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Magma levels anim.gif

Magma is red-hot molten rock that wells up from deep within the earth (but not so deep that it cannot be found by dwarves), entering the map either by the edges or by the area beneath a magma pool. Magma that emerges aboveground is called Lava; however, the substance itself remains the same. Magma is very Fun.

Magma serves as a heat source, replacing fuel in magma smelters, magma forges, magma glass furnaces, and magma kilns. Magma is extremely hot, which can lead to even more Fun. Materials that can withstand the temperature of magma are called magma-safe, and the list is rather extensive.

Magma never cools, but can evaporate if left at a depth of 1/7 for long enough, much like water. When magma is mixed with water, it forms obsidian (and steam). Note that magma located above semi-molten rock will be listed as a Magma Flow; magma in magma flow tiles will disappear when mixed with water (instead of cooling into obsidian).

Without screw pumps to impart pressure, magma flows rather slowly (though no more slowly than unpressurized water). A pipe to bring magma across the full map can take as much as a year to fill. This, combined with the fact that it will evaporate, can make filling a reservoir difficult and tedious. As a rule of thumb, the area coming out of a 1-wide-pipe shouldn't be more than three squares wide and 20 squares long, or else it will evaporate as fast as you fill it.

Some fire-based creatures make magma their home, or are just simply immune to it.

Magma sources[edit]

Magma spilling in, setting workshops ablaze.

Magma occurs in several different geological formations:

Magma pools[edit]

Not-so-lucky 7s.

Despite the name, magma pools are more like pipes. They can be found underground, but they rarely reach the upper z-levels (40+). Most end a few z-levels above the magma sea, though some may span more than 100 z-levels.

Magma pools seem to always be connected to a magma sea, and the sea and pipe can occasionally reach up to the same level, making them hard to separate. However, magma pools can be identified by the obsidian walls which surround them. Magma pools will slowly refill themselves, giving the player an infinite source of magma. The entire embark tile containing the pool will produce sporadic bursts of magma until the magma within it is at its natural level (i.e. the magma level at embark) or until it is halted by a bridge, floor, or bottom of a wall.


Volcanoes are magma pools that extend all the way to the surface. Volcanoes are an endless source of magma as they will always refill themselves. They never erupt, unlike their real-life counterparts. Volcanoes are geographical features visible on the location screen, making them much easier to find when choosing a site for your fortress.

Magma sea[edit]

The magma sea is a large body of magma deep under the earth. Nearly all maps will include a magma sea at the lowest z-levels, though its inconvenient placement may inspire your dwarves to bring the magma up to the fortress proper.

Finding magma[edit]

Nearly all maps will have magma available at the lowest z-levels, but it can be advantageous to select a site with a more easily accessible source, particularly when starting out.

Volcanoes are visible on the "local" screen in the starting location chooser as a red ≈ – essentially, red water – and on the "region" screen as a red ^. Note that a red ≈ on the "region" screen means something different entirely (red sand).

After you have chosen to embark in a place that has a volcano, and once your dwarves have arrived at their target destination, you should see a large red pool of lava on your map. If you don't, you should expect your volcano to be somewhere underground. You then have to use exploratory mining to find it. If you can find a large patch of obsidian on the surface that is devoid of boulders, chances are there is a magma vent below, so that would be a good place to start your mining.

Much harder than simply finding a volcano is finding a volcano that is also near suitable terrain for building. Depending on your requirements - you may be looking for a source of running water, or a mountain for minerals, or a healthy tree population, a layer of flux for steel production or even all four - suitable building sites can be extremely scarce.

Working with magma[edit]

Although magma is a liquid, it does not move via pressure unless it has been pumped. This reduced rate of flow can allow miners to survive digging into a magma reservoir, if they are lucky enough. There are ways to minimize this risk however:

Digging From Above: If you can find a suitable position above the magma, your miner can dig a channel while remaining above the level of the magma. Be warned, however, that your dwarves might take the ramp down into the magma channel as a shortcut; preemptively designating the channel for restricted traffic is recommended.

Diagonal Digging: Magma moves more slowly diagonally than orthogonally, giving the miner more time to escape. However, slower flow means you must keep evaporation in mind. You should dig a smaller channel, wait for it to fill up, and extends the channel by Digging From Above. Workers that dig into a magma reservoir are not instantly killed as the magma touches them, but they are set on fire, which will kill them very quickly. For this reason, taking steps to ensure there is adequate water available to extinguish flaming dwarves running in random directions is advised before digging into any magma pools from the side. Channeling a single square wide pit across the planned magma pipe one tile away from the wall to breach and filling it with 2/7 water using the pond zone tool is recommended, so the panicking dwarves have no choice but to run through the water, and the water itself turns into an obsidian wall as soon as the magma flows into it.

Busy To Leave: (see forum) Dwarves who dig into magma often die not because they are unable to flee but because they choose not to. By ensuring a dwarf has another task waiting (ideally far away) they will immediately move away from the ensuing magma flow.

Simply mine up to the corner of a lava tube and then smooth the last tile. Dig a staircase within a few tiles of the place where you will be breaching that leads up and back into your fortress, this will allow your dwarf to get out before the magma gets him. Now designate the smoothed corner to be carved into a fortification. Now immediately when the dwarf begins to carve the fortification, (and this is the most important part!), designate a bunch of other tiles to be smoothed/carved. It's not important that your dwarves actually smooth, carve, or engrave those tiles, what is important is that your dwarf immediately takes another smooth/carve/engrave task elsewhere in the fortress when they finish the current one. If they do not then they will pause for the briefest of instants as they pick a new task, resulting in their death. If they have the job though, they will instantly turn and head up the staircase, stopping the magma from catching and killing them."

Exploit From Below: (see forum) Miners are able to mine out tiles diagonally above them even if there is a bridge over their heads, but only if there is a ramp or up stair for them to stand on. First you dig out your magma tunnel to feed magma to wherever in your fort you need it and dig it right up against the volcano pipe. Then you channel a trench against the pipe that can be the width of the tunnel if you wish, being sure to leave the ramp that results from channeling. If there is no ramp left after channeling for any reason, build one in the tile that will be below the bridge. Build a magma-safe bridge over the trench, making sure to cover it completely, and then seal off access to the magma tunnel. Dig a new separate path to access the now bridged-over trench. Finally, designate the magma wall on the Z level of the magma tunnel for mining. Your dwarves will stand on the ramp/stairs in the trench beneath the bridge but will somehow still mine out the squares diagonally above them, causing the magma to flow safely onto the bridge, leaving your dwarves unscathed.

Example (use <> to navigate):


Make sure the top z-level is sealed off from miners and Mine (d-d) the highlighted tiles on the upper z-level.

Bringing magma up[edit]

Magma can be brought to the surface by three different methods: pump stacks, magma pistons, and minecarts. Pump stacks are conceptually the simplest, but require an enormous amount of in-game time to make. Magma pistons tend to be faster to make, but require more time to understand how to build them. Minecarts are a simple solution, but require more management than pump stacks because they can overfill a reservoir.

Pump stacks[edit]

Pumping magma up from the magma sea via a conventional pump stack is a lot of work, requiring dozens of pumps and significant amounts of power. Making all of the pumps magma safe also requires a lot of precious materials like iron, or a functioning glass industry.

Magma pistons[edit]

Magma pistons are another way to move magma near the surface. Magma pistons require less time and fewer precious materials to construct than pump stacks. However, magma pistons are a bit more complicated than pump stacks, so it takes more time to understand how to operate and build them.


Minecarts submerged in 6/7 or 7/7 magma will fill with magma. Each minecart holds 2/7 worth of magma, which is subtracted from the amount of magma in the tile (a dumped minecart subtracts slightly less than 2/7 (but is still filled to 833), resulting in 6/7 left). The minecart is then shown as containing magma [833]. Minecarts used for this must be made of magma-safe material.

Minecarts full of magma can be tipped at a track stop, which will pour the magma in a specified direction from the stop. Therefore, the challenge is to get the minecart full of magma to the track stop. There are two logistical hurdles, and several ways to approach them.

The first decision is how to separate the minecart from the tile of magma. The "obvious" way is to build rollers in magma to pull the minecarts out; such rollers would also need to be magma-safe. Another way is to drain the magma, and then wait for evaporation. A third way is to pump the magma out of the minecart filling area.

The second task is how to move the liberated magma-laden minecart(s) to the track stop where your smelters/forges will be built. There are, again, multiple valid approaches to this. The "obvious" way is to build tracks from the magma sea to the surface. A minecart track can be operated by dwarves or fully automatic, using powered rollers or impulse ramps. Depending on the placement of the track stop, dangerous overflow can be prevented by making the track stop of a material that will melt/burn once the reservoir begins to overflow.

A less obvious way to move the minecarts up is to simply carry them. Dwarves can safely haul a minecart full of magma (albeit slowly, due to its weight). Wheelbarrows may be used to speed the hauling enormously; however, if the wheelbarrows are not magma-safe* (i.e. if they are wooden), they will wear quickly, most likely disintegrating in the middle of the hauling job. If a minecart is left stranded (either because the hauler got tired, or the wheelbarrow burned up), another hauling task is assigned to move it, either back to its origin stockpile, or farther along to its destination. Be sure your stockpile settings account for these possibilities, so you don't waste a lot of time moving a minecart halfway up, then back down, in a loop.

(* The cheapest magma-safe metal for a wheelbarrow is nickel, which has few other special uses. While nether-cap wood has some magma-safe properties, it will burn if used as a minecart.)

Design 1[edit]

In one design posted to the forums by gchristopher, a pump can provide power to the roller, making the ramp eligible for building the roller, and keeping the trench at 7 magma so the carts fill instantly.

# # = f l o o r g r a t e
% % = s o u t h f a c i n g p u m p
L e f t r a m p h a s a l e f t - p u s h i n g r o l l e r
R i g h t r a m p h a s a r e t r a c t i n g b r i d g e

If you drop minecarts in directly from at least 2 z-levels above onto the right ramp, this setup has the magical property that it can handle an arbitrary number of minecarts, and dispense them at a constant controlled rate. Carts are pushed up the left ramp by the roller.

If you extend the right bridge, that tile ceases to be a ramp. Exactly one minecart will fall onto the tile and stay there, and all other minecarts dropped from above will form a quantum pile 1 z-level up.

The last time I [gchristopher] built one, I timed the cart dispensing rate at 1 per 8 ticks. This is slow enough that carts can be brought to the surface using an impulse ramp spiral, but fast enough that you can still quickly cover a large area with magma.

The same design works with water, for giving you a lot of flexibility creating tall waterfalls without pump stacks, quickly and cheaply.

Design 2[edit]

Rafal99 posted another design using dwarf-powered wheelbarrows to transport the magma-filled minecarts from one minecart stockpile to another.

▒ddddd=====S==<<Zccccc      Near the surface (top view)

▒bbbbb==      ==<<Xaaaaa    Near the magma (side view)

\7777/   - Magma reservoir, with tracks in it and rollers to bring minecart up 
                the ramp
U        - Here we want magma
aabbccdd - Stockpiles accepting minecarts
===<<    - Track and rollers
S        - Track stop, set to lowest friction (so it doesn't stop the minecart), 
                set to dump the contents into the U
XZ       - Track stops set to dump their contents to the left
▒        - Wall to stop minecarts
  1. Empty minecarts are put into stockpile aaaaa.
  2. There is a hauling route with one stop on X, with assigned vehicle, set to take furniture->minecarts from stockpile aaaaa.
  3. Empty minecarts are put into the minecart on track stop X, the track stop dumps them to the left, placing them on the rollers.
  4. Rollers move the empty minecarts into the magma reservoir, they get filled with magma, then the roller on ramp moves them up. They follow the track, then go out of it and stop at the wall; effectively the minecart with magma is being placed in stockpile bbbbb.
  5. Stockpile ccccc is set to take from stockpile bbbbb and has assigned 3 wheelbarrows. Dwarves safely transport the minecarts with magma inside wheelbarrows up to the surface into stockpile ccccc.
  6. There is a hauling route with one stop on Z, with assigned vehicle, set to take furniture->minecarts from stockpile ccccc.
  7. Magma minecarts are put into the minecart on track stop Z, and the track stop dumps them to the left, placing them on the rollers. (Same as in 3.)
  8. Rollers move the magma minecarts along the track. They pass through the track stop S and dump the magma in the destination point U, then they follow the track, go out of it and stop at the wall; effectively the emptied minecart is being placed in stockpile ddddd.
  9. Stockpile aaaaa is set to take from stockpile ddddd. Dwarves haul the empty minecarts back underground near the magma into stockpile aaaaa.

Then we go back to start and the whole thing repeats.

Design 3: Minimalist magma moving[edit]

You'll need two magma-safe pumps, a magma-safe wheelbarrow, and at least one magma-safe minecart.

  1. Dig down to the magma sea and channel a tile above the magma
  2. Optionally build a floor grate (_) over the hole to keep magma critters out
  3. Build the first pump to pull magma up into a 1x1 room with a ramp (▲)
  4. Build the second pump to pull the magma out of the 1x1 room and dispose of it (a 3x3 evaporation chamber works fine)
  5. Designate a garbage dump zone in the 1×1 room and dump all your magma-safe minecarts
  6. Wait for all the minecarts to be carried down to the dump zone
  7. Operate pump 1 briefly, then stop it and activate pump 2 briefly (the minecarts should now contain magma)
  8. Designate a minecart stockpile near your desired magma workshops, and set it to use your magma-safe wheelbarrow
  9. Unforbid your minecarts and wait for your dwarves to wheelbarrow them up to the stockpile
  10. Build a dumping track stop to place the magma where you want it
  11. Create a new hauling route, specify a new stop on the constructed track stop, and assign one of the magma minecarts to the route
  12. Unassign the cart, and mark it for dumping; once you've emptied all the carts return to step 6

This design is only useful for moving small amounts of magma, but it is simple and flexible. With any luck you can have your topside magma workshops up and running in the first year.

WARNING: do not attempt to over-fill multi-tile magma pits to full (i.e., a 3x1 pit at 6 depth on each tile) there is a high chance of the magma flowing outwards instead of into the other magma tile resulting in burnt dwarves and FUN. Note: If necessary, use hatches to control pump operation.

Design 4: Urist's Cradle[edit]

This design works fairly reliable while requiring no powered rollers. It works using impulse ramps and is thus considered an exploit.

As seen from the side (south):

 0:    ██
-1: ██▲▲▲▲██
▲: impulse ramp (south-east or north-east oriented) , 7/7 magma
█: solid wall / ground

The minecarts arrive from the left with high speed, bump into the walls, drop into the 7/7 magma and get accelerated by the impulse ramps. Because of *physics*, the minecarts get stuck at the last impulse ramp on the right. A second minecart, also coming from the left, will push the first minecart out, filled with magma.

Design 5: Fill Station[edit]

100% reliable with no danger of minecart strikes or magma exposure. No power required, as there are no rollers or pumps. Compatible with wheelbarrow stockpile hauling, though it works without it as well. The disadvantage is that it is not readily automatable. Essentially, 0 is the fill level where the minecarts are placed on a retracting magma-safe drawbridge using the Minecart Hauling menu (or by dumping from +Z levels). You can load magma in with a floodgate, or a screw pump, just as long as the source is controllable so you can retrieve the minecarts later. Level -1 has magma-safe bars to catch the minecarts, but let the excess magma through. Level -2 is an evaporation chamber for disposing of the extra magma. See this video for an example of this method.

Using magma[edit]

The primary use for magma is to flood your fortress power magma smelters, magma glass furnaces, magma kilns, and magma forges. To power a building with magma at least one of the external eight squares must be a hole above a square of magma on the level below (with 4/7 or greater depth). As workshops no longer have impassable tiles, care must be taken to prevent clumsy dwarves from falling out or magma critters from pathing in. Magma used this way is not consumed; a single tile of magma can operate the furnace indefinitely.

Other uses for magma include obsidian farming, trap design, melting ice, igniting fires, and even garbage disposal. It's unknown whether flow push bug Bug:5458 can be a problem with magma, so if you want to be sure, protect the intake with floor grate - like water, except it won't get back up on its own.

Magma saves all the work for fuel (but not flux for steel), so "dig down to magma" is a reasonable strategy for starting metal/glass/ceramics industry. As to the other magma uses - if you get lucky, the first dwarven caravan will bring all the tools you need. If not, you can forge your own by melting down the surplus of anvils that caravans carry, or just embark with a couple chunks of iron ore or ready bars of nickel (cheaper, but have few other uses). If you are in a hurry, you usually can take a nickel minecart on embark (at the same price as iron anvil), but to have magma-safe rollers you'll need a forge either way: metal chains seem to never be available on embark[Verify].

Properties of magma[edit]

Magma behaves the same way as water with the exception of not being affected by pressure (except when being moved by a screw pump) and apparently not showing flow. Magma will turn into obsidian1 if it touches water. In the game, magma's temperature is 12000 °U . See the list of magma-safe materials for more information on what can (or cannot) be safely submerged in magma.

Tiles directly adjacent to magma will be heated to a temperature of 10075 °U , causing revealed unmined tiles to flash with when placing digging designations and causing unrevealed mining-designated tiles to cancel their designation with a "warm stone" warning once they are revealed.

Magma can melt ice beyond the "warm" wall, but this happens only when magma moves in: later the same reservoir may freeze just like when magma was not there. Whether magma needs to be moved out and in, or depth recalculation is enough is unknown[Verify].

Implication of the two above effects is that when magma appears or disappears somewhere, that one and several adjacent tiles start or stop being "warm" - and there are likely to be temperature recalculations for the tiles adjacent to them - in addition to processing that happens when moving water. This means that having streams of magma changed or pumped (since a pump can drain its source) tend to cause major FPS drop, which can be prevented by keeping the affected tiles continuously "warm" with small buffer reservoirs (see Improved Magma Pump Stack design by NecroRebel).

Constructions (walls, floors, etc.) of any material can safely contain magma. Non-construction buildings (doors, bridges, pumps, etc.) that come into contact with magma should be built entirely of magma-safe materials. Non-magma-safe components will eventually melt and the building will deconstruct. Any mechanisms likely to come into contact with magma should also be made of magma-safe materials.

1 - specifically, one of the inorganic materials having the [LAVA] tag, selected randomly per biome during worldgen.

Dangers of magma[edit]

Any contact with magma results in nearly-instant immolation, followed by death if water is not close at hand. Additionally, dropping large items into magma will generate clouds of magma mist which can set your haulers on fire if you aren't careful. Magma is also home to various fiery creatures which can present a significant threat to unprepared fortresses.

D4Dwarf.png This article or section has been rated D for Dwarf. It may include witty humour, not-so-witty humour, bad humour, in-jokes, pop culture references, and references to the Bay12 forums. Don't believe everything you read, and if you miss some of the references, don't worry. It was inevitable.

Magma is very well known for being the perfect solution to any problem encountered by dwarves. Giant badger invasion? Pour magma on it. Noble being their usual snotty, useless, arrogant self? Pour magma on it. Door locked due to invaders? Pour magma on it! Flooded your fortress with magma? Congratulations, you just won the game!

Magma is often referred to as the blood of the earth. Some dwarves interpret this literally, expressing concerns that the earth is capable of bleeding to death. This has led dwarven conservationists to declare magma a finite resource, advocating stricter regulations on the use of magma-powered workshops.

However, this hypothesis is flawed. The larger a creature, the more blood it has. The world is at least twice as large as a giant sperm whale, the largest creature known to dwarfkind. Therefore, any pumping operation capable of bleeding the world dry would flood the surface and caverns to such a degree as to render the world uninhabitable. On the other hand, this would usher in the age of death, and thus the earth would indeed be considered dead.

Dwarves can swim in magma, but only once. 🌋
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Fiber (PaperSlurry) • FlowerFruitLeafOil • Plant powders (DyeFlourSugar) • Seed (Press cake) • Wood
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See also: Material science