motivating line of the section: Pat yourself on the back and give yourself a toast! You’re awesome!

We finally get to start designing and building our fortress! This is no doubt why you came to play dwarf fortress, so let’s get started!


5.1   – Digging


As you may know, dwarfs usually build their fortress by digging into the earth, preferably into a mountain. Well, that’s perfect, because we have a mountain right next to us!

Digging is a designation (“d” for designation, not dig!), like many other things in DF. We are going to dig a hallway right into the side of this mountain, using the digging designation. Just like you did with designating the plants to be gathered, hit “d”, only now, hit “d” again for “dig”. You will now see that yellow “X” again. Using it, we are going to designate a rectangle to be dug out. Look at the following.

Designate this rectangle to be dug out of the ground. I chose this spot because the cove creates a natural bottleneck in case we get attacked by goblins (which we will) and mega beasts (which we probably will). Unpause the game and the miners will get to work on the digging (they already have the “mining” labor preference activated, so no need to worry).

See how that works!? Now that we know how to dig, we need to do some planning; because we want to design our fortress to last.


5.2 – Fortress Design


Designing a fortress from the get-go will assure that the your dwarfs will be happy and will survive. I made a list of Fortress design tips and standards, which you can view here, but skipping it isn’t really going to set you back.

Okay, okay, I know you just want to build a fortress, so let’s get to it!


5.3 – Rooms!


Here, we’re simply going to dig out the rooms we want. We’re going to designate one room at a time, then let the miners dig it out, because if we designate everything to be dug all at once, the miners will start digging one room, and then go and start digging another room with the first room unfinished, and it is very FRUSTRATING.  So let’s start with the farm; we’ll need food pretty soon! Dig out the following.

Make sure to dig the doorway! Here we have where we’re going to grow crops. But it’s not much of a farm now; in fact, it’s just an empty room. We’ll fix that.

Along with designations, you can “build”. Press “b” to access the build menu. Here you can build all sorts of things like workshops, stairs, SEIGE ENGINES! But right now we just want a farm plot. Press “p” to select farm plot. Now, you can adjust the rectangle dimensions of the farm plot with “u”, ”m”, ”k”, and “h”. “u” increases the farm plot height, and “k” increases the farm plot width. Adjust the farm plot so that it looks like below, and place it. Now place another of the same dimensions on the opposite side of the room.

Our planter dwarfs, who have been standing there doing nothing up until now, will now go and build the farm plots, because they have the corresponding labor preference.

While you wait for them to construct the farm plots, let’s build some workshops. Designate an area to be dug like the one below.


5.4 – Workshops and Buildings


Workshops are the meat of your fortress; they’re where absolutely everything is made. From beds to coffins to swords to traps to siege engines to “menacing steel spike”s, it’s all made in workshops. Here, we’re going to build some of the essential workshops so we can get the fortress started, a carpenter’s workshop, and a mason’s workshop. These are essentially the same workshops, but they use different materials. They make furniture, doors, practice weapons, and basically anything you can carve from wood or stone.

Go ahead and wait for the miners to dig out the space for the workshops. Use the time to designate more plants to be gathered and more trees to be chopped anywhere on the map (somewhere with trees and plants would be good though).

Alright! When the workshop areas are dug, so go ahead and press “b” for build, and then “w” for workshop.

There you will find an extensive list of workshops to be built. We want “carpenter’s workshop” first. Either hit “c” for carpentry or scroll down to it using “alt+down arrow”.

Now you will see yellow or red squares (depending on if the location is a valid build spot) representing where the workshop will be built. Go ahead and move the squares to one of the right-most corners of the right room, build, and select the material to build with (really anything is fine). Now build another one on the other right-most corner of the right room. (I build two of each because soon we will have more dwarfs, and we can never have too many workshops!)

Now do the same thing but with mason’s workshops (shorthand “m”), except in the left room. When you’re done, it should look like this.

These are buildings designated to be built, and a dwarf with the corresponding labor preference will build a building. Our carpenter is going to build the carpentry. For me, at least, my mason (also known as my expedition leader) isn’t constructing the mason workshops even though he already has the masonry labor preference selected. [sad face]. That’s because he’s too damn distracted picking plants. He will probably build the workshop eventually but I hate waiting, so I disabled plant gathering under his labor preferences (and you can too!). If you don’t remember, hit “u” for units, “c” for zoom-cre, “p” for preferences, select “farming/related”, and finally deselect “plant gathering”. Once you do that, he will stop picking plants and construct the building. It’s good that we disabled his plant gathering now, because he’ll be very busy making useful items in his workshop.

Alright, before we go on making things with workshops, let’s finish up our farm plots.

When our planters are done building the farm plots, we have to select which crops are grown each season on the plot. This is done with the “q” command for “Set building tasks/prefs”. You will be using this A LOT. Hit up “q” and move the yellow “x” over one of the farm plots we built.

You will see a list of crops at the top and a list of the seasons at the bottom (don’t worry about the fallow and fertilizer). This is simply choosing a crop profile for each season. Let’s say we want this crops to grow plump helmets all year round! Spring is already selected, so scroll down to plump helmets, and select it. Then, switch to the other three seasons using the appropriate keys to select plump helmets for those seasons. That’s it. Your planters will start planting plump helmet seeds on that farm plot.

Now, let’s set the other farm plot’s profile to grow dimple cups all year round.

Alright, now these plots will require no management whatsoever, and they’ll sustain our fortress with enough food for quite a while, until we get too many dwarfs.

TYPES OF SOIL – soil, in Dwarf Fortress, includes anything you can grow plants on, including sandy clay, as terrible as that sounds. Though peat may be the best to grow plants in, it’s not what we have here, so we have to make do with what we have.

Now, BEFORE YOU GO ANY FURTHER, SAVE!! I have had fortresses crash, and have had to redo hours of work, which is no fun at all. SAVE OFTEN!

continue on to 6.0 – Building Stuff!