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This chapter is from the book

Your Mission: Food, Resources, and Reconnaissance

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

  • Passive mobs—Chickens, pigs, rabbits, sheep, and cows all provide a ready source of food, raw or cooked, although cooked meat restores more hunger points than raw. Cows also drop leather that you can use for your first armor, and when you have an iron bucket, you can milk cows, and milk gives 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), as well as seeds. Knock down tall grass to find seeds (see Figure 3.7). When you plant the seeds, they mature into wheat within five to eight 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.

    FIGURE 3.7

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

  • Construction resources—You can mine plenty of cobblestone quite safely by digging into the terrain to expand your original shelter. But some other resources will definitely come in handy:

    • Wood—Wood is always useful, both for crafting and for fueling your furnace, where you can convert it into charcoal and then create torches.
    • Sand—You can smelt sand into glass blocks, which you can then use as is or turn into glass panes to allow daylight into your shelter.
    • Coal—Coal is used to fuel your furnace and 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.

Back to your mission. 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. The sun also appears as a face (a recent addition) that is upside down in the east and right-side up in the west. Following a compass cardinal point (north, south, east, or west) using the sun and clouds as a reference can reasonably and accurately lead you away and back home again.

Getting 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. Each cow drops up to three pieces of raw meat when killed, with each piece restoring 3 hunger units and 1.8 in saturation, making for an excellent target of opportunity. Kill sheep to gather up to two pieces of raw mutton. You can also eat raw chicken and rabbits, but there’s a 30% chance of developing food poisoning from them.

Rotten meat harvested from zombies is guaranteed to give you a stomach ache, but there is a quick fix. Cure any type of food poisoning by drinking milk obtained with a bucket from a cow. You can then eat any amount of poisoned meat, gain its restorative benefits, and cure the whole lot with one serving of milk. In other words, keep that rotten flesh the zombies drop just in case you need a quick top-up, and chase it down with a gulp 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, though, 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 down the furnace 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. To do this, 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 it 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 restored 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 an eye out for a new building site. It 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 you build on this site? Figure 3.9 shows a basic structure. It takes 34 cobblestone blocks that you dig out of the first shelter and 12 wood blocks for the roof, which you obtain by cutting down the three trees that were occupying the site.

FIGURE 3.9

FIGURE 3.9 The layout for a small cobblestone cabin using 46 blocks, roof not shown. The sharp-eyed will notice that it can be reduced in width one space further, but the extra space is worth the cost of the four blocks.

You can build the roof from almost any handy material, including dirt, cobblestone, or wood. Avoid blocks that fall down, such as gravel and sand. A two-block-high wall keeps out all mobs except for spiders. Spiders can easily scale two blocks, but an overhang on the wall keeps them out as they can’t climb upside-down. However, it’s easier to just add a roof, especially if there are trees nearby that the spiders can climb up and use as springboards to jump straight into your dwelling. (Yes, it’s happened to me more than once. Having a large hairy spider drop on your head at night is not for the faint of heart.) 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, keeping the mobs out.

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 your wall, place a temporary block on the inside of your structure against the wall and use it 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. To go back down, dig out the blocks from directly underneath you.
  • Hold down the Shift key as you work around the top of a tall wall so you don’t fall off. You can even use this technique to place blocks that are normally beyond sight on the side of your current layer.

See Chapter 8 for more building techniques and ideas.

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