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I need to prevent mobs from getting into my shelter, and I have an exposed lower area with a ladder leading up to the shelter proper. If a zombie or something spawns down there at night, can it reach me in my shelter?

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up vote 23 down vote accepted

While mobs are technically capable of climbing ladders, the pathing AI generally prevents them from doing so - instead, they will typically just spin around in circles.

In general, the best way to restrict access to a shelter is to build a Door.

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But at least until the AI gets an upgrade, ladders are also safe? – Joren Oct 4 '10 at 18:45
As of 1.2, this answer may need to be tested, to see if it is affected by the recent AI updates. – Unionhawk Mar 23 '12 at 17:23
Mobs still won't climb ladders on purpose. If they accidentally walk into one they'll still climb it though. – Mr Smooth May 14 '12 at 15:12
Fences and trapdoors are less noisy than a zombie knocking on your door. – StarPilot Feb 24 '13 at 22:26

As an aside - if you light an area with torches it will prevent zombies etc. spawning there. So add some torches in your lower area for a zombie free experience.

It doesn't stop them wandering in from somewhere else, so you'll still need to build walls, doors etc. to prevent entry.

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I have personal confirmation that if a mob is chasing you (in my case it was a skeleton) and you go up a ladder, it will follow you up it if it can.

And it's absolutely terrifying.

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Hmm, maybe I'll experiment a bit with this and make a video... – John the Green Dec 14 '11 at 19:46
Haha! +1 for the fine text! – Ender Jan 13 '12 at 20:02

Minecraft mobs are not technically smart enough to climb ladders. However, they can move forward, and moving forward is all they have to do to use ladders/vines.

As was mentioned above, this means that they cannot path to you if they have to go out of their way to use a ladder. But, as was likely in John the Green's case, if you run away up a wall and then back away from the ladder, the mob will push against the wall to get you and inadvertently use the ladder. A simple sidestep would have pulled the mob off of the ladder before he reached the top.

Try using a trapdoor at the top of an interior ladder. Fences and Fence gates are also great barriers at the bottom of the ladder to keep the bad guys out without obstructing your vision.

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protected by fredley Feb 23 '13 at 17:16

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