More adorable noob stories: I restarted with a pyromancer due to general advice, and did some more exploring around Firelink. Found some stairs down that I'd totally missed so far, and soon got murdered by some ghosts. I thought, well, let's not go that way then, and zigged instead of zagged and used this here Master Key gift the first time I can recall. Saw some big guys that I elected to backpedal from for the time being, and then a big old statue-still dragon. Which I'd ordinarily similarly backpedal from, but there were glowie bits nestled in its toes. And a ha. That's that Dragon Crest Shield I've seen occasional mention of. I've also cured myself of stubborn insistence to keep trying to riposte everything in favor of keeping the shield up most of the time, and it turns out that's working much better for me. There's the occasional attacks that I'm confident enough to try it occasionally, but no longer being insistent on it is saving me all sorts of grief. Which is also showing me the truth of what people say about how quickly you make up restarted ground once you have even a slightly better inkling of what you're doing.