Home > Fantasy, Tutorial > The Complete and Utter Newby Tutorial for Dwarf Fortress – Part 9: “Nobles and other useless sods”

The Complete and Utter Newby Tutorial for Dwarf Fortress – Part 9: “Nobles and other useless sods”

February 28, 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!

You’ve come a long way, padawan, but don’t worry, I won’t let any stupid angsty teenager come and strike you down because he’s in a tizzy having lost his mum! No, nothing of the sort! Baby Dwarf Fortress managers like yourself will prosper and grow strong like a seedling, going on to bear nice dwarven fruit. And not the Class-C sort of fruit that gets picked and sold on the streets, no, nice, rare, delicious fruit! Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, tutorial 9, Nobles and other layabouts. Get on with it!

Queer Eye for the Straight Dwarf

Decorating your massive housing project should be complete now. Here’s how mine looks. Every room has a bed and a door and the noble rooms (they will need four rooms each, as a rule) are kitted out with assorted stuff to keep any nobles who visit happy. Lets cover off the details.


Nobles (from the “n” menu) generally want a bedroom (assigned from a bed), a dining room (assigned from a table), an office (assigned from a chair) and often a tomb as well (assigned from a coffin). For simplicty’s sake, set up each room in its own contained area and then throw in some decorations to keep the noble happy, like armor stands, weapon stands, containers, statues, cabinets, cages (with their favourite animal in them), that sort of thing. Usually nobles want at least two of most of those items so produce a ton and get placing!

What is all this about nobles I hear you ask? Well, once your fortress gets to a certain size, those purple slacker dwarfs will come to live in your fortress. They usually don’t do much (other than haul stuff) but they do make demands. Their biggest demand is for rooms, which need to be of a certain quality. Quality can be increased through smoothing and engraving the walls of the room as well as adding more furniture, especially high quality furniture.

The other thing nobles do is make mandates.  Mandates are demands by the noble for things to be done, like the production of certain goods, or a ban on the export of certain goods. It pays to try and meet the demands of your nobles or they may go crazy and cause all kinds of problems.

Lets have a look at nobles. Go ahead and hit “n”. This is your noble list, right now it should be very short, but in time it will grow. Chances are it looks like this (click for big):


With a newby fortress only one dwarf is set as expedition leader. As the fortress grows more noble ranks will appear in this list and more positions will be filled. Lets look at the current expedition leader. Hit “enter” and you’ll see info about the current leader. Our dwarf owns 14 objects (mostly clothes and stuff), has “meagre quarters”. Lets assign Eshtan Urdimfash a full set of noble rooms, just for kicks. He’s not demanding any, but we’ll do it for practice. If he were demanding more rooms you would see them in red on the left. If he had a room, but not a good enough room, it would show what he’s currently got and what he’s actually demanding.

Once you’ve assigned the bedroom, office, dining room and tomb, if you go back to the noble list and view our chap you will now see his holdings have changed (clicky biggy):


Next job for you is to assign a book keeper. Usually, if you embark with at least one dwarf with the “appraiser” skill (good idea, by the way), this job would already be filled. But for now it’s vacant. This skill is what makes our stock count accurate (more on that later). Fortunately for us we can chose a dwarf to do the job. They might not be doing a good job at first (having no skill), but they will learn, and they provide a useful function, accurate stocktaking!

So, in the nobles screen use the arrow keys to scroll down to “Bookkeeper” and hit “enter”. Find Eshtan and hit enter, assigning him to this job. The bookkeeper requires an office to work, just as well we just assigned him one, right?

Next, with Bookkeeper still highlighted hit “s” for “settings” (the only noble role you can assign settings for). The screen you’ll see now dictates how much time your dwarf will spend counting. Use the arrow to scroll to “Highest” and hit enter. Eshtan will now work very hard to get all our stock counts accurate!

There you go, a quick overview of nobles. As you play the game more you will have to deal with nobles a lot, but don’t worry, the Dwarf Fortress Wiki should provide you with heaps of tips and advice should you get confused.

Accounting is fun! Really!

We’ve mentioned stocks, but not discussed the stock screen yet, so lets get to it now. Hit “z” and you’ll see this screen:


Lets go over what you’re seeing here:

  • Across the top are sub menu options. You can scroll through them using the arrow keys (left and right) and then hit enter to learn more.
  • There’s a description of your wealth on the left. We don’t know yet as we need a noble with skillz.
  • There are food store stats, but those question marks indicate we really aren’t that sure how much food or drink we’ve got. The bookkeeper should turn these figures accurate fairly soon.
  • Then we have population information. Not too interesting I find.

With “Animals” selected, hit enter. You can see all the animals in the fortress on the following screen. This is also the screen you can set animals to be butchered on mass. If you set a few to be butchered a dwarf with “small animal dissection” and “butchery” skills enabled will run off and start grabbing those animals and chopping them up in the Butchery. You won’t need to set anything at that workshop, the butcher tasks gets added automatically.

Butchering animals is a great way to get a lot of food, bones and skin (for tanning into leather) but be careful! If you assign a big list of animals to be slaughtered by the time the butcher gets to the last one the animals may have become someone’s pet. This results in the butcher walking up to the animal, as it follows its master around, dragging it off and turning it into steak. This is somewhat disturbing to the dwarf whose pet you’ve just killed! So, don’t tag too many animals at once. Also, make sure you leave at least one breeding pair (male and female symbols to the right of the pet’s name), or you won’t get any more baby animals popping out, will you?

Now go back to the stocks menu and hit “Kitchen”. This is where you see a list of what your dwarfs will consider using to cook meals in the kitchen when ordered (dwarfs like cooked meals). Remembering that cooking destroys plant seeds, here are some guidelines for you:

  • Cooking meat (ie, “cook” is blue) is fine.
  • Don’t cook spawn or seeds (“cook” is red”) unless you have way, way too many.
  • All plants can be brewed as brewing returns seeds.
  • Turn off cook for “Plump Helmet”, you don’t want to cook them out of stock, right?
  • Cooking booze is great as you end up magically creating more food than you started with. Trust me on this (or look it up on the wiki).

Good work! Now back out of that menu and chose stone. In the stone menu you see (in red) all the stones your dwarfs are forbidden to build with/use and in green, all the ones they are allowed to use. Scroll through with the arrows and hit enter over every stone that does not have a use description appear on the right. The only exception may be bauxite due to its special magma-proof qualities.

The reason you are doing this is so that the dwarfs have much more choice in the stone they will use to make doors, walls, etc etc. This stops them running half way across the map to get some boring stone when a perfectly useful stone (that just happens to be yellow) is sitting next to them, but ignored.

Backing out to “z” the final menu is “stocks”. This is a master list of all items in your fortress and is a good way to see exactly how much of certain items you’ve got . Until your bookkeeper gets working you won’t get any detail, but trust me, you’ll see heaps, in time.

You can use this menu to manage the items in your fortress more easily. For example, you might find, after a goblin raid, that you’ve got a ton of their crappy weapons lying around, what to do with them? Well, you could add them to weapons traps, or you could find them in the stocks menu and hit “m” for “melt” when they are selected and then any smelter with the “melt metal object” task on will have a dwarf grab the item and then melt it back to a metal bar.

You can also use this menu to “forbid” items. If you have a bunch of low-quality junk you don’t want your dwarfs to use, hit “f” for “Forbid” with the item highlighted and you’ll find they will ignore it. This is handy when setting weapons and armor up for your military as you can prevent them from picking up wooden swords and thus push them to pick up your non-forbidden steel swords!

The last menu “Justice” doesn’t come in to play until we have more nobles who will start wanting to throw dwarfs into jail if they ignore their mandates. Worry about that latter!

Homework time!

You’ve got a tricky job to do now, ok, not so tricky really. I want you to dig exploratory tunnels in EVERY DIRECTION from your living room and the below levels. Try and cover much of the map with your grid of tunnels. We’re looking for three things: 1. Ore, 2. Gems, 3. Magma. You may want to assign another dwarf or two to mining duty, and to make a few more picks as well (at the metalsmith’s forge, under “weapons”). We’ll see what this map is like when we return in Tutorial 10!

The Complete and Utter Newby Tutorial for Dwarf Fortress – Part 10: “Soldiers and your army”

Categories: Fantasy, Tutorial Tags:
  1. Steve Nordquist
    March 19, 2009 at 7:28 am

    About the picks…I got trapped the third season when all my miners vanished in a puff of ramp logic. Maybe I was not paying attention to how they got down in the first place, but I seem short of picks and smelting them isn’t happening above ground…?

    • March 19, 2009 at 7:33 am

      You’re going to have to smelt some picks. You can do this by building a wood smelter (‘b’ then ‘e’ then chose the wood smelter and using it to make charcoal and from there building a forge etc. But you might not have any bars if you haven’t dug up any ore. You might be able to melt some crappy items you’ve got lying around in the ore smelter and thus get bars to make items in the metalsmith forge… hmm. Could be tricky, but you should be able to learn about forges off the wiki.

  2. SkubaSteve
    February 2, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Aside from time lost counting and whatnot instead of trading, are there disadvantages to making one dwarf fill all the noble slots? The only problem I’ve had so far (only a season in) is that he kept updating the stock list (or however the game puts it) and didn’t make it in time to trade. Wound up having a hauler trade, which probably hurt, but not much.
    While I’m thinking about it, a little story and a question. Four of my immigrants were children. One of these children kindly introduced me to moodiness by taking over a craftsdwarf workshop. Luckily, he wanted to use turtle shells, and I had some available. He managed to carve a turtle shell crown artifact that is decorated with turtle shell, encircled with bands of turtle shell, and menaces with spikes of turtle shell. Sounds awesome. He’s now a legendary craftsdwarf, which will be useful assuming he lives long enough for me to boss him around.
    Anyway, I can’t find the crown in my stocks to bring to the trade depot. Is it possible to trade artifacts? That 4400… dwarfbucks?… would really come in handy.

    • SkubaSteve
      February 2, 2010 at 8:54 pm

      Correction: He’s a legendary bone carver. Stories of Gesisnitem Sankestbomrek, Sinewvision the Fabulous Whips will travel far and wide. Udil Custithcerol will live forever. Long after a fire snake swallows him whole or a drawbridge crushes his skull.

    • February 2, 2010 at 11:02 pm

      I believe one noble for all jobs is fine at the start but later on you may want/be forced to have more. As for the story, cool crown! You should be able to trade it, I think, DF Wiki might be more precise.

  3. Ruined
    March 25, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Just as I started this chapter a bunch of dwarfs drowned and their friends went berserk and killed my mayor.

    • March 25, 2010 at 8:02 pm

      Business as usual in Dwarf Fortress.

  4. Woot2134
    April 10, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Great tutorials! Unfortunately, later in your tutorials, I had too many idle dwarves. Everybody started getting depressed, and two guys went crazy. I was running out of beer, and when I made barrels, the farmers stole them for food -.-

    Then people ran to the river, and kept getting interrupted by fish. I lost two dwarves to fish attacks XD

    Eventually, I decided to use an earlier save.

    Later, after I had made a butchers shop, one of my rangers went out hunting. A little bit later it said he had cancelled: Hunt because of dangerous terrain.

    The reason? He followed a deer all the way into a stagnant pool and drowned XD

    Ah, I love this game.

    • April 11, 2010 at 9:31 am

      Sounds like an ideal game of Dwarf Fortress to me!

  5. Matt1024
    April 28, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    On the nobles screen, I only have Treasurer and not Bookkeeper – do they do the same job?

    • May 6, 2010 at 10:08 am

      Must be – I might have been getting confused… The wiki might help too.

  6. Incendia
    June 25, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I have a question. One of my dwarves went fey, but didn’t take over any workshops. I’m guessing that the workshop he wanted to take over wasn’t built yet, so I just assigned a war dog to him and let him be. Eventually he went stark raving mad, and ran into his room. I locked the door 😀 He died of thirst… So, point is, what do I do with his body? Do I need to make a graveyard pile or something, or do my dwarfs bury him automatically? He’s been sitting for a few days now, and I don’t want to stink up my bedrooms with miasma XD

    • June 26, 2010 at 7:23 am

      Use a mason workshop to build a coffin/burial receptical. Then you need to ‘b’ build it somewhere. A lot of people like to make pretty graveyards! Hopefully, if his door is unlocked, the other dwarfs will chuck him in there once you’ve placed the coffin and used “q” on the coffin to set it up for public burial.

  7. DannyBoy
    January 1, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Well, nearly two years later and I can definantly say you’re still helping people by having written this guide. You, sir/madame, are a fantastic person.
    (Posting this on this page because I panicked when the browser froze and lost my precious guiding tutorial at this page, realizing how good/helpful it is)

    • January 1, 2011 at 11:46 am

      Aww, thanks!

  8. openthyeyes
    January 18, 2011 at 5:02 am

    What graphics pack are you using? I have a relatively new one that I currently forget, but yours is pretty cool and slightly less cluttered looking.

    • January 18, 2011 at 6:32 am

      Mayday’s pack! Google “Mayday” and “Dwarf Fortress” and you should find it.

  9. DwarfDaddy
    February 5, 2012 at 1:28 am

    the traders won’t trade with me even though i have a broker they seem to be really picky prick, cause they refuse to get my stuff saying that it is to little or they can’t take that much but i am only 1 over/under the weight limit and cant get any closer

    • February 5, 2012 at 1:44 am

      Don’t trade so much then – and make sure the trade is very much in their favor for profit?

  10. October 22, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    For some strange reason (probably from the constant goblin ambushes or damn carp ):<) my expedition leader is dead. I've left it going for some time now, but no dwarf is taking up the role. I also can't select a dwarf to become expedition leader. Any idea how to fix this?

  11. February 17, 2013 at 3:45 am

    I’ve went all the way to here without getting a single migrant. It’s been 3 ingame years. I’ve done everything, I just haven’t had any migrants.

  1. March 10, 2009 at 12:35 am
  2. March 10, 2009 at 12:51 am
  3. October 29, 2010 at 10:36 am
Comments are closed.