A tantrum describes the actions of a dwarf who momentarily goes out of control, throwing things, breaking things, punching nearby dwarfs, and generally causing trouble. In unlucky cases, this can cause the loss of valued items, or the injury or death of bystanders. Justice will often fall upon a dwarf who has caused damage to body or property.
Dwarves will tantrum if they are at the "very unhappy" level of happiness or worse. This can be due to a long series of substandard food, drink, shelter, and general living conditions, or a sudden and acute change brought on by the death of a friend, family member, or favourite pet, the loss of a masterpiece (especially if the dwarf has only made a few), or other extreme, negative experience. Viewing a dwarf's profile ( , , , ), their thoughts will usually spell out their grievances in the form of good/bad thoughts.
A leader can often talk a dwarf down from the ledge with a meeting. If an unhappy dwarf is seeking a meeting (which is always with the leader), it's recommended to temporarily turn off all labor designations on the leader until the meeting is concluded.
 Tantrum Spiral
A tantrum from one dwarf can often trigger tantrums in others -- this is known as a tantrum chain, or, especially if it grows out of control and threatens the fortress as a whole, a tantrum spiral. If any dwarf throws a tantrum that cannot be explained by a personal loss, it should be taken as a warning. When this happens, it often signifies that the other dwarves are unhappy -- and if they aren't already, they probably/possibly will be soon.
In more mature fortresses, tantrums have been known to have particularly nasty results. In extreme cases, a chain of tantrums can bring a fortress to its metaphorical knees. Chains don't occur particularly often, but when they do, they are extraordinarily hard to stop.
They generally play out something like this:
- Dwarf A throws a tantrum, and punches Dwarf B.
- A recovers happily, but B throws a tantrum and smashes the butcher's workshop to bits.
- The butcher, C, tantrums and destroys the table of the closest noble, D.
- D tantrums, starting fights with three other dwarves--A, C, and E.
- All of them tantrum, and C is taken into custody.
- E gets busy and smacks B. Meanwhile, C is killed by the hammerdwarf, accidentally or otherwise.
- C's friends, F, G, H, I, J, and K, all tantrum and do other nasty things.
- Everybody eventually tantrums and the fortress production grinds to a halt.
- Everybody starves, throws themselves into a volcano, or otherwise dies.
Beware that it is very much possible for a tantruming dwarf to destroy the bridge he is standing on, potentially causing him to drown, burn up, or fall into a chasm. Loss of close friends can, naturally, lead to more tantrums in any who knew them.