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

The z-level indicator.
The number is relative to the bottom of the map space. In this case the embark site is 142 levels above 0.
Elevation level shown in the premium version of the game.
See also: Tile

Z-Level describes vertical space (depth or altitude) within Dwarf Fortress, analogous to the Z-axis in geometry which extends out of the page towards the viewer. Each layer of view is a discrete z-level with a value relative to the bottom of the map space, indicated in the lower right corner of the screen. There is another Z-level display in the upper right corner of the main view which displays the player's z-level viewpoint relative to the surface z-level. The player moves their view from one z-level to another by using < to move up and > to move down.

The default settings produce levels with around 50 z-levels of land (for an embark with average elevation changes) with an additional 15 z-levels of empty sky space above the highest point of land; mountainous regions can end up with well over a hundred z-levels of caverns. 0 corresponds to sea level.

Numerous factors available in world generation impact the available z-levels, and can alter the depth of the map to a minimum of 6 and a maximum well in excess of 600. (Worldgen has 400 z-levels; maybe one can force 200 levels of sky.)

Reducing the number of z-levels, especially cavern levels, can reduce processor demand and boost framerate. Notably, a common reason players get 100+ Z-level embarks is because "Generate New World" makes ISLAND worlds, and the resulting terrain causes caverns to be a lot taller than usual.

Things affected by gravity will descend z-levels as they would in the real world, while gaseous substances such as miasma or steam are lighter than air, and will ascend z-levels.