In my review of 7 Days to Die, I showed a couple of screenshots of the absurdly huge Lord of the Rings-inspired base that I made in my latest single player game. Now I want to spend some more time showing off the base in more detail. Probably the easiest way to do that is with a video tour:

I know that personally I don’t always want to watch a video when I can read something instead, so I’ll use the rest of this post to walk through the base in writing with lots of screenshots.

This project started out as a regular play-through, with no cheats or changed settings. However, I quickly decided I wanted to build something more creative than just a place where I could survive horde nights. I’ve always loved the epic architecture of Lord of the Rings, and so I thought it would be cool to try to build a base that borrowed from some of the coolest LOTR locations. Once I got motorized vehicles, I started exploring the game world in search of a nice mountain or cliff to use as a starting point.

An early candidate location. I really prefer the forest biome’s looks, but in the end, the desert had the best cliffs.
Gyrocopter made scouting much easier. This cliff caused by the city intersecting with a mountain was decent, but still not perfect.

I was looking for a cliff in particular because I knew I wanted to create a switchback staircase like Dunharrow in LOTR:

Finally, I discovered that the way random world generation works in this game, the steepest cliffs are always in the desert biome. After some more scouting I found a great location and started building:

The earliest screenshot I have of the base location. I’ve just started placing temporary frame blocks for the staircase.
Pretty soon I had a full set of switchbacks framed out (note how the path tunnels through a protruding part of the cliff too), along with a platform at the top and stairs up to an entrance into the mountainside.

I knew that in addition to the switchback stairs, I wanted to dig into the mountainside and create my very own Mines of Moria. I started off by digging a tunnel into the mountain for a ways, with a nice arched entrance, leading to a chokepoint:

Standing at the main entrance.
Closer view of the chokepoint. The turret up above and the doorways on either side are late additions that I’ll come back to later. For those not familiar, the striped blocks are steel, the strongest blocks you can build. I don’t know why they are stripey, I wish they weren’t. But it’s useful to have a funnel location like this reinforced so that zombies don’t destroy it.

At the chokepoint itself, I set up a series of electric fences to stun zombies and dart traps in the ceiling with pressure plated beneath, so that zombies would trigger the trap while stunned and be shot from above. I also added a shotgun turret at the end of the chokepoint so that any zombie that somehow made it through the dart traps would be shot from above by the turret:

Standing on the other end of the chokepoint, looking back toward the entrance. Shotgun turret is visible at the top, and the red cubes are the downward-pointing dart traps. The wires across the hallway are the electric fences, and you can see the pressure plat tiggers on the floor.

From the chokepoint, I decided that I wanted to re-create the famous Bridge of Khazad-dûm from Lord of the Rings. If you are less geeky than me and are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, it is the place where Gandalf fights the Balrog and says “You shall not pass!”

I unfortunately didn’t take any screenshots while digging out the chamber where I built the bridge, so I can only show off the finished product. But it was as I was digging out this chamber that I decided to make this building project a bit less tedious by cranking up my block damage to 300%, meaning that I could drill through the rocks of the mountain at 3x the speed. In the end, I made myself a nice deep pit, with a narrow, arcing bridge spanning it. I couldn’t very well summon a balrog, but to get a similar firey ambiance, I put a lot of torches and burning barrels in the pit.

Side view of Khazad Dum in its nearly-finished state. I put robotic turrets on little protrusions on either side of the bridge, The red lines are their laser sights, indicating that they are active. You can also see the steel ladders I placed so that zombies that end up in the pit can climb up to the bridge (and then get shot). At the foot of the ladders are some spinning blade traps to slice and dice zombies.
Here is a “god mode” view of the pit. This mode allows you to fly and to travel through formerly solid objects. A neat thing happens when you are inside the terrain: it disappears! Basically, the terrain is only opaque when viewed from the “outside” but if you are inside it is transparent. This is super-handy for viewing complex tunnels inside a mountain! I made liberal use of god-mode in building this base.
Standing at the end of the bridge, across from the chokepoint. The steel hatch to the left of the chokepoint provides access to the generator that powers the traps.
Looking the other way.

I returned to this pit later for some finishing touches, but for now let’s continue. From the Khazad Dum room, I dug some stairs up, doubling back to end up above the room. Here is where the digging really got serious. I wanted to re-create the huge hall in Moria filled with rank upon rank of pillars stretching off into the distance.

Alan Lee concept art of Moria.

I had learned in the process of digging out the pit for the bridge of Khazad Dum that to dig out such a huge volume block by block would take forever, even with 300% block damage. So instead I got smart. I dug around the perimeter of a huge rectangle and then undermined it so that it collapsed. The way the game physics works, if you cause a collapse, most of the blocks that are no longer supported are destroyed, and a small percentage remain as rubble which is much weaker and easier to clear.

Here are some screenshots showing the stages of digging out this huge hall. It was around this stage of the project that I also started really using “god mode” much of the time.

God mode view as I dug around the perimeter of the huge rectangle that will eventually be the great hall of Moria. The tool I’m holding is my trusty auger – in this game the auger is the ultimate digging tool, rapidly breaking through solid rock (completely unlike an actual auger, as I can attest from real-world experience…).
More progress, you can see that all sides of the rectangle are dug out now. Just need to undermine the bottom to make the whole thing fall. (Also notice that you can see the Khazad Dum room below in its unfinished state.)

The full length of the rectangular hall was too much to collapse all at once, so I split it into several chunks. Here’s a little video I recorded of the last chunk collapsing. You can see how very unrealistic the collapse is, but it’s a fast way to clear out a large volume!

At 1:28, the block starts to collapse (onto me) before I expected. Luckily, collapsing blocks don’t do too much damage!

After clearing out the space of the hall, I filled it with huge pillars to mimic Moria. I’m pretty pleased with how it came out:

Climbing the stairs into the hall.
Looking down the length of the hall.

At this point, with the hall constructed, I wanted to build a functional “residential” section of the base. When I decided to build this base, I moved all of my stuff from the original base I had been using from the start of the game, but had just been keeping it stashed in crates out front. My work stations were also just sitting out front, and I wanted to get them placed in an actual “workshop” part of the base.

I created a hallway and staircase off the end of the Moria hall, leading up to a large living space that emerges from the cliff face above the main entrance.

God-mode view of the Moria hall, Khazad Dum pit, and the beginnings of the living area.

Where the living area emerged from the cliff, I built a huge concrete “prow” sticking out in a way that was sort of reminiscent of the way the Citadel of Gondor sticks out over the walled city of Minas Tirith in LOTR:

An overhead view of the Citadel of Gondor, from Return of the King.
Note the spotlights lighting up the “prow” at night!
This is the classy living-quarters part of the base, so why not make a pretty garden and stained glass window?
View inside the stained glass area, standing by the “kitchen” area.
Here is the finished “workshop” area. Storage crates on the left. Cement mixers in the corner, workbench centered on the back wall, forges in the other back corner, and chemistry station on the right. Garage door in case I want to close off the workshop, electric light overhead, and bulletproof glass window through the natural rock wall.
“Kitchen” area, complete with mini-fridge. (I think it’s kind of hilarious that you can craft a gyrocopter and automated turrets in this game, but all cooking is done on a campfire.)

Along with the workshop and kitchen, I also made a living area. Not inspired by LOTR (though it might be fun to try a “hobbit hole” sometime), just a nice place to live, complete with bed, couch by the fire, and reading nook.

Couch and fireplace on the left, reading nook on the right.
View of the bed from the reading nook. (Stupidly, you still have to have a sleeping bag as your respawn point if you die, even if you have crafted a big bed. So you can see my bedroll by the wall.)
From the living quarters, I have a door leading to a scenic catwalk.
I put a little garden with a tree at the end of the catwalk.

I also added a spiral staircase from the residential area to the top of the mesa, where I placed a generator and solar panels. I also built a landing pad for my gyrocopter and wired it up with lights to turn on at night.

God-mode view of the residential part of the base from inside the mountain (this was before I added the tree at the end of the catwalk.
Landing pad and generator building on top of the mesa.

Once I had the residential area finished, I went back outside. I decided that I wanted to build a tower at the top of the switchback stairs that was (a) reminiscent of Orthanc, Saruman’s tower at Isengard in LOTR, and (b) also an effective horde base. As a reminder, here is what Orthanc looks like:

And here’s what I came up with. A little stubbier than Orthanc, but it gets the right “feel”:

The base of the tower is fortified to steel, and has electric fences across the 4 entrances.
I put a bunch of burning barrels at the top along with the Orthanc-like spires to make it look cool.
Looking down the ladder inside the tower. You can see the blade trap that is centered on the tower, and one of the several turrets aimed at the ladder. They do a good job of taking care of most zombies before they reach the top.
Better view of the turrets.
The tower connects to the entrance of the underground base via drawbridge, so if you are in trouble (or getting bored) during horde night, you can ditch the tower and run to the Khazad Dum room.

At this point, the base had all of the LOTR “landmarks” I wanted. I had originally thought about doing a Helm’s deep fortress, but ended up not trying to do that too. This was large enough! So my work on the base shifted to trying to improve it on horde nights. I found that the tower worked quite well, but if I camped out in the Khazad Dum room, the zombies didn’t follow the existing paths and instead tunneled through the rock to try to get to me. Their favorite paths were to tunnel just above the main entrance tunnel for some reason, or to try to break into the Moria hall. I also had screamer zombies (zombies that appear when you have been doing too much stuff in an area, such as crafting or digging, and which summon mini-hordes of other zombies) spawning around my workshop or finding their ways in to the Moria hall. So I started trying to work with the zombies, digging formalized tunnels where they had been trying to get in and feeding them toward turrets, or toward the chokepoint.

I made entrances like this at either end of the big Moria hall. Three tunnels converge in an “entryway” to the hall, with a turret looking down from above.
To handle the zombies that insisted on digging a tunnel just above my main entrance tunnel, I built a little balcony to catch them as the came down the face of the cliff. This funnels them down one of three hallways, which ended in stairs that lead to the chokepoint (both spiral stairs and stairs that converge in the middle). The two side hallways also connect to the Moria hall, so that zombies that find themselves in the Moria hall can find their way down to the chokepoint. At the bottom of the two staircases to the Moria hall, I have dart traps connected to motion sensors, so any zombie coming down the hall gets shot with darts. I also noticed that some zombies tended to just mill around the main entrance and attack the walls, so I added a machine gun turret above the chokepoint to shoot any loitering zombies and make them come in.

I found that one downside of the many entrances to the base was that if I was sitting on the bridge of Khazad Dum, a lot of the zombies got killed by the turrets at the different entrances before they could reach me. So, to at least get some idea of what was going on, I rigged motion sensors at each entrance to a set of lights in the Khazad Dum room, so that the lights would tell me where the zombies were coming in. Turns out a lot of the zombies were trying to enter through the south end of the Moria hall, and through the tunnels over the main entrance.

Finally, for no good reason other than that in LOTR the big hall with pillars is supposed to be part of a road, i.e. it is supposed to actually lead somewhere, I extended the tunnel off one end of the big Moria hall so that it came out the distant side of the mesa, and built a big arched bridge spanning the canyon there.

So there you have it! A super-detailed walkthrough of this super-huge base that I built. I’ll finish with a few parting shots showing all the crazy tunnels involved in the base, and then a video I recorded during a horde night so you can see the base in action.

Here’s what horde night looks like, starting in the tower and ending in the underground base. As a bonus, you get to see what happens when I accidentally leave the chokepoint traps active and try to run through them. Ouch…

Update: I have managed to export the base as a “prefab” that can be loaded into other people’s games so that it appears in randomly generated worlds. It doesn’t work perfectly – wiring doesn’t transfer, and I had to chop off the mesa unnaturally – but the main parts of the base are there. Check it out: