40d:Captured creatures

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This article is about an older version of DF.

You can capture creatures in a variety of ways, including animal traps for vermin, cage traps for wild animals and hostiles (like goblins), forcibly caging tame animals (see below), and you can also buy caged animals from traders. Caged animals do not require food or nourishment, but this is only because animals do not require food. Caged dwarves (except those in jail) will quickly starve, for they are never fed. The only case when a caged creature is fed is during its taming.

Below is a collection of some things you can do with creatures in cages or other holding devices.

Training and taming[edit]

A dwarf with the animal training labor enabled can tame wild animals (including vermin) at a kennel. A tame animal has the tag (Tame) after its name and is safe to be released into the fortress. They will not attack your dwarves, and do not set off your traps.

Beware, creatures that have killed dwarves (or other friendly creatures [Verify]) before being tamed are "un-tamable". Despite appearing tame, such a creature will go dwarf-killing as soon as it is released, with the added bonus of being immune to traps.

Elven merchants often sell caged animals, even some that can't normally be trained. According to a forum post, a tamed tiger purchased from the elves will act as a guard, attacking hostile creatures. This is supposedly also true for other animals.

Dragons and other megabeasts may also be tamed, but this requires a Dungeon master. Specifically, any vermin or creature with the [PET_EXOTIC] flag requires a dungeon master.

Tamed vermin and animals may be adopted as pets by the dwarves, and animals may also be slaughtered for food. A colony of Muskoxen or some other peaceful animal can be used as a food source, by allowing them to breed, waiting for them to grow and then cutting down some of them in a Butchery.


You can restrain creatures by assigning them to restraints, putting them in cages, or throwing them in pits or ponds. This can reduce lag, and may prevent adoption as pets (so they remain slaughterable without tantruming owners). This will not work with cats, who adopt their masters, not the other way around, and despite any physical barriers

  • Cages: An indefinite number of animals might be locked into one single cage. If you wish to fit your own tame animals into cages, you can do this by building a cage, and assigning some animals to it via the Building properties window (accessible by q). "Large animal caging" jobs will then be created, and dwarves will lock the hapless animals into the cage. Any offspring they give birth to is also born in the cage (But is not assigned to the cage, so your dwarves will free it if you don't stop them.). There is some doubt whether animals do breed in cages, but an already pregnant animal will definitely give birth while in a cage.
Caveat — When an animal is captured via a cage trap and then assigned to an existing cage, the dwarf moving the animal will tend to let it go. This can be avoided by building the cage the animal is in.
  • Chains/ropes: Build chains as buildings and assign animals to them. They'll be able to move one tile in any direction (including up/down) but will not be able to leave.
  • Pits/ponds: You can designate an area as pit or pond by creating an activity zone, designating it as pit/pond and setting its properties by pressing P. The pit or pond area has to have at least one tile suspended over open space and accessible from the side. Ponds will be filled with water by your dwarves, using buckets. Beware that land animals generally do not like to remain in a dark pit instead of your magnificent fortress, so they'll break free at the earliest opportunity.

How to capture your own Dwarves[edit]

The easiest and safest way to obtain a Dwarf cage is to build prisons with only metal cages, and get as many prisoners as you can (ignoring mandates is usually efficient). When you have someone installed in a cage, remove the building (q x). You now have your very own Dwarf cage, ready for lots of interesting things (e.g. starvation).

While in the cage, the dwarf cannot be released using most "normal" methods, and will not be fed while in the cage. To release the dwarf, you must attach the cage to a lever, and pull the lever to release the cage.


Zoo areas may be defined from cages via the q menu for the enjoyment of your dwarves. Be aware that dwarves will receive unhappy thoughts from seeing an animal they dislike in a zoo, but will also gain happy thoughts if they can go to view a loved animal. Owning the cage containing a loved animal is even better.


Many imaginatively sadistic methods have been discovered for the abuse of caged creatures.

  • Dwarven Atom Smasher: You can set up a 1-tile of garbage dump zone under a raised drawbridge, designate whatever cages with hostiles you have for dumping, and then pulverize them along with their inhabitants by lowering the bridge.
  • Execution tower: One method is the execution tower; the caged critter is brought on top of a very tall (~10 Z-levels) tower or to the edge of a chasm; then the edge of the tower (the abyss adjacent to the edge of the tower) is designated as a Pit/Pond; the animal in the cage is assigned to be in the pit/pond and unassigned from the cage. A dwarf will run up to the tower, pull the creature out of its cage and throw it down into the depth.
  • Execution shaft: Almost the same as an execution tower, except that there is a stairway near a channeled out shaft that allows access to the bottom. This enables you to loot the corpses afterwards. It is recommended to place a door between the landing square and the up stairs, so that it can be locked during execution to ensure that any survivors cannot escape and no dwarves attempt to clean up the mess if multiple critters are being dropped.
  • Execution range: Dig a medium-sized pit (6x6 or more recommended) and set it as a pit/pond as you would with other methods. At one end of the pit, build a wall and cut fortifications in it. When you have prisoners, throw them into the pit and station your marksdwarves next to the wall. They will shoot through the wall, killing the creatures. It is recommended that you build a way for your dwarves to clean out the pit (bridge,floodgate,etc.) since you can store the remains until they become bones and them make more arrows for your marksdwarves to use.

Some invaders, such as dwarfs, can not be assigned to a pit. Others, such as thieves and certain dangerous creatures (including undead and chasm dwellers), can easily escape if a dwarf tries to pull them out of the cage and drop them. In these cases, build the invader's cage in a pit and attach it to a lever, releasing it where your marksdwarves can safely kill it.

  • Slaughter tower: Almost identical to the execution shaft, except this one kills masses at once. You need to build a hollow tower ~10 Z-levels high. There should be no floors except for the bottom, and you should get your masons up there by staircases on the outside. Then build a retractable bridge at the top instead of a floor. Build a few Butcher's Workshops and a lever at the bottom of the tower. Connect the lever to the bridge. Now build walls for 1 Z-level on top of the tower such that the bridge is totally unaccessable. Now designate the area 1 Z-level above the bridge as a pit/pond. Assign all the animals you want to sacrifice to be thrown into the pit/pond. Once all of them are in the pit, get a dwarf to pull the lever, and start the butchering.

Note that this can only be done with wild animals - the remains of tame animals cannot be butchered.

  • Death chambers: A cage can be opened remotely by attaching a lever to it. This allows for some horrible traps, such as the drowning chamber or magma death chamber. A room is set up next to a water or magma pool, separated from it by a floodgate; a cage is put into the room, and a lever is attached to it; doors leading into the chamber are locked down; the cage and the floodgate are opened remotely. The creatures will then drown or burn. (Magma will melt/burn non-magma-resistant cages along with whatever is inside it. However magma-resistant cages, and any underwater cage, must be opened for this to work because animals in cages do not drown.)
  • Arenas: Remote cage opening can also be used to set up arenas; a tame animal such as a tiger or dog is locked into the arena; a cage containing a hostile animal, such as a goblin (presumably stripped of its weapons and armor) is also brought in the arena; doors are locked down and the cage is opened. The animals will shred the goblin (or in a worse case, the creatures will kill off your animals - therefore it is wise to assign some guards to the doorways to put down any breakout attempts). An injury shaft can also be used to drop the creature into the arena, allowing for an easy kill.
  • "Gangplank": Goblins and other non-flying creatures do not like heights or magma. You can combine both by creating a hanging platform. When you want to execute the goblins on the platform, simply release them from their cages and disconnect the platform. Watch as the helpless little buggers fly down several Z levels and are incinerated in your magma pool. One way of doing so is by using a retractable bridge to support the platform, and simply retract the bridge to dump the prisoners. This is also a good way to use all ten thousand units of your stone for something useful.
  • "Injury shaft": This method does not kill prisoners so much as injure them, but it can result in death and is very amusing. Its usage and construction are similar to the Execution Shaft, except that it is only 2 or 3 z-levels deep and the door is replaced with a cage trap. When dumped into the pit, the prisoner will be injured, attempt to escape, and run into the cage trap. You then repeat the process until the prisoner dies slowly and painfully.
  • "Siege engine target practice": Why waste good stone throwing it at a wall? Throw it at some captured goblins (or elves!) instead!
  • "A section of the cavern has collapsed": why bother with a bridge? Dig out a rocky overhang to use as a cave-in trap; surround the lone support, linked to a lever, with cages, stick the little bastards in the cages, and pull. Net result: 200 tons of rock lands on their heads, and there will be nothing to remind you of their existence save the fading clouds of dust.
  • Hello, goblin. I want to play a game. Why just kill them when you can sadistically watch them sprint through a labyrinth of fiendish deathtraps? Pressure plate activated Dwarven Atom Smashers, drawbridges over a drop five Z-levels deep activated by pressure pad and lever, and floodgates unleashing tidal waves combine to produce a horrifically painful experience for the foolish goblins who dared attack your fortress. Time-consuming, but fun to watch.

Other uses[edit]

  • Confiscating prisoner items: You can strip a captured critter of its equipment by accessing the Stocks screen, finding its possessions, and ordering them dumped from there. Items on goblins are easily identifiable by looking for currently worn narrow/small clothing and weaponry. If you're in doubt whether an item you chose is indeed on your prisoners, zoom on it and you should be pointed to the cage. After you ordered the items dumped, dwarves will come and force the items off your captives. If you have given orders to move a creature to a different cage (for example, if you are building a dungeon to give them some exercise before you kill them), you can select it with v-i and select each individual item for dumping.
An even easier way to confiscate equipment is to use d-b-d to mark the entire space for dumping, then use k (for unbuilt cages) or t (for built cages) to view and unmark the cage itself.
  • Usage as an execution device: Instead of executing the trapped creature, one could execute a noble by placing a caged megabeast in its quarters and then releasing the beast. Remember to also install a cage trap to recapture the beast afterward.
  • Silk farming: If you are the lucky owner of a tamed giant cave spider, you can release disarmed enemies in a room with it, causing it to shoot significant quantities of silk which can then be woven into expensive cloth. Creative arrangements of doors, chains, and fortifications can allow a setup which generates a near-constant stream of silk using a single creature as bait.