(This page will cover the mechanics of combat - once they're figured out. For now, you may want to refer to Combat skills, Armor or Weapons). The effects of many Material properties on combat are somewhat understood (see the Material science page).
Combat in Dwarf Fortress is unlike that in most strategy and role playing games. Rather than having hit points, units have a collection of body parts, such as limbs, head(s) and a torso. These have sub parts: limbs have skin, fat, muscle, tendons, bones, nerves and arteries; heads have brains; and torsos have internal organs. Damage to these parts and sub parts causes various negative effects, such as fainting, vomiting, loss of mobility due to bone fractures or nerve damage, and eventually leading to death from organ failure or blood loss. The combat system tries to present a fairly realistic depiction of combat, with several important consequences.
Although creatures and players may direct and focus their attacks, combat is random in nature. A glancing blow can get lucky and damage a vital organ, or open an artery to cause massive blood loss. Weapons cause damage specific to their class, be they axes or swords or backpacks. You will often see creatures attacked with impaling weapons such as spears or crossbow bolts die of asphyxiation when their lungs are pierced, while slashing weapons are more likely to open an artery or lop off a limb, and blunt weapons will cause fractures. Some weapons may become stuck in the enemy: if the weapon wielder can maintain control he can continue to do damage and immobilize the enemy, but if the enemy gains control of the stuck weapon, the weapon's wielder will be disarmed.
Reading the combateports will give you a gruesome blow-by-blow of the fighting, telling you exactly what each strike did. It is important to note that while most natural creatures have the same sorts of vulnerabilities due to their similar collection of body parts, procedurally generated creatures such as Titans, Megabeasts and Demons may lack these vulnerabilities entirely. Killing a shambling pile of refuse may prove to be a very, very long process due to the fact that it has no vital parts, and metallic creatures may prove to be nearly invulnerable. When all else fails, a cave-in means certain death for anything caught underneath.
As in real life, combat in Dwarf Fortress is chaotic, deadly, and gruesome. Numbers seem to matter, as defending against multiple opponents can be difficult even for a decent fighter. Your warriors will not suffer loss of generic hit points, and can not simply rest to regain them. Injuries must be dealt with in an appropriate fashion for healing to occur: broken bones must be set, wounds must be cleaned and stitched up, and for some things such as concussions, you can only wait and hope the victim eventually regains consciousness.
 General Observations
- Blunt weapons use "contact area" and weapon mass to scale damage
- Edge weapons seem to use the progression Silver->Copper->Iron->Bronze->Steel->Adamantine for material strength
- Edge weapons use "contact area" and "penetration size" to determine if an attack is slashing or stabbing in nature
- Based on information in the RAWs and in-game, Toady seems to use real-world material properties and almost-real physics for in-game behaviour. Using this as a starting point, we can roughly estimate some of the combat damage mechanics for both blunt and edged weapons.
 General Terms
- Stress - Force per area = F/A
- Strain - Deformation of a solid due to stress = Stress/Young's Modulus
- Yield Strength is the amount of stress required to permanently deform (bend) a material (plastic deformation)
- Fracture Strength is the amount of stress required to permanently break (rupture) a material
- Strain at yield is the amount of deformation (bending) that occurs at the yield point
- Implications to Dwarf Fortress Combat
 Armor Properties
- Material Properties
- Blunt Protection
- Impact yield
- Impact fracture
- Impact strain at yield
- Edge Protection
- Shear yield
- Shear fracture
- Shear strain at yield
- Item Properties
- Armor Level: Layer number in which armor is worn. Lower numbers will be equipped first, and later numbers equipped if space is available.
- 'Coverage: Some armor covers more of the body than others.
 Weapon Properties
- Material Properties
- Contact Area: Determines the surface area hit by the weapon. Likely in mm2.
- Velocity Multiplier: Effectively increases the velocity of the weapon swing.
- Blunt Weapons
- Blunt weapons are all about weapon mass, contact area, and velocity. Apply a large force to a small area for bone crushing goodness.
- Mass is likely material Density times weapon Size
- Momentum is Mass times Velocity
- Velocity is based on the Mass of the weapon, the Strength of the wielder, and the Velocity Multiplier of the weapon
- Any impact must have a conservation of momentum, and thusly, impart the weapon's momentum to the target
- Stress is the Force of the strike divided by the Contact Area
- Material Impact Yield determines the Stress required to dent the armor (likely not used)
- Edged Weapons
- Edged weapons rely on a combination of size, mass, contact area, penetration depth, and velocity
 Arena Test Results
- See Material