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Insanity causes a dwarf to immediately stop what they were doing and go mad, rendering them useless as they refuse to follow orders or perform any job. They also stop eating, drinking and even sleeping. Insanity comes in three flavors: melancholy, stark raving mad, and berserk.
The effect is permanent and incurable - insanity always ends in the death of the afflicted dwarf, whether by suicide or homicide, which will upset their friends and family. This can lead to a vicious circle of depression and tantrums. Make sure to build coffins to avoid compounded unhappiness from their friends decaying on open air.
Even children and babies can be afflicted by insanity. And yes, that is awesome.
The following events/conditions can drive a creature insane:
- The strange mood job is cancelled for some reason (e.g. the claimed workshop is destroyed)
- An invader from the cave river, chasm, or magma flow is trapped and unable to return to it.
- A Diplomat fails to leave your fortress within 25 days of completing its meeting.
- A Merchant fails to leave your fortress within 25 days of finishing trading.
- A dwarf who is obsessed with his artifact loses it and is unable to find it.
- A dwarf is forced to stay awake for over 6 months ("Very Drowsy" for a month and a half).
- A dwarf throws too many tantrums during a short period of time (1% chance per tantrum). Dwarves who have completed a strange mood and created an artifact cannot go insane this way.
- A dwarf enters a strange mood but is waiting inside the claimed workshop for the next item (or hasn't yet claimed a workshop) for a month and a half.
- A Diplomat or merchant is trapped inside a cage.
There are three types of insanity. It is only possible for a dwarf to have one type of insanity (one is enough). The actual type of insanity is chosen completely by random.
- Stark raving mad
- <dwarf> has gone stark raving mad!
- Running around babbling!
- The afflicted dwarf will drop all of their items (including clothes) one by one until they are entirely naked. They will then wander your halls (or sometimes stick to their room) babbling incoherently until they eventually die of dehydration or starvation. They do not actively seek out their own deaths, but death does a pretty good job at finding them anyways, as they ignore any and all hazards as they run around.
- <dwarf> is stricken by melancholy!
- Stricken by melancholy...
- The afflicted dwarf is overcome by depression and will wander around very slowly until they either die of starvation/thirst or fall into the cave river, chasm, or magma flow.
- <dwarf> has gone berserk!
- In a berserk rage!
- The afflicted dwarf attacks friend and foe alike in a blind rage. This can be dangerous if it happens to an experienced dwarf (especially one carrying an artifact weapon); war dogs will quickly pull down an unskilled dwarf, though.
- The dwarf in question becomes an enemy to your civilization, meaning your military will engage him and the berserk dwarf can set off traps.
Dealing with insanity
As stated, there is no cure for the insane. But there are ways you can deal with dwarf quickly and efficiently which can have little impact on your fort's health. Of course, that isn't always as fun.
- Lock the door or otherwise seal them in
- Insane dwarves - even the berserk kind - cannot get by a locked door. If your insane or soon-to-be-insane dwarf is in a lockable room, just lock the door; you can then wait for them to starve themselves to death. Even if your workshops aren't in rooms on their own, you'll have a month and a half while your dwarf stands in their workshop waiting for the items they need. You can use that time to build a makeshift wall (e.g. statues, windows, or locked doors) around the workshop and seal the dwarf in. (Indeed, it may be a good idea to start doing this instinctively as soon as a dwarf claims a workshop, or dig 3x3 squares with only one way in for your workshops so you can build a door in the gap and lock it as soon as the dwarf goes mad.)
- Station your military around them
- If you suspect a dwarf is about to go insane, whether from misery or a failed mood, you can station a squad of soldiers by them
- This is a decisive solution to dealing with a berserk dwarf. Better they charge into an axe than an unlucky mason walking along.
- Assign war dogs to a potential case, or to those around them
- Similar to military, wardogs will recognize a berserk dwarf as an enemy and rip them apart. One or two is enough for a non-wrestler, and has the advantage of following the dwarf wherever they go.
- Post cage traps
- Building a cage trap near a dwarf that's about to go berserk will imprison him in a cage and prevent a needless death. He can be kept alive in this cage indefinitely and it will keep your other dwarves from having a bad thought relation to the would-be death of their friend/husband/whatever.
Insanity in Adventure Mode
In Adventurer mode, it is possible to have your adventurer become insane as a result of extreme drowsiness. The exact effects of this are unknown, and the effect goes away when you travel on the world map.