Throughout the game, you will find that having money, or Cats, is convenient in order to survive in the dangerous world of Kenshi. Here are just a few helpful tips and methods of getting rich in this apocalyptic desert.
You may want to think about your future plans when deciding what strategies to employ. If you have no plans on making a base, then you may want to avoid strategies that involve laboring or crafting since you will most likely not be able to take advantage of the skills gained doing this, but concentrating on strategies such as looting or trade will benefit you through more combat exposure and athletics and strength training from all that running with lots of looted or trade goods.
Finding Places to Sell
First things first. You need a place to sell your stuff. Given shopkeepers only have so much money to purchase your wares, it's good to have a plan of where you're going to sell your items. In general, it's a good idea to have a base positioned near enough to Towns/outposts so that you don't spend too long on the road. The area around the Hub is great for trading early game, since it is relatively close to many towns. Note too that many (if not all) of the Western Hive villages have a Robotics Shop and a Trade Goods Trader, making them prime places to sell your wares.
Low Risk Strategies
Early on, player characters will not win fights. The prevalent strategy to make up for this is luring hostile squads towards a town with town guards. After the guards knock all combatants unconscious, player characters should loot the downed characters. To save on inventory space, players should prioritize looting the more valuable items from these characters instead of just stripping them dry. Since the attacking squad was likely members of a Hostile Faction, all vendors should accept items stolen from them. Players should be able to make a few thousand cats off each group.
Players should lure bandits to the town guards for slaughter and looting until the player can afford good equipment. Fighting alongside the guards in relative safety is a good tactic for developing stats, at least around 20 for Melee Attack and Defense. Once players are confident in their characters' abilities, they should try taking on some wandering loners. At about 30-40 in their preferred combat skills, the player's squad should be able to take on small groups of enemies.
Looting in Bast
Bast has many large United Cities (UC) and The Holy Nation (HN) patrols that fight each other whenever they meet. Wait until all of one side is down to avoid committing a crime and getting attacked and then loot their stuff. Drin in the north-east of Bast has a bar so you can sell some gear and buy some food before you have to travel all the way to a town. Since Drin and the nearest towns are UC, it's best to loot HN gear so you don't have to worry about selling stolen goods. This isn't much of a problem as UC patrols generally win.
Once the bartender in Drin has run out of money, avoid the skimmers on the run over to Stoat or Sho-Battai to sell the rest, find new recruits and buy backpacks and pack animals so you can go back and carry even more stuff. One good thing to do early is pay 10,000 Cats to join the Shinobi Thieves in Sho-Battai in order to purchase Thieves Backpacks and other gear from them at the 50% members discount.
The best is when HN patrols attack Drin itself, as they commit a crime fighting there and accrue a bounty of 500 cats. In addition, each time they recover and start fighting again the bounty goes up by another 500. So a Paladin can get up to a bounty of 1,500 cats that way. There are two prisoner cages on top of a building in Drin, and if they are empty all you have to do is put them in a cage and automatically get the bounty before having to go to a police station in town.
Since dead bounties only give you half price, you'll want to heal them before a desert crossing to the police station at either Stoat or Sho-Battai. Fortunately you'll have looted plenty of basic first aid kits. So in addition to the relation bonus with UC for turning in bounties, you will eventually get some small relationship bonuses with the HN from healing up the bounties you are turning in. Bounty collection gives a relationship penalty that is much higher than the reward for healing. You can heal a lot of people with looted bandages and turn in only a few if you want to maintain neutral relationships. Carrying people is also great exercise that increases your strength.
Avoid wearing any looted gear around that faction as they will see through your disguise and be most unhappy with you. Also, you can use any bounties you are carrying as extra inventory space by giving them looted items.
Across Kenshi, there are Iron and Copper deposits. Iron deposits can be ignored because Raw Iron is worth half as much as Raw Copper. These ore deposits can be used by 1 to 3 workers, depending on the size of the deposit. Characters can be given mining jobs by shift-left-clicking the deposit. Each deposit will stack only 5 items before it is full and workers will stop working. If these miners were assigned a Job, they will resume it as soon as the extracted copper is transferred to their inventories. It's a good idea to use a stacking Backpack to transport the copper as backpacks decrease encumbrance while worn and greatly increase carrying capacity of characters.
Mining characters should not be left alone since these deposits are in the wilderness and workers are left exposed to attacks by wild animals and Hostile Factions. If they are attacked, players should quickly move their backpacks to their primary inventory or simply drop them on the ground. This is recommended because backpacks can lower melee combat stats by up to 10, depending on the type of backpack (note, the Small Thieves Backpack provides no penalty).
Players should find a town that has a price markup on copper higher than 100%, then find the nearest copper deposit of a reasonable quality, preferably 100. Players should mine as much copper as they can, and sell it to the town's trader. This method will increase characters' Labouring and Strength stats due to their mining and carrying large amounts of copper.
If players want to take a further step of copper mining, the player should research Electrical Crafting, and build an Electrical Workbench next or near your copper storage, and put a worker on the workbench. The ratio is 1:1, 1 Raw Copper for 1 Electrical Component, which nets around 40 cats extra (216) per component and it also trains the Science skill. However, it needs a power source.
This is probably one of the most complicated methods. Players should find the Trader in their starting location and buy up whichever Trade Goods items are cheap until they run out of Cats. They should then head to the nearest location and sell whatever they can make a profit on. Players should next buy up the cheapest items again and proceed to either the previous location or a different one. Players can repeat this until they can purchase quality equipment and move on to fighting or until they can afford to build a Player Outpost where they can Craft items for trading.
Through Industry Buildings, players can give character's jobs to create Outpost Items which are worth more than their unrefined ingredients. These Buildings are primarily exterior-type buildings, meaning that they cannot be built in Player-Owned Buildings in Town.
Players can also manufacture vices such as Hashish and Alcohol. These buildings are listed in the Crafting page along with their primary inputs. Hashish production requires rarer Research Artifacts and selling Hashish is covered in "High Risk Strategies" section of this guide.
Crafting weapons and armour can be an inefficient way to make money. While very profitable late-game, it takes a lot of Technology research, Research Artifacts, and Blueprints. However, if the player has already set up their outpost for production of their own Equipment, it can still provide some revenue early on. Once players have reliable sources of Raw Iron, Iron Plates, Steel Bars, Fabrics and Leather, it is worth assigning a full time machinist to both train their skills, and eventually produce profitable items.
While it will take some time to get an Armour Smith who can consistently produce quality goods, one of the cheapest, quickest, and easiest items to mass-produce for sale is the Bandana. Simple and quick to make, its Standard grade sells for 175 Cats. This number will increase significantly with a more experienced craftsperson; at the Specialist Grade, a simple Bandana (regardless of color) costs 0.08 fabric to make, and sells for c.692 per unit. With just ten of these, that's nearly 7,000 Cats in the bank. Other good sellers include the Tagelmust, the Heart Protector, and the Armoured Rag Skirt. Chainmail and other chainmail-styled items can be quite profitable as well. Keep in mind: chainmail takes a long time to craft.
For players hoping to profit off of Weapon Smithing, Katanas and Foreign Sabres are highly recommended. Of all the standard weapons the player can craft, they have the highest sell price/materials ratio. Keep in mind that Foreign Sabers have a slightly higher cost/sell ratio, but Katanas take up less inventory space. Finally, note that sale price will vary greatly with weapons grade, so expect lower profits in the beginning, but mountains of cash at higher levels.
Crossbow Smithing is the least recommended branch of equipment crafting. The easiest, least tedious Crossbow to produce is the Junkbow which, at specialist grade, sells for 1004 Cats. That said, it requires a Hinge, Steel Bars, and 10 hours to produce it, making it a bit more tedious than standard weapons crafting. The other crossbow models sell a little to significantly better, based upon quality; however they also require Crossbow Parts, which require more subsequent parts to craft, increasing time crafting spent per item. In general, you're better off with armour or even weapons smithing.
Alcohol Trade Route
This trade route has three stops; it's a trade route I discovered myself which has proven to be very profitable as I accumulated (on average) 7000 Cats after just one full rotation. First, go to the Hub and begin purchasing as much Cactus Rum as you can. Next, travel into the swamps and sell all of it to the swampers. Then, buy Sake and head toward the United Cities; keep in mind that there is a possibility of getting stopped by corrupt patrols and guards. Unload all of the Sake and load up on Grog. Then trek back to the Hub and sell it all. After about an hour of repeating this process, I had made quite a profit.
High Risk Strategies
Stealing valuable items can be preferable to purchasing them, especially when players can't afford the items to begin with. Items which are recommended for stealing and reselling are blueprints and alcohol. Most valuable items are kept inside locked Storage containers so this method will require training Lockpicking, Thievery, and Stealth. The single best place to steal from is the Bank in Trader's Edge.
A more in-depth guide to thieving for new players can be found on the page Getting Started.
After joining the Shinobi Thieves, characters can sell smuggled goods to a Thief Fence. While there are several items which are illegal in Kenshi, the most reliable item to smuggle is Hashish. Hashish can be purchased from any town in The Swamp, primarily from Fish and Drugs Sellers. The Thief Fence decreases local markups by -50% of the average price. This means that in Clownsteady where Hashish has a 300% illegal goods markup, the Thief Fence will purchase Hashish at 250% markup. No other vendor will purchase illegal goods.
Players can risk being caught carrying illegal items by town guards, or they can put all illegal items into a Backpack and hold the backpack in their regular inventory.
Looting Ancient Locations
If players want to advance the buildings in their Outposts, they are going to need Research Artifacts to study. Strategies for clearing the dangers in the locations which these Artifacts are found can be learned in our Combat Strategies page.
Ancient Labs contain more than just Artifacts and can be extremely profitable. It is recommended that players bring multiple stacking backpacks or a animal player character with a backpack in order to collect all the items in storage.
Once you're all kitted out, head over to an Ancient location of your choice and proceed to take everything that ain't nailed down. Though prices may vary, based on where you sell your loot, many ruins have a number of valuable Robotics Components, and other similar, valuable items. CPU Units are worth 6,000 Cats, Robotics Components 2,838 Cats, Power Cores 3,000 Cats, and Skeleton Repair Kits 4,000 Cats; all of these items (and more) can be found in various Ruins scattered across the continent.
From only looting the Skeleton Muscles off of the Security Spiders, players can earn roughly 1,944 Cats per muscle. There will likely be 6 Security Spiders per Lost Armoury. Ancient Tech Labs can contain anywhere from 6 to 14 Spiders as well as more Skeleton Muscles inside of Storage Containers.
Characters with high bounties can be learned of through their Wanted Posters. These characters are often leaders of Hostile Factions and will be surrounded by a group of relatively strong characters protecting them. Knocking them unconscious or picking them up while they are sleeping should not be difficult for skilled fighters or a character with very high Stealth. Bounties can also be found among randomly generated among characters such as Grass Pirates and Empire Peasants. Turning in a dead body for bounties will still reward you half the original amount.
Fog Prince Head Hunting
Due to the danger of being downed in the Fog Islands, it isn't recommended for early game squads to hunt Fog Deathyards. However, Fogmen frequently attack the city of Mongrel. Mongrel's Shinobi Guards are more than capable of defending the town. Before being defeated, Fog Princes usually reach the Mongrel Barracks, however some Princes can be defeated before even entering the city gates. Fog Princes can be difficult to spot in large piles of Fogmen, but their distinct yellow blood helps.
Fog Princes don't seem to be attracted to the Mongrel Barrack's prisoners anymore. However, Fog Princes can still be a good source of income for players with good Stealth and Assassination. Players can sneak into a Fog Deathyard, assassinate a Fogman, pick them up, and put them on a Prisoner Pole to attract a Fog Prince. It may take a while for a Prince to arrive, but players who are within dialogue range of the Fog Deathyard can easily tell when feeding is happening. Players should sneak back to the Deathyard and stealth KO the Fog Prince. Often, a failed attempt does not alert fogmen because the desire to feed and worship is too strong.
After looting their heads from their bodies, the bounties can be earned by simply selling the heads to any vendor. A Fog Prince Head is worth 6,000 Cats.
Leviathan Pearl Factory
Leviathans are arguably the most difficult enemy in the game possessing devastating attacks, AoE, high health regen, and massive hit points. Even well-equipped, high-level squads can be devastated. However, each body drops one Leviathan Pearl worth 12,000 Cats. There are a few strategies for hunting these beasts:
- Early on you can build a base in the Leviathan Coast. With several wall-mounted turrets facing the gate in a U shape, you can quickly take them down (and train your Turret skill).
- Younger leviathans drop the same pearl but are significantly weaker, less tanky, and slower and are therefore recommended as prey.
- If you have a source of iron and can make crossbow bolts, you can attack with long range crossbows taking advantage of the slow movement speed of leviathans. Their slow speed and high hit points makes this a good way to train crossbows, but their high health regeneration rate may make this very time consuming.
Raid Animal Nests
Beak Thing Eggs are worth a good amount of money, 4,000 Cats each. They can be found in a Nest of Beak Things which spawn randomly in many zones. Players can easily send in fast and/or stealthy characters to pick the eggs up off the ground and run from the nest. It is not recommended that players, especially in early game, attempt to kill the Beak Things before looting the eggs. Players should ensure their characters are prepared in the following ways:
- Athletics: Players need to be able to outrun Beak Things in order to avoid being eaten alive.
- Strength: Beak Thing Eggs weigh 6kg each. A full inventory (4 eggs) weighs 24kg.
- Stealth: Players can attempt to sneak into and out of the camp undetected. It is recommended that players sneak into the Nest at night to aid in this.
- Equipment: Players should equip their characters with Backpacks to carry more eggs and reduce encumbrance. Characters should consider wearing Wooden Sandals to boost their athletics, as well. A character with a single Scout Leg is significantly faster than character with normal legs. If players are attempting to use stealth, wearing stealth boosting equipment (such as Ninja Rags or Dark Leather Shirts) is helpful. Note that Thieves Backpacks are especially useful here, as they do not penalize the Stealth skill.
Crab Eggs can be raided in the same way, but would earn significantly less money. Collecting just 10 Beak Thing Eggs in one raid can earn players 40,000 Cats. Sneak in, steal their unhatched children, sneak out, and run like there's angry dinosaurs going to eat you for stealing their babies if they spot you. Because there will be. Try at your own risk.