DF2014:Adventure mode quick start

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This article is about the current version of DF.
See Adventure Mode quick reference to quickly look up key commands. If you're a more experienced player (perhaps directed here in error) look up the Tutorial:Powerplay Guide for instruction instead.

This guide provides step-by-step instruction for those who have never played Dwarf Fortress in Adventure Mode before. It assumes that you have already installed the game and can navigate the menus on your own, but no significant knowledge of how to play adventure mode is required. Read the full adventure mode documentation for additional detail.

Common UI concepts

About key symbols

Most documents on the wiki use key symbols that look like t to indicate what keys are used for an operation. Note that these are case sensitive. In order to save space, Shift+t will be written as T. So t means "press the 't' key without the shift key" and T means "hold down shift and press the 't' key". Lowercase and uppercase keys will almost never perform the same function, so it is important to use the correct key. Sequences of keys will be written with dashes between them. So a-b-C means "press 'a', then press 'b', then hold shift and press 'c'".

Cursor movement, menu selection, and navigation

Esc Go back to the previous screen/menu
Change active menu option or move cursor
- + Alternate menu selection keys
Enter Select menu option

Sometimes you use the directional keys and Enter to make menu selections, but sometimes you will need to use the alternate selection keys (- and +) instead. Generally speaking, if the directional keys don't work in a menu, try -/+.

Esc will almost always take you back to the previous screen until you get to the top level of the UI, at which point it will display the options menu.

World generation

Some custom worlds which are interesting for fortress mode, may be annoying for adventure mode for various reasons, such as: few civilizations, low population, certain races not existing, lack of access to metals, or history being so far advanced that many fortresses and towns have been abandoned.

For your first game, it's best to start with a generic world to avoid potential problems. You can come back to an existing world once you have the hang of things.

See World generation if you need help with world generation.

For your first game...

Generate a world using Create New World! with:

  • World Size is Medium
  • History is Short
  • Number of Civilizations is High
  • Number of Sites is High
  • Number of Beasts is Medium
  • Natural Savagery is Medium
  • Mineral Occurrence is Frequent

These settings should help avoid the aforementioned problems. It is advisable not to stop the world generation until the game stops it automatically. This would normally be at 125 years with the Short world history option.

Character creation

Race and civilization

For your first game...

Humans and Human-sized characters beginning in Human civilizations are the easiest to fully equip.

The first step in starting an adventure mode game is to choose the race (and civilization) of your adventurer. All major races can complete the same quests.

  • Civilized Humans begin with bronze, iron, or silver weapons and can use any of the items sold by shopkeepers (who, for the time being, are only found in human towns, and only sell human-sized clothing/armour). They also start with the widest variety of weapon skills. Human settlements are by far the easiest to acquire beginning goods and supplies in.
  • Human Outsiders can only start with Spear User and Knife User as weapon skills, and they cannot start with Armor User or Shield User. They also start out with only a copper spear and dagger, no clothing. If starting in a human settlement their poverty quickly becomes moot, as they benefit from available goods as easily as any other race.
  • Dwarves have the advantage of being able to go into a martial trance when fighting multiple foes at once and possess perfect vision in low light conditions, which is extremely useful at night and for exploring subterranean sites. They are the only race which can start with steel weapons. Dwarves can equip equipment sized for goblins and elves but are unable to wear human-sized clothing and armour. Their best starting sources for armour and weapons are in a fortress market or warehouse. Good-quality leather clothing can be found by rummaging through dwarven apartments in fortresses and residences in hillocks. Better equipment can later be found on veteran soldiers and fortress guards, possibly in dark fortresses, and in bandit camps close to these sites.
  • Elves start with very weak wooden weapons, no metal armour, and have a more limited list of weapon skills during character creation. They have the advantage that they have higher natural gait speeds, and higher average Agility to grant them greater starting speed. Elves from elven civilizations are also at peace with the wilderness and will never be attacked by wild animals. They can wear clothing sized for dwarves or goblins. Elves starting in a forest retreat may have to travel to neighbouring civilizations to acquire suitable gear, as their own civilization usually lacks anything better than wooden armour.
  • Goblins are an option to play as, if they come from a non-goblin civilization, which in most cases is a human civilization. It is recommended to start in a dwarven site if possible, so that fitting armour is easier to find. Goblins do not need to eat or drink, have slightly better vision in darkness than humans, and have higher average Endurance and Willpower which allows them to withstand more damage during combat before they pass out. Despite being a fellow goblin, you will still get attacked in dark pits and dark fortresses by members of the goblin civilization.
  • Intelligent Wilderness Creaturesv0.42.01 are various animal people and other sentient creatures who have joined a major civilization in world history. Anthropomorphic creatures acquire many of the physical traits from their base creatures, from material layers (fur, scales, shells, etc.) to appendages (hooves, horns, claws, wings, more than two arms). Some traits are obviously beneficial (flight, natural climbing talent, immense mass to shake off wrestling holds), while others are detrimental (aquatic, carnivorous diet, inability to jump, swim, climb or even speak). Nearly all creatures capable of swimming naturally know how to do so, which obviates the need for the Swimming skill; notable exceptions include most bug men, who can't swim at all. All these factors make certain species more or less advantageous than the major races. On the other hand, some can be game-breakingly powerful starter characters (e.g. elephant man). It's best to study the creature's raws in order to make an informed choice, which you may prefer to put off until getting some experience with the game.


For your first game...

A Demigod begins with the greatest potential survivability.

You can then choose to start as either a Peasant, Hero or Demigod. Each offers progressively more points to spend on attributes and skills. These three options essentially amount to how difficult it is to get started, so to make things easier to survive combat you may want to pick "Demigod". If you chose to focus on non-combat abilities, a Demigod has the points to augment physical hardiness and have plenty left over for a versatile spread of skills and attributes.

Starting attributes

The ranking descriptions of Attributes are based on your racial averages, which for humans and animal people are all 1000. All of these can be increased over the course of adventuring, though some have fewer opportunities to increase (and some opportunities are unimplemented.) Maximum attributes will be 1000 plus your starting value for Average or lower initial values, and double your initial value for attributes higher than Average.

Physical attributes

Attribute Description
Strength: Damage dealt, encumbrance limits, and mass, which increases total blood but slows Gaits.
Agility: Speed in Gaits and combat actions, all defensive and ranged skills, Stealth, and to a lesser extent all weapon and movement skills.
Toughness: Base durability of tissue layers, reduces penetration along with armor, and the probability of getting knocked unconscious or broken bones.
Endurance: Rate at which exhaustion is reduced, which is incurred by every physical action and many passive, and total blood supply.
Recuperation: Rate at which lost blood is restored, recovery from Bleeding and Winded conditions.
Disease Resistance: Resistance to syndromes, curses from vampire blood, or a werebeast bite, resistance to infections and rate at which infection spreads.

Mental attributes

Attribute Description
Analytical Ability: important for Tracking, useful for Knapping
Focus: all ranged attacks, Observation
Willpower: Fighter and Swimmer skills, resistance to pain and unconsciousness, rate of recovery from unconsciousness
Intuition: Most important for Observation, also used in Social interactions.
Spatial Sense: All combat skills, Ambusher and Observer, Knapping, Swimming, Crutch-Walking
Kinesthetic Sense: All movement skills, most combat skills
Linguistic Ability: All social and literary skills. Good Speaking ability makes others enjoy your company, and more likely to trust you
Empathy: As with Speaking, others enjoy their company more and are likely to trust a character they can relate to.
Social Awareness: Determines number of companions willing to join, applied to other Social actions.

For your first game...

Recommended starting attributes:

  • High Strength
  • High Agility - no less than 1:1 ratio with strength, see below, Toughness, Endurance
  • Above Average Focus, Willpower, Intuition
  • High Spatial Sense
  • High Kinesthetic Sense

These are the most frequently employed attributes for combat. The suggested amounts may be further increased by reducing other, less combat-oriented attributes, but this naturally narrows the character's competency in combat-oriented actions in exchange for increased might and durability.

Speed is an advantage and necessity in combat, which is reliant directly on Agility and indirectly on Strength. A higher starting Strength increases encumbrance limits, so you can carry more and wear heavier armor without reducing your speed. With higher Strength comes higher mass, which can nibble away at the advantages granted by higher Agility. For optimal speed potential, Agility must be in equal or higher proportion to Strength. Endurance in good proportion enables you to sustain your high speed activity and makes up for the additional blood that Strength could supply.

The value of Social Awareness varies by physical attributes. A Peasant of average or lower physical ability benefits greatly per companion -- strength in numbers. But a Demigod combat monster gains very little benefit per companion -- at best they serve as a decoy, so you may as well issue them a red shirt and draft their Living Will upon recruitment.

For the purpose of a quick start, the remaining skills (Creativity, Patience, Memory, and Musicality) are self-explanatory, but you can only learn what value they are to you by playing and exploring the game. These don't contribute anything to survivability, but they can add fun to the downtime.

Later you may find that you want to start with different attributes, but these are a good, safe starting point.

Read up on Attributes for more information. Skills by Body Attribute and Skills by Soul Attribute also hint at how each Attribute is applied.

Starting skills

Starting skill selection is dependent on your character's civilization. Starting skill rating doesn't influence potential maximum skill, because there is no maximum. The highest rating description is "Legendary", but your skill rating can develop to many times over that.

All skills can be developed in adventuring, even from no skill (with a few exceptions, such as Reading.) But some are so necessary to success that you may fail unless you get a head start in their advancement.

Defensive skills (Dodger, Shield User and Armor User) are absolutely critical to survival. Dodger enables you to sidestep unblockable attacks and charges, and to passively evade unforeseen attacks (though that presents its own danger in certain terrains.) Shield User improves the rate of passive blocking, and reduces the exhaustion from active and passive blocking. Armor User reduces the encumbrance value of worn equipment to as low as 0 and reduces the penetration of attacks striking the layers of your armour.

Make no mistake: Observer is a defensive skill. In the beginning, your defensive skills will not serve you as well as learning to anticipate your opponent's attacks and acting accordingly. When you can identify if your opponent is off-guard or open to a good chance of attack, you can strike selectively, and without exhausting your energy before you can finish the fight. Striking futilely until you reach exhaustion will leave you as vulnerable as you could possibly be.

A good offence is the best defence, but (as Miyamoto Musashi says) you should not overspecialize in a weapon at the start, but be willing to develop skills opportunistically as the best attack for the situation presents itself. Investing in Fighter skill will start you with a broad competency in every martial form. With enough skill in this you can comfortably train other attack skills from nothing, and take advantage of the best quality weapon you come across.

Wrestling holds are always available to you, and to your enemies. Skill in Wrestling improves your defence against Wrestling, and is the easiest form to exercise all Physical Attributes. There are less risky methods of developing Wrestling, but you may not get the opportunity to use them if you face a deadlier opponent first.

(See combat skills for more info, and Weapons to learn the practical utility of each weapon type.)

Swimmer skill is needed to enter water as deep as 7/7 without drowning. It's possible but very risky and time-consuming to develop this from no skill, but starting with at least Novice will enable you to develop Physical Attributes from it sooner. Animal People do not need any skill in this, as it will never be needed or used. They also cannot gain Physical Attributes by practising it.

At least Novice Reader is important to be able to read anything, as there is currently no way of increasing it from no skill. Reading is especially required if you wish to become a Necromancer.

For your first game...

Recommended starting skills:

  • Talented Fighter
  • Proficient Observer
  • Novice Swimmer (except Animal Person characters)
  • Adequate Shield User
  • Proficient Armor User
  • Adequate Dodger
  • Adequate Wrestler
  • Novice Reader

With high Fighter, you have a great range of combat tactics. High Observer, Shield User and Dodger can be best developed through active use. Armor User can only be improved passively, which will be painful both in encumbrance costs of your armor, and the beatings you will have to soak up with it. Wrestler can be improved from no skill, but some skill provides a buffer from unexpected challenges.

As with Attributes, you may later find that you want to experiment with different skill point allocations, but these are some good safe starting choices for purposes of getting through the tutorial.

(Read up on Skills for more information.)

Appearance and personality

While your appearance has no effect in-game, your personality traits influence your needs. As long as your needs are satisfied, your adventurer will stay focused. Have a too-extreme personality, and your adventurer craves for his urges to be satisfied more easily - an adventurer that values nature highly will become unsatisfied when he doesn't see animals often enough.

For your first playthrough, try to balance your adventurer's personality in a way that minimizes needs. Managing needs and achieving higher Focus can be very valuable to your character, but beginning with a shorter list makes it easier to learn what behaviour adjustments to make in order to satisfy them. When you have those down, you can acquire more needs later with changes in your values.

Be sure to avoid needs that cannot currently be satisfied. The conditions for "Eat good meal" (high Immoderation and low Self-Control value) "Make romance" (high Love Propensity and high Romance value) and "Be with family/Be with friends" (high Family and Friendship values) aren't confirmed to be implemented for Adventurer modev0.42.01 The means to satisfy "Self-examination" (high Introspection value) and "Take it easy" (low Activity Level and high Leisure value) are uncertain, if possible. The conditions to satisfy "Help someone" (high Altruism and High Sacrifice value) are extremely narrow and fraught with error (it's doable, but not feasible to keep up regularly.)


Key Reference

Most of the key commands you will need are noted in the text, but refer to the quick reference guide if you need to look up the key for a particular action.

Background doesn't matter too much, although if you're Locally Important, you'll start off right in a mead hall (as opposed to having to walk to one as a peasant), which usually contains plenty of weaponry and armour for you to take. You'll also be Hearthperson, who can take orders from the lord or lady in the mead hall.

Your name has little bearing on game play, so that can be freely selected. If you customize your first name, people may comment on how unusual it is. Your name can grow with fame; as your deeds increase so will the length of your name be extended with a title given by populace and posterity. If you define something in every category at the start, then your name won't grow with fame, though it can change with infamy.

Gender can make a difference in gameplay. Males of mammalian species have a higher average mass, which adds to base blood capacity, the effectiveness of and resistance to charge attacks, and the ability to break wrestling holds. The larger the species, the greater the difference in range and average. Females of other species may have advantages over other genders, such as the Queen Antman.


Once you have finished character creation, hit the Esc key at any time and select Save Game to save your game. You can then come back to it later by using the Continue Playing option in the main menu.

Setting off

Talking to someone.

You will usually start your adventure in a peasant hut (if you're a Peasant) or a mead hall or keep (if you're Locally Important). You can talk to nearby people using the k key, and Inquire about any troubles to learn of any quests you can take on. Some of the more common types you may be told about:

  • Beasts are any kind of creature that may be harassing people. The type of beasts range from vampires living amongst the inhabitants of a site, all the way up to titans and other mythical creatures.
  • Bandits are groups of people who menace people in nearby sites, out of the reach of civilization. They usually hang out in camps (shown by a on the map).
  • Criminals are similar to bandits, except they operate right under the nose of authorities -- sites ruled by civilizations. You will find these outcasts hiding in abandoned houses and underground cells.
  • Skulking Vermin are thieving kobolds, and otherwise similar to bandits. Due to their relative ineptitude in combat, these are probably the best targets for fledgling adventurers.

Note that you have to press k each time you want to continue the conversation, and select the appropriate ongoing conversation. If someone else is said to know where to go, you may ask for the whereabouts of that person through Ask for directions (new menu)

Fast travel

Alone in the dark...

Avoid traveling in the wilderness at night, particularly when you are alone.

Fast Travel screen. This adventurer is in a hamlet, with houses to the right and the mead hall visible in the upper-left corner of the hamlet. The asterisk in the middle of all the houses represents a group, in this case a group of unfriendly goblins. The zoomed-out world map is on the right.

So far you've been traveling around at normal scale, but this can be very slow for traveling between geographical regions.

Using T will open the fast-travel screen and enable you to roam the land very quickly. Notice the uppermost bar indicating the position of the sun.

Use m to open a zoomed-out overview map to further help you navigate. This key cycles between the most-zoomed-out "sepia tone" world map and no secondary map when traveling between sites, and in sites it cycles between a list of notable buildings where you're standing, the region map (your main map when not near a site), and the most-zoomed-out world map.

Finding some muscle

Much of the time, especially at the beginning, you need some companions to watch your back. The best place to find some is at a fortress, keep, tavernv0.42.01, or mead hall. Fortresses will be marked by a Ω on the region and world maps. On the site-level map, the fortress entrance will be marked by an 8 or ∞ in the outer wall. Keeps are in towns, and are a 3x3 building with a path leading from the entrance, usually surround by a large, encircling wall. Mead halls are found in hamlets, and are usually in a 3x3 yellow/brown square by itself, although sometimes it's integrated with the main housing area (in any case, the mead hall will be evidenced by a bright magenta name in the list of notable buildings).

No companion left behind...

When fast-traveling, make sure that all of your companions are near you, or some may be left behind. If you've left behind companions, an asterisk will appear on the map where you previously were, and may even try to join up with you.

Move next to the entrance of your chosen source of soldiers and hit d to exit fast travel. You may need to walk around a bit to find the entrance. Once inside, if the location is not abandoned, you will find soldiers milling around. Use k to talk to them and select Ask listener to join you (new menu). Make sure you ask them to go on an adventure, not to lead you to some location. At first you will only be able to get two followers, but this is enough for now.

If the location is abandoned, leave and try another one. Walk some distance away from the fort (or walk on the path out of the keep until the path changes in material, or don't bother getting out if you're in a mead hall) and go back to the fast travel screen with T.

Obtaining food and drink

Thirsty in the rain

If your character is thirsty, and it is raining, even if you do have water with you; drink the water coverings. This will help you to save water for when it is not raining, especially when you are traveling a large distance. Press e like you normally would and scroll all the way to the bottom. You can also drink blood from wounds - maybe a little salty in real life, but in Dwarf Fortress, it works. Note that if you drink vampire blood, you will turn into a vampire, but this early in the game you don't have to worry about that.

You will get hungry or thirsty after some time, indicated by the