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How to survive and thrive in Minecraft - a beginners guide

Updated on February 25, 2014
How  Steve starts out
How Steve starts out
How Steve will look well-protected.
How Steve will look well-protected.

Getting started

After you have landed in your world, there are some things you should adapt before starting to play in the menu. So press Esc to get the options menu and do the following things.

Set your difficulty
In the menu you can choose the difficulty to play in and if this is the first time playing, I recommend shifting to Easy Mode instead of Normal Mode. Once you are more used to the game and its content you can always to back to the menu and change the difficulty again.

It is also wise to check the controls that are assigned to certain actions. Click the “options” button and then “controls”. Here you can see how to move, access your inventory, how to jump, etc. If you wish you can change the controls to your own liking.

Video/graphic options
From the menu you can access the “video” options. If your computer is not the strongest one, it is suggested to change the “render” option to normal (instead of far), and the “graphics” option to fast (instead of fancy). This makes the gameplay faster as it does not have to load the graphics and render the screen all the time (which causes the game to lag a lot).

The tool recipes

wooden tools (the beginning)
wooden tools (the beginning)
Diamond tools (the best quality)
Diamond tools (the best quality)

The first day is a busy day!

Now that you have landed in the world, you will find yourself empty-handed, literally! In about 20 minutes it will become dark and that means that zombies and skeletons will spawn and without protection it will be dangerous.

Health and hunger bar
Below in the screen you will see 9 inventory slots that you can access by pressing the corresponding number. Above that you will see on the left side hearts, these represent your health. On the right side you will find the “chicken nuggets” that represent your hunger. As long as your hunger bar is full you will regain your health whenever you get hurt. Once the hunger bar is empty, you will lose half of your hearts and you will not regain health until your hunger bar is full. Your hunger will deplete faster the more active you are, especially jumping makes your hunger bar drain fast.

Stomp some wood
Now, the first step is to look around and find some trees (preferably oak trees). Stomp the wood (with your fists) of about 2 or 3 trees. Wait a bit for the leaves of the trees to decay to pick up any apples and/or saplings. Did you get any apples, then you will have some food if you get hungry.

The workbench
Access your inventory and turn some of the wood (not all) into wooden planks, by using the square 4-slot space in your inventory. Place a wooden plank in each of the 4 slots to create a work bench. Now place two wooden planks above each other to create some sticks. Place the workbench into one of the numbered slots. Use the numbered slot to place the work bench (right-click on the surface) on the ground.

Making some tools
Access the work bench and follow the recipe in the picture to create a pickaxe and a sword. Now look around and find some stone. If you do not find any stone, dig (stomp) in the dirt below to find some stone. When digging always use a staircase way of digging up and down, never dig straight up or down as you do not know what is above or below you. Use your pickaxe to mine about 10 to 15 stone. Use the stone to create a stone pick in the work bench. If it has not started to get dark yet, try to find stone with black spots on it, which is coal. Coal is needed to make torches (one stick and one coal will make 4 torches) and get some light in the dark. It is also wise to stomp some grass to get seeds.

When you encounter any animals, use your sword to kill the animals for food and other items that you can use later. Sheep do not give meat but give wool, which is needed for a bed (you need 3 pieces for a bed).

A bed, coordinates and eventual death
It is very possible that you will not encounter any sheep in the first day(s). This is not a problem though, if you write down your coordinates of where you are. To do this, press the F3 key and write down the numbers behind the “z” and “x” position (including the minus sign). Why? Well, in case you die, you will lose all inventory items and end up where you spawned/started. Then you can use these coordinates to find back where you lost your items and get back to where you left off. A bed (made by 3 wooden planks with 3 blocks of wool on top of them) does two things: when you sleep in it the night will pass by in 3 seconds instead of 3 minutes and in case you die, you will wake up in the bed you last slept in. Note that when you take away your bed, you will end up in the location you were in before you slept in the bed (which could be far away).

To sum it up
So what to do in the first day is:

  • Get wood
  • Get working bench
  • Make tools
  • Get stone
  • Get coal or perhaps iron (if available)
  • Get some seeds
  • Get some food
  • Get shelter

And then it gets dark - take shelter

When it starts getting dark then you can do two things depending on where you are. If you are near a hill you can dig your way into the mountain and dig a small room in the hill, or you can start digging down (in stairway form) and after a few blocks down start digging a small room. If you have found coal in the mean time, you can make some torches and light the room and your way down. If you have not found these, use the work bench (place it in your small 3 x 3 room) and create a furnace (made with 8 stone placed in the outer slots of the work bench. You can create charcoal by placing a piece of wood in the uppor slot of the furnace and a wooden plank (or sapling) and it will create charcoal of which you can create torches. Light up your room. While you are waiting for the day to come you could use coal to cook any meat that you have, create a few tools with stone instead of wood, or mine a bit more and search for any coal and iron (don’t go to far or to deep because you are not protected well enough to fight any monsters you might encounter.). Iron is the next resource you should look for as you can smelt the iron blocks in the furnace and use them to make iron tools and armor to protect yourself with. Collect some resources until it turns day again.

A creeper is not your friend!
A creeper is not your friend!
Bow recipe
Bow recipe
Arrow recipe
Arrow recipe
Recipe for fishing rod
Recipe for fishing rod


Once you have a stone sword you can try to take on any monsters, I will list the most common ones below and whether you encounter them in nighttime or in day time.

The creeper
If you see the picture right from here you will see Steve (aka you) with a creeper. He is tall green and very explosive. In real Minecraft life the creeper is not a friend, it will spawn in day and night time, so even in the day it will be there. The creeper will sneak up on you (you don’t hear it unless it is too late) and explode when it is within a 3 block range. When you are not protected with armor it can kill you right away plus it blows up any surface and blocks that is around it. Don’t let it come close to your valuable stuff either. When you see a creeper coming, the way you kill it is you get close and hit it once and then immediately walk backwards a few blocks so it does not explode (do this fast though), then again get close and hit it and walk away again, with a wooden sword you will need to hit it 3 to 4 times.
A creeper drops gunpowder which can be used to create various objects and potions.

The zombie
The zombies look like Steve (same clothing) but uglier and greener. They make noises so you will always see them coming, plus they move slow. Zombies will drop zombie flesh (can be eaten but will poison you) and if you are lucky it will drop either a carrot, a potato or an iron ingot. The chances for them to drop this is small though. Zombies will burn in sunlight so they only come in the night.

The spider
Spiders can climb which means that they can come from anywhere, both at night and during the day. With a stone sword they will take about 3 to 4 hits and they drop string and spider eyes. From the string you can make a bow and a fishing rod (great source for food and quicker than growing wheat). The recipes of how to make these are on the right. The spider eye is used as an ingredient in potions.

The skeleton
The skeleton looks like a skeleton (duh) and carries a bow. It can shoot you from afar and unless you have a bow yourself, you will have to stand around a corner until he arrives and then you can kill him. Approaching him with a sword is almost useless as you will basically get thrown back with every shot he takes so you cannot reach him. As soon as you have collected 3 string from a spider, you can create a bow with sticks and the string (see picture). A skeleton will drop arrows and bones. The bones you can turn into bone meal (in the work bench or with the inventory), and you can use it to grow your crops and trees (it functions as fertilizer). Arrows can be collected from a skeleton or made from flint, sticks and chicken feathers. Skeletons burn in sunlight and therefore only spawn at night.

The enderman
The enderman is a tall black stick like figure that has a purple sort of smoke around him. He will appear in day and night, but does not like water or rain. He does not attack unless you look at him, then he will start growling and teleports to you (he is quick then). He is tough to hit as he keeps disappearing and appearing. When he dies, he drops an ender pearl which you can use to teleport as well (equip it and right-click throw in a certain direction and you will end up there). In the beginning I recommend to leave him alone though and avoid looking at him.

There are more monsters to be found in both The End and The Nether, the two other worlds you can access. Killing them can be tough, but they drop valuable items as well.

Setting up camp and growing food

Depending on where you are located, you might want to move somewhere nicer, but before taking a long walk there, it is recommendable to stay in your “hidey hole” a couple of days until you are well protected. This means both getting a supply of food and some armor (see mining for resources). Either write down the coordinates of your temporary hide-out or create a bed and sleep in it. You might want to collect some supply of food. This can be either from animals you can kill or breed for more food or growing some crops. The easiest crop here is wheat which grows from the grass seeds you probably have collected by now. Wheat is also used to breed cows and sheep (give two cows or sheep wheat and they will breed). Grass seeds are used to breed chickens and carrots are used to breed pigs. Meat (cooked) gives the most saturation, but if you encounter a potato and cook it in the furnace to get a baked potato, it gives the same saturation as meat does. If there is a water source nearby your place, then make a wheat/carrot/potato farm next to this source of water as it will make the soil turn darker and therefore your crops grow faster. Till the soil (dirt) with the hoe (see recipe in the tools section) and right click any seeds/carrots or potatoes. You could use bone meal to speed up the process. When harvesting you will get more produce and you can plant more or use it to breed the animals. There are more types of food to find, such as melons (seeds only found in chests) or cacao beans (from jungle trees so biome dependent) or pumpkins, but these are not so easy to find.

The following steps before venturing out

Once you have your tools and a supply of food it is time to gather some resources. Perhaps in the mean time you have found some iron? Then you can make an iron pick (3 iron) and the next would be a bucket (3 iron). Fill the bucket with water and bring it with you. If you have any iron left, use it to make armor (leggings, chest, shoes or helmet). Now, let’s see if you can find a sort of cave or place where you can go a bit deeper underground. You could also dig down in a staircase form. The objective is to find more iron (can be mined with a stone pick), gold, redstone, lapis, and the most important one, diamonds! (all require an iron pick). Bring some cobblestone and wood with you at all times, along with a supply of food. This way you can make torches to light your path, eat when you are hungry and cook any iron you find in a furnace to craft armor or weapons along your way.

Finding diamonds
The trick to finding diamonds is to go to level 13 or lower, although level 13 is preferred as going even lower you will encounter lava as well and you will burn yourself and perhaps lose all your items in the process. Press F3 and you will find between the “x” and “z” coordinates something that is called “eye position” and a number. The number represents the level you are on. Dig around and dig some tunnels around level 13 and you eventually will be able to find diamonds.

Once you are supplied and armored (preferably all diamond, but all iron armor will do as well) you can venture into the world and look for a nice spot to build and set up a living.

And finally some tips

There are many more things to explore in Minecraft and you can build to your hearts liking. You can find a lot of interesting videos and tutorials on what you can do in Minecraft. I have written some other hubs on what there is to explore in Minecraft, how to brew your potions, or even use Minecraft modification packs. The video below will show you all that I have explained but then in video as well. This person is the one who got me interested in playing the game so I highly recommend watching his tutorials if you want to know all there is to know.

Minecraft survival- the first days


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