v0.31:Military quickstart

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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 stating 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 to run your military, hopefully they will get you started faster then you would otherwise. Note that the military configuration interface is a bit tricky, so pay close attention to some of the details mentioned.

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.

Using job titles can help you spot expendable dwarves. For example, if a dwarf is a "Fish Cleaner" then his most expert skill will be fish cleaning and he 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 he manages to survive and gain some combat skill, he'll be able to clean fish and kick ass at the same time. If he dies, at least it won't impact civilian operations.

Creating a Squad[edit]

Open up your military screen. Press c to create a squad and 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 delightful name your dwarves come up with for their squad. All tremble before the might of the fearsome Geared Warthogs! No, you can't change the name. (You can disband the squad and create it again, but it will just end up with another random name.)

Press to move the menu selection over to the Candidates column and select the dwarf with the best fighting skills (or the best leadership ability) then hit Enter. Notice that as you scroll through dwarves that a few bits of relevant information about the currently selected dwarf will be shown in the upper-left part of the screen.

This first dwarf will be your militia captain. (He will appear as such in the nobles screen.) Once you select a dwarf for the first position, the highlight will automatically move to the second position. You can then use and to select the dwarf for this next position with Enter, and so on.

Pick four more dwarves for positions two through five. Try not to pick mums with babies; they will shamelessly carry their babies right into battle. Any married female dwarves will produce babies nonstop, so don't pick them either, even if they don't currently have children.

Melee Training[edit]

Make sure you at the very least have a melee 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.


Queue up an armor stand or a weapon rack of some sort if you don't already have one.

Pick a location for your training grounds. It should definitely 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.

Build your weapon rack or armor stand where you want your dwarves to train. Use q to define your training area as a barracks. Your squad should now be listed in the menu. Hit t to flag them to train there. You must flag them as being allowed to use the area for training or they will not use it.


See also: Scheduling

This is one of the most confusing and difficult to understand parts of the game's user interface, so pay close attention to the following instructions.

Hit m then s to get to the Squad Schedules screen. Notice that at the top it says "Squad Schedules: Active/Training". This means that you are editing the schedule for squads that are set to the "Active/Training" alert level (as opposed to the "Inactive" alert level). More about alert levels will be described below.

The newb-unfriendly Squad Schedules screen.

The upper part of the schedule screen is a table with names of the months of the dwarven calendar along the first column and the names of squads across the top row. (You only have one squad right now so you should only see one listed.)

Each table cell under each squad name shows a term that briefly describes what the squad is scheduled to do during that month. By default it should say "Train", however the detailed description of what is scheduled for the selected table cell is shown just below the table on the left. It should say, by default, Train, 10 minimum.

At this point you only have five squad members, but the default order is to train ten at a minimum. This will cause problems, so it must be changed. Do the following:

  1. Highlight the "Train" cell under the month of Granite
  2. Hit e to edit it.
  3. At the lower left of the screen you will see "10 soldiers minimum". Press - until it says "4 soldiers minimum".
  4. Hit Shift+Enter to save your changes.

Under the table on the left you should now see "Train, 4 minimum", but currently this only applies to the month of Granite. (If you move the highlighted cell to another month you will see that it goes back to 10.) Luckily there is a copy and paste feature that will allow you to copy the orders you just set up for Granite to other months. Highlight the "Train" cell under Granite, hit c, move to the next cell down with , and hit p to paste the orders for Granite into the next cell. Hit and p until you have pasted the order into every cell. You should see the order detail under the table change to "4 minimum" when you hit p. Go back through all the months and make sure they are all set to "4 minimum".

The reason for setting this to 4 is that you want to let soldiers go off duty to do various personal things and, with 5 squad members, setting this to 4 means one can be off duty at any given time. This helps to keep dwarves from complaining about "long patrol duty" and otherwise keeps them happier than they would be if they were always on duty. If you need to allow more dwarves to be off duty at any given time you can lower the minimum further, but 4 should be reasonable. When you assign more dwarves to the squad you will want to raise this number.

Exit the military screen by hitting Esc twice.

Alert Level[edit]

Now that you are back to the main map, hit s to open up the squad menu. Press a to select your squad from the list. Notice that toward the bottom of the window it will say t: Sched - Inactive. This is the squad's alert level which indicates which schedule they will follow.

The default schedule for "Inactive" basically says "do nothing". To tell them to use the "Active/Training" schedule you just configured, press t and this should change to t: Sched - Active/Training. (You can also change the alert level on the military screen with m-a.)

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 training grounds you have set up.

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

The usual cause of not progressing beyond the "waiting for" stage is having orders to train more dwarves than there are in your squad. They will wait forever for that tenth dwarf (by default) to show up. (Or the 4 you set previously.) If dwarves are not training, go back to the section on scheduling and make sure that everything is set up properly.

Marksdwarf Training[edit]

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


For marksdwarves to train you will need to build one or more archery targets using b-A, define them as archery range rooms with q, and assign squads to train at them. Make sure to properly set the shooting direction with wasd or the target may not work. Also note that you don't have to build an archery target at a workshop first; you only need a piece of stone.


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 made 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.

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, you may not be able to get enough leather to make quivers until the first trade caravan arrives.


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. Just make sure to set their squad to train at archery targets and not the weapon or armor rack you built.

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 may spend quite a lot of time in the state "cannot follow order".

See also[edit]

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

Military and defense
Managing soldiers
Design tips