Home > Fantasy, Tutorial > The Complete and Utter Newby Tutorial for Dwarf Fortress – Part 4: “It almost makes sense!”

The Complete and Utter Newby Tutorial for Dwarf Fortress – Part 4: “It almost makes sense!”

February 11, 2009


I’ve written a book – Getting Started with Dwarf Fortress, available at O’Reilly and Amazon! It covers the current version and takes you from knowing nothing to being a confident Dwarf Fortress player!

Welcome to Part 4 of the Dwarf Fortress Complete Newby tutorial. No nancying around, lets get right back into it! I hope you’ve diligently completed your homework. If you look below, you’ll see I have…

EXXTREEEEEME Home Makeover: Dwarf Edition!


…Lots of Crafts! I’ve gone through and completed all of the tasks at the end of Tutorial 3, and to prove it, here is a picture of my pile of crafts. Looks like I haven’t made much in the way of bins yet, so the crafts haven’t been tidily stored in a single bin. Don’t worry, once bins are produced the dwarfs will sort all this out.

I’ve also got piles everywhere, workshops set up and food and booze production going. Things are looking good! But we have yet more useful jobs to do.

First up, we need to move our booze production down stairs. I want to set up a trade depot upstairs and I’ve decided I don’t want to leave the depot outside, and I don’t want to dig out any more of our limited top-floor space just now. Of course, we have many options for how we expand the fortress, but we’ll go for simple right now, so lets get shifting stuff.

Before we head on to the trade depot, lets get get on with some digging and our new booze space. Hell, lets move the food downstairs as well and keep it nice and close to the dining room, where dwarfs are going to want to eat it.

Here’s how I’ve plotted things out:


Once that digging is done, set up the big food storage hall as a food stockpile. Then build a still downstairs using “b”, “w”, “l”. This should be easy-peasy for you now! Your next job is go to upstairs and remove the food stockpile and the still. Let everything clear and we’ll go on to trade depots!

Blankets, beads, muskets and cat skull totems!

Trading is very important for your fortress. Every few months you’re likely to get a trade caravan and envoy arrive at your fortress looking to trade with you. They offer a wide range of goods and one of the most common things we trade back to them is crafts made from the craftsdwarf’s workshop. And the easiest crafts to trade are rock ones. Rock mugs and instruments are popular as well, so get a bunch made of all of the above when you’ve got the time.

But for the traders to visit properly they need a trade depot. This is a big structure which requires a 3-wide corridor for the trader wagons to access. Often people build them close to the fortress entrance, but there’s no reason you couldn’t build a trade depot deep inside your fortress to keep it nice and safe.

For now, we’re going to enlarge the space we have upstairs with a little digging and get this depot set up. Here’s what I’ve set to be dug out:


Once the space is dug out, hit “b” and then “D” for “Trade Depot”, note, that’s a capital-d, not the usual lower case “d”. Place it near the back. Here’s mine:


Now that we have the depot up we can expect to see traders turn up to unload their goods here now and then. To trade with them you “q” over the building and follow the options: “g” to move goods to the trade depot, and “r” to request your boss dwarf to go do the trading. Once he turns up you hit “t” and then enter the trade screens. Note again, do not trade anything wooden to the elves, including wooden barrels and bins! They will get pissy, leave, and attack you some years later! Trading is beyond the scope of this current tutorial as there’s quite a lot to it, but you can read a lot more about it on the Dwarf Fortress Wiki. I suggest you make an effort to trade as trading encourages new immigrants to come to your fortress and provides you with items you can’t make or find yourself. Speaking of which…

Look what the cat dragged in!

At some point you’re going to get immigrants. I got some right now.


Soon after the message a stream of new loafers streak into the fortress. And what’s the first thing they do? Eat and drink! Slacker bastards! This has me a little concerned about our food stocks, and if this has happened to you, I suggest you do what I do and sort out some more booze and dig some more bedrooms downstairs and assign those new dwarfs to it. Next tutorial we’re also going to have our first close look at our dwarfs, but not until after we build ourselves a nice new farm and ensure we are overflowing with food (and food goods to produce booze out of).

Outdoor farming for fun and profit

You know about farming inside, now how about farming outside? As you may recall we’ve had some plant gathering going on outside. In temperate climates that means we’re generally gathering strawberries. And once we’ve eaten strawberries, what do we have? Well, if you’re a dwarf, you end up with strawberry seeds. And wouldn’t it be great to plant them? Yes it would! Do we have some? I don’t know yet! But I think so!

We’ll cover looking at our stocks of goods later, by the way, so just trust me for now.

But strawberries are going to require being planted outside, as they love the sun don’t they? Of course, we don’t want to go outside where it could be nasty and dangerous, so what do we do?. We can’t really expect strawberries to grow in a dark cave, can we? So how about we compromise with these fruity demons. We’ll build an outdoor farm, but we’ll lock it off from the world with a wall and an entrance only available to us. Can’t we all just be friends?

To achieve our goals we first need to dig some handy exit to the outdoors. Perhaps near our existing farm. This is what I did:


I’ve expanded the farm room a little and set a passage to the outside to be dug. Once the space is dug you’ll notice that the slope icons still exist around the exit. This could be a problem. If we built walls around a nicely enclosed farm now enemies would still be able to get to it from above, by walking down the slopes! So we need to remove the slopes. To remove it, we hit “d” for “Designations” and then “z” for “Remove Stairs/Ramps”.

I’ve selected almost all of the slopes across the front of my fortress. I don’t want any surprises “dropping” in anywhere along our front. Here you can see my miners hard at work  stripping away the outside ramps so there’s essentially a sharp drop between the level above and this level. That will keep us safe from wandering critters.


While you’re at it, you could tidy up the outside edge of the fortress with digging and ramp removal. Here’s my much tidier fortress entrance:


Later on we might incorporate some complex defenses into this area. Perhaps later.

So, lets get on with this farm! We need to surround a nice large area with walls, right? Keep our dwarfs safe from wandering critters. To build walls we need to:

  • Hit “b”.
  • Hit “C” (that’s “shift+c”), or scroll through the list and look for “Wall/Floor/Stairs” and hit enter.
  • “Wall” is selected by default, hit enter.
  • You now have a green X. Like the farm plot you can change the size with “u”, “m”, “k” and “h”.
  • Hit “u” until you’ve got a max-height wall.
  • Place the wall right next to the entrance, hit enter (below you can see how I placed mine).
  • Scroll through the materials list using “alt”+”down arrow” and select limestone.
  • Hit enter until the list goes away and you see the wall outline. You’re selecting one limestone for each segment of the wall.
  • Hit “space” until the game resumes.

You will now have a wall under construction! Again, hit “q” and move it down your wall, you’ll see the construction status. Don’t worry, your dwarfs will get to the wall pretty quickly.

While you’re waiting, clear all the trees and bushes from inside your soon-to-be farm space using “d”, “t” (cut down trees) and “d”, “p” (harvest plants).

Once you’ve got this under way, build two lengths of wall across to the right go down a length and a bit, and back to the cliff face. Of course, use stone for each piece of the wall, no need on wasting wood we’ve worked hard to chop down. Here’s how my outdoor farm plot looks so far:


Isn’t it coming along nicely? Yes it is! Soon we’ll be able to hide inside and behind our walls and ignore the nasty outside world. Yay!

Once your walls are complete you could easily build two 6×6 farm plots inside this space. One point though, make sure all those trees are cut down and plants harvested, otherwise you’re going to end up with a patchy farm plot. Also, if there are any trees in the way of a wall being built you won’t be able to place the wall. Get them cleared and the problem will go away.

Oh, I’ve just noticed. Our farm plots will have holes in them anyway, there are white blobs on the ground which a farm square won’t be built on. If you hit “k” and move the cursor around you’ll see that those white spots are limestone. Clearly plants don’t like clinging to rock so no plot will grow there. Never mind, a holey farm isn’t really a big problem.

Here’s my private outdoors farm yard with the farm plots built as well:


There you go! Beautiful! Now, just like farms inside, you need to specify what the fields will build (“q”). On the first, I’ve set strawberries for every season (don’t forget to cycle through the seasons using “a”, “b”, “c”, “d”). When I tried to select strawberries on the second field they were red, suggesting to me we won’t have enough seeds that this isn’t the season for planting those items (thanks commenter Ookpik! See comments for more info). So instead, I selected some other random plant. Not sure we’ve got seeds for those, but we’ll find out all about that later! And later on you can come back and fix up some better planting instructions. Oh, don’t select  “Seas Fert” or “Fertilize”. We don’t have any fertilizer yet.

While I remember things, lets take a moment to build a wall along the top edge above our outside farm. We don’t want any goblins walking up to the edge of the cliff, looking down, and shooting up our farmers with their crossbows! So go up a level, using good-old “shift”+”<” and plan out your wall. Here I’ve built a wall (after stripping trees, which should once and for all block off any possible approach to my farm.


But what’s this, we have a problem! Can you spot what it is? Yup, our stupid dwarf has gone and got himself stuck on the wrong side of the wall. He can’t get out! Now, we could use the “b”, “C” menu to construct some up stairs to him (and then down stairs to connect from this level down to the upstairs), but how about I show you a handy trick…

You see, dwarfs getting stuck will happen to you a lot unless you take countermeasure. Here’s how you fix our current problem, and how prevent it from happening again:

  • Hit “d”.
  • Hit “n” for “Remove construction”.
  • Select a single wall space and hit enter.
  • Once the wall space is removed you’ll have a gap. On the inside of the wall gap (where we don’t want our dwarf to stand), set a wall to be built that completely covers the gap.
  • Resume the game and then immediately pause it.
  • Hit “q” and move down each piece of your fake-wall and hit “s” to “Suspend construction” of each segment. Dwarfs don’t like standing where buildings are due to be placed, so this means when our dwarf comes back to fill in the gap he won’t lock himself in again.

Here’s how my gap and “fake” wall look. You can see my X over a fake wall segment, and on the right, the wall segment is suspended:


You can now build a single wall space to close the gap and our dwarf won’t get trapped. Once you’ve done that, go back over each wall space with “q” and hit “x” to remove the suspended wall spaces. Look here, job done! Dwarfs safe!


And when I go down and look at my fresh outside farm plot, something is being planted! Great!

That’s all for now. We’ve got traders in our trade depot and we need to sort out all these scummy immigrants. That will take a while, so lets leave all of that for Part 5 of this tutorial.

Until then go make a bunch of crafts, get the booze flowing and wait on my return!

The Complete and Utter Newby Tutorial for Dwarf Fortress – Part 5: “Onwards to Victory!”

Categories: Fantasy, Tutorial Tags:
  1. Doin
    February 11, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Heaps of new things I haven’t yet played with. Am looking forward to trying them out.

  2. flatsinki
    February 11, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Man, I wish I had known about the no trade wood to elves thing last time I played… So will they really come back to kick my butt?

    Great Tutorials btw very helpfull!

    • February 11, 2009 at 7:13 pm

      Absolutely, might take a couple of years but it will happen. And don’t worry about it, murdering elves is a DF tradition!

  3. flatsinki
    February 12, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Time to beef up the military then 🙂

  4. eric
    March 10, 2009 at 9:00 am

    just a note: dwarves can’t build anything on an angle; you only need to add one “fake” wall, not three, to block them from building on the wrong side.

    • March 10, 2009 at 9:06 am

      Good point. Sometimes I’ve got mixed up as to what they can do at an angle and what not.

    • Snelg
      March 21, 2009 at 7:17 pm

      Also, don’t dwarves prefere left side first? so no fake walls at all are needed this time I think. He must’ve gotten stuck while building one of the walls going from left to right as dwarves prefere top before bottom.

  5. bombcar
    March 14, 2009 at 1:09 am

    That trick with the suspended construction is a new one – I usually did something elaborate with stairs and levers.

  6. Paul
    March 14, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    I build external walls before digging new exits, to keep up security in case of thieves or ambushes. Otherwise I tend to get a lot of nasty indoor surprises.

    It works well as a general pattern for growth: first seal off an area, then expand your dwarves’ safe zone into it.

  7. alexgw
    March 16, 2009 at 1:22 am

    Sigh, I would do the outdoor farm but my farmers are so lazy they don’t even maintain the inside one! Hopefully something new to plant will make them get off their lazy butts.

    • March 16, 2009 at 10:42 am

      When you get on to tutorial 6 you will learn how to manage their time a little better 😉

  8. Tom
    March 19, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    I can’t seem to scroll down any lower/south/whatever on my DF to build the new food storage and still. Is there a maximum sandbox area and did i just build to close to the bottom of it to begin with?

    • March 21, 2009 at 4:53 am

      You’re at the edge of the map, Tom.

    • Snelg
      March 21, 2009 at 7:20 pm

      When embarking to an area (which is not covered in this tutorial). You can chose the size of the playing area, beware though that a very large area can seriously drain on the fps and make the game slower.

  9. James B
    June 13, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Yeah, just a little issue… i set my Depot to build, but nobody is building it. It’s still waiting for architecture. Any advice?

    • James B
      June 13, 2009 at 11:20 pm

      sorry about the double post… I solved my previous problem… but… now it says that there isn’t enough room for the caravan. It shows the spaces next to the walls as ‘inaccessible’. Again, any advice?

    • June 14, 2009 at 10:40 am

      Make sure there’s a three-wide hall/corridor/access to your trade depot. The wagons are three squares wide 🙂

    • James B
      June 14, 2009 at 8:05 pm

      I did. I followed your instructions to the letter (or symbol as the case may be). It turns out that it decided to say that the two spaces by the walls were inaccessible, but the one in the middle was not. After some attention span lapse I realized that it indeed said that “depot accessible”. It still refuses to say that even with 5 square tunnels to it on my other maps though… ah well. Thanks for the advice.

    • SkubaSteve
      January 29, 2010 at 9:55 pm

      Having the same problem – nobody building it, and I don’t see “architecture” listed in any of the dwarfs’ skills. I do see “building design”.

      Just curious how you solved the problem, James B.

    • Mike
      May 13, 2010 at 11:45 am

      Yeah, I’m having the same problem with Architecture and my Depot, how did you resolve it?

  10. Maristo
    July 8, 2009 at 1:55 am

    One of my migrant workers is freaking out and wants rough gems. I haven’t found any yet – any tips?

    I posted on this section of the tutorial because this is how far I’ve gotten.

    Thanks in advance!

    • July 8, 2009 at 10:43 am

      Send out some mine shafts on various levels and try and find some! Hopefully they just need uncut gems? If they need cut gems you’re going to need to cut them at a jewelers. Eep. Oh, assign some wardogs to the guy (tutorial 6? 7? The military one anyway) in case he goes maaaad.

    • Maristo
      July 8, 2009 at 8:36 pm

      Ok, will do.

      Btw – your tutorials are fantastic. Thanks a bunch for sticking around and answering questions as well =)

  11. Stephen
    September 9, 2009 at 2:42 am

    I’ve been following your tutorial step by step, but the edge of the map prevents me from building my new booze-maker and food storage where you’re telling me to. Is there anything I can do?

    • September 9, 2009 at 7:11 am

      You can plop those anywhere else you’ve made space. Pretty soon you’ll see it won’t matter too much really.

  12. December 10, 2009 at 8:06 am

    I’m addicted, like sucking on that sweet twirly pilo… srry memory lapse there. Game has sucked my innards into a brittle cracked tube (metroid quote!) 1 rocket away from freedom.(fist a bitch, they all wish you would… trust me)

  13. SkubaSteve
    January 29, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Save issues: Loading a saved game is not making any sense to me thus far. It auto-saved when spring turned to summer, but twice now, I’ve saved on exit only to come back and not have that game available. The init file has AUTOBACKUP: YES, which says it will automatically save a copy of the file to another location, but I can’t seem to find that location, either. Am I just saving incorrectly?

    • SkubaSteve
      January 29, 2010 at 9:07 pm

      I think I fixed the problem. For whatever reason, everything was set as “read only” in the file explorer. Now it’ll let me save the init.txt file, so hopefully my saves will stick.

    • January 29, 2010 at 9:15 pm

      It might not be the mos recent save, it might be the second-to-bottom one in the list. Yes, it is a crazy system. Try going to te DF folder, finding saves, and see by the date which save is the newest. Copy all the others somewhere else leaving just one to load when you are back in game.

    • Liquidated
      June 29, 2010 at 10:47 pm

      The Auto Backup function actually is what causes the save folder to spam you with multiple folders which are so confusing to understand the chronological order of. If one turns off AUTOBACKUP, your game will only keep the latest version of your save file, overwriting the old save any time the game or you save.


    • July 1, 2010 at 9:16 am

      Superb tip!

    • Fez
      July 11, 2010 at 6:34 am

      Could you please specify how you turn off the auto backup feature you mentioned?

  14. Andro
    March 1, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Is this still being updated?

    • March 1, 2010 at 11:29 pm

      What bit? The tutorial has some 14 parts, if I recall correctly. Should be enough to get you started!

  15. Ookpik
    April 4, 2010 at 5:57 am

    Just for the record, if a plant name is listed in red, it doesn’t mean you’re low on seeds. Rather, it means that you’re too late in the current season to plant that crop.

    For example, if you’re more than about 2/3 of the way through the summer, you won’t be able to plant sweet pods, because sweet pods a) grow very slowly and b) do not grow in the autumn. So autumn would come before the crop was ripe, and thus the game automatically forbids you from planting them. Plumps, by contrast, grow fast, and you can plant them in any season, so their name will never be in red.

    I actually find this feature a bit annoying because sometimes I want to set a crop to grow for this time NEXT year, and I can’t until the season changes.

    • April 4, 2010 at 9:53 am

      Thanks buddy! Updated the post.

  16. Fez
    July 11, 2010 at 6:32 am

    Okay so far I am loving this guide it has been super helpful. I am currently at the part where I’m building the outdoor farm. And the game pauses and states that one of my Dwarfs has become possessed, I unpause the game and now the guy has claimed my Crafts workshop and has now begun a “Mysterious Construction” should I be worried? And how do I deal with this?

    • July 11, 2010 at 8:07 am

      if you “q” over the workshop and then wait you will see that it cycles through what he wants. If he doesn’t get it he might go mad – possibly homicidally so, in which case, yeah, be a bit worried. Otherwise, see what happens!

  17. adecoy95
    July 13, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    i cannot build storage areas because they are loaded with these little rock looking things, help! 😦

    • July 13, 2010 at 2:53 pm

      You can. The rocks don’t matter.

  18. adecoy95
    July 13, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    i never noticed them building atop them, but then again i am having a food shortage

    my farms are not growing very much food, only 1 or 2 squares have something in them at the moment, and i think all my people are hungry.

  19. Inferno
    November 8, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Errr…. little problem. You know those events you mentioned in one of the earlier tutorials? Well, a kobold stole my only battle-axe. I’m on the farm bit and i can’t build a wall since there are a few trees in the way. I’ve built a trade depot, but the traders have already left. WHAT DO I DO?
    p.s. it kinda messes with my barrel and beer production, so i’m stuck.

    • November 8, 2010 at 12:46 pm

      If you have some iron ore (or copper, or most metals) you can build a forge and smelter and turn the ore into bars and then the bars into weapon –> battleaxe. But if you haven’t managed to get that far… things might be hard…. Sometimes you just get screwed over and have to start again. For now, try and build the battleaxe yourself!

  20. PhantomHunta
    January 20, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Every time I do the action with the fake walls, my dwarf refuses to build because of “Blocked paths”
    I cant get him down xD

    • January 20, 2011 at 7:26 pm

      Strange, you might have to use ‘k’ to look at the spots you are trying to build on and then checking if any doors or other objects are lying around. Using ‘d’ to dump them might clear the build site and let you build?

    • PhantomHunta
      January 20, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      I was noticing bits of Limestone where the wall had been destroyed, and after leaving the area and doing other things for a while, I saw that the Limestone had gone. And I just tried the fake wall thing again, and it worked 😀 Limestone on the ground must block it, any advice on getting rid of it for future reference?

      Awesome tutorial by the way, It’s taught me a hell of a lot, and I appreciate the quick responce ^_^

    • January 20, 2011 at 11:31 pm

      Finding the blocks using ‘k’ and removing them using ‘d’ump is perhaps the best way.

    • PhantomHunta
      January 22, 2011 at 3:14 am

      Thanks 😀

  21. SDW
    July 21, 2011 at 12:53 am

    Now I’m getting really mad. I told my dwarfs to remove all the slopes in front of the fortress, but none of them are doing anything. On top of that, a caravan arrived and I requested a trader, but no one’s coming. Meanwhile, some of my dwarves are spending their time sleeping and drinking booze. What gives?

    • July 21, 2011 at 10:48 am

      Try dropping a level and then removing slopes. It can be confusing. As for trader – they need a trade depot and then find your trader and un-tick all of his jobs!

  22. SDW
    July 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Never mind the trader, someone finally decided communicating with an outsider wasn’t so bad. But I still have my slope problem. I’m doing exactly as you’re doing in the tutorial, but my miners seem to outright refuse to go out in daylight. All of the slopes in front of my fortress are marked (and brown). I’m not sure what you mean by drop a level – if I drop a level, I don’t see the slopes anymore.

    By the way, for some reason, my dwarfs are getting filthy. There’s tons of turtle shells and bones on two chairs in my dining room. Any idea what to do here?

    • July 22, 2011 at 12:22 am

      Do you have enough dump space? You can designate an area. Are no dwarfs going outside at all? If so, the perhaps you have turned on the “don’t go outside” option, which is under status or orders or something.

  23. SDW
    July 22, 2011 at 1:07 am

    Yes, that’s it! I had the option “Dwarves stay indoors” which is why no one was taking the trash out or mining the slopes outside. I was getting worried about my dwarves not getting any sunlight. Thank you very much for the quick answers! And great guide.

  24. Rogem
    July 24, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Any guidelines to how much farm area and farmers one needs to provide enough food for each 15 dwarves living in the fortress?

    • July 24, 2011 at 8:27 pm

      5×5 and one farmer should be plenty, as long as you have seeds and whatnot close at hand. Supplement with some plant gathering and/or butchery maybe.

  25. Rogem
    July 25, 2011 at 6:58 am

    That’ll be butchery. Gathering got my farmer wandering off his duty >.>

  26. August 30, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Why is everyone so grumpy on my game? one guy got POSSESSED!!

    • Rogem
      September 25, 2011 at 4:47 pm

      @Chartre That’s not bad yet… Once a noble ordered a dwarf to be executed in my fortress, causing huge commotion and some of the other dwarves to go on a rampage, resulting in me hitting abandon since I had only two children and three cats.

  27. Sean
    October 15, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    This tutorial is brilliant.

    You are hilarious!

  28. Brent
    January 23, 2012 at 3:10 am

    I didn’t have the problem with a dwarf getting trapped inside the wall on the upper level because I still had a slope inside the wall on the lower level. Blind luck that I missed it.

  29. IncognitoMode
    January 31, 2012 at 1:43 am

    Hmmm, everyone’s stopped working in my fortress because of one of my Dwarves, just keeps saying that he interrupts whatever they’re doing.

    • IncognitoMode
      January 31, 2012 at 1:46 am

      Nevermind, I thought Rhesus Macaque was the name of one of my Dwarves, but they were monkeys. Dead now.

    • January 31, 2012 at 5:02 am

      Lol. Ok!

    • January 31, 2012 at 5:01 am

      He must be crazy/homicidal – consider chasing him with your military and see if they give him the bash.

  30. IncognitoMode
    January 31, 2012 at 1:56 am

    Bah, new issue, it seems that there is some Refuse in the dining area that the dwarves refuse to remove. Even though they can access my Refuse pile and it has open slots. It’s turned into a big cloud of Miasma now. D:

    • January 31, 2012 at 5:03 am

      Enough dwarfs with “cleaning” labour enabled? If they are too busy they might take too long. You could “k” to look at the square then “d” dump over the bad stuff and then put a dump zone outside.

  1. March 10, 2009 at 12:34 am
  2. March 10, 2009 at 12:51 am
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