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

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

February 12, 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 5! This will be a bit of a short tutorial as I’m away for the weekend, but we’re going to cover some important information, none-the-less. So stay tuned for more dwarfy goodness!

Trading for fun and profit

At some point you’re going to get some traders turn up and with your depot up, they’ll soon make themselves at home in your depot. They’ll unload all their goods and stand around waiting for something to happen. This is how it will look when traders have arrived and unloaded:


Look at them, filling our trade depot with their mess! Lets get trading so they’ll bugger off and we can make the place all tidy again. Yes, I like things tidy in my fortress, it helps my fortress run like a well-oiled machine! So how do we gouge the visitors trade with our friends?

Essentially, trading is a five step process:

  1. Set goods to be moved to the trade depot for us to trade with.
  2. Call the trader dwarf to the depot.
  3. Engage in trade.
  4. Deal with the trade liaison and his questions.
  5. Wave goodbye to the traders and enjoy your loot!

So lets get through these stages! First up, move goods. Go “q” over the trade depot, and with traders in there, the options will be quite different to what you see when it’s empty. What we’re looking for is hitting “g” for “Move goods to/from the depot”. Do it and you’ll get this screen:


This is a list of everything in our fortress. On the left we have item categories. In the middle, we’ve got the items themselves, and on the right, the distance from the trade depot. Looking at the distance measure you now know why some people prefer to put the depot all the way inside – remembering the 3-wide corridor or ramp all the way to the depot, of course.

Don’t worry about all of this detail for now, just scroll down to “Crafts” using the down arrow key. Once you’re there, this is what you’ll see:


What do you see? All of the crafts we’ve been making listed on the right! You’ll also notice weird symbols to the left and right of each named item, these are the quality symbols. Don’t worry about what they mean as the only one worth remembering is the “masterwork” quality symbol, which looks like a pile of metal bars. Later on you may want to manage the quality of goods your dwarfs use, especially weapons, so knowing that the pile of bars = much good item, is worth remembering.

Now we want to move these goods to the trade depot so we can trade them away. I mean really, how many “Limestone earrings” do we really need? So, hit the “right arrow” to move to the item list (rather than the category list) and then hit enter. On the right you’ll see “Pending” next to the item we’ve selected. Scroll down and set most of the items to “Pending”.

At the bottom of the list you’ll see some “Finished Goods” bins. This is good! Moving a single bin full of stuff is much better than moving dozens of items one by one! How do I know there’s heaps of stuff in those bins? Because I am your god of course! Or perhaps I hit “v” with a bin highlighted…


You don’t need to select those individual items to move, selecting the bin in the menu above will move the bin and everything it contains.

Right! One we “space” back out we need to hit “F9” to get back to the game, confirming our move orders. From here the trade depot is still selected so lets take the chance to hit “r” which cycles the trader status. It now says “Trader requested at depot”, which is what we’re aiming for. The trader should now consider heading up to talk to the traders.

With the game resumed goods are tagged to be moved and pretty soon dwarfs will start hauling goods to your trade depot. The hauling of trade goods seems to be set at quite a high priority, so it shouldn’t take long for them all to be offloaded. Of course, it would be much quicker if I had more bins, that way a dwarf isn’t wasted carrying a single earring, and we’ll have lots of wasted time with this hauling! More bins are on my “to do” list.

After a minute, hit “q” again and move over the trade depot, you’ll see the status of the depot. If “t: Trade” is grey, then the trader hasn’t got there yet. Below the menu field it tells me my trader is “On break”.. oh no, I lie, now he’s asleep! Hurry up dood, I’ve got crap to offload to the visitors!

While you’re waiting, why not go and set a bunch of barrels and bins and booze to be made. You can never, ever have too much of any of that stuff!

Oh, look! Trader dood finally bothered to turn up to trade! See, it says “Trade at Depot” for his current job, and the “Trade” option is white and therefore, usable.


Now hit “t” and we’ll be taken to the trade screen, which looks like this:


On the left, we have what the traders are offering. On the right, we have our stuff. At this point you can start selecting stuff to trade away. Left and right arrows move between the panels and up and down through the list. Remember, don’t trade bins or wooden items to elves! Not sure if they’re elves? Look at the top of the screen and you’ll see who you’re trading with, in my case I’m trading with traders from “Riseilime”. If I “space” back out of the trading to the main menu and hit “c” I will see a list of  in this world civilisations. I see that Riseilime is an elf civilisation. I can hit “enter” and learn more about it and then “Tab” through more info. Interesting.

In case you’re wondering you can actually read all of the history of each of those civilisations in Legends mode. There’s some crazy stuff that the game auto-generates and the detail is remarkable (like stories about dwarf children, kidnapped by goblins, who go native and in adulthood lead goblin raiding parties against dwarf cities!). But don’t worry about that for now, lets get back to trading.

Go through your list of items, and being careful not to select the wooden bins, hit enter on all those crafts.


As you can see, I’ve got lots of stuff up for trade (marked with a “T”). On the left bottom there it tells me how much my junk is worth, 4980! That’s a lot of loot I can get off the elves! On the right, allowed weight is 14. This number starts much higher and drops as you add goods and represents the amount of weight the traders can take away with them.

So now we’ve set a huge pile of junk for us to sell, lets pick a bunch of junk off the elves! I suggest buying food, booze, animals in cages, weapons (but not the very best ones) like steel crossbows, chainmail (steel and iron), shields, etc. But don’t stress, buy what amuses you! Oh, definitely buy a few cloth or leather bags (what seeds get stored in) and some rope (for setting up animals as guards). Type of rope or bags doesn’t really matter. So much shopping to do!

One important point! Your dwarfs can’t wear anything “Narrow” or “Large”, so don’t buy it.

Once you’ve chosen all that’s useful you should have a look at the bottom left, “Trader Profit”. If it’s more than a token tip you will want to un-select some of your own trade goods. No point in giving away lots of junk for free!

When you’re happy with your trading, hit “t”, the trade will either go through, or you’ll get a counter offer. “Enter” lets you consider the counter offer, which you can adjust down more in your favour. Hit “t” again and hopefully the trade completes. Keep working at it until it pans out. Until your trader is experienced your “tip” could be quite large.

If the trade completes you will see the message “[name] seems pleased with the trading”. Job done! Hit “space” to go back to the local map and let the game resume. You don’t need to do anything else now, dwarfs will come and haul your spoils and the traders will leave happy with their trinkets. Even better, they will take news of your awesome limestone mugs, earrings and bracelets back to the world and that will attract even more immigrants. Super!

The next likely thing to happen is that the trade liaison will want to talk to you about what goods you want. Feel free to suggest to the trader items you’d like (using the arrow keys to scroll and upgrade the “Want” of an item). Note, the more you want the item, the higher the price they will charge when they bring it, so mild suggestions for preferred items are probably better than setting the “want” meter all the way over to the right.

The trader will also tell you what they’re interested in getting in trade goods. The higher the priority the more they will pay for the good. I largely ignore this as, frankly, if you churn out a ton of good crafts, and trade regularly, you should have plenty of junk to trade for most things you want, let alone junk from dead invading goblins etc. If/when you do get those screens, read the screen prompts carefully, and experiment! It can’t hurt!

That’s all for now folks. I’m away for the weekend so I’ll see you again in a few days. Next time we’ll cover managing your dwarfs, which is an interesting challenge of immense potential depth. But don’t worry it’s not that hard, really!

The Complete and Utter Newby Tutorial for Dwarf Fortress – Part 6: “Dwarf Resource Management”

Categories: Fantasy, Tutorial Tags:
  1. Doin
    February 12, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Ah ha!!! I wasn’t trading properly. Thanks for this tute.

  2. InfiniteJest
    February 17, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    This series is fantastic! Please keep the episodes coming.

    • February 17, 2009 at 9:25 pm

      Thanks for the feedback! I will finish off a tutorial on managing your dwarfs tonight (New Zealand time) and then we will go on to the more intermediate topics of military, defended and traps, fortress layout, stocks, nobles… Damn, that’s heaps!

  3. Dave
    February 18, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Can’t wait!

  4. March 16, 2009 at 3:19 am

    Heh, it might be nice to add a little note not to hit “o.” I just accidentally gifted the elven empire gratuitously.

  5. Alex
    March 16, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    What about “offerings”? I was hoping you’d mention them. I never really understood their value and why sometimes you can make one and sometimes you can’t.

  6. James
    March 17, 2009 at 5:06 am

    What do you mean by “token tip”? The wiki suggests giving the merchants a 50% profit.

    • March 17, 2009 at 5:55 am

      Go with the Wiki’s advice then. I usually don’t bother tipping anywhere near to that and haven’t noticed any problem.

  7. Dorten
    March 19, 2009 at 10:59 am

    I think, it worth noting, that the pile of bars is exceptional quality, and the masterwork is the crystal… Don’t lie to newbies!

    Otherwise cool reading 🙂

    • March 19, 2009 at 11:19 am

      Doh! My bad! Thanks for the correction!

  8. Halconnen
    October 7, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Also, geez. If I didn’t misread you told them to “Buy weapons like steel crossbows, chainmail…”

    I know you probably mean from other trade caravans and not from the elven one. But it would make sense to mention that. I’ve never seen elves sell Steel Crossbows before.

  9. Jenn
    December 1, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Hi, great tutorial. However, i seem to have a slight problem regarding the trade window. For some reason, the value of the goods does not appear. I can see the Allowed Weight, all the goods, names etc. But not the Value (cost). I tried downloading the program from somewhere else, copied the saved games over and i still have the same problem. Help?

    • December 2, 2009 at 6:34 am

      Not sure what is going on. Maybe a screen resolution issue. DF Forums might be able to help with that.

    • hamster boy
      December 21, 2009 at 5:59 pm

      This happened a few times, then it went away. I think i has to do with your trader, whether or not he is there or his quality?

    • January 30, 2012 at 7:50 am

      I am having the same issue but I think I figured it out, I don’t have anyone with the ‘appraisal’ skill in my fortress. Or if I do, they aint in any position of responsibility.

      I’ll just go check what I’m saying and be right back….

    • January 30, 2012 at 7:54 am

      Yes! I appointed someone with the appraisal skill (as opposed to consoling LOL) and all the prices appeared. Thank the kegs for that

    • January 30, 2012 at 8:00 am

      Well done!

  10. Droopy
    December 12, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Hi, my broker first engaged in talk with the liason, and after the liason left, the traders never followed, since I had never engaged them in trade yet, or something. I sent my broker over and traded numerous items with them, but when will they leave? The liason is already gone because I cannot see him at all right now, and the traders are still at the depot. Can you help?

    • December 13, 2009 at 4:31 am

      Do they have a route out? They need a 3-wide space from the depot all the way to the outside world. Other than that, I’m not sure, sorry, never seen that problem!

    • Droopy
      December 13, 2009 at 7:33 pm

      Oh, I found it, there was a boulder in the way, thanks 😛

  11. Parris
    January 23, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    “Spaced” out of the trade meeting and never saw anything like negotiations for further trading.

    Also, I only see ONE civilization under the “c” key on the Main Menu. They’re elves. Can I suppose to have a long and peaceful life?

    • Parris
      January 23, 2010 at 10:54 pm

      Oops, I mean the other civilization is Dwarves. Dwarves. Not elves. So, same question … Can I assume I will have a long and peaceful life, dying “in the saddle” at 127?

    • January 23, 2010 at 11:20 pm

      Yeah, that might be the case! You would have to go ask the experts on the forum to confirm though.

  12. Angelo
    May 21, 2010 at 2:18 am

    My goods seem to be trapped in the trading post. It has been a few seasons now and a bunch of cloth and bins are still at the post. I’m not sure how to empty it. ‘k’ viewing the items shows nothing (though I can see the images of the stuff). View items in building gives me the option to dump them but no one ever comes to take them.

    • May 21, 2010 at 4:23 am

      Try building more stockpiles?

    • Angelo
      May 23, 2010 at 12:16 am

      I just deleted it, but i had plenty of space, bins and such shouldn’t take any space anyways… Though I think the reason ‘dump’ wasn’t working is possibly because i didn’t have a dump zone set (which i hear is different from a refuse pile)… likely also why I couldn’t disarm my many many trapped goblins (through dumping their weps).

      Also, thanks so much for the tutorials, they were the only thing to get me into the game….. followed by my brother and gf (yes my gf is nerdy enough to like DF). Also, since I have your attention, I’d love a tut on the new weapon system… I’ve no idea how the hell it works, everything else I seem to have gotten w/ help of the wiki. (So far… haven’t built anything super complex yet.)

    • pmcatnip
      July 14, 2010 at 6:55 pm

      A lot of my stuff stays at the trading post too. They’ll haul some stuff to the piles (which have tons of room left) and leave the rest. But if you tell them to use it, they’ll go get it.

  13. Matthew
    June 22, 2010 at 1:02 am

    You don’t mention how deep you need to dig to get to the ideal “Hotel California” segment, and you don’t mention what level it’s on.. It’s sort of important for the next bit of finding the Magma, so the answer is that it’s on level 137

    Great guide btw.

    • Matthew
      June 22, 2010 at 1:07 am

      Oh, I posted that on the wrong chapter, but the info’s still there if you can see it, it might be worth putting in your guide just to make sure people can follow along correctly.

  14. pmcatnip
    July 14, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    This is my first time playing DF and these tutorials are awesome. Thank you! I’m in my third fortress year and have a weird situation (at least, I think it’s weird) on my hands. Please help a newbie out! Thanks!

    The first time the human caravan came I pissed them off by accident. They wanted a HUGE profit margin–over a 100% tip–and we haggled three or four times. They insulted the quality of my goods and said I needed to take trading seriously, then they left. When they came the second year I made sure to give them lots of stuff. It said they were ecstatic with the trading so I thought that meant we were friends again.

    Now, in my third year, the dwarven caravan showed up and was ambushed by a goblin/human coalition! I sent my military out to help them but the caravan was almost entirely destroyed. I think one of the carts might have made it off screen to safety but I’m not sure, and the other two carts were for sure destroyed. A horse, a camel, and a merchant dwarf survived and hobbled away. Now I have all their loot sitting on the field and my guys are picking it up.

    Whew, that was a lot. Now I have these questions:
    1. Were the human attackers a result of my pissing off the caravan the first year? Are they supposed to be in league with the goblins?
    2. Is this the end of the dwarven caravan? Will they ever send another one to my fortress?
    3. Will the dwarven civilization think I stole their loot and attack me next?

    Oh, and this is unrelated to the battle but I’m curious. A while ago a goblin thief stole a baby. The baby still shows up in the relationship screen and I can see his thoughts (he is happy to be free) so I’m pretty sure that means he’s not dead. Will I someday see a goblin-raised dwarven warrior running around?

    Please someone help! Thanks for any answers and advice.

    • July 15, 2010 at 4:30 am

      Yes. I think that dwarf might come back at the head of some goblins. The goblin/human attack was probably just coincidental and I think you are likely to end up with plenty more trade caravans in the future.

  15. mutanteggs
    August 20, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    I have a question regarding the “On Break” status. My woodworker has been on break for an incredibly long time. Some time ago, he hunkered down and has been on break since. I sent him out to cut down some trees to clear the way for my outer walls, and afterwards he went on break. Now I don’t know what to do, since he won’t stop being on break.

    • August 21, 2010 at 6:11 am

      Is this in the new version? I’m not sure why your shorty is doing that. Perhaps a good question to ask on the forum?

  16. fr33climber
    May 12, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    a little tip for anyone that doesnt want to bother with the mess of trading.
    a simple way of getting rid of the traders and keeping all of their stuff FOR FREE!!!!!
    1st stage is to build a wall around three sides of the trade depot then construct a drawbridge along the whole side of the fourth.
    link the bridge to a lever inside the fortress then wait….
    when the caravans arive on the depot raise the bridge and trap them inside.
    then leave them to their business without letting them out for about 6 months. after this amount of time the traders/guards/animals on the depot will start going crazy and killing each other!!!! 🙂
    when there is only one crazy person left assemble your army on the other side of the bridge (or only a couple of them if you want but i prefer the first choice as it is a lot funnier)drop the bridge and let them kill the last guy.
    then claim your treasure from the caravans and the corpses of the people on them.
    a benifit of this is that you also get no negative reprocutions from other civilisations (even though you did technically kill them)

    • May 12, 2011 at 7:18 pm

      “It was an accident, guv!”

  17. Lord Allagon
    August 5, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Hi! I love the guide, it’s very explicative and interesting. But I have a problem.
    My woodcutter (who is also a carpenter) was making barrels and bins in his Carpenter’s Workshop, and a Kobold Thief stole his steel battle axe. I checked on the Z-status/stocks/weapons, and it’s the only one. I already spent all the wood, and I had to buy it from the elves..(But they wouldn’t trade with me-so I’m still dry on wood.) I need wood to make more beds for my migrants (21! They drank 300 booze just the day they arrived! Filthy leeches..) and I don’t have the axe.. So, I thought on making another. But I needed a metalsmith, and that requires fuel…which requires wood.
    Is there any way to harvest wood without an axe?
    Is there any fuel that doesn’t require wood?
    Does any caravan (I only met the elves & dwarves) bring steel axes with them?
    Thank you!

    • August 6, 2011 at 1:09 am

      Damn! Bad luck! You need to get to find coal, or, more likely, dig down to some magma and set up magma smelters and forges. I have some info on that in later tutorials.

    • Lord Allagon
      August 7, 2011 at 8:13 pm

      I re-started. My new fortress was progressing quite well…Until my woodcutter and axeman (Which is not the carpenter, thank goodness!) decided he could take a herd of unicorns alone. Obviously, he couldn’t, and got his lower body broken (Yellow). My carpenter built a bed with the only wood left, I installed it and he went to grab his hurt mate. Then I noticed I did not have any buckets..So I had to dismantle my Mason’s, to get wood and make a bucket. So, now I have the battle axe, but the woodcutter is unable to cut wood. Guess wood doesn’t like me.

    • August 7, 2011 at 8:18 pm

      If you find the Dwarf labour tutorial you can learn how to assign new dwarfs to the wood cutting and woodworking tasks – note – they will be a lot slower than that skilled-but-wounded dwarf. He might recover, although it might take a while and he will need to be brought water from a water supply!

  18. Coolbreeze78
    May 20, 2012 at 9:07 am

    I am trying to follow the trading tutorial but I have Elves at my depot. I know I am not supposed to trade them anything wooden so I am trying to figure out how to remove items from bins to haul to the depot for trade. I used q on the Depot and hit g to enter the goods selection. My crafted rock items were all showing in about 4 bins. The only thing I could think of was hit d for dump to try and dump the bins. I was hoping that by doing this it would allow me to individually move each crafted item to the depot but now the bins and the items I dumped are no longer showing up in the list. When I check the stock pile however they are still in the bins. I have no clue what I did or how to fix it.

    Also, you might want to add to the tutorial a note on if it’s safe to move bins when Elves are trading with you and if not how to properly move the stuff in the bin. You had mentioned not to use wood but didn’t cover how wooden bins affect the trade.

    I am looking forward to your book coming out. I just discovered this game and am completely lost on it. Thanks for the series.

    • Coolbreeze78
      May 20, 2012 at 9:23 am

      Sorry I guess I didn’t read far enough down to see the rest about elves. I assume that moving the bins to the depot doesn’t automatically offend them. So now that I know that how do I undo what ever I did when I hit dump on each bin from the trade menu?

    • May 20, 2012 at 10:24 am

      Try “d-b-c” to reclaim everything in an area?

    • May 20, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Thanks! From the trade menu… I don’t recall the older version, but when you select trade goods simply hit enter against each item in a bin, but not the bin itself?

    • Coolbreeze78
      May 20, 2012 at 10:53 am

      I think I tried that but it wouldn’t let me hit enter on them. Sorry to confuse you. I am selecting the items to move to the trade depot not the ones I want to trade. I haven’t actually got them there yet to trade. I think we may be talking about two separate menus. If I select the entire bin to move there it should affect my relations with the elves will it? I assume negative consequences only apply when you actually try to trade it in the following menu.

      Also do you have a date yet for the book release?

    • May 20, 2012 at 10:54 am

      Oh, no you’re good, move the bins to the depot, only worry about what is or is not wood in the ‘t’ – ‘trade’ menu from the depot. Only when you “offer” the trade goods do the elves care 🙂

  19. October 20, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Turns out I was giving all my stuff away for free thanks for the tutorial now I’m actually trading 😀

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