Mod of the Week: RikMuld's Camping Mod, for Minecraft

The days in Minecraft seem so short, the nights so very long. Who hasn't been out exploring, lost their bearings, and realized, as the sky grows dark, that they'll have to dig a hasty hole and spend the night in it? RikMuld's Camping Mod is here to make those long nights bearable, by adding recipes to craft tents, sleeping bags, camping tools, roaring campfires, and even marshmallows for toasting, to make the groaning zombies, hissing spiders, and exploding creepers a bit easier to bear.

I'm doubly excited to try this mod. First, I love when open world games (like Skyrim or S.T.A.L.K.E.R.) get portable bedrolls or sleeping bags modded in. There's just something nice about not having to return to town to get some shut-eye. Second, I haven't played Minecraft in ages, having given up because while everyone else was building exact replicas of Vatican City or the Death Star, my crowning accomplishment was building a small, ugly house entirely out of pumpkins. I'm eager to see how the game has changed since I last played it.

I start a new world in Survival Mode, and I spawn on a snowy slope with a chicken and a pig staring down at me from a nearby tree. Okay then. I climb to the top of the nearest hill, and looking out to sea, I spot what looks like a tiny island in the distance. I decide that will be my goal: to craft my camping supplies, take a boat over to the island, and camp on it. I take the normal first steps of a new game of Minecraft: I punch a tree into cubes, build a workbench, fashion a wood pickaxe, and start digging. Once I've collected some coal and stone, I head back to the surface just as night begins to fall. I throw together an ugly cobblestone house just before the monsters begin to appear, and spend the evening hunting for iron deep underground.

The new item I want to craft first is the camper's tool, which looks like a swiss army knife. After mining what little iron I can find (this chunk of land appears to be sponsored by Lava Pools Backwards-N Gravel Co.), I head back upstairs, killing a spider that was hanging around on my roof. That's good, I'll need some string later to make canvas for my tent. As the sun rises I explore the outdoors, collecting a few roses. Voila, my camping tool is complete.

The upgraded camping tool (which requires more roses and iron) is one of those things that's so useful it almost feels like a cheat. If you're holding it, you can press R and it opens an instant three-by-three crafting pane without the need to carry around and drop a crafting table all the time. It's also used in the creation of new camping gear, allows you to rotate your tent after you've placed it, and lets you pack up your tent and campfire without damaging them.

Onto my next item: a tent. The tent is decorative until you either stick a chest in it, which gives you additional storage slots, or combine it with a sleeping bag, which lets you sleep safely and quickly through the night. To build my tent I need tent pegs, which are made using the camping tool with an iron ingot. Easy enough. To craft canvas, I'll need more string, which means finding more spiders. Since there's no cavern under my house, I stroll around, hoping to find one.

I come across a small settlement of NPC farmers, which is a nice surprise, as they weren't part of the game the last time I played. They are under siege by mobs of monsters, which is also nice, because while the zombies are busy terrorizing the villages, I'm free to run around outside and kill all the spiders I can find. Eventually, I've got enough string to make canvas, and after combining the canvas with my pegs, I've got my new tent. Booyah!

To create my campfire, I need torches (got 'em), stone blocks (I've got some cobble currently cooking) and flint (now I'm thankful there was so much gravel in the basement). That gives me a basic, decorative campfire, but I want to roast marshmallows, so I upgrade it by combining it with four furnaces. Done! Now I can cook food and even use it as a smelting furnace at the same time. There are several more camprife upgrades available, including a one that cooks food faster and one that cooks slowly but produces more from each recipe. Campfires can also be used to convert sticks into torches if you're low on coal.

Speaking of which, I need to craft something to cook. There are two choices for camping food in the mod, marshmallows or radishes, which really means there's only one choice. For marshmallows, I need sugar, and luckily I find several sugarcane plants growing along the waterline. I also need an egg, so I follow some chickens around, staring at their butts until an egg finally appears. I also need a bowl, which is easy enough to make. Finally, I need a blue bottle of some sort, which I don't recall being in the game the last time I played it, but the Minecraft Wiki tells me it's a bottle of water. I heat up some sand in my furnace, remove the resulting glass, fashion a bottle, and dunk it in the ocean. Voila! Marshmallows, ready to be held over a fire and melted into a wad of sticky, charred sugar that I suddenly can't believe we actually eat in real life. What the hell are we thinking?

All that remains is my sleeping bag, which requires three blocks of wool and will allow me to sleep outdoors, keeping me safe from monsters as it fast-forwards through the night. I walk for hours without seeing a single sheep, but finally, off in the distance, I spy something that looks like a desert temple. Neat, another addition to the game since I last played it! The temple is sporting some orange blocks I've never seen before, and after I hack one out, I'm pleased to discover it's orange wool. Perfect! My sleeping bag is complete, and all I had to do was deface an ancient temple!

Night is rapidly falling, and while I'd like to get to my little island and start camping, I decide to spend the evening here first. Inside the temple, I notice another design in the floor made of orange wool blocks, with a blue block in the center. Well, I'll be having that. I chip out the blue block, which plummets through the hole before I can grab it. As I try to peer down through the hole, I also fall through, landing with a thud in a tiny chamber. There are four chests in the chamber, along with a pressure plate. Which I've fallen onto. I have just enough time to register that I've fallen into a trap, and that every single piece of camping gear I've been working on all morning is in my pockets, and that something is probably about to explode. Something explodes. I die instantly.

I've lost everything. EVERYTHING. I run back to the temple after I respawn, but my inventory was either destroyed in the blast or simply vanished. I briefly consider the logical course of action, namely, to start a game in Creative Mode, quickly slap together everything I spent all morning making, find an island that roughly looks like the one I was planning to camp on, and not mention that I was stupid enough to get blown up in an Indiana Jones trap. Instead, I grouchily spend my afternoon repeating everything I did all morning. This time, at least, I stumble into a cavern with a ton of iron, so I can quickly rebuild my camping tool, some armor, and a sword. A couple hours later, I've rebuilt everything: the tent, the sleeping bag, the marshmallows, everything. I even found some gunpowder, which is great, because after this column is written I'm going to craft some TNT and blow that stupid temple into a pile of sand cubes.

As the sun comes up, I ride my boat over to the tiny island, plunk down my tent, stick a sleeping bag in it, plant my campfire and get a stick of marshmallows out. Of course, I step too close to my roaring campfire and it sets me ablaze. Then it proceeds to rain for two solid days, but hey, that's what happens when you go camping.

The mod also adds recipes for several backpacks that provide extra storage, achievements for completing various camping goals, and a few guidebooks to provide recipes and information (though only two of the five books have been completed as of my playing the mod).

Installation : You will need to start by installing the latest version of Forge. Instructions and download link are here . It's not too hard.

Visit RikMuld's site or download RikMuld's Camping Modright here . To find your mods folder, click the Windows Start button, type %appdata% in the search box, and open the folder named Roaming . Open the folder called .minecraft , then mods . Then just drop the Camping Mod .jar file right into the mod folder.

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