Sunless Sea - As a Merchant

I have … over 100 hours invested into the game at this point. It is fourth on my Steam list for most hours in a game, soon to ascend to third and it will probably get to second (150+ hours) before I get tired of it. For all the frustrations of dying, of desperate attempts to save myself as I run from Khanate ships … it is incredibly captivating both story-wise and gameplay-wise.

I got somewhat lucky in that at the point I started playing there was a couple easily repeatable ways to make a large amount of money (Salt’s Rites, which are considerably less valuable these days). After losing my first five captains, I had gained enough knowledge and got into a rhythm that allowed me to extract a lot of value out of the zee, and went on to write my Zong of the Zee and retire. My next captain I focused on getting the Horizon Codex book, and was sitting pretty happy with having a full 16 Heirlooms in my Zee-side mansion, and entering my next game with great stats and enough money to get a merchant vessel and good engines right out of the starting gate. I felt on top of the world.

That particular point of ascension corresponded with some content patches, and I exhibited far too much hubris. The game put me into my place however, draining me of my heirlooms as my first two captains died, and then I drove myself to frustration as three more captains went beneath the waves. The only trace of my earlier greatness was the things that were not lost in death - The Horizon Codex, my Scion legacy, and the Zee-side mansion that I very carefully made sure to preserve with an Iron Will as my very first course of action on each captain.

Eventually, on my sixth captain after attaining the Horizon Codex, I sold my Zee-side mansion so that I could start the game with a merchant vessel. That ship gives me my game-defining playstyle - the opening Tramp Steamer has barely enough cargo space to be tolerable, and none of the smaller-hold vessels make sense to me - maybe I just don’t play the way they expect you to (I’m not a Veils captain, so smuggling makes coming to Fallen London nerve-wracking, even if I’m just bringing cargo for the Blind Bruiser). Either way, my current captain is happily making buck on a new trade route I discovered that sends me far across the zee.

I still have not fully explored the stories (even some that have been in there for a long time - I keep shying away from Saviour’s Rocks) and there are always new ones being added to feed my hunger for more.

If people are interested in some more spoiler-y writeups of early game play and advancing, I’m happy to add some below - though I highly encourage everyone to interact with this game in a way that values the fiction and writing that goes into it, rather than jumping through hoops to get resources. Of course, the 10th time the Blind Bruiser asks you to carry cargo for him, I can understand just clicking the button without reading closely.
edited by Zee! on 1/27/2015

Some Merchantile thoughts below, for those who enjoy capacious vessels and less combat. This information is of course all subject to change as content is patched. While it’s not a huge story spoiler, it’s a bit of a content spoiler … I can’t really tell you where to go to buy and sell cargo without giving away specific prices / locations / etc. :)

What’s Valuable to Merchants?
Scintillack seems to be the single highest value bulk cargo. It is acquired for free in Principles of Coral at 1/3 units from a SAY action, and in larger groups by completing the quest line there. It is therefore difficult (but not impossible) to acquire a substantial amount of it on a trip out. Fallen London buys it at 70e / unit, and it can sometimes be sold in the Iron Republic for slightly more when the House of Pleasures is active. A very significant gain on a free item.
Second to Scintillack for selling is Souls. London buys souls for 60e on the open market, but the Brass Embassy will buy them for 63e once you open it via the Wistful Deviless. The cheapest direct source of Souls is currently at Khan’s Shadow for 57e, though there is an indirect trade that can be achieved with Devilbone Dice from Mt Palmerston to the House of Harms at Iron Republic. While the House of Harms is active, you can convert Devilbone Dice into 5 Lamentable Relics, and 11 Lamentable Relics into a Crate of Human Souls. This means that 11 Devilbone Dice from Mt Palmerston become 5 Souls for delivery to the Brass Embassy, turning 209e into 315e (net 106e). But, because you had many more Devilbone Dice in the first place, this works out to slightly less than 10e / unit.

Next in line for value in London is Parabola-Linen. This can be obtained in Irem for either 50 fragments, or in exchange for a Darkdrop Coffee. If you were to buy coffee in London, this of course will cost 50e, so you’d still only be gaining 10e / unit. Fortunately however, there is a much more lucrative strategy available by combining ports that offer cheaper Darkdrop Coffee (Khan’s Heart, Port Carnelian and Adam’s Way). Adam’s Way for example offers coffee for 38e, and conveniently buys Parabola-Linen for 63e (equal to what the Brass Embassy pays for Souls) - this means you can make a back-and-forth trip to net you 25 echoes / unit of cargo.

My Current Trade Strategy
An even stronger option becomes available through the Wildweald Court in Empire of Hands, who will trade Mushroom Cask Wine (21e in London) directly into Darkdrop Coffee - sadly it’s through a quest action so this part is click-intensive. Returning to London just like that would be 23e / unit, but since you’re already at the Eastern edge, a trip up to Irem to convert the Coffee into the more valuable Parabola-Linen is an obvious choice. Making the triangle (London - Empire of Hands - Irem) turns your 21e Mushroom Cask Wine into 60e Parabola-Linen (net 39e / unit). It has the further benefit of bringing you back to London where you can reduce Terror cheaply and turn in Port Reports to refill your fuel and recover some of the total expenses for your trip.

Affordable Entry
Getting that 7000e to acquire a merchant vessel can be intimidating, and you’ll want a mid-range engine to push it fast enough to be bearable, as well as putting money down on more crew, supplies, and that first load of cargo. I recommend concentrating on places that can give you substantial financial rewards (like Captivating treasures) early on to gain the funds for the upgrade. Some of the parts of the Neathbow are very easy to complete, as is Visage. With a little planning, you can quickly gain 21 scintillack in the Principles of Coral quest - which amounts to a solid 1500e.

If you’re willing to play sacrificially, try the following: find a couple early game quests that will net you 2-3 Captivating treasures. Buy an Elegant Townhouse, write an Iron Will, and die. Your new character will inherit the Townhouse, write a new will, and be able to redo those first couple quests and get some Captivating Treasures which you can turn into Heirlooms. Repeat this a few times until you have 10+ Heirlooms on a new character. Do your first couple quests to get you Captivating Treasures, and then convert everything to cash. Apply it to your new Merchant vessel and get ready to make some money. I recommend aiming to have 1000e on hand after upgrades and making a 100 unit run of Sphinxstone … for this reason I named my merchant vessel &quotThe Sphinx&quot.

Miscellaneous Musings
You could do 42e / unit if you went down to Adam’s Way, but I haven’t found a cargo valuable enough to bring from Adam’s Way back to London to compensate for the extra time/expense of going from North to South. Along the way, take note of what valuable islands you will pass by to save on costs: Mangrove College and Aestival will reload a lot of supplies, Mt Palmerston has cheap fuel and reasonable supplies - but Khan’s Shadow is not bad either. This will depend on your chart of course - no sense veering far off course to get Mangrove or Aestival. In a pinch, reload supplies at Empire of Hands for 20e (same as London). If you’re doing the Adam’s Way route, Adam’s Way also has good restocking prices (12e fuel, 25e supplies).

Remember - a Merchantile strategy rewards high-capacity vessels and doesn’t require having a good Veils score to smuggle in contraband. Tramp Steamers will struggle with being a merchant, and smaller vessels definitely need not apply. As more ports get stocked with more goods, I expect to see the strategy expand to include new locations.
edited by Zee! on 1/27/2015

Wait, Adam’s Way asks less for supplies than London does?

EDIT: Double checked against the wiki, I had Port Carnelian’s numbers in for Adam’s Way. Fixing.
edited by Zee! on 1/27/2015

I had thought those two had the same provision prices, which is why I’m surprised – I could have sworn it was 25 for supplies after the price increase. There are Life Things being obstacles at the moment, but when they clear up again I’m planning to head down thataway in any case, so I’ll have a gander myself.
edited by Fretling on 1/27/2015

I thought it would be interesting to mention that the captain mentioned above went rogue after a messy divorce and his Scion is now in possession of A Travelling Light.
edited by Zee! on 1/28/2015

:[ by divorce do you mean…betrayal. or death. a simple discovery of frondular affection?[li]

After engaging in one too many trysts at zee, returning to London was met with an angry spouse and a slamming door. Driven to despair and anguish by the guilt that overcame him, he lashed out at London, at the Bazaar, at the Masters and at everything he once held dear. He got in contact with the Calendar Council and … things did not end well.
edited by Zee! on 1/28/2015

Is there any consolation, one wonders, when there exists cause for such destruction? Or must all captains be condemned equally, even those who decide that, hey, I want a shiny candle. Oooh candles. (Are trysts out already? I haven’t seen any so far.)[li]

To be fair, it’s probably only the second-highest price ever paid for candles.

(And yes, trysts are out. You’ll need to have proposed to an officer, and they occur irregularly.)

How irregularly? Is it a random event? I still haven’t had any of those or of overheard on deck, and I’m approaching 100 hours of gameplay.

I’ve had two tryst opportunities and zero on-deck conversations in ~400 hours of gameplay. To be fair though, most of that (maybe 350 hours) was with a strictly monogamous captain; only this second play-through opted to dally.

I’ve had exactly 1 Overheard on Deck event (between the Canoneer and the Outcast) in my time playing.

During the lifespan of my dally-ing captain (~15 hours?), I had 3 trysts with the Tireless Mechanic. It was actually a few hours after I proposed that my first tryst option appeared, so they might only start to appear after X number of days in.

In a related vein, what do my mercantile brethren think about being able to purchase/sell goods in bulk. If I want to say purchase 30 supplies, instead of clicking 30 times, wouldn’t it be great to just type in 30 for purchase quantity and be done with it?

One problem I can see arising is the increased capacity for error in a single keystroke – rather than making a mistake of one or two clicks over your intended amount, a single key held a moment longer could literally end up buying ten times your intended amount.