3 Ways to Start Making Money in Kenshi
Kenshi can be an overwhelming game, especially in the first few hours. Its mechanics can seem as inhospitable as the barren wastelands of its post-technology world, but they do become more comfortable if you manage to power through the difficult early stages.
Pretty much everything in the game requires money, and big piles of it. You’ll burn through your meager starting cash in short order and may have no idea how to get more. Tag along for three ways to kick-start your cash flow.
1. Cheese Bandits and Wildlife
“Cheese” is being used as a verb in this case, to be clear. Right after character creation, Kenshi tells you that you aren’t special, and it means it. You stand no chance whatsoever against bandits — or even against the wolf/dog/hyena things that roam the sand dunes — until you’ve spent a good deal of time training up your combat skills.
The city guards, however, are more than capable of taking out everything near most of the starting areas.
Make sure your encumbrance is “weightless” (because you run way faster as long as that’s true), and then go pick a fight you can’t possibly win. Lead your pursuers back to the steps of any major city, pop some popcorn, and enjoy the show.
Once the guards have laid waste to everything, loot freely (but don't loot guard corpses, if there are any; it's considered a crime). You'll need to make many trips to a shop to sell your plunder, at least until you've made enough to buy a backpack.
This isn't the most profitable method, but it is relatively safe and easy for newbies (as long as you're totally unencumbered), and in the case of animals, it can net you valuable skins for making leather later on. Finally, this is easier to pull off if you're alone, and it only really makes financial sense in that case, too. Once you've got a few squad members, there are better ways to make money.
2. Become a Copper Magnate
Copper will be a staple of your local economy for a long time and will net you many thousands of Cats (the currency, not the aloof house pet) for a relatively small investment.
The first thing you need to do is scare up enough cash to buy 10 building materials from local merchants; most carry them, and they aren't terribly expensive.
You won't be able to carry them all at once, as they're big and heavy. Just take however many you can manage at first. Once you've begun construction, you can leave the project partially finished and come back to it later.
Head out of town and build a small shack with the build button; you'll need 5 building materials to finish it. Ideally, you'll want to find a spot that's close to both a city and to at least one copper mining spot. When it's done, head inside and lock the door to help keep bandits out, should they wander by (this is why you want to be close to town, so the guards will protect you).
Now, click the build button again and set up a research bench inside your shack for 3 building materials. When it's ready, interact with it and start researching copper storage containers.
Build one or two storage containers inside your shack, and you're finally ready to start stockpiling copper. Head over to the copper ore vein you found and start mining copper by right-clicking on it. It may not seem like anything is happening, but if you left-click on the ore vein, you'll see a veeerrrryyyy slllooowwww progress meter. When it fills up, a nugget of copper ore will pop up that you're free to drag into your inventory.
The mining progress meter will fill faster as your laboring skill rises, and if you assign more workers to the same ore vein. It also fills faster at high-quality ore veins, and you can discern the quality of said veins by left-clicking on them. For now, make sure you zoom your camera out as far as possible so you can scan the landscape for bandits. If you see any heading your way, run inside your shack or into town before they ambush you.
Copper mining is slow at first, but it's great money; each nugget sells for about 200 Cats, depending on the merchant and their mood. Use your early profits to buy bigger backpacks and hire more workers, and before you know it, you'll be swimming in cash.
3. Make Headbands Like You're Reebok in the 90s
At least for me, this was the logical next step once I needed to scale up from selling raw copper. You'll need a total of 6 books and 12 cotton to get started (buy books from tool and supply merchants in towns for ~350 Cats each). You'll also need enough building materials and iron plates to craft a fabric loom, a clothing bench, and a shack or house to put them in.
First, head to your research bench and research cotton farming (2 books, 2 cotton), fabric manufacturing (1 book), clothing manufacturing (1 book), and hats and headgear (2 books). Then go outside and start a small cotton farm from the build menu (near a plentiful water source, preferably with a well and water storage tanks). Be sure to water your farm before you plant the 10 cotton plants required to get it going.
Once you've amassed a few dozen cotton plants, build your fabric loom and assign someone to start making fabric from your cotton. Put your best armorsmith on the clothing bench to take that fresh fabric and start cranking out headbands. Alternatively, if you're the patient type interested in longer-term investments (which you really should be in this game), hold off on starting your new clothing line for a bit. Instead, when your first cotton crop grows, stash the cotton until you've got enough to upgrade your small field to a medium, then a large one. You'll grow more, faster.
Now, you'll notice that your first few headbands are worth a paltry 6 Cats or so. Again, this is a long-range endeavor. Masterwork headbands sell for a whopping ~930 Cats, and you can make fistfuls of them from a single roll of fabric, which requires only 6 cotton.
In the short term, your main job is to have your designated armorsmith hone their craft. Grow cotton like crazy, and spin it into headbands. Needless to say, this will all go a lot faster if you have at least 3 total workers: one to work the cotton farm (and plant new ones whenever possible), one to make headbands, and one to keep everyone fed and do other miscellaneous tasks.
By about armorsmith rank 40, which takes a few hours of constant crafting, you'll start to see a more substantial profit from each headband. You can make masterwork quality headbands at rank 100, and at that point you'll never need money again.
There you have it! Since everything in Kenshi is so tightly interwoven, you'll definitely want to also check out our Combat 101 and Forming a Squad articles to get a better feel for other important early-game mechanics. Keep an eye on the Kenshi guides page for more content in the near future, too.