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Minecraft Adventure

I mentioned back in May that I was experimenting with creating a Minecraft adventure for my boys to play through. Well, I finished the adventure map and the boys have played in it. I watched them play an hour at a time, Saturday and Sunday, over a few weeks. They didn’t actually finish the adventure, and I’ll have to explain why.

First, I found a world seed for a good wilderness area. I placed three villages, each a little different from the others. One is larger, (the main and starting area), and has lots of villagers and food and supplies. Another is smaller but has different food and a magic book shop. And the third is medium-sized with different supplies. I paved a road between two of the villages, but I left the other off the trail so it would have to be found by exploration. I also placed a few little “hermit houses” hidden in the area that could be found. The hermits sell various potions. Basically, I wanted the boys to be rewarded for exploring the environment, not just the dungeon.

I then created a large castle/tower in the center of the area, central to the villages.

Minecraft Tower

The above-ground parts of the castle, right up to the top, I filled with tricks and traps to test the boys’ puzzle-solving and team-working skills. These puzzles can only be passed by two people working together. For instance, there are buttons that open secret areas or passages in another location — one person can push the button, but the secret door will close before he can run to the opening. There are traps that can only be escaped by someone else pulling a lever or standing on a plate in the floor. There are only a few monsters, (some zombies and spiders), in this part of the adventure, and none of the traps are by themselves deadly. I wanted them to learn how to work together well before going down into the dungeon proper and facing real dangers and troubles.

Boys Minecraft Adventure

After successfully navigating through the upper part of the castle, they bought better equipment, (armor, weapons, food), and were excited to delve down below the castle into the dungeon. The below is three separate levels. The first level is 20-some rooms designed like living areas for the former castle staff and guard. There are many monsters and a few puzzles, traps, and tricks. They navigated this level pretty well, working together, but Calfgrit12 was showing his bossy side.

Calfgrit12 wanted to be the leader of their two-person team, and he often complained when his little brother didn’t do exactly as he was told. Now, Calfgrit8 never did anything bad or wrong. He just didn’t want to always be ordered about.

Even though there was some serious arguments here and there, they mostly played really well together. But a couple of times I had to end the adventure time because of serious arguments. I was surprised at how heated their arguments got. One boy would cry and the other would get angry. I was stunned. But then the next time I let them play, they’d laugh and shout in excitement, and afterwards tell me that was the best time they’ve had playing Minecraft. There were no mediocre times; it was all either fantastic or awful.

They eventually finished the first dungeon level under the castle, and then made their way down to the second level where more and tougher monsters and challenges awaited them. This level was bigger than the one above, and they’d separate often to go in their own directions. This going different ways caused them to get killed a few times. I tried to warn them that they needed to continue working together. Calfgrit8 would urge caution and want them to leave the dungeon to heal and re-equip more often. Calfgrit12 wanted to keep pressing forward, leaving CG8 to go back to safety on his own. This would inevitably cause CG12’s death, and he’d get angry at his little brother for not helping him.

This all started to get very frustrating for me. I didn’t want to guide them on this adventure — I wanted them to do this on their own while I watched. But I kept having to defend CG8’s decision to play safer against CG12’s push for more dangerous activity. He actually was playing the wisest, and his older brother was going a bit crazy with wanting to just go everywhere and see everything without caution.

Eventually CG12 got stuck in a trap off in some back chamber while his brother was leaving the dungeon to repair his equipment. Being stuck mad him angry, and he blamed CG8 for not being there to help him. He couldn’t do anything until CG8 came to rescue him, and CG8 told him to wait while he finished his errand back in the village. Things got pretty heated, and I had to break up the argument and end the game at that point.

Geez! Really. They’d go from laughing excitement one minute to hating each other the next minute. It was more than I could stand, and it made me hate this adventure I’d built for them. So I not only ended that game session, I told them that was the end of the adventure.

I was terribly disappointed in it all. It depressed me so much. I’d put a lot of work into that whole thing, and I was so excited to see them play through it. They’d had some really great fun at times, but the really bad moments killed the good feelings.

A few weeks passed with them just playing their normal Minecraft survival and creative games, and then Calfgrit8 came to me and asked about the adventure game. He asked if they could play it again, and if they couldn’t play it together, maybe he could play it without his big brother. Knowing that it was dangerous to explore the dungeon alone, he asked if I would play it with him. That touched my heart.

Later and separately I asked Caflgrit12 about it. He said it was too hard and he wasn’t interested in continuing the adventure.

So I may just end up finishing it with my 8 year old, the two of us. That could be cool.

Here are some screenshots from the dungeon delve:

Minecraft Adventure Room

Minecraft Adventure Room

Minecraft Adventure Room

Minecraft Adventure Room


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Making Dungeons

I’ve mentioned over the past several months how my boys and I have fallen in love with Minecraft. Well, I’ve just discovered the “adventure” mode for this game, and now my love has turned to an addiction, an obsession. In the adventure mode, I can start up a server, modify it — create dungeons and other types of adventure quests — and then let my boys loose in it. Adventure mode restricts the mining the players can do, so it’s all about exploration, discovery, battling monsters, and any other concept I can think of. I’ve downloaded a world editor, and I’ve begun to experiment with creating various locations for adventure exploration. I am totally thrilled and hooked!

I’m just learning the skills for Minecraft adventure map design, and I have limited artistic talent, so my first attempts at seriously creating in Minecraft are relatively basic. But here’s an example of what I’ve done:

It’s supposed to be the front face of an abandoned evil temple.
Minecraft Dungeon Facade

This feeling of creating a world, (just a small part of a world to start with), and a dungeon adventure is like being a Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master again. But this is better than just that. I mean, I’ve played D&D and DMed campaigns several times in the past several years, but this creating an adventure world and dungeons for my boys to explore is more like what I did 30 years ago with and for my friends. This exercise is really taking me back to my RPG roots. Back to my classic feelings for adventure gaming.

As much as I love the gaming aspect of adventure role-playing games — the sitting with my friends around a table, with the books, dice, miniatures, paper, and pencils — what stirs me at a visceral level is simply creating a dungeon. Drawing out the map, coming up with a theme/story/quest for it, and then populating the rooms and corridors and caverns with monsters, traps, tricks, and treasures.

I still have notebooks full of old dungeon maps I drew up back in my teens, (when I had so much free time for such “unproductive” activities). The notebooks are stashed with all my old D&D game books and modules, and are some of my most cherished old gaming material. I haven’t thrown away any of it. Here’s the map, (two levels), for a dungeon I made circa 1985:

Old D&D Dungeon Map

Old D&D Dungeon Map

The above dungeon was one I not only mapped, but wrote up and DMed for my friends at the time. But I’m still drawing up dungeon maps just for the hell of it. Here’s a dungeon map I drew up within the last couple of years:

D&D Dungeon Map Doodle

This is something I drew while wasting time, here and there, over weeks or months. Note that the label says, “Level 5”. That’s right, there are at least four other maps that go along with this one. But I’ve never put any text, (or thought), to this megadungeon, it’s really just a doodle. But it’s doodling I really enjoy. And this is why I’m so excited about designing “old school” dungeons in Minecraft for my sons to play in, like I did when I was their age. This is a truly exciting revisit to the most imaginative days of my life.


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Family Minecraft

My boys get to play Minecraft for an hour each Saturday and Sunday morning, and then we all play together for an hour of “Family Minecraft” each weekend evening, too. On our home server [in survival mode] we have a large main fort where we each have our main houses, (mine is up on a high mountain overlooking the fort), and then we have several smaller forts scattered about within a day or so of the main. (A day and night in Minecraft is 10 minutes each.) We have small farms, corrals of various animals, and of course mines underground crisscrossing all over the place. I even built a portal to the Netherworld (Hell) under my home.

During our family games, we always go on some adventure as a group. We’ve gone monster hunting — we love fighting Endermen. We’ve invaded the Netherworld — we’ve even made a small fort in Hell. We’ve gone basic exploring to find new zones and terrains. We’ve searched long and far for a village, but after weeks of looking, we hadn’t found one. (A village is like the Holy Grail to the Calfgrits.) Until Sunday night…

Sunday night we were on one of our exploration missions, with Calfgrit8 leading us to an interesting area of mountains he had found near one of his personal forts. We ended up traveling overnight and got into a serious battle with several monsters, including two Endermen. In the melee, I and Calfgrit12 died and had to respawn back at our homes. In making our ways back to our gathering spot, we got a little separated. Calfgrit12 went in a different direction while I caught up with Calfgrit8.

When we’re playing our family Minecraft games, we have our home telephones set up as an intercom so we can talk to each other. I’m in on my computer in my office, Calfgrit8 is on an old computer set up in the upstairs loft, and Calfgrit12 is on their mother’s computer downstairs.

As CG12 was exploring his wrong direction on his own, he suddenly started shouting, “I FOUND A VILLAGE! I FOUND A VILLAGE!” CG8 ran downstairs to see what his big brother was seeing on his computer screen, and then he got all excited, as well. Through all the excited shouting, we figured out where he was, and we all converged on that area.

Minecraft Villagers

Minecraft Villagers

Sure enough, there was a village in the desert, with 7 or 8 buildings and many villagers milling about. The Minecraft sun was on its way down to the horizon, and we all knew that the first night after you discover a village, there is a zombie attack. And when zombies kill a villager, the villager is not only dead, but turns into a zombie, also. Night in Minecraft is hard enough because that’s when monsters spawn anywhere it’s dark. (Zombies, skeletons with bows and arrows, giant spiders, creepers that explode when they get near you.) We had less than 5 minutes to start up some kind of defense plan for the village before the sun disappeared and darkness brought out the dangers.

Four Minecraft Creepers in the Dark

Minecraft creepers coming at night

We called out our plans to each other, and everyone got to work. CG8 had a lot of cobblestone blocks with him, so he immediately started building a wall around the village. I had a lot of torches with me, so I started placing them around the buildings to prevent monsters spawning too close. And CG12 started running around the village taking stock of what was there and how it was arranged in the terrain. When night came, and the first monsters started approaching out the darkness, the wall was only about a quarter or a third way around the village.

Minecraft Village Wall

The wall started around the village

We ran around the village, calling out monster contacts to each other, fighting with swords and bows, defending each other and villagers, and trying to extend the walls. This was the most exciting and fun game session of Minecraft I have ever had. We all worked great as a team. We shot down creepers with our arrows before they could get close enough to explode, we hacked away zombies that got inside our perimeter, we double-teamed spiders that climbed our wall, we avoided antagonizing Endermen, and by the time the sun came up again, we had successfully defended the village. One creeper had managed to sneak up on us and blew up one wall of one building, but otherwise there was no real damage and no casualties among us or the villagers.

By that time, our normal hour of family Minecraft was expended, but I told the boys that we’d play through one more day and night before logging off. That meant we had to mine the local terrain for materials to finish the wall during the day. By the time the next night time came, we had the whole village surrounded by a protective barrier (mostly made of piled sand — the village is in a desert region), well lit with plenty of torches, and we stood atop and patrolled along the wall. That second night was easy with the wall completed. We had prevailed and conquered. We owned that village.

Minecraft Village

The village seen from the temple tower

When we all logged off the server, all three of us were running high on the adrenaline and excitement of the game. Being this was a weekend that Wifegrit worked, she was on her way home as I was herding the boys into their showers and beds. I called her and warned her she might not want to come home right then. If the boys heard her come in the house, they’d immediately jump up and run to tell her about the Minecraft village defense. I’d never get them to lay down. So she went to the grocery store and came home only after they had fallen asleep. So it was only me who excitedly regaled her with the tales of our Minecraft adventure.

Honestly, that 1.5 hours of Minecraft with my boys was one of the most fun gaming experiences I’ve every had. We can’t wait till this weekend so we can go back to the village and expand on it.

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Imaginary Property In Minecraft Is Real Important

Imaginary things have such real meaning to kids.

Diamond SwordPlaying Minecraft, Calfgrit8 gave Calfgrit12 a diamond sword. A diamond sword is made by crafting three diamonds with one stick of wood. Now, diamonds are not easy to find in Minecraft, but I can get a couple or so just about every time I mine deep — which is pretty much every time I play for an hour. We each have several diamonds saved up. I could make probably six diamond swords right now, but I don’t really need anything better than iron.

Anyway, so CG8 gave his big brother an imaginary item in an online game. Big brother hung the item on a wall in his imaginary house in the online game. A little while later, CG8 had giver’s remorse, and wanted the item back. Well, actually, he wanted stuff in exchange for the diamond sword. CG12 argued that it was a gift, not an exchange. But what CG8 wanted for the sword was stuff so easy to collect, bones and seeds — stuff you can accumulate accidentally in 30 minutes of playing. Even so, CG12 argued that he shouldn’t have to give anything in exchange for a “gift.”

So CG8 went to his brother’s imaginary house in the game, and took the sword off the wall and back to his own house. And all hell broke loose in our real home.

“You stole my diamond sword!” CG12 shouted.

“No, you stole it from me!” CG8 shouted.

“You gave it to me!”

“I wanted to trade!”

Now it should be noted that Calfgrit8 plays on the computer upstairs, and Calfgrit12 plays on the computer downstairs. So the shouted argument was loud enough for them to harangue each other 30 feet apart, around walls, and up/down a stairway. I let it go on for a couple of minutes, thinking, (read: hoping, praying), they would solve it without my needing to get involved. But it kept going. Then CG12 came upstairs, and CG8 met him at the top of the stairs, where they continued shouting and threatened physical violence on each other. I had to step in at that point.

I had to shut down the Minecraft play time to take each boy separately into another room to ask exactly what had happened and was going on. They both told me the situation, but of course with their own personal twisted perspective. At the time I stepped in, CG8 had his diamond sword. I ruled that he keep it and CG12 should just let the incident go. CG12 didn’t need the sword — he had just hung it on the wall of his imaginary house for decoration. If he actually wanted the sword, he could trade what CG8 wanted for it. But no, he decided it was the principal of the matter, and he refused to trade even the easy trash his brother was asking for.

You know, parenting is hard enough when arguments and fights break out over real world toys. But it gets absurdly difficult when the struggles are over completely imaginary things that can so easily be duplicated and replaced by just continuing to play the game they’re playing for fun.


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