40d:Important advice

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This article is about an older version of DF.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when playing Dwarf Fortress.

Above all, one must remember that losing is fun! Be prepared to lose a few fortresses before you get the hang of things – it can be easy to accidentally kill the entire fortress while playing around with the different mechanics. But remember: losing means that next time, you'll remember how you lost! In a big way, Dwarf Fortress uses the principle of learning from one's mistakes.

See also: What should I build first?

If you cannot find your answer on this wiki, check out the forums at Bay12games.com


  • Keep in mind that Dwarf Fortress doesn't have a "win" condition. It just has a long series of "lose" conditions.
  • Learn the controls. There's lots of them, and learning them may seem daunting at first, but once you get the basics down (like how to check the status of your dwarves or the hotkeys for building certain structures), you'll find yourself playing much more efficiently. Efficient Gameplay offers some time-saving tips.
  • Save often! Although it can be a hassle to have to quit out and get back in, it's a lot better than having to build that long hallway of stone-fall traps, plant the whole bag of plump helmet seeds, and make that shipment of steel battleaxes for the caravan next year, all over again.
    • In this vein, there is a seasonal auto-save feature which you can turn on by editing your /data/init/init.txt file.
  • Plan ahead a little during construction. When building your first couple dozen rooms, consider that in the future you might want to make certain busy hallways wider so dwarves aren't always climbing over each other. This will be a lot easier if you put rooms back an extra tile so you don't have to rebuild everything.
  • Think three-dimensionally. You have a Z-axis. Things will be much closer when they're downstairs one floor than if they're 20 tiles away down the hallway. Also note that, with the default tileset, your display of the fortress is not square, so north/south distances will appear longer than east/west distances -- they aren't.


  • Dwarves thrive on alcohol. If a dwarf drinks only water, the rate at which he gets tasks done decreases. If the fortress has no alcohol for years, things will slow down quite a bit.
  • Dwarves also need food, obviously - and a good cook (and a nice dining hall) go a long way towards keeping your fortress happy.
    • Don't cook all your alcohol or all your seeds (or all the things that leave seeds). (z >> Kitchen).
  • Dwarves tend to get trapped easily. They like building and digging things from certain directions, so try to make sure there is a way out (and keep an eye on them just in case they try something crazy). Also keep in mind that workshops block certain squares, so if ever notice that your jeweler dies after constructing a workshop with a door on the east side, that's why.
  • Digging, wood cutting, and engraving are noisy. Keep your sleeping areas away from noise and your dwarves will get a good night's rest.
  • Workshops will become cluttered once they have 15 average goods in them (more for crafts, less for siege weapons). Make stockpiles to receive the goods, and have ample haulers, and/or more than one of a workshop that's likely to get cluttered.
  • If a dwarf gets badly injured, he'll need a hospital bed and someone to bring him water in a bucket. It's probably a good idea to have a set of those sitting around.
  • Traps can help take care of invaders at no risk to your dwarves. Any fortress can build a bunch of stone-fall traps. Cage traps are also easy (you can make cages out of wood).
  • Having a dwarf with the Appraiser skill to be your broker will help a lot when trading. Otherwise, you can't see how much an item is worth.
  • Chaining some dogs by your front door may deter thieves.
  • Remember that dwarves can be assigned new jobs at any time. If your carpenter has died, your farmer can start making beds. (He probably won't be very good at it, since he doesn't have the skill, but it's better than sleeping on the ground.)
  • Idle carpenters? It's hard to have too many barrels (or too many bins... beds for the next wave of immigrants are pretty handy too). Idle masons? You can fit a lot of doors into your fortress, and buildings constructed from blocks add value over rough stone.
  • Too many immigrants? Don't know what to do with them? Have you started an army yet?
  • When setting a water source (for designated drinking zones) or a fishing zone, remember that only walkable tiles are valid - you need only mark the shore.
  • If you don't have magma on the map, smelt only what you need; coke is a finite resource, and getting more charcoal is as exciting as watching trees grow (and burning them).
  • That being said, magma brings its own unique set of challenges; complete beginners should probably give it a wide berth.


  • To find a dead dwarf, go under status (z), then select stock>>corpses. Hit tab, and use z to zoom to the particular dwarf to find a hint on where and how he died.
  • Don't like all the stone laying around? Instead of using a stone stockpile create a 1-square garbage zone and dump the stone. Reclaim the stone after it's been dumped. This way, you can store an unlimited amount of stone in just 1 tile! (This is especially useful when the tile in question is next to your mason shop).
  • Usually the closest available material is used for tasks such as (for example) building a floodgate, but not always. To prevent frustration, you can make a custom stockpile (e.g. for bauxite) next to your workshop and close the dwarf in. Don't forget there's a z-axis, so make sure there aren't unwanted materials above/below your workshop.
    • If you bring bauxite to a magma map, you can build the workshop next to the wagon and get your magma-proof grates/floodgate/mechanisms immediately.
    • Lock your gem setter in a room with some cut gems and a stockpile set to gather quality furniture, so that he doesn't waste time (and valuables) encrusting stupid things like barrels.
  • The Standing Orders (o) screen can be used for a variety of useful settings, like having your dwarves temporarily ignore wood, or all hide inside for a siege, or making your weavers stop heading outside all the time to collect spiderwebs and get slaughtered by wild animals.
  • Hitting x when building a building expands the list of items, so you can pick one with a specific quality (a nice bed for a noble's bedroom, or a cheap door for the garbage room).
  • If you're scanning the outdoors for your next swath of trees, move your view up one level. They will appear as little rectangles on a field of dots and will be easier to spot.
    • Speaking of timber, try designating some high-traffic lanes (d o h) outside radiating away from your front door to the trees. Your dwarves will stick to the paths somewhat, and probably trample fewer saplings. (They also won't mess up the ground and leave a bunch of ugly sand spots scattered around on a sandy map.)
  • Bring along a few turtles or cave lobsters when you start the game. Make sure the dwarves eat them prepared (although not cooked: disable cooking) (z >> Kitchen). This way you will have shells - useful in case you ever run into a (spoiler).
  • Trade for basic items like meat and wood. They're cheap, and it's easier than gathering them yourself.