Dwarf Fortress! – Expanding Your Fortress and Managers

By now you should have a resonable grasp on how to place buildings in dwarf fortress, even if you don’t really understand what they all do, how to designate areas and also how to create stockpiles. Hopefully you also understand the skill system after the previous post.

Time to go back and start working on our fairly pathetic fortress some more. Remember that farm plot you placed a little while ago? Its not doing anything, lets get it setup.
Press q and move the cross over the farm (assuming it has now been successfully built). At the top of the building frame you will see a list of different things you can plant here, using the a, b, c and d keys you can switch between the different seasons. Hopefully you have at least strawberries and prickle berries available, using the usual scroll keys (Shift + + and the – key) move down to either and press enter to select. Scroll through each of the seasons and make sure that you have one of them highlighted for each season or your dwarves simply won’t plant anything and you will have to go without! Press ESC to accept the changes and as soon as you are un-paused and a dwarf with a farming skill is free they will set to work.

Nobles – Manager

At this point in dwarf fortress I like to setup a manager, this noble will become an important part of your game by effectively working as your assistant to help you dish out queue commands that you submit to them. Make sure you pause the game to set this up, means you don’t have to worry about keeping an eye on things in the meantime.

Press n to bring up your noble screen. This lists all the potential noble positions available within your fortress, I will explain each of these nobles as we encounter them, for now use the arrow keys to move down to the vacant manager position and press enter to take you to a list of your dwarves. The first option is to leave the position vacant if you decide against assigning it, the dwarves below this are ordered in terms of how many relevant skills they have so if you move down with any luck you have a dwarf with some sort of organisational skill.

Choosing a manager

In my case the first dwarf is a novice organizer, if I move down again I find that Ast has no relevant skills. Is a simple choice for me, I will select Eral as my manager, don’t panic if none of your dwarves have no organizer skills, just pick a dwarf with little else important to do and they will pick it up over time or you can replace them with a more experienced dwarf if one arrives in a future migration wave. Eral is also a fisherdwarf which isn’t critical to my fortress at the moment so I am happy to use him as my manager. Pressing enter takes you back to the nobles screen and you will notice a warning to the right of your newly appointed manager;

Noble WarningREQUIRE is highlighted in red to signify that your noble requires something that they don’t currently have. Make sure you have your manager selected and press enter to view their bio page and see what is amiss.

Manager Requires ScreenHoldings lists what rooms the dwarf currently owns, if there is something listed but in red then it is something the dwarf needs but does not currently own. To the right of this is the minimum level of that type of room required to satisfy their needs.

Rooms can be of different levels depending on how lavishly furnished it is, the quality of the furniture and the decorations of the walls (bare, smoothed or the first class engraved wall).

Well, recall those two rooms we built earlier and stuck a desk, chair and bed inside of? That is to be our managers office and bedroom. Hopefully you kept a door aside earlier when we discussed building furniture, build (press b then d) this at the entrance to the bedroom by positioning it like so;

If you have a second door available then build this across the opening to the office as we did with the bedroom, if not add it to the mason build queue to build one, once you have them both placed make sure you un-pause and wait for your dwarves to install them.

With both doors and all furniture in place press the q key and hover it over the chair in the office, the option to make this a throne room or study will appear in the frame on the right. Press r to do this and you will suddenly have a room filled with blue crosses, this designates the area that is classed as the office. You want to make sure this fills the room and has a darker blue cross on all of the surrounding walls, with the smallish office in the image above this fills it by default. If you need to resize it you can use the Shift + + or minus keys to resize this, the doors are important as without these the room would overflow into the corridor/surrounding rooms. Hopefully it now looks a bit like this;

Press enter to accept the plot and the frame will update now with the office details, you can now assign the chair. Press a and it brings up a list of your dwarves, you will notice now that as your manager is a noble it overrides his previous profession and he is now listed as a manager, use the scroll keys to select him and press enter. This is now his office and he will use it when doing his managerial duties. At this point you should still have the building selection frame open on the left and a yellow cross on the screen, use the arrow keys to move over to the bedroom and hover over the bed. To make a bedroom is exactly the same process as before, press r to designate the size of the room which again should fill the room, accept the plot and then assign the manager to the bed. Press ESC to drop back to the main screen and you have now finished creating your first office and bedroom. But what about your other dwarves? We built them a room of beds but haven’t done anything more with them! Whoops!

Create another door and put this at the entrance to the south room of beds. As above you want to create a bedroom here, it doesn’t matter which bed you hover over as when you place the large blue plot it will encompass all of the beds in the room and will apply to them all (although you can only ever change the plot size, room type etc via the original bed). This time however we aren’t going to assign this to anyone, we want all our dwarves to use it so instead of pressing a, press d to assign it as a dormitory, this should change the (N) next to Dormitory to a (Y). Press ESC to come back out and accept this and all your dwarves now have somewhere nice to sleep, you may want to get building some more beds to fill this room, but wait! Don’t press q and hover over the carpenters, that’s the old way to do things.

As your fortress grows you will build many workshops in many different locations and levels and if you had to queue items up by visiting each one you would never have time to actually enjoy the game. Some would argue that I have brought a manager into the game too early on as we have limited workshops but I like to get my manager leveled up in his abilities early on so as soon as I find myself with a sprawling complex he is quick to respond to queue changes and additions.

To start using your manager press u to bring up the unit list, at the bottom of the screen is the option, “m : Manager”. Press m and this takes you into the manager screen which will look pretty much like a black screen at the moment. From here press q to add a new order, you will have a massive list appear of every possible job you can queue up. Bear in mind that just because it is on the list doesn’t mean you can actually do it, you must have the relevant skills and workshops/buildings available to do most of them. Something even cooler about this screen is that you don’t need to scroll up and down to find what you want, you could use the arrow keys by all means, or you could type what you want. Try typing in rock door, see Construct Rock Door appear? cool eh. Press enter to get to the quantity screen, 30 is the max quantity you can add of anything. Lets just put 2 on here for now. Have a go at adding a bed build order to the list, I would recommend adding about 5 or so depending on the size of your dormitory. Don’t worry about the material type when you add a bed either, it can only be built at a carpenters so it isn’t even part of the order, just type bed.

You can use the arrow keys to move up and down through your list and press r to remove items. Try adding 5 wooden barrels and 5 brew drink orders and press ESC to come back out.

Lets do some final important bits before rounding up this post, we will designate some areas to mine and move through the levels and setup a trade depot. First get yourself a trade depot setup, go to the build menu and press D (note the capital D) to select trade depot. Place this somewhere near the entrance of your fortress without blocking it.

Lets expand the fortress a bit, designate a reasonably sized area of around 7×6 squares to mine, we will use this as our meeting hall and dining room to finally move all our dwarves inside the fortress. At the end of the main passage I have chosen to mine out a small chunk and then designated three Up/Down stairs. Up/Down stairs are designated by pressing i on the designation screen. The important point to remember with these is that if you build them one level below open ground you are liable to leave your base open to invasion from above by accident. So lets have a look up and down, press Shift + > or Shift + < to move up and down through the levels. In the bottom right of your screen is a number that represents which level you are currently on. On the above screenshot you can see that my fortress is on level 149 so its now pretty impossible for me to get lost. If I move up to level 150 I have some open ground and some mountain so I’m going to make sure that I build my stairway within the mountainous area like so;

Lets now move into the level below where on my map I appear to have lots of clay available which is perfect for my objective to build some internal farm plots, I will place another three Up/Down stairways directly below the existing ones, this way they will connect up and my dwarves can travel between them. All this mining also has the positive side effect of generating some rock which I will need for furniture construction and shortly some rock crafting.

Lets un-pause and let the game continue for a while and let our miner get digging. You might find enlarging your stone stockpile might help, you want your future dining room to be clear of blocks before you starting putting your furniture down.

Once you have a room ready I tend to populate my dining room like so;

You may need to build more tables and chairs to be able to fill the room, this organisation allows access all around and the two doors to speed entry for your dwarves. Now lets assign it as a meeting hall and a dining room, in the same way that we assigned the office and bedroom press q and hover over any of the tables in the dining room. Once you have the option to make a dining room press r and adjust the size of the box to match the room. You don’t need to assign this to anyone, your dwarves will make use of all the tables and chairs within the dining room plot. All you need to do is press the h key to toggle this as a meeting hall.

When you ESC out and un-pause you will suddenly find all of your dwarves will stop congregating outside and re-locate to the nice internal dining room you’ve just made for them. Where they were before is the wagon they arrived on, since we don’t need this anymore lets deconstruct it and claim back some of the wood it contains by using the q key to highlight it and pressing x to remove it.

One final and important point for your fledgling dwarf fortress, as you now have moved your dwarves eating and drinking habits indoors you will find rubbish will start to gather from left overs and finished food. This can start to decay and produce an awful smell that your dwarves don’t particularly enjoy (which obviously leads to chronic unhappiness). To resolve this you need to designate an area outside called a Refuse stockpile. As it is outside the wind keeps it from producing a terrible smell, regardless though you will want it to be near to your entrance but offset slightly so your dwarves don’t have to endure it constantly, you also don’t want it near any outside water sources as it can pollute them.

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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.

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