Sometimes when gamers boot up a new game, they are thrown so many details about the world, the mechanics, and the gameplay that they are immediately overwhelmed. We like to think that most games can be played by anyone walking by who decided to pick up the controller and give it a go.
But try jumping into the most recent releases, and you’ll find yourself slogging through a hefty tutorial package regardless of the genre. That’s not always a bad thing, as some games have so much jammed into them that players are in dire need of tutorials.
But that means most games have a learning curve that must be conquered before players feel comfortable shooting for harder challenges and endgame bosses.
In Project Zomboid, the open-world zombie survival game by The Indie Stone, it is mathematically impossible for players not to feel overwhelmed. Project Zomboid, without a doubt, has more features and mechanics to keep track of than the last three games I’ve covered combined. It’s straight-up ridiculous.
In an attempt to stave off sensory overload and help new players navigate the pixelated snapshot of a 1993 Kentucky, I’ve been parsing down Project Zomboid’s hefty world into digestible guides broken into specific topics.
Want to know how to grow crops, obtain fertilizer, and provide food for yourself and others? Behold the Farming guide.
Looking for a way to obtain fresh meat no matter where you find yourself during the zombie apocalypse? Boom: Trapping guide.
Today, I’ll be explaining traits in Project Zomboid. While the game provides a brief description of each trait, it lacks any statistics or percentages, which are vital for min/maxing your character to the gills.
If you’ve ever wondered which positive traits are the best or which negative traits are the worst, look no further. In this guide, I’ll have the Project Zomboid traits explained and break down everything you could ever need to know about building the best survivor Project Zomboid has ever seen.
You’ll survive longer after feasting your brain on this knowledge. But I won’t lie to you: you’ll still die. This is Project Zomboid, after all. No one gets out alive.
Key Info Up Front
There are two kinds of traits in Project Zomboid: positive and negative traits. When you select a negative trait, your character gains points they can spend on positive traits. If you select too many positive traits, you’ll have to balance them with appropriate negative ones.
The key to building the right character in Project Zomboid is figuring out which negative traits are meaningless to you and which positive traits you can’t live without.
- Quick Note #1: Project Zomboid’s official wiki separates the positive trait list into ‘traits’ and ‘hobbies.’ The difference is absolutely meaningless in the grand scheme of things, and for this guide, I’ll be treating both hobbies and traits as the same thing – since they are the same thing. Just to note the technical differences, hobbies are lesser bonuses, traits are slightly higher bonuses. You still select both of them on the same screen, at the same time, in the same way, in the same field. It’s not as if there’s a trait selection screen and then a hobby selection screen – they’re both the same.
- Quick Note #2: You cannot start your game until you’ve brought your point balance to zero or above. The game won’t let you begin if you choose a bunch of positive traits but no negatives. You must balance the positive with the negative to begin. And it’s in your best interest to get your points to zero or as close as possible.
- Quick Note #3: You can gain and lose traits throughout your Project Zomboid journey. If you choose Overweight initially but then exercise and starve yourself for the first month of the apocalypse, you’ll lose enough weight and drop the Overweight trait. The opposite is true if you select Underweight. When selecting traits, consider if they are permanent or losable.
- Quick Note #4: Many traits are considered ‘mutually exclusive’ and cannot be paired together. If you select the negative trait Deaf, you cannot select the positive trait Keen Hearing. You’re deaf. You can’t be deaf and have a keen hearing at the same time. Likewise, you can’t have High Thirst and Low Thirst, Graceful and Clumsy, or Fast Healer and Slow Healer simultaneously. You might think they’ll cancel each other out, but it’s worse. They’re redundant.
The Most Useless Positive Traits
There are 41 positive traits for you to consider in the most recent build of Project Zomboid, and while I’d love to list out each one and explain its usefulness, that would end up being the longest article on this site.
So rather than go through an exhaustive overview of everything in PZ, I will highlight traits I think need extra explanation and group them into navigable categories.
For this first group, we’re going to cover the most useless traits in Project Zomboid that you should always ignore. They are in alphabetical order. The trait’s cost in points, the game’s description, its mutually exclusive counterpart (if applicable), and a more detailed breakdown will accompany each entry.
If I see any of you chuckleheads running a character with these traits, I’m taking away your survivor card. Period. These traits aren’t just wasteful when it comes to points; they’re straight-up detrimental to your survivability. Avoid at all costs.
These should not be confused with occupations you can choose in Project Zomboid. Occupations come with predetermined traits and fewer points for you to spend, but they are like pre-made characters.
You can tweak each occupation further by editing the traits selected, but they are fairly complete packages. I will not be covering occupations in this guide, just traits.
Baseball Player | 4 Points | ‘Has Practice with a Baseball Bat and Knows how to Hit with Precision.’
This is, without a doubt, one of the most useless, stupid, and downright wasteful traits you can select in all of Project Zomboid. You gain +1 with the Long Blunt skill. That’s it. Ooo, you know how to swing a baseball bat, wow.
Legit question: who doesn’t know how to swing a baseball bat?! Huh?!
This is the dumbest trait PZ has to offer. AVOID.
Brave | 4 Points | ‘Less Prone to Becoming Panicked.’ | Counterpart – Cowardly, Desensitized
Being brave isn’t nothing. It reduces all sources of panic by 30% except for nightmares and night terrors because those exist in Project Zomboid.
A 30% reduction in stress ain’t bad, but I never found it that helpful. Your character will eventually grow out of their panic, so picking a trait that would eventually be useless didn’t jive with me.
Eagle Eyed | 6 Points | ‘Has a Higher Visibility Fade and Higher Visibility Arc.’ | Counterpart – Short-Sighted
Your character’s field of view will be wider if you select the Eagle Eyed trait. I only ever selected this trait once. While it was nice to see just about every zombie trying to hide in front of me, it wasn’t worth the cost.
The regular field of view is more than enough for me. This trait also increases your search radius while foraging by +1.
First Aider | 4 Points | ‘Has a CPR and First Aid Course Certificate.’
Hey, look at that, another useless trait. Man, these things are popping up like weeds.
First Aider gives you a +1 to the First Aid skill.
That’s a whole bunch of nothing if you ask me. First Aid is not a hard skill to level up, so getting it to level 1 should be a piece of cake. Why waste 4 perfectly good points?
Fit | 6 Points | ‘In Good Physical Shape.’ | Counterparts – Athletic, Out of Shape, Obese, Overweight, Unfit
Fit is the weaker younger brother of the Athletic trait. It costs fewer points and offers a smaller bonus; you gain a +2 to Fitness. Fit is the cheaper answer when trying to buff your character’s physical fitness. I usually opted for Athletic. Go big or go home, I say!
Gymnist | 5 Points | “Agile and Discreet.“
When you select the Gymnist trait, you’re awarded +1 to both Nimble and Lightfooted. That’s not so bad, as both those traits are good to level up quickly. But those traits aren’t hard to level up.
And wasting 5 points to get a single level in them is downright wasteful. These skills are so easy to level up, you can gain several levels while watching TV. Pass on this one.
Inconspicuous | 4 Points | ‘Less Likely to be Spotted by Zombies.’ | Counterpart – Conspicuous
Fun fact: Inconspicuous doesn’t work.
I hate this perk. One of my biggest frustrations with Project Zomboid is how easy it is for zombies to spot me. NO MATTER WHAT I DO. I hate that zombies can spot before they appear on my screen. I can zoom out as far as possible, and zombies that have already spotted me are still off the screen.
I’m on the house’s second floor with all the curtains drawn, the lights out, and the TV and radio off. But somehow a zombie two blocks away spots me, crosses the street, and breaks through a window.
I’m behind a garage behind a house, behind another house, crouching, stealthed up against a brick wall, yet a group of zombies three houses away and behind a thicket of trees still sees me and starts shambling my way.
I can’t stand it. By far, my biggest complaint about this game is that zombies somehow have better vision than my character.
So, you’d think me and the inconspicuous trait get along fine and dandy, huh? No, you’d be wrong. This trait does nothing. I am still spotted inside a house with all the curtains drawn and lights out; I’m still seen from three blocks away and through a thicket of trees.
I wish this trait worked; it’s supposed to reduce the chance of being spotted by zombies by 50%. Have I ever experienced its benefits?
Runner | 4 Points | “Runner in the Spare Times.”
+1 to sprinting. That’s it. That’s all the goodness you’ll get from spending 4 points on this trait. A single level in sprinting.
Do I even need to tell you this is a bad trait?
The Worst Negative Traits
These are negative traits that take too much work to overcome. These traits, when selected, will severely hamper your survivor’s progress. You’ll find yourself virtually handicapped if you choose these traits.
Some of them might seem easy enough to deal with, but trust me when I say each and every one of these traits will lead to your death. They make surviving the zombie hordes too hard, and they will hamper your character to death.
Illiterate | 8 Points | “Cannot Read Books.” | Counterpart – Slow Reader, Fast Reader
Illiterate is one of the worst traits you can pick for your character. Imagine not being able to read. Like, anything. That’s a serious problem! In Project Zomboid, reading books, magazines, and manuals is absolutely essential for long-term survival.
You can’t repair cars, build traps, or craft fertilizer if you can’t read. This is a massive handicap, and you should avoid it altogether.
Asthmatic | 5 Points | “Faster Endurance Loss.”
Fatigue has killed me more times than I’d like to admit. I ran too much and lost my stamina; before I knew it, I could only walk. Zombies catch up pretty quickly when you can only walk away from them.
Being asthmatic means you lose stamina 130-140% faster than normal. You can’t work around that. It will kill you.
Sunday Driver | 1 Point | “The Very Slow Driver.” | Counterpart – Speed Demon
This might seem like a harmless trait to pick up that will add some points to your character, but be careful. This trait makes your maximum speed in any car around 30 mph. Going offroad halves that it 15 mph.
That is incredibly slow. I didn’t realize how much that would affect every single commute in the game, but I do know. I hate Sunday Driver. Makes everything take longer in PZ. Avoid.
Disorganized | 4 Points | Decreased Container Inventory Capacity. | Counterpart – Organized
Another deceptive negative trait. You might think this one is negligible, but I caution you to rethink that. Supply runs keep you alive in PZ, and being able to carry more in your backpack means fewer trips.
I can’t tell you how often I died trying to get supplies. This one will reduce your carry capacity, so you’ll have to make more frequent trips. It’s deceptively evil. Stay away.
Weak | 10 Points | “Less Knockback from Melee Weapons. Decreased Carrying Weight.” | Counterpart – Feeble, Strong, Stout
This is probably the worst trait in all of PZ for me. It makes combat effectively useless and nearly halves the amount of carry capacity you have.
It’s like playing on impossible mode because surviving over a few days with this trait is downright impossible. Yes, you get a whopping 10 points for picking it, but you won’t get to enjoy those 10 points before you die.
Positive Traits You Should Always Consider
These traits are so overwhelmingly awesome that you should seriously consider moving points around to get them. These can improve your run, strengthen your character, or at least ensure you survive longer than a week. Give them a look and see which ones will improve your Project Zomboid lifetimes.
Athletic | 10 Points | ‘Can Run Faster and Longer without Tiring.’ | Counterparts – Fit, Out of Shape, Obese, Overweight, Unfit
Yes, that’s a hefty price tag at 10 points. But Athletic is one of the better traits to keep your eye on. It lends you +4 to Fitness, and you lose stamina at a 60% less rate. That’s huge.
When I first started playing Project Zomboid, I ran everywhere. Sprint here, dash there, jog there – and then I always wondered why I got fatigued and couldn’t run anymore. Your PZ character gets fatigued easily, and if you don’t rest, you’ll be relegated to a slow walk that allows zombies to overtake you.
Building your Fitness up to level 4 won’t take that long, but it’s a clear blessing to have it from the get-go. I chose the Athletic trait more often than not once I experienced its goodness.
It helped me stay ahead of the hordes. And it allowed me those few precious seconds of sprinting where I knew my stamina would recover quickly and I could break the line of sight from zombies nearby. High tier trait for sure.
Angler | 4 Points | ‘Knows the Basics of Fishing.’
Alright, hear me out. This is one of the best traits you can select in Project Zomboid. This trait negates the need to find a fishing rod or fishing magazine. You can get started fishing immediately.
You can build and repair your own rod, which is actually a massive advantage to have early game. But this trait also buffs your Foraging skill by making the rate at which you find insects and fish bait much higher. Two skill buffs for the low price of 4 points? Yes.
Dexterous | 2 Points | ‘Transfers Inventory Items Quickly.’ | Counterpart – All Thumbs
With the Dexterous trait, your character will transfer items between your various inventories 50% quicker.
Listen, that might seem like an easy pass for most people, but you severely underestimate how much of your time is spent moving items from one bag to one container to your vehicle trunk to your base to the ground where you’ll work.
You’re constantly moving stuff around. If you’re building anything carpentry related, you’ll want this. Makes moving items much quicker.
Fast Learner | 6 Points | ‘Increases XP Gains.’ | Counterpart – Slow Learner
Let’s talk about this absolute banger of a trait right here. Fast Learner is a trait you should consider picking for each and every character you make in Project Zomboid. It increases the XP you gain for every skill in the game except Strength and Fitness by 130%. Done. Game over. Pencils down, class.
This trait right here makes the game much more manageable. Not easier. Manageable. PZ is an unforgiving game, and having advantages like Fast Learner increases your chances of living past a week.
Handy | 6 Points | ‘Faster and Stronger Constructions.’
Alright, listen up! This trait rocks. If you’re building anything, and I mean anything in Project Zomboid, you should be selecting this trait. You’ll gain a +1 to both Carpentry and Maintenance, all your constructions gain +100 HP, and you’ll build everything 11% quicker.
Not a bad deal for a simple 6 point trait. If you want to add walls to your base, build a wall of fences, or establish any kind of safety during the zombie apocalypse, you’ll want this trait.
I picked this one whenever building a survival character, and the extra construction HP and XP boost in Maintenance made my wooden spears far more useful. They break far less and deal far more damage with the Handy trait. The trait is awesome for several different builds, not just Carpenters.
Hunter | 8 Points | ‘Know the Basics of Hunting.’
Did you think Hiker and Former Scout were the only outdoorsman traits? Think again. Hunter exists, and it’s pretty damn awesome. Hunter is like the grizzly, weathered father of Former Scout. You’ll gain +1 to the Aiming, Short Blade, Sneaking, and Trapping skills with Hunter, which is a hell of a boost.
You’ll also start with all the trap recipes and have a higher chance of finding mushrooms, berries, wild animals, and medicinal plants. Yes, Hunter costs a bit more than Hiker, but it delivers so much more. It’s a great choice if you plan on surviving outdoors in any capacity.
Negative Traits You Should Always Consider
The negatives are so negligible I almost always pick them for my character. Some traits like High Thirst and Prone to Illness should virtually always be chosen for your character. They give you extra points to spend on positive traits, and their setbacks are barely noticeable in-game.
Weak Stomach | 3 Points | “Higher Chance to have Food Illness.” | Iron Gut
This is the absolute simplest negative trait to work around. Just don’t eat rotten food. Done, easy, game over. That’s all you have to do. Cook your food or eat canned food, and you’ll never get sick. Three easy points.
Underweight | 6 Points | “Low Strength, Low Endurance and Prone to Injury.” | Obese, Overweight, Very Underweight, Hearty Appetite
There are a lot of weight-related traits to pick from in Project Zomboid, and they are all exclusive to each other. I’ve never noticed the “prone to injury” part of this trait.
The other parts aren’t as bad as they sound. You’ll have -1 to Fitness and 20% less damage with melee weapons. But you can increase your weight by eating and exercising, and once your Fitness level goes up, so will your damage output.
Thin-Skinned | 8 Points | “Increased Chance of Scratches, Lacerations, or Bites Breaking the Skin.” | Counterpart – Thick Skinned
This one can mess up your run if you’re not careful. Or lucky. But since I usually level up my sewing skill quickly and layer on so many different clothes to protect myself, I don’t mind grabbing this trait.
If I get bit, I get bit. Not much I can do about that. But since I keep my distance and have plenty of defense, I’ll take my chances.
Smoker | 4 Points | “Stress and Unhappiness Decrease after Smoking Tobacco. Unhappiness Rises when Tobacco is not Smoked.”
This one took me a while to warm up to. I thought having to look for another item – cigarettes – was too much for my supply runs. But the great trick with Smoker is that your anxiety and unhappiness will rise whenever you’re not smoking.
When you smoke, your anxiety and unhappiness will decrease – all of it. Even if you’re panicked and unhappy for other reasons – like you’re hungry, stuck inside, or injured – they will all subside as you smoke.
And cigarettes are honestly quite easy to find. Gas stations, grocery stores, office desks, and bedside tables are great spots to check.
High Thirst | 6 Points | “Needs more Water to Survive” | Counterpart – Low Thirst
I have always chosen High Thirst for my characters. Easy 6 points. Ensure you pick up a tumbler, coffee mug, or water bottle while exploring, as this trait will increase your thirst to 200%. But since you can find so many sources of clean drinking water while scavenging, this shouldn’t hinder you much.
Prone to Illness | 4 Points | “More Prone to Disease. Faster Rate of Zombification.” | Counterpart – Resilient
Another negative trait I always pick for my character, Prone to Illness, is incredibly easy to overcome. If you get bitten, you’ll become a zombie; nothing you can do about it.
Whether that transformation takes a day or three is irrelevant. This trait can also make your character sick with a cough and cold easier, but as long as you dry yourself off and don’t stay outdoors too long, you should be fine.
Select Traits Based on Your Specific Build
You should select traits based on your character’s specific build. If you’re going for an outdoorsman type of character, pick traits that will make them invincible outdoors. Outdoorsman, Herbalist, Hiker, and Athletic are all wise choices.
If you’re going for a carpenter, select traits that will allow you to carry more supplies and tools at once, like Handy, Dexterous, and Fast Learner. If you’re going for a military veteran/police officer, choose traits that will increase your combat effectiveness. Organized, Dexterous, Fit, and Eagle Eyed would be good.
Many traits can work in synergy with each other, as well. The Prone to Illness trait might make it easier for your character to get sick, but if you choose the Outdoorsman occupation, you’re immune to weather-related sickness.
If you choose the Deaf trait, your auditory senses are essentially nonexistent, but if you choose the Eagle Eye trait, you’ll be able to see every zombie on your screen at once, counteracting your loss of hearing.
Question: Are there any Mods that Add other Traits?
Answer: Hell yes. This mod by Mr. Sunshine’s Workshop puts an Insurgent profession into Project Zomboid. They’re essentially a private military contractors but come with four new traits. Recon, Machine Gunner, Gunslinger, On-site Procurement. Also, you’re a private military contractor. If you thought veterans and police officers lived long, think again.
Question: What Traits should I Pick if I Want to Build a Professional Athlete Character?
Answer: All the athletic traits. Athletic, Dexterous, Fast Learner, Graceful, and Lucky would work well for a professional athlete.
Question: Can I Earn any Traits Throughout the Game?
Answer: The only trait I found you can earn throughout the game is a negative one. Emaciated is as bad as it sounds. You’ll only receive this trait if your character loses too much weight and becomes too weak.
If they drop to 50 kilograms, they’ll suffer from decreased everything – stamina, offense, defense. Don’t let yourself get emaciated.
There are many traits for you to investigate within Project Zomboid, which means you can create many different builds for your character. Tweak different positives and negatives to get the ultimate survivor who leans into your playstyle.
This is by no means every trait in Project Zomboid, but these should go a long way in ensuring your character’s survival. As you continue to experiment and craft different builds, you’ll find plenty of traits you can’t live without. I encourage you to explore all the different possibilities.
If you’ve sated your need for Project Zomboid knowledge, perhaps you’d care to peruse guides and reviews for other indie games?