DERP Guides: X3 AP Humble Merchant Guide (Chapter 1: Starting Your Empire)



So, you want to start out as a Humble Merchant, trading and building your way to galactic domination? Maybe you’re new to X3, and you’re as befuddles by all the abbreviations and menus as I am whenever I try to watch Downton Abby? (The point of the show eludes me. It just bores the muffin pan out of me whenever I try to watch it, so no data about WTF is going on enters my brain.) Then you’ve come to the right geeky space-trader nut person running a gaming blog who doesn’t comprehend Downton Abby!

Now, an important note: you do NOT have to follow my blabbering exactly, and I encourage you to be creative, and make your own decisions on what you want to build. My guides aren’t written in the format that you have to follow my words exactly or else, if you don’t, the Great Spaghetti Poobleblabber from Bruce Willis Prime will eat your crabblebonkins.

No. I try to tell you how the mechanics of a game work, and give you suggestions on how to use them, but the whole reason I tell you how they work is so you can actually use them to achieve a goal which is unique to you — perhaps building the largest spork production company in the galaxy, with an outstanding artistic quality to your sporks.

Because of my geekiness with games I like, I usually know the technical little tiny details about how this shipwreck works. I’m still Human, though, and when I write, I give you the details in an understandable way (or try, at least) because I can understand how you can’t immediately figure out what the heck “use a CLS in conjunction with a CAG to supply PFAs, PRCs and PACs, so that you can BE with your ‘plex because coffee and milk (who knew. <– Know one will get that reference unless you watch a lot of HBO) are overly expensive if bought with a fruit taco/BLT combo” means.

NOTE: This guide is mainly written using rules and experience from play AP (Albion Prelude), so — aside from a few exceptions, such as the Stock Exchange (which the previous games do not have) — most tips will apply to X3TC or even Reunion. It is also hand-picked, age, designed, and crafted to be useful for both newcomers and long-time X3 fans, and everyone in-between. Similarly, different starts should be able to use the general rules and tips on trading, regardless of start, as any start can trade. This is really a general trading guide, with some locational tips for the Humble Merchant, because if you like to trade a lot, chances are you may be playing a Humble Merchant.

Finally: and of course, you can also follow along in my weekly Humble Merchant journals, the first of which is here.


First, you’ll want to open the game, of course, and you’ll want to click on “NEW GAME”, and the — oh, you already figure that out? Good for you. Make a Humble Merchant or load your already existing one. If your PC can handle it (mine can, and it’s using a Pentium 2.4 GHz CPU and 4Gb RAM, so not too high requirements), I recommend you go to the options menu (Shift+O) and go into the gameplay options, and turn the SETA up to 10X. This will allow you to accomplish much more (in real time) much quicker.

Arrow keys, holding your left mouse button, or pressing spacebar and then moving the mouse, allow you to steer your ship. X and Z control speed. You may be using a joystick, and if you are, you probably know how you’ve set it up.

Many players like to sell their Discoverer right off the bat. Most people will NOT recommend selling your Mercury, as this is your best ship for trading at the start. I personally did not sell the Discoverer, and instead used it as a recon/satellite deployment ship, because it has a very high speed once upgraded. The choice is yours. If you want the Discoverer to follow you, press R, highlight your Discoverer, press ENTER, select COMMANDS, and have it follow, or protect, you. Since it isn’t armed, both will be pretty much the same.

If you don’t want the Discoverer to follow you, and instead want to sell it, go South (see next paragraph) and dock at the shipyard. Highlight the Discoverer in the top and use the arrow keys to sell it, and then press enter. (I really can’t remember which direction, but usually selling is to the left. But since it should say “sell ships”, that could mean you have to fill the bar to sell it, i.e. press the right arrow key.)

For a good starting trade route, click the South gate once you’ve located it. Press Shift+A, and then press J to activate SETA. Travel straight across Argon Prime, through the South gate once again, and then again, take the South gate from Home of Light. If your game is similar to mine, which it should be if you just started, Ore Belt shouldn’t be too busy, and the ore mines need energy.

Dock at an ore mine, and see if it needs energy. You can dock by double-clicking the station, and pressing dock, highlighting the station, and pressing Shift+D on your keyboard, or by locating a station on the map and pressing Shift+D.

If the price for energy is around 18, you’re good to go. If not, find another mine that needs the energy. (TIP: the market is based entirely on supply and demand, so if a station has little resources, it will pay more for them, and vice versa. This works the same with products. Another TIP: You can only buy products. You can’t sell the products to that station. You buy products, and sell them at a station that uses them as resources. Items in the Goods category for a station, such as at a Trading Station, can be bought and sold.)

Once you’ve located a mine that needs it badly, go to the solar plant nearby, and buy the energy if it’s 13 or below (it should be at 12, which is the minimum price). You can buy or sell by highlighting a good, and using the arrow keys, clicking on the trade slider bar at the bottom, pressing the HOME and END keys (to buy all you can or sell all you can, respectively), or by typing in a number, and then using the arrow keys to increase/decrease amount in increments of the number you type in.

Now take that energy to your ore mine of choice. Repeat the trade route, until the price of energy starts to rise.

You should now have your first 50k. Head to Home of Light, and dock at the TerraCorp Headquarters. (Any other equipment dock will do fine too.) Now buy a Trading System Extension.

The Trading System Extension allows to see prices of goods remotely. It is extremely useful. If you want, you can also buy Best Buy and Best Sell softwares, but the TSE is all you really need. I personally use the TSE more than the BB/BS softwares, although they can be useful.

Check the Qauntum Tube Fabs and the ammunition factory. You can just select them in the map or by clicking on them while flying. Press U. If the price is above 90, go back to Ore Belt. Open the map, and scroll down to the ore mines with the mouse or the arrow keys. Press U on each mine until you find one where the ore is at 50. You shouldn’t have trouble finding it, as they have cheap ore most of the time. Buy all the ore you can with the END key. Make sure to save before you do this, although you don’t have to if you have autosave turned on (it’s turned on by default).

Fly back to Home of Light, and sell the ore for the best price you can get. You can sell it even in the 200s occasionally, so you can quadruple your money fast. Repeat this trade for as long as you feel like.


Once you get about 1 million credits, I suggest you buy a Mercury Hauler. This is bigger than the basic Mercury, although slightly slower. You can find one in Cloudbase Southeast, or maybe you’ll be lucky and find a used one from the occasional offers sitting around at some stations. Equip the Hauler with a TSE, BB and BS software. (See above) Have it run the ore routes with you, ore go have it trade energy from Power Circle or Delaxian Wheat from Argon space to Boron space. You can tell it, in detail, what to do by highlighting it in the Property menu (R) and pressing C. Go to Trade and you’ll have your options there.

You may want to equip your Discoverer with Explore Command Software, if you kept it. You can find ECS in Teladi equipment docks. Teladi space is Northwest of Argon space, past the thin line of Boron space.

Once it has been equipped, go grab some advanced satellites at the Adv Sat factory in Argon Prime. It’s out of stock sometimes, so you may have to be patient.

Place an Adv Sat in slightly above the middle of Argon Prime by going to Property>Your Discoverer>Command Console (C)> Navigation> Deploy Satellite Network (you can switch map axis by pressing FUNCTION or clicking the weird +  icon on the top of the map) and then use the numpad keys to move it around. If you don’t have a numpad, I believe the FN key + number keys should work.

Place the rest of the satellites (if you bought multiple) wherever you like to trade, as this will allow you to see the prices of goods in that sector as long as both your satellite and TSE are intact.

You’ve acquired a good amount of funds now, and you want to start actually producing your own goods. You’ll need to search around for a good place to build your first factory. Since you should know the economics by now, I’ll leave the choices of what kind of station to build and where up to you.


To find the type of station you should build, look for resources that stations are normally running out of. Use the Encyclopedia to check what your station will require (Personal (P)> Advanced> Encyclopedia. Secondary items for NPC stations are REQUIRED items for player stations.) and make sure that your station is near both the consumers who require the item and the factories who produce resource that you will require.

I also recommend you get the Official Bonus Pack, which adds some extra scripts that will help you immensely when running stations. It is digitally signed and will NOT mark your game as modified. The Albion Prelude pack can be found here.

If you want to make Cahoonas, I recommend a large Cahoona Bakery in Herron’s Nebula, as you can get Argnu beef from Cloudbase Northwest, usually cheaply and very easily.

If you want to eventually have some sort of complex that requires ore, I suggest Antigone Memorial, as it has two yield 90 ore asteroids right next to each other. You may need to use a tractor beam to reorient them if you’re planning on building a complex. I only recommend building mines there if you are going to use them to supply one of your own stations/complexes, as exporting the ore may be more difficult to do than if you were in a more centralized area. I have not personally built there, but I plan to very soon, and build a resource complex, which will supply my crystal/solar complex in Herron’s Nebula, the latter of which might turn into a tech plant once I buy some chip and computer plants.

Ore Belt may be profitable for mining, but only if you have a few freighters to ship it to Home of Light. Complex-wise, you could hook some solar up to the asteroids, but again since it’s a mine, you may need a tractor beam to help with proper orientation; you don’t want Chef Boyardee unless you have a mod that removes tubes.

For a relatively cheap complex, look into buying a chip plant and a computer plant together, and hook them up using a Complex Construction Kit. You’ll have to buy the base minerals unless you already own some mines and other necessary base-level production facilities. I’ll leave where you want to put your tech ‘plex up to you, as there are many places that would like some computers.

[TC only] Also, while you make money from the manufacture of goods, you can also make a ton of money in the Stock Market. You should seek out new exchanges and put satellites near them so you can remotely trade. To learn basically everything about stock trading, refer to my DERP Stock Trading Guide.


By know, you should have at least 20 million credits (including money in the market). You could do this with less, but this isn’t recommended. Again, you have a choice with what ship you want, but I will give you my opinion on good choices for military ships.

Now, you could totally skip this section if you don’t want to harm anyone. That’s fine. Even if you’re not going to actively seek out people who you think should be Betty Crocker-ed with lasers and warheads, I suggest you still have some weapons to passively defend your stuff from getting Pillsbury-ed in the noggin, because nothing is more annoying than when Jack Sparrow shows up at your stations and start fumbledorfing your freighter ships.

The ship I chose for peaceful removal of unfriendly characters is the Heavy Centaur. You could also get the regular Centaur, which is a little faster, but can not support as many shields as its Heavy counterpart. This is totally up to you.

The Centaur is an M6, meaning it’s a corvette. Corvettes act like a hybrid between a fighter and a capital ship: they’re fairly fast, they have tons of guns in the front, and they have a lot of turrets on the side and rear.

I usually like fast, sneaky, annoying things (unless they’re annoying me), but I also like lots of guns. I could’ve went with something like an Elite or Buster, but I wanted to raise the bar and get something that is deadlier, cooler, sleeker, gunnier, and expensive(ish)-er. I had seen a Rapid Response Centaur in Cloudbase Southwest, and I thought it looked really cool. So I decided to save up the 14 million required for it (the Heavy Centaur is 14m while the regular one is 9m), and arm it with a fluffton of yummy weapons.

Yeah, maybe you thought I was playing Humble Merchant because I liked peace, but I think I like Humble Merchant because he allows me to fund my path of total annihilation of anyone who thinks having a Fourth of July party with my traders would be funny.

Finding the weapons for the Centaur will require some flying around, as you probably won’t be able to completely arm it at the equipment dock. I put Phased Repeater Guns on all slots except for the two rear turret slots, in which I believe I put Particle Accelerator Cannons, although I’m not sure my memory is correct on that. The shields shouldn’t be too hard to acquire, and I recommend you max out the shields.

You could probably buy a decent fleet of armed Elites or busters for the price of a Centaur, which you could do if you prefer. The (Heavy) Centaur does make a fantastic personal ship, and you could have your fighters fly along side you in it, without having to worry too much about getting destroyed or having a hard time staying in formation. The Centaur is anything but weak. I haven’t taken even a single point of hull damage, or even very much shield damage. It also has such good weapons generators, that you can basically fire all lasers as long as you want, without worrying about recharging.

If you prefer, you could also look into another race’s ships. If you’ve played a good amount of X3, you probably know what you like. You could also ask on the EgoSoft forums, and you’ll most likely get quick, and reliable, answers to what a good 40 million or less personal/AI-controlled military ship would be.

If you buy ships for the AI to fly, for instance for defensive purposes, you’ll want the appropriate software for the job. If you’re going to use them to attack/defend, get the Fight Command Software series. If you’re going to have them do more complicated stuff like fly in complex fleet, you’ll want to have FCS Mk I and II.

If, on the other hand, you’re going to use them for exploration or trading, you should equip them with Explore Command Software (available at Teladi equipment docks) and the Trade Command Software series. For trading, you could also get the Best Buy/Best Sell software mentioned earlier. You’ll want these if you’re going to use them as manual remote traders.

Where you go from here, is up to you. You can easily do the first parts of the plot now, which will help you acquire more toys to play (pirate, build, or burn the galaxy to the ground, if there were a ground in space. Whatever fancies your diabolical[ically peaceful] self) with.


I’ve hopefully given you some useful stepping-stones into your Humble Merchant character. I hope this guide informed you, whether this is the first time playing the game, or the fortieth. For now, I’ve decided to cover starting off, as I’m fairly early in the game myself (early in this game means more hours invested than it takes to complete all of the linear-campaign platformers and shooters released in the last three years), and this article is getting really long. Mainly the first, but also almost mainly the second.

If people enjoy this guide, then I will write an mid-to-endgame guide for Humble Merchant. I will also do guides for other starts as I play them, so keep checking back. This may be the format for them, where there’s a start guide, a middle guide (or maybe both middle-and-endgame guides in one), and an endgame guide.

Please, consider giving me a “like” (“the Great Speghetti Poobleblabber from Bruce Willis Prime will eat your crabblebonkins” is the zenith of my poetic artistry) if you liked this article, and subscribe to my blog (via email) or follow my blog (via your WordPress account).

And leave some comments, because I like comments, and you might like leaving them. 😉 I would really appreciate some feedback on your favorite ships to use as a personal ship, and if you have any other suggestions on how I could improve my guide, such as more locations to put stations/complexes.

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10 responses to “DERP Guides: X3 AP Humble Merchant Guide (Chapter 1: Starting Your Empire)

  1. Greetings… what are exactly the gols to achieve o humble merchant.. i took some terrans sectors destroyed all bases and factories there.. but as soon as i jump to other sectos they appears again.. so no Point.. you never win?

    • The point is what you make of it; you could try to get one (or all) of the HQs if you haven’t already, do all the plots, etc.

      For another thing, I do believe there are mods that allow you to fully conquer sectors, such as Improved Races 2.0, (available at which allows both the game racial factions and players to permanently take over sectors.

      Even so, outside of that, it is a sandbox game, so it is what you make of it that you want to do. There ARE large endgame goals like the Headquarters, the Hub plot, fighting Xenon etc. It’s up to you what you make of it 🙂

      I hope in some way this helps, sorry that I didn’t give anything more and there are more goals you could aim for than that, but I hope that assists at least a bit. Thanks for reading as well!

  2. I LOVE the way this is written with the nice comedic twist in the word play 🙂 for the record my character does still suck though (working on it lol) 🙂

  3. Thanks for the help. Started a new game today on X3:AP. Now have A.S. throughout Argon start sector and the five Boron above.
    although funds are low, thanks to these it is building back up again.

    P.S. love the jargon this guide is written in.

    • Thank you very much!

      Also, if you don’t consider stock trading cheating (I personally don’t, and I think that’s kinda silly), check out my stock trading guide. That will help get some credits rolling in, although you’ll still want some good ‘plexes.

      Actually, ‘plexes and stocks together is a good way to go, as your complexes will let you control the stock market how you see fit basically.

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