Minecraft Enderman Ranch 07: My Lewis & Clarking weekend, journal and photos.

Part 7 of my new Minecraft storytelling campaign, in which I finally have a free weekend to get super-high, pack my digital camping gear, and travel to the far edges of my known world for exotic resources

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So in my last Minecraft storytelling update, I was talking about how, after recently being bogged down with a bunch of freelance work and other commitments, I finally had enough free time this weekend to get really high, sit down on my computer, and do a whole Saturday night of “Lewis & Clarking” in my universe, in which as part of my roleplaying as an explorer tycoon I go travel by foot and boat to various far-flung exotic biomes, and collect up the exotic resources that can only be found there and nowhere else, to bring back to my ranch for large-scale farming and eventually selling to the villagers in my trading network. In that update, I showcased the map I recently “bought” from a wandering trader, and detailed where I planned on visiting; so you may want to read that update first, because today's update showcases the actual traveling I did this last Saturday night.

My adventures began at the village closest to my home, Forest View, which you can actually see with the naked eye from my mansion, about a 60-second walk away. As sophisticated as the village creation method is in Minecraft (and given that the entire thing gets determined and built exclusively through a procedurally generated algorithm, I consider that pretty sophisticated indeed), the fact is that this game's villages are merely in a half-done state when first put together, in an attempt by the original game designers to mimic the feel of an ad-hoc Medieval village that was sort of constructed piecemeal as various needs arose. I find it realistic to believe that, as a trader who gets rich off these four villages that immediately surround my home, as a gesture of goodwill I would pay to have all these villages upgraded, including cleaning up and expanding the road networks, building out a central plaza with a well and an alarm bell, and increasing the number of total houses, so that the villagers will eventually have children who will grow up to be yet more crafts professionals I can trade with; so this is the first village I will be doing this upgrading to, after I finally finish my own ranch and am ready to expand beyond my personal borders for the first time.

And speaking of expanding, that's where I headed next, to the four villages in the “Midlands” area of my known world, northeast of the “Shire” where I and my four closest neighbors live. I'm treating this kind of like central Europe, a vast area of plains, deserts and gently rolling hills, which is not really too important for me to stroll through again once I set up the teleportation platforms at the four towns here I want to eventually trade with. For those keeping track, that brings my trading network at this point up to eight locations, and with more yet to go.

Along the way, then, I kept coming across these mysterious ruined portals that exist all over my known world, which scholars and magicians keep theorizing will open up into a strange, dangerous “netherworld” if we can finally figure out how to use them. They're certainly exotic and mysterious, so I decided that when I got back I would go visit the nearby village of Magirium in the Shire, to see how the reconstruction of theirs is going.

So northwest of the Midlands, I came to the vast desert and accompanying village known as “Death Crescent” (although there are actually two villages here, DC West and East, increasing my trading network now to ten locations). In the real world of the actual Minecraft game, it's highly unusual to see what you're seeing here, a desert temple generating on the exact same spot as a desert village; so I decided to use this as an opportunity to give a sort of modern Egypt feel to this particular village, and to pretend that a once great, now extinct civilization used to live here thousands of years ago, and that their temple is the only thing still standing within the confines of the more modern and much more humble village that has built up around it. According to my map, there are also a dozen fully fossilized creature skeletons in the desert sands you're seeing in the background; so eventually I plan on digging them out, and building a museum/visitor's center next to them.

Northeast of that, then, is the Raincloud Forest Preserve, which all the two dozen towns of my known world have banded together and agreed to leave undisturbed as an internationally recognized natural area. Of course, that didn't prevent me from playing a little Indiana Jones while I was there, trekking to where my map said was a jungle temple and then overcoming all the boobytraps that are found in them. (Those holes you're seeing in some of the blocks are actually automatic arrow dispensers, connected to trip wires and redstone switches, which you must navigate before you can get to the treasure chest on the far end of the room.)

After that it was back down to the Midlands, to establish a teleportation platform at the eastern edge village of Buena (location #11 of my growing trade network). This actually doubles as the western edge of the nearest warm sea, also called Buena; and this is the exclusive location of all the Caribbean-style resources in Minecraft like giant turtles, colored coral, glowing sea lanterns, kelp, tropical fish and more. And these are my absolutely favorite decorative items in Minecraft, so needless to say I'll be coming back here a lot.

Just on a lark, then, and to satisfy my explorer itch, I canoed all the way to the other side of the Buena Sea, established trade relations with the most eastern village of our known world (the harsh, Viking-like Ostland), trekked by foot through the forest due east for two days, then canoed again for another day after that, so I could check out the fabled rumors of a so-called “Mushroomia,” a large island consisting of nothing but psychedelic giant mushrooms, as well as cows that have eaten so many of them that the mushrooms literally grow out of their backs. And guess what — the rumor was true! It was there that I also found a community of clearly insane monks, who stay high on these mushrooms 24 hours a day and engage in strange sexual rituals in deep underground caverns; but maybe we'll be revisiting that subject at a later date (or maybe not).

By that point I was 5,000 blocks east of my home, and at the very eastern edge of where I plan on ever exploring; so it was a quick teleport back to my ranch, and then a long boat ride up through a sea to the northwest of the Shire (plus a stop to establish trade relations with a village called Oasis). Finally I reached my destination, the remote and uninhabited Badlands of the far north edge of our known world, exclusive location of the popular terracotta used for naturally colorful building construction. And the explorer rumors turned out to be true again as well; the Badlands are dotted all over the place with former mines that have now been abandoned, due to the overwhelming number of monsters and other dangerous creatures found within, and a quick peek into a few of them indeed showed riches literally hanging out of the walls and just waiting for a brave entrepreneur to go in and pluck them out. So undoubtedly I will be doing that before too long as well, especially once it's time to expand my railroad network out to all four villages of the Shire.

Once home again, as promised I decided to make a quick jaunt by Magirium to see how their reconstruction of one of these “netherworld portals” is going. An unassuming desert village for centuries, Magirium has recently become a hotbed of activity among scholars and magicians (and the con artists and petty thieves that always follow them), after the top tip of a netherworld portal was recently discovered after a particularly fierce sandstorm, and when excavated proved to be in more complete shape than any other portal yet found (and, since it was completely buried, also lacks the dangerous lava and magma stones typically found around such ruins). It's still not working, and the latest scholarly consensus seems to be that the problem lies with those glowing blocks of obsidian you're seeing (which the poets have come to call “crying obsidian,” due to the rivulets of magic particles that drip off them), and that the portal will likely be workable as soon as a master freemason shows up with their specialty diamond tools to fix it. I find the whole subject fascinating, so I'll be checking in again soon to find out the latest.

And then my last official trek was through the taiga biome found directly south of the Shire, to establish a base for a possible “Camp Enderman” I may or may not build sometime around Christmas later this year, as one of the last objectives of this particular roleplaying campaign. (There are more details in past updates; but basically, if I'm still playing this by the holidays and can't come up with anything more to do, at that point I plan on pretending that my character has gone insane and decides to create a violent death cult around the spooky “Enderman” creatures that show up on the edges of farms at dusk each night.) This location is where I would build a luxury A-frame “glamping” cabin as part of the cult, where I and the other brothers could take out local businessmen for a supposed weekend of hunting, drinking and other manly pursuits, just to introduce them to the eerie glowing purple thing I once found buried back in a cave here when out exploring, and which should effectively terrify them into becoming cult members themselves.

And then that's it; that was a good, I don't know, four hours of my high Saturday night, so it was time to head back home and call it a day. So what's next? The full buildout of my industrial ranch! It's 100 by 100 blocks in size, a perfect square, with a space in the middle for a coming beacon and then four 50 by 50 quadrants around it. Here's the northwest quadrant above, which right now has the first of my automated farm fields, which will be the powerhouse of my plans to trade heavily and frequently with all 14 villages in my now completed trading network; but with a chasm running directly underneath this particular quadrant, I've decided that this wouldn't make for a good location, so will instead be flattening this out and building all my ranch's eventual buildings (including a greenhouse and apiary, a smelting center, a crafting center, and more). The animals will be heading across the river to my personal estate, but a lot more on that will be coming with my next update.

Here's the southwest quadrant, then, where I will be relocating the automated farm fields, ten altogether, whose borders you can currently see with those cobblestone blocks currently dotting the field. Some of these will simply yield produce to trade with villagers; others will drop the harvest one piece at a time into a composter, to turn into bone meal (aka “magic fertilizer”) which I can then use as a catch-all steroid for bumping up the growing speed of anything I want; while yet other fields will first smelt this produce and only then compost it, so that I can get cheap and fast experience points out of the process, which is what you use in Minecraft to cast magic spells (but again, more on this in the next update).

Here's the northeast quadrant, which holds the now completed tree orchard, which I turn into charcoal and use for all my smelting instead of the coal I mine out of the ground (which I instead use for trading with the villagers); but see update #5 for a whole lot more details about its construction.

And then here's the southeast quadrant, the one that still needs the most work at this point. Since this technically lies in the edge of a swamp biome, I'm going to use this quadrant for the industrial growing of vines, as well as fellow vertical produce sugar and bamboo; based on plans I've come across at YouTube, I plan on building contraptions that can use an infrared scanner to determine when each of these items have reached a certain height (or depth in the case of vines), then will automatically push out a piston in order to cut off the item right above its base, so that the extra pieces will fall into a water containment system but the root base will remain and just start growing again. The instructions look complicated, and I'm assuming there will be several false starts; but if it works, it'll essentially be an automatic XP factory for me, so that my experience level will always be up at 30 and I'll always have a chance to cast the most powerful magic spells that exist.

But like I said, the very next step, coming this week, will actually be to finish my mansion and personal estate, which I'm building due east of the ranch proper, with a quick little ten-second train ride connecting the two. You're actually looking at the back of the house in this shot, which is where I'll build my ranch for all my animals, including the stable of horses I plan on eventually having, a huge semi-wild natural space enclosed by a simple fence; at the end of the ranch boundary, then, will be the start of the Forest View village area, making us practically next-door neighbors at that point. I should have this entire space finished by the next time I post an update here, so I hope you'll have a chance to come back and visit again then!