v50 Steam/Premium information for editors
  • v50 information can now be added to pages in the main namespace. v0.47 information can still be found in the DF2014 namespace. See here for more details on the new versioning policy.
  • Use this page to report any issues related to the migration.
This notice may be cached—the current version can be found here.

Military design

From Dwarf Fortress Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This article is about the current version of DF.
Note that some content may still need to be updated.

This page is one of several inter-related articles on the broader topic of defending your fortress and your dwarves. Military design focuses on the training, organization and deployment of your military and how to prepare them for any situation. For a general overview of the threats that will challenge your fortress and things to consider when preparing a standard defense, see the defense guide. For tips on laying out your architecture to protect your military, see security design. For complex traps that are not a minor/optional part of a larger defensive plan (but might be adapted or plugged into one), see trap design.

The role of a military force in fortress defense can be extremely varied depending on the player's overall approach and strategy; it can be central, non-existent, or anywhere in between. One of their advantages is their mobility — they can go where no static defenses exist, to rescue or support other dwarves, or escort a caravan through unknown or deadly threats. Only military can take the fight to the enemy (doomsday devices excepted).

Unfortunately, they are also expensive to maintain compared to static traps, and can cost a lot of resources for the metal, labor, as well as food, drink and accommodation for the military. Additionally, soldiers are almost constantly under high risk in their job defending the fortress, possibly draining the fortress of some otherwise useful dwarves. Finally, the military system can take a lot of time on the player's part to set up and get working. An efficient military design can offset some of these major issues.


Main article: training

The effectiveness of a given military dwarf is based primarily on three factors:

Combat skill is arguably the most important factor. Combat skill training can be accomplished through instruction, sparring, actual combat, or advanced techniques (exploits). For details, see training.

See cross-training for suggestions on various attribute training plans.

The danger room method is a quick and effective way of training shield user, dodger, and any weapon skills. Another very effective way of training is sending the military to actively fight captured invaders or wildlife, especially with training weapons equipped so that the combat takes longer. Certain creatures, such as flesh balls, are more suitable for combat training than others. See also mass pitting.

Dwarves armed with picks use mining as their weapon skill, so an all-pick army can simply mine out tunnels to train, although they will still need to train normally to develop shield and armor skills.

Daylight training room[edit]

Put a weapon rack, armor stand or archery target on the surface near your entrance and make it a training room by designating it as a barracks. Training dwarves will be in position if there's trouble. A major reason for training in daylight is that it also helps prevent cave adaptation in your military.


Archers are deadly, but vulnerable to melee — crossbows as clubs just aren't the best. Additionally, it is impractical to have archer towers every 15 tiles across the map (it is possible, but that sometimes would be tedious). Sometimes, the only option is to take it directly to the enemy. Beyond that, mixing or matching is largely up to you.

Fortifications are crucial to any archery platform, even the tallest towers. If these are built improperly or do not exist, enemy archers will return fire, causing massive losses to any archery squads. Elite enemy archers can shoot back at your dwarves through fortifications!

Marksdwarf training[edit]

A couple tips/troubleshooting for training your ranged military:

  • If you use archery targets, make sure you have one for each dwarf in the squad and assign each target to the squad (create a room on each target).
  • If you use live captured targets, your dwarves are most likely to shoot if they have no path to the target.
  • Force your dwarves to stand next to fortifications (touching them). You can use burrows or walls for this.
  • Every marksdwarf needs a quiver.
  • Make plenty of ammunition and assign 100-200 bolts per dwarf to each squad, instead of the default 200 or so per squad.
  • If they refuse to train, make sure to set them NOT to train, but instead to inactive. Disable all their labors and they will go to archery targets while idle.

Live targets[edit]

Building a goblin shooting range where live goblins are shot at can increase the speed of ranged training. The caged prisoners, obtained from cage traps, are dropped down a shaft 4-5 z-levels down, enough to break their legs but hopefully no more. Then have your marksdwarves shoot the stunned and immobile goblins from 14-18 steps away. The further away you place your marksdwarves, the higher probability that they might miss, thereby prolonging their target practice. Remember to add a lever and a bridge to enable retrieving the goblin corpses and items, and cleaning up the mess you just made. The bridge should connect the platforms where the goblins stand with the floor on the middle of the room. Sometimes, it might be necessary to send in meleedwarves to finish off a goblin. Therefore, place the lever to the bridge outside the shooting range as civilian dwarves will see the goblins and run away.

z + 4
. . . . . . . . . . . g o b l i n s f a l l
. + . + . g . + . + . < - - - - - - - - - - - - - . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . + + + + +
. . . . . . . . . + + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + + + + D
+ + + + + + + + + + + + - L o c k e d t u n n e l
+ + + + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + + + + z - 1
+ + + + + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + + + + D
. . . . . . . . . . . + + + + + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + +
+ + + + + + + + + + +
+ + +
ò - L e v e r t o b r i d g e ( n o t r e p r e s e n t e d )

Squad management[edit]

Ordering multiple squads around can become cumbersome after a while. It's best to set most of your dwarves to follow a good regimen of training, guarding important burrows, and patrolling routes along the fort by programming their schedules. By preparing a number of different alerts with different schedules, you can largely manage your military by swapping a few squads to different alerts. With the majority of your squads patrolling the fort, you're free to take one or two squads of your highest-trained soldiers out to take care of some business.

Keep in mind that dwarves are bloodthirsty fiends. If a creature crosses their path, no matter the odds or whether they've been ordered to stand down, your dwarves will open pursuit and attack until either it or they are dead. Keep an eye on your dwarves, and if they're going to be in combat it's a good idea to make sure there's a few highly trained melee dwarves in the squad with them.

If trained to (near-)legendary in dodging, fighting and a weapon of choice, and armored up with steel or better, one lone hero can take out several squads of goblins without a scratch. But combat always has a random element — Fun happens.


Note that these uniforms are designed to simply "work", but they are not the best option. See the armor article for more about this.

Use the starter outfits in the armor article. They are maxed out protection for their material. If you know you have full suits of armor for the recruits, use replace clothes and exact matches. This lets you wear the full set without a XXCave Spider Silk RobeXX leaving your military less protected.

Starter Uniform[edit]

  1. Wooden/Bone crossbows with Leather quiver and Bone (or Wooden) bolts, or any Metal melee weapons (only temporarily Wooden Elf/training weapons)
  2. Wooden/Leather shields
  3. Bone helms, upgrade to Metal soon
  4. Bone leggings
  5. Bone gauntlets
  6. Wooden Elf-bought armor, otherwise Leather armor and add Metal mail shirts asap
  7. Wooden Elf-bought boots, otherwise Leather high boots or empty (civilian socks/shoes) until Metal high boots
  8. Fill empty slots with civilian clothes (switch replace clothing to over clothing after available items were put on)

Basic Uniform[edit]

  1. Metal weapon, if using crossbows Leather quiver and Metal bolts
  2. Wooden (for weight) or Metal (for rare shield bash) shield
  3. Metal mail shirt
  4. Metal helm
  5. Metal greaves
  6. Metal high boots
  7. Metal gauntlets
  8. Metal breast plate
  9. optionally Silk/Yarn dress/robe
  10. optionally Silk/Yarn trousers
  11. optionally Silk/Yarn hoods
  12. optionally Silk/Yarn socks
  13. optionally Silk/Yarn mittens

Best Uniform[edit]

  1. Artifact Platinum Flail, Artifact Adamantine Melee, or Artifact Bone Crossbow
  2. Artifact Adamantine Helm
  3. Artifact Adamantine Breastplate
  4. Artifact Adamantine Gauntlets
  5. Artifact Adamantine High Boots
  6. Artifact Leather Dress
  7. Artifact Leather Face Veil
  8. Artifact Leather Gloves
  9. Artifact Leather Braies
  10. Artifact Leather Chausees
  11. Artifact Leather Turban
  12. Artifact Adamantine Mail Shirt
  13. Artifact Leather Long Skirt
  14. Artifact Leather Hood
  15. Artifact Leather Cloak
  16. Artifact Adamantine Shield

It is possible! It does require an amount of modding (to fix the error where gauntlets and high boots do not allow even themselves based on the size and permit system) and training everybody with armor maker, weapon maker, and clothier to a level higher than any other they have, along with mass forbidding items during strange moods.

You can order your dwarves to wear more than one piece of same type, for example, three suits of mail armor and six cloaks, but that slows them down and clothing items give nearly no additional protection. The Armor article explains these possibilities in detail.

Strategy & Tactics[edit]

Roughing it[edit]

Always have your soldiers carry food, they will each need a backpack to carry it - this keeps your soldiers from wandering off to eat. You can also have them carry alcohol or water in waterskins or flasks, though water isn't recommended for the long-term, as it makes your soldiers sluggish - always remember to keep the booze stockpiles full. For a round-the-clock guard, have them sleep in a barracks while on duty. Hopefully the sounds of combat will wake them up before they get killed.

Wait for my signal...[edit]

When ganging up on dangerous creatures (such as megabeasts), keep them far, far away until all your units are in position, and try to ambush the target in an area with no other creatures. If your dwarves get too close, they'll smell blood and charge in, regardless of what you do to try and stop them. Getting all your units into position, pausing the game, and then turning them loose at once, can achieve the desired advantage of numbers against formidable opponents.

When under siege or other attack, keep the entire squad far back from the exit until they are all armed and armored and ready to roll, as a unit. Having a good lockable front gate will also aid in this.

General Inspection[edit]

If you have time to prepare for deployment, one certain way to make soldiers prepare is to pick an inaccessible target and order them to attack. Many will go collect the equipment they should already have, but those with the required gear will say "target unavailable" in population and job lists. If you have given each unit member the order individually, you can dismiss them one-by-one after inspecting their equipment when they appear ready. They may be holding weapons intended for training; unequipping these in the equipment list will make them immediately drop them and draw their remaining assigned weapon.

Cave Training (Lumberjack\Web Gather Tactic)[edit]

One strategy for training a military is to exploit the Wood Cutting and Weave (Used for gathering webs) skills. Once you have breached the caves you can build a military squad of lumberjacks for example. Disable wood hauling on everyone except your military squads. Then cut down every possible tree in the caverns. From that point on only your military will wander into the caves to gather the wood. Every crundle or other cave-dwelling creature will then be aggroed as they gather wood, and you get free training. Similarly, you can use the Weaving skill and web gather to the same effect. Most cave dwellers (save the occasional giant cave spider, blind cave ogre, etc) are easily defeated by a fully-armored dwarf. After a short while, you'll find that a well-trained lumberjack can behead a forgotten beast with ease.


War animals can also be assigned to dwarves who go outside frequently, whether military or civilian. Then, when the dwarf encounters danger, the war animal runs at the danger while the dwarf runs away from it. Unfortunately, war animals are slower than dwarves with high agility, and do not shadow the dwarf perfectly. Try to not assign more than one or two war animals to a dwarf; the loss of happiness from an assigned animal dying (assigned War/Hunting animals are pets) can lead to a tantrum spiral. Also, war animals cannot be reassigned once they are assigned; to get around this, have the dwarf you want to be guarded train the animal themselves.

Military and defense
Managing soldiers
Design tips