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Desert colony
#1
In playing the MineColonies Official modpack, I made a desert world in which to create a town.

In world creation options I set it to be all Desert. This actually includes Desert Hills and River, so there's some variety, but not much. Also, I was seriously dismayed by how frequent villages were in the first world I made, so I tweaked the village spawn rate way, way down. Now you can't see 4 villages on your minimap at the same time, making travel and exploration more meaningful. Also, in that first world the challenge I really had in starting a town was finding a place far enough from a village. I know, I could have started IN a village, but then you have to look at testificates all day.

In a desert, the ultra rare tree is only going to be found growing by a river. I played for hours before finding a tree, and haven't seen one since. This presents a problem, because it means I couldn't start with Tinkers' tools. Tiny Progressions helped here - flint and bone make any tool, but first I had to find a crafting table. So, three nights of fleeing and digging for beetles to eat before I found a village. I stole their woolen "streetlights" to make a sleeping bag, but as Desert villages are made primarily of sandstone, there wasn't a lot of wood to steel. They had a furnace though, so I was able to cook some stone to make a juicer, allowing me to juice cactus for food. The forge house had a chest with 4 oak saplings, so after raiding their farms I was off and running.

Scrounging for dirt along riverbanks, I eventually made a small farm and a place to grow trees. However, the farm isn't really for food, since cactus and edible insects are so abundant (note: next world I make, I'm cutting the drop rate of insects in half - I've thrown away stacks). I mainly need the crops for making cooking oil to cook insects, and to feed traps with bait to get meat, bones, and hide. The fish and other meats from the traps were cooked and dried to make leather.

A desert temple had enough string to make a handful of wool. Back in the village I got a few emeralds by farming their fields. I used this to make one of Pam's Markets. Now I have access to candleberry (the wax makes neat candles, and hardens leather for better armor), cotton, other saplings, and spawn eggs. This is the key of getting the colony to thrive.

Time to set up the town. I pick a spot where I want my farm to be and set up the supply caravan here, since this places a flat plain of dirt about the size of the farm I'll later build. Everything in the town is going to be made using the sandstone plans, so I go start quarrying sandstone. Some of those little hills actually have about a 9-12 block layer of sandstone underneath, which I was happy to find. While the builder is busy, I make a smeltery to get started on iron and higher-tier tools. The sandstone plans use both oak and birch, so I had to use the market to get a birch sapling. Later I'll have to get all the saplings, because the builder's upgraded house is all fancy with acacia and whatnot.

So far everything is fine, until the builder tells me he needs a tulip. I found no way to get tulips or any flower except the 2 you get from bonemealing grass. I had to cheat some in. If there's a way to get these in a world where they will never spawn, please let me know.

I've yet to finish a barracks and guard towers, a restaurant, and the bakery, but have the rest of the buildings made. All of the new colonists start with 1 in every stat, which is just killing me. Other than that, the village is doing great. All of the villagers seem to really excel at doing their job properly, except the builder, who frequently does odd things that keep him from working, and there's no indication what causes it. At one point it was because his inventory was full, and so was his builder's chest (this needs to be at least twice as large for the builder as it is for anyone else) so he just stood there. When I grabbed an item he replaced it with a stack of sand even though his inventory didn't have sand in it. I cleared out many stacks of sand before he had enough inventory space to keep working, but nothing told me this was the hangup. Another time he walked to the new building and back to the builder's repeatedly without working. Turns out he needed his shovel repaired, but didn't tell me. That took a solid hour of testing to discover.

Other thoughts:
* I'll need to look for some schematics for sandstone everything. Barracks, shepherd, and a few others I had to make from birch, and that's just not fitting with the theme!
* The Tiny Progressions juice is far superior to Pam's, and since cooked insects are uberfood, I blissfully ignored any of those complicated meals that Pam's includes. But Pam's ground and fish traps were surprisingly necessary in the desert.
* Nests turned out to be the best way to get sticks, glowstone, redstone, eggs, and a couple other minor things.
* I could see making a whole new set of schematics specifically for this modpack, to do things like replacing oak fences with birch fences, replacing torches with candles, or for an adobe village using Earthworks blocks.
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#2
In doing some more testing with world creation, I found the following:

* Set the biome to Desert and you get Desert Hills and River as well. If you set the biome size larger, it doesn't affect rivers, but it does result in much larger zones of flatish desert, and of very hilly desert. Can be useful to get a larger city built.

* If you set river size to the smallest, then the rivers turn on themselves in tiny little arcs, making the world almost half River biome. Set river size to the largest and rivers are further apart, but still common.

* Ocean level determines the water in the rivers. If you set ocean level to 58, rivers will only have rare stagnant ponds. Set it to 0 and rivers won't have any water. River biomes will still be grassy dirt, however, and this increases the area where trees, tall grass, and flowers can generate. So, combine low ocean level with 100% rarity on water lakes to make it pretty hard to find water, but much easier to find trees.

* If you find a village, the difficulty of this world start goes way, way down. Crafting table, probably enough wool for a sleeping bag, plenty of crops and water, and emeralds all at your fingertips. Expert mode: disable villages. You can still get everything you want (except flowers) from Pam's market block, but you have to mine for emeralds in the desert hills.
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