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Missions are commands in fortress mode that send dwarves in military squads to visit sites off your fortress map. Missions are created in the World Screen (accessed by pressing or clicking it's icon in the bottom right main fortress view). There are multiple types of missions, such as raids, explorations, and artifact/citizen recovery.
Note: This is all done "off screen" - you have no control of the dwarves' actions once they leave your map, not until (with luck) they return.
Sites will either let you "click to raid" or "click to explore" The sites you can "click to raid" are any and only occupied foreign sites, with missions there possibly involving stealing artifacts, animals, things, life from the living and more using various mission types. (Raid is also misleading term, as it's also a term for a specific mission type and the game will only refer to it as being a raid if you're actually raiding).
An exploration is essentially a raid on any unoccupied site. There's fewer options compared to sites you can raid, and all in regards to what to loot from the site and how to free potential prisoners. It's impossible to have combat at unoccupied sites, so don't worry about arming squads sent to explore.
Both raids and explorations are created by opening the civilization/world info map with , then by using the mouse, hover over a site to view and/or select it. If the site you are viewing holds or is rumored to hold artifacts or prisoners, these will be listed, along with the distance in time to the site ("a short trip", "a day's travel", etc.), the race, population, and your current political state (peace, neutral, allied, etc.).
After selecting a valid site, there will be a top right prompt giving you the mission types and options to select, all detailed further below. After setting your preferred mission type and it's options, you can then select squads (to the left of the prompt) to send on the mission. Unpausing the game with any amount of squads assigned effectively begins the mission, and they will set off as soon as they gather all their equipment. Once they leave through the edge of the local fortress map, the mission cannot be altered. You can also choose to send no squads on a mission, which will not start it and useful for if you want to do it later.
Squads on missions that are across a body of water (though not totally cut off by it such as with an isthmus) will sometimes route through the water.
If a site is unable to be visited, then the prompt's text will explain why you cannot create the mission. Missions cannot be sent to occupied sites that are members of your civilization, or locations that are impossible for your squads to reach. (i.e. across oceans/glaciers.)
- Raid (default: squads will try to avoid detection)
- Pillage (openly attack)
- Raze (openly attack and destroy site)
- Demand one-time tribute
- Demand ongoing tribute
- Conquer and occupy
- Demand surrender and occupy
Along with additional mission options for raiding, pillaging, and razing:
- Free captives that belong to your civilization
- Release other prisoners
- Take important treasures (referring to artifacts)
- Loot other items
- Steal livestock
All of which are toggled via clicking, green being the "toggled on" color. Notably, your dwarves can only carry so many items back to your fortress, so sending more dwarves will generally result in more loot.
Now, before you launch your first squad to crush your enemies and see them driven before you, take a look at your target by hovering over them and check their civilization. Sending a mission against a civilization's site is likely a declaration of war with them (if you get caught and they care enough). So, if you go to war with that tiny, isolated hamlet with a population <10 next to you, you're also going to war with the entire civilization that site is a part of, near and far. And the map is not static - all those other, larger civilizations are looking to gobble up the smaller ones, just like you might be. Therefore, act fast, but act wisely, and consider your options! If no civilization is listed, then they are simply a local site government with no connected wider civilization, often this is the case with necromancer towers. They can still be at war with you if they declare it or decide to be after surviving your mission against them.
In a raid, your dwarves will attempt to sneak in and steal items from the site according to the mission's options. The raiders' ambusher skill will affect their chances of success; if they are spotted, then they go into battle as if they were on a Pillage mission. Each dwarf on the mission will gain experience in ambusher skill, regardless of the outcome, so it may be useful if you want to raise that particular skill quickly. If you send someone to raid a site while they have a baby, the baby will go with them and also gain Ambusher skill.
- Raiding a site of a civilization you are at peace with, for any reason, could cause them to declare war on your civilization. Act with care when choosing sites to pillage.
- A Raid uses the Ambusher skill, probably checking the average of all dwarves on the mission[Verify] against the defenders site leader's Observer skill.
On a pillaging mission, your dwarves will openly attack the site, and if successful will result in your dwarves stealing loot according to what's available at the site and your mission options. Pillaging uses the military tactics skill of each army's highest-leveled tactician, giving the side with a better one major advantages in the battle.
When razing a site, your dwarves will both openly attack and attempt to destroy the site, resulting in a more prolonged attack. If you are sure that your army will win against the opposing one, and you want that site gone, a razing mission is probably what you want to perform. Your dwarves will still bring home loot according to mission options and site loot, and it also uses the military tactics skill in the same way as pillaging.
Demanding tribute (one-time or ongoing) may result in the site providing goods to your fortress (if successful). They will do so in the form of a caravan that will drop off the goods at your depot and leave. Tribute caravans tend to be relatively small, but they are guarded. You don't have any control on the content of the tribute. What they bring depends on the civilization's available materials, the site's size and tracked items and so forth, and may range from excessively mundane (like a bunch of average quality clothing) to extremely useful (like exotic animals). Notably, tributes are one of the few ways to obtain evil animals tamed by goblins, such as beak dogs, for instance. Yearly tributes usually happen at the beginning of a season and may be arranged in any season, including winter. Demanding tribute is one of the few ways to "contact" another civilization without triggering an outright war, and therefore ensure that it will send out regular trading caravans afterwards.[Verify]
Conquering a site relies on military force, while demanding surrender relies on negotiation under the threat of military force. If your demand of surrender isn't successful, your dwarves will then attempt to openly attack the site. There is no visible drawback to not always demanding surrender beforehand, and taking over sites with minimal bloodshed can be surprisingly easy, especially for the low-population ones.
If successful, occupying a site will make it one of your fortress's holdings. Note that your forces will remain on-site as occupiers. One of them will then claim the title of administrator of the place, "after a polite discussion with rivals". (This will be announced in a lovely purple message.) The previous administrator of the place will also likely be killed by your dwarves, as is standard in the conquering mechanics of Dwarf Fortress (in worldgen and afterwards).
You may request (through a messenger) that your occupying dwarves come back to your fortress, but the administrator will remain there regardless. Dwarves that you request this way will still have the labor preferences you've enabled for them prior to sending them out, but won't be part of a squad, so you will have to re-enlist them after they come back. There is also no guarantee that they will wear the same equipment as they had when you sent them out, so you may not be that keen on strapping them with very valuable gear after all. Note that insurrections are explicitly disabled for your holdings, so at the moment there is no drawback to not requesting every single occupying dwarf to come back to your fortress (apart from FPS concerns). It is, however, a useful way of getting rid of a discontented dwarf or annoying noble without having to arrange for an unfortunate accident or exiling their entire family. Non-citizens who are resident soldiers and part of your raiding squad can be selected as the administrator of the conquered site. However, your messenger cannot request for non-citizen soldiers to be returned. The occupied site will still be considered one of your holdings even if the administrator is not one of your citizens. It is therefore possible to recover all citizens of a squad who have been sent to demand a surrender and only the militia captain is required to be a citizen.
If merchants belonging to your civilization are visiting a site you have conquered then your messenger can be sent to request that they join your fortress.
An artifact recovery mission sets a specific artifact as the objective of a mission. This usually involves traveling to the last known or rumored location of said artifact. Particularly hard to find artifacts may take upwards of 3 years to find.
If your squad manages to encounter a bit of fun on any form of mission, members of those parties can be captured as prisoners by the inhabitants of the site you attempted to raid. When this happens, you can create a citizen recovery mission, whereupon the assigned squads will attempt to rescue the prisoner from whatever site they are held at. Captive citizens can join civilizations that captured them, so your next raid to the same site can be met with your own armor-clad legendary warriors as defenders, leading to unexpected fun.
You can also instruct your squad to free members of other civilizations you find at your destination. These other prisoners you rescue will come back with your squad and seek sanctuary at your fortress. Sometimes, even uninhabited tombs can contain "prisoners" that you can rescue. If you accept their request, these prisoners will become partial citizens. These units will have all basic labors enabled (such as hauling, construction, and the like), and will have any labors they are skilled in set to active with no way to deactivate them.[Verify] Consider setting your workshop profiles a little more aggressively than normal if you don't want them filling orders reserved for more capable hands.
Artifact recovery and citizen recovery missions are created by selecting the desired recoverable from either the missing citizens menu or the artifact menu accessible from the world screen via clicking on them in the bottom right. Once you've selected something, it will create a new mission, and allow you to select squads to assign. Although you can technically select recoverables that belong to sites of your civilization, squads on these missions will almost instantaneously return, and will deliver no report data.
Depending on the civilization you are raiding/razing, the loot may change. For example, when you are raiding elves, you won't get metal items; you will mostly get grown wood items instead. This also applies to livestock: Raiding elves may result in the looting of many different types of animals (all tame). When raiding goblins, you will, interestingly, be able to obtain tame beak dogs, which are only trainable by dwarves, never tamable.
Missions can be put to various uses. Demanding tribute from civilized sites succeeds more often than not and ensures you receive plenty of caravans from that site's parent civilization, on top of the tribute. As there is no functional limit to the number of civilizations you may be in contact with, you may find your trade depot becoming very busy all year round. Your fortress can potentially specialize and rely exclusively on imports for self-sustainability, which was impossible or at least very fragile to do in previous versions. The tributes themselves, while fairly random, often aren't too bad and can easily kickstart animal breeding programs that your fortress wouldn't have access to otherwise.
Occupying missions are also an indirect way of population control (that nicely contrasts with the previously messy ways one had to resort to in older versions), which is always good for FPS. They also act as a way to get rid of potential troublesome dwarves – often night creatures, necromancers, and unhappy dwarves, since they will either stay at the conquered holding or die in the attempt – out of sight, out of mind. Acquiring a bunch of holdings this way is also relatively quick and easy and lets you fulfill the requirements for a barony, county, etc. faster.
Artifact looting is also fairly random but is a convenient way to accrue wealth and fill your library. Books containing useful knowledge (currently engineering and medicine) can be used to (slowly) accrue experience and some books have very special effects indeed – see secrets for a guide on how to determine which books contain the secrets of life and death and thus will turn your dwarves into necromancers.
Missions also give you a greater degree of control on how much invasion-related fun you want – if a civilization gives you too much trouble, you can take the fight to them and attempt to raze their sites. Conversely, if you're getting bored, pillaging a bunch of sites is likely to provoke some kind of retaliation.
- On the Civilization/World Info screen there is a button titled "missions". You can reassign squads and delete missions on this screen.
- When a squad returns from a mission, an announcement to the effect of "<squad name> has returned" will be generated, and a mission report will be visible in the report menu accessible from the world screen. In the report, the path the squad took is traced on the map, and the events that took place along the way are revealed.
- Pets and other animals on missions can be killed or injured.
- The mission will NOT start until all dwarves assigned to the mission exit the fortress. This includes military dwarves that are imprisoned, hospitalized, or otherwise unfit for duty. This can be fixed by removing the problem dwarves from the assigned squads. The mission will also NOT start if any assigned war animals have not left the fortress. Ensure no assigned animals are caged, chained, or roosting if your squad is gone for a long time.
- Sending a token dwarf to demand the surrender of a site can initiate contact with a distant civilization, providing an additional yearly trade caravan.
- Receiving tribute from a site can establish peace with that civilization, at least temporarily.
- Nobles on missions still expect their existing mandates to be fulfilled, but are unable to issue any new requests.
- Nobles returning from missions will be unassigned from their rooms.
- Missions to a site will still be carried out if the site has changed ownership. This can lead to fun when you end up accidentally raiding your ally.[Verify]
- Missions against your parent civilization or your current holdings cannot be created, but any existing missions against those sites can be modified and dispatched. Raiding your parent civilization may start a civil war.[Verify]
- Sieges against your fortress take from a hostile site's population, which will leave that site woefully undefended should you decide to retaliate.
- Some Recover Artifact missions, in which the artifact to be recovered is held by a creature instead of placed at a site, produce no mission report. The bug has been noted on the DF issue tracker
- There is an uncommon bug where squads sent on missions will never return and be forever listed as 'traveling'. To fix this, go to your world screen and cancel the mission the squad was originally sent out to do. Then, cancel their orders in the military sidebar. The former members of the squad will eventually return to the fortress after a few days (thankfully still carrying their equipment) and it will announce 'XYZ squad has returned' when they do.
- Dwarves who lose their limbs offsite won't actually realize they don't have their limb anymore until they get home, at which point everything they were wearing or holding on it will fall to the ground.[Verify]
- Conquering a site makes its population's race playable in Adventure mode. This includes vaults and their angels.
Mission reports have an animated map on the left side of the screen. A path is traced out from your fortress to the destination and events are "revealed" on the right side of the screen.
- This list is incomplete and might contain errors, please feel free to contribute
- Found nothing
- Slipped into (settlement) undetected
- Searched (settlement)
- Stole (artifact)
- Asked about (artifact)
- Caroused in (site)
- Looted treasure from (site)
- Seized livestock from (site)
- Freed the (species and name of prisoner)
- Confronted the (species and name of opponent)
- The (species and name of combatant) fought with...
- (Name)'s (body part) was torn out/ripped off/crushed
- (Name) was struck down
- (Item/Artifact) was looted from (former person holding it)
- (Name) spotted (your forces) slipping out of (site)
- (Your forces) attacked (site government) at (site)
- (Squad), led by (leader), clashed with (forces)
- (Your forces) rampaged throughout (site)
- (Your forces) defeated (site government) and took over (site)