EXPANDABILITY – We want our fortress to grow. We want to provide enough room for bedrooms and workshops and armories and stockpiles, but we can’t predict how big that’s going to get right now, so we need to give ourselves room to expand. This isn’t hard; make sure you lead hallways in a direction with plenty of room, and NEVER end a hallway with a room, because you never know when you may want to add more rooms to that hallway. Another way of addressing this is by making each section of the fortress on its own floor, for instance a residence floor, a workshop floor, and stockpile floor, etc.

LOCALITY – Making sure groups of buildings are in the same area is very important in dwarf fortress; not only for keeping yourself organized, but for keeping dwarfs happy. For instance, ALWAYS keep bedrooms away from workshops, as dwarfs will soon get irritated that they can’t sleep because of the noise. It’s important to think smart when making buildings, for example, put your farms near a food stockpile so dwarfs won’t have to walk so far, and put your carpentry buildings near a wood stockpile for the same reason. Luckily, we will be creating a massive stockpile floor, so stockpile locality won’t be as important.

MATERIAL – It is important to note the material of the earth in different parts of the fortress. Materials might be clay, sand, stone, or even metal. For most things, it doesn’t matter what material you build on, however you can’t build a farm plot on a stone floor (and sand isn’t exactly the best for growing), so plan accordingly. If you are building a big stockpile floor, make sure that floor has lots of clay, sand, or peat (or a mixture of these), because stone leaves behind rocks that you can’t build stockpiles on when you dig into them.

DEFENSE – Dwarf Fortress would be nothing without danger, and you wouldn’t be much of a dwarf god if you’re fortress crumbled in the wake of even the slightest danger. We need to design a fortress that will know how to handle an inevitable goblin attack when it comes. Methods of doing so include:

  • keeping the majority of dwarfs deeper in our fortress to give them more time to prepare for an attack.
  • using natural barriers, or creating unnatural barriers
  • removing slopes
  • making effective use of traps

I emphasize maintaining a militia, because as useful and effective as the other methods are, they can’t run and bash a goblin’s skull in with a mace. Once goblins or mega beasts get past your defenses, it is up to the militia to secure the safety of your fortress.

Don’t go and memorize these design standards or anything; you’ll get very comfortable with designing a fortress after your first few attempts. We’ll come back to these after we have a basic fortress and see if we meet the standards (who knows, maybe I’ll screw something up along the way). There are EXTREMELY advanced defense techniques, but we won’t touch those during this tutorial for obvious reasons.


The number one killer of Dwarf Fortress beginners is staircases. My first fortress fell due to staircases. Here’s why.

A DOWNWARD STAIRCASE will provide a staircase for a dwarf to get down to the next z-level, but not back up. I don’t know exactly how they do this, maybe they build half of the stairs, or they make it a slip ‘n slide, but if a dwarf goes down a downward staircase, he/she will not be able to get up. Same with an upward staircase, only he/she will not be able to get down.


Militias squads are created with the following steps

  1. Create a militia squad
  2. Add dwarfs to that squad
  3. Set the squad to Active/Training
  4. Create barracks
  5. Set the barracks as the training area
  6. Customize squad
  1. Make some charcoal
  2. Melt the ore
  3. Craft the item