you a loss once or twice to learn the tactics of the group you're invading.
That being said: If you don't want to spend the time- don't. Invasions are supposed to be fun (for you) and not everyone wants to play by your rules.
Identifying a GANK: Every enemy in the area is dead, or a seed of the tree of giants is active. All visible co-opers have meta weapons, or have a cosplay going. All visible co-opers are wearing untrue rings to obscure identity, or the host and a phantom have switched identities. Always do your best to remember the name/tag of the host when invading, even if you don't intend to kill them first! Proceed with caution against a ganksquad, consider waiting for backup, as they often have used a dried finger. It may take several deaths and new invasions to figure out their tactics, but use each death as a learning experience. Who was aggressive and tended to chase? Who stayed back? Has the area been reset since your last invasion? What shortcuts are open? It's easy to get into a mentality of “I've gotta show these kids what's up!” but if, after several failed invasions, you are truly fighting a group with skill equal to your own and the co-invaders just aren't up to it, consider moving to a different area to invade. Most (not all) gankers burn out and move on after 30 minutes or an hour; even more quickly if a couple of smart invaders can get together and shut them down for good.
Identifying a GONK: Gonkers are a group of co-opers attempting to make it through the map normally (although sometimes looking to grief a lone invader). You can typically identify them because: They're wearing armor “heavy” for their soul level(or the fallen knight set), using medium shields, and dark swords, &c. Phantoms typically immediately position themselves around the host upon seeing an invader, with defensive body language (i.e. shields up). This is an important distinction because gonkers are less dangerous to a lone invader than gankers and often only give token chase at first (until you annoy them). Most gonker hosts are weak and have recruited good players to help (this is not always the case) and they are rarely willing to engage you directly by themselves. Be prepared to chase once some phantoms are killed.
Attempt tactics that pester and annoy, or single out a phantom, as gonkers are much less prone to chasing, and much MORE prone to mistakes once they do chase, than gankers. I'm not sure who, exactly, coined the term "gonk" first, but the first time I'd seen it used was by Tmk of PS4 Dark Souls board fame.
Identifying/Dealing with a FIGHT CLUB: A fight club is made up of a host and group of phantoms (typically hostile/red) that are playing together specifically to duel. If you've invaded a host world and you see a lot of reds fighting one another with other reds (and maybe a phantom friendly to the host or two) standing around, you've probably invaded a fight club. Most fight clubs don't take too kindly to an invader attempting to kill the host- this will almost certainly get you ganked by everyone present! If you don't mind taking a break from the chaos of invading, consider engaging in a duel or two. However, you're not under any obligation to do so, and if you decide you want to "break up" the fight club by causing chaos, or attempt a host assassination, feel free to do so. If you don't succeed, however, you're probably very, very dead, and if you do succeed, you've probably burned some bridges with those particular fight clubbers and they may gank you on sight in the future.
Sometimes, a fightclub is actually a gank masquerading as a fight club- Solidknight of PS4 Dark Souls board fame pointed out that If you've entered what appears to be a fight club, but most of the phantoms are just standing around and NOT engaging in jolly duels, there is a good possibility they were waiting for you to arrive specifically to gank. In this situation, be extra careful as a gesture from one of the phantoms (like a bow) could seem like a symbol to start a normal duel, but then result in everyone piling in to kill you!
This reinforces just how lawless this game really is- If it can be done, it WILL be done. That's why it's best to keep in mind that there aren't really any rules besides the ones you choose to follow, and do your best not to get upset when someone does something absurd. Treat it as a learning experience!
It is truly amazing just how much body language a player can translate through the tension in their arms, fingers on the controller, to their avatar in game. Phantoms that have shields up or, conversely, seemed relaxed, can tell you a lot- and take note of what you see! A host that breaks into an immediate run upon seeing you might NOT be panicked- they may be luring you into a potential trap! Taking note of body language can mean the difference between a death, or a kill. I could literally write an entire thread about phantom body language, but I'll list the most common (or necessary) body language in invasions.
Co-opers have shields up: probably an indicator that they're defensive, scared, and prone to make mistakes if you act like a derp or push.
Co-opers are standing still, shields down: good indicator that the co-opers are pretty calm at your arrival. They're probably at least experienced enough that they THINK they can take you.
Co-oper immediately waves, then bows: A good indicator that they want to duel. If there is a phantom present, I advise you stay locked OFF and watch them- because a bowing host could just as easily be trying to lure you into a false sense of security! Remember- YOU'VE invaded. There is absolutely no reason to trust that this won't become a gank, ESPECIALLY if you get a co-oper low. Either way, a friendly co-oper is not a scared co-oper, and this tells you a lot about the kind of world you've invaded into!
Spamming block constantly: Taunting. Wants you to rush your attack. For some reason, I see gankers use this a lot. Stay calm, and check your surroundings.
Talking to other invaders:
Some invaders have either had bad experiences with invaders like you, or perhaps they're just crazy. If I immediately get attacked by another invader on spawning, I'll often roll out and either wave or praise the sun. About 90% of the time, this lack of attacking back will make it clear that I want to be on their side, and we have a common goal. Unless you actually SAW this other player invade, keep in mind they could be a summon. If it only costs you one flask, sometimes convincing another invader that “ya'll can be friends” will ensure a win.
A lot of ganks happen in Anor Londo especially, so I often practice due diligence letting other invaders know that my goal is to take down the co-opers. I've even gone so far as to parry another player, wait until it is DEADLY clear I could have had a riposte, and then rolled away and hollered at them. Some invaders just want chaos, or to kill anything, and won't be convinced, but many can be converted to your side. And always keep an eye on mad phantoms! If they've killed a co-op phantom, they may as easily turn on you if they just need an additional phantom kill to get their rewards- especially if you've given them the impression you're easy prey.
Controlling your own body language:
I can hear your unspoken thoughts now: "What is this, some sort of lifecoach lesson plan I'm writing here?" But bear with me! I highlighted some body language that can indicate whether or not co-opers are scared or calm: keep in mind that these same rules apply to you! How you act when you invade, what gestures and actions you choose to use, whether or not you engage the host and immediately hold your shield up to guard- all of these things can also tell a smart, experienced host a LOT about you. Being conscious of your own body language can have a huge impact on whether or not you are jumped, attacked, rushed, or run from- sometimes you can act panicked and run FROM co-opers- and they'll totally chase you into a waiting mob! Body language is another possible weapon in your invasion arsenal- don't forget about it!
Identifying Invasion Sound Cues: Invasion sound cues sometimes occur when you've first invaded an area as sounds that have occurred within a short time frame of your spawn generation play all at once. Typically, they are a conglomeration of noises that don't mean much, but sometimes they can indicate that a host has already been through a specific area, or that specific enemies have been killed, or that there is (or was) a very active battle close to your spawn position. I'm unsure whether or not they occur on either the computer or the PS4, but they are occasionally incredibly helpful on the X1.
It may seem like a weird thing to mention, but on occasion these sound cues have saved me minutes of chase time, or told me when I needed to get the flip out of dodge!
Below you'll find the recommended soul levels/weapon levels for optimal invasions in any area (NG only), in addition to the most likely multiplayer combinations. I'm also going to list environmental hazards, and good places to trap or ambush co-opers.
Soul level: SL10-SL25
Weapon Level: +0 to +2
Max Cooperative players/Invaders: 3v1 With dried finger: 4v2
The highwall is pretty straightforward as far as invasions go, with the major hazard being the drake if it is present. At low levels, most everything does enough damage to the host and phantoms to make a difference, but the Lothric Knights, huge axe/halberd guys, and the pus of man changing hollows can be used against the host effectively. Note that the pus of man hollows can hurt ANYTHING within the thrashing range, which can catch an inexperienced invader unaware.
If invading from the dancer's bonfire or the Vordt's bonfire OR if you've chased the host to this area, remember that she/he can run into either of these areas, and you cannot follow. Consider BSC if this happens and you don't want to outwait the host.
NOTE: You can invade between the vordt and dancer's bonfires at SL35-50, +4 through +6, to catch players attempting the dancer early. Generally you'll invade a group of 3 players here, and even more frequently they're already crossing the fog gate. You can also invade at SL60-80, +6 through +8, to catch people doing the dancer normally with (generally) the same results.
+1 to +3 (recommend +2)
Invasions in the undead settlement can end quickly, or be long, drawn out chases if you so wish. There are many, many enemies dangerous in this zone that can be used against a reckless phantom charging after you. Notable are the preacher hag/undead hunters and the pot/machete hollows. There are several cliffs that the silvercat ring can let you dive off of for a quick escape, and the giant raining arrows into the cemetery can be a good place to ambush (although the arrows are environmental hazards). Also, well placed firebombs can be worth gold, as there are many explosive barrels lying about.
Note that a host who has not started the boss fight in this area can run into the fight and wait you out. If this happens and you don't want to wait, consider BSCing out of there.
ALSO NOTE: This boss fight is optional, so if you are doing low level invasions it is possible (however unlikely) that you will invade a “twinker” here with max flasks. This can make for some very skill-oriented, low level duels, and be very rewarding (or irritating).
SL20-SL40 (40's pushing it)
This is where invasions can get super fun, or super ganky/gonky. This area is ruled by autosummon invasions from The Watchdogs of Farron, and many hosts like to set up gankfests here, but it's equally likely you'll catch some gonkers just trying to progress en masse to deal with the invaders, or a new host/phantom pair that are unaware of the auto invasions that occur here.
The terrain is varied, with a cliff that can be used to your advantage (many times a phantom will attempt to provide overwatch here, and an obscuring ring running backstab will kiss them goodbye!) near the halfway fortress bonfire, many aggressive and dangerous enemies, and some hallways leading to the crystal sage fight. The ladder leading down into the swamp is also a great place to make someone fall, and there are some areas of deeper water that you can use to lure your enemies towards, or use to escape.
The giant crabs pose an environmental hazard- they only actively seek co-opers, but all of their attacks can hurt a careless invader, as well. Crucifix red eyes, sharpened tree hollows, dogs, and the lone Black Knight round out the truly dangerous critters that you can use to your advantage. The obscuring ring REALLY shines here because it allows you to stalk and wait for another invader, and invasions in this zone are very, very common. Be aware that getting attacked by another invader in this zone also seems somewhat common, so it's best to determine what other invaders are up to before counter-ganking (friendly gestures, spinning in circles, &c)
Gankers typically sit in the clearing where the two exiles normally guard the ladder (most likely spot If the zone is cleared), or on the hill leading up to halfway fortress. Sometimes, they'll congregate around the crucifixion woods bonfire as well, especially if they started from there and the zone is not clear. Occasionally, a low level fight club will take place here, especially at the clearing. When dealing with gankers/gonkers, determine what's alive, and hit and run as much as possible to lure a lone phantom out from the pack, if you can. I've also found that often, you can utilize the other invader as a distraction, and go for the host- many phantoms forget their duty to save the host in the heat of the moment, and it's sometimes possible to assassinate a host this way.
I'd like to note that the closer to 40 you are in this zone, the more likely you are to run into a group of low level gankers who have already cleared the cathedral of the deep, and are taking a break from PVE to PVP. There is also a chance that they will be armed with +4 weapons at this point, as two large shards are available from the giants in the cathedral.
Note that a host can run into the crystal sage boss fight if they haven't previously started it and grief you in this zone.
+4 Weapons possible, recommend +3 (first large titanite shards in this zone are located on the bridge with the demon if the host did not proceed to Cathedral of the Deep)
Required addt'l gear: Dagger/Thrall axe, Poison moss
This zone rewards the most patient and dedicated of invaders, as it allows you to play an incredibly long game and the treacherous terrain and wicked enemies can make it a nightmare for either the invader or the host. If you have enough poison moss, you will almost always win long term engagements, and can monitor your opponent's progress via their visible health bar and set up great ambushes. A dagger's quickstep ability is invaluable here, as it allows you to engage and retreat quickly, and many hosts won't have one equipped.
Outer Perimeter encourages brief engagements. Use the darkwraiths to your advantage if you can, and if the co-opers seem intent on chasing, lure them back down the hill towards either the corvians, or back towards the black knight/ red eyed cruciforms in crucifixion woods. If a host is able to make it to the fog door and does not decide to pursue you, they can hide behind the fog wall if they so choose.
+3 or +4 Recommended (Max is +4 here, 2 large shards either collected from the bridge in Farron keep, or from killing the giants here. Some players may have missed those shards. It's also possible that some players could still be at +2 here, if they didn't enter the swamp at all and were too quick in crucifixion woods and missed the titanite shards there.)
I love this zone for the numerous ledges that can be used to ambush or escape, Constantly spawning zombies that potentially infect unwary co-opers with maggots, and environmental hazards like the giants and grave wardens. Cathedral Knights, thralls, exploding fire guys, and very aggressive hollows round out most of the usual enemies that you can use to your advantage if things aren't slated your way.
This is another zone that encourages long chase sequences or thoughtful invaders who are willing to take their time to set up great ambushes, as there are many, many choke points, hallways, and elevators that can be used to your advantage.
Note that the grave wardens, although not normally hostile, can hurt an invader if you get between them and their prey.
Force works wonders here as an offensive spell- and remember that force hurls enemies in the direction you're facing- not just away from you.
This area is a griefer's dream- Mazelike hallways, Giant, aggressive carthus red-eyes that build up bleed quickly, floor traps, falls, ladders, choke points, holes, you name it. The dragonslayer's greatbow and obscuring ring is a WICKED combo at the beginning and end of this area- Especially if you use the body with the ember on it (main stairs headed down) as a shot point.
The end section is even more ridiculous, as cutting the bridge is a practical tactic to either kill a co-oper, or to force the group to take the narrow side path (above a drop, no less) to get to the boss.- Force, firelink great sword, great bows- tailbone spear- Anything that will send a hapless player flying- strongly recommended here.
The big skeleton balls count as hazards, but note that if you're being chased, you can roll through them if you time your roll right. You WILL take damage- but it will NOT knock you flying. This can be a good strategy to escape if you've approached the catacombs bonfire, and things got hairy.
Also, because Wolnir is ONLY aggroed if his chalice is picked up, a host can run through the boss door at ANY time and choose to grief YOU. If you wish to wait, you can- but consider separating if it doesn't look like they're coming back out.
+4, +5 (If the host collected the large titanite shards in the cathedral, bridge in farron keep, and all the large shards in the catacombs, they are most likely at +5. I'd go +4 max, but that's me.)
Smouldering Lake is another area that rewards patient, attrition based tactics from an invader. Knowing the area well is also a must, as it is easy to get lost if you don't. The lake surface itself offers little except the ballista (which is a hazard) and the crabs as most co-opers won't chase you left to the giant worm, but invading beneath the surface, things get hairy. Twisting hallways, chaos fire demons, holes in the floor- drops, basilisks… Special note that the black knight near the bridge that leads to the ballista ladder is immediately hostile to ANYTHING that gets near it.
Let me stress again that it is important to know this area if you choose to invade here, as it can take quite some time to locate the host. This is really an area that can test the limit of an invaders' patience, and if a host isn't intent on chasing you down and you can't locate them, they can pass through the fog door if they wish and kick you out.
+6 (Players in Irithyll MUST have gone through areas that provided at least enough large shards to get to +4. If they chose to go through smouldering lake, more like +5, almost 6. So far, the only titanite chunk available to them was the titanite bug in smouldering lake (UNLESS they traded with the crows or killed the dancer early) so it's unlikely they'll be at +7, but +6 takes care most of all your ranges.)
Irithyll valley is yet another area that strongly encourages battles of long term attrition. Weight for weight, it's hard to find another area with enemies that deal quite as much damage per hit as the Pontiff knights. Between the fountain and the church itself are two fire witches, and if you can distract the co-op group here the witches will provide artillery support. The church itself is a nasty place, and a great place to retreat to if you're in trouble- Multiple fire witches and Pontiff knights can quickly destroy an unwary co-oper or two, but don't expect them to chase you in there!
Once co-opers have cleared a specific area, however, invaders can find themselves at a disadvantage if they choose to stand and fight, as the more open areas can make it easy for a group to chase you. If you have determined that the co-opers have the upper hand, move on to the next group of enemies. Using a white branch or chameleon in the very dark room filled with ghosts can be particularly effective- although the ghosts are slow, they do great damage and congest the co-opers attacks. This is especially a good room to go for a host assassination.
The big lake is not a good place for a lone invader to be if dealing with a group as the water can slow your progress and the lack of cover is bad news, but consider sticking around long enough to see if the croc-dog spawns here (as it relocates IF the host didn't kill it on the bridge, and re-appears here). If you're super lucky, A croc-dog will easily shrek any co-opers that come within range and is a great beast to defend/attack with.
Additionally, you can hang around the set of stairs leading up towards the shortcuts, as the spell casting ghosts, dogs, and POSSIBLE NPC red invader can absolutely destroy a team in seconds.
For a patient invader willing to play a long game of estus attrition, Irithyll is truly wicked. If you're looking for a quick kill though, this is (possibly) not your place to invade.
SL60-SL70 +6 (This range and weapon level will remove most of the fight clubbers from your invasion window, and focus more on people who did not proceed into Irithyll dungeon, or who have not gone back and killed the dancer.)
SL80+, +8+ (These ranges and weapon levels will significantly increase your chances of invading a fight club or group of gankers, as well as invading into NG+ cycles.)
2v2, 2v3, 3v3
This area is governed by the Aldrich faithful autosummoning covenant, and is probably the biggest hotspot in Dark Souls 3 for pvp of all kinds. Thankfully, invasion windows here are very fast (even without a dried finger active) and the “foil” colored Aldrich faithful can make good allies (if they don't try to kill you and if you can make your intentions of co-operation clear).
As soon as a host sets foot into this area, they are open to normal, red/purple/orange invaders. They must go up the first set of stairs leading into the main area to open themselves to Aldrich invasions (not sure of the exact placement, but somewhere in there).
There are a lot of dangers to an unwary or careless host here from sniping silver knights and falls, to croc-dogs in the water reserve and Aldrich priests throwing fire. The giants in the main theatre serve as environmental hazards, able to smash invaders as well (although without a seed they are only aggressive to co-opers). The silvercat ring is incredibly effective for getting down from heights to chase, or to escape quickly if necessary. The obscuring ring is a must, especially to avoid a potential gank.
Tactics for luring co-opers in this area typically go out the window, though, because it is incredibly uncommon to be a lone invader here, and most fights quickly become 2 on 2 or 3 on 3 battles. The saying “if you're alone, wait for another invader” is more true here than anywhere else in the game, and if you do have to retreat to wait, The waiting silver knights are happy to give you fire support. Unfortunately, it's just as likely to invade a seeded world here as to invade an unseeded one, so make sure to check your HUD for the seed symbol on invading.
I'll take a moment to highlight some of the invasion spawn positions for this area:
Invaded somewhere near open forum and giants: Host most likely at spawn
Invaded near Aldrich priests: Host most likely at spawn, or underneath in the tunnel with the ghosts
Invaded on top of the water reserve: Host most likely in field with giants, or in water reserve
Invaded up top with silver knights: Immediately take a look at the silver knights. Their normal position is to be watching down, towards the water reserve. If they are looking towards darkmoon tomb, there's a possibility you had a runner go through moments before. Listen for invasion sound-cues, greatbow shot sounds can tell you that SOMEONE went through the area. If the silver knights are normal, your target is most likely at the water reserve.
Your invasion position has everything to do with where the host was located at the time the game placed your spawn. This means that if the host was on top of the water reserve, you will most likely spawn with the silver knights. <b>your spawn location has nothing to do with the locations of phantoms friendly to the host!</b> It's possible to invade with a white behind you, and the host in front. Always be aware of your surroundings! Smart hosts will often wait up top with the silvers (all mobs dead, of course) in order to gank invaders as quickly as possible, before they can get away.
This is probably the best area in the game for an invader who wishes to work with other invaders, or who wants 6 player total chaos.