Don’t Starve: Guide To Surviving Winter

2014-03-07

Don’t Starve players generally fall into two categories: those who can’t make it through the first winter, and those who are nearly invincible. This guide will turn anyone into the latter.

Base Camp

Deciding where to establish a base camp should be your prime concern from day one. Many players like to set up wherever they spawn just to get a base of operations going immediately. Without exploration, however, you’re at the mercy of whatever is near for resources. Those who explore for a few days have much better options. The truly suicidal set up in swamps for the resources there. Others prefer areas near beefalo herds or among pig villages. None of these are particularly safe options.

The easiest place to set up a base camp to survive the winter is in grasslands with a high rabbit population and no nearby beefalo herds. Grasslands offer open plains that are easy to see through. You don’t want a base in a thick forest that can obscure hostiles or worse, burn down around you! Basing near a beefalo herd sounds like a good idea until you have to deal with rutting season. You’ll be chased mercilessly out of your own home.

Setting up inside pig villages can help you fend off dogs and other hostiles, but the first time any of them are outside on a full moon night, you’re in for a rude surprise. Basing too close to pigs also means you can’t bait bird traps or leave any food on the ground unattended. You want pigs within easy reach but at a respectable distance of at least three screen widths. If you’re going to set up near any pig village, then make sure it’s the one where the Pig King lives. Apart from that, it’s not worth the trouble; you’re better off establishing your own bacon row housing.

The main reason grasslands with plenty of rabbit holes are best involves winter respawns. Rabbits respawn even in winter and provide a steady supply of meat requiring only grass and sticks to capture. Never dig up a rabbit hole unless you’re absolutely starving or not coming back to that area, because the holes do not respawn. Just set up a trap next to every rabbit hole on the plains, and you’ll always have a ready supply of comestibles. Rabbits are mainly good for morsels, but once you’ve achieved good control of your sanity by making a Nightmare Amulet, you can burn through extra stores of rabbits (renamed recently to beardlings) for valuable beard hair and nightmare fuel. Let’s just take that last sentence out of context and savor it for a moment. Madness!

Most structures, such as drying racks and crock pots, can be as tightly packed as possible. Others, such as the aforementioned pig houses, should be built well away from your fire pit. Pig houses should be in their own area away from the main fire pit—usually considered the heart of any camp—mainly because you don’t want pigs eating everything on the ground or attacking you during a full moon. Many players like pigs close for dog combat. This works during the day, but at night you’ll need tooth traps and other methods of combat. This means a secondary fire pit away from your tightly packed base camp and away from your pigs to put tooth traps, or the pigs will have them all triggered when the hounds come. The other reason not to have tooth traps in your main camp is pathing. You’ll be dragging things back and forth through those traps. Getting caught on other buildings can mean a quick trip to the title screen.

Wilson – The Newbie’s Friend

Wilson, gentleman scientist and the blandest character available, is who you’ll start out with. Wilson means warmth. If you’re having issues surviving your first winter, Wilson is the most ideal character to play. He doesn’t have the special items of other characters, but he also lacks any particular flaws. Most importantly, he grows a magnificent beard. Do not shave that beard!

The R13-level fiberglass insulation built into Wilson’s facial adornment more than makes up for the wait to build a meat effigy. That beard, when grown to hillbilly-madman level, provides just over two additional minutes of action before the character needs a heat source to stave off freezing in the winter. Considering a day is only eight minutes long, that’s quite a boost. With that beard, a pair of earmuffs, and a fully charged heat stone, Wilson can go from dawn through dusk and partway toward night before needing to warm up in the winter. This should eliminate your need to worry about making a puffy vest (sacrificing your backpack), enabling you to eat that delicious koalefant trunk instead.

Supply runs can be made to nearby areas to keep you in fuel so long as you keep some grass and wood in your inventory for temporary fires. For your base camp, I recommend taking a day or two prior to winter to collect a full box of turf with a pitchfork. Turf burns nicely, is all over the place, and is quicker to gather than wood. Gather turf in the summer because in the winter it’s harder to see where you’ve stripped the land with all the snow.

Food

Your two big food processors are the crock pot and drying rack. These two items can also store food, and you’ll want them as loaded as possible. Cooking most items on the fire and consuming them provides the same hunger replenishment. By drying meat instead of just cooking it, you add a sanity boost to it. It’s hard to go crazy when you’re full on jerky all the time. You’ll want fields of drying racks, so most of your first summer should be spent collecting grass and sticks. Find a forest, burn it down, and then start chopping your charcoal.

Rabbit starvation isn’t a thing in Don’t Starve. You can eat nothing but morsels forever and not die from it. If you have enough grass and sticks to cover every rabbit hole with a trap, you can keep yourself fed on rabbit alone. The only potential trouble is the Krampus, who spawns when you’ve been too “naughty.” Every rabbit killed generates one morsel and one naughtiness point. You lose one naughtiness per minute, which is eight per day, so you can kill eight rabbits per day without actually building any appreciable naughtiness. Morsels prepared by cooking or drying replenish 12.5 hunger, so eight per day will provide 100 hunger. Each day only consumes 75 hunger, so you’re all right as long as you’re killing rabbits every day instead of 20 or 30 at once. Kill rabbits every day.

Once you have a ranged weapon of any kind, begin hunting the koalefant. This is just under a day’s work and nets you eight meat and an edible trunk. The koalefant is a fantastically efficient food source. The other advantage of having burned down that forest earlier is it’s easier to track those suspicious dirt mounds without hundreds of trees obscuring the footprints. You’ll need to hit the koalefant with a single ranged attack to anger it. After that, it’ll come right for you. A football helmet and a log suit are sufficient protection, and a spear will do the job.

Beehives are another fantastic food source because you don’t need to maintain them. Honey can be eaten as is, or better, cooked into chicken nuggets, honey ham, or taffy. Harvesting honey generates no naughtiness, and if done in the winter, it doesn’t spawn killer bees.

Monster meat can provide an indirect food source. I wouldn’t eat it directly, even cooked, unless you’re specifically trying to go crazy. If you have spare drying racks, you can hang it to save for later, but it should mainly be fed into other food sources. One monster meat can be used in any crock pot recipe without generating monster lasagna. Four monster meat fed to a pig give you a were-pig you can kill for two regular meat, but it’s far easier to cook it and feed it to a caged bird for eggs. If you have a caged bird, which you should acquire as soon as you can, you can convert two monster meat into two eggs. Add those eggs, another monster meat, and one morsel to a crock pot for bacon and eggs, which is a full day’s eating! Remember that food left on drying racks and in crock pots does not begin to spoil until removed (but it will in Reign of the Giants). You can eat fresh all summer, reserving your potted and preserved meats for winter.

Once you start stockpiling food on drying racks and in crock pots, you’ll begin to wonder how you ever starved in winter, until this guy shows up.

Here’s Deerclops!

Deerclops is a straight-up walking disaster in your first winter. Most of your first summer will be spent frantically siting a base camp, then building up accommodations and food sources. Deerclops can whack an unarmored player in two hits. If ignored, he will level a base camp in moments. Getting rid of him the first winter can be a real chore unless you find some lucky areas. While it is possible to kite Deerclops, it’s going to take a long time, you’re going to go crazy, and you’re probably going to freeze to death even if your timing is perfect. You’re not going to have enough hound’s teeth for traps. It takes 34 tooth trap hits. You’d need four teeth, which you’re not getting from the one hound attack before your first winter. It’s best to look for another option.

A checkerboard biome will yield marble to construct a marble suit. With a single marble suit and a football helmet, you can tank Deerclops long enough to kill him with a spear. A single ranged hit will get Deerclops’s attention and allow you to give him the run around. Ideally, this run around involves beefalo herds, pigs, clockworks, a continent made entirely of bees, the spider zone, and MacTusk and Co. It’s highly unlikely any or even all of these mobs will actually kill Deerclops, but they will distract him from smashing your camp, giving you time to get away. Additionally, Deerclops doesn’t eat his kills, so you can loot the area once the dust settles!

Apart from these suggestions, the only survival method is not provoking him, and rebuilding once he leaves. Deerclops doesn’t actually chase you unless you provoke him. He just wants to smash your stuff.

Saves

If the worst happens, there are always “hax.” Don’t Starve isn’t written with any kind of insane difficulty enforcement, and the save files are neither obfuscated nor protected. If you’re concerned about your chances before taking on Deerclops madman-a-monster, you can always make a copy of the save folder. If things go poorly, it’s then a simple matter to replace the original. The save folder is in “My Documents/Klei/DoNotStarve”. If you don’t have any traps or magic, and don’t have a marble suit, it might be a good idea to copy yourself an insurance policy before attempting to “punch out Cthulhu.”

Once you make it through your first winter, the difficulty of Don’t Starve drops considerably, and most deaths are attributed to poor judgment or lack of attention to detail. With the right planning and paranoia, you don’t need perfect or even good reflexes to survive the long game. Just keep calm and carry on… until the Reign of Giants arrives.

This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Saiphas Cain.

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