Charm Sniping and Shotgunning Demystified

There are many different guides out there already that describe the process of 'charm sniping' or 'talisman sniping', like the one by YoukaiSlayer. The idea is that with some luck and good timing you can trick the MH3U random number generator into giving you the precise talisman you want, cutting you on the effort of mining. Well, the process works for some, and doesn't for others, sometimes it works for some charms, sometimes you just can't get the one you want no matter how you try. Here I share with you the results of my own experiments (which took days), that build on and improve the information already out there.

This guide is long because explain things in detail... don't freak out! This will save you time and questions in the long run. 
Once you try it once, you'll be very quick and won't need this guide.

The Mechanics – nothing is random

To explain the mechanics here. Hopefully you're familiar with Charm Tables. This whole guide will revolve around the idea of the Random Number (RN). When you got assigned or picked your Charm Table, if you were lucky or wise you would have picked one of the normal tables with 5,400 RNs. The cursed tables have only a fraction of this number and therefore only have access to a very small subset of charms. The RN is a variable in the memory of the game. Don't think of it as random, it is not random. The RN is simply a name for variable that points to something that will assign different rewards for you. Think of this variable as a clock with one hand. As you play the game it ticks along forward, and at 'midnight' it goes back to the start. Imagine that this clock has 5,400 marks on it. Some of the marks mean you get great rewards, and one of the marks has the exact reward you want. If you have one of the cursed tables, your clock will have fewer marks. In this guide you will work with this clock to get what you want.

The Setup

You must do this alone and clad in leather...
  1. You will be doing this offline in single player mode. 
  2. Cha-cha and Kayamba must stay behind. 
  3. You need an armour with minimal defense: buy the leather set and equip it. The leather set is useful because it includes the Gathering +2 skill (very useful), Spirit's Whim (somewhat useful) and Speed Gatherer (not particularly useful, but if you remove this skill your timing will be different).
  4. At this point most people talisman and gem in Bombardier. You may need Bombardier because you'll be killing yourself repeatedly in the next steps. Killing yourself effectively is crucial. If you can kill yourself without Bombardier with one Barrel Bomb L+ then you don't need it.
  5. If you can gem in Charm Chaser, you will find it helpful, but it is not essential.
  6. Equip yourself with 3 Barrel Bomb Ls, 2 Barrel Bomb L+'s and possibly some Scatterfish, if you decide to combine the Barrel Bombs L into the + varieties.
  7. Equip yourself with 5 Mega Pickaxes.
  8. Make sure you have plenty of free inventory slots.
  9. If you see the Argosy Captain in your village... get rid of him. The easiest way to do that is by equipping 2 Kelbi Horns, starting the 1 star "Prescription Pick-up"quest and ending it immediately by submitting the two horns you have. In the rewards you will always get you 2 Kelbi Horns back, don't forget to take them into your Pouch (not the box) and repeat the process until the old Captain sails the seas.

The two types of Cooking Lock

Because you'll be looking for charms in a secret area, where their drop rate is highest, you need to 'lock in' the Felyne Explorer kitchen skill. There are two types of lock, one is weak and the other is strong. The weak lock just guarantees Explorer. The strong lock does this too but in addition it ensures you will always mine the same kind of item (ore, charm) in the same order. This is where this guide will diverge from the ones you have already read. Read both of the following sections, even if you just want to learn about the strong lock.

The Weak Cooking Lock

When you eat the food in the kitchen you get both a Fixed Skill and Daily Skills. Felyne Explorer is a fixed skill . The daily skills change around. In your save file there is a kitchen skill (KS) variable. It determines whether you will get your fixed skill, i.e. Felyne Explorer. Every time you eat at a kitchen the KS variable changes in memory. When you save, it is saved in your save file. Can you see what you must do?
  1. Save your game. 
  2. Cook fish and wine to get a chance at Felyne Explorer.
  3. If you get Felyne Explorer after you eat DO NOT SAVE. Your save file contains the KS variable that guarantees you will get Felyne Explorer. You can now continue the process.
  4. If you dont get Felyne Explorer, star and abandon a quest, SAVE your game to save the new KS variable. Go back to step 2 - remember not to save if you get Felyne Explorer.
Normally at this point you would quit without saving, reload your game and proceed to charm snipe. But what you really need is the strong cooking lock.

The Strong Cooking Lock

The problem with the weak cooking lock is that it always messes up your snipe timing and it always messes up the order and the particular items you will mine (ore, charm). The strong cooking lock fixes this.

You want to consistently mine for charms, nor for ore. With the strong cooking lock you can control what you will mine and can maximise the number of charms you'll get.
  1. You should repeat the weak cooking lock procedure, but when you finally get Explorer happening you want to run a check if you actually got a strong cooking lock.
  2. So, you just got explorer, don't quit or save but instead follow steps 3 to 10 of the next section (charm shotgunning).
  3. Note or remember the first few ores or charms you find. Remember to mine quickly and immediately.
  4. Abandon the quest. Do not save.
  5. Repeat the charm shotgunning procedure like you did before.
  6. If you see the same pattern of charms and ores as you mine and gather you've hit gold! DO NOT SAVE. You save file is gold.
  7. If you see a different pattern then you were not successful. Save and try again, starting with cooking the same items again.
Now you can proceed to charm shotgunning.

Charm Shotgunning (is easy!)

  1. To charm shotgun, you must use the strong cooking lock.
  2. Load your prepped save file.
  3. Talk to Neko, at your leisure, no need to hurry. 
  4. Travel to the Tavern.
  5. At the quest counter accept the HR8 quest "Mountain Massacre".
  6. Don't forget to cook at the kitchen to get Felyne Explorer, ignore any of the the Daily Skills you get.
  7. Start the quest.
  8. Up to this point the timing of what you do is not important.
  9. You'll end up in the secret area with a mining spot and a bone gathering spot. The bone gathering spot is great for Enduring Charms, but you can get Shining Charms there too. You can get charms from the mining spot also.
  10. Now the trick is: timing now matters. Mine and gather as fast as you possibly can (mash the A button). Hopefully you get some charms.
  11. When you're done, bomb yourself to oblivion at your leisure with the Barrel Bomb L's. Don't worry if you fall out of the ledge.
  12. Run out to area 1 and kill yourself with the Barrel Bomb L+. Do this again to fail the quest.
  13. You can now Appraise the charms you got. 
  14. In the unlikely case you got an amazing charm, you're done - congrats! If not, DO NOT SAVE!
  15. This is where the fun starts. Read on...
The thing is, if you repeat these steps (remember, the timing until you start the quest doesn't matter) you will get exactly the same pattern of ores and charms when you mine and gather! The particular charms you get after appraising will be different, but it will be deja vu for you when mining! This is called a mining lock. Here are the rules for how the mining lock works:
  1. The first item you will mine or gather will always be the same, no matter what you do or the timing.
  2. The next item will be dependent on only on two things: what you mined before and the quest timer (to a precision of about 1/4 of a second). This has been 100% confirmed. 
  3. If you mine quickly in the same pattern you will get the same pattern of ores and charms.
  4. Try changing your timing before starting the quest, it won't make a difference. All that matters for shotgunning is your timing during the quest.
  5. You can mix up mining and gathering from the bones. You can even add brief pauses to your actions. All of these will affect what you mine. 
  6. By trying different combinations of mining, pauses and gathering you can trick the game into giving you mostly enduring charms (or shining charms).
  7. Once you work out your best combo, you can use it to say... get 6 Enduring Charms every time (or more if you're lucky with Charm Charm chaser). Each time you appraise, you wait for a charm that you really like, and only then do you save. Otherwise you have to quit without saving to repeat the process, hoping something cooler comes along next time.

Charm Sniping

Charm Sniping works almost the same as Charm Shotgunning, but you try for a particular talisman. However, many people waste their time by using the weak cooking lock, which means sometimes they don't gather or mine any charms at all! The mining lock gives you a head start.

Here are the rules for how Charm Sniping works:
  1. Make sure to read the first section. Charm Sniping revolves entirely around the RN clock (pun intended).
  2. The value on the RN clock determines what charm you get. To find out what charm corresponds to what number, use either Athena's Charm Table Search (right click on the charms in the list to get the RN value) or Ping's MH3G Dex (version 0.06 and up, not released yet)
  3. The RN value for charms is determined (i.e. the clock stops) when you die the third time and the next screen loads – not when you appraise them (so relax).
  4. The RN clock ticks along faster the more NPCs there are in the area. The Argosy Captain for example, makes the clock tick a bit faster. Just standing there means the clock is still ticking forward.
  5. When you load Moga Village or any area the RN clock ticks forward a lot at once. When you save, the clock also ticks forward.
  6. Consuming certain items, such as a Might or Adamant seed, ticks the RN clock forward a lot at once.
  7. The clock doesn't tick evenly, but you can still approximate where it falls.
  8. By timing how long you stay in the different areas of the game you can consistently have the RN clock fall in a similar position each time you die the third time.
  1. To simplify timing you can run through Moga Village (to Neko and to the Tavern) and the quest selection and the kitchen as fast as possible.
  2. Alternatively you can time those sections.
  3. If you can't hit the Tavern selection from Neko and you keep kitting the Marina by mistake, don't worry. Just keep running through the marina instead. Just be consistent in what you do!
  4. You can press B to cancel conversations to speed things up.
  5. If you don't want to blow yourself off the ledge, before kicking the bomb face the direction you want to fly in (i.e. into the wall).
  6. Time with a precise timer. The quest timer is not precise enough.
  7. It is important you record the RN values you get from the charms. This will provide you with feedback on how well you're doing.
This process can take anywhere from 1 hour to days upon days of Groundhog Day-like torture. But there's hope...

Lock-Charm Sniping (aka Precision Charm Sniping)

This stuff is for those who are truly determined to get the charm they want.

The RN clock does not tick evenly. Sometimes it skips some numbers. When this happens, and your charm has the unlucky RN you will find it very hard to succeed in sniping. The RN clock ticks forward X clicks whenever a random number is requested. Here are some key points:
  1. The number X is added to the RN value (RN + X = new RN) each time a 'random' number is requested by either particular player actions, or (more often) NPCs. The more 'random' variables are requested at the same time by something the higher the X.
  2. The values of X almost always follow a fixed pattern (e.g. 3, 2, 1, 1, 5, 3, 2... but that's just an example).
  3. This means that in the end you'll almost always be hitting a similar pattern of RN values, if your timing is roughly the same.
  4. Changing the saved RN clock value (i.e. by loading Moga Village, standing in Moda Woods and saving) will offset this pattern. 
This is how you take advantage of it:
  1. Ideally perform a Strong Cooking Lock.
  2. Charm snipe a few times. Do it as precisely as you can. Don't worry about collecting many charms, just get at least one.
  3. Record the RN of the first charm in your rewards each time (i.e. lowest RN), especially those very close, but lower RN than what you're after.
  4. The next charm after a double skilled charm will always have RN = RN previous + 7. For single skilled charms this will always be RN = RN previous +4. Assume the + 7 is more likely.
  5. RN + 7 + 7 is the next-next charm and so on.
  6. From the list of RNs you recorded, add progressively more 7's, corresponding to the max number of charms you can get.
  7. If any of those actually hit on the charm you want (e.g. RN + 7 + 7 + 7 = RN of what you want), then congrats, it is only a matter of time before you get it. All you need to do is improve your charm combo to increase the number of charms you get and hit that base RN again – which is only a matter of time!
  8. If you figure out you can't hit your charm like this, add RN values as described before until you loop around again, and hope that your saved RN works better. Don't waste your time trying to hit on an RN which happens to be hard to get.
Tip: to get very consistent timing, run though Moga Village and quest selection as fast as you can. Time only at the secret area: kill yourself at as precise time as you can up there. Once you cart, run ASAP into area 1, blow yourself up immediately, before the Kelbi clock up your RN more than their initial setup. Do this again. Do not delay your third death. The clock ticks particularly fast on the ledge. It seems to tick slower in area 1. It ticks slowly in the camp area. It also ticks relatively slowly in Tanzia.

Credit to YoukaiSlayer and Ping for their Charm Sniping guides. More credit is due to others and I will update this guide soon.

Discuss this guide here.