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 abode. Keep an eye out for any of the following:
- Passive mobs—Chickens, pigs, and cows all provide a ready source of food, or at least raw protein that can be cooked on the furnace and made more nutritious. Cows also drop leather that you can use for your first armor and can be milked, giving you an instant cure for food poisoning. Chickens also lay eggs, which are used to make cake, so gather any that you find. You can also obtain feathers from killed chickens—useful for later crafting arrows.
Natural harvest—The harvest includes cocoa pods, apples, sugar cane, carrots, potatoes, and seeds. Knock down tall grass to find seeds; then use a hoe to till some ground next to water. Seeds mature into wheat within 5–8 day/night cycles, although wheat, potatoes, and carrots are also grown by villagers, as you can see with the wheat crop shown in Figure 3.6. 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. When combined with cocoa pods, bread will make cookies, which are always useful for a quick hunger bar top-up. See Chapter 6, “Crop Farming,” for more on agricultural techniques.
FIGURE 3.6 Wheat is an easy crop to farm and then to turn into bread—a handy food if you’re stuck with no other options.
- 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 is always useful. If you see any sand, mine it so you can smelt it into glass blocks to let light into your shelter and provide a view. (There’s no point moving from your first cave into the outdoor equivalent of another!) Also keep an eye out for coal. 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. Use the coal to make torches and to smelt other ores.
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 you don’t lose your bearings. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and the clouds also travel from east to west, so you can always at least get a sense of direction. Following a compass cardinal point (north, south, east, or west) and using the sun and clouds as a reference can lead you away and reasonably accurately back home again, and keeping your map active in a Hotbar slot will also fill it in as you travel.
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 they each can drop up to three pieces of raw meat, with each restoring 3 hunger units and 1.8 in saturation. They’re an excellent target of opportunity. You can also eat raw chicken, although with a 30% chance of developing food poisoning, or you can try rotten meat harvested from zombies, which is guaranteed to give you a taste of the stomach aches. But after you have mined three pieces of iron and crafted a bucket, you can also cure any type of food poisoning by drinking milk obtained with that bucket from a cow. You can also 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 around! And the bucket o’ milk.
That said, unless you are desperate, it is actually much better to take the time to cook all your meat first. In fact, the secondary processing of foods makes them all healthier, restoring more hunger and saturation points. If you are far from home, you could choose to always carry a furnace in your inventory, along with fuel. Place it, cook, and break it up to use again. Or you could, if you don’t mind seeming like a crazed pyromaniac, both kill and cook pigs, chickens, and cows in one blazing swoop by setting the ground beneath them on fire with a flint and steel (click on the ground next to the animal) or, a little more chaotically, by pouring lava from a bucket. Just take caution that you don’t do this anywhere it could pose a risk such as near that fantastic wood cabin you just spent the last three weeks building; there’s no undo in Minecraft.
Finally, if you simply cannot find mobs, your hunger bar has dropped to starvation, and your health has plummeted to half a point, consider at least planting a wheat field and waiting it out in your shelter for a few days so that at least three blocks of wheat can grow and be baked into bread.
If all is lost, even then, consider one final alternative—a pretty neat if somewhat dramatic trick. Assuming you have reset your spawn point to a bed or are still near origin, head to your shelter, place everything you carry in a chest, and then head outside and either jump off a cliff, drown in a lake, or wait for a mob to kill you. You respawn back in your shelter with full health, a full hunger bar, and all your possessions waiting for you in the chest. The only downside is that you’ll lose some experience points in the process, which impacts enchanting, but I’m sure you can build those up again quickly enough. It’s a good last resort and will let you quickly head out again, fully equipped, to live another day.
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 3.7.
FIGURE 3.7 A nice, flat, elevated building site created on a nearby hill after filling out the platform 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. It takes 34 cobblestone blocks dug out of the first shelter and 12 wood blocks for the roof obtained by cutting down 3 trees. This is about as minimalistic as it gets (see Figure 3.8).
FIGURE 3.8 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, and this will protect you if there are any trees nearby the spiders can climb and use as an arachnid’s springboard to jump straight into your dwelling. (Yes, it has happened to me. Sent shivers up my spine.) Figure 3.9 shows the finished hut with a few torches on the outside to keep things well lit.
FIGURE 3.9 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 two blocks wide, so they can’t 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 to jump and then use 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.
- Click to activate Sneak mode 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.