This is an in-depth guide to the first hour or so of gameplay so that new players can get a good start in Sunless Skies.
Greetings, Delicious Friend
Because the first crew to be gained are so cheap, you should choose the options that risk crew member rather than hull. Lead your party along the outside hull. Snag the Cotterell & Hathersage 'Jerusalem' cannon and the Diffident Bat. Press on to the engine room and send your crew on ahead. If you succeed at the hearts check you’ll get 2 more fuel, otherwise you’ll lose a few crew.
Continue south and fight the Reach Marauder that lurks past the destructible terrain. Some marauders drop the Reclaimed Marauder Mangonel, which is a fantastic early weapon. Murder every marauder you see until you get one.
After the fight, New Winchester should be very close by. When you dock, character creation will begin.
Creating your First Captain
Your first choice is of primary and secondary Origin Facets, which will provide +15 and +7 to 2 skills. Many backgrounds also unlock unique choices in particular storylets. In particular, Priest has interactions with various high terror events, Academic lets you impress the scientists at the nature preserve, and Zailor gets you unique references to Sunless Sea.
As far as skills are concerned, your initial selection is only mildly important. Your later choices will have a much bigger influence over your stats than your initial setup. There are skill rolls all over the place, but there is no 'right' answer - the game will respond to your choices. Many advanced ship modules also require a minimum level.
Mirrors may be marginally the most useful at the start of the game as some useful cannons (Caminus Yards 'Grimalkin' and the Cotterell & Hathersage 'Vala') require it. Also, high Mirrors increases the hull you can repair by salvaging wrecks.
Iron is sort of useless except that some smuggling mods require 50+. So it complements Veils very well if you are intending to smuggle (though this is a mid to late game feature). Other than that it unlocks a few plating options, but good plating isn't available until late in the game.
Hearts is useful for various crew modules and getting it to 75 lets you use The Wrath of Heaven which is arguably the best weapon in the game. There are also some very high-stakes, demanding late-game skill checks that depend on Hearts - so it's not a bad choice to focus on building it through the whole game.
Finally, Veils unlocks most of the cargo increasing modules which is very important. Additionally, veils checks are common when smuggling cargo through transit relays - if you are set on a life of crime, go for high Veils. Smuggling can be amazingly profitable but it isn't possible with a very new Captain.
You also get to choose your Ambition. Fame requires you to collect many different possessions ranging from common to absurdly rare. While you sometimes need these possessions for other things, spending them on your ambition rarely results in bottlenecking your progression. Wealth, on the other hand, costs tons and tons of money to progress. Because it takes money to make money, you can easily over spend on your ambition and then not have enough money to buy more bargains. So be careful if you chose that one. The Truth ambition is not recommended for beginners.
New Winchester and your First Prospect
Now back to New Winchester! You get a mysterious Black Box and are deposited at Wolvesey Station. If you immediately hire on more crew, you can snag the Turncoat’s crew, which will fill you up to full crew members for a mere 10 sovereigns. Crew members usually cost about 25 sovereigns each so this is a great deal.
Explore the city, and talk to the folks at the Promise of Days until you learn that you should buy 3 Sacks of Verdant Seeds from Port Avon and deliver them to Magdalene's. This is important because your journal will now tell you what direction these places are in. The map is randomized for each lineage, so use those directions to get to places.
Snag all the prospects available in the bazaar, make sure you have at least 4 fuel and supplies, and head off towards Port Avon. Head in the generally correct direction and brutally murder any marauders or Tackety Scouts you encounter along the way. Use them to repair your hull if you got hit, and otherwise collect random cargo. Maybe don’t tussle with any Enduring Dreadnoughts you come across unless they’ve already been softened up by some tacketies. Once you get about 1/3rd of the way to the edge of the map, start using your scout to look for the port.
When you arrive at Port Avon, buy your seeds at the Bazaar and replenish to 4 fuel and supplies. Be sure to write a Port Report and pick up the Short-Sighted Cryptozoologist. She’ll want to go to one of Traitor’s Wood, Hybras or Lustrum. Set sail for Magdalene's, its also about half the way to the edge of the map.
Magdalene’s is your favorite port. This is an excellent place to reduce terror and nightmares and you’ll be using their services often. Upon arrival, sell your seeds using the Prospect (you did select it in New Winchester, RIGHT?!) Replenish to just enough fuel and supplies to get back to New Winchester and buy whatever bargain is available there, keeping in mind that you possibly can’t carry the entire thing because you picked up so much sweet loot along the way. Head back to New Winchester.
Near the main port of New Winchester are 2 Platforms, Victory Hall and Company House. Deliver your 2 Port Reports to one of these locations. Victory Hall belongs to the Tacketies, and will reward you with Savage Secrets and Otherworldly Artefacts for your trouble. Company House is ran by the Stovepipes and will reward you with Salon-Stewed Gossip and Ministry-Stamped Permits. All of these are useful, so choose the team you like. Regardless, you’ll earn 200 sovereigns for your efforts. Dock at New Winchester.
Upon returning to New Winchester, some clerk will be there to enable the bank for you. Now you can store cargo here for use later. Claim any new prospects and see if you have any cargo to fill them. If not, sell all your excess stuff. Keep 1 Bronzewood and 1 Gourd of Chorister Nectar if you happen to have those. Usually you’ll want to amass cargo in your bank so that you can fill prospects, but at the moment money is more valuable than not money.
Exploring The Reach
From here you should use your journal and prospects to find new ports, go there, buy bargains, collect Port Reports, and generally murder your way across the skies. Try to keep at least 1000 sovereigns available at any given time so that you can easily buy bargains that you come across. You will soon start being able to fill prospects from the stuff stored in your bank, and money will start being less elusive. If you happen to find a Transit Relay out by Hybras, don’t jump through it. It breaks afterwards and will strand you in Eleutheria which is not a very nice place to be at low levels.
Port Prosper, in particular, contains a very lucrative storylet. When traveling there, be sure to pick up the Fastidious Inspector from New Winchester, and bring along 1 Bronzewood and 1 Nectar. Delivering the inspector to Port Prosper will reward you with money fuel and supplies, and the crew working on The Albert Clock will request bronzewood and nectar which you just so happen to have. Combined, these two questlets are worth more than 1000 sovereigns.
Furthermore, The Parsimonious Chairman will let you start collecting nameplates from all those Tacketies you are slaughtering and pay you 25 sovereigns and a little something extra for each. Sweet Jane in Lustrum will pay you 50 sovereigns for each dreadnought nameplate you give her. You should do both.
You should soon have enough money to begin collecting officers for your locomotive. Each has an entertaining story line, and adds valuable bonuses to your skills. Collect:
- Incognito Princess from New Winchester or Port Prosper.
- Fortunate Navigator from Lustrum.
- Fatalistic Signalman from one of the 4 Signal Boxes in The Reach.
- Repentant Devil from Port Avon.
- Amiable Vagabond from Polymer & Plenty's
- Incautious Driver from New Winchester or Traitor’s Wood.
- The Rat Brigade from Port Avon, Lustrum or Titania.
- Inadvisably Big Dog from Port Prosper.
- Blemmigan Voyager from Port Avon.
And So On
New Winchester sells the Additional Cargo Bay module for 500 sovereigns which should probably be your first purchase. As soon as you can get the 25 mirrors required for the Caminus Yards 'Grimalkin', you should buy that for 550. It is a huge upgrade to the Jerusalem. A different option is to luckily acquire 2 Reclaimed Marauder Mangonel. Delay the offhand shot half a second so that it doesn’t overheat you, and you can slam 3 fireballs point blank into some poor unsuspecting Tackety or Marauder and destroy them before they turn around. It doesn’t work on dreadnoughts or Scrive-Spinsters though, so watch out.
After buying a Wit & Vinegar Winch & Pulley for 1160, you should consider upgrading your locomotive to a Pellinore-Class Trader for 3500. Combined this should give you enough cargo space that you don’t much have to worry about it. Once you are so equipped, consider traveling to Albion via the Transit Relay near Port Prosper. It costs Ministry-Stamped Permits to travel, which can be acquired by delivering Port Reports to Company House.
From here, the (sunless) skies are the limit! Consider saving up for an Altani-Class Outrider, which you can buy from the Eagle’s Empyrean in Eleutheria, or beginning a career in smuggling. Be sure to visit the Clockwork Sun in Albion, because it is really amazingly cool. There’s a few more officers to collect from Albion and Eleutheria, and if you are going the hearts route, be sure to priorities acquiring The Wrath of Heaven.
But above all, stay delicious.
If you choose to become a smuggler, see Guide: Smuggling.
Confused about rebuilding Titania? See: Guide: Rebuilding Titania.
Go get THE BEST WEAPON IN THE GAME.
Confused about Amber Alchemy? The Alchemy of Amber.
You really ought to build your Albion to Eleutheria Transit Relay.
Hate the Blue Kingdom? Read the Guide for Blue Kingdom Status.
Ready to take the plunge? Guide for Ambition: The Truth.