Tutorials/Survival in an infinite desert
- 1 Introduction - The Challenge of the Desert
- 2 Survival
- 3 Rivers, Grass and Flowers
- 4 Finding a Village or Temple
- 5 Raiding techniques for Temples and Villlages
- 6 Creating a Desert World
- 7 Doing It The Hard Way - No Villages or Temples
- 8 Feature Requests?
Introduction - The Challenge of the Desert[edit | edit source]
The Desert biome is one of the most difficult biomes for a player to survive and prosper in, owing to an extreme scarcity of essential resources in the natural environment. Typically no trees are available to make planks for even wooden tools or a crafting table. Without even basic wooden tools there is no obvious way to obtain cobblestone, and so there is no way to enter even the "stone age". Without a crafting table, crafting is extremely limited. Even basic survival becomes a real challenge in a desert, and very different approaches are required in order to make actual progress.
Survival[edit | edit source]
Survival Options[edit | edit source]
Normally if you spawn in a desert, you would try to find a more hospitable biome as soon as possible. If you have set yourself the challenge of an infinite desert, that's not an option. The easiest route to making progress is to find a village or Desert Temple. These have resources that are incredibly precious because they cannot be obtained anywhere else in the desert biome. If you can't find a village or temple, or if takes a long time to find one, you will need to take other approaches to survive while you are exploring.
Note: For added challenge, turn off village generation and/or temple generation in customized settings.
Immediate Survival[edit | edit source]
Very few of the normal survival resources are available in the desert, particularly before you have found a village or temple. A different approach is needed for initial survival.
During your first day, collect cacti and sticks as well as sand. You get sticks by breaking dead bushes with your hands. This is the only source of wood in the desert, but unfortunately you can only obtain sticks, not planks. Cacti are useful as defensive weapons.
Shelter[edit | edit source]
First build a shelter mostly of sand blocks. Sand is the most abundant material. Dirt is more scarce, but you will need dirt for your roof (since sand obeys gravity). First identify a source of dirt blocks. Then pick a low sand hill in an otherwise flat area, flatten the sand off the hill by removing it and use those sand blocks to build your shelter house. You may want to leave a few 1x1 empty block spaces in the walls as "windows", since it will be a long time before you are able to make glass or light sources. When you add the dirt roof you may want to add a "skylight", though there is a risk of a mob coming through the hole if you allow a path for mobs to walk on to your roof). Keep an area of the house that is not visible from any window, so you can hide from the ranged attacks of skeletons, witches, and creeper explosions. As you will have none of the normal tools or weapons, mobs that are ordinarily not very dangerous become a real threat to you.
For your shelter at night (after returning from exploring each day), instead of blocking the doorway with a door (you don't have any way to make those) or a sand block, block it with a cactus. This will allow you to see, and will also damage any mob coming up to your door. Make sure you have at least a 3 x 3 clear floor area in the house so that you can stay out of range of creepers (or at least, one creeper). Maybe on your first night just make a 1x1 hole in the roof (too small for spiders to come through) and no 'windows' so you don't have to worry about creepers or ranged attacks. There is the possibility that an Enderman could fall through the 1x1 hole but if one does, just don't look at it until it goes away.
Defences[edit | edit source]
On your first or second day build a defensive system around your house. Dig two-block-deep trenches (or two-block high sand walls) in a square or ring around your house, at least 3 blocks away from your house walls. This 3 block margin is to stop creepers blowing up your house. Put a bridge across this trench (or doorway in the wall) only one block wide and block it at night, or whenever you are away from your house, with at least one cactus. Make sure there are no loose blocks in your trenches (or up against your walls); ensure that it is fully two deep / two high everywhere (except at your cactus-protected bridge or doorway). Otherwise mobs will cross the ditch or wall. Mobs may fall into the ditch, in which case you can easily (though slowly) kill them with your fist.
Bear in mind this ditch system will not stop spiders, so don't wander out at night and be careful coming out in the morning (particularly for creepers). Add some cacti in the zone between the ditch and the house will stop spiders or at least harm them and alert you if they are there. If you have time put a few cacti on your roof for the same reason.
On the next day (or sooner if you can work fast), add a second, outer trench ring, so that if the first trench ring is destroyed by a creeper you are not holed up inside your house and vulnerable to a second creeper destroying the house. Losing your house walls will be instant death because you will not be able to defend against the zombies and husks.
Also add a ring of cacti (either later as an addition, or as an alternative to the ditch system). You can't place cacti next to each other and you can only place them on sand. But if you make a ring of zig zag (diagonally adjacent) cacti around your house, this will form a solid wall. As a bonus, mobs can be tempted into running into the cacti, taking damage, though this is a slow way to kill them. It helps if you are also hitting them at the same time. With the zig zag arrangement, if you get diagonally on from a mob it will attempt to path through the (too small) gap between the cactus, and repeatedly hit the thorns until it dies. The cactus destroys any loot drop though so it's better to finish mobs off with your fist if possible. Also if the mob suicides against a cactus you don't get experience. The cactus wall will also not stop spiders, though it will damage them slightly as they cross over it.
As the cacti grow higher, they will do more damage to spiders that climb over them, making the spiders easier to kill by the time they reach you.
Strengthening your shelter[edit | edit source]
Sand is a weak material and subject to gravity which means it fares pretty badly if a creeper manages to somehow get through. Reinforcing the core of your main house is not a bad idea.
It's probably not really worth the effort of crafting sandstone when you first build your house because this process takes at least 4 times longer (plus crafting time) and sandstone's blast resistance is only slightly higher than sand. But later on, start replacing the innermost walls (and floor and ceiling) of your house with sandstone, or at least, the walls and ceiling of an inner 'sanctuary' room.
Also, because you don't have normal tools, if you place sandstone incorrectly or change your mind, it's very time consuming to remove, making any placement errors or redesign a real hassle. And any part of your house that is not made of sand, you can't place a cactus on, which can weaken your defensive options. (You could however have a lower level of sandstone with sand on the top surface to allow you to place cactus).
Long term, if you have a crafting table and a bucket for water available, building your house from concrete could be a far superior option to sandstone.
Temporary or travel shelters[edit | edit source]
If you are exploring long distance and not able to return to your original shelter, or have searched in all directions for one day's (return trip) travel from your original shelter, create new shelters along similar lines. Sand, dirt and cacti are your best building materials, particularly for quick portable shelters when travelling, because they are easy for you to destroy (move back into your inventory) without serious tools.
First a 5 x 5 (exterior) sand block house, 3 blocks high (solid roof at the 3rd level. Cactus for a door. Then a 2-deep ditch square at least 3 clear blocks distant from the walls. Then a zig zag cactus ring and then an outer ditch. Or you can make a very simple portable shelter with
- 5 x 5 sand blocks walls, 3 blocks high, with empty door spaces 2 high in the middle of each wall (40 blocks total)
- 4 x 2 cacti for 'doors' (8 cacti, but more is good)
- 9 solid block (dirt is most portable) for the roof space (or 8 if you want to leave a 1x1 skylight
- 4 solid block (eg dirt) for the space above the doors (since sand will fall down into the space)
- 1-high sand block under the skylight, topped with a cactus to prevent Endermen visiting
- 1-high sand block on the roof, topped with a cactus to discourage spiders parking on your roof, and make your shelter more visible from a distance (eg on your way back to your main base after exploring
You can either disassemble this shelter with you in the morning and take it with you, or you can leave it in place to start create chains of 'waystation' shelters. If you leave it in place, be sure to build a tall pillar with cactus on top near it or on top of it, as a navigational marker.
Food[edit | edit source]
Thankfully, Minecraft does not consider the need of human beings for water. But from Day 3, if you have not yet found a village, or earlier if you have been injured (from falling or fighting mobs) you will need food. In the naked desert there are very few options. While sugar cane can grow in the desert (if there is water), for some reason Minecraft thinks humans can't eat sugar. So the only food source is really rabbits, and you will probably have to eat them raw, which is not very nutritious.
Rabbits[edit | edit source]
Rabbits are hard to catch. You can chase them and hit them with a stick or cactus. If you are persistent you will eventually kill them. If you are lucky enough to be near water, chase them in to water. They lose their speed advantage in water and you catch them more easily. Of course the drops will fall into the water so be prepared to swim after them. Also, don't get lost chasing rabbits and lose your way back to your shelter. That can be fatal.
If you are lucky enough to have any grass blocks, you may get flowers. With flowers you can tame and breed rabbits. This then turns them into a renewable food source. Otherwise you may have to keep wandering like a nomad to find more rabbits after you have killed off all the rabbits in an area. Bones from skeleton kills are crucial here, because you can craft bonemeal and use that to fertilise dirt to grow additional flowers. As long as skeletons keep coming, you can create a permanently sustainable food supply this way. Alternatively, if you are able to mine Fossils you can craft bonemeal from those, but that will be extremely difficult without at least stone tools. So your renewable sustainable food chain (without a village farm) looks like this:
skeletons or fossils --> bone --> craft bonemeal --> spread on grass blocks --> new flowers --> breed new rabbits --> rabbit meat (probably raw, see below)
When breeding rabbits, note that they are very stupid and often kill themselves in falls (in fact they will follow a flower to their death, if you just want to slaughter them without having to chase them). Keeping them alive for farming can be challenging. They need at least a 3 high wall (or 3 deep trench) or they will jump out. Make sure your bunny enclosure doesn't give them the opportunity to fall. But be careful roofing over your bunny enclosure, you don't want it to spawn monsters.
Seeds?[edit | edit source]
Again if you have any grass blocks, and more dirt, use the dirt to 'grow' more grass blocks, use bonemeal to grow tall grass, harvest lots of tall grass and eventually you might get some wheat seeds. But contain your excitement. You can only grow the seeds in a village farm that has already been turned into farmland, because you can't make a hoe so you can't convert dirt to farmland. And unless you get a crafting table, also from a village, you can't even turn wheat into bread. Without a village, probably the best use for seeds is to save them until you have managed to obtain two chickens from the incredibly rare zombie chicken jockeys. You could then use the seeds to tame and breed the chickens.
Gross zombie cannibalism[edit | edit source]
The only other short term option for food is to kill zombies or Husks that come to your house at night and eat the rotten flesh. Because of the risk of poisoning, only eat this flesh when you are safe inside your house. If you create any solid barrier you can stand safely behind the barrier and slowly kill a zombie by hitting it with a cactus. Before the rotten flesh despawns, quickly remove your barrier (eg cactus), dart out to collect the flesh, dart back in your house and replace the barrier.
Cooking?[edit | edit source]
Because of the problems obtaining cobblestone you are unlikely to have a furnace with which to cook your food. However, even if you do obtain a furnace (eg from a village or by blasting cobblestone with a creeper explosion), you still probably won't want to cook your food. The reason being that wooden fuel is much too precious and limited in supply in the desert biome to waste it on cooking food. (See Fuel below).
Village Farms[edit | edit source]
Food becomes much easier when you locate a village farm. At that point you can finally move beyond bare subsistence and survival. Given that you still can't afford the fuel to cook your food, the best food item to farm is probably carrots. Always replant after harvesting. Be very careful not destroy farmland. Since it is extremely hard to obtain a hoe, you are unable to create or recreate farmland. Without farmland you can't grow crops. Every block of farmland is precious. Be sure to use, or create, paths (or water) adjacent to every farmland block, so you never have to step on farmland. Every time you step on farmland you risk irreversibly destroying it. Farmland is not only useful for food for yourself. It is essential for keeping villagers happy and encouraging them to breed. This is critical because you need as many villagers as possible, of as many types as possible, in order to progress by trading.
Fuel[edit | edit source]
Even if you get a furnace, the supply of fuel for the furnace is extremely limited. You only have sticks, and these are non-renewable in a desert biome. Once you have broken all the dead bushes in an area, you will get no more sticks. And it takes a lot of sticks to power a furnace even for a short time. So you will probably want to conserve all your sticks for the most critical operations. As noted above, cooked food is a luxury you almost certainly can't afford. Possibly the most important item to produce is a bucket. That has the highest claim on any iron you find (with the possible exception of an iron pickaxe, but only if you have some source of planks to craft one). With a bucket, you can switch to using lava as fuel. Lava is highly abundant in the desert biome, far more so than wood.
Weapons and Tools[edit | edit source]
Your starting weapon in the desert will be a stick or a chunk of cactus. The cactus seems to be superior in dealing damage, but it's still a poor way to kill a mob. You will pretty much only be able to kill mobs that are stuck in a defensive obstacle you have created, or maybe a wounded one that breaks through. Almost any mob at full strength will probably kill you, because you have weak weapons and no armour.
No weapons can be crafted without planks, apart from a bow (sticks from dead bushes and string from spider kills). Even a bow requires a crafting table which requires planks. A village will usually provide a crafting table but not planks.
Your best chance to get weapons are from a village chest or from mob drops. Your first real weapon before you find a village is likely to be a bow dropped by a skeleton, or less likely an iron shovel or iron sword from a zombie villager (this mob type is rarer in the desert biome, as it is 80% replaced by husks which tend to be unarmed).
Once you find a village, in addition to the weapons in the blacksmith's chest, you have the option to trade with villagers for weapons. For example you can trade paper for emeralds and then emeralds for weapons or armour or tools, next section.
It's a similar story with tools. It is very difficult to make any 'technological' progress without some kind of pickaxe, or any 'agricultural' progress without some kind of hoe.
Rivers, Grass and Flowers[edit | edit source]
If you are using customized world generation rather than superflat world generation, (or the Desert "M" variant biome?) a river may appear, which will have a low bank, allowing grass and/or flowers to spawn (as the grass is still in the “River” biome). The grass blocks can be 'grown' by adding adjacent dirt blocks, and growth of flowers and tall grass can be boosted with bonemeal.
Very rarely there will be a wide enough space here for an oak tree to spawn. In that case, be sure to create a tree farm from any saplings you collect from it. As trees are almost essential for normal survival, this would be very useful.
Finding a Village or Temple[edit | edit source]
After creating your infinite desert, once you have secured a shelter, explore the immediate area around - being careful of course not to lose the way back to your shelter. As with any game it helps to build a high pillar near your spawn point and/or initial shelter, so you can find your way back to it. Climb the nearby high peaks in the morning, and scan the horizon at midday. If you see a desert temple or a village, build a temporary shelter at the point you spotted it and go to the village or temple the next day. If not, get back to your main base and explore in a different direction. If you have explored in all directions one day's travel from your main base, you will have to start using small shelters as waystations to increase your search radius.
The most important items you can retrieve from a Village will be the crafting table from the library and tools - most importantly a pickaxe - from the blacksmith's chest. Iron and diamonds can be taken from villages and temples for tools and dirt can be taken from villagers' farms. Ores do spawn in the desert preset but only on the bottom 3 layers. However without a pickaxe you are unable to build a furnace to smelt any ores (or cook any food). The furnaces in a village blacksmith are also extremely useful.
Actually, the best possible item you could find in a village would be some kind of sapling. They can be found in blacksmith's chests sometimes. If you find a sapling, start a sapling farm. Make sure you are never so greedy for wood that you forget to farm leaves for more saplings than you cut down. But basically once you find a sapling (or actual tree), your problems are over. You have renewable wood. Wood means tools, weapons, fuel, charcoal, light sources. Wood means pickaxes, which means cobblestone, which means stone tools then iron tools then diamond tools. With one sapling or tree, you are back to playing a normal game of Minecraft - just in the desert.
(If commands are enabled, you can use commands if you couldn't find any:
/locate Temple and
/locate Village). But probably you are playing on Survival mode, otherwise there really isn't much point in a 'desert survival' challenge. But if you are really stuck, you could copy your game world, recreate it as Creative, and use the
/locate commands above or just fly around to locate the nearest village.)
Defending a village[edit | edit source]
The immediate problem when you have found your first village is that you are probably still very weakly equipped, and the from the first night you stay in the village you will risk causing a zombie siege on the village. So what you need to do is build a shelter near the village but outside of its radius, and go into the village only during the day. You might want to just collect food (remember to replant it) and the crafting table, and any tools, and leave.
Unlike a normal game, it is extremely important to keep all the villagers alive, because for many resources in the game, even basic ones, trading with villagers is your only way to obtain those resources in the desert biome.
If you want to stay in the village - which has many advantages - you need to secure the village and the villagers BEFORE you take up home there. (Using a bed to avoid the zombie siege is not an option, again due to the total lack of planks). Go in during the day each day to build up defences, being sure to leave before dusk and get a good distance away.
To secure the village, again you can use two-block-deep trenches or two-block-high sand walls. Check out the village and figure out the smallest trench/wall system that will cover all the occupied houses in the village. Check for sandstone and cobblestone and plan to hug these regions of hard stone, not cross them with a ditch - breaking rock takes too long by hand. Even if you have a precious pickaxe, it's too valuable to waste on this kind of activity.
Ignore the unoccupied houses and farms at first. Leave them outside your walls or trenches initially. Later, you can include these into your defensive system.
Find every house with a door and mark it (eg with sand and a cactus on top) - villagers will live in it, so it's a priority for protecting. Find the houses without doors - unoccupied houses. Take any torches from out of the unoccupied houses and block (fill) the doorway with two sand blocks so no villager will go in there. Redistribute all the torches in the village evenly so that the occupied houses at least are lit, and preferably the areas inside your wall/trench system are also lit. If you don't have enough torches, move doors from some of the houses and add them to one central house. This should move the villagers to that central house, keeping them closer together and easier to protect.
Then when all your defensive preparations are ready, do a last double check of your perimeter and make sure there are no gaps a hostile mob can sneak through (except spiders probably, but they are the easiest to deal with). Then prepare to spend your first night in the village. Track all the villagers. When each one goes into his house, block him in his house by putting two blocks of sand in front of the door. This should keep them safe until morning.
Raiding techniques for Temples and Villlages[edit | edit source]
If you have a pickaxe, just dig down two blocks away from the blue terracotta on the floor in any direction. If not,
- Go outside and dig up 16 blocks of sand.
- Dig out a piece of orange terracotta on the floor. Do not jump in!
- Place blocks of sand into the hole until it is filled up.
- Dig straight down until you are two blocks away from the floor.
- If there are mobs, kill them.
- Punch out the pressure plate in the middle of the floor.
- Take anything you need out of the chests. Bones are good for bone meal, and any iron, gold, diamonds, or emeralds are also definite needs. Also, remember to dig out the 3x3 layer of TNT underneath the sandstone floor.
- Using the jump-place technique, pillar your way out.
Check to see if the village has a blacksmith. If it does, and it has 3 iron, make a bucket, if it has 3 diamond, make a pickaxe. Use the crafting table in the library. If the village has no library, take all the valuables and head on for the next one. If the chest has enough materials to make a bucket and a pickaxe, with 3 of something left over, make an axe. If the village does not have a blacksmith,
- Destroy all the crops. Don't bother replanting, as you won't be coming back here.
- Eventually take all the wool and torches. They may come in handy later on.
Creating a Desert World[edit | edit source]
Or to create it to be more like the normal Minecraft desert (in which you can mine for ores instead of having to raid villages for minerals), go to create a new world, change the world type instead to customized and change the biome to “Desert”. Then click done and start the world.
(In console editions, there is no customized world type, but your superflat world can be customized to have most of the features of a normal Minecraft world. It should have a deep layer of stone so that ores can spawn.)
Now, since the only point of creating this Desert world was for the challenge, set the mode to Survival and play on!
Doing It The Hard Way - No Villages or Temples[edit | edit source]
If you challenge yourself by not allowing generation of villages or temples - or just can't find any - your situation becomes very difficult indeed. You can obtain shelter, safety and food using the techniques described above. But you can't obtain any tools and your crafting is extremely limited. You have no easy way to access cobblestone items, and also no way at all to create a crafting table (no source of planks). But with only a two by two crafting grid, even if you had cobblestone, you are unable to craft even stone or wooden tools. Without tools and with only very limited crafting, progression beyond basic survival is not possible.
Cobblestone[edit | edit source]
In theory one way to get cobblestone would be to expose cobblestone blocks and then persuade a creeper to explode on or near the block. There is a 1/3 chance this will drop a cobblestone (item). Repeat until you have 3 cobblestone, and with sticks from breaking dead bushes you could create a stone pickaxe. A pickaxe (of any kind) is a revolutionary breakthrough that would allow you to "advance to the stone age" and start mining stone - except you still don't have a crafting table. That can only be created with planks (or found in a village library). And only a crafting table can create tools. Similarly, TNT could be used to create usable cobblestone, if enough creepers were killed to obtain enough Gunpowder (5 units), except that TNT also requires the full size crafting table to create. There is also the problem of how to detonate the TNT - probably the creeper is the only viable means, unless you already have gotten to the point of having stone tools and mining iron ore in order to craft flint and steel.
Detonating the TNT in a desert Temple will create cobblestone items from the cobblestone blocks in the floor. (Get the items from the chests first!)
Planks[edit | edit source]
It could well be argued that the most severe limitation in a desert-only game is the lack of wooden planks. Without planks, almost no weapons (except a bow) and almost no tools can be created, even if a full crafting table is available (from a village) and even if (item format) cobblestone or even iron or diamond is available to make the tools or weapons. Desert biome villages do not contain any trees or wood planks in their regular construction (they may sometimes contain saplings in blacksmith's chests). Roof and wall components are made of stone, not wood. There are some fence components (tables and lamp posts) but these can't be crafted back into planks (though they could be burned for fuel, which is also very scarce).
One possibility for obtaining planks in a desert biome would be to find a natural cave and then dig down (which would be very slow without basic mining tools) and attempt to find an abandoned mineshaft. (Except it looks like Mineshafts in Desert biomes don't have wood planks??)
Light[edit | edit source]
The desert is slightly forgiving in that it has higher ambient light levels at night. Nonetheless monsters will spawn. Obtaining light sources in the desert is very challenging. The basic light source is a torch, but these require coal or charcoal. Charcoal requires wood blocks, which are totally absent from the desert. Coal blocks do exist, but mining these requires a pickaxe, which requires wood planks, which are again absent from the desert. The best long term sustainable light source is probably lava. But if you do not have the capability to make a bucket, the only way to use lava is to move your base to a lava source and perhaps slightly extend the effect of the lava by digging shallow trenches for it to spread from the source. If you have a bucket you can make "lava lamps" from stone-lined holes.
Even in villages there are only a small supply of torches, and no means of creating extra ones. You will need to redistribute the small number of torches optimally to prevent monster spawning, and construct your defensive perimeter to be no bigger than the area you can protect from spawning. (In a village because you have a crafting table, you can also craft sandstone slabs to inhibit spawning.)
Feature Requests?[edit | edit source]
Probably if Mojang had given more thought to the problem of surviving in a desert, they would have come up with a way of crafting planks in the basic 2 x 2 crafting grid ( 3 sticks and one spider string?). They might also have made sugar edible, and allowed you to slowly mine cobblestone with a stick, or make a low-durability wooden pickaxe out of 3-4 sticks on the 2x2 crafting grid. Or make a low-yield gunpowder bomb out of 4 gunpowder, to obtain cobblestone.
Another alternative would be a game mechanic to allow items to be "de-crafted" or destructed, back in to their original components. Maybe with the possibility of some loss of material (25%?). This would allow for example a door to be "de-crafted" back into planks. It's actually planks, not cobblestone, that are the ulimate limiting factor in desert, because with planks you could make a crafting table and a wooden pickaxe, and mine cobblestone. Without planks, you could find a chest full of iron ingots or a chest full of diamonds, and you could do next to nothing with it.