The Song Of Onionbog, Pt 3: Turtle Biscuits

In which I make biscuits, make money, and begin making sense of things before something happens that makes me say “What the fuck” many, many times.

To clarify, what I’m trying to do with Onionbog is tell a story that’s also a basic introduction to how Dwarf Fortress works and what it’s like to play. There’s too much talk about how inaccessible DF is. What happens if you try and fumble your way through the game after only a few hours spent browsing tutorials? Onionbog is what happens.

At the end of part 2 I’d just received my first load of immigrants, bumping Onionbog’s population from seven to twelve. This is the settlement’s first nauseous, trembling step in the direction of becoming a bustling fortress. Understand my pain when I say that the most useful migrant is the professional fish dissector, who I can at least immediately set to working the ponds around the swamp.

Let me give you a tour of Onionbog as it stands now.

1: This is the fort’s entrance. It’s at ground level on a goddamn swamp, so all kinds of weird crap comes crawling or flying or slurping in here and is subsequently killed by our cats. Look, here’s Kerion lugging some nondescript dead thing to the refuse dump (9).

2: Onionbog’s carpentry shack and lumber depot. You’d think we’d be able to build everything out of stone, but it’s not the case. Even a dwarf isn’t a big enough asshole to want to sleep on a stone bed, for example.

3: Our trade depot. Soon a trader’s caravan will arrive and I will attempt to unload about forty or fifty horrible stone handicrafts on them in exchange for two seeds and a pair of pants. I’m looking forward to that.

4: Our barracks. Originally this was Onionbog’s dormitory, but since I built everybody bedrooms downstairs this room is just a flophouse. It’s stunning how many dwarves will just bunk here instead of walking the 50 metres to their bedroom.

5: Our underground farm. A bristling grotto of plump mushrooms and cave wheat.

6: The food storage hall, with attached still. Sometimes I find dwarves drinking straight from the barrels in the still. Maybe it tastes fresher?

7: Our grand dining room. There is a horse in here. I went into its status and toggled it to be taken for slaughter, but the camp doesn’t have a butcher’s workshop or a butcher, so everybody in Onionbog is quietly hoping someone else will do the job. The horse lives on.

8: The stairs down!

9: Onionbog’s refuse dump. Here you will find dozens of tiny animal corpses rotting and popping under the sun.

We now proceed to the floor below, the workshops. Boy, do I hate this place. It’s like a teenager’s bedroom down here, if the teenager in question was into stonemasonry and gemcutting instead of Green Day and bongs.

1: Stairs up / down.

2: The masonry chamber. It’s a veritable swimming pool of rocks. I have no idea how the dwarves pick their way through it so fast.

3: The craftsdwarf workshop! This is where the magic happens, if by “magic” you mean “Ingish hitting a rock with another rock until one or both rocks start to look like something ethnic we can flog”.

4: The block/bar storage chamber. See, the mason can cut raw rocks into blocks for easier storage. I thought adding this room and telling my masons to make blocks would clean the place up. What it did was give me another room overflowing with fucking rocks.

5: The gem chamber! This is where we store gems and where my “gemcutter” migrant “cuts” gems. He has no idea what he’s doing. I can look at his skills and see that. Still, I let him at it, because why not.

Finally we proceed to the storage floor. Here you will find the storage rooms (1), for storing all kinds of stuff, and bedrooms (2), for storing dwarves. The bedrooms are full of more fucking rocks, I don’t know if you’ve noticed.

Summer passes in a haze of minor improvements. Kerion and Tei spend the whole time down in the bedrooms, smoothing the stone and thereby improving the rooms’ value and making for happier dwarves. The walled-off outdoor farm is completed, accessible from a tunnel off the underground farm, and I build a fishery, allowing my fish dissector to get meat and shells from all the unsettling life forms he drags back to Onionbog.

Things are going smoothly. Which of course heralds the arrival of more pissing immigrants. 9 of them this time, bringing Onionbog’s population up to 21, and among them are a bone carver and a small animal dissector. Great. Awesome. Top dollar. You know, I was sat here just hoping and praying for a bone carver and a small animal dissector.

At this point I realise the utter madness of trying to manage dozens of individual skills belonging to dozens of separate dwarves, and boot up fan-made program Dwarf Therapist (affectionately dubbed Dwarf TheRapist by the community). It takes me half an hour to get my head around it, but the moment my learning is over the software fuses itself with my consciousness. Right now I could not and would not play Dwarf Fortress without Dwarf Therapist. Here’s how it works:

Yeah, it looks like maths. It looks like homework. But it’s pretty neat.

Basically, by default dwarves in dwarf fortress will do what they know how to do. Some dwarves are good at one thing, some are multi-talented, and many don’t know their arse from their elbow. At its simplest, you want the berks in your fortress to do all the useless hauling jobs and/or staff the militia, and the professional dwarves to get on with their professions. The grid Dwarf Therapist presents you with is an infinitely quicker way of toggling different duties on or off in individuals. Your dwarves appear on the left, and all the different tasks they could be doing run along the top. How filled-in a square is shows you how good a dwarf is, and a blue square means the dwarf is doing that duty. Eagle-eyed readers will spot Goden’s High Master Milking skill in the centre.

Once your fortresses’ population passes, say, 15 dwarves, trying to remember everybody’s different roles is a lot like playing three-card monte with a number of cards equal to however many dwarves you have. Dwarf Therapist’s solution is to allow you to create custom professions quickly and easily (“Farmer”, say, whose duties consist only of tending to crops and foraging for food outside), and then assign your heaving mass of dwarves to a much smaller number of professions. So, while you might have 20, 30, even 70 dwarves, they’re categorised neatly into 10 different classes and therefore you don’t go mad trying to make sure you have enough people doing a certain thing.

With winter approaching, High Master Milker Goden Idithablel has a funny turn.

Jiim looked up from his sad lunch of raw mushroom and mushroom wine to find Ingish lurching up to him. Glad of the distraction, he welcomed her to sit down, but she would not.

“Goden has become tremendous strange!” howled Ingish. “I was producting in the crafts workshop, finishing a most fine goblet I will add, when Goden grabbed me by the guts and threw me across the room. With such a minimum of words he announced he was commanding the workshop, and that I should not bother him until he was done.”

“Done with what?” asked Jiim.

“He is not saying,” said Ingish.

The two of them then turned to face the door, as there was a commotion in the hall outside the dining room. They watched as first Goden came into sight, bent double and groaning with exertion, and then came the enormous tree trunks he was pulling behind him, one in each hand.

“Perhaps he is building a catapult,” Jiim ventured. “That would be wonderful.”

He wasn’t building a catapult. This was revealed after a couple of weeks, when Goden came staggering out of the workshop holding a fucking wooden bracelet. He dragged whole trees from the wood stockpile we have in front of the fort, all the way down the stairs, all the way through the rock swimming pool, to make a bracelet. A bracelet so beautiful that it’s as valuable as everything else in the whole of Onionbog put together, admittedly. I guess Goden’s method was mainly trial and error.

This happens in Dwarf Fortress with some regularity. A dwarf will be taken over by some kind of mood (or possessed by a mysterious spirit, in Goden’s case), then they’ll lock themselves in a workshop until their vision is complete. Woe betide the dwarves (and fortresses, in fact) who don’t have the materials necessary to complete the item, since the situation usually ends in the dwarf going mad.

Sometimes the procedure ends with the dwarf in question gaining incredible skills or talents. I eagerly check Goden’s profile. He still doesn’t know the first thing about woodcarving. Damnit.

The Autumn trading caravan comes and does its thing. My haulers lug four huge wooden bins overflowing with authentic dwarven handicrafts up to the trade depot, and my initial thrill at the sheer quantity of stuff they have for sale is tempered somewhat when I start browsing what the items actually are. Cave spider ichor. Fungiwood training swords. Horse cheese. A huge iron corkscrew. A dog intestine.

I end up giving them all of my crafts for a selection of stuff that I get the impression I might be needing in my economy later. Among my purchases are some sandbags (for the silk bags as much as the sand), some raw glass to train my gemcutter with, some thread, an extra pickaxe, some barrels of booze, and a lady donkey in a cage so Goden finally has something to milk and hopefully won’t lose his shit again.

Once the caravan leaves I realise I was playing the game waiting for it to arrive. Now it’s gone, I’m left with the shameful feeling that Onionbog is cluttered mess. Worse, word comes from Johon that he can’t plant Plump Helmet in our field anymore because there’s no seed left. No seed? What the fuck, people! I gotta get organised! As if to spite me, I notice somebody has let the donkey out of its cage and it’s now blocking the main corridor.

First of all, I decide to consolidate my immense supply of raw food into some prepared meals, which will cheer dwarves up and make the food last longer. I take Tei off mining duty and have a kitchen built for him, since he’s a bit of a chef. The first thing he makes? Biscuits. Made from a swamp turtle. Swamp turtle biscuits. Mmmmm.

I also designate Tekkud, one of my hauling dwarves, as a bookkeeper- somebody whose job it is to make a detailed inventory of everything we’ve got in the fort. I’m informed that the bookkeeper needs an office to work from, and I go to great lengths to accommodate his request.



It’s basically a cupboard with a stool in it. Tekkud’s ass is over the moon regardless. His very own office! If momma Tekkud could see him now!

Within a week Tekkud’s first report comes in, causing me to begin saying “What the fuck” over and over again.

Jiim lifted his heavy head from his meal of turtle biscuits to see Tekkud Erlinfeb approaching, a stack of papers under his arm.

“Tekkud,” Jiim called. “Come and eat a turtle biscuit.” As Tekkud got closer, Jiim scouted the black circles around Tekkud’s eyes. When had the dwarf last slept?

“I’ve finished my first report,” said Tekkud, crumbling into a stone chair Jiim had carved back in the Spring. “I found a lot of strangeness.”

“What type or manner of strangeness?”

“It is in the food and the drink provisions,” Tekkud began, fumbling the papers onto the table. “There are many things I struggle to account. There is a strange meat in the corner, which I have identified as bugbat meat, but I don’t know what a bugbat is and nobody who lives here has ever seen one. Among our fish collection are a great many dead sharks which I suspect our fishermen are responsible for. I think somebody finally murdered that horse, because we have no horse anymore and in the kitchen are 6… no, 7 globs of horse fat. Not to mention the stews Tei’s been making recently.

“But the real oddness is all of the drink. Our food supplies are dwindling, but we have dozens of barrels of ale, beer and wine. Enough to last us for several years.”

I have HOW MANY barrels of booze? How on Earth did this happen? Jesus Christ. My God. The still is off limits until further notice. No wonder I ran out of Plump Helmet seeds. Tholtig was making enough Plump Helmet wine to drown the inhabitants of six or seven Onionbogs.

Having discovered this glitch in my economy, I decide to take some proactive steps to keep Onionbog safe. It’s time for me to draft a militia, set up a metalworks and get that blacksmith making arms and armour. I have no idea if or when invaders will show up.

This proves to be more of a pain than I ever could have imagined.


  1. K says:

    This is a classic. Running out of “a” because some idiot dwarf was making seventy trillion “b” from it. And TheRapist is completely necessary, which shows you how bad the interface is. Imagine if you needed a UI-mod for WoW to be able to use hotkeys. Then imagine that WASD counts as a “hotkey”. Then imagine that it only supports one-button mouses of the iMac era. Such a great game, such a bad interface.

    • Collic says:

      Also imagine WoW was in aplha, free, and made by one person. And good.

    • Stromko says:

      I’ve never used Dwarf Therapist, though I do use macro’s and my own memorized templates to auto-select all the jobs in the categories, and just give dwarves different categories to do (farmers do all farming jobs, just about all my dwarves have mechanics, masonry and architecture enabled). Sometimes it is a pain, but usually I kind of enjoy dealing with migrants in this way, it’s all part of the game for me.

  2. Feet says:

    It’s when you’re playing the game and you think you’re getting to grips with it finally, and then you read about something you haven’t tried, like making glass. Or attempting to make any kind of metalwork.

    And it’s then that you go back to the more well known AARs, advanced tutorials and multifarious “Let’s Play” threads on forums all over the internet and look at the screenshots and what they achieved….

    And you stop. And you wonder whether the player was really a real human person.

    • Rinox says:

      Yeah…my current fortress came to a (well-fed and happy) population of 140 without making any metal items whatsoever without giving it much thought. Just goes to show how caught up you can get in the rest before realising you’re missing something semi-essential.

      And then that Hydra walked in… D-:

    • Heliosicle says:

      In my case I had a reasonable population of 90, things were going well, people were happy, we were trading well down to the huge numbers of diamonds I had, but I’ve never understood the militia aspect, so when that big troll came from down below… I got fucked.

    • Junior says:

      Back in MY day we didn’t have any fancy guides or video tutorials, if you were inspired by a two page article in PCG to play DF, you damn well learned the game for yourself.

      I’ll never forget how my third fortress fell, simply because I had no idea that I’d have to lock the front door myself, and having lost a fortress to that, I’ll never do so again.

      You kids these days with your ‘wikis’ and ‘let’s play’ guides, pah!

  3. UsF says:

    I hope your dwarfs enjoy sleeping in wooden beds made from soggy wet wood left outside, rotting and full of bugs. :>
    Horse eye stew? REALLY? Never seen something like that, but I haven’t played the most recent verson yet. You forgot to buy seeds to extend your alcohol diversity, also you cannot stop brewing alcohol, since you said you wanted to make a variety of them. Just sell the excess, they give a good price. What skill is your brewer now? :D
    Awesome office, I give them a table at least. Can you imagine that poor guy having to sit on the chair and writing with the paper on the walls? That aint good for the dwarven back!
    Did you think about defense yet?

  4. Rob says:

    One thing that I took a few games to realise was how important bins are. If they are available then the dwarves will take them to the appropriate storage area and put things that can be placed in them – including crafts and blocks – inside. This obviously saves you room, and prevents the block storage sprawling out as above, but it also allows you to take a whole lot of crafts straight to the trade depot just by sending the particular bin out there.

  5. misterk says:

    “and then came the enormous tree trunks he was pulling”

    and in the game!


    “Jiim looked up from his sad lunch of raw mushroom and mushroom wine”

    and in the game!

    Man, you’ve gotta give me something to work with here!

  6. Kronusdark says:

    I’m really loving this, please keep it coming.

  7. vanarbulax says:

    Oh, if you are running out of seeds don’t cook anything. Brewing or eating raw plump helmet gives you seeds galore, cooking it grants you no seeds.

    • vanarbulax says:

      And I assume you’ve messed around a bit in Stonesense? Not quite at the point where it’s easy to use while playing, but still good to have a look around your fort with the cursor synced. Only problem is once you see DF in isometric mode you’ll be drooling for it to be released like that.

    • troutable says:

      Rather than stop cooking altogether, just forbid plump helmets for cooking in the kitchen menu (Z->kithchen if i remember correctly). A good way to get food without plump helmets is to start gathering herbs outside and cooking them into lavish meals. Lavish meals only, because more ingredients = larger stacks, and larger stacks are easier to store.

      Additionaly setting up an outdoor farm to plant your new gathered herbs is super easy and a good way to get not only food but different kinds of booze to keep the dwarves happy.

    • jonfitt says:

      Oh my goodness you are right! DF needs to implement Stonesense as a graphical option!!
      link to

  8. Web Cole says:

    Brilliant, makes me want to go back to DF so bad.

    • ShootyFace says:

      I recently redownloaded the LazyNewbPack, but only got as far as generating a world before I quit. Last time I booted up Dwarf Fortress, three months of my life vanished. Not sure I want to time travel to 2013. True story.

  9. Avenger says:

    I was always a bit terrified of this game with all the brilliant interface whatnot. Now I am more intrigued. It might just be the best game I will ever play.

    Keep these diary things coming man.

  10. Tom OBedlam says:

    I think you get seed back from booze don’t you?

    • President Weasel says:

      This is certainly the impression I got from video tutorials, reinforced by seeing little farmer mans come running up to the still, grabbing things that looked a lot like seeds, and heading for the fields.

      oh, by the way…

      a 3 by 3 barracks with a wooden spear in each square, connected to a lever. Turns the weediest dwarf into a Militia Monster in mere days.*

      *please note: danger room also kills cats and babies. Weasel Enterprise assumes no responsibility for the fate of babies or cats in the vicinity of the Danger room.

    • Torgen says:

      Last time I played, making booze did *not* give seeds, which is why you had to be careful early on about how much you brewed. Making meals *does* give seeds back. Over-brewing is one of the things I did early on myself, and learned from it.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      Hmmm I wonder if thats a 31.xx change? in 40d it was certainly booze –> seeds.

    • Torgen says:

      Perhaps I have it backwards. I haven’t played in a long long time.

    • DrazharLn says:

      “Brewing plants always produces seeds, so you won’t have to worry about being unable to replant your crop next season.” Source

      “cooking plants does not yield plant seeds” Source

      This is also my experience from playing the game, FWIW.

  11. Rich says:

    So is “Jiim” pronounced “heem”?

  12. Nihilileth says:

    Unfortunately all strange moods don’t push your crafter’s skills up to legendary, but unless I’m mistaken 9/10 or something like that do so you were just unfortunate!

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      Possessed dwarves don’t gain the skill increase, sadly.

  13. IcarusTyler says:

    Dear Mr. Q. Smith

    I must say I am quite delighted by your serial of in-game journals, much to the point of me actually reading them twice, followed by me re-reading them a third time some time later.

    I do have to wonder though which game you will tackle next, after having demonstarted the internet (and by extension, me, a humble reader) the inner workings of the ridiculously elaborate and byzantine (yet still loveable) Dwarf Fortress.

    There are few games which suite themselves to such endeavours (strangely enough mostly indie titles). The next thing coming into my mind would be the quite splendid Mount and Blade (preferably in its later “warband”-variety). It offers quite a lot of freedom and options, and is quite well-suited to continued journal-making.

    Then again, as I already proclaimed, almost every game, if presented in the correct amusing and informative fashion, should suffice as reading-material.

    – A humble reader

    • Friend says:

      I would really like to see NetHack (with at least the included tileset, if not Vulture’s Eye) as the next game Quinn goes through like this. The format might be a little tricker–dying constantly in ways you never knew possible is a bit of a damper on narrative flow, although great for showcasing the game’s trickiness–but I think the results would be lovely.

      It also fits into the theme of the rest of these games because NetHack is one of the primary inspirations for Dwarf Fortress, Minecraft, and other games of that type.

      Snazzy playthrough, though. Makes me want to take another stab at DF one of these days soon.

  14. Card says:

    As a (not very adept) DF addict, I have been thoroughly enjoying this series, especially the narrations. Please, please, please keep them coming, despite the odd looks I get from my coworkers when I suddenly guffaw.

  15. R3D says:

    um brewing gives you the seeds back and coocking destroyes them Quintin, betta hope the caravan brings you more or you will be stuck above ground farming verry undwarfy

  16. Pijama says:

    Can someone explain to me why oh why the latest version has a ridiculous level of urban development that leaves absolutely almost no space to install of fortress ANYWHERE?

    Btw Quinns, keep going! I am also learning the game, so you are being great and awesome and whatever =D

    • Nesetalis says:

      the very latest version.. 14, fixes that. :P

    • perilisk says:

      Wait, can you just embark at a city in the latest version and burrow under it? And then “accidentally” cause a cave-in that destroys above-ground town?

  17. Moonracer says:

    Some tips:
    make one or more useless Dwarfs foragers and let them harvest plants from the outside. It’s a good food supplement and will diversify their diet and booze collection.

    If you’re using the 2010 version a hospital is handy.

    Consider using all the excess stone in your fort for some grand exterior construction. A great Multi-story wall surrounding your fort with a few defensible entrances is both useful and stone consuming. Other ideas are a Pyramid or Tower of Babel. Though Keep an eye on your builders as they tend to be quite good at walling themselves into corners and dying if you leave them alone.

  18. Nihilileth says:

    My opinion on the next game to be journalised (not that I don’t agree with the M&B and Nethack suggestions above) would be a MUD. A lot of people still play MUDs and the one that are alive and kicking usually have very commited communities. I also bet a lot of people who weren’t around in the early nineties don’t know too much about these spellbinding predecessors to modern day MMO’s.

    – Someone who discovered MUD’s in 2001 and still clocks in 500h/year of active play if not more.

    • DrazharLn says:

      I would be intensely interested in some journalism on MUDs.

      Nihilileth, could you recommend some MUDs for beginners?

    • Nihilileth says:

      Draz: Glad to see someone else show some interest! I’m currently playing a mud called Icesus (and have been since 2005), which is based in Finland and has a very large finnish playerbase, the second largest group being americans. There are around 100 people online at any time and it’s a completely original world. I think it’s quite newbie friendly, there are dedicated newbie helpers to assist with any questions and there are also a lot of dedicated newbie areas. And perhaps the most important bit is that there are active wizards that expand and patch the game, it’s constantly evolving even after some 20 years. If you feel like it’s a good place to stay and play in then it covers the whole gameplay range from simple hack & slash, to complex quests (some of which have never been solved yet) to some pretty serious end-game raiding. I’ve been on raids that lasted 14hours on a single mob… The payoff is usually worth it though! for the website, in your telnet or other client.

    • DrazharLn says:

      Thanks for the link and advice! I’ll be trying this out when I next get a chance (hopefully tomorrow, if Uni life is kind).

  19. Rakysh says:

    Tips, tips galore.

    To conclude the cooking/brewing seeds debate, brewing releases seeds, cooking doesn’t. What’s likely is that you’ve got a load of raw plump helmet sitting in potentium?

    Also, each barrel of booze can hold up to like a dozen units, if I remember correctly. Depends on the skill of your brewer. That might be why the figure is astronomical (what is it, by the way?).

    Also, if you really have too much wine, make wine cookable. It’s kinda an exploit but you get really massive stacks.

  20. laikapants says:

    Maybe it is the fact that I’ve not had more than 15 minutes of sleep in the last 30 hours, but dammit Quinns I’m gonna download Dwarf Fortress tonight. I may (read:definitely will) end up with a massive headache and even more sleep deprivation but I just can’t not play it. My mind races with the possibilities of how everything will go terribly and delectably wrong.

  21. Taro514 says:

    I totally love this series of articles. Please keep them coming. :)

    Oh, and you’re probably going to get me to start up DF again… shame on you.

  22. Tupimus says:

    Actually, cooking is the only method that won’t leave seeds – eating raw and brewing will.

  23. Grandstone says:

    Fortress 1: Immigrants came, and then everyone starved to death.

    Fortress 2: The merchants came, but I had nothing to sell, so everyone starved to death.

    Fortress 3: Immigrants came. Merchants came. Everything is going swimmingly. Can’t wait for the impending invasion of bat-men.

    Curse you, Quinns! You already addicted me to Minecraft!

  24. Redford says:

    When a dwarf is “possessed”, he will remember nothing of what he made, which is terrible. Note that possessed dwarves, especially if they are sad, will sometimes decide to kill another dwarf and fashion an artifact from their corpse.

  25. Fox says:

    Super Tip for cleaning up the stone laying everywhere:

    1) Press i to go into Zones.
    2) Place a single-square zone (hit Enter twice) where you want your stone to be stored. I usually put this near my crafts and masonry workshops.
    3) Press g to make the new zone a Garbage Dump.
    4) Back out and press d for Designations -> b for Set Building/Item Proper -> d again for Dump Items.
    5) Select whatever group of stone you want to clear.

    This will make any dwarves with Hauling go and start carrying the designated stones to the designated dump zone. It will stack infinitely on the single tile. This can really consume your dwarves’ time so I suggest clearing one room or small patch at a time.

    One thing to be aware of is that all the dumped stone will be “forbidden” and thus won’t be used. This is remedied simply by pressing “d, b, c” to Reclaim Items/Buildings, and clicking on your giant stack of dumped stone (it will highlight green while forbidden).

    Voila, all your messy stone problems are (eventually) gone. Some people (according to the wiki) consider this cheating, but I’m a bit OCD in wanting my fortress to look clean, so ner.

    • Dozer says:

      I like to build a great big garbage pit in my fortress, generally next to the central staircase/spiral ramp. By ‘great big’ I mean a 1x1x15 empty space with a staircase next to it. To get stone to my masons, I have a small stockpile restricted to only high-quality stones such as marble, next to the workshops, and useless dorfs drag it up out of the pit.

      What I’d really like would be some way to get rid of low-quality furniture. It’s not really a problem once the masons are skilled enough but there should be a better way than just offloading them on caravans…

    • SheffieldSteel says:

      This game sounds great…
      …until someone makes one of these posts featuring lists of keypresses, and spoils everything :-/

    • Fox says:


      The game requires key-presses to play.

      You have been warned!

    • SheffieldSteel says:

      Okay, I’ll bite.

      How do you know that pressing ‘i’ takes you into Zones?

    • Rakysh says:

      It says on the handy list of hotkeys+effects which is on the side of the screen at all times. Ditto with everything else; you don’t have to remember everything, you get prompted.

    • SheffieldSteel says:

      Well, that doesn’t sound so bad.

      If I were to criticise this series, it would be on the grounds that it is heavy on in-universe dialogue and light on the practicalities of playing the game. To be fair, I suppose the Mine The Gap series didn’t talk much about the mechanics of controlling the character, digging, crafting, or what-have-you, but in DF the interface is supposed to be THE big issue, so it’d be nice to see it mentioned at least. Or is the odd language in the ingame conversations supposed to be a metaphorical portrayal of the difficulty of communicating your desires to the game?

    • Rakysh says:

      Pretty much, yeah. The difficulty is you don’t issue orders, you’re more of an enabler. You want to craft stuff, you select the craft workshop, and put in an order, and next time a dwarf with the “crafting” labour enabled isn’t thirsty, tired, hungry or impaled on something nasty, they go over to the craft workshop and do what you say, at least until they’re hungry, thirsty, impaled etc. Ditto with everything else. You have to manage your dwarves rather than be their supreme overlord. The interface makes sense imo, except the bloody military screen.

      q= select a building (from which you order things)
      b= build a building
      v= see info on and change work permitted for a dwarf
      k= a “look” tool
      d= designate an area, be it for mining, forest clearing, stair carving, plant gathering or body disposal.
      p= designate a stockpile

      Those are the main ones, really, except for aforementioned military stuff. It’s just their various submenus (pressing C after B gives you constructions that your mason will build, like walls, for example) which can get complicated, and making sure you have everything prepared (before siting a door in the world with “b” you have to mine out some rock with “d” designate a stockpile for it with “p” build a masons with “b” and then order a door to be carved with “q”). It’s all second nature before too long though.

  26. Che says:

    Quentin, I am sat here, crying with laughter. Thankyou. THANKYOU.

    • Dao Jones says:

      Same here, Che! Really makes me want to play this game, but I feel like it won’t be as funny and just involve a lot of cursing on my part. :(

  27. Adam T says:

    Ah DF, the game that produces better narrative than actual gameplay! Everyone else should play DF, particularly if you have some talent for prose. Write up the tale of your fortress. Then I don’t have to beat my head against that inscrutable anvil of an interface.

  28. Dozer says:

    Quinns – Fish dissection has no relevance in a swamp. The ONLY thing Fish Dissecting is good for is extracting Mog Juice from caged Moghopper fish. And catching the fish and putting them into a cage is another dwarf’s skill – I don’t know which. Mog juice is used in cooking; it’s pretty useless. Dwarves with Fishing skill will catch stuff in the swamps; dwarves with Fish Dissection will turn them into stuff that can be cooked.

    Good bone carvers are very useful, conversely – they can turn the bones you’ll get from butchery into lots of good-quality crossbow bolts. Something you’ll need more of rather than less! Wood-crafting skill – useless; wood’s far too valuable to turn into mugs and crowns. Keep the wood for beds, barrels and bins until you’re making enough metal to make metal barrels and bins.

    I tend to buy all the available wood from caravans (I don’t know why elvis won’t let me cut down trees, but is happy to sell me timber in bulk) and food and clothing. That Dog Intestine might just be a bit of gut to you and me but to one of your dwarfs, it’ll be his momma’s favourite recipe and make him very happy. Maybe.

  29. Alway says:

    Just one thing though: when plants are made into booze, it creates seeds. It is actually the cooking which is killing your seed count. Cooking plants results in a meal, but not more seeds; brewing results in both beer and seeds.

  30. Chaosgabe says:

    This might get lost, but you will need one thing to improve your storage. I hope wont anyone anyone, but:


  31. Jorum says:

    Are people going to moan about the “crap” UI every installment of this journal?
    Yes we all know it’s old-fashioned and multi-layered and a bit clunky and slow.
    You know what? It doesn’t really matter. With a decent tutorial, a few hours of messing about and checking the wiki and you should have it sussed. Relevent hotkeys are shown on screen so you don’t even have to remember them that much.
    Once you’ve got over the initial hurdle it’s not going to get in the way of your playing.

  32. starclaws says:

    I don’t really find it necessary. You can custom name professions as well as your dwarves to your liking. Labeling them however you want.

    All the interface menus are there for a reason. Once you get deeper into the game, you will realize that the unit list and the creature menu really isn’t that tough to navigate and actually becomes faster on the keyboard than you could ever be with the mouse. You just have to actually… God forbid… remember something… Oh no.

    “Fox says:
    September 28, 2010 at 7:56 pm
    The game requires key-presses to play.
    You have been warned!”
    He summed it up pretty much.

    Everything is paused in game while you navigate through the menus so take your time and get used to them. And the pause button is simply the ‘Spacebar’ when you really need it.

    You should really try to learn the menu system. If you cheat away to some 3rd party application, then you will never get a feeling for more of the advanced menus for … Let’s say military, hospitals, and training. Lets remember that this game is still… like Minecraft… kind of in an Alpha testing state.

    I simply give each profession to the highest skilled dwarf. And build my fortress from there. If you properly manage your stockpiles by keeping everything on the same layer, or just glance at them often, you shouldn’t be running out of anything. I try not to trade much early on to expose my fortress to outside influence. Unless I really need something. Later on, when you get migrants that are useless or of a lower skill on a profession that is already taken; you draft them into military or fill professions that don’t require too much skill or don’t get used often. If you happened to need something that you don’t have a dwarf assigned to, then assign a frequently idling dwarf to that profession for a while. Mining, Carpentry, Farming and Masonry being tasks that I usually have 2 dwarves on constantly. My miners, carpenters, masons, farmers, and brewers are usually not allowed to haul anything as they are working constantly on those tasks.

    If you need help there’s the tutorial videos.
    link to
    There’s the wiki.
    link to
    And then there is chat. People on 24 hours a day chatting about something random usually. #bay12games

    But again. This is a game where you are meant to fail. And you WILL eventually fail. Goblins atop Giant Dragons, Giant Web-spitting Llamas, or many horrible beasts will come and slaughter your military and snuff every last dwarf out of existence.

    • Dozer says:

      TheRapist takes all the pain out of processing the new migrants and finding out what exactly they’re good at. Before Dwarf TheRapist, I would painstakingly go through each and every new dwarf, give them a serial number as a nickname, and write (using paper and pen! Can you believe it?) what their best skills are, and whether their description suggests they’re militia material. Not all 3rd-party apps are Ruining The Holy DF Experience…

  33. Bunny says:

    I would say having too much booze is a good thing, since dorfs always drink it quicker than you expect…

    but if you are low on food, you do know you can cook alcohol, right?

    Mmmm… dwarven wine biscuits, made with finely minced dwarven wine, finely minced dwarven wine, finely minced dwarven sugar and finely minced horse eye. Mmmm…

  34. James says:

    When is a big developer that has many moneys going to notice that they could do this kind of game as well, and that people would want to give them more moneys in exchange for it?

    Nothing at all wrong with indie, and this isn’t complaining but the interface alone could benefit from a professional UI designer. More people would get to play a game like that and enjoy it, and that equals peace on earth (if you think about it while drinking a little).

  35. Inglourious Badger says:

    Congratlations, you have done it again! I was going to add comments to the first Onionbog to say “Nice try, Mr Smith, but you won’t get me into Dwarf Fortress, I tried it once and my brain still hurts. No way will I go back”.

    But I find myself now both:
    1. eagerly awaiting the next installment of Onionbog blog (Onionblog?)
    2. wanting to give Dwarf Fortress another go this weekend despite JUST LOSING 2 WEEKENDS TO MINECRAFT THANKS TO YOU!

    This cannot go on! Please cease writing excellent and funny journals about brilliant games and let me have my life back.

  36. sebmojo says:

    The ONLY thing Fish Dissecting is good for is extracting Mog Juice from caged Moghopper fish.

    I have always held this to be true.

  37. RedFred says:

    While I don’t think I will be rushing to get my hands on DF as I was with Minecraft, the Song of Onionbog amuses me greatly.

    Yay for Quinns!

  38. Eric says:

    Wonderful writeup, Quinns. I loved the hell out of your Minecraft articles, and I admit it took me until now to be fully sold on on Onionbog, but I’m on board now for sure. Ride this crazy train as far as it goes. :D

    I only hope that I don’t end up playing this as many hours when I should be sleeping as I did thanks with Minecraft thanks to that series. I mean, I have Civ V to play! :-p

  39. Leandri says:

    Probably my favorite experience from this game was watching my friend try to make a waterfall in his Meeting Hall. This ended very poorly as you’d expect:

    Channeled water from the river after making floodgates and water pumps. The water gets pumped to above the meeting hall where it falls through a hole in the ceiling and lands in a pond thing where it drains out 3 squares away.

    Except… he accidentally linked the levers to the wrong floodgates and ended up with a source and no outlet. So…

    His meeting hall flooded. He ended up closing the doors and marking them “DO NOT OPEN UNDER PENALTY OF DROWNING.” Then began the arduous task of draining the channels so he could reach his generators and emergency shut off switch, both of which were now underwater due to a his marvelous engineering.

    Eventually he created a secondary canal network where he drained out the water, fixed the first canal network, but it wouldn’t work since he hastily made the secondary canal network. After all was said and done, I was like “So you got mist in your meeting hall yet?”

    “Shut up Justin.”

    • jalf says:

      Probably my favorite experience from this game was watching my friend try to make a waterfall in his Meeting Hall. This ended very poorly as you’d expect:

      Ah, I did that in my current fortress.

      I had the advantage of a natural waterfall outside though, so my dining hall was already below part of the river, and a level or two above the bottom of the waterfall, so I didn’t need any pumps or anything. Just had to dig a channel to divert water to a small room above my dining hall, poke a few holes in the floor, and then a chamber below it to collect the water and lead it out.

      And that worked great until the goddamn river froze. That is, the top levels of the river kept flowing, but the bottom, at the foot of the waterfall, and where I was dumping the water going through my dining hall froze solid, blocking everything. before I realized what was going on, the dining hall was flooded, and the water had reached the two lowest levels of my fortress (including the bedrooms)

      Ah well, lesson learned. Most of the water is gone now, and I widened the outlet in the hope that it won’t *all* freeze up next winter (which was an interesting challenge. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried convincing a group of dwarves to go mining at the bottom of a mostly-frozen waterfall which had already claimed 5 dwarves). And if all else fails, I’ll just have to lock the room when it’s cold outside.

  40. MrFake says:

    I traced back what went wrong in my life, what put me down the path I’m on now. Events, months and years in the past, that were shaping me, but themselves were shaped by something else. There, at the end of my search, through all the dark and haze, was a small, faintly glowing lump of coal, it’s inner fire a leftover from a long forgotten inferno. I knew what it was; something so simple but so sinister. It could only be Dwarf Fortress.

    Q, you fool. You damned dirty ape!

    You’ve fanned the flames again.

  41. MadZab says:

    I really enjoy reading these, keep ’em coming!

    One thing, I read somewhere about DF to Minecraft, a program someone wrote so you can convert your DF map to a Minecraft map if you want to have a look around in it in 3D…

  42. Dlarit says:

    After your first post I gave DF a go

    1st game – everyone starved to death as I couldn’t figure out farming
    2nd game – ran out of booze!
    3rd game- dug too deep while mining and got everyone killed by horrible creatures from cave system
    4th game – all my nobles fell asleep and wouldn’t wake up (bug?)
    5th game – going well! Following each failure I’ve figured out why I failed an learnt, also the first dwarf trader couldn’t get in as I’d not built a depot so he went mad and attacked his guards who killed him and left everything outside my fortress! Yippie, gather his stuff my minions! We are rich!

  43. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Too much booze? No no no no no.. dwarves can’t ever have enough booze. Tholtig was just being prudent. And a bit zealous, maybe.

  44. Burke says:

    He may also have neglected to designate seeds as non-cookable. I screwed several of my early forts over by cooking all my seeds when I went on a cooking binge.

    • Tei says:

      sssssssssssssssssSSHHHH… <Beavis voice>are you tryiing to frame me? </Beavis voice>

    • jalf says:

      Aren’t seeds marked non-cookable by default?

    • Dozer says:

      @jalf – yes, seeds are default non-cookable.

      One thing I keep forgetting to do is to have a small stockpile of half a dozen of each type of seed, locked behind several doors and bridges somewhere out of the way, and marked as Forbidden. Then, if I ever lose my farms in some disaster, I can start again using those seeds.

  45. Durandal says:

    Man “In alpha” only works when there’s any chance at all of the alpha becoming a finished product.

    It’s not like his boss is riding his ass to get it out by Q2 2011. It’s going to continue having no UI for the next 40 “alpha” iterations.

    I don’t begrudge the peculiar priorities of a guy releasing something fun for free, but damned if I’m going to pretend an interface that makes an Oregon Trail look slick is a feature instead of a bug.

  46. jonfitt says:

    For Grod’s sake Quinns get some hauliers in there. Define a huge area of storage somewhere outside and designate it for stone only. Then assign at least one dwarf per miner as a stone hauler.

    If fact you should probably be using hauling dwarfs all over to keep things organised.