Bringing Survival Back: A C:DDA Challenge Game

Hello all, and welcome to the thread for my challenge game. I love Cataclysm: DDA, and I like all of the additions added to the game in recent months, but I feel in some ways that the game has grown from “hardcore survival in a zombie-infested world” to “tense survival until you find a loot-filled basement and then you’re basically invincible until you blow yourself up or crash your car or get within range of a turret”. Especially for veteran players who know how the game works, it can be quite easy to set up an excellent base of operations and a decent stockpile of supplies before the dawn of the first day.

So in an effort to get back that feeling of intense survival back for myself, I’ve started several games with item spawn set to 0.01, and I think you should, too.

Now just to be clear: 0.01 means almost no items appear in the game. 95% of the time you look through a house or a shop, there will be absolutely no items anywhere inside. Basements are no longer excellent sources of game-breaking quantities of guns, ammo, medical supplies or food… you may find a can of beans or a small box of rounds your current peashooter doesn’t even take. Groups of dead people will often be carrying nothing more useful than the clothes on their backs (give or take an ID card and an extra pair of pants). Vending machines may have, like 1 bag of pretzels and that’s it. This is not a challenge for the faint of heart or the easily frustrated. That said, here are the basic rules of the challenge:


[spoiler=Da Rules]-Set item spawn to 0.01. This is mandatory, and the backbone of the entire challenge.
-I highly recommend you turn down the enemy spawn rate, as well. Playing on 1.0 spawn I found that it became too easy to get supplies dropped by dead enemies. 0.5 spawn rate keeps a good amount of zombies in the game while not risking turning them from enemies into loot piñatas.
-Static NPCs should be off, Random NPCs should be on. Why? To add extra FUN of course, and because on the off-chance that you get a companion, your item-less journey through the apocalypse is a lot less lonely, and the grab bag of loot carried by NPCs can be a great help should you find one that experienced an untimely end. And depending on your trait choices, their physical bodies can be a great source of sustenance for you. Static ones are turned off because the entire point of this game is that you should never be sure where your next useful item (or meal) comes from. As a fun fact: Makayla “Lighter Girl” Sanchez was met in a game playing by this ruleset so who knows? You may meet an NPC as awesome as her in your own game.
-Set city size to something fairly small: 4 at the absolute maximum.
-Optional: Start as a Shower Victim to complete the experience of sheer deprivation. Jobs with substance addictions could be FUN too, but could really kick you in the ass once your initial supply of drugs or booze runs out.
-Optional: Start as a Randomized character.
-If you find yourself in a nearly impossible situation, I implore you to not give up and Q/Y/Y. As I’ve found by necessity, characters will usually. survive a lot longer than you think they will in a given situation. For example, I found myself attacked by a pack of no fewer than 10 triffids and fungal fighters on an old 0.01 character armed with a nail bat. By the end of the battle I was “Completely Paralyzed” from venom, none of my base stats were higher than 4 due to the pain, my torso was at : and I was running for my life (at a snail’s pace) from impending horde of triffids chasing my poor ravaged body, and I had left a shopping cart containing most of my meager supplies behind out of a necessity to run faster. But RNG be damned, I was ALIVE.

-The challenge is completed whenever you decide it’s completed. Survive for a certain amount of time, adventure until you acquire a vibrator or something, reach a mutation threshold, collect a certain amount of supplies, or whenever you think it’s most poetically significant to end your journey of pain and misery.

Every other option can be customized to your liking, as well. For your first run you may want to consider turning on Classic Zombies just to make things a bit easier.[/spoiler]

If you like the idea of this challenge, I encourage you to boot up a character and give it a try! Share your stories, experiences, frustrations, and brutal brutal deaths in this thread and share them with other players!
Unless you don’t think you can hack it, in which case you can sit in your room and polish your diamond katana some more.

-If you’re allowing yourself to customize your character, there is no shame in taking the “cheap” traits like Forgetful with skill rust off. Also, taking the food intolerance traits may be prudent because you aren’t going to be finding a lot of food lying around anyway.
-Disease Resistant. Take it. You will probably get a cold anyway from eating nothing but meat and water, and getting a disease on 0.01 item spawn is a massive, MASSIVE pain in the ass (and throat).
-You may want to set your Intelligence to the minimum if you have skill rust off, and also consider taking Illiterate. You probably won’t find many books anyway, and the skill gains are surely not worth the time it takes to read them.
-Fast Learner is good for getting your skills up quicker through practice, Fast Healer is good for surviving another day.
-Being a Light Eater may just save your life.
-Because almost no items will spawn on their own, scripted items like the ones you get from smashing furniture are your best friends. This is explained in more detail in the Cheat Sheet.
-Skills you should prioritize leveling for this challenge include Tailoring and Survival, as well as your combat skill of choice.

[center]Cheat Sheet:[/center]
Clicking the below spoiler will teach you my acquired knowledge of 0.01 survival, from what to do in your first few hours of the game and how to acquire substitutes for the tools you need to survive. Click below only if you’re frustrated or don’t care about being spoiled a bit, but I implore you to at least try to play and figure some of this stuff out for yourself. That being said:

[spoiler=Do you want to see what’s inside?]

[spoiler=It’s a secret to everybody]

[spoiler=Okay, last warning!]
This guide will assume you start as a Shower Victim with no skills and about average traits.

  1. Wherever you spawn, smash something for a 2x4, then smash something metal to get a pipe. This will be the best weapon you have at the moment.
  2. One thing I always took for granted in regular playthroughs: the usefulness of a plain old Rock at the beginning of the game. It’s a tool used for so many recipes, and with 0.01 rocks almost never spawn in fields by the bucket like they used to. So the next thing to do is to smash a sink or bathtub or something and grab a rock from there. You can turn your pipe into a makeshift crowbar now, or grab a 2x4 and some nails and craft a nail board for an even better weapon.
  3. Make a Stone Knife. Knives are useful, and while a Stone knife isn’t good for fighting at all, it’s acceptable as a tool.
  4. Before hunger and thirst start to set in, you need some Survival and Tailoring skills or you won’t be able to feed yourself. Kill a zombie or two, grab all their clothes, tear a window curtain down, rip it up into rags and start practicing sewing. You’ll ruin a lot of clothes this way but it will be worth it. If you find any good armor like steeltoed boots or a trenchcoat, hold off on sewing them until you get to 3 or 4 tailoring skill, so you have a much better chance of repairing them rather than wrecking them. /e/xamine underbrush and butcher corpses until your Survival skill is at 2: you may find some tasty veggies or other useful things in the process.
  5. Another thing I took for granted: gear for boiling water. Never, ever, ever drink dirty water in 0.01. The water you lose from vomiting is much greater than drinking the water gave you, and the illness will slow your movement down as well. Cooking meat is easy enough with a wood skewer (cut up a stick or something with your knife), but you’ll need either an empty can or a pot to cook in. You can craft a stone pot with Level 2 Survival and Level 1 Cooking, so the sooner you get those skills to where they need to be, the better. The stone pot is 10 volume and a pain in the ass to lug around, but until you get super-lucky and find a frying pan or something it’s your lifeline to clean, safe water, so get used to it.
  6. Speaking of water, there’s also the issue of where to store it. You probably won’t find a bottle. Craft a waterskin of the largest size you can manage: this is another reason to get your tailoring and survival skills up. Once you’ve got everything, start boiling some delicious toilet water and thank me when you take your first sip of it.
  7. Waste nothing. If you can’t think of a better use for it, it can always be used to keep your fire lit for a little bit longer.
  8. For extra fun, remember where all of the parts for your equipment came from. It always makes me smile to realize my “stone fireplace” is actually made of smashed toilets and bathtubs, and that I converted the parts from an armchair into a Quarterstaff of Zombear Crushing +4.
  9. Medicine will be your biggest problem. Trade with NPCs and cook up as many drugs as you can, but if your wounds get infected you probably won’t survive if you haven’t found antibiotics yet. Such is life in the zombie apocalypse.[/spoiler][/spoiler][/spoiler]

Challenge accepted.

I’ve tried doing something like this, and its fun to go around scavenging and wobbling with excitement in your chair when you find something like a can of soup.

As you already said, if you use ‘e’ on an underbrush (the brushes that are in forests, NOT the ones in fields and such.) You can find eggs that are a pretty good food source, especially as you can find up to six of them. You can also find trash in an underbrush, but you can find some pretty great items such as gallon jugs, and tin cans that’ll stop you lugging around that blasted pot for water. Additionally finding a gallon jug or enough plastic bottles allows for the creation of a makeshift funnel, which I find is an amazing water source and rainwater hasn’t given me food poisoning as of yet. Therefore foraging underbrushes is the way2go.

The game for me is more fun the harder it is, hence why I adore the fragile trait.

Challenge Accepted!!!
[move]8D[/move][move]Random Character[/move]

[move]Stylish Survivor[/move]
Gonna be a long day

For more !FUN! 128 day seasons with the starting season as winter. After all, we are wandering an ash filled wasteland where the sun doesn’t shine.

… or perhaps a modding effort to bring the game of Cataclysm survival to its essence? A woodland New England world crammed with beasts/fungs/triffs, where at the cornerstone of 'clysmic destruction Hordes of the undead are spreading to infest wildlife deep into the heartland. All possesions that are to be found are deep in the state of decay, and the harsh climate makes the sight of a (civic) shelter just about prodigal? :slight_smile:

The world washed in acid rain, weaved of blight and despair?

Playing with a Tweaker is almost impossible. Finding a decent water source is the most important thing first, as it doesn’t take long for withdrawals to set in that make you utterly useless. Food isn’t a huge issue if you’re close to a forest because you can usually find some apple trees to pick from, but watch out for wildlife, any and all hostiles will mean the end of you if you’re still balancing speed modifiers. (I read somewhere on the forums that eating raw vegetables can give you brain parasites, is that just from triffids or does that apply to ones you forage as well?)

Edit: I’ve been playing with static, should I be using dynamic spawn instead? Hordes, even?

I am trying this now. It definitely gives me the feeling that maybe item spawns should be jacked way down by default. :confused: I also never considered any of the trash found when scavenging bushes to be anything special until trying this. hell, I found a lawnmower and thought “jackpot!” I used to just pass them by before, but playing like this it actaully crossed my mind that lawnmowers could be useful in that they have springs and blades along with the tiny motor in them, both useful bits of salvage.

My fleet-footed senior citizen got cornered by two Mi-Gos in a doctor’s office. And he was doing so well too, had some trouble with food, water, and the freezing cold at nights initially, but that was all settled, and he was beginning to gear up.

I’m thinking of trying this with Slow Zombies, do you think that’d throw everything off balance or make fighting zombies too easy for the loot they can drop?

If you have the spawn rate at 0.5, the zombies will be rather meaningless if they are slow as well. I’m thinking more along the lines of making them fast, to have them provide some kind of challenge, rather than just being extra loot.

Off to a really good start, found all the stuff I needed for getting fresh water, just outside the shelter.

Wandered into town, and a skeleton wandered up. Hah, eas… Oh my god, blood! Blood everywhere!!!

I tried this challenge mod, but I found the extremely low item spawn incredibly depressing, so I decided to try a different setup, which is quite fun:

Item spawn is down to 0.5 (the default really should be lower in my opinion)
Zombie spawn is down to between 0.5 and 0.8 (depends if you want to have it easier or harder)
City-size is up to 6 or 7.
Select “house” as your starting position.
Set the default vision range on the map lower, perhaps to 10.

So, you will (probably) start in a very comfy spot somewhere in the middle of a ridiculously big town. Guns are now highly unreliable, as making noise will get you killed.
Also, as additional condition, you could say, that you’re not allowed to leave town (and run into the safe wilderness).

I believe that scenario poses a really interesting challenge. Some traits, that I usually never pick are suddenly not that bad. Usually my final goal is to rid this mega-city of zombies, (which I have obviously never achieved.)

Okay, here’s a guide of sorts for 0.A-1799 on 0.01 item spawn with 0.5 zombies. Mind you, it’s working best for hordes off. Hordes on have pretty much the same progression, except you RUN AWAY all the time until you think you can deal with them easily (usually you won’t). Also hordes on are not as much fun in terms of challenge, because you can grind zombies for items, and it ruins the challenge.

Read if you’re frustrated of dying consistently or you’re an experienced player looking for some tips to make starting a char easier. It is much more fun to figure it out by yourself. Warning, wall of text.

This guide is a rough outline for a worst case scenario when you find no random goodies (on 0.01 you usually don’t, but RNG may smile at you). This is written for low-risk players. You can do all the tailoring/fabrication steps almost immediately, as soon as you return to evac shelter with a rock. However, in my practice it is risky: you almost always find yourself very hungry/very thirsty. Sure, you have decent storage and armor, but you don’t have the means to make clean water. Which means you’re fucked.


  1. Break a locker when you spawn. Wield the pipe as a weapon. Tear off a curtain, disassemble the long string to short, then to thread. Take it with you. Smash some furniture with your pipe, take a couple of dozens of nails. If you’re naked/have less than 8 volume slots, make a makeshift sling out of a sheet and put it on.
  2. This is the boring part. Walk to the nearest forest and examine the underbrush until your survival is up to 2. In the process you may find some trash. You want to do it until you have an aluminum or tin can to boil water and two containers (glass and plastic bottles are nice). If you’re lucky, you may even find more. Don’t grab any food except eggs, they can be safely eaten raw, and food on ground will stop rotting as soon as it’s out of your reality bubble anyway.
  3. Craft a fire drill. Hooray, you have fire.
  4. Find a house. Break in through a window. Find a sink/bathtub and break it for rocks. Grab at least three. Fill up one container with toilet water, leave the other one empty. Smash a fridge and grab a rubber hose.
  5. In the house, convert your pipe to a makeshift crowbar. Makes for a slightly better weapon and allows a chance of silent break-ins.
  6. Go back to evac shelter. Drop all your stuff. Craft a spike out of scrap metal from a couple of smashed lockers. Craft a makeshift knife and a stone hammer. Board up the window with no curtain.
  7. Go outside. Ignite a shrub. Boil your water and drink, you’re probably very thirsty at the moment.
  8. Craft fishing hooks until your fabrication is at 1. Drop them, they’re useless.
  9. Cut a 2x4 to skewers. Now you can cook meat.
  10. Make a slingshot. Fabrication 1 is necessary to minimize the risk of losing a rubber hose. Make two sets of pebbles.
  11. Go outside and shoot some small animals. Shoot only from a small distance to maximize damage. You should have meat now. To minimize risk, you can open the doors in evac shelter and approach an animal from a certain angle to herd it inside. Close the doors behind you and melee it or shoot it point-blank.
  12. Ignite a shrub and cook meat.
  13. Repeat the food gathering steps until you’re in decent form (neither thirsty nor hungry).
  14. Rip off more curtains and cut one or two sheets to rags. Make a wooden needle, load it with thread, make some more thread out of long string.
  15. Craft a couple of bandanas. Reinforce them until you have tailoring 2. Now cut some more sheets into rags, they’ll always yield all 20 rags at this tailoring level.
  16. Arm warmers, stockings, undershirts, a bindle, maybe some gloves if you don’t mind hand encumbrance. All reinforced, in sets of two if you don’t mind running a bit slower. Don’t make a cotton hat for now, for some reason it takes a lot of time to craft. Get your tailoring up until you can make a backpack, make one and reinforce it.
  17. Drop all your stuff at the console, it’s nighttime already.
  18. Smash more furniture. Take 10 2x4s and a sheet to the basement. Craft a makeshift bed. Go back. Cut up a couple of sheets. Craft a blanket or preferably a sleeping bag. Drop it on the bed. Now you can sleep without frostbite!
  19. Go to the city and find a grocery or a hardware store. A shopping cart or a wheelbarrow is a godsend for melee characters, as it is effectively a portable shrub, allowing you to 1v1 nearly anything. Not to mention extra storage.
  20. Kill some zombies at the outskirts of the town, cut their clothing to rags and leather. Leave intact cargo pants, army pants, trenchcoats, you may refit and reinforce them for extra storage.
  21. Go back home and make a quarterstaff. Quarterstaff has seemingly less DPS than a nail bat, but it has Quick Strike, allowing a couple free hits on a zombie that has just moved to your cart/wheelbarrow. Make several waterskins, too.
  22. After a couple trips for food and clean water you should have cooking 1. Go to city again and craft a stone pot out of three rocks and some string. Now you can cook veggies and more complex food. Return to your foraging area, collect and cook all the useful goodies and wild veggies. Shrooms frequently fuck you up, leave them be.
  23. Item spawns inside cars aren’t affected by 0.01, so loot them to find some lighters, flashlights, first aid kits, jacks, wrenches, screwdrivers or even a rare [glow=white,2,300]road map[/glow].
  24. After that you’re pretty much set. You have renewable fire, you have water (if a bit far), enough animals have spawned to supply you with meat, and you have decent melee capability to allow you to explore cities in daylight for limitless rags, leather patches and perhaps goodies. Get yourself a car and wander city to city to kill zombies for goodies and siphon cars for more gas. Clear mansions and libraries for books, these are virtually the only places to have a chance to spawn one. Schools are fine too, but they ruin your skill learning ability for at least a day or two. Settle down at a LMOE shelter or a cabin/house in walking distance from a river.

Assorted tips:

[ul][li]Find an NPC. Usually they’re aggressive to the wildlife, and some of them spawn with guns. If you’re lucky, you may find some animal corpses around them to butcher. Also, certain items have weird large costs. You may abuse this to buy all their stuff for a pack of cigs or a cash card, for instance.[/li]
[li]Tiredness doesn’t affect you much, but don’t get yourself dead tired, or a splat will be imminent.[/li]
[li]Lava is very nice if you want to conserve your lighters. Always mark a fumarole on your map when you find one. Also, you’re able to cook on them even in rain. Sometimes lava flows are found in mines (beware of dark wyrms).[/li]
[li]Night Vision, Disease Resistant, Scout, Quick: absolutely necessary. Remove some to make game much more frustrating. [/li]
[li]Gun-toting NPCs have limited ammo and enough stupidity to think a rifle makes a passable melee weapon. It doesn’t. If you have a decent weapon, you may wait until they waste all of their ammo. Follow them until they find a wolf or a bear, wait a bit, then kill the wounded predator. Free meds/canned food and animal meat to boot! If you’re roleplaying, dig a pit, put the corpse there and drop a couple heavy sticks near the pit to mimic a cross. Proper burial for proper loot.[/li]
[li]Take NPC quests to learn rare skills like electronics/computers/etc. Yes, even the jabberwocky one, if you have strength of 10 or more, a quarterstaff, decent clothing layering and a shopping cart. Quick strike him, move in the direction opposite of him, repeat. If he’s stunned, continue to walk away to make room for maneuver. He’s faster than you, so only engage if you’re sure.[/li]
[li]Fabrication 3: accumulate 2x4s and craft distaves and spindles. Fabrication 4: even more 2x4s, cut up some to skewers, and spam carding paddles.[/li]
[li]Mechanics 1: find a jack and a spare wheel, spam change tire. Mechanics 2: find a soldering iron, disassemble a broken console in the evac shelter or a house, reinforce half of your inventory. Mechanics 3+: find a hacksaw or a circular saw, disassemble a car.[/li]
[li]An arcade offers you limitless electronic parts, and pinball machines have bearings in them for your slingshot. Use them to weaken zombears before they get to you. Two headshots and one regular shot with bearings can kill a wolf![/li]
[li]Give yourself a project. The game becomes tedious after a while, so find a challenge.[/li][/ul]

Some challenges:

[ul][li]A deathmobile from regular cata with a bed, welding rig, forge, kitchen and a kitchen buddy. A vac sealer and skills/books for welding are almost impossible to find. Almost.[/li]
[li]A decent list of bionics. Hint: FEMA camps.[/li]
[li]Mutations. Both Robust Genetics + waste sarcophagi/craters and the old-fashioned cooking style are tricky, due to rarity of iodine tablets and books for mutagen.[/li]
[li]No NPCs.[/li]
[li]Atomic nightlight or atomic coffeemaker.[/li]
[li]A cup of tea (my favorite).[/li]
[li]A mall/megastore fortress.[/li]
[li]Minimal zombie spawn (aka HAHAHA, FUCK YOU).[/li][/ul]