Dwarf Fortress! – Skills, Migrants and Dwarf Therapist

Well done on making it this far! (Assuming you are following on from here), lets pause the game and have a better look at how your dwarves actually function and what skills are in Dwarf Fortress.

Firstly lets talk about migrants


Migrants have arrived From time to time you will get an announcement at the bottom of the screen that says, “Some migrants have arrived”. At the same time the game will pause and relocate the map to the edge of the map where your migrants are entering from. While they are classed as migrants they will flash between the icon of a dwarf and a grey cross. Before they join your society they will need to reach your designated meeting place (which in this case is the little wagon outside where you have seen all your dwarves gathering when they are idle).

Migrations happen once a season and will continue until you reach the population cap, you can edit this but by default it is set to 200 in the version we have been using. This doesn’t mean you can have a maximum of 200 dwarves in your fortress however, it just means that migrations will stop arriving once you have at least 200 dwarves. You can get more through babies!
These newly arrived dwarves bring skills that you may not have and tend to be weighed towards either important skills or skills you currently require in your fortress, so lets talk about skills.


Lets get ourselves onto the same menu so you can have a look, press u to bring up your unit list. From here move up and down until you have selected a dwarf to look at, any will do, press c to zoom to it. Don’t now make the mistake of moving the arrow keys, at the moment the yellow cross is sat on your dwarf, if you move it will most likely jump to another dwarf, creature or nothing!
Zoomed on a unit Starting at the top is the dwarfs name, which in this case is Ast Degelluk, next is their profession. This is determined by whatever their highest level skill is. Under this is a translation of their dwarfish surname to English, that’s right, Degelluk is dwarfish for Galleyinsight.

Under their name is a list of several different data sources, at the bottom of the screen is Combat, Labor and Misc. Using the c, b and m keys respectively you can filter what is displayed in the list above. If you press c once it will remove all combat related items and grey out the combat option, if you press c again it will light up and re-add the removed items. If you don’t see any change when you tab it on or off don’t panic, it just means your dwarf doesn’t have anything combat related displayed on there anyway.
The green arrow in the bottom right of the screen signifies that there are more items than can fit on the screen, as before use SHIFT++ (Shift and the plus key) and the – key (the minus key without shift) to page up and down.

As you can see from my list above the first item is the current job my dwarf is doing, which in this case is making a wooden barrel. Looking through his skills below I can see that he is infact a competent carpenter so its quite normal for him to be making wooden items despite having a profession of a mason. His skill level as a mason is Proficient which is higher than Competent so masonry wins out.

From this screen now press p then l. You are presented with their skills options. Using the same keys as the previous screen to scroll you can move up and down through this list, some of them have sub-menus if you press enter, try moving down to Hunting/Related and pressing enter.

Hunting and related skillsOn my dwarf all of these are greyed out, this means that he doesn’t have any of these enabled as a skill. In theory if he had arrived with a skill in one of these areas he would have had it enabled already, there is sadly a bug in the current version whereby sometimes dwarves can arrive with a decent level in a skill but not have it enabled. Not to worry, we can examine this later in Dwarf Therapist.
Lets say that you had a sudden need to build traps everywhere, you could scroll down to Trapping and press enter. It will highlight Trapping in white and enable it for this dwarf, this means that if a job requiring a trapper comes up he will attempt to complete it.

The key part of enabling skills is not to blanket enable everything, if they have no skill level in that area then it will take them longer to perform a task and the end result will not be to a very high standard. Over time this will improve with constant practice, something that they won’t get if you set every dwarf in your fortress to do the same job. You’ll just end up with a fortress of useless dwarves that take days to achieve anything! Make sure you toggle off any changes you made whilst in the Hunting/Related screen and press ESC to come back out to the previous skills list. Mining is the only skill without a sub-menu because it is what it is, mining.

Some skills also require tools, in the above screenshot there is a Hunting option, without a bow and arrows a dwarf cannot go hunting, do you expect him to use a sock? A dwarf cannot be a miner without a pick-axe. Some skills need buildings to use their skills, sometimes they don’t. Take the Masonry skill from the Stoneworking category for example. A mason requires a masons workshop to construct any rock items, however they don’t need a workshop to build rock buildings such as walls, fortifications, flooring and any buildings you choose to make from rock! When you embarked, the default settings ensured that all my dwarves had the relevant tools for their skills.

Dwarf Therapist

Now, whilst using these menus you can clearly see a dwarves skill-set and their enabled skills it isn’t very easy. Neither do you have very good visibility of your overall fortress and their skills. Navigate to where ever you chose to install Dwarf Therapist previously (Visit here to download it if you forgot to get it or didn’t read the first post). No setup is required, all you need to do is ensure that Dwarf Fortress is running and a game loaded when you open it (you can do this after but lets keep it simple for now). Lets open it up and have a look at the screen layout.

Dwarf Therapist main screenAlong the toolbar at the top you don’t really need to worry too much about all the icons for now, focus on the “Read Dwarves” and “Commit Pending Changes” (greyed out) ones. Read Dwarves will update the display with the current information in dwarf fortress, it does this by polling the memory being used by the game and pulling the relevant detail out to display on the main window below.

Below the toolbar is a drop down called Group by, have a play with this, down the left hand side of the main window is a list of all your dwarves names and which group they below to. If you change the drop down to Nothing it will just list all your dwarves in alphabetical order. If it is set to Happiness it will group them by their happiness level. In my example above you can see I have 4 content dwarves, 2 happy dwarves and 7 ecstatic dwarves. Content isn’t a disaster, that’s perfectly fine at this early stage. So I can now quickly see that generally all is well within my fortress, this must mean they are getting suitable amounts of sleep / sleeping places and are being well fed and well watered, you will want to monitor their happiness as it can quickly give you an indication that something is very wrong within your fortress. There are plenty of options to group by, skill set, profession etc. All useful depending on what you are doing and how many dwarves you have, at this early stage keep it set to happiness and lets have a look at the main window some more.

Looking in more detail at one row, the far left contains the name of the dwarf with a little icon to the left of the name that indicates if they are male or female (I am going to assume you already recognise the meaning of the icons, if not just accept that pink is female and blue is male). The next column to the right is the current job they are doing, don’t worry about understanding the icons you can just hover the mouse over the square and it will bring up a more detailed tooltip with the details in. The next column along is the happiness column, the colour coding should be fairly obvious, the more luminous the green the happier they are, the redder it gets the more unhappy they are, with yellow being the middle ground. Hover the mouse over for a more detailed idea of their happiness including a numerical value for how happy they are.

Everything else to the right is a named skill and its relevant level. A purple box means that the dwarf has the skill enabled, a white box inside of a skill signifies how high their level is in this area. Once the box is so big it is almost as big as the square itself it will change to a diamond, these dwarves will become essential to your fortress as it grows due to their high skills. The bright green squares (in the skills area and not happiness) means that all the dwarves within that group have that skill enabled. If you look to the far right you will see that all dwarves are set to haul everything by default, this is fine for now but later on you will want to make sure that key dwarves don’t bother themselves with such menial tasks as hauling, especially a Doctor. In the heat of the battle the last thing you want to see is your Doctor abandon his post to move a piece of stone to a stockpile…

So for now lets enable some extra skills on our dwarves, I only have the one dwarf with a brewing skill at the moment and this is crucial to keeping a happy fortress so I am going to enable it on a dwarf that doesn’t have another critical skill (I am thinking of masonry, carpentry, wood cutting or farming). If you start to overload dwarves who are trained in crucial areas you will find important jobs start to get ignored, at this point you should have plenty of dwarves who aren’t contributing much to society. Along the same lines as above I am going to enable Masonry and Stone detailing on two more dwarves who don’t already have any critical skills and enable another carpenter. To enable (if you hadn’t figured this out yet) just click on the box for the skill on the row for the dwarf of your choice, it will turn purple immediately.

If your memory is holding up you might recall that we have to click to read the dwarves for changes, in the same way we also have to “Commit” our changes to the fortress, you will find that the “Commit Pending Changes” icon is now lit up from you enabling skills on the window, click this button and your changes will be submitted to the game. The icon will be greyed out once more and your dwarves are ready to go.

Hope this helps a bit, I will explain specific skills as we continue through the tutorial and the military skills will be covered in detail later. I may revisit this at some point to change the wording or add more images, for now I hope someone gets useful guidance here.

Read More

Dwarf Fortress! – Buildings, Furniture, Food and Booze!

Buildings, Furniture and Booze

This is technically part 3 of a beginners tutorial on Dwarf Fortress, it follows on from Dwarf Fortress! – Your first game, however this will specifically focus on building orders, using a manager and building furniture.

In my previous post I had placed a carpenters and a masons workshop. I also begin to hollow out some more rooms for my fortress.

This is the current state of affairs in my game. Most of the designated mining areas are nearly done and my two buildings have been built. Sadly the area at the top which I had hoped would be clay (a little optimistically to be fair) has turned out to be a mix of the two. Now I hate  to have a farm plot that only takes up part of a room so I will keep this for another use another day. Lets quickly get a farm plot setup outside until I have time to dig down (I have checked and the level below has alot more clay, perfect for my farming exploits).

To refresh your memories in case you have forgotten, press b to bring up the building menu and now press p to build a farm plot. This is slightly different to the previous workshops we placed. This once has to have a defined height and width before you place it by using u and k to make it higher and wider and h and m to make it shorter and thinner. Have a look outside your fortress but near your entrance for a reasonably sized area for a farm with no obstructions such as plants or trees. I would want at least a minimum of 18 tiles in size farm. This can be a long plot, a fat plot or a square plot. You want to do it so it fits in nicely outside as a formed square or rectangle as per the following screenshot;

First Farm PlotThe area inside the yellow circle is how a farm plot looks. This should be flashing whilst it is awaiting construction by a farmer. Finally before we un-pause lets build a still. You may find if you press z you are out of drink or close to it by now. This is bad! When you have little drink your dwarves loose performance when performing tasks and their working days get shorter, they can eventually die of thirst (especially as we don’t have any buckets yet!). To brew beer you need to build a still via the workshop menu, to help you out press b then w then l. As with the previous two workshops you need a 3×3 clear area.

Whilst we wait for that to be built lets queue up some activity on our two buildings, press q and move the yellow cross over the masons workshop. Once there you will see the frame on the right change to the mason workshop view, here press a to add items to the build queue. Each item in a queue is built in order and only one dwarf can work the workshop at a time, bear this in mind later on when you may need to re-prioritise build queues dependant on your needs. To scroll down the list hold shift++ (Thats shift and the plus key), to move back up the list just press the – key (the minus key).

In time you will begin to remember the key assignments for common furniture items. For now I will give you a hand, from this menu press c to add a Throne, if you build a chair at a masons it is called a throne. If you build a chair at a carpenters workshop it is called a chair, they are still effectively identical items (bar their worth). However as I and you will find we will have an excess of stone so it doesn’t hurt to build this style of furniture from stone. You will now see this pop up on the queue, to quickly add another 3 Thrones press a then c three more times. Now to build corresponding tables press a then t four times. At this point we should hopefully have four tables and four chairs queued up. Your queue can hold 10 items so for good measure lets add two doors by pressing a then d twice.

Press ESC then q and move to the carpenters workshop. From here press a then v. This will add a barrel to the queue, do this five times. Then press a then b five times, this will add five beds to the queue. Beds can only be built at a carpenters workshop as they are always and only made of wood. The barrels will be used by the still to brew drinks into.

Speaking of which your still should hopefully now be built. As above, press q and move the cross over the still. Press a then b to add the brew drink option to the queue. As you currently have a small fortress (even if you have received a migration by now) just adding this 3-4 times will be plenty, if you have run out of drink before you start to brew your first drinks then add this at least 6-7 times, be sure to add more barrels to the carpenters queue however or your brewer won’t be able to brew into anything and it will fail! Make sure the game is un-paused and watch it continue.

Building beds

So, hopefully you’ve let a fairly short time pass and you have some furniture built. Lets build our beds! Although they are technically furniture objects they are still positioned by using the build menu. When you open the build menu although it lists alot of furniture you can only “build” (or rather position) them once they have been built at a workshop or purchased from a trader. To build our beds press b and then b again. The yellow cross will then turn to either a red or green cross depending on where it is currently placed. When red you cannot place the furniture, when green the furniture can be placed. In my screenshot above you can see in the south room I have placed the beds along the far wall and then 2 columns in, allowing for walking space. This has used all of the beds available from my build queue. Each time you place one press b to select another bed, you will be given the message, “Needs bed” in the right frame when you have run out of beds to place. If this happens just press ESC twice to move back to the map only view. Add a few more beds to the carpenters build queue once you have exhausted your supply of them, make sure you keep at least one of them back for my next step in the tutorial.

At this point in the tutorial I am going to become more vague when it comes to building furniture, I am sure you can recall the previous instructions. If not have a look back to refresh yourselves. By now we should have enough furniture to build two doors across the opening of our fortress, to build a table and chair in the front room of what will be the managers quarters and a bed in the back room as per the below screenshot.

Placed FurnitureThe above screenshot displays the final placement of the doors, table chair and bed in the managers quarters. Lets add 5 doors to the mason workshops job queue for future use and check if we need to start brewing any drink by pressing z. If it is below 10 then you should add brew drink to the queue and queue some barrels in the carpenters workshop. Don’t fill the workshop queue with barrels though, add a few buckets (once hovering over the carpenters with q press a to add items and e to add a bucket) to the list for emergency use if you happen to run out of booze again or just for general future use.

By this point you should have a fairly good idea of how to place certain buildings and how to add items to the queues. It will take time to learn the many many items you can build and which workshops can produce them but this will come in time. In the next post I will cover what migrants are, dwarf skills and how I like to use Dwarf Therapist to help manage my dwarves.

Read More