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Sekiro guide: Rot Essence and Dragonrot

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What they are, what they do, and how to cure them

Sekiro Dragonrot Rot Essence guide
Wheezing is a telltale symptom of Dragonrot
FromSoftware/Activision via Polygon

After you use Resurrection in Sekiro to return from the dead, you’ll occasionally receive an item called Rot Essence. In this guide, we’ll explain what that means, how it works, how to avoid it, how to cure Dragonrot, and how to get Rot Essence out of your inventory.

In short, Wolf comes back to life in two ways (and places): on the battlefield and at a Sculptor’s Idol. The distinction matters because the consequences are different. It’s kind of complicated. So let’s break it down.

Update (April 9): Since Sekiro’s release, we’ve continued to learn more about Dragonrot, Rot Essence, and Resurrection. This guide now incorporates that knowledge and information directly from Sekiro publisher Activision.

Rot Essence, Dragonrot, and Resurrection

In Sekiro, the process that allows Wolf to die and come back to life always has a cost. Sometimes, Wolf pays for it himself.f Sometimes, others in the game pay it for him.

If Wolf has Resurrective Power resources on hand (those pink circle icons in the bottom left of the screen), then resurrecting on the battlefield has no effect on characters in the world. If Wolf doesn’t have Resurrective Power resources on hand (again, the pink circles) or chooses not to use them, then coming back to life automatically at a Sculptor’s Idol has an effect on characters in the world.

Why? Because every living thing in Sekiro has something like a life force, and Wolf must always consume that life force to resurrect.

So, to be clear, Wolf can pay for Resurrection in two ways:

  1. On the battlefield using the round, pink icons at the bottom left of your screen as payment
  2. At a Sculptor’s Idol with the life force of characters (NPCs) in the world of Sekiro as payment

Let’s talk about them in that order.

Resurrection on the battlefield (round, pink icons)

As Wolf kills certain enemies, he collects their life force. When he’s collected enough (or he rests at a Sculptor’s Idol), the round, pink icons at the lower left of your screen fill up.

Sekiro Dragonrot resurrection round pink icons FromSoftware/Activision via Polygon

Using those icons to power Resurrection and come back from the dead has no effect on Dragonrot (which we’ll talk about below). Wolf already collected what he needed to pay for Resurrection. He’s just making his payment right there on the battlefield. The icon changes. Payment made.

Here’s another way to look at it: Those pink circles in the lower left of your screen are the result of Wolf’s actions, and the consequences of paying circular icons to use Resurrective Power are limited to Wolf — not NPCs in the world. It’s all about him.

Resurrection at a Sculptor’s Idol

If Wolf dies and can’t (or doesn’t) use a round icon to power Resurrection — if he comes back to life at a Sculptor’s Idol, in other words — then that flavor or resurrection must consume the life essence of NPCs in the world. Dragonrot is the consequence (or the effect) of resurrecting without pink circle icon payments.

Sekiro’s narrative justification for this system makes sense. Resurrection always requires life essence. For Wolf to resurrect without using the life essence in the pink icons, he has to take some of the life essence from people in the world — merchants and helpful characters like the Sculptor alike.

Their life essence becomes Wolf’s payment. (Not that they had a choice.)

At a certain point, those people start getting sick. Dragonrot is the sickness. When characters are afflicted with Dragonrot, you can’t progress their story missions. You have to cure them first.

Resurrection Technique and Resurrection after True Death

Let’s go over that again, from a slightly different angle. There are two ways (and places) to resurrect in Sekiro:

  • Resurrection Technique (on the battlefield). Wolf dies, and you press a button to come back to life where he fell. To do this, you consume one of the pink circle icons in the lower left of your screen. Because you did use a pink circle, this does not contribute to Dragonrot.
  • Resurrection after True Death (at a Sculptor’s Idol). Wolf dies and resurrects at a Sculptor’s Idol. Because you didn’t consume a pink circle, this contributes to Dragonrot.

Resurrection after True Death builds up an invisible meter that, at certain thresholds, leads to Rot Essence and Dragonrot. The more you resurrect at a Sculptor’s Idol, the greater your chances of receiving Rot Essence.

Repeated death and resurrection at a Sculptor’s Idol (Resurrection after True Death) also decreases your chances of recovering your Skill Experience and sen through Unseen Aid (which we’ll discuss below). That’s why you’ll only receive Rot Essence when you resurrect at a Sculptor’s Idol — never on the battlefield.

Let’s say that again, because both are forms of resurrection, and both come at a cost:

  • Using Resurrection Technique on the battlefield means that Wolf consumes a pink icon. Those pink icons are like payments that Wolf makes to afford resurrection. Because he paid with an item that he earned himself, this form or resurrection does not affect anyone in the world and does not contribute to Dragonrot.
  • Using Resurrection after True Death means that Wolf can’t (or chose not to) pay for resurrection using a pink icon. Therefore, to resurrect, he used the life force of others in the world. Dragonrot is consequence of sapping the life force from NPCs like the Sculptor.

Rot Essence lowers Unseen Aid’s percentage

Every time you resurrect in Sekiro at a Sculptor’s Idol — what we call Resurrection after True Death above — you’re building up an invisible meter. At certain thresholds, you’ll receive a Rot Essence item.

Pressing the button for Resurrection after you die has an obvious benefit: You return to the battlefield where you died with all of the Skill Experience and sen you’re carrying. And it doesn’t contribute to Dragonrot.

If you repeatedly die and resurrect at a Sculptor’s Idol, you’re increasing your chances of receiving a Rot Essence item. When you have those, your odds of receiving Unseen Aid decrease. Just like the Rot Essence item’s description says:

Owning this item reduces one’s chances of receiving Unseen Aid.

Unseen Aid starts at 30 percent, giving you effectively a 1 in 3 chance to recover your sen and Skill Experience when you die and respawn at a Sculptor’s Idol.

Sekiro Unseen Aid FromSoftware/Activision via Polygon

Each of the Rot Essence items you carry lowers Unseen Aid’s percentage (labeled 1 in the image above), which is the chance that you’ll receive Unseen Aid and get all of your Skill Experience (2 above) and sen (3 above) back.

Rot Essence items and names

Sekiro Rot Essence: Sculptor item
The Rot Essence: Sculptor item affects the Sculptor in the Dilapidated Temple
FromSoftware/Activision via Polygon

You can find the Rot Essence items that you’re carrying in Sekiro’s Inventory > Key Items menu.

Every resurrection at a Sculptor’s Idol increases your odds of receiving a Rot Essence item. When you receive one of those, it decreases your chances of receiving Unseen Aid. In the screenshot above, we’re at 13 percent Unseen Aid because we’re carrying two Rot Essence items.

Each Rot Essence item has a name associated with it, and the name denotes the character who’s afflicted with Dragonrot. In the screenshot above, that’s Rot Essence: Sculptor. To be super clear, that means that the Sculptor is sick.

You can still purchase items from a sick merchant, but you can’t progress stories from any sick NPC.

Curing Dragonrot and losing Rot Essence

After the Sculptor gets sick in the first few hours of Sekiro, you’ll find Emma the Physician tending to him. Speak to her, and she’ll say that she may be able to create a cure.

Later in the game, when you find someone wheezing and coughing from Dragonrot, you’ll have the option to Collect blood sample. As you can see in the gallery above, we found the option while speaking to Anayama the Peddler, the merchant near the Outskirts Wall – Stairway Sculptor’s Idol, but you can get a blood sample from other NPCs afflicted with Dragonrot, too.

Collect the blood sample, return to Emma at the Dilapidated Temple, and give it to her. “Allow me to continue my research into he Dragonrot,” she’ll say. Leave for a while, and then return. (Or quit to the main menu and reload the game. That works, too.)

Speak to her again, and you’ll receive the Dragon’s Blood Droplet and the Recovery Charm item. Use those at any Sculptor’s Idol with the new Dragonrot Restoration option, and everyone afflicted with Dragonrot will be cured … for now.

Dragon’s Blood Droplet and cures

Using a Dragon’s Blood Droplet is not a permanent cure. Everyone may be feeling great for now, but the more you die and resurrect at a Sculptor’s Idol, the sicker everyone will get (again) because you’ll receive more Rot Essence.

Sekiro Dragon’s Blood Droplet merchant
You can buy a Dragon’s Blood Droplet from this merchant, but he only has one. That’s it.
FromSoftware/Activision via Polygon

You can buy more Dragon’s Blood Droplets from some Sekiro merchants (and they’re pretty cheap at 180 sen), but inventory is scarce. It’s not an unlimited resource. Use it sparingly. If you’re inclined to cure the world, there are good and bad times to do that.

Using a Dragon’s Blood Droplet before a boss fight is a bad idea, for example. You’re almost certainly doing to die a lot, and therefore find a bunch of Rot Essence in your inventory. Better to hold off until you’re (relatively) safe.

On the other hand, if an NPC like Anayama the Peddler is sick, and you want to make progress on his quest — he asks you for information about the Ashina samurai, and you’ve found it — that could be a good time to burn a Dragon’s Blood Droplet.

But, again, this is not an unlimited resource. Don't be afraid to use it, but when you do, remember that you only have so many chances.