The default, and probably intended, playstyle for Rimworld is to camp on one tile of the world, usually your starting tile, for all or most of the game cumulatively building up an ever larger and more complicated base.
There is another more subversive way to play though. Rimworld’s caravan mechanics can be leveraged to create a perpetually mobile colony. This is the nomadic playstyle.
What follows in this article is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of this nomadic playstyle.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a nomadic strategy compared with the default sedentary playstyle?
First off let us look at the advantages of nomadic play.
Many resources on a world tile are endlessly renewable: wood, crops and wildlife. Many others however are not: stone, steel, components, jade, silver and gold. There are also special resources like the ancient danger, and damaged war walker that only exist once on a tile.
A sedentary base will eventually mine out or exploit all these resources. The nomad can take advantage of these non-renewables over and over with every new settlement.
Every biome has its own special advantages and challenges. Ordinarily these features can only be savoured through separate playthroughs. The nomad has the advantage of checking out every biome in one.
The crashed spaceship ending is most accessible to the nomad. Generally the crashed spaceship spawns as far away from the starting world tile as possible. Meaning taking this end game practically requires abandoning all progress on the starter base. For the nomad this sacrifice is cheap and can be taken early.
Now for the disadvantages of nomadism.
The sedentary base may occasionally revise accumulated infrastructure but for the most part once something is built, it remains in use forever. The nomad must endlessly rebuild with every new stop.
This includes resetting managed areas.
Agriculture discourages movement. The nomad can hardly make use of it. There is not much issue with that for food and textiles because animals do move and can provide both food, as meat and milk, and textiles, as leather and furs.
However agriculture can provide some resources that can not be had from animals. These would be the raw resources for drugs and beer, healroot and tinctoria.
The remaining end games are available on the starting tile of the world, for example the self-built spaceship and the empire shuttle trip, but require a very well developed base and high technology.
The nomad can not develop these prerequisites without giving up on being a nomad.
Now that you are sold on why you would try the nomadic playstyle, let us consider the how of it.
As a nomad you will be creating very many temporary settlements. Rimworld does not allow old sites to be resettled. So eventually you could use up every tile on the world map. I say “eventually” but even on a 30% world that is still a lot of tiles. This is far more than you will likely use even on a lengthy playthrough.
That said, the more tiles the more choices and the longer you can sustain nomadism. Consider bumping up the world size from 30% to 100% for a nomadic playthrough.
Alternatively you can use the mod Directly Abandon Settlement. This mod will remove abandoned settlements from the world, allowing the tile to be resettled.
The nomad utilises the caravan mechanics to migrate his gang and gear around the map. The sedentary player will have sent a caravan at some time or another, for raiding, trading or other quest. However there are a few differences and difficulties to be aware of when making a permanent move using this mechanism. What follows are tips and tricks for making and breaking camp.
We will deal with how to break camp before we deal with how to make it.
The first thing to determine is what you want to take and what you want to leave. You should also be mindful of which items need to be kept indoors and which can be left outside. It can take some time to load up.
Most furniture can be taken along if you have the carrying capacity for it but it must be uninstalled first. Furniture does not deteriorate when outside.
Everything you want to take should be in a stockpile zone. If not then it may not appear in the caravan creation menu and will get left behind.
It is a good idea to move your caravan hitch near to your main stockpiles before creating a caravan. Items you add on the caravan creation menu must still be physically picked up by a pawn and loaded onto a pack animal. The less they have to walk the sooner it gets done.
Watch out for pawns with low mood when packing up. A mental break at this time will slow down the whole caravan. It is best to split these pawns off from the caravan and let them catch up later.
Nomad caravans are large, you are not just taking a few trade goods and supplies, and so take a lot of time to pack up. Try to time it so that the final phase happens after all your pawns have had a sleep. If they sleep before the caravan leaves it will slow departure and with their bedding packed up they will have to sleep on the floor.
When it is time to settle a new tile you will need to take care on one or two points.
By default, when a caravan settles a new tile everything it carries is just dumped in the middle of the map. Then you have to race to put up a sheltered stockpile. Then move all your perishables into it, before they deteriorate.
To avoid this, a better way is to split off one or two pawns, perhaps with some building materals, to settle the tile first. They can then build an indoors stockpile and a caravan hitching post ready for the main caravan.
Now when the main caravan enters, the pack animals will be lead to the hitching post. So then your animals can be unloaded into the sheltered stockpile in an orderly fashion.
It is wise to be aware of what items deteriorate when outdoors and which do not. To minimise building you can have a stockpile zone outside for your non-perishables like furniture, steel and silver.
To save on building it is also good to repurpose ruins for your indoors stockpile.
No man can live on bread alone, but the nomad does not live on bread at all.
Mobile or not, your colonists and animals must eat. A colony that spends a lot of time traveling needs a special strategy for keeping well fed. Long life food like pemmican and survival rations take on a new value, while the value of agriculture is depreciated.
Forage is the only food production one can do while in caravan and it will happen automatically. The yield will depend on the plants skill of the pawns, the biome they are in and whether the caravan is set to “resting”.
Hunting does not happen like this but you can have your hunters split from your caravan to make a temporary and very light settlement for stripping it of wildlife before returning to the main caravan.
The nomad has enlarged need for pack animals, and tamed animals, unlike crops and structures for food storage, can move. Consequently there is perfect fit between ranching for food and nomadism.
Meat spoils fast but only when it is dead. Taming instead of hunting animals allows for more flexibility on when to engage the timer on spoilage. Tamed animals also breed, increasing your stock.
It is good to learn the particular utility of the different animals you can tame, as well as their risks, and to prioritise taming and training the more useful ones. There is no need to be overly fussy though. Not all animals are equally useful, but they are all more or less edible.
You will want to preserve a sizable fleet of animals that can serve as pack animals, with extra care placed on those that can be ridden too, such as horses and dromedaries. Always eat these last.
Agriculture is a fine source of food, as well as textiles, fuel and medicine but it is labour intensive and static. It is not a naturally synergetic with nomadism but I do not want to say you can never use agriculture.
You could farm for a season, stock up on longlife food (see Travel Food below) and then move on. That would be a slower pace of nomadism than one fueled by hunting or ranching but it would still be nomadic.
Have a look at my guide to the semi-nomadic playstyle for more ideas about agriculture on the go. In particular look at the section on Winter and Summer Camps.
Certain processed foods in Rimworld last for a very long time even without refrigeration. These are pemmican, kibble and survival rations. These foods are consequently ideal for travelers to supplement food foraged along the way.
These foods can not be made while in caravan mode, so the nomad should make extra stock for the road when stopped.
Occasionally you may get colonists with an ideology that requires a vegetarian diet. This can get awkward when feeding them travel food. It is not quite impossible to feed vegetarian pawns with animal products. Milk, eggs and insect jelly count as vegetarian ingredients.
Unfortunately these animal products can not be used to make pemmican for some reason. Although they can be used to make vegetarian survival meals. Survival food is a long way down the tech tree for tribal starts though.
Even a nomad can not live on food alone.
Surprise! Having read this far I bet you did not expect to find mining as a trade in a nomad’s guide. Yet there it is. Of course we are not talking about bulk mining of cheap materials like steel and stone.
We are talking about the more valuable materials like jade, components, uranium, silver and especially gold. Oh sweet, precious, precious gold! On a sedentary playthough any easy finds of these precious metals are soon mined out. Eventually, even the cheap materials will be too.
The nomad has this opportunity to pick out the low hanging fruit of the most valuable ores not once but on every single tile at which he stops.
The only trick is that the more mountainous the tile the more likely it will have more of the more valuable ores. However mountains tend to be slower to travel across, may have less forage and are usually fairly far from roads.
This is by no means a deal breaker for the nomadic miner though and often enough hills are only a short detour from the roads. The advantage of being able to pick out a fortune in gold and silver on every single stop is easily worth a slower pace across the world.
No doubt you have encountered the “ancient danger” of a sealed structure concealing choice techno loot, a number of cryro-chambers and some random hostiles, bugs or bots.
If you never play as a nomad you might not realise this feature is not just present in your home tile but on (probably) every single tile you can settle.
The nomad then has the advantage of serial tomb raiding, knocking off not just one ancient danger but one with every stop.
A side benefit of a meat based diet is the production of leather textiles during slaughtering. As meat is the staple of the ranching nomad that will be a lot of skins and leather. These textiles are often tradable as is, but if you have a decent crafter you can up the value of them by making and selling clothing with them.
The nomadic life is not for everyone. Find out what is the right stuff for your faction for a life on the road.
Here we will see about the implications for a nomadic lifestyle for the main starting scenarios.
Nomadism is viable with a crash landed start. However they begin with quite a lot of raw materials and not many animals. The crash landed also start without a travel food technology.
However since they have electricity they are only one research project from survival food which is a bit superior to pemmican anyway. Given all this it is probably just as well for the crash landed to settle long enough to research survival food before moving on.
The tribal start is quite well suited to a nomadic lifestyle. You start with more colonists and more animals than other starts but at the cost of lower technology. In particular you start without the electricity tech but this is no great loss as an electrical infrastructure is not very portable.
You also start with the pemmican tech that allows for making long life travel food right from beginning.
The rich explorer can be a nomad and if you really wanted to explore rather than sit in one spot then nomadism is the way. It can be a little slow to get going though. One pawn can not carry much.
The rich explorer also starts with one random pet. If you give him a custom ideoligion that venerates horses then that is likely what he will get. That is a big improvement in carrying capacity and caravan speed.
Your starting pawn will want to have some animal skill and / or social skill to help with acquiring pack animals and an entourage. Otherwise the rich explorer may have the luck to buy animals from a trader.
The naked brutality scenario has the same issues as the rich explorer. However starting with absolutely nothing does at least mean having nothing to carry. So you could move on from your starting tile early with few regrets.
Perhaps mine out those few gold or silver ores and head straight to a trader settlement. Buy some clothes, food and animals and move on to another tile.
Rinse and repeat.
Mechaniators have a lot extra infrastructure to deal with, mechanoid gestators etc. And it all wants to be powered. Not really ideal for nomadism. On the other hand a nomadic lifestyle gives you a built in way of dealing with toxic waste, just leave it behind when you move on.
Mechanoids can carry and travel without needing to recharge. So at least the mechaniator has more carrying capacity from the start than other solitary starts.
A fun, sort of roleplaying, way to do a nomadic mechaniator would be an Adeptus Mechanicus style tech scavenger. Alternatively a Victorian Gentleman mad scientist or archeologist / tomb raider. Nomadic play allows for multiple crashed walkers and ancient dangers to explore.
A colony’s religion or ideology can have great benefits for nomadic lifestyle.
The utility of animals, as mobile food stores and as porters, is of great use to the nomad. So it just makes sense to have the Ranching precept enabled by the Ranching meme. This gives a general mood buff for having animals around, and the more and bigger the animals are the better.
Ranching also boosts the productivity of animal related trades like slaughtering and taming at the cost of reduced agricultural productivity.
In addition you get access to an animal specialist which helps with getting a high level tamer for those big but valuable animals like elephants.
The less furniture to carry around the better. Beds are bulky while bedrolls can be used on the road but provide less comfort. All in all the nomad wants to be accustomed to less comforts than a more sedentary pawn would enjoy.
To handle this rougher lifestyle the precepts associated with the Pain is Virtue meme are really helpful. These would chiefly be the precepts Comfort – ignored and Rough Living – welcomed.
Rough living can also be unlocked by the Tree Connection meme but the tree hugging and plant growing benefits are not a good fit for a nomadic playstyle.
Another useful precept associated with Pain is Virtue (and Tree Connection) is Temperature – tough. Moving around different biomes with minimal cover from structures exposes your nomadic pawns to more temperature variations that can affect mood and health.
Raider is not too bad for an aggressive nomadic gang. When you do not have to divide your forces between defending a base and attacking others you can punch well above your weight. Plus you are on the road a lot anyway so combining a move with raids along the way has some synergy.
The mood buff from raiding with the raider precept helps balance out some of the mood penalties for enduring a more spartan lifestyle.
Counter-intuitively the Tunneler meme is potentially quite good for the nomad. The Small Spaces – Don’t Care precept is intended to make life better underground but it also works for small buildings, allowing the nomad to get away with less building when camped.
The improved yield from mining is quite alright if you are leveraging the nomadic lifestyle for gold and silver prospecting. See the section on mining above.
The fungus precept that goes with tunneler is of neutral impact to the nomad. There is a small mood penalty for eating non-fungus plants but if you are going full carnivore that hardly matters.
In the colder biomes fungus is the only crop that can be grown in winter with minimal infrastructure. See my tribal’s guide to the tundra biome for more details on how to leverage fungus for surviving the deep winter. In these biomes the nomad will be somewhat forced to settle in place in the winter due to lack of forage for animals.
So then fungus crops can be used to keep animals alive in winter in place of forage. If you are growing it anyway for animals then you can also use it as back up food for your pawns and with tunneler that will give a little mood boost too.
Bad memes and precepts will be the ones that reward an agricultural focus such as Tree Connection, Nature Primacy and Highlife.
Transhumanist precepts are also a really bad fit. Transhumanists need a lot of fancy infrastructure that wants power and extra facilities to stay happy. None of that is very portable.
Ideally we are looking for rituals that can be done outdoors and do not require heavy infrastructure like altars.
Having a venerated animal around is a free source of positive mood and the nomad will want to have plenty of animals. However a venerated animal is also a bit of a mood liability should it die and you definitely do not want to be slaughtering or eating it.
If you are going to venerate an animal make it one that will be the last you would want to eat and will not be used in risky situations like combat.
Horses, dromedaries and perhaps elephants are the best for venerating for the nomad. This is because their capabilities for riding and as pack animals make them more valuable alive than dead as food. Most other pack animals, like alapaca and muffalos are more expendable.
Traits that affect mood in a positive way are of extra use, given the relative lack of comfort related mood bonuses go with a nomadic lifestyle. These would be: kind, masochist, ascetic, sanguine, optimist, ironwilled and steadfast.
Naturally the opposite traits are even more undesirable. These would be: greedy, jealous, tortured artist, pessimist, depressive, nervous and volatile.
Certain traits can go either way on mood but are harder to satisfy for the nomad. For example you need regular access to drugs to please a pawn with a chemical interest or fascination or else they suffer extra mood debuffs.
Drugs are processed from agricultural products such as smokeleaf, psychite leaf and hops. The cultivation of these plants does not mesh well with nomadic lifestyle. However once processed these drugs are quite light and you will want to settle places at least temporarily when you could grow some. They can often be purchased too.
Traits and health issues that adversely affect global work speed are less of a deal breaker for nomadic ranchers or tomb raiders. Your food grows itself and feeds itself, if there is forage. Looting ancient dangers or raiding, are not labour intensive activities.
A good cook is even more important for the nomad. When you settle you will have to cook not just for now but also for the road. One substitute for cooking would be a nutrient paste dispenser but that is a poor fit for a nomadic lifestyle.
Unsurprisingly, with a heavy reliance on animals, the animals skill will be of use to the nomad.
Although not resting heavily on agriculture, some plants skill is desirable for foraging and harvesting ingredients for long life food such as kibble, pemmican and survival food.
Construction is of less importance. We will not be building too much and not so much of the more complex buildings like power plants.
Mining also does not matter except where we are employing a strategy of gold and silver prospecting on our travels.
Certain genes go well with a nomadic lifestyle. Temperature tolerance helps with diverse biomes and an outdoorsy lifestyle. Robust digestion reduces dependency on cooking and its infrastructure. Mood and mental break improving genes like happy and dead calm are solid too.
To balance the beneficial you must take some bad but some bad genes are especially bad for nomadism. Avoid UV sensitivity because it is tricky for nomads to stay indoors all the time. Drug dependencies are also harder to manage on the road.
There we go, a comprehensive guide to the nomadic playstyle for Rimworld. Do you like this playstyle? What your stories? Share them in the comments, or…
Discover more of my Rimworld stories and articles by clicking here – Solar Cross’s Rimworld articles.