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Every once in a while one of your dwarves will enter a strange mood, a supernatural inspiration to make an artifact. Upon being taken by a mood, a blinking "!" will appear over the dwarf, and s/he will go claim a workshop appropriate for the type of artifact they want to make, kicking out the workshop's current user if there is any; if there is no appropriate workshop the dwarf will just stand there until someone else makes one. Once a workshop has been claimed s/he will start gathering the raw materials to make the artifact. If all the needed materials area available then the dwarf will get to work and soon produce the artifact. If the dwarf was in any mood but a possessed mood then s/he will have gained legendary experience in the skill being used.
If one or more of the needed materials is not present in your fortress (or is present but forbidden‡) then the dwarf will stand in the workshop, giving cryptic clues as to what's needed. You can see these clues by interacting () with the workshop, with each hint being shown for two seconds before cycling to the next one (if you want help figuring out what the clues mean, rather than puzzling it out yourself, go here). If you can acquire (or unforbid) the needed materials before too much time has passed then the dwarf will continue making the artifact. If not, the dwarf will eventually go insane, meaning s/he'll never do any more work, and also might attack your other dwarves. The dwarf will also go insane if the workshop they've claimed is destroyed or otherwise rendered unusable.
Artifacts currently have these properties:
- They're indestructible.
- They can't be traded to a caravan.
- Armor and weapon artifacts are three times more effective than base quality ones, and 50% more effective than masterwork ones.
- Artifacts are 120 times more valuable than base quality items of the same type and material, and 10 times more valuable than masterwork items.
They have no magical or supernatural properties (besides being indestructible), since the game has not yet implemented a magic system.
Besides artifact weapons and armor being used by your military, the only uses for artifacts is to increase room quality and/or to give your dwarves happy thoughts. For increasing room quality, go here. To use an artifact to generate happy thoughts, do the following to place them into an area with heavy foot traffic:
- For furniture, chain, rope and bag artifacts, simply install it.
- For mechanism artifacts, turn it into a lever, trap or well.
- For bucket artifacts, turn it into a well.
- For useless weapon artifacts, install it in in a weapon trap.
- For everything else, you're out of luck.
Preparing for and dealing with strange moods
To maximize the chance of a moody dwarf getting all the materials s/he needs, try to always keep on hand at least a few each of the following:
- Pieces of leather.
- Pieces of each of the different types of cloth:
- Silk cloth.
- Plant fiber cloth.
- Animal fiber cloth.
- Bars of metal.
- Gems, either rough or cut. (If a moody dwarf needs cut gems, it's easy enough to cut the rough gems)
- Raw glass.
- If any of your dwarves has glassmaking as their highest skill, they'll need some sand if they get a strange mood.
- If any of your dwarves has gem cutting or gem setting as their highest skill, they'll need a rough (uncut) gem if they get a strange mood.
If you have all of the materials the moody dwarf wants on site, but s/he isn't gathering them:
- Make sure that the items in question aren't forbidden‡.
- Make sure that the dwarf has an open path to the items. That is, make sure there's no intervening locked doors, raised drawbridges, and so on.
- If the civilian alert level is turned on, make sure that the materials are in the area(s) your civilians can go to, and if not expand that area to include the items.
- If the dwarf is restricted to one or more burrows, make sure that the materials are in those burrows. If they aren't, do one of the following:
- Move them into the dwarf's burrows.
- Expand the burrows to cover the needed items.
- Assign the burrow(s) containing the items to the dwarf.
- Just remove all burrows from the dwarf so s/he can go anywhere.
If the dwarf keeps on gathering more and more materials without ever getting started on the artifact, you've probably encountered a bug triggered by the dwarf claiming a workshop that isn't in any of his/her burrows. This can be fixed by adding to the dwarf's assigned burrows one which contains the workshop, or by removing all burrows from the dwarf.
If, in spite of of all your efforts, you've failed at getting all the materials that the moody dwarf wants, wall off the claimed workshop and wait for the dwarf to go insane. If the dwarf goes berserk leave the workshop walled up until the dwarf dies of thirst or hunger; otherwise you can open up the workshop and let the dwarf out.