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What do they do
Allows you to cast miracles. ("Divine spells")
can you upgrade them?

Spider_King_Kellogg

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No. Not that I've seen anyways. You can in Dark Souls 3 though. Maybe 2. I don't remember.
So this thing is completely useless in every way? Seeing how the Cleric starts out with a Canvas Talisman, it looks like there is absolutely no reason to ever use this unless you REALLY love the way this thing looks and want to min-max your Fashion Souls.
Knights start out with an attunement slot and almost enough faith to use heal, and this is free after the first boss, so if you start a knight just pump up faith, buy heal, and use this until you can afford a better one.
Might be a little late, but who knows? Someone might be new to the game because of remastered. It’s not optimal on purpose because of its availability. If I were a starter class other than cleric, and got faith up early enough for Thorolund talisman to become obsolete, this would be the best you would have early in the game. If you know what you’re doing though, you’d never get use.
There for people of cleric build to cast miracles. I'm currently trying to see if I can level it up to merge with soul of smough for his bad *** hammer lol
You get Smough's Great Hammer from hammers, not talismans. I would recommend using the morning star or reinforced club for their bleed effects until you get the Soul of Smough.
"Recommended for Faith levels: There are better talismans available for any Faith level." so... useless then i guess
not useless if you plan to use any miracles that don't scale like force, tranquil walk of peace, vow of silence, magic/great magic barrier, etc.
Also it's probably the best early game if you start as a non cleric, it passes thouroland talisman at about 27 and you need 25 to be a sunlight boy anyway
Not useless because it's the best looking. The whole point of this game is fashion.
This talisman isn't worth it in the long run, but if you want to use miracles without dishing out 5000 souls for a Thorolund Talisman from Petrus at the start of the game, and you didn't choose cleric, this talisman is free and available basically right away. All that to say that a regular talisman isn't COMPLETELY useless.
Doesn't Rhea also sell this talisman? It's not mentioned here or on her page.