|— The Dwarves|
Karl is a character who is presumed to be a Dwarf, but as of yet has no supporting lore or appearance in game outside of references in voice lines and flavour text. He is commonly referenced to by the other Dwarves when using the Salute command. Information about Karl is vague, but most available information suggests Karl went missing on Hoxxes IV.
Among the players and fan base, there are a number of popular theories on who "Karl" really is. The most common ones are listed below in no particular order, divided into theories that can still prove valid or theories that have been debunked.
- Valid theories:
- Karl was a former teammate of the playable dwarves. The dwarves often reference Karl as if he was a previously close friend, and talk about about his disappearance as if they were there themselves. This would suggest that Karl used to be one of the team before he was one day left behind, giving birth to the phrase "Leave no dwarf behind". This theory is given additional credibility in unused voice lines, however the actual evidence that Karl was their teammate is not entirely clear. The dwarves could also be exaggerating their perceived relationship with Karl.
- Karl was one of the initial dwarves to descend onto Hoxxes IV. Hoxxes is known for its dangerous working environment, but someone had to go in first to prove that it could be tamed. It is possible Karl was one of the first, or the first, dwarf to set foot on Hoxxes IV and fend off all the horrors the planet had to offer, proving that Deep Rock Galactic could harvest the planet while exploring its unknown dangers. Going in blind is a good way to misjudge the dangers and end up a martyr, giving credibility to the theory. Another detail is that Karl is commonly referenced in conjunction with Hoxxes' monsters, such as the Dreadnought, or the activities of the dwarves, such as drinking and mining, which suggests Karl was a part of the same mining operation the playable dwarves currently are, but isn't around anymore.
- Karl is the dwarf all the playable dwarves descend from. This theory is an expansion of a general cloning theory: Since all playable dwarves are identical in physical appearance and ability aside from their gear, it is possible they are all descendants or clones of the same dwarf. This dwarf could be Karl, and the reason he got cloned is that he was as powerful as the other dwarves claim. There is not much information to neither support nor refute this theory, rather it is based in the game mechanics themselves. Other than their identical appearance, the suspiciously vague way that miners are returned to the medbay after a failed mission, upon which they theoretically should be dead/unconscious and left behind, also lend credibility to a cloning process having taken place.
- Lacking/Debunked theories:
- Karl is Mission Control. Mission Control is clearly referenced in the game as not being Karl, most prominently through the voice line "That guy at mission control; he really has a cozy job!". If "that guy" was Karl, they'd surely be more enthusiastic and not speak about him as if he is no longer around.
- Karl is an important figure, such as a leader or DRG's CEO. This theory thus suggests Karl is a prominent figure of some other sort, such as a leader, hero, mythological figure or perhaps the CEO of Deep Rock Galactic himself, and not actually a miner like the dwarves. If one interprets the dwarves words literally, one can argue that the dwarves shouting "For Karl!" means they are doing all this work for Karl, but for other reasons than revenge, such as payment or loyalty. This theory is refuted by a lot of information suggesting Karl was a worker, like the other dwarves, and that "For Karl!" indeed refers to the dwarves taking revenge.
- Karl never existed, but is a propaganda figure. This theory is based on a real-world propaganda campaign, where the Soviet Union claimed a worker once delivered 14 times his daily quota in a coal mine. Karl could similarly just be a ruse by DRG to make the dwarves believe they can be as great as Karl, to boost their mission efficiency. This theory is refuted by an overwhelming amount of information suggesting Karl indeed existed.
References to Karl
There are many bits of information spread throughout the game that hint towards who Karl was or his role in Deep Rock Galactic. A majority of the information about Karl comes from voice lines of the playable dwarves themselves: This information should be taken with a grain of salt, as it is highly subjective and can be exaggerated. The remaining information mostly comes from written lines of text found in various menus of the game, which is considered official as it comes from Deep Rock Galactic or the developers themselves, but even then the information is vague.
- During missions
- "This one's for Karl!" (killing an enemy)
- "For Karl!" (using Power Attack)
- "That thing ate bullets, like Karl drank beers!" (defeating Glyphid Dreadnought))
- "We got it! Karl would be proud!" (defeating Glyphid Dreadnought))
- "By Karl! Look at all that pretty sparkly...!" (defeating Glyphid Crassus Detonator))
- "I'll beat your record this time, just watch me!" (mining minerals) Note: Karl is not directly mentioned, but might be the record-holder "watching from above".
- Outside of missions
- "For Karl!" (saluting, cheering, slapping fuzzy dice)
- "To Karl!" (cheering)
- "Karl would approve of this." (cheering)
- "...K...Karl? Is...is that you?" (while drinking Blacklock Lager)
- "Wait a minute...If all truths are knowable, then all truths must in fact be known.....but by whom? ...Karl would know!" (drinking Smart Stout)
- "I......I.......I know where Karl is! It's so bloody obvious! What...uhhh....hmmm....anyone up for playing the hoop game?" (drinking Smart Stout)
- "Hmm...what Karl would choose?" (selecting cosmetic)
- "I'm gonna wear this in honor of Karl!" (forging cosmetic)
- Unused voice lines 
- "Karl!" (starting the game)
- "Don't leave me, like you left Karl!" (drop pod leaving without the player)
- "Karl, if you're down here, now's the time to come out and say goodbye!" (during the final retirement mission)
- Biome descriptions, can appear on the Deep Dive terminal screen
- From the Skull Crusher Ale's description: People ask why we remember Karl. People ask what made him a legend. Rumor has it Skull Crusher Ale is at least partly to blame. Make of that what you will. Beware.
- Mission names might start with "Karl's", among many other words
- In a Ghost Ship Games development vlog put out shortly after Karl was first mentioned in the game, Mikkel and Robert, responsible for writing voice lines, stated that they decided to put the voice line about Karl in the game to add some more depth to the dwarves' world. They wanted it to feel like every enemy death was a bit of revenge for "Karl", who is purposely left faceless and with an unknown fate, but is hinted at as both a former colleague and a good friend.
- One song of the official soundtrack that plays during missions is titled "Karl's End", suggesting Karl might have met his end on the planet.
- It is possible the large central statue in the Memorial Hall is an effigy of Karl; in which case he worked for Deep Rock Galactic as a Scout. This could make sense as the other four dwarves around the central statue are the four playable characters. The fifth and the central could therefore depict Karl, as it would be weird to have two random scouts and just one of the others.
- Skull Crusher Ale, which Karl was very involved with in some way, gives an increased melee damage buff. This might imply Karl may have been able to brawl with the dangers of Hoxxes with only a pickaxe, and the dwarves salute him in honor of his skill. The achievement, "Karl Would Be Proud", where one must complete a Hazard 5 mission without a dwarf dying or ordering a resupply also support this theory.
- Karl bears some resemblance to Cousin Okri from the Vermintide games, a legendary, possibly fictitious dwarf that is viewed as a hero by the playable character(s).
- Deep Rock Galactic - Vlog#2, published on October 6th, 2017
- Wikipedia - Stakhanovite movement, accessed April 16th 2021
- Deep Rock Galactic translation service, accessed April 16th 2021, requires account
- Deep Rock Galactic - Original Soundtrack Volume I + II on Steam, published on February 28th, 2018