Top Tips for A Lost Tribe Start in Rimworld

November 2, 2023 by Solar Cross

In this guide we cover how to survive and thrive in the Rimworld as a Lost Tribe.

The Lost Tribe scenario differs from the default scenario in many ways. The chief challenge for a tribal start is a penalty to research when researching industrial and spacer technology. Tribals also start without a number of key technologies like complex clothing, stonecutting, complex furniture and electricity.

Tribals begin with few resources but on the other hand they begin with more pawns and animals than the Crashlanded scenario. They also do already know some technologies that the Crashlanded do not: tree sowing, pemmican and recurve bows.

Table of Contents

  1. Pre-game Settings and Decisions
  2. Your First Day as a Lost Tribe
  3. Expanding Further
  4. Living Without Electricity
  5. Research Priorities
  6. Offence and Defence

Pre-game Settings and Decisions

After choosing a Lost Tribe scenario there are a few other things to do before starting the game.

Picking Your Starting Biome

The lack of early electricity makes tribals particularly sensitive to the environment of the various biomes. This makes very dry, very hot and very cold climates especially challenging. Hydroponics for mitigating the poor fertility of dry biomes is very far down the research path for tribals. Food spoils fast without the ability to freeze it using electrically powered coolers.

The lack of complex clothing can also present early game challenges in very cold and very hot climates. Without this tech you can not craft clothing like parkas and dusters that help avoid hypothermia or heatstroke caused by extreme temperatures.

Wood is of critical importance to tribals, as without electricity it is needed to fuel light sources, cooking, heating and even cooling (the passive cooler is wood fueled). The wood-rich biomes are: Boreal, Temperate Forest and Tropical Rainforest. The wood-poor biomes are Desert, Extreme Desert and Tundra.

For more information about biomes see my Ranking of Rimworld Biomes for Difficulty.

For a tribal specific guide to the challenging Tundra biome see this article.

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If you have the Ideology dlc installed the first thing to determine is your faction’s initial ideology.

Tribals can get quite a lot out of an ideology. One needs at least three colonists who follow the faction ideology in order to give a colonist the priest role which allows for strong conversions. As tribals start with five colonists there is some wiggle room here in case of early casualties.

Having strong conversion powers makes it easy to maintain ideological homogeneity. This makes it possible to lean harder on controversial precepts, like cannibalism and slavery, that would otherwise cause mood debuffs in a more ideologically diverse colony.


There are some precepts that should be avoided. All the precepts associated with the Transhumanist meme have high technological requirements that are very far out of reach for tribal research power.

Food Precepts

It is not good to be too picky about dietary precepts, especially vegetarianism. Tribals start with the ability to make pemmican for long term food storage at ambient temperatures. However pemmican must be made with a meat component, unlike the survival meals searchable after electricity.


The Tunneler meme does a lot for tribals especially in dry biomes with lots of hills. The ability to grow fungus on bare stone is a fine substitute for hydroponics. The meme also gifts the stone cutting technology.

Research Speed Precept

There is a precept for research speed which can be set to mitigate the tribal research penalty.

Required Apparel for Roles

A significant consideration for tribals is the required clothing for the special roles. Tribals can only make tribal headdresses and war masks until they research complex clothing. It is helpful then for tribals to have a custom ideoligion in order to change the required clothing of the roles to something they can make such as the tribal headdress or war mask.

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Rolling your First Colonists

After determining ideoligion it is time to roll your starting colonists.


If you have the Biotech dlc installed you need not stick to only baseliners for your initial gang of colonists. Some genes can make life easier for tribals while others are much more challenging.

For some examples:


Tribals are a little more free to pick strong specialists over generalists due to their larger number of starting colonists. Their larger numbers also allows for more tolerance of awkward colonists that are incapable of certain jobs like caring, violence or cleaning (provided they are at least good for something).

What follows is a guide to the skills of immediate use to a tribal start.

Shooting and Melee

Not everyone must be a fighter but tribal weapons are weaker than industrial / spacer weapons so it helps if most can fight in order to leverage their numbers. While your tribe’s wealth is low, most raiders will also be tribals though.

One or two skilled shooters are important for hunting game, especially in colder biomes.


This skill is not so useful to tribals. Most of the items with a high construction requirement are unlocked by technology that will take a long time to research.


The value use of mining depends on how much is one is relying on hills and mountains for housing. Until the relevant technologies are researched tribals have no need for stone chunks or components. Steel, silver, gold and jade are still worth mining though.


Cooking is a very important skill for tribals. Storing food long term is tricky without electricity and big game hunts (and raids for cannibals) will create gluts of fast spoiling meat. A high cook skill can unlock fine and lavish meals that can help use up these meat gluts in a useful way.

Surplus food can also be made into pemmican for long term storage. However pemmican is labour intensive to make, so a skillful cook can speed this up.

Tribals also do not have early access to the nutrient paste dispenser which allows avoiding cooking at all.

Aim to have at least one really good cook (skill 8 for cooking lavish meals) and one other to understudy.

Tribals have more mouths to feed than other starts so all the food related skills such as cooking, plants and animals are important.


In a warm climate, especially the disease prone tropical biomes, it is important to have someone with a plants skill over 8 in order to cultivate healroot. In colder climates this grows wild.

Tribals start with the Tree Sowing tech but to make use of it you need a planter with a skill of 6.

Another use for a good planter is growing cash crops of hops, smokeleaf, psychite leaf and chocolate.

Tribals have a head start in researching cocoa due to having the tree sowing prerequisite.

Tribals get a significant bonus to foraging when in caravans, so a modest plant skill is advantageous for making use of that.


The colder the climate the worse the winters and the more use for hunting and taming animals for food. There is good synergy for a good shooting skill to be combined with a high animals skill, for efficient hunting.

Animals is also useful for efficient wool and milk production. Although milk (and eggs) can not be made into pemmican for some reason. And until complex clothing is researched there is not that much use for wool.

Tribals start off with three tamed animals and there is a fair chance they will be highly trainable animals like dogs. These animals will also likely to be bonded to specific colonists. A spread of moderate animal skills (or passion) across your colonists is helpful to increase the chance of a bonded master being able to efficiently train his or her animal.

A highly skilled animal trainer can do a lot for colony security too. Some wild animals have great value in combat and those that do usually need a high level in animals to tame, train and keep tame. A well trained attack megasloth does a lot to make up for a lack of gun turrets.


The crafting skill governs the quality of clothing, weapons and armour produced. There is no immediate use for a high skill here as tribals do not have the technology to make much more than they start wearing.

In the long run any colony will want at least one crafty crafter so look out for a colonist with a passion for crafting even if not much skill.


A tribe can make some good use for a colonist with a high artistic skill. The artistic skill increases the quality of sculptures made at the art bench. The higher the quality then the higher the price it can be sold for. Having high value items for trade can enable tribes to trade for high technology items that would otherwise be unavailable.

The art bench is one of the very few means of production available to tribals right from the start. Which makes it especially useful to tribes as a means of making money early.

Of course stone for sculptures will be in short supply without the stone cutting technology. However tribals are not disadvantaged in their access to wood, steel, jade, silver and gold for sculptures.

Artistic is optional but potentially lucrative.


The Rimworld is a dangerous place so there is always need of good doctors. The extra manpower that tribals enjoy mean they can consider having more than one decent doctor.


A strong social skill in at least one pawn can be very useful to a tribe. Social affects the efficiency of conversions and trade prices.


The main use for this skill is in speeding up research speed. For a Crashlanded start you would not really want more than one researcher. However given the penalties to research for tribals and their extra manpower, you could consider having two researchers instead. They can use the same bench if you stagger their scheduled working hours.


The pros and cons of colonist traits are mostly not that different for tribals compared with other scenarios.

The pyromaniac trait can be especially bad for tribals. One solution to a lack of stone for building structures is to just use wood. It goes up quick, is renewable and depending on the biome potentially plentiful. It is however very flammable.


The usual caveats apply with health conditions. Watch out that your shooters do not have cataracts, your crafters have missing hands and so on.

Tribal colonists are quite likely to start with malnutrition but that is easily remedied with a bite or two of pemmican. Addictions can be more challenging depending on the substance. Smokeleaf and psychite addictions are not too hard to sate with tribal technology. Go-juice and wake-up addictions are another matter.

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Your First Day as a Lost Tribe

At game start your five colonists and their three animals will be in the centre of the map with a few stacks of wood, silver and pemmican scattered around. They will also have two short bows, one pila, one steel ikwa, one wooden club and a jade knife.

The bows should go to your hunters and the pila to your best non-hunting shooter. The pila can be used for hunting but the short range works against avoiding detection and the damage is overkill on small game. Your most sociable melee fighter should get the club as it is a good weapon for a warden for making non-lethal arrests. The ikwa goes to your best melee fighter. The jade knife is surplus and can be sold.

Check out your animals. If you have any animals that need to be fenced in, then stick a caravan hitching post down until you are ready to build a pen.

Unlike with most other scenarios there is no rush to build a roofed storage area. The pemmican will soon be eaten by your hungry colonists. If your biome is wood poor you should put the wood under a roof as you will need it for fuel. Otherwise the wood will soon be used on your first structure.

The immediate need is food. Your initial gift of pemmican will only last just over a day or so. No crops grow that fast so get to work hunting and foraging. For now, a campfire will do for cooking and a slaughter spot for slaughtering.

Tribals can not build beds until complex furniture is researched and until a lot of animals are killed there will be no material for bedrolls. Sucking up a “sleeping on the ground” mood debuff for the first night is all but inevitable. Sleeping outside for one night is just fine if the temperatures allow it.

If the climate is very cold you will want to sleep indoors with a fire. Use sleeping spots to make sure your colonists do not sleep outside. Caves and ruins can reduce the number of walls you need. It only needs to be big enough for five sleeping spots and a fire or torch.

A more permanent solution to surviving brutal winters, especially in wood poor environments, will be with quarters built around a steam geyser. See my tribal tundra guide for more about that.

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The First (or Next) Build

Your first proper build should be a food store. It wants to be roofed and kept as cool as possible. In hot climates try to put it under a mountain. In cold climates it can be in a freestanding building so that the ambient temperatures help with cooling especially in winter. The store will need to be quite big as tribals do not start with access to shelving.

The passive cooler will only reduce temperatures as a low as 17 degrees Celsius. This is not enough to slow food spoilage at all. So the food store is really mainly for pemmican long term. In winter the food store might become cold enough to refrigerate or even freeze if kept separate from heated rooms. In which case even raw meat can be stored for a good amount of time. Just be sure to eat it or turn it into pemmican before the thaw.

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Expanding Further

As with any colony, you will want to build up kitchens, slaughterhouses, tables to eat from, private quarters and workrooms.

Until stone cutting is researched the only source of stone blocks will be from deconstructing ruins. Deconstructing ruins does not yield as much stone as it takes to build. It takes five blocks to build but deconstructing only yields three. In general it will be better to use ruins as they are, just patch the gaps.

So then your main materials for structures will be steel or wood. Wood might not be the strongest and carries the risk of burning down but builds and deconstructs fast. You can save the steel for outer walls that must be proof against raiders.

Tribal Floors

You may know that hay can be used to craft floors which are very slow to dirty. The stated purpose for hay floors is for animals barns. However in the absence of steel and sterile floors, this quality is actually quite useful for reducing the need for cleaning in any room. Given the technological limitations of a tribal start, hay can make a nice low tech alternative to steel and sterile floors.

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Living Without Electricity

When it really comes down to it most of what electricity does for your colony is provide heat, light, cooking fuel and help with food storage. All of these things can also be done without electricity even if in a more labour intensive way.

Wood is the main pillar of the pre-electric energy economy. The tribal economy wants to spend a good amount of manhours harvesting (and also growing) wood. This is a disadvantage over windmills and solarpanels which require little labour, just the odd repair, once installed.

There are some advantages though. The wood powered economy is immune to solar flares and is not at risk of zzzzt events causing fires. This also makes using wood to build structures a bit safer.

Windmills are unreliable and solar panels do not work at night. They really need batteries to address this. Geothermal plants must be sited in particular places. To go full electric it is not enough to research just electricity, one must also do at least batteries and solar power also. And everything needs components to build and maintain.

Wood is infinitely renewable and in some biomes extremely plentiful.

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Research Priorities

Once you have your first research bench built it is time to plot a research strategy.

Starting Techs

The lost tribe start with the following techs: tree sowing, recurve bow, psychoid brewing, passive cooler and pemmican.

The Tribal Research Penalty

Technologies in Rimworld are classed as being either neolithic, medieval, industrial or spacer. Tribals have to do one and half times as much research as other starts to get a medieval tech and twice as much research to get an industrial or better tech. There is no penalty for neolithic techs.

There are two broad approaches to dealing with this penalty: try harder and go with the flow.

The Try Harder Research Strategy

In the try harder strategy we double down in the face of the penalties by just putting more manhours on to research to compensate. We will go straight into researching key medieval techs like complex clothing, stone cutting and complex furniture. Then go straight into electricity via smithing which is its prerequisite.

Then we will have almost caught up with a Crashlanded scenario start. From there we will follow a similar research path as that of a Crashlanded faction just with less efficiency. Probably we will also ignore the remaining early techs as far as possible.

The Go With The Flow Strategy

In the go with the flow strategy we accept the hand we are dealt with and see what we can do with the low techs first. The following techs are classed as neolithic and so have no penalty: cocoa, devilstrand, beer brewing.

We could upgrade our clothing by researching the medieval complex clothing. Or else we could could research devilstrand at no penalty and remake our tribalwear in hardy mushrooms instead.

Cocoa and beer brewing, can give us mood boosting consumables with little research effort, and much of the game is about managing mood. These are also potentially tradable cash crops for which we could trade for the better weapons, clothes and armour that we can not make yet.

When we have all our neolithic techs done we can steadily work through the medieval techs. We might even think about doing drug production before electricity just because it costs less research.

If wood is providing our heat, light and cooking fuel, and we can make pemmican for long term storage, then why rush electricity? Well one reason would be a shortage of trees or sites that will grow trees. If your biome is tree rich though, there is no need to rush it.

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Offence and Defence

No matter how peaceful you are, you will have to fight. On the Rimworld you can be attacked by anything from pointy sticks to doomsday rocket launchers. So how do you survive when you are the one with the pointy stick?

Base Defence

Gun turrets are a long way off but walls, barricades and spike traps work for you as well as anyone more sophisticated. Most raiders (and manhunter packs) will take the path of least resistance. Build your outer walls with a gap and in the gap place your spike traps.

Your colonists can move over spiked traps without triggering them (they know they are there). There is a chance they might trigger them by mistake however. Try to keep your colonists (and animals) from using that area.

An early weapon upgrade is available from the beginning in the recurve bow. All that is need to make it is a crafting spot and some wood. Great bows are a medieval tech that follows from recurve bows. The range on them is very good and have some armour penetration. They are a bit inferior to bolt-action rifles but not by much.

Otherwise some raiders that come your way may have guns to drop but you will have to kill them first.

Armour is harder to source. Smithing will let you craft simple helmets but the earliest body armour you can craft is plate armour which has both complex clothing and smithing as prerequisites. Some raiders may have armour you can loot but the chances are they will die in it making them tainted.

A lack of armour is not so bad when defending though, just keep your archers behind barricades or other cover and hold your melee fighters back to deal with any raiders that survive to close the distance.

Otherwise trade with the civil union and cracking ancient dangers are ways to up gun and armour up before you have the technology to make it.

Going on Raids

You will feel the lack of body armour when going on raids. On the other hand you can field larger numbers of attackers than other scenarios. Attack animals can run ahead to draw fire.

Do not think spike traps are only for base defence. Once built spike traps can be uninstalled, loaded on a pack animal and then installed at the raid site. This trick can also help with dealing with poison ships.

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Anima Trees and Tribal Psycasters

An easily overlooked mechanic, that only tribal pawns can use, is the ability to use anima trees to gain psycaster abilities. Pawns with the natural meditation focus that meditate within the radius of a anima tree will grow anima grass around the tree.

When there is 20 tiles with anima grass a pawn can perform a linking ritual with the tree that will create a psylink or increase its level.

This mechanic can be used in addition to other psylink sources such as gaining honor through the Empire quests.

Gauranlen Trees

Gauranlen Trees are particularly useful for tribals. The dryads they produce can serve as a low tech alternative to mechanoids and gun turrets.

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Final Thoughts

There we go top tips for surviving the rimworld as a tribal faction. Is there anything you would add? Share your wisdom in the comments or share this article to my twitter @SolarCrossGames or my reddit community r/SolarCrossGames and let us chat about it.

Check my other Rimworld articles here.

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