Alongside the deployment of Summon Signs, there are several other ways in which you can join another player's game. These alternative methods, however, don't require you to be summoned by a host, making them rather more intrusive. That said, not all of these methods - which can loosely be divided into invasions and automatic summons - are designed with evil intent.
Other pages in this guide:
Dark Souls 3: summoning and multiplayer
How to send messages and use Summon Stones, and what the different colours mean.
Dark Souls 3: how to play co-op
Where to place your summon signs for co-op and PvP, and how to play the game with friends.
Invasions are the malicious side of the Dark Souls multiplayer experience, enabling players to force themselves into other worlds in order to kill the host (and any other phantoms present) and reap unique rewards. In Dark Souls III, invasions are closely tied to the Rosaria's Fingers covenant, with key invasion items only becoming available if you follow the covenant-centric Leonhard quest-line.
To invade another player's world, you'll need either the Cracked Red Eye Orb or the Red Eye Orb item. The former can be obtained as a starting gift, by speaking to the NPC Leonhard at the Firelink Shrine, or by collecting the item from certain fallen enemies.
Using a Cracked Red Eye Orb will transport you to a random world, giving you the chance to pursue its host and kill them. Once your mission is successful, or you've been banished from the world, the one-use Cracked Red Eye Orb will be destroyed.
To continue invading, you'll either need additional cracked orbs or the Red Eye Orb, which is acquired by progressing Leonhard's quest-line. The Red Eye Orb can be used indefinitely and, once activated, will continuously attempt to send you to other worlds.
It's worth noting that while invasions are linked with the Rosaria's Fingers covenant in lore terms, members of other covenants are free to invade worlds too. In fact, invading will grand different rewards depending on your currently selected covenant.
Members of Rosaria's Fingers, for instance, can earn Pale Tongues by eliminating hosts, or Forked Tongues by killing members of the Way of Blue or Blades of the Darkmoon covenants that they encounter while in another world. Mound-Makers, meanwhile, can invade games to earn Vertebrae Shackles, and Warriors of Sunlight can invade worlds to earn Sunlight Medals.
To activate a new covenant, first acquire its badge by finding and speaking to the covenant's NPC leader - not always an easy task. Next, equip the badge in your inventory by placing it in the large diamond-shaped slot on the right-hand side.
Covenants and automatic summoning
(For more information on covenants, check our Dark Souls 3: how to join every covenant guide.)
Several covenants - namely, the Blue Sentinels, the Blades of the Darkmoon, the Watchdogs of Farron and the Aldrich Faithful - feature an automatic summoning mechanism that is, nominally, very similar to invading. When one of these covenants is active in a player's inventory, they'll automatically be summoned to another host's world to perform specific duties.
Members of the Blue Sentinels and the Blades of the Darkmoon covenants act as protectors, and are automatically summoned to protect Way of Blue players when their worlds are invaded by hostile phantoms. Blue Sentinels appear in-game as light blue phantoms, while Blades of the Darkmoon members are a slightly darker shade of blue.
The only other difference between the two covenants is that Blades of Darkmoon members have a story-based rivalry with the Aldrich Faithful, and gain additional items for defeating its phantoms. Once a hostile phantom (or the summoning host) has been eliminated, protectors will automatically be returned to their own worlds.
The Watchdogs of Farron and the Aldrich Faithful covenants operate somewhat differently, meanwhile, and are focussed on protecting specific areas of the game world. Members of the Aldrich Faithful will summoned to defeat players exploring Anor Lando, for instance, while the Watchdogs of Farron are automatically summoned to protect Farron Woods. In these cases, once a host has been defeated, covenant members will return home.
Terminating a multiplay session and penalties
There's one last useful thing to know about multiplayer gaming in Dark Souls III. If you need to end the current session for any reason, you can use the Black Separation Crystal item, which you're given at the start of the game.
If a session host uses the item, all summoned phantoms (with the exception of invading phantoms) will be sent back to their own worlds. A summoned player, meanwhile, can use the Black Separation Crystal to return to their world without interrupting the session for other players. Similarly, an invading phantom can use the item to return home.
Be warned, however: you'll accrue penalty points each time you use the Black Separation Crystal. Once your character has accumulated around 30 points, they won't be able to partake in multiplayer games again until they use the Way of White Circlet item. A single Way of the White Circlet is provided to each new character on creation, and there's currently no known way to acquire more. In other words, you leave a multiplayer session prematurely at your own peril.
Head back to the first page for the rest of our Dark Souls 3 guide.