This is a handy guide for surviving hardcore mode.
Character Selection Screen Traits
Both Parents: Courageous (They will be the ones fighting off raiders and going outside. Hardcore mode makes most encounters hostile so making sure they can defend themselves is the most important trait to have.)
Both Kids: Resourceful (The kids will be breaking down and rebuilding a bunch of objects a bunch of times. Hands-On could also be effective but becomes negated once you acquire every or most tools for the crafting bench. Furthermore, theirs a chance one of the weakness will be Hands-Off which can then be transformed into Hands-On provided they repair and construct enough items allowing for an optimal build.)
Stats Everyone: Best build is Street Smart because Perception is the hardest to train as it requires scouting locations. You can increase dexterity and strength via the punchbag. Charisma is useless since most NPCs will want to fight you and trading in the wasteland is not essential. Intelligence can be trained via books or by repairing products but again is not useful since its only used in recruiting and for the most part; you don't want to recruit on Hardcore since its just another mouth to feed. Perception is the best since it increases item discovery and because items are scarce already; its essential to have as high perception to start with since the other traits can be trained in the shelter.
Choose Cat: Cats can hunt and deposit rat meat into fridges allowing food sources. They also only require feeding every three days or so. The shelter will be dirty most of the time so maximize this opportunity by having a rat killer.
Dogs aren't too bad to utilise either, they may require daily feeding, but if relying on low strength street smart survivors, the parents going out on expeditions will always have a failsafe for if their attempts to subdue hostile survivors fails, the dog is actually a very strong fighter and is rarely attacked itself. Therefore the parents will be able to defeat survivors for valuable items more easily.
- Potential* Snake is also a choice but not preferred. Snakes are useful against raiders and for keeping rats at bay. However they will need to be fed if you keep them in their cage. They do not need to be fed if left outside since they eat rats. However; they do not fetch rat meat for you so cats are more preferable since rat meats can be given to traders in exchange for goods.
All the other pets are extremely difficult to utilise. Horses require too much food upkeep and crafting to maximize potential (Shelter + Saddle). For the first few weeks, you will be stuck inside due to lack of water so you'll run out of food to feed them before you get them to a point where they are useful. Fish requires water and food to maintain and when water is tight already is detrimental to the end goal as the only water use should go towards quenching your own thirst.
Day 1 Parent A gets on Radio to broadcast for traders.
Parent B shuts off lights and repairs generator.
Kid A upgrades Crafting Bench to Level 2 and then starts crafting materials.
Kid B wears a Haz-Mat Suit (do not send them upside until they have the suit on) and repairs the water filter and oxygen filter. If you have the materials to do so, build a Level 2 Moderate Snare Trap once Crafting Bench 2 is done. Otherwise wait until you have the materials traded and as soon as you have those materials to build a few snare traps, do so. Anywhere from 3-5 will work. For each Moderate Snare Trap; you will need one rope, 2 springs, and 3 wood. You'll most likely start with the wood and springs needed to build them but some starts lack the needed rope so make sure to trade for 3-5 rope.
Once Parent B and Kid A are done with their respective tasks, build the following items. A bucket toilet, Level 2 Bed, fridge (if you have the materials) and as many small water butts as you can build/fit. Build a spare room as well. If you have the materials to do so, build a poor stove and a incinerator as well. Most likely you will not have the hinges or motors to build fridges, stoves, and incinerators so you will have to trade for those materials.
Every so often, traders will come by provided you have someone manned on the radio broadcasting for traders. (They also sometimes come on their own but just to increase the chance, always have someone broadcasting for trading goods.)
Your first priority is to become self sufficient. This means you need to build a small fridge, snare traps, poor stove, and incinerator. You will need the following items for each crafting.
Small Fridge: 3x Metal, 1x hinge, 3x pipe, 1x rubber, 1x motor Fridge gets priority over the other three things as you will need a fridge to start storing meat.
Snare Traps (Moderate Quality): 1 rope, 2 springs, 3 wood Snare Traps get second priority as you need these to start capturing animals which can be then converted into food/trading materials. Before a snare trap is used up (when it says 1 when highlighted, have a resourceful person wearing a haz-mat suit deconstruct the item to get the material back and then rebuild it.)
Poor Stove: 8x metal, 1 hinge
Incinerator: 10x metal, 2x hinge, 4x pipe, 2x valves
- Side note, you will also need coal, matches, or lighters to get full use but for the few week or so; this is not necessary*
Note: Hinges and Motors are hard to come by. If you see multitudes of them; I recommend trading for a few provided you have enough unneeded material to trade as eventually you will upgrade the fridge to a large fridge and the stove to a excellent stove. At best you only need 4x motors to get a large fridge. Your resourceful kids will have a chance to be able to break down any existing fridges or stoves to require a motor from them so in theory; if you already have a small fridge, you only need to trade for three motors more. You'll also need a total of four hinges to build the fridge (again if you break a small fridge down; you have a chance to get a hinge back so you only need three hinges more). Excellent stoves will require 5x wires and 3x hinges. This puts it to total of 4x motors and 7x hinges to build the best version of both fridges and stoves.
Once you get those base items down, from now on; your task is to improve the crafting bench and radio to max level. The efficiency of the water filter is also important. In the meanwhile, gather enough leather from your animal traps and rope/wool to build a punchbag. One punchbag is good, two is great. Have both parents train on punchbags and recover as needed. Make sure to beef them up before sending them out to the wastes or day 50 (The grace period of raids ends on day 50 meaning from that point on; raiders will attempt to break in. You will need to be strong to take them on.)
To build a punchbag, you will need the following materials PunchBag: 5x leather, 3x rope, 8x wool Note: You can gather leather from your snare traps so trading for leather is not necessary.
You will also most likely need another room to store stuff in. To build another shelter room you will need the following materials. Shelter Room: 2x wood, 2x cement, 2x metal Note: You can also create cement from 2x sand and 1x limestone.
Another crate is recommended. A medium crate should suffice. You will need Medium Crate: 8x Wood, 4x nail
Next, you will want to increase your water storage capabilities. Only build small water butts as they use the least amount of materials. You will need the following items to build one small water butt. Small Water Butt: 4x plastic, 2x rubber, 1x duct tape.
If you have enough materials to do so, build two hiding places before day 50 to hide your kids when the place gets raided. Reason being is that the kids will most likely be under-leveled in terms of strength, might have a coward trait, lack weapons to go against the raiders, or the parents/traps are not around to defend the place.
You will again need to build more rooms as you expand outwards. For the most part, your crafting from this point on should either be building more water butts, upgrading objects to the next tier, improving your devices, building more rooms once you've ran out of room, med supplies, raid survival traps and wasteland survival gear.
Once you upgrade your crafting bench, upgrade your bed, stove, snares, and fridge to the next tier. Priority is fridge, bed, stove, snares in that order. Make sure to have a resourceful person deconstruct the object in question before building the next tier. Do not let people with wasteful or traits other then resourceful deconstruct materials.
Maintaining Stats Thirst: Only drink water when your thirst meter is 90 or higher and the water has less then 10% contamination. If its raining and the water butts are full as well as not contaminated, have your survivors drink to til thirst hits zero. Otherwise conserve water. The more efficient the water filter is, the more water can be recovered during a rain session. If the filter is off due to being turned off or lack of power, the water will slowly become contaminated. Black rain will also start to contaminate the water. If black rain occurs and one of your members is 65 or higher thirst during this event, make sure they drink water before the rain makes the water too contaminated as it might take a while for the filters to make the water safe again to drink. If you drink water when its contaminated, then you risk getting radiation poisoning.
Hunger: Only eat when your hunger reaches 90 or higher. Using stoves makes eating more efficient. Survivors will automatically use any stove for meat or canned goods provided its not broken. Your main source of food should come from animal traps and rat meat. Rats will steal canned goods but not frozen meat.
Rest: Sleep as needed (when it flashes red). Kids should stay up as much as possible to repair/broadcast on the radio. If everything is in order, then they have permission to sleep. If for some reason they are getting trauma due to lack of sleep, make sure to let them sleep. However, this shouldn't happen provided you keep the other meters down.
Hygiene: Water is a luxury which you cannot afford to waste. Do not shower. You will most likely get food poisoning due to lack of showers once you eat food but this doesn't really effect anything except make the shelter dirty which it will be to maximize rat collection from cat.
Toilet: Use a bucket toilet then have someone resourceful deconstruct the toilet to recover most if not all the materials. Then rebuild the toilet and use as needed. Usually toilets take water to use/clean out but with this exploit; you will not use any water.
Stress: Keep stress low with the cat and by reading books (adults), playing with toys (kids), or listening to music. Stress meter increases if three or more stats are in the red (i.e. bubbles are popping up as red above the survivor.)
Trauma: Trauma will rise if you kill people/animals, bury family members or chop them up, when you're stress is in the danger zone (60 or so), or if someone dies. Trauma will rise less over time if you keep on killing people/animals since your character becomes desensitized. You can avoid trauma by knocking people out instead of killing them. Burning corpses in the incinerator instead of harvesting or burying them, and making sure the characters do not die/get stressed out.
Maintaining the Shelter Generator: The generator powers your shelter. Once you have a incinerator or solar panels, you can run off those instead. The generator will need to be repaired from time to time. I'd advise keeping it from going below 40%. A warning light will appear above it if its about to break down. Every so often, the generator will need petrol to run off. I advise waiting until around .2% to .4% before refueling as this maximizes the time in between refueling sessions. While the incinerator or solar panels are working, the generator will not be burning fuel so do not waste refueling it if this is the case.
Incinerator: The incinerator needs items to burn in order to fuel itself. You can also use corpses to get some fuel which I advise doing so instead of chopping them up or burying them. The best sources of fuel are coal. Matches and lighters are also viable but require a lot of materials to trade in comparison to coal. You can also burn other items you don't need but I don't advise this as you might need it to trade or build something in the future and the burn time misc items give is low at best.
Repair: The fridge, stove, bed, punchbags, generator, water/oxygen filters and shelter doors will all need to be repaired from time to time. The more tools you have; the faster these repairs take place. I advise not letting the oxygen/water filters go below 55%. A blinking wrench will appear above materials that need to be repaired. Some items will burst into flames if left to go to zero and will need a fire extinguisher to fix. Do not let this happen. Remember; whoever goes topside needs to be wearing a haz-mat suit or else they risk getting radiation poisoning.
Surviving the Wasteland Once you have enough water stored (120 or so) and a high enough strength/dexterity stat, you should be free to explore the wastelands. Fog of war will make it hard to spot areas so most of the time you'll be guessing where places are at. Be careful of going to places where factions are at as this will most likely mean a fight will ensue. Go to places that have the highest likelihood of materials you need.
Lumberyards are the best places for finding wood, hatchets, and saws Police Stations are the best places for finding guns and ammo Tool shops are the best place to find tools Factories are the best place to find metal materials (pipes, metal, hinges, etc.) Recycle Plants are the best place to find recyclable material (Broken tvs/laptops, mannequin parts, burnt clothing, etc.) Schools are the best place to find books Churches provide random loot Houses provide random loot Shelters provide weapons, ammo, and assorted goods Clearings provide water Florist provide seeds and plants Mines provide gas masks and ore Mountain Passes provide plants Mystery Hatch is a one time chance to find the M16 (you will need the fish to guess the code by counting the bubbles in the water). However you can guess the code, it just isn't likely that you will succeed unless you have the fish. Don't bother coming back if you already guessed once and don't go out of your way trying to find the place. Shacks provide tires and weapons and assorted goods Airports provide assorted goods Prison provide assorted goods and weapons Stockyards are the best places to find RV materials Pharmacy are the best place to locate medical goods
When planning a outing, base it on places that you need material from. Don't go places just for the sake of going to them. Every few days, they restock allowing you to go back and get more goods.
For your first expedition: I advise finding a tool shop, police station, factory, and stockyards. You'll want to bring as many tools back as you can. Do not bring back tools you already have (and don't bring duplicates). You can tell if you already have something if there is a 1 or higher in the box below the item. From then on, water gets priority. You can store 25 water per box. Then coal. Everything else is dependent upon what you currently need to craft. Its wise to take as much hinges, poles, motors, rope, leather, plastic, rubber, wood, nails, gas masks, anti-rad tablets and wires as you can hold as these are useful for crafting/exploring. Don't bother storing canned food as rats will most likely steal them anyway. Meat and leather isn't needed either since you should have enough from your snares. Recyclable materials are also not needed. Books, toys, and records are good but not top priority. If you have one record, a few books, and toys; thats all you'll ever need so don't pick them up once you reach this. RV parts are not advise as the RV requires fuel to use and fuel will be hard to come across by. Coal is more important then patrol so if you can store coal over patrol then do so. For your first outing, find a weapon and keep it. Always keep the highest damage output one. Melee weapons are better then guns but if you have the storage space, get a shotgun/rifle or two plus some ammo. Do not keep lower tier weapons (beside wood and poles since they can be crafted into items). Burn them or trade them when you get a replacement.
The best time to go on a expedition is the start of a rain event and your water butts are holding enough water. Try to avoid going out often as each time you go out requires water and water is scarce. Rely on the radio to bring in goods.
Expedition Build Make sure whomever you're sending out has a strength/dexterity skill of 14 or higher and has full healthy/isn't bleeding out or has radiation poisoning.
Make sure each person has the best melee weapon possible on hand, a gas mask if you did not use a anti-rad tablet, metal detector/lock set, a ruff-sack (the best you can bring), and the best body armor you can use if you used a anti-rad tablet. Even if you don't have radiation poisoning, using a anti-rad before going out allows for some time to avoid being infected with radiation sickness. However, just to be on the safe side as the time is limited, use a gas mask. Never send someone without a gas mask or without first using anti-rad medication as they will get radiation sickness. Take some first aid kits with you and ammo as needed. And if you are completing a quest, then make sure to take the items requested. Otherwise keep the rest of the backpack empty.
Encounters If you have the option to do so, sneak away from people. Most encounters will be against high level violent NPCs that run the risk of killing or subduing your character. If you have to deal with a situation, do it yourself. Never let the AI do it as they will mess things up. You have three options.
Trade: If this happens, trade for the same goods to get Charisma experience. (i.e. 1 wood for 1 wood) And nothing else unless you have junk to unload and they have better goods to trade. The more charisma you have, the more likely you can get a better deal. If you have choices on how to interact with people; always pick this option.
Recruit: Never pick this. If they ask to be recruited; reject them. The NPC will always have poor stats. If you want to recruit people; recruit people that knock on your front door as they will most likely have better stats (Make sure they have high perception and Strength). Intellect determines if this is successful.
Bully: Don't purposely pick this. Even though you have the opportunity to steal their goods without trading; this isn't easy mode we are talking about. Most NPCs will be high strength/dex and be well equipped. Especially don't pick this if you are outnumbered. Sometimes this is forced on you during encounters. When this happens; you can try running if your dexterity is high enough. If it fails then you'll have to fight. Always attempt to subdue as this will prevent trauma and still allow you to take their items/win the battle. Wildlife will not negotiate and thus all wildlife encounters will be a fight.
If someone subdues your team; then they steal all your items including anything you equipped. If they kill your team, then all your items are lost and the surviving members all get trauma. Two deaths and the team goes catatonic.
Daily Jobs Until you get the punchbag built, one adult is on radio duty/cat feeding duty and the other is repairing items/refueling generator. Always make sure someone is on the radio so when you need to switch out to recover stats, do so with the other adults/kids.
The kids will be wearing haz-mat suits and repairing items/refueling generator and crafting materials. Make sure to keep stats out of the red zones as needed.
Once the punchbag is built, both adults are to train until their strength is 14 or higher. Once you achieve this and have 100 water spare/a satchel/lockset/metal detector/and gas masks, you can start sending them out on expeditions. On times when they are in the shelter, they are to max out their strength/dex stats. Once you do this; they can repair stuff. On Day 50; raids will start occurring so make sure their strength/dexterity stat is on par.
Once the punchbag is built, one kid will be on radio. Every so often this kid will feed the cat and repair the stuff topside/take animal meat/deconstructing traps once they reach 1 integrity. The other kid will repair all other furniture, break down toilet bucket and rebuild and construct projects. While the kid is topside, send another kid to man the radio.
Don't worry about cleaning the shelter, the grime attracts rats which the cat will eventually take care of. Cleaning the shelter would just waste time so don't worry about it.
Surviving Raids Day 50 will start allowing raids to occur. Raiders will attempt to break down your doors. If they achieve this, then they will ram sack your shelter stealing water, food, and objects stored in your shelter. You can engage raiders by moving a team member into them. This will allow you to fight them. Cowards will refuse to fight during a raid. Make sure to train your adults to near max level strength/dexterity on a punchbag before Day 50 to ensure a fighting chance. Also find or trade for weapons before then. Have kids hide in hiding holes unless they are equally strong/dexterous and have a weapon to fight with. Equip body armor and weapons to ensure the best chance of survival. Make sure your characters are fully healed before engaging. You can deter invaders via traps and by improving your doors strength. Having a CCTV will alert you to raids. The more stuff you have, the higher likelihood of going up against tougher enemies. All corpses are to be burned once done and done.
Quick Recap Have both adults be courageous and both kids be resourceful. Everyone is street smart. Choose the cat.
Adult A mans the radio and feeds the cat, Adult B turns off lights and repairs generator. Kid A upgrades the crafting bench and builds as many small water butts as you can, bucket toilet, tier 2 bed, small fridge, poor stove, shelter room, and incinerator in that order and then equips a haz-mat suit. Kid B equips a haz-mat suit and goes topside to repair both filters and 3-4 medium snare traps. They are then responsible for taking food from traps as needed and deconstructing the snare traps before they are used up (when they hit one use). Don't take food when the fridge is full. Taking food when its at 1 will require you to use materials to rebuild it so its up to you to decide if you're desperate enough to do so
When traders come by, make sure you have at minimum, 4 rope, one motor, 4 hinges traded. Never trade water, patrol, or canned foods. I recommend trading your bandages to get the items. Do not get any other item until you acquire these things.
Do not recruit people even if they have good stats. You don't have the water or food to support them.
Always have someone on the radio.
Once you build the items above, start trading for crafting material needed to upgrade your crafting bench and radio. Also rope for punchbags. Upgrade them when possible. Also trade for coal. Get enough materials to build one more room. Build said room.
Build 1 to 2 punchbags in the new room. Move a water butt into the room and bed nearby. Start training both adults and have them recover as needed. They are to train until level 14 before you can send them out on expedition. Kid A takes over radio duty and cat feeding duty. When need so, have this kid repair the filters topside. While the kid is repairing goods topside or is recovering stats, have Kid B man the radio. Don't worry about having the kids sleep.
Kid B is to repair furniture, refuel generator if needed, deconstruct and reconstruct toilet bucket in between use, and build/improve furniture.
As the crafting bench is improved, improve the bed, fridge, stove, and snare traps as needed. Make sure someone resourceful deconstructs the furniture before improving. Do not deconstruct snares until they are at one use left. Then upgrade them. Afterwards, deconstruct them before it reaches 0.
Before day 50 hits, add two hiding spaces to hide kids. When raids occur; hide the kids inside said spaces. Unless they are trained in strength/dexterity (15 or better) and have weapons to defend themselves. Add shelter rooms as needed and put as many small water butts as the room will fit. Build a second large fridge when you can. Don't build multitudes of fridges as fridges take up power. Two large fridges are more then enough for your needs. Have one medium storage box as well. A second bunk bed is nice if needed for the kids and the bookcase/toy box/juke box is optional. Feel free to add traps as well. Upgrade the water filters efficiency as well. All other upgrades are optional.
No one is to shower. Do not clean the shelter. If someone catches radiation poisoning, take a anti-rad. If they are bleeding out, take a first aid kit or use bandages. If they are catatonic; then someone will need to feed them/water them. Catatonic state happens when the person gets traumatized (i.e. max trauma.) Do not send anyone topside without a haz-mat suit. Do not drink water that is 10% or higher contaminated. Food poisoning is no big deal, do not worry. Infection just means they will not heal over time until the infection runs its course. Radiation poisoning, catatonic state, and bleeding out are the only status conditions you need to worry about.
Keep food and water from surpassing 90%. Do not eat or drink unless it reaches this level. If it starts black rain and your survivor is 60 or higher; then have them drink water before it becomes grossly contaminated. Don't worry about cleanliness. Kids do not need to sleep. Adults need to sleep before they use the punchbag/go out on a expedition. Use the toilet when it reaches 50% and have someone resourceful deconstruct and reconstruct the toilet bowl. Do not wash it out as this uses water. Eat canned food instead if you have some as rats will steal it. Meat doesn't get stolen. Keep things repaired before they reach 40% or lower. Refuel the generator when it reaches .2 to .4 percent left. Do not refuel if you have the incinerator running. Keep the incinerator running by adding coal or other goods to the fire. Burn corpses, do not harvest them or bury them. Keep lights off. Optimize shelter by moving objects around to the best spot allowing more space.
Before sending off to the wasteland, ensure each person sent has a strength/dexterity score of at least 15. Equip each person with the highest damage outputting weapon they can wield, a gas mask (or pop a anti-rad tab before hand), the best ruff-sack you have, a metal detector, lockset, some first aid kits, and any quest related item they need to fulfill. Rest of the space is to be left empty.
While in the wastelands, try to avoid as many fights as possible. If you get in a fight, subdue. Avoid bullying options and sneak away if game allows to. Never let AI make its own decision. Trade for same items or junk items you don't need for better goods. Never recruit anyone.
Locations are dependent upon what you need. Each location has a higher likelihood to spawn certain objects. Try to go to tool-shops to bring back a full tool kit (do not bring duplicates with you.) Don't bother repairing the RV.
High priority items to bring back are water, coal, patrol, tools, weapons, necessary crafting materials for whatever project you're on, first aid kits, gas masks, anti rads, and lastly useful crafting material (Wood, Metal, Wires, Pipes, hinges, motors, wool, nylon, rubber, plastics, computer materials etc).
Medium priority items include RV parts if you have the space, ammo, canned goods, meat, and bandages.
Low priority items include books, matches, lighters, toys, records, seeds, coffee beans, recyclables, plants, ore, leather, duplicate tools/RV parts, lower tier weapons, and anything else not mentioned.
Only use half - 25 of your water supply when going out on trips. Only mark places that haven't been visited in a 5 days and have items you are looking for. See said expedition section for what location has. Each location will have a random assortment of goods with each having a theme to it. Lumber yards will have wood for example.
Survive raid attempts by building traps and keeping a well equipped and fit team.
Turning Weakness into Strength
Its a good idea to make your weakness into strengths if you have the goods to do so. If someone dies, then there is a chance that your team will turn all positive traits into weaknesses.
Cowardice -- Have them win a fight either by killing or subduing Lazy -- Go on a expedition Pessimistic -- Return from expedition with loot Hands-Off -- Repair and Craft objects Wasteful -- Deconstruct items (Do this on low cost items that have easy to recover products) Unhygienic -- Get food poisoning (Eat food while hygiene bubble is red) Light Sleeper -- Do not sleep for a set amount of time Big Eater -- Become malnourished and while malnourished, recover health with health packs (your health will not regenerate while malnourished and slowly depletes over time). Try to heal self when it reaches quarter heart. If you run out of med kits, quickly eat something before they starve to death.