Hiding In Plain Sight

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Survivor Tactics
The information on this page or section discusses a survivor strategy.

Thinking Outside the Barricade

This guide was begun in late March 2008, a period when several megahordes (primarily the Dead, but also the Second Big Bash, the RRF's Excursion III, a revitalised Extinction, and numerous other smaller but active and well-coordinated hordes such as the MOB, EF, FU, etc.), combined with the "barricade blocking" game update, brought unprecedented death and destruction to Malton. At the time I began writing this, there wasn't a single Safe suburb on the Danger Map, vast sections of Malton were labelled Very Dangerous or Ghost Towns and remained so for weeks, and the zombie/survivor ratio hit a record-breaking 69% to 31% in favour of standing zombies. (This may also have been caused by survivors leaving for the excitement of Monroeville.)

In light of this situation, many players began advocating new tactics, or testing old ones that were previously considered by many to be too dangerous, "too radical", too impracticable, or just plain "crazy". Hiding In Plain Sight is one such tactic. Always advocated by a tiny handful of survivors, often well-school at "roughing it" in out-of-way places like Dakerstown or New Arkham, HIPS was often derided and ridiculed by many an "established" survivor (and sadly still is in some of the more reactionary circles).

But, the times they are a-changing in Malton. And in this troubled era, many new survivors, unburdened by old prejudices, seem to be adopting these tactics on their own, as a natural response to the current situation. Meanwhile, even many of the most stubborn, long-in-the-tooth survivors started to listen to that tiny, but often vocal, peripatetic minority who have always rejected such "bourgeois" conveniences as barricades, electricity and crowded shopping malls.

The time is now, the revolution is here.

Get HIPS! Or get bit in 'da ass...

The HIPS tactic again began being used heavily during subsequent Big Bashes and The Dead's second march. It remains a commonly used tactic during times of zombie resurgence.

What is "Hiding in Plain Sight"?

The basic idea of hiding in plain sight involves sleeping in Ruins. Though there is more to being a HIPSter than fashionably spartan digs...

You might be thinking, "Why the hell would I want to sleep in the open, without barricades to protect me? Isn't that suicide?!?!?"

No. It's not suicide. In fact, in a devastated area, with high zombie numbers and minimal or scattered survivor presence -- sleeping in a barricaded building is suicide.

Barricades kill!

Yes, this is counter-intuitive, I know. But it's one of the fundamental ideas behind Hiding in Plain Sight.

Barricades are zombie magnets. Sleep in a barricaded building in a red suburb and you will almost certainly wake up the next day with a vicious headache and a hunger for live brains...

Hiding in Plain Sight is all about playing a shell game with the zombies. And the more shells -- i.e. Ruined buildings -- the safer you'll be. This applies not only to one survivor hiding in one Ruined building, but also suburb-wide.

Therefore, do not repair/barricade any more buildings than you need to to create a few decoys, or to permit your searches. Otherwise, you will be alerting local zombies to your presence, and endangering yourself and all other survivors in the area. A zombie among a Sea of Ruins is a complacent zombie. We prefer our zombies with a dash of Haughty Haughty Hubris Sauce(TM), thank you.

Survivor "critical mass" and suburban renewal

There is a natural process of suburb reclamation that it's best not to interfere with, or to rush.

What happens is that once a certain "critical mass" of survivors is achieved in an area, the barricades will start coming up, all over the place, almost on their own. But now there will be enough survivors around for barricades to be actually safe, rather than just a place to lay down your "BRAINS LIVE HERE" doormat.

But until that time comes, it's best not to force the issue. Barricade to decoy, and to permit your searches -- and no more.

Picking a place to hide in plain sight

In broad terms, ideally what you are looking for is a nearby area -- or a stretch a few blocks across, at least -- with the thinnest concentration of zombies you can find. It's not always possible to find such a place, but you do need to find a location that doesn't have too many zombies nearby, if you can. Do your best; it doesn't have to be perfect.

You can use the Danger Map to get a rough idea of zombie concentrations, or read the individual Suburb News entries. Recent External Military reports can also come in very handy. Another very useful scouting and planning tool is the City Wide Scent Map, which shows actual zombie concentrations around Malton. The only problem with this Map is that zombies are commonly mobile, so this map can also be out of date and potentially as unreliable the Danger Map or News Reports. (Nota bene: this is about to change with the implementation of a new, super-slick, super sexy version of the Scent Map, making this possibly one of the single most useful and easy-to-use scouting tools available.) The SIM is no longer in use.

If these information sources prove inconclusive, then you need to scout the area yourself. Actually, you should probably just do it the old fashioned way, by pounding the pavement, anyway. Your most reliable information source is you. This is where those "useless" binoculars can come in handy.

In picking a specific building to sleep in, your hiding spot should never be a Tactical Resource Point, and if possible ought not to be right next to one, either. Also, don't sleep junkyards: they can't be ruined and thus often draw zombies' attention. Churches aren't recommended, either, because the lack of an open door (or any doors!) can attract the attention of the curious (but rarely repentant) undead.

Always save AP for scouting out a hiding spot. Many potential hideouts will have a zombie inside. Be prepared to search for a while. Even when I know I'm close to many good hiding spots, I still save about 10 AP to scout. If I am more uncertain of where a good hiding spot will be, I save a lot more.

Changing your hiding spot frequently is definitely a good plan. But, if you've found a spot where you've been consistently safe don't be too quick to abandon it. Or just shift over to a new hideout within a few blocks.

Groping in the dark

Everyone loves the night life, and loves to boogie on the disco floor. But as of 28 May 2008, Clubs -- and Cinemas, Banks and Fort Armouries (eeeeew!) -- without a working generator are subject to the effects of an extreme darkness. One of the effects of this is to halve all combat attacks, for survivors and zombies alike. Other effects include making dead bodies impossible to see, reducing barricade success rates and reducing the chance of a successful revive to 50%. This throws a bit of a wrench into the HIPSter's after-hours lifestyle.

Clubs, Cinemas and Banks have always been outstanding nondescript buildings in which to hole up with a stiff vodka Orange Julius and relax after a hard day of running like hell from zombies. Now, it seems as if dark buildings are the safest places to Hide In Plain Sight: even if a zombie does find you, they're going to have a rough time trying to kill you with only a 1-in-4 chance of hitting.

However, it's not that simple. It just never is, is it?

The problems with hiding in dark buildings are several. First of all, these "nondescript" buildings have suddenly become a lot more descript. Zombies know survivors prefer to avoid those unfortunate accidents with bananas, and therefore are more likely to check inside dark buildings. One feeding groan later, and in a few hours that sole zombie is joined by veritable swarm of zethren, all wearing strap-on bananas and dancing to the Bee Gees. Not a pretty sight.

Meanwhile, zombies are also attracted to the dark, for the exact same reason survivors are: the decreased chance of unwanted molestation by long, cylindrical objects and the projectiles they emit. (I'm referring to guns, you perverts, sheeesh!).

Finally, since you can't see any dead bodies that might be inside the dark building, you really don't have any idea whom you might be sleeping with... And we all know that PeeKing Toms prefer to skulk around in dark places...

All-in-all, dark buildings provide an immediate boost to your survivability by making you harder to kill quickly -- but in the long run I'd say that their drawbacks make them very problematic places to Hide In Plain Sight. I say, stick with that isolated Motel if you really desire your privacy.


Some hard-earned extra credits from the School of Hard Knocks (Malton Extension Campus) have confirmed that a survivor's survivability is greatly enhanced inside a dark building, and they are often being used to Hide In Not So Plain Sight of late. However, zombies have caught on to this, too -- and all-night zombie-survivor crossover dance parties have become a more common sight in Malton's crumbling clubs, as has the sound of feeding groans coming from banks and movie theatres.

Given these observations, I still have to advise caution in sleeping in a ruined dark building. Or, use them in a pinch and take advantage of their extra safety for a short period -- but don't be overconfident, because those shadows you're boxing with, they punch (and sometimes bite!) back. Hard.

Safety tips and tricks

DON'T F**KING SLEEP IN RESOURCE BUILDINGS! - I shouldn't have to repeat this, but it's that important. Do not sleep in NTs, Hospitals, Police Departments, Auto Shops or Factories. Fire Stations should be avoided, too.

Never, EVER interact with a zombie if you don't have to!! - Assume all zombies have Scent Trail. Therefore, don't attack or scan or do anything else that may allow a zombie to trail you.

Move fast - Don't dawdle. When you're outside, move to your location as quickly as possible. If an active zombie player sees you, he can follow you -- or at the very least he'll be tempted to start checking inside those ruined buildings. If you are spotted, run as fast and as far away as you can.

Don't close the doors - Some people argue that closing the doors keeps the level 1 sentinels etc. who don't possess Memories of Life outside and thus makes you safer. But this is a bogus argument. Fact is that closed doors signal survivor activity, and you don't want to give any signs that you're in the area.

Make decoys - Repair some empty buildings you have no intention of sleeping in. Even 'cade them up a little bit, but not too much: Lightly Barricaded is plenty. Remember, it costs a zombie 6 AP to Ruin a building, while it might only cost you 1 or 2 AP to repair. Even if it costs more, on account of the building being ruined for a long time, it's often still worth it. Most of all, decoys keep zombies distracted from your actual hideout. As a rule, don't repair multiple buildings near your hiding spot. A lot of repaired buildings close to each other is a sure of survivor activity and will arouse suspicion -- especially if zombies see they're empty! (Note that putting a generator inside a dark building and repairing it up is not a smart decoy tactic. Leave dark buildings alone as decoys and use that generator to smash 'n' grab for supplies.)

Make friends - If you meet some fellow survivors in the Ruins, spend a couple of AP and talk to them. Put 'em on your contacts and try to stay in touch via forums or something. It's a dangerous existence, living without barricades, and you never know when you'll need an extra FAK or a revive or some help clearing a resource building to loot.

Conserve your AP! - Critical. More on this later.

Spreading the Word

One of the most annoying things that can happen when you hide an a ruined building is when somebody comes along and repairs it, maybe barricades it, and then zombies spot the beacon, and come kill you. The simplest way to avoid this is to carry a few cans of spraypaint, and tag the inside of your hiding spot to let people know NOT to repair or barricade it. It might not always work, but its better than nothing. To help you cram this info into the 50 character limit, here's a few handy phrases:

  • DO NOT repair or cade - http://tinyurl.com/3dwfww (tinyurl leads to this page)
  • DO NOT repair or cade - zombies will ignore ruins
  • DO NOT cade or repair - it attracts zombies!
  • NO repairs or cades - DD MON. - secret hideout (DD MON. is the date and month, something like 18 Apr.)

When not to hide in plain sight

Hiding in plain sight works best in Ghost Towns or suburbs where major hordes (feral or otherwise) are not present. If there are 300 zombies within 10 blocks of you, odds are you should probably just run like hell. However, I have personally found the tactic to work in Very Dangerous suburbs with about 100 zombies. In fact, from my experience, 100 seems to be the "critical mass": at or under 100 zombies and HIPS can be effective. Much over that and it is a very dangerous tactic -- though sometimes the only one available.

Staying well-healed in a "dead zone" (i.e. restocking)

Odds are, if there's a mall within a half days walk of where you are, it's Ruined and crawling with zombies. Even if it's not, you can dirt nap assured that they' are watching it closely and it won't be intact for long. So get used to shopping at the local corner store.

Luckily, at the time I'm writing this, search rates are through the roof. However, contrary to rumour, my own experience is that searching in Ruins still sucks -- even powered Ruins. But, even searching in an unlit, repaired resource building is fine. Ruined but lit NT buildings are an exception -- these are worth searching. And since most ruined NTs are actively squatted, you'll want to use your AP for searching, not clearing zombies.

In any event, getting fully stocked is going to take a long time. You'll need to bank up as much AP as you can before going on scrounging run. Expect to spend several days getting fully supplied.

Let's talk, first, about what you'll need... FAKs and syringes. And more FAKs and more syringes. You're going to be falling a lot, clambering through those ruined buildings. You may be discovered and get bitten, and will need to heal yourself. And you're going to want to heal and revive others. In fact, in the dead zones, after basic survival, reviving ought to be a top priority.

Picking up a generator and fuel every once in a while can be very handy. Ammo is useful, but a secondary consideration; learn how to keep your axe sharp.

What you don't need are consumerist gizmos like a GPS Unit (use UDwidget for X,Y coordinates) or a Mobile Phone. Ditch 'em. I sometimes find binocs useful, but if they're not your style -- ditch 'em. And don't bother to carry more than two radios; I carry only one, myself, but I'm weird that way. Two, however, is plenty.


  • Before searching, make sure you have a lot of AP (>40 is best). Even with increased search rates, looting unpowered buildings can be a bitch. It's also best to have your hiding spot already picked out -- and of course to save enough AP to get back and inside!
  • Once you've got a lot AP stored up, find a TRP to loot. Looting is a lot like hiding: ideally, you want low zombie numbers directly outside and nearby. That way, odds good are there will be only one or two zombies inside to clear, possibly none.
  • If you have to clear some zombies, make sure you have the AP and the ammo to kill them! And don't hesitate to Combat Revive. CR's are your most effective and AP efficient weapons -- and in a dead zone, all arguments about the costs of GKing are moot. Just remember to DNA scan first: don't waste a valuable needle on a rotter!
  • Once the building is clear, repair it and spend a couple AP erecting light barricades. The 'cades give you a small window in which to notice and to run away if an active zombie sees the repaired building. Keep an eye on the 'cades while you scrounge! This can also act as an excellent decoy to draw zombies away from your hiding spot.
  • Finally, in the dead zones generators are a luxury. Use them wisely, don't waste them! Prioritize your searches and use your generators for the supplies you need most. When scrounging for gennies, go to a factory. You can usually find generators and plenty of fuel in factories. Only loot auto shops if all you require is fuel.

For Further Reading

Grim's guide to staying alive - While I don't necessarily agree 100% with the "survivor vulture" philosophy behind it, this is unarguably one of the best survivor guides out there, and quite influenced my own ideas. Everyone should read it. Period. And the "Guerilla Warfare" section is especially on-the-mark.

Rat Tactics - Quick and down-n-dirty little list of tactics and ideas that are about 675% compatible with HIPS. Written by someone who knows what it's like, surviving in the very same sewers as me. ;)

Modern Suburbia: Surviving Level One - A kind of counter-argument (and an excellent one!) to Grim's Guide in some ways. This guide is intended for Newbies, but it's still worth a read for everyone.

Urban Warfare Doctrine - A survivor strategy that is similar to "Guerilla Warfare" as advocated by Grim (and myself).

TUMBLEWEED-aikido-river'n-stuff Tactics aka No Tactics - Well, just because. :)