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Level of conflict

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

Attack stances preview.png

Not all combat in Dwarf Fortress is lethal, to-the-death fighting. Several different levels of conflict exist and are used in different circumstances, affecting how creatures interact in combat.

In adventurer mode, you can view the level of combat with any particular enemy with the look command. When you attack an enemy by moving into them, the character seems never to choose attacks that would escalate the conflict (they will punch even if they have a weapon, avoid locks while brawling, and won't attempt strangulation in nonlethal combat).


The levels revealed in the object testing arena are as follows:

  • No Quarter
  • Lethal
  • Non-lethal
  • Brawl
  • Training
  • Horseplay
  • Encounter

One other level is commonly found in adventurer mode, despite that, strictly speaking, it is not a level of conflict:

  • Ally

No Quarter[edit]

An attacker who gives no quarter will refuse to accept surrender or otherwise spare the life of an opponent, meaning the conflict will not end until either the opponent is dead or the attacker retreats. No-quarter mode is caused by either required kill ethics (where surrendering would allow cheating the 'justice' system), fighting with a non-sapient animal (which, obviously, does not understand the concept of surrender), or the opponent faking surrender (so the attacker will not fall for such tricks again).

This level of conflict may be reduced to Lethal, and then further reduced until the creature is neutral.


Lethal combat is a fight to the death - striking with weapons will escalate combat into lethality. Although death is likely in this mode of conflict, surrender may be accepted to end the fight.

Combat also escalates to lethal if you attempt to bite an opponent, gouge their eyes or other body parts, break appendages after putting them in joint locks, or place a chokehold on the throat (that is, any body part with the THROAT token). There is no way to place a chokehold on someone in Dwarf Fortress without it being considered a lethal fight, even if you intend to release them as soon as they lose consciousness.


Non-lethal combat is a fight without the use of weapons, instead using punches, kicks, scratching, and most forms of wrestling. Non-lethal fights may end without either combatant dying, though it is still possible to receive or deliver mortal wounds.

Currently, the only means of initiating non-lethal combat in adventurer mode is to wrestle an opponent and put one of their appendages in a joint lock. Otherwise, combat never elevates above brawling.


A brawl occurs when one person attacks another with punches, kicks, scratching, and wrestling moves other than joint locks, choke holds, and gouging. A common situation in which a brawl can be initiated is by punching someone who has spat at you.

A primary difference between brawling and non-lethal combat is that NPC brawlers will not attack someone on the ground. This can presently be exploited in adventurer mode to easily subdue opponents and/or rapidly train striking, kicking, and wrestling by fighting while lying down. Note, however, that some opponents will elevate combat to lethal or no quarter for reasons other than your chosen combat style.

NPCs engaged in either non-lethal combat or brawling will sheath their weapons and shields.


Training is the mode used in sparring. In sparring, participants will use training weapons if they are available, and will "pull" their blows to inflict as little injury as possible by "lightly tapping the target". Injuries may still occur if a wrestling move is used; however, even attacks from a masterwork silver hammer will be as easily held back as from a training sword.


In horseplay, participants will wrestle one another, grab, then immediately release, never placing chokeholds or joint locks. It has no presently known circumstance in which it can be initiated in either adventurer mode or dwarf fortress mode.


This level of conflict is typically used by wild animals when they first see a character - for most non-predatory animals, the reaction will be to flee in terror.