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Skills used
  • Dig
This article is about an older version of DF.

Mining is an essential part of building a fort in Dwarf Fortress. There are several reasons you might want to mine, such as searching for various stone types, or simply to create the basic tunnels and rooms in your fort. Mining a tile preserves both the floor and ceiling of that tile.

Making a dwarf a miner[edit]

  1. Specify your dwarf to be a miner via view, pref, labor.
  2. Select "Mining" using + or -, press enter.

A miner also requires an available pick. A dwarf's Agility affects the speed at which material is mined, but the quality or material of a pick has no effect on any aspect of mining - a no-quality copper pick is the same as a masterwork steel or adamantine one. (The same is not true for picks in combat.)

Designating the area to be mined[edit]

  1. Press designate to bring up the Designations menu.
  2. Highlight Mine (it's highlighted by default) by pressing d again.
  3. Move the cursor to the starting point, press enter. You should see a green flashing cross symbol indicating that it's in Selection Mode.
  4. Move the cursor to another point to define the opposite corners of a rectangle, press enter again. A yellow area should now be highlighted, indicating the area to be mined.

Mouse users can also select tiles to mine by clicking on them, or by clicking and dragging to select a contiguous region.

Mined walls[edit]

When a tile has been mined, the surrounding walls and floor will most likely be some kind of rough stone. To make these surfaces look less primitive, you can smooth and engrave them. Soils, such as loam, clay, or sand, cannot be smoothed or engraved.

Stone hauling[edit]

Main article: 40d:Stone management

Any useful material such as rock or ore is deposited on the ground excavated by the tile, and while loose stone will not impede movement, it can prop open doors, slow construction, and prevent open space from being used as a stockpile; therefore it is often desirable to haul stones away. You can assign stone hauling duties to specific dwarves just like you assigned them to be a miner. Make sure you have stockpiles where all the different stone types can be stored, too. Be careful which dwarves you assign to hauling if you have a massive dig going, or they might drop whatever other important stuff they were doing just to clear the paths. Typically miners will mine out stone far faster than haulers can properly clear it, particularly if the stockpile is a distance away. It is usually more sensible to designate stone to be dumped, as a 1x1 garbage dump can hold an infinite number of items.

There are alternatives to hauling. Masons or Stone crafters can build their respective workshops next to or on top of a large pile of stone for clearing, and then create items out of the stone to clear it. Masons can create furniture (which takes as much space as the original stone itself, but is at least useful); they can also create blocks, which unlike stone and furniture can be stacked in bins. Craftdwarves can create various smaller items which can also be stacked in bins. Assuming you have sufficient bins, place a stockpile right next to the worksite and your haulers will only have to take the items a very short distance to place them neatly in stacks. This is a huge timesaver on large projects. Just be careful about what you make. Stone blocks are useful, but a bin completely full of stone blocks is extremely heavy and hard to move around. Crafts of all sorts are usually very light, but certain job types make multiple products out of single stones, which will multiply your hauling problem - mugs are always produced in groups of 3, toys and instruments are always made 1 at a time, and a single "make stone crafts" job can produce 1-3 items.

Not hauling at all is also possible. You don't have to clear the rubble.

While legendary miners mine very quickly, they have a near 100% chance of producing a stone upon mining. This can be viewed as a disadvantage where stone production is unwanted.

Digging in 3D[edit]

Before digging, you might want to make sure you understand how the z-levels work.

In the 10 figures above, there are multiple "digging" scenarios shown in cross-section (aka elevation). In row 1, the first figure on the left (1a), is starting point for the 4 scenarios to the right (1b-1e). In row 2, the first figure on the left (2a), is starting point for the next 3 scenarios to the right (1b-1d). Figure 1d is then used as the starting point for 1e. Gray/black areas represent un-mined rock, cyan/black represents mined-out areas. Solid green represents existing floor "tiles", cyan represents mined-out floor tiles. Up stairs, down stairs, and ramps are red, blue, and mustard (yellow) respectively. In each of the 8 "digging" scenarios (1b-1e and 2b-e), the dwarf miner is shown as having completed the command(s) listed in that figure, moving from left to right (except in figure 2b). Each individual command is separated by a comma ",". (The "x2" notation indicates that the command is completed twice.) The dwarf has completed those commands in the order they are listed. Example 1, Second figure from right, on top: "Up/down stairs" is a single command. Example 2, Top right figure: "Down, up/down, up, mine x2" is five separate commands.

The map is divided in layers. Tiles on each layer are composed by whatever is on that tile, and the floor (or absence of floor) below it. A virgin rock tile is composed of a wall of rock and a floor of rock, for example. The ceiling of a tile is the same thing as the floor of the layer above that tile.

The most basic dig action is d mine. When this option is selected you can mark areas to be hollowed out from the current layer. Mining a tile preserves both the floor and the ceiling of that tile. Channeling, by contrast, removes the current floor and mines out the level below, while stairs and ramps enable creatures to move between levels.

Indiscriminate digging may cause Cave-ins.

Dig Priority[edit]

Dwarves mine in veins: after mining a tile, a miner will pick the "next" tile (a tile that is adjacent to the one just mined). If there are several possible "next" tiles, miners use an algorithm to determine which to mine next. This can be inefficient and break a large area into a large number of veins.

To pick a vein (which is to say, a tile designated for some kind of dig job), dwarves seem to use a strategy similar to the one used for chopping trees or selecting plants to gather. Generally, they seem to pick the deepest, northwestern-most vein. Notably, dwarves do not pick the closest vein.

Dwarves have a priority over which side they will mine out from. Unless there is something in the way, miners will try to walk around unmined areas to reach these preferred sides, even if that path is very long. In order from most preferred to least preferred, dwarves prefer to stand on the tile to the:

West > East > North > South > NW > SW > NE > SE

of the tile being dug.

Because dwarves all use the same method to choose veins, dwarves tend to dig tiles near other dwarves. This makes having multiple dwarves dig together a bit problematic, as they will often get in each others' way.

Z-axis preferences untested, though it appears to me that dwarves prefer to dig out lower areas from a diagonally located area (i.e. not standing on the down stairs while digging out the up stairs directly below the down) [Verify].

These details are accurate for version 38b; they are likely to change in later versions.

In .38c the dwarves choose the lowest and northwestern of possible veins.

Map structure[edit]

If you are still confused about tunnels, floors and ceilings created by the mine command then look at the following diagram:

  LAYER 3       FROM -> 
  ██████..-     5 ██████
  ██████..-     4 ██████
->██████..-     3 ██████__
  ██████..-     2 ████  
  ██████..-     1 █████████
█ Solid rock
. Floor, visible from this layer
- Empty space, with a floor below
_ Ceiling (undermined section)

The Top Views try to show how digging into the mountain (on Layer 2) leaves a ceiling (floor) on the layer above. This is represented on the Side View by a thin line. Try to think of the mountain as a series of boxes where with a thin lid ontop of each. At any place the box can be filled or empty, and the lid above be there or not there. For example, imagine building a wall, and then building a floor on top of the wall. (Building a wall creates a floor on the next level by default, but this doesn't stop you building another floor construction on top of it!)

Revised theory: Imagine the 3D world as a grid of boxes. Each box can have one of three states; Walled, Open space, Floor.

  • Each cube can only be in one of these states.
  • If a tile is Walled it is inaccessible, but the box above can be walked on (if an Open space or a Floor).
  • If it is Open space, then it has no Floor and may be accessible.
  • If a Floor is present, then the box is accessible.
  • Additionally, floor constructions can be built in an Open space or a Floor box provided there is access from the side

--Markavian (Please discuss)


"They eat your caves!"

  • Mining into damp walls usually leads to flooding. Be especially careful near large rivers and aquifers. The game will warn you before this actually occurs, unless it happens to be a dry season when water has temporarily dried up. Note that damp walls still occur below rivers and murky pools but will not flood unless the above floor is removed (digging ramps, etc).
  • Mining into warm walls usually leads to magma flooding. The game will warn you before this occurs. Like damp walls, mining warm walls will not flood magma if you are 1 z-level below the magma unless the floor above is also removed. Digging upwards, especially with ramps, will NOT warn you.
  • Building channels will not only remove the floors, ramps or walls on the current level, but also mine out the walls on the z-level below. Digging a channel will ALWAYS remove a wall, if there is a wall to remove.

See also[edit]

  • Map tiles – Different types of walled, floor and open spaces
  • Exploratory mining – Mining focused on finding valuable stone
  • Stone – A list of different types of stones and ores left behind from mining.
  • Soil – A list of soil types.

Other digging actions[edit]