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Minecraft: A Scavenger Run on the TAG Server

Posted by michaeliantorno

A few months ago, TAG launched a shiny new Minecraft server curated by Bart Simon and Nic Watson. Entitled Siegert’s Miasma, the server is  designed to emphasize collaboration and experimentation while providing a “critique of the idea of capitalist accumulation at the heart of Minecraft‘s neo-colonial discourse.” It’s modpack is robust enough to facilitate various types of play, so if players aren’t particularly keen on ushering in a simulated anthropocene then they can simply hop in a boat and punch trees on some secluded island. Despite some issues with pollution (see below) and a dragon infestation, the server is still chugging along with a small but dedicated playerbase. 

a screenshot from minecraft featuring a black sky and acid rain

Pollution in Siegert’s Miasma

Having been involved with two prior TAG Minecraft servers, I have become well acquainted with the “standard” approach to the game. After escaping the introductory phase, which mainly revolves around basic survival and diamond-seeking, the rest of the game usually finds the player working their way up various tech trees in order to build new structures and increase their personal capabilities. I don’t want to diminish the complexity or quality of the Siegert’s Miasma modpack — Bart and Nic did an excellent job choreographing the mods so they would accentuate each other and not break the game — but this approach did not appeal to me for my third TAG Minecraft run-through. Instead of building my own little homestead, mining deep into the earth, and bringing about an industrial age, I decided to do something a little different. I would attempt to play Minecraft as a scavenger, predicated on three simple rules:

The 3 Rules

Rule #1 — No Mining

Although this may seem somewhat antithetical to the game, I decided to abstain from mining during my tenure on the server. This proposition does beg for clarification: what exactly counts as mining? If simply breaking apart stone/metal blocks is enough to qualify, then I probably would have given up on the server a few hours in. There are simply too many bottlenecks in Minecraft that require iron and cobblestone to surpass. Thus, I decided to establish mining as “actively searching for materials underground” (i.e. creating a mine) rather than a broader, more restrictive definition. If I stumbled across coal or iron in the overworld, so be it, but digging down and hoarding materials was strictly forbidden. The key challenge here is seeking out rare materials (diamonds, for example) in treasure chests rather than gathering them myself.

Rule #2 — No (Advanced) Crafting

Much like a mining ban, a strict “no crafting” rule would have made Minecraft exceedingly frustrating to play. Even in vanilla Minecraft, possessing tools and armor is pretty much mandatory for survival, and Siegert’s Miasma introduced a host of new dangers into the world. Rather than trying to tackle dragons and sea serpents while essentially naked and alone, I instead decided to limit myself to Minecraft’s default crafting table. This made it possible to create the essential items needed to interact with the game, but locked me out of most advanced modpack content (which requires machinery or magic). As a result, Minecraft standbys such as jetpacks and magic spells were no longer an option.

Rule #3 — Minimal Construction

Finally, I wanted to build as little as possible on the server. On past servers, I would construct sprawling bases and elaborate factories on carefully landscaped patches of land. This time around, I limited myself to survival shelters and a few functional types of architecture that would keep enemies at bay.

Results

What did I learn from my scavenger run of Minecraft? After a few months of on-and-off play, I have the following takeaways:

Scavenging is an effective strategy… if the modpack allows for it. Vanilla Minecraft prevents very few opportunities to discover powerful items within treasure chests, but Siegert’s Miasma scattered dungeons across the world which were filled to the brim with useful items. Much of my time was spent dipping into procedurally generated structures, stealing as much as I could carry, then returning home to organize and equip. Of particular use were capsules — tiny baubles that held pre-constructed buildings — which I gathered enough of to cobble together a functional, if somewhat rudimentary, home base.

a screenshot from minecraft showing a small wood village

A simple base constructed from found materials

Squatting is fun… but always scope out your neighbours. Shortly after spawning, I set out into the wilderness in search of a place to settle down. I eventually found an abandoned brick house, complete with a bed and a haunted basement, and decided to make it my home base. Everything went splendidly for the first few days — that is, until a dragon decided to crash through the north wall of my living room. Unknown to me at the time, I was about 100 blocks away from an ice dragon’s lair, and the creature was quite unhappy to see me squatting in what was essentially their front yard.

Unlimited mortality is a legitimate superpower… but eventually, you’re going to need to buff yourself. I spent a lot of time in the early game setting strategic spawn points and then hurling myself at monsters over and over again in order to secure areas and farm important items. However, as I progressed, I discovered that much of the late-game content presumes that you are capable of dealing and receiving large amounts of damage. Even with the ability to persist through a thousand deaths, some challenges are impossible without high-end weapons and armour.

a screenshot from minecraft in which a player rides a hippogriff

Hippogriff riding

Flight is overpowered… and pretty much necessary for extended travel. I briefly contemplated banning flight during my play-through, but I soon realized that effective scavenging requires traversing across huge swaths of land. Minecraft biomes and enemies have a consistent logic to them, but that logic can be cruel and unforgiving, making foot and boat travel dangerous. After getting eaten by a sea serpent for the umpteenth time while crossing a vast ocean, I caved in and tamed a hippogriff to ferry me from place to place. This turned out to be the correct choice for my well-being, but also trivialized some aspects of the game, as normal mobs could be circumvented with ease.

What’s Next?

After two months of abiding by my three rules I find myself at a crossroads. I have scavenged so much that I feel that I’m running out of things to look for! Biomes are repeating ad nauseam and it has become rare for me to find anything that I don’t already own. This has led me to take a hiatus from the server while contemplating what to do next: Will I continue to ransack continents and hoard my ill-gotten gains? Or will I embark on a new path, in which I embrace the core tenets of Minecraft — mining, crafting, and building? With an unprecedented amount of free time on the horizon (due to frightening circumstances) perhaps I will develop a new approach, exploring the nuances of lesser known mods or rejoining my fellow TAGsters in their mystic/industrial initiatives.