In Elite Dangerous you can often spend exceptional amounts of time trying to just figure out what you’re doing or what you should do. There is a variety of activities in the game, but many of them don’t become apparent quickly, and missions often only point you in the direction that you need to do something, not specifically what that something is, just where it is and what you need to do. This vagueness is actually a boon, as there is generally multiple locations to approach a problem.
Here’s a list of the various activities that you can do, most of which involve farming credits. While this guide won’t go into the full scope of each of the activities, it’ll give you a general idea of where to get started and what you should be doing.
Exploring involves cataloging various systems and sending its data in to Universal Cartographics. So what do you do? Well, aim for a Diamondback Explorer with as much distance as you can, a fuel scoop, and a discovery scanner and planet scanner. Now go out and explore. Surface scan earth like worlds and worlds made of water, and scan everything else that you can. Then go further than 20 LY away to sell the data at a star port. Fuel scoops, large fuel tanks, and enough defensive equipment to fight off pirates is necessary.
This is one of the three major non-combat methods to earn credits. If you’re the first to scan something, you get it marked as discovered by you! There are no missions, as far as I know, that involve discovery.
To trade you simply get a ship with a cargo hold. Buy items at one station then courier them to another to sell. Trading is basically super easy, as long as you know what trade routes to use. The best way to find that is to use a third-party resource like eddb to figure out a route where you’ll make at least 3k credits per cargo slot. This means that you’ll generally pull in, with say 40 cargo slots, 120,000 credits a run. Buy low, sell high!
Smugglers are a form of trading, in which you trade illegal goods. You run the risk of being attacked if scanned (or just receive a fine). Missions often boost the profits from smuggling a ton, often being in the 100k+ credit range right off the start. It’s not a bad idea to use a sidewinder to smuggle in, or a cheaper ship like a cobra.
Bulletin boards will often ask you to either obtain some kind of commodity or deliver a commodity (couriering).
You’ll need a ship (early on the Cobra is boss for this), the best mining lasers you can afford, refinery, and then limpet drones (prospector drones and collector drones). You’ll then fly to an asteroid belt or rings around a planet, drop out of super cruise, and then begin shooting the asteroids. You can use the prospector limpets to figure out what the contents of various asteroids are. Once a fragment appears, you can use the cargo scoop (the manual method) which works similar to docking or use your collector limpets by firing them, like a weapon, with either what you want collected selected, or nothing in which they’ll look around the area to find it.
After you put the fragments in your hold, they’ll go into the refinery to become ore. Once refined, you simply continue until your cargo hold is full, then return to a station to sell your goods.
Bulletin boards will often ask if you have specific minerals to hand over, for a higher than average reward.
Bounty Hunting / Pirating
The combat way of life comes in two forms – good guys or bad guys. If you’re a good guy, then you’ll fly to nav points, nav beacons, entry way to stations, or resource extraction sites and sit around, scanning anyone to see if there is a bounty and if there is, end them. You can use a kill-warrant scanner for extra cash on any target that you find.
Bounty hunting becomes more rewarding with missions, usually asking you to kill pirates or assassinate a specific target. In this case, go to the system it tells you to go to and then either head to a resource extraction site or nav point to find pirates, or look at unidentified signal sources for your target (unless they’re in supercruise, at which point they’ll often be flying around broadcasting things – just interdict them).
If you’re wanting to do pirating, you can fly to any anarchy system, then find NPCs mining in hazardous resource extraction sites (or find them in hazardous ones in normal systems – but you’ll get a bounty). You can then either destroy their cargo hatch or use a cargo hatch destroyer. You can also, if you’re in a nice enough ship, sit in popular zones and harass other players to give up their loot – but you’ll need to be ready for them to run.
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