Losing Is Fun, Learning is Better: DF UltraTutorials

If you can't do a job well, wait for someone to do it for you.

Perhaps the most requested feature we half-promised to do on RPS is a beginners walkthrough for Dwarf Fortress. And, clearly, I’m never going to do it because I’m too lazy. Some gentlemen, as I discovered on Qt3 this morning, are not lazy. They are industrious, like dwarfs. For example CptnDuck, who’s done fourteen ten-minute tutorials explaining pretty much everything you need to know about Dwarf Fortress. So, if you’ve been scared before, download the game and get watching. And to help, I’ve embedded all fourteen (count ’em!) beneath the cut…

If you have trouble reading the text, if you click through, there’s crisp HD videos where you totally can…

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 01 – World Generation & Finding a site

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 02 – Preparing the Journey

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 03 – Understanding the DF world & Naming Dwarfs

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 04 – Mining and making beds

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 05 – Making Bedrooms, farms and stairs

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 06 – Dining rooms and dealing with refuse

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 07 – Brewing, labor options and dumping

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 08 – Bedrooms, crafting, trading

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 09 – Crafting and Hotkeys

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 10 – Migrants, Military and Requests

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 11 – Requests, Training and Specialized Stockpiles

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 12 – Patrols, Bins, Entrance, Walls

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 13 – Trading, Migrants and Defense

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 14 – Moods, crossbows, engraving

Dwarf Fortress Video Tutorial part 15: ODB & Macy Gray – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

Look, ma! An RPS hints and tips post. It’s like we’re back in the days of Dr Berkman’s surgery at YS.


  1. Yhancik says:

    Just as I was thinking “RPS hasn’t posted about DF in ages”.

    Now, I don’t know… 10 x 14 minutes, isn’t it like 2h20 or tutorial?
    As much as I like DF and learning, I’m afraid 2h20 of DF tutorial will be a bit too arid (for me). I’d rather spend those 2h20 building a doomed fortress :p

  2. Babs says:

    My god, that’s a ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ joke in the tutorial 8 screenshot.

    I love the Dwarf Fortress. Anyone who hasn’t read it already should also check out the BoatMurdered AAR/story, although the game is considerably easier than that these days.

  3. Trenchspike says:

    Mayday graphics package ftw. All those letters give me nightmares.

    link to mayday.w.staszic.waw.pl

  4. clovus says:

    I spent a week or so with this game about 6 months ago. I really liked some aspects. Like when I had a young dwarf go crazy and try to create a masterpiece. He failed and then started wandering the fortress removing bits of clothing everywhere. I’m pretty sure he kept getting dirty too. Anyway, he eventually died of starvation.

    Things like that are fun, but it just takes forever to get a fortress going and it seemed like a lot of micromanagement. Then the game crashed in the middle of an interesting battle and I figured I’d just wait (probably forever) for a really stable alpha.

    I just wish some company could throw a crew and some money at this guy to make this a finished product with a real GUI. I just don’t have enough time to go on the ride during this developement cycle.

    The game is currently very good though and has potential to be great.

  5. Mark says:

    Oh man, this looks like it’ll be what it takes for me to finally get into this game.

  6. Echo says:

    About time you lazy folk posted on DF, been a while since promised :) All the same, I would say the DF wiki might be a better starting point, with some shorter and less bandwidth consuming tutorials.

  7. Ben Abraham says:

    OI dat be cheatin’, sneaking that last vid in there like that!

  8. James G says:

    I need to get back to Dwarf Fortress again soon. I invested a good month or so in it about four months ago, but then broke off to play other things. Great game though, and the continual updates mean that it is constantly creeping forward.

    Other than the UI, which is somewhat inconsistent and fairly inaccessible, the biggest flaw is that its too easy to build a stable fortress. This is something which will change eventually, once siege instruments are introduced, but at the moment the best tactic for enjoyment in an established fortress is to set yourself ridiculous engineering projects.

  9. Ergates says:

    I thought I had scratched my DF itch, but seeing those screen shots has made me start thinking about fortress layout again. Dammit!

  10. The Hammer says:

    Ooooh. I might have to give this an actual proper, more than five minute go, now that tutorials (and ones referencing Keeping Up Appearances, at that!) have been thrust in my face!

  11. Cooper42 says:

    This is gonna get me playing it again.

    I got sucked into it before, but never got very far. I decided that it was a great game, but doomed to be eternally niche because the UI was just so unbelieveably cumbersome.

    But, I always knew there was an amazingly deep game under that. This has inspired me to try and find it…

  12. gnome says:

    Very well. Right after I spent the next few hours watching these lovely tutorials, I’ll try again. And of course spectacularly fail. Again.

  13. dozer1986 says:

    The Matrix should be remade with Dwarf Fortress (ASCII characters) on the screens instead of that daft scrolling green text.

  14. Meat Circus says:

    This is ace! I’ve been waiting for something like this for years.


  15. eyemessiah says:

    This is for big babies!

    You have to suffer! Its in the DF eula.

  16. Calabi says:

    I’ve been wanting to play this for a while, I did try and play it for about five minutes but its like learning another language, I cant be bothered, and honestly the graphics look like someones puked up a bunch of letters on the screen. How can E be representative of an elephant? How do they show the difference between an Indian Elephant or an African?

    But still with these guides it might be worth another try.

  17. Pags says:

    Bah, in Soviet Russia, Dwarf Fortress learns how to play you.

    Actually, in the rest of the world too.

  18. Tei says:

    Thats *exactly* what I need. Thanks RPS!.

    I was yesterday pondering the posibility to try again to play Dwarft Fortress. I have tried and failed before. Even tryiing custom graphics. The thing evade me. ( and I used to make ascii art, even ascii art games way before in the c64!).

    Now, theres even a Linux build, so I can play this thing on my netbook :-)

  19. clovus says:

    I don’t mind the ASCII graphics so much. One of the tilesets helps a lot with how it looks and interpretting what info is on the screen. What drives me nuts is that the game is entirely controlled by the keyboard. I don’t have a problem with keyboards either; I use the keyboard a lot in Windows. But this game really, really begs to be controlled with a mouse. I’m sure some people will disagree, but choosing dwarfs (especially multiple dwarves) would be a lot easier with a click. It’s like playing Children of the Nile or any RTS with a keyboard. Sorry, but that is full of fail.

    Oh, and the battles seem really detailed. I mean, you can get different kinds of blood on each of a dwarf’s fingers. However, figuring out what cool things are happening is really difficult. Blood and parts end up everywhere, but trying to figure out what belongs to who is like being a forensic detective or something. Better graphics and a mouse driven GUI with perhaps tooltips would help with this.

  20. Senethro says:

    The maker needs to open source this project already. There is no reason an ASCII graphics game should be quite so resource hungry. Yes, I’m sure it is more fun to add new features wily-nily but please let someone optimise the old stuff for you!

  21. BooleanBob says:

    This game just galls me so much. It sits there on my hard drive, in the same directory as Liberal Crime Squad and Alpha Man (God knows why I thought I’d ever be so innundated with ASCII games or roguelikes that they’d need a seperate directory), a monument to arcane systems of laws and lore that seem to dwarf (ha!) more trivial fare, like the, um, AD&D ruleset? (Which I did pick up pretty much exclusively from cRPGs. I like to think (rather preeningly) tha gleaning a working understanding of THAC0 without the help of a vastly patient pen-and-paperer puts me in a fairly exclusive group).

    So yeah, it sits there, in the dark, whispering to me about how I’m not nerd enough to truly comprehend its unremittent, esoteric majesty.

    These may help.

  22. Down Rodeo says:


    (Link for those that are interested).

  23. Pod says:

    Is the guy singing in that last video:

    a) Bill Crosby?
    b) Completely drunk?

  24. Larington says:

    I’ll have to add this to my list of things to do during the summer break from uni.

  25. James G says:


    It’s not been made Open Source because Tarn Adams wants to maintain full creative control. He has however opened up some bits of the code, particularly some of the OpenGL stuff, to allow for optimisation by those in the know.

  26. Kieron Gillen says:

    Pod: It’s the ODB!


  27. Ergates says:

    Q: “How do they show the difference between an Indian Elephant or an African?
    A: Colour

  28. Calabi says:

    Well thats it, I’m playing it then.

  29. Colthor says:

    I tried a graphical tileset when I played DF a year or so ago… It just didn’t get the information across as easily as the coloured letters and symbols. Yeah, they can be a bit abstract, but they work really well.

  30. eyemessiah says:

    Believe it or not, if you stick with the ASCII for a while it becomes quite evocative. When I look at graphical tileset screenshots of DF I see kitsch pixelart. When I look at ascii screen shots I see lakes and rivers and cliffs and forests and great caverns.
    And millions of cats.

    Actually one problem with playing DF in ASCII for long periods of time is that eventually you can’t look at your keyboard without feeling that it needs some serious landscaping and also probably a butcher.

  31. Heliocentric says:

    But seriously. I want a 3d graphical df so hard. I got hinterland just because it shared principles with that kind of game. On losing is fun. I suffer minor panic attacks in a really intense game against another person. Hinterland does similar things because dead is dead. I need more games that let you lose without forcing a retry.

    On a similar theme i’ve started playing grid way out of my depth. Its so much more satisfying to win or even just scrape a podium position and win some sponsor money than simply win because the other drivers are set to “retarded”.

    What other single player games allow for fun failure?

  32. jonfitt says:

    I last played DF about a year ago and before that a couple of years ago I think (it was still the old dig to river, dig to lava format). Every time I go back I have to relearn everything, so this will help a lot.

    I usually end up quitting when it gets to the macro management stage, the interface just makes macro management near impossible. The focus stays on the micromanagement side of things, but suddenly you’ve got 30 dwarves to manage.

    Have they fixed/removed the catsplosion?

  33. jonfitt says:

    Oh, and I never tried it, but you heard about the 3D visualiser right?

    link to tigsource.com

  34. Nitre says:

    Is there supposed to be sound on the videos?

  35. Pod says:

    Yes, there should be a dutch guy talking away. I saw these when they were originally uploaded elsewhere, and either the original author or a new bloke has uploaded them to youtube. So there should be sound….

    Just checked and there is no sound :(
    The other videos are available at link to gamevee.com but it’s 404ing for me..

  36. captain_duck says:

    Wow, i got linked on a famous site like this, awesome.

    I have no idea why people are complaining about sound though. Seems fine on my side. The earlier videos might be a bit soft, maybe thats it?.

    On gamevee, i crossposted the videos on gamevee and youtube because gamevee has even better quality, but gamevee seems to have died in the meantime, no idea what happened to the site.

  37. Larington says:

    Cheers Oh Captain my Captain, the games needed something like this for a while, and it means I might actually get to discover what all the fuss is about (Aside from reading about boatmurdered) when my assignments have passed.
    The audio of the first one I listened to seemed fine, long as theres not a bunch of background noise in the room.

  38. Uglycat says:

    Reading boatmurdered sold DF to me

  39. Lightbulb says:

    A graphics mod! Shallow but i couldn’t get on with ASCII – might give this a go now…

  40. Ergates says:

    Stop! Stop! What are you doing? This fortress is not ready yet! Where is this dwarf’s beard?

  41. Junior says:


    Dwarf Fortress has to be one of my all time favorites, there’s no other game that lets me feel so free with what I can try to do. And the satisfaction of getting that perfect trap working is unparalleled in games for me, the combat system has also spoiled all rougalikes since. Nothing like beating wolves to death with a dead wolf.

    Also, my two cents on assistance; link to pkf.olivepeak.com
    This will help you set your window up they way you like, the Mayday tileset linked above uses 16×16 tiles BTW.
    If you’re an obsessive like myself; link to bay12games.com
    And see what bizarre additions are being made.

    So, any of the RPS crew play DF, or do you not have space for that kind of timesink?

  42. Meat Circus says:


    Thanks *so* much for these. I’ve been waiting for a year for somebody to something like this so I could finally see what I was missing with Dwarf Fortress.

    Is there any downside to using the Mayday DFG semi-graphical mod rather than stock Dwarf Fortress in your opinion?

  43. fulis says:

    Dwarf Fortress rules
    You just need imagination

    You can embed HD btw, google it

  44. wyrmsine says:

    Thanks very much for these – I’m still on my first fortress (woo-hoo!), but these will give me a leg up after my beloved Boltpolished’s sudden but inevitable end. My goal is to double the current population of 100 before some random event* kills everybody.

    *the last “random event” was the Great Starvation and Madness Plague of the seventh year. Said random event was, near as I can determine, sending a trader to hunt in the absence of a caravan. The repercussions of that decision echoed for 17 years, culminating in the Guard Captain going on a killing frenzy, long after the plague. What an awesome game.

  45. neofit says:

    Add me to the list of those waiting for some kind of at least basic graphics and mouse control. There are too many games to play for me to spend hours trying to learn what a white ‘E’ means, just because some dev never played anything since 1985.

    From the features I’ve been reading about, I’d pay full retail price for a version with even Avernum-like graphics. These huge colored ascii symbols just hurt my eyes too much.

  46. Meat Circus says:


    For basic graphics, see upthread. The Mike Mayday DFG mod adds a pretty decent tileset and some other changes so that you don’t have to wonder at raw ASCII all the time.

  47. user@example.com says:

    There is a tiny bit of very basic mouse control, for designating stuff. Makes it easier to designate odd-shaped rooms to be mined, and pick specific trees for felling, if you want to do something like that. Also handy for digging parts of your moat in the shape of a rude word or two.

    A better UI is on the to-do list, but right now there are more pressing matters, like the ability to track the length of a dwarf’s beard…

    Which isn’t as stupid as it sounds, since it’s apparently a minor part of a fairly major overhaul to some system or other which makes future development much easier and much more consistent. Yay.

    I suggest that everyone adds the devlog to their RSS reader of choice. If you don’t, you’re missing out on awesome bugs, such as this one from when Toady One was testing a new materials system, and it had… thermodynamic issues: “Okay, there are dwarves walking around, though it’s next to the wagon with the equipment that immediately explodes into clouds of boiling bronze while the dwarves flash between the dwarf and bar symbol wearing no-material clothes, but there are dwarves walking around.”

  48. Calistas says:

    Enjoyed playing it last year, really feel like picking it up again, but last time I was overwhelmed by the army creation and control job. Mostly I ignored it. But I did make a hella-fortress until it was accidentally flooded and everyone died.

  49. Jeremy says:

    Just to make sure people know, the tutorials don’t just stop at ODB. #15 is Forging, Part I, so presumably there will be more.