23a:Quickstart guide

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This article is about an older version of DF.

Dwarf Fortress Starter Guide[edit]

If you intend to play this old version of Dwarf Fortress, you should either be prepared to deal with its numerous bugs or go here for information on how to fix these bugs yourself.


This quick and cheerful guide aims to help those of you brave enough to tackle this game over the first few hurdles that it presents.

Before we start, I must stress that this game can get very complicated very fast, and you may get overwhelmed at multiple points. Don't give up, you'll get the hang of it eventually. Focus on getting food and shelter first, and you'll have plenty of time to take the rest of the game slowly.

Aim of the game[edit]

The basic premise of the game is to build, with the help of your starting seven dwarves and any children or immigrants, a successful, prosperous fortress. By keeping up with the needs of your dwarves, they will gladly do anything you ask and soon your fortress will be magnificent (if it all goes well).


Your dwarves need food, drink and a bed generally, so these will be your first objectives. However, when you start, your dwarves are on the wrong side of the mountain. Press d to open the designation panel, then d again for mining. Move your cursor to where one corner of your room will be, hit enter, then move your cursor to the far corner and hit enter again. Draw out a few rooms from 3x3 to 6x6 squares wide (7x7 or larger will result in a cave-in unless you add supports), and connect them to the outside. Hit space to resume play, and watch as your dwarf miner will get straight to work digging you out the start of your fortress!


All of your dwarves' possessions are on the wagons just outside of the mountain, including food, seeds, equipment and anything else you brought. Storing food inside is a good idea, so hit p to open the piles menu, then hit f for food. Move the keyboard over to the start corner of a big room, hit enter, then move to the other corner, hitting enter again will place the pile, and your dwarves should begin hauling food to it immediately.

You should also make a pw wood pile inside, and a refuse pile outside.

Stone is dug out of the mountain itself, while wood is collected from trees (usually outside). To designate trees to be cut, open designation [d] and trees [t], then drag a box around the trees you want felled.


Next up: constructing buildings and objects. You can place many buildings (almost all 3x3) that carry out various tasks from making food to carving stone, smelting ore to cleaning fish.

Hit build menu, and workshop. You'll be seeing the build menu often as you build and expand your fortress. Build a mason's and a carpenter's workshop, so that you can craft stone and wood that you collect. Your dwarves should begin construction reasonably quickly.

You may need to reassign dwarves to other jobs in order to get them to do something (build, work at certain workshop, move something etc). Hit v to view dwarves, and scroll until you find one. The general panel will show name, skills and current actions. Change to preferences and labour. This is where you change what tasks the dwarf will carry out. Use the + and - keys to scroll down to masonry and enable it with the enter button, to allow this dwarf to use the masons workshop.

Building items: hit q to search buildings and move to the masons workshop. a will add a new task, and hit d for door. Space to un-pause, and the mason should grab a rock and set about building you a door. When he is done, you can place this via the build menu (door). Note that there are some buildings that q doesn't work with. Use t for these instead.

Beds are constructed in the same way (b on the build menu), but can only be made from wood in the carpenters workshop.

Food and drink[edit]

Food is sometimes difficult to get right. There are many ways to provide food for your dwarves, be it butchering animals from hunting or slaughtering your own, farming, fishing, trading etc, but the most reliable way is to farm. Farming requires water from the cave river (but it can be done from the outside one), which is usually a screen to the right inside the mountain. There are many guides on farming, so i wont go into it here, but sufficed to say, you build it with build plot on wet (brown) ground, place it, and once it is built by your farmers, select q and choose the seed type. Plump helmet is the best choice just now. As seeding is seasonal, you might want to choose ahead of time. a, b, and c chooses spring, summer, and autumn (you can't grow in winter). Just choose the seed type for each season.

Drink is created from the still with crops grown in the fields. Drink is good, as it increases dwarf efficiency. You can also build wells build well with blocks made from the masons, and a bucket from the carpenters workshop.

Other points of interest[edit]

  • z will give you an overview of your fortress, and will allow you to select animals for slaughter (just hit enter when the word "Animals" at the top is highlighted).
  • u gives you information on individual dwarves and their current tasks.
  • You can use the mouse to designate areas (mine, trees, etc), and right-clicking gives a new scroll option.
  • To exit the game, you must save first, and it will automatically move you to the start screen again.
  • Beware floodgates. If you are farming using these, read the irrigation page carefully, or else you can flood the whole world. In a nutshell, don't let water that a floodgate releases touch any other water source, such as a river.
  • If you want to look at something, use q, t, k, or v. q and t looks at buildings and other constructions, and depending on the structure, will let you change the build queue, look at the contents of the building, destroy the building, or let you toggle settings on doors and such. k will show individual items in a tile, and v shows individual dwarves and other creatures. In any combat you will find it easier to keep track on what's going on by pressing v to select creatures and w to look at their wounds.