Dwarf Fortress: The Song Of Onionbog, Pt 1

They're doomed, of course.

So, last week we finally gave MineCraft the love and attention it deserved. Since then I’ve received a bunch of emails telling me I should do Dwarf Fortress next. As in, it’s another deeply unique PC indie game that we haven’t done much coverage on, and it suits a diary perfectly.

You know what? You guys have me wrapped around your little finger. Presenting the Song of Onionbog, Part 1.

That’s the May Green tileset I’m using, if anyone was wondering. I am using it because otherwise, Dwarf Fortress looks like this:

If you don’t know about Dwarf Fortress, it’s a freeware ASCII fantasy management game where you run a camp of dwarven settlers, with a twist. The twist is that the developers, Bay 12 Games, have never stopped adding to it since it came out more than 4 years ago and even today they show no sign of stopping. Understand that Dwarf Fortress was pretty complicated when it came out, so by now the game’s depth is ludicrous. Check out this rudimentary features list. This game models everything from the weather, to wrestling, to madness and moods, to the entire history of your randomly generated world.

Oh, one other thing you should know about Dwarf Fortress. Nobody wins. Ever. The whole game basically amounts to a grand failure engine.

As of three days I hadn’t played Dwarf Fortress, I’d only read about it. Let me tell you about my first six hours with Dwarf Fortress. My first six hours with Dwarf Fortress put me in a worse mood than I’ve been in for six months. Learning to play DF is absolutely as big a pain in the ass as everybody says it is. The interface has a tough job to do, bless it, but getting it to do what you want is like teaching a beetle to cook.

To top it all off the Dwarf Fortress wiki was down for the day, leaving me with nowt but these excellent tutorials and, when they failed me, typing maddened questions into Google with tears in my eyes. “somebody help for fucks sake dwarf fortress how do you irrigate fields”.

But I’m better now. I know the basics. I can tell a dwarf to do a thing, and sometimes they even do it! Let’s get started.

After you’ve had the game generate you a world, the first thing you do in Dwarf Fortress is pick a site for your settlers. This will likely be your first experience with the incredible language that permeates the game. Browsing, I lay eyes on The Named Jungle, The Pregnant Dune, The Swamp of Scenarios and The Dull Hill. You can start wherever you want though, anywhere from a frozen glacier to a haunted beach populated by murderous, amphibious zombie whales. Read that last sentence for me one more time. Amphibious zombie whales.

Since I struggle telling my dwarves where to leave their rubbish, I’ll be choosing somewhere pleasant. Eventually I find a secluded, temperate spot, far away from my world’s omnipresent goblin fortresses. It’s at the mouth of a stream known as ‘Clashchanced the Faint Yarns’, up North in the Swamp of Treasures. So, yes. I’ll be making my home in a swamp. Nevermind. I can stow my dignity- the place has plenty of good soil, lots of trees and other useful foliage, and the surroundings are supposedly “Calm” (as opposed to, say, “Untamed”, “Sinister” or simply “Terrifying”).

Let’s prepare for the journey carefully.

Customising your settlers means deciding on your team’s skills and supplies, although the game still randomly generates their physical and mental attributes. I decide to shunt lots of points into four of my seven dwarves, who I name Aleck, Kerion, Johon and Jiim. Any resemblance to people real or imagined is strictly coincidental.

Aleck: The fort’s killer, Aleck is an axedwarf trained in fighting, dodging and kicking. I consider giving him a point in biting, but decide that would be overkill. Aleck will keep us safe. Will he keep us safe? It says here in Aleck’s fine print that he has “a poor ability to manage social relationships”. As the most dangerous dwarf in the fort, this is worrying.

Kerion: Our master miner and builder, Kerion will carve us our home. Smart, active and slow to tire, but with meagre creativity and a very bad sense of empathy, Kerion’s noble sacrifice of placing himself at our society’s coalface is probably best for everybody.

Johon: Mighty and resolute, yet distant, Johon’s position of grower (and dabbling herbalist) is the most important in the whole fort. Without crops, there’s no food or booze. Without any food or booze, dwarves have been known to get upset. Johon takes inspiration from cave crocodiles, which he admires for their strength.

Jiim: A fat, grumpy dwarf with braided hair, braided sideburns, a braided beard and a long moustache arranged in double-braids, Jiim’s actually the most rounded and personable dwarf in the fort. He takes on the roles of mason, mechanic and trade negotiator. He will be the oil that keeps the fort running quietly.

This team is joined by two women, Tholtig (a carpenter) and Ingish (a brewer), and Tei, peasant miner and cook. I have some points left over and spend them on an extra bucket, as that seems like a practical thing to do (?), a couple of leather vests, and a cat and a kitten to take care of any vermin that live in the swamp.

Fooling around with the Fortress name generator, I come up with Anondudgoth. That’s the Dwarvish. In English? Onionbog.


“CEASE,” commanded Jiim, bellowingly. The wagon rolled to a stop.

Jiim licked his fearsome lips. He supped the air. “This place,” he said, “will be our home. There is a river, for water, and trees, for murdering. There is a mountain, into which we will strike. We will contrive our fortress here. And we will call it… Onionbog.”

The others exchanged poison glances. “Who made you expedition leader, anyway,” asked Aleck.


As the map loads I discover, to no great surprise, that Jiim has been assigned the role of expedition leader. I have no idea what this means in a practical sense, but presumably if he died it would be a bad thing. I will definitely try and make sure he doesn’t die.

This impossible promise made, I get to work laying down the basics. I’m good at the basics. Kerion and Tei collect the two crappy pickaxes we have on the wagon and start tunneling out some basic rooms. Johon immediately begins playing with the team’s kitten, which acts as a reminder that I should set him to work foraging the local plants.

Let me help you out here. Know that the game shows you things from a top-down perspective. Now:

1: The tunnel entrance to our fortress.

2: Kerion!

3: Tei!

4: Understanding all these triangles is important. They represent upward slopes. An upside-down triangle means a downward slope. So, our fort is being dug horizontally into the steep incline of a hill.

5: A cat!

6: All of these are loose stones, yet to be cleared up because we have nowhere to put them.

Kerion and Tei mainly find olivine (the green stuff), but there’s also some loamy sand (the yellow stuff), thank God. Loamy sand counts as soil, meaning I can use that space for my all-important underground farm. But before I can do that, I have to “muddy” it. Water it, basically. This is somewhat complicated.

“You want what dirty madness?” asked Tholtig.

“I want you to take that bucket,” Jiim repeated, “and tip water on the floor of this chamber.”

“BUT THAT IS DIRTY MADNESS,” screeched Tholtig. Behind her, Tei nodded in stern agreement.

Jiim pinched the mottled flesh at the top of his nose and closed his eyes. He was in terrible pain. He turned to face Kerion, who stood nervously behind him, fingering the grubby pickaxe in his hands. “Alright,” spoke Jiim. “Kerion. Go outside, climb the hill, and dig a chamber directly above this one. Then dig a pit in the floor. Tholtig? You must make a pond in this pit that Kerion will fabricate. Ponds are practical, and can be used for cave-carp or drownings. A fortress must have one.”

The dwarves nodded their approval, and set to work immediately. Staying in the sandy chamber, Jiim watched as within the hour a hole had been punched in the ceiling, and soon buckets of water were coming splashing through.

Jiim stroked his belly, and he worried. It would be a long year.

This is genuinely the simplest method of irrigation in Dwarf Fortress. Telling your dwarves to create a pond in the room directly above your farms, thereby soaking the Earth, then when the ground is good and sodden you tell them to stop and let the water evaporate. That’s the kind of game we’re dealing with here.

More basics. It starts to rain, so I get everyone to shift our food supplies indoors so they don’t start rotting. Kerion and Tei dig some downward staircases, and once they’re down there they begin hollowing out what will become Jiim’s immense stone storage chamber and masonry workshop. I spot skilled miner Kerion taking a nap on the floor while Tei pushes on with the work. Rather than thinking him lazy, I imagine he’s just tired himself out.

Tholtig gets to work chopping down most of the trees around our fort’s entrance, then uses the lumber to throw up an outdoor carpenter’s workshop. Here, she begins producing beds, which I use to create a crude barracks for everybody. No more napping on the floor, lads, it’s bad for morale.

During all this the cats get on with giving the local wildlife a hard time. Scattered around our fort are the corpses of dragonflies, rats, toads and tiny lizards. I designate a refuse dump outside our entrance, hidden behind a hillock. Corpses and filth left inside the cramped confines of your fortress create ‘miasma’, which makes dwarves miserable. This can graduate to being lethal if, say, your fortress is also under siege, and the dwarves trapped inside start losing their grip on reality.

Alone in the peace and quiet of his masonry chamber, Jiim sets to work chiselling furniture for the fort. That’s not me getting fruity with my descriptions. Dwarf Fortress models noise and boistrousness, with workshops and bedrooms not functioning as well if you put them next to, say, a dining hall. Which is what I build next, actually. Excavating the dining hall-to-be, the boys make a discovery.

Tei heaved his pickaxe into the rock, and, upon pulling it back, found a strange stone staring out at him from the crack.

“Kerion come and look at this strange stone that stares out at me from the crack!” Tei cried.

Kerion marched over to him, wiping his perspiring armpits on Tei’s shoulder, which was Kerion’s privilege and his duty as chief miner. “Tis a jelly opal,” said Kerion.

“A jelly opal,” said Tei. “That is too strange!”

And Kerion turned to face him then, and Tei saw in Kerion’s eyes that same eternal stillness of the stone itself, and Kerion delivered Tei a powerful blow that nobody would ever see. And in that moment, Tei understood. He never disrespected the Earth again.

With the dining room hollowed out I get everybody hauling Jiim’s stone tables and chairs up the stairs to set them in place, which has got to be a massive pain in the ass but my dwarves don’t grumble. Aleck is the first person to use the new dining room, sitting alone at a table with a meal of dried horse intestine.

Outside, the rain clears. Inside, the last of the water in our underground farm has almost evaporated. Soon it’ll be time for Johon to plant his crop of Plump Helmet mushrooms, and then we can set up a kitchen, and a still to make mushroom booze.

Perhaps Onionbog will be alright after all.


  1. Eclipse says:

    hello there :) that tileset looks awesome, can you tell us where to find it and how to install it?

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Oh, sure! It’s the May Green tileset, recommended to me by Hero Games Journalist Dan Whitehead. Get it here:

      link to mayday.w.staszic.waw.pl

      Editing it into the article now.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      I’m tingling with anticipation, you lot are perfect to do something like this!

      Advance warning though Quintin: Not to sound like an MMO company, but if you want to get in to the meat of Dwarf Fortress it can take a *huge* amount of time simply because of its sheer depth. To even get up to invasions, a crucial part of the game, will require you to have a population of over 100 dwarves…

      And then, population requirements aside, there are vast and bewildering arrays of other things that even hardened dwarf fortress players don’t dare dip their toes in to. Windmills, waterwheels, the ominous and spoilerific “hidden fun stuff” (dwarf-pedia it), all the different workshops, the complications that arise from defences, learning how to optimise your fortress and zoning to name but a few… it’s a tricky beast to tackle. But I think that’s also one of the game’s main appeals. It keeps providing new and zany experiences no matter how deep you dig.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Yeah, I appreciate just how out of my depth I will soon be. In later instalments I expect I’ll be welcoming advice.

    • AndrewC says:

      It’s true, Dan Whitehead is so sexy.

    • President Weasel says:

      I strongly recommend the Lazy Newb Pack from link to bay12forums.com

      It contains tilesets and handy tools like Dwarf Therapist, which is extremely useful for telling your little mans what they should be doing.

    • Ovno says:

      I made a DF Noobs Starter thread on the forums last week contains links to tutorials and the Lazy Newb Pack…

      link to rockpapershotgun.com

    • Ovno says:

      Also don’t forget about StoneSense it vizulisies your world in isometric 3d.

    • mlaskus says:

      Wow, I just googled StoneSense and it looks incredible.
      link to bay12forums.com

    • Burc says:

      Here is my tip to you all:

      Mike Mayday added some highlights to the tileset not to long ago, and i am of the opinion that it made it look a lot worse.

      If you change the four instances of “mayday.png” to “mayday-sans-highlight.png” in data/init/init.txt you will get to experience a way cleaner graphicsenvironment, where black is really black and not the grey you can see in the screenshots.

      In my opinion it’s a lot nicer to look at.

    • Bunny says:

      @ Hexagonalbolts

      As a hardened DF player I can assure you that windmills and waterwheels are actually incredibly easy once you get the hang of it. I’ve breached the HFS many times, also. Granted, I die horrifically every single time, but then that is the best part of the game!”

      The learning curve is steep, but once you reach the verdant green shores at the top, it is really worth it

  2. Chris says:

    What tile set are you using?

    • Chris says:

      Please note I wrote the above comment before the other two comments were up.

  3. Seraphim2150 says:

    So, how many days do we give Onionbog before the dwarfs are all dead or gone mad?

  4. Lars Westergren says:

    >Tei, peasant miner and cook

    Careful with the fanservice, or everyone will demand you put them in the game.

    I tried DF some time ago, but I just couldn’t get past the interface. Still looking forward to this series.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      … can I be in the game?

    • stahlwerk says:

      Haha, Dorf me pleeze (no, seriously, do it!) :-D

      My last fortress was starved by my ineptitude of the irrigation/farming process. I dug channels to two small lakes just above my designated area, but the water didn’t quite reach to the farm, mostly evaporating in the channels. Didn’t know the well/pond trick then. But when I finally had everything irrigated by brute force (where there’s a river, there’s a way), I failed at the farming interface and nothing was ever planted. Well shucks. It was fun, as they say.

    • Rinox says:

      I would kill to be a dwarf in Quinns’ fortress. Then I’d kill as a dwarf in Quinns fortress. Over a piece of cheese.

    • Devenger says:

      Then I would kill you over an engraving of an engraving of said cheese.

    • Rinox says:

      Only if, upon my death, you promise to make an engraving of you standing over my corpse triumphantly while holding the cheese in one hand and the engraving of the engraving of a piece of cheese in the other.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      I wanna be a Dorf

      i think that was recorded by the Stone Roses right?

    • Burningpet says:

      Heh, i could settle for being the cat. just unleash the magma on it and were good.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      Now I wanna be your Dorf – The Stooges

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      I think I should be a dwarf for my handy advice. Heh.

  5. Flaringo says:

    Woohoo, Dwarf Fortress!

    • Flaringo says:

      By the way, I will totally be in the next batch of immigrants, right?

  6. The_B says:

    Most importantly: how is Johon at healing?

  7. Xercies says:

    I’ve been playing the tileset in the Lazy newb set and i actually think that ithat makes it so much easier, also i’ve been watching the 51ippy cup lets play tutorials and basically both of them have been a god send.

    Now though, I have a fortress with MILLIONS of stones and i’m not kidding there there is absolutly tons and i have no idea the differences between the types and what i should do with some of them and that.

    Also I may have started farming a bit late which makes me worried that my guys will starve to death. The whole game is peaceful so far.

    Its an absolutly great game everyone should if they want to try it, watch thse tutorial videos and get the lazy newb pack.

    • pakoito says:

      It’s 16 hours of tutorials IIRC, right? It’s not even up to the new cave systems.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      A vast majority of stones are just there for realism – they all essentially do the same job. It is only these ones that are important:
      – Metal ores, usually obvious from a different style in the tile pack and used to make metal.
      – Obsidian, signals lava, more valuable than other stones, may be used to make swords
      – “Flux” stones, (calcite, chalk, dolomite, limestone and marble) are more valuable and may be used to create pig iron (required for steal) at the smelter
      – Coal, for furnaces
      – And bauxite, it is the only magma-proof stone, and required for use in mechanisms in contraptions that will come in to contact with lava.

    • Bluebreaker says:

      About magma safe, that doesn’t hold anymore.
      There are currently plenty of stones that are magma safe.

    • Henk says:

      With the new versions (the one in the article) there are a lot more magma-proof stones, and bauxite isn’t special anymore.

    • StarDrowned says:

      Unless he’s playing an old version, there are a lot more magma-proof stones now. Since Toady changed it, I’ve had to look up nearly every stone I find to see if it’s magma-proof or not.

      Quinns, I’m going to have to make a suggestion, nay, a DEMAND!

      Dig down. The caverns that you find are really neat, and since Toady implemented them, have been the highlight of my dwarfing.

      Right when I start, I generally find a good, flat, low point and dig my way down until I find the caves. I then scout as much of the cavern without truly entering it, via mine shafts above, breaking holes in the cavern ceiling or high up in the walls to peek down. Once I find a good spot that I can wall off without too much trouble, I move in. If you want an organized home, it’s not ideal, but if you want a lot of real estate without having to dig for years, it’s great. Also, you’ll almost always find water down there. And eventually, magma.

      For bonus points, embark near a volcano and delve down beside that. Magma forges on any floor of your fortress, plus it’s easy to make obsidian farms with all the underground lakes around.

      Of course, I have to work fast, because I completely neglect everything until I find my subterranean home. You’ll have some grumpy, starving dwarves if you’re not careful. They might as well get used to the feeling now.

      Time to STRIKE THE EARTH!

    • StarDrowned says:

      Just wanted to add, all open ground in natural caves is naturally muddied. Sure, you’re probably about 15 floors underground, but its still the best place to farm.

  8. Eclipse says:

    Btw, Dwarf Fortress has probably the worst interface ever created in gaming history. Ok the game is deep but the interface is just as shitty as you can get, I don’t even remind any dos game supporting mouse or not with a worst interface. and I’ve played tons of complex strategy and simulation games back then in the 486 era.

  9. Snall says:

    Tileset? Sellout!

    • Alex says:

      Ya dude actually would be easier to start with ascii. Easier to tell a red dwarf from a yellow dwarf, vs trying to distinguish a miniature axe or some such.

  10. demonarm says:

    Just throwing an idea into the room: Dwarf Fortress with the Minecraft engine?

    • Lars Westergren says:

      Yes, you are not the first to have realized the awesome possibilities.

      There is a DF -> Minecraft map exporting tool already. But porting the complex simulation mechanics of DF would take rather a lot more of work I think….

    • Snall says:

      Not to mention can you imagine how slowly it would run even on a top-end machine? It would take years just to make it run decently on a friggin Quad-core beast. (Not saying it wouldnt be super duper Subversion awesome though, cause it would be)

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Someone’s already figured out how to import DF maps into Minecraft. Don’t have the link handy, though.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      “DF to Minecraft utility”

      link to bay12forums.com

    • Lars Westergren says:

      >Not to mention can you imagine how slowly it would run even on a top-end machine?

      Umm, not necessarily. Java *can* be pretty fast if you do it right, and from what I have heard the DF code is pretty messy and unoptimized (not to take away from the amazing accomplishment of the game).

    • Snall says:

      Both games are not overly (hah) optimized…together…no. Like I said it would take years to mesh them well enough to use by 99% of people (Imo obviously).

    • demonarm says:

      Thanks for pointing out the utility, gentlemen!

  11. alh_p says:

    Quintin you beautifull b*stard, I also started playing Dwarf fortress last week and suffered the same ignominy at the hands of the merciless “maintenance of the Dwarf fortress wiki”. I salute your good writing sir.

  12. misterk says:

    “A fat, grumpy dwarf with braided hair, braided sideburns, a braided beard and a long moustache arranged in double-braids”

    and in the game!

    ..I don’t care that it doesn’t make sense.

    I feel like dwarf fortress is one of those games with a blisteringly hard difficulty curves that those who spend their time making their life rubbish learning it rather than having fun feel compelled to tell everyone else how amazing it is. Same with DOTA.

  13. Tei says:

    Knowing a bit of DF, I think the miner that share mi name will survive long and become legendary, and one day will claim I MINE IN MY MINE AND WHAT I MINE IS MINE!, and will be killed by all other dwards :D
    Littel he know that dwarfs are communist, and share all things. COMMUNIST DWARFS!, I tell you.

  14. Baboonanza says:

    Um, unless it’s changed recently you don’t have to irrigate loamy sand or soil, only bare rock.

    I find the interface is not that bad once you’ve got used to it. When you’ve memorised the key presses it’s faster than using a mouse would be more most actions. The notable exception to that is the managment of large number of dwarves, which gets to be a complete pain.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      It has been changed recently, I think. Irrigation is pretty much mandatory for underground farms now.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Quintin’s right, it changed for “DF2010”. I think I remember hearing it was actually a bug but it made the game more fun so it stuck.

    • Mr Pink says:

      It is indeed a bug, as confirmed by the current DF wiki page on farming. Certainly makes the early game a bit more challenging, so maybe it’s not a bad thing.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      The way I usually go about farming in DF2010 is to find a small pond in the countryside near my fort and then bravely tunneling into that pond from below. You may need to close the hole again if you’re in very rainy territory (or just build drains into your field) as otherwise your farm may be flooded every now and then.

    • Redem says:

      You do have to irrigate everything you dig out, but you can build a farm on any sort of surface, doesn’t need to be soil any more. Also, you can build farms without irrigation on any soil outside, or if you dig down into the caverns.

      Secondly, I prefer to drain a lake into a farm complex, or use some floodgates to drain some water out of a river, a bucket brigade takes up too much time in the early game, time your dwarves could be using to dig and drink and other dwarfy things.

    • alh_p says:

      If you play the version on which the tutorial which Quintin refers to is based (link to afteractionreporter.com) , you don’t have to irrigate your fields – or at least I haven’t and i’ve still been able to cultivate plenty o’ plump helms.

    • President Weasel says:

      I always start my fort near some sort of pond. Dig out a room next to the pond, channel through the wall (preferably tow or three squares wide so you get a good flow), watch as water floods the room, build a wall between the pond and the farm so baddies can’t get in, wait for evaporation, farm.
      So far I’ve never had to use the buckets-and-hole trick.

    • jalf says:

      Oh yeah, it definitely changed. I’ve got a string of 4-5 starved-to-death fortresses to prove that irrigation suddenly no longer worked the way it used to…

    • The Great Wayne says:

      Myself i remember making a system with dual doors and levers to irrigate my farms with the water from a local lake, like a tide gate.

      I’d close door 1 (the one fortress side), open door 2 (the one water side) let the water pour in quickly then close door 2 and open door 1 to let farmers in. It’s a bit more complicated, but it can irrigate large farms very quick provided you have a large enough water source without risking drowning an entire level of the fortress. And it’s more classy.

      Of course, remember to put the levers in the corridor outside the whole room. You’d be surprised how many times I had to try at first to get this system right when I first started DF :p

  15. Schaulustiger says:

    Oh, this will be great. I just have to resist to not install DF again. I’ll be happily following all the tutorials again, building and mining and then quit when trying to manage the likes of 40 dwarves. Damn you and your horrible interface, Dwarf Fortress!

    • Burc says:

      The answer is DwarfTherapist. Without it, managing more than 20 dwarfs is a pain. With it: It a breeze.

  16. CMaster says:

    Keeping with the injoke theme:

    What are the odds on the fortress having Iron shortages?
    I mean, it is in a swamp.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      in 31.xx? About zero. There’s so much ore in every embark you end up not knowing what to do with it all.

      There’ll be magnetite coming out of every mineshaft soon enough.

    • Unaco says:

      I thought Quinns rectified his Iron deficiency in the MineCraft diary? Or did he lose all of that?

  17. Flaringo says:

    For anyone who’s having problems managing lots of silly dwarves, I bring you Dwarf Therapist (with 31.12 support)

    link to mediafire.com

  18. pierec says:

    Great stuff, I love reading about Dwarf Fortress.

  19. Morte says:

    as about the only person in the entire world who didn’t ‘get’ minecraft, I am very interested to read this, this is more my thing. Dwarfs.

    • drewski says:

      I don’t *get* Minecraft either.

    • Boris says:

      That makes three of us then.

      OT: YES! Finally! The press not just throwing up articles about “this obscure game you should know about but we cba to look into enough to write anything sensible”, but actually playing it. Good stuff.

    • Fumarole says:

      You three didn’t have Legos as kids, did you?

    • SheffieldSteel says:

      THE. WORD. IS. LEGO. >:-[

    • Boris says:

      Sure I did. But today I can have more fun with 3D and/or graphics software, which doesn’t limit my imagination to a set bunch of rules.

      And I agree. Lego. Not legos. Isn’t that the fried stuff from hungary you eat with sourcream, red onion and caviar?

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      “Sure I did. But today I can have more fun with 3D and/or graphics software, which doesn’t limit my imagination to a set bunch of rules”

      Irony overload detected. Please restart the system & try again.

  20. Jerricho says:

    I’ve had the same fort running for months now after reclaiming it from a Goblin horde as well as several forgotten beasts and Rutherers and Crundles and a few trolls which all simultaneously attacked.
    Most recently it was under siege for 4 game years. Amazingly the Dwarves haven’t gone mad and killed each other yet although the fort itself has proved to be something of a widowmaker thus far. I had to build a new graveyard.

    I’m trying to build a pumpstack at present from an underground sea to a tiny water feature in the dining room. Totally worth it.

  21. Item! says:

    Ah good old DF, I love to read these kind of diaries/play-throughs.

    Can’t abide playing the damn thing myself of course, but the world is an infinitely better place for it’s existence.

  22. Anonymous Non-ASCII Coward says:

    A slightly prettier tileset (IMHO, YMMV) is Ironhand’s tileset: link to bay12forums.com Ignore the picture of the day.

    It’s also as easy to install as Mayday’s, just extract and play. Strangely, it also mods in llamas. This makes me think of the Maxis of the SimCity 2000 era, which is cool.

    • Anonymous Non-ASCII Coward says:

      Erm, by ignoring the picture of the day I meant that the tileset is actually prettier than the picture of the day suggests. :)

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Ah yes, I tried that, but didn’t like it because it made the text V E R Y F A R A P A R T

  23. Lobotomist says:


    Talking about tilesets, why nobody mentions “Stonesense” isometric tileset ?!

    link to bay12forums.com

    Just look at this screenshot

    link to i.imgur.com

    • Harlander says:

      It’s not a tileset, is why. It’s some sort of ludicrous memory-prober and external visualisation doohickey.

      It’s also awesome, but that’s beside the point I think. You can’t yet play the game through it.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Yeah. It’s cool, but I’m trying to give people a stronger sense of what it’s like to play the game than most Dwarf Fortress AARs. Besides, I wouldn’t want to tread on the toes of the excellent Bravemule:

      link to bravemule.com

    • Norskov says:

      The illustrations accompanying the story(Bravemule) are just amazing.

  24. Gesadt says:

    yea as one of the posters said get the lazy newb pack, it has tilesets bunch of other useful utuilities like stonesense which generates your world into for your viewing pleasure. get it here

    • Quintin Smith says:

      No! No! Sci-fi robot font! No!

    • Collic says:

      You really should get dwarf therapist, though. You will find managing dwarves a lot easier with it, and without you’ll go nuts once you have to manage upwards of 30 of them. In DF2010 you’ll get to those numbers pretty soon, too.

  25. K says:

    > Perhaps Onionbog will be alright after all.

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Doomed! You are all doomed!!!

    I would play a ton of DF it had an interface that was as “easy to use” as Visual Studio. Have you seen VS? Shortkeys usually need three to four buttons, because there are too many functions for 102 keys with only two of them pressed…

    • Harlander says:

      It’s more like vi than VS.. endless sequences of commands, rather than chords.

    • K says:

      True, that is the better comparison. I’d prefer to play DF with vi or emacs still. Those are complicated, but usable.

    • Harlander says:

      I found DF easier to get a handle on than vi, actually, because you can have a list of the key codes onscreen at all times.

    • pepper says:

      My most sincere apology’s wont be enough:


  26. luce says:

    Must depend what version you play because in DF2010 there are like 20 different magma safe stones. Otherwise my mica magma smelters/forges would be melting.

    • Koozer says:

      a mica forge? Hnngh my inner geologist is crying.

    • Sassenach says:

      Cry into one of these handy cinnabar mugs one of my dwarves made earlier.

  27. Ragepyro says:

    link to bay12forums.com

    Would be the link to the DF -> Minecraft converter.

  28. Daniel Klein says:

    You’re going to need to start creating some wealth for trading, Quintin. I find the easiest way to do that is stonecrafting. If you can spare a dwarf most of the time (which usually you can), set him up as a stonecrafter and deactivate all other labour. He’ll learn very quickly and start crafting valuable trinkets in no time. Additionally, since you’ve already found gemstones, the best way to turn those into even more money is to set them into valuable stonecrafts. Come your first trade caravan (usually in the autumn) you’ll have more than enough shiny stuff to trade with.

  29. Web Cole says:

    I call dibs on the first useless immigrant peasant! :P

  30. Malagate says:

    Quinns, in a swamp, with dwarves? Unless that’s an actual mountain he’s digging into, he may well not be “Iron Quinns” in this game…oh and has dearest Quinns checked for an aquifier? Those being very common in swamps, there could be great potential for “fun” here if there is. Double fun if the inevitable goblins show up with swamp-only mobs called Rapto-I mean “Beakdogs”.

    Strike the earth good and hard Ironless-for-now-Quinns, even though you brought along crappy tools instead of bringing along your own ore and fuel to forge badass tools to start with, I’m sure you’ll have lots of “fun”.

  31. President Weasel says:

    At some point your fort will be attacked by goblins. Hopefully by this point you will have lockable doors at your entrance, and/or a drawbridge worked by a lever.
    However the first time it happened to me, I couldn’t for the life of me find the “get inside the fort, you wee numpties! baddies are outside!” command. I got help:
    There used to be a really easy button for this but recently it’s been made a bit more complicated.

    Press these keys:
    w (define burrows)
    a (add burrows)
    Enter (define this burrow)
    paint an area by pressing enter, moving the cursor and pressing enter again
    Escape, Escape (leave burrows menu)

    m (military)
    a (alerts)
    Right, right (should take you to Inactive alert’s Burrow 1. Inactive should read CIV next to it)
    Enter (A letter should appear next to Burrow 1)

    Now all your civilian dwarves will rush over to the burrow you defined. Burrows are great, by the way. They can also be defined across multiple Z-levels.

    My favourite thing so far in Dwarf Fortress is the Danger Room that you can create to train up your military. With thanks to Jeepers on the eurogamer forum, who got it from the Bay 12 forums:

    I set up 9 wooden training spears (it’s under Traps, vertical spike or spear) circled around my barracks-making Weapons Rack. Link these up to a lever and have someone pull that lever constantly. As your soldiers carry out their normal sparring, they’ll also rapidly improve their Dodge, Block and Armour-using skills. You can get these stats to Legendary in a season or so, which helps their fighting skills massively.

    • Dozer says:

      And also gets rid of babies and pets!

      I think this is a bug. Babies wounded by the wooden training spears when their mother was training in the Danger Room don’t get taken to the Hospital and fixed. They have to wait until they become self-propelling Children, and then my chief medical dwarf (notable for having no medical skills) refuses to do anything.

    • Xercies says:

      How do you make gates/drawbridges, the only thing I can find are doors which only let you build next to walls and i’m guessing aren’t very good at defence.

    • Malagate says:

      @Xercies, if I recall correctly, to build a bridge it’s [b] then [g], from there you can position it and change its size, then when you place it you choose which direction you want it to raise (or choose no direction if you just want it to retract), then choose the stones and it’s ready to be built. Which takes ages. I think it needs a mason and an architect to boot.

      Still, once ready all you need to do is link it up to a level or pressure plate and you’ll be ready to make lots of fun with bridges!

    • President Weasel says:

      curse you, captcha! you stole my post. must remember to copy the post first just in case.

      You can link doors and hatches, bridges, floodgates, spear traps, and complicated machinery to levers using mechanisms. 1 mechanism to build the lever, then Q the lever and use two more mechanisms to connect it to anything at any distance using hte power of quantum entanglement.

      A door connected to a lever can be shut firmly in the enemy’s face (but some baddies can smash things). A drawbridge (which is just a bridge connected to a lever) over a moat or deep ditch, especially if it raises up in such a way as to cover the entrance to your fort and foil flying baddies, is an excellent defence.

      the Danger Room kills babies, so move any baby mommas out of the militia. It kills pets, so don;t assign pets and war dogs to your militia.
      Some pets will try to get in anyway because they are idiots. You can pet-proof doors using Q, but the pets tend to wait until a Dorf opens the door and then sneak in.

      I have decided this is a feature rather than a bug: forts get overrun by cats anyway, so a combination danger room and cat mincer is actually quite handy.
      I’d recommend attaching any war animals to an archer squad instead of your melee bods, since they should be training in a separate room anyway and the animals will be a handy meat shield for them.

  32. neofit says:

    When it gets a proper visual feedback system like the isometric Stonesense “tileset”, windows and mouse controls, I’ll pay an AAA price for it. Until then, well, there are a LOT of other games to play. ASCII-pseudographics and keyboard commands are too much work. Unless you’re a welder (Monty Python reference) maybe… I spend too much time at work in a telnet or ssh window to spend my free time in one afterwards :).

    • sexyresults says:

      Oh stoneset tilest with a good interface, makes me giddy with thought and sad with realism

  33. sexyresults says:

    Cannot wait for more

  34. Theory says:

    It’s a shame you’re starting now. There are a bunch of major bugs in the latest version, including ridiculous urban sprawl covering half the world (sounds like you’ve discovered that already), a ridiculous overabundance of minerals (perhaps not an issue in a swamp), and creatures being able to attack/interrupt from 20 or more z-levels away (again, the swamp probably saves you).

    But to make this post a little more positive, here’s how to punch through the aquifer beneath your swamp.

    # Build a mechanist’s workshop and create a lever and four extra mechanisms. If you can’t find enough stone above the aquifer you’ll have to trade a caravan for some.
    # Mine and channel out a plug of land, the taller the better. Mine out *two* levels of earth beneath it, creating supports (press b,S) at both levels and linking them to your lever (lever > Link to Support).
    # Once the plug is completely free-standing, except for your supports, pull the lever. They will disappear and plug of earth will collapse, crashing through the aquifer and creating a dry “chimney” in which you can create stairs to reach the rock below. Zing!

  35. Ian says:

    Obligatory I-still-need-to-give-this-a-try comment.

  36. Brulleks says:

    No no no no no no no.

    You’ve already got me to buy Minecraft and thereby desecrated what little outside life I had left, you’re not going to get me into this now as well.

    Palms firmly over eyes. La la la la la la la.

  37. Lambchops says:

    Couldn’t get into Dwarf Fortress in the slightest myself but I’m looking forward to reading about more dwarven adventures.

  38. Oozo says:

    Ah, Dwarf Fortress, you had me smirk lately. You see, there’s an animation film festival in Switzerland that lately warmed up to video games. So they do make some sort of exposition each year, where they put different games on display for fleeting passersby to stop and have a look.

    This year’s topic was “indie game aesthetics”, and among other games like “Samorost”, “Gesundheit!”, “Crayon Physics Deluxe”, “The Path” or the “Sword&Sorcery EP”, they also chose Dwarf Fortress…

    I guess somebody thought that the ASCII-graphics would look neat as a counter-point to Modern Warfare, or something – still, a game less fit for that sort of “pick up and there you go”-approach they were aiming for would be hard to find.

    So I smirked, arrogant bastard that I am.

  39. Caleb367 says:

    Hey, you been thinkin’ about putting in Stonesense and / or Dwarf Therapist? They’re two third party utilities which respectively render the game window in isometric view (with GRAPHICS! Still not playable from there, but makes for excellent screenshots and general what’s-going-on) and manages dwarves by monitoring their actual job, status, mood and so on.

    Oh, by the way: can’t wait to see what horrible doom awaits your happy fortress.

  40. Dozer says:

    Norska is using the correct capitalisation too!

  41. ZephyrSB says:

    …prefers second screenshot.

    I dunno what it is about tilesets, but I just can’t absorb the information from all that visual noise, particularly the dwarf/creature sprites. A bold, block colour smiley face I can absorb and understand quickly, but a bunch of sprites skittering about only differing by a few pixels? I just don’t seem to be able to do it.

    Granted, I don’t use curses. I’ve melded a few of the clearer sqaure font sets together, with the addition of a few symbols – but it’s still an ascii-like square-tile appearance…

  42. Tupimus says:

    Bauxite isn’t the only magma-proof stone around any more – hasn’t been since 2D days. Consult the wiki.

    And Cobaltite isn’t an usable ore. Refrain making crafts from the crap, however. It has triple the weight of ordinary, non-economic stone, making your dwarves slower to haul the things.

  43. Mandf says:

    The worse interface belongs to Space Station 13. Dwarf Fortress interface is not SO horrible.

    • Harlander says:

      True that! SS13 beats DF’s interface hands down in the awfulness stakes.

  44. Sporknight says:

    The appeal to Minecraft is in physically building your fortress with your own hands. In DF, you set about designating what you’d like your dwarves to build, and if you’re lucky they’ll get around to it when they’re not busy sleeping, drinking, eating, or moving rocks around.
    In Minecraft, however, you actually get to lay, rock by rock, your own home in this strange, lonely world. It’s a lot more visceral, and the payoff feels a lot greater. Instead of “I told my dwarves to build this”, it’s “I cut down the trees and carved the rocks *myself* to build this house/statue/castle/etc.”

    • Jhoosier says:

      True, but there’s something to being able to say, “I successfully persuaded those good-for-nothings to build this.” They’re both building games, but in DF I like being able to have several projects going at once, whereas with Minecraft I can only do one at a time. Maybe I want to build my underwater box AND the lavafall in the sky.

  45. ix says:

    All the other commenters seem to be people who have already played this. I really couldn’t make much from the screenshots. It’s top-down, okay, but it seems to work with a strange sort of double perspective for the outside and the inside together? Is it aerial view outside and cross-section view inside?

    Not to be annoying here, I’m sure it makes sense when you play, but I had some trouble connecting what I read in the story to the actual screenshots.

    • jalf says:

      Yep, what you see is a cross-section, basically a flag slice of the world. You can move the camera up or down a Z-level to see other layers

      So the blank black (or dark grey it looks like, in this tileset) areas are basically the middle of a mountain.

      Also as noted in the article he found a bunch of green stone, so you can’t assume that green stuff == grass. :)

    • Harlander says:

      It’s top-down everywhere; basically a flat planar slice through the world. Inside, you see either stone or floors depending on whether they’ve been dug out or not.

      Ground outside is pretty much just another kind of floor.

      That any help?

    • ix says:

      So, just to be clear, the pond that they make on a level atop the chamber for the farm is never actually shown?

      Also, shouldn’t farms have a light source?

    • Harlander says:

      I don’t think the pond was shown, no.

      Dwarven crops are things which can grow in the absense of light or in low-light conditions. Other crops in the game have to be planted in the sunlight, though.

    • Jhoosier says:

      ix: Quinns never actually created a pond. He designated a pond area, which basically tells your dwarves to dump buckets of water into it. Since they were dumping it into a hole above the farm area, water couldn’t accumulate. It’s another of those weird definition problems DF has.

  46. jarvoll says:

    Bauxite is no longer the only magma-safe stone. There are heaps of them now – check the wiki.

  47. groovychainsaw says:

    Dwarf fortress only gets exciting when either 1. Your dwarves start rebelling against your orders (strange moods/starvation/personal issue/additction to monkey-skin slippers) or 2. You get attacked by ‘things’.

    Whatever you do, once you’re reasonably well established, starting engraving the walls and floor. The dwarves will write their stories of their notable memories of the fort in the engravings, sometimes these are priceless and things that completely passed you by, and imbue your dwarves with a lot more character. I had them drawing pictures of ‘”Knrgar the kobold trouser thief” caught running away with the leader’s trousers’ EVERYWHERE. Which is naturally hilarious.

  48. Kid A says:

    Yes, but the thing is, those little (or in the case of goblin sieges, large) unexpected events are pretty much what makes the game. It’s not about settling into a routine and grinding along until something too big comes along – it’s about bouncing from one mini-disaster to the next, until you finally lo-er, have fun.

  49. Mattressi says:

    Tell me you started with an anvil, right? If not, you need to ensure you learn how to trade before the next caravan comes so you can get one. Otherwise, no metalworking for you. I learnt this the hard way :(

  50. Thingus says:

    I’m amazed (after a cursoroy glance at the comments) that no-one’s mentioned Boatmurded yet; link to lparchive.org

    Now, a two-gate lava-based anti-elephant doomsday device should be the first thing on any pioneer’s agenda.

    • Collic says:

      I always assume everyone is already aware of it. It’s dwarf fortresses most well known story, afterall. Still, if anyone hasn’t read it, you really should.