After trying out Fallen London first and liking it, I decided to get Sunless Sea from Steam. I’d heard it can be slow and painful, but I find i’m really struggling.

I do know all the usual starting actions and followed on from them.

Got the commission from the Admiralty and picking up the Tomb colonist and some Mushroom Wine. Went up to Venderbight, delivered the Tomb colonist and got a commission from him, and sold the wine. Headed out west and taggled with some bats and got my ship beat up without finding anything. Was running very low on fuel so headed back, stopping at Hunter’s Keep to visit the Sisters and go to tea. Then back to London, where I arrived burning my last unit of fuel. Turned in my 2 port reports. Talked to the Blind Bruiser and got fuel and supplies. Was lucky with the rats who fixed my ship for supplies. Headed out to the southeast and found the Shepherd Isles. Came back to London and my port report was disbelieved. Took an Unstamped Crate of Human Souls from the Blind Bruiser and headed northeast to find Mount Palmerston. Found Pigmote Island and favoured the Rats. Steamed around a lot but couldn’t find Mount Palmerston. Eventually ran out of supples and lost crew. Fights with sea creatures eventually destroyed my ship.

After losing the ship to sea creature damage and drowning, with only the offer of playing as a rival to follow on, I decided to start another game. But I wanted to bring up my issues and see if I could get some advice.

I find Sunless Sea has a similar issue to a lot of games, both single player and online multiplayer, in that it’s expected you’ll have to repeat the same almost or actually fatal challenges over and over again to learn how to play the game. It goes beyond risk, in that it’s a constant risk that’s hard to judge and difficult to reduce or avoid when circumstances indicate you should.

I found money very tight all the time. I often considered not hiring the 2 officers I did because the 50 Echoes cost for each was a major fraction of my funds. Even if I hadn’t hired them, my game didn’t made their presence or that of 100 more Echoes something that would have changed the outcome.

I find the lack of information of where ports massively uncertain. I’m given a vague general direction but no indication how far. I used my zeebat continuously but it only helped when I got close. The only ports I found deliberately were Venderbight by following the coast and Hunter’s Keep which I knew from YouTube videos was just off of London.

I think somewhere I read that the commision from the Blind Bruiser shouldn’t be taken early considering the distance to Mount Palmerston. But I needed the fuel and supplies after my first voyage. And once I had the Unstamped Crate, I figured it was dangerous to return to London with it undelivered. But why is it offered so early without some indication the destination is distant and difficult?

I’d appreciate some advice here.

I posted a few days earlier here with a similarly Discouraged experience after my first zee-captain died. I persevered and am singularly glad I did, because a lot of the islands and stories in this game are straight-up amazing. I’ll give you a few tips for the early game that worked for me:

  1. Make your first few zee-voyages as LONG AS POSSIBLE. Go up to Venderbight, and then make a wide circle to the north and back around east, south, and then west back to Fallen London. Go as far east as possible. If you run into any islands where you can buy fuel and/or supplies, top yourself off. Exploration takes priority over money. Don’t worry about terror too much; run with your lights off whenever possible; if a zee-beast or enemy vessel notices you, run away (using the F-key boost if necessary) unless you think you can win without taking much damage. Caution is important here.

Running with your lights off as much as possible will save you fuel and let you explore more, which will lead to boosts and treasures and help you when you need to go somewhere specific. Your terror will likely go above 50 and you’ll earn some Nightmares, but these can be taken care of later and will even help you gain a story item. Generally speaking, the longer you can stay out in the early game, the more you’ll come back with.

  1. A lot of officers can be found for free at specific islands, so recruiting them is not a major priority. I’d maybe pick up or 1 or 2 at the start, but it shouldn’t be all that necessary.

  2. Get a Port Report EVERYWHERE POSSIBLE. These help out tremendously in the early game because not only do they replenish your Fuel, they give you a monetary bonus. This will be one of your main sources of income early on.

  3. If you explored well in your first few outings, you should have no problem finding the destination for the Blind Bruiser’s first shipment, and you’ll get a nice reward when you come back. After that, it’s mostly just a matter of managing your Fuel and Supplies intelligently.

Hope it helps.
edited by Mukuro on 3/4/2015

I very much sympathise, but at this early stage of learning the ropes… well, it really is just a matter of practice. Practice at judging how far one can travel, practice at winning (or avoiding) fights, practice at planning routes. It really will just plain get easier as you get used to it, same as any other game.

I can give you a few specific tips. First, that, yes, it’s a good idea to hold off hiring officers until you’ve got money to burn. Second, the Bruiser won’t get grumpy if you don’t make that first delivery straight away - he only objects if you return to London without the different kind of delivery he asks for later. Third, there’s a bit of a knack to finding new islands, in that, when you sail into their tile, you’ll get a message telling you what area you’re in. If it mentions brimstone on the wind, for example, you know you’re near Mt Palmerston. Once you’ve got that, you can just make a couple of big sweeps in the area ahead to let the bat-sonar point you in the right direction. (In Palmerston’s case, well, it will always be on the north border, and not in the east- or west-most corners, but somewhere in between.)
edited by Sir Frederick Tanah-Chook on 3/4/2015

Unrelated addendum: It’s really annoying how frequently this forum logs me out…

edit: Related addendum: On the legacy screen, uncheck Rival to select a different inheritance.
edited by Olorin on 3/4/2015

Thank you all for your kind words. I did know some of these, and had run with the light off on my last voyage. But so much help, I do appreciate it. :)

I’ll just drop this here, although it doesn’t add much that hasn’t been said - just shows it put into pratice: Sunless Sea Guide - How to make money in the early game (minor spoilers) - YouTube

I’ll have to watch that.

My new Captain (Urchin background) had a very good first voyage. To Hunter’s Keep then north to Venderbight and then Codex. Didn’t bother with Whither for now. East to Frostfound and then Port Palmerston. Actual bought too much fuel. South where I discovered the Shepherd Isles and Abbey Rock, then west to Pigmote Isle, where I sided with the Rats. Then southwest back to London.

Important note: sell your cargo before going to the Admiralty. Actually had to dump a unit of Fuel. But now well stocked and with a large amount of fuel.

And Terror 62. I’d thought when you returned to London your Terror was cut to 50?

Only if you have SAY when you dock with London. Don’t visit Hunter’s Keep on your way back, only on the way out.

With only a modicum of luck, the first voyage can be entirely self-sustaining. It does require finding some places at good moments - Pigmote for instance.

After completing Exaltation, I figured it was a good time to check how difficult the game is to start-up in its current form. So new captain, no legacy (I kept the survivor but handed him over to the FathomKing almost immediately).

I was surprised how far I got without stress. Had to remember not to fight things, now that I was not tootling around in a dreadnaught with Memento Mori and maxed stats, but on the first trip out I visited every tile and never came close to running out of fuel, supplies, or hull damage. I played as a veteran so dropped off my officer at King-Eater’s as the culmination of the trip, and even that was timely with a fuel bonus. Came back to port with more than enough Reports to fully resupply and something over 3000 echoes.

And then I got cocky and tried to take on a life berg and died. But I had remembered to get a house and will, so next time will be easier still. Also, to be fair, I had all of the starting bonii: whisper-locked box, longbox, etc.

So my conclusion: start-up is just fine if you do as the game all-but-forces, and go explore. My sense is that the early mid game is going to be grindy, for things to make the Zong and other quests, but not too difficult. It’s a long way echo-wise to the mansion and dreadnaught, but - for instance - I have not yet smuggled any sunlight, nor red honey, and I have several more loads of sphinx stone to go.

I think the problem is that many people aren’t used to having to read so much up front, so it’s entirely possible they miss a lot of the pointers. There needs to be a more obvious push to explore hard from the get-go.

Thanks again everyone for your kind guidanece. I did miss that I needed SAY to get the Terror reduction in London.

Very true. But I have been reading everything and I don’t think the game does push you hard enough to explore far, nor that you should avoid battle at least until you improve your ship and be very careful of it at all times (though I might have missed some things). A note to check everything in the Gazetteer in every port including at start would be good (if there’s not one, can’t remember). At least everyone would then find the Tomb Colonist. But then new Captains might not realise they should go well beyond that, if they can. Unfortunately, they won’t have the Echoes for it if they didn’t take Urchin background (or any other that gives a good amount of Echoes from that first Tomb Colonist); that was my problem with my original start with the Natural Philosopher background.

Did a short second voyage to Mutton Island, the Cumaen Canal, and the Iron Republic. Shortage of Supplies (down 3 to get the Wretched Mog on Mutton) had me push hard to return, where SAY and a few other actions got my Terror down to a tolerable 45 for the next voyage. Still have a fare amount of Echoes even after resupply, and the Salt Lions were near the Iron Republic. Will try to locate them and hit them up on return when I will have cargo space.
edited by Jacke on 3/6/2015

I wasn’t suggesting it was your fault for a second. I felt like I read everything and didn’t get the hints either on my first captain. I survived more by luck than skill, stumbling across the salt lions practically next to London. On my next captain I passed down the small amount of money I had which let me push out and I accidentally discovered that exploring wide set me up with a thousand echoes or so pretty quickly.
edited by SporksAreGoodForYou on 3/6/2015

I didn’t think you did. :)

Definitely exploring wide gives a much better start. Don’t know how well that would work on a non-Urchin start as there wouldn’t be that big immediate return in Venderbight from the Tomb Colonist.

[quote=SporksAreGoodForYou]I wasn’t suggesting it was your fault for a second. I felt like I read everything and didn’t get the hints either on my first captain. I survived more by luck than skill, stumbling across the salt lions practically next to London. On my next captain I passed down the small amount of money I had which let me push out and I accidentally discovered that exploring wide set me up with a thousand echoes or so pretty quickly.
edited by SporksAreGoodForYou on 3/6/2015[/quote]

My last and current captains have really benefited from the Salt Lions. My current one even had the fortune to mean that it was close to Venderbight so I could quickly build up a buffer of echoes for exploring much wider and use Godfall and Polythreme as an additional source or income.
edited by Jabster on 3/9/2015

Your first captain won’t survive… but the launch version actually easier than the beta, as exploration more rewarding to keep the boat float thus it is possible to keep exploring without having to resort to grinding.

Here is two advices for early captains…

  1. Plot your journey so you can get as many as port reports as possible when going to your destination (and returning).
  2. Sell your items, don’t think much of accomplishing expensive quests yet. Think that your current captain’s goal is wealth, nothing else.
  3. Take note of buy/sell and opportunities on each port for later, or keep the wiki open in ‘map’.

Killing your first captain is pretty much imperative, otherwise you may well never unlock a certain key feature, since once you start succeeding at the game, all the mechanisms you have if you manage to die anyway will prevent you from receiving the required credit. Therefore, your first captain should immediately just commit suicide. Don’t even bother trying to do anything else.

Why? Shouldn’t you at least buy a better weapon, or hire a crew member to pass down for free via legacy? With minimal exploration, you could get the restaurant recommendation and find the bandaged poissonier. Even getting a scion isn’t that hard since you can trade Recent News for a zee story every time, guaranteed.

That’s a bit… harsh.
First of all, that key feature isn’t such a key feature. You can continue playing for quite a lot of time without needing it. Secondly, the first captain is very useful to learn basic stuff (the hard way). Given that you have it, you should try to have a go at it. I enjoyed the run of my first captain quite a lot actually.

I agree, I don’t see that it’s essential to kill off your first captain quickly. The thing that’s unlocked with the first death provides one nice option for earning Echoes and one easy (if expensive) source of an otherwise hard-to-get item, but as far as I know it isn’t essential to any storylines.

If you play cautiously enough that you finish the game multiple times without dying, you might want to deliberately kill off a captain to open up access to that area. But it’s certainly not imperative.

I’ve been getting a bit frustrated lately. I’m on my eighth captain. I’ve been able to consistently make 1000 echoes on my first voyage out, collect a few captivating treasures at the beginning of my second voyage…and accidentally aggro some zee monster about half way through my second voyage before I make it home to create heirlooms. This time around, I think I’ll just head straight back to london to secure the heirlooms before making another large foray into the zee.