Covenants in Dark Souls II are available early on and provide the player with multiple new ways to interact with their world and other players. Some offer assistance and protection from invaders, others bring new goals such as defending areas, and some demand the blood of other players.
Covenants are factions within Dark Souls. To join a covenant the player must make oaths to specific NPCs. There are rewards for following the guidelines set by specific NPCs that lead each covenant and there are penalties for breaking them. Covenants may also have an effect on the player's online interactions. Most covenants have a unique multiplayer item usable only by members of that covenant, and even the ones that do not will have items or spells that can affect other players in some way, and as such what covenant the player has joined will have an effect on the player's online experience. Generally speaking, most covenants will focus on either cooperation (summoning/being summoned) or competition (invading/being invaded), but even then, how the player chooses to play the game is still their choice.
Mechanics Common to all Covenants
There are nine covenants in the game, each with different goals and different means of achieving those goals, all through multiplayer interaction. While most of the covenants have at least one exclusive multiplayer item for use to this end, there are certain multiplayer items that can be used regardless of covenant:
- White Sign Soapstone;
- Small White Sign Soapstone;
- Red Sign Soapstone (allows you to be summoned into a world as a Dark Spirit)
- Cracked Red Eye Orb (must be in human form to use)
Note: You cannot be invaded while sitting at a bonfire.
In this way, any player regardless of covenant can be summoned by another player or invade them, even if they are in no covenant at all. The sole exception to this is Company of Champions, which does not allow its members to use the White Sign Soapstone or Small White Sign Soapstone, and does not allow them to summon other players for assistance.
All of the covenants allow progression within the covenant in the form of ranks, starting at base (referred to as rank 0), and maxing at rank 3. How to increase your rank differs depending on what covenant you're in and some of them have multiple ways to do this. Obtaining a higher rank can be a lot harder for a certain covenant compared to other ones. For example: Obtaining rank 3 in the Blue Sentinels covenant requires you to defeat 500 people, whereas rank 3 in the Way of the Blue covenant only requires you to defeat 10 invaders.
Each covenant has a special ring obtained solely through that covenant. Each ring has a special effect (listed below). Unless stated, you do not need to wear the ring to activate any covenant features.
- Way of Blue: Increases maximum HP by 3%.
- Heirs of the Sun: Increases miracle strength by 5%.
- Brotherhood of Blood: Increases the bleed buildup caused by weapons with bleed damage.
- Blue Sentinels: Allows wearer to be summoned to aid invaded Way of Blue members.
- Bell Keepers: Allows wearer to invade players in a nearby Belfry.
- Rat King: Allows covenant invasions, increases poison buildup from weapons with poison damage.
- Dragon Remnants: Increases HP gained from drinking Estus by 50.
- Company of Champions: Increases bare fist damage and allows power-stancing of fists.
- Pilgrims of Dark: Increases hex damage by 20% (~ 7.5% since 1.06) , but lose 30 hp per cast.
Abandoning a Covenant
You may abandon your current covenant at any time by seeking out Sweet Shalquoir, a cat NPC in a small building near the large hole in Majula. You may also abandon your covenant by attempting to join a new one. There are NO kinds of punishment for abandoning a covenant and you're able to rejoin whenever you want. Even if you kill the leader of a certain covenant, they will still offer you to join their covenant after reviving them.
Contrary to popular belief, you will NOT lose your current rank within a covenant after abandoning or upon rejoining it, so players are completely free to join whatever covenant they want to be in whenever they want.