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! – Getting Setup / Installed

Beginners guide to Dwarf Fortress!

Dwarf Fortress is by far my favourite free* indie game for the following reasons;

  • You can dip in and out of it whenever you want but have games that continue for weeks, months or years on end
  • Create fortresses, with dwarves. Fortresses WITH dwarves!
  • Having dwarves running about, carrying on their own little lives makes you feel responsible for their continued existence and quality of life and draws you further into this abyss of a game
  • Simple graphics, deep content
  • Runs on Windows and Linux with saves compatible between the two
  • Can be extended with fantastic utilities like Dwarf Therapist

*Whilst technically free, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t cost the developer to produce the game, feel free to give them a donation via the instructions here.

Enough of my fanboi harping on anyway, time for the detail.

First lets get you setup, I am doing this using Dwarf Fortress v 0.31.25 with the Phoebus’ graphics pack along with Dwarf Therapist running in the background (I will explain a bit later what this actually is)
You can grab either the separate graphics pack or a pre-packaged version of the graphics pack and dwarf fortress from here;

Dwarf Fortress itself is available in its vanilla (and most recent) version here;

Dwarf Therapist is available from the following link, but don’t worry about starting it up yet. Just get it installed and ready;

Feeling good? You’re on the right steps to getting started. Bear in mind that Dwarf Fortress (DF) requires you to dedicate some time to learn how to navigate about the screen, perform actions and understand your dwarves. Don’t loose hope if it all seems too much at first, in fact expect to die alot, very quickly, early on as its all part of the fun! There is no real end to DF, its all about how long you can last and how much fun you can have before you have to give into the wilds or choose to abandon and start again elsewhere.

DF Title screenTime to fire DF up from the directory you installed it into, on windows it is the “Dwarf Fortress.exe” to load it up. Once open you’ll get a title screen like above.

As its the first time you are running it you need to create a new world! This randomly generates a world filled with historical events, civilisations, minerals, resources and random chunks of land.
Create World Screen

Use the arrow keys to move around the options and enter to make your selections. I always go for large map out of habit, not to compensate for anything! Probably dates back to my years of games of Civilization where I found smaller maps let games finish far too early.
If you haven’t got a huge amount of ram you might find choosing a smaller map is better to get started. Frequent minerals are usually a good shout, you can edit these to create the friendliest or most brutal lands you want. These settings should give you a comfortable world and a fairly safe start provided you choose a sensible location to set up for your first game.
Once you’re happy hit the y key and it will begin to generate your world for you. This will take varying amounts of time, depends on the above settings. You can always hit Enter at any point to stop the generation process and work with what’s there. I would recommend grabbing a drink, sitting back and letting it do its work.

My generated mapAbove is a compressed version of the exported result of my map generation, this is what I will be working with (quality isn’t great as I’ve had to compress it down quite a bit but hey, its only a bunch of coloured blocks).
Once yours has finished generating you can use the arrow keys to move around your newly created world to make sure you approve, hold shift and use the arrow keys to jump up or across to speed up panning about. Part of the game for me is taking what I’m given and working with it. If you have a large map then its pretty unlikely it isn’t unsuitable but sometimes with small maps it can generate pretty inhospitable environments for you to setup home in. Lets assume yours is ok so hit Enter to accept it. (you can always abort and start again if you wish but while you’re still learning lets see what you can do with this one).

This world now exists within your DF install as a real world that you can only have one living fortress running on, but you could abandon or lose this fortress and start again on the same world with the history of your previous adventures preserved for all of time (until you get bored and move onto another world basically).

Now we’re ready to actually start playing, feels like you’ve already had a small adventure just to get to this point. Before we go any further there is one more step before starting a game. It requires the following;

  • 2 sausages
  • 3 rashers of bacon
  • 2 eggs
  • baked beans
  • a sauce of your choice
  • beer

Through the use of a grill and a frying pan in combination with the cooking instructions produce something that resembles this;
Supplies! Once you’ve got your “rations” ready and want to start your first game check out the next post to get started.

Read More