Survival Guide

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Welcome to the beginner's Survival Guide. This small guide will cover several topics related to Project Zomboid, and is intended for newer players.

Note: There are multiple ways to play Project Zomboid. If you wish to have an original experience without the influence of a guide, try a play-through without a guide first, then try the guide if you are having trouble.

Note: This page was updated with version of Project Zomboid in mind. If the page turns out to be outdated please add an outdated Notice banner.



If you are a new player, you should take a look at the Controls so you can learn how to play. The better you operate your controls, the better chance you have of making it through the day.

In addition, there is an unofficial Manual created by fellow survivor EreWeGo. You can download it here.

Upon going into survival or sandbox you should also see an information box to the right of your screen, looking something like this:

A picture of the tutorial box.

These act as the tutorial for the game and if it's your first time playing it's HIGHLY recommended you read them. To read the info that the panel represents simply click "More Info" which will then expand the panel into more in depth information.

A picture of the expanded tutorial box.

Reading through every single one of these will prove to be helpful and should teach you controls of the game. Keep in mind that one part of the tutorial is incorrect. Holding Left Click does not charge your attack. Holding Ctrl or Right click charges the attack. The tutorials in the game should cover Movment, Combat, Farming, Crafting and more. You can find extended information of these subjects around the wiki. If you need to refresh yourself with the ingame tutorials, then press F1 and the tutorial boxes will appear again.

The Map

It is a bit of an understatement when people say the map is huge. Since it's... well. Huge! To give you an idea of just how big the map is here are some figures courtesy of harakka and blind coder. The map is 20x20 cells plus another 12x6 cells. Now each of those cells contains about 300x300 tiles. Now some of you will be going "But of course my good lad!" others will be going. "It doesn't sound that big." Well here's a picture to show you how big ONE cell is.

One black square is one cell which contains 300x300 tiles.

So one of those black squares is roughly the size of one cell. So hopefully that puts things in perspectives. Now the place is huge and it's easy to get lost so, if you would like a helping hand in navigating the map then you can go check out this magnificent map that contains the entirety of Knox County it can be especially useful for new survivors as players have marked points of interest. These can include where a decently supplied place, good fortification locations, everything your heart desires. So remember to give it a look.

If you find some odd anomaly around the map, such as a place you can't enter but seemingly should. Invisible walls etc then you might want to get check out thread on the forums. Report the problem so that the developers can fix it! It's incredibly important to report bugs.

Chronological Tutorial

Character Creation

As soon as you start a new game you will be greeted by the character creation screen. To get a guide of the character creator go visit Player's Character creation section. It will guide through and break down all the screens that you will find. As well as explaining traits and perks to different occupations.

This time around however your best bet is to go with the Construction Worker occupation. It's the most useful for long term survival. However do realize the following. Death is inevitable. It tells you as much when you start up the game and the first few times you start up the game you WILL die. It just happens. It's not because you're bad or anything, it's just that you're new. So you can choose to ignore the professions and traits if you want, otherwise feel free to choose Construction Worker and just experiment with traits.

The Very First Day: Establishing a Safe-house

The start of your adventure can be the toughest part of the game. Check your inventory. You will probably only have a few articles of clothing on you. Look around your surroundings. Have you spawned in a house? If not, break into a house nearby that doesn't have too many zombies around it (See breaking in). If you have, close any curtains that are in the house to ensure that you remain undetected (right-click on windows with visible curtains on them). Now you have the privacy required to start looting. Loot the house and look around for weapons, sheets, water containers, and food. Other things come last if you have the inventory space. After scavenging every nook and cranny of the house, evaluate what you have. Depending on where you spawned and how lucky you are, you may have a powerful swinging melee weapon like the baseball bat or a golf club, but most likely a weaker weapon such as a rolling pin or frying pan. If you cannot find a swinging weapon at all, then your next choice is to grab a stabbing weapon such as a kitchen knife or a screwdriver, or if none of these items are available you'll have to start with a very weak improvised weapon such as a pencil, butter knife or fork.

If you have found sheets, improvise curtains on as many uncovered windows as possible - start in the bedroom you plan to sleep in, and then the kitchen. Other rooms that are separated from these two areas by a door are not as urgent. You can do this by right clicking on the window and selecting the 'cover with sheet' option. Even large windows that cannot be opened can be covered by two sheets. If you have all the windows on the bottom floor covered and feel safe, consider staying there for a while. If you at least have all the bedroom windows covered, stay in the house for just that day and continue scavenging for sheets the next day. If none of the bedrooms have all of the windows covered, consider searching the next house for sheets or consider staying there instead.

Try to locate a storage device as early as possible, even a plastic bag will allow you to carry many more items than you would be able to normally.

Once you have a house with all the windows covered, proceed to the next three steps.

Taking Care of Yourself

Bandages are essential before heading out into the world, you don't want to bleed out after a tiny scratch! Save your sheets for covering windows and tear up some old clothes instead.

Your character is essentially an average person. That means that they need to eat food and to drink water to survive. If you are in a safe location and your character is thirsty, drink some water. You can drink directly from the sink without needing a container. Feed your character every time he or she gets "peckish" or "hungry" and always eat perishable food first. Consider saving food which replenishes thirst for last. Sleep at about 9 or 10 PM and aim to wake up at about 7 or 8 AM when there is light outside. Organize your containers so that each container only has a specific type of item in it. The fridge should always contain cookable and perishable food. Being organized and having different bags for each type of item reduces weight, and decreases the amount of time your character will spend moving items into containers. If you can, save an extra weapon just in case your primary weapon loses durability.

Every now and then, your character will either get hot or cold. Take off or put on clothes when you see this. The last thing you need is your character suffering from hypothermia/hyperthermia in a zombie apocalypse.

Leaving your safe-house is never a safe thing to do. You never know when you'll get a chance to get back into the safe-house. You should have an idea of where you're going, and how you can get back. It is very easy to get lost in the vast world. Avoid forests and long, wide roads like the highway. Always take some rations of food and water when leaving as well as your primary weapon. If you have a backpack, always put your less-needed items in the backpack and essentials in the primary inventory - in moments where every second is important, having to unpack something could be your undoing.

Try to store at least a week's worth of food and a couple of magazines/books in your safe house, just in case you get sick and to stay indoors for a long period of time to recover.

Also try to horde as many water containing items and fill them from the sink- these can be kettles, pots, bottles, mugs, bowls. Always store them full- because when the water eventually runs out thirst will be your biggest killer.

Getting Armed

Now that you have a safe-house, the next priority is a weapon. Do you have a weapon? If so, what is it? Your primary weapon should be a swinging weapon- firearms make too much noise and stabbing weapons are too risky. Look at the items section in the wiki to find an optimal weapon that suits your playing style. A good, common weapon early on is the frying pan. A secondary weapon is another weapon you should have on either yourself or in your safehouse that you can use in case your primary weapon breaks. Furthermore, you can carry a firearm with you (if you manage to find one) but take care not to use it as a primary weapon or a secondary weapon. The firearm should only be used in special circumstances or should be a last resort weapon. Understand that using a firearm will attract zombies towards your location and understand that your firearm can fire only a limited amount of rounds before reloading. If you decide to keep a firearm, try to limit your ammo's weight to about 1-6 units (depending on your carrying capacity).

Until you have a strong primary weapon and a few reliable secondary weapons, look out for weapons when scavenging. Some weapons like the hammer can be used for other purposes as well and shouldn't be ignored even if you have a strong primary weapon.

Currently, the ideal weapon is the axe. However, a baseball bat, a spiked baseball bat, a golf club or a crowbar also make effective weapons.

Gathering Supplies

Once you've cleared out all of the closest houses you should have the following:

  • A melee weapon
  • A bag of some sort
  • Some bandages
  • A week's worth of food (perishable and non-perishable)
  • A week's worth of water

You can collect water by using empty bottles and containers and filling them up at taps. You will want to do this sooner rather than later as the water supply will eventually become shut off. So remember. Stockpile, stockpile, stockpile. After the water gets shut off you will become reliant on Rain Collector Barrel

Once you have these you will have to go foraging further from your safehouse, a container such as a plastic bag or school bag is essential! Always leave your safehouse early in the morning and time it so you return before it gets dark. To avoid getting lost you can leave a trail of useless items such as forks or spoons lying on the ground, particularly at road junctions, to show you the way home. Most houses will contain food and clothing items, for more specific items you will need to travel west to the town.

There are a few items that you will need to keep an eye out for, as they have unique abilities-

Hammer- Essential for all construction projects, also reasonably good at breaking up doors for planks. Mostly found on zombie corpses. Can also be found in garages and anywhere else where there are crates. It's also a good idea to search sheds.

Nails- Also essential for most construction projects, commonly found on zombie corpses or in crates. Again checking sheds can also yield a result.

Axe- Awesome melee weapon and door smasher, quite rare, only really found in crates and warehouses.

Saw- Able to turn chopped down trees into planks.

Trowel- essential for farming in the late game.

Improving the Safehouse

If you have found a hammer and some nails, barricade all your windows with as many planks as possible. You can create planks by breaking interior doors or chopping down trees with any weapon (the axe will chop them down the more quickly than any other weapon). Remember that you need a saw to create wooden planks from logs. Be careful to scout the area for nearby zombies first before attempting any kind of construction! As they will be attracted to the noise, you may end up in a siege in an effort to improve your safe-house's defenses.

Consider installing sheet ropes on all of the upstairs windows. In an undead siege, you may end up being trapped in your house's second floor with your first floor swarming with zombies, who are trying to go up to your second floor. You can climb up and down a sheet rope, making it a good alternative exit/entrance that zombies cannot use.

Windows are extremely fragile and create noise when they shatter. A plank added in front of a window will add some time before the window shatters to a million pieces. You may also want to consider barricading extra doors so that you only have 3 or less doors- a main door, a backup door, and a backup-backup door. Once you have done that to every window in the safe-house, look at the Barricading and Carpentry section to see how you can improve your safehouse to make it the ultimate anti-zombie fortress you need.

Late Game

Weeks, perhaps even months have passed after you started. Zombies blood and corpses litter the streets only to reflect your exceptionally effective survival methods. Unlike most people, you managed to survive this far into the game (this is quite a feat). However, this is where the game truly starts. This phase is your transition from a "survivor" to a "rebuilder"- you will have to start building a self-sufficient one-person society (until the day NPCs are added).


Farming is essential for Late game play since electricity will eventually go down and you will be forced to eat non-perishables, which aren't exactly plentiful in Muldraugh. See Farming Guide for tips on how to get started.

Water after the water works fails

Within months or weeks, water will be down as well. You'll have some stockpiled water but that won't be nearly enough for you to live off of in the long term. You'll want to find a well, which will you give you an endless source of water. There are two known wells: one is in a farm well quite a ways North of the city. The second is located at a cabin in the woods, slightly closer to the city (almost directly Northeast of McCoy Lumber). If you want to get to one of the wells, consider living in the farm, which is far away from zombies and has plenty of space for farming and construction.

Another alternative is to create rain collector barrels, which may be quite costly in wood and nail resources. Whenever it rains, these barrels will collect the water from the rain. Although one barrel will not give sufficient water for long-term survival, having many of these barrels will give you enough water to hydrate yourself as well as farm for food without having access to a well.

Traveling Great Distances

Eventually, you will want to get out of the foresaken city. Maybe it's because there are no more supplies left. Or perhaps its because you want to start anew, somewhere far, far away from the infected horde. Or perhaps you just want to reach the well. When you know that you will not be back home for a few days, always bring a week's worth of food and water with you. It is best to take the road, since you can easily get lost in the vast forest (some forests stretch several cells in all directions).

You will need to create a tent to sleep in if your travels will prevent you from finding shelter before you reach your destination. Additionally, you may also want to build a campfire kit if you have any food that you want to cook, but beware as the light from the fire will likely attract unwanted attention from nearby zombies.

Scavenging/Looting Buildings

You'll never have enough supplies to last you the long term, luckily, there are various places you can loot. If you're careful, scavenging expeditions can be only slightly risky and very rewarding.

Tap the 'interact' key (default E) to open windows. Holding the key will cause your character to climb through an open window. Tapping the key while facing an open window will close it.

Picking a Location

Know the type of item that you are trying to find. If you are in need of crafting supplies, find a warehouse or hardware store. If you need food, houses and stores will probably be the best bet. Before entering the building, plan your exit strategy. Make sure that there are at least two entry points on different sides of the building, be it windows or doors. You want to be able to escape easily if zombies become aware of your presence. If you see a broken window be extra careful, as this can be caused by a zombie that's inside trying to get out, or by a zombie that's outside trying to get in!

Breaking In

Before breaking in it's a good idea to take a quick look around the outside of the building just to make sure there isn't a horde waiting on the other side of it. Also try to get a good look in though the windows, in case there are already zombies inside. Climbing though a window just to discover that you're entering a room full of zombies is not a pleasant experience! Always try to break in as stealthily as possible by going through the side of the building with the least zombies around it. Before you even try to break in check if the door is unlocked. If it is locked you will have to enter though the window, simply move to a window and hold down E until it opens. Never smash a window if you can avoid it, as this will attract zombies. Once you have established that the room is clear close the window again- this will prevent any zombies that may be following you from sneaking in behind you.

Some buildings such as shops will not have openable windows, in this instance you will have to smash and grab! Don't use the right-click command to smash windows, as this may result in cuts. Instead simply swing your melee weapon at the window as if it was a zombie. Be prepared to run after doing this and keep an eye on the window to see if any zombies are attracted.

When entering any building, there is a chance that a burglar alarm will ring. This will quickly attract large amounts of zombies to your immediate area. Run away from the area and try to take shelter elsewhere until the burglar alarm dies down. Burglar alarms will attract zombies from far and wide so be careful not to run into a horde that's on its way to the house. Zombies will also travel 'though' houses that are in the way, by smashing doors and windows. Try running back the way you came to the house, as you already know this route is safe from zombies. Failing that try running towards the east, where there are less zombies (lower right when factoring the map's tilt). A good tactic for avoiding zombies in these instances is to find an obstacle that's parallel to the alarm house- such as a long wall with no windows in it or an impassable fence. As zombies make a beeline for the alarm house they will have to walk around these obstacles creating a safe pocket to wait in.

Be wary of going upstairs in buildings unless you have a sheet rope on you. If zombies break in and you get trapped upstairs your only way out will be the window, which has a high chance of resulting in death on the first floor and certain death on any higher floors.


Unless you have explored the building before, never assume it is safe- whether it is the inside or the outside. Start out by killing any zombies that are inside. It can be dangerous to fight multiple zombies in cramped, small spaces; if you must face them it's best you lure them outside to a quiet area and kill them there. Once the entrance is cleared, close all the curtains on the windows and (if you want) add sheets on the windows without curtains. Enter each room cautiously, have your weapon ready and step back immediately when you open a door. To do this you need to hold down the attack button until your weapon is fully charged and then use the 'E' key to open the door. Pay careful attention to banging sounds. When you finish clearing the inside of a building, check to make sure no zombies outside have been alerted to your presence. Never run while inside of a building unless you are in danger, because running creates noise which will attract nearby zombies.


When heading out for a supply run, always be prepared. Only go outside during daylight, as zombies tend to grow in numbers at night. Start your day by eating something, refilling your Water Bottle at your nearest Faucet (if the water works exists) and making sure you're not carrying too much before going out. Grab any weapon you can find in your base.

When outside, try to walk as often as possible. If you ever stumble upon a horde, you'll be able to run and dodge them without being exhausted. Aside from being more quiet, walking will also save up some energy for fighting without getting exhausted too fast. Every now and then, keep your eyes over your shoulder, as you never know which zombies will follow you. Holding CTRL and circling the mouse around the character will make the player look in the mouse cursor's direction, giving you the ability to spot your enemy before they even see you.

If you ever encounter a horde of zombies (let's say more than 6), then you are definitely in danger. If you encounter such a large group of enemies, turn the other way. If you can't, try to sneak past them. But if the vast majority spotted you, RUN to your safe house (if it is safe and faraway) or just to another direction. Try to run 3-10 corners so you can effectively lose the majority and make it very possible to fend off those who are still following you.

Medium sized groups (about 3-6) and small groups (1-2) can effectively be dispatched by a baseball bat or an axe, if fought one by one and carefully. When fighting groups, you should use hit-and-run tactics, as zombies do not have much of an attack range, and you can keep exhaustion at bay every 1-3 zombies you kill. Try to spread them out as much as possible by killing the faster ones first. Use the corners of buildings, open windows and open doorways to create bottlenecks to thin out groups. When fighting a group, don't try to immediately dispatch enemies you've knocked down when others are still coming. Instead, use the gap to line up your next attack on the next standing zombie.

When fighting crawlers, try not to fight them head-on. Unless your attack kills a crawler in one hit, you WILL get injured (and possibly infected), as the crawler does not get knocked back from non-fatal blows. Instead, run around it and go behind it. The crawler has to push its body around 180 degrees to get to you, so use that extra time to deal a few more blows. If it is almost completely turned around, just repeat until it dies. Do not attempt this if you are up against medium or large groups of zombies, as you simply do not have enough time to waste.

Never fight with a firearm unless you are SURE that you have enough ammo to kill 3x as many zombies as you expect to fight (since firearms will draw attention). Always shoot accurately, since ammo is quite scarce in Muldraugh (about 2500 rounds for the pistol in the entire map), and you will want each bullet to count. Try to fight away from your safehouse if you do fight with a firearm. Always be aware of your ammo situation- never fight until the last bullet. Always keep a few extra rounds so that you can use them when you need to. Distance is your best friend, zombies cannot attack you if you aren't in arm's length and it gives you more time to reload before they approach you. Moving farther and farther away from your enemies will always help you keep a good distance away from them.

Also, if you hear what sounds like several helicopters in the background then approach the nearest window and wait for a zombie to run past. Depending on the direction it is travelling in, be sure to travel into the opposite direction or make adjustments to your route.

You are free to go anywhere you want, however, always try to plan where you're headed, what you'll be taking as loot and where you'll be settling in to make a safe-house.


Throughout your adventure, not only does your character gets hungry and thirsty but can also suffer from other conditions such as anxiety or depression. These status effects, called Moodles, can be treated with varying methods from the use of consumables to just letting a wound heal depending on the character's need. In example, a bored character can be healed by reading a book or a magazine. The Moodles will also display signs of injuries, which requires first aid.

For a complete list of all Moodles, their effects, and how they can be treated/countered, please see the main Moodle article.

Injuries & First Aid

It's inevitable. One of these days, you'll fall down a window by accident or a zombie will bite you. Depending on which injury you have, a certain treatment comes with it. Having bandages and painkillers on hand can be useful if something ever happens to you. Leaving an injury untreated can lead to health loss and even death.

To treat a Scratch, a Bite or a Bleeding injury, apply a bandage to the wounded area. To see if you have any injuries, click the heart button and open the "health" tab, this will open the character status window. Sleeping, as well as being well fed will speed up the healing process.

For a complete list of all known injuries and how to treat them, please see the Injuries article.

Leveling Up

To see a character's skill, open the Skill tab after clicking the heart in the UI. The "skills" screen will appear and will show you how much skill points you have, which skills you have unlocked, and how far you are from unlocking a skill if you haven't. If you have a spare skill point and an unlocked skill, there will be a "+", clicking it allows you to distribute one skill point.

It is your choice what skills you need to upgrade, but do so wisely. But the lightfooted and sneaking skills are perhaps the most valuable as it is fatal to be spotted by a zombie while trying to move stealthily.

For a complete list of each Skill, what they do and how to level them, please see the Skills article.


With the right resources, players can mix items together to create new or better equipment. By right-clicking one of the specified items (with all items of the crafting recipe present in the main inventory), players can create food recipes, enhanced weapons and barricades to reinforce their safe-houses.

For a complete list of all crafting recipes, please see the Crafting article.

Barricading and Carpentry

See: Carpentry Guide

Logs can be used as a source of wooden planks, provided you can find a saw.

In a zombie apocalypse, nowhere is safe. However, that can't stop you from fortifying a safe-house of your interest. Some buildings are safer than others. A two-story house with multiple DOORS and few windows are recommended. In case of an home invasion, you can always escape through a window using a Sheet Rope. For maximum protection and stealth, board up every window with wooden planks and bed sheets.

Carpenters equipped with a sledgehammer can destroy walls, doors, and window frames to salvage wood.

If you run out of wooden planks, you can use an axe to chop down doors. Chopping down doors will yield one or two wooden planks, along with door hinges and knobs. Another alternative is to chop down trees. Taking down a tree will yield 1-5 logs. You can use a saw to cut logs into wooden planks.

Later in the game, once you have the tools and resources for larger constructions, you should think about the use of wall pieces. A perimeter wall will prevent zombies from seeing you in your house and will muffle sounds further. Furthermore, you will have more time to escape should your safehouse be invaded. A perimeter fence (any material) can be used to slow down zombies during an invasion. If you have the time and resources, you can make makeshift structures.

Please take note that constructing a safe-house will make a lot of noise, which will draw any stragglers nearby. Any carpentry jobs should be done during the day and when the outside is relatively quiet.


Between 0 days and 2 months after world creation, the water works will fail.

The player will no longer be able to drink out of taps and the player won't be able to fill up water bottles. It is up to the player to deal with his own water situation from this point on.

Between 0 days and 2 months after world creation, the power will fail.

Refrigerators will no longer preserve food and lights will no longer turn on. You cannot cook food either. Pretty soon, all perishable foods will go bad and you will have to survive off of your non perishable foods unless you can farm for your own food.

There are two random events that happen through the first week of the game. Sometimes players can hear either gun shots or helicopters overhead. They both have the same function of mass migrating the zombie population.


A Zombie has bitten you. You've patched yourself up, but as the night sets in, you start feeling feverish, knowing all too well that the end is nigh... You'll be joining them soon...

Or maybe you've been very careful for months, all holed up in a barricaded coffin with your dwindling food and water supply. And you promised yourself to never ever take off these wooden planks off the front door... A slow death by starvation awaits you...

Whatever the case, no matter how long or how hard you try, death seems inevitable in Project Zomboid. When your character dies, the game will scroll a message from bottom to top stating how long the player survived.

Don't fret however it happens to the best of us. What if you have lost a great haulage of weapons or supplies? What if you had a mighty safehouse that took days/weeks to build? Well not to worry, you actually have the ability to create a new character on the save your first character died in! The world remains the same, so houses you looted are still looted, but a safehouse you built will still be in the place you built it! You can even find your old body, but this can be quite a bit harder as your old self can transform into a zombie and wander off. So with your dying breaths it's probably best to load up a bag and leave it in a house that you'll remember.

Good luck out there. And remember! Aim for the head!


Here's a few things to always be wary of while playing the game. Being mindful of these things will help you survive longer in Knox County.

  • Be aware of the noise you make. Zombies are attracted by noise, which means in the event of shooting, of entering a house which has an alarm active it's best to get out of there. If possible get as far away as you can from these places as a zombie horde will start migrating toward the source of the noise.
  • Beware open ground. Open ground is deadly in many ways. Project Zomboid works on a line of sight. You can only see what you're looking at. That means there could be zombies that see you but you can't see them. Open ground with little cover creates a higher possibility of a zombie noticing you, then what are the odds of the others noticing you? So remember always look around. Look behind yourself regularly to make sure you're not being tailed.
  • A building is never secure until you make it secure. Never assume a building is empty. Make sure all the doors are closed to stop zombies wandering in. Until you have searched the entire house consider it a dangerous location. Once you know it's empty, then start closing curtains for some privacy. After that start looting.
  • Don't overreach. Try to be too ambitious your first time around and you will die. Attempt actions in moderation. The first day you could go to the house down the street, the next go to the street down the block. Do not take extended journeys unless you are prepared and experienced.
  • When there is no door, there is always a window.
  • When possible avoid jumping out a window on a second floor or higher. From the second floor you have a small chance of surviving. Any higher and you will die. This escape method should be a last ditch when above the ground floor.
  • Firearms solve problems.
  • Firearms cause problems.

See Also