|This article is about the current version of DF.|
Factions govern how creatures will react in each other's presence. The world is full of dangers for your unfortunate dwarves, and it seems that nearly everything is trying to kill them; fortunately, said dangers are also hostile to each other most of the time. Confrontations between such opposed factions happen in both fortress and adventurer mode; the wise player will see to it that they weaken each other instead of ganging up against one's fort or adventurer.
In the object testing arena, each creature created can be tied to a faction (referred to in-game as a "side"). Creatures will be friendly to other creatures within their faction, and will be hostile to any other creature. There are a total of 99 factions, and an "independent" option which is hostile to all other creatures.
 Faction relative hostility
The table below shows the behavior of different factions when confronted:
1Advanced civilizations are subject to the mechanisms of diplomacy and may routinely go at war and conclude peace treaties depending on worldgen and according to each civilization's ethics. On the one hand, war against elves or humans is not that uncommon; on the other hand, goblins will almost always be hostile toward everyone else.
2Cave civilizations are always friendly toward adventurers and they can be either hostile or friendly toward your dwarves. They often become friendly when confronted with a megabeast. Note that this behavior does not apply to most animal people, who are simply treated as wildlife.
3Werebeasts will switch factions from whatever civilization they belong to under their normal form to a special, species-dependent faction on full moon. Different species of werebeasts will be hostile to each other.
4A HFS denizen often takes control of a goblin civilization, and sometimes becomes the ruler of a human civilization by posing as their god. Other HFS denizens are typically hostile.
5[LARGE_PREDATOR]s will attack anything significantly smaller than themselves. In most other cases, wildlife will flee from non-[BENIGN] wildlife. Two [BENIGN] wild animals will ignore each other.
 Entities and civilizations
There are four entity 'factions' that can be created in Dwarf Fortress, although vanilla only uses three of them. These factions are determined by the presence or absence of the [BABYSNATCHER] or [ITEM_THIEF] tags, so the four factions can be called the Civilized (with neither tag), the Babysnatchers, the Item Thieves, and the Babysnatching Item Thieves. Members of the same faction will trade with you in fort mode, and members of all other factions may invade you. This is separate from civs at war, which is determined by having opposing ethics.
Generally, civilization relationships override whatever loyalty a creature may have to begin with. Most notably, foreign creatures kidnapped by goblins and raised by them will be loyal to their goblin civ and hostile against non-goblin civs, including your fort. This also includes their descendants, which means some goblin civs can be potentially deplete of goblins but still send sieges (composed of humans, dwarves, elves, etc.) and ambushes to your fort. More amusingly, foreign creatures occupying a noble position in a civ for whatever reason (e.g. demons that have impersonated a god to take control of human civs, demon law-givers ruling goblin civs, or necromancer kings) will behave the same way any other civ member would toward your dwarves or adventurer. Hence the ludicrous possibilities for a demon to visit your fortress as a diplomat (or join you in your adventures) or a friendly necromancer inadvertently wreaking havoc on your fortress by raising corpses whenever it can.
Some caveats: creatures without the ability to communicate will always be hostile, even if they technically would be considered the same faction. They will also wage endless wars, since they lack the ability to form treaties. This includes creatures without CAN_SPEAK (or INTELLIGENT, which is functionally CAN_LEARN and CAN_SPEAK combined). Creatures with UTTERANCES cannot communicate with other civs, however if they have both UTTERANCES and CAN_SPEAK they will be able to communicate. For instance kobolds are unable to speak besides in utterances and are thus at war with everyone else - note that if you start as a kobold in Adventure Mode when they are available, you will be unable to speak to anyone and other kobolds will attack you on sight because they won't be able to talk to you either.
 Undead and night creatures
The rule of thumb is that undead creatures will attack every creature that is living. This is due to their
[OPPOSED_TO_LIFE] tag, which overrides all other relationships. Undead just ignore necromancers or fellow undead, but the necromancers themselves will lash out at each other if they belong to enemy civilizations or towers. This is because necromancers and other night creatures such as vampires or werebeasts are consided
[NONLIVING], but their civilization overrides whatever relationships they have with other civilized nonliving beings (namely fellow night creatures). Werebeasts are hostile toward each other except if they belong to the same were-species (except baby werebeasts, which are generally neutral with everyone).
This is important in adventure mode - should you learn the secrets of life and death or become a night creature yourself, all zombies will become neutral to you, letting you seize the opportunity to make short work of their squishy and unarmed masters. Undead you raise will follow you as if they were companions; however, they will all turn neutral if you purposely attack one of them. However, apart from the aforementioned caveats, there seems to be a worldwide solidarity among night creatures, and becoming one will allow you to just chat with various necromancers or mummies, take quests from them, and taking them as companions.
In fortress mode, vampire dwarves (and humans) will also be neutral toward undead even when not exposed. You can take advantage of this, ordering your vampires to kill necromancers when facing a siege; a vampire can and will path toward a necromancer unhindered and usually beat him to death. You can also order vampires to kill zombies one by one as they won't react unless attacked.
In adventure mode, while all hostile nonsapient beings are No Quarter by default (because they do not understand the concept of surrender), sapient creatures that are capable of speech (that means creatures with both [CAN_LEARN] and [CAN_SPEAK], or [INTELLIGENT]) can be talked out of a Lethal fight, either by surrendering to them or making them yield. Non-lethal and below types of fighting (often happening at a tavern or as the result of a spat due to differing values or other grudges) can also be easily de-escalated. This makes conflicts with other hostile sapient beings much easier to manage.
In fortress mode, invaders and your dwarves are No Quarter toward each other (the only exception is elven or human diplomats offering peace treaties). Brawls may also happen at your tavern if non-dwarves drink more alcohol than their liver can handle, but these don't escalate into full blown war, although they do result in sometimes lethal injuries.
 Bandits and criminals
Outlaws (called bandits when harassing towns from camps in the countryside, and criminal organizations if harassing them from the town's dungeon) form groups that are hostile toward most of their parent civ itself. Bandits may lay small scale sieges to you in fortress mode and are often given as quest targets in adventure mode. However, as they effectively own sites (camps and dungeons) with a boss acting as its lord, it means you can try and de-escalate any level of conflict you may have with them, talk to the boss and join them as lieutenant, effectively shifting your loyalty.
Several civilizations may lay claim to a single site. When a site belonging to a civilization gets occupied by another, there is a chance for the site's inhabitants to revolt, treating their current parent civ as enemies (and their former civ as friendly). This shift of loyalty often translates into a bunch of fights erupting out of nowhere in adventure mode.
 Intelligent wildlife
Random non-civilized intelligent beings (gorlaks, gremlins, animal people) are hostile (as wildlife would be) in fortress mode. In adventure mode, their behavior depends on their alignment - evil-aligned ones like trolls or ogres will attack you, while neutral and good-aligned ones like animal people or gorlaks can start conversations with you. They won't have much to say if they are not part of a civilization though. Gremlins are special as they can be tamed in fortress mode, which means they are able to become pet citizens, which in turn triggers all sorts of weirdness.
Benign wildlife isn't really hostile in that they generally flee conflict if able, but they will put up a fight if cornered.
Megabeasts and semi-megabeasts are neutral toward each other, but will try to kill everything else they can find - whether it be in worldgen, adventurer mode or fortress mode. Forgotten beasts and titans are hostile to everyone, including other forgotten beasts and titans.
Berserk dwarves are hostile to everyone, including each other.
Clowns that didn't escape from The Circus are hostile to every non-clown, and Angels are hostile to every non-angel. Clowns you have bound into servitude using their true name are obviously friendly to your adventurer though.
Enemy mounts are always hostile to your fortress regardless of training level, because they belong to an enemy civilization - their descendants, however, are not. This leads to extremely disturbing situations where a mother either massacres her offspring as soon as she gives birth, or said offspring overwhelm her as soon as they come out of her. Note that this only ever happens if the species does not lay eggs - enemy mounts do not use your nest boxes and simply demolish them if you provide them with some.
Visitors side with their parent civ if it goes to war with you.
 Loyalty cascade
Loyalty cascades are the result of entity members attacking each other. The conflict will escalate into a full civil war (hence Toady One referring to it as the "civil war bug") and won't resolve until one side of the conflict is wiped out. Loyalty cascades can be triggered in both fortress and adventure mode.
If you order your military to kill merchants from your own civilization, a bizarre result of the way loyalty is handled makes the members of your military who attacked the traders become enemies of your civilization, but remain members of your fort's government (dwarves of this faction will henceforth be referred to as separatists). As enemies, they attack your other dwarves (citizens), but as members of the fort, they still follow orders. Allowing citizen militia dwarves to attack the separatists will give them opposite loyalties of the separatists, (i.e. loyal to civ, not to fort), or loyalists, who do not follow orders. And then, if a separatist or loyalist kill a citizen, they become enemies of the civ and fort, making them Renegades, who are essentially complete enemies of the citizens.
If you use cage traps against goblin sieges, you are likely to capture a few mounts from various species. You may assign them to your animal trainers and attempt to tame them, thus gaining a few facts about each specific species; but under no circumstances should you ever release them from their cages, as they are always considered enemies to your civilization and will wreak havoc as soon as they are free. Not only that, but they will trigger a similar loyalty cascade as soon as they attack your citizens, leading your fort to its demise through a never-ending civil war - as well as some copious jabberer-chomping. The best course of action is to keep re-training the mounts in their cages over and over again, thus facilitating future taming of their wild counterparts.
If one of your dwarves turns into a werebeast and you send your military to kill them while shapeshifted, failing to kill (and allowing the dwarf to revert to normal) may cause a loyalty cascade.
 Attacking a berserk citizen or werebeast in wereform
Dwarven military can no longer be relied upon to put an end to the rampages of citizens gone berserk or transformed into a beast. Fighting such a threat is treated as assaulting a citizen and will cause the defenders of your fort to lose loyalty and be hunted down as traitors. Bug:7107 Seems partially fixed in 0.42Verify.
 How to deal with loyalty cascades
To prevent the cascade from spreading, order the original separatists away from the fortress and let them fight amongst themselves. If the results are renegades, it is okay to allow other dwarves to kill them (by stationing them nearby). If the results are separatists/loyalists, then you will need to separate them somehow.
Dwarves from these different "factions" will cancel jobs if they ever come across one another, each running away. This will likely lead to a massive number of job interruption announcements reading Urist McDwarf cancels Eat: Interrupted by Farmer
NOTE: Tame animals are loyal to civilizations and fortresses indefinitely due to a bug, so they can be used to kill off separatists/loyalists without repercussions.
For those who are using DFHack, the command fix/loyaltycascade can be used to immediately end a loyalty cascade.
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