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- This article is about individual soldiers and their training; for information on maneuvering, scheduling, or equipping, your dwarves, see the respective pages. For a general overview, see Military.
Your soldiers are the dwarves who make up each squad of your military. Turning your useless civilians into hardened harbingers of death is one of the most important jobs in the fort. With all the horrors awaiting you, you'll need the toughest dwarves you can get.
 Soldiers and Civilians
At any given moment, a dwarf is either a soldier or a civilian. When on duty, a dwarf plays the role of a soldier. The dwarf's icon will be solid:
☻ . When off duty, the dwarf is a civilian, with a hollow icon:
☺ . Off duty is the default state; all your dwarves will start out this way.
A dwarf goes on duty when given an active order, or when his schedule requires him to follow a passive order. When going on duty, a dwarf will pick up any equipment needed to fill out his assigned uniform. If the dwarf's military title is "Recruit" (see Skills below), then the dwarf will think a bad thought about the draft when going on duty unless there is an active siege. Likewise, if a military dwarf goes off duty but has no civilian skills of Novice or higher (civilian title of "Peasant"), then the dwarf receives a bad thought about being relieved from duty (unless he was previously a Recruit).
On-duty soldiers will not follow any orders, alerts or schedules when they are in line of sight of an "enemy" creature, be it a goblin, an alligator, or even a hoary marmot. However, if facing enemy fighters or large threatening/freakish creatures such as werecreatures, they may turn right around and flee in a routed state labeled as "overcome by terror," and are extremely vulnerable to attack as their panic may prevent them from fighting back. Thrill seeking, quarrelsome and dutiful personality traits help dwarves avoid fleeing in terror, as does the Discipline skill. Conversely, undisciplined or insufficiently emotionally hardened soldiers may be "overwhelmed by horror" after witnessing one or more sapients die and become too horrified to fight or run, resulting in their swift demise if their comrades aren't swift in dispatching nearby enemies. This is also true for attacking forces: They may outright turn tail and refuse to fight when faced with large numbers of dwarves or militia that stand their ground, and may collapse in complete horror if they see several allies die (if they aren't already running hither and yon trying to avoid the same fate). On-duty soldiers don't take kindly to dwarves trying to assault them during tantrums and may seriously injure or, more likely, kill dwarves who try to beat them up. While off duty they will instead use whatever dodging skill they have to avoid the angry dwarf's fists, and turn them in to the fortress guard.
Off-duty civilians behave in a similar manner. A civilian who spots a hostile creature will possibly panic in a similar manner to undisciplined or generally routed soldiers: He will stop working on whatever job he is performing, and will run often in some highly inappropriate direction - generally away from the perceived threat, but not necessarily toward safety. It doesn't matter if the "threat" is trapped behind a solid wall, three Z levels down, with no conceivable way to injure the dwarf - if a civilian can see it, he'll run from it, unless he has a "belligerent" personality (quarrelsome, dutiful, thrill seeking, or other similar traits) or some measure of discipline, in which case they may actually attack it or ignore it completely if they perceive it as nonthreatening, though line of sight may be a factor.
An off-duty dwarf who is a member of a squad will perform whatever civilian labors are enabled. In addition, he may train in his barracks, doing Individual Weapon Drills to keep his abilities semi-sharp, if his squad has an assigned barracks. (He will not participate in any group training, though.) Off-duty dwarves may continue to wear their military uniforms and it is advised to have them do so (this is the default behavior). Also, it's advised to make sure they have at least the bare minimums for a uniform if told to have it replace their civilian attire to avoid unhappiness from no shoes and being uncovered/shirtless: upper and lower body and shoes (for example, a mail shirt, trousers, and socks are perfectly fine while a mail shirt and trousers by themselves are not.) This is due to some dwarves being even less bright than usual and stripping off whatever isn't acceptable to use for their uniform.
 Weapons and skills
Dwarves will train with whatever weapons they carry, which may vary from dwarf to dwarf depending on what you've explicitly issued or their uniform requires; otherwise, they will wrestle if not told to use a weapon in their uniforms or equipment in general. All dwarves can wear armor and wield a shield along with their weapon(s) if they use any, in which case the shield may end up their weapon along with their fist and feet. Occasionally, dwarves may become "attached to" their weapons and shields, and can even name either or both. Whether this is true for pieces of armor is unknown.
When reaching Novice skill with a weapon (or wrestling), a dwarf will turn from a Recruit to a specialized soldier, e.g., a sword-using Recruit would become a Swordsdwarf. When reaching the level of Great or higher in a weapon skill, he will become a Hero, or elite soldier (e.g. a Swordsdwarf becomes a Swordmaster.)
Dwarves can specialize in any of the following weapon skills. Not all of these skills are easily trained however: Some weapons, like pikes and whips, are 'foreign' and cannot be manufactured by dwarves normally and are generally lack quality modifiers, and bowdwarves require a steady stream of ammo from human and elven caravans as well as weapons purchased from the same or looted from invaders.
- Knife User
Other military skills cannot be specialized in, but are also important:
Yet more civilian skills are important for a soldier to have in order to learn (or teach) better during demonstrations.
The miner skill is unique in that although Dwarf Fortress does not technically consider it a weapon skill, it is the primary skill used by military dwarves wielding a pick against meaty goblinite rather than rock or dirt. Dwarves without any other military specialization skill, but with skill in miner, will still be named and considered "Recruit" and act as such. The same appears to be true for knife users and possibly lashers.
 Soldier professions
Every weapon has an associated skill. Soldiers will have professions according to what weapon they are most skilled at using, as long as they are at least a novice rank in one. Thus a soldier whose highest weapon skill is with a spear will be known as a Speardwarf, even if the soldier has been reassigned to train with an axe instead, and when told to use their choice of melee weapon they will choose the weapon they already have skill with more often than not, or barring that, whatever is the most valuable weapon available. For example, they'll be more apt to choose a silver battle axe over a copper mace if they have skill with swords but none are available, simply because the axe is more valuable than the mace.
Axedwarves, thought by some to be the only true dwarven soldiers, specialize in the slash damage type, also known as the fine art of severing limbs.
Hammerdwarves, the other true dwarven soldiers, specialize in blunt damage, which breaks the bones of the enemy and may propel the enemy a short or large distance, causing extra damage if they are bashed into a wall, though this happens much less frequently than in earlier versions.
Human Hammermen often use a two-handed maul instead of a war hammer. More powerful, mauls focus on breaking bones rather than mangling limbs, though that does also happen on the occasion. They have a greater chance to knock back an opponent than a mace, but this comes at the cost of speed; this is often exacerbated by them often using a shield as well, further reducing their attack speed. Also should someone be knocked back into an obstacle, they'll take extra damage.
Macedwarves, like hammerdwarves, use blunt weapons that are suited to fighting plate-armored opponents. If you plan to use the dwarves as marksdwarves it may be better to use hammers instead, as the hammer skill determines the effectiveness of crossbows used in melee.
Speardwarves specialize in edged damage, and will puncture an enemy's organs quickly and critically once in range. The spear doesn't hit as hard as an axe, but it has a higher chance of piercing organs and chipping bones (rather than fracture or totally shatter them like a hammer or mace will), making it a better choice against large, living creatures like demons or dragons. These dwarves are your monster killers; they specialize mainly in killing unarmored targets but are still extremely deadly against armored targets since they can pierce armor somewhat reliably and puncture the organs under that breastplate if they have the better material spear or get lucky. While your other dwarves disable the enemy, the speardwarves will finish them off quickly. Definitely have a squad of them in your military.
A Jack-of-All-Trades weapon, Swordsdwarves deal edged damage. Swords can cut off limbs, like an axe, but are also reasonably good at hitting internal organs, like a spear. They are useful for a general-purpose squad or a stormtrooper squad of sorts.
Marksdwarves, the only ranged soldiers dwarves can train without external resources or modding, are armed with crossbows and deal edge damage from afar. A bolt does a fine job at destroying the internal organs of a creature while also doing some damage to outside parts. This is of limited use against creatures without organs, such as bronze colossuses or creatures made out of non-solid materials, such as magma men. Occasionally a bolt will get stuck in a target. These bolts may later be retrieved from the corpse to be melted down or possibly reused. They also may be grabbed by a wrestling dwarf, who may twist the bolt it in the wound.
Many players use marksdwarves as a first line of defense, sticking them in towers or bunkers behind fortifications to slow or injure enemies so that melee dwarves can take them out easier, though enemy ranged troops can potentially kill or cripple them if they aren't distracted. Others may simply send their melee troops in while marksdwarves provide support fire after the fight is already underway, which has a nice side effect of keeping enemy archers from picking your own off (as they're focused on the closer melee dorfs). Don't rely on them too much either way though; it takes a while for them to kill most enemies unless they score a lucky hit to the head or throat. Such hits generally cause instant death, nervous tissue damage, or rapid exsanguination. However, against certain monsters, these dwarves may be your only means of combat without (or at least with significantly reduced) risk.
A Marksdwarf who is forced into melee will use the hammer skill to bash enemies with their crossbow, so you may consider crosstraining them as hammerdwarves. However marksdwarves in such situations tend to be slaughtered rather quickly. It should be noted dwarves can use crossbows one handed, and so may be issued a shield if you desire to do so. It is recommended you give them wooden or leather shields so that they can attack - or flee - much quicker while still being able to block attacks more readily.
Wrestlers focus on tying the opponent into knots, choking them, gouging eyes, and breaking limbs. Creatures tied up in wrestling will do nothing else and remain immobile, either fighting the attacker or trying to break free. They are perfect targets for a marksdwarf to pick off at a range or an armed dwarf to carve into bite-sized pieces or bludgeon into paste. Wrestling is often used in extremely close combat regardless of what weapon a dwarf is holding, so it can be useful even for a dwarf with a weapon equipped. Wrestlers are much weaker than any other soldier type, but forcing powerful opponents to wrestle can exhaust them and make them easy prey for other soldiers. It should be noted that with the introduction of pulping, elite wrestlers are once again a force to be reckoned with, as their punches and kicks can crush an adult human's chest with as little as one strike with stronger individuals.
Wrestler skill will be improved somewhat even while practicing with a weapon.
Any dwarf without at least one of the above skills at Novice level or higher will be classified as a recruit. If you keep recruits off active duty, they will train at their selected weapon until they reach Novice skill, at which point they will turn into one of the above weaponsdwarves. Miners and knife users will be treated as recruits regardless so it may be worthwhile to have a pick- or dagger-armed militia train to at least novice wrestler skill.
Once soldiers reach Great skill level (the 11th level) in any weapon, they will become heroes, will be called Lord/Master/Elite and have a different color shade. Heroes can be removed from duty regardless of skill level unlike in past versions and can be kept on active duty indefinitely, since they love training and combat and will no longer complain about long patrol duty.
Note that non-weapon skills like shield user, fighter, or armor user do not make dwarf a hero.
- Exception: If a dwarf gains Great skill (or above) in a weapons skill while a civilian (usually as a Hunter), they will not become a Hero, not even when activated as military. To become a Hero, some experience over the limit must be gained while activated as a soldier. Weapon skills can only be improved as a civilian while Hunting, very slowly through off duty drills, or on the chance occasion that a civilian dwarf is forced or decides to attack an enemy rather than flee. If the dwarf is then activated as military and gains any experience in a weapon that is at rank 11 or better, the dwarf becomes a Hero as usual.
The champion is a noble position appointed by the Baron (that is, you can appoint it, but you can't do so without a baron or greater noble being present). A champion has no special room requirements, but may make a single demand eventually. As the title of champion is bestowed by appointment rather than merit, you may want to have your best teacher be the champion and conduct weapon demonstrations to boost the morale of training soldiers while your toughest killers go out and fight goblins.
Once you've drafted some dwarves, you should start training them. Dwarves will perform 'Individual Training' when they have no active order or scheduling to follow. They will spar, or observe/teach combat demonstrations when they are following the 'Train' schedule order. Dwarves will train with whatever weapon they carry. Marksdwarves require an archery target to train, as well as bolts (assigned in the military/ammunition window). If this is not available, they will simply do combat demonstrations in the barracks; if you do not assign them a barracks, they will simply stand in your meeting areas with the job "Soldier (cannot follow orders)".
Squads train in their assigned barracks. To assign a squad, build a bed or storage building (i.e. weapon rack) and turn it into a room, then use the secondary up/down selector to pick your squad and press to tell the squad to train there. You may wish to build your barracks outside to avoid cave adaptation.
 Duty roster
You can assign what squad carries how much or little food and alcohol through the military screen's supplies tab. Make sure your dwarves have access to flasks, waterskins and backpacks. Carrying rations will not prevent your dwarves from going off duty to eat or drink, but it will reduce the amount of time they are off duty. The downside of assigning food to soldiers is that they will likely drop it in their barracks if they rotate out to inactive, where it will rot and produce miasmaBug:3471. DFHack's cleanowned command can solve this problem.
 See also
|"Soldier" in other Languages
|Military and Fortress Defense|
|Guides||Military quickstart • Interface walkthrough • Defense guide • F.A.Q.|
|Soldier Management||Military overview • Soldiers • Scheduling and alerts • Squads • Equipment • Marksdwarf training|
|Design Tips||Military design • Security design • Trap design|
|Invaders||Ambush • Megabeast • Siege • Thief|