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Semi-megabeasts are special and powerful 'mini-boss' creatures (distinct from, and smaller than, megabeasts) who are created during world generation, each associated with at least two spheres. They are named historical figures, and the game will announce their presence by name.
Semi-megabeasts are created systematically during world generation. Newly generated worlds are populated by initial populations of historical figures, semi-megabeasts among them. The amount of semi-megabeasts created at world generation is random, but based on two factors: the size of the world ("World Size"), and their prevalence ("Number of Beasts"), though by default they will always be significantly more numerous than standard megabeasts. Semi-megabeasts' presence (or lack thereof) is a major factor in world history. Over time, they will accumulate long kill lists, and the baddest of the bunch will acquire nicknames and god-like associations with their spheres.
Semi-megabeasts can arrive at your fortress when the population reaches 50 (this includes any children), 5,000 exported wealth, and 50,000 created wealth. Because wealth increases the number of dwarves which arrive during migrant waves, creating lots of wealth early on in the game, i.e. making and trading steel items (which can create lots of wealth in a hurry), can result in semi-megabeasts arriving during the fortress' third -- or even second -- year, especially if their quality is high. As a result, make sure that you're making useful things out of your valuable materials, and don't use all your weapons-grade metals for making valuable furniture until you've got at least a few weapons and a militia.
If you do not want semi-megabeasts arriving, don't create unnecessary wealth until you're ready for them.
Military and defense