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Your Mission: Food, Resources, and Reconnaissance

Your second day is the perfect opportunity to gather food and other resources and to take a quick survey of the landscape surrounding your first shelter, in particular to find somewhere suitable for your first outdoor shelter. Keep an eye out for any of the following:

  • Passive mobs—Chickens, pigs, rabbits, and cows all provide a ready source of food, raw or cooked, although cooked meat restores more hunger points. Cows also drop leather that you can use for your first armor, and when you have an iron bucket, cows can be milked, giving you an instant cure for poisoning. Chickens also lay eggs, so gather any that you find.
  • Natural harvest—The harvest includes cocoa pods, apples, sugar cane, carrots, wheat and potatoes (found in villages), and seeds. Knock down tall grass (see Figure 3.7) to find seeds. When you plant the seeds, they mature into wheat within 5–8 day/night cycles. From wheat, it’s easy to bake bread, one of the simplest but most effective sources of food, especially if there are no passive mobs nearby. See Chapter 6, “Crop Farming,” for more on agricultural techniques.
  • Construction resources—You can mine plenty of cobblestone quite safely by expanding your original shelter, digging into the terrain. But some other resources will definitely come in handy:

    • Wood—Wood is always useful, both for crafting and, at a pinch, for fueling your furnace, converting into charcoal and then creating torches.
    • Sand—Sand can be smelt into glass blocks which can be used as is or turned into glass panes to allow daylight into your shelter.
    • Coal—Coal is used to fuel your furnace and to make torches. You can often see it in veins on the surface of the walls of small caves or on the sides of cliffs. If you can safely get to it, make like a miner and dig it out.
Figure 3.7

FIGURE 3.7 Knock down grass to gather seeds to plant wheat, an easy crop to farm and then to turn into bread—a handy food if you’re stuck with no other options.

Start early, heading out with a stone sword at the ready, just in case. If you are low on wood, swing an axe at a few nearby trees.

Move carefully so that you don’t lose your bearings. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and the clouds always travel from east to west, so you can always at least get your bearings. Following a compass cardinal point (north, south, east, or west) using the sun and clouds as a reference can lead you away and reasonably accurately back home again.

Food on the Run

If you are getting dangerously hungry, head to the nearest equivalent of a fast food outlet—a passive mob—sword at the ready. Your best bet is to look for cows and pigs because when killed they drop up to three pieces of raw meat, with each piece restoring 3 hunger units and 1.8 in saturation. They’re an excellent target of opportunity. You can eat raw chicken and rabbits, but there’s a 30% chance of developing food poisoning. Rotten meat harvested from zombies is guaranteed to give you a taste of the stomach aches. But you can also cure any type of food poisoning by drinking milk obtained with a bucket from a cow, and you can eat any amount of poisoned meat, gaining the restorative benefits, and curing the whole lot with one serving of milk. So keep that rotten flesh the zombies drop just in case you need a quick top-up, and follow it with a bucket of milk. (You can also feed rotten flesh to tamed dogs to keep up their health with no fear of them suffering any ill effects.)

Unless you are desperate, it is actually much better to take the time to cook all your meat first. There’s less health risk, and you’ll end up restoring more hunger and saturation points. It’s therefore quite handy to always carry a furnace in your inventory, along with fuel. Think of it as a camping stove and cooler chest. When you’ve finished cooking, break the furnace down with a pickaxe, and it floats back into your inventory. If your tastes run to cookouts over an open fire, you can kill and cook pigs, chickens, rabbits, and cows in one blazing swoop by setting the ground beneath them on fire with a flint and steel (right-click on the ground, not the animal). Just take care that you don’t do this anywhere near that fantastic wood cabin you just spent the last three weeks building. Fire can leap up to four blocks away.

Finally, if you simply cannot find mobs, your hunger bar has dropped to zero, and your health has plummeted to half a point, consider at least planting a wheat field and waiting it out in your shelter for the wheat to grow so you can harvest them and bake bread.

There’s one final option if you’re desperate: dying. If you are near your spawn point, place all your items in a chest, and then find some quick way to die, such as drowning, falling, or mob baiting. You respawn back in your shelter with full health, a full hunger bar, and all your possessions waiting for you. Get dressed, fully equipped, and head out there to try again.

Finding a Building Site

As you scout around, keep in mind that you are also looking for a new building site. This doesn’t have to be fancy or even particularly large. A 6×5 space manages just fine, and even 6×4 can squeeze in the basics. You can also level ground and break down a few trees to clear space. I did this in Figure 3.8. The site is located just up the hill from the first dugout, overlooking the same lake and river system.

Figure 3.8

FIGURE 3.8 A nice, flat, elevated building site after clearing some trees and filling some holes in the ground with dirt.

I usually prefer space that’s a little elevated because it provides a better view of the surroundings, but it’s perfectly possible to create a protected space just about anywhere. You may even decide to go a little hybrid, building a house that’s both tunneled into a hill and extending outside.

So, what can we build on this site? Let me show you a basic structure (see Figure 3.9). It takes 34 cobblestone blocks dug out of the first shelter and 12 wood blocks for the roof obtained by cutting down the 3 trees that were occupying the site.

Figure 3.9

FIGURE 3.9 The layout for a small cobblestone cabin using a total of 46 blocks, roof not shown. The sharp-eyed will notice it can be reduced in width one space further, but for the sake of four blocks, that would feel just a little too claustrophobic.

You can build the roof from almost any handy material, including dirt, cobblestone, and wood. Avoid blocks that fall down, such as gravel, and sand. A two-block high wall keeps out all mobs except for spiders, because they can climb walls. An overhang on the wall keeps spiders out because they can’t climb upside-down, but it’s easier to just add a roof, especially if there are trees nearby the spiders can climb up and use as an arachnid’s springboard to jump straight into your dwelling. (Yes, it’s happened to me. Sent shivers up my spine.) Figure 3.10 shows the finished hut with a few torches on the outside to keep things well lit.

Figure 3.10

FIGURE 3.10 The finished hut—basic but serviceable. And it’s spider proof. Although there is a large gap above the door, in Minecraft’s geometry the door fills the entire space. Spiders are also two blocks wide, so they can’t in any case fit through a one-block-wide gap. You could actually leave the door wide open, and spiders will just gather outside and make horrible noises, but don’t do that because it’s an invitation for other mobs to enter.

Building a wall even two blocks high can take a little bit of fancy footwork. Some basic techniques help:

  • Place your walls one layer at time. Put down the first layer, and then jump on top to place the second.
  • If you fall off, place a temporary block on the inside of your structure against the wall, and use this to climb back up. You can remove it when you’re finished.
  • Use pillar jumping if you need to go higher. While looking directly down, press the spacebar to jump and then right-click to place a block underneath you. You land on that block instead of the one below. Repeat as often as necessary. Dig the blocks out from directly underneath you to go back down.
  • Hold down the Shift key as you work around the top of tall walls so you don’t fall off. You can even use this technique to place blocks on the side of your current layer that are normally beyond sight.

See Chapter 8 for more building techniques and ideas.

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