Stardew Valley Basics: How To Start Playing

Stardew Valley Basics: How To Start Playing

Many Stardew Valley guides discuss what to do in your first week, beginner’s tips that aren’t obvious mechanics, and other topics that assume you have a base knowledge of how the game works. However, it’s hard to find one that truly teaches you simply how to play, including down to the things you may feel are stupid questions.

This guide is for those uncovered issues — there are no stupid questions in this guide. This is the complete guide to the very nitty-gritty first few days, and how to play the game if you know either nothing about video games or have no idea what you’re doing in Stardew Valley, simplified as much as possible.

Character Creation and Other Settings

When you first create a file, you’ll be presented with a character creation screen and the ability to change some settings. If you have no idea what Stardew is about, much of this will be a mystery to you. Here’s what you need to know about creating a file.

Character creation: Don’t worry too much about how your character appears. Eventually, all of this can be changed. Pick what you like, and don’t get too hung up on it. The only things that cannot be changed are the name of your farm, your “animal preference” (which just determines that your pet is), and your “favorite thing,” which is just a small cosmetic thing when you get a special item and has no bearing on gameplay.

Settings: Click the small wrench icon in the lower left corner of the file creation screen to access more advanced settings. None of these need to be tinkered with for a beginner, but here’s what the important ones for a single-player file do:

The Community Center Bundles option lets you change what the bundles in the Community Center require for completion. More on this later!

The Mine Rewards option toggles which rewards can appear in the Mines.

“Guarantee Year 1 Completable” allows you to ensure the Community Center can be completed in the first year. This is absolutely not necessary as there is no time limit for completion, but some players prefer the ability to do it faster. It will ensure the Traveling Cart sells a Red Cabbage seed (the typical holdout for year-one completion) in the first year.

“Spawn monsters on the farm” allows you to turn on monsters attacking your farm at night, much like the Wilderness Farm has by default (see below).

Finally, Profit Margin makes it so you receive less money for selling items, if you want to increase the difficulty of the game.

Choosing a Farm Layout

There are a series of different farm maps that you can choose from, which will determine the overall layout and features of your farm. This setting cannot be changed later.

All of these farms focus on a different skill, but everything is possible on each. It’s recommended that beginners choose the Standard Farm, but this is by no means a necessity — many people choose other farms for the first playthrough and have a great time. The only farm that isn’t recommended for beginners is the Beach Farm, which requires a bit more know-how.

The Standard Farm has tons of room for farming and animals and a more traditional experience.

The Forest Farm has limited farm space but is filled with decorative tree canopy, stumps for harvesting hardwood, forageables, and grassy areas.

The Hill-top Farm has a focus on mining, with a bunch of cliffs, a river, and an area where stones and mining features are located.

The Riverland Farm has a ton of water for fishing, with very limited space for farming on a series of islands.

The Wilderness Farm has cliffs and water and allows for monsters to appear at night, giving this farm a focus on combat.

The Four Corners Farm is meant for multiplayer and is a blend of the other layouts, though it can absolutely be played on in single-player if you so desire.

The Beach Farm is new and has beachy sand and tons of water. It doesn’t allow for the use of sprinklers, which is what makes it a bit harder, though supply crates do wash up onshore.

Television

So, you’re ready to go! Once you finish the opening cutscene with Robin and Mayor Lewis, you’ll be standing in your farmhouse at 6 a..m. What’s first? Check the television! This should be your first move every day, as it contains useful information. Here are the channels and what they do:

Weather Report: This channel will tell you what the weather is going to be like on the following day (not the current day!). This is useful for determining when it’ll rain and you won’t have to water your crops by hand. Other types of weather have other uses, too.

Fortune Teller: This channel brings you your daily fortune, or “luck,” from Welwick the Oracle. Luck determines a number of things, and your daily luck changes each day. There are ways to increase your luck, too, but that’s for later. In the first few days, the only real things luck will affect is how much wood drops from trees, the chance of finding ladders in the Mines, and the chance of treasure appearing while fishing. Other effects of luck will come into play over time, but don’t worry about those right now.

Livin’ Off The Land: This channel plays every Monday and Thursday. It offers tips for farming, fishing, and life around the valley. Tune in to this channel for helpful tips, news alerts about the goings-on of the seasons, and more.

The Queen of Sauce: This TV show is a cooking show. Starting Spring 7, it will teach you a new recipe every Sunday for two years. If you miss one, reruns are played on Wednesdays.

What Are These Tools For?

When you first start, you’ll be given five tools and no information on how to use them. Fortunately, it’s very easy. Additionally, you’ll receive a sixth tool — a fishing rod — on the second day from Willy, the local fishing expert.

Here’s how to use each tool.

Axe: This is used for chopping down trees to get wood, a valuable resource. It can also be used to clear those small branches all over your farm at the beginning of the game.

Hoe: This is used to till soil so that you can plant crops. You can also use the hoe on sand and dirt to dig up clay and other items. If you see small wiggling lines that look like worms (they’re surprisingly supposed to be twigs), you can use a hoe here to dig that up. These are called Artifact Spots.

Pickaxe: This is used to break rocks, mostly in the Mines, but other places as well, including the small stones littered around your farm at the start. It can also be used to un-till tilled soil, remove crops, and to pickup equipment and furniture that has been placed.

Scythe: The scythe is used to cut down grass and weeds. Once you build a Silo, cutting grass with a scythe will often add hay to the Silo for feeding your animals. Amaranth, Kale, and Wheat are some crops that also require a scythe in order to be harvested — they can’t be picked by hand like other crops. It’s worth noting that using a scythe does not consume energy.

Watering Can: This tool is used to water your crops. It must be refilled at a source of water, like a pond or river. Once you’ve upgraded your house to have a kitchen, you can also refill the watering can at the kitchen sink. A crop will not grow if it is not watered. If you feel like this is tedious and annoying, don’t worry — you can upgrade your watering can to fill a larger area, contain more water, and be more efficient. You can also get sprinklers that do the watering for you.

Fishing Rod: You’ll receive your first fishing rod from Willy on the second day. This rod is, rather obviously, used to go fishing and catch fish. Yes, the fishing mini-game is very difficult at first — it’s not just you. This will get easier over time, too.

Your axe, hoe, pickaxe, and watering can can all be upgraded at the local blacksmith for some gold and the right metal bars. This won’t be possible for a few weeks, though, so don’t worry about it right now. The first upgrade level is copper, so if you’ve smelted some copper bars, that’s when you can start looking into upgrades. The fishing rod and scythe have more powerful versions, too, but they are obtained rather than upgraded.

There are some other tools that you’ll use around the farm, too, though they aren’t as important as these core tools: the milk pail lets you collect milk from animals, the shears let you shear sheep for their wool, the copper pan lets you pan for ore in rivers, and the trash can on your inventory screen is for deleting items and can be upgraded to retain some of the value in gold when deleting an item.

Farming 101

Though you won’t need to focus as much on farming as the game goes on, in the beginning, it’ll probably be your main source of income. It’s fairly straightforward, but since the game is throwing so much information at you, here’s what you need to know about farming, simplified.

To begin, use your hoe on some soil to till it. If there is debris in the way (rocks, branches, and weeds), use your other tools to clear them. On tilled soil, you can place various kinds of fertilizer with different effects. Place your fertilizer if you have it. Either way, seeds are next.

Each crop has a set amount of time that it takes to grow, as described in the item description. For example, the Parsnip seeds you grow with your first gift from Lewis will take four days to produce some Parsnips. Some crops are single-production, meaning if you plant one, you’ll harvest one. Others continue to produce after the first harvest. Plant the seeds in the tilled soil, with or without fertilizer.

Once the seeds are in the ground, water them with your watering can. Crops that aren’t watered will not grow. The next day, you’ll see the beginning of a plant. It’ll get bigger each day until it produces the fruit, vegetable, or other product you’re waiting for. Pick it by hand or harvest with a scythe (Amaranth, Wheat, and Kale).

If you’re looking to grow some more crops, use the money you’ve made from your Parsnips to buy more seeds either from Pierre’s, in the center of town, or JojaMart, located further east. More on these two stores will be explained later.

The Passage of Time (and Energy!)

You’ll notice two things on the user interface: a green energy bar in the lower right, and a clock in the upper right. These are very important, so be sure to pay attention to them closely.

The time of day continues unless you open a menu or are in a cutscene (in multiplayer, it always passes, regardless of what you’re doing). You’ll wake up every day at 6 a.m. sharp, and you’ll need to be in bed at 2 a.m. This 20-hour period takes a little under 15 real-life minutes to pass if not paused with a menu or cutscene.

If you’re not in bed at 2 a.m., your character will pass out wherever they stand. If you’re outside your house, you’ll be billed by whoever finds you (it could be the local doctor, a JojaMart employee, or some others).

If you go to bed after midnight, you’ll wake up with less energy. The amount you’re missing the next morning increases the longer past midnight you’re up. If you go to bed right before or at 2 a.m., you’ll only have about half of your energy the next day.

Energy is very important. It’s used whenever you use your tools, save for the scythe and weapons. There are special items called Stardrops that will increase your max energy, but you’ll have very little of it at the beginning, so you’ll want to conserve it. It’s recommended not to go to bed early if you have energy left, as this is wasteful in the early days.

Eating most foods will restore energy, including many items you can find laying around or fish up out of the water. If you completely run out of energy, you’ll become “exhausted.” Your character will move very slowly and you can’t use your fishing rod. You can use other tools, but every time you do, you’ll go into the negative on your energy bar. At negative-fifteen, you’ll pass out.

The game will save each night when you go to sleep, after the shipping screen comes up. This is the only way to save your game.

All About Seasons

You’ll start the game in the springtime, specifically on Spring 1. Stardew Valley does not have months — the year is four seasons, each with 28 days. Dates are referred to in this manner, as though the seasons are the names of months: Spring 1, Fall 22, et cetera.

Seasons have a number of functions, but the most important at the start of the game is for growing crops. Each crop has a season in which it will grow, dying on the first day of the next season. There are some that grow in multiple seasons, like Corn, which grows in Summer and Fall, but most are single-season.

Winter is a long way off when you start, but it’s worth noting that crops cannot be grown in Winter unless you’ve rebuilt the Greenhouse.

Seasons dictate which foraged items and fish can appear.

Each season also has special festivals that the residents of Pelican Town celebrate and which you can attend.

Pelican Town

Speaking of Pelican Town: it’s your new home, and you’ll want to get to know it. This small town is located within the larger location called Stardew Valley, which is itself part of the nation called the Ferngill Republic. For the most part, your life takes place in Pelican Town, but you’ll be able to visit some other locations in the valley later on.

There are a couple dozen residents of Pelican Town that you can befriend. Six of the men and six of the women are available to marry. Your gender does not determine who you can date.

RELATED: Stardew Valley: Every Type Of Weather And Its Unique Effects

Giving gifts and speaking with most of the residents of town will level up your friendship with them. Those you can befriend will be listed in the social tab of your pause menu.

Around Pelican Town there are several locations that you’ll want to get to know. The most important to note early on are Pierre’s General Store, JojaMart, the Community Center, the museum, Willy’s Shop on the beach, and the blacksmith.

Pierre’s vs JojaMart

You may notice that there are two places in town to buy your seeds: Pierre’s, and JojaMart, the same big-box store at which you just quit your job at the corporate level.

JojaMart sells seeds at a higher price than Pierre’s, but it’s open every day until 11 p.m., whereas Pierre’s is only open until 5 p.m. and is closed on Wednesdays.

So, which should you support? Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. But, the game does make a sort of antagonistic role of Joja, especially between supporting the rebuilding of the Community Center (seen as the “moral” and “good” option) or purchasing the same rewards from Joja’s Community Development Form (the “bad” option).

It’s up to you whether you want to buy your seeds from Pierre’s or Joja, but when it comes to rebuilding the town, most people see the Community Center as the better choice.

The Community Center

Since we’re on the topic of the Community Center, let’s take a look at exactly what it is.

North of town, you’ll find a rundown building. This is the Community Center, and “completing” it is seen as the main portion of the game (though this is by no means the end of the game).

Starting on Spring 5, enter town from the right-hand exit of your farm (the one that goes through the bus stop) between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. You’ll be given a cutscene where the mayor unlocks the Community Center and you venture inside, resulting in you being given the quest “Rat Problem.” Enter the Community Center again and interact with the flashing icon in the left-side room. The next steps will be sent to you in the mail the next day.

Inside the Community Center, once you can read the scrolls, you’ll find there are small creatures called Junimos that ask for “gifts of the valley.” By donating the requested items to each “bundle,” you’ll unlock special rewards. Complete an entire “room” to unlock larger, more important rewards around the area, like access to Calico Desert, repairing your Greenhouse, and more.

This is by no means meant to be done quickly. Completing the Community Center can sometimes take a few in-game years, and at least one for most players, even veterans. There is no time limit, and you can do it at your own pace. You can check what you still need to donate from your inventory screen by clicking on the golden scroll symbol (the one in the upper right that looks like it has a tree on it).

If you change the opening options of the game, you can “remix” what the bundles require. You can also select to make it possible to finish in the first year, if you so choose.

Those looking for a more corporate route can instead go with what players call the “Joja route.” By doing this, you’ll purchase a membership from Morris at the JojaMart and instead pay for these upgrades. This will result in the eventual replacement of the Community Center with a Joja Warehouse.

Skills and Professions

There are five main skills in the game that you’ll be able to level up, unlocking new specializations, items, and crafting recipes, as well as improving how efficient you are at those activities.

Farming: This is leveled up by caring for animals and harvesting crops. Each level gives more proficiency to your hoe and watering can.

Mining: This is increased by breaking rocks. The levels grant proficiency for your pickaxe.

Foraging: This skill is leveled up by gathering forageables and chopping trees. It grants proficiency to your axe when leveled up.

Fishing: Leveled up by successfully catching fish and harvesting the fish gathered by your crab pots. It grants proficiency to your fishing rod when leveled up.

Combat: Leveled by fighting monsters. This skill grants more health points at some levels.

Every skill has a “profession” or specialization that can be chosen at levels 5 and 10. The professions chosen at level 5 will each branch into two further options at level 10. Which professions you choose is up to you and your playstyle, but we do have a guide on what to pick if you’re unsure. 

Basic Resources and What to Keep

You’ll find after the first couple of days in the valley that you have a ton of items and not much information on what to do with them. In the beginning, you desperately need money, too, so it might be tempting to sell everything you find. Well, you shouldn’t!

There are some basic resources that you should almost never sell, as you’ll find you constantly need them whether you’re in Year 1 or Year 10. These include (but are not limited to) wood, stone, fiber, hardwood, ores, coal, and any metal bars you smelt or find.

Conventional wisdom amongst long-time players also suggests keeping one of everything. This definitely applies to crops, with many people suggesting keeping one or a handful of each quality. At the beginning of your playthrough, this probably won’t be possible, as you’ll need to sell them. But, throughout the game, you’ll find yourself needing random items constantly.

Chests, Chests, Chests

One of the first items you should craft is a chest. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, you’re going to find very quickly that your inventory is incredibly small and your tools take up half of it. Having a chest in which to place resources and other items you find will save you major headaches.

Second, you’re going to want to start saving up items like resources and foraged goods that you find. Eventually, as mentioned, you’re going to want to try and keep one or a few of everything. You’re going to end up having so many chests that you’ll have trouble organizing them and remembering what’s in each.

Last, it just helps to keep you from being overwhelmed. If you’ve got random items in your inventory all the time (and you will!), it can be anxiety-inducing trying to move things around and start new tasks. If you’re not using something, toss it in the chest until you need it!

You can create chests using 50 pieces of wood from your crafting menu (the pause menu). You can even change their color!

What Should I Do First?

So, now that you’ve been overloaded with all the starting information and beginner tips you need, you’re ready to play your first couple of days. What do you do?

The first thing you should do is get used to the controls. They’re pretty straightforward, and you can see the control scheme for your particular console or device on the loading screen when you open a game.

Next, you’ll want to clear a small section of space of the debris and trees in the way to end up with about fifteen tiles. You can go to the settings in your menu and turn on “Always show tool hit location” to help aim your tools. Clearing a square a bit larger is best, so you can see where your crops are going to go without anything obstructing your view. You should be able to quickly clear a patch about 5 tiles by 5 tiles.

Next, get out your hoe and till 15 patches. Switch to your Parsnip seeds and plant them in the 15 patches. Get out your watering can and give them a good dousing. You can tell they’re watered when the soil underneath turns a darker color. If you run out of water, head to any pond or body of water and press the action button with your watering can selected to refill it. You can see how much water it has with the small blue bar under it on the item bar.

After planting your Parsnips, there are a few things you can do next.

If you have 50 wood, you should build a chest and place it near your house. You can place any extra items in here that you find.

If you have energy left, it’s a good idea to spend it on clearing more debris and gathering resources. If you don’t have much energy left, head to town and introduce yourself to the villagers. In the evening, many people visit the Stardrop Saloon, so check here if it’s getting late.

Make sure you’re in bed by midnight. You have until 2 a.m., but you’ll want to get in the habit of going to bed before midnight in order to have a full energy bar for the next day.

What Should I Do Second? Third?

With each passing day in Stardew Valley, you’ll find you have more options available for what to do. For the first couple of days and weeks, though, you’ll want to focus on getting yourself situated. Here are some options for your first two weeks:

Gather resources. You’re going to need a lot of wood, stone, and other resources in the coming weeks. It’s a good idea to use the energy you have left each day after watering your crops to clear some of the debris, chop trees, and clear weeds. Clearing weeds with a scythe will sometimes give you Mixed Seeds. Save these for later. Chop trees, but leave the stumps, as the energy expended on removing them isn’t worth the amount of wood they drop. You can clear them later. Use some of the resources you find to craft a Scarecrow to keep birds from ruining your crops.

Be social. Getting to know the various residents of Stardew Valley is a main aspect of the game. After you run out of energy or things to do, it’s wise to start getting to know people. Everyone operates on a different schedule and has a different personality. Perhaps you’ll meet your future husband or wife as you socialize. Don’t forget to chat with the Wizard, who lives south of your farm in a tower! As you’re meeting the residents of town, it’s also good to learn where they live and where all the various shops and services are.

Make money. Money’s going to be tight in the first few weeks. You won’t be able to rely on crops to make a majority of your money at first, so you’ll have to supplement it by mining, fishing, and selling foraged goods that you don’t need to eat. Head to the far south of the forest below your farm to occasionally find Spring Onions, which can net you some gold. It’s good to save up a bit of money (maybe a couple thousand gold) for Strawberry seeds at the first festival, which is the Egg Hunt on Spring 13.

Go mining. Make use of that pickaxe! Mining is a very important part of life in the valley, and you’ll be able to visit them starting Spring 5. You’ll want to look for the rocks with little orange bits at first. These will contain copper ore, which can be combined with coal in a furnace to smelt copper bars. Each level in the mines will have a ladder going down to the next level, and it’s often found by breaking rocks, but can appear after defeating an enemy as well. Levels ending in a 5 and a 0 have elevators so you can return right to them from the top. If you leave the mines, all the floors reset and randomize (for the most part). You’ll receive your first sword from Marlon when you enter the mines the first time.

Go Fishing. Once you receive your fishing rod from Willy on the second day, you can begin fishing. The mini-game is notoriously difficult, but it will become easier in time, both because your fishing skill will upgrade your ability and because of the good old adage that practice makes perfect. Sell the fish you find for some income that you can use to buy more seeds. Don’t forget that using your fishing pole uses energy, though!

Upgrade your inventory. One of the absolute best uses of your first 2,000 gold is to buy the backpack upgrade at Pierre’s shop. This will double the size of your inventory, and will also provide you a ton of relief. There’s another one available after that for 10,000g, which you can wait for a bit, but definitely grab the first one ASAP.

What’s Next?

So, you’re a couple of weeks in. You’ve successfully upgraded your inventory, built a few chests, saved up some money, and started donating things to the Community Center and Museum. You (probably) lost the Egg Hunt to Abigail, you’ve gotten to know some of the villagers, and you’re making your way down to the double-digit floors in the mines. What’s next?

There are a million options open to you now, and you’ll soon find there isn’t enough time in the day for everything you want to do. Everyone plays the game differently, and you can too. But, there are a few things that are recommended for the first season or two for new players.

Upgrade your house. This will cost 10,000g and 450 pieces of wood. Head to Robin’s Carpenter Shop on the mountain north of town to do this. Once upgraded, you’ll have a kitchen where you can cook food that offers different buffs and bonuses. Many different meals are also loved by different villagers, too.

Fix the bridge at the beach. This will cost 300 wood, but will give access to the tide pools. Forage the things you find here and sell them for a decent amount of gold. You’ll also need access to this side of the beach if you plan to get married eventually.

Try to get to the bottom of the mines. There are quests and rewards associated with making your way down the mines, plus the things you find along the way are useful and valuable.

Work on the Community Center. It can be difficult to remember everything you need for the Community Center, so start checking frequently (remember you can do it from the inventory screen). Pay attention to things that are locked to a certain season, like some fish and crops, as well as foraged items.

Build a shed, a silo, and a coop. These farm buildings will be very useful to you, and can be purchased for various goods and amounts of gold from Robin. It’ll take her a couple of days to build them. Building a silo allows you to harvest hay to feed your livestock, so it’s wise to build one before you build a coop and get your first chickens.

Upgrade your tools. Tools are upgraded in this order: Standard > Copper > Steel > Gold > Iridium. You’ll need five bars of each metal, plus some gold. These also take a few days to upgrade, so factor that in. It’s often recommended to upgrade your watering can when it’s going to rain the next day so you don’t miss any crop growth.

Prepare for Summer. You’ll need to start a whole new batch of seasonal crops in Summer, so you’ll want to make sure you end Spring 28 with at least a few thousand gold so you can buy Summer crop seeds.

Make friends and maybe even start a relationship. It’s hard to get your friendship level up with one of the eligible marriage candidates far enough to start dating this early in the game, but it’s not impossible. Additionally, there’s no harm in making friends with everyone in town. Watch the calendar in town on the front of Pierre’s for birthdays, where you’ll get 8x the friendship point bonus for giving a gift.

The valley is your new home, and you’ll soon start to find it’s hard to leave. How you live your life in Stardew Valley will be entirely different from someone else’s playstyle, so do what you enjoy and make the best of it!

NEXT: Stardew Valley: Complete Guide And Walkthrough

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Michael is a journalist with several years of experience writing about video games, television, and social issues. He loves indie platformers, Pokémon, and Hack ‘n Slashers.

Currently playing: Animal Crossing New Horizons, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, and Stardew Valley.

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