How to cleanse a neighborhood of zombies on day one with no tools or skills.
One of the hardest parts of starting a new game in Project Zomboid is overcoming the first week, when our skills are at their lowest, our inventory is at its smallest, and the zombie population is at its fullest. If we can break past the initial difficulty spike, the rest of a run can be smooth sailing as long as we know what we’re doing.
Normally, a survivor might think to sneak past the initial horde of zombies or slowly carve a path through them, one stomp at a time. But that’s much too sensible a plan for us. Instead, we’re going to take advantage of the greatest weakness of our cannibalistic neighbors: extraordinary flammability. Zombies catch fire and spread the conflagration among each other with incredible ease, and burn to death in pleasantly little time.
The trouble is in working out how to light up our friendly brain-munchers. One of the simplest and cheapest methods is to set up a campfire – a survivalist crafting recipe requiring no skills whatsoever, needing only a few wooden planks and ripped sheets to build. Once placed, lighting a campfire calls for the use of matches, a lighter, or a notched plank and a sturdy stick, and enough fuel to keep the fire going for a short while.
This is all well and good, but even this small commitment of material is way too much for a day one neighborhood inferno. We need a way to set the town ablaze with even fewer setup demands than a campfire.
Enter the humble household oven. Most player starting locations are situated within or very near to small houses with electric ovens in them. These ovens are hilariously prone to igniting when set to maximum power and left on with burning food in them. Fortunately for us, houses with these defective cooking devices in them are also virtually guaranteed to have such tasty burnables in their refrigerators, typically right next to the incendiary ovens. This makes it easy to kickstart our pyromaniac plans.
First, we’ll want to put ourselves in peak condition, as our first neighborhood clearing can be pretty taxing. We should consume any extra food and water in the house, and rest ourselves at the bed right away, even though our first day has only just begun. We want our basic needs to be as satisfied as possible before we get the party started.
After looting the starting house of what little valuables it contains, the next step is to load up the oven, crank it up to full blast, and let it rip. While the house cooker is warming up, we will want to open up all the doors and windows in the house so as to minimize any impediments to zombie movement. If the house started with a nice book, we can relax and leaf through a few of its pages while waiting for the inevitable.
Once the oven lights up in glorious flames, it’s time to put it to proper use. After moving outside, we can shout loudly to attract as many zombies as possible from the local area. It may take some time to herd them into the house and through the fire, but sooner or later one of them will catch, and then the real fun can begin. Once one zombie is ignited, they will frequently spread fire to ground tiles and other nearby zombies, or anything else really.
If anything, the trouble now is keeping the fire under control so as to minimize collateral damage. We want to clear out zombies so that we can loot the town, not burn it all down. For this reason, it’s best to gather up the entire horde following us into as tight a group as possible and drag them through open streets without any obstacles between them and us. We may sometimes need to turn around and double back on our own path, swerving closely around our burning zombie pack to keep them away from valuable buildings. Most of the finesse here is about balancing the desire to wander into new areas to attract more zombies, versus the need to keep our current horde close behind us so that we do not lose any stragglers. Rogue burners run the risk of wandering off and setting our prizes on fire.
The larger an area we want to clear, the longer this will take. Since zombies are so delightfully good at spreading fire around, we can keep using the zombies to fuel their own misery after having started with only one fire. The real limitation here is in our own stamina – as our negative moodles stack up, our needs will become more urgent and we’ll have to let the current herd can burn out. By the time we are forced to do something like this, it’s likely we will have torched all the zombies in at least one neighborhood, if not also around the local commercial buildings or even all of the main street.
All of this comes at a cost, though. We had to torch a starter house to initiate the blaze, and every zombie destroyed by fire leaves no loot behind for us to grab. While most of them only wear common clothing, we’ll have to shed a tear for the loss of the occasional zombie that was carrying around a hand axe, wearing a helmet, or slinging a duffel bag.
Our priority at this point should be to collect the materials to make a campfire kit, and the means to light one up anytime so that we do not have to sacrifice a house whenever we want to clear the neighborhood again in the future. Luckily, our day one inferno has given us all the opportunities we need to collect our supplies in relative peace.
And that’s all there is to it. A day one, no skill, no tool fire that we can use to clear the starting area of zombies to make your local neighborhood safe for apocalypse supply gathering. Happy looting!