Oh My God(s): Dwarf Fortress’s Creation Myths & Magic

But where did all this come from?

As if simulating millenia of erosion and mineral formation and legends didn’t generate complex enough worlds for Dwarf Fortress [official site], developers Bay 12 Games have detailed plans to generate creation stories which will spill over into affecting a world’s physical geography, ideas of death and the afterlife, mythic artefacts, divine manifestation, and magic. Oh yeah, magic’s coming too. No biggie. Just the history of the physical and metaphysical worlds. How lucky we are that our world was generated with the correct conditions for Dwarf Fortress!

Bay 12 are starting by adding non-magical generated artefacts as a first step towards their next major goal of adding generated creation myths and magic systems. They say:

“This is the culmination of years of work on Dwarf Fortress and our other projects which never saw the light of day. We’ve been playing around with magic systems for years, ever since DRAGSLAY.BAS, and are looking forward to finally being able to place the dwarves into a more meaningful, mysterious and exciting universe!”

To see how ridiculous this really is, dig into their dev log. I’m going to quote small things that amaze and delight me all willy-nilly out of context, so do check the log for the full picture. But peep these glimpses:

  • Creative actions taken by gods and ancient races, cosmic eggs and primordial chaos, resulting in humans, dwarves, the land, and every other in-game object
  • Generated explanations for death, the afterlife and the origins of magic fully integrated into the myth
  • Bridge myth and recorded history by converting myth output to world generation start map
  • Wider variety of magical historical figures with new actions and powers, respecting myth
  • Further involvement of deity-level beings and their servants in mortal affairs
  • -Basic divine law as a precursor to law framework
    -Manifestation and even integration with civilizations in high-magic settings
    -Conflicts between deities or the confused/imperfect agents of a single deity

  • Randomness settings: From Earth-like world to standard fantasy to completely random
  • Non-magical worlds will still have (possibly multiple) creation myths

And that’s barely even touching on magic and wizards. Go on, get stuck in and marvel.


  1. GernauMorat says:

    It really is the game. All else pales in comparison, I can’t think of anything comparable even outside of gaming.

  2. slerbal says:

    Amazing. Even though I’ve never been able to penetrate the game despite multiple attempts I am so glad it exists. I will have to done my gloves and have another crack at it. Just in case there is anything I’ve missed: anyone have any advice for how to get going?

    • Ashrand says:

      the Dwarf Fortress forums have a section just for (often basic) gameplay questions that has tutorials (including video tutorials) here:
      link to bay12forums.com
      The distinguished competition also made a pretty simple guide: link to pcgamer.com
      and video series: link to youtube.com
      Both of which can help with the fundamentals. I would be remiss if i didn’t also mention the REAL GAMERS (a bloo bloo bloo pointless chest thumping) method of the Dwarf Fortress wiki link to dwarffortresswiki.org which has it’s own quickstart guide and asking about any individual thing you find will at the very least tell you what industry it’s used in, and the link to that industry will tell you how to get started.
      Aside from that a rule of thumb for the fortress mode UI is that ‘b’ is used to make and place new things in the world, ‘d’ is used to modify and work the terrain ‘i’ is used to tell dwarves where an activity takes place if it doesn’t have a workshop, ‘k’ is used to get a close view of the world and ‘q’ lets you examine and order things from workshops and farms…

      Nice and easy right ; )

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      It depends a bit on what part you’re bouncing off. There’s not much you can do about the basic interface (although Dwarf Therapist is good at making some of the more complex dwarf management more intuitive). If its the ascii you can look into various tilesets. And if its the gameplay I’d suggest starting small and aiming to get a handle on one system at a time – while overall complex you only really initially need to figure out food, then start a bit of digging and set up some workshops which leads to beds and beer and by that point you should have a functional fortress. From there you can look into other systems and optimisation but don’t feel you need to rush to do things as that will add to your wealth and quickly lead to fun.

      • Czrly says:

        Personally, I loved the ASCII and I loved the depth and complexity but I always ended up abandoning it after a day or two into a new fortress because there’s really no way to automate your fortress – mining has to be designated and production jobs and wotnot have to be queued manually – or, at least, HAD to be when I last played. You just couldn’t set up an AFK fortress so you could go concentrate on Projects and Fun instead of micro-managing systems you’d already over-engineered to the point of boredom.

        • Freaky says:

          0.43 introduced a lot of improvements to the work order system, so you can set starting conditions for jobs, have them repeat on a schedule, etc.

    • Zanchito says:

      I just thought there may be enough interest in an “interactive DF tutorial” using Google hangouts or some similar common chat room with desktop sharing capabilities, with someone taking the lead in explaining how to install the game, basic set up and initial gameplay, while the rest of the people follow, ask questions and share screen and experiences.

    • DeadCanDance says:

      Hummm, there’s a chap that wrote a book “a introdutory guide to dwarf fortress” can’t remember the name of the author, however if you click df’s tag here on RPS you will surely find the news about this book!

      • DeadCanDance says:

        “Getting started with dwarf fortress”by peter tyson. It even has df’s creator’s blessings and an introduction. It surely helped me play the game, and the tilesets.

    • Verdasvenpor says:

      If you haven’t been able to get into it, I strongly reccomend the lazy newb pack, especially the graphic tilesets. I had a lot of trouble with the ASCII, but with the mayday graphics for instance it was much easier.

  3. TheAngriestHobo says:

    That header image looks oddly similar to the real-life Hudson Bay in Northern Canada.

  4. GallonOfAlan says:

    Still can’t be doing with the shite UI and near vertical learning curve TBH.

  5. MrFinnishDude says:

    Oh man this sounds amazing!
    Thinking about it, in Dwarf Fortress the cultures always vary greatly, except the dwarves. This is because the dwarves are the playable race, and since their culture is always clear cut they are easy play again and again.
    Where am I going with this? Well, Dwarf Fortress’s official name is “Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress”

    Armok should always be a constant in the mythology, something you could always rely on, a constant in the generation.
    He is an allegory to the Player, he forges the world on his anvil, desiring blood and battle (aka “Fun”). When the world grows too boring (You get bored of it), he unmakes it (“deletes”), and forges a new one on his anvil (“generates”).

    It would be fun if the origin of the anvil theory would be one of these subjects of mythology too.
    (In Dwarf Fortress, you need an anvil to make an anvil, so where did the first anvil come from? here’s a link to the wiki: link to dwarffortresswiki.org )
    Different cultures could have different origin stories for the anvil, it’s a bit meta, but too good of an opportunity to pass up.

  6. BathroomCitizen says:

    Even the supposed guides to DF are impenetrable as the game itself!

    Isnt’t there something really – and i mean REALLY – basic that doesn’t involve me watching 3 hours of a youtube tutorial?

    I know that a game of this breadth requires that much level of commitment, but you know… adult life, baby, house, u know?

    • k47 says:

      I get really bored watching DF videos on youtube. But I did get going pretty nicely just using the quickstart guide on the wiki:

      link to dwarffortresswiki.org

      Though when it says “quickstart”, it still means a couple of hours of reading while alt-tabbing and playing along.

      • caff says:

        This guide is great! And use the tutorials linked on reddit.

        But before you start, install the latest stable Lazynewbpack from the bay12forums, set it to use the Spacefox tile and font sets. You might need to watch a video tutorial on this alone.

    • MrFinnishDude says:

      Firstly I’d recommend getting a tileset. A modified version of the game that replaces, ASCII with actual symbols.
      This helps a lot, and it’s not really a problem if you’re not a purist.
      Next id recommend reading at-least one or two tutorials (id recommend these: Installation: link to dwarffortresswiki.org and Quickstart guide: link to dwarffortresswiki.org.
      Then what I did was to play the game, WHILE watching tutorial videos on youtube, following their steps and advice. Then, the world is your oyster!

    • klops says:

      Play it. You need food, alcohol and shelter. You need space and resources to build things that build things. Then you fuck up with one of those requirements or drown your whole colony or something else. Then you start again, and be better the next time. This guide is a lot easier than 3 hours of video watching: link to dwarffortresswiki.org

      Then again, when you have more pressing concerns in your life, my sincere suggestion is that you’d concentrate on those.

    • Kestrel says:

      In short – no. Its reputation for impenetrability is well deserved.

      • klops says:


        • Kestrel says:

          I really feel like avid DF players (such as myself) often forget just how steep that initial plunge was.

          • MrFinnishDude says:

            “yada yada yada dorf fort is the hardest gaym evah xD”
            It really isn’t if you put your mind to it. If you sit down, check a tutorial, and invest some time to it, you should get the basics easily. All you need to do is to try. (of course, even these requirements may be too much for some people)
            saying that Dwarf Fortress is impenetrable causes people to not even try, and keep complaining that the game is impossible on the internet.

          • Kestrel says:

            I agree with what you’re saying, but it’s also important to set realistic expectations.

          • klops says:

            Calling DF impenetratable isn’t setting realistic expectations.

          • Kestrel says:

            You’re being impenetrable.

    • Shinard says:

      First off, download the LNP. It’s got Dwarf Therapist and a few tile sets, both of which I’d say are vital, and a bunch of other useful things. Secondly, open up the DF wiki and keep it open. Thirdly, go to the quickstart guide on the wiki and stick to it to start with. Focus on one thing at a time – digging out rooms, getting food and beer set up, crafting stuff – til you have a fortress that can basically tick over quietly in the background without imploding. Then explore each system gradually as you come to it – try and build a military, or set up a hospital, or purge the land with fire and ash – using the wiki to decipher the interface.

      Basically, don’t think you have to know everything before jumping in. Jump in first, get comfortable building a fortress and have a good time doing that, then try and unpick everything.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    Question for you all: is there any way to make Dwarf Fortress playable to a colorblind person? So far I’ve bounced off not for the obvious reasons so much as the quick realization that I can’t tell any of my dwarves apart (or anything else in the game that’s color-coded).

    • MrFinnishDude says:

      One word: Tileset.

      • Premium User Badge

        Aerothorn says:

        When I checked many years ago, none of the tilesets I found had dwarves you could easily tell apart, due to how zoomed out the whole thing was (under the assumption it was just using clearly-visible color to differentiate). Do you have any to recommend?

        • MrFinnishDude says:

          Well, most of the tile sets I use give the dwarves different outfits like a noble or a soldier, for example: Phoebus and Ironhand.
          Even in normal Dwarf fortress its hard to tell who is who just by colour alone, therefore the “look” or “inspect” tool is always your best friend.

          • MrFinnishDude says:

            Most of all I’d recommend Phoebus.
            It gives the dwarves little hats or items in their hand to indicate what job they have, therfore it doesnt even bother to differentiate them with colours. Have a look: link to dwarffortresswiki.org

        • kalzekdor says:

          To be perfectly honest, I think that’s more or less intentional. Asking how to differentiate between dwarves is a bit like asking how to differentiate between the protons in a hammer; feasible, but it won’t help you actually use it to, y’know, hammer things. You rarely need to worry about what any individual dwarf is doing, let alone what their profession is. So long as your orders are being carried out, it doesn’t matter which dwarf is doing it. (Though, of course, determining what each dwarf is allowed to do is important for labor distribution and skill optimization, but that’s what Therapist is for.)

          Important things to keep track of:

          Invaders, monsters. (Non-dwarves)
          Strange Moods
          Militia Squads (Though, I recommend ignoring the military aspect for at least the first couple fortresses. Starvation is a greater threat for new players. Once you get the hang of some of the other systems, and your fortresses consistently survive long enough to be lost in combat, then start learning how to manage a proper militia.)
          Designations and Zones
          Workshops (at least until you get a competent manager)
          Terrain and Minerals
          Housing and Burrows (Eventually)

          That’s about it. There’s really no need to keep track of individual dwarves. Regardless, you should, of course, try to find a tileset that works for you. If you can’t find one, I would ask around in the forums, there are a number of people who make tilesets, one might be up for the challenge of making accessible tilesets.

  8. elpuma says:

    Kind of hoping that those dwarves will learn to program and implement Dwarf Fortress inside the game.

  9. Skabooga says:

    It is impressive the scale of interactions and details and dates the world generator creates, but at least in adventurer mode, I find it all too overwhelming. There are a hundred different events and people to ask about and investigate, all of them given proper names using unfamiliar phonetics, that it is difficult to pick one or even differentiate among them.

    But that’s okay, because fortress mode is still a blast.

  10. racccoon says:

    Very interesting game, keep on going!