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Sometime in late autumn of your first year, the dwarven caravan from your parent civilization will come to your fortress for trading, so you should have things set up for them before then.

Trade depot[edit]

To trade with a caravan you need a trade depot in a place that has a clear path to the edge of your site's map. To place a depot use b-D, press Enter when positioned properly, and choose three items of raw material to make it from. Building it will require a dwarf with the architecture labor enabled, and then another dwarf with a labor appropriate for the material it's made from (masonry for stone, carpentry for wood, and one of the four metal related labors for metal). A depot is a 5x5 tile square, so if placing it outside you might need to cut down some trees to make room for it.

Once the depot is placed you can use D to check if the depot is accessible to wagons. However, since caravans don't yet use wagons, but instead use only pack animals, it will often falsely tell you that your depot is not accessible: a pack animal can go anywhere your dwarves can go, but a wagon needs a three tile wide path (since a wagon is three tiles wide) of floors, ramps and bridges (wagons can't use stairs), clear of obstructions like trees, boulders and installed furniture.

Do not have more than one depot at once, since this will confuse the caravans about which one to go to. If you're playing a mod where several different caravans can show up at once they'll all share the same depot without a problem.

Arrival of the caravan and liaison[edit]

At some point in late autumn the dwarven caravan and liaison will arrive, pausing the game, announced by:

The outpost liaison _____ from ______ has arrived.
A caravan from _____ has arrived.

Though they'll arrive at the same instant, they'll appear at different points along the edge of your site. The caravan will head straight for your trade depot, and the liaison will head straight for your expedition leader. If you have no depot yet the caravan will wait at the edge of the site, in which case you build one to get them to come it. If they remain at the edge even if you have a depot it's because there's no open path from them to the depot, likely because of a locked door or raised bridge; opening up the path will let them come in.

Trading with the caravan[edit]

Note that you might have your meeting with the liaison before you get to trade with the caravan. If that happens, skip to the meeting with the liason‡ section.

Getting a dwarf to the depot[edit]

You need to get one of your dwarves to the depot to be able to trade. By default, if you've appointed a dwarf to be the broker then s/he'll be the one to do the trading; this lets you control exactly who does the trading, so that a dwarf with the right skills will do it. Use n to go to the nobles screen and appoint‡ your expedition leader, since he'll have the highest judge of intent skill, which is useful in trading.

Once you have a broker, go to the depot and use q to interact with it. This will tell you who your broker is, what job (if any) the broker currently has, and if he can access the depot. Use r to request that the broker go to the depot for trading. (If your broker is indisposed, or if you have no broker, you can use b to get any random dwarf to be the trader instead)

Finally, go to your expedition leader (probably via the units screen‡), use v-p-l to manipulate his labors, and turn them all off‡ to make sure that he goes to the depot, since going to the depot has a low priority compared to the other labors; when he's doing trading you can turn his labors back on.

Moving trade goods to the depot[edit]

You can only sell items to the caravan which are inside the depot. To move goods to the depot use q to interact with the depot, then g to enter "move trade goods" mode. Down the left side of the screen will be a list of item categories, while down the middle will be the list of available items, with the items closest to the depot being listed first. Rather than scrolling through the whole list, you can filter for only the items you want. Use s to enter the word you want to search for, type in "FINI" to search for "finished goods", and press Enter. This will cause all of the finished goods bins containing your rock mugs to be listed (note that items inside of containers can't be individually listed/select for moving to the depot, so typing "MUG" won't show anything). Use or to move from the left column to the middle column, and to highlight a particular bin, and Enter to select it to be moved to the depot. Once selected the far right column will show a [PENDING], indicating that it's been selected for trading at the depot but hasn't been moved there yet. When the item arrives at the depot it will change to [TRADING].

Press Esc twice to exit to the main menu and unpause to wait for the caravan to get to the depot and unload, and for your broker to get to the depot.

Actual trading[edit]

Once the caravan has reached the depot and unloaded its goods, and your broker is at the depot, you can enter the trading screen by interacting with the depot (q) and then pressing t. The trading screen will show you the caravan's goods on the left side and your good on the right. The value of each item will be indicated by a number followed by , and the weight in kilograms by a number followed by Γ. You can switch which side you want to select from with or , scroll with and , and select an item for trading with Enter, which will cause a [T] to appear next to it, marking it as part of the deal you're planning to make; pressing Enter a second time will remove it from the planned deal. Marking a caravan item for trade means you're buying it from the caravan, and marking one of your items for trade means you're selling it to the caravan. If you mark a bin for trading then you'll buy/sell the bin and everything inside of it, which can be convenient if you want to buy/sell a lot of items at once, but can be bad if you want to sell a lot of stuff at once but keep the bin. If you want to sell many items in a bin without selling the bin itself, but don't want to tediously do -Enter over and over, you can set up a macro to take care of the tedious typing.

In the far lower left-hand corner the screen is one number indicating the Trader Profit for the planned deal, and to its right the total Value of everything that the caravan is selling for that planned deal. To guarantee that the merchants accept your deal you should give them at least a 50% profit (for example, if the Value on the left is 1,000☼, then the Trader Profit should be at least 500☼). To get away with giving the merchants less profit on a deal, see here.

In the far lower right-hand corner is Allowed Weight, which shows how many more kilograms of weight the caravan can take on. If the planned deal would give the caravan too much weight to carry, it will become Excess Weight. If a deal would lead to excess weight, you'll have to expand the deal to buy heavy items from the caravan until there's no more excess weight. Low cost but heavy things to buy are lumps of clay and bars of lead (at the very top of the list of caravan items) and metal cages (several pages down from the top of the list of caravan items). You might also want to buy some of the logs (at the very top of the list), since they're cheap and you can always use more logs.

Once you have a planned deal with a large enough trader profit and no excess weight, use t to propose the deal to the merchant. If the profit is large enough the trader will accept the deal, his mood will improve, and ownership of the marked items will change hands. If the profit is too small (or gives the trader a loss) then he'll reject the deal and his mood will worsen; if his mood gets bad enough then he'll refuse to trade at all. If the profit isn't large enough but isn't too small then he'll make a counter offer, marking more of your items for trade ([T]). If you get a counter offer you can press t again to accept it, but since the counter offer will give the merchant a larger profit margin than the minimum necessary for an acceptable deal you should probably unselect some of your marked items with Enter until you get a profit margin larger than you first offer but smaller than the counter offer, then press t.

If you want to start a planned deal over from scratch, simply leave the trading screen with Esc and re-enter it with t.

Item quality, decorations and containers[edit]

Some of the caravan items will have a higher than base quality, indicated by the item name being bracketed with -, +, *, or . Item quality only increases the effectiveness of armor, weapons and animal traps, and otherwise just increases the value of the item. Thus unless you're buying one of those types of items you should ignore the quality and just go for whatever is cheapest.

Some of the caravan items will be decorated, indicated by the item name being bracketed with « ». The only thing decoration does is increase the value of the item, so ignore decorations and just buy whatever is cheapest.

Pieces of cloth can be dyed, which is similar to an item being decorated in that it increases the value of the cloth, but dyed pieces of cloth aren't bracketed by any symbols; the only immediate indication that a piece of cloth is dyed or not is that different pieces of the same type of cloth will have different costs.

If you buy something that's in a container you have to pay for both the contained item and the container. If, for example, you buy a cow which is in a superior quality cage which is decorated with diamonds, rubies and sapphires then the vast majority of the cost is going to be for the cage; there's no way to buy just the cow but not the cage.

What should I buy?[edit]

For the very first caravan you should buy cloth and leather, for several reasons:

  • You can use them to make bags, which are needed to process quarry bushes into leaves, to hold sugar and flour (if you ever plan on making any), and to gather sand for making glass.
  • Cloth is needed to bandage wounds at a hospital.
  • Leather is needed to make quivers, which are needed if you want to make a military which uses crossbows.
  • If a dwarf goes into a strange mood‡ and demands leather or a certain type of cloth, but there isn't any available, s/he'll eventually go insane. Thus you should try to always keep on hand at least a few pieces of leather, a few pieces of silk cloth, a few pieces of plant fiber cloth and a few pieces of animal fiber cloth.

If there's any animals in cages you could buy the grazing animals in an effort to get a breeding pair to start a meat industry, which can also let you get milk and yarn if the animals are of the right types; however, this requires having enough grass to feed all those animals. If there's female birds in cages you can use them to get a steady supply of eggs, which is easy to do since tame birds don't need to be fed. Even if you don't want eggs you can buy the birds and put them into your zoo to give your dwarves happy thoughts; you can not do the same with the grazing animals, since they do need to be fed and will starve to death if kept in a cage.

Removing items from the depot (or leaving them there)[edit]

When you buy an item from the caravan your dwarves will move it from the depot to the appropriate stockpile‡, if there's a stockpile which accepts that item and has empty space. Otherwise the bought item will stay in the depot until space opens up in an appropriate stockpile. The depot can hold a limitless number of items, which can be exploited in a manner similar to quantum stockpiles. Note that the depot does not have the food preserving properties of a food stockpile, so if you buy any food from the caravan you should make sure that your food stockpiles have enough empty room in them for the bought food. You should also immediately cook any meat or fish you bought to prevent it from spoiling.

Items which you brought to the depot for trading but you haven't sold will remain there for as long as they're marked for trading. They'll lose the "marked for trading" status either when the caravan leaves the depot, or if you enter the depot's "goods for trading" screen (q-g) and manually unmark them. At that point your dwarves will move those items from the depot to stockpiles like they would for bought items. If you remove your stockpiles for trade goods before this happens then your unsold trade goods will remain in the depot, saving you the trouble of hauling them back there for the next caravan (though note that this is an exploit).

The appraisal skill and item value[edit]

The first dwarf to get a look at a caravan's good's (via q-t on the trade depot) will gain experience at the appraisal skill. Since the dwarf to do this was your broker examining an item will now show you the item's value, where before this information was missing.


Import agreement[edit]

Whenever the liaison is within a few tiles of your expedition leader while the leader had no task, the liaison will go through the steps of a meeting. The first meeting screen simply shows a line of unimportant blue dialogue; you can continue by pressing either Esc or Enter (all dialogue screens are exited in this way). You'll return to the normal game for a little bit, and then get a screen with white text where the second line begins with an a; for this screen (and any screen like it) you have to press a to continue. This will immediately bring you to this screen:


This screen lets you place orders for items, which will come with the next dwarven caravan a game-year from now. The first column is the Type of item to order (leather, cloth, wood, etc), which can be scrolled through with - and +. The second column, Good, lists the available selection of the given type (i.e., type "wood" would list pine, willow, etc), and can be scrolled through with and . When a item in the second column has been selected you can order that item with (pressing multiple times will order more of that item). Your order is shown in the third column, Priority, by the O moving to the right and the priority line changing color. You can increase the priority for an individual item at most four times, resulting in the O being all the way to the right and the color being yellow. The higher the priority of an order the more of that item the next caravan will bring, but the item will also be more expensive.


If you change your mind you can decrease the priority of the order with . If you move the O all the way to the left, with the line turning grey, then you've entirely canceled your order for that item.

Once you are satisfied with your import agreement, press Esc to finalize it and move on to the next parts of the conversation.

Note that when the dwarven caravan and liaison come back next game-year the agreement you made this year will be wiped clean, so if you want to import the same things every year you'll have to re-select them each year.

What's available for import[edit]

For the entire duration of this game (or any fortress game) the liaison will always offer you the same list of items, since that is determined by which dwarven civilization is your parent civilization. If you abandon your fortress and start a new one in the same world with the same parent civilization (________) you'll get the same list. If you abandon your fortress and start a new one in the same world with a different parent civilization, or start a fortress in a different world, the list will be different. The items which are available depend upon the location in the world that your parent civilization is located. If it's at a place where there's no rubies or iron ore to mine, then you won't be able to import rubies or any iron items. If it's located next to a jungle you'll be able to import some meat and leather of jungle animals, if it's located next to an ocean you'll be able to import some salt-water fish, and so on.

Things you'll never be able to import, regardless of your parent civilization:

  1. Surface crops or anything made from them.
  2. Fat, tallow, bones, shells, horns or hooves. (However, you can import import animals and immediately butcher them to get all those things save for shells. Importing turtle or cave lobster will merely get you turtle/lobster flesh, without any shell.)
  3. Honey, royal jelly or wax. (The hives you can import are the artificial structures that bees live in, and contain no bees, honey, or wax.)
  4. Soap.
  5. Adamantine or raw adamantine.

What should I import?[edit]

In this tutorial game there really isn't anything you need to import. Things that you might want to import:

  • Gypsum plaster (under the "Powder" type), in case you don't feel like going to the trouble of making it yourself.
  • Breeding pairs of grazing animals if you want to set up a meat industry.
  • Female birds, if you want to feed your fortress with eggs.

In fortresses you play after this tutorial fortress, what you import depends on what resources are absent from your site, and what you intend to do.

  • If there are few or no trees on the surface you'll probably want to order lots of wood for import. You might also want to order some buckets, splints and crutches so you don't need to waste any wood making them.
  • Even if there's lots of trees on the surface, you'll still want to lots of wood if you're planning on using charcoal for fuel.
  • If there's no sand or clay at your site you should order some in case you ever end up needing any.
  • If your expedition leader, mayor or baron have a preference for any materials which can't be found on the site you should order them, to have them on hand when they make demands‡.

Export agreement[edit]

After finalizing the import agreement, the next part of the meeting with the liaison will begin Remember, trade agreements strengthen bonds; press a to continue. Next will be Let's discuss what we are willing to offer for your craftdwarfship; press a to continue. Then will be Well, then, we have finalized the export agreement; press a to continue.

You will now be looking at the export agreement. When the dwarven caravan arrives next game-year, the listed goods will sell to the caravan for the listed price. There is no requirement to produce any of these items or sell them to the next year's caravan, and it generally isn't worth it to change which trade goods you make to take advantage of the higher prices, so most players simply ignore the export agreement.

There's no way to alter or influence the export agreement, so the only thing to do is to press Esc to move on. You'll be given a screen of dialogue saying Farewell, and the liaison will leave.

Trading with elves[edit]


In the spring after the dwarven caravan comes you'll be visited by an elven caravan. Trading with them is the same as trading with anyone else, except that they become extremely offended if you try to sell or offer them anything made from wood. This includes:

  • Anything made from underground "trees", even though they're technically giant mushrooms.
  • Selling back to the elves wooden items they sold to you.
  • Wooden bins holding the trade goods you're selling them. This means you have to individually select for sale every item inside a wooden bin.
  • Any item which is necessarily derived from wood: charcoal, lye, ash, potash, pearlash, soap (which requires lye), and clear or crystal glass (which require pearlash).
    • Any item decorated with clear or crystal glass.

Things which won't offend the elven merchants:

  • Anything which you don't try to sell/offer. This includes wooden walls/floors/bridges/etc, a trade depot made from wood, and wooden bins which are merely used to move goods to the trade depot.
  • Plant material which isn't wood (that is, crops).
  • Anything which was made using a wood derived product, but which could have been made without them. For example, if you used a chunk of charcoal to smelt a gold nugget into a gold bar, then a second chunk of charcoal to forge the gold bar into goblets, you can safely sell the goblets to the elves, since they'll assume that you used coal or magma to produce them.
  • Anything made from animal products, like meat, leather and bones. Even though elves are at peace with wildlife and elven merchants never bring any animal products with them, they'll happily buy them from you.
  • Pottery with an ash glaze (though the fact that this doesn't offend them is probably a bug).

Empty cages[edit]

If an elven caravan has an apparently empty cage for sale, the cage might contain a tame vermin. You can see if this is the case or not by examining the contents of the cage with v.