11 Dorfy Tips for Dwarf Fortress


This image was made by Justin Dorion in the Year 2012. It menaces with pieces of detail. On it is an image of a dwarf. The dwarf is gazing.

1) Prepare carefully


This is obviously a dwarf.

Certain skills take a lot more time and resources to level up, so the enterprising dwarfist would be wise in preparing carefully. When it comes to mining, you could easily get by with one dwarf of only novice skill, as this affects only time and materials left behind, both of which are not major issues as you are plowing through the upper dirt layers and only dabbling a little bit in the rock layers.

Anyone can be turned into a miner and quickly become an asset, but the skills needed to create good armor and weapons are a lot more difficult to come by. You will want to bring a dwarf highly proficient in weaponsmithing and armorsmithing for later use, otherwise you will spend lots of time and charcoal crafting lower-quality weapons, only to melt them down and repeat the process.
Even with a magma forge, the process is a little bit arduous, albeit much less resource intensive. Designate an area for all items of a certain quality right next to your forge, and mark all of those items for melting. You should probably be melting armor at anything less than a ‘+’ rating.
Don’t feel as though you only need one dwarf with the armorsmithing and weaponsmithing skills. Giving a few dwarves novice skills in armorsmithing and weaponsmithing may lead to strange moods, legendary item, and legendary armor/weaponsmiths. That is a very very good thing.

A cook to make fantastic meals will help out with the early trade caravans while greatly increasing the generated wealth of the fortress. Cooks provide a 3-fold benefit in the early game by maximizing food stores, providing a means to buy cloth, leather, and even more food from early caravans, and generating wealth which affects how many immigrants arrive at your fortress.

Most of my loadouts follow a pattern similar to the one below;

  • leader/cook (Works as a miner until a replacement arrives)
  • mason
  • brewer/farmer
  • woodcutter/carpenter
  • armorsmith/weaponsmith (set to farm)
  • mechanic
  • butcher/tanner/stonecrafter/miner

With the first wave of immigrants, I assign the following jobs in addition to whatever skills they may already have.

  • wood burner
  • furnace operator
  • miner
  • farmer

2) Lock creatures into rooms

Dwarf Fortress Turkeys


With huge forts, an army of pets will really hurt framerate. Since there is no way to slaughter them, it’s best to toss them into rooms where they can mill about on their own. Since pets and poultry don’t require food, you can set it and forget it. I don’t know what that means, but I heard it somewhere.
If you have poultry and want more poultry instead of just eggs, toss them all into a room with a few nest boxes accessible to them. After they blast out some eggs, deny dwarves access to those nestboxes and watch the chicks show up in droves. Chicks love dwarves.

3) Isolate vampires

Vampires are the newest big addition to fortress mode…aside from all of the other new, big additions.
Vampires are detrimental to early forts, as they go around killing other dwarves in their sleep. However, they often come bundled with lots of skills, and heal twice as fast as their non-sucky brothers and sisters.
As new waves of migrants show up, give them a quick once-over, checking for unusually skilled dwarves. These guys usually, but not always, have skills in different fields – such as a mason who is also good at leatherworking.
Scary vampireOnce you find someone suspicious, you can cheat a bit to determine whether or not they are a member of the undead by hitting ‘z’ while ‘v’iewing them to go into their thoughts and preferences. There are 4 main giveaways;

  • Lots of blue text, indicating all of their alliances. Vampires have LOTS.
  • Lots of family members
  • White hair
  • A message that reads how thirsty they are, or how they have gone without a drink in a long time.

Once you have identified a vampire, toss them into a squad by themself or with other vampires, and put them into a barracks to train. Lock that barracks, and keep it locked until trouble arrives. Vampires don’t need food or drink, but will seek out sleeping dwarves at inopportune times if you keep them locked up for too long.
When you “release the bloodsuckers”, make certain they cannot access your other dwarves.

4) Create a bridge of fun

Bridges in Dwarf Fortress are magic. They can be raised in any direction to form a 1-z level tall wall. When raised, they launch any poor unfortunate souls like a catapult. They can be even more fun by having them ‘retract’, which is dwarf-speak for ‘disappear instantaneously’, causing anything on top of them to plummet into whatever hilarity you have set up, whether that be pits, pits with spikes, pits with dogs, or pits with captured hydras.
By channeling out an area below the bridge before you build it, you can create a nice little pit to drop intruders into. 1 z level is brief stunning, 2 is a longer stunning, 4 is crippling, and 8 is usually splattering. This is great for tenderizing large groups of goblin invaders before sending in your dwarven hammer squad to field-test their smashing techniques.
These bridges are best when you have two, sized at 10×10, separated by a single row of pressure plates, and lined with walls to funnel them across the pressure plates. The enemy forces come in, cluster on the two bridges before triggering the pressure plates, and then experience a brief moment of confusion as the bridge disappears and they make a rapid descent into a pit full of corpses of those who previously tried to invade.
In later sieges, you may be lucky enough to have 2 or 3 squads clustering on the bridges before they retract, providing you with a pit of goblin armor. Build yourself a smelter near the base of the pit to melt down all of the “goblinite” that the intruders are wearing.

5) generate cash

cash lets you trade for anvils, booze for thirsty dwarves, metals for settlers in un-metally areas, and the cloth needed to fulfill Urist McWeave’s strange mood before insanity sets in.
Cash generated also brings in more fun like megabeasts and larger goblin attacks, and let’s be honest, a smile probably creeps across your face every time you see the message, “A vile force of darkness has arrived!”.
The best ways to go about getting money also are the best ways to work through all the extra crap laying around the place.

  • Stonecrafting) Rather than dumping all of the stones, set up dwarves with questionable skills such as potash making to better contribute to the fort. Stick them in craftdwarf workshops cranking out instruments or other stone crafts. They should have bins nearby to unload all of their junk. When they reach legendary, they will be earning a decent amount of money versus the weight of the objects they are creating.
  • Dwarf Fortress Shell Crafts

    Shells, craftdwarf workshop, and trade depot, in order from trash to dosh.

  • Shell armor) If you embarked on a map with water sources and trees, it will likely have gobs of turtles that your fisherdwarves will be busy catching. When cleaned, you are left with a shell that normally goes to the refuse pile.
    Stick a craftdwarf’s shop next to the refuse pile to create shell armor. You can get crazy and decorate that armor with shell after making it out of shell.
  • Mechanisms) Although much heavier than stone crafts, mechanisms provide the added benefit of leveling up mechanics. Stonecrafting levels stonecrafters, but they are a bit rubbish in the longrun. You want skilled mechanics around to quickly reload traps when shit goes down and you have swarms of enemies clamoring to get to the heart of your fort. Build your mechanics workshops without any area designated for placing mechanisms. When the workshop gets too cluttered, build a new one.
    Mechanisms don’t stack, so it’s easiest to leave them inside of the fort until the trade caravans come.
    cooking- As outlined earlier, cooks make more food from less food, and happy dwarves from hungry dwarves. Meals provide the added benefit of being absurdly priced when created by a legendary cook, allowing you to buy out the entire amount of cloth that those swishy elves bring with them.

6) chokepoints

Dwarf Fortress Miasma

All this miasma used to be living trolls.

Every entrance to your fort should have some means of detecting intruders. Intruders show up as kobold and goblin thieves aboveground, and as gremlins, dralthas, troglodytes, or dozens of other creatures that blast into your fort and wreak havoc from the underground.
By having chokepoints with cage traps, weapon traps, or intruder detecting wardogs a la Terminator, you will be better prepared to user your dwarves inside, and start locking down your fort.
A single blind cave ogre that finds his way up into a fledgling fort will very quickly scatter or splatter your dwarves.
Experts scoff at this concept, and choose to toss steel armor onto whatever living dwarf they can find, then send them off to glory in the name of the Mountainhome, but unless you want to cull the herd of dwarves in your fort, it’s a better idea to let traps do the heavy lifting until your military can safely take on creepy underground beasts.

7) Get everyone inside when werebeasts show up

Urist Chopstrees gets bit by a werehorse before it transforms into a naked elf and prances away. He walks back to the fort thinking everything is fine and dandy, but nay, he’s now a werehorse and he’s kicking in
the hearts and minds of his former friends. He gets killed, but then a few others turn into werehorses. Seasons come and go, but you always have a rodeo going on in your fort.
Avoid this situation by getting the fuck away from werebeasts. Even a were-koala can cause unholy hell in a fort if someone was to get bitten.

8) Huge tracts of…land

Dwarf Fortress Tract of LandLike that Monty Python joke there? Dwarf Fortress and Monty Python are probably mutually inclusive. I hope that hilarious joke didn’t make you choke on a Cheeto, which you were either eating or are now thinking about eating.
I’m not gonna lie, I love Doritos and Mountain Dew….and speaking of mountains, getting dem dorfs underground is priority number 1 in highly savage environments, but undergound often doesn’t have the trees and plants found aboveground. You’ll need to crack into a cavern to unleash the funky mosses and foliage which will then spring up all throughout your underground home.
By digging out huge areas in the soil layers, you provide a quick way level up your miners, while giving access to wood and farmland! On top of that, it’s called Dwarf Fortress, not Elven Forest Adventures. Get underground and make use of it.

9) Build an arena

You have reached the point where sieges are yearly, and getting more and more ridiculous. Your army is well-equipped, but new recruits are lacking experience.
Well! Aren’t you in luck. With a battery of cage traps, plenty of goblins, and an awesomely decorated arena, you can kill two goblins with one…group of 10 dwarves. P.S. the goblins should be stripped of their armor and weapons before moving the cages to the arena.
Arenas are great ways to kill time and goblins. If you are lucky enough to catch a hydra in a cage trap, put that cage into the arena with 20 goblin cages, and painstakingly set everything up to open from a pull of a single lever. Then sit back and watch the insanity.

10) Doors to slow megabeasts

Dwarf Fortress Double Doors

Doors stand between megabeasts and the delicious dwarves that inhabit the caverns.

Doors stand between megabeasts and the delicious dwarves that inhabit the caverns, and since megabeasts are not affected by traps, doors buy you valuable time to decide whether to organize your military or simply wall up the entrances to your fort.
When slowing the megabeasts, the higher quality the door, the longer you have before it breaks. It should go without saying that multiple doors provide a greater benefit, but megabeasts will break down any door within reach, which means a hallway which is 2 squares wide with 2 doors arranged in any way will result in the megabeast busting those doors down.
Megabeasts despise doors.
Not fighting a megabeast is nothing to be ashamed of, as description alone is never a surefire indicator of how dangerous they are. You may get one made of snow that breathes deadly gas that kills instantly, and it isn’t immediately clear if you can dispatch it without casualties.
For the more conservative players, if you wait it out long enough the megabeasts may disappear on their own……or when another megabeast shows up.

11) Meeting hall connected to bedrooms

Dwarf Fortress Meeting Hall

A WIP meeting hall for the poorer dwarves.

A meeting hall/dining hall of legendary quality is a great way to cheer up dwarves. Having bedrooms surrounding the hall helps prevent against vampire deaths by providing enough witnesses to keep those dasdardly creatures of the night away.
A 4×30 hall is plenty huge enough to be legendary once the smooth gets engraved, and if you are going with 1×3 bedrooms (big enough to hold beds, cabinets, coffers, and be enough to provide happy thoughts), you can line that hallway with enough bedrooms for 30 of your dwarves split between the two sides. Awesome sauce!

9 thoughts on “11 Dorfy Tips for Dwarf Fortress

  1. Line your entryway with stocks of dwarven rum, and pump magma above the room.
    When gobbos enter the room, pull a lever and watch the magma cause everything to burn and explode!

    Ah, I still can hear their screams of terror rattling around in my head.

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