Good day, future zombie snacks! This time in we put our mod spotlight onto the small town of Ashenwood, a popular map by Kahj with around three hundred thousand subscribers. Ashenwood is a two-cell map, loosely based on an average town in Norway, Kahj’s native country, with some American elements. Kahj created the map as they wanted a specific cramped-buildings-with-small-streets feel, which is not the usual vibe of Knox Country.
Like many of the best small maps, Ashenwood packs a lot into a restricted area. The town is located southeast of Muldraugh, and you’ll find a boarded up church, construction sites, a school, a gun store, water for fishing in and cabins to store your fish in – but beware! With density comes danger. Ashenwood’s trash-filled streets are narrow and cramped, and in almost every street there are many fun environmental stories of last stands. The map makes great use of modded “trash tiles” and erosion features for true post-apocalyptic vibes, and zombie numbers are extremely high.
We climb over a mountain of trash, checked our corners carefully, threw off a trail of zombies, and snuck inside Kahj’s base, where they were kind enough to answer our questions about themselves and their map!
Who are you in real life? Tell us a little about yourself.
“I’m Karoline, or Kahj. I’m Norwegian but currently live in The Netherlands. I turned 30 this year, which would be terrible if I didn’t decide early on to live like Peter Pan and stay young for as long as I can! The two hobbies I’ve always had are art and gaming, and I indulge in them as often as I can. Whenever those two worlds meet is when I enjoy them the most. Some of the first games I remember playing as a child were Age of Empires, Skullmonkeys, and The Sims. (Back then I had one of those mice that was just a big yellow ball that you clicked down, terrible for designing any type of town in Age of Empires, believe me, but I was an actual tiny child so I let it slide.) Along with art and gaming, I love anything spooky, creepy, gloomy and apocalyptic. Combine that with a little sprinkle of cute and you’re set!”
How did you first discover Project Zomboid? Why do you like it?
“I discovered PZ when I watched my boyfriend play it. I instantly fell in love with the looting and overall survival aspect, although it took me a good while to get used to the top-down view, and the graphics. I would say my favorite thing about PZ is how there’s little to no limit on what you can do: you can drive around and siphon gas from cars till you run out of map, or do the sneaky strategy and try and avoid all zombies, build a house instead of taking one over, hoard food, live off the grid till you die of old age (in real life), farm like it’s ‘Farming Simulator Z’, or just slash your way through the malls. There is SO MUCH TO DO and so many ways to do it!”
How did you get into mapping for PZ? Have you made maps or mods for other games before?
“I got into mapping because as I love building bases in any game, pretty much. There were so many great maps on the workshop, but none that had that specific small town vibe I wanted. I also wanted to build myself a safehouse (that I haven’t even used yet, for some reason!) Ashenwood is the first mod I have ever made, apart from recoloring the odd skirt in The Sims 4. I decided to learn to mod and make maps in Project Zomboid, and Ashenwood is the product of that. Not bad for a first try I’d say!”
Tell us about Ashenwood. What sort of locations can players expect to find, and which might make a good base? What sort of player will most enjoy the map?
“Ashenwood is a small town in the middle of nowhere, loosely based on an average town in Norway, with some American elements. The people that lived there tried to deal with the impending apocalypse as best they could: some chose to pack up their belongings and leave, others just dropped what they had and ran, and a few decided to barricade and stay. Turns out staying didn’t work out well for most, but Ashenwood has evidence of some people managing to hang in there for a good while before they had to leave (or they died… whichever). The town is trashed, mainly from looters seizing the moment, and people using everything they could find to barricade before it got too rough out there.”
“Players can expect to find shops and stores of all sorts. Tools, weapons, food, materials and clothing are plentiful even though its a small place. There are LOTS of hidden little places where you would least expect them to be. There are some hideouts useful for the player who enjoys complete safety and barely having to leave their house, and others for players who just need a little pitstop to rest and restock before moving on. I think the players that enjoy in-game story telling and realistic environments in PZ would like my map the most. There aren’t many big open areas to fight off huge waves of zombies like the mall in Louisville, but there are cramped hallways, small rooms and lots of little stories to discover.”
What were the inspirations behind Ashenwood (whether it’s other PZ maps, real life locations etc.)? How long did your map take to make, in total? What was the most difficult part?
“The inspiration behind Ashenwood was a mix of things really, a few towns in Norway, The Walking Dead, and The Last of Us, to name a few. Regarding the trash that is littered everywhere, I got the idea from looking at what a looted town looks like after a riot in real life, and just imagining what it would look like if it was the end of times (or at least the people in Ashenwood thought it was). I was also partly inspired by other maps such as Grapeseed. I took a long break in the middle of making Ashenwood, so in total I was working on it on and off for about six months.”
“The most difficult part was learning how to use the mapmaking programs. As it’s the first and only map I’ve ever made, I was learning as I was making it.”
Ashenwood is a small map with a lot of detail. Can you tell us about some of the “stories” you’ve told with tiles and item placement etc.?
“To name a few, there is an… interesting butcher shop which is worth finding, a small area where a festival looks to have taken place right as things went south, a house that looks very basic on the outside but has had a complete survivor overhaul on the inside, and there is evidence of a group of survivors taking shelter in a church and in a small grocery store. Adding stories to my map was one of my favorite things to do!”
What do you most enjoy to see/hear about people doing on your map? Are you pleased with how the community responded to your map?
“I love reading about people finding my little secrets. I also love seeing people get overwhelmed and die on my map due to all the sneaky corners and cramped spaces. Most people seem to enjoy the map’s overall atmosphere, which is a great feeling.”
Is there anyone else in the PZ community (or beyond) you would like to give a shout-out to? Which maps (or mods) by other users do you enjoy or find interesting?
“Daddy Dirkie Dirk and Dylan, are makers of some amazing tiles that I used to make my map. Dylan has also made some of my favorite modded maps like Grapeseed and Blackwood. I use a LOT of mods and modded maps, gear mods like Undead Survivor, and others that add more items like food and weapon varieties.”
What’s next in your mapping plans? What’s the dream?
“The first thing I have to do is finally fix Ashenwood! It still has a lot of small things that need to be looked at. There are also a few buildings I want to completely replace, and it has all taken me waaay too long. My hard drive died a while back and I lost everything, so fixing it is gonna take more than just going in and moving things around, but I will get to it eventually. I have pretty much forgotten how to make maps as it’s been quite a while since I made Ashenwood, but I have started to remember!”
“After I’m done fixing Ashenwood I would love to make another map, a less trashy one. A huge campground gone wrong, maybe? A map that’s a ranger’s dream for a life of foraging and fishing? I’d also love to make a treehouse village, which sounds impossible but would be really cool. As for the “dream”, I just want people to enjoy the map(s) I make, and hopefully not just play them once, rage quit, and move on!”
Thanks to Kahj for answering our questions! You can find the Ashenwood map here.