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40d:Your first fortress

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This article is about an older version of DF.

This is a guide to help new players get started on their first fortress and teach them the basics of keeping their dwarves alive. If you have unanswered questions or find given details confusing, please tell us so on the discussion page! Above all else, always remember the Dwarf Fortress motto: "Losing is fun!"

We discuss generating a world, choosing a fortress location, buying skills and items, and playing the first month or so. Setting game initialization options is covered in technical tricks. The advice here is biased for safety; with a little experience you'll do better with strategies customized for your play style and preferred start locations. For more extended treatment of particular subjects, consult the linked pages or the rest of the Dwarf Fortress Wiki.

Contents

[edit] Generating a world

It all starts here. The first thing to do when starting Dwarf Fortress is to create a world. Later on, you may wish to tweak the parameters to suit your play style, but for now, the Create New World Now! option is an easy way to get into your first game.

The engine will start to create the world -- watch it unfold! You might notice that worlds are rejected, sometimes even after the generator begins running rivers and lakes. This is normal, as the generator seeks a world which meets the criteria for optimum Dwarven Fun.

Generating a standard random world can take several minutes. You can speed things up by selecting Design New World with Parameters instead of Create New World Now! and setting a smaller world size. These worlds tend to be less interesting and less replayable, but work well if you want to try new things.

Once you've generated a world you will return to the main screen and there will be a new option, Start Playing. Upon selecting that you can choose the game mode - Dwarf Fortress, Adventurer, or Legends. This article is written with respect to Fortress mode.

See the article on world generation for a complete guide to the world generation screen.

[edit] Choosing a location

[edit] Useful location traits

Forest: Many parts of the game are dependent on creating wood items, so if you choose a location without any trees, the game will be more fun (aka more complex).

Water: Wounded dwarves require water to drink, so having a water source near your first fortress so your injured don't die of thirst will be helpful.

Animals: Some biomes will have fewer animals to hunt for meat to feed your dwarves, so tropical and temperate biomes might be simpler. However, bear in mind that not all animals are friendly, so it might be wise to do some research on an area that you're thinking about starting in to get a good handle on what type of creatures might populate it.

[edit] The interface

So long as you have at least one world without an active game, you will be able to choose "Start Playing" from the main menu. Select "Dwarf Fortress" and you'll find a four-section window:

This picture is shown with the default tileset. Other tilesets are available

Going from left to right, these windows represent:

  • The local map. The black box represents the area that your fortress will occupy if you decide to embark. The blue line is a stream, the green icons represent forests and swamps, and the gray triangles are mountain slopes.
  • The regional map. This is like zooming out from the local map. The entire local map is represented by that yellow X. Most of the region is forest, with a mountain range in the bottom right. The two light blue lines are minor rivers.
  • The world map. This is zooming out all the way. The yellow X represents the approximate position of the region.
  • Information about the area that the black box is occupying. More on this below.

You can move around the region map with , or at 10x speed with Shift+. Note that using Shift can cause the key to get "stuck" - press it again to cancel.

You can move around the local map with these keys:

  u
h  k
  m

You cannot directly move around the world map. Movement across the world map is shown relative to your movement on the region map. In world generated with the default settings, each square of the world map contains several squares of the region map.

Your next goal will be choosing the starting location for your fortress.

[edit] Your surroundings

You can discern a lot of information by scrolling through the various modes. The interface has five modes which you cycle through by pressing TAB. In turn, they display the biomes, civilizations, and geology of the local area.

[edit] Biomes screen

This display gives you an idea for the environment you'll be parachuting into. Click any of the blue links for more information on the subject. Biomes are determined by the type of life in the area. On the Biome screen, you'll see:

  • Temperature: How hot or cold it gets in the area. Can be Freezing, Cold, Temperate, Warm, Hot, and Scorching. In a nutshell, temperature extremes make it harder to get and keep a reliable source of water going. In Freezing and Scorching climates, you may have to do without water at all. Temperate and Warm are both good places to start your first fort.

  • Amount of trees, and other vegetation: A general indication of the density of plant life in the area. For trees, this can be none, scarce, sparse, woodland, or heavily forested. For other plants, you can see none, scarce, moderate, and thick. Trees are chopped down for wood, which is a critical, if small, part of your fortress. You can import lots of it from caravans, so don't worry too much about it. However, more trees never hurt anyone, and totally treeless maps are quite a bit more difficult in the early going, so aim for sparse or greater trees. Other plants basically means shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation that you can harvest food from with the plant gathering skill. Generally speaking, you will use this trick in the first year of your fortress, then never again. Plant density is not very important.

  • Surroundings: This gives you a basic image of the local fauna and flora. The outskirts of a jungle might be fairly calm and safe, while the heart of that same jungle could be thick with vicious predators. In game terms, this will clue you in to the specific types of trees and plants you will find, in addition to indicating the animal types you'll run into. This also clues you in to the alignment of the surrounding area. So, the two things this word tells you is how good or evil an area is, and how calm or savage an area is. The meaning of each of the descriptions is as follows:


Calm ... Savage
Good Serene Mirthful Joyous Wilds
Neutral Calm Wilderness Untamed Wilds
Evil Sinister Haunted Terrifying


Good zones tend to have benign mythological creatures, like the unicorn (which can be incredibly dangerous, but only if provoked), while evil areas have a multitude of undead and some of the most vicious creatures in the game, which need no provocation to tear your dwarves limb from limb. For your first fortress, stick to a neutral or good alignment.

  • Major land forms: A last field, which will not always be full, will mention things you should know about, like rivers. Rivers provide an unlimited source of water, but can be home to dangerous fish like the longnose gar and carp. Still, though, the benefits generally far outweigh the risks. Volcanoes are also noted here, one of the only guaranteed ways to get magma. Magma makes a few things a lot easier, but it is dangerous to work with and must be handled very carefully because of the horrible creatures that come out of it. Not critical, especially not for your first time out.

Sometimes, you'll be looking at a place with more than one biome in the same selected square. You can press F1 F2 F3 or F4 to view the different types of biomes. In the picture above, we are looking at the mountain in the center, which is cold and has no trees or plants because it's too high up for those things to grow.

[edit] Civilization screen

These are nearby civilizations that are capable of interacting with you. Other settlements are shown with various symbols on the regional map. The possible entries here are dwarves, humans, elves, goblins, and kobolds.

  • Dwarves: You will want to be in contact with dwarves to get immigrants and a dwarven trading caravan. However, dwarves are, sometimes seemingly magically, everywhere. It is impossible to settle anywhere without dwarves, assuming there is at least one surviving dwarven civilization. Depending on how remote the area is, though, you may not get some of the features of the game you would otherwise: being cut off from the world will prevent most nobles from coming to your fort, which will stop the dwarven economy from ever being activated. You may also not get a liaison with your dwarven caravan from which to request goods.
  • Humans: Humans are almost always friendly, and love trade. They send liaisons to let you request goods and are generally a huge boon to any fortress.
  • Elves: Elves are usually friendly and make fair trading partners, but have a particular ethos about trading. They do not send a trade liaison and their goods are luxuries at best. They can be very annoying, but are generally not dangerous unless you provoke them.
  • Goblins: Goblins are your main enemies in Dwarf Fortress, and will produce most of the aggression against your fort. They periodically launch ambushes, consisting of five to ten goblin warriors, and will send sieges after your fort reaches 80 dwarves. Trapped entrances, war dogs, and eventually a military will be needed to repel them. Just be sure not to start in the middle of a goblin citadel.
  • Kobold: Kobolds are petty thieves that are little more than irritations in most situations. If you are careless and let their thieves get away with a lot of stuff, though, they may upgrade to raiding parties of archers.

[edit] Elevation screen

Relative elevation. This is a normal topographic map that you're used to from real-life maps. It just gives you an idea of the lay of the land.

[edit] Slope screen

Slope steepness. This shows you where large cliffs are. Be advised that cliffs of elevation 4 or more mean taller maps, which take significantly more computer power to run. On the other hand, many find completely flat embark sites to be dull -- a good elevation map contains lots of low elevation changes ranging from 1 to 4. However, choosing areas partly or entirely above the tree line gives you much more stone, ore, and gems to work with, and the hills even provide decent protection against invaders, especially if you start removing natural ramps. It's your choice in the long run, particularly if you don't really care about performance.

[edit] Embark alerts

When you're satisfied with your area and hit e to embark, you may get some alerts about being in a very difficult area, or about an aquifer. Aquifers can make it frustrating to get started, so if you are alerted about an aquifer, seriously consider moving somewhere else for your first fortress. After you have the basics down, tackling an aquifer is much easier.

[edit] Location recap

For your first fortress, it's not entirely important. However, there are some general guidelines that can help you decide:

  • Try to get a temperate or warm climate, since extreme temperatures are more difficult.
  • Trees and vegetation are good for producing lumber and food for your fortress, but you don't need tons of them.
  • Neutral-aligned surroundings are best for your first fortress, but good-aligned surroundings are also OK. Avoid evil-aligned surroundings, however.
  • Running water (rivers, streams, and brooks) are a permanent source of water. Murky pools and underground pools have a finite amount of water and may dry out. Not having enough water can be a big obstacle, so try to get some running water your first time out.
  • Humans and elves are friendly, so an area they have access to is nice.
  • Magma is cool (hah!), but not critical.
  • Areas with aquifers require some engineering to get to rock. You'll be warned if you chose an area with an aquifer. When in doubt, don't try it.
    • If you insist on starting in an area with an aquifer, read up on the dangers of aquifers, and, if at all possible, choose an embark site that includes an aquifer-less biome.
  • Who cares? If you like what you see, go for it. You can always start over. And remember the DF motto: Losing is fun!

For more information on specific game mechanics such as sand, flux, and how to find iron, check this page.

[edit] Fortress size

Once you've decided on location, you need to decide the size of your fortress area. This is the size of the game field you're playing on. Advantages of requesting a large local area include more raw materials, greater diversity of rocks and special underground features, and the ability to include desired terrain (such as a river, a forest, or a magma vent). Disadvantages include slower game performance (larger areas require more CPU power), higher likelihood of merchants failing to reach your trade depot before they run out of time, and more risk of losing immigrants as they struggle to your front gate. (Note that you can mine many levels deep into the ground, and even a 3x3 area generally contains more raw materials than you're ever likely to need.)

You can adjust the size of your fort's area by using SHIFT + the u m k or h keys.

[edit] Embark

When done, hit e to embark. A warning may appear if you've chosen a challenging site, or one with an aquifer.

[edit] Buying skills and items

After you embark, you're given the option to either start immediately or prepare for the journey carefully. You should pretty much always prepare carefully if you enjoy staying alive.

Here, presumably, you are the dwarf determining who will go and what they will take. You have a total of 2060☼ to spend in two categories: Skilled dwarves and items. Some items have already been selected for you, but you probably won't want most of these.

There are as many possible ways to approach setting up as there are fortress locations. The starting builds page offers several examples for you to choose from. Here, we are only going to discuss some basics that help you understand enough to make your own decisions. The embark screen opens up on the skills screen, and can be changed to the items screen by pressing TAB.

[edit] Skills

In Dwarf Fortress, it's not what you have, it's who you have. Skilled dwarves are the cornerstone of everything, from domestics to security, so it's extremely important to embark with good people.

As you will see in this screen, you have 7 dwarves, all with 10 points to put toward starting skills. We will want to use all 10 of the points on all 7 of the dwarves. By default, you won't have enough ☼ to do this, so hit TAB to go to the items screen and hit - over the Steel battle axe line to give subtract one. This should give you enough ☼ to assign all your skills. You can only spend 5 of the 10 points in any one skill, making the maximum skill level upon embark proficient. This makes a total of 14 proficient skills, or a larger number of lower skill levels.

In a fledgling fortress, the 4 indispensable jobs are mason, miner, grower, and carpenter. A good beginning strategy is to embark with at least 1 dwarf being proficient in these 4 skills. Many people choose to double up on proficient miners and growers, since mining and farming are both pretty big jobs.

Other useful skills to consider:

  • Cook: Cooks make prepared meals in the kitchen, which helps you manage your food stock space. Well-prepared meals are also valuable trade goods, and make dwarves happy when eaten. Highly skilled cooks make better meals, and prepare meals faster.
  • Brewer: Brewers make booze in the still. Dwarves being dwarves, they need alcohol to operate at peak efficiency, and highly-skilled brewers make better tasting booze and finish brewing faster. Dwarves get happier when they drink good booze.
  • Herbalist: Herbalists gather food and seeds from shrubs in the local area. Skilled herbalists pick faster and come away with far more food. Where an unskilled herbalist will come away with one wild strawberry or none at all, a proficient herbalist will often pick 3 or 4, and sometimes 5.
  • Woodcutter: Woodcutters fell trees for use by carpenters. Highly skilled woodcutters fell trees much faster. However, since you don't need that much wood, you can get away with a normal (no tag) woodcutter just fine.
  • Mechanic: Mechanics build and use mechanisms, which have myriad uses in traps, levers and some machines. Highly skilled mechanics finish installing mechanisms much faster, and the mechanisms they build are of higher quality. However, the quality of the mechanism primarily matters to beginning players for its trade value, and in early fortresses the need for mechanisms is usually so small that any dwarf can pick it up and handle it well enough. Still, a solid choice, especially if you like traps.
  • Armorsmith, Weaponsmith: These become very important quickly if you want even decent weapons and armor and are annoying to train up from scratch.
  • Siege engineer is not useful at all in an early fortress, and far from ever being essential, but training an unskilled dwarf in it requires a lot of material and time.
  • Military skills (Wrestler, Axedwarf, Hammerdwarf, etc): Early on, it's unlikely that you'll need these, since there's generally very few things that will bother a band of dwarves who aren't hurting anyone, but certain places, such as those with a chasm, will have hostile creatures around. In these areas, you may consider giving your woodcutter the Axedwarf skill so he can use his chopping axe as a weapon. A miner can "pinch-hit", since the Mining skill also covers wielding a pick in combat, but the dwarves don't understand this yet, so a drafted miner will get unhappy thoughts.
  • Social skills (Appraiser, Judge of Intent, Consoler, etc): Putting these on one dwarf will make them a shoo-in for the Expedition Leader slot, and ranks in Appraiser and Judge of Intent will make interacting with the first caravan much easier. However, even if you don't train this at all, some persistence in trading with the first caravan will level your leader up enough to trade with the second caravan like a champion.

Once again, examples can be found in the starting builds page. What you bring is incredibly dependent on your play style, though. Some people think bringing Mechanics along is a total waste of time, others consider them indispensable. Some people like having skills that aren't even on this list, like Leatherworker. Read the starting builds, ask questions, and explore! Who cares if your first idea doesn't work out after playing an hour? Restarting is easy and losing is fun.

[edit] Items

Now that we're done with assigning skills, hit TAB to go over to the item screen. Item worth is another extremely situational thing, and you'll find as many opinions as there are Dwarf Fortress players as to what is good to bring. Once more, it depends VERY heavily on your play style. Again, starting builds can provide some good example reading. This section will only cover the basics and give you enough information to make your own decisions.

[edit] Tools

You'll need a couple of finished tools to get yourself started.

  • Battle axes: Every Woodcutter needs an axe. Steel battle axes are the only type you can purchase on this screen, and they're expensive. You might want to bring just one, unless you expect to need a lot of lumber and/or axedwarf muscle.
  • Picks: Likewise, Miners need picks. All picks work equally well, their material only determines the damage they do in combat. Thus, copper picks are the budgeting dwarf's choice, at a paltry 20☼ each.
  • Anvil: One of the big questions to ask yourself is whether to bring an anvil on embark. It's extremely expensive at 1000☼, but to start a metal industry, you will either have to start with one or request and purchase (or steal!) one from a caravan somewhere down the line.

    Generally, if you are going to a very mountainous area where you're likely to see lots of ore and you want to be able to make use of it right from the get-go, bring an anvil. If you're going to spend a few years getting your fortress established before worrying about metal production, drop it and bring more raw commodities.

    One occasional problem is that axes and picks are absent entirely. If this is the case (or you just don't want to spend all that money), you can bring the materials to make your own weapons.

    • If you want to save points and smelt the ore yourself, take copper nuggets instead of copper bars, and use the smelter to convert the ore into copper bars.
    • A good alternative ore to bring along, and not much more expensive, is tetrahedrite - when smelted, it yields one copper bar with a 20% chance of an additional silver bar each. Silver is a good metal for metal crafters, or you can have an unskilled worker forge a practice weapon out of silver for training - silver is tied with wood for the safest material for practice weapons, and you have to trade with elves for wooden ones.
    • Other mixes of ores, to create bronze or bismuth bronze, etc, are possible - as you learn about the game you'll decide what works best for you, and in what starting situations.
    • Fuel and metal in hand, deconstruct the smelter (if needed; q to highlight, then x to deconstruct), and construct a metalsmith's forge. Make sure someone has weaponsmithing on. After the forge is up, order it to make the axes and picks you need. Deconstruct the forge when you're done and enjoy your new tools, hopefully with quality modifiers!

[edit] Raw materials

As it was briefly covered above, sometimes it makes more sense to bring a lot of raw materials than some finished goods. Raw materials are a lot cheaper than finished goods, and so long as you invest heavily in your dwarves' skills (which you should!), you can probably make better quality stuff, anyway.

  • Stone: Only bring this if you're trying to build some of your tools on the spot, as noted above. Otherwise, you will get stone coming out of your ears once you start mining.
  • Metal: Generally not recommended. However, if you're expecting trouble and you're bringing an anvil, bringing many bars of iron and charcoal in lieu of a battle axe can be a big boon. If your dwarves can get to a spot that gives them a breather, a proficient weaponsmith or armorsmith could stamp out high-quality goods to give your dwarves a better fighting chance. This is a pretty advanced trick to pull off, though, so don't try to pull it if you're not confident.
  • Wood: Wood is a bargain at only 3☼ per log, and the 100 logs you can bring in exchange for a steel battle axe will last you a long time. This is a great technique for making Woodcutter unneeded in the early game, but you need to budget your wood use for the first year very carefully. When you're out, you're out!
  • Leather: Leather is cheap at 5☼ per for the cheapest. Bring a few to make extra bags for gathering plants - don't worry if you don't have a leather worker, you don't much care about a quality multiplier for bottom-value items like leather bags. If you are going to make your own leather armor (early or later), consider bringing someone with leather working skill.

[edit] Consumables

Easily the most important part of your preparation is what you're going to eat, drink, and plant once you get on site. Without food and booze, you're not going much of anywhere.

  • Food: Most food comes at a mere 2☼ per unit, and 8 units will feed 1 dwarf for a year. Bringing a year of food will give you a good cushion to getting your farms working, so aim for about 60 food if you can. If you must cut back, though, 40 will be fine if you make your farms an early priority. The best food staple to bring along is turtle. Turtle produces shell and bones when eaten, which can be used as raw materials for other things you need, including armor, crossbows, and crossbow bolts. Further, shell is a common request for strange moods and is a pain to produce, so getting some early could save yourself a failed mood and a dead dwarf.
  • Booze: Dwarves drink twice as often as they eat, and they always want to down some alcohol if at all possible. They also like different kinds of alcohol. Bring twice as much booze as you bring food, and divide it evenly among the 4 types of alcohol you can take (dwarven wine, dwarven beer, dwarven ale, dwarven rum). Even more nifty, check the booze preferences of your 7 dwarves on embark and allocate the 4 kinds accordingly. Plump helmets (wine) and pig tails (ale) are fast growing, so you might take less of those, particularly if no dwarf has a preference for them. Too much booze is a real barrel hogger but this problem is far off. More booze is better 99% of the time.
  • Seeds: Your farms have got to start somewhere. Definitely bring along plump helmet spawn (for food and booze) and pig tails (for cloth ropes and booze variety). How many you bring is dependent on how big you want your initial farms to be. 5 of each is plenty to feed your initial dwarves, and you will get more seeds any time the plants are consumed in any way except cooking. You may want to use the kitchen menu to disallow cooking of plump helmets until you have a healthy supply of seeds. Or, alternatively, just don't make any prepared meals until you've got a healthy supply of seeds. The other seed types require a lot more labor to use properly, and should probably wait until you have more dwarves in the fortress. You can buy seeds from the dwarven caravan for almost nothing, but if you want a greater variety along, go for rock nuts. The quarry bush that sprouts from it produces the greatest space to yield ratio in the game. Eventually, though, you should be planting all 6 of the underground crops at least.

Food and booze are stored in barrels, with each type in its own barrel. Since barrels have a 10-unit capacity, you can get a lot of free barrels by starting with many, many kinds of food in quantities which end in 1. Barrels are important, and usually need wood to make, so it's worth it to use this quirk while you can by starting with at least one unit of every type of food.

Seeds are stored in Containers in multiples of 100, also by type. Bags are cheap and easy to make, and not as important as barrels, since making cloth bags is a good way to train up your clothier, so it's not recommended to spend the extra to get 1 free bag.

[edit] Domestic Animals

Not only dwarves live in your fortress, after all.

  • Dogs: Dogs are dwarf's best friend. They can be trained into hunting dogs or war dogs, require no food or maintenance, and make good pets for your dwarves. Always bring at least 2. Genders alternate when picking them up, so 2 will give you a breeding pair that will have more puppies freely. They make fantastic security early and fantastic dwarfsaving distractions later on. Dogs will happily lay down their lives to protect their master, which is huge when it means one of your best legendary dwarves is running away from an angry goblin.
  • Cats: Cats provide a wonderful function in controlling vermin in the fort. Vermin can make your dwarves extremely unhappy, so some cats are more or less a requirement. The largest problem with cats, however, is that their population is very difficult to control. Cats will choose their own owners (without the dwarf in question's consent), and after they've done so, you cannot order them butchered to control their numbers. The resulting population explosion can clutter hallways and murder your framerate. The best thing to do is to put all stray cats and kittens in a cage (one will hold them all). You can then butcher them without running the risk of the cats adopting dwarves before the butcher gets around to them, and if vermin start to get out of hand, you can always release one or two to help. If you want vermin control from the start, bring just ONE cat so it cannot breed and cause a population problem early. However, immigrants will very commonly bring their pet cats to the fortress, so if you can live with vermin early, you'll likely get a cat for free within a year. Or, be prepared to cage and slaughter them aggressively for meat and hides - that can work too.
  • Beasts of burden (horses, muskoxen, cows, donkeys, & mules): You get two of these for free when you start the game - each one random as to sex and the five possible species (and mules don't breed). Unlike cats, dwarves must choose to adopt beasts of burden, which they won't do unless you let them to do so (in z->animals menu). That's fairly rare, so the vast majority of the beasts of burden in your fortress will stay strays. Many immigrants may bring useless animals with them though - as they are adopted already you can't butcher or cage them, but they can still help start a breeding program for meat, hides and bones. You can also trade later for whatever the caravans bring. All newborns belong to the fortress, so you can do what you want with them.

Once again, check the starting builds page for more ideas, read the pages linked above, and experiment. The learning process is half the fun in Dwarf Fortress; enjoy it!

[edit] Game on!

We've chosen an area, selected our supplies, and we're ready to play. The game opens with your dwarves huddled around the wagon they used to get here.

[edit] Gameplay overview

This section will deal with the tasks you'll need to tackle in your first year of gameplay. These tasks are selecting a dig site, building workshops (and marking stockpiles), building lodging, starting farms, and trading.

[edit] Selecting a dig site

You'll have to decide where you're going to dig in and start your fortress. You should consider the natural formations of the surrounding area when deciding where you want your main entrance. Ideally, there should be one way in and one way out. This one way should be fairly sizable, to pander to caravans and traffic. Proximity to a good water source so you can build a well more easily is also desirable. You can fix either of these things with extra digging and building later on, though, so don't sweat the decision too much.

The most direct way to start is to find the side of a nearby mountain and dig into it, but if you're in a very flat area, you might have to dig downward instead. To start digging, hit designations, then dig. Move your cursor using the arrow keys to where you want to dig, and hit ENTER, then move your cursor over to the place you want the digging to end. Mining designations are rectangular, so you can go both left and right and up and down as you're designating area. This tells your dwarves to cut into a wall and hollow it out, often leaving behind a stone if it is a rock wall. Soil walls become hollowed out, but never drop anything. These hollowed out areas are where you'll build the vast majority of everything you need.

If you need to dig down instead of in, you need to use either a stairwell or a ramp. For a stairwell, use designations, and downward stairway (j). Note that this is only half of a stairwell. To build the other half, you must go down a z-level (>) and designate an upward stairway to connect to it. You are then underground and can use mining normally. For a ramp, you must go down a z-level (>) and designate a ramp on the area you want cut away. You do not need to build anything above it; your miners will figure it out. If you are building downward and want caravans to come down into your fortress, you will need to use ramps, at least 3 right next to each other. Keep this in mind when deciding where you want to dig down.

When designing your main entrance, be mindful that as many as 200 dwarves could be coming and going eventually, and that goblins are going to want in at some point or another. A 3-wide entrance corridor is ideal. It is wide enough to accept a good amount of traffic and caravans, but narrow enough to use diabolical traps and designs to kill lots of goblins. Your main doors will have to be only 2-wide, though, as doors require a wall adjacent to them to build properly.

Once you've decided where you want your main entrance, it's time to move your supplies over there. We will have to set them outside for now, but we'll want to move them indoors as soon as we can. Press stockpiles, and designate areas for food, wood, and refuse. You can designate all sorts of stockpiles from this screen, so hit t and poke around in the custom stockpile settings for a little bit, figuring out what you can do. Do NOT designate a stone stockpile for now. It will eat up a lot of time unnecessarily. While we're organizing our supplies, deconstruct your wagon by pressing query, putting the cursor over your wagon, and pressing deconstruct (x). A dwarf with the carpenter labor enabled will come by and pull the wagon apart, turning it into 3 logs. The wagon is useless to you, so there's no reason to not do this. Some people prefer to wait until the wagon has been emptied before deconstructing it. In order to see the contents of a building, use the t command and scroll over the wagon.

Plan for your finished, 200-dwarf fortress right from the get-go. It's very easy to dig out new area. It's very HARD to go back and redo something the way it should have been from the start. 3-wide hallways is typically plenty for high-traffic areas.

[edit] Building workshops

Time to get some work done! Taking in raw materials and spitting out stuff that's useful: that's the name of the game for workshops. You should start putting down workshops as soon as you have raw materials. You'll need to get basic living provisions like beds, tables, chairs, chests, and the like down for not only your first 7 dwarves, but the immigrants that could come at any time as soon as possible, so you can't waste any time.

Stone will show up from your miners digging. Once you have an area with a decent amount of stone, you should get a mason's workshop built in the area. Check the workshop page for full details if you have problems building one. The keyboard command is:

  • build order
  • the workshops sub-menu
  • mason's workshop.

Once the workshop has been built by a dwarf with the masonry labor, you can query the workshop to find out what it's current orders are, add or cancel orders, set an existing order to repeat, order the workshop dismantled, and other tasks.

Add orders for a door, a table, and a chair. Stone chairs will show up as thrones in the orders. They are exactly the same. Then set each order to repeat. This workshop will now make doors, tables, and chairs until you tell it to stop. You'll need a lot of these, so that's OK.

Also build a carpenter's workshop near the wood stockpile you designated earlier, and tell it to make beds. Put this on repeat, also. The wood you brought along, even after disassembling your wagon, won't last long. If you brought along a woodcutter, now would be a good time to get him to chop down some trees. Hit designations, and then hit chop down trees. Chopping designations work exactly like mining designations, but it will only highlight trees in the rectangle you give it. Don't worry about chopping a ton of wood right now; trees don't go anywhere fast, so you can always come back for more.

While making workshops anywhere the material happens to be works fine right now, you will want a more organized way of doing it later. Check out the workshop logistics page for ideas on how to set it up. After you do get things set up, be sure to move your stockpiles underground; above-ground stockpiles are vulnerable to thieves and are usually a long way away. Don't be afraid to tear down workshops; they are built quickly and easily, and tearing them down does absolutely nothing harmful, even returning the materials used in their construction. Be aware that workshops create noise when they are in use, which can disturb your dwarves' sleep, so don't build them close to any beds.

[edit] Building lodging

With commodities coming out, it's time to set up places where they can be used.

Tell your miners to dig out a large (5x5 minimum) room to become your barracks. The barracks is essentially a communal sleeping room where dwarves without their own apartment can come to crash. It is also the place where your military will come to spar once you start recruiting soldiers. Since your military hangs out in the barracks a lot, it's a good idea to put it near the main entrance of the fortress. If thieves stumble in, they are likely to meet a very grisly end as they bump into a pair of dwarves in the middle of combat training, and later, in case of a more major attack, they are more likely to be closer to where you need them. Note, however, that sparring dwarves can very seriously hurt or kill each other if their sparring area is too crowded, so keep beds stacked along one wall and the rest of the room clear and uncluttered. You do not need too many beds in the barracks right now. Beds in the barracks are public, and dwarves have their own schedules, so the entire fortress will not sleep at once.

After the barracks is dug, tell your dwarves to build a bed. Your cursor will come up, turning red on an unacceptable location and green on an acceptable location. Unacceptable locations will give you a short reason as to why they're unacceptable. Again, just stack beds against one wall of the barracks; 5 beds will be fine to start out with. After indicating the placement of the beds, your dwarves will haul them over and install them. Once they are installed, query a bed, then make a room. Use the + and - keys to size the room that will be considered the barracks. All beds within the flashing square will be considered public, so there's no need to do this more than once. Fill up the whole 5x5 area (build doors if you need to cordon off the area to make it a nice square) and hit ENTER. You've created your first room! A room status screen shows up. Be sure to hit b to confirm that it is a barracks. If you don't, the first dwarf that sleeps in this room will claim it as his or her apartment, which isn't what we want.

The barracks will keep your dwarves from sleeping on the floor, which would make them unhappy. As the game goes on, though, it is a very good idea to move dwarves into their own apartments. They get much happier for it, it keeps traffic down, and provides you with some more diabolical options such as locking a troublemaker in his room by querying the door and locking (forbidding) it. See the bedroom design page for ideas on how to set up your apartments.

With bedding handled, we need to set up a dining room, which will double as our meeting area. Dwarves will eat in their apartment sometimes if you install a table and chair in it, but mostly, dwarves prefer to eat in a public dining hall with a table all to themselves. As the meeting area, dwarves will also show up there whenever they have nothing better to do (have 'No Job') to socialize and kill time. It is a pretty high-traffic area, so be sure to use double-doors as the entrance and exit. It should again be fairly large (25 tiles minimum; this could be 5x5, 4x6, whatever suits your fancy). Once it's dug out, build tables along the walls, and then build chairs next to the tables, one per table. Once a table is laid out, query the table and make a room out of it. Fill up the dining hall area, and hit ENTER. Be sure to hit h to set it as a meeting area, and you're done here.

As with most kinds of furniture, dwarves can walk through tiles containing tables, chairs and beds. The most notable exception to this are statues.

[edit] Starting farms

The basics of life are in place! Now it's just a matter of getting the farms in place to make sure life goes on.

Farming is the most reliable source of food in the game, and the only way to be sure you're going to feed a large population. The catch is, we can only farm on mud or soil. Mud is only created through irrigation, which is complicated and more trouble than it's worth if you have access to any serious quantity of soil. Avoid using irrigation if you can. The logistics of controlling enough water to make arable land on stone are extremely annoying.

On soil, however, farming couldn't be easier. Simply mine out an area of soil (underground, since the seeds you can embark with will NOT grow aboveground), then build a farm plot. Use u, m, k, and j to resize your plot to the size you want; 3x3 should be plenty to start out, and you will max out at roughly 30 to 40 total squares being used for food and booze production to support a full fortress. This changes some depending on the skill of your growers, but it's a fair guideline. After placing the farmland, a dwarf with the Farming (Fields) labor enabled will come by and prepare it for use. After it's done, query the new field and decide on your crops for each season. The crop display will show every crop that can possibly be planted there - it does not necessarily mean you have seeds to plant. Plump helmets are best for your first field, since they can be brewed to booze, eaten raw, and cooked. If you find some seasons have red letters, that is because the season has already passed and you cannot edit it again this year. You will have to pick it up in the spring of the following year. Be aware that Dwarf Fortress will NOT give you an error if you attempt to plant something you have no seeds of. It will give you an error if you run out of seeds after starting planting, but not if you simply have none to begin with. If you can't remember what kind of seeds you have, check around your wagon and your designated food stockpile using k for a seeds bag. Hit Enter when you find it to inspect the bag and see what kind of seeds it carries. Later on, you will be able to find it more easily using the z key and the "Stocks" menu, but right now your stocks will lack the precision to use the "zoom" key. See the bookkeeper article for more information on stockpile precision.

Eventually, you will want to be planting many, many different kinds of crops. Dimple cups are great later on, because they produce dimple dye, which can be used to increase the value of the clothing your fortress produces. Cave wheat can be used to provide fodder for luxury prepared meals, and to make more brewing fodder. As your fortress grows and you need more and more luxuries to keep everyone happy, diversifying can only help you.

On a note about irrigation before wrapping this section up, mud behaves almost identically to soil. All below-ground crops can be grown equally well on either, and you build and place the plots exactly the same. There are a few differences, though. Mud can be fertilized with potash, while dry soil cannot. Some above-ground crops can only be grown in mud, while others can only be planted in dry soil. Check the crops page for more details. Irrigation is a very advanced technique that provides only marginal benefits. Some "unlivable" areas can be turned around with skillful irrigation and fertilizer, but by and large they're not necessary. Just use soil whenever you can.

[edit] Trading

Now that you've given your dwarves a place to sleep and avoided the possibility of starvation, you can start thinking about the finer things in life.

First, we'll take care of a few organizational considerations, to make trading easier. Our carpenter will take care of this, since he's done making beds. Order up 2 or 3 buckets. Buckets are used to carry water to injured, bedridden dwarves from water source zones and are one of the requirements to building a well. Then, get to work stamping out some bins. Bins are used to store a lot of non-perishable items in the same square; they work much the same as barrels, but barrels are used on perishables like food and booze. You'll need a LOT of bins, but for the moment 5 or so will do. You will also need to make a lot of barrels, but since you brought a number of them with you, you can hold off a bit. Both of these can be made from metal as well, but producing them from wood is far more economical.

Since you have all this stone lying around, let's put it to use. Build a Craftsdwarf's workshop, assign one of your dwarves to stonecrafting. Order this workshop to build rock crafts of all sorts repeatedly. Stone mugs are a good trade good - you get three mugs from one stone, adding up to 30☼ at the start. Since your stonecrafter will level up relatively quickly (and if you have several dwarves working on stonecrafts) this can quickly add up to several thousand coins worth of goods.

Now that you've got some goods to trade, we'll need to build a trade Depot. Build this somewhere easily accessible from all edges of the map, but close to (or inside) your entrance. Trade depots require architecture and a mason, assuming you make it out of your copious quantities of stone. Many times you will not have an building designer on embark, so you will have to assign one to get the architecture phase of the depot done.

In the long term, you'll want your trade depot to be in a defensible spot. As it is 5x5 squares, and requires a 3-square wide path for the caravans to get in and out of it, you'll eventually want to spend some time thinking about its defense. Once the depot has been completed, you can check for depot access using the shift-D key.

The first caravan will come in your first autumn: the dwarven caravan from the mountainhomes. When it comes, the game will pause, you'll be notified, and the screen will center on the caravan. If you do not have a depot, or they can't get to it, they will wait on the edge of the map for you to build a depot they can get to, or to clear the obstructions. The two most common obstructions are trees and boulders. Trees can be chopped down, and boulders can be eliminated by designating them to be smoothed. This uses the stone detailing labor, so turn it on if you need.

After the caravan is on its way, you'll need to fill the depot with things to trade, and get a trader there to broker the negotiations. Hit query over the depot and press g to start moving supplies. Use the arrow keys to navigate the trade goods window. If you've been making stone crafts, you'll want the crafts heading to make the game filter out the bins you've been filling. Otherwise, you'll have to sift through every stone you've created while digging the fortress, which is a huge pain. Press ENTER on the bins to mark them for trading, and some dwarves will come along to haul the bins to the depot. Once that's taken care of, query the depot and request a trader there. By default, only the broker will trade at the depot. This is generally what you want, since brokers with better appraisal skills can see the worth of all the commodities and tend to get away with giving the caravan boss a lower profit margin on the trade. Trading at the depot is a low-priority job, though, so you may have to turn off your broker's other labors temporarily to get him to respond to the request in a timely manner. Once your broker is at the depot, query the depot and start trading.

On the screen that comes up, the left side shows the trader's goods, while the right side shows your own. Use the arrow keys to navigate and ENTER to mark something for trading. If your trader does not have at least Novice Appraiser in his skill set, you will not be able to see the values of everything, so you'll have to guess. The caravan boss will refuse to sell at a loss, and if you're close to making a deal, he'll give you a counteroffer that he'd accept. Being able to see the values of things is really helpful, but don't worry if you can't. It usually only takes one or two successful trades before your broker will hit Novice Appraiser and all will become known to you. One fun note is that raw materials cost the same from merchants as they do at the embark screen; so you already know that plump helmets are 4☼, most meat is 2☼, wooden logs are 3☼, and so on. It's difficult to know the value of your crafts, and some things must be bought as a package deal (you cannot buy seeds alone, you must also buy the bag they come in), though, so it can still be hard to trade without Appraiser.

On your first year, you're probably pretty light on things to trade with, so start small. Wood logs are very useful and cheap. Extra food can be useful if your farms are lagging behind. Maybe a barrel or two. Sell what goods you have and don't fret about it any longer.

Next year, after you get some immigrants you can think about exploring other kinds of industry as well, like the furniture industry, meat industry, or clothing industry, but this is a great place to start.

The last element to trading is the liaison. The dwarven liaison will want to meet with your expedition leader to work out your requests for next year, and let you know what their requests are. By making a request of the caravan, you are essentially promising to pay more (up to double the normal price) for various things, which entices the traders to bring more of those things. Wood logs are always a great thing to request. Even at double the normal price, they're still very cheap, and merchants bring a lot of them. It's not unusual to get 50 logs from a single caravan. It saves you a massive amount of time and effort. Barrels and Containers are also good to request, as are dogs. You can also request seeds to get your more diverse crops started. Look around, explore, and experiment. That's half the fun of the game.

The liaison will also tell you what they want from you, with the same deal: they'll pay more for it if you provide it. Unfortunately, they usually want stupid things that don't trade well (such as stone blocks) or things you'd rather keep to yourself (such as booze). Many players simply ignore their liaison's requests and build the same things they always build. Diplomatic relations will not suffer at all.

Your expedition leader must actually pick up the job conduct meeting to get this process done, and it ends up being a very low-priority job, so again, you may consider turning off your leader's other labors to make sure he gets to it. If you really want to force the liaison to take the meeting, move him to the meeting spot by enlisting him in the Military and stationing him at the meeting spot. Then forbid the door behind him and the liaison, locking them in until the meeting is completed (when the Liaison says "Goodbye" in a message).

[edit] Basic Defenses

Main article: 40d:Defense

While not a major concern at first, it is always a good idea to think about how you are going protect your dwarves. From picking your location to establishing your fortress, always think about how you will defend your new home. Failure to incorporate this into your fortress can cause serious issues down the road. The good news is that it is relatively easy to setup basic defenses with only a few dwarfs.

When designing your defenses here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Limiting Access - The more ways there are into your fortress, the harder it is to defend. Most fortresses should have only one way to get in/out. This is usually a entrance hallway or some form of gate. The further your enemies have to travel to get to your dwarves, the more traps and military personnel you can put in their way to stop them from killing your dwarves. When designing an entrance system, make sure to keep in mind that your own dwarves will most likely pass by these defenses on their way to gather wood, plants and the spoils of the battlefield.
  • Controlled isolation - Sometimes, you will need to cut yourself off from the world. This normally happens when you suddenly find yourself under siege without an adequate military to defend yourself. Since all creatures move the same way, simply putting a bridge or a line of floodgates at your entrance is a good way to cut off a siege while you build up your military. The key here is that you can control when to isolate your fortress. Do keep in mind that you will not be able to get migrants or caravans while isolated.
  • Ranged Defense - While rare in the early part of the game, attacking parties will bring along a few archers. The thing to keep in mind that archers can shoot over moats and onto roofs. The easiest way to defend against archers is to use walls. Do your best to avoid long straight corridors since enemies can kill your dwarfs as they either run away or run towards the archer. Adding a few corners go a long way in making enemy archers less dangerous. Also note that archers can shoot up and down z-levels. So if you have a multilevel structure outside, make sure to put a wall around the perimeter to prevent archers from being able to shoot your dwarfs on the roof.
  • Stopping the invasion - You've planned your entrance, and setup a way to isolate your fortress, now it is time to stop the invading force. This is usually done with either traps or military. The easiest way to defend your fortress is with traps. Since they don't move, you need to build a bottleneck or choke point to herd invaders over the traps. If you followed the directions above, you should already have a bottleneck in place. Your fortress entrance is a place that everyone must cross. Put a bunch of stone fall or cage traps here and you are ready to go. As a rule of thumb, any space that is 2-5 squares wide should be considered as a place to setup a bottleneck.

[edit] The future

After this point, you'll be able to start exploring the other intricacies of the game. Here is a list of some other gameplay commands which have not been covered:

[edit] Sample games

These are sample games that others have played and recorded to provide good learning examples. They are not routinely updated, so some information may be out of date, but they still provide good hands-on tutorials of how to prepare for your fortress and play the game.

You can also look at the Dwarf Fortress Map Archive to see multi-layered snapshots of fortresses that others have built.


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