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Project Zomboid character builds: the best character builds in Project Zomboid

Discover the best character builds in Project Zomboid

Looking for the best character builds in Project Zomboid? Before you dive into the world of Project Zomboid and start surviving the apocalypse, you need to make your character. The character creation menu can look quite daunting at first, but don’t worry. In this guide, we’ll talk you through the character creation process step-by-step and cover some of the best character builds in Project Zomboid so that you can get off to a great start in the apocalypse.

What is an occupation in Project Zomboid?

The first section in the character creation menu is occupation. This lets you select what job your survivor had before the apocalypse began. While they aren’t all true professions (I don’t think you could list hotwiring cars as a burglar on the census), they all come with various bonuses for different skills. When selecting your occupation, you should think about your preferred playstyle. If you want to build a base and do lots of crafting, Carpenter might be for you. If you prefer foraging or farming, we’d recommend selecting Park Ranger or Farmer respectively.

When you select an occupation, it will change your points to spend total in the lower right corner of the creation menu. You can not proceed until this number is 0 or higher. If you need to gain or lose points, head over to the trait menu.

What are traits in Project Zomboid?

Traits are positive and negative bonuses that you can apply to your character in Project Zomboid. Negative traits give you points back, which you’ll need if your occupation puts you in the negative. Positive traits are available if you have some extra points spare to use before jumping into the game. If you select the unemployed occupation, you will get 8 points to spend on positive traits.

Traits can have an immense impact on your character in Project Zomboid. The Thick Skinned trait makes it much harder for zombies to scratch and bite your character, for example. Since this is a very useful trait, it costs 8 points. Less useful traits, like Speed Demon (which lets you drive faster) cost fewer points. Likewise, more severe negative traits give you more points back. If you want to see some of the best traits, take a look at our character builds later in this guide.

Here is a full list of every trait in Project Zomboid, including its description and cost:

Trait Positive or negative? Description Cost
Cat's Eyes Positive Better vision at night. -2
Outdoorsman Positive Not affected by harsh weather conditions. -2
Wakeful Positive Needs less sleep. -2
Angler Positive +1 Fishing -4
Baseball Player Positive +1 Long Blunt -4
Brave Positive Less prone to becoming panicked. -4
First Aider Positive +1 First Aid -4
Gardener Positive +1 Farming -4
Graceful Positive Makes less noise when moving. -4
Light Eater Positive Needs to eat less regularly. -4
Nutritionist Positive Can see the nutritional values of any food. -4
Runner Positive +1 Sprinting -4
Sewer Positive +1 Tailoring -4
Amateur Mechanic Positive Has a detailed knowledge of common and commercial vehicle models, and repairs. +1 Mechanics -5
Gymnast Positive +1 Lightfooted | +1 Nimble -5
Brawler Positive +1 Axe | +1 Long Blunt -6
Cook Positive Know cooking recipes. +2 Cooking -6
Fast Healer Positive Recovers quickly from injuries and illness. -6
Fast Learner Positive Increased XP gains. -6
Former Scout Positive +1 First Aid | +1 Foraging -6
Herbalist Positive Can find medicinal herbs and craft medicines and poultices from them. -6
Hiker Positive +1 Foraging | +1 Trapping -6
Keen Hearing Positive Larger perception radius. -6
Adrenaline Junkie Positive Moves faster when highly panicked. -8
Handy Positive Faster and stronger constructions. +1 Carpentry | +1 Maintenance -8
Hunter Positive +1 Aiming | +1 Short Blade | +1 Sneaking | +1 Trapping -8
Thick-Skinned Positive Less chance of scratches or bites breaking the skin. -8
Clumsy Negative Makes more noise when moving. +2
Cowardly Negative Especially prone to becoming panicked. +2
Agoraphobic Negative Gets panicked when outdoors. +4
Claustrophobic Negative Gets panicked when indoors. +4
Hard of Hearing Negative Smaller perception radius. Smaller hearing range. +4
Hearty Appetite Negative Needs to eat more regularly. +4
Pacifist Negative Less effective with weapons. +4
Sleepyhead Negative Needs more sleep. +4
Smoker Negative Stress and unhappiness decrease after smoking tobacco. Unhappiness rise when tobacco is not smoked. +4
Asthmatic Negative Faster endurance loss. +5
Hemophobic Negative Panic when performing first aid on self, cannot perform first aid on others, gets stressed when bloody. +5
Restless Sleeper Negative Slow loss of tiredness while sleeping. +6
Slow Healer Negative Recovers slowly from injuries and illness. +6
Slow Learner Negative Decreased XP gains. +6
Underweight Negative Low strength, low endurance, and prone to injury. -1 Fitness +6
Thin-Skinned Negative Increased chance of scratches, lacerations, or bites breaking the skin. +8
Deaf Negative Can't hear sound. +12

What are skills in Project Zomboid?

When selecting an occupation or certain traits, you will see that some give positive or negative bonuses to certain skills. For example, Carpenter gets a +3 bonus to carpentry and a +1 bonus to Short Blunt. These bonuses are crucial in the early game, as they let you get a headstart in certain activities or deal with dangerous situations. Doctors and Nurses get big bonuses to First-Aid, while Burglars are able to sneak around and use stealth to stay away from zombies. All of these skills can be leveled as you play Project Zomboid. They each have their own XP that generates as you perform related activities. For example, sneaking around and avoiding zombies will level up your sneak skill. You can level a range of key skills up by watching TV over the first few days, so make sure you familiarise yourself with the full Project Zomboid TV schedule.

Here is a full list of every skill in Project Zomboid:

Passive skills:

  • Fitness
  • Strength

Agility skills:

  • Sprinting
  • Lightfooted
  • Nimble
  • Sneaking

Combat skills:

  • Axe
  • Long Blunt
  • Short Blunt
  • Long Blade
  • Short Blade
  • Spear
  • Maintenance

Crafting skills:

  • Carpentry
  • Cooking
  • Farming
  • First Aid
  • Electrical
  • Metalworking
  • Tailoring

Firearms skills:

  • Aiming
  • Reloading

Survivalist skills:

  • Fishing
  • Trapping
  • Foraging

Best character builds in Project Zomboid

If you want some extra guidance on building a character in Project Zomboid, we’ve got two excellent builds that you can use for inspiration or copy for your own survivor:

Project Zomboid character creation menu with a thief build

Character build 1: Thief

Occupation: Burglar

Positive traits:

  • Cat’s Eyes
  • Dextrous
  • Inconspicuous
  • Keen Hearing
  • Strong

Negative traits:

  • High Thirst
  • Slow Healer
  • Disorganized
  • Prone to Illness
  • Weak Stomach
  • Sleepyhead
  • Slow Reader
  • Sunday Driver

Okay, that’s a lot of negative traits so this build might seem daunting. However, you’ll quickly realise that a lot of these negative traits won’t impact your game too much. Disorganized gives you slightly lower storage capacity, but this does not affect your own player inventory. Cupboards, dressers and other storage units will have slightly less room, but this has minimal impact on your game. If your cupboards are full, you’re probably doing a good enough job.

Some of the other traits are almost negligible if you are playing smart. Prone to Illness and Weak Stomach make it easier to get ill from bad weather, infected wounds, or food poisoning, but you should strive to avoid all of these anyway. Food poisoning can be avoided altogether if you cook food and avoid raw meats, while you can just hide inside or use warm clothes to avoid catching a cold during the colder months.

Slow Healer and High Thirst are the most severe negative traits in this build, but they are fairly easy to manage. Our first tip when finding and fortifying a base is to live near a water source, as this is always going to be a problem. If you’re already near a water source, High Thirst should be manageable. Slow Healer is slightly more troublesome, but the best way to heal is staying well-fed and well-rested. Slow Healer just means you might have to avoid exploring a little longer when injured, but there are plenty of other things you can do in base. You could spend time reading skill books to get extra XP boosts, or keep an eye on your farm, for example. If you’re playing on single-player, you could even just speed up time to skip until your character is healthy again.

Sleepyhead, Slow Reader and Sunday Driver are easy to forget and essentially amount to free points. Sleepyhead makes you need to sleep more often, but Project Zomboid characters rarely need to sleep anyway. If anything, this should make the sleep cycle a little more natural. If you do find yourself sleeping in the day and awake at night, Cat’s Eyes will make it easier to see in the dark. Slow Reader does exactly what it says - you read slightly slower - but this isn’t going to impact your playstyle much. Books take a while to read, so a few more minutes of waiting won’t be a big problem. Again, those in single-player can just speed up time to completely negate this issue as long as you’ve got plenty of food and water stocked. Sunday Driver makes you drive a lot slower, but you’ll still be able to outrun zombies and this will just make crashes less deadly.

The goal with this build is to make it easier for you to loot buildings and fight zombies, which are key to survival in Project Zomboid. Dextrous allows you to transfer items slightly faster, while Strong will let you deal more damage and carry more items in your inventory. Inconspicuous makes it much harder for zombies to see you and Keen Hearing increases your perception radius. This is essentially the circle around your character in which you can see nearby zombies. This is essential if you want to avoid sneaky bites and scratches from behind when looting a building or managing your inventory.

Project Zomboid character creation menu with a firefighter build

Character build 2: Firefighter

Occupation: Fire Officer

Positive traits:

  • Inconspicuous
  • Lucky
  • Stout
  • Athletic

Negative traits:

  • High Thirst
  • Disorganized
  • Prone to Illness
  • Weak Stomach
  • All Thumbs
  • Short-Sighted
  • Slow Reader
  • Sunday Driver

Having read through the previous build, the balance between positive and negative traits should now be much clearer. Many of the negative traits have little effect but give you lots of points, which you can then spend on crucial positive traits. As you can see, many of the negative traits are actually repeated across both builds. High Thirst, Disorganized, Prone to Illness, Weak Stomach, Slow Reader and Sunday Driver all feature in both builds because they are either easy to manage or have minimal impact on your gameplay.

All Thumbs and Short-Sighted are the new negative traits for this firefighter build. Short-Sighted is the worst of the two, as it reduces your perception radius. However, if you spin around often while moving to check your back, you should be able to avoid any sneaky zombie surprises. All Thumbs makes you move items a little slower, which makes looting take longer. This will have little impact as long as zombies don’t know where you are, so make sure to sneak when moving around.

Fortunately, the Inconspicuous trait should make it a little easier to avoid zombies so that you can focus on looting. While you might loot slightly slower than usual, the Lucky trait will help you find rarer items, stronger weapons and better armor, drastically increasing your odds of finding useful gear. Stout will increase your inventory capacity so that you can carry more stuff around in your inventory while giving you extra strength to deal with zombies when necessary. Athletic is the best positive trait in this build, as it increases your running speed, lets you run for longer without getting exhausted and even lets you swing weapons faster. This will make it much easier to travel around the map and outrun zombies, while also boosting your efficiency in combat if you do need to fight.

That wraps up our best character builds in Project Zomboid. Hopefully, those builds give you a better idea on how to create a character and which traits are best in the apocalypse. If you want more help surviving the apocalypse, check out our list of Project Zomboid tips and tricks. You can also take a look at our list of the best survival games on PC in 2022 if you want to see how you'd fare in other survival scenarios.

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About the Author
Hayden Hefford avatar

Hayden Hefford

Guides Writer

Hayden is a guides writer for RPS, having joined the team in September 2021 after a few months of freelancing for TheGamer. They're a big fan of survival games, especially those that focus on the undead. Zombies. Walkers. Shamblers. Whatever you call them, Hayden is definitely a fan.

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