The Song Of Onionbog, Pt 2: Ingish’s Duty

My Dwarf Fortress introduction & story continues! Whoever thought Onionbog would only last a matter of hours currently has egg on their face, I reckon.

Part 1 was when I put together the absolute basics of my fort. My industrious 7 dwarves created an underground farm, a shared bedroom, a dining room, a food storage room, an outdoor carpentry station and an indoor masonry chamber. This is the Dwarf Fortress equivalent of a Mars bar and a foil cape. They’re living, but not with dignity, and unless I act then over the years they’ll eventually be driven mad by sadness and poverty.

But in your first year you don’t actually have to worry about much, besides making sure your dwarves have enough to eat and drink. And by “drink”, I mean “booze”. Dwarves react to drinking water the way you or I might react to drinking dishwater. They need not just alcohol but a variety of alcohol to maintain their trembling grip on reality, and they drink twice as much as they eat. I suspect they’re aware of their odds of survival.

Summer has come to the settlement of Onionbog, and I’m trying to get our stinking hole in the ground a little more civilised. Expedition leader Jiim is down in the masonry chamber, chiselling door after door. Beneath him, Kerion and Tei dig out a series of storage rooms to hold our meagre supplies, which are currently still sitting in the wagon we arrived in. Taking his sweet time about it, Johon is planting our first ever crop of Plump Helmet mushrooms.

Another obvious step I take is the construction of a crafts room next to Jiim’s masonry chamber. Crafts, meaning earrings, toys, sceptres, goblets, figurines and all other kinds of touristy shit are extremely useful things to have stashed away when a trader caravan shows up, because authentic dwarf handicrafts fetch a much higher price outside of your authentic dwarf hovel. Therefore, crafts can be used to effectively fleece passing merchants, netting you all sorts of stuff you want or need.

Designating the location of the crafts workshop itself, I discover a problem.

“Stupendous,” declared Jiim, slapping his beefy hands together, creating a sound like a quick kill. He looked around the chamber Kerion and Tei had just finished ripping out with their pickaxes. The room was so new that the miners were still breathing heavily.

Jiim turned to face the population of Onionbog, and he gestured to the far side of the room. “We will build the craftings workshop there. The rest of the room will be used as a stockpile for all of the fort’s finished goods. It could not be more efficient. So, get on with it!”

This birthed a silence. Each of the dwarves looked at one another. Soon, the room was as stifling and awkward as the swamp outside.

“What does a crafts workshop look like?” asked Tei. A child was born in Jiim’s head then, and the child was called Oh My God We Don’t Have A Single Craftsdwarf Among Us. Jiim quickly grabbed the newborn and began suffocating it.

“Ingish,” Jiim commanded, turning to face the group’s brewer. “I know your crafts will spread the name of Onionbog throughout the region. I hope you cannot let me down.”

And as all the dwarves but Ingish filed out of the chamber, Jiim studiously avoiding the woman’s eyes, Onionbog’s culture of fine arts was begun

This is how I discover that (1) I forgot to give any of my settlers a crafting skill, (2) a dwarf can’t build a building unless that building’s respective skill is toggled “on” in a dwarf’s profile, (3) if a dwarf doesn’t have a skill in something that skill will be toggled off by default, and (4) you can toggle these skills on or off in a dwarf, whether they have the skill or not.

So, I toggle “Stone Crafting” in Tholtig’s profile, making her the group’s stone crafter despite the fact that she hasn’t crafted a stone in her life. Everything she makes will almost certainly be shit. But maybe the traders won’t notice, and in any case dwarves in Dwarf Fortress learn by doing. In time, Tholtig will, perhaps, be as fine a stone crafter as this land has ever seen.

In Jiim’s defense, he hasn’t been slacking at his own duties. He’s built so many doors that after I’ve gotten doors slotted in place at the entrance of every room, I order two enormous granite doors set in place at the entrance of the fortress itself and get the gang to take apart the wagon they arrived in. This feels a little like entombing everybody. Onionbog is our home now, for better or worse.

I attempt to create a more cheery atmosphere by ordering Kerion and Tei to head down to the storage floor and start carving individual bedrooms for everybody. Carpenter Tholtig gets to work on 7 beds, and mason Jiim starts hammering out 7 stone doors. Meanwhile, Ingish is getting on well.

“Ingish, you are getting on so well,” boomed Jiim, causing a surprised Ingish to send her chisel straight through a half-finished stone flute. Jiim turned to the storage bins next to the workshop and began rummaging through them. “I marvel at these crowns you have made! They’ll collect a high price.”

“They’re mugs,” said Ingish.

“Ah,” whispered Jiim to Ingish’s miserable face. “But that’s exactly what I said. Mugs.”

I get a small room dug out that comes off the food storage room, and have a still built in it. We still have plenty of the booze we arrived with, but it makes sense to get the production line up running as soon as possible. That said, my dwarves will still get grumpy if they’re forced to drink nothing but Plump Helmet wine. Next year I’ll be expanding and diversifying my agriculture.

I’m just starting to feel confident when the inevitable happens. I get my first load of immigrants.

Remember I told you that every fort in Dwarf Fortress ends in disaster? Immigrants are a large part of that. As word of your settlement spreads, dwarves from the Mountainhomes start showing up in greater and greater numbers. Keeping 7 dwarves fed, watered and happy is easy. Keeping 70 dwarves fed, watered and happy is harder. And finally you get dwarven nobles showing up, who are hard men to please. It’s a pretty convincing argument for deliberately settling somewhere dangerous, just to keep your population down.

Still, maybe one of my 5 new immigrants is a craftsman, eh? That’d be something.

Collected in the dining room, it was some time before Jiim could ask the new arrivals what their trades were, such was the vigour and quantity of toasts that their arrival warranted. He was given his moment when Aleck fell backwards over a table, causing a lull in the ceremonies.

“Tell me, new friends,” he managed over viscous slurring. “What do you do?”

“I am a jeweller,” said one. “Well, truthfully, I decided I want to be a jeweller. I want to learn to be a jeweller.”

“I am Kel Naturecloister,” spoke another. “Expert metal crafter,”

“Ah yes,” mumbled Jiim. “We don’t have a metalworks set up but–”

“I am a blacksmith,” said the ruddy man next to the metal crafter.

“And I,” shouted the man next to him, “am Kadol Lashbell, Fish Dissector.”

“Fish dissector?” came Kerion’s audible confusion from the rear of the chamber.

The last migrant to speak puffed out his chest, seemingly doubling in size. “My name,” he said, “is Goden Systembusts. I am a High Master Milker.”

This caused a rumbling of chatter throughout the dwarves. A high master, stood among them! Drinking ale like a common peasant!

“Mm. You, ah, grace us with your presence Goden,” came Jiim’s response. “But I do not know what you can milk around here. There are lizards and dragonflies, and we have two cats, and a horse. If you are a High Master Milker, does that mean you can produce milk from anything?”

Such was its strength and dire tone, the walls and the chairs of that dining room never forgot the “No” that Goden spoke next. Just as shells will hold the presence of the sea, from that point on if you pressed your ear to the stone of that dining room, you would hear Goden’s no spoken again.

“So,” said Kel, trying to reassemble the room’s jovial atmosphere like you would a jigsaw puzzle. “Where are our beds?”

A jeweller and blacksmith with skills so low that I suspect they’re lying to get out of digging duty, a metal crafter when we don’t have any metal, a fish dissector and a high master milker. Jesus Christ. If the next batch of immigrants is as talented as these wasters I’ll be locking our front door.

I order Kerion and Tei to start digging out 5 more bedrooms, while Jiim begins assembling a small wall outside our camp. I’m planning an outdoor farm, then a fishery. I don’t know how many dwarves I’ll have here come Winter, but I know I need to be prepared.


  1. nerdook says:

    great story! keep em coming. would it be cool if there was a dwarf fortress equivalent game, but with a friendlier interface and cartoonish graphics? just wondering. :)

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      You think so? Its not really up to much yet.
      The thing about these diaries, is that they are too close together, or he should of waited some months and given us some highlights.

      Something like Boatnurdered is funny, interesting, but long.

      So far, this has been short, and mostly explanation.
      Sorry Quinns.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Good thing I’m not trying to compete with Boatmurdered then, eh? :)

      Or any of Tim Denee’s stuff for that matter, or any of the other great DF AARs out there. I’m trying to get across a sense of what DF’s actually like to play, with added colour. Something that’s as explanatory as it is a story, and that should (hopefully) help ease people in to the ice bath that’s actually playing DF.

    • MD says:

      For the record, as one of the many who think Dwarf Fortress sounds absolutely amazing but haven’t developed the courage/patience/etc. to learn how to play it, I like the way Quinns is doing this.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Yeah well, having read Boatmurdered et al I wasn’t prepared for how slow Dwarf Fortress is to play. It wasn’t the UI that made me move on eventually, or the inevitable death, but the fact that I’d spent four days devoted to the game and didn’t feel like I’d got any-sodding-where.

  2. Fred Wester, CEO of Paradox says:

    I’ve played countless games of Dwarf Fortress, but never once have I managed to use my Fish Dissector AS a Fish Dissector.

    Mostly they were drafted and sent to their bloody deaths upon Goblin spears.

    • Coillscath says:

      I’m not even entirely sure what they’re for. Fish *cleaners* are the guys who actually prepare raw fish.

  3. misterk says:

    “Jiim quickly grabbed the newborn and began suffocating it”

    … and in the game!

  4. vanarbulax says:

    This is why I love Dwarf Fortress, occasionally it well through you a bone and send you a High Master… Milker.

    Also there’s a name for anyone who isn’t a carpenter, miner, mason, craftsdwarf or smith. Hauler. Meatshie–I mean Militia if they are feeling adventurous.

    • sinister agent says:

      I call anyone without a useful skill, or with a seriously redundant one “mook”. I like to think they have their own, extremely fatalistic, subculture.

    • Jhoosier says:

      I call mine proles. Once I have enough proles, the rest get recruited as militia. Once I have enough militia, the rest get recruited and posted in a locked corridor. Forever.

  5. Malagate says:

    Well look at it this way, at least none of them are cheese makers.

    Oh and do name the next actual fisher dwarf after me would you please? I would like to see my degree in Marine Biology (with oceanography) be useful for something. I’m sure fish dissection shall be the difference between the fort flourishing and the fort failing.

    • Tei says:


    • Malagate says:

      “Never fear, for I also studied fresh water ecologies, such teleost fish are no mat-OH GOD MY ORGANS!”

      …hopefully a dwarf named after me will follow my path and, whilst being knowledgeable about fish, will actually be a records keeper.

    • Rinox says:

      There are also saltwater crocodiles. Here’s a cage and a spear, have fun! ;-)

    • Rich says:

      Blessed are the cheese makers.

  6. Boris says:

    I believe you forgot to say “Right.”, right?

    Fishing is by far the fastest way to get food. Lots of food. :)
    Until you’ve fished all there is to fish. Then no more food. :(

  7. Theory says:

    Traders will sometimes bring cows etc. along. You might get one come autumn. :)

  8. Milky says:

    This is the friendlier interface and cartoonish graphics version of Dwarf Fortress.

  9. Tupimus says:

    You call them immigrants, I call them mostly useless louts soon to be turned into communist craftsdwarves which produce nearly no value for three years!

    And haulers. Always need more haulers… LEGENDARY WOOD BURNER WTF

  10. HexagonalBolts says:

    Useless dwarves are useful! You’ll soon find you have too many useful ones doing tasks you need done when really what you wanted were gormless dwarves to draft in to the military or fill up noble positions.

  11. Quasar says:


    Seriously Quinns, stop getting me obsessed with awesome indie games. I have a degree to finish.

    … Don’t stop!

  12. Rinox says:

    Is that…silver? Either you’re not as close to the surface as it seems there or you may risk not having access to too much flux stone. Say it isn’t so Quinns! It may replace iron as your deficient nemesis.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      This is 31.xx. Ore is everywhere even in soil layers. The relative normal distributions of 40d is long gone. Most games I’ve started I can get by quite well with just the exposed veins & clusters that are visible from embark & have more metal bars lying around than a 40d fort with twice the map size ever could.

  13. TooNu says:

    I will start playing this, It’s going to be amazing…amazingly difficult but amazing none the less.

    Keep us up to date with your fort please Quinns, it’s fun to read :)

  14. Moonracer says:

    That “I am a High Master Milker” bit got me chuckling quite good.

  15. Sipsi says:

    I want a slave who plays this incomprehensible game for me, turning my foolish, uninformed decisions into game-actions.

    • Dozer says:

      This is Dwarf Fortress. Your slave would only understand Swahili and sign language.

  16. President Weasel says:

    Mining makes a dwarf tough and strong!
    I try to have an apprentice miner or two, as well as the master miners your two starting guys inevitably end up becoming. The apprentices get better, and get tougher. The master miners, who are tougher than a sack of tough things due to all the mining, get drafted into the militia on a one on, one off schedule together with any other tough-looking or knows-a-bit-about-fighting dwarfs who aren’t the only one who knows how to do an important job.

    Have you tried Dwarf Therapist to assign jobs yet? It is so very much easier than the in-game interface.

    • sinister agent says:

      Can I just second the recommendation for Dwarf Therapist? Without it, the game is close to unplayable once you get more than a few dozen dwarves.

      Imagine you lose your Legendary Pebble Rearranger, and urgently need to find the semi-competent apprentice one you marked as a hauler. With Dwarf Therapist, two clicks will sort you out. Without it, you’ll spend fifteen solid minutes doing nothing but painfully navigating to an obscure submenu and back out again for every single dwarf you have. It really is a must have.

  17. Duke Nasty VI says:

    For anyone interested in learning to play Dwarf Fortress, I highly recommend watching 51ppycup’s let’s play/tutorial videos[1]. I also recommend using Dwarf Therapist[2]. It makes it so much easier to manage your workforce when you reach a certain number of dwarves.

    Using the video tutorials I learned the basics within a day. I would probably liken DF to something like vim (if you’re familiar with it). Incredible steep learning curve, but after learning the different key strokes needed, it’s not so bad.

    [1]: link to
    [2]: link to

    • Duke Nasty VI says:

      Mind you, I’m not saying the interface doesn’t have its issues

    • pakoito says:

      35 videos 15 minutes a piece. That’s what kept me away from DF the two times I’ve tried. 9 hours.

    • Duke Nasty VI says:

      Yes. You need to watch all 35 videos.

    • Duke Nasty VI says:

      Actually, it turned into more of a “let’s play”-series after a while. I find it entertaining. I started my own embark after watching just a few of his videos.

    • Dirk says:

      I endorse the 5ippycup recommendation. After a few episodes you want to dive in yourself.

      What with this thread and the Minecraft hubbub I now have 2 vast retro-styled timesinks. I both love and hate PC gaming.

  18. Junior says:

    Don’t forget to put a roof over your outdoor farm plots.

    No, it doesn’t matter what you make the roof out of.

    Yes, it will be incredibly annoying if you forget to and Elves decide to liberate the trees of the area bu perforating your dwarves from above.

  19. Ian says:

    “Plump helmet.”

    Tee hee.

  20. Wedge says:

    Back in my day we played dwarf fortress with raw dumps of memory streaming out on ticker tape which you had to look up in the reference table! Every time a new update came out we had to get a new set of tables. The library only had one copy and if someone else was using them you’d just have to wait.

    And don’t get me started on the awful custom punchcard system for controlling the damn game. You kids have it easy.

  21. Justin says:

    If that horse is female, you can actually milk it and make horse cheese. Which leads to the question, what is dwarven cheese made from?

  22. JB says:

    “Whoever thought Onionbog would only last a matter of hours currently has egg on their face, I reckon.”
    That was me! Well done on the continued survival of your intrepid dwarfs Quinns! Although at least I didn’t mention needing a stopwatch like someone else did…

    /me removes egg from face and chows down.

  23. Burke says:

    That legendary wood burner will save you a ton of time when it’s time to get your steelmaking up and running.

  24. Spliter says:

    I am so happy I started playing with Drofs a few weeks ago!
    Make more of these. your articles and the comments that follow made me laugh my ass off.

  25. Broadsword says:

    It’s made out off… Cave maggots.

  26. InSaNe-O_o says:

    “I order two enormous granite doors set in place at the entrance of the fortress”
    is there a HUGE DOOR biold option or waht? i never found it :/
    I can create pig iron and steel… but I cant find a way to build a huge gate form my enternace :/
    plz help :)
    couldnt find help anywhere else. ;(

    • Dozer says:

      That would be author’s license I think – there’s only one kind of door.

      You can make them out of all different kinds of materials, and the quality varies depending on luck and how good your mason/carpenter/blacksmith is, and you can link them up to levers so they’re only open when you want them open, but they’re all the same size!

      A bigger ‘door’ would be to use a retracting bridge. I think bridges can be built up to 8×8 in size. When they’re made to retract (usually by a lever hidden somewhere safe deep in your fort) they turn from being like a rectangle of floor to being like a line of wall tiles in the direction it retracts in. Anything on the bridge when it retracts gets flung around the place and probably knocked unconscious. Anything under the bridge when it extends again gets utterly annihilated and removed from the game (this is known as the Dwarven Atom Smasher) except for some [fun] creatures, which are of the type Building Destroyers, who can destroy your doors, bridges, workshops etc and don’t die when a bridge gets dropped on them.

    • Dozer says:

      I forgot to actually answer your question. You could use a bridge as a big door, by building it across your entrance, and making it retract into the doorway when a lever is pulled somewhere safe. Beware that some creatures can destroy it anyway though.

    • President Weasel says:

      retract makes it vanish, I think, but you can make it drawbridge up in any direction.

    • Dozer says:

      Is it? Maybe it’s not called ‘retract’. But I know for certain, as you’re designating a bridge to be built, you press W, S, A, or D to make it hinge up in the north, south, west or east sides when it’s linked to some control like a lever.

    • kikito says:

      You can use floodgates as big doors.

      Contrarily to them, floodgates don’t need to be attached to walls.

      So it is possible to make a 1×4 “stone door” (really, 4 floodgates put one after the other), connect them to the same lever, and voila!

      Just remember to build the lever and connect it to the first floodgate before you build the other ones. Otherwise you can end up with dwarves trapped outside your fortress (floodgates only allow dwarves to cross them when they are ‘down’)

  27. Dozer says:

    Fish dissection – from the look of it, the only thing that Fish Dissectors can do is to turn Moghopper fish into Moghopper juice at a Fishery. The juice can then be used in cooking. I.e. completely useless.

    Legendary Wood Burner – also useless, because Wood Burning is one of a group of activities where there’s no quality level based on the dwarf’s skill. You can tell any dwarf to go burn some wood at a wood furnace and they’ll all turn one wood into one charcoal or ash; it’s just that unskilled dwarfs will be slower. Whereas if you tell an unskilled dwarf to cook some food, he’ll waste a lot of it and produce low-quality food that doesn’t make dwarfs happy. That said, any dwarf that’s Legendary in anything can move much faster, and that is a good thing.

    Most WTF skill in DF though: dwarfs with experience in Crutch Walking who still have all their own legs.

    • Michael says:

      I’m not sure if it’s sadder that the “Crutch Walking” skill exists or that I wasn’t surprised enough to actually check.

  28. Dozer says:

    Quinns: remember to build lots of bins (wood or metal) to keep your stone-crafts in. Then when the caravan arrives you just need to take a dozen bins instead of a hundred individual granite coffee mugs.

    Also, for high-quality stonecrafts and stone-mason’d stuff: put a small stockpile that only allows one particular type of high-value stone near to your workshops so your dwarfs will only use valuable stone. There’s not much point in building *claystone mug* when you can build *marble mug* instead.

    • kikito says:

      Wood bins (a.k.a. cages, I think) make elven merchants angry.

    • kikito says:

      No, they are not called cages. That’s for trapping animals and enemies inside. Maybe boxes? I’m not sure

  29. Abi79 says:

    In case you want to limit your population, get the DF init file editor. Then from the d_init misc tab you can set the population cap, which will come into effect once the next Dwarven Caravan leaves your fortress. You will/may still receive immigrants before the caravan comes and leaves, but after that you won’t unless you change the setting and it comes and leaves again.

  30. pipman3000 says:

    i was going to make a bunch of dwarf puns and midget jokes but i had to go to the bathroom can someone fill in for me.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      I asked my dwarf buddy to borrow some cash, but he said he couldn’t because he’s a little short.

      Like that?

  31. Aldezhar says:

    Sorry for asking a noob question. But how do you get that gfx/skin for dwarf fortress. My main issue has been the fact that I get confused by the asciii look.

    I see som 3d version, and a isometric view thingy too?

    • Dozer says:

      I don’t know how to get the prettier graphics (I’m a REAL MAN who loves ASCII :-P ) but I do know that all the 3d and isometric viewers are only viewers – you can’t play the game through them directly. They can only look at what you’ve done through the normal interface.

      The one I love the most is the DF>Minecraft converter, which turns your fortress into a Minceraft map.

  32. Chiablo says:

    I love the concept of Dwarf Fortress, but the hundred or so hours I spent trying to learn how to play simply discourage me from further playing. I wish Toady would take the Minecraft approach and actually sell the game, this way he could hire a UI designer and make the game more accessible to the standard player.

    Who cares if you have accurately crafted a system that keeps track of the fingernail growth of your dwarves when less 5% of your players know where to look to even see that statistic?

    Either recruit a graphic/UI developer to help with the unfriendly nature of the interface, or make the game fully open source so that someone can make a wrapper for the environment.

    See also Goblin Camp:
    link to

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Then he could implement the job “Nail Biter”. But you don’t want to waste points at the beginning, so you just give the skill to one dwarf, who goes around biting all the other dwarves nails for them.

  33. shadeedge says:

    The normal graphics of Dwarf Fortress are like Stockholm Syndrome. Those of us who were willing to put up with them will now positively defend them whenever accusations of bad graphics come up.

    I can’t even play with tilesets. I prefer the ASCII. We are sick, sick people.

  34. Thingus says:

    Heh, can’t wait for ‘A fey mood takes Inglish’ and you ending up with a crown mug depicting an epic saga of the RPS hivemind.

  35. MD says:

    I’m enjoying this, enough that I’m tempted to give DF a proper go.

    Can anyone recommend a tileset supporting 1024 * 768? I like the look of May Green, but it requires a horizontal resolution of at least 1280 pixels.

  36. sfury says:

    It will be difficult for me to sink the time needed for learning Dwarf Fortress’ UI and quirks, I’ve already tried once. But the thing is so fascinating I can’t help but keep being interested in it. So keep that great diary Quinns, so us DF noobs can at least experience it vicariously. :)

  37. Caleb367 says:

    Wait till the first noble comes in.

    “I DEMAND glass trinkets no matter there’s no means to make glass in a thousand miles!”

    “As you wish, my lord, now if you just stay there under the drawbridge i’ll pull this harmless looking lever. Oh, Urist, go tell the guys we need a new tomb and coffin. And a bucket with some spoons, you know, for scooping it up”

  38. Zombat says:

    Milkers, and cheese makers, and soap makers are actually quite useful dwarves now.

    Cheese is fairly valuable and alot of animals are milkable in DF2010

    And as everyone knows, dwaves love cheese

  39. pistolhamster says:

    Oh damn you, Quintin Smith. Look what you made me waste my weekend on playing! Using the Phoebus tileset of the Lazy Newb Pack I got myself hooked badly, because I was silly enough to follow the Sippycup Let’s play videos on youtube (or 51ppycup).

    To anyone on the fence of this: run aweh. Run a-WEH! DF is that type of game you learn to avoid and treat with respect – and distance.

    The key to immediate pleasure is to fire up Sippycups videos chapter 1-15 and do as he does. The rest comes naturally. There’s a few unanswered questions you can look up on Magma wiki, but apart from that, Sippycup manages to steer you well through many of the frustrating things in Dwarf Fortress.

    I’m still not very good at taking care of animals and managing my stockpiles somewhat sane. I cant figure out how to globally reserve bins and barrels. But I got my fortress up to 40+ dwarves now and have managed to cope with my first bit of “fun” caused by a carpenter with a fey idea locking himself up and going nuts eventually.

    But blimey, is this game addictive in all its blockiness.

  40. Neosubu says:

    That made me laugh.