It's not just that you have to get a fragrant branch to unfreeze Straid, it's what comes after that. You get Straid and you get your Roaring Halberd, great. Now where do you get petrified dragon bones to upgrade that Roaring Halberd?
Huh. True! I don't plan on using the Roaring Halberd as a main weapon, though. Only keeping it until I get the Silverblack Sickle, which is supposed to have great dark scaling once fully upgraded. Maybe I should stick with my flame sword. I really don't know.
Part of me wants to start over again, part of me wants to keep trying with my sword and board knight, and the last part wants me to just quit the game all together.
I don't know, there's just no guarantee that I'll actually make a better character or do any better.
Try starting over. My first attempt failed miserably. I got to the Iron Keep, and I was plain out of human effigies, and I'd lost plenty of souls. If you start over, you'll have a better foundation because you'll do better early on.
If you do, though - do yourself a favor and forget about your apparent dislike of metagaming. Look up the types of weapons and equipment that are good for your build. Because a lot of things you're only going to discover by experimenting otherwise. You've complained a lot about the game being too obtuse before. In a lot of the cases, I think you've just missed certain things. In some cases, it's more or less true. Usually this deals with relatively minor things like just how good scaling on a particular item is. To my knowledge, two items can have the same scaling with a certain stat, but receive slightly different bonuses from increases to that stat.
Regardless, looking up what equipment might be good for you, is definitely a good idea. You don't have to find a build on the internet and just use that, but looking over a list of gear to see how it scales, yeah, that helps. That way, you won't have to sink 15 petrified dragon bones into upgrading Defender Greatsword to know a +5 Lightning Defender Greatsword gets an S scaling with faith. Or that a +10 Lightning Mastodon Greatsword gets a B scaling in both Strength and Faith. Someone else has already done that work, so you can save your hard-earned souls.
The amount of work that has gone into figuring out all this stuff is pretty staggering. Look it up, and you'll have more time to focus on things like figuring out how to defeat bosses. Because, hell, even if you look up how to defeat a boss, there's a significant difference between knowing how to do it in theory, and actually pulling it off.