Going Insane for First City Coins and Profit

As you may know, I am seeking First City Coins to fulfill the Heart’s Desire Ambition. I like figuring out this part of the venture myself without spoilers, but then again, I managed to get 50 coins from being connected to the Masters of the Bazaar, and only have to get 27 more by myself. People needing to get all 77 may have a different point of view.


Fortunately the base Ambition has multiple paths to getting those coins, but there appear to be more scattered around the Bazaar. For instance, there’s a way to get them when you go insane, of all places. I stumbled across this one by accident, because I like to explore some really odd pathways…

For instance, what happens when you increase a Nightmares storyline to the maximum level it supports? Sure, maybe there’s not an ending level, but at level 3 or 4 you can already see that there actually is an advancing storyline. Part of the reason I devoted almost all my resources to Watchful is because the tasks that yield higher echo profit are higher-level, so I could buy all the laudanum I wanted. And the Forgotten Quarter is like a gravy train laced with Nightmares.

The top-level Watchful storylet (at least before they open up Book 2, Part 2) unlocks at Watchful 84, and can yield over 8 echoes every 10 turns. This means that you can get enough surface currency in one day to obtain 8 First City coins a day. If you’re starting from scratch, this means that you have ten days of very, very boring grinding for 77 First City coins—and that’s not even taking time off to do anything else, like the Soul Trade.

And naturally, it’s even worse for people without access to this maximum storylet, since it will take them at least twice as long to get all the coins.

Now, while I could simply reach the needed number of coins after 10 straight days of grind, I decided to just spend off-turns when I had nothing better to do grinding away in the Forgotten Quarter. The problem is when you reach the Watchful level cap, like I have, half of the Watchful storylets will only yield money for you now. And that’s boring.

I tripped into insanity, like many people, accidentally. And discovered a hotel of wonder… filled with talking cats, distinguished lizards, and a lovely lady with a quite interesting fossil collection.

There isn’t too much to do here, but I made it to Tracking Down the Manager 5, which unlocked a new storylet where you could complain to the Manager. Or compliment him. Or… talk to him about something. Unlocked by the particular branch of my Ambition, too.


If you decide to talk to him about “something”, you receive one First City Coin, along with losing Tracking Down the Manager.

You can repeat trying to track him down, tracking him down, and then getting a coin.

The thing is, while this is slower for me and my maxed-out Watchful than simply grind/buy coinage, for many people this method will be faster. Holy gods. In one day with half my actions, I got 3 First City Coins—and no money spent.

Mind you, the hotel will do everything in its passive powers to lower your Nightmares to zero. It’s why one probably shouldn’t fear going mad (unless you’re advancing Nightmares storylines—then you lose all progress when you go sane, and it is very sad). If you only use opportunity cards to do this (pick options that will distance you from the hotel and all its occupants, including options that don’t look very safe or even nice; although there are a couple of cards that will only increase Nightmares) you can become sane without sacrificing any Persuasive or Watchful in the usual storylets.

(Although in my case, Watchful can get damaged all it likes, since it’s so high that it would take 50 points of damage to lower it down even one level.)

In fact, all of the red cards will either lower or not touch your Nightmares. So in a sense, it can be difficult to do anything in the hotel and stay insane for long enough to obtain X number of First City Coins.

Here’s my methodology, which I’m enjoying right now because at least I get to choose from a number of cards and actions as opposed to grinding THE SAME STORYLET OVER AND OVER. OMG.

  • The key cards are cats, lizards, and mushrooms. Seriously. They’re all autofire cards.

  • Mushroom autofire cards will always raise your Tracking Down the Manager.

  • Cats and lizards have only a 50% chance of raising Tracking Down the Manager; there are two variants of each card, and the other variant will decrease your Nightmares. You can’t tell ahead of time which one it’ll be.

  • However, I noticed that cards displayed will never be duplicates (this applies to anywhere in the Echo Bazaar). So if you have a cat card, you can wait until another cat card is displayed, and you’ll know you have both options, even if you don’t know which one it is. You can do a fair amount with this knowledge.

  • All other red-bordered autofire cards will lower your Nightmares. The bastards. This includes looking outside your room window and staring at ceiling cracks (Scholar of the Correspondence 3. By the way, increasing Scholar of the Correspondence in the Forgotten Quarter is an excellent way to go insane.)

  • Non-autofire cards can either lower or raise your Nightmares. You’ll learn which options will do it, though, and there’s no randomization.

  • ETA: Special non-autofire card cases:

    • Spurning her advances will raise Tracking Down the Manager.

I don’t currently know if having particular levels of Nightmares unlocks more storylets or cards in the hotel—it wouldn’t surprise me if nothing else unlocks. But I’m currently at Nightmares 13, and if I find any, I’ll let you know.

Is this method more or less boring? It gets grinding after a while, but it’s multiple cards with some decision-making grindy, not pick-a-single-storylet-option grindy. So, win. I just wish there was more content here, but oh well. It is insanity.

7 thoughts on “Going Insane for First City Coins and Profit

  1. Well there’s a method to get coins without dropping Nightmares. You will need to be able have 3 cards in your hand.

    Then you recycle Opportunities until you have un-autofired one Cat and one Lizard nightmare dropping card (it takes appr. 2 full cycles).

    Then you have 2 slots busy, and 1 for playing.
    You can get usefull cards:
    Cat (+ Tracking Down the Manager), Lizard (+ TDM), Mushroom (+ TDM),
    Woman (“Spurn her advances” + TDM or “Invite her back to your room” + Nightmares; need to choose first, of course),
    Secret (+ Nightmares + 1 Appaling secret)
    and useless for coin-hunting: Man (+ or – Nighmares), View from your room (- Nightmares).

    So you can always get what you want. ;)

    (Sorry for my broken English)

  2. Between you and naidenka, I’ve got the account doing that ambition all set. Mad as a hatter, and card slots topped with the wrong lizard and cat. Now to grind!

  3. As of the most recent update, cards seem to be scrambled among the available slots when you draw a new one. This makes the above-described techniques less useful, although if you’re willing to not use the cat and the lizard, it’ll still work.

    I am most grateful for the initial pointer, in any case. Great research!

  4. Bryant,

    Thanks for the update! I saw the scrambling just now. Hahaha, it was too good to last.

  5. Maybe I’m a bit precocious in my Heart’s Desire Ambition, as I began grinding on First City Coin production with D17/W35/P49/S12. Thats a long way from W84, but, I can get the coins almost as fast with the “Advice on a Tattooed Corpse” storylet at Lady Bones Road. It unlocks at W30, the first option produces 9 surface currency, the second produces 10. By the time you’re at W37, the second option is straightforward and hardly ever fails. It also advances my watchfulness stat, increases connection to the Great Game, and doesn’t require losing my (considerable) efforts on recurrent dreams.

    Also, if you have a secondary character, they can grind as well, and give you coins in increments of 30. That doesnt save you effort grinding, really, but it does reduce the number of days before you progress. Unfortunately, my secondary has a different ambition, so that doesn’t help me.

  6. JohnTheBastard,

    You’re not being precocious. If I were able to bring my Watchful stats down to the 30s, I would have done the same thing. :)

  7. JohnTheBastard when I do the Advise on a Tattooed Corpse storylet, I get surface currency, not First City coins.
    Is it just me?

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