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Your military comprises the soldiers of your fortress. Pressing m will bring you to the military screen, which lists your active soldiers by squad at the top of the screen, and potential draftees below them.
If a dwarf is "complaining about the draft", it has nothing to do with lack of doors on bedrooms - see "drafting", below.
To get your dwarves to fight instead of fleeing when confronted with anything remotely dangerous you need to Activate or draft them.
You can draft any non-noble dwarf in your fortress one of two ways: either 1) through the military screen by then pressing a on the dwarf in question, or 2) you can select a dwarf using v -> p, and then press A ( that's capitalized, Shift + a ) to draft him or her. A dwarf that has not yet reached hero or champion status may be un-drafted by the same method.
Note that Activating any member of a squad will activate all members in that squad, and adding a non-Active member will automatically Activate them. Likewise de-Activating one member will de-Activate all members of a squad.
If you draft dwarves without any (non-dabbling) combat skills, it will generally give them an unhappy thought and they will complain "about the draft". Likewise, dwarves with no (non-dabbling) civilian skills will not like being de-Activated.
Immigrant nobles will not show up in the military screen, and cannot be drafted. Appointed administrators do appear on the list, and can be drafted. However their military duties will interfere with their civilian ones, making it unwise to draft your administrators (the sheriff being a notable exception). It is worth noting that drafting the dwarf whom the liaison has targeted will cause said dwarf to cease all other non-priority activities (i.e. everything but eating, drinking, resting, sleeping, etc.) and will proceed to Conduct Meeting.
Dwarves who are in a strange mood can not be drafted and neither can dwarves who are affected by an insanity following a failed strange mood. Drafting a dwarf who is throwing a tantrum for another reason may work and may also cancel the tantrum. [Verify]
Pressing m will lead you to the military screen. Here you can assign individual dwarves different weapons and armor to seek out when they are Activated. You can also create squads and give those squads standing orders to follow when on duty, and determine which squads are, in fact, "on duty" and which are "standing down" and training their skills.
Promotion / squads
Creating a squad consists of selecting a leader for a squad and then selecting the members of that squad. This is done by highlighting a dwarf and pressing Enter on recruits. Note that Activating (or de-Activating) any member of a squad will do the same for all members in that squad, and adding a non-Active member will automatically Activate them. Removing an active member will simply put them in their own active squad of 1. De-activated squads otherwise have no effect on civilian dwarves.
- Select the dwarf you want to be squad leader, using either the up/down arrow keys, or 8/2 (or 9/3 to jump a screen) on the keypad.
- Press Enter (-> promote).
- Use arrow or number keys to select the dwarf you want to be his subordinate.
- Press Enter.
- Repeat for each dwarf you want in the squad.
- Press Space to exit promotion mode.
To remove a dwarf from a squad select them and then press Enter again.
Complex chains of command can be created this way if the first dwarf you selected was already in a squad (he'll become leader of a sub-squad), though it is unknown if this has any current use.
Note that there are restrictions to who can lead whom, based on weapons-skill: you can't make a hero subordinate to a normal military dwarf, nor a champion subordinate to anyone other than another champion, nor any non-recruit soldier subordinate to a recruit. Dwarves who become heroes will automatically become leaders of their squads if the current leader is less experienced.
If you then highlight a dwarf in the military screen and press view squad, you are viewing the entire squad that dwarf belongs to, whether that's 1 dwarf or dozens. Changes to the orders for that squad include:
- food carried - active dwarves will seek out a backpack and then either 1 or 2 food rations. This prevents active dwarves from leaving their posts or patrols and returning to the main fortress to seek food to eat. However, it does significantly increase the time it takes for a newly activated dwarf to report to their designated station.
- water carried - active dwarves will seek out a water skin and then fill it from a nearby source of drinking water. This prevents active dwarves from leaving their posts or patrols and returning to the main fortress to seek something to drink. However, it does significantly increase the time it takes for a newly activated dwarf to report to their designated station, and may cause them to leave the fortress in search of water. Dwarves need alcohol to get them through the day - military dwarves forced to stay on duty with nothing but water will soon have very unhappy thoughts.
- sleep - "in barracks", "in room", or "on ground". This designates where active military will sleep. If "on ground", then they will fall unconscious and sleep at their station, possibly even if a fight is raging around them. (Pro tip: Sleeping dwarves do not defend themselves well against attack.)
- chase opponent (vs.) stay close to station. A squad that "chases opponents" will pursue a target dozens of tiles from their assigned station before determining they are "too far" away - a squad that stays close to their station will give up a chase much sooner and return to where they have been assigned. If micro-managing a combat, it is not difficult to move stations (see below) so that squads with either order will not give up a chase.
- animal handling - This order is either "ignore wild animals if possible" or "harasses dangerous wild animals". Just what it says, but includes any creature that is listed as an "enemy", including invaders. Useful if one member of a squad is waiting for backup before an attack is launched. Dwarves ordered to ignore wild animals will fight to defend themselves. Note that some clearly "dangerous" animals are not seen as "enemies" until they attack.(examples?)
- training - squad is either on duty and will report to their designated station or patrol, or is standing down and so will spar or train with crossbows.
- zoom to commander - Any squad member will tend to follow their commander, despite any ongoing combat or designated station. If that commander is sleeping, eating, drinking, on break or picking up equipment, the squad will tend to be gathered around them, waiting for their fearless leader. If you find the commander, you will usually find the majority of the squad, or where they are headed at the moment.
Choosing weapons and armor
Pressing m and then w will show you a screen containing:
- Shortened names for weapon types:
- A number indicating the number of weapons you want them to carry (note: this is not dual wielding, this is the dwarf carrying a backup weapon slung across their back in case the first weapon becomes stuck in a combatant)
- A shortened name for the level of armor they should aim to wear (Leather, Chain, Plate) and the shield they should carry (Buckler, Shield).
Note: Giving a dwarf a weapon will affect their non-military professions, if the weapon in question conflicts with their labor tasks. For instance, issuing a mace to a dwarf will cause them to discard an axe they were carrying for woodcutting, or a pick they were using for mining.
When a dwarf is drafted into the army he or she will go pick up his or her equipment, if it is available (a dwarf set to fight with a sword will fight unarmed until a sword is forged), and when released back to civilian life, will drop this equipment. Exceptions being dwarves with the 'woodcutter' labor enabled who carry an axe while in civilian mode, and dwarves with the 'hunting' labor enabled who carry a crossbow and leather armor while in civilian mode.
Miners set to fight unarmed will use their pick as a weapon, and get damage bonuses from their Mining skill level.
Swapping weapons and armor
Frustratingly, a soldier will not necessarily choose the best-quality weapon available. Thus a speardwarf might choose a -bronze spear- rather than a ≡steel spear≡ if given the chance. A marksdwarf might pick up a single iron bolt rather than your stack of *steel bolts *. When equipping your dwarves for active duty, you will generally want them to use the best weapons available; when dwarves are set to spar, you generally want them to use the worst weapons available. Unless you are saving your good armor for a certain dwarf, you will always want your soldiers to be equipped with the best possible armor.
Swapping weapons and armor is a frustrating and somewhat time-consuming process. It is easiest if you make different stockpiles for your best and your worst-quality weapons. Creating a stockpile only for high-quality steel and iron weapons or armor will make it easier to find the weapon or armor you want to give your dwarf. Likewise, a special stockpile for low-quality silver or wooden weapons will make it easier to assign the right sparring weapon.
There are two ways to swap weapons and armor. The simpler way is to use the military menu. This process will let you swap out your soldier's weapon or entire suit of armor:
- Press m to access the military menu.
- Find the soldier whose weapon or armor you want to remove, and set them to Unarmed or armor- and shield-less.
- Watch the soldier until he or she removes his or her equipment.
- Next, designate all of your current weapons or armor (hopefully all of which are in your stockpiles)) as forbidden. Then manually find the weapon or armor piece(s) that you want your dwarf to pick up, and designate it, or them, to be reclaimed.
- Return to the military menu and re-designate the soldier to have the weapon and/or armor you want.
- Wait until your newly naked dwarf realizes his or her situation and decides to Pickup Equipment. If you have properly forbidden all other weapons or armor, the dwarf should make a beeline for your weapons or armor stockpile, and don the right item(s).
- Reclaim your stockpiles of weapons or armor for regular use.
The other way to swap out weapons or armor, which is particularly useful to replace an individual piece of armor but not the entire suit, is as follows:
- Make sure you have an area (any area) assigned as a garbage dump.
- Find the soldier whose weapon or armor you want to replace by using the view command and going to the dwarf's inventory. Select each item you want the soldier to get rid of, then hit Enter to view it. Press d to mark it for dumping. When you select an item to be dumped, it will create a hauling job for a civilian dwarf, who should presently arrive to cart the weapon off to your junk pile. If you want to save the weapon, catch the hauler before he or she reaches your dump and un-designate the weapon; alternatively, find it in the dump and reclaim it.
- As with step 4 above, designate all of your current weapons or armor as forbidden. Manually find the weapon or armor piece(s) that you want your dwarf to pick up, and designate it, or them, to be reclaimed.
- As with step 5 above, wait until your newly naked dwarf realizes his or her situation and picks up the proper equipment.
- Reclaim your stockpiles of weapons or armor for regular use.
Controlling your squads
By pressing x you will select squads near your marker. You can station the squads at the current cursor position if the squad in question is on-duty. You can also place patrol points, which creates a path for the soldier to follow. The last patrol point placed will always be connected back to the first in a loop. Pressing x again after placing patrol points will remove the entire path. Setting a patrol for a squad leader will set all dwarves in that squad to that patrol. Dwarves will keep their old patrols when assigned to a new squad, so a number of dwarves can be given individual patrols, and then put into a single squad so as to activate them all at once. Squads will fight and pursue hostile creatures until they or the enemies are dead or the squad moves too far from its station. Squads can be set to pursue regardless of how far they move from their station and to attack wild animals (along with various other options) via the military screen, in the view squad submenu. For more information on fighting, see combat.
Equipment and encumbrance
Depending on what equipment you outfit your soldiers with, they can easily become encumbered. A new recruit with no strength attribute, for instance, can only carry 2000Γ before being encumbered, which is less than the weight of a full suit of chain mail. A crossbow plus a full stack of metal bolts can weigh as much as 1000Γ by itself.
Food and water
Under the view squad menu, you can order squads to carry water and/or food along with them. To carry water the dwarves need access to waterskins, and to carry food they need backpacks. This can be useful when sending your military out on long patrols, but has drawbacks. See Squad Orders, above.
Training / sparring
Wrestling or melee weapon-equipped squads that you marked as "standing down" by the squad-management screen in the military screen will head to the barracks and begin sparring to train their skills. Soldiers with crossbows will go to a shooting range to practice.
How to increase soldier skills is covered in-depth in the sparring article. You may also want to peruse the cross-training article, which covers how to beef up your recruits most efficiently, and how to support army's logistic needs best.