The NPC survivors you find in State of Decay are varied in a multitude of ways. Beyond appearance and stats, they have varying personalities and needs the player will need to balance when all of them are gathered together under one roof as it were. As well, certain NPCs are involved in the main story of the game and will spawn in the same places every time you play.
Survivors are capable of building their own bases and the player's base can trade with them for supplies the others have a stockpile of, which can save the player the headache of scavenging supplies themselves.
Survivors have a certain relationship level with the main character, Marcus, and once it reaches a given level the player may directly control other survivors, likely meaning less risk to the main character. Relationships are built based on sending the survivors out on tasks such as scavenging for supplies or finding other survivors.
For a full list of characters, check the Characters category.
 Survivor Traits
 Basic Skills
All survivors have four basic skills.
There are seven possible levels for each, with 1 being weak, and 7 being exceptional. Stats can be raised by using them, so for example shooting raises that stat.
Cardio governs the amount of stamina a character has and is the most important stat. If stamina runs out, the character cannot run, cannot fight, and is likely soon to be a meal for a zombie.
Wits governs the ability to assess a situation and act accordingly. More wits allows you to search for items faster.
Fighting determines how effective melee combat is, and how much maximum vitality a character has.
Shooting governs the ability to use firearms, and affects recoil when shooting.
Additionally, each skill provides abilities based on the level of the skill. Examples are Quick Search, which speeds search time if you have four levels of Wits, and Counterattack, which allows for a counterattack after dodging a zombie's strike and unlocks at two levels of Fighting.
 Individual Traits
Each survivor has a unique set of individualized traits that define who they are. Examples include:
- Aptitudes (or lack thereof)
- Unique effects
Personality matters most when trying to make the community of survivors work as a whole. It determines how survivors react to success or failure, how they react to the player's moral choices, and of course how they react to others in the group. Some examples are: Chatterbox, Selfish Asshole, Coward, Born Leader, Braggart, Autocrat, and Daydreamer.
Background can determine what the character is proficient at. For example, a character with a background in Cycling will have a bonus to Cardio, while one proficient in Aikido will have less of a Cardio boost yet will gain a boost in Fighting as well.
Aptitudes generally reflect the character's ability to increase skills, or a penalty in growth for being inept at a given skill.
Unique effect traits are special traits that affect only that character. An example given is "Bum Knee" which limits stamina recovery when crouching for that character.
 Personal Skills
Personal Skills are special skills that come from certain traits. Only these traits convey these particular skills, as well as the stat boosts and abilities that go with them. As in real life, these skills range in effectiveness and usefulness.
- Construction - Comes from such backgrounds as Architect, Mechanic, Electrician, and Engineer, among others. Provides the ability to construct advanced workshops at home base.
- Leadership - Comes from such Traits as Presence or Born Leader. Increases Trust gained from actions, as well as providing special effects to emotes that can increase combat effectiveness of the party.
- Counseling - Comes from People Person, Funeral Director, Stylist, etc. Provides passive chances to prevent community conflicts or help raise the spirits of frightened or depressed members.
- Sports Trivia - Again, kind of a wasted ability unless you're trying to entertain people or something.
As characters progress in basic skills, new methods of customization become available.
 Weapon Specialization
Weapon Specializations are completely new skill lines that become available when basic skills related to a specific specialization are raised to a certain level. For example, to unlock firearm-based specializations, Shooting must be at four stars. For Melee, Fighting must be at four stars. A character can only have one specialization, so care must be taken. Each specialization provides unique stat boosts and abilities, and are improved, like other skills, simply by using them.
 Signature Abilities
Signature Abilities can change the way exploration and combat are approached. Each survivor can learn one ability from each of four categories: Offensive, Defensive, Utility, and General. Available abilities vary from survivor to survivor. Some examples follow:
- Spinning Backhand - Three stars in Bludgeoning nets you this offensive ability that lets you perform a spinning attack that turns an enemy around, exposing his back to you.
- Push Kick - One star of Bruiser will allow you to use this ability which changes the Y button to perform a powerful staggering kick. This can let you deal with groups of zombies by disabling a few momentarily while you deal with individuals more directly using pistols or other melee.
These abilities and more allow you tailor each survivor to your liking, allowing you to focus on specific aspects while retaining a few abilities to balance out the weaknesses.
 Story Characters
The following are known story characters.
- Alan Gunderson
- Becca Collins
- Captain Diane Montressor
- Doc Hanson
- Ed Jones
- Eli Wilkerson
- Jacob Ritter
- Job Wilkerson
- Judge Lawton
- Karen Tolbert
- Lily Ritter
- Marcus Campbell
- Maya Torres
- Micky Wilkerson
- Mortuary Owner
- Pastor Williams
- Quentin Barnes
- Raymundo Santos
- Sam Hoffman
- Sergeant Erik Tan
- Sheila Brookstone
- Sheriff Carl Parsons
- Thomas Ritter
- Wendell Higgins