I came back to the game a few weeks ago after I took a break of several months. At that time I was 50HM5 with 420 AP and a mix of Bloodshade and Plog Soulshields.
Some Useful Items for PvE-based players
While I usually craft items to use for myself, if you are in need of gold you can also craft to sell items. By crafting an selling Soulshield Primers you can earn 3g for an 8 hour craft even if you buy the Soulstones. While this is not much as you can only craft 1-2 per day it will add up.
1) 20s is really cheap. Soulstones used to be much more expensive and a good source of income for PvP (arena) players.
You can do a lot of things in Soulstone Plains which are basically non-pvp and do not involve mining (which means you can do them with 400 AP).
Picking up meteors/injured soldiers is 5 SS each.
Picking up Prestige from the mining spots during the event (10pp each) or rescuing the miners that go out to the meteor spots (3x 5 PP). You can buy the Quest to pick Flowers for 25 PP to get 5 SS. The lower level faction dailies are non PvP as well - save for the occasional *** who kills you - and will give you at least 14 SS a day.
Btw what these high AP players do on Soulstone Plains to get lots of Soulstones/Moonstones is 99% PvE (Raiding bosses) with the occasional enemy player trying to disrupt them. Most of them also don't like open world PvP. Soulstones are basically farmed in PvE while wearing faction outfits.
2) Royal Zen Bean HM skill usually has a skill effect intended for PvP and it's the only HM skill you can't get from PvE. Depending on your class this might not be true (i.e. Summoner) but it's still only one or two effects of one skill. Arena quests will give you 400 beans each day just for loosing 3 matches 1v1 and 3v3 each which means you have to go to arena and forfeit 6 matches each day for about two weeks to get the Royal Zen Bean. This is probably the easiest HM skill to get for any player because you need 0 AP, 0 gold and only level 36 or so (to get the quests).
3) The gem only needs 50 tokens and the Event is 42 days. Participating in 3 matches each day will give you 42 tokens. It's unlikely you'll loose 126 times so with 3 Wins (or 2 wins at a weekend) you get the gem. Even if you loose all matches unless you loose 0/1800 each time you'll get some Battlepoints. You can exchange 3000 BP for one event token.
The chests can also contain Soulstones (got 200 SS out of 4 chests on sunday).
While BnS is actually mostly PvE based it is promoted as a PvP game. Also some PvE elements require at least some basic PvP skills. Mushin/Infinity with no PvP experience is hard.
To get HM Skills from PvP is much harder than from PvE. Vol 1 is 60k Beans, Vol 2 120k, Chilling Flame Elixir 160k and Offals of Silence/Darkness cost 80k Beans each. Lots of PvP players go out to farm dungeons or buy their skills from the market instead.
PvP players also still have to grind for hours and with the current prize of Moonstones I think pure PvE players earn more. SSP is just the easy, no-brain way of farming for high AP ranged characters, making it more popular than running dungeons where you might have to think a bit and you have to rely on 5/3 other ppl to get your reward.
I came back to the game a few weeks ago after I took a break of several months. At that time I was 50HM5 with 420 AP and a mix of Bloodshade and Plog Soulshields. With that I was able to PUG Yeti, Lair, Necro, Heavens Mandate & Cold Storage - these can all be done with a full party of 400-450AP if you know what to do. I also did Zaiwei Ruins and Twisted Grimhorn Wilds each day and tried to complete the daily challenge.
I think I made about 20-30g/day then. Got to 450+ AP in a few days that way and added Gloomdross Incursion to the mix for the Seeds Event (and because it's really easy).
Now I'm at 510AP, I earn 40g+ each day just from dungeons and 24man.
In addition I craft some useful items and if I have some time left (at the weekends usually) I go out and farm something to sell on the marketplace so I can get 10-20g extra.
I usually only do a minimum of PvP which is: one 1v1 win if it's in daily challenge (at least 3 matches to get the bonus beans) , go SSP for flower picking, hoping for meteors/soldiers and maybe Heuk Bulmu (usually Pve only) for free 30-50 Soulstones and currently 3-4 matches 6v6 for the event (only one day since the event started I lost all matches).