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Military quickstart

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

This article will describe how to set up your very first squad for training and use in combat. We will assume that you know nothing about the military interface. In case you are starting this early in your fortress' development, we will assume that you're going to start with a squad of only five dwarves and that you may have just come here from the Quickstart guide.

Though these instructions are far from adequate for teaching you all aspects of Dwarf Fortress mode's complex military, hopefully they will get you started faster than you would otherwise. Note that the military configuration interface may be somewhat complex, so pay close attention to some of the details mentioned.

Structure of the Military[edit]

When you start building a militia to protect your fortress, it's good to understand the military structure and terminology:

  • A squad is the basic unit of the dwarven military with up to ten (10) soldiers in it, including its leader.
  • The first dwarf assigned to a squad is the Militia Captain. (The terms Squad Leader and Squad Captain are sometimes used interchangeably with Militia Captain in this wiki, because of name changes from previous game versions.)
  • Before you create your first squad, you must assign a Militia Commander, who leads the first squad you create, and leads the Militia Captains of any other squads in the military. So this dwarf is the Militia Commander, who also performs the duties of a Militia Captain, and a Soldier.

Finding Recruits[edit]

Look over all your dwarves. You are looking for any dwarves with combat skills, or at the very least, without useful civilian skills. These dwarves will be your first squad. Starting with a bunch of otherwise useless dwarves with no combat skill isn't totally unreasonable, but it's best to get at least one with some combat skill so that they can teach the others. Note that peasants often arrive with military skills of competent or better. You will also need to assign a militia commander, who benefits from having a good tactician or leadership skill.

Using job titles can help you spot expendable dwarves. For example, if a dwarf is a "Fish Cleaner" then their most expert skill will be fish cleaning and they probably won't be very good at anything but that. Since super-efficient fish cleaning isn't likely to be that useful, even if you do have a fisherdwarf, your legendary fish cleaner would be an excellent candidate for the draft. If they manage to survive and gain some combat skill, they'll be able to clean fish and kick butt at the same time. If they die, at least it won't impact civilian operations.

Make sure to exercise judgment when selecting dwarves, however. If your fortress only has one fish cleaner, but also has a large amount of fisherdwarves, drafting a fish cleaner may waste a lot of fish. Conversely, if the fortress has no animal or hunting industries, an otherwise precious butcher may be expendable.

It is probably wise not to choose female dwarves for your primary fighting squad, and especially not married female dwarves, since they will carry babies around most of the time (they bear one child every year). But ultimately it's up to you. You can't see the sex or marital status of dwarves from within the military screen, so you need to look for these things in advance.

Your recruits must not have the Mining, Wood Cutting or Hunting labors enabled. These labors create an invisible "uniform" that interferes with the military uniform.Bug:1451 Disable all of these labors on your recruits, if they're currently enabled.

Assigning a Militia Commander[edit]

Open the Nobles screen (Ui n.pngn) and click the [+] to choose a dwarf to assign as the Militia Commander. Ideally, the Militia Commander will have leadership, tactician, and some combat skills.

Creating a Squad[edit]

Open up the squad sidebar by clicking at the bottom right of the screen or by pressing Ui q.pngq. Click Create new squad to create a squad. Then you're asked to Create which squad?, and you will choose the second option to create the Militia Commander's Squad.

Choose whatever uniform is most appropriate for the type of equipment you have or plan to have. A "uniform" is essentially just a predefined specification for a set of equipment, and you can change all of this later, but for the sake of simplicity, start with one of the default uniforms.

Enjoy a hearty laugh at the (no doubt) delightful name your dwarves come up with for their squad. All tremble before the might of the fearsome Geared Warthogs! You can, of course, change the name of the squad if you wish by clicking the Quill.png button.

Click on the Ui u.png to add dwarves to the squad. If this is your first squad, the first dwarf shown will be your militia commander. If this isn't your first squad, you will need to Assign leader: select the dwarf with the best fighting skills (or the best leadership ability). This is the leader of this new squad, and will appear in the Ui n.pngn screen as the Militia Captain.

Once you select a dwarf for the first position, you can then select more dwarves to join the squad: dwarves you pick are automatically assigned to the next empty position. Notice that below each dwarf's name, a bit of relevant information is shown regarding their military abilities. For this quickstart, pick at least four more dwarves to fill positions two through five.

Melee Training[edit]

Make sure at the very least you have a weapon for everyone in your squad. Ideally, you should have at least a shield and helmet for everyone too. They will automatically go grab appropriate equipment as long as it is free for use.

Axes cannot be shared between a woodcutter and an axedwarf, not even if it's the same dwarf. Likewise, a marksdwarf and a hunter can't share a crossbow, and a miner can't share a pick with a military dwarf assigned to use a pick as a weapon. Unassign the civilian labor to free up the weapon for military use. (The dwarf holding it will dutifully drop it where they stand at the time.)


Pick a location for your training grounds. It should be placed in a defended area, and ideally, it should be near the entrance. Training areas can be easily moved though so feel free to just dig out an area somewhere for now and you can move it to a better location later.

Create a zone of type Barracks where you want your dwarves to train. Select the banner with the yellow plus icon to assign the squad to the barracks. For now, only select the axe icon next to the squad name.


Open the squad sidebar again. Select your squad from the list. Notice that below their name it says No special orders . This indicates if the squad has a schedule assigned to them, and if so, which schedule they will follow.

The default schedule for "Off duty" basically says "do nothing". Tell them to use the "Active/Training" schedule, by clicking on it. Avoid clicking on the Edit and Copy buttons for now.

If you've done everything right, you should see some messages like "Urist McGoblinFodder has become a Recruit" and the named dwarves should report to the barracks you have set up. This may not happen right away, but it should definitely happen when the month changes.

Keep an eye on them using the Ui u.pngunits screen. Their tasks will initially be something like "Waiting for (something) demonstration" or "Organize (something) demonstration" but they should eventually start the session. The graphics won't look any different, but the units screen will change to show "Watching (something) demonstration" etc.

After a while, your dwarves may start "Sparring". This trains several combat skills, much more quickly than demonstrations. You'll also get combat reports of the sparring (indicated by a notification icon with crossed spears).

Marksdwarf Training[edit]

Each marksdwarf requires a crossbow, bolts, and a quiver.


To train marksdwarves, you must create a zone with Ui z.pngz and designate it as an archery range, then assign squads to the zone. Marksdwarves will stand at one end of the zone and fire at the opposite end; this firing direction is indicated by a crossbow icon in the zone's settings. For all dwarves to train simultaneously, there must be one 1-tile-wide firing path per dwarf. You may place archery targets at the opposite end of the zone tiles using Ui b.pngbUi by.pngyUi byt.pngt. Similar to wells, these buildings are created from raw materials when placed, rather than being crafted at a workshop and stored in item form (like doors). However, archery targets are not required to have a functional archery range.


Crossbows can be made of wood or bone at a bowyer's workshop by a dwarf with the crossbow-making labor enabled, or at a metalsmith's forge by a dwarf with weaponsmithing enabled. While the material used for a crossbow doesn't matter for shooting purposes, it does matter when dwarves use crossbows to bash enemies in melee combat. So, making crossbows of iron, while being heavier, can give archers a little more of an advantage in melee combat should they be unfortunate enough to get into that situation.

Bolts are also made from bone or wood at a craftsdwarf's workshop, so make sure you've built one of those and then have your manager queue up some bolts. Wooden ammunition will do just fine for training purposes, but if you happen to have butchered any animals at this point you can also make bone bolts. (Metal bolts can also be made at a forge, but you wouldn't want to waste those on target practice.)

Quivers are made of leather by a dwarf with leatherworking at a leather works. Quivers are required; marksdwarves will not fire a crossbow without one. If you just started your fort, and forgot to bring some with you, you may not be able to get enough leather to make quivers until the first trade caravan arrives unless you slaughter some animals.


Once you have all of the needed equipment for an archer, the easiest way to set up an archer in the military is to create an archers-only squad and give them the archer's uniform. Then, assign one or more dwarves to the squad and set up their training schedule as described for melee training above. Make sure to set their squad to train at archery targets and the barracks (weapon or armor rack)--if you only use an archery range, your dwarves will not train.

If you have done everything right here, eventually you will see them shooting and see broken bolts at the base of your archery targets.

Please note however that even a squad of only marksdwarves still needs a barracks to train at as well as an archery range, so they can train their other non-ranged skills. If they do not have a barracks assigned, they will spend quite a lot of time in the state "cannot follow order" and may not even use the archery range.

See also[edit]

Now that you have learned this much, you will probably want to read:

Military and defense
Managing soldiers
Design tips