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Skill: Archer
Profession Military
Job Title Archer
Labor None
  • Using any ranged weapon in combat


This article is about the current version of DF.
Note that some content may still need to be updated.

A dwarf archer.
Art by Artigas

Archery is the combat skill associated with all ranged combat, as well as the name given to using ranged weapons in general. Its exact function is unknown, except that it has been shown to decrease the probability of an enemy dodging a ranged attack. It serves as the ranged counterpart of the Fighter skill.

In terms of weapons, archery encompasses the crossbow, the bow, the blowgun and anything a creature has thrown at another. Out of these, the crossbow is the only one available to dwarves outside of trading, looting hostiles, strange moods or modding; as such, this skill will be most relevant to your marksdwarves.


In order to engage in archery, a dwarf needs five things: a ranged weapon; a quiver and ammunition; proper labor/military assignments; and a target. For further information, see the archery target page.

Dwarves will fire at targets 25 tiles away and are able to engage targets that are up to 3 z-levels up or down without any loss in firing distance.[Verify]

Assignment of ranged weapons is done through the military equipment screen (m-e). If you only have a few ranged weapons, military squads get first pick, and then hunters can choose from the leftovers. Squads can be assigned a particular type of weapon, but hunters cannot be controlled so finely.

Assignment of ammunition is done through the military ammunition screen (m-f) for both military squads and hunters. Ammunition must match the weapon: bolts for crossbows, arrows for bows.

A living target can be selected from the squad menu by selecting the squad(s) you wish to have attack and then selecting the attack target. You can then select a single target with the cursor, a number of targets by enabling selection by rectangle, or selecting a number of targets through a list. Note that if your dwarves don't have the required ammunition, quiver, or bow/blowgun/crossbow, the squad members missing these components will attempt to engage the target in melee. There is no way to force dwarves to only attack from range, but adequately equipped dwarves stand the best chance of remaining at range.

Subsections of Archery[edit]

CrossbowRanged AmmunitionQuiversArchery TargetCrossbowmanHuntersRanger

Effects of Skill Leveling[edit]

Higher skills in the bowman, crossbowman, or blowgunner attribute equates with greater accuracy and higher rates of fire. In order to increase the crossbowman/blowgunner/bowman skill, a dwarf must fire at something; if it misses a target, it will gain the same amount of experience points just as if it had been hit.

Firing at live targets gives much more experience points than firing on inanimate archery targets. The difference is about fourfold. Tests found that by firing around 67 practice bolts, which provided 7.5 experience for each shot at the archery target; the same experience total is gained by firing 17 bolts at a live target, providing 30 experience per bolt.

Value in the Military[edit]

Dwarves using archery have their place in the military: They may fire at a distance without the threat of being attacked by melee weapons or by being mauled to death. They can fire through allies without hitting them, allowing them to support friendly warriors from behind. They may fire from higher or lower Z-levels than the target intended. Archery targets must be engaged from the same Z-level and with no empty spaces in between the ranger and target. They may fire at enemy targets through fortifications and over empty spaces although their usefulness is thwarted by proper armor and tactics.

Hunters use the archery skill and will use ranged weapons in general.

Archers will use their bows, or other ranged weapons, as melee weapons if they run out of ammunition, although regardless of having ammunition or not, they will prefer to run towards the enemy anyway. Crossbow melee uses the hammerman skill while bows and blowguns use the swordsman skill.

It is possible to equip melee and ranged weapons simultaneously, dwarves can usefully switch between weapons in the middle of fights - perhaps sometimes to the wrong one.

Issues with Archery[edit]

  • the current version removes the ability to assign ammo to squads - both ammo and quivers are automatically assigned to a dwarf with a ranged weapon assigned. You can tell that this has happened by checking the squad's/dwarf's equipment from the squad sidebar and seeing a quiver slot (to the left of backpack) and ammo slot (to the left of the quiver).
  • It can be tricky to get dwarves to pickup ammo. This seems to be related to how squad equipment recipes are created and assigned. The default marksdwarf recipe seems to work for most people. If you deleted it, try the following:
    • create a new equipment recipe. Include leather armor, cap, mittens (not gloves), boots, etc. Assign the ranged weapon of your choice. Save the recipe.
    • delete the current squad. Create a new squad and select the ranged equipment plan you created.
  • if you assign the squad to train at a barracks they will do melee training using the ranged weapons as clubs. Instead, assign them to the barracks for everything except training and to an archery range for training
  • Assigning archers to fire from the top of a wall may result in the archers climbing down to engage the target in melee combat. Fully enclose towers and battlements with a roof and ensure your archers cannot path to attempt melee combat, even through climbing.

See also[edit]

Fishery worker