Getting Started With RimWorld

Getting Started With RimWorld

Posted by on Jul 18, 2016 in Guides

Getting Started With RimWorld

Because RimWorld doesn’t currently ship with a robust tutorial, I thought that a record of my trials and errors with the game might be of use to those who are just starting out with the game. Although I’m a staunch advocate of figuring stuff out for ourselves — after all, where’s the fun in mastering the game before you even fire it up for the first time? — I’m also not a masochist, and I hate re-doing things when I should have known better. This is my attempt to help folks “know better”.

The Point of the Game

The point of RimWorld is to get your colony of misfits to survive with nothing but some pre-packaged meals and a bunch of materials. Over time, you’ll run into natives or other dispersed survivors who’ll join your group, and you’ll have to expand your colony to care for the growing population. You’ll also need to defend your claim from raiders, deal with interpersonal conflict, and be on the lookout for some seriously dangerous behavior among your own people.

Starting Out: Jumpstart Edition

I’m going to jump the gun here and show you a bit of what a first-stage, working colony might look like. Everyone’s colony will be different, and there are many ways to get started, but this is what my colonies usually trend towards because it’s what I’ve found “works” early on in the game. Also, please pardon my MS Paint skills. This was originally a quick sketch to help someone else, so it’s not as elegant as it could or should be. As always, click to embiggen.

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Starting Out – The UI

The UI is pretty minimal, but contains enough information for you to work with. We’ll work clockwise, starting at the top-center: your colonists.

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The top set of icons shows your citizens. You can click on each one to select that person, and double-click to center the camera on them. That’s about all the top toolbar is used for, because you can’t control the NPCs directly.

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In the lower right corner you’ve got notifications and conditions. Notifications will be alerts like fire, visitors, or food shortage. This is also where the “tutorial suggestions” show up in the form of tasks they suggest you complete next. Conditions are things like the season which plays a massive part in growing crops and survival in harsh conditions. Below that are the time dilation controls, and below that are info buttons. Info buttons turn on or off certain hover-over displays.

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The bottom bar contains all of the command options you’ll be using. The Architect button on the far left is the most often used button of the group. This menu offers all of the things you can build, from general orders you can issue (hunt, haul, chop, harvest, etc), to zones you can set (for where to put resources, where NPCs and pets can roam), to buildings you can build, and workshop items you can place. We’ll cover the other buttons in a later post (when I get some screenshots of them all). The next post will be all about the menu bar and each of the sub-menus.

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The status display is positioned above the bottom menu bar on the left. When you move your mouse cursor over a tile, this section tells you what’s underneath the pointer. It’s useful when trying to ID certain materials on the ground, or what an item does, or what it’s made of.

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Finally, in the upper left corner of the screen you’ll see your current resource count for each item you own that you can use to expand your colony. In this example, I’ve collapsed the view to grouping by resource type, but the default is to expand the whole tree so all items are listed without grouping. You can toggle this using Info buttons in the lower right corner, beneath the time dilation controls.

Your Band of Colonists

No matter which scenario you choose, you’re going to start with a few things: Colonists, materials, and tools.


Materials on the ground are either going to be open, or marked with a small red “X” at the bottom center. In general, materials can be “Hauled” to a designated zone where they collect. Anything without the “X” can be clicked on, and can be designated to be hauled away. This will include raw materials like limestone, marble, and other building materials found naturally in the world.

2016-07-18 17_03_41-RimWorldItems marked with a red “X” are non-interactable. You can use this feature on almost any object in the game to stop the colonists from interacting with the items, but when starting out, you’re going to see a lot of steel that you’ll want to collect. You can click on “X” items individually, or hold down SHIFT and click on several items at once. Then, you can click on the Hand icon at the bottom, or press “F” (default) to remove the “X” and allow colonists to interact with the item.

2016-07-18 17_09_17-RimWorldOther items you’ll start out with will also have the “X”, but aren’t haulable items. They’ll be items that your colonists can use, like rifles, pistols, knives. medkits, and meals. This is one of the few cases where you can direct specific colonists to do something. First, remove the “X” from a usable item. Then, click a colonist. Then, right click on the item you want them to use and select how you want them to use the item from the popup menu. For weapons, this will allow you to tell the colonist to arm themselves with the selected weapon. For food, this will allow you to force them to eat. A word of warningbe sure to check your colonists before you arm them. Some of them will have “bloodlust” or “pacifist” traits that will make arming them detrimental to your colony’s survival, but in different ways. Unstable colonists might use weapons against other colonists, and pacifists will refuse to fight or hunt, no matter how grave the situation.

Hauling Items – An Intro to Zones

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Part of a colony management sim is that you have to manage resources. Unlike RTS games where resources are simply numbers that change over time, RimWorld represents resources as actual items in the game world. Like walls or colonists, those items take up space, which means you need to make space for them to collect. You do this (and other tasks) by defining zones.

Zones are found under the Architect menu, top row, right column. There’s several different zones to choose from, but we’ll focus on the first two you’ll need: Resources, and dumping grounds.

Resource zones are where your colonists will haul items that can be used immediately. This includes rations and medkits, logs, and bricks, to name a few. Dumping zones are where colonists will haul the rawest of resources, such as sandstone and marble. Dumping items need to be translated into another form, like sandstone into sandstone blocks.

You define zones by selecting the zone you want to define, and then by clicking and dragging the zone onto the map. The zone you define will be colored based on the type of zone you selected.

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While the system differentiates between “resource” and “dumping” zone, you have control over what items the colonists bring to each zone, and the importance of the zone compared to other zones that accept that type of item. You do this by clicking on a defined zone to open the details menu, and click Settings at the upper-right corner of this menu. Here you’ll see a few buttons at the top: Priority, Select All, and Clear All. Priority allows you to select the general hierarchy of this zone among other zones. The more important a zone, the greater the chance the colonist will haul resources to that zone before they haul to another zone. This helps manage flow when zones get full. Below those buttons is a list of all of the kinds of items that colonists can drop off in the zone. You can click on groups to expand the list, apply a check mark to groups or individual items you want the zone to accept, or apply an X to the groups or individual items you want the zone to refuse.

Zone management is critical when it comes to proper distribution of resources, especially when you start hunting and storing meat and food items that can spoil, as we’ll see later.

Where To Set Up Camp

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Where you set up your initial camp matters. You don’t need to simply start where your pods land. Look around the map a bit, Depending on which biome you chose, you’ll see different features like trees and hills or mountains. You’ll also see ruins, bits of erected walls that look like good choices to fix up for shelter.

While you could repair those ruins, look for a large hill or mountain. These are structures that have a shadowy center, and usually have stippled borders. These are usually better starting areas for a few reasons.

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First, they have resources that you’re going to need eventually. You’ll see “compacted steel” or “gold” when you hover over the edges of those structures. Those are resources you’re going to want.

Second, having colonists Mine a cavern into those structures will provide you with resources of other kinds just through the course of hollowing out the hill or mountain. You’ll need those, too, and won’t have to spend any resources to get walls around you.

Third, there might be ruins nearby that you can also fix up, and get the best of both worlds.

Steps to Setting Up

  1. Arm your people. Find out who is best at ranged attacking, who isn’t a psycho, and who isn’t a pacifist. Click all of the weapons on the ground and remove the red “X” to make them interactable. Then, click each person to pick up a weapon, right click the weapon you want them to have, and choose the option to arm them. You might have more weapons than people, but that’s OK.
  2. Location, location, location! Find a place where you want to build your initial camp, either by reclaiming ruins to repair (requires resources), by hollowing out a naturally occurring structure (requires time), or by just starting out in the open (requires both resources and time).
  3. Create two zones: A resource and a dump zone. The size of each depends on how many materials your scenario started you with. If you have trees in the biome (a good resource to focus on) you’ll end up with a lot of resources for the resource zone. You might want to make that one at least 5×5, or even 10×10. You can leave the items that each zone accepts at the default, although I suggest you turn OFF “human remains”. Trust me. EVentually, you might want to move your zones, and that’s OK; this is just to start, so put them near where you want to start your colony for now.
  4. Mark non red “X” items in your crash zone to be hauled. Click individually, or SHIFT click each and command the NPCs to haul the items. These will be put into the dump zone, so be sure to have set one of those.
  5. Once those items are clear, clear the red “X” from items like steel, medkits, and rations. Those should automatically get hauled to the resource zone, but you can also command colonists to haul them if they don’t seem motivated.

This will leave you with armed colonists who have organized their possessions into stockpiles. You’re now ready to start building your future!