Friday, April 19, 2013

Absolute Beginner's Guide to Surviving Better Than Wolves

I wrote this for a couple of my friends who keep dying on my server, (they've never played BTW period, much less Hardcore Hunger - one of them is actually new to MC in general) and I thought it might be useful to some people. It's all text, no screenshots or videos, so if you want screenshots and videos, might I suggest some of the other fantastic guides already present on this very forum?

There may be some minor spoilers, but I couldn't fit that in the title, so it's here.

If you don't want anything spoiled for you, why are you reading a how-to guide anyway? 

Go get yourself killed a lot, that's what I did.

The scope of this is strictly the early stages of survival. It's more of a loose set of guidelines for what to do than a hard and fast guide. This encompasses what I've learned from my experiences so far. There is no one true way to actually play - this just seems to be the best way to pull it off without villages and without doing a lot of nomading.

That's a word now.


The goal of early survival is attaining a sustainable food supply.

Early Game Tools:

Wood Pickaxe, Wood Shovel, Stone Pickaxe, Stone Axe

Early Game "Weapons":

Stone Axe (Extremely low durability, use only in an emergency!)


Early Game Foods:

Brown Mushrooms, Pumpkin Seeds, Cooked Meat, Eggs

Note that mushrooms spread extremely slowly without bonemeal, which is not an immediately available resource, and pumpkins cannot be farmed until you have iron. Still, a nice dark mushroom-spreading area is a nice thought. Just be careful: it's quite possible that the mushroom farm will spawn monsters if you miscalculate even a little bit on the light level. It has to be low enough for mushrooms to spread, but high enough to keep monsters away - it's probably safer not to worry about it for now, especially if you're new to Minecraft in general and aren't sure what light level actually means.

Combat is to be avoided at all costs. Seriously, run away from combat if at all possible.

So the first thing you do in any version of Minecraft is punch wood. BTW is no different, so go gather a some wood. You'll want around ten wood logs to start with. Break them down into planks and the planks down into sticks, leaving enough wood for a wooden pickaxe. Mine all eleven cobblestone you can, and turn that cobblestone into a stone pickaxe and a furnace. Then mine more stone, then make a stone axe and some more stone pickaxes. If daylight still exists, consider getting more wood. You'll want it. 

Do not go out at night if you can at all help it. If night falls and you're unprepared, dig a big hole and cry in it. Hopefully you won't starve.

Now that basic supplies are out of the way, let's discuss food.

If you find a swamp, harvest most of the brown mushrooms you find (leaving a handful under trees in case of emergency and for repopulation purposes). If you find pumpkins, collect them. Hunt for meat, but beware that animals run away, and chasing animals may be a greater waste of food resources than it returns. One porkchop is not worth three or four shanks off your food meter because you ran and jumped all over the place. Punch all the tall grass you find: hemp seeds will be an extremely vital part of the settling-down process.

Beware of over-hunting: You're not the only 'person' trying to eat animals now. Keep at least two of every animal penned up somehow, even if you don't have the crops to breed them just yet, as they will become important later in the tech tree.

If you don't care about wool, then sheep would be your best target for over-hunting early on; you simply don't need sheep if you don't want wool, and by end-game you'll have other food supplies.

When you think you've got enough resources to settle down, find a place you'd like to build. My ideal place is near a desert for optimal windmill usage, but a desert is not necessary, and I'm actually currently settling in a swamp by an ocean.

Chickens provide the earliest, easily-sustainable food source: feeding chickens hemp seeds from tall grass will provide eggs, which when thrown will either hatch into a baby chicken OR will give you a raw egg.

You want chickens around.

Raw egg can be mixed with brown mushrooms to create an omelet, which can then be cooked for best results. Alternatively, you can mix the egg with a bucket of milk and a bowl for scrambled eggs, which can also be cooked, or you can cook the egg alone for some benefit, if you never find milk or mushrooms.

If the chicken hatches, on the other hand, then you have access to more chicken meat or another source of eggs, depending on your preference, as soon as the baby chicken grows up.

It's important to note that you should create a safe chicken coop with a roof on top: the chickens' primary predators (other than you) do not care about walls!

After you've got your chicken situation settled, you should move on to farming properly. This will require at least eighteen iron ore to create the hoe, so it's time to start digging. You want as much iron and coal as you can get. Do not use the coal to smelt the iron you find; logs cook for variable times based on species but are now just about as effective as (char)coal in terms of fuel. You're going to want torches. Torches are important, and torches are much more valuable in BTW.

You will need a lot of stone pickaxes: the durability on them is not particularly spectacular, and you can no longer repair them by banging them together until they're fixed.

Suggestions for branch mining can be found all over the place, but I find that it's the most effective way to locate pretty much any mineral resource in vMC, and BTW doesn't change ore-spawning rules. 

A general guideline I use is:

1: Dig to bedrock.
2: Go back up five blocks. This should put you right above the lava layer.
3: Dig in a straight line about three blocks high until you run into open air or something you can't actually mine.
4: Stop (it's hammer time).
5: Turn cobblestone into cobblestone slabs.
6: On your way back to the start of your mine, place half-slabs on the ground to prevent monster spawning.
7: Your mine will be very dark. You can use torches at important locations, but I would recommend only placing them as you absolutely need them: coal is much more valuable than cobblestone.
8: Dig side branches following the same guideline as #3.
9: Rinse and repeat.

You will also want stone stairs to take you to and from your mine. You can crawl up stairs when starving to death, but you can't jump. Besides, jumping wastes food resources. At this stage in the game, you do not have food resources to spare.

You should also consider this principle when terraforming the land around your home. Dirt half-slabs are an amazing invention. Use them liberally because you do not want to jump everywhere. You just don't. Stairs are also effective. 

Running and jumping should be avoided unless it is absolutely necessary.

So, mining. You have some options on what you want to create out of iron. If you find diamonds, consider saving up twenty-seven iron ore instead of just eighteen. Two diamonds can be used to make a hoe, and your first iron pickaxe is a major milestone. Otherwise, just save up the eighteen iron ore you need to make a hoe, and craft it as soon as possible.

Yes, I said a hoe for your first two diamonds. Not a sword. You want to avoid combat at all costs. Combat will cripple you, and crippled Steves die horribly. The end.

Now that you've gotten a hoe somehow (we'll go with magic for this one), it's time to start up your real farming endeavors.

If you were lucky enough to get pumpkins in your early nomadic stages, great! Add pumpkin seeds to your farm, leaving a blank plot of dirt for each stem you plant. Note that pumpkin growth is pretty slow, but you can eat pumpkin seeds raw for 1/2 a shank of hunger each, at the same level as brown mushrooms on their own. Pumpkin pie is not available at this level unless you somehow wandered across an inhabited village and it had wheat - this guide is mostly about surviving without a village, so we're skipping pumpkin pie entirely. 

You will want a decently-sized farm for hemp and hemp-seeds regardless of the presence or absence of pumpkins. Not only will this assist with feeding your chickens, resulting in more eggs and chicken meat, but a good hemp farm is also the first step towards the first major technological development in BTW: the windmill. Remember that your hemp farm must have open air or glass above it - and nothing else - or the hemp won't grow. 

If you've found any bones in your travels from dead skeletons, or temples, or other players who had bones on them when they died (get creative! And remember, don't engage in combat if you can help it) you may want a millstone and hand crank to make bonemeal. The exact recipes can be found on the wiki, found here:, so go take a moment to look that up now. The materials are things you should already have on hand if you've been following along. 

(Hint: Wood and stone. Entirely. Some of it has to be processed.)

The hand-crank drains hunger extremely quickly, so always make sure you've got food to spare for this!

Bonemeal does not grow plants instantly in BTW, nor even at the rate that vMC now provides. It does, however, accelerate plant growth, including hemp plants and pumpkin stems. 

So, now's a good time to analyze your resources. Do you have enough food to power the hand-crank to make bonemeal, and regardless of that, do you have enough food to survive the wait for your plants to grow? You should also consider whether or not you've encountered any wolves yet. If you have, you may consider using the raw bones to tame them instead, as they are a vital part of the later tech tree, can help you in combat, and may do as a food source in a pinch.

Never directly attack your (or anyone else's) wolves. It won't end well. Also feeding them their fallen kin is a Bad Idea.

If you don't have bones, of course, this is obviously a pointless consideration until you feel you are ready to fight skeletons, you create a mob grinder, or until the dawn greets you with a lucky stockpile of monster drops.

Regardless of the presence or absence of bones, you should focus on improving your food supply so you can grind the roughly 70 hemp plants you'll need to collect for a windmill and axles. Remember to only cut the top half of the hemp plant, as it will grow back much, much faster than growing a whole new hemp plant.

More in-depth guides cover advancing through the tech tree from here. One of the best guides is actually the front page of the BTW wiki, so take a peek at that to see where you should go next. 

At this point you're mostly settled in, so your survival is entirely dependent on you.

Some considerations for your next goal: a compass is nice for finding the original spawn point. Building a road back to the original spawn may help you find your way back to wherever it is you settled if you die. If you've died a few times, there are good odds you have no idea where either point actually is until you build a compass and/or a map.

You will also soon want a nether portal to continue climbing the tech tree. More diamonds are therefore in order, as Hardcore Buckets does not allow for the bucket method of building such a portal. Just make sure your nether portal is someplace secured from the outside world. Optimally, nothing (except you) comes out, nothing (except you) should go in.

That's basically it!

Feedback is appreciated, as well as any other tips for absolute, complete nooblets.