Wednesday, March 10, 2021

In Every Dream Home A Heartache


There are things about Valheim that remain a mystery to me. I suspect that with five million people playing there's very little about the game that's not known by now but I only see what happens in my own world. Beyond that I know almost nothimg.

What little I do pick up comes from others in this corner of the blogosphere, the ones who happen to be both playing and posting about the game. It seems to be most of us now, with the final few just trickling in.

Everyone's experiences are similar but none are quite the same. That's part of the draw. Familiarity and novelty all rolled up in the one package. I woke up this morning planning on telling the tale of how a troll knocked down my tower only to find Potshot had shared the story of how two trolls had trampled his trading post. 

Aywren chipped in with some gorgeous illustrations of her luxurious waterfront property that make my castle look like the cobbled-together, roughly refurbished wreck it is. Valheim is a particularly awkward game in which to take well-framed shots because the camera won't pull back far enough but these would be a credit to any homes beautiful magazine.

Not so much a patio, more where the builders have their lunch.


Everyone seems to playing at their own pace and in their own way, which is one of Valheim's many strengths. The pack seems to be mostly in iron but some are forging ahead in silver while others are taking their time in bronze. Some are hunting in packs while others are going lone wolf. It all seems to work. 

And from what I hear, it keeps on working right to the end. SynCaine has mined all the content in his one hundred and thirty six hours and now he's done until Iron Crown add some more. His review is pertinent and apposite. I don't think there's a pithier or more accurate shorthand for Valheim than "the World of Warcraft of survival games". It's what I called it a while back but I imagine many people have had the same thought.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is that despite the necessarily limited palette of a game in Early Access with just five developers working on it every story feels hand-crafted. The same things happen but like the procedurally-generated world, which never fails to convince, they never happen in quite the same way.

Here's what happened to me.

In hindsight I could have picked a better spot to build my dreamhome. I might have noticed the troll cave not a hundred meters from my tower wall for a start. 

Now this is what I call a terrace.


I'm still trying to figure out where trolls come from. They don't seem to come out of their caves. In fact, the caves don't look big enough to hold a troll in the first place. They'd have to get down on all fours and crawl just to get through the entry hole. Maybe if I ever get up the courage to go inside and look I'll find out how they live down there. 

They often seem to stand around near the shoreline, sometimes near a cave, sometimes not. If you see a troll in a place once, chances are you'll see another there later, even if you got rid of the first. It turns out there's a spot like that not much more than a hundred meters up the coast to the north of my tower. 

Trolls to the left of me, trolls to the right, here I am. Stuck in the middle. And we all know how that goes.

As usual, I'm getting ahead of myself. Before the troll came there was the mysterious incident of the boat in the night. I'm guessing that might have been troll-related too although I can't prove it. 

I'd left my longship drifting close to shore. I hadn't bothered building a dock. My experience up to then had led me to believe boats in Valheim stay pretty much where you leave them. My standard method of mooring one is to let it run in close to where I want it to stop, then let go the tiller and stand up. That seems to end the sailing session and once momentum runs out the boat stops and stays stopped.


Should be safe here.

I've left ships like that and come back days later to find them exactly where I parked them, unharmed. I certainly thought my longship would be safe overnight. It was not.

Whether it was trolls or whether a storm dashed the hull against the one and only rock in the bay I can't be sure. All I know is something bad happened in the dark. When I looked out over my balcony rail next morning the ship was nothing more than flotsam.

I realize now, as I think back, that I had some of the key events out of order in yesterday's account. I knew that would happen. I hadn't unloaded most of the iron like I suggested I had. I'd got so wrapped up in building my tower I'd left it on the boat when I logged out. Otherwise I wouldn't have been quite so freaked out when I saw the ship was gone.

Longships are surprisngly simple and cheap to make. They only slightly awkward thing they require is ten iron bars to make the nails but you can get ten scraps of iron in any sunken crypt and easily carry that much back in your pack. I didn't mind the loss of the ship. It was the two hundred pieces of scrap iron in the hold that bothered me.

If anyone says "Famous last words" I'll clock them one.


It is fortunate that wood floats. Even when it's full of iron. As I discovered, anything you leave in the hold of your ship floats on the surface in wooden crates should the ship founder. I was able to salvage all of my iron, although having to swim out to get it made the whole operation somewhat nerve-wracking. It's very easy to drown in Valheim and the way you do it is to run out of endurance, which you find yourself doing pretty damn fast if fill your pockets with scrap iron.

In the end I got it all out without drowning. The longship was gone for good, though. I looked in vain for the hundred iron nails that held it all together but iron doesn't float. Couldn't even see them on the sea bed, Not that it would have mattered if I had. If they're down there that's where they're staying.

I lugged the ore up to the castle and spent a good while turning it into bars. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it after that but scrap iron's no use on it's own so might as well get on with it.

Smelting uses huge quantities of wood so I was running out to chop down trees every so often. Nothing much stopped me. Some greydwarves tried but they're just walking wood to me these days. Because they're no threat and nothing else seemed to live around where I'd set up home other than greys and deer, I wasn't bothering to keep myself fed. And I wasn't hunting those deer right then so I didn't have any arrows with me, either.

Does troll damage come under "Accidental" or "Act of God"?


All of which meant that when the ground started shaking I was completely unprepared to repel a troll attack. What the heck, though, I wouldn't need to! I had stone walls around me now. I could just stand back, safe and secure, while old trollface huffed and puffed until he wore himself out. There was nothing he could do to me or my tower. I was looking forward to watching him try. I was going to point my finger and laugh.

Yeah. About that. It turns out one troll with a tree-trunk makes for a more than adequate wrecking crew when it comes to masonry. I've watched trolls beating on wooden pallisade fencing and it took them far longer to do far less damage than this bruiser managed on stonework in a matter of seconds. I'd go so far as to say stone seems significantly weaker against trolls than wood. Maybe it is. Much about Valheim, as I said, remains mysterious to me.

The blasted troll didn't stop at whacking down walls with his makeshift wooden club. When he couldn't reach the bits he wanted to destroy he threw boulders at them and those seemed to do even more damage. By the time he'd had enough of wanton destruction the back wall of the courtyard, including the gate, was gone. Half the tower lay in rubble. Worst of all, there was nothing left of my lovely bedroom, the one with the terrace overlooking the ocean, but splinters and shards. He'd even smashed the bed!

I never liked that back gate much anyway. Too close to the firepit.


I'd been so shocked I hadn't even recorded the incident. My insurance company was never going to believe me without photographic evidence. I guessed I'd better just get on with rebuilding it myself. 

Another example of Valheim's thoughtful, player-friendly design is the way you mostly get your mats back. (Okay, the nails, know. But on land.) The rocks and the wood just lay around where the troll had left them. It made rebuilding a lot faster than building it all in the first place had been.

And this time I made a better job of it, too. The troll had done me a favor in a way. Not that I was thanking him at the time. But when I got the tower back up and my bedroom and balcony finished, the whole thing looked better than it had before. 

Even so, I didn't want to do it a third time. 

My practice with all my other houses has been to build a pallisade wall at a good distance outside the buildings themselves. That's prevented any serious damage from trolls or anything else. One troll got past the outer defences once but that was because he came in from the sea and I didn't know trolls could swim. Actually, I don't believe they can but they sure know how to wade.

Let's see you get over that, you blue bastard!


I'd trusted too much to the strength of stone but I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. I set about building a complete curtain wall around my tower and courtyard. In stone. It took a lot of mining but I'm getting to be good with a pick. 

It would have gone faster but the troll kept coming back. I have a working hypothesis that placing a crafting station makes the locals angry. Every time I put down a workbench greydwarves seem to appear out of nowhere to attack it and now the same was happening with this troll and the stonecutter.

The first few times I ran him away but he kept coming back so I decided to deal with him properly. I made myself some ironhead arrows and next time he appeared I put a few of them into his bloated body. It might seem like a bit of a waste of iron but ironhead arrows have a huge knockback effect, meaning there's no need to kite. He was rocked back on his heels so often he never got to me.

They're made entirely of bubble gum, you know. Trolls are.


He fell down and landed in a highly amusing posture that made it look like he was grovelling at my feet for mercy. I tried to get a shot of it but he exploded and I got a shot of that instead. Death can be so spectacular in Valheim. Cartoony, almost.

With no further interruptions, I finished my wall. It goes all the way round and it's far enough back that I hope the main compound is out of range of lobbed rocks. No way of testing that until another troll wanders up. I'm sure it won't be long.

The whole place really is starting to look like a castle, now. Once again, misfortune and misadventure have worked in my favor. Maybe I did pick a lucky spot after all.

Reminds me of the scene with the poacher in Withnail and I. Or maybe it's a "tonight you sleep with the fishes" kind of thing. I hope not.


The free fish would certainly suggest so. Oh, didn't I mention that? Someone keeps leaving fish down by the shoreline. I've found a couple so far. One really big one in the grass just above the beach and a smaller one on a flat rock. Who's doing it? Once again I have no idea.

I did wonder if they might be getting thrown onshore during some of the violent storms. It seems to happen while I'm asleep so it's impossible to tell. Or maybe the seagulls drop them. I can't say I've seen gulls fishing but I guess they might. 

It's another Valheim mystery. And it's also free fish, so I'll take it.


  1. You might as well come on over across the pond and clock me, because I said "Famous last words" out loud before I saw your comment at the bottom of the pic.


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