Most players starting out in Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlord are looking for sandbox renown and glorious battles. But, behind every successful warlord, there is a hidden army of pack mules and accountants, making sure the troops are paid and well-fed. After all, an army famously marches on its stomach and less famously on its gambling habit.
Battles with thousands of men tearing at each other’s throats and purses tend to “pay for themselves”, but getting to that late-game money pot can be a bit of a challenge. Anyone rushing to delegate money-worries to their underlings and focus on swashbuckling instead can follow these simple steps to early-game financial independence.
Prioritise Trade during character creation
Trade is a tough skill to raise since it only levels up by selling trade goods, animals, and horses – at a profit. Unlike a decent number of other skills which increase while you are going about your usual business, like Steward, Trade needs special attention. Investing in the skill early provides long-term benefits. While it might not level up as you sell looted equipment, it will give you a better price when selling it in the first place.
Therefore, making sure to get the maximum possible skill multiplier early on is almost a must for a financially unconstrained playthrough. Any remaining focus points should go into Riding or Scouting if possible. These will also optimise your early money-making capacity on top of the other benefits they already provide.
Limit spending on the essentials
Your starting gear is good enough for money-printing purposes. No need to go overboard by spending 1000 denars on a piece of armour that will be “obsolete” rather quickly. All of your early investment should be directed at a single thing – making more money fast.
In line with the remaining steps towards financial freedom, ask yourself if a 1000-gold piece of armour is better than just staying out of range of the Looters and Bandits that might interfere with your monetary goals. The most cost-effective piece of armour is not getting hit in the first place.
The essentials include a decent bow, some arrows, and a proper horse. This will improve your map movement speed and allow you to take care of Looters, Bandits, and the like from a safe distance.
Recruit a cost-effective escort party
Troops require food and regular payment. Those funds should be going towards making more money, and not recruitment costs and wages. The key is to assemble a small party geared towards maximum bang-per-buck. As a rule of thumb, your early escort should never be larger than 25 units, and those units should be cheap and durable since replacing losses costs money too.
The Imperial troop tree is ideal for our purposes here, as they have a cheap and effective archer as early as Tier 2. Once you have about 20-30 recruits, upgrade them to archers and keep them at a low Tier. You may feel safer with an entourage of 20 Palatine Guards at your side, but that many Trained Archers will do just as well when ordered to skirmish (F1+F4), at a fraction of upgrade and upkeep costs.
Broadly speaking, it is wise to avoid infantry and cavalry for early escort duties, as they tend to die a lot or require expensive horses to be effective.
Only engage what you can catch at a profit
Getting those recruits to tier 2-3 archers should be relatively simple if you are mindful of spending and don’t get your troops killed by biting off more than you can chew. Your first 4000-5000 gold should be easy to farm by chasing Looters and selling their sticks and pyjamas for starting capital.
Running after an enemy party, it takes forever to catch will have you paying wages equivalent to what you made by fighting them to begin with. If “payday” rolls around 3 times before you catch a group of 20 Looters, and you end up selling their stuff for 200 gold while paying 70 gold in wages each day, then the chase was a pointless money-drain.
A good working guestimate is only going after groups your party outpaces with at least a 0.2 map speed advantage. Exterminating bandits along an established trade route will also save you from actively hunting them across the whole map.
Start trading Aserai horses
Once you have 20 or so Imperial Archers in your party, are sitting on a Tier 2 horse, and have a bow in hand, it’s time to put that Looter-farming capital to use.
The best way to maintain high map movement speed, get the best possible profit margins and Trade skill increases are by trading Aserai horses.
Askar is an Aserai town supplied by 3 separate villages, all producing Dessert and Aserai horses. While other Aserai settlements also sell these, owing to their position and the way supply/demand works in Bannerlord, they aren’t worth the trip when compared to the profits they provide.
Buying Aserai horses below 1200 and selling them above 1700 is what you are looking for. This is best done by buying in Askar and selling in Vlandian or Battanian cities. Depending on a number of factors, it is possible to buy as low as 800 and sell at 2400 gold. In addition to making a decent profit with each sale, every horse you sell will give you about one skill point in Trade early on, further improving profits on your next run.
All money made this way should go back into horse trading until you have about 15000-20000 of gold on you.
Avoid hiring companions too early
Companions are great but can easily set you back 40 gold in wages per head daily. Those 40 denars are cutting into your overall capital every day, and the benefits they provide don’t quite justify the early-game cost.
70-80 gold is also roughly what your entire escort should cost daily, so escalating that just to have one more sword along is far from cost-effective. That’s without even accounting for companions needing their own gear, which again, you guessed it – costs money which could be put to use for making more money.
If you absolutely want to start training a companion for caravan duty early on, make sure they are set as your party Quartermaster for some “free” Steward skill-ups. Pour all resulting progress into the companion’s Trade skill.
Build your first workshop
Unless you are playing specifically to be a trader, then the goal is to make sure finances are constantly in the green with minimum effort on your part. This is where workshops come in. Take your first 20000 gold and head to Khuzait territory. Wool workshops make a lot of money there.
Considering where you place your first workshops should take the following into account: are the required resources available in surrounding villages, what is the cities’ Prosperity score, and how far away is it from the front lines.
Resources are required for the workshops to remain profitable. A high Prosperity rating increases workshop income and this rating will usually suffer if the city is besieged. Similarly, if a bound village is looted, the number of available resources for your shop will take a hit as well.
A well-placed workshop should generate 200-500 gold each day. Always keep in mind that you lose your workshops when the faction holding the town they are in turns hostile.
Get a caravan going
Now is the time to hire your first companion. Obviously, the best choice is one with a high Trade skill, as that directly impacts caravan profits. Suitable hires usually carry the title “the Swift” or “the Spicevendor”. High Riding and Scouting skills are also a plus, and you can start looking for candidates via the in-game encyclopedia by hitting the N key.
Before a companion gets to lead a caravan, make sure they have a fast horse and semi-decent equipment. Again, don’t go overboard; a budget of about 3000-4000 should be enough to make your companion an independent trader. The cheaper of the two caravan types will do fine for your first caravans unless you are hopelessly unlucky.
Once confident that the Companion is ready, go to the nearest town and start a caravan by talking to one of the notable residents. It takes some time to ramp up but should have paid for itself in roughly 15-20 days.
Wage war on mercenary clans and rebels
When your first 2-3 caravans and workshops each are up and running, the money will roll right in. If everything went according to plan, this should make somewhere in the range of 1000-2000 denars per day. That’s enough to supply a high-tier party able to go toe to toe with anyone save for faction leaders.
Now it’s time to start making real money. Gear up and start hunting minor factions and putting down rebellions.
Each party you take down should bring in at least 3000 gold worth of assorted loot. Always keep an eye on which mercenary clan you antagonise, since attacking them while they are under contract with a kingdom will make both hostile. This would wreak havoc on your production and trade network – bad for the bottom line.
Some minor clans can pull this off all on their own, too, especially the ones fast enough to catch your caravans. It is generally wise to avoid hostilities with the Beni Zilal, Eleftheroi, Ghilman, Jawwal, and Karakhergit clans, until your hoard is substantial enough to ditch caravans altogether.