The Complete and Utter Newby Tutorial for Dwarf Fortress – Part 10: “Soldiers and your army”
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While you’re exploring and digging around (see Tutorial 9) how about we set up a military? You’re going to need one, goblins are pesky bastards and likely to bother you more and more (if they haven’t already). Soldiers can be a bit fiddly to manipulate, but once you get the hang of it you’ll find it second nature.
Drafting some dwarfs
The first thing you will need to do, fairly obviously, is draft some dwarfs into your military. There are a few different strategies for this. First up, you can pick complete newbies and let them work up their skills and strength through sparing. Another strategy is to have some peasants work on screw pumps to quickly build up their strength and toughness before drafting them. Others like to use miners (which train up quickly and are thus easy to replace) as they usually are quite strong and tough already.
As a further consideration, some don’t like to recruit women as soldiers. When they give birth it’s not uncommon to see them running into battle carrying a baby. This is both somewhat alarming and somewhat risky as you’re going to have potentially dead babies on your hands due to combat, something that might cause a lot of emo among your dwarfs.
For this tutorial we’re not going to worry about detail to much and we’re just going to grab 6 peasants – which is 10% of my current fortress population. Something similar will work for you for now. So here’s what we’ll do:
- Hit “m” for the “military” screen.
You’ll note this screen is not unlike the “u”, “units” screen. The difference is that there are a few different commands at the bottom of the panel. Primarily, this screen lets you organise your squads and it lets you set squad weapons. We’re going to aim for two squads of three dwarfs. Smaller squads helps your response time to enemy threat and gives you a bit more control. Lets get on with it:
- Scroll to one of your no-life peasant dwarfs, hit “enter”. Now when you move your arrow you will see the peasant is marked and there’s an arrow to chose another dwarf. Chose another pleb, hit enter.
- Scroll, chose another dwarf, and hit enter again.
- Hit space to stop promoting. We’ve created our first squad.
- Chose another spare peasant, hit enter to promote and then choosing two more dwarfs, create squad two.
You will now note that the dwarfs in the same squad are now sharing the same squad name, “The Relieved Irons” and “The Muscular Palaces” for me, awesome! But they’re not doing anything yet, they’re assigned to squads but aren’t active doing soldierly stuff, so:
- Scroll to the first squad leader, hit “a” for activate.
- Scroll to the second squad leaders and “a” activate him as well.
- Scroll to the top of your military list, your squads are now up there with their names in grey.
- On the first squad leader, hit “v” for view squad.
- If the squad is “on duty” hit “t” to stand them down.
- Hit “f” for “Food carried” and they’ll go get backpacks and put a stock of food in them for long duties.
- Leave other settings and repeat for squad two.
Our dwarfs are now soldiers and are going to go do soldierly things. What’s that you ask? Well, drink, eat and hang around the barracks sparing mostly. But shouldn’t we give them some weapons and armor? Maybe, is the answer, lets show you how:
- With the military screen up, hit “w” for weapons.
- You now have a field you can move around using the arrow keys and cycle using “enter”. Leave the dwarfs unarmed.
- Scroll to the first “A”, which is for “armor” and hit “enter” until the field shows “Lth” for leather. Then go to the next column and hit “enter” until you see “Shd” for shield.
- If you look further down your weapons list you may note how woodcutters are armed with an axe. And note that any you’ve told to be woodcutters who don’t have an axe won’t cut wood… although they might try and arm themselves due to being tasked. Anyway…
- Space back out.
Your soldiers will now go and get a bunch of leather armor and a shield each. You did remember to make a bunch of armor as instructed earlier, right? They will then go to the barracks and spar. Why do we want them to spar unarmed? A few reasons:
- Sparring unarmed trains “Wrestling” which is very handy, as it builds the key stats (like all training) but also trains quickly. Wrestling Hammer weapon skill is the skill used by crossbow dwarfs when out of bolts. Yes, they bash the enemy to death with their crossbows. We can train hammering latter.
- Wrestling helps when an enemy disarms your dwarfs as they have to fight unarmed then, and yes, a few enemies can disarm your lads.
- Finally, picture newby dwarfs with no skill training with razor sharp steel battleaxes. Yes, picture a few graves. Wrestling gets them tough enough to spar with decent weapons without a lot of weapon access micromanagement in the stocks screen (ie. forcing them to pick up wooden weapons and later on dropping them in favour of proper weapons).
One odd side effect of wrestling training is that your soldiers will tear clothes off each other. I call it The 300 Factor. Don’t worry, it’s entirely normal. If you roll that way…
One thing you might want to think about is providing food and drink and somewhere to eat close to your military dwarfs. That way they will hopefully spend more time training and less time walking! Here’s how I set up a small dining room and a small food stockpile. Note, the whole area is outside – I’m hoping that some regular exposure to the sun while the soldiers eat will prevent them getting too cave adapted. I’ve had to roof over the bit with the tables and chairs though, those need to be placed inside. You can “b”, “C” construct a ramp in the outdoors area and then “b”, “C” construct a floor to cover the area (you go up a level, build a floor over the space, and it thus becomes a roof). But we will cover some of this in another tutorial as well.
…hmm, actually, I have so many bloody dwarfs I’m going to put each squad up to four members each. That means we’ll have up to 8 dwarfs sparing at once, good stuff. To add more dwarfs, go to the military screen again, hit enter on the leader and then chose a dwarf to add to the squad.
Note: It’s possible to end up with really convoluted command structures by accidentally making the boss of one squad the boss of another squad. This is annoying and pointless, as far as I can tell. To fix it, chose the problematic squad or person, hit enter on them, and then hit enter again. Hopefully that will remove them back up the chain of command. Or, hit enter on the boss and then enter on the dwarfs 2 steps down, that will pull them back up to being directly under the boss’s command.
While the boys are sparring go to your leather workshop and make sure you’ve got some backpacks, armor and helms on order. You can check your stocks too, to make sure there’s enough kit to go around. In time we’ll get our lads into steel chainmail and plate, but for now, we need to get them into leather, and yes, armor does stack later.
A nice addition to your military are some war dogs. How do you get war dogs? Easy! Find a space in your workshop and “b” build a “k” kennel. Note, this is a big building, so you may have to free up some space to place it. Then ensure you have someone with the animal training labour on (so it gets built and so you will be training animals).
Then, go to the kennels using “q” and hit “a” for add task and then “w” for “Train War Dog”. Hit “r” to set the task on repeat. Hopefully all the adult dogs will now go about being trained. You’ll soon start getting messages like “An animal has become a stray war dog”. Good!
How can these help us? Well, we can either assign them to restraints we build (using “b” and then “v” and choosing either a rope or a chain and then once placed, using “q” to assign an animal to the restraint) or we can assign them to soldiers. Lets assign one to each soldier:
- Hit “m” to bring up your military.
- Hit “c” to look at a soldier.
- Hit “p” for “preferences”.
- Hit “e” for “Work Dogs”.
- Hit “r” to assign a dog to that dwarf. Once you have enough trained, assigned one each.
You can also train hunting dogs at a kennels and they are quite handy for hunters, since they too have the “ambush” skill that Hunters use. I don’t usually bother with hunter dwarfs so wardogs is all I want! Hordes of the buggers! Oh, a note on caged animals. Cages, when built (“b”, “j”), allow the assigning of animals to them, and can be set as a zoo room. Dwarfs enjoy relaxing in Zoos and looking at animals they like (happy thoughts). Consider building a zoo near the dining room. When placing cages, if you already have animals in them, hit “x” to expand the view and chose the exact cage you want to place. Here’s my zoo, where the old housing used to be before we moved it all down stairs.
Right, where were we!?
Get tough, little guys!
So your boys are training, tearing each others clothes off, putting each other in arm bars and whatnot. It’s all very ancient Greece, don’t you think? But anyway, if you use “v” and look around your soldiers, hitting “g” for General, you should see their skills climbing. Use “alt”+”arrows” to see the full range.
Let them keep this up until they become champions or heroes. At this point they will no longer accept work dogs and become impossible to assign other jobs. The good news though, is that champions will actually use artifact items! Yay! So, let them train and while that goes on, keep digging as per the last tutorial. Grid up all the digable space on the various levels and find gems, ore and a special surprise! You’ll know it when you find it, you’ll be alerted by DF’s equivalent of a popup. We’ll cover what to do with your special surprise later. If you come across it put a door on the passage to the surprise and leave it until later.
Ok, lets assume your boys have trained up to pretty damn good wrestlers, getting very tough and agile in the process. What’s the next step? Well, we’d like them to use chainmail, right? We could set them right into plate, but plate slows them down if they aren’t very good armor users (they won’t be yet). Chain will be just fine. Hopefully you’ve build a good pile of steel chainmail, helms, shields, grieves and whatever else you can see on the list. Now it’s time to assign.
At the same time you’ve set a lot of steel warhammers to be built, right? Good!
But before we assign the weapons we want to make sure our soldiers don’t pick up the wrong armor, right? So this is what we do:
- Go to your stocks menu under “z”. You should now see all your stocks updated by your bookkeeper, handy!
- Find the “weapons” first. Scroll through and look for any other sort of hammer. Chances are “steel hammers” are all you have. For good measure, set everything that looks useless (ie, not an axe or a pick) to “m” for melt. Or put that trash into weapon traps.
- Go to the “armor” list (and subsequent clothing lists) and look for chainmail. Any chain item that isn’t steel chainmail set to “forbid” using “f”. Now your boys won’t go picking up the rubbish when you change their armor setting. Make sure you’ve got enough suits of chainmail armor, steel shields, helms, etc, to equip your lads. Or near enough.
- If you’re unhappy with how your armor settings turn out, set everyone to no armor and once they’ve dumped all their items, go back through the equiping process again.
Now, you can go to the “m” military menu and hit “w” for the weapons and change them from “Lth” to “Chn” and the weapon to “Ham”. Your dwarfs will rush off, grab a warhammer and throw some steel chainmail on top of their leather armor, great! If a few of them get to be awesome armor users you can change them to plate and they will even put the plate on top of their chain on top of their leather. A tiny, cute, drunk, ball of fury!
M.A.D: Mutually Assured Dwarfiness
How do you use your dwarfs then? Well, when they aren’t mucking about your barracks working on their skills they can be out fighting bad guys! How I do it, when invaded is:
- Hit “m”.
- Go to a squad leader, hit “v” (NOT “a”, that turns them back to peasants – but “a” again will turn them back to squadies).
- Hit “t” to make the squad respond to orders.
- hit “z” to zoom to the commander.
- I then go to the level and place I want the squad to go.
- Hit “s” to station the soldiers there, or hit “p” to place a patrol point and then move your cursor around and hit p again to place another point (and keep hitting “p” to place more).
Your soldiers will now stop what they are doing and rush to the station point. Sometimes it’s a good idea to set it in a safe place first, so you can at least get a few moving all at the same time. If you just drop the station point in the middle of the bad guys you risk your lads charging in one by one.
There’s a lot of ways of handling military, and we haven’t even covered crossbow weilding marksdwarfs, multiple weapons, archery targets, or any of that stuff. For now, go and build your military and come back for the next tutorial where we’ll round out your Dwarf Fortress lesson with some thoughts on magma, construction and fortress design!
Thanks for reading and please let us know if you have any feedback.