If you’re like me, you like to learn as much as you can about something before jumping in. If you’re not like me, you probably think that you’ve had more than your fair share of physical injuries. You probably also think that you’ve been targeted by the Fates as a special object of their Schadenfreude. You haven’t. Your misfortunes are self-inflicted. But that’s neither here nor there.

Inasmuch as this blog is to be centered around Minecraft, and inasmuch as I try to avoid completely irrelevant paragraphs, I thought a good first entry would be a short but detailed guide to getting started for you cautious researchers out there who are thinking about delving into Minecraft or some modded form of it. There are plenty of video “tutorials” out there, and they are helpful in varying degrees. But to be honest I get fed up pretty quickly with listening to the stream-of-consciousness mutterings of teenagers with apparently perpetual runny noses. Maybe the “snot-nosed-teenager” is an emerging stereotype. More likely these kids just need to emerge from their rooms/basements from time to time.

That being said, there are some videos on YouTube which are well-made, concise, and fun to watch. In particular, check out the channels of direwolf20, spumwack (especially for his videos under the name TheMinecraftMuse), and SimplyAussieGamer. For a dated but still enjoyable introduction to Minecraft, check out paulsoaresjr’s “How to Survive and Thrive” series. Just be aware that a lot has changed in the game, so some of the tricks don’t work any longer. Most of the basic recipes are still intact, though. In written form, the best one-stop resource for guides and tutorials is www.minecraftwiki.net/wiki/Tutorials. You’ll use this wiki all the time.

Do these resources make what I’m about to write irrelevant? Yes, but not completely. Otherwise I’d being violating my above mentioned principle. This is because this post is not just about first-day priorities in Vanilla (that is, unmodded) Minecraft. While it is relatively easy to find good guides for survival in Vanilla, how to get started in some of the more popular mods and mod-packs is entirely different. Here, I’m going to suggest a set of guidelines for getting up and running in any version of Minecraft that includes the Industrial Craft 2 mod (including Tekkit, Technic, and the various forms of FTB or Feed The Beast). Certain aspects of IC2 that are available from pretty early on make resource acquisition a lot easier and faster, and getting resources is at least half of the game (the ‘Mine’ in ‘Minecraft’). So part one will be my universal guide to Minecraft survival on the first day. Part two will be my quasi-universal guide to getting started with IC2.

(Basic Controls: WASD for directions, mouse to look around, space to jump, left shift to crouch, left and right mouse buttons to use different items in different ways, mouse wheel/number keys to scroll through items in your hotbar, E to open inventory. That’ll get you started.)

In any world, with any set of mods, your priorities upon spawning are always the same: survive the first night. Night-time is when zombies, skeletons, and creepers come out. They’re not as friendly as they sound. In order to survive, you’ll need shelter and a source of light. There are different ways of going about this, but this is how I do it.

Step 1: Punch a tree (left click and hold until the log bursts)

Punchin' treeeees, I'm a-punchin' treeees ...

Punchin’ treeeees, I’m a-punchin’ treeees …

Yes, punch a tree. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I play Minecraft to relax, and punching trees can be surprisingly cathartic. It’s also the only way you can get started in Minecraft, since you need wood to make the Tier 0 tools you’ll need to get stone, which you’ll need for true Tier 1 tools. You’ll need three logs to get started. Don’t spend too much time on this stage. You’ll be making an axe that will speed up your work very soon.

If you spawn in a desert, sucks to be you. While you can dig sand with your hand, and you can craft it into sandstone to make a nice structure, you won’t be able to make any tools until you have sticks. Period. So I suggest you look around to see if a biome with trees is nearby. If you don’t see anything, pick a direction and start walking. If all else fails and night comes, dig a hole in the ground and pray for morning.

Step 2: Process that there wood

Press E to open your inventory. Put your newly punched logs in the crafting grid at the top of the GUI. Each log will produce four planks (12 total if you have three logs). Put those planks into your inventory (shift + left click will move them all at once), then put four of them in the four slots of the crafting grid. This will produce a crafting bench. Put it in your hotbar. Finally, take two of the planks and put them in the crafting grid, one above the other. That will make four sticks. Put those in your inventory. Press E to exit your inventory.

Step 3: Make an incomplete set of crappy tools

Highlight the crafting bench in your hotbar and right click on the ground somewhere. Right click on the crafting bench and it will open up a GUI with a 3×3 crafting grid. Place two of the sticks in the bottom middle slot and the other two in the center slot. Take your planks (you should have at least six left) and put three across the top. This will make a wooden pickaxe – the only wooden pickaxe you’ll ever need. Put it in your hotbar. Next put the other three planks in the top-center, top-side (it matters not which side), and side (same side as the top-side) slots. This will produce a wooden axe. Likewise put his in your hotbar. Press E to exit your inventory and use your axe (left click and hold) to chop up your crafting bench. Now, if you’re Obsessive-Compulsive, you might be writhing on the floor because I didn’t tell you to make a wooden shovel, hoe, or sword. If you absolutely must have a matched set of crappy tools, make them, but you’re about to get cobblestone, making these tools completely redundant and agonizingly slow.

Step 4: Get some more wood, but this time with your axe

For Pete’s sake, please finish chopping down that first tree (you’re not the only OCD person in the world). You’re going to need at least four logs for the next stage (for a door and chest). If you want to build your first shelter out of wood and as a free-standing structure, you’ll need more. For a basic first shelter I recommend at least a 2×3 floor space (one for a crafting bench, one for a chest, two for a bed, one for a furnace). For this, you’ll need to go ahead and chop down around 16 logs (approximately four small trees; don’t bother with trying to chop down the enormous ones at this point).

Step 5: Make a temporary shelter

Take a moment to take in your surroundings. You’re not looking for the site of your dream home. You’re looking for a site for a bunker to ride out the coming zombie apocalypse. Build your dream home later. For the bunker, I like hillsides, but they aren’t always available. If you work quickly you can build a small free-standing structure on your first day, but digging a little hole in the ground is so much easier. Plus, you can start your first mineshaft from the comfort of your own home, digging right into your back wall. This is a useful way to spend the first night if you can’t get enough wool to make a bed. BTW, if you see some coal exposed on a cliff-face, make note of it.

However you make it, you should make sure it only has one 1×2 entrance. Place your crafting bench down inside your shelter and right click it. Place six planks down in two adjacent columns (up/down) on the grid. This will make a door (if it produces two trapdoors, you somehow misunderstood what I meant both by “column” and “up/down”), which you should put into your hotbar. Go outside your shelter, look at the floor of the entrance and right click your door. This will place it so that it is flush with the exterior. Right click the door to open it and close it.

Go ahead and build a chest, now. In the crafting bench, arrange planks in a hollow square around the edge (eight planks). Put the chest in your hotbar and right click on the floor somewhere to place it. Now you can store stuff so it doesn’t take up your personal inventory space.

At this point, see if there are any animals in your immediate vicinity, especially sheep. If you find some sheep, kill three of them with your axe (each will take a couple of hits). They won’t give you meat, but they will give you wool (you’ll need three pieces of wool to make a bed, and it is possible that you’ll to kill more than three sheep to get this if one of them is stingy). Go ahead and kill a few cows or chickens or pigs. You don’t have to go all psycho-serial-killer on them, but meat is one of the easiest first foods, some of which you will probably need before too long. If you can’t find animals easily, don’t bother just yet. You have some time before you start dying of hunger.

Step 6: Get some cobblestone

Now that you have a temporary shelter, the next middle-term goal is to make some torches. If you’ve dug into a hillside for your shelter, just punch the dirt on your back wall until you get to stone (probably one to three blocks deep). You may need to dig diagonally down in a stair-step fashion. One of the biggest no-nos in Minecraft is digging directly underneath yourself. Now, at ground level you probably don’t have much risk of falling into a concealed lava pit or chasm, but you just never know, and it’s best if you get in the habit right now of never, ever, ever digging directly underneath yourself.

One you reach stone, whip out your wooden pickaxe and start digging (left click and hold). Whether you dig a room or a downward staircase doesn’t really matter, but I start digging downward as quick as possible. The levels where you find the best goodies are between 5 and 20, though you don’t need to go this low for coal or iron. Dig up at least 17 cobblestone. Hopefully, you’ll have encountered coal, but I didn’t on my first world for a surprisingly long time.

Step 7: Make stuff with cobblestone

You’re going to need a furnace and some stone tools. Crafting a furnace is like crafting a chest, except you use cobblestone. While you’re in here, use sticks and cobblestone in the same way you used sticks and planks to make some tools. In addition to the pickaxe and axe, make a sword (one stick in bottom-middle, two cobblestone above it) and possibly a shovel (two sticks in bottom middle and center, one cobblestone in top-middle; use this instead of punching dirt, sand, or gravel).

I have a tendency to save iron for weapons, armor, and my specialist pickaxe (for digging up special things like redstone and diamonds). This means that I use a lot of stone tools. They’re not terribly fast or durable, but six or so stone pickaxes will usually let me fill up my personal inventory on a mining expedition. This is why, in Vanilla, stone tools are my standard tool.

Step 8: Make torches

Once again, right click on the ground with the furnace highlighted in your hotbar to place it. Now, if you were fortunate enough to find coal in your brief dig, in a crafting menu (your inventory or the crafting bench) put some coal above some sticks to make torches. Huzzah! Place some torches (right-click) on the interior walls of your shelter. You have just reached a basic place of survival, since no monsters will spawn within the light of that torch. But what if you didn’t encounter any coal? This is where the furnace comes in.

Right clicking again opens up its GUI where you’ll see two slots in which to put things. The bottom slot is for fuel, the top slot is for whatever you want to cook. If you have some logs left, put them in the upper slot, then put some planks in the bottom slot. This will make charcoal, which you can use interchangeably with coal (including in most mods, though some recipes require coal while a very small number require charcoal). I very frequently begin a new game with charcoal torches rather than coal torches. If you have enough fuel (you can use the charcoal for this), cook some of the meat you may have acquired earlier. To eat the cooked food, right-click and hold when it’s highlighted in your hotbar.

Optional step 9: Make a bed (crafting bench, a row of three wool over a row of three planks)

A bed will let you skip over the night-time. This not only keeps you from having to find a way to spend the night productively, but it also keeps monsters from spawning outside, especially creepers who don’t burn up in the day time. Most importantly, it sets your spawn point. Early on this isn’t so important, as you’re likely set up near your original spawn point. But when you go off on your expedition to find the site of your future dream home, you’ll want to bring a bed with you. Otherwise, you’ll be working hard on your dream home only to find that a creeper has crept up behind you (and you thought their name came from wedgies) and blasted you into countless cubic bits of digital man-flesh. Suddenly you’re naked and unarmed miles away from all your stuff, and probably at night, too, since you didn’t use your bed. That is one of the two or three most infuriating scenarios Minecraft has to offer.

This is one way to get through your first critical day and night. In part two, I will do what I had originally set out to do in this post, which is to set out a list of goals for getting started with IC2, certain of whose tools and machines that are pretty accessible early on in the game will more than double your resource gathering and processing ability.