|Note: This map is for illustrative purposes only. Do not use this as a guide to your own particular locality.|
Please note my previous two posts about getting started in Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead (here and here). I still plan to continue with that story - it's winter now for my character, and I do have more tips for beginners - but that's not this post. This is for my readers who are struggling to survive the very first day in the game. (You know who you are. :) )
Welcome to the Acme Model 700 Evacuation Shelter, the finest such structure on the market! With any luck, the U.S. Army will be standing by with helicopters to whisk you to safety. Remain orderly, please. There's plenty of room for everyone.
It's possible, in truly exceptional circumstances, that there might be a slight delay until the next wave of transport choppers arrive. Just in case - as unlikely as that might be - we've developed this little guide to surviving your first day (and night) in a zombie apocalypse. After the shock wears off, you should have no problem at all, especially since you can remain confident that rescue will be coming soon.
For now, it's time to take stock of yourself. What are you wearing? Do you have anything in your pockets? [Press 'i' for inventory.] You've been living in a society of abundance, but that's not the case anymore. Now, you must scavenge for everything, so don't throw anything away. If you don't need it right now, place it neatly in a corner of the evac shelter for possible future use.
Look at everything you own. [While in your inventory, press the letters corresponding to your clothing and other gear. Read everything. It's all important.] Clothing won't just keep you warm, it will - to some extent - protect you from attack, as well. Make sure you keep it in tip-top condition.
Clothing often has pockets, too. You're going to need some way to carry the stuff you'll be scavenging. After all, you'll probably need to leave your hands free for some kind of weapon. Don't have a weapon? Ah, you haven't been listening to the NRA, have you? Too bad.
No, no, don't beat yourself up. The truth is, though a gun would undoubtedly make you feel better, it would probably be counterproductive right now. Guns, after all, make a lot of noise. The secret to surviving in a zombie apocalypse is to draw no unnecessary attention to yourself. Remember, you're prey now, not predator. You won't be stronger than the creatures trying to kill you, so you must be smarter.
Still, you do need a weapon - just in case. Note that we don't stock such things in Acme brand shelters. Weapons and panic-stricken people aren't a good combination, you know. But if you happen to have a hammer and screwdriver with you, you could always disassemble the furniture [from the construction menu (press '*')].
No? Well, if you look outside, you can probably find a rock. Keep your eyes open, and don't go far from the shelter. But grab a rock [wield it] and bring it back inside. (Close the door behind you. It's probably a good idea to close the curtains on the windows, too - just in case.)
Now, we at Acme pride ourselves on the quality and the beauty of the furnishings in our shelters. But sometimes,... well, desperate times call for desperate measures, right? If you smash ['s'] a locker or a bench with that rock, you'll be able to disassemble it into its component parts - not as neatly as you could with tools, but... desperate times. Depending on your strength, it might take several attempts, but it will work, eventually.
Note that we build our evac shelters away from the cities, so it's unlikely that the noise of smashing furniture will draw unwanted attention. But you definitely shouldn't get into the habit of making that much noise!
What then? It's up to you, really. If you've got a pocketknife, you might be able to sharpen a two-by-four into a makeshift spear. Or pound nails into it with that rock, creating a studded club. Best of all might be a metal pipe, especially if you beat it into a makeshift crowbar with that rock - thus giving you both a weapon and a useful tool. You won't be able to carry much, so it's really handy when you can double-up like that.
[I covered this in my second post. Make sure you wield the stone, then smash apart either a locker, for metal components, or a bench or counter, for wood and nails. You can wield the resulting pipe or two-by-four if you want, but you can make better weapons/tools from such things in the crafting menu ('&'). As I noted, I'd especially recommend making a makeshift crowbar.]
Wield your new weapon, but hang on to that rock, too. Put it in your pocket. You can always drop it later, if necessary, to make room for other stuff. After all, rocks are very common. But it's always nice to have a rock in your pocket, so you can throw it at an enemy - especially since you don't have to worry about picking it back up again (unlike more valuable throwing weapons).
Now, before you leave the shelter, check out the basement. It will be dark down there, and there could be something dangerous which has gotten in (unlikely, but possible). It's always best to find out for sure, though. You don't want something sneaking up in the middle of the night! Also, someone might have left some gear down there. Again, it's unlikely, but possible.
OK, now what? Keep in mind what a human being needs for survival: food, clean water, clothing, shelter. You're already wearing clothing suitable for the season, hopefully. (Note that, if it gets cold at night, try gathering up a pile of unused clothing to use as a blanket.) [Sleeping on or near a pile of even ragged clothes will keep you warm at night. Sleeping underground might help with that, too. Eventually, you're going to want to find or make a bedroll or a bed, but that will take awhile.]
Our Acme brand evac shelter will keep you protected from the elements, too. After exploring, come back to sort through your loot, and to store it securely, and to sleep without worrying about rain and wild beasts. So now all you need is food and water - and some way to carry what you find back to the shelter.
Food is usually the easiest, because you don't necessarily have to go into the towns for food. Note: Cities are very dangerous in a zombie apocalypse. When most people have been turned into zombies, the last place you want to be is where there were lots of people. Remember that!
Often, you can find strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and other fruit in the fields which usually surround our evac shelters. Pay attention to the bushes you see as you travel around. If you think they might be fruit-bearing, look more closely. [Press 'e', then the direction, while standing next to them.] Sometimes apple trees can be found in the forests. Wild vegetables, too.
You can hunt, of course, but most small creatures will flee from you. And you should be very careful of larger animals - wolves, cougars, moose - even if they seem to be ignoring you. Stay well clear! However, you can probably expect an explosion in the rat population during a zombie apocalypse, and rat meat is surprisingly delicious. (Or so I'm told.)
Rats are vicious enough to come to you, but easy enough for even the least experienced to kill - assuming you're not unlucky enough to encounter a swarm of them. Throw rocks at them while they're still out of melee range. And if you can lure them into a bush, or onto other rough terrain - while you're staying on flat ground yourself, of course - you can slow them down and make them easier to hit.
Unfortunately, raw rat meat isn't delicious. In fact, we at Acme highly recommend avoiding raw meat in general. Now, you can easily grill a rat steak on a sharp stick, or create a makeshift pot out of rocks [crafting menu '&'], but you're still going to need a lighter or matches in order to light a fire. Most likely, you'll need to raid abandoned homes for those items.
Please note: Do not build a campfire in or near your evac shelter! Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, should they somehow happen to survive the experience.
Build your campfire somewhere safe, where the fire won't get out of control. With a little effort, you can even build a stone fireplace. That probably won't be necessary for just a 24-hour stay, though. [Note that you can build a fireplace with 40 stones. That will keep a fire from spreading inside a building and won't smoke up the place, either. I highly recommend it. You don't want to be standing out in a thunderstorm - or worse, acid rain - trying to cook supper over a campfire.]
Even if you do have matches on you, so you don't have to raid abandoned homes for that, water is going to be the big problem. (Acme Model 700 shelters aren't equipped with modern plumbing facilities, because customers aren't expected to be there long enough to need them.) Even if you can find a source of water elsewhere, you shouldn't drink directly from it. Stay safe. Boil your water!
And, of course, you're going to need some way to carry the water - and any other supplies you find. So you're going to have to chance the edges of civilization - but only the edges, mind you. The further you get into a city, the more dangerous it will be. If there are parks, libraries, shops - places where people would commonly gather in large numbers - stay well away from such places. They'll almost certainly be infested with zombies.
Check the map at the start of this guide. That's just an example, of course. Your own locale will be different,... but not too much different, perhaps. Note the position of the evac shelter. [It's that white plus sign near the center of the map.] That's a typical location for an Acme Model 700 shelter - outside of town, near a road, surrounded by fields - and although it won't necessarily be safe, it will likely be about as safe as you're going to get in a zombie apocalypse.
Now, see that city to the south and west? Stay out of places like that! What you want to do is just creep up to homes in the suburbs, where the zombies might not be so thick. Note those houses on the edges of town, both northwest and southeast of the shelter? (Those closest homes to the southwest probably wouldn't be bad, either, if you were careful, though it would probably be easier to get surrounded there.)
What you want to do is approach a house from behind, so that the house itself will shield you from the sight of any zombies which are further in towards town. Note that this will be your escape route, too. You'll be returning the same way you came, through the open fields you'd already crossed. (You don't want to be running away into an unknown area filled with unknown dangers.)
However, in an emergency, a forest is a great place to lose zombies. Note how that spur of forest to the southeast extends almost to the homes there? That could be useful, especially if you checked the area first. Likewise, a large field of rubble, like that patch [those red 0's] far to the northwest, will greatly slow any zombie - and likely damage them, too. That would be a good place to retreat - around, not through - in an emergency, provided you've first checked that the way is clear.
Zombies normally can't see as well as people, so you'll probably see them before they see you, if you're approaching from the open. [If not, use 'X' (shift-x) to peek around corners without being seen, so you don't walk right out in front of a bunch of them.] If you see too many zombies nearby, or some of the particularly dangerous variants, just back off and try somewhere else.
If you only see one or two 'ordinary' zombies, though, you might let them see you and then lure them back out into the fields, the way you came, and kill them there. Ordinary zombies shouldn't be a big problem if you can fight them one at a time. Pick up rocks from the ground and use them as missile weapons as they approach. Lead them into bushes, which will slow them down.
If you're standing on the other side of a bush, you should be able to strike twice with your weapon and then back away before the zombie can strike at you. Lead it into another bush - avoiding the bush yourself, of course - and repeat. If you have a fast weapon, you probably don't even need the bush. Let the zombie walk up to you, strike it once with your weapon, and retreat. Repeat until it's dead.
Ordinary zombies will only be a problem if they trap you, or if they come at you in bunches. If you encounter the more dangerous variants, run away - preferably before they've spotted you. (Zombies use sight, if they can see you. Otherwise, they'll move towards noise. Finally, if you spend too long in one place, they'll smell you - and they can follow a scent trail, too, if it isn't too old.)
When you can get up to a house without any zombies seeing you - or any that you haven't already dispatched, at least - try to open any doors or windows on that side of the house. Most doors will be at the front of houses, but a few have back doors, and some of those might be unlocked. It's harder to find an unlocked window, but not unheard of.
Don't go around to the front of the house. Don't even go to the sides - not without peeking around the corner first, certainly. If there aren't any open doors or windows, try to pry one open with your crowbar. (Press 'a', then the letter which corresponds to your makeshift crowbar, to use - or 'activate' - it. You'll have to indicate the direction then.)
Prying open a door or a window makes a little bit of noise, but not much. If you attract a zombie, it will probably be only one. There's a pretty good chance that you'll smash a window when you attempt to pry one open, and that makes a little more noise. But not too much, usually. While you're clearing the broken glass from the window [use the construction menu '*' for that], any zombie that heard you will likely show up. Well, just lure it off and kill it. One ordinary zombie shouldn't be a problem at all.
Note that a windowsill is also a good place to kill zombies, since it will slow them down. (It will slow you down, too, of course, so keep that in mind.) But you're probably going to want to escape the same way you entered the house - and back across the fields the same way, too - so make sure you don't get trapped inside.
Still, houses are full of things that will slow down zombies. You'll want to be careful at any windows - close the curtains, if you can - but even if zombies do spot you, it will take them time to bust in. (Of course, they'll make noise doing it, which might draw other zombies.) Search the back rooms of the house first. If you're noticed, and it gets to be too dangerous, close doors behind you as you escape back the same way you came. It should be safe in that direction, after all.
Now, what are you looking for? Well, lots of things, but you won't be able to carry most of them. Make a note of what's there [press 'N' on the map screen to leave a note] and keep looking. If you find food you can't carry, eat it - especially if it's perishable. Drink any fruit juice you find in the refrigerator, since that won't last long. If you can't carry this stuff any other way, carry it in your stomach!
But you really need to find a backpack, purse, messenger bag, duffel bag, fanny pack - something which will allow you to carry more items without encumbering you too much. Look for clothing you can wear, too - especially if it's in your size. Cargo pants, for example, have a lot more pockets than jeans. If you find a pair in your size, switch clothing.
Some things are small enough to fit almost anywhere, and those are often very useful items - like matchbooks, lighters, aspirin, thread, etc. Other things might be very nice to have, but if you don't have room to carry them, make a note and come back later. Of course, we at Acme Shelters are confident that you won't have to wait long for rescue. But just in case...
Fresh water is critical. You can live longer without food than without water, and tainted water can easily make you sick. But you can't carry water in your pockets. So look for plastic bottles. Fill them at any convenient water source - don't be too squeamish - but don't drink it until you've boiled the water. Of course, this implies that you've found a pack - or even just a purse - which can hold the plastic containers.
Don't spend too much time at this. The longer you spend in an area, the more easily zombies will be able to smell you - even if they don't see you or hear you first. If you don't find what you need in the first house you try, it still might be wise to escape with what you can and try somewhere else later (after you've dumped off your loot at the evac shelter). It just depends on the situation.
You may think you're a tough guy or a tough gal, but you're prey to almost everything in a zombie apocalypse. Zombies have no fear, and they can easily swarm you - even if you don't encounter any of the especially dangerous variants. If no one else is alive, no one is going to call you a coward for running away. Do you care what zombies think? Zombies have no minds. They can't think anything.
When you get back to the evac shelter, sort through your stuff. Do you have time to try again? Yes, you probably do, if you took my advice to make it quick. Choose a different location and do the same thing. If it's too dangerous, back off. You can be hungry and thirsty and still live - especially if you've gorged yourself once already.
When it gets late, pile your extra clothing somewhere in the evac shelter - maybe in the basement, if it's especially cold outside. Sleeping on the floor won't be much fun, but you'll at least stay warm that way. Remember, you can confidently expect rescue by morning - two days, tops. [Or never. :) ]
But if something does happen, and you need to survive another day - or several other days - keep this advice in mind. Keep your eyes open as you travel - both for useful items/food and for dangerous creatures. Plan your raids on the map. Choose what looks like the safest approach, then get in and get out quickly, using the same path.
Don't be afraid to change your plans if it looks too dangerous. A failed raid is better than being dead. If you do make it inside a house, you won't be able to carry everything you find - not even close. Get what you most need now, and come back another time, if you want. If you haven't attracted notice, and the way is still clear when you leave, it will likely stay clear. Of course, if it wasn't critical the first time, it might make more sense to try somewhere else first.
Whatever you do, do not go into the city. The city will be a deathtrap for you. Probe the edges. Look for opportunities. But don't take any big chances if you want to stay alive.
Of course, it's likely that no one will ever need this guide. Our fine shelters have been designed for ease of rescue. Should you be unlucky enough to need our services, you'll almost certainly find a well-trained, welcoming military force waiting to whisk you to safety. It's almost inconceivable that you might have to wait even a day for rescue.
But we at Acme are determined to cover every eventuality. No, no thanks are necessary. Your safety is all that matters to us.
Note: My other posts about Cataclysm - and other games - are here.