So you've taken your first steps into the Tim Burton-esque wilderness of Don't Starve. In my experience, the best way to experience Don't Starve is to partake in the sense of discovery it imparts.
I'll never forget the first time I accidentally wandered too far away from camp, with nothing to build a fire or a torch, and night closed in. Or the first time my Wilson asked, “Did you hear that?” as the baying of hounds drew nearer. (I learned how to craft a spear soon after that ensuing horrible devouring death.)
So what are you waiting for? Get in there and do some science!
Back already? How long did that take? My first run lasted 3 days. Was it the darkness? I bet it was the darkness.
Now that that's done, here are some tips and tricks to make sure your next Don't Starve experience lasts a little longer than three harrowing days of madness, mauling, and maybe even starvation.
The Night Is Dark and Full of Terrors
Have you met Charlie, yet? If not, then you haven't gotten caught out in the wilderness when the sun goes down, without a torch or the tiny flickering glow of a campfire in sight, and your screen is enveloped in total darkness. Unless there's a full moon out, nighttime in the twisted nightmare world of Don't Starve is a time of horrors and fevered hallucinations.
Staying out in the dark, or even anywhere near the dark, say at the outer edges of a campfire where the shadows press in, imposes a massive sanity drain on your character. And, oh, there's a night monster. Of course there's a night monster. Her name's Charlie. Don't worry, she doesn't bite!
Oh, wait. She does.
Night-time in the Don't Starve wilderness is more than spooky, it's downright deadly. If you're exploring, always travel with a torch, or enough materials to make and fuel an emergency campfire. Otherwise, Charlie will make sure starving to death is the least of your concerns.
Where Does Poop Come From?
Without any hope of rescue, the ultimate goal of any video game survival scenario is to achieve self-sufficiency. And there's nothing more helpful to achieving that goal than to grow your own food. Less time spent foraging for berries or trapping bunnies means more time gathering materials to upgrade your base, and after all, the game is called Don't Starve, so make sure you don't go hungry!
If you've been exploring your crafting menu, you've probably come across the two farm plots available for research. The trouble is, one of the key ingredients needed to build them is manure. And lots of it. Makes sense, right? But where does one find poop?
The most accidentally hilarious question newbie Don't Starvians seem to ask is also the one that gets asked most often (besides the perennial “How do I not die?”). And that is “Where does poop come from?” All kidding aside, it's a valid question. Your character doesn't poop (though there's probably a mod for that). So where does poop come from?
If you've been exploring enough, or if you've gotten extremely lucky, you might've run across herds of large, hairy beefalo wandering the grasslands and savannah biomes. Hang out near the herd, and one of the lumbering beasts is sure to drop a load. Beefalo are usually placid, so it should be a simple matter to simply walk up to the herd and fill your pockets. With poop.
But at certain times of the year, beefalo enter the mating season, and for the next few days, they are anything but placid. They're angry, violent, and extremely deadly to everything they see that's not a beefalo. Approach beefalo herds with caution, or fool them by wearing a beefalo hat.
Or avoid them altogether and go hunting for the other source of poop, which is Pigmen. Leave them a tribute of roughage (seeds, berries, fruits or vegetables), and return the next day to collect the poop they'd have left for you in return.
It all makes sense.
Traps Also Work on Spiders and Frogs
You might've guessed that a simple small animal trap (found under the Survival tab and crafted with a few twigs and cut grass) is used to catch bunnies, and maybe you've even had the bright idea to place a trap directly above a rabbit hole for an almost-guaranteed morsel-every-other-day.
Something many beginners don't realize, however, is that traps also work on spiders and frogs. Spread out a few of them around a spider den or pond before you go hunting, and master the art of luring or 'kiting' the ferocious little critters into your waiting snares. They'll be instantly killed, allowing you to harvest silk, venom sacs, monster meat or frog legs just by opening your trap.
Traps even work on those dreaded yellow spiders, but beware of their hopping attack! It might take a few tries until you get the hang of catching hostile monsters, and it's by far the easiest way of eliminating these pesky early-game threats.
Also be aware that traps degrade after each use until they disappear completely, so it pays to always pack a few extra with you whenever you go monster hunting.
You've Been Thunderstruck!
If you're starting in the Fall, lightning rods are one of the earliest and most reliable ways of preventing forest fires. A stray lightning bolt can reduce an entire forest to cinders, so don't let this happen to your camp!
By placing even a single lightning rod, you guarantee that lightning strikes in a wide area will hit the rod and dissipate harmlessly. It's usually a good idea to build your first lightning rod near your precious flammables, like your garden plots and drying racks. There's nothing more miserable than watching your hard-earned meat and vegetables go up in smoke, literally in a flash.
As an added bonus, when a lightning rod has been zapped, it'll emit a glow (but not warmth) that's bright enough to repel the night monster until sunrise. You can't have too many sources of emergency lighting.
Too bad there's no way to harness the power stored in a charged lightning rod (yet)...
Much Ado About Rotting
Sometimes, the only thing to do with that unlucky durian crop is to let nature do its thing and make Rot.
While Rot satiates some hunger at the cost of Health, it's better put to use somewhere else: as fertilizer for your garden plots. Your plants will love it, and with luck, maybe they won't all make durians next time.
Other things that make good fertilizer are ash, and of course, poop.
Monster Meat's for the Birds
With a few notable exceptions (Weber and WX-78), monster meat and dishes derived from it don't make for very good eats, as it fills your belly at the expense of your Health and Sanity.
But wait! Don't get rid of all of that not-food quite just yet.
Once you manage to build a bird cage and imprison a fine feathered friend of your very own, you can feed it cooked monster meat and get fresh, tasty eggs in return. Toss two eggs and a helping of meat into a crockpot for a tasty breakfast of bacon and eggs.
Not a bad trade!
Now You're Cooking With Charcoal
Attentive first-time players might notice that the crafting tab lists charcoal as a key ingredient to building the crockpot and drying rack, structures which enable you to cook nourishing meals (most of the time) and preserve precious, precious meats that would otherwise spoil. Both structures are crucial to long-term survival. But what isn't obvious is where you could get charcoal. You can't refine it in the crafting tab like you would wooden planks, rope and cut stone, so what gives?
The only way to get charcoal is by harvesting burnt trees. You could sit around waiting for a lightning strike to ignite a forest. If you're feeling brave (or just particularly lucky), you could try making a fire-break by felling trees until you've got enough space separating the flammables from your camp. Just be sure to dig out all the stumps with a shovel – stumps burn too.
The safest methods involve planting a small clump of trees on an empty patch of land, far away from any other burnables. Once the trees have grown past their sapling stage, light 'em up and watch the light show. Burnt trees of any size larger than a sapling produce one charcoal each, so there's no reason to wait until they're fully grown.
Be mindful that sometimes as they're burning, trees will drop charcoal on the ground – this charcoal will then likely start smoking and ignite too, potentially causing your small controlled burn to blossom into a wildfire, and we don't want that. If you see smoke rising from any pieces of dropped charcoal, put it out with your bare hands and pick it up immediately. After the trees have been reduced to charred husks, chop them with your ax to harvest your bounty of charcoal.
Spacebar Loots Everything
One of the most important tips I can give to new players is to use the spacebar (or the appropriate control button, if you're playing on a console).
By default, your spacebar is configured to 'Interact.' Where this becomes most handy is in looting a pile of stuff quickly, say after felling a tree, and killing your first beefalo or giant.
Just hold down your spacebar key, and as long as you've got space in your inventory, your character will simply vacuum up anything on the ground nearby.
This is a no-brainer, but even veteran players might not be aware that your Hunger gauge does not drain at consistent rates throughout the day.
If you're just standing or running around exploring, your hunger drains at its normal speed. However, if you're chopping trees, mining or doing other physically demanding work, your hunger depletes at an accelerated rate.
Your hunger is also reduced by a set amount after you sleep; you'll be starving for breakfast by morning.
Armed with these tips, you now have everything you need to go forth and conquer the wilderness! Just be sure to pack enough materials to make a torch.
And remember, if you're finding it too difficult to go at it alone, you can always wrangle some friends and Don't Starve Together.