Nina from the How to Survive 2013 video game - DLC cover art

Specialist Nina Markovic

(How to survive video game)

“You want to leave the islands ? But why ? How do you know that anywhere else in the world is safe ?”
– Kovac


The late 2000s and much of the 2010s experienced an obsession with zombies. It was followed by an obsession with survival video games, followed by zombie survival games. How to Survive (2013, abbreviated as H2S1 to differentiate it from the sequel) was one of the enjoyable ones.

Some screenshots come from the 3rd person view of the game for illustrative purposes. However the stats and stuff reflect the isometric version of the game.

The descriptions and stats reflect the Normal difficulty level for the game. There are S P O I L E R S about the plot, but it’s… not exactly a plot-heavy game.

As often in AARPGs, there are characters with individual skill trees. Yet the characterisation is minimal. Since that’s boring, this profile fleshes out one of the four possible characters, from the My Name Is Nina DLC.



  • Real Name: SPC Nina Joseph Markovic.
  • Marital Status: Divorced.
  • Known Relatives: Vitomir Markovic (father), Sue-Ann Dalton-Markovic (mother), Jeb Coates (ex-husband).
  • Group Affiliation: US Army, 75th Ranger Regiment.
  • Base of Operations: Fort Benning, GA.
  • Height: 5’8″ Weight: 145 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Blonde

Powers & Abilities

SPC Markovic is a 91B  assigned to the US Army Rangers.

She is well-regarded by the regiment – both for her technical skills and her capabilities in the field. Many think that she will be among the first women to graduate from Ranger School, though that won’t be possible until 2015.

She can field-repair most everything mechanical or electrical on the Regiment’s light wheeled vehicles. Beyond her nominal MOS , these skills extend to weapons systems. She’s also learned a hodge-podge of combat engineering skills by osmosis.


She received training to deal with IEDs . As a 91B she frequently travels with Rangers infantry to provide in-the-field maintenance and support. Thus, she sees such basic EOD  as part of the job.

She has solid infantry skills with a strong killing instinct. She’s an enthusiast about wilderness trekking, sailing, wrestling shows and motorcycles.

During her time on the islands, Nina rounded up all sorts of useful junk. She uses her technical and military know-how to turn these into tools for combat and survival.

It’s the same old theme since 1916

The two most notable weapons Nina used early on the zombie isles were a stone axe and a bow.

The axe is a sort of baseball bat (carved from a large branch) with a flint blade fitted in and tied on at the business end. While unsubtle, it excels at smashing skulls. This is important since a zombie with a smashed skull no longer can bite and infect. The stone blade considerably helps when smashing through multiple zombies. It both cleaves and adds heft.

Nina from the How to Survive 2013 video game - near a shack holding a stone axe

The bow is a simple self bow made from a flexible branch and a string. The arrows are fine-hardened sticks with seagull feathers. Nina occasionally resorted to incendiary arrows after realising that zombies were flammable. The big advantage of a bow is that it isn’t noisy, allowing for picking off zombies without being overheard by other undeads.

She is also equipped with a rugged L-shaped flashlight. It is firmly affixed to her rucksack’s left shoulder strap, and she has plenty of batteries. It keeps her hands free and is invaluable on the islands at night.

And their bombs and their guns

Markovic was later shown how to build guns using diving equipment. Most designs combine a harpoon gun (for the trigger and handle), metal tubing used as a barrel, and a SCUBA air compressor to propel the projectiles. They use random small metallic objects as bullets. They’re makeshift large-bore, high-powered air guns.

Nina’s gun early on uses a flared tube and is essentially a repeater blunderbuss . At this point she only has access to a hand compressor, so rebuilding pressure in the tank takes a while. These guns are also noisier than bows.

Later weapons have their compressed air fed in by a diving tank, and are capable of burst fire.

The ammunition is a bit of a mystery, honestly. One could suppose it’s random soft metals melted and cast into balls, with a feeding mechanism based on paintball loaders. As can be imagined they have poor penetration.

Heavy fuel

But Nina’s goal all along is to assemble a flamethrower. This is a formidable weapon against these zombies, even if it’s not as powerful as a real military one. Her contraption includes :

  • Two jerrycans filled with gasoline.
  • A SCUBA tank providing pressure.
  • A harpoon gun trigger.
  • Repurposed industrial tubing and flexible metal hoses.

Later on she finds enough chemicals and polystyrene to thicken her mix and make it burn hotter and stickier.

Nina then works on developing another weapon of hers – a sort of DIY industrial chainsaw. It is powered by a repaired motorcycle engine. It features a steel chain taken from a boat engine upon which have been affixed claw-like blades and flint edges.

The business end is almost a yard long. Though it’s not a light weapon (especially with the twin jerrycans holding the fuel) it turns zombies into salsa. Nobody is going to do any precision carving with this thing though. It’s wielded more like a sledge hammer, though it’s swung up rather than down.

In your head, in your head

Body armour is another important asset. Zombies aren’t that strong and many of them only have human jaws and nails. In chronological order, Nina donned the following :

  • A surplus military helmet. Though not that useful in itself, protection against blows to the head is critical when needed.
  • Leg armour crafted using a large truck tyre. The half-pipe segments are tied to her legs using leather straps. The thick material excels at absorbing minor impacts and is useful when having to dash through bushes.
  • Arms armour working like the legs one, but with more parts due to the smaller diameter. These are particularly useful in reducing bite risks.
  • A surplus ballistic vest without ballistic inserts.

Most of these part were reinforced later on using iron plates and metal strips.


Nina Markovic grew up on a truck stop on Route 70 . She was trained in automotive mechanics as a teenager. She pursued this and other hobbies with admirable energy. Nina made her own present for her 18th by refurbishing a BMW R60/2 .

Nina in the How To Survive video game, with a bow

Wanting to move away from the middle-of-nothing truck stop, she joined the Army. Her reasoning was that she’d get paid to do what she liked and get a qualification in the deal. Considering her lack of a diploma, her early career in the Army has been excellent. When detailed to the 75th Ranger , she was a perfect fit.

Way hay and up she rises, early in the morning

During the Summer of 2013, Markovic took a leave. She rode her R60 straight to Savannah and boarded her recently-acquired J/80 sailboat . With more than a week before her, she sailed South for some R&R.

As she reached her midway point she veered back toward Florida. However she unexpectedly ran into a bad fog, bad winds and catastrophic magnetic interference. The instructions she received by radio from the Coast Guard were manifestly wrong. With little control or visibility, the J/80 ran aground on a tiny island and broke apart.

Nina soon ran into other shipwrecked survivors – but most of the population was ravenous zombies. She allied with a man named Ramon, who had had to amputate his own leg after a zombie bit him. Ramon was attempting to reach another island, where he had seen a plane that might be usable to get out.

Nina also ran into a crazed survivor named Kovac. He had been on these cursed islands for weeks. Delighted at meeting a fellow Croatian-American, he showed her many of his survival and technical tricks. Those were instrumental in Nina’s survival.

Cancelling the apocalypse

Nina built up her arsenal and kept herself fed, hydrated and rested. She worked with Ramon to repair an old, rusted, largely derelict air tanker and leave the island. Meeting with a few fortified survivors, she rounded up an awful lot of parts to make the dang thing fly again and find a pilot.

While investigating, Nina found a series of demolished scientific outposts. Survivors there revealed that the infection had been discovered months if not years ago, and was being researched. Some interesting ways to potentially treat infected persons had allegedly been discovered. The key was huge quantities of electricity.

Nina from the How to Survive 2013 video game - near zombies with an axe

The science stations had erected a series of pylons. These harvested the constant lightning storms over the archipelagos to power the research. However, a catastrophic accident freed the infected zombies, who ravaged the facilities. It also severely disrupted the local magnetic fields. This made various boats and planes — including Nina’s — crash on the islands.

Big science, yoodelay-hee-hoo

Nina eventually discovered that the experiments were run by an AIM-like operation. They weren’t actually attempting to cure anyone. They had devised means to turn the infected into obedient slaves via the application of large quantities of electricity.

After Nina fixed the equipment bollixing the local magnetic field, the evil researchers fled. They managed to evacuate along with their results and a set of zombies equipped with electrical harnesses.

Markovic collaborated with a scientist who had been abandoned by his colleagues. Her hope was to break the control over the zombies getting evacuated, but that didn’t work. She ended up with a fair bit of super-science electrical equipment, though.

Along with severely alcoholic pilot Sanchez, plus fellow survivor Patricia and her little girl Emily, Nina eventually left the island aboard the repaired air tanker.

In so doing she realized that the insane Kovac could control the zombies. He was running some sort of sick experiment, deliberately having people crash on the islands to forge the ultimate survivor. He also passed himself for the Coast Guard, giving false instructions to nearby boats and planes.

He and/or his accomplice Ramon were presumably survivors from the AIM-like operation on the islands.

Setting notes

Though the H2S setting resembles the real world, there are various gamey details that imply that it is different. It may have a level of magical activity. The most notable bits are :

  • Various plants with impossible properties (such as healing or buffing ).
  • Talking monkeys who seem to have a sort of telepathic hive mind and all answer to “Coco”. Or maybe it’s the same monkey who teleports around the islands. Coco has a pet parakeet and circus-like clothing.
  • Glowing “red stone” that makes weapons deadlier in an unspecified manner. Maybe it’s encrusted within the weapon and enchants it – the procedure seems familiar to Nina.
  • Tesla coils that allow for building electricity-based weaponry that seemed familiar to Nina.
  • An organization akin to the Marvel Universe’s AIM. Their logo is similar to the Hydra logo, though it’s crossed with Medusa’s head.


See illustrations.


Nina doesn’t speak much. She’s in warfighting mode, constantly alert for zombies. In combat she is brutal, breaking skulls, jaws and spines by any means necessary.

Nina in the How To Survive video game, with armour and flamethrower

Ms. Markovic is highly pragmatic and goal-oriented. She sets clear objectives for herself and goes through textbook OODA loops . She is also quite humourless and has little imagination, which cost her her marriage.

On the other hand, she’s really good at burning down, chopping through, shooting up and beheading zombies. Which is of more immediate value given the circumstances.


(Sweeps the leg of a zombie using her axe like a gaff, pin it to the ground by slamming her axe into its shoulder, then jumps on its head with both feet, bursting its skull with a sickening noise) “Don’t mess with the U.S. Army, bitch !”

DC Universe History

The H2S1 story fits well within pretty much any super-hero universe, provided that one tone down the videogamisms. The failed experiment might have partially fused the island with another dimension. Most anomalies would thus be magic.

Nina’s experiences would make her a shoo-in for the Human Defence Corps. In fact she’d probably return to the islands with the HDC to :

  • Clean this mess up.
  • Permanently dispose of the zombies.
  • Study the abandoned equipment.
  • Protect a science team until they can repair the local magnetic field.

In a super-hero context, Kovac’s strange and murderous “game” to identify the “ultimate survivor” could be part of some sort of super-soldier research. In this light he would have considered Nina Markovic to be his best find ever.

Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG

Tell me more about the game stats


Dex: 04 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Soldier
Int: 04 Wil: 03 Min: 04 Occupation: Soldier, mechanic
Inf: 03 Aur: 02 Spi: 04 Wealth: 003
Init: 013 HP: 015

Gadgetry: 03, Martial artist: 04, Military science (Camouflage, Demolition, Cartography, Survival): 04, (Vehicles (Land, Sea): 04, Weaponry: 04

Familiarity (Military equipment and protocols, Wrestling shows, Cars and motorcycles), “Language” (Can swear a bit and order some drinks in Croatian and in Spanish), Rank (U.S. Army Specialist), Schtick (Lightning Release).

When working with Kovac, Nina is taught the following Familiarities (Fletching and bow-making, Compressed air weapons, Plants on the islands, Throwing war sticks).

Kovac (Low).

Effectively Exile (Involuntary) at this point.

Here is the early game equipment:

  • Thick-soled combat boots [BODY 02, Lightning immunity: 01, Skin armour: 02, Limitation: Skin armour only against attacks on her soles (say, caltrops)].
  • Improvised self bow [BODY 02, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 03), Enhance (Range): 02 (cap is 04), Ammo: 01, Recommended STR: 02, R#03, Limitation: Low Penetration, Descriptor: Piercing].
  • Burning arrows have Flame Project: 01 that is Combined with the EV and ride its Range. Flame Project has Continuing Damage like the Disintegration Power. Given the low APs this is chiefly useful against stuff with an Attack Vulnerability toward flame, or to set stuff on fire.
  • Wood and flint war axe [BODY 03, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 05), Bonus: EV has Scattershot, Descriptor: Slashing, Recommended STR 03]. Note that with BODY 03 the stick will eventually break for forceful use.
  • SURPLUS HELMET [BODY 04, Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 02 (cap is 08), Stealth Penalty 0/1.].
  • LEGS ARMOUR [BODY 04, Kinetic absorption: 02, Lightning immunity: 01, Skin armour: 01, Limitation: Kinetic absorption only protects the legs, Skin armour has Partial Coverage (Vest), Drawback: Real Armour].
  • Compressed Air Repeater Blunderbuss [BODY 02, Shotgun blast (Range 01): 03, Ammo (Very Long Reload Time): 07, Limitation: Limited Penetration, R#3].
  • Rugged flashlight [BODY 02, Flash (Steady Illumination Only): 03, R#02].

Here is some mid-to-late equipment:

  • War axe with iron handle [BODY 05, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 06), Bonus: EV has Scattershot, Descriptor: Slashing, Recommended STR 03].
  • VEST PLUS ARMS ARMOUR [BODY 04, Lightning immunity: 01, Skin armour: 01, Limitation: Skin armour has partial coverage (Jacket). Combined with with the LEG ARMOUR it all reaches Skin armour: 02 and Partial Coverage (Long Coat), with the legs still having Kinetic Absorption. With the helmet on top, the combined Skin Armour no longer has Partial Coverage].
  • Jury-rigged flamethrower fed by a pair of jerrycans [BODY 02, Flame project: 03, Super-breath: 03, Ammo: 20, Rec STR 03, MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 2 APs above the Rec. STR), Limitation: Flame Project has a Range of 01, Bonus: Flame Project has Continuing Damage (like Disintegration), Multi-Attack 1, and is Combined With and Active Throughout Super-Breath]. This reuses parts from the blunderbuss, which disappears from her equipment.
  • Compressed air submachinegun [BODY 02, Projectile Weapons (Autofire): 03, Ammo (Very Long Reload Time): 06, Limitation: Limited Penetration].
  • Carbon fibre limbs bow [BODY 03, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 04), Enhance (Range): 03 (cap is 06), Ammo: 01, Recommended STR: 02, R#02, Limitation: Low Penetration, Descriptor: Piercing]. The body of the bow is actually made with mudguards.
  • Boomerangs (x3) [BODY 02, Claws: 05, Grenade Drawback]. These have 3 “limbs” made of bone and spiked with flint blades, and are fairly heavy. In the game they fly back ; since that’s hard on the suspension of disbelief outside of a video game our game stats assume they are deadly throwing sticks that’ll embed themselves into to target (though they might be extracted and refurbished with some work).

Nina from the How to Survive 2013 video game - with a self bow near a safe house

Later developments:

  • IMPROVED FUEL MIX. All Flame Project Powers of her equipment get +1 to their EV.
  • Explosives. In true video game fashion, these are chiefly used to clear inexplicably resilient obstacles – they’re a glorified key. They can also be used as an AoE projectile in the form of an explosive arrow [BODY 01, Bomb: 06, Grenade Drawback, Ammunition Load for a bow].
  • Compressed air assault rifle [BODY 02, Projectile Weapons (Autofire): 04, Ammo (Very Long Reload Time): 10, Limitation: Limited Penetration].
  • Enhancing weapons with “red stone” (increasing their EV by 1, somehow).
  • Tesla coil carbine [BODY 02, Glue: 04, Lightning: 03, Ammo: 12, Very Long Reload Time, Bonus: Glue and Lightning are Combined (Glue affects anything Lightning affects); Lightning has a sort of Area of Effect (can hit 4 targets without penalties, but they must be within 1 AP of each other as the Lightning chains between targets]. This weapon is recharged using lightning, preferably stored within lightning collection pylons.
  • IMPROVISED VOLCANOLOGY BOOTS [BODY 03, Flame immunity: 04. These can be shod to run over surface magma for 2 Phases. If exposed to magma for longer than that they cease offering protection. The boots need to cool down between bouts of crossing magma.
  • Gas Mask. A military model whose filters are unusable. However, with some work it extends the protection from the helmet to the face of the person, which can be useful against attacks there. [BODY 02, Enhance (RV vs. particulates, vapors and gasses): 01 (cap is 05), Enhance (RV vs. facial attacks): 02 (cap is 06), R#02].
  • Climate control device [BODY 01, Weather control: 07, Limitation: Weather Control only on the islands, where the magnetic field is altered].
  • Nina’s own personal chainsaw [BODY 03, Claws: 06, R#03, Ammo: 20, Bonus: Claws has Scattershot, Rec STR 02, MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 2 APs above the Rec. STR)].

Design Notes

Note that the body armour specifies body parts. This is not strictly a DCH concept, but gets used when it’s obvious from circumstances that an attack would hit Nina in the head or legs.

What is Described as Partial Coverage, on the other hand, is the usual DCH concept.

So the LEGS ARMOUR offers an AP of Skin Armour that is active unless a Trick Shot is specifically taken to avoid it. It also offers APs of Kinetic Absorption that are NOT active unless it is clear that a given attack would hit her in the legs.

Design Notes

A lot of zombie elimination is done by carefully progressing then doing sniper headshots with a bow from max range. This is true outside of horde attacks, which are handled using the flamethrower (note how the flamethrower also pushes back zombies).

Since zombies have such poor senses and Initiative, Nina will almost always Blindside and Press the Attack with a bow shot. Even if a nearby zombie reacts to a zombie getting shot, her Military Science (Camouflage) and even unskilled Thief (Stealth) are usually sufficient to mask her precise location and maintain her Blindside bonus.

The two mean a -2CS OV Bonus, which is used as a “free” Critical Blow Manoeuvre – the archery headshot. Even though Nina’s AV isn’t colossal, the zombies have poor OV so her odds of hitting are still excellent.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: How to Survive 1 video game.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 18th of October, 2016.