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Note: This question deals with just the base game. If you're playing with the Zubmariner expansion, see the following question instead:

What's the fastest way to gain Echoes in Sunless Sea with Zubmariner?

My first Sunless Sea character spent most of his time scraping money together from port reports to buy supplies, so that he could go visit the same ports again to replenish his supplies, and he pretty much never got traction on getting enough money to buy weapons or other ship upgrades.

I tried Googling for some advice on how to make money, but it seems like all the hits I'm getting go back to earlier versions of the game and are no longer applicable. For instance:

  • A popular recommendation is to run Tomb-Colonists to Venderbight (other than the first one), but I think this is old advice because there is no option to buy them in London.

  • Another popular recommendation is to hunt pirate ships north of London. However, I usually only run into about one of them, two if I'm lucky, and the hull damage I incur, plus fuel and supplies to get out there in the first place, doesn't make it worth what I typically get as a reward.

  • Another recommendation involves buying Mushroom Wine and selling it in Venderbight. That nets +2 echoes per unit for me. That doesn't cover the fuel and supplies for the journey, plus there's nothing to pick up in Venderbight that seems worth bringing back to London.

Maybe part of these have to do with not having enough money to fill my hold to make trade routes worth it. When I can only afford 5 units of something, the profit margin doesn't seem high enough to cover fuel and supplies. Maybe it's more profitable later when I can take a lot of cargo in one trip. But how do I get to that point?

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8 Answers 8

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Spoilers, obviously.

You can make ~2500 in your first couple of hours pretty easily. This'll be uploaded in a couple of hours if you'd prefer video format:

If not, then: Sell your learning book, grab the tomb columnist, take to venderbight, return to london, buy the 200E cannon "reproach", sell everything except this cannon, leave port, die.

Use the iron legacy to pass the weapon on. Start a new character. Pick campaign veteran for 50 iron. Assign the new weapon (it now does min 20 damage, meaning crabs/bats are one-shot), sell the old one and the book. Grab the news. Speak to the admiralty. buy mushroom wine. as much as you can. Do the tomb-colonist to venderbight. Swing past hunter's keep. Grab port report. Head north to venderbight (these locations never change). Keep west, kill pirate (and bats/crabs for supplies). Drop him off. Sell the mushroom wine. Grab port report. You didn't get 100 echoes in hard cash this time, so keep at least one secret (you should be fine from exploring). Head to London.

Once there, turn in port reports, and sell whatever you need to. Use the secret to unlock the Scholar. Buy fuel so you have 20, and 8-10 supplies. Keep ~100 echoes for random things you're going to find at Zee. Pick up news, pick up an officer to two (keep crew at 8, it's fine). Carouse at wolfstack docks and try to have a fling with a lovely lass/dapper gent.

Head out to Zee. Pick a direction, doesn't matter, although mutton island is probably just a bit south and a good start. After that, use the guidance from Admiral's strategic information request - if you can find the place he wants this time out, it's a good run. Contrary to other answers, it's not always the Funging station. It could be almost anywhere. Use the Zee-bat to ping for locations and just sail around, killing any pirates you see (avoid the bigger zee-creatures for now). Don't be afraid to refuel a little, but try not to pay more than 20. Keep going until you have 4-5 fuel left, and head back to London. If fuel becomes a problem, turn off lights. Terror is entirely manageable. On this trip, you want to try and find the salt lions, and tick off 10-15 new ports. Don't worry too much about interaction at these ports beyond just grabbing the port reports, and doing the "something awaits" stuff.

I use full power a LOT to escape terrifying creatures - it doesn't backfire very often, but remember, lights off helps avoid the encounter in the first place. If you get the lass/gent random event, think of them - we're aiming for a scion here.

Head back to London. Sell all the pirate booty. Hand in all the port reports (you get one fuel and some echoes for each, as well as admiralty favour - DO NOT EXCHANGE THESE FOR FUEL - it's a massive waste, save for repairs, or other events). Speak to the blind bruiser. Pick up news. Carouse (pick the lass/gent again - you're aiming for a kid). check university/admiralty for anything extra you can sell.

You should be sitting on 1000+ echoes at this point, and the blind bruiser wants you to go to Mt Palmerston. So, head north to venderbight, then whither, then head east pinging with the zeebat until you find Mt Palmerston. In all my games, it's been in the top row. Fuel is very cheap here, so stock up and keep pootling about. Watch out for lifebergs. Don't forget port reports all the way. Swing back via the Salt Lions and pick up stones for London (you'll need 200 echoes and 20 cargo space - shouldn't be a problem).

In London, you should be swimming in cash. Buy a townhouse and a will. Speak to your kid. Start telling him stories. Get a tattoo if your terror is bad, but it should still be fine. Probably your ship needs repairs by now. Admiralty tokens make this cost only 25 echoes (vs 100).

Now, keep poking around until you've developed a scion (you need to tell your kid 5 stories) over 5 visits to London. Then, if you like, you can restart, with 2 legacies, taking a few of your skill points (and the weapon!), keeping your townhouse for an even stronger start. Or just push on from the position you're in now.

Explore! Read everything! Speak to your officers and complete their stories. Don't be afraid to try things out - just remember the outcomes for your next child if it all goes terribly wrong. ; )

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  • I can't play the video, is it available?
    – pinckerman
    Feb 12, 2015 at 14:11
  • It should be working now. Feb 14, 2015 at 13:27
  • Yes, now it works :)
    – pinckerman
    Feb 14, 2015 at 13:48
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Making money in the beginning is easy, and there are people here who have given good answers, so I won't further contribute to that. However, making money later in the game can seem difficult at times. Port reports stop being as profitable. Numbers for different occurrences hit their max number. And you blow the money you made from early quest on different things and possibly widdle away the rest. So now you're stuck with a decent ship, the best equipment you can get, and a couple grand in cash. Sounds reasonable, but you don't know what to do next and you don't want to grind out the last 10,000 gold to buy the next upgrade. Sure, you can explore more, but you really don't know where to go. Some of the more obvious things that stick out as possibilities (monster hunting) seems out of the question, or maybe you just want more money. Well, here's how to make money in the later stages of the game.

  1. You need the trade ship with 120 hold space.
  2. Buy enough supplies and fuel to be able to take the Cumean Canal trip up all the way to Vienna, (for me that's 26 fuel: 22 for the canal + 4 to get there from London. and 5 supplies: 2 for canal + 3 to get there from London)
  3. Before you leave London, buy as much coffee as you can (you might not be able to buy a whole ship's worth right away, as that would be 89 coffee or 4,450 gold)
  4. Make the journey and pay the ten Echoes to travel to Vienna with your coffee contact and sell all 89 coffee at once for 80 Echoes each, or 7,120 Echoes total.
  5. Before you leave Naples (the area you travel to on the surface before going to Vienna), buy enough fuel to travel to Abbey Rock and back to London (for me that's about 7 fuel), giving me a total of 18 fuel at the time.
  6. Now this is the most time consuming, but it's part of the trade route and does give a good bit of extra money. Buy enough supplies from Naples to fill the rest of your ship up, which in my case would be 102 supplies for 5 Echoes each or 510 Echoes total.
  7. Make the journey back below the surface to Abbey Rock where you sell all of your supplies, aside from the amount needed to get back to London (for me that's 3) which means you will generally use 5 from the trip from the canal to Abbey Rock and to London + 1 when descending the canal. So you will have about 96 to sell at 20 gold each or 1,920 total gold.
  8. Travel back to London and rinse; repeat.

Money earned = 9,040, Expenses = 5,435, Total profit = 3,605

You can also add in the 7 supplies + 2 wine to the Shepherd's Isles for some extra profit but it's not any more than this unless you get lucky with a revelatory chart. There are other routes that are more profitable if you're playing the game on easy mode so you can reload saves (Aestival, Isles of Cats, Khan's Shadow = ouch the sun hurts and you stole my box for anybody who's not using the save/reload technique for getting around tricky rolls), but from what I can tell this trade route is the most profitable and easiest to accomplish for anybody playing on the normal difficulty. Also if you're siding against London, then the first 6 trips are actually more profitable, but I'm not going to figure out by how much (roughly 4,000 gold profit instead of 3,605)

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  • Or you can just take the venderbight tomb colonists on a tour for 1500 echoes + a judgements egg (which you can sell for 600). 2100 without having to buy a new ship, plus port reports and other assorted goods from travelling/fighting. Feb 16, 2015 at 13:24
  • your forgetting expenses. supplies for your crew, supplies for colonist, fuel, terror cost, it takes longer so you're losing time and most importantly you may or may not be successful.
    – Laelin
    Feb 16, 2015 at 15:56
  • I do a tomb colonist run every time I head out to zee. Once you have most of the ports uncovered, its an easy cash boost. Plus. Extra tomb colonists drop from killing monsters so I often have more than 12. Colonists need no supplies. There's no extra supplies needed for crew that you wouldn't need anyway. Terror shouldn't be a problem if you learn which ports can manage it. I'm swimming in cash from doing this and only on my third captain. Feb 17, 2015 at 16:21
  • 2
    Unfortunately, running coffee to Vienna isn't repeatable. I just did this with a new (rich) captain, and I was only able to do two ~80-coffee runs. Then the coffee shop burned down. The Melancholy Proprietor is incredibly melancholy, and reacts to unparalleled success with unparalleled arson. Apparently the cap is a bit random, but you'll hit it before 300 coffee. sunlesssea.gamepedia.com/Vienna May 6, 2015 at 21:09
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At the beginning of the game to build up a bit of cash you can run back and forth between London and Hunter's Keep. Read the news in your lodging in London to get a Recent News and head to Hunter's Keep. Use the news to have lunch with the sisters and choose to eat with the middle sister. She will reduce your hunger to 0 and give you a Supply as well as a Tale of a Distant Shore. Get a port report while you are there and head back to London. Sell the Tale to the guy/girl at the University for 10 echoes and turn in the report for an additional 5 and a Fuel.

Read the news again and head back out. Each time you return and have lunch with the middle sister she will give you one additional Tale of a Distant Shore (up to a maximum of 5 I believe) and so on and so forth. Make sure to grab the port report to avoid having to spend much money on fuel (if you do this correctly you'll only need to buy a couple of Fuel here and there to keep going). Eventually you'll trigger the event that causes the Hunter's Keep to be... a little bit different. I won't ruin it for you if you haven't seen it but if you start the game off like this you should have a few hundred echoes plus a bit more if you decide to risk some fuel and head a bit north to take out a pirate ship every couple of runs.

Taking a trip up to Venderbight should also get you enough fragments for a secret if you still need one to interact with the University. Make sure to take your time in each port and not to miss out on either the news or the port report since it'll just end up costing extra in fuel and supplies. If you're still having trouble with making money do this until the Hunter's Keep is no longer lucrative. Sell the Captain's Advice book and trade in your ship for the cheapest one for an extra 500 echoes. Sell any additional items you have on you including cannons and head out to zee and die. Choose to pass down the cash to the next captain and you'll start with a more generous amount of echoes that can be used to start trading.

Also if you're feeling lucky try heading to Mutton Island when there's an event available and you can occasionally get an item that's worth quite a bit... I won't spoil it for you. There's also a chance that if you head down to the Iron Republic there will be a store available where you can sell Supplies for 25 each and buy Fuel for 8 each. Selling almost all your supplies and then using the yellow crabs and swarms of bats to recover your supplies and hunger can get a solid amount to start out with. Just make sure to grab port reports from everywhere you've visited and don't be afraid to venture further out to zee. There are some crazy valuable items to be had and with a little bit of strategy you can avoid conflict with most enemies.

Have fun and happy sailing!

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  • 2
    I'd personally recommend against this strategy (the first paragraph, at least) because running to and from hunter's keep is essentially a massive waste of fuel. You're better off with economies of sale, exploring far and wide from the get-go, and using the port reports to fund further travel. Without exploring you'll never really manage to build up enough to do anything worthwhile. Feb 16, 2015 at 13:30
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I have been running into the same problem, and being able to profit(!!!) seems to be mostly luck based.

If you start as a veteran and run the tomb colonist, they will attack you when you arrive. You will squelch them (100% chance - Londoner strong!) and get two supplies and an outlandish artifact out of it. The outlandish artifact sells for 100 to the Alarming Scholar at the University in Fallen London. The Alarming Scholar also buys most story variants for 10 echoes each, like the ones you get at light ships with your recent news, or the ones you get from the sisters at the Hunter's Keep.

You should also be able to get the Admiralty to ask you to go fetch strategic information from various places around the Zee. I think you need favor level 3, but it might also be higher. As far as I've seen from a few different characters, they always ask you to fetch it from the Iron & Misery Funging Station first, which is always in the second band from the left... somewhere. Each strategic info is worth 150 smackers a pop, and you can ask for another one directly afterwards. Just hope they don't ask you to go to the Chelonate on your third run.

The funging station is also nice because you can recruit crew dirt cheap, and lunch with the factor reduces your terror by five, gives you a crew member quest, AND a supply crate. You can get as many supplies as you want for varying amounts of terror depending on how much the RNG gods like you.

Speaking of the Admiralty, every fresh (first time) port report you bring in nets you favor, and as long as you have more than three you can exchange the favor for fuel at a rate of 2-3 per point of favor. You can also use the favor (Minimum 4, consumes 3 I think) to get dirt cheap ship repair. The port report for Station III is worth 100 echos; more accurately, they burn it and then pay you 100 echos to forget you ever visited. Don't know if subsequent reports are worth that many as I've never been back to check.

If you can find the Salt Lions, who should also be in the second band somewhere, you can run Sphinxstone back to London. It requires 20 hold space and 200 Echoes up front, but ultimately you get a 300 echo profit and if you can mix in retrieval of strategic information into the trip, you'll be sitting very pretty. I got lucky in my latest run because the Admiralty kept asking me to retrieve information from the frozen north, so I could go in a circle: Venderbight, strategic info, sphinxes, London. I got 1500 echos and a bunch of good stuff before the Admiralty sent me after the Chelonate and things actually got interesting.

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  • Yeah, after asking this I started a new guy and basically just stuck to doing reports and "quests", ignoring trading outside of things people were specifically requesting. It worked a lot better. For instance, for me the Tomb Colonists wanted 10 wine... Cost 210 to buy it, but when I brought it to them they gave me 500 echoes. It was a one-time thing, but these one-time quests (or repeatable, like the Sphinxstone) definitely seem to be the key. Thanks for the answer!
    – Sterno
    Feb 9, 2015 at 14:29
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I managed to make 5000 gold by exploiting a bug and I would've made more hadn't the game crashed.

Just take a trip to Vienna via the canal south of Fallen London, make sure you had enough fuel and provision (22 fuel and 6 provision, more or less, can't remember). Once you reach the surface, take a trip to Vienna.

In Vienna there's a job of delivering cargo through the Mediterranean. The job will pay 500 if you're lucky and 200 if unlucky. The job will also cost you 10 fuel, 2 provision, and several crew member.

The bug is: you can repeat the job as often as the game can handle it before it crashes. You can purchase fuel via interaction @15 gold each and provision @5 gold each.

Forget about crew member, you can exploit the bug by ignoring the game limitation of 0 crew member = game over.

Just repeat as much as your carpal turtle syndrome allows you to. It is boring and makes your mouse hand tired, but it is profitable. Note that you cannot escape the surface this way.

If you do try to return to the Unterzee, the game will tell you "something-something... your captain died", so any money you make upstairs will be halved.

When you had enough or just can't take it anymore, just try to return to Unterzee and follow the new captain procedure, choose the (trait?) that allows you to inherit half of your previous captain's money and..... profit!

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  • 1
    That's exploiting. If you're going to do that, you might as well just edit the save file and give yourself a bajillion echoes. For me, the entire challenge is around playing the game, not finding ways to abuse it. Feb 17, 2015 at 16:18
  • @SporksAreGoodForYou I'd argue. I'd just say my ancestor worked his ass off on the surface for my benefit. It's not a bug, it's a lousy design; you can't blame players for the fact that FB went for quantity over quality.
    – user66556
    Oct 14, 2016 at 22:10
  • This works... but it's not exploitable for truly large amounts of echoes. First off, the place where you can trade cargoes is Naples, not Vienna. But there's a (small) random chance after every interaction in Naples that it will kick you back to Avernus. (Perhaps they added this later to patch this issue.) Once you're in Avernus with no crew, you have no choice but to die. Based on my attempts to buy lots of supplies there, you get ~40 actions in Naples on average. Even if you come loaded with fuel, this will only get you ~8000 echoes, which isn't worth dying for.
    – D0SBoots
    Jan 4, 2020 at 7:00
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This is what I use:

  1. From London lodgings get recent news
  2. Go to Hunters Keep and have lunch with the eldest daughter, Cynthia, in order to get Salt's attention
  3. Go to the Salt Lions, making sure something awaits you when you get there
  4. There will be an action, "Salt's Rites", which will give you an Extraordinary Implication
  5. Return to London and sell it at the university for 250 echos

(repeat)

If you deliver the sphinxstone you can make additional money, but after so many times you'll lose the option to do either run. After about 20 times Hunter's Keep will change and you won't be able to get Salt's attention there anymore.

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I am french so my message can show some mistakes.

Very shortly, i recommend :
Step 1 : Find Salt's Lion and bring stone to London
Step 2 : Explore, survive, hope you can manage the delivery for the man on business without too many harm. I don't have hints for that part, it is too long ago now for me.
Step 3 : Find Khan's Shadow, Isle of cats and Cumaean Canal
Look here (Spoilers) for some hints : http://sunlesssea.gamepedia.com/Map
With this knowledge and around 1000 echoes you can have infinite echoes
Go to Khan's shadow (let's say it needs 14 fuel and 6 supply : around 260 echoes)
At Khan's Shadow : Buy at least two mirrorcatch box (250 echoes each : 500 echoes),
keep 300 echoes and fuel and supplies for the trip back to london
Prepare your trip from london by buying around 24-26 Fuel and 4-5 supply (350 echoes), take news.
Go to Cumean Canal, Go to the Surface.
In Avernus : Fill your 2 Mirrorcatch boxes, Go to Naples
In Naples : Sell news, carry cargo 1 or two times max (to keep your crew above half for max speed). You will have to buy fuel and supplies in Naples to do so but it is worth it.
If you are unfortunate, you loose nothing : 3 crew cost 30 echoes in London, 10 Fuel 150 or less and supply 20 echoes and you gain 200 echoes.
If you are fortunate you gain 500 echoes, around 300 profit
Leave Naples with 16-18 fuel and enough supplies (you can just max out supplies because you will be able to sell it back in London for the same price you bought it)
Go to Isle of Cats, Sell your Sunlight
If you are lucky, you keep your mirrorcatchbox, profit 400 echoes
If you are not, you lose it and gain 500 echoes, profit 250 echoes
If you lose your box, heads up directly to Khan to buy a box again or it will not be worth it
Go back to london

Some maths :
Initial cost (trip to khan to buy the boxes): 700
Fix costs (fuel and supply for the trip) : 350 echoes
Initial balance : 1050

Carry cargo profit - you were unfortunate : 0 (0 or 300 for a luck based event 60%, two times, you were really unlucky !!!)
Sun selling profit - you were unfortunate (again !), you loose the two boxes : 1000
Profit here is already : 1000, what you've got in the beginning, you loose nothing.

All other scenarios make you gain money.

If you ware very fortunate
Carry cargo profit - you were unfortunate : 600
Sun selling profit - you were fortunate, you didn't loose the boxes : 800
Profit here is : 1400 and two boxes that you can use for a second trip, worth 250 each = 1900. You had 1000 in the begin, you gained 900.

When you can, go buy extra mirrorcatch boxes, up to 10.
You should not have room for more in your cargo as you need 30 spaces for fuel and supplies when you lives London.

With 10 boxes, if you are medium lucky:
Initial cost (trip to khan to buy the boxes): 2700
Fix costs (fuel and supply for the trip) : 350 echoes
Initial balance : 3050

Carry cargo profit : 300 (0 or 300 for a luck based event 60%, two times, seems reasonable)
Sun selling profit, you loose half your boxes : 5*500 + 5*400 = 4500 + 5 boxes worth 250 : 4500 + 5*250 = 5750
Profit here is : 5750 - 3050 : 2700 echoes !!!

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I can't believe no one had posted this yet. The best way to farm echoes if you have less than 200k is the sunlight trade via the Cumaean canal.

  1. Grab the Blemmigan Gallivanter mascot from London, if you don't have it.
  2. Find Khan's Shadow so you can buy Empty Mirror-Catch boxes.
  3. Buy as many as you can afford/fit, up to 23. For the initial ship (cargo space 40), you can only hold 10 and still do the canal reasonably. As few as 2 or 3 will still let you make decent profit, so you can afford more.
  4. The trade loop is as follows: Leave London with as much fuel as you can fit, as long as you have 4 supplies. That should leave you with 2 supplies when you get to the canal, which you need to enter. You also need 22 fuel, but ideally you'll have a bit more, so that you can make it home without purchasing it here at the high prices.
  5. Burn your SAY (Something Awaits You) on the action here, then enter the canal, taking you to Avernus. Fill all your boxes. Go to Naples. Trade your News for some supplies, and buy more cheap supplies, but not so many that they'll go to waste. If you buy too many, you can sell them at London without taking a loss. Return to Avernus, and then back out. You can mess around with Darkdrop Coffee if you want, but IMO it's not worth it.
  6. You get another SAY when leaving, so make sure to use it again (for a Move in the Great Game or a Vision of the Surface).
  7. Now go to Mutton Island. Your objective is to reach the port without getting a SAY; you have 60 seconds. If you get one, and it's early enough, you can burn it here, otherwise things get complicated. All you're doing here is docking and undocking again to reset the timer.
  8. Now, head to London. Again, you have 60 seconds to do it without getting a SAY, but it's a short trip. Doing this avoids the possibility of The Revenue Men (who will confiscate your sunlight), and also avoids advancing the game clock while grinding.
  9. If you haven't gotten the Blind Bruiser yet, trigger him by getting to 8 fuel or below. You need him to fence the sunlight. Since you aren't getting SAYs, he won't hassle you to do deliveries. If he does later, make sure to do "a different request" - that way, you don't get stuck with souls in your hold. (Both of the alternate requests can be put off indefinitely.)
  10. After you've sold your sunlight, undock but don't leave. Immediately open up the Gazeteer (usually 'G'), and go to the officers tab. Swap the Galivanter and your default mascot to generate 1 terror per swap (because you're not in port). You'll need around 55 terror for a full load of 23 boxes; if you have fewer, scale down accordingly.
  11. Dock again and repeatedly rest above the Blind Helmsman. If you already have a child, either put off raising them, or finish making them a Scion and start a new game, because it'll hurt your profits a lot if you can't use the Blind Helmsman. Rest until your "Menaces: Yearning, Burning" is gone.
  12. Don't forget to pick up News again!
  13. Goto 3.

Each time you rest, you lose 5.5 Yearning, Burning on average, regardless of your lodging's quality - so you want it to be cheap. But you can only rest above the Helmsman if you have terror (the others don't have this limitation), which is why you need to raise it artificially.

The reason for the 23 box limit is that it keeps your total Yearning, Burning below 140 (with high probability). Above that, there's a much higher chance of bad random events that lose you time and profit (and possibly wounds).

Each loop gets 9600 echos, minus ~500 in fuel cost, ~25 in supplies, and 550 in resting costs. So call it 8500 profit. I can do a loop in under 10 minutes, although this is with the assistance of mouse-click macros - the big downside is that there's a fair amount of fiddly clicking involved. You can drop the part where you go to Naples to reduce clicking for a very modest reduction in profit - you just have to buy supplies in London instead.

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