10 Dwarf Fortress Beginner Tips – Part 1

You could say a lot of things about Dwarf Fortress, and not one of them would even mention the word “Easy”, other than “Easily crushed” or “Easily lost”. Dwarf Fortress is a learning experience, since you discover something a bit different each time you play. Sometime it is hard to learn, when you are not certain what you did wrong. This short Guide aims at shedding some light to the most common issues I had, which I managed to resolve. These will come from many different “areas” from Dwarf Fortress, but I hope each of you will find something for yourself.

Dwarf Fortress

“Dig… Dig… Dig…”

10 Dwarf Fortress Beginners Tips – Part 1

1) How do I farm?

Farming is an alternative to fishing, hunting and livestock cultivation. It is surprisingly easy once you get a hold of it, but at first you might find it troublesome. Farming comes in two blends, subterranean and surface farming. Depending on your starting location you might prefer one over the other. Sometimes both will be possible, and it is only a matter of organizing your farms so that they produce the crops you need.

Before you begin farming you have to first prepare your “land”. In order to obtain a more numerous crop your basic requirement is mud. Mud does not only increase your output, but in some cases it is necessary to farm in the first place (depends on the soil). You might wonder how exactly are you meant to create a muddied field, the solution is actually simple.

If you want to start a surface farm first dig a “pit” (first use channel on an area, then go down a Z Level and dig out the Ramps in the center where you farm will be). It is important you leave the ramps on the sides or nobody will be able to reach the farm plot below. Now that you have your pit designate a Pit/Pond zone above it (Press i to open the Zones Menu, create a Zone then select Pit/Pond). Make sure that when you create the Pit/Pond area that “non-pit” squares are also selected (you do not want your dwarves to jump into your mud pit). Select the Pit/Pond properties by pressing P (that’s capital p) and set it from Pit to Pond. Your idle dwarves will then go for some buckets and haul water over to your Pit/Pond.

As your dwarves pour in more and more water into the pit pay very careful attention that your pit does not get too much water. If your “Farm Plot” is entirely soaked cancel the Pit/Pond Zone. You can check the level of water on each square by pressing k and examining the water soaked soil. If it’s 1/7, that’s fine. Anything above that and you might have a longer wait until the water evaporates. Remember that as more water is poured it will spread out equally over the area, including the ramps.

Even when the area is still soaked in a 1/7 layer of water you can build your plot. Press b then p, and place your plot. Congratulations, you have your surface farm. In order to plant something you have to access the building properties (q) and hold the cursor over the farm plot.

When it comes to subterranean farming the operation is more or less the same, except for one important element, there must be very limited sunlight access. In order to guarantee that, build either an underground or “mountain” room. Then, once the room has been hollowed out (let us say it’s a 3×3 room) make a single square hole above its center a level above it. You essentially create an almost entirely enclosed room with a small slot for water to be poured through. Once the room is soaked cancel the Pit/Pond zone above it.

The vast majority of plants that grow underground can be planted all year around. Meanwhile on the surface you have to be a bit more careful, especially if you have harsher winters. If you are in a warm climate you should be fine. Just remember to check the wiki when in doubt about specific plant types and what you can make with them.

In order to further maximize your output make potash. This is a fertilizer which can be created simply by combining Ash at an Ashery. How do you get Ash? Burn wood at a Wooden Furnace. It is as simple as that.

You have your plots, and your fertilizer. Your only next possible problem are seeds. These can be obtained from any plants by eating them raw, brewing or similar operations. The only time you do not get any seeds is when you cook them. If you want to focus your farming on making brewable plants (Dwarves have to drink after all) some plants can only be brewed, and never cooked, such as the Pig Tail.

If you are still lacking seeds trade for them, or scavenge the surface for plants. Any plant gathered and processed is another seed for your surface farms.

If you can’t be bothered with creating pits/ponds you can always go the automatic way and create a series of “Canals”, controlled with Levers and gates, so that you can pour in fresh water from a river/lake/pond, and then close it off when there is enough water to keep your fields fresh.

2) Do I need rooms for all of my Dwarves?

At the beginning your Dwarves are not picky. They will sleep on the floor, or in any “Free” Bed. Eventually though, your dwarves will want their own rooms. A finely built room with fine furniture will increase a Dwarve’s happiness. Building a simple room for your average dwarf is not hard, and pays off greatly in the future.

All the space your dwarf needs (by my experience) is a 2×2 room (some people just a make a 1×2 room). All that you have to place in this small space is: a bed and a cabinet (to store clothes). This will guarantee a happy dwarf, with plenty of room for him or herself. Once immigrants arrive or your dwarves marry they will share a room. As such, whenever you have a group of ten immigrants arriving you will most likely need around 5-7 bedrooms.

In order to set a room to be a bedroom remember to close off the room with walls and a door, then by using q (building properties) hold it over a bed and set it to be a bedroom (r) then once you cover the entire area of the bedroom press Enter. You can leave the bedroom unassigned, or you can assign it. If it is unassigned the next homeless dwarf which rests in the room will claim it.

Later on certain “Nobles” or Administrators will need a higher quality rooms. Normally a room can be constructed from scratch by using Floors and Walls. Here the skill of the builder influences how nice the floor or walls are. Your alternative is digging a space in rock and then smoothing the wall/floor. Constructed walls/floors cannot be engraved or smoothened. If you want to save some time you can simply place more high quality items in a room to increase its value (artifacts greatly increase the quality of a room).

Aside from a Bedroom a Dwarf might need an office or a dining room. In the case of single bedrooms described above Dwarves will use their bedrooms as offices/dining rooms at the same time. But, if you must have a separate room, remember: by using the table as a designator you create a Dining Room (remember to assign the table to the right person), and by using a chair you create an office.

In case you ever run out of space, or you find building fifty rooms too troublesome you can construct a Dormitory. Build a slightly bigger room with plenty of beds, then select one of them with q and set the room to be a Dormitory. This way any homeless dwarf will rest there. It is a good solution for immigrants while you are building them a new home.

A Barracks applies only to military dwarves. Do not bother yourself with a Barracks until you need a military, or no other dwarf will be able to rest there.

The problem some people have with Dormitories/Barracks is that Dwarves begin to socialize. This means they could make both enemies and friends, which could lead to very complicated “situations” in your fortress (like Tantrum Spirals).

Another room that should be shared, for ease of building, is the “Common” Room, or as I call it, the “Main Hall”. It’s essentially a room filled with statues, engravings and plenty of chairs and tables, where people can feast, party and relax. Depending on how you construct your fortress the “Main Hall” could be used as the “Last Stand” area, or where your civilian dwarves will run off to, if the enemy breaches your defenses.

NOTE: You do not have to set every single bed in a room, if it’s a dormitory or barracks. You just have to select one bed and then spread the “area” until it covers the entire section.


About The Author

Aleksander "WriterX" Bielski
Other posts by

Student of Psychology, he was identified as a Nut-Job even before he started the course. Having done some small work as a Modder for a number of titles, and worked as a Game Designer part-time, Alex now writes in third person. As Co-Owner and Editor of AlterGamer.com he aims high, while being armed only with a sling. In the future, he hopes to become a fully qualified Newspaper Editor, and purchase Google.

Leave a Reply