|This article is about an older version of DF.|
The following are a few important things every aspiring dwarven slavemaster should know, but might not even know to look for.
Quick guide to controls
Cave-ins can only happen if your dwarves mine out an area containing a 7x7 block with no supports or unmined walls.
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For more diagrams and explanations of how to safely excavate, see cave-ins.
Give yourself room for your entrance hall, so that you can better install defenses against sieges. Moats (filled channels) with drawbridges are nice, as are rooms lining your entrance hallway with fortifications and barracks so that anything coming in will be shot at. These defenses aren't really needed early on, but plan ahead. The space for barracks can be used as communal housing in your first year, before larger apartment blocks are dug.
Larger hallways make for faster travel. Hallways a single square wide will cause traffic jams. Hallways two squares wide will work well enough for low traffic areas, but your dwarf and animal population can quickly rise above 100, clogging your main thoroughfare. In a mature fortress, hallways five or six squares wide may be necessary for efficient movement. Plan ahead. Wide hallways can also be used for workshops, stockpiles, and other rooms until you set up dedicated work areas.
Placing booze near workshops will help dwarves work faster, harder, and happier.
Concentrate industry together, and keep stockpiles nearby to minimize running about. 5x5 rooms with workshops in the center allow high concentration of workshops while still allowing free movement between them. Placing every workshop in its own room will help to isolate things like miasma and dwarves in strange moods.
When possible, don't use light stone (Moonstone, Limestone, or Marble) or dark stone (Obsidian, Jet, or Onyx) or wood to construct buildings; use rocks (pretty much everything else) instead. Light and dark stones are more valuable and should only be used if you need something of higher value (noble's furniture, for example). Limestone is essential in steelmaking; Obsidian, besides being even more expensive than other light and dark stones, can be used to make swords which do as much damage as ones made from steel.
If the cave river floods your fortress when you strike it, go ahead and farm in the areas that were flooded for the first year rather than trying to set up the floodgate system and then farm. You'll gain lots of valuable farming time that way; while it doesn't take so long to dig out the farming area, it can take a painfully long time for your dwarves to get around to installing floodgates and levers. If you strike limestone approximately one screen's width in from the mountain face, you have probably reached the river. Before digging any further, you may wish to clear out a space for your farm, on the chance that it will flood.
There's no need to surround your farms with walls, unless you really want to. Dug channels block floodwaters as well as wall, while not getting in the way of dwarf movement.
When the Dwarven economy starts up, even the poorest dwarf will want a room with a bed, a cabinet, and a chest. As such, room with three squares of space are probably as small as you'll want to go. Blocks of
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work well for this purpose. There aren't the fanciest of rooms, but a nice dining room can make up for these living conditions in order to create happiness. The walls and doors are technically optional: the rent drops a little when the room isn't enclosed, but otherwise it's still a quite rentable space, even when the rooms overlap. Furthermore, poor dwarves (usually haulers) will have an easier time affording the rent for a small room.
One of the easiest ways to keep your dwarves happy is to have a nice dining room. It's far more efficient than making their bedrooms nicer. To start off, as little as a couple of tables and a pair of thrones (don't bother with chairs, wood is too precious) is good enough. When you have more time, detailing the floors and walls and adding a few statues can easily boost a sufficiently large dining room to "Legendary" status.
The longer your dwarves go without a drink, the less work they will do, so make sure they have a steady supply of alcohol. Drinks also increase dwarves' happiness. If no alcohol is available, dwarves will drink water, either from the indoor or outdoor river, or from wells; this will keep them from dying of thirst, but they risk being attacked by creatures like snakemen, frogmen, and lizardmen.
If you manage to get a good farming operation started up early enough, it may be possible to start brewing before you run out of your initial supplies of alcohol. Dwarves will drink alcohol in preference to water, which means you can potentially go through the entire game without constructing a single well.
Anything that can be built from stone, should be: doors, thrones, tables, floodgates, coffers, cabinets, etc. Blocks are a good way to remove excess stone from the fortress as they can be stored in bins, and buildings made from blocks take less time to build.
You can never have too many doors.
Alternatives to military service
Building clusters of traps wherever creatures may appear (at the fortress's entrance, the cave river, chasm, magma flow, and beside any wells you may have built) will protect your fort quite effectively. Any kind of trap works well; a mix of stone-fall, weapon, and cage traps will protect you best when facing a varied enemy force. A small number of able mechanics can soon secure your fortress against most risks it will face.
A single war dog also has a good chance of severely injuring or killing an average low-grade monster, and several of them together is a threat that would be very unpleasant in Adventure Mode. Train any "Stray Dogs" you have at the kennels and assign them as "work dogs" to any dwarf that may encounter dangerous creatures. War dogs are far more effective in combat than stray dogs and still produce puppies (which will mature into stray dogs which can be trained).
Even though it means quitting out and getting back in, this alpha version will crash sooner or later and nothing is worse than losing hours of work, or even entire worlds.
Also make backups of your saves - just compress or copy the data\save subdirectory where you uncompressed Dwarf Fortress. However, do not attempt to rename save files or folders, as this will cause them to stop working correctly. Similarly, never end-task Dwarf Fortress, as it can leave your region folder in an inconsistent state if you have recently been visited by a caravan, diplomat, or siege - later versions use a separate "data\current" folder to protect from this, but this version does not.
If you are having issues with speed in Dwarf Fortress, try disabling Temperature and/or Weather in init.txt. If your framerate never reaches the default cap (100fps), even when paused, you may need to disable VSync in your video drivers.