|“||You are not the chosen one. You're not great and powerful. You don't have more 'hitpoints' than everyone else. You are not the center of the universe, and you are not special. Unless you work for it.||”|
Kenshi is an unforgiving game about a brutal world which does not care about you. Many people will attack you in order to loot you, enslave you, or eat you. You heal very slowly and, if you aren't careful, you can easily lose a limb. Gaining the edge over your opponent is difficult since you do not gain skill faster than a non-player character. This guide's goal is to help new players who are Getting Started in the world of Kenshi.
Starting the game requires that you decide on a Game Start before anything else. The information given for Game Starts are: Difficulty, Cash, Play Style, and a short description. On the Game Starts page, it gives more details on what items, stats, and faction relations the starting character(s) have as well as information about starting locations.
These difficulty labels refer to how your starting character's circumstances will be at the very beginning of the game. Selecting an easier difficulty Game Start will not make your character level up faster than a harder difficulty.
In Kenshi, all factions and vendors trade in Cats. Some Game Starts begin with no money and some start with a decent sum of Cats.
Play Style is a label given to each Game Start. Play Style suggests to the player what mindset they should have while playing their characters in Kenshi. There are five different Play Styles listed in the default Kenshi Game Starts: RPG, Action RPG, Real-time Strategy, Wanted Criminal, and Trading RPG. If you choose a Game Start with the "Wanted Criminal" play style, nothing will stop you from turning your game into a "Trading RPG."
Game Starts also give the player a short description to help their decision making. These descriptions typically give you some context in where your character may have come from, what items they have, and what their starting relations will be with some of the Major Factions.
During character design, you will choose the race of your starting character(s). There are currently four races, and a couple of subraces for two of them. It is recommended to not choose a Skeleton as your starting character. Most Game Starts will begin with your character having a Basic First Aid Kit and a food item in their inventory.
For starting characters which are non-Skeletons (Hive, Human, and Shek), the only supplies needed to stay healthy are First Aid Kits and Food. After battles, if characters receive cutting Damage, they will need to be bandaged. This is when you will use your First Aid Kits. Your characters will eat food without you needing to do anything, if they have food. Food can be purchased in Bars and many Trade Goods stores. Most races have different hunger rates, with Shek characters becoming hungry at the quickest rate. If your characters sustain heavy injuries, they will heal fastest in a Bed or a Camp Bed. While in a bed, they will be sleeping and their hunger level will not decrease.
For starting characters which are Skeletons, food is irrelevant. Skeletons are robots and do not need to eat. Skeletons can only be healed with a Skeleton Repair Kit or a Authentic Skeleton Repair Kit. After skeletons take damage in battle, they will heal back to a slightly smaller health every time. This is called Wear and Tear damage and can be repaired only through a Skeleton Repair Bed. These beds can be rented only in very specific shops (check Repair Bed page for list) and are generally around 800-2,000 Cats per use.
In towns, many characters can be talked to by the player. These include Traders, Recruits, Mercenaries, and characters who are just looking to give information. When entering towns, your characters may also be stopped by the Town Guards. The guards will want to check your character for contraband before you enter the town. Only a few items are contraband so simply allowing this early game is the quickest dialogue branch.
Being weak is less dangerous when you have more characters under your control. There is a great strategy advantage early on to having one character hide away during fights so that they can run over after the battle and bandage your unconscious or dying character(s). Having at least two characters can be the difference between dying and being heavily injured.
There are three ways which Playable Characters are categorized: Bar Recruits, Unique Recruits, and Slave Recruits. Bar Recruits and most Unique Recruits can be found in towns. These Recruits will usually be in Bars but can also be patrolling the town. They will ask for a set amount of Cats in order to join your squad. Some Unique Recruits will join for free. When recruiting characters, it may open the Character Customization module where you can decide to change their name and possibly their appearance.
Most Recruits are weak and don't have good equipment. For a couple days at a time, you can recruit Mercenaries to protect your characters. These Mercs will often charge around 2,000 Cats per day. Mercenaries can be found in Bars, Mercenary Camps, or roaming the world in certain regions. Mercenaries can be Cannibal Hunters, Bar Thugs, or from the Mercenary Guild.
Characters have two weapon slots named "Weapon 1" and "Weapon 2." Weapon 1 is their primary weapon and it can be a Crossbow, a two handed weapon, or a single handed weapon. Weapon 2 is a smaller slot because it only allows for smaller weapons which are single handed. When your character is indoors with a larger weapon equipped or when their left arm has been heavily damaged, they will automatically switch to their secondary weapon if they have one.
Often, squads from Hostile Factions will attempt to raid a town. After the town guards beat these characters unconscious, you should safely be able to loot them. Although, be careful not to loot any unconscious townspeople because stealing from them will be a crime. Stealing from bandits is not an issue though. Wear whatever armour is the highest quality among them and sell everything else that the bandits had.
Purchasing from Shops
Buying equipment from shops is the most legitimate way of acquiring these items from a legal standpoint. From a financial standpoint however, it is the worst. The difference between price and sell price on equipment is very discouraging. However, having any armour is better than none. Purchase the lowest quality option you can find in stores (prototype or shoddy) of Light Armour. Early game, light armour is the best because it allows for characters with low Strength to be protected and it can often have bonuses to Combat Stats. Wear Light or Medium Armour until your stats improve and wear Wooden Sandals exclusively because all other shoes will harm your ability to flee from danger.
Stealing from Shops
Stealing allows for you to get higher quality equipment early game. Train up your Thievery skills before attempting to steal from a shop because after you are caught stealing, you will never be able to legitimately purchase from that shop again. The shopkeepers remember your entire faction, so sending in a completely different character will make no difference.
In order to avoid getting caught stealing, you should enter the shop in Stealth mode and hide behind furniture like a wooden wall in order to stay out of sight. Wait until night. The shopkeeper will lock the door to the building, and, eventually, the shopkeeper and shop guards will go to sleep as long as the building has beds for all of them. If you are caught staying in the shop after closing time, the shopkeeper will tell you to leave many times before you are charged with trespassing and the guards attack you. While everyone is sleeping, go around picking up items on shelves to build up Thievery before attempting to steal from containers. It may be beneficial to unlock the door before attempting any stealing but make sure not to open the door because that will result in patrolling town guards entering. If you are caught stealing, open the door and run or remain and fight.
Before fighting, characters can easily train up on Strength, which will help during combat. The fastest way to train Strength is through having a heavy inventory and carrying another character. After doing this, your character will be heavily weighed down and will walk very slowly. Training this way requires your character to walk around while carrying this weight. You can tediously click around town to move or simply find a character which is patrolling the town and Follow them through holding right click.
Some buildings will have Training Dummies for characters to train Melee Attack with. Using these will likely be a crime, as they are privately owned by the faction which owns the building. Train on them for a little while until someone starts to yell at you. If you continue to use their private equipment after many warnings, they will attack you.
You can safely and easily gain experience by attacking alongside town guards when bandit raids occur. The guards will undoubtedly defeat the enemy squad. In order to decrease time waiting for a squad to attack your town, run outside of town to find a group of enemies and lead them back to the town. Once you are close enough to the gates, the guards will come to your defense.
After these fights, healing these bandits is an easy way to increase your Field Medic statistic. Healing a character results in a minor relations boost with that faction. Most bandits are carrying a Basic First Aid Kit so you shouldn't worry about wasting resources on bandits. You can easily loot their First Aid Kit before healing them.
Before stealing anything from an indoors location, characters should train Stealth. Stealth can be trained by entering Stealth mode by clicking the Stealth button in the User Interface. Characters will gain Stealth experience as long as they are walking around near other characters. The safest way to train this is by turning Stealth mode on and walking around town for a while. Be careful clicking near other characters, as you may accidentally command your character to attempt an Assassination and that will probably be counted as Assault which is a crime in towns.
Thievery can be trained by looting items from unconscious characters, picking up any items which have a designated owner, and looting storage containers inside buildings. Before stealing from shops, steal Junk Items in residential buildings as being caught from those locations will not affect your ability to use the town's shops in the future. Often residential buildings will have mostly empty storage containers, to save time looking in every one you can find out if they are empty by clicking on the container and reading its details. It will specifically say [EMPTY] if it has no items inside it. Locked storage containers will consistently have items inside of them.
You can usually just sell those stolen Junk Items in town since most towns have vendors of different factions within it who don't care that the item is stolen. If you have trouble finding a shop in your town, you should consistently be able to sell to the Tech Hunters in one of their Waystations.
Lockpicking training can be difficult without Stealth training, but late game high lockpicking skills are essential so it is worth it to train. Lockpicking can be trained on Locksmith Training Boxes which can be found in a Shinobi Thieves Tower. Remain in Stealth Mode while using those unless you have paid to join the Thieves. In order to avoid the Thieves becoming hostile towards you and affecting your ability to join them later, stop training on the boxes when someone sees you.
Picking locks on storage containers is also a crime against the owner, so stop your attempts if someone is looking at you. Lockpicking can be trained without necessarily training Thievery but it is still recommended to not start your training inside a shop.
If your character is enslaved, it can be an easy time to train Lockpicking and Stealth. Maintain Stealth Mode for the entire time and your character will increase slowly while other characters easily spot your character. While locked in a Cage, your character should be in range to pick the locks on the slaves locked up next to them. After picking the lock on both your Shackles and your Cage, attempt a full escape. Failed escape attempts make for great Toughness training as well because slavers heal slaves after locking them back up. The primary issue with repeating this plan is how long it takes for characters to heal while locked up, making your character's Stealth ability cut due to injuries and meaning that it may be a while until you are able to successfully escape the slave camp.
Without having to build your own Outpost or do any research, you can train in the trade skills of Farming and Laboring. Laboring can be trained in any region by mining a Copper or Iron deposit. Farming can be trained on Farms which are sometimes part of towns. Most notable towns with farms are Holy Farms, Drifter's Last, and any town in The Swamp.
You don't need money if you choose to steal everything you want, but having money is still preferred to having no money. More ways to earn Cats can be found on the Money Making Strategies page.
Acting as a wandering trader is a viable option to increasing your income. Most items have slightly differing prices from town to town. In your starting town, purchase as many as you can of whichever item has the lowest markup rate. Then wander to other towns where the markup rates are high and sell them off.
If you are worried about traveling far from your starting town, you can choose to simply become a raw materials trader instead. Through the Prospecting module, you can find the nearest Copper or Iron deposit. Run to the mine and work at it until your character has a full inventory of raw materials. Collecting from the mine will require either looting it through holding right click or selecting it and opening your player character's inventory. Take your full inventory of items and sell it at any store.
Purchasing a Backpack early in order to carry more items would make trips more efficient. If carrying a backpack, make sure that your character has enough inventory space to take off the backpack because the backpack's negative effect on combat stats can be brutal early game.
Selling Characters to Slavers
In the United Cities territory, you can sell characters to Slavers from the Slave Traders faction. An easy way to do this would be to find a town which is controlled by the Slave Traders and wait until bandits attack it. After the guards have finished the fighting, run out and pick up an unconscious character. By talking to the Slaver Boss in the Slave Shop or by placing the character in a Prisoner Cage, you can earn a couple hundred Cats.
This is a dangerous strategy choice because on the way to a town containing a Slave Shop, you can be attacked. If you are knocked out in United Cities territory and especially near Slaver controlled towns, it is likely that a roaming squad of Manhunters, Slave Hunters, or Slave Traders will enslave you.
Characters can be given Bounties easily in Kenshi for committing many crimes. In many towns, Wanted Posters are sold at Bars and Police buildings. The characters who have Wanted Posters out against them will likely have high bounties and be difficult to defeat.
However, many roaming bandits can be spawned with a randomly generated bounty of roughly 2,000 Cats. Be on the lookout for these minor criminals. If you see one of them defeated by a different faction squad and the coast is clear, run over and pick them up. Make sure that their wounds are bandaged before picking them up, as you will not earn the full bounty for a corpse. Carry the character to a town controlled by the faction which has the bounty against them (you can learn this by hovering over the bounty label when the character is selected) and drop them off in a Prisoner Cage in the Police building.
There is more to the game than bounty hunting, fighting, and trading. To experience the rest of the game, you will likely want to build an Outpost.
Inside towns, there are often buildings for sale which can become Player-Owned Buildings in Town. You can find out which buildings these are by clicking on them and reading their information. To buy these buildings, simply click on the button and confirm in the following popup window. Inside these buildings and on their roofs, you can build any interior type building and some labeled exterior. Having your own building in a town before building an outpost is good because you will be protected by the town Guards while researching Technology and Crafting.
Building Your Own Outpost
Starting an outpost can be a poor choice early game because outposts tend to attract raids and tax-collectors. If you feel that your characters are ready to properly defend and afford their base, see our Guide to Building an Outpost.