RPZ #1: Wasteland - Project Zomboid (2024)

Welcome to a new blog series where we take a deep dive into Project Zomboid’s roleplaying scene!

PZ has a large and enthusiastic multiplayer roleplaying community with servers ranging from hardcore military simulations, to the most anarchic and chaotic dance party simulators – and sometimes both at the same time.

Many of these servers have dozens of players at any time, and sometimes up to a hundred: all chatting, dancing, rolling fake dice to simulate combat, and generating an endless stream of fun and interesting stories.

Over the coming months we’ll be exploring each of the five most popular English-language servers: Wasteland, Pandemonium, Project Apocalypse, Project Zomboid Roleplay, and Serious Survival. Each offers a unique and interesting take on Zomboid gameplay, and has its own lore, Discord server, and internal rules and mechanics to learn and play around with.

Expect chaos, strange events, hard-hitting journalism, and a whole host of interesting and insane characters, all created from the vivid imaginations of Zomboid players themselves!

Seeing as we decided to do this exploration of our RP community when we saw this interesting Reddit post, a heatmap for where players go on the Wasteland server, we decided the first steps of our intrepid reporter Pat_Bren (me) into roleplaying-land should be on that self-same location.

This mission, which I had no choice but accept, would also mean that I could feed back a variety of RP requirements and requests from these servers to the teams at TIS and MP coders Vertex Break – the results of which will no doubt one day appear in a future dev blog.

If you want to get into RP the first steps for most, if not all, servers are to apply on the Discord, and to learn the lore – which is different to our base game. Wasteland is set in 2001, two years after a zombie outbreak devastated humanity. The US used nuclear weapons destroying some areas, and turning others into dangerous “Dark Zones”, one of which was the Knox area.

Now, I don my reporter’s fedora and head into Knox to learn the story of the Wasteland…

Wasteland RP

It’s dark when I meet Chip, a trader, and my guide through the Wasteland, at the eastern entry to Knox. He provides me with a helmet, a pen, a notepad, and most importantly of all, body armour marked “PRESS”. Your correspondent’s first stop is a donor area, filled with vehicles and statues.

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Chip explains Knox was abandoned until a few months ago. Now, there are about twenty diverse factions in Knox, led by individuals, councils, or the entire community, and only a couple are antagonistic.

One of the groups maintains a transport system between towns. Another is run by the “Empress of Florida”, based on an old American treaty. Another of the groups – Bastion – is comprised of heavily armed mercenaries, piquing my interest. As we speak in the donor area, a mysterious fog rolls in.

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The currency is “gold guilders”, though its value fluctuates, and shop prices are generally high. Around 400 active survivors live in the area. Many survivors specialise, though a few try to be self-sufficient, and there are skill caps so they can’t max out their skills.

The first town we go to, and the main hub of the Wasteland, is Hope. At the bus stop I find a flyer for a band called “Invasive Species”. It’s nice to see some culture around, although I do wonder if rock concerts will attract the attention of the walking dead.

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Then, I commit a MAJOR RP faux pas: I call another survivor by their name without being told it (it appears on the screen, but you have to roleplay being “introduced” to someone).

With the help of Chip, I am spared a premature ejection from the Wasteland, and we wander towards the community centre, which has a donation box for books and items, a gym, library, and meeting rooms.

Chip tells me there’s talk of setting up a Hope council of shop owners and interested parties, to “keep it safe” and govern the area. As of now, there are no set laws, and everyone takes care of their own affairs, or hires mercs like Bastion to do it for them.

I take note of the mention of “shop owners” running the town. Sounds like an oligarchy in the making – and I will die (or log off) before I let it happen!

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A bearded, dark haired man with a hat enters the community centre. I grip my pen, ready to strike, but he says hello and introduces himself as Beau Brooks.

Brooks tell me he has a ranch, and is trying to raise crops. He lost his parents, and hasn’t seen his two brothers since the world ended. Beau likes Hope as it’s peaceful, especially compared to Texas where he’s from. (I should have asked him how he got here from Texas, but didn’t know how far RP etiquette would allow for backstory fact-checking.)

Beau leaves Chip and I with a friendly wave and we head to the now-abandoned camp of a group of refugees called Exodus, where a large scale player event recently took place.

In my investigations of admin-run RP server events for players, the phrase “herding cats” often arises, but this event has clearly gone well. Players were split between the Exodus camp, which is based around an old warehouse, and the bunker of a man named Cornelius Grant, which is now also abandoned following a coup against Grant. During the event, both groups teamed up to fix the bridge to Louisville, and the events team gave people quests and tasks to do using a job board throughout.

Chip brings me to Grant’s bunker, impressive though sterile, and without any inhabitants after the coup, now seems like a true “liminal space”. Silent and eerie, a single red tree somehow surviving in the “park” underground.

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We speak of religion. A figure named the Empress of Florida has recently left the Wasteland, due to commitments to other parts of her empire (ie. has left the server due to real life commitments).

Chip explains the Empress was a quasi-religious figure who abhorred violence and wanted to unite all factions, and was widely supported. Chip tells me of another religion, based on the Sacred Shark scriptures, based around super-intelligent sharks in the Ohio river. Of course I don’t believe in it, but I take a stuffed shark with me as a good luck charm – because it surely can’t hurt.

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I feel like Bastion, the mercenary group, is the key to the future of the Wasteland, and that I’ll get to the heart of the story if I understand their motives. Why don’t they take over? How do they feel about the proposed town council?

We head back to the centre of Hope, where two young women stand in front of a table of frozen cabbages. They are trading with a well-armed and armoured looking man, and he’s clearly not only here for the cabbages.

He’s the leader of Bastion: Captain Laroux. Just the man a newshound like me needs to speak to. I imagine nervously adjusting my press jacket and make my approach.

I learn he dislikes his group being called mercenaries (so I make sure to keep calling them that), and he speaks in corporate babble about being “experts in personal protection and security services.” Their main job is guarding stores.

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One of the nearby traders, Cassie Grant, daughter of the overthrown and ambiguously-deceased bunker owner Cornelius, tells us that a Bastion soldier stole her gun, though according to Laroux, Cassie was caught sneaking into their camp, trying to rescue someone.

I nod, and scribble things down like a real journalist. It’s very interesting to see multiple intertwining ambiguous story threads. Even a highly-skilled and experienced reporter like myself has trouble figuring out the truth.

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Laroux consents to a tour of his base and drives me there in his modded Range Rover. He tells me he was raised in New Orleans, and was with the 75th regiment of the US army before the outbreak.

The base is large and impressive, with multiple vehicles and storage tanks, including one that’s branded with Jameson whiskey, though unfortunately it contains only fuel. There’s a medical facility, a bar, a farm, a large tent for guests, and even an in-construction sauna. Eat your heart out Captain Tom. [That one’s for British readers]

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We head to the bar, where other Bastion members are hanging around. One plays a nice guitar tune while we speak. Laroux tells me that relations between Bastion and the FarGo caravan company soured recently.

A girl named Ruby was kidnapped by the sisters of a man she killed when he tried to rob a gun store. Eve, the owner of FarGo, then demanded they go save Ruby. Bastion was able to track down the kidnappers, but a hostage situation developed.

Against the advice of Bastion, who were ready to assault the kidnappers, Eve gave herself up for Ruby. BUT one of Eve’s guards started shooting: in the chaos Eve and Ruby were wounded, alongside all four hostage takers who were badly injured but managed to escape.

Eve now blames Bastion for the mess. It all seems very complicated, and enjoyably dramatic. I muse that this might, one day, win me a Pulitzer.

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We then speak of Bastion in general. Laroux won’t tell me the exact number of members, but claims there are no discipline problems. Trouble makers are reprimanded and taken off current contracts. They have a monopoly on security contracts, with no competition at all. I ask if they would consider submitting to the democratic will of a future Hope council and becoming a police force or army, but Laroux says no, he has no interest in politics.

I am growing tired of Laroux and his undemocratic powers. I ask him why Bastion doesn’t take over, and he says they’d lose all their contracts if they did so. Then, I hit him with a hidden ace up my sleeve, a critical hit, a “boom, headshot!”: during our drive to the base in his Range Rover, I perused a contract in his glove box. For each of their security jobs, they are paid a measly three boxes of ammo.

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Laroux grumbles about looking through his papers, but doesn’t give an answer. I suggest that even if he has no interest in taking over, there’s greedy people everywhere will be looking to use his men and power for their own ends. But he makes clear that that would be the end of his group’s contracts. I find this shockingly naive.

Soon after, I am introduced to his second in command, Lt Aio Smith. She takes over the interview, and tells me of her military background in Africa. I try to imply that there’s a possibility of her taking over Bastion, but it doesn’t stick. Smith seems unfailingly loyal to the Captain, due to their shared history, and it strikes me as a little odd, soulless, almost cult-like.

As my time in the Wasteland draws to a close, Smith drives me back to Hope.

Now alone, I try to convince her that Bastion’s power could easily be used for evil, and that the Captain is naive. But she is uninterested. In a final, desperate bid to get her to break her blind loyalty to the Captain, I ask if she’s happy being known to history as “the world’s greatest second in command”?

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But it doesn’t work. She counters that she wants to be remembered as the first woman in the 75th Rangers. A strong riposte which I am powerless against.

She drives off and I wander back into Hope, wondering what the future holds for the Wasteland and its inhabitants. Will the town council bring stability and order? Will it favour the interests of shop owners and the wealthy? Will Bastion find itself under threat, and strike?

Only time will tell, but my time here has been extremely interesting, and a wonderful introduction to the possibilities of roleplaying.

This has been Pat_Bren, reporting from the Wasteland.

Thanks to the moderators of Wasteland for assisting me in my adventures! If you’re interested in joining the server, you can find out how on their website.

RPZ #1: Wasteland - Project Zomboid (2024)


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