Project Zomboid Survival Guide And Gameplay

I will try to cover the first few weeks of game play with tips/tricks I have learned over my time playing PZ.

If you have an idea you think is worth adding/correcting contact me. I consider this a living document.


Before you even start there are a few settings I recommend changing.


Iso cursor viability- Put that to max (75%) So you can see where your curser is when aiming.

Aim outline- Set to ‘Any Weapon’ Lets you see which zombies your swing is about to bonk.


Shout- Move that away from your movement keys, accidental shouting will draw problems your way. I personally use [`/~] to be accessible while moving but a deliberate keystroke.

Toggle UI- It is set as V as the default, which is the same as the vehicle radial menu. Rebind to whatever you want or leave unbound as you prefer. I recommend something out of the way so you don’t hit by mistake.

Pan Camera- Its set to nothing by default. I use Caps lock. It lets you look around like your aiming, very useful for when you start driving a car around to be able to look further down the road.


Resume normal speed when timed actions complete- Check that box, lets you fast forward long actions then go back to normal when done, keeps you from accidentally fast forwarding the day away.

I don’t have any other recommendations for settings other then what works for you.

New game

This guide will assume ‘Apocalypse’ setting as it is the most punishing ‘Normal’ game mode. Everything here will still apply to the other settings excluding some challenges and ‘6 months later’

After selecting your difficulty you will be asked to pick a spawn point. This is a matter of personal preference but I will list some Pros and cons to each of the default spawns and things to watch for.

West point- The classic. Light zombies in residential, but they are numerous downtown (where all the good shops are).


Good loot


Gun store + large police station


Along the river



Lots of zombies

Storage/Warehouses out of town.

Muldraugh- More rural town along the highway south of West point.


Highest number of warehouses/storage units

Gas station on south side of town is fairly clear of zombies

Good start for disappearing into the woods


Low food options

hard to secure in town.

distance to water

High population along the highway



Lower population


Gated community easy to secure

Large firestation

Drive in movie theater






Along the river

Good loot


bookstore + postoffice

Junk yard


Lots of glass downtown (harder to secure)

warehouse/storage units out of town

Downtown zombie population

I highly recomend you use

To give the towns a look over and decide which you would like to spawn in yourself.

The two easiest towns to start in are widely accepted to be Riverside and Rosewood. Riverside being harder but better loot. The amount of canned food in a gigamart can keep you fed for a long time and will let you focus on other things to start.

Charcter creation

More points in a starting skill will make it easier to gain later levels in that skill beyond already having some proficiency in them.


1- 75%(300%)



Starting with just a single point in a skill will cause it to level up three times faster then not. This does not apply to strength and fitness, which are a pain to grind without mods.

Professions of note-

Lumberjack- Faster axe swing and skill, more strength. Moving faster through trees is situational but can help ditch zombies chasing you.

Burger- + to most of the movement skills, and the ability to hot wire cars w/o skill grind.

Security guard- + to movement skills and less likely to be surprised while sleeping, nice if you need to take a nap and the area is not secured.

Fire officer- +axe skill, big boosts to STR and fitness. Good way to get boosts to difficult to level STR and FIT

Veteran – Desensitized = no panic, makes it easy to get a good nights sleep and will not mess with your accuracy.

Fitness instructor- Bonus FIT skill and Nutritionist. Which will help you learn the nutrition system a little easier.


Not discussing all the pros and cons of the traits, but ill go over a recommended build assuming you picked a profession like Lumberjack or Fire officer and have 0 points without positives or negatives.


High Thirst- Easily countered, water is simple to get/stockpile. Might cause issues in winter, but if you made it that far you can handle this.

Hearty Appetite- Once again easily countered, You might encounter issues finding enough food come winter but again, if you get that far you can handle it.

Slow Healer- Only effects overall HP bar, not how fast wounds go away. Easy to deal with.

Prone to illness- We will counter this with a cheaper positive trait, does not effect CHANCE to be infected by a zombie, just how fast the zombification takes effect.

Hemophobic- Smoker will make this irrelevant, smoking will cure all stress. And until MP you can only do first aid on yourself anyways.

Smoker- Free points right here, smoke when you get to ‘nervous and jumpy’ stage or before bed. Defeats the stress of Hemophobic and adds an easy way to reduce unhappiness.

Short sighted- Keep looking around and this wont effect you much.

Pacifist- Countered with Fast learner in the pros side. Just makes weapon skills level 25% slower.

Weak stomach- Don’t eat dangerous foods and this is free points.(poison berries/mushrooms, burnt/rotton food.

Slow reader- Your should only be reading books where your safe, and you have supplies. Fastforward exists and we set up that resume normal speed option for when your done with a book.


Dexterous- Faster inventory manipulation. Covers a large amount of the game, and just overall QoL

Outdoors man- No more getting sick from being caught in the rain. Counters prone to illness and slow healer. (if your careful about staying dry go ahead and swap this to cats eyes for better night vision)

Wakeful- The tired awareness de-buffs suck, this will make it easier to not overextend yourself.

Graceful- Less noise = less zombies chasing you

Inconspicuous- Spotted less= less zombies chasing you

Lucky- Better loot.

Brave- Less panic= easier time clearing (accuracy reduction effects melee crit chance)

Fast learner- +30% xp gains. Counters pacifist and gives more xp to everything else.

Keen hearing- The ‘perception radius’ is the circle around the character that is ‘shown’ boosting this makes it harder for zombies to sneak up on you

Organized- Gives every container more space to you. Car trunks, car seats, bags, storage furniture.

If you want to learn the nutrition system better with this build swap Brave with nutritionist. If your good with staying dry swap outdoors man with cats eyes.

The underweight traits deserve a mention here, because early game its easy to keep your calories up high enough to gain back that weight. But I didnt bake them in because this guide is supposed to help with learning the game.

Stay away from the negitive sleep traits, they are a trap and you will always be tired.

If you set things up with extra points, take the strength or fitness traits.

This is how you died

Thats what the loading screen reads and oh boy is it true. But lets see if we can help you push that off some Shall we?

I will lead off with my list of things that never leave my survivor once I get them. Adjust it as you need but 5x bandages (sterilized), saucepan(or pot), bowl, saw, hammer, screwdriver, handful of nails(just whatever number do not fit into a box that I have at the moment), hammer, 2x sheet ropes, water bottle, (kitchen)knife, frying pan(or gritle pan), can opener, digital watch(or normal watch/alarm clock).

Kitchens- Saucepans, fresh food, bowl, frying pan, knifes water bottles

Garages/closets- Hammers, saws, nails, screw drivers.

Bedrooms- bags, alarm clocks/digital watches, umbrellas

Also of note- Garbage bags, outstanding for quickly transferring items in/out of cars and needed for rain catchers. These are almost always grabbing when you find them.

Step 1. PAUSE! (F2 or by the speed buttons) Look around your house.

Do you have-

a TV?

A book shelf?

Curtains on the windows?

Where in town are you?

This start is whats known as the ‘couch potato’ start, might be a bit boring but will set you up for a long while.

We will be focusing on ‘Life and living’ TV shows the first week or so to maximize your experience gains in the early days.

0600- Cooking 1200- Carpentry 1800- Survival. The carpentry is the most important show to catch, as its the most vital to getting a base going.

Step 2- Crouch (C) You will make less noise while moving and will train your light footed (passive sneakiness) and sneak(When in crouch mode sneakiness) skills

Go turn on your TV set it to life and living and put the volume to 2 bars and get that free cooking xp.

Once that’s complete turn off the TV and check out your house, take note of skill books you have.

Look in the kitchen for saucepan, water bottle, kitchen knife and see if anything is in the fridge/on the stove. (sometimes cooked food will spawn on stoves) If you find anything able to be used as a weapon (cutter jump weapons like silverware, and plungers excluded) equip that.

Check bedrooms for gloves/backpacks/fanny packs

Step 3-

Next carefully look outside- How many zombies do you see near your house? Small group? Try to maneuver yourself to let 1 or 2 spot you and pull them over, otherwise you can creep up and use ‘shout’ while sneaking to try to lure just a few over. (aprox 10 tiles) best practice is to hit it creep a square, and try again while keeping an eye on zombies.

Remember to keep looking around and aware of your surroundings (lctrl+spin mouse around character)

If you feel its to many zombies, go a different direction and try to stay out of sight.

Check neighbors houses, your looting for items listed at the top, carpentry skill books, and any beginner skill books you can find.

Doorflash! Open and quickly close a door by either double clicking or hitting e two times in quick succession. Will let you know if zombies are waiting for you, and give you an idea how many. but wont give them a chance to escape and mob you.

If you haven’t found a time peace head home/ to the nearest TV after 3-4 IRL minutes. to catch the 1200 carpentry show. while you watch that, read a skill book, preferably starting with fishing trapping foraging farming carpentry or cooking. Prioritize getting carpentry books read before 1200, but put some work in the others if the show is coming up. (see wiki link for exact show details.)

Here is where the step by step breaks down. cook/eat some food. Use the cookware to make salad/stir fry/soup/stew if your able. drink out of faucets until you find a bottle, then top it off as you come across houses. Check out the map for where your local food store is and restaurant. Try to get that fresh food home (leave canned for later) If you cant. At least throw it in the freezer for when you can come back to it.

Check cars for one with decent condition and a key. You find one? Make a trip to the gas station and get it filled up. Be ready to bonk some zombies upon arrival. You will want to stash a day or so’s worth of supplies in the car. More in next section.

Also remember to check all radios for the Automated Emergency broadcast system channel. Its random every game.

If you find it, check it every day somewhere safe at the top of the hour, What your specifically looking for are the words ‘Air activity detected’ Ill cover what happens with that the Air Activity Detected! Section

You will keep up this pattern of looting between/after shows. (use digital watch alarm to catch a quick nap between the 0600 show and the 1200 show to be more rested for afternoon/ evening. use the down time to disassemble unnecessary furniture in your house/neighbors houses, fortify your houses weak points, install sheet ropes if you have a second story, and cover all your windows with sheet (or enough planks to block LOS) All else fails, do some sit ups to burn time. I say sit ups because it dosn’t give movement speed or combat de buffs, just makes it harder to jump fences and you trip a bit easier if your running/sprinting.

Spiffos used cars.

Cars have completely changed the game play and strategy of project zomboid since their release.

Here is my list of tips for finding/maintaining a car.|

I highly recommend keeping these items in a glove box for maintenance.

Screwdriver, Jack, Lug wrench, Tire pump.

Those will cover your basic maintenance actions while on the road and can keep you moving if you need to snag parts off another car.

Check engine quality- Quality, separate from condition basically equates to the cars chance to turn over. Engine might have 100% condition but only 30% quality. Good for safe runs but not what you want to jump into with a hoard on your tail.

Those pipes. Whats your mufflers reduction? how loud is the engine? A very loud car will draw more zombies. Sometimes you cant help it, but when able take the quiet option.

Kick the tires!As soon as its safe after acquiring a new vehicle you should check the tires. Are they about to go? Do they need air? Properly filled tires lose condition less and will give you better grip. Grip also degrades as you loose condition. Do not take a car with crappy grip tires off road, might not make it out on its own power. *Note* If your going to run over a buncha zombie corpses turn off the engine by clicking the key and your car wont take damage from the bodys in the road.

Tow away zone! You can tow other cars out of the way/back to base. There are even trailers you can find to get more storage room. Note, backing up a trailer in PZ has got to be one of the most difficult things I have ever encountered, i recommend parking it outside somewhere.

Check for keys! Until you can hot-wire (mechanics 2; electrical 1. or burglar occupation) you will need a key to start the car. Keys spawn in glove boxes, ignitions, on the ground around the car, and on zombies nearby.

Learn to drive- Or how not to crash. Remember that ‘Pan camera’ key we rebound at the beginning? This is where it will shine. Push that down and move the mouse around to look ahead of where you are traveling. Also using SHIFT+W to set cruse control and keep things at a reasonable speed(20-30) when you don’t know whats on the road ahead is a good idea.

Check the weather!Always important, but especially so with a car. If you get caught out in a heavy fog visibility will reduce to next to nothing. Making driving very dangerous, either you have to creep along and zombies might catch you, or you cant see where your going and have a higher risk of crashing.

Don’t hit pedestrians!Zombies do a lot of damage to cars when you hit them. Try to drive around and clear them by other measures. If you DO need to use your car for clearing reversing while holding a direction to do backwards doughnuts. Might kill your trunk space, but your engine will still run. (also running over zombies and zombie bodies is very hard on tires.)

Pack the back! Despite what the capacity of the seats say you can ALWAYS place at least 1 item or bag in them if they are not completely broken. 40wt generator? Backseat. 30wt water-cooler? backseat 40wt stove? Backseat. Also two great things to keep in the back if your going nomad or extended trips away from base. Gen for refueling at gas stations and water cooler for easily transported fresh water.

Ready to go! Keeping a ‘bug out bag’ in your trunk is also a highly recommended tip. Few cans of food, can opener, extra water (don’t need if its got the water-cooler.) maybe some extra tools/trash bags.

Air Activity Detected!

Ok at this point one of two things have happened, you found a radio with AEBS and it said those fateful words ‘Air Activity Detected!’ Or you heard the helicopter churning the air overhead.

Radio free air!

If you have the forewarning of AEBS make sure your ready to bail, but you can stay home the next day and while you might hear it buzz past a few times, it will not pose a major threat. If it dose not go away in an hour you’ve been spotted! Warning, your neighborhood will have more unwelcome visitors after the helicopter. Be ready to clear the area.

I hear something!

if you just hear it get inside ASAP. and break LOS with outside as soon as possible. If it goes away in about an in game hour, it didn’t spot you and you should be safe inside the house.

You’ve been spotted!

The helicopter spotted you and now its circling. The only real option here is to bail. Did you get that car going? hop in and go for a drive out of town and circle back the next day/that night. Don’t drive back down the same road you lead the hoard out of town on. also set cruse control with Shift+W every tap of W will boost CC by 5mph, and S will decrease by 5. 15-20 should be fast enough to stay a head of the zombies without driving recklessly. Remember to use ‘Pan Camera’ key to keep an eye on the road ahead!

But I don’t have a car!

No car? now what? Easy, same strat as the car just a bit harder. get out of town, get away from your safe house, dodge zombies. Combat is very much NOT advised here as you will want as much of your stamina as possible for short sprints to keep distance open. Don’t worry about getting to hungry, you can stop and forage/loot for food later, right now just keep moving, preferably heading towards low population density locations so you don’t have to many zombies grouping in front of you to get past. Also if you don’t have a car, I recommend stockpiling more nails and sheet ropes, use second story houses to lure zombies in, then escape out a window.

You can also set up a campfire in a parking lot and ‘sheep dog’ zombies into a big cluster and keep them burning, but this requires some serious stamina management best bet is just keep moving.

Ok now what?

At this point you should be after the 17th and have watched the last of life and living. At this point, if you havnt moved into a more perminent ‘base’ location, this is when you do it. What do you want to do? Go hide in the woods and live off the land? Set up a fort on a gas station with a fleet of cars? The biggest danger after surviving the helicopter is over confidence and the player getting bored and taking stupid risks. Set your self some goals. Pick out a nifty looking base location. Do what you feel is challanging, safe, or just fun.

You will want to be truly focusing on clearing the area you live in. the more the zombies can group the bigger a problem they are.

Loot wise you will be focusing on completing your book collection, Securing fresh water, and sustainable food.

Fresh Water

Fresh water is easy, water coolers (30wt, 250 units of water) for storange. and a rain collector within 1 tile of a water fixture (sink, tub, toilet, w/e) + a wrench will last you just fine for day to day. Use the coolers when that runs dry, and re fill the coolers when it rains. (2-3 coolers should last you all the way through winter) No rain collector? toss those pots, buckets, etc outside (only use mugs and bowls as a last resort when you just cant seem to get enough, its a lot of work for just a few units each.) or take a pot and a water cooler down the the nearest body of water, set up a campfire and refill your cooler.

Sustainable food

If you have a sac+trowel/shovel and have built stairs to your roof (or have natural roof access) you can start a roof garden

Or just start it somewhere close to your base.

Plants CAN grow inside at this point (IWBUMS 41.53) but you cant rely on rain to water them (this is actually good for plants like carrots and raddishes)

Also, those other skill shows I told you about in the begining. Hike to the lake with a fishing pole/bait or a spear. Forage on the way, setup a few stick traps(10 will reliably produce food and raise your skill), and fish till eavning, hike home. And when you go out the next day check/reset the traps and do some more fishing.

NOTE set up your traps 75 tiles away from your main base, and be warned traps might attract zombies if they catch somthing.


If you have found a generator+how to use generators magizine you can set it up outside your house to keep the lights on after the power goes out. Some things to consider when setting up a base with a generator.

Keep it outside! Exhaust fumes will kill you from a running generator inside

Will need refueled approx every other day, and the more STUFF you have running the more it will need.

Repair it! Keep it above 20% or it may explode.

How far away is the gas station? how far will those gas commutes be with however many gas cans you have stockpiled.

Do I have a second one? Gas pumps need power.. You can stash a second gen at the pumps and turn it on as you need power. I like to keep a gas can handy at the pump just to top that gen off every time so its never dry (then you have issues)

Cars have gas!All else fails you can siphon gas from cars with RMB and a gas can.

Security! I would have put this section first but you need to consider the top 3 things first before picking a base just because of how easy to secure it is.

Hows the view? downstairs windows/doors make a base harder to secure. It can be done but takes more resources. Basic defenses are the simple sheet over widows. You can plank them up, toss a metal sheet on them, or even install bars. Remember you can barricade inside AND outside for double the delaying power.

Escape routes- Always plan for at least 2 easy ways in/out of your base. Back window that’s not barricaded, sheet ropes from the second floor.

How many floors?Best way to stay safe? get a 2+ story buildingg and break all the stairs between ground floor and 2F with a sledge hammer. Make sure you have installed sheet ropes upto the 2nd floor before you break the stairs. No stairs=no zombies, they will be unable to reach the higher portions of your base.

Roof top garden Alot of survivors like setting up rooftop gardens. All you need is a sack+trowel/shovel to move dirt onto your roof. You will have to build more flooring if you have a sloped roof, currently you FALL through sloped roofs, be careful up there.

Conveniently located! Some bases are naturaly safer then others simply because of their location. Trying to setup shop in downtown Westpoint or the mall will need a lot more consideration (and clearing) then a cabin out in the middle of the woods. Google ‘Project Zomboid Heatmap’ if you want to see the spawning hotspots, but a general rule of thumb, the closer you are to town the more zombies there will be.

Clearing time

Lets talk weapons.

For most starting survivors your best bet will be Long Blunt weapons. Yes spears do more damage, but they tend towards the poor durability side.

I recommend getting a crowbar, or lead pipe as soon as possible. Both of these have great durability chance (1/70 with crowbar) which will in turn train your maintenance skill.

Axes are amazing when you have them, If you have a spare for wood collection the pickaxes and axe both make great weapons (save wood axes for chopping trees, the swing speed SUCKS)

Hand axes always get a belt slot in my runs. Great damage, decent range, good durability for a 1h weapon.

Night stick is the short blunt contender with the hand axe.

Its always a good idea to have 1 blunt weapon on you at all times. For when you see that military zombie and don’t want to shred their cloths, blunt weapons will get it done. Anything bladed- axes, spears, knives, swords- will damage the clothing before you get to it.

and below is my personal

rating of weapons by category

Long blunt




Lead pipe

Baceball bat(spiked variant when durability is low, then just keep adding nails for repairs)

Short blunt

Night stick







stone axe



machete spear

spear w/ hunting knife

spear w/ chipped stone

other crafted spear variants.

Short blade

If your using these just grab your highest damage one and good luck

long blade

both katana and machete are top teir, but I would recommend waiting until your maintenance skill has gone up a bit before using them as they are both rare and unable to be repaired.

I am not listing stats because they exist on the PZ wiki in nice table format.

Taking a light touch with how to actually DO combat, as there are several YouTube tutorials/lets plays that give a good idea of it. But hears the basics.

You are more accurate when standing still then moving, both melee and ranged.

Keep getting distance from zombies if there are more then a couple.

Check your 6 often so you don’t get jumped (keen hearing helps with this)

You can always exit combat mode and jog a short ways to keep your distance.

You can stand/sit on a downed zombie and it wont get up, if they all fall in a pile you can stand on them all. DON’T do this to crawlers

The outline settings I mentioned earlier help you learn your weapon range and when to swing.

When facing a lot of zombies Swing, push swing. helps keep distance and fill the swing recovery gap.

Try to take down small groups you see early. This will keep them from forming up into harder to deal with large hoards.

Watch your stamina moodles. After the second one its time to consider ditching to come back later, or get distance an pop ginseng other endurance recovering item.

Keep some vitamins handy to keep you out of the bad tired mooddes. Those reduce endurance regeneration.

In an emergancy, eat raw coffee/teabags and get a nice boost against tiredness.

This is it guys!! I am sure that you will love Project Zomboid Survival Guide And Gameplay that we have shared with you. We are always open to discussion and suggestions from you. Just let us what you thought about the guide in the comment section.

Also, we would like to thank Weol. He is the one behind this wonderful guide.