I recently wrote about delving into Bloodborne's cut content, which over the past several months has been appearing with some regularity. That article goes into detail on how and why, and chin-strokes a little about the rights and wrongs of exploring stuff that a creator decided to remove from their work. Since writing it I've continued to chew over one of the cut bosses discovered by the individual known as Zullie, which has been given the non-canon community title of the Nightmare Moon Presence.
It's a curious thing and one of the insights that really sparked my imagination about it is that players with different versions of the game find the boss encounter slightly different – in some cases it doesn't move at all, in others players are happily summoning in help. Minor differences and glitches, the latter to be expected in this context of course, but what it suggests is that the Nightmare Moon Presence was being worked on by Fromsoft after the release of the game. That is, this boss was probably at some point destined for inclusion in Bloodborne's DLC.
Fans of the game may remember something interesting in this respect. Bloodborne was initially supposed to have two DLC expansions, which in the end were rolled together into one – and The Old Hunters DLC was absolutely outstanding. While fighting the Nightmare Moon Presence, and before knowing any of this, I was struck by both the arena's similarity to the DLC's final battle – facing the Orphan of Kos on the coast of the Fishing Hamlet – and an unexplained line from one of the game's bosses, Micolash, which references "the grand lake of mud, hidden now from sight."
Here's me briefly yabbering away about all of that.
What does it all mean? This is the point where I demur. I enjoy looking at the Nightmare Moon Presence and speculating about how and where it might once have fitted into Bloodborne's cosmos. But I'm also conscious that this way madness lies, not least in the sense that this thing is not part of the game and, even if you could produce the lore equivalent of a gotcha, it wouldn't really matter – because it's not 'in' the game proper.
I find aspects of it fascinating regardless. The Hunter's Dream and the Hunter's Nightmare are distinct areas in the game, but explicitly linked through both a tombstone in the Dream (which allows you to access the Nightmare) and the character of Gehrman, the first hunter. Gehrman is a prisoner of the Dream, and almost certainly the originator of the Nightmare – it seems likely that it was Gehrman who committed an unholy cross between deicide and infanticide by murdering the Orphan of Kos in the name of science / Byrgenwerth, which is what leads to an ongoing curse on hunters and more broadly humans.
So this would suggest that the Moon Presence was at one point the real crux of the game's cosmology – presiding over both Dream and Nightmare, the still centre around which all revolves. As it is, in the game, the Moon Presence is still incredibly important and arguably the most important Great One, but it is only one of several. This would also link it more closely to the Orphan of Kos, and bear in mind it's already got some sort of interest in another Great One's child, Mergo.
But here's where I really have to stop. Thing is, who knows if this is the 'Nightmare Moon Presence', or simply an unrelated Great One? Certain physical similarities are undeniable, but it has big differences too – parts of it resemble The One Reborn, other aspects of it remind me of Ebrietas. It's completely possible that this is a whole other entity with an intended role we could never guess at. Given the boss is also found in the Chalice Dungeons, you could just as reasonably say this was intended as a Chalice boss.
What remains fascinating about it is that, in a universe as ambiguous as Bloodborne, there are always questions to be answered. The Nightmare Moon Presence is something that only the most dedicated hunters will see, and even then they're stepping outside the bounds of what should be possible. They're crossing into unknown planes of existence, risking it all (hey, my Bloodborne save file is a Big Deal to me), and never quite sure what they've seen after the event.
In one sense Bloodborne is about the pursuit of knowledge, and what humans will do to obtain it. As a small army of hunters descend, again and again, to check out the Nightmare Moon Presence, it's that same impulse driving us all. What lies beyond? How can we explain it? And what could it all mean for other aspects of this world? The fact there are no hard answers isn't a problem. It's almost the whole point.