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This article is about an older version of DF.
Bartering in the olden times.

Trading in Dwarf Fortress first occurs in the first autumn after establishing your fortress, with the arrival of the dwarven caravan. Trading is a good way to acquire resources that aren't readily available in the local area. It also allows for more freedom in selecting starting gear and skills at embark, since neglected items can be obtained through trade later.

Trader is the term used at your trade depot to refer to your fortress representative when dealing with merchants in a visiting caravan (r - "Trader requested at Depot"). As a profession, the term applies to visiting merchants and dwarves whose highest skill is Appraiser.

Trade depot[edit]

Main article: Trade depot

Building a trade depot is a prerequisite for trade with caravans that arrive at your fortress. While it may be convenient to build a depot outside at first, it is usually a good idea to move it inside, or secure it with walls, bridges and other fortifications, to protect incoming caravans and your goods from thirsty animals, thieves and goblins.

Everything that is on your map belongs to you, except:

  • the items that are on merchants' animals and wagons
  • the items that are in the trade depot (they belong to the caravan until they are moved out of it)
  • items worn by non-fortress units (initially forbidden, but can be claimed via unforbidding and dumping them)

Trading flowchart[edit]

Suggested trading procedure
Arrive at fortress location
Create goods Build Trade Depot
Check depot is accessible
Wait for caravan
Set goods to be traded Wait for caravan to arrive at depot and merchants to finish unloading Wait for the diplomat (if any) to reach your leader
Wait for goods to be hauled Turn your leader's labors off so they don't get distracted
Conduct meetings with the diplomat
Request trader at depot
Turn your trader's labors off so they don't get distracted
Turn trader's and leader's labors back on
Retrieve bins from depot to reuse


Trading screen

Before you can begin trading, you need to designate what goods to trade and have the fortress's representative trader at the trade depot. Select the trade depot with q and then request the trader. Be sure that b reads "Only broker may trade" if you want your broker to represent your fortress. If it reads "Anyone can trade", a random, probably unskilled dwarf will volunteer to conduct the trade. Pressing b will toggle this setting. Then select the trade depot again and press g for Move Goods, you will be presented with a list of all items in your fortress that belong to you. Mark the goods you want to sell --insert clever advice--, and your dwarves will begin moving them to the depot.

Once the trade goods are moved to the depot and your trader has arrived, select the depot again with q and enter the trade menu. In the trade menu select the items to offer from the right and the desired items from the left. All caravans have a weight limit which cannot be exceeded, and the allowed additional weight is displayed in the lower right corner. If your broker (specifically, not necessarily your trader) has at least Novice or better Appraisal skill, the value of all items will be displayed. Once the proposal is ready, press t to propose the trade, but merchants will not agree unless they make adequate profit. Be sure to use trade, not offer o, as this will make a gift of the selected items. The amount of acceptable profit is determined by the trader's skills and the merchant's mood, described below. Merchants may attempt to propose counteroffers if they do not accept the proposal, which can then be accepted, rejected, or further amended by the trader.

With more experienced traders and pleased merchants, even marginally profitable trades can be successful, and counterproposals can be rejected safely, offering the same trade again. Note however that a low profit margin for the traders may not be desirable - it has been suggested that both export and profit numbers influence the size of next year's caravan and, in the case of the dwarven caravan, immigration numbers.[Verify]

Note: Goods brought by caravans rarely have base quality higher than superior, and decorations on a good rarely exceed superior as well.

Note if you give or trade away an artifact, you will receive a special screen: Treasure Gift.PNG Treasure Trade.PNG

Items cue colors[edit]

Brown Items have been created (or modified) by your fortress. They can be traded away or offered as a gift.
Gray Items were created by another source. They can be traded, but if one of these items has been selected, the entire selection cannot be offered as a gift.
Purple Items are under a no-export mandate. If they are traded away it will result in disciplinary action (see justice) against the dwarf that brought the item to the depot.
Green Items have just been gifted to the caravan and they will not trade it back.
Red Items have been seized from another caravan and cannot be traded as is; you will need to decorate them or turn them into other items for them to become "valid" trading items.

Note that containers (barrels, bins, etc.) will be displayed according to the origin of the container, not the contents. So a foreign barrel holding locally-produced beer will display as foreign (white). Once you view the container, the locally-made contents are displayed as local (brown).

Seizing items[edit]

Pressing s from the trade menu will seize the selected items of the merchant's. If you seize goods from a caravan, the merchant will respond "Take what you want. I can't stop you." and then leave immediately without the seized goods. Items cannot be seized from the dwarven caravan, and other races will not buy goods stolen from one of their caravans (then marked in red) unless they are tricked into asking for them via counteroffer, or the items are "laundered" by decoration or used to create other goods. Seizing goods will hurt diplomatic relations, but is not grounds for an automatic siege.

Pressing the seize button while no goods are selected will result in the merchant interpreting your seizure as a joke. This apparently does nothing to benefit or hinder your trading.

As a side note, if you deconstruct your trade depot with a caravan in it, all the caravan's items will drop to the ground, to be readily hauled away by your dwarves. This does not mark the items as stolen, and the caravan will leave. However, next year's caravan is partly based on the profits from the previous year - so if you are relying on that race's caravans for needed items, you're hurting yourself in the long run.

Trying to interrogate a merchant can also cause a wagon to fall apart.

Another way to steal without marking as stolen is to forbid the trade depot just before they leave, causing them to leave their goods at the depot.

If you're using the search plugin for DFHack (e.g. from the Lazy Newb Pack), be warned that s means "seize" and NOT "search", and there is no warning for it. Use q to search the merchant's goods and w to search yours.

Note that the civilization attached to a particular caravan will keep track of the value of items the caravan was carrying when they set out to trade, and they will compare this value with the value of items they return home with. Regardless of what method you use to confiscate items from a caravan, even if you came to possess the goods through no fault of your own (an ambush killed the traders and guards, for example) the parent civilization may decide that you stole from them and send a siege instead of a caravan the following year. It is prudent to take measures to protect caravans visiting your lands!

Offering items[edit]

o You can also give away items, as gifts to the leaders of the civilization you are trading with. This presumably helps relations between yourself and the other faction, though there is not yet a clear correlation between the value of the offerings and the improvement to relations. The exact effects of offerings on trading are unknown but it is believed due to the offerings' net trade value being counted towards the merchants' profit, possibly with a modifier (possibly a multiplier of more than 1 as a bonus or less than 1 to compensate for the improved relations)[Verify], which in turn increases the quantity and variety of trade goods brought by next year's caravan. Also the Monarch requires offerings to be made before their arrival. You cannot offer items that were not made at your fortress; the merchants do not want your spare Goblinite clothes.

The value of an offering for the purpose of becoming the capital is adjusted by your current export agreement.

Unless you are looking for fun, under no conditions should you offer or trade items which are wooden or used wood in their creation (clear glass, for example) to elves, as this will insult the traders, and may cause them to leave or even damage relations enough to provoke a war between you and the elven civilization you traded with. They will accept their own "grown wood" items in trade without insult, however.

Miscellaneous trading advice[edit]

  • Thieves and thieving critters tend to follow caravans. Expect assaults and intruders.
  • Create your trading depot inside your fort, preferably in the beginning. Place a 3-tile wide path (which must be free of obstructions such as stairways, traps, minecart tracks and boulders) to the entrance of the fort and position war-trained animals along it (chains do not block wagons); this will help to protect the traders and keep the depot close to your supplies.
  • Avoid having multiple wagon paths to your depot. Caravan wagons cannot move through each other, and if two wagons happen to meet at a fork they may become gridlocked against each other, resulting in the destruction of wagons and loss of trade opportunities.
  • All caravans will bring extra food (meat and edible plants), wooden logs, and cloth/leather (for making clothes) if the supplies of your fortress are low enough, independent of whether or not you requested them. This does not apply in the case that the weight limit is exceeded by (other) items you requested. The supply situation, as observed by traders, is based solely on the number of unforbidden items in your fortress, stockpiled or not; thus, it is possible to trick caravans into thinking your supplies are low by forbidding all of your relevant stocks immediately prior to their arrival.
    • In order to avoid this behavior, you should make sure that, for each dwarf in your fortress, you have the following unforbidden items:
      • 5 pieces of food - meat, fish, plants, or "other" in your Status screen (even though "other" includes inedible items)
      • 1 wood log
      • 5 pieces of cloth, pieces of leather, or complete sets of pristine clothing (shirt+pants+shoe)
  • Define your trade depot as a burrow. When traders arrive, you can add your broker or another dwarf, perhaps one you want to train in trading, to the burrow. They will head to the depot immediately, and stay there until you remove them from the burrow.
  • Each trade you make (regardless of value) will increase your trader's skills by 50, distributed among Comedian, Judge of Intent, Negotiator, and Persuader. Each skill seems to gain around 5-15 experience points, but the sum will always be 50. The skill gain occurs as soon as the "t" button is pressed - if the offer is rejected, the dwarf will still gain 50 points. If the same offer is subsequently accepted, no additional skill will be gained.
  • Selecting "only broker may trade" ensures that you will start negotiations with a decently-skilled trader, but also requires a significant wait while your broker makes his way to the depot. Selecting "anyone can trade" will result in a poorly-trained trader arriving immediately. Once your fortress is producing enough goods to buy out the caravan, waiting for your broker is unnecessary; allowing your commoners to trade spreads out the trading skill gains and eliminates the micromanagement of trying to get your broker to the depot in a timely manner.
  • If your trade depot has no values for the worth of items, then ensuring that a dwarf with the Appraiser skill is assigned as the trader will cause the values to appear.

Types of Merchant Caravans[edit]

By default, each friendly civilization will send one merchant caravan per year, linked to one season, which is spring for elves, summer for humans, and autumn for dwarves - no race trades in winter by default. Merchants from different races has different trading preferences.

If your fortress was founded in spring, it is highly unlikely that you will receive an elven caravan that spring, and it is uncommon for a human caravan your first summer, so probably your first and only caravan your first year will be the dwarven one. Caravans will only show up if that race considers the fortress site accessible (as denoted on the embark screen) and "worth the effort" (as determined by the [PROGRESS_TRIGGER_*] tokens in the entity definition), with the exception of dwarves, who always arrive unless they are extinct.


"Greetings from the mountainhome. Your efforts are legend there. Let us trade!"
(Or, if your fort is the mountainhome...)
"Greetings from the outer lands. Your efforts are legend there. Let us trade!"

Typically, the first caravan you receive is the dwarven one from your home civilization, giving you at least 22 weeks to prepare (assuming you started mid-spring, the default). This does require that you are on the same continent as they are, and you are not isolated by mountains or bodies of water.

The dwarven caravan:

  • arrives in autumn.
  • carries metal bars, leather, weapons and armor, food and booze, and more. Dwarves alone may bring steel and steel goods.
  • If the trading civilization does not have access to iron, they can still bring steel (and steel goods) and pig iron bars, but will not bring iron products.
  • usually carries a selection of books that your civilization has access to. This can include books written in previous forts of yours within the same civilization.
  • is heavily guarded.

The dwarven caravan from your home civilization:

  • sends a liaison who will speak with the Expedition leader, Mayor, Baron, Count, or Duke to negotiate an import-export agreement (unless the Monarch is present).
  • influences the number of immigrants received (if the caravan leaves intact).
  • will not cause sieges when repeatedly destroyed or lost.
  • is the only caravan to arrive during a fortress' first year.
  • always arrives, regardless of embark location, unless the dwarven civilization is extinct.
  • cannot have its goods seized from the trade menu.
  • may not arrive if your civilization lacks any notable figures.
  • cannot be offered goods if the monarch is present.


A typical elven caravan.
"Greetings. We are enchanted by your more ethical works. We've come to trade."

Assuming you do have friendly contact with elves, their first caravan will arrive sometime in spring, giving you about a full year before they arrive.

The elven caravan:

  • arrives in the spring.
  • does not use wagons, only pack animals
  • carries cloth, ropes, various above-ground seeds, plants and their byproducts, logs, wooden goods & weapons, clothing and armor, and may carry tame exotic creatures.
  • is unguarded.
  • does not accept some items in trade: Elven merchants do not like to be offered any "tree" byproducts, including wood and charcoal products, unless they are "grown", which only elves can produce (see list below).

Because they do not utilize wagons, elven caravans have a much smaller weight limit than dwarven and human ones, making trading heavy items like furniture problematic. Because of this and that they tend to offer only items made of (living) wood*, the total value of what they offer tends to be considerably less than other caravans, meaning your fortress doesn't have to bring nearly as much to trade to get everything that it might find useful.

(* Wooden items offered by the elves have been "grown" as that item, so, somehow, that makes it acceptable to them. See next section.)

"No wagons" also means that the entire caravan will use the most direct 1-tile-wide path to your Trade Depot, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on that path and your plans for this caravan.

Unacceptable items[edit]

Elves view living trees as sacred - or some crap like that. Offering or attempting to trade items that required the killing of a tree will greatly offend the merchant, causing their mood to drop rapidly. They will refuse to trade any more that season and leave immediately. Additionally, you will be called "uncouth", "crude", and "barbaric" for not understanding their customs.

"Once a beautiful tree, and now? It is a rude bauble, fit only for your kind."

Unacceptable items (as offered by dwarves) include:

  • Wooden items (including all subterranean mushrooms/fungus/etc. such as tower-caps)
  • Items derived from wood - ash and charcoal, as well as lye, potash, and pearlash
  • Items made from clear and crystal glass (due to the pearlash used); basic green glass is perfectly acceptable
  • Items «decorated» with any of the above materials
  • Obsidian shortswords (since they have wooden handles)
  • Any of the above, regardless of who made them (i.e. from earlier trades, or captured gear from fallen enemies)
  • Tallow Soap (made with lye), but not Plant SoapBug:8571

However, stone and metal items, even when charcoal is used in production, are acceptable (since the elves are unfamiliar with metalworking, and do not know that charcoal is used to make metal items). Items made from silk are acceptable, as are all non-wooden plant-derived products such as cloth and thread. Items made of bone (totems too), horn, shell or leather are acceptable, so are meat and fish. You can also transport your goods to the trade depot in a wooden bin, as long as you do not try to sell the bin. Living animals are acceptable, as long as the cage or trap is not made of wood.

Be especially careful with reselling decorated items from other caravans, as non-wood/glass items may have decorations of wood or clear/crystal glass. Note that "grown" wooden items from elven caravans can be resold to them, as the elves know that they were made in an elf-kosher way.


"Greetings. The craftsdwarfship of the dwarves is unparalleled. Let's make a deal!"

Assuming you do have friendly contact with humans, their first caravan will arrive sometime in summer, giving you well over a full year before they arrive.

The human caravan:

  • Usually your first caravan opportunity
  • carries metal bars, sand, leather, cloth, wood, food and booze, books, ropes, waterskins, quivers, backpacks, metal weapons and clothing and armor, cages and a few domestic animals.
  • carries only large-sized clothing and armor, which is unusable by dwarves.
  • is moderately guarded.

Good Humor[edit]

Choosing to seize goods from a human caravan without marking anything to be taken is treated as a joke, which will raise the visiting trader's mood. This can only be done once each year.

Goblins and Kobolds[edit]

Main article: modding#trade

A goblin caravan will only arrive if you mod the game, primarily because their entity lacks the entity tokens needed to make use of pack animals and wagons. That, and that the token [BABYSNATCHER] makes them hostile to all non-goblin civilizations. The same caveats apply to kobolds (whose [UTTERANCES] and [ITEM_THIEF] tags, similarly, make them hostile to every civilization).

The goblin caravan:

  • will arrive every season, four times per year
  • is unguarded
  • brings mostly food and cloth
  • does not send a liaison or a guild representative
  • does not make import/export agreements

Merchant mood[edit]

[Verify] If your trader has Novice or better Judge of intent skill, there will be a line added below the merchant's dialogue describing the caravan's attitude. Their attitude rises with successful trades (especially if they get lots of profit) and falls when you propose deals they don't like. You can never make a deal that's at a loss for the merchant, even if they are at the highest possible mood.

  • (trader) seems ecstatic with the trading.
  • (trader) seems very happy about the trading.
  • (trader) seems pleased with the trading.
  • (trader) seems willing to trade.
  • (trader) seems to be rapidly losing patience.
  • (trader) is not going to take much more of this.
  • (trader) is unwilling to trade.

The happier you make a merchant, the less profit margin they will demand in a trade. Dwarven merchants start off wanting about 100% profit, maybe a little more. If you repeatedly offer less than what they expect, that will "lower" their mood. If, on the other hand, you meet or exceed their expectation, that will, over several trades, improve their mood. If merchants reach the lowest level, no further trade will be possible, and they will immediately pack up and leave your depot. Since annoyed merchants are more likely to reject deals, you should be generous in initial negotiations. Skilled negotiators seem less likely to offend merchants with unsuccessful deals.

An easy way to capitalize on this mood system is to perform several partial trades. First trade for a few items, offering goods twice the value of the items you ask for (e.g. offer 2000☼ for 1000☼ of his stuff). This will likely make the merchant ecstatic about trading with you. Perform the next trades more aggressively, working them down to about a 30% profit. With the merchant in such a good mood, they are more likely to counteroffer than reject a trade outright. If you don't like the counter-offer, try to split the difference, or just back out of the trade and start again.

Trade Agreements and Liaisons[edit]

Outpost liaisons (from your own civilization) and foreign Merchant Nobles (if added with the TRADE responsibility) will arrive with the caravan to speak to your noble dwarves (and they will speak to those dwarves, even if they have to wait at their bedside in the hospital for months after the caravan has left), appearing on the map edge at the same time as the caravan (though in a different location). Meeting with them allows you to request specific items for the next caravan to bring (at a premium price) or take requests for production for the next caravan (for which the merchants will pay a premium).

Current trade agreements can be viewed through the Civilization menu (c). These trade agreements are cleared when a liaison of the corresponding civilization enters the screen, so they are generally not accessible after the caravan has arrived.

In the event that your leader is replaced, killed, or taken by a strange mood, the liaison may decide to leave your fortress "unhappy".Bug:576 Curiously, this will not occur if your leader is otherwise unable to perform the "conduct meeting" task. You can currently lock a liaison in a room and they will wait years to attend the meeting your noble is constantly conducting (and all subsequent diplomats appear to wait in line for the first to finish); this behavior is presumably a bug.Bug:8947

Whether having successfully met with your leader or given up, a liaison who has decided to leave but is prevented from reaching the map edge will eventually go insane.


  • Aggressive, untrainable creatures (captured goblins, for example) cannot be traded; when a dwarf attempts to move the caged animal to the Depot, the creature is set free.
  • When merchants leave with an animal, the merchants seem to be dragging their beast of burden instead of leading it. If the animal is incapacitated but not dead, the merchant will continue to walk at the same speed, dragging the unconscious beast.
  • If a merchant's chosen map edge exit is guarded by a hostile creature (including those on a restraint), the merchant will wander back and forth repeatedly and eventually go insane rather than path to an alternate exit.
  • Animals bought from merchants don't always become available for use.Bug:10162

Loyalty cascade[edit]

Main article: Faction

If you order your military to kill merchants from your own civilization, a bizarre result of the way loyalty is handled makes the members of your military who attacked the traders become enemies of your civilization, but remain members of your fort's government (dwarves of this faction are referred to as separatists). As enemies, they attack your other dwarves (citizens), but as members of the fort, they still follow orders. Allowing citizen militia dwarves to attack the separatists will give them opposite loyalties of the separatists, (i.e. loyal to civ, not to fort), or loyalists, who do not follow orders. And then, if a separatist or loyalist kill a citizen, they become enemies of the civ and fort, making them Renegades, who are essentially complete enemies of the citizens.

To prevent the cascade from spreading, order the original separatists away from the fortress and let them fight amongst themselves. If the results are renegades, it is okay to allow other dwarves to kill them (by stationing them nearby). If the results are separatists/loyalists, then you will need to separate them, somehow.


  • Deconstructing the Depot will cause merchants to leave your fortress and abandon any goods in the Depot because items are not available until the building is fully deconstructed. However any animals they had caged will still belong to the merchants and only become friendly, you won't actually own them. According to Toady One, this is actually working as intended, and is not really an exploit or bug: "...the reckoning comes when they return with lesser value, and it has the same negative effect (it'll be listed as a disaster rather than an intentional seizing -- the depot could be destroyed, for instance -- but it counts for the same value if I remember). The overall wording could be changed and the interaction could be deepened to recognize this or that, but it's working as intended."[1]
  • If you wait until the merchants leave the map, you can "claim" caged animals by linking a lever to the cage and opening it, the animals will be released in a tamed state. Check the unit screen before releasing them; if the creatures still show as Merchant creatures, they will wander off the map when released; if they show as Tame creatures, they will stay once released.
  • If you lock them in your fortress for a minute or two (real time), the merchants may drop items and leave behind pack animals (both of which are yours for the taking!) Note: Results are not consistent.
  • If spooked or attacked the merchants' caravan could leave their stuff behind as they attempt to flee the map, leaving the items free for the taking.
An old trading wagon from the 1880's.

World level Trade[edit]

During world generation, trade is established between sites. This probably determines growth.

"Trading" in other Languages Books-aj.svg aj ashton 01.svg
Dwarven: nish
Elvish: lathì
Goblin: otsmor
Human: batow