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This Elden Ring tip will help you earn Runes early — but beware

elden ring
(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Update: Unofficial mod support is coming to Elden Ring, here's everything you need to know

Now that it’s been out for a bit, Elden Ring has earned a reputation as a tough game from players who've learned that lesson first-hand. It’s arguably not any tougher than earlier FromSoftware games, and there are lots of ways to mitigate the difficulty. But sooner or later, you’re going to come across a challenge you can’t avoid, and when that happens, you’re going to want to earn some Runes.

Like Souls in Dark Souls and Blood Echoes in Bloodborne, Runes in Elden Ring are both experience points and currency. You can use them to slowly increase your attributes, buy new items or upgrade gear you already own. As the game progresses, you’ll need an awful lot of Runes, as prices tend to go up on all three functions pretty quickly. (If you’re very early on in the game and can’t level up yet, check our Elden Ring tips to learn how.)

The best way to gather Runes is generally to just explore an area, fight new enemies, and tackle optional bosses and consumable Golden Rune items. But early on, you might run out of safe areas to do this — particularly if you haven’t fought Margit the Fell Omen yet. And for Margit, you’ll need all the help you can get.

While I was building up my character to fight Margit, I found one reliable way to earn Runes quickly. It’s not easy, and it’s definitely not safe. But it’s reliable, and it gets a little less harrowing with each run. Let’s start at the Warmaster’s Shack.

The Warmaster’s Shack

elden ring

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

One of the first real roadblocks in Elden Ring takes place at the Gatefront Ruins. There, you’ll find yourself up against a cadre of undead swordsmen and archers, all of whom have the high ground against you. As if that weren’t bad enough, halfway through, a giant called a Troll Warrior will leap down from above and smash you to bits, if you let him.

It’s a tough encounter, but you can survive it, if you focus on one enemy at a time and take it slow. And, if you can make it up the hill to the next Site of Grace, you’ll also have a whole new area of Limgrave to explore. Ride up the hill until you reach the Stormhill Shack, then ride east until you reach the Warmaster’s Shack. (Watch out for wolves along the way. There are a lot.)

There’s some fun stuff to do at the Warmaster’s Shack, but for now, we’re more concerned with what what’s nearby. Turn southeast and ride past the shack, and you’ll see something scary — and exciting. Remember the single Troll Warrior from before? Now, there are five of them. And, if you play your cards right, they can be an inexhaustible source of Runes.

A horde of giants

elden ring

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

At the risk of underselling the challenge for early-game characters, these giants are essentially a way to make 5,000 Runes quickly and reliably. And before Margit, 5,000 Runes in one go is nothing to sneeze at. To put this in context: A single run will get you one level increase up until level 20. Two runs will get you one level increase up until level 40. If you’re willing to spend an hour or so just farming giants, you’ll have a considerable edge when you take on Margit.

There’s also a side bonus to slaying these giants: a small cache of Smithing Stones, hidden within a fallen pillar. While these don’t respawn, they’re still an excellent way to upgrade your weapon early on in the game. Simply lure a giant over and let him smash the pillar open; you can’t do it yourself.

The one hitch in the plan, of course, is that you have to actually fight the giants to earn Runes. And, unless you’re an unusually good Soulsborne player, you probably had at least a little trouble with the first one. How can you take on five?

elden ring

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

The good news is that you don’t have to take on all five at once. The giants’ patrol territories don’t really overlap with one another — and if they do, you can simply ride away across the open plain. When you defeat each giant, you’ll recover some of your Flasks, so keeping your health topped up isn’t a problem, either.

The best way to fight the giants depends on your character build and strategy. However, I personally found that staying on horseback, targeting the giant’s main body, then riding alongside him and slashing at his legs was a reliable strategy. This let me ride away whenever a giant made a smashing attack. Furthermore, after enough strikes to the leg, the giant will collapse, and plunging your sword directly into one’s head will deal a tremendous amount of damage.

If the situation looks bad, just ride away and reset at the Warmaster’s Shack. And, if you die, you’ll respawn at the Warmaster’s Shack, where reclaiming your Runes is just a short horse ride away. Since you’ll level up quickly — and improve your weapons, thanks to the stone cache — the giants will be a little easier each time, and considerably easier after a few runs.

elden ring

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

You can even grab an extra 1,000 Runes, if you’re willing to ride a little further. After you slay the giants, ride back west, and you’ll find the initial giant that jumped down to attack you at the Gatefront Ruins. You’ll have to dispatch a few wolves, but it’s a short detour for a pretty good amount of Runes.

The limits of giant-slaying

elden ring

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

I can’t promise that this is the absolute fastest way to earn Runes early on in Elden Ring. However, I can say that it helped me go from “getting my butt kicked by Margit” to “defeating Margit” in a relatively short time. It’s quick, it’s reliable, it’s relatively low-risk and it has a definite, repeatable strategy.

The only downside is that by the time you get up to Level 40, 5,000 Runes no longer seems like a whole lot. Once you advance to Stormveil Castle and beyond, killing giants suffers from serious diminishing returns, and you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.

Still, that’s the beauty of Elden Ring. No one location can sustain you for the whole game; you have to get out there and explore. And with 40 levels and an upgraded weapon under your belt, you should be able to explore a whole lot more of the Lands Between.

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.