Over our last snow day / ice day weekend I setup an older, inherited Mac laptop as a home Minecraft server and resurrected a collaborative survival world Rachel (our 7th grader) and I started a couple of years ago with our younger cousins over the Thanksgiving holidays. My own Minecraft learning curve had flattened out a bit, so I asked Rachel to teach me about enchantments and how they work. (She, of course, is now an expert Minecrafter with over 600 subscribers to her YouTube channel!) My first introduction to enchantments, when I was using and learning about MinecraftEDU teaching 4th and 5th grade STEM in Yukon Public Schools, involved students in “creative mode” using splash potions to turn themselves and their classmates invisible. I soon realized the benefits of creating structured Minecraft challenges for students in MinecraftEDU mode, rather than “creative” or “survival” modes! Enchantments were something I had never taken the time to learn about, but I’m glad I’ve started to add them to my Minecraft toolkit. In this post, I’ll share a few things I’ve learned about Minecraft enchantments as well as “Desert Temples” in the past couple weeks.
The official Minecraft Gamepedia page for “enchanting” is quite helpful, and I started my learning journey with it and this 3 minute video tutorial which was added to the page three months ago.
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I tried some basic enchantments on my weapons and armor, but quickly learned why “experience points” in Minecraft can be so valuable: In order to cast the “Fortune +3” enchantment on a diamond pickaxe, which can result in MORE diamonds when you find and mine them, you have to be at level 30 or higher for experience. Rachel had successfully done this, so I resolved to do it as well. Hours of gameplay later after 2 or 3 quite painful deaths when my experience level was in the high 20’s or low 30’s, I finally succeeded! Once I knew it was possible to multiply your take of diamonds if you had a specially enchanted pickaxe, I started NOT mining diamonds as I found them in my “strip mines” and instead marked them so I could find and return to them later once I had the 3+ fortune pickaxe. The result, from about 5 different diamond finds, was a take of 91 diamonds! These of course, were fairly found without the use of any cheats or going into creative mode… all survival! It may seem like a trivial thing to experienced Minecraft gamers, but as a relatively infrequent player I’m quite proud of this achievement!
To get started with enchantments, you have to craft an enchanting table. Requirements for the table include a book, which must be made of paper and leather. Paper is crafted from sugar cane, while leather is obtained by killing cows. You also need 2 diamonds as well as obsidian. I’m now in the habit of mining and caving with a bucket of water, so I can use it when needed to turn lava into obsidian. Obsidian is the only block in the game which MUST be mined with a diamond pickaxe. With all these requirements for crafting, including the need to have diamonds, you can see why enchanting is an advanced Minecraft skill.
In addition to an enchanting table, Rachel also counseled me to craft an anvil. In addition to repairing items, an anvil can be used to combine enchantments. I haven’t used my anvil much yet, but am going to start experimenting with it next as I continue learning about enchantments.
“Minecraft Anvil” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer
To make your enchanting table spells as powerful as they can be, Rachel also advised me to surround it with bookshelves. Again, this means finding and crafting pre-requisite items, this time including books and wood planks. The “Enchanting Mechanics” Gamepedia article reveals the mathematics and probabilities of enchanting in Minecraft are delightfully complex. This means that even though you may have the requisite experience levels needed for a desired enchantment, that enchantment may not be available to you for a given object. To “reset” the enchanting table and get a new set of available enchantments for different items, Rachel taught me to do a low experience level enchantment on a basic tool like a wooden shovel. This “resets” the enchanting table, sort of like shuffling a deck of cards.
Each time you cast an enchantment, you use (and therefore lose) experience levels, so it can be necessary to “go back into the field” to get more experience points when you’re trying to make a specific kind of enchantment. I learned some of the fastest ways to get experience points include mining redstone, and to a lesser degree coal, in strip mines. Killing animals in my pens / on my farm also produces experience points fast, especially with chickens. Rachel told me you can also get lots of experience points fast by mining in the Nether, but I’ve had bad experiences getting killed pretty quickly there so I haven’t opted for that suggestion yet. Having animal pens for sheep, chickens, cows and pigs right next to my house came in handy in this way.
I definitely DID die several times in my many-hour quest to use enchantments to multiply my diamond harvest. One of these happened while caving, when I went too far without adequately lighting up the area with torches, and got overwhelmed by too many hostile mobs.
“You Died!” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer
Another memorable and instructive death occurred when I found my first “Desert Temple.” Unfortunately, I had never encountered one of these buildings before, and had no idea how to safely “defeat it” and mine its treasure. The tutorial article on “Defeating Temples” is now on my upcoming Minecraft reading list. I accidentally found the hidden cache of chests underneath the central room of the temple, but didn’t know there was a hidden pressure plate which triggered TNT explosions. Oops.
I had found that desert temple about 1000 blocks away from my Minecraft homestead. Rachel and I still haven’t found horses in this world, although she’s found multiple saddles as well as sets of horse armor. I set out to travel 1000 blocks directly east, and stumbled on the temple by accident. After you get killed / die in Minecraft, you have about 5 minutes after you respawn to go find the location of your death so you can pick up all the items you were carrying at that time. I did succeed in finding my way back to the temple and recovering all my items, which was also a significant personal achievement. Hopefully I’ll find another temple sometime soon, and get a chance to be more saavy with my mining / attack strategy.
It’s been a lot of fun learning about enchantments and having specific challenges to overcome in Minecraft the past few weeks. It’s also, of course, great fun to learn from Rachel, as her Minecraft knowledge as well as skills far outpace mine at this point and likely always will!
To get a sense of how far we’ve come together as a family with Minecraft in the past few years, check out the past posts:
- Cool Stuff Rachel & I Learned in Minecraft This Weekend (April 2014)
- First Lesson in Minecraft (and why I waited a year to ask my son to teach me) (March 2013)
Also check out Alexander’s 2012 video presentation for the K-12 Online Conference, “Creating And Playing In Minecraft.” That was four years ago when he was in 10th grade. Now he’s a freshman at Colorado School of Mines.
If you have a young child at home who plays or is interested in playing Minecraft, I HIGHLY encourage you to play together and ask them to teach you what they know.
The holodeck is coming, and the virtual worlds of Minecraft are one area where we see its early forms. It’s very cool to play and learn in a virtual world like this together!
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