motivating line of the section: Keep trying, and never give up!

Woo! We’re finally at the fun part. Now that you know what’s what, we get to what the game is; building a fortress, or should I say designating a fortress? Hahahaha ohhhhhh man… :]

If you didn’t get that joke, that’s good, that’s why you’re here. You see, half of dwarf fortress is about designations. In DF, you never tell a dwarf what to do. You set things to be done, and hope that a dwarf does it. It’s easier to explain designations by just doing it so here we go.


4.1 – Getting wood and plants


We need wood and seeds, because wood can be used to make essentials like doors and beds, and seeds are needed to grow farms. Our dwarfs, however, aren’t going to just do this themselves. Actually if we just let them sit there without telling them what to do, they would just starve to death, dumb bastards.

So, make sure you’re at your caravan (f1) and hit “d” for “designate” (get it out of your head NOW that ‘d’ stands for ‘dig’ even though that’s mostly what you use it for).

You should now see the above. Before going on, I’ll tell you that this is how the interface is in Dwarf Fortress; submenu after submenu after submenu. Luckily designations don’t have many submenus, so this will be easy.

You will see that “Chop Down Trees” is highlighted. But I want to gather plants first, because I’m obsessive. Hit “p” to gather plants. You will always see the key to press next to the designation, so you don’t have to memorize commands (although you will in no time).

Now you are going to make a rectangle over the area you want plants to be gathered. Move the yellow “X” with your arrow keys to somewhere you want to first corner of the rectangle to be. Hit “enter” and move the “X” to the last corner of the rectangle you want the designation to be. Make sure, of course, that there are plants within that area. (There is no harm in making a designation really, really big, because dwarfs will get it done in matter of time.) If you haven’t done so already, hit “enter” to finish the designation.

You should now see all the plants in that area turn black. This means they are designated and dwarfs will start plucking them seeds!

**Try to keep the game paused for now (“space key”), because time passes very quickly in this game and we don’t want our dwarfs to go through all of our food and drink before we get started**

Now we also, want some wood, which you get from chopping down trees.  If you haven’t touched anything, you should still be in the designation menu, so no need to hit “d”, but if you did touch something, “escape” will bring you out of the menus you are in. Now hit “t” for chop down trees. Make the designation rectangle around the trees in the area just like you did with the plants. If you did it right, those trees will turn black.

Great! Now the dwarfs will start working towards the progress of Razorprinces! (that’s our fortress name, by the way, randomly generated by the game). But wait, nothing’s happening. That’s because we’re paused, and if you haven’t already figured it out AND didn’t read my previous note, hitting “space” will pause and unpause the game (if you’re at the main menu, which you might have to get back to after making the designations). Wow look at them go!

Wait, still, only one of them went. WHY IS THIS GAME SO COMPLICATED!!! The other dwarfs aren’t gathering plants because they aren’t given that labor preference. This may be one of the most unintuitive and annoying parts of the game, so we’re going to leave that for section 8.0. But guess what? If you really want those plants gathered RIGHT NOW, and aren’t prone to boredom, go ahead and follow section 8.0. I just felt that making you guys read about labor preferences and units wasn’t the best way to get you into the game!

But if you’re like most people, you want to start building a fortress, so let’s get to that.

continue on to 5.0 – Rooms and Buildings