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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.

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Quintin Smith avatar

Quintin Smith

Former Staff Writer

Quinns was one of the first writers to join Rock Paper Shotgun after its founding in 2007, and he stayed with the site until 2011 (though he carried on writing freelance articles well beyond that). These days, you can find him talking about tabletop board games over on Shut Up And Sit Down, or doing proper grown-up journalism with the folks at People Make Games.