v0.31:Exploratory mining

From Dwarf Fortress Wiki
Revision as of 23:44, 24 October 2010 by (talk) (Adding section "Ladder Rows")
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Once you've had enough Template:L to have a basic fortress working, it becomes necessary to dig down in search of ores, gems, water, etc. Exploratory mining attempts to dig out as little as possible in order to see as much as is possible, using clever digging patterns.

This article is about an older version of DF.


Minerals are quite common (as of v0.31.01), reducing the need for extensive exploratory mining to find raw materials. Instead, the goal of most exploratory mining will be finding special features like Template:L and Template:L. One might want to dig down to the caverns to find drinkable water, if the surface is all saltwater or winter-frozen ponds.


Potential dangers include:

  • hostile creatures which inhabit underground areas
  • large pools of liquids (Template:L, Template:L)
  • Dehydration - dwarves are quite task oriented and may forget to break for a drink! (Consider giving miners waterskins)
  • Template:L


All of the interesting stuff is below you when you start - digging straight down may be the fastest (though not the safest) way to find points of interest.

Those interested in *safely* exploring the depths may wish to create a level every so often where the stairway is broken so you can create barriers (like doors or lever-controlled floodgates) or garrison military squads to deal with any discovered hostiles.

Exploratory Patterns

Patterns are represented by a unit tile. This unit tile is repeated throughout the area intended for excavation to create the desired pattern. Each pattern is analyzed with the above factors in mind.

. = Mined (floor)
x = Mined (shaft)
░ = Visible, not mined (wall)
▓ = Not mined, not visible


All tiles are excavated.

  • Labor: 100% of the tiles are excavated.
  • Target: Any size. If it exists in the layer, it will be found.
  • Visibility: 100% of the tiles are visible, obviously.
  • Reusability: Approaches zero, except for mass storage. Any design other than a large hall requires reconstruction.
  • Bottom line: Easy to designate, but miners tend to be a bit chaotic in their approach to the task. Hollowing wastes labor like there's no tomorrow, but integrates extraction into the exploratory mining process. Use only if you have a lot of labor to spare, or need huge amounts of stone and don't mind the reconstruction required to make the hollow area habitable.


░░░░░░ ...... ░░░░░░ ░░░░░░ ...... ░░░░░░
  • Labor: 1 per every 3 tiles (~33%) of the tiles are excavated.
  • Target: Any size. Clusters as small as a single tile are revealed.
  • Visibility: 100%.
  • Reusability: Very low. The long corridors aren't very useful, and can only be expanded to long, wide corridors.
  • Bottom line: Easy to designate, and a single miner will focus on one tunnel to the end or they take a Template:L. This method achieves the same visibility as hollowing out, but using a mere third of the labor. Ideal for hunting single-tile gems. As an added bonus, it is more efficient than a 3×3 design.

Larger "tunnel" patterns are suggested to be dug in multiples of "3" to allow for later complete revealing with minimum effort.

Ladder Rows

░░░░░░░░░░░░ ............ ░.░░░░░.░░░░ ░░░░░░░░░░░░ ░░░░.░░░░░.░ ............ ░░░░░░░░░░░░
  • Labor: ? per every 3 tiles (~?%) of the tiles are excavated.
  • Target: Any size. Clusters as small as a single tile are revealed.
  • Visibility: 100%.
  • Reusability: Moderate. Alternating corridors can be mined out to create 5 tile wide rooms of any length... if the extra doors isn't a concern.
  • Bottom line: A little more tedious to designate, but the increased re-usability and efficiency make this an attractive alternative.

Diagonal every 5

░░.░░░░.░░ ░.░░░░.░░░ .░░░░.░░░░ ░░░░.░░░░. ░░░.░░░░.░
  • Labor: 20% of the tiles are excavated (1 per 5).
  • Target: Any size. Clusters as small as a single tile are revealed.
  • Visibility: 100%.
  • Reusability: With a bit of imagination you can build nice 3x3 rooms
  • Bottom line: This method is moderately efficient among those with 100% visibility. This one doesn't use other levels to move from one spot to another but is annoying to designate.

A variation would put diagonals every 10 or 20, laying the groundwork to fill them in later for higher visibility if desired.

Mine shafts, grid of every 3 tiles

░░░░░░░░░ ░X░░X░░X░ ░░░░░░░░░ ░░░░░░░░░ ░X░░X░░X░ ░░░░░░░░░
  • Labor: 11.1% of the tiles are excavated (1/9).
  • Target: Any size. Clusters as small as a single tile are revealed.
  • Visibility: 100%.
  • Reusability: It's easy to make into square rooms of various sizes, the stairways can be removed and used as doorways, or just carved out as part of the rooms.
  • Bottom line: You'll need to clear part of one layer to get the shafts started up or down (use one of the other methods to cover the area), but for one shaft at a time this method is, tile for tile, the most efficient for those with 100% visibility, and has a great reuse value. In practice, however, if you have more than one shaft being dug at one time, up/down-mining can cause miners to jump around between shafts, wasting time.
It takes a lot of keypressing to designate, although you can save some effort by designating every third row (as in the rows method, except with stairways) and then removing the designations (d-x) on all but every third column. Alternately, here is a ahk script to save your fingers.

For a discussion on optimizing travel times through mineshafts, see Template:L.

Diagonal ramps

The pattern as shown is 1 up-ramp every 7 tiles vertically, or 1/14 horizontally, though this could be turned 90 degrees. The downramps are shown, but are only designated on the next level down. (Be sure you know how Template:Ls work before trying this one!)

░░▼░░░░░░░░░░▲░░▼░░░░░░░░░░▲ ░░░░░░░░░▲░░▼░░░░░░░░░░▲░░▼░ ░░░░░▲░░▼░░░░░░░░░░▲░░▼░░░░░ ░▲░░▼░░░░░░░░░░▲░░▼░░░░░░░░░ ▼░░░░░░░░░░▲░░▼░░░░░░░░░░▲░░ ░░░░░░░▲░░▼░░░░░░░░░░▲░░▼░░░ ░░░▲░░▼░░░░░░░░░░▲░░▼░░░░░░░ ░░▼░░░░░░░░░░▲░░▼░░░░░░░░░░▲
  • Labor: 7.1% of the tiles are excavated (1/14).
  • Target: Any size. Clusters as small as a single tile are revealed.
  • Visibility: 100%.
  • Reusability: Moderate. 3x3 spaces cannot be created until at least one up-ramp is removed or a down-ramp floored over. Template:Ls are less convenient than stairs for many purposes (for example, digging out the wrong tiles around a ramp can make it unusable).
  • Bottom line: In some ways the most efficient method of all, but difficult to designate and somewhat inconvenient (especially around the edges of the map). Awkward to stitch together.

Pinwheel Shafts

░░░░░░░░░░░ ░XX░░X░░XX░ ░░░░░X░░░░░ ░░░▓░░░▓░░░ ░X░░░░░░░X░ ░X░░XXX░░X░ ░X░░░░░░░X░ ░░░▓░░░▓░░░ ░░░░░X░░░░░ ░XX░░X░░XX░ ░░░░░░░░░░░
  • Labor: In this example about 17.3% of the tiles are being excavated.
  • Target: All except single-tile targets are guaranteed to be found, and those will only rarely be missed.
  • Visibility: 96.6%.
  • Reusability: Workshops can be easily fitted into the unmined 3x3 areas.
  • Bottom line: Very similar to Mine Shafts, but you can replace the up/down stairways with alternating up stairs and down stairs on different levels, eliminating the chance that one of your dwarves will slip and fall all the way down the shaft to their deaths.

7×7 blocks

▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓ ░░░░.░░░░░░░.░░░ ................ ░░░░.░░░░░░░.░░░ ▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓ ▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓ ▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓ ▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓ ▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓ ░░░░.░░░░░░░.░░░ ................ ░░░░.░░░░░░░.░░░ ▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓ ▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓
  • Labor: 15/64 (~23%) of the tiles are excavated.
  • Target: Veins and up, as the large 5X5 space left in each unit tile can easily conceal a small cluster. Small clusters will be found perhaps half the time.
  • Visibility: 39/64 (~61%) of the tiles are visible.
  • Reusability: Medium. The 7×7 blocks can easily be converted into 5×5 rooms, suitable for individual rooms, storage or workshops. Optionally, it can be converted into a grid of connected 7×7 rooms, if you center each room on a crossroad; or similarly into a grid of 3x3 rooms, good for workshops, etc. Easily converted into a more thorough 3×3 block patten by digging through the large blocks.
  • Bottom line: This is a low-labor method great for vein-hunting. The low labor cost puts you in a position to invest more and get better coverage if desired.

If you think you may wish to later use the "rows" method (above) for 100% visibility, this could be based on a spacing of 6, 9, or 12. Wider spacing starts to risk missing even veins.

15×15 blocks

▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ░░░░░.░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░.░░░░░░░░░░ ................................ ░░░░░.░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░.░░░░░░░░░░ ▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░.░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓
  • Labor: 31/256 (~12%) of the tiles are excavated.
  • Target: Large clusters are guaranteed, and unless you have particularly bad luck you should also find all veins, but there is no guarantee. Veins would only rarely be hidden in the large 13×13 space left. The large 13×13 space left in each unit tile can easily conceal quite a lot.
  • Visibility: 87/256 (34%) of the tiles are visible.
  • Reusability: High. A 15×15 block of solid rock is extremely versatile when it comes to interior design. It's easily converted into a 7×7 block design, which may be further converted into a 3×3 block design.
  • Bottom line: This method is preferable when you are low on labor. It can easily accommodate parts of your fort, or serve as the precursor for a more thorough search. A 12×12 or 18×18 version are also valid options, with obvious dis/advantages.

Mine Shafts on a 6-, 9-, 12-, or 15-grid

▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓░░░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░░░▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓░X░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░X░▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓░░░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░░░▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓░░░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░░░▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓░X░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░X░▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓░░░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░░░▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓
  • Labor: from under 3% (1/36) for the 6-grid to less than 0.5% for the 15 grid (1/225).
  • Target: Large clusters and up (as above) and underground features.
  • Visibility: extremely low (4%).
  • Reusability: High. Any area often needs a set of stairs (or more than one) leading up/down, and these would be the start of them.
  • Bottom line: This method should be used when you are looking for Template:L, or getting a feel for the various rock layers, or just hoping to get lucky with little effort. Grids larger than 15 may start to miss even large features such as large clusters, but can be used for identifying stone layers, and can always be filled back in later with shafts on a tighter grid.

With any grid pattern, a (much) wider version could be used to start and to locate specific stone layers/areas, and then filled in later in a tighter pattern where you want if you're not lucky the first pass. If you plan to use the 3-grid pattern (for a 100% tile reveal) later, create your grid with intervals that are a multiple of "3". If you are only looking for veins, features or just don't care, then do as you will and play it by ear later.