Leveling up in Elden Ring isn't always as easy as opening a menu. You'll have to unlock the ability to level up first, which means many of the runes you collect early on in the game will likely bite the dust a few times along with you. That's ok — there are more where they came from.
To level up, you'll need to find Melina, the Maiden that will aid you on your quest. Here's how to find her.
How to Find Melina, the Maiden
When you first exit the Stranded Graveyard and enter Limgrave, you'll run into a Site of Lost Grace. These function the same way bonfires did in previous Souls games. They're places of rest, and offer the opportunity to pass time, redistribute your flasks, memorize spells, access your storage, and, eventually, level up.
They also point the way to the next critical Site of Lost Grace with shimmering golden lines floating in the air. The First Step site will point you due north, toward the church in the near distance. Head there, avoiding the big scary knight (unless you're interested in dying a whole bunch).
Inside the Church of Elleh you'll find another Site of Lost Grace. That site will point you farther north, and there's a road you can follow. But be careful: on the far side of the woods ahead you'll find a crossroads full to bursting with enemy soldiers.
Rather than face them head on, stay left around the encampment, hewing close to the rock wall.
Just before a massive gate, you should see another Site of Lost Grace. Rest there and you should be visited by Melina. She'll offer to help you on your quest, and, should you accept her help, you'll gain the ability to level up at any Site of Lost Grace.
How to Level Up in Elden Ring
Once you've accepted Melina's help, rest at any Site of Lost Grace and select the Level Up option. There you'll be able to spend any Runes you have on you on levels. The higher your level, the more Runes you'll have to spend per level.
At the top left of the level-up screen you'll see your current level, how many Runes you're holding, and how many you'll need to hit the next level.
You'll collect Runes by killing enemies, and you'll want to turn them into levels as quickly as possible to make sure you don't lose them — they're dropped when you die, and though you can recover them, if you die again before you do they'll be gone forever. A tip: make your peace with this. It's going to happen a lot!
You can also go into your inventory and use Golden Runes, which are banked versions of Runes. When you use them, they'll crack open into Runes you can spend to level up or at merchants. This can be useful if you're just shy of the total needed to buy that next level.
Best Stats to Level First in Elden Ring
Now that you can level up, you're faced with the eternal question of which stats are best to upgrade first. Ultimately, the question is a personal one, but there are some basic guidelines you'll likely want to follow.
First, a breakdown of what each stat does. (You can find this info in-game; look for a button at the bottom of the level-up screen that says "Help.")
- Vigor governs total HP, fire resistance, and immunity (which in turn governs your resistance to poison and rot)
- Mind governs your total FP and focus (which in turn governs your resistance to sleep and madness)
- Endurance governs your total stamina, how much you can equip at once, and your robustness (your resistance to blood loss and frostbite)
- Strength determines your ability to wield heavy arms, and how much damage you deal with strength-based weapons like straight swords or hammers
- Dexterity allows you to wield more "advanced" weapons, boosts your attack with dexterity-based weapons like the Uchigatana, lowers your spell casting time, lessens fall damage, and makes you harder to knock from your saddle
- Intelligence affects your ability to wield Glintstone sorceries, how much damage you deal with them, and improves your magic resistance
- Faith determines your ability to use Incantations, and how much effective they are
- Arcane is kind of like luck. It affects discovery, which is your likelihood to find items on defeated enemies. It also boosts your holy defense, vitality (your resistance to "instant death") and effectiveness with certain sorceries
When you're first starting out in Elden Ring, you'll likely want to pump your levels into Vigor and one of the two damage stats. Consider whether you'd rather wield heavy weapons or fast and technical ones, and then stick with that stat to make sure you get maximal efficiency.
Alternatively, you could check the weapons you have now for their attribute scaling. That will tell you how they do with Strength or Dexterity damage scaling. You'll find it by opening the Equipment screen and mousing over the weapon in question — look for Attribute Scaling and Attributes Required in the bottom of the center information panel.
You can also use this screen to check the scaling on your spells to see if they do better with Intelligence or Faith. That can help you pick which magic stat to boost as you level.
If you find you're running out of stamina or want to equip more armor without slowing to a snail's pace, toss a few levels in endurance, but it should be fairly low priority. Health and damage are your most important attributes.