Need a Dwarf Fortress guide before you dive down into the earth? Here's ours!
How to Dwarf: Intro
So you've just bought Dwarf Fortress and got swept up in all the hype surrounding this legendary title. Now you're already itching to tell your friends about all the madness you've encountered. But you probably booted up the game and are now confronted with several menus, stats, and dwarfs that you don't know what to do with. Don't worry; ESTNN is here to help you.
Make sure to still activate the tutorial, as it will teach you the absolute basics when it comes to interacting with the game. This guide covers everything from finding the right location for your first fort to making it sustainable. And don't forget, Losing is Fun.
How to Dwarf: Setting up a World and Finding the Right Location
First, you want to set up a world; Dwarf Fortress' world generation is a technical marvel. It'll generate an entire world with a complicated history and characters that you can then interact with. If you just want to learn the game, we recommend generating a world on a small map size. That will keep the time it takes to generate to a minimum and make it easier to keep track of things. You can and should leave everything else at the pre-set options; those are things we can tinker with later.
One of the most important choices you'll ever make is picking the location your dwarves set up their fortress. While and location is fine and more seasoned players would delightfully embark on the most cursed areas of the world map for ‘fun', we're looking for a location that can offer us everything we'll ever need.
While mountains are the most logical place for a dwarf to set up shop, it'll also make it much more difficult to cover your needs. Hovering over the map will reveal an area's resources and general conditions. As a beginner, looking for calm or wilderness surroundings with a warm temperature is recommended. You should also look for a section of the map with trees, healthy vegetation, and a river nearby. Those will become very useful in the early game and will also help you sustain your fortress in the winter.
Next are the resources. Generally, you want to settle somewhere with soil, sand, or clay. Don't worry too much about settling in deep soil since you can always dig down to mine for resources. But generally, you want to be in between some and deep soil. Another important thing to look out for is the aquifer value; new players should definitely avoid that one so you won't suffer from preemptive drowning.
Once you find a place that meets most of the mentioned conditions, you can select it and hit embark. Don't worry about fine-tuning your dwarfs and starting loadout, it doesn't matter too much.
How to Dwarf: Setting Up Shop
Now you've found a nice place to settle; it's time to get comfortable. While the tutorial is pretty good at teaching you the basics to control your dwarfs, it also doesn't really set you up. (We still recommend going through it regardless.) You first want to set up a stable flow of food and drink. While your itch for expansion is surely immense, we first need to establish the absolute basics in order to thrive.
So we start off by brewing booze. There are several ways to go about this, but we want to set it up in a way that allows us to brew infinite booze. Dig below the earth or into a hill of your choice and make sure to free up 3×3 tiles of dirt or sand (a little bigger is always better, of course). Then you can hit up the structures menu, then workshops, then farming, and then farm plot. Keep in mind that the field we want to build can only be built underground and on either soil or sand.
Set up your plot for the whole year by ticking the plum helmet box. These are used for brewing mushroom wine but can also be consumed as food if needed. Next up, you want to set up a small stockpile. Make sure to pause the game while doing this. We don't want your dwarf to fill it up with needless nonsense. Set it up so only seeds are allowed to be placed in the stockpile (seeds are under the food submenu) and click the barrel icon to ensure that no barrels are allowed in that stockpile.
Generally, try to separate your stockpiles as early as possible and as much as possible. This makes expanding workshops and production lines a whole lot easier in the future. Also, avoid constructing your entire fortress around one giant stockpile. It'll make managing traffic later a pain. (Yes, Dwarf Fortress is also a city management sim, did no one tell you?)
Next, we chop down some trees. One or two are usually enough to get started. Just make sure to stockpile building materials separately. Then we can construct some workshops. Under workshops, then farming, we can find the still. This can be used to turn plants and fruits into alcohol, one of the most important things in a dwarf's life.
Before we can start brewing, we need empty barrels. Again under workshop, select the carpenter's workshop and set it down somewhere close to your wood stockpile. Now we can order the workshop to make barrels. At first, you can only give single crafting orders, but we'll get how to set up big work orders and production pipelines later.
Again under construction, workshops, and farming, you'll find the still. Place it somewhere near your little fields and in short range of your empty barrel stockpile. Now you can get to brewing plants or fruit. And this checks our first essential, drinks.
Next, let's get cooking. While your dwarfs can and will eat raw food, preparing meals for them will keep them happy. If you set up near a river, especially in a warm biome you'll have access to fish. Usually, one of your dwarfs will be assigned as a fisher dwarf, but you can check several for the task in the labor menu.
To process the fish, we once again hit up construction, workshop, then farming, and then building both a fishery and a kitchen. Now you can just set up individual tasks and now you have both food and drink covered.
How to Dwarf: Setting up Workflows
Now it's time to automate all of this. Don't worry. This is quite easy. Click nobles and administrators and assign one of your dwarfs to the position of manager. One of your dwarfs should have some management skills but it's not that important yet.
Assigning a manager allows you to use the work orders tab for all the workshops. Now you can assign orders with the work orders menu and set specific conditions with several variables. For example, we set up the carpenter's shop so it will always make sure there are at least 10 empty wooden barrels available. For this, we set it in the work orders menu that we want 10 wooden barrels crafted, then we hit the conditions menu and select “if less than 10” via the + sign.
You can, of course, tinker with this as you see fit. But make a habit of using this early on by setting up your still and your kitchen to produce X number of food and drink whenever resources are available. Automating basic tasks like crafting containers to store items in or making enough food and drink to keep your storage full will go a long way toward a successful fortress.
How to Dwarf: Make Happy
Now that we've given our dwarfs a luxurious chance to survive, it's time to consider their basic needs so they won't spiral into a depression when something doesn't go their way.
Let's start by making them some rooms. I like to start with dormitories, as they are easy to make and quite effective, before transitioning into fancier lodgings. For this, we simply carve out a big chunk of a mountain and craft some beds in the carpenter's workshop.
Next, select the furniture menu under constructions and place a couple of beds. Mind that you can only place beds when they're available, so always keep track of how many you have. Once you've done that, you can use the zone menu and define all the beds at once as a dormitory. This means every dwarf can use any bed and will, if there are no beds available, sleep on the floor.
You should also consider setting up a craftsman's workshop. Here you can instruct your crafter dwarf to make you some cups. For some reason, your dwarfs don't enjoy dumping their heads straight into the barrel. On that note, you should also make a dining room. Simply assign a spot as a dining room with the zone menu and have your carpenter make some chairs and tables. Now you can make a general dining area for everyone.
This should keep most of your dwarfs happy for now. If you see someone's mood drop, make sure to check their profiles to see what's wrong. If a dwarf cant does his or her profession, maybe you should think about providing the means for it. Later you can expand on all of these options by giving dwarfs individual lodgings, dining rooms, and several sets of clothing.
How to Dwarf: Have Fun
Now that you've been thoroughly indoctrinated into the beginnings of a fortress remember one thing. Losing is fun. This has been the dogma of the Dwarf Fortress community for almost as long as the game exists.
So allow me to give you an ultimate tip for playing Dwarf Fortress: Just Watch It Burn.
While other video games have fooled you into thinking ‘winning' is a desirable outcome, there is no such thing as Dwarf Fortress. The closes you'll ever get to winning in Dwarf Fortress is making your fortress so populated and so well designed that your PC will eventually fail to run the game at a playable framerate. You chuckle now, but FPS death is a thing. And not even your Raytracing 6090ti AMVidia with that CPU you stole from the government will prevent it.
So the most fun you'll ever have in Dwarf Fortress is barely knowing how something works, trying your hand at a crazy contraption, and then helplessly watching as one small mistake spirals out of control. Dwarf Fortress does not know how to play Dwarf Fortress. It's being overwhelmed by the abyssal depths of the game's systems and laughing at your own misfortune.
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