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40d:Mega construction

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This article is about an older version of DF.

There comes a time in every dwarf's life when he says to himself - why not? ("Because it's insane" is not considered an automatic fail condition). Be it magma waterfalls, huge castles, skyscrapers, great cathedrals, inverted pyramids, the Statue of Dwarferty - you can build anything!

While building a fully automated sacrificial temple to the dwarf god with magma-falls is quite an undertaking, the techniques are mostly the same as those to build a simple wall or tower, just putting one stone on top of or next to another - so we'll start there.

(And it's recommended you do too - start with some smaller projects, a defensive wall, and then some simple archer towers to secure your area, and build on your experience from there. It's very easy and frustrating to build a complete disaster. But fun is in the eyes of the player.)

Basic Construction Techniques[edit]

Building a large number of anything can be a real pain, to speed up the process it is recommended that you create a stockpile filled with only the correct stone/block type either inside or as close to as possible to your construction. This way the material will always be at the top of the list when you're constructing.

The important thing to remember is that all walls, floors and anything built with the b-C keys are LIFO - "Last In, First Out". That means that the very last designation you make will be the very first thing your masons will work on next! Once you master this concept, it can be used to your advantage, but only if you can plan ahead.

It is also important to remember that you cannot build constructions on top of a constructed floor, but you can attach walls to the sides of a constructed floor, and then build on them for the next level up. Thus, if you want to build a wall in the middle of a room, you will have to remove the floors from those tiles first (or simply plan ahead and don't build them in the first place).

In this discussion, "masons" will be assumed to be the dwarves doing the work. If your constructions are of wood or metal, then carpenters or metalsmiths will be doing the work - but the process is the same.
Likewise, the word "stone" will be used to refer to building material, but a construction can also be made from wood logs, blocks of glass or any other material, or bars of metal or even soap, among others.

symbol  tile
 •  -  Empty space
 +  -  Ground, floor, or top of wall section from lower level
 ┼  -  Door or (closed) bridge
 0  -  Isolated wall section
╔═╗ -  Connected wall
 X  -  Up/down stairs
 ☺  -  Mason


Walls are the simplest construction. They are the base for anything more ambitious, such as a tower, and are often the very first construction of a new fortress, as (part of) a defensive perimeter. No non-flying creature can get over a 1-level wall, but there are still reasons you might want to build a higher one, whether for looks, because of rolling terrain, or as part of a larger project.

A one-level wall is easy - just designate it, and your masons will simply walk around and build it. About as basic as it gets...

w = wall

However, building a multi-level wall takes one more step, and a little planning.

To build a tier of wall on top of an existing tier, your dwarves must first have access to the top of those walls, to that next level up. This can be achieved with a stairs or a ramp built next to the wall. However, a ramp may not let you finish the wall - that last tile requires a dwarf to have an open area to stand on the same level, and the ramp itself is one level down - so stairs are generally recommended. Plus, stairs can be extended straight up, where a ramp cannot be so easily continued.

End View
X <- upper stair provides access for masons to build upper tier of walls above first tier wX

Note that stairs require both an up* stair on the lower level, and a connected down* stair on the next level up. Stairs always work in pairs this way - just an up-stair or just a down-stair gives you no path between levels.

(* Up-down stairs can replace these, and are generally recommended for their improved utility, to allow for unforeseen expansion of design.)

Once you have access to the wall top, it's important not to wall your masons in.

Side View
ww☺w <-X wwwwwwwwX
<- = upper stair access to top of wall (Lower-level wall hidden behind staircase)

If you have only 1 access point, start at the far end(s), and build 1 tile at a time back towards your access.

Side View
ww☺ <-X-> ☺ www wwwwwwwwXwwwwwwww
(Lower-level wall hidden behind staircase)

If you have 2 access points, you can start in the middle and the ends, and work back toward the access for each.

ww    <-X->   wwwww    <-X->   www

Once you have enough of the new wall height (and access up on top of that), you can begin to repeat the process on level higher while a previous level is being completed - this is another reason for multiple access.

        X       wwww   <-X->   www
wwwww <-X-> wwwwwwwwwwwwwXwwwwwwww

Unlike with ramps, the very last section of wall can be placed by a dwarf standing on the staircase, next to that tile. Then on up to start the next level (if necessary). Remember to build the next stair up before the previous level is complete, so all your masons aren't waiting on that one construction.

If you do wall a worker in, either use d, n to deconstruct that tile (which takes some time), or build new access up to them (which might be handier in the long run).

Also, if defense is something you wish to consider (or just to improve the looks of a simple curtain wall), you may wish to plan for one or more towers to rise up above and along your walls. The process is very similar to a wall, but with floors...


Building a tower, large or small, is a Dwarf Fortress rite of passage. There are many pitfalls to construction though, mainly due to your masons' habit of building walls in their LIFO order, so adding anything puts that before everything you've already done. This step-by-step guide avoids these problems. The diagrams are for a 5x5 tower, but the instructions are adaptable to any size of tower.

(Note - In Dwarf Fortress, the walls of a "round" (or oval) tower take exactly as much stone as for a "square" (or rectangular) tower, but the floor area uses a bit less stone, and with a significant loss of usable area inside - in case that matters to you.)


If you create a stone or block stockpile nearby, then your masons can concentrate on what they're good at, and not waste time walking (possibly dangerous) distances back and forth. Alternately, dive into the ground and do some mining on the spot, creating a field of raw stone right there. (Pro tip - construct a (temporary) mason's shop or three in a stone field, and make blocks on site!)

If the tower is outside the protection of your compound, consider the safety of your workers - would digging a tunnel to the location be worth the time? Do you want your soldiers and workers to walk over the surface, or underground? No doors means building destroyers have nothing to break down.

If you start with a staircase up out of the ground, you can build off of that, and your dwarves have somewhere relatively safe to run if they are ambushed, other than trying to outrun bolts and arrows. Remember that an up/down stair from below is not enough to connect two levels - you also need a down (or up/down) stair from the upper level as well.

The first rule of building upwards is to build the corners first. This keeps your mason from trapping himself in a corner high in the air, or making the corner inaccessible.

Top View
╔════? <- no access ║ ☺║ ║ ║ ╚════╝

How awkward...


Access to the tower is presumably from underground, but if not, leave a door so your dwarves can get in and out. Make the staircase in the corner for quickest building, or two or more adjacent if you expect lots of traffic. (Always adjacent, so dwarves can skip to one side easily.)

Pro tip - if you designate walls to be built next to your planned walls, then suspend that construction, your dwarves will not stand on those tiles to build the desired walls. This can be used to guide your masons to build from the inside, walling themselves in where it's safe, rather than the alternative.
    ║X+☺O  <- suspended wall order

It's not at all necessary to build floor tiles on the natural floor - it only adds some color and a bit of architectural created wealth.

If we shift the view up to the next z-level up, this is what we see...


The tops of the walls act as floors, but not the top of that up/down staircase. If you could get to top of the walls, your masons could walk on them - but we have no down (or up/down) stairs on this level to connect to the stairs below. So that's our next order of business...


Use up/down stairs for maximum efficiency. Even if you think you're at the top, there's no reason not to build an up/down stair, just in case. Same amount of stone, same amount of time, and it leaves your options open.


Now your dwarves can walk anywhere on a "floor" (+) (actually, at the moment, only the top of the walls below, but we'll fix that with real floors in a moment), and connect anything on this level to that floor. (This is how you expand a tower wider than its base - by constructing walls attached to floors that have expanded out.)

Pro tip: Build the next staircase level well before you need it, so all your masons are not bottlenecked, waiting on that one staircase to be finished so they can access the next level up. Have it ready and waiting for when they are.

Floor/roof tiles[edit]

Cover the empty space with constructed floors, which create a roof over the tiles below them. (Walls would work for this purpose too, but could not be walked on.) Altho' this may be a "roof" over the z-level below, your masons have to walk on this level to build out from the staircase, whether they're building floors (as a roof) or walls (for further vertical construction), whether you want to keep building up or not.

Be careful not to build floors on top of your existing walls, since this keeps you from building walls over them. (And, yes, the tops of walls on a lower level and floors constructed on the current level look identical in the game. Use k if you need to double check which is which.)


(For a 3x3 tower, you don't need any floors at all, the walls are tight around the staircase.)


Upper-level corners[edit]

From here out, your masons can't stand outside the construction to do any work - it all has to be done from the inside. Construct the corner walls once the first ring of floor tiles are finished. You can start them sooner, but there's a chance the far corner could become inaccessible, which suspends construction. (If you understand the LIFO concept, you can plan it so this doesn't happen, by designating the sides first and the corners last - your call.)


You can start the center walls before the corners are finished, but always leave one floor area adjacent to the corners for last to access those corners. Much smarter, build either the N-S or E-W walls, including corners and then the rest. Much less designating to do too.


And finish the walls on this level. From here you can go up and repeat the pattern again as high as you want.

    ╔═══╗        ╔═══╗
    ║X+++        ║X++║
    ║+++║   ->   ║+++║
    ║+++║        ║+++║
    ╚+══╝        ╚═══╝
Corners Last?[edit]

If you don't mind your tower not being square, you can seal the corners from the inside. This takes up some space inside the tower. The corners have to be built from the inside. Even on ground level, your masons will always end up on the inside. (The stairs must be shifted from the corner for this design.)

    +═══+     +╔═╗+        
    ║+X+║     ╔╝X╚╗
    ║+++║ ->  ║+++║    
    ║+++║     ╚╗+╔╝      
    +═══+     +╚═╝+    

Again, note that if you count the amount of stone used, the "rounded" version doesn't save anything, and loses interior space - but it looks kinda cool!

Adding fortifications[edit]

If you want an open level of the tower where marksdwarfs or siege engines can fire out, you want some fortifications instead of walls. Along the edges this is easy, but fortifications cannot be walked on, and a mason can't build them from a diagonal tile, so we're back to "build the corners first!"

   +++++         ╬╬╬╬+  <- this fortification next!
   +++++         ╬X+++  <- this fortification last!
   ++X++  ->     ╬+++╬
   +++++         ╬+++╬ 
   +++++         ╬╬╬╬╬

Don't worry about too much there being no walls to build on top of - the entire next floor and everything above can be connected to one tile of staircase, no problem.

On our 3x3 tower, fortifications would either leave only the 1 central staircase tile open (not this tower!), or will have to hang over the edge - which is fine structurally, so long as they're connected to something before we're done. But our masons can't walk on fortifications to place those corners, so they present an access problem...

             ?╬╬╬?   <- no access to corners
    +++      ╬+++╬
    +X+  ->  ╬+X+╬
    +++      ╬+++•
             ?╬╬•?  <- no access to corners

The solution is to build a temporary floor-tile off the tower side, to give your masons access to those corner locations. Once built, then connect those to other fortifications (they have to be connected orthogonally!), then you can safely deconstruct the floors and replace them with the final fortifications.

             + +       ╬+ +╬       ╬   ╬      ╬╬╬╬╬
    +++      +++       ╬+++╬       ╬+++╬      ╬+++╬
    +X+  ->  +X+   ->   +X+   ->    +X+   ->  ╬+X+╬ 
    +++     +++++      +++++        +++       ╬+++╬
                       ╬╬ ╬╬       ╬╬ ╬╬      ╬╬╬╬╬

The stones that the temporary floors had been built with will fall to the tile below them - this is not a "collapse".

Pro tip: Alternatively, instead of constructing and deconstruction floors, you may build floor grates (b, G), floor hatches (b, H)), or floor bars b, alt+b) for dwarves to stand on to get at the corners. These have the advantage of being much faster to remove, do not require a mason (only a "furniture hauler"), and are collected instead of dropped when deconstructed.

Obsidian Casting[edit]

Casting and then carving buildings out of obsidian has some advantages, namely that obsidian is 3x the value of standard stone, and further, you can then engrave it, as cast obsidian is considered a "natural" stone. The final product is very flashy; however, it is also pretty time-consuming, but that's the nature of a mega-construction.

For this, you will need lots of water, magma, pumps, and patience. A power source for your pumps is also highly recommended, depending how many dwarves you have and how high the final product will be.

It also might be a good idea to plan the building first, perhaps using a text editor - unlike constructions, you can't tear part of this down and fix it if you don't get it right the first time, only do the whole thing over.

  1. First, build a form where the obsidian will be cast. This needs to be at least as tall as the final structure will be - the obsidian "blank" can be carved away later as desired. For this, wall in an area about the size of your desired building such that no liquid can leak out. The walls can be made of stone, glass, natural soil, or even wood - anything will work. Standard doors or bridges are fine (and faster!) so long as they are not opened while the magma is flowing near them.
  2. Meanwhile, build two pump towers - one for magma, one for water - that will deliver those to the level above the final top level of your structure.
  3. Add magma to the first level, at least 1/7 deep (1/7 can evaporate, so 2/7-3/7 is "safer" - more will work, but is unnecessary).
  4. Pour water over the magma to cool it to one layer of obsidian. Continue adding water until the next layer is at least 2/7 deep (1/7 will not work for water, period).
  5. Add magma to the water - you now have another layer of obsidian, and are ready for the next water cycle.
  6. Rinse and repeat until your cast blank has enough z-levels.
  7. Tear down the walls around the obsidian blank. If desired, this can be done on the lower levels while the upper levels are still being poured, as liquids do not leak through "diagonals" across different z-levels.
  8. If you're going to carve the outside, replace the casting form with scaffolding where needed. Note that a single tile of stone can be engraved from the inside or out, and all sides are considered "engraved" at once.
  9. Finally, dig the building out of the blank, but be sure not designate something wrong, since once carved away you can only fix an error via remaking the whole thing.

(See obsidian farming for a more complete discussion of tricks, tips and predictable mistakes to avoid.)

Advanced Construction Techniques[edit]

The most important part of any advanced technique is planning - thinking ahead to what you will need, where you masons will need to stand and work, and how to get them there (and not wall them in!).

Don't stand there![edit]

Dwarves tend to work from the left, and that's wrong half the time. To make sure your masons don't wall themselves on the wrong side of what they're building, designate a wall to be built where you don't want them to stand, and then suspend that construction - they won't stand in that spot while building next to it. Once the desired construction is in place and the dwarf on the preferred side, cancel ( q, x ) the suspended construction entirely, and carry on.

Corners & walls first[edit]

You don't actually have to build all 4 corners before building any walls - you can designate two parallel walls, with corners, and just not designate the connecting walls (which would seal off access to those corners). Designating two long walls with attached corners is faster to designate by a few keystrokes - once you understand how to build, personal construction habits are up to you.



Building rows and rows of up/down stairs will allow you to build large walls without having to worry about getting the workers and materials up there.

Be careful when you're dismantling them that each row is removed one at a time, starting from the top!

You may also consider building the scaffolding inside the building you are constructing, ensuring that the entire ground floor wall is constructed. Then you wont create any surprise back doors into your fortress.

Expanding out[edit]

To build out over open space, you only need to add floors. There is no limit to how far out unsupported floors can extend. If you then want to build up, build walls (which will support movement and more construction on the next level up). While you can't build a wall on top of a constructed floor, you can build a wall over thin air, so long as there's an accessible spot for a dwarf to stand on which is orthogonally (non-diagonally) adjacent to where the wall is to be built. Don't forget to add stairs (or ramps) to gain access to those upper levels (again... plan ahead!)

Using these methods, you can create anything from permanent spans bridging gaps to mushroom-shaped towers to inverted pyramids balanced on one tile - anything goes.

Temporary access floors[edit]

If your masons cannot access a location, building temporary flooring is the solution, as described above under "basic techniques", and then deconstructing the floor when it's no longer needed. However, building floor bars or setting a floor grate in place is faster, does not enter into the LIFO sequence, and the material will be saved, not dropped, when deconstructed.

bridges vs. floor access[edit]

If it's a matter of needing temporary floorspace for building, retractable bridges are much faster to build for floors, and much faster to remove. The drawback is they can only be a max of 10 tiles x 10 tiles (minus 1 along one edge for anchoring), but they can be repeated once they have a solid anchor. Remember that bridges do NOT support other construction! (Worse, they will allow you to designate it, and allow a dwarf to take the time to build it, but then that unsupported construction will cave-in, often causing the mason to fall, often to their death.)

Building down[edit]

Building down is, technically, impossible. You cannot extend a staircase down into empty space, only up - so the trick is to get below where you want to build, and then build up to it, if only a long column of up/down stairs for basic access. Then build what you want, connect it up to wherever, and deconstruct anything unwanted below that. The result is a hanging construction.

Bridges and deconstructing floors[edit]

Constructions cannot be supported by attaching them to any bridges - the game allows them to be designated, and a dwarf will respond to build the construction, but that will then cave-in immediately upon construction. However, building a bridge over an existing floor will allow those floor tiles to be deconstructed and the material recovered.

Sloped Roofs[edit]

Sloped roofs can be created by building a row of walls adjacent to the top of a wall, a row of ramps can then be built directly on top of the wall giving access to the top of the adjacent wall. Now just build a second wall adjacent to this one and repeat.


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.

Hippie Exterminator[edit]

You gotta water those trees man, and let the treehuggers that care so much for them take share in this watery gift!

Basically, construct a megalong wall all the way around an elf-village, then use flooring to put a lid on the entire village. Hook up some pumps from the local river to fill this box with water. This will kill all of the elves enclosed inside, and your fps in the process. Totally pointless and timeconsuming, thus making it a worthy megaconstruction. Example fortress: Fleshgates of Drowning

Dwarven Arcology[edit]

This is ideal for your patently insane Stupid dwarf trick needs. Essentially it's building your entire fortress above ground in ONE structure. A subterranean level (the basement) on the bottom floor provides plump helmets, pig tails, and so on. On the ground floor, grow above-ground plants and carve fortifications into all the walls. From here, it's all about absolutely huge levels packed with food stores, refuse dumps, wood stockpiles, workshops, archery ranges, and bedrooms. The only subterranean activity permitted is digging, although you may be able to get away with building your depot below ground. This consumes ridiculous amounts of time and stone, placing walls is extremely fiddly, and as soon as goblins control the ground floor your fortress will starve unless you can exterminate them. So, pointless, frustrating, and borderline suicidal...in short, a perfect megaconstruction.

SUPERBONUS: Cast the entire thing in Obsidian using magma and water and engrave all the sides with your greatness.


Most mega structures look best when using a 3D tool, there are however some restrictions involved.


All walls regardless of material will show up the same, the only difference is fortifications which will show up a lighter shade of blue.

All ramps and stairs regardless of materials will show up as wood.

Single ramps will show up as square pyramids but only if there are no adjacent walls that are one z-level higher than them.

A row of single ramps will not join together, instead they will show up as a row of square pyramids as a 'toblerone' shape.

Cathedral to the Blood God[edit]




Visual Fortress[edit]

Ramps align to all adjacent walls available.

Many structures (i.e. workshops, cabinets, etc.) don't appear.

Fortifications against walls will not render the wall they're up against.

Sometimes the program will randomly not render portions of the map; moving about usually fixes this.

Some materials are rendered incorrectly.