I should know better by now; I should expect that anyone I meet in Elden ring will either straight-up suck or have some kind of tragic storyline that will desiccate my bones in existential dread. Probably, I should be killing every NPC I see just to save myself the anguish, leaving only the Turtle Pope and his pure heart in this cursed, undying land. But maybe I’m just mad about this one jerk you meet early on.
Let me back up for a second. So, when you first walk into Stormveil Castle, you meet a man called Gatekeeper Gostoc. At first, he seems like a decent enough guy, going so far as to advise you not to go through the main entrance lest you walk into a world of pain. He mentions a side path, which sounds like a terrific idea–let’s skip all that nasty stuff! And so off you go, trying your best to get to Godrick without getting clapped by some errant knight or worse, grossed out by all the hanging limbs.
I was not very good at this. Stormveil and its tight corridors, tall cliffs, and strong enemies were, for the longest time, my most hated part of the game. Part of what makes Elden Ring so approachable compared to its Souls predecessors is the open world; when confronted with danger, you can usually turn tail and run away to safety or go find something else to do. And while you can choose to beeline to Godrick upon reaching his castle, the entire point is to see what all’s in there. Plus, the fandom sure loves to talk about when everyone finally managed to kill Godrick. Stormveil Castle is less of a dungeon and more of a dare.
Did I have to do it? No. Did it feel like beating it would prove something to myself? kinda. What this really meant in practice is that, over the course of an embarrassing number of hours, I kept dying in Stormveil. I’d go in with runes and new offensive items and walk out with empty pockets, defeated and depressed. But one thing about repeatedly killing things is that you can see what they’re worth, experience-wise (or in this case, rune-wise). And it was through this process that I noticed something was off.
Why was my character earning fewer runes all of a sudden? I knew what giants normally dropped, because I farmed them all the time outside the castle. But for whatever reason, whenever I picked up runes that I dropped after dying, the amount I retrieved was always smaller than the amount I initially died with. It was fishy, but at the time I assumed it was likely some unexplained mechanic among many in Elden Ring, or perhaps another oppressive defining feature of this specific dungeon. I put it out of mind, because it wasn’t like it was enough runes to actually accomplish anything with, anyway.
When I finally did kill Godrick, Gostoc surprised me and came out, only to start stomping on the grafted madman’s head. A bit jealous watching this unfold, I lamented that the game doesn’t give you some bespoke “fuck you” moment after major wins, just for extra gratification. Ah well, good for him, I thought. Usually, this is the point where I start making my way back through a dungeon to clear out things that I missed, and double-check for secrets. Eventually, during my triple check, it’s wiki time. With a game that hides as many secrets as Elden Ring, you can never be too careful.
I don’t quite know how I arrived at the page, but I looked up Gostoc’s page and sat in horror as I realized: It had been him. All along, this guy was scamming me. As the wiki explains, Gostoc steals from you every single time you die in the castle, apparently pocketing about 30% of the hard-won earnings you leave on the floor.
Actually, it’s even more messed up than that. Gostoc kinda goes out of his way to steal from you at least once by putting you in a dangerous situation. There’s a point, for example, where you get locked in a room in Stormveil Castle with a very tough knight. When you experience it, you think—oh, this is just typical Souls brutality. Bosses and mini-bosses find some way to trap you, usually behind fog, so this felt like the game pulling its usual tricks.
But fans have found evidence of Gostoc skulking suspiciously at various points in the castle, seemingly having teleported there from his initial starting point. While he’s not trailing outright behind you, the fact he’s there at all–and that he seems so shifty in the first place–gives the illusion that he’s been following you. So, the theory goes, perhaps Gostoc is the reason you got trapped in the first place? The Wiki claims you can hear his laugh, but I don’t quite recall if I heard that at the time. There’s certainly footage of him sneaking around, and if you go up to him during these moments, he seems weirdly guilty about something. That’s why he’ll offer you an item out of nowhere. He’s pocketing way more valuable stuff.
It took me a whopping 27 hours to finally beat Godrick. While those weren’t all spent at Stormveil specifically, given the number of times I’ve died there, by my calculations I’ve made this man filthy fuckin’ rich. And he had the gall to present himself as a merchant, charging me for his wares. And where did he get his inventory, anyway? Surely I’m not the first he’s scammed, judging by all the dead bodies littering the castle.
Elden Ring is of course not the first game to do something like this. I’m reminded of Fallout 2, which features a town where little kids can pickpocket your character. And not just of money, either. While I never had it happen to me, reports suggest Fallout 2 kids can apparently nab key items, screwing you out of completing major quests easily. I’ve done worse! Fallout also lets you “reverse pickpocket,” so you can stick a live grenade in someone’s pants, which is probably something Gostoc would approve of.
Unsurprisingly, many players happily report they’ve killed him for his misdeeds. However, that could be a mistake if you take a longer view; the top comment on his wiki page is from a player warning not to kill him, as it turns out, if left alive, Gostoc sells a fairly rare, important upgrade material later in the game.
At least a few murders aren’t premeditated. “F*ck, I killed him in one of his hiding places thinking he was hostile,” one player wrote in the wiki’s comments. “Could they at least [have] given him some unique appearance? Stupid Fromsoft.”
Screenshot: Elden Ring Wiki/Kotaku
Perhaps the most unlucky, though, are the occasional players who claim that somehow, whether by glitch or haunting, Gostoc has continued to rob them after his death, even outside of Stormveil itself. Whether or not it’s happening is almost beside the point. If Gostoc has actually found a way to continue tormenting players beyond his mortal coil, or if it turns out that players have merely imagined things, the gatekeeper is having the last laugh.