You're not supposed to start Shadow of the Erdtree at level 1 with no gear, but one Elden Ring player proved it's possible with very careful planning

The Dancing Lion boss stares into the camera in Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree.
(Image credit: FromSoftware)

If you were worried about being under-leveled for Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, then don't be, as one talented player has proven that you can waltz into the Realm of Shadow at the lowest possible level, with no equipment to your name, and still triumph. 

Given Shadow of the Erdtree's entry requirements, it's obvious that you're not meant to enter the Realm of Shadow as soon as you step foot into the action RPG. The DLC is locked behind two tough bosses – Starscourge Radahn and Mohg, Lord of Blood – who'll generally ensure that you'll be somewhat leveled up by the time you hit the expansion. Soulslike YouTuber Iron Pineapple clearly took that as a challenge and decided to see if it'd be possible to survive the DLC's first region, Gravesite Plain, as well as its first boss after starting out with nothing but Torrent the spectral steed and upgraded Estus Flasks for healing. 

As you'd imagine, Iron Pineapple was initially getting walloped by everything, and struggling to deal any meaningful damage to even the weakest enemies. The first thing that needed to be found was a weapon, and the YouTuber was able to obtain the Beast Claw by luring the hostile NPC, Logur, to the side of a cliff where they promptly fell to their death. 

Thankfully for Iron Pineapple, the Beast Claw is able to build up Bleed damage, which triggers Hemorrhage in susceptible foes. This was important early in the run, as Hemorrhage eats a set percentage of enemy health bars, regardless of your level or how good your weapon is, giving Iron Pineapple a much better way to fight before getting access to significant upgrades.

Next came the Scadutree Fragments. While Shadow of the Erdtree doesn't ignore all those hard-earned levels from your regular ol' Runes (there's a reason why the Shadow of the Erdtree level requirement is estimated around 150), the main way you strengthen your character in the DLC is collecting those fragments to upgrade your Scadutree Blessing. Doing so reduces the amount of damage you take and boosts how deadly your attacks are in the Realm of Shadow. 

Elden Ring's DLC but I start with NOTHING - YouTube Elden Ring's DLC but I start with NOTHING - YouTube
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While it's been proven that you can smash through the entire DLC without upgrading your Scadutree Blessing at all, they make an enormous difference, and perhaps nothing demonstrates that better than the effect they had on Iron Pineapple's low-leveled Tarnished, who suddenly started to put up much more of a fight against all the DLC's foes. Being able to defeat enemies quicker also meant that it was easier for the YouTuber to grab more equipment, weapons, and upgrade materials to slowly construct a build to take on the Dancing Lion.

After collecting plenty of Smithing Stones and experimenting with different weapons, Iron Pineapple settled on using the Great Katana, another Bleed weapon, which was upgraded to +17 using the materials scattered around the Gravesite Plain area. With our hero going into the Dancing Lion fight at just level 65, you might expect the worst. However, by summoning the Black Knight Commander Andreas Spirit Ashes and equipping the Dried Bouquet talisman to temporarily raise his attack power when Andreas was inevitably killed, and using the Deflecting Hardtear to pull off perfect guards and powerful counterattacks, Iron Pineapple was able to emerge victorious. (Our Shadow of the Erdtree Divine Beast Dancing Lion guide has many more tips, too.)

While you might be surprised that the run ends there, as Iron Pineapple explains, this is a challenge that's only going to be challenging right at the start, when you have the least amount of tools at your disposal to help you. Once you're over the hill, it's basically a normal playthrough. I'm not sure anyone can call the DLC's final boss easy under any circumstances, but at least you can expect to have a full set of armor by then if, like Iron Pineapple, you somehow manage to start the DLC without one.

Be sure to check out our guide on how to find Shadow of the Erdtree Scadutree Fragments to help you through Elden Ring's expansion.

Catherine Lewis
News Writer

I'm one of GamesRadar+'s news writers, who works alongside the rest of the news team to deliver cool gaming stories that we love. After spending more hours than I can count filling The University of Sheffield's student newspaper with Pokemon and indie game content, and picking up a degree in Journalism Studies, I started my career at GAMINGbible where I worked as a journalist for over a year and a half. I then became TechRadar Gaming's news writer, where I sourced stories and wrote about all sorts of intriguing topics. In my spare time, you're sure to find me on my Nintendo Switch or PS5 playing through story-driven RPGs like Xenoblade Chronicles and Persona 5 Royal, nuzlocking old Pokemon games, or going for a Victory Royale in Fortnite.