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Book sprite preview.png

A book is an item that can be written on, storing historical events, knowledge, and art. Books use sheets made from plant fiber (paper), parchment, or papyrus. They are created by historical figures in world generation, adventurers, and by scholars and visitors in fortress mode, or can be copied by scribes. Travelers and traders carry books to different sites and libraries, spreading information as a result. There are two forms of books: codices (sing. codex) and scrolls . Both forms have different methods of creation, but they are identical in function. Codices are known as quires prior to being bound. Original written works are treated as artifacts, are recorded in legends mode, and appear in the Ui o.pngo Artifacts screen in fortress mode. Books are titled based on their subject matter, with copies identified by "(copy)" at the end of their title. Copies of written works are not artifacts and are not recorded in legends mode.

Quires and scrolls are found under "tools" in the k Stocks screen, and codices can be found under "codices". Written and unwritten books are stored in stockpiles with Finished Goods enabled. Original written works can be separated from copied and unwritten books in stockpiles by toggling the stockpile's settings to accept only artifact-level core or total quality items. Rollers and bookbindings can be separated from scrolls and books in stockpiles by toggling the stockpile's settings to accept only the corresponding materials: when a scroll/book is created, its core material is the material of the former sheet/quire, while the rollers/bookbinding becomes a decoration and is ignored for material checks.

If a library with available book-space is present, written books will instead be stored in bookcases, and unwritten books in containers.

Physical Forms[edit]


Scrolls are made from sheets and scroll rollers. Scrolls can be written on and stored right after being made.

Quire and codex[edit]

Unlike scrolls, codices require a two-step process to be made. The initial form of a codex is known as a quire. Quires can be written on, read, and used as copies, similar to scrolls. Once written on, quires can be combined with a book binding and thread to create a codex.

Binding a quire into a codex should increase the overall value, however, the transformation currently discards some of the quire's properties (text length, material value, etc.).Bug:9409 This makes codices a terrible way to generate wealth, since they tend to actually be worth much less than the combined value of the constituent parts. If trying to increase wealth, it is recommended to leave your scholars' works in quire form.


See also: Paper industry

Quires are made from sheets at a craftsdwarf's workshop by a dwarf with the bookbinding labor. Only a single sheet is needed per quire. Codices are then created from one thread, one book binding, and a written-on quire at a craftsdwarf's workshop by a bookbinder (perhaps even the original quire crafter).

A scroll is made from a single sheet and a scroll roller at a craftsdwarf's workshop by a bookbinder. Both book bindings and scroll rollers can be made out of wood, stone, metal, or glass. Components made of wood and stone are produced at a craftsdwarf's workshop, metal at a metalsmith's forge, and glass at a glass furnace.

Decorations such as gems and ivory can be added on unwritten scrolls. Codices cannot be normally decorated, with the exception of untitled codices. Book bindings or scroll rollers cannot be decorated.


It's also possible to raid another culture, hoping to steal their books for yourself. When using the Raid menu, any books, codices and scrolls currently in possession of the target culture are listed along with any artifacts, and so can be specifically selected. See the Mission article for more information.



Written books can be read, and readers will gain information on the subject they just read about. The contents of a book cannot currently impact specific ethics, although personal values are a different matter, and one particular subject can have profound physical effects on the reader. Reading a book will satisfy the reader's need to self-examine and think abstractly.

Adventurers can read books in their possession by pressing I then selecting them from their inventory. Characters must possess at least novice-level reader skill in order to read a book - unfortunately, the skill can only be leveled up in-game by reading books, which is impossible to do without any reader skill to begin with. Raising the reader skill in advance during character creation (or simply adding some amount of NATURAL_SKILL to one's chosen race in the raws) is therefore crucial.

Fortress citizens and visitors will read available books in a library at their leisure. Bookkeepers do not require a book to update stockpile records, oddly enough.


Unwritten quires and scrolls, stocked in a library as writing material, will be used periodically by scholars and scribes to write original works and copy existing works, respectively.


Adventurer mode is currently only available in the Steam beta

Adventurers can write their own works:

  • you need at least novice Reader from character creation, Writer is not required
  • you need an unwritten quire or scroll
    • in a grasp, or on the same tile
    • not in a container, like your backpack
  • press P, choose Write something down, a quire/scroll, and a written work type
  • available types depends on your skills
    • for example, you need the Poet skill to write poetry, or Dancer for choreography
    • some known works can be copied and are listed by their title
    • for the general types
      • for prose options a random known subject will be used
      • for performance works (poetry, music, dance) a new work will be randomly created

Writing will switch to the travel screen (unloading the area) and take some in-game hours - if you are interrupted by enemies, writing will stop and the writing material will be unused. Finishing will train used skills and add the work to your knowledge. Skills used vary by written work type, but usually just Wordsmith and Writer.


Although hardly ideal for the purpose, creatures carrying books have been known to use them in combat, with varying results. The combat effectiveness of the written word is determined in large part by the materials used in the book or scroll's construction. Books are blunt weapons, so heavy metal books will be dramatically more effective than light wooden ones. Fighting with a book trains the Macedwarf skill.



Art books describe poems, choreographs, and musical compositions. Art books are titled after their art piece's name. In adventure mode, reading a book about an art form is one of the few ways to learn it. Presumably dwarves reading art books will be able to perform what they've read at a tavern as well.


Knowledge books, referred to as manuals, include topics on mathematics, philosophy, history, geography, medical science, natural science, astronomy, engineering, and chemistry.

Civilizations practice different forms of scholarship. Dwarves practice all forms of scholarship (while still preferring craftsdwarfship to the art of writing books), elves do elven stuff, and for humans, it is randomized for each instance of their civilization (scholar types are based on the civilization's values and jobs).


Books containing "secrets of life and death" are occasionally written during world generation by necromancers and various demonic rulers. Any mortal creature who reads one will immediately learn the secrets to immortality and the ability to raise the dead. Necromancy books can be found in a necromancer's tower among other types of books, including the original slab which the secrets originated from. A book will state it "concerns the secrets of life and death" if it does, note that books with descriptions like "Concerns the learning of the secrets of life and death" do not contain the secret, and as such cannot train necromancers.

Necromancers invading the fortress may bring their books along, which could be necromancy books. Looting a necromancy book and storing it in a library will cause all of the fortress population to gradually become immortal masters of death every time one of them reads the book, and this process can be accelerated by creating copies of the book. Adventurers who have learned the secrets of life and death have a chance to create a new necromancy book when writing a manual.


Books may be autobiographies, or about other historical characters or locations the author has had contact with. Presumably the relevant "Form" topics must have been discovered by an individual's civilization for biographies, autobiographies, etc. to be written. Autobiographical adventure, for example, unlocks autobiographies. Most forms are part of the history branch, but creation of atlases, dictionaries and star charts require other disciplines. Books may also be commentaries on other books.

Literary Forms[edit]

The content of a book is written in one of many literary forms. The literary form decides the purpose of the text, with different literary forms allowing for certain subjects. Some literary forms need to be "unlocked" by scholars discovering a certain topic, and cannot be written before such a discovery.

In terms of availability of literary forms in fortress mode, manuals are most commonly written by scholars as the culmination of research - other forms may be written by scholars or any other figure, but this is a rare event. Adventurers are the most reliable way to get non-manual books inside your fortress. The second best way is to simply trade for them from caravans.

All forms have been found, but currently the precise mechanics behind learning knowledge or receiving a change in values from them is still unclear.

Literary form name Purpose How to unlock
Manual Writes down a randomly-selected form of knowledge the adventurer is aware of, to be learned by future readers. Most commonly this will be musical, poetic, and dance forms the adventurer knows or composed, including also scientific research the adventurer has learned - necromancer adventurers can spread the secrets of life and death by writing manuals about them. Does not require unlocking.
Guide General writing about a specific site, generally described as "concerning" that town, dark pit, etc. without going into detail. Does not require unlocking.
Chronicle In-depth writing about a particular site, group, or civilization; presented as multiple chapters, each chapter relating to a historical event related to the writing's subject. It teaches histfigs about the group. Does not require unlocking.
Short Story Generic prose, typically described as having no particular subject. Does not require unlocking.
Novel Generic prose, typically described as having no particular subject. Does not require unlocking.
Biography Teaches about a person and several events happening to that person, each of which is represented as a separate chapter. Requires Historian's biography topic.
Autobiography Teaches about the author and several events happening to the author, each of which is represented as a separate chapter. Requires Historian's autobiography topic.
Poem Writes a new poem, like the Musical Composition writes a musical composition. Requires knowing any poetry forms.
Play Generic prose, typically described as having no particular subject. Does not require unlocking.
Letter Generic prose, typically described as having no particular subject. These often have no title. Does not require unlocking.
Essay Might be writing about events, people, places or values. Does not require unlocking.
Dialog Concerns and teaches a value. Requires the Philosopher's dialectic reasoning topic.
Musical Composition Writes new songs. This functions similarly to composing new songs, with the added benefit of writing it down for others to learn. However, unlike normal composition, you do not get to select which musical form to base the song on. Requires knowing any musical forms.
Choreography Writes a new dance, like the Musical Composition. Requires knowing any dance forms.
Comparative Biography Concerns (and teaches about) two historical figures, may emphasize a value as well. Requires Historian's comparative biography topic.
Biographic Dictionary Concerns a list of historical figures. Requires Historian's biographic dictionary topic.
Genealogy Concerns the lineage of a specific historical figure. Does not mention anyone besides the main figure. Requires Historian's genealogy topic.
Encyclopedia Teaches about several notable historical objects in a world, so artifacts, sites, people. Requires Historian's encyclopedia topic.
Cultural History Teaches about a culture, and several events happening to that entity. Requires Historian's cultural history topic.
Cultural Comparison Teaches about two cultures/groups and may emphasize a value too. Requires Historian's cultural comparison topic.
Alternate History Teaches an event. Description suggests the work in question is an exploration of what would have happened had this event not played out as it did. May emphasize a value. Requires Historian's alternate history topic.
Treatise on Technological Advancement Concerns the history of an engineering topic, teaches the topic in question. Requires Historian's treatise on technological advancement topic.
Dictionary Concerns and teaches about a language. Requires Philosopher's dictionary topic.
Star Chart Nothing at the moment, but can be a 'good resource of information' or 'badly compiled'. Requires Astronomer's star chart topic.
Star Catalogue Nothing at the moment, but can be a 'good resource of information' or 'badly compiled'. Requires one of the Astronomer's star catalogue topics.
Atlas This is regarding, and teaches about, a region. Requires Geographer's atlas topic.

Right now, adventurers can only learn new art forms and academic knowledge from books. If an adventurer reads a book of a given literary genre that requires an academic topic to unlock, this will teach the academic topic, so if an adventurer without academic knowledge reads an autobiography, they'll learn the autobiography topic. For some of the advanced forms, such as Genealogy and the Treatise on Technological Advancement, adventurers may sometimes end up writing an essay. This was asked about in the forum's Future of the Fortress, and the reply indicated this was because books are slightly half-implemented 1.


Books are named from the two text files found in \data\vanilla\vanilla_text\objects. Those files are 'text_book_art.txt' and 'text_book_instruction.txt' text_book_art.txt will be used when a poem or song is created both in worldgen and by adventurers. text_book_instruction.txt will be used when a book is written both in worldgen and by adventurers/fort scholars. Note: book_art.txt is also fair game for book titles, because it is always possible to just name a book after a poem/song, as long as the content is (a transcription of) that song or poem.

These files are called upon book creation - so you can modify the files in an existing save, altering the names of all future books - it would be possible to directly name your book in adventure mode this way.

There are 7 tokens which can be used in book titling. Poem/song names are always available to be book titles, even if your book_instruction.txt only contains the instruction, "[ANY_PRONOUN]".

It is possible to get a poem with no name at all - which could be a vanilla bug, or the game will accept a misplaced space as a title.[Verify]

You only get one roll per name per title. So "[NAME] Is Not [NAME]" will say something like "The Tower Is Not The Tower". [NAME] and [NO_ART_NAME] are not handled separately in this case. '[NO_ART_NAME] Inside [NAME]' will result in "Tower Inside The Tower" Rarely, this won't happen. All other tokens are rolled each instance, so [ADJ] [ADJ] [ADJ] [NOUN] will result in some nonsense like "Good Hungry Flaxen Obsession". Works for all of them, but keep in mind that it is a random roll, so several [ANY_PRONOUN]s is almost certain to have some repeats.

These are the 7 tokens for these two txt files: [NAME] Examples: The Tower, The Tree, Bronzemurdered, Likot Ubendeb, Animal Behaviours

Notably, these may or may not be plural and/or have an article. Name is directly related to the content of the book.

[NO_ART_NAME] (no article name) Examples: Tower, Tree, Bronzemurdered, Likot Ubendeb, Animal Behaviours

Notice that the inserted text may still be plural - limiting its usage. These likewise are related to the content of the book.

[NOUN] Examples: Despair, Roots, Scrolls, Wheel-and-axles

Again, may or may not be plural. These seem to have very little correlation to the book's topic. If it has any relationship to the content of the book, it could be words within the author's entity's vocabulary.

[ADJ] Examples: Boyish, Inky, Angry, Bronzed

Also seem to have little correlation to the book's topic. They are currently guessed to be from the civ, if not purely random.

[ANY_AGE] Examples: The Age Of Legends, The Age Of Hill Titan and Dragon

Will only pull ages from the world's history, not from all possibilities.

[ANY_PRONOUN] Examples: He, She, We, They

It is believed it only generates subject pronouns (not "Us" or "Them"). Past tense makes this easy to use.

[PHRASE] Examples: The Fool Laughs, The Day Can Say It In The End, It Foretells Afterwards, The Day Mourns

Due to the wide variety, this is pretty hard to use.


So, you can let the game do a lot of the work for you and generate more of this style: The [ADJ] [NO_ART_NAME] [NAME], [ADJ] [NOUN] [PHRASE], [ADJ] [NO_ART_NAME]

Or you can be as specific as you'd like:

My Mother Always Said, [PHRASE].

[NAME], And Its Utmost Importance.

[NO_ART_NAME], Do You Love Me?

I Once Saw [ADJ] [NOUN], And So I Said, [PHRASE].

Poetic forms are generated in the same manner as Taverns/Locations.


  • Binding a quire into a codex destroys the material definition and value.Bug:9409 This loss of information also results in the book being a single page long. Written works can be left in their quire form to retain their properties.
  • Quires targeted by any active jobs (e.g. being read) are unavailable for binding.Bug:9269
  • Scrolls made by the player always have two sets of rollers, one set supplied during construction and the other set randomly generated from nothing by the DEFAULT_IMPROVEMENT tag working in the wrong place.Bug:9249
  • In adventure mode, placing and removing books from a bookcase can duplicate them, resulting in "phantom" books.Bug:10245
  • Codices will sometimes appear without a title. These codices are not considered as artifacts; they do not appear in the Artifacts list menu and are not stored in artifact-specified stockpiles. Since all codices must be derived from a written-on quire, all codices (except copies) should in theory be an artifact and possess a title.
  • Codex/Codices/Scroll can be stuck on the map, and not be interacted with (from raid or visitor), which can be fixed with DFHack.Bug:10288

See Also[edit]

"Book" in other Languages Books-aj.svg aj ashton 01.svg
Dwarven: thîkut
Elven: soya
Goblin: zosto
Human: thothil