To Build or to Explore…

I seem to be splitting my time in Valheim between base building and exploration. I enjoy base building immensely and my server mates indulge me by providing copious quantities of materials so I can build and enhance the public facilities.

If I had to tally the time spent doing each, I’d probably say 70% base building/ 30% exploring.

Near our main base, I found a nice abandoned farming community in a Meadows biome so I began redomesticating that with a barn and guard tower. Of course, just a short jaunt to the north was a beautiful point at a navigable river delta and the sea that connects our home island, the farm island, our first swamp/crypt delvings and our Elder Base which became bronze central because of the abundance of copper in the Black Forest there.

At the point, Unna wanted to create a new base and I wanted to experiment with something different, so the Round House was born. Building in the round is a bit fiddly but I learned quite a bit building this one.

With our recent success at obtaining iron, that of course opened up stone construction which I’d been anxiously awaiting. After enclosing the perpetually threatened Elder Base in a stone wall, the suggestion was made to repurpose an existing abandoned stone tower to some kind of guard tower for defense.

Not content with patching up a small, square tower and itching to make another round build, I opted for a round tower. Of course, stone construction eats a lot of stone, and I ran a bit short, so I halted construction temporarily and roofed what became a new secure crafting station at Elder Base. With abundant stone now, I need to finish that.

Now with the taste for iron, Wilhelm has gone positively mad for iron and launched out looking for more lucrative swamp crypts to pillage. The result, along with our recent discovery of Haldor the Trader’s location, our main base and transportation hub was starting to get cluttered with portals jammed anywhere they could fit.

That of course, screamed for a new, functional space for our portals which meant another major base expansion, this time largely in stone. The result, a rebuilt west wing with the Hall of Portals on the second floor.

Now the west wing dwarfs the main hall and original east wing, so that will need to be reconciled. And of course, the larger west wing is now uncomfortably close to the palisade wall which, lets be honest, is starting to look a bit shabby. That will have to go and if a larger stone walled enclosure is on the cards, then a new south ward should be enclosed to capture the harbor, which of course will also need to be rebuilt to accommodate a soon-to-be-launched longboat. There is no end to building.

This much construction and redesign requires some thought, so with the new west wing functional, I needed to step away from the stone cutter for a bit to let the redesign vision coalesce in my head.

The Quest for Haldor

The best way to step away from all that building activity which can be very micro focused (trying to get bits to snap just right, how various materials look together, what can be done to support them, etc.) is to go exploring. There is nothing more macro that world exploration.

We had not then discovered the location of the trader and with the new acquisition of iron and all its added logistical weight, that megingjord that Haldor sells was looking more like a necessity than a luxury.

Set a course for adventure…

A journey of exploration was just the thing for a break from building. Unlike previously jaunts, I vowed not to take too precious things, to take enough food, and most importantly, to take the materials necessary to make a portal should I find either Haldor or a must-return location.

Our group established an exploration protocol for efficiency. At the main base, we have one portal tagged “Explore” which is reserved unsurprisingly for exploration. The idea is one takes the materials for a new portal out into the wild, and if a hot new location is found, a new minibase is set up with the new portal.

The new portal is initially tagged, “Explore” and voila, connection to home base complete. Step through, make a third portal called whatever you want for the new location, step back through the Explore portal to the new location and re-tag that portal. New travel conduit established, Explore portal free for further discovery. This system is currently working very well.

In previous journeys, I had explored south and east and a bit north and west in a vain attempt to return to the deathsquito coast that claimed Wilhelm a while ago. The north east look promising, so off I went.

This time I vowed Not to Do Anything Stupid which in Valheim generally means over committing, dying in a bad place and leaving you in a very bad place for corpse recovery, even with help. This is probably the greatest risk for journeys of exploration.

Not Doing Anything Stupid also means not sailing at night if it can be avoided, and where possible, finding a relatively safe place to base up, repair, set a respawn point in the event of bad luck, etc. Being careful in other words.

Given our still recent advance to the iron age, I wasn’t so much looking for swamps to raid but mostly for Haldor the Trader who conventional wisdom suggests is found in Black Forest biomes. If he was in a Black Forest biome near Meadows and a Swamp, so much the better.

Not surprisingly, the farther I ventured from home, the fewer and fewer Black Forest biomes I found. Conventional wisdom also suggests that the overall level of difficulty of biomes increases the farther from the world spawn point you venture. This definitely seemed to be the case.

I found mostly Swamps and Plains with perilously few Black Forests or Meadows the farther I went. After my initial brush with Wilhelm’s corpse recovery on the coast of the Plains, I was terrified an intended on giving them a wide berth, barely enough to clear the fog of war for the map and that’s about it.

Desperately trying to Avoid Doing Anything Stupid, I kept my eye out for a place to camp for the night which was rapidly approaching. I had passed a promising location quite some while ago, but it was looking like backtracking for that was going to be my best bet to avoid a night in the boat off a hostile shore.

Just about the time I decided to turn back, I heard the ominous music erupt which startled the bejesus out of me. I had wandered into a Mistlands biome. I was so startled, I didn’t even take a screenshot before I hightailed it out of there. All I knew at the time was that Mistlands were above Plains in terms of difficulty, so I turned and fled in terror before anything could see me.

Looking at the wiki now, perhaps that was unnecessary, but going for a quick looksee in Valheim has has been a recipe for disaster in the past and this time, of course, I wasn’t going to Do Anything Stupid.

I turned tail and backtracked as darkness was falling with no port in sight. From the map below, I had progressed in a roughly clockwise path, so when I had retraced my course to where the explored path turned back west again, I knew I had a difficult decision. The way to the west was a circuitous detour on my way back home. I had no spawn point set, and it was mostly Plains and Swamp. Not a safe bet to set up a quick base to camp.

I could see on my map though where I had passed and marked a possible base location which was a confluence of Meadows, Black Forest and Swamp with what looked like an island of Meadows with an abandoned village on it. I almost set up a camp there earlier only to discover when I investigated the buildings, it was a Draugr camp, aka the Bad People in Wilhelm’s parlance.

Still, just to the north of that was a Meadows biome and a small abandoned shack I saw near an inlet that led to the Swamp. It looked to be a straight shot from where I was, but it was dark, and that would require a trip across uncharted territory which was likely Ocean with the possibility of Sea Serpents. It seemed like I had been hours and hours drifting by hostile shores which starts to play with your head.

Desperate, I decided to go for it, white knuckles on the tiller the entire way. Fortunately, I had mostly favorable wind and weather, but I kept my eyes peeled for any sign of a serpent, or those pesky cross-biome raiders that Bhagpuss mentioned. Tired, cold and desperate, I made for the exposed shore near a small shack, dropped a workbench, fire, door, patched the roof and dropped a bed for the night. Desperation Base.

At least I had a spawn point in a reasonably safe place although I could hear mobs assailing my boat. but they were only grey dwarfs and easily handled. In the morning after collecting my wits, I took the opportunity to replenish some food and other critical supplies to have to hand, like a decent amount of wood and a few stone for a fire.

Not having enough punishment yet and courage restored by a sunny new day, I continued what would be my fruitless search for Haldor heading South and East from Desperation Base since that was still working my way along the general direction back home. When I saw the coast veering away easterly, I knew it was time to beeline back toward known waters. I was explored out.

It was day, the trip didn’t look to be terribly long, so westing I went. Something odd I noticed when sailing in Valheim– from time to time, you’ll find yourself in somewhat shallow waters, with no real land in site, yet the minimap tells you you are in a certain biome.

Such was the case when I encountered a few small shoal-like islands in the midst of the sea. Curiosity got the better of me, so I went to investigate a tiny speck of an island just large enough for the one solitary tree on it. As I approached, I noticed it was an Ancient Tree found in the Swamp. Opportunity, I thought, to collect a bit of Ancient Bark unopposed which I’d need eventually to build that Longboat.

Of course, as soon as I got close, two blobs appeared from nowhere and started hopping toward me. One got on the boat while I raced to and fro trying to avoid him while getting the boat turned. I managed to whip the boat around and get it down wind before the hopping blob got a second dose of poison on me. Fortunately I had a mostly full health bar at that point, but it was still a close run thing. The words of Chef from Apocalypse Now reminded me “never get off the boat.” Wisdom.

A friendly southwesterly wind, brought me to the Swamp zone where we had set up a small base, portal and was otherwise a known commodity a stone’s throw from my original departure point.

Looking at that wall of words above might make it seem like I could have just written “I explored north east, didn’t find anything, then came back. Done.” but that wouldn’t have done justice to the sense of danger, excitement and discovery that these little adventures provide.

I had a few of these in Minecraft, but frankly most of those had to do with being lost before I added some quality of life addons like a minimap, etc. In Valheim, I seem to have these experiences each time I venture a bit farther a field which is saying something.

Certainly some of this is truly first impression discovery since the game is so new and this is a first playthrough. What that might feel like in a new world, where the challenges are more known, I can’t say. But for now, this is the good stuff and I’m hell bent on enjoying it while it lasts.

2 thoughts on “To Build or to Explore…”

  1. Great story. I’m sure that in time all of this will come to seem routine but I don’t think the memories of how it felt when it was fresh will fade. I keep comparing it to EverQuest and that’s partly because individual experiences in Valheim repeatedly remind me of indivisdual experiences in EQ. I can remember a surprising aamount of detail about the time I took my level nine troll from Grobb to Qeynos, for example, includng the terrifying night crossing of Lake Rathetear in a rowing boat and it was extraordinarily similar to my exploratory voyages in Valheim. That’s stayed with me for twenty years so maybe this will, too.

    More practically, I really need to organize my portals, too. They’re a complete mess now and there are places where I can barely get past them. It only occurred to me two days ago that i ought to be doing what you’re doing, setting an open portal and carrying the mats for a return gate when I go somewhere new. I haven’t started doing it yet but I’m going to and when I do I’ll follow your model, so thanks for the idea!

    1. This was a bigger job than I anticipated made worse by the fact that I didn’t want to interrupt what other players were doing while I was doing it. A bit like remodeling a busy subway station during rush hour… And I couldn’t just take them all down and rebuild them later as I would likely have forgotten all the tag names or written them down wrong. We don’t generally have a perfect naming convention, and today’s North Base might be tomorrow’s Slightly North Base…

      We’ve just started the discussion about when to decomission a portal. A number of them go to temporary resource bases, so our general thinking is that when we’ve exhausted the resources there (e.g., de-ironed the swamp), we can take the portal down but leave the base unless there is another compelling reason to keep it there. Just keep the actives to manage the clutter.

      Since most are mining-focused, chances are we’re back and forth in boats hauling ore anyway, so take the portal with the last boat out is likely our strategy.

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