Booze, Bards, And Ballads: Big Dwarf Fortress Update

An early Christmas present has arrived. On December 1st 2015, one of the largest and most complicated works in the history of the realm known as EarthDwelling received new embellishments. The work known as Dwarf Fortress [official site] has been upgraded by master craftsmen and now contains designated leisure zones, performances and procedural art forms, unique to each civilisation. And that’s not all. Details below.

Few games can claim to have added procedurally generated stories, poetry, music and dance, and then go on to state that those features are just a small part of a larger update. Dwarf Fortress is one such game. This is version 0.42.01 of the preposterously detailed settlement management game / historical fantasy generator / life sim, and it’s one of the most exciting versions I can remember seeing.

The bulk of the changes relate to the art forms that are now sprinkled across each new world. Books can be made (from three types of material), scholars can work within fortresses, scribes can make copies of great works, and taverns, temples and libraries can be designated as areas (or appear in adventure mode). The expected activities will take place within those areas and this is the result of a change to the way fortresses function.

“The flow of fortress life is quite a bit different now — specific breaks and parties have been replaced by taverns and performances and needs and inebriation. You can designate a tavern, temple or library from a meeting area zone, bedroom or dining room using the new Assign Location option. The location list (‘l’) will let you know what sort of furniture and items you need, and you can set tavern keepers, scribes and other occupations there as well. You’ll need to set up a drink stockpile and a chest for goblets in taverns for drink service to work properly, but dwarves can still drink without a tavern as before. You can assign multiple rooms/zones to a single location.”

In theory, that should bring a little more order to dwarven lives, as they flock to specific places to fulfill certain needs.

There are other changes that should make life a little easier and it’s great that most of the additions will function in Adventure mode as well as Fortress mode. That’s to say, you’ll be able to stumble across performances and books, or carry out a performance of your own, when playing as a wanderer in the more traditional roguelike mode. I haven’t had a chance to generate any stories of my own yet but I’ve found some delights over at the DF Subreddit.

How about an elven scientific tome proposing the possibility of a heliocentric solar system? Or a murderously bad poetry recital? Or this lesson in hubris? Borges fan though I am, this seems a much more interesting infinite book generator than the Library of Blabber.

My first new character will dance across the world in search of a good book. Then he’ll kick back in a tavern and drink himself stupid. Or worse.

“Alcohol causes inebriation, erratic behavior, unconsciousness, death”

I like that the update notes casually mention the fact that children can now play make believe. “Yes, the characters in this simulated world have simulated imaginations now. What of it?”


  1. TTex says:

    Son. Of. A….

    I JUST got caught up and all comfortable with the previous version too. Now I have to start climbing the learning cliff again.

    • R says:

      > Now I have to start climbing the learning cliff again.

      So long as you have a free manipulator with the [grab] tag you should be able to do it. Press ‘h’ to grab a bit of the cliff, and then ‘options’ to move to the tile above the current one.

      Though you can play as animal men in this version, so you might be able to fly over it, or might not have a manipulator.

  2. Jakkar says:

    I’m glad to see this still receiving front-page coverage. I don’t understand how people can be excited by No Man’s Sky and ignore something so much richer.

    • KaMai says:

      Shiny graphics and PR fuelled by Sony’s big bucks.

      And maybe a much much user-friendly approach, but I still think the first two reasons are decisive.

      • Alberto says:

        I was genuinely impressed by NMS from the first article I read, before Sony and shiny videos.

        But DF is a niche game, you just can’t expect so much attention from the audience as for a insta-lovely looking space game.

        And that’s allright, given the misplaced expectatives and (unwanted?) hype placed on NMS’s shoulders right now.

    • Replikant says:

      That’s why we’re reading RPS. The authors now and again seem to display the capability of independent thought and good judgement (cautiously put).

    • Scelous says:

      Because visually, DF looks like garbage. I can work with a good graphical tileset (like DCSS), but ASCII? No. And DF’s current tileset leaves much to be desired.

      • kermat says:

        You can install a graphical tileset along with a graphics pack/creature pack that makes it look more like DCSS. If that isn’t enough, then you can even run stonesense inside DF and play it with isometric graphics. But only elves do this.
        Time to man up and take the plunge, fellow Urist. He he he.

      • alms says:

        Most tilesets suck if you ask me, the problem with DF is not ASCII though, but rather that the UI is a Cthuloid abomination.

    • Mrice says:

      Maybe they get interested in these games and come to look, only to see the type of lazy elitism and snobbery that i see in the comments above and decide that its not worth the grief.

      • UndrState says:

        I hope not . It’s a great game. Takes some patience, but it’s in my top 5 , I love it.

      • rexx.sabotage says:

        Lazy? Clearly you have not played.

        That snobbery and elitism is hard earned, son.

        • Jakkar says:

          Every drip of condescension earned with a pint of sweat and blood…

          In seriousness the DF community is very friendly.

  3. Alberto says:

    My monthly dollar to Patreon brings me back HAPPINESS again.

    This game makes me go back again and again and again. It’s never out of my hard drive.

  4. GernauMorat says:

    Excellent. Hope the LazyNewbPack is updated soon!

  5. Arglebargle says:

    Call me when they have a UI designed for someone other than hardcore masochists.

    • Rich says:

      Honestly, you might as well disconnect your phone.

    • Stupoider says:

      link to


    • ribby says:

      So never then?

    • Alberto says:

      I know it’s been said thousands of times, but it’s a shorter wall than you believe.

      And once you play for a little time, it’s amazing how you develop a muscular memory for hotkeys.

      But this is maybe the niche-gamer-me.

      • ribby says:

        I agree. Can’t cope with the ASCII though- have to play with txture packs

      • klops says:

        It is not (only) about remembering the keys and getting used to the UI. I’d say I remember the keybindings pretty well. I still hate the UI.

        I’m also familiar with XCOM’s inventory handling (before mission) but still hate the UI in it.

        Getting used to something clunky and bad does not mean it isn’t clunky and bad.

      • supermini says:

        Maybe it comes from playing so many roguelikes and MUDs over the years but bad interface just puts me off these days. I played DF for about a week and I still felt like I was fighting against the interface half the time.

        • Belsameth says:

          This feeling goes away after ~a month of lots of playing, you won’t even notice it by then anymore. That said, its still a shit interface but the game is worth it (which says a lot about the greatness of the game).

        • UndrState says:

          I long ago printed the wiki article ( several actually ) – I read them at work on the can ;) it helps!

    • carewolf says:

      The funny think is Dwarf Fortress fans will attack you for that statement, despite that practically of them play with UI add ons because the default one is shit.

      • Traipse says:

        No, it’s perfectly correct. As someone who’s sunk hundreds of hours into Dwarf Fortress, I can say that it is BOTH a fantastic game and the worst interface I’ve ever had the misfortune of using; they are not mutually exclusive. For a few years now, my thought process has gone like this:

        * Contemplate downloading a new version to try out the latest changes
        * Think about the military management screen
        * Go play anything else instead

        As someone pointed out above, just because you get used to something awful doesn’t mean it ceases to be awful.

        • klops says:

          Military management! Everything else I can deal with, but the military management… That’s the main reason I haven’t played the game in recent years.

        • Sin Vega says:

          This is pretty much my process every time, too. DF’s bullshit has outweighed its strengths for ages. I give it another try perhaps every 2 years or so and am always quickly driven away by the same glaring, completely unnecessary flaws that have been present for years. There’s no excuse for most of them.

      • Arglebargle says:

        Ha! I am pretty hardcore about UI myself, and boot games with lots fewer problems. If the UI is a continual irritant, I am not going to play the game, regardless of how good it is. Even with the add on packs, DF’s UI didn’t cut it.

        Too bad, because the game does seem great, and right up my alley otherwise.

    • Wisq says:

      Honestly, the performance on large forts is way, way more of an issue than the UI. The latter can be overcome; the former, not really.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        This is the sole reason I haven’t played it in years. It’s no fun to spend days/weeks/months nurturing your fortress and its inhabitants for it to end up with a slideshow.

        Also all the fucking bugs which go unfixed even when the next ‘major’ release comes out are just ridiculous. The amount of third party hacks & workaround required to have any semblance of a working game is atrocious.

  6. BTAxis says:

    As always, I enjoy Dwarf Fortress, but only up to a point. Since there is no winning state and you’re “supposed” to lose every game, a lack of satisfaction creeps in after a while. This is compounded by my own inability to dream up anecdotes about my fortresses. There are sequences of events, but they don’t become stories. It’s just stuff that happens, to me.

    • Alberto says:

      I’ve discovered I enjoy self-imposed winning conditions. Nothing crazy, you know, but “break into the aquifers and irrigate the barren surface”, ” build a small necropolis above and underground”, or “mine and process all the silver/gold in your embark, then retire”.

    • Czrly says:

      The lack of win-conditions and the knowledge that you’re facing inexhorable doom are actually my favourite features of the game. In all other empire/settlement/city/whatever games, I always seem to ‘munchkin’ to such an extent that the fun suffers for it. Why? Because I know that, once I have “ticked the box”, I will almost certainly never return to tick it again in some other style. There are rare exceptions – XCOM Enemy Unknown/Within, Endless Legend, openTTD… – but, for most games, they simply aren’t good enough to warrant further plays when there’s new stuff available and a backlog of unplayed things a’waiting. Knowing that I’ll only ever play through once, I try too hard to make sure I get the best out of the one go.

      With DF, however, I know it will all end in beer… er… actually, lava… or water… or Megabeasts, or something… so I have no fear of experimenting. I know I will be left with the feeling that I could have done something a little better/faster/whatever and want to return to try another fortress … and that one will have MORE lava, mwuhahaha!

      I think Banished is a really good case study. It is modelled to be a DF clone with a GUI and, yet, it falls somewhat flat. It is a tonne of fun until you’ve built one of everything and made an AFK-proof village. Some satisfaction is felt while you watch that village tick over for a few moments and then, it instantly ceases to hold any entertainment value, whatsoever – uninstall time.

      • Belsameth says:

        Well put on why almost all management games fail next to DF (also, to a lesser extend) PA and Rimworld). Its impossible to build an “I win” fortress. No matter how wel prepared you think you are, somewhere a dorf is plotting to screw you over.

      • Universal Quitter says:

        The problem with Banished is that the combat side of things was left out of the design, which is not bad in and of itself, but he never replaced it with another engaging, fun game-mechanic.

        It’s like making a Fallout-esque game without conversation or dialogue of any kind, and adding nothing new to the equation.

        Still, Banished is amazing for showing what one man can do and, somewhat counter to Dwarf Fortress, for showing that a small team can finish a real game in a reasonable amount of time.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      That’s just a wordy way of saying you have very little imagination.

      I’m not being nasty, I mean that quite literally. It is what it is.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      I’ve had that lack of attachment to the fortress, where your imagination fails to engage in any serious way.

      That’s what mods are for. Bored with the lore? Try Dragonball Z Fortress! Hate anime? Try Warhammer!

  7. Universal Quitter says:

    Someday, Toady willing, I’d like to see some kind of achievement that says “Wrangled with the UI and didn’t succumb to madness.”

    But it really is the kind of thing that keeps you up all night playing, once you get the hang of it.

    I don’t know if there are any YouTubers in the comments today, but quill18 just stared a fort in an evil biome, if anyone wants to see a fortress where it rains “filth” from the sky, perpetually. link to

  8. frightlever says:

    Couple of Patreon links, one for Toady and the other for the guy maintaining the Dwarf Fortress Accessibility pack (formerly Lazy Noob):

    Bay12: link to
    Peridexis Errant: link to

  9. jnsrjl says:

    Does anyone else have most fun during the early stages of settlement building games? You know, small group of workers, untouched area, getting first necessities flowing in. I find myself more likely to start everything over than continuing with a game that has aged to teen years. However, I do finish most of the games that have build-in winning conditions. So what are the characteristics of an “infinite” game that’ll keep you playing it? Does perfectionism (“the dining hall could have prettier layout of tables”) thrive you or is it about the stories your gameplay creates?

    • Cederic says:

      With DF it’s my inability to even approach perfection. I am the utter master of the catastrophic failure.

      I’m not convinced that’s down to me.