The First Day

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The first day is always the most difficult. Especially if you're new to the Cataclysm. This guide is intended to help newer players develop the proper equipment and skills for their situations, choose a good location for a base and to begin planning the rest of their journey into the Cataclysm (this guide assumes that you're playing the game with mostly default settings, i.e., without hordes, default monster and item spawn values and no NPCs).


Blink. Look around the room. You're alive and breathing, you'd be surprised how long you can keep that up given patience, knowledge, and as always, a tad of luck on your side.

(side note: you may make an offering to the RNG gods before you start if you feel particularly inclined to do so.)

Your first concern upon starting should be to take a peek out of the various curtains surrounding the room by examining them. If you see anything that looks like it could pose a threat to your welfare make sure not to alert its attention. Some of the most common early-game dangers are deadly animals, such as a wolf, bear or moose. These animals have been the cause of deaths of many early survivors who went outside their shelter door ignoring the repeated warnings of the safe-mode.

If it is safe to do so, tear down one of the curtains and look for a heavy stick. wield the heavy stick and keep on smashing a locker with it until it crumbles to your might, yielding a pipe and hopefully a chunk of steel for your troubles. Now it's time to craft a weapon to defend yourself and we are going to with makeshift crowbar because it's a good melee weapon and you can pry locked doors and windows with it by applying it (or by pressing A while wielded). Just open the craft menu with & and select makeshift crowbar. Drop that heavy stick (we'll be using it later) and wield the crowbar you just crafted; it's time to enter the basement.

The Basement

Now it's time to enter the basement of your shelter. It's widely known that these shelters were poorly supplied but who knows what you may find in there. Keep your guard up when you enter the basement, there could very well be a zombie lurking in the shadowy corners of the room. If you hear any noises (any yellow ?) then this means there are zombies inside and they won't wait for you so run away (you can run by pressing ", which spends your stamina) as fast as possible (then read the Preparation section below and come back here). Once you've ensured the basement is safe you can begin to search it, some of the most useful things you can find are:

  • Various pieces of clothing, especially gloves, pants and headwear. You probably don't nees coats and boots at this point, but with that wind outside your hands will be really cold without gloves. If it looks like it's warm and doesn't have a high encumbrance then feel free to slip it on. Keep an eye out for any backpacks, cargo pants, trenchcoats or any other clothing with high storage; they have additional space to hold gear with and raiding is rather difficult without them. These should be at the very top of your list.
  • Light wearable containers, this means that the container has to have an encumbrance of 2, or less. Don't stack up multiple layers of containers. If you aren't sure if it'll effect you negatively, you can compare it to real-life. If you can't dodge a zombie effectively with three backpacks on in real-life, you cannot do so in Cataclysm.
  • Meds are a definite scarcity in the world of Cataclysm, so make sure to nab any that you may find in the basement. Some of the medicines that you'll want to keep an eye out for are first aid kits, antibiotics, any kind of painkiller like aspirin, codeine and tramadol. Bandages are a good way to stop a bleeding and bottles of disinfectant can be used to clean deep bite wounds. You can find more information about the drugs and their effects on the meds page. Don't take a drug if you don't know what it will do to you. It will be quite embarrassing if your "Master Ultra Slayer of Hordes" drops dead after taking one too many painkillers.
  • Anything that you can drink or eat with minimal difficulties, and that you feel is a good use of your valuable space. A good survivor always carries around clean water and various canned goods. Food will spoil if no measures are taken to protect it from its environment (Canning, smoking, curing, etc).
  • Basic Tools, such as a hammer, hacksaw, flashlights and lighters. These will allow you to make the most out of your environment, and are necessary for a large portion of the game's crafting recipes. Sacrifice as much space as you can for these, as you never know what situations you might encounter.

When you're done, head upstairs with <.

Now that you've salvaged most of the useful things out of basement (or even if you weren't able to), it's time to prepare yourself for the days ahead.


Although the makeshift crowbar we crafted works great against zombies, we still need a reliable weapon to be able to put up a fight, not just against Zombies but against (much stronger) woodland-creatures too. So, first look for a forest-tile (indicated by an 'F') on the map, and go there (now would be a good time to check that your safemode is on with !). This shouldn't be much difficult as shelters have some nearby forest anyway but be on a lookout for anything that could pose a danger: zombies, hostile critters, turrets and even strange netherspawn can come your way. If you spot any dangerous creatures or an interesting location, use m, then N to make a note on your map (for example P;&:Mi Go!) and run away as fast as possible.

As you arrive in the forest, don't go inside but look around for underbrushes (indicated by a # on the curses version). It's time to start foraging (see underbrush) to increase our survival-skill and (hopefully) finding something edible in the process. Once you get your survival skill to 1, head back to the shelter and craft a knife spear and wield it (you can leave your makeshift crowbar at the shelter for now). This spear is a truly deadly weapon and your best bet to protect yourself on the first day, because you can make a reach attack with it by pressing f. This allows you to hit slow-moving zombies with impunity. If you weren't able to explore the basement because of the zombies, now you should have the confidence to do it.

Now arrange all the stuff you got out of your basement. Wear any fitting clothes with low encumbrance and good storage or protection, leave all else for refitting or cutting up later. Wear any backpacks you find, or tear down the curtains from another window to craft a bindle or a makeshift sling, as you'll need the storage. Arrange your food-items in two stacks, one of perishable foodstuff and the other of non-perishable food. Store any meds you find in a safe place and take some painkillers or stimulants with you, you can also take healing items but try not to waste first aid kits as you'll heal relatively fast by sleeping and you may need them to deal with a deep bite or an infected wound.

Now that you've geared up for the inevitable conflicts that lie ahead, it's time to whip out your map and start looking for a good place to infiltrate the town. Here's a tidy list of things to keep in mind when you're selecting your infiltration spot. (Tip: Use N on the map to make your own notes)

  • What buildings are nearby?
  • Where can I escape to if something goes wrong? (Have a safe location in mind)
  • Which buildings have the highest priority if I become low on time? (Due to health or safety reasons)
  • Which buildings can I convert into safe-houses? (The general definition of "safe-house" is anywhere you can sleep without worrying about danger, don't be afraid to board up doors and close the shutters on windows.)
  • Where will I build my first base? (To make it clearer, your safe-house should have the least density of zombies in the surrounding area; the starting shelter is a good choice)

Here are some tips to help you choose the first location for raiding:

  1. Houses which are on the outskirts or disconnected from the main town are easy to get in and get out without attracting too much attention.
  2. Stores in general can have shopping carts in them you can grab and put your items in, which removes your storage problems neatly.
  3. Grocery stores, clothing stores and other food-based locations (restaurants, pizza parlor, etc.) can provide you with basic supplies such as food and proper clothing. These supplies will be vital for your survival and ensure that you won't die in the coming days.
  4. Sporting goods stores are good places to get combat gear, books and even medicinal supplies. Doctor's office and pharmacies also have medical-supplies but they're usually deep in the city and it's generally not worth going after them.
  5. Gun stores will provide you with stockpiles of firearms which can be vital in defending yourself against hordes. Raiding them will almost be an imperative, sooner or later, but don't go after them if they're not on the outskirts. Many house-basements are filled with firearm stocks so you might not even need to raid them.
  6. Liquor stores and bars can supply you with a good amount of strong booze which is an indispensable ingredient in crafting improvised first aid kits and various other useful things.
  7. Electronic stores, garages and other similar places contain specialized material which (in most cases) cannot be used without proper skills and they're usually dangerously deep in the town so they're not worth raiding; nonetheless if you ever find one of these places on the outskirts, in a safe position, it won't hurt much to check it out.

Avoid far away places like Farms, Ranches, Cabins, Mansions, etc. These will not only be filled with dangers but you'll waste your important time by going there and you might not even make it back before night falls.

When you feel that you've planned well enough, step outside, it's time to leave our shelter behind.


Now you're ready to take on the city. You've chosen a target (or multiple targets), it's time to gather your tools and weapons and get out of your shelter.

Weapons and Tools

Ideally you should both have a melee and a ranged weapon but we are not so lucky, so we will mostly use our spear. We will also need tools for breaking and entering quietly. So first craft several (> 10) improvised lockpicks from scrap metal as they're rather brittle and break easily. A makeshift crowbar is very useful for prying locked doors and windows without breaking them (but bear in mind it still makes some noise).

Before raiding make sure to have:

  1. Methods for breaking and entering locked locations (see above).
  2. Enough food and water. Hunger and thirst slow you down making you more vulnerable. A full canteen/waterskin (sealed stomach if you don't have these) and a few chunks of cooked meat is enough.
  3. Medicinal supplies to heal up damage. At this point you should only carry some bandages to stop bleeding, first aid kits are best left for better uses (healing large amounts of damage, cleaning deep-bites and curing infections).
  4. Painkillers and stimulants. Pain will slow you down and lower your stats, making it easier for the zombies to bring you down so painkillers are important for any kind of raid. Right now a few stacks of aspirin would be enough. Stimulants like low-grade methamphetamine and cocaine are easily found on dead drug-dealers (found in open fields); always keep some on you as they'll increase your speed and stats, making it easier to run away from an unfortunate zombie brute or zombie hulk encounter.
  5. Storage and protective gear. A backpack is enough as it gives decent storage with relatively little encumbrance, avoid bulky gear as it'll affect your dodging, fighting and aim.

Going In

  1. Once you're near the target building, make sure to approach it from the back: many houses and shops have an unlocked backdoor. Even if you're out of lockpicks and break a window while prying it, you might be far enough from zombies to avoid detection. Otherwise, they will try to get to you in a straight line (as straight as they can shamble, anyway), giving you precious turns to run away.
  2. Make use of V command to look around you so you don't have to manually examine everything. Take note, however, that some furniture like dressers only show their items while you are adjacent to them.
  3. Prioritize pots if you don't have one already and imperishable food. As long as you have food, you can return the next night.
  4. Above all, don't get greedy! If you're spotted, don't try to loot just that one room. It'll still be there the next time you visit (albeit some perishable food might get rotten, feel free to eat them if you are not in danger).

So I've Screwed Up, What Now?

If you were spotted, don't panic yet! You have some options left still:

  1. Run away. Most zombies are slower than you, so you can lose them easily. Don't make way straight to your base, however: they can smell you and might follow at their own pace. Lead them a bit to the side first.
  2. Climbing through windows reduces your smell and zombies are bad at navigating corridors. Running through a house and leaving through the back will slow your pursuers even more. Optionally, you can set the house on fire if you don't care about the loot. Just make sure not to get stuck in there yourself!
  3. If you're followed by faster variants (like Feral zeds or their deadlier upgraded versions), lure them to a bush by running to it and keeping it between them and yourself. Once an enemy is right before the bush, step away once. That way you will be able to fit several reach attacks with your spear in while they move through. Again, setting the bush on fire is optional but recommended (making a fire takes a bit of time so it's better to do it beforehand).
  4. Zombies prioritize tracking you by sound over smell. You can throw something away from you (preferably a glass container) to distract them.

Growing Roots

This is where you'll learn to make your first mark on the world, to establish your first safe-house.


Ideally, choose a place on the outskirts of town with a reliable source of water nearby (a river, a swamp or a pool; alternatively you can craft and place funnels to collect rainwater), or you can even use your shelter if it's close to the town and/or a source of water. If you're close to a town, toilets will tide you over for a while, but eventually you'll run out. Having a basement to sleep in would also be good: if you're not using the Z-level mod then leaving a Z-level should freeze all activity on the other Z-levels in time, so the zombies won't ever smell or see you.

Cleaning Up

Head over to your chosen future base and scout out the number and type of zombies on the roads outside. Lure them one by one over to bushes and uneven terrain and make them dead (again). Don't forget to smash or Butcher their bodies to make sure they won't get back up (if left unattended, corpses will rise a second time), butchering will also increase your survival skill. Watch your stamina meter, though: pulping or butchering bodies takes stamina you need to fight, so don't do it in the middle of fighting. After you've cleared out the neighborhood, touch up your safehouse: you might have broken windows to board (done through * construction menu), so make a stone hammer or a makeshift hammer from 2-by-4s, long string and a stone, all of which are plentiful in houses and fields. While you're at it, with the requisite skills, you could make a stone shovel to dig pits around your safehouse and then glass them or spike them as the materials allow. It will likely take you a couple days, but ensure your safety from most enemies.

Settling In

At this point start collecting supplies from other buildings. Leave supplies that you won't need on raids at the safe-house. If you haven't done so yet, find a sewing kit or make a bone needle/wooden needle and repair your gear. The more damaged your gear is, the less it will protect you from enemies, and the environment.

  • (Tip: When you clear out a building of all useful supplies, you can mark it on the map as Explored)

Taking a Break

Once you complete this list, you can start reading all those books you (hopefully) scavenged. They will rise your skills and unlock new crafting recipes.

  1. A Safe-House
  2. Some medication in case you get beat up, especially disinfectant
  3. Enough food and clean water for two days
  4. A light source with a good amount of fuel

Every time you advance a skill level, open up your crafting menu and check the new additions that you might have. Make note of any weapons or gear you want, and mark buildings that might contain some of the components you need. You might want to find and grab a shopping cart/wheelbarrow if you plan on transporting things that weigh a lot, or that take up a lot of volume. Shopping carts can be found in hardware store, grocery stores, and various other markets/stores.

Looking Forward

Congratulations! You now have a solid foundation for survival in post-apocalyptic New England. But why stop here?