Sunday, January 03, 2021

I Capture the Castle

This will probably be my last Minecraft post for a while. Here, as promised/threatened, is the base I've been building. I think the exterior is probably about 90% done, the interior maybe 50% or so, and I'm not sure how much more I'll want to do with the grounds.

Before getting into that, here's my current loadout.

I've been rocking diamond gear for a while. I really lucked out on this helmet with a crazy good enchantment roll. I kind of want to hunt down the Monument on my Ocean Explorer map while I still have this Respiration.

My first Chestplate was just a Protection III, but I stepped it up a notch with this one.

I think I Anvil'd two Boots together to get this. Depth Strider doesn't sound all that useful, but it's been kind of game-changing in practice.

I believe this was another anvilled piece, from a villager selling words with Sweeping Edge II and Knockback I.

This pickaxe has been insane. I tunneled out an entire railroad in what felt like five minutes, just gently tapping each block as I plowed my way through. Using Silk Touch on that would have felt silly, but by now I have three Silk Touch Diamond Pickaxes, so why not? As a bonus, it saves me a step on smelting Cobblestone back into Stone.

My castle, approaching from the village to the northeast.

The grounds out in front, currently just consisting of two rambling pastures, one for horses and one for llamas.

The main gate, with the portcullis open. The overall footprint of the castle is about 29x30 on the ground, with the highest towers rising about 30 more. Laying down the outline was pretty quick, but building up the whole thing took a while!

View from the south. The castle was very heavily based on a tutorial from Grian. I've seen a few of his videos and am really impressed, he has a great eye for aesthetics in this game. I made a few alterations to what's shown in the video. These changes were primarily motivated by me playing in Survival mode rather than Creative, and secondarily by me wanting to make a functional base to live in.

The most obvious difference is that I used stone bricks instead of gray concrete as my main building block. The thought of gathering and casting that much concrete powder in Survival makes my head hurt; but I generated a ton of cobblestone during my mining, and it was kind of fun to go digging for ores, end up with some extra stacks of cobblestone, smelt them into stone, cut the stone into bricks, add another story or two to my tower, then go back digging for more ores.

In the back of the castle, to the west, are my animal enclosures. I don't think I've done anything with the pigs since putting them in here. For a lot of these pens, I took advantage of natural hill rises, so in a lot of places like this, I ended up with a 2-tall dirt wall on a few sides, and a wooden fence on the others. This makes it a lot easier to lead new animals into the pen without letting others escape, and also lets me get in and out without using the gate. (I typically put one section of ladder on the topmost dirt block, so I can jump and get out while the livestock remains below.)

Here are my chickens. I was so mad when I woke up one day and discovered that a fox had gotten into the henhouse and murdered all my chickens! That is the downside to my dirt-barrier design; other animals can just as easily get in, which usually isn't a problem, but can cause issues with wolves or foxes. (Fortunately, monsters don't seem to care.) Like the pigs, I mostly ended up ignoring the chickens; I was planning to use their feathers to craft arrows, but I've enchanted a couple of Infinity Bows so that's become far less of a priority.

In the rear and slightly to the right you can kind of make out the sheep pen. I don't need a ton of wool, but it's super-handy to have them close by for that.

In my first post I'd mentioned the huge farm by "the office" that Charles built. It's an awesome farm, but it also has all of the livestock mixed in together. My pens in total are a lot smaller, but it's been nice to have each dedicated to its own animals, which makes it a lot easier to collect what I need, and also keep a closer eye on the population levels to discern whether I need to breed more of a certain animal or not.

My sugarcane farm is on the right. Harvesting sugarcane is one of the most satisfying parts of the game. Harvesting crops in general is super-satisfying. On the left and slightly further back is my cactus farm. I'm far from the desert, but was able to buy a single cactus block from a wandering trader and have built up a nice little patch. I mostly use the cacti to make green dye, which I use to dye green carpets that blend in with the grass when I need to cover something unsightly.

Here are my cows, which is the livestock I use most often: Leather is super-important for books and other stuff. A good amount of my wheat production goes toward feeding cows. A little tip: a Looting sword will make cows drop more leather.

Food-wise, my serious phase of the game started with me mostly eating bread. After setting up these farms, I switched over to baked potatoes. Now I'm mostly eating cooked steak. I wasn't specifically looking for steak, but I get so much of it while collecting leather that I decided to just eat it, and it is significantly more filling than the starchy foods I was eating before.

A side entrance into the castle. The structure is big enough that it was kind of time consuming to exit from the inner bailey to the outer bailey and run around to the back of the castle, so I dug a couple of access tunnels for multiple exits. We'll get a closer look later.

Welcome to Gourd Central. These are probably my main cash crops. I just recently enchanted a diamond axe with Silk Touch, which has significantly increased the profitability of my melons. I'm using the center strip for half of my honey operation. Bees are awesome: they pollinate crops as they fly (after gathering nectar from flowers), which speeds up the maturation of plants.

The northern face of the castle. On the left are my newest fields; at first I planted crops in rows for faster maturation, but now I'm taking a more monocultural approach and solidly planting fields so I can just collect a specific crop when I need it. In this case it's potatoes in the foreground, wheat in the background.

This is where that tunnel we saw before comes out. After coming out in the morning, I can hop up the ladder to reach my crops, or go through the tunnel to reach the livestock. There's a double iron door to safeguard against intruders (and accommodate human visitors with uncouth manners). The door uses pressure plates on the inside and a stone button on the outside. I'm thinking of swapping in a wood button for the stone. On the server, lag can sometimes make it hard to get through the door in the short time it's open. Apparently wood buttons can remain depressed for many minutes if shot with a skeleton arrow, which ordinarily would be a concern, but this particular button is tucked underground so I feel like it would be much less of a risk.

Some of my original row-planted crops; here it's beetroot and wheat. Each field is a 9x9 plot, surrounded with fencing or natural barriers, with a single block of water in the center. It's a lot different and more efficient than my original wheat farm!

Looking at the portcullis from the outer bailey. This was another variation from Grian's castle design, which featured a fixed door: pretty, but not practical for Survival. I saw a lot of designs for portcullises that looked cool, but most of them were way too tall for my build. I ended up finding one from an Indonesian YouTuber that I really liked, which was simpler and more compact than most other designs: It doesn't have any slime blocks or complex circuitry, just one set of sticky pistons on the bottom to push it up and another set of sticky pistons on the top to push it down. I ended up having to raise my front wall by a single block, not too bad at all.

I covered up most of the redstone, but if you climb the access ladder you can see part of it from the side. This is the only redstone thing I've made so far, and it was really fun to do. From what I understand, redstone is incredibly versatile and powerful in Minecraft: You can even make logic circuits like NAND gates and people have built Turing-complete computers inside the game, which is pretty insane. I haven't messed around with it much yet, but it could be fun to explore it more deeply in the future and try to design my own stuff.

This is part of the 10% that isn't complete yet. I'm on top of the outer bailey here, just below the top of the front towers, and I don't know what I want to do with this big wall. Grian put another door here, which might be cool, but if so I'll want to build up the inside a bit more so it actually connects to something. I could maybe do something with banners, or just more detail work.

Looking east from one of the towers. Another difference is that Grian used cobblestone walls as "windows", which confused me a lot at first. I think it was so they register as windows without actually letting you see inside, which would maybe look a little weird since it's gray concrete everywhere. In my case, I really wanted to look outside, so I put in more transparent windows. At lower elevations I generally used iron bars for a more defensive appearance, and higher up I used wooden fences for a more friendly look.

One of my map rooms. This is a start at a 1:8 map. Still a ways to go!

Another map room on ground level. On the left is a 1:1 map with a fairly detailed look at the castle grounds; you can even make out the animal pens and crop fields there. On the right is a 1:4 map that I'm still working on.

And, to the right here is the 1:2 map, which shows the nearby village and the western part of the main office development area.

Here's the main courtyard, where I spend most of my working time at the base. I have a layer of "scaffolding" up at the battlements level which I initially built to make it easier to move around between towers; it's less necessary now so I may take it out at some point. Grian's castle is solid blocks on top, but I thought that would be too depressing, so I added some glass blocks so I can see the sky. I ended up using diorite to separate the panes; I usually hate how diorite looks, but it's a much lighter-colored rock, and I liked having the ceiling be a lighter color.

So, yeah... lots going on in here. Storage chests, a guest bed in the foreground, my personal bed in the background. At some point I'd like to move these into the towers, but for now it's really convenient all just being in the open. My work station is against the far wall, including the crafting table, a blast furnace, regular furnace, stonecutter, smoker, and lots more chests.

Oh, and lots of cats! Like many things in this game, getting my first cats was hard, but now I can breed more whenever I want. I've read that Creepers are scared of cats, which would be awesome, since the biggest annoyance at this stage of the game is a Creeper blowing up and wrecking a thing that I'm building. I'm vaguely thinking of distributing cats around construction zones to form an anti-Creeper defense force. I need to clear this plan with PETA first, though.

I really have no idea what I'm going to do with this space. If I put all the work stuff into towers, I might make this a more natural courtyard, with paths and plants and things. I might add another ceiling at the level where I currently have the scaffolding and divide this space into multiple rooms. I really don't know. 

While the courtyard is where I spend most of my time at base, most of the space is in the towers. Each tower has seven stories, plus the open top, which adds up to a lot of room for activities. I'm only using a fraction of it now. The most interesting is probably the middle of my northwest tower, which is my enchanting area. On the fourth story, I keep a grindstone, an anvil, and a chest with previously-enchanted items that I may want to combine in the future.

Here's my current stock. Man, I remember what a big effort it was to finally mine and craft my first set of diamond gear. Now, it's a lot more accessible. I've trained up Master Weaponsmiths, Master Toolsmiths, and a Master Armorer in my village, all of whom will sell me enchanted Diamond gear for Emeralds. Most of the enchantments are bad, but that's OK, I just grind them off and then apply my own. 

Up on the fifth story is my actual enchanting room. I had to be very precise in where I placed everything to fit it all in here while keeping maximum enchanting power, and am happy with how it looks. I typically run back here soon after I reach Level 30 and capture that XP in a thing.

For convenience, I keep a chest here with unenchanted gear and Lapis Lazuli so I can easily grab it all and flip through available enchantments. My current MO is to pick whatever seems to be the best and/or rarest enchantment on any of my equipment, instead of, like, picking the best enchantment for a specific item.

Standing on top of the castle at night. I lit most of it as I was building, but had a few dark spots, and had a few nights when I had to kill zombies or skeletons that spawned in my area. I think it's all secure now, though.

Looking down at my crops. One of the most recent changes I've made is to the center of each plot: I used to put a lily pad on top of the water, which looked nice and kept me from falling in (realism!!), but I think the center of the plots weren't getting enough light to continue growing at night, so now I'm putting scarecrows in with jack-o-lantern heads. (Plant growth in Minecraft is based on light level, and not necessarily sunlight, so hydroponic farming is totally viable given enough light sources.)

Looking to the west. As you can see, I have not really lit up my grounds at all, so I'm careful not to go out there at night. I should probably do that sooner rather than later. There are some monsters visible here to the right of the sheep; fortunately, monsters don't attack animals.

Looking south. I'm not sure what that light on the horizon is!

And now I'm looking east. You can see the bridge over the river near the center. Another item on my agenda is upgrading it; currently it's a simple cobblestone path that crosses a deep river, I'd like to make something prettier.

Whoa, a full moon! I should have gone slime-hunting tonight.

This is the highest point in the castle.

From here, the draw distance is far enough that the llamas aren't rendering.

Walking along the lower battlements. One negative side-effect of my materials switch from gray concrete to stone bricks is that the polished andesite doesn't pop as much as it did in Grian's original video: it still looks nice, but is far less of a contrast. I kept the polished andesite for the crenelations and battlements, but tried to find other materials for other places. One thing I liked was using spruce logs as reinforcing pillars, which does have a much stronger contrast with the brick. 

Looking back up at the battlements. I've had a couple of fun encounters sniping pillagers from up there.

So, the stairway to the left leads down to... lots of stuff. I have a semi-finished basement below the castle, and an Elevation 12 mineshaft a lot further down, and in between it hooks up with a rambling natural cave system. To the left of the archery target is a ladder leading down... somewhere that you'll see soon. And the right is my side exit leading to the crops.

Here's my "basement". I dug this out pretty early on, but haven't done much with it yet. I mostly wanted to make sure that there weren't monsters spawning in areas that would mess with my sleep.

More recently, though, I needed a safe place to put something secure, so I added an iron door and dug out a new room.

Inside that room: a Nether Portal! The door on the right has a ladder behind with direct access to the courtyard. This whole room is fireproof and secure against extradimensional invaders.

The Nether seems... challenging. I was happy to see that my new portal does not link up with the one by the office, despite being closer than 1024 blocks distant. The bad news is it still opens into a Basalt Delta biome, and after quite a lot of time exploring I haven't found any piglins or nether wart or blazes or fortresses or bastions. But I guess it wouldn't be exploring if you could easily find everything!

Anyways, that's my current home in Minecraft! It was really fun to build, and has been a comfortable space to live in and operate from. I feel like my most pressing needs are now taken care of. Of course, there's lots more that I still want to do, but I'm pleased with where I'm at for now.


  1. Bro - beautiful castle, far fancier than anything I build in the early days! One question - you reference wanting to explore an Ocean Fortress while you 'still have the helmet'. You are aware that you can repair enchanted gear at an anvil? There's an upper cap as to how many times you can do it per item, but I tend to store things like Respiration until I need them.

    One suggestion: build an indoor fishing pool in your fort! If you are spending nights indoors anyways it's a great way to while away the hours. The game doesn't care if the pool is natural or man made, though you get some bonuses for having it where rain can fall on it. Fishing is one of the best ways to eventually acquire the Mending Enchantment (treasure book only) which becomes a game changer for Over-world Diamond gear, and since you only need to invest in sticks and strings, totally renewable resources.

  2. Edit: One second suggestion - now that you have easy access to the Nether, try to pick up Magma Blocks. They are great at creating a moat for any areas that have shade and eliminating the average zombies and skeletons. Then, once day rise happens, you can just sneak around the perimeter and collect a ton of monster drops! Only downside is no XP, but at this point that probably isn't a big concern for you.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions! I actually did use to have a fishing pond in my first hut, which was kind of fun: at night I would cast off of my roof, down into the pond ~25 blocks below. I have plenty of room inside now for a man-made pond, but I might also see if I can access the outdoor ponds from the battlements so I can get that sweet sweet rain bonus.

      That's a great suggestion about Magma Blocks! I actually have been collecting them, motivated by the vague idea of creating underwater air bubble columns. I like the idea of making a heat moat. I do have a long-term goal of making a proper moat around my castle, either lava or water, but I won't start on that until I finalize my plans for my grounds.

      And yes, I do know about repairing enchanted gear. I just recently swapped out my helmet for a non-Respiration one, and am thinking of combining them one both reach yellow durability. I've enchanted a few more helmets since then, though, so I'm less concerned than before about being able to get Respiration again.

    2. The big advantage of Magma Blocks is that items remain intact! I used to do the lava moat method waaay back in the day but that cost me all the rotten flesh to trade with Villager Clerics! (trading has changed a LOT since I last played, still trying to get a handle on it).

      For repairing, I prefer using the base materials unless the combo will improve one of the base enchantments (finally, a use for all of the Fortune 2 diamond pickaxes!). At least enchantments no longer take all the XP - you used to lose the whole bar, and building back up to 30 from 0 took foreeeever.

      My fishing ponds are usually outliers for my builds - edge rimmed to keep spiders out, but unroofed. You get the occasional Enderman popping in, but at Diamond Gear level that's more of a bonus than a threat.