Very new player, very many questions

First of all, I am sure there are many such threads like this throughout the forums. I have done a few searches, but so many really old topics popped up I figured my best bet was making a new one.

I have lived and died maybe 2 dozen times over the passed week, and I like to think I am learning something each time. Which is great, but there are a few things I just can’t seem to figure out.

  1. I can’t seem to find a metal sheet to make a brazier with for a safe fire. I had read that they are needed for vehicle construction, but I can’t seem to figure out how to deconstruct a car, which are everywhere. I have also read you can get them from stoves or fridges, but so far zombies keep me away from them. Is sneaking into a house really the best way?

  2. Food is an issue as well. I am trying to hunt with a knife spear, but there are very few animals around, and the ones that I can find only give small scraps, not enough to get by on. I am trying to fish, but when I activate the pole near a river, it just says there are no fish near by, try another spot. Any fishing tips, or should I try something else?

  3. Going anywhere near town to look for more stuff seems to just draw a lot of zombies. I have had some minor successes in prior runs on the outskirts, which is great. But right now it really feels like I lucked out more then I knew what I was doing. How in the world are you supposed to kill spitter zombies with the knife spear? Is there some other early game weapon I can fabricate that I am missing?

These are the big questions keeping me from living long enough to learn more. Hopefully once I can live more then a few days I can figure out more interesting things…

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  1. You can use ovens as a safe place to put fire if you don’t have a brazier. Just build your fire directly on the oven tile and you’ll be fine. Alternatively, you can deconstruct furniture like stoves for sheet metal. This requires a screw driver and hammer and is accessed by using the (*) construction menu. You may be able to simply smash a stove for sheet metal, but I don’t know if that works.

  2. Hunting is usually difficult at the start of the game due to the speed of small animals (and their small meat yield because of low butchery skills/equipment) and the danger of larger animals. I haven’t fished in ages – the time investment versus calorie returns never appealed to me much. If you’re playing with default settings, you should have no trouble finding perishable and nonperishable foods in the kitchens of most houses. I would encourage you to loot more homes/groceries/restaurants if you’re struggling for food.

  3. Towns are extremely dangerous to a starting character. I would encourage you to only search at night for a while, until you have some decent protection. Taking the Night vision trait in character creation will help you see enemies in the dark, often before they see you. Going there during the day will draw zombies from very far away, and their density tends to be pretty high until you start clearing them out.

Spears are generally regarded as the best starter weapon (you can make reach attacks with the ‘f’ button, allowing you to attack more than 1 tile away.) but are flimsy. I would say you shouldn’t be fighting zombies at all early on, unless you can fight them 1 at a time. Even that’s very dangerous because a deep bite can end your run. You can pretty easily avoid zombies if you weave through buildings and such. Run (") if you’re getting surrounded and try to break line of sight with them.

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If you like youtube video, try Cataclysm Quick Tips and Cataclysm University

At the beginning I never go near town, hunt, or fight unless I have no other choice. I either start at lab or near forests. I like to play Lab technician, which has mechanical, electrical, chemical, and computer skills. Most of the time, I use X to peek, " to run, and & to craft. I use m to check map to choose where to go.

I forage for food, practice archery, and farm. Farming can give lots of food in the long run. If I have time, I dig a lot of traps and set up nail boards in case if any zombie/big animal comes close. I smash some furniture, make makeshift hammer, and then make screwdriver. Then I deconstruct (with * key) furniture instead of smashing them. After a while I either make electric forge or charcoal forge and craft toolbox, welder, and welding goggles to fix a vehicle. There are vehicles on the roads. I don’t have to go inside a town to get a vehicle.

After that I try to go near town and always prepare to jump onto the car and run. If I see military composite armor, I collect it for my electric suv. If there is no electric suv, I use muscle power or wind turbine to make electricity. I like renewable energy because that means I can stay at a place and prepare for a very long time (1 to 2 years). Once I have a reliable source of electricity, I make a vacuum sealer to preserve the food.

Whenever I see a lot of small zombies, I run and kite them with my bow or use zombie pheromone. Whenever I see small zombies mix with brutes/juggernaut, I would just get a bit closer to draw off a few zombies and kill the small zombies one by one. If the brute start to chase me, I jump into my car and just run.

When the shocker brute/brute is alone, I can kite it to death with a long bow. If I see a skeletal juggernaut is alone, I ram it with my car.

Bows can’t kill skeletal dogs easily. I use a tazer to kill those.

I have never figured out how to use guns effectively.

I heard zombies get stronger over time. But I have never noticed that. hmm.

Since you are playing in the beginning , hunting is very hard and shouldn’t be your primary source of obtaining food during that stage of the game.

Maybe you should try going to forests and forage for acorns on the trees. You will need to cook them first , in wich case you will need water and a pot. You can get acorns in large quantities pretty easily , and they are very filling for your character - plus , acorns will only rot after you cook it , and if that wasn’t enough , for it to rot it takes 1 week.
Also , You can find other stuff like fruits , wild vegetables (wild vegetables don’t fill up very much) , wild herbs and so on.
Leave hunting/Fishing for when you get a good knife , a metal butchering rack , tourist table and a food dehydrator - then you pretty much won’t need to worry about food

Actually, at the start of the game, most forage-ables are not active. Berries and fruit mostly appear in the summer and most nuts aren’t widely available until fall. I don’t think I found any acorns until fall.

You can scrounge through the underbrush for wild vegetables, but their calorie count is so low that by the time you’ve cooked them it hardly seems worth it.

Houses are where I get most of my food in the early game. If you’re playing a no looting/no buildings game, then yeah, take what you can get, I don’t know what you should do.

Cat tails are a good spring source of calories, but going to the swamp is usually a death sentence when you first start playing.

Zombies have a chance to evolve into stronger versions as time passes. Most don’t start evolving for several seasons. It’s most noticeable when you choose an advanced start that starts you in year two.

broth, salted veggy chunks, and canned veggy give a bit more nutrition.
But I still have to spent nearly the whole first season to forage and make salt and lye. Swamp near forest is not too dangerous if I try to avoid the wild lives.

Metal sheets are all over the place, if you can acquire a screwdriver and something to hammer with ( a chunk of steel or a rock) you can disassemble a locker in the evac shelter for sheet metal

If you can’t find fish in a specific spot, try a different one. If you see a fish jumping out of the water, there should be even more under the surface. It’d be a good idea to have a smoker to preserve fish, it doesn’t last long. Still fish are an excellent resource if you can can or smoke or dry it.

The outskirts of a town is usually the safest bet. Night raids are good too, especially now that shady zombies don’t show up as much early on, zombies have poor night vision and as long as you’re quiet (or move away after making noise) you can slip in and out unnoticed.
For spitters, you need to get off the floor. Jump into a vehicle and fight them there to keep your feet out of the acid puddle.

Oh and get your survival up by foraging in underbrush and you can craft a stone spear, which is quite a bit better than the knife spear.

You also don’t need a metal sheet for a brazier, as with 40 (it might be 20) rocks you can make a stone fireplace. Those rocks can easily be gotten by smashing small boulders with a stone shovel.

Try examining things in the forest tiles to get an idea about what sort of things they can yield and when they yield them. Some stuff in the forest will also just give you random junk that can include food.

Smash stuff to get raw materials with something that has high blunt damage, if you haven’t found/made a hammer and screwdriver yet. They’re pretty easy to make these days, and one you have them, you can dissemble them in the * menu.

You can safely make fires in stuff that was designed to have fires in them. Figuring out which is part of the fun. You can also grab some of those things and move them around with a high enough strength. You can find braziers in churches too.

Examine cars/wreckage and then try Removing parts for more resources to scavenge.

I have been playing for over a year now and I still make my characters with Night Vision, a Weapon Fighting perk, and starting points in Dodge.

Somebody already linked Vormithrax’s tutorial videos. I also recommend them.

This game is based on movement cost system so understanding this system will help you make informed decision about all the activities that you are planning to do. From moving to running to cooking to fighting, this will help you.

Most zombies can notice you from 40 spaces away and their vision can also be cut down due to storm /rain. Being in shadows will help you be stealthy given that you’re not making noise within their vicinity or linger for too long to have your scent cloud form. You can mask your scent by smoking(do not do this at night, it keeps you lit and this will draw attention).

Night time looting is recommended for beginners. Shady zombies will follow you at night but dont panic. During day time try to craft a crowbar/improvised lockpicks. Hammer and screwdriver. Crowbar a good early mele weapon for backup as i dont even suggest you engaging them early on as you do not have good thick armour on you. You can avoid them as long as you’re in close quarters WITH doors/windows as they are your best friends when tactical situations arise.

Look for bags early on, to increase your looting capacity.

Look up Vormithrax on you tube. A cdda veteran i personally enjoy watching and learning from.

My start usually is as follows: Examine a window and tear down a curtain. Use the heavy stick to break a locker. Make a crowbar to get upstairs, as well as a hammer and screwdriver. to deconstruct furniture You can then deconstruct a locker and make a brazier and basin.

Thank you for all the replies. I am still trying to live, died 8 more times since the original posting, but I haven’t given up yet.

I am now understanding the difference between smashing something and using tools to deconstruct the furniture. I have also figured out how to make screwdriver/hammer plus makeshift gloves/hat from the evac shelter. This has made exploring easier.

Unfortunately food/firewood is still an issue if I end up with a start in a field. I am also still getting swarmed by zombies anywhere near a town.

But, on my current run, a town in a forest generated right near by with a residential road leading off south from downtown. This road only had a few fat zombies on it, that I was able to kill using knifespear as I lured them through a kitchen window. So I am starting to grasp how to use movement cost to my advantage.

I am just going to have to keep banging my head against the wall I suppose!


Spears can be nice but they aren’t the be all and end all, if you are struggling in fights it might be worth looking at other weapons. Even a cudgel can work well since it has high blocking, precise strike and rapid strike, it’s also incredibly easy to craft. All you need is a two by four and a tool with cutting 1, it’s usually the very first dedicated weapon I’ll craft at the start of a play through.
If you do want to stick to using a spear, as someone mentioned above, a stone spear is better and pretty easy to craft and I’d probably even rate a wooden spear higher if only because it isn’t flimsy.

When I learned the game I originally started in the evac shelter because of its available resources and safety. Later, though, I played almost exclusively with the ‘out of town’ scenario, starting at the farm. There’s lots of food there and it often had a pitchfork in some of the other buildings, which is basically a strong spear weapon that isn’t flimsy. Also, there’s a water pump for infinite water, which helped me a lot when figuring out the game.

On the last screen in character creation (with your name and gender and stuff) you can use the “/” button to change your starting location to farm. The default for out of town scenario is actually the hermit shack, which I wouldn’t recommend.

Maybe check that out sometime. I found it to be a great place to start when I was getting sick of the evac shelter. There are sometimes a lot of zombies there, but they can be avoided pretty easily and sometimes there aren’t any at all.

I was reading a beginners tutorial on the wiki which mentions the knife spear as really good starter. I think thats were I got my smashing fixation as well…

I actually want to use a quarter staff for awhile, I think, but we will see how far I live this time.

The biggest issue I am having seems to be I can’t seem to live without a forest/swamp near the shelter. No easy fire or food to scavenge from underbrush means I have to take off looking, and then run into some crazy monster that kills me in two hits.

Does anyone have other food suggestions other then go look in houses? That’s why I was asking about fishing…

There really aren’t that many options early in a run for food unless you tune your character for it, hunting is mostly out because most stuff that come to you will be too dangerous. You can try making and using a sling to take down smaller stuff, they aren’t too hard to make or source materials for. If you can find a working vehicle, running bigger prey over can work too, I had a character that would run down deers and fawns, toss em in the trunk and take them back to base to butcher. You could also try some foraging and hope you bag some bird eggs but I dunno how far into spring you have to be for that.

If you do end up raiding remember that you don’t have to fight while doing it, it’s actually better to avoid it early on where possible. Set off just after dusk, take a makeshift crowbar and go from window to window, close doors behind you and make it a circular trip so you don’t run into any of the zombies that might of bunched up behind you. You should be faster then pretty much any early game zombie as long as you haven’t ramped up evolution and you can use bursts of speed with run to put barriers between them and yourself, going through vehicles for instance (with you closing the doors behind you) can make great barriers for zombies to bunch up on and the sound they make as they start tearing it apart will attract attention away from you.

Cool beans, I went after dark once but smashed my way into the door, heard something get in through a window in the other room and I high tailed it out of there.

I’ll try again but with more stealth in mind.

If you make a crowbar (with a pipe and an item with hammering (both are available from smashing a locker)) you can 'a’ctivate the crowbar on a door to jimmy it open. Same with most windows, but there’s a small chance of breaking the glass.

You can also make lockpicks, but I don’t remember from which parts. Both can enable you to get into buildings without drawing the hordes to you.

Yep, figured that one out when I was trying to figure out fishing. Didin’t realize there was an “apply” button.

But I have a question I forgot, can you get sick from hanging around dead bodies/blood, like from killing zombies near your safe house?

I second learning about the movement system the game uses. Once you completely understand how action points work kiting enemies becomes so much easier, up to the point where you can kill non special zombies with your bare hands without getting hit once even with 0 in all combat skills.

In any case as others have said in the early game avoid combat unless utterly necessary. When you do have to eventually fight, fight no more than one zombie at a time.

And to answer your question:

No, you can’t. You can get sick from other things (like having a poor health stat from eating only candy for breakfast lunch and dinner, using to many drugs ect. or spending to much time in the cold without proper clothing).