If you’ve played a FromSoftware game in the past twelve years, you’re probably familiar with how they like to structure combat. You have your class and associated skills, but then you also have a weapon. Each weapon type has a specific moveset, so it's pretty easy to be able to look at a weapon and know what you can do with it just by looking at it after some time.

This is great for efficiency’s sake, but it can make gameplay a little dull over time. When From set out to create Elden Ring, they wanted to implement ways to keep things fresh, and even allow a deeper level of player customization. Their answer? Ashes of War. But, what are they? What do they do? And how can you manage them? Worry not, dear Tarnished, because we’re about to cover all of that and provide you with everything you need to know about Ashes of War.

Let’s get started.

What are Ashes of War?

Ash of War: Storm Stomp is found in the dungeon under the Gatefront Ruins

In Elden Ring, Ashes of War are items that can be applied to weapons to unlock special moves and abilities called Skills. When applied, Ashes of War also change a weapon’s Affinities, which affects the stats that particular weapon scales with. If you’ve seen Elden Ring players pull off crazy powerful moves or do things that aren’t possible with the standard moveset of each weapon type, then odds are what you saw was the effect of one of the Ashes of War. They also open up the door for highly specialized player builds that focus on a specific type of damage or a particular style of play thanks to their Affinity altering feature.

But that’s just the mechanical explanation for what these items are in this game. In terms of Elden Ring lore, Ashes of War are the memories of great warriors who have fought awesome battles. By claiming these memories and attaching them to your equipment, you’re borrowing the power and skill of those warriors and using them for your own epic battles.

So cool.

Dark Souls 3 actually has a similar mechanic to Ashes of War. They’re called Weapon Arts, and while they do give weapons new abilities and moves, they also can only be applied to specific weapons. Unlike the Ashes of War in Elden Ring, which can be applied to any weapon of a specific type.

How Do You Get Ashes of War?

Ash of War: Wild Strikes is found in Stormhill, down the path from the Castleward Tunnel Site of Grace

There are so many different ways you can bag new Ashes of War. You’ll come across many of them just by exploring The Lands Between and interacting with the world. Some can be found inside chests, others can be looted from corpses, and some are just waiting to be found in places of interest.

Basically, you’ll almost be tripping over Ashes of War at some points in Elden Ring. However, only the really basic ones are so easy to come across. If you want the really awesome Ashes of War to kit out your Tarnished with the best Skills, then you’re going to have to get your hands dirty. Complete quests, beat down Teardrop Scarabs, and fight a few difficult enemies like the Lion Guardian at Fort Gael. I don’t particularly like fighting Lion Guardians, but that Lion’s Claw Ash of War is sweeeet.

If your goal is to collect every Ash of War, then you’ll be happy to know that a good chunk of them can be bought from merchants. No exploring or battling required, outside of what it takes to rack up enough runes to make your purchase.

The most expensive Ash of War to buy in the game is the Eruption Ash of War, which can be purchased in Volcano Manor from Knight Bernahl for 8,000 runes. Start saving up those pennies, because Eruption is AWESOME. Have you considered just how helpful it would be to smack the ground and summon spouts of lava? Total gamechanger. 

How Do You Equip Ashes of War?

You can always find the Ashes of War you have collected in your inventory

Once you’ve done all of the searching, fighting, or buying necessary to obtain the Ash of War you want, now it’s time to put it to work.

First, you need to understand the Ash of War you chose. Each one is only compatible with a specific range of weapon types. For instance, Spinning Slash will work with swords, axes, and polearms, but NOT Colossal swords or axes. On the other hand, Troll’s Roar can ONLY be applied to Colossal swords, axes, and hammers.

There are a handful of Ashes that will work on any armament (like Endure and Ground Slam), but it’s still important to plan out how you intend to combine your weapons and Ashes to ensure compatibility. Don’t do what I did and upgrade a weapon with an Ash of War in mind, only to find out hours later that they don’t even go together. Devastation.

Once you have your weapon and Ash lined up, there are a couple of ways you can combine them.

First and most convenient is by using your Whetstone Knife at a Site of Grace to equip your Ashes. This is done by going to the ‘Ashes of War’ menu when you sit at the Site of Grace. This menu will show you all of the Ashes of War you have in your collection, and allow you to freely apply and remove them as you like.

If you find yourself at the Roundtable Hold and want to make some adjustments to your Ashes, you can make a visit to Smithing Master Hewg, who can also apply and remove your Ashes of War. It’s free and it keeps him busy, so why not? Also, how can you not love that face?

Hewg is a real looker
Once you remove an Ash of War, it retains all of its Skill and Affinity changes, and the weapon you removed it from goes back to the state it was in before you applied the Ash. This is important to note as in some cases applying an Ash of War to a piece of equipment will change the Skill it has by default. It’s not possible to have two active Skills at the same time.

How Do You Use Ashes of War?

The Storm Stomp Ash of War in action

With your Ashes of War equipped, you’re ready to charge into battle.

To use your equipped Ash, all you have to do is press the left trigger (or L2 or right click depending on your platform). This will activate your Ash’s Skill, which will always be shown in the lower left side of the screen.

Unfortunately, it’s not always necessarily that simple.

If your loadout contains a sword and a shield, the shield you’re using may have the Parry Ash equipped to it. The Parry is pretty important for many playstyles, but here’s the thing: that parry will always override the Skill of the Ash you have equipped to your sword. So when you go to use your super powerful Ash of War attack and end up swinging your shield at nothing, that’s the reason.

This will force you to kind of rethink your approach to combat, but it’s not impossible to deal with. You can either remove the Parry Ash from the shield so that you’ll always use the sword’s Ash Skill, or you can put away the shield entirely and forgo the defensive option. It’ll be up to you, but this is something to keep in mind when planning a loadout and a particular play style.

Another thing to note is that Ashes of War use varying amounts of FP depending on the Ash. If you get into a habit of spamming your Ash (a practice that will get you killed in just about any situation in any Soulslike game), then you’ll run out of FP quickly and be left a sitting duck. Careful FP management is key to your survival, so remember that when you begin to get frantic in tough fights.

If you choose to not use a shield in favor of your main weapon’s Ash of War Skill, then it might be best for you to two-hand the weapon. Doing that gives you a little damage boost that can go a long way in some fights.

How Do Whetblades Work?

The game gives you a pretty good explanation for what whetblades do... if you don't skip it

Throughout Elden Ring, there are several different whetblades that you can acquire aside from the whetstone knife in the Gatefront Ruins at the beginning of the game.

Each whetblade has the ability to change and upgrade Affinities for the Ashes of War you apply to your weapons. Remember, Affinities determine a weapon’s scaling, which in turn determines the amount of extra damage you can deal, so these can be very useful.

Here is a quick rundown of the different whetblades you can obtain, what they do, and where to find them:

Iron Whetblade

Heavy (Str), Keen (Dex), Quality (balance Str and Dex)

Found in Stormveil Castle armory room

Glintstone Whetblade

Magic (Int scaling + Magic Damage), Cold (Int scaling + Magic Damage and Frost)

Found in Raya Lucaria Academy in room with Twinsage Sorcerer

Red-Hot Whetblade

Fire (Str scaling + Fire Damage), Flame Art (Faith scaling + Fire Damage)

Found in Redmane Castle on hanging bodies past Abductor Virgin

Sanctified Whetblade

Lighting (Dex scaling + Lighting Damage), Sacred (Faith scaling + Holy Damage)

Found in Fortified Manor, Leyndell on a corpse next to an anvil on the southwest side of the manor

Black Whetblade

Poison (Poison buildup), Blood (Blood Loss buildup), Occult (Arcane scaling)

Found in Nokron, Eternal City on a corpse in Night’s Sacred Ground

You keep all of the whetblades you found if you start New Game+. 

How to Copy Ashes of War

Hewg has plenty of services to offer

If you’ve become particularly attached to a specific Ash of War but want to start using a different weapon, you don’t necessarily have to remove the Ash from your current weapon.

There is a system in place that allows you to actually copy your favorite Ashes of War so you can use them elsewhere while leaving your other weapons how they are. All you have to do is bring the Ash of War you want to duplicate along with an item called Lost Ashes of War to Smithing Master Hewg at the Roundtable Hold. He’ll take care of it, and won’t even charge you for it! What a guy.

The benefits of doing this are almost endless if you have a little bit of imagination. Personally, I like to dual-wield Uchigatanas with the Seppuku Ash of War equipped to each one. The Blood Loss bonus is insane! You might be able to figure out an even better combo with some experimentation.

The issue then becomes that there are a limited number of Lost Ashes of War in the entire game. Less than 20 as far as I can tell. Like the Ashes of War themselves, Lost Ashes of War can also be found in a variety of places, purchased from NPCs, or obtained by defeating an enemy. While they are limited in number (and not terribly easy to come by), you’re probably not going to be devising 20 different equipment setups that involve copied Ashes of War. And if you are, give us a shout on Twitter @thegeekyinc. It would be awesome to see what you’ve come up with!

According to its item description, Lost Ashes of War are empty husks without any memories of battle. Only with Smithing Master Hewg’s help can the empty ashes be filled with the memories of great battles that make up other Ashes of War, which gives them the same power and abilities. “Thus does the copy pass into becoming the genuine article”, as the description says. 

That’s all I have for Ashes of War, thanks for sticking around to the end! Be sure to keep an eye on Geeky Inc. for even more awesome content.