A new game starts with a lot of ideas and ambitions. Then, day by day, you work to make those ideas a reality, while being true to those ambitions. Along the way, you find that no matter how many times you’ve done it before, every project is a learning experience.
With State of Decay we started with several ambitious goals, but the central challenge was to create a dynamic world where there was no single right answer or right path, where all your actions had real and lasting consequences, and the choices were yours to make. We wanted to do this not just with a scripted, branching approach. Instead we intended to let you take on the zombie apocalypse in a much more freeform and real way.
As Jeff mentioned in an earlier article, we knew this meant managing the game world with an extensive simulation. We had to develop an ecosystem of resources, survivors, and zombies that evolved naturally over time. And then we had to give you a variety of tools for taking on the challenges you’d encounter. Everything would have costs and trade-offs and every problem would have more than one solution.
So what does that really mean? What kind of choices do you have in State of Decay? It might be best to get the answer from the survivors themselves…
I can only hope that others will find this journal and learn from our mistakes.My name is Thomas Ritter. My family and I, along with about a dozen others, have taken refuge in the Church of the Ascension in Spencer’s Mill.
As time goes on and the hope of rescue fades, we’ve begun to think more and more about long term survival. We’ve learned a lot these past weeks, most of it the hard way. With that in mind, we’ve compiled this record of the survival tactics we’ve adopted in the hope that this knowledge will keep others alive. If we live to do so, we will hope to share this information. If we don’t, I can only hope that others will find this journal and learn from our mistakes.
~ Thomas Ritter
The key is seeing them coming.Your first priority must be finding a place to call Home. Some people advocate staying on the move continually, but I haven’t seen anyone survive that way for long. Especially with a group, people need somewhere safe to rest and recover. And since the dead will find you eventually, it’s better to have a secure place to fight them on your own terms.
Spiritual comforts aside, the reason we’ve stayed at the church this long is simple: the grounds are completely walled in. We’ve placed barbed wire around much of the exterior, but of course this is only a slight annoyance to the dead. They just keep struggling through it until they slip inside, but it’s better than nothing.
Even though the wall isn’t impenetrable, it gives you time to react, and having an open area within the walls lets you see exactly how serious your situation is. It’s much easier for them to get the drop on you when you’re coming around a corner than when you see them shambling toward you after awkwardly working their way over a wall.
Which reminds me, I would strongly recommend setting up a watchtower of some sort. Something even taller than your exterior wall. Again, the key is seeing them coming. If you have someone who’s a decent shot, you can thin out their numbers before they get to you as well.
Now I’ll try to get some of the others to contribute their perspectives to this survival guide.
~ Thomas Ritter
You don’t have to fight a Horde if you know it’s coming.We learned pretty quick that big groups draw their attention. You’ve probably already figured out that they’re drawn to noise, which is bad enough, but somehow they always seem to sniff out bigger groups. Maybe literally. Ew.
We are sure that stealth is the key to survival. It’s been true for a while now that they outnumber us. I guess I haven’t had the guts to say this out loud, but it seems pretty clear to me that the city of Danforth must be overrun as well, sending fresh Hordes of them our way every day. We have to fight them sometimes to make sure our home is safe, but out there, when we’re searching for supplies or things like that? Discretion is the better part of valor, I think.
So we sneak and we scout as individuals. Poking around in abandoned buildings or climbing up high to get a better look at how things stand. So how do we coordinate while being spread out? Walkie-talkies. The radio waves are our invisible weapon against them. You don’t have to fight a Horde if you know it’s coming. You can sneak into a hedge and hide out for a bit, or maybe duck behind a wall and find another way around.
And when somebody finds a building with the ammunition or medicine or food that we need, they can Radio Home, and we can swoop in, load up, and get out of their more efficiently because we’re all in constant contact. And no one person has to take all the risks. We’re a team, after all.
~ Lily Ritter
I know we all wish we had been able to lift his mood before he took such…drastic measures.It’s no secret that these are trying times. As the walls around the church grounds provide a physical shield around us, it is our collective Morale and belief in each other that truly keep the community together.
We nearly had a complete collapse of Morale last week. I do believe most of the community would have scattered if that had happened, likely raiding our Stockpiles before they left. Fortunately, even though our daily travails offer plentiful opportunities for community Morale to drop, there are many ways to counteract this effect. Everything that betters our situation — be it acquiring the building Materials necessary to reinforce our walls, upgrading the quality of our Sleeping Quarters, or simply clearing out a nearby Horde — rapidly raises Morale.
In addition to shepherding Morale for the community as a collective whole, I believe it is imperative to be mindful of each individual’s state of mind as well.
As I have made it my primary concern to tend to the spiritual and emotional needs of this flock, my thoughts on how to assess the situation have grown more concrete. My advice, such as it is, would be think of it this way: At any given time, each one of us has a single mental focus.
Typically, this manifests as a prevailing mood or attitude. Although there are many, many specific attitudes, I have come to view them all as some expression of Calm, Pride, Hope, Fear, Sadness, Anger or Shame. I have seen that positive attitudes tend to increase someone’s energy level, while the negative attitudes have the opposite effect. In addition, each of these core attitudes may display itself in a different way depending on the individual. When Lily is Proud, I have seen her become more Assertive, contributing a lot of positive energy to the community and reassuring those who have succumbed to fear. On the other hand — and I should note that I know Sam will not be offended if I use her as an example — When Sam is feeling Proud, she tends to become a bit Insensitive. This has no ill effects on her, of course, but it does on occasion mean that I must make a greater effort to prevent those who are already suffering from a negative mood from pushing further into negativity.
Some attitudes have more serious impact. Last week, one of our number fell into that most extreme version of Sadness, a serious Depression. The change was clear, with clear warning signs. I know we all wish we had been able to lift his mood before he took such drastic measures. We can only take solace in the fact that the method he chose precluded the possibility of him rising again as one of them.
Attitudes can change rapidly. Indeed, they will, multiple times a day. Each failure spawns negativity. Each success brings hope or pride. I have realized that the simplest way to improve someone’s attitude is to involve them in a successful supply run or home defense or some other simple triumph. I pray for and with everyone whenever possible, but sometimes finding a chocolate bar does more to uplift the spirit than all the Gospel in the world.
It is essential to understand, however, that all of this psychology will quickly take a backseat to any serious medical condition. When someone falls ill or becomes injured, old attitudes are forgotten and recovery from this condition becomes their primary focus.
Injuries and Illness must always be viewed as matters of extreme gravity. It is our experience that any fever may be a precursor to a rapid decline, and the only alternative to recovery is death. With this in mind, we have set up an Infirmary and made it a priority to keep our supply of medications as well-stocked as possible. No one makes it through a week completely unscathed and the wounds inflicted by the dead have an unclean quality than invites infection. Without a trained medical professional in our community, recovery can be rather uncertain, but having medications on hand does make a difference.
~ Pastor William Mulroney. Church of the Ascension. Spencer’s Mill.
CRISES AND CHALLENGES
Pay attention, even to the whiners. That’s the universe giving your punk ass fair notice.Will’s right that people are happier if they’re getting shit done, and it’s going well. No fucking duh. But you’ve gotta look at the big picture too, cuz the Lord may provide, but as far as I can tell, he’s mostly interesting in providing one mess after another. Here’s my advice.
Watch your resource stockpiles. People always try to make shit too complicated. Way I see it, it comes down to five categories:
- Food (and Water) — This has to be priority number one. If you don’t keep this stocked people will take all kinds of risks on their own. Plus hunger makes people weak and a lot more vulnerable to Zeds. (And by people, I mean you, asshole. You aren’t immune to any of these effects just because you think you’re a tough guy.)
- Medicine — One bite probably ain’t gonna kill you. Unless it goes septic. Then you’re fucked. Oh, and then there was poor fucking Brent with his weak-ass immune system. How you gonna die of pneumonia? Long story short: everyone’s paranoid about every sneeze or cough now, so you’ll find your antibiotics, antihistamines, cough suppressants, and everything else disappearing mysteriously whenever anyone feels a tiny tickle in the back of their throat.
- Ammo — Hey, I enjoy bashing in a Zed skull as much as anyone, but if you’re up close enough to hit them, you’re close enough for them to grab you, right? When everyone has guns and ammo, staying alive is a hell of a lot easier. (Just make sure your people attach suppressors to their guns. Some people are dumb enough to think they can walk into town, go all Expendables, and not get mobbed.)
- Building materials — I used to live in this shithole apartment down in Marshall. Damn roof would leak every winter. Had this one window that wouldn’t shut right. And that was without psycho flesh-eating Hordes attacking multiple times a day. Point is, you want to make sure you’ve got that angle bracket and those nails handy in advance. Don’t worry about putting together a specific shopping list, just get building Materials of every kind you can find so that no matter what happens, you’ll have it covered. (Plus, you should consider some construction projects, like maybe a locked Storage area. I bet that’d slow down how fast everything gets used up if people had to be more conspicuous about grabbing stuff.)
- Fuel — I’m not really worried about any cars running out of gas just yet, but a good old-fashioned Molotov full of gasoline instead of alcohol is the shit. Plus if we ever want to get some power tools working up in here, we’re going to need some gas-powered generators, I’m pretty sure.
A couple more points:
- Make sure you have enough beds — Yeah, you’re gonna have a hard time getting people to stick around if they’re all sleeping on floors or sharing some nasty-ass bed that hasn’t had a proper wash since god knows when. And tired people are cranky. But that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that if you don’t get enough rest, you’re tired. And that, my friends, is the number one risk to your health when you are out and about.
- Electricity — Honestly, you get used to not having electricity a lot quicker than I would have expected, but like I said before I know there are things we could do if we had some generators.
- Pay attention — Fact of the matter is: bad shit is gonna happen, but we’re getting better at seeing it coming. So when you identify a problem, like some whiner starts crying about a really feral, aggressive-looking Zed near the church (or wherever), it doesn’t matter that you know he’s a coward. That’s the universe giving your punk ass fair notice. Hunt it down and kill it or set up some defenses for it or, well, do SOMETHING, cuz otherwise, you’re probably gonna find it ate two of your friends while you were sleeping.
~ Sam Hoffman
P.S. So Will says I can be a little Insensitive. Hey, I’m okay with that. I learned a long ass time ago that there are two kinds of people in this world: the ones with a sense of humor, and the ones who can go fuck themselves.
I would strongly advise against moving anywhere that you can’t actively defend.The Church already came with a Kitchen, and we’ve converted the pastor’s quarters into something of a Bunkhouse. We used to be less strict about keeping food in the Kitchen, but when you have so many people living in one space, it doesn’t take long for things to get messy. We thought it was just an annoyance at first, but after Sam woke up with rats scurrying around the bedroom, we had to insist on a little more structure. In any case, the Kitchen has served us well since then. All food stays there and stays sealed. I would advise any other group do the same.
The first things we built ourselves were the Watchtower and the Infirmary. I’ve already touched on the value of the Watchtower, and I see that Pastor William has explained the importance of the Infirmary, but there are a lot of other things we should consider building.
Ultimately that may be what makes us move on. I believe there’s only room for a few more Facilities here, and if we gather any more survivors, we will need to seriously consider finding a larger home. The (former) Kirkman residence down the road has a good wall and a little more room to work with. It also has a Kitchen and that tool shed may even have a halfway decent Workshop already Built In. So we wouldn’t even have to set it up ourselves. If we want to make that move, I think we’ll need to stockpile building Materials for a bit first. We’ll need to reinforce the walls right away as soon as we move in. Something to consider.
I know there are other, larger places to consider too, but I would strongly advise against moving anywhere that you can’t actively defend. If you don’t have enough people to guard all the walls, the place is too big for you.
~ Thomas Ritter
As our reputation grows, you can bet your ass other survivors will ask to join us.Face it. Some of us are better equipped than others to handle situations like this. Honestly, I would have thought this crisis would weed out the incompetents faster than it has, but maybe it’s just because those of us with a little know-how are working so hard to protect everyone else.
Anyway, my point is this: We’ve got a decent enough crew at the church, but when I look at those other fools out there, it’s a marvel that any of them are still alive. Sometimes you get one of those guys who’s trying to gather up supplies in some location that you already scouted, and he offers to split the goods. You’ve run into that, right? Goddamn freeloaders.
Once that stuff’s been looted, it’s gone forever. It’s a waste to let some idiot who isn’t going to survive the week use up valuable resources that would do more good feeding you and yours, but I’ve still done it. It’s just in my nature to protect the little guy, I guess.
Well, you do that kind of thing and word gets out. Fame may be too strong a term, but basically, your actions build a reputation. As our reputation grows, bet your ass other survivors will ask to join us. Hell, a few people have already approached me when I was out scouting. But we have to be selective. If you can’t pull your weight, you’re just another mouth to feed.
~ Alan Gunderson
Maybe Alan’s right that we can’t just invite every stranger we meet to join us, but we’re not alone and we shouldn’t act like we are.
In a survival situation like this, you realize pretty quick that you and everyone else are mentally keeping score.It didn’t take long after everything went to hell for most of us to decide that money (aka, legal “tinder”) wasn’t worth risking your life over. So we all pretty much settled on one currency from the beginning: cases of ammunition. Most people are willing to trade a little surplus Food or Medicine or building Materials for Ammo, and if we ever managed to have a surplus, we could probably exchange that for Ammo from someone as well.
So most major transactions involve Ammo, but there’s another economy, another currency, that most people don’t consider. You think you don’t spend every hour of every day actively bargaining, but in a survival situation like this, you realize pretty quick that you and everyone else are keeping score mentally whether you mean to or not.
The way I like to visualize it is this: Every day, you start with a certain amount of Influence. The more Fame you’ve acquired with your actions, the more Influence you start with. Every time you take something extra from the emergency supply locker, every time you convince the community to build Garden instead of a combat Training Area, every time you Radio Home to have someone else come collect all that hefty loot you found in somebody’s garage, you’re spending that Influence.
This definitely works inside your community, but I’d believe you may even be able to do the same with neighboring survivor groups if you earn their Trust even a little bit. The “exchange rate” might not be as good as at home, but as long as you’re on good terms with people, it’s worth a shot. As much as things have changed, some things are the same as they always were: if you want something from somebody, the most important thing is just knowing how to ask.
~ Jacob Ritter
If we can make contact with other survivors, I bet they’ll be willing to help us out.One of the great things about the radio is our ability to contact other communities. Different people have different strengths and weaknesses. (Take my brother, for example. He’s not so good in a fight, but he’s awesome at being a huge dork. Driving. I meant driving.) So I think there are lots of opportunities for us to help each other out. Alan talked about running into someone when he was out scouting. That happens sometimes, for sure, but not every encounter has to happen in person.
The other day, someone contacted us by radio and asked for some Construction Advice from my dad. That was really simple and he was happy to help out. That’s our special thing we can offer. I’m sure other communities have people with special talents or knowledge as well. If we can just make contact and convince them that working together makes sense, I bet they’ll be willing to help us out on occasion.
~ Lily Ritter
Encounters with the Dead are unavoidable and the wear and tear on our equipment adds up quickly.I agreed with Pastor William that our first priority had to be setting up an Infirmary, but the next step is a bigger decision. Maybe it’s the tool shed at the Kirkman place that’s giving me ideas, but I think we need to build a Workshop. We’ll need a decent set of tools and a good dedicated work area if we want to do any serious construction projects (like the Storage area Sam has recommended).
Just as important, a Workshop would be the key to us keeping all our weapons and guns in good shape. Encounters with the Dead are unavoidable and the wear and tear on our equipment adds up quickly. I think we could manage the repairs as one of our background maintenance tasks, just like the wall repairs. As with everything, we’ll take shifts, and as long as we have materials and tools for it, every weapon left in the supply locker gets checked out and worked on overnight.
If we really equip our workshop well, I could even imagine us doing some rudimentary auto repairs. That’s probably getting ahead of the game a little bit, but I’d still argue that a workshop of some sort would be a good second priority.
~ Thomas Ritter
This way we’re just dealing with the one horde at a time.It’s a fluid situation out there. With my years in law enforcement, I’ve got a pretty good handle on how to track this kind of information, though. The immediate area around our home, that’s a protected area, a little island of security. Once we built the Watchtower, that island got bigger. Any time we’re willing to burn some ammo with some long-range sniping, it gets even bigger for a little while.
Roving Hordes still find us, but this way we’re just dealing with the one horde at a time, at least.
Out there, in the town and beyond, some of the buildings are completely Infested. We try to scout periodically to identify the Infestations. You do not want to run into one of those accidentally. From what I’ve seen, the more Infestations that are near us, the more often we get attacked by Hordes. That’s why Sam and I make it a point to go clear them out periodically. Helps keep Morale up for everyone else too.
We haven’t done it yet, but we’ve been talking about trying to set up an Outpost away from the church. I figure it’d let us create a smaller protected area, making Supply Runs anywhere nearby much safer, it’d let us gradually gather Resources from the Outpost too, and we’d keep it stocked so it would be a place you could duck in and Resupply when you were out on patrol.
~ Alan Gunderson
Just for the record, that outpost shit was my idea.
~ Sam Hoffman
I know there are more ideas, more approaches to survival that we have yet to discover.We will continue to add this journal as we can, but I hope this gives you some idea of how to get started. Try building facilities like Infirmaries and Watchtowers to help protect your people and your home. Watch community Morale as a whole, but also tend to the Attitudes and Injuries of individuals.
Think about using stealth whenever possible and coordinating via radio. You can even contact other survivors that way. Maintain your stockpiles of the big five resources (food, medicine, ammo, materials, and fuel) whether by scavenging or trading with other groups.
Scout for infestations and clear them out when you can. Take on any hordes that threaten your home and consider setting up outposts to reclaim some of the territory around you. Most importantly, we try to end each day with as many people as we had the day before.
Or find your own way. This is just what seems to be working for us. I know there are more ideas, more approaches to survival that we have yet to discover. That’s okay. We’re just doing our best to keep learning and keep surviving. Day by day.
~ Thomas Ritter