40d:What should I build first

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This article is about an older version of DF.

Dwarves have basic needs similar to humans - food, drink, and somewhere secure to live & work. Even with just 7 dwarves, you will have to multi-task to get it all done in a timely manner. If you don't fulfill these requirements your dwarves will become unhappy and eventually go insane.

The article on your first fortress has some great suggestions on how to get your feet under you before you try to run, but really it's up to you how you build your fort. See starting build for a discussion on what you should take with you, before you "strike the earth!"


A quick checklist[edit]

It may seem like a lot, but each one is simple, and Dwarf Fortress is always more complex than it looks - there's always "one more thing" that you can do to delay the inevitable.

These are, perhaps, in some sort of rough order. But if you delay starting one while you finish another, you may find yourself in bad shape on that front. There is no one "best" way - the environment of the map (weather, resources and creatures), luck, and your playstyle will all influence what is "more important" and "what comes next".

q, x and the carpentry labor for 3 free logs.
Food can rot quickly if not in a stockpile. Underground is better than above ground. Designate a stockpile for each type of item, and/or use the q, s keys to customize a single stockpile for multiple item types. Time to do some hauling.
  • Dig shelter for your dwarves
Out of the weather, where they can seal themselves in from danger. Dig down or in, but start digging.
  • Designate a zone for a meeting area
Dwarves will be happier if they have recreational space, starting with a meeting area for your animals and idle dwarves. If you don't, they'll use the location of your wagon - and that may or may not be desirable. Put it somewhere where idlers will be safe, but close to food, drink and work.
Your cats will kill vermin, but they'll rot and stink up the place. Put this outside or on the other side of a diagonal passage. Alternately/additionally, you can have a refuse stockpile that accepts (only) remains and other rot-able items.
  • Put a door on that shelter
An open tunnel is not secure. A door, a hatch, something. A mason's workshop can make one out of any stone that might be lying around behind your miners, or a carpenter's workshop out of wood. Both are equally strong.
Injured dwarfs cannot care for themselves - they must rest in a bed, and must be brought water in a bucket. A bed must be made out of 1 wood log at a carpenter's workshop; a bucket can be as well, or out of a bar of metal at a forge.
If you see a problem nearby, it might be better to organize a group attack than wait and hope. If the threat is too dangerous or numerous, detouring labor to construct a quick moat or wall might be a painful solution, but the only one. Or just dig in faster.
Make sure you can designate a zone for drinking, for emergencies and any wounded. If you're in a hot environment with no rivers, you will have to jump on a cistern project to save what water there is before it's gone forever.
~If~ you chose to be bold, save money and not buy an axe or picks at embark, and instead brought the material to make your own, now is the time to do it. Depending on what you brought with you, you may need a forge to make the item, a smelter to turn the ore into bars, and/or a wood burner to create the fuel you need to power both.
Dwarves will sit on a barrel while they drink, but they want a table to eat at. And they'd rather have a chair as well. They don't share tables or chairs while eating. Like sleeping, they don't all eat at the same time - a nice little square of 4 tables and chairs should be plenty. Designate a Dining Room as large as you care to. If you want, you can make your Dining Hall into a Meeting Area as well.
You can make tables and chairs from wood or metal, but stone is usually laying around from your miners, begging to be used up. It's cheap, and it's there. Build a mason's workshop.
  • Traps for defense
Not everyone uses traps, but they're quick and easy and get the job done, especially when you're starting out. You'll need stone and a mechanic's workshop. Build some mechanisms, then designate them as stone-fall traps, the simplest. The other trap-types are fine if you have the other requirements (a cage, some spare weapons), or they can wait for now...
Not everyone farms, but most do. The sooner you plant, the sooner you harvest.
  • Enough beds for all.
Not critical, but still important. Dwarves will first sleep sometime in the second month (Slate), mid-Spring. If they have to sleep on the ground, that will give them a bad thought. Different dwarves will sleep on different cycles, but those can be close the first time around - 5 beds will usually be enough, 3 is certainly adequate once the cycles have staggered themselves. If they have no bed, whether or not they survive their first "night" without throwing a tantrum depends largely on how the rest of your operation is running.


Food and Drink[edit]

You should have started out with a plentiful supply of food and drink at your wagon. But depending on where you build your fort, this could be quite a walk back and forth for your dwarves when they get hungry and thirsty - you'll probably want to create a food stockpile near the entrance of your fort, preferably an underground a store room inside the fort to protect both your food and dwarves from threats and the weather.

For replenishing your food you have several options:

If you are hunting now, you also need the following right away:

Set to accept corpses (and body parts, if you want).
Dead animals rot quickly. Put this near the above.
If you want leather from the skins of the butchered animals - raw skins rot quickly too. Put this near the butcher.
And a food stockpile that accepts meat, and a leather stockpile.

If you are fishing right away, you need to:

Somewhere safe(ish) where your defenseless fisherdwarves can swap lies and slack off in peace.
Put it near the fishery (unless the fishery is right there. Fisherdwarves will drop the fish next to them, so the fish needs to be processed before they rot. Fisherdwarves are lazy.)

Dwarves like to eat their food in a dining room, so you will need to create tables and chairs, and build them inside. Once you've built at least one table you can select it and define a dining room from it.

Tables and chairs can be made from any material, but stone is (generally) readily available. So you'll need a mason's workshop and a dwarf with the Masonry labor enabled.

The food you brought, creatures that have been butchered, and many plants can be eaten raw, but to brew more alcohol you will need a still, the appropriate raw plants, and a dwarf with the Brewing labor enabled.

If your alcohol ever runs out, your dwarves will drink water from any pool/stream in the surroundings - you may want to designate a drinking zone at the nearest pond, but they'll be will be happier less upset if they have a well to get their water from.) If you chose site with a hot environment and no river, you may want to dig a cistern immediately, before the heat evaporates all the water on the map!)

Dwarves who are injured (they only drink water) must drink water - build at least one bucket, and early on.

Sleeping arrangements[edit]

You need to construct beds for your dwarves and build them inside. Beds can only be made out of wood, and hence you will need a carpenter's workshop, logs, and a dwarf with the Carpentry labor enabled. Because dwarves' sleep-cycles will not be the same, a starting fortress can usually get away with 3-5 beds for the starting 7 dwarves, if you're looking for ways to cut corners.

A bed is first constructed by the carpenter, then built/placed by a furniture hauler. Although at first they can all just sleep in a barracks, it is worth planning the placement of bedrooms as dwarves are greatly bothered by noise, and poor placement of bedrooms will result in a very inefficient fortress.

Phase 2[edit]

While there are no fixed goals, general goals either develop with the location or are regarded as managing a growing, prosperous dwarven settlement. Achieving this will require industry beyond subsistence living.

  • Animal sentries
Restrain a wardog or one of your draft animals near your entrance, so they can warn you of any thieves. They usually don't come earlier than first Summer, and traps are not adequate.
If you have 10 or more of an item type, you can't see them in the z-stocks screen unless you improve your bookkeeper's accuracy - and that requires a chair, designated as an office and assigned to that dwarf. This can be one of the Dining Hall chairs. Give the guy a table, too.
First caravan comes in early fall. Maybe build a craftsdwarf's workshop so you can start making goods to trade.
Build one or more wood burners, smelters, and forges for making metal items.
...and a big part of that is...
With 7 dwarfs, you may decide you don't (yet) have enough to set aside to train for real military - it takes at least 2 to spar. But you can still make some good armor and weapons, so that even if they're untrained, they'll be well equipped and protected if and when trouble is spotted. (And it will come...)
CW influences the number of migrants - if you want migrants, pump out high-value items. Statues from your mason, mechanisms from your mechanic, armor from your forge, prepared meals from your kitchens.
Build up a surplus of food, booze, and beds, and build whatever workshops you think you'll want to fill. If you build them, they will come... and they'll come even if you don't, so get ready now.

First immigration wave[edit]

If your fortress is even moderately successful, you will get some migrants around first Spring or maybe before — maybe a couple, maybe a couple dozen.


While your skilled dwarfs do important work, unskilled peasants can haul the raw materials and finished goods to where they are needed. Consider cross-training.
Most forts need at least a small military to fend off various nuisances. Migrants with no useful skills are the perfect volunteers.
More trouble is coming — believe it. Beef up your physical defenses now, so you can laugh at the puny efforts of your enemies — as opposed to them laughing at yours. Masons to build more walls and towers, miners to dig more tunnels and mine more stone for those masons. Armorers and weaponsmiths, bowyers and bone carvers (for practice bolts), wood cutters, carpenters... whatever you lack, train your migrants to fill that need.
Sure, why not? Once you have the basics covered, any industry can be force-fed workers and trainees, and pumped up to absurd proportions to support whatever your warped little imagination can concoct. (When in doubt, use more magma.)