HomeEditorialDwarf Fortress Guide: Tips & Tricks for Beginner's (Steam-Release)

Dwarf Fortress Guide: Tips & Tricks for Beginner’s (Steam-Release)

Today is a good day to conquer the earth. Why? Because the Steam-Edition of Dwarf Fortress is finally out!

Mining, crafting, and exploring. We all know that by now, don’t we? It all started with a simulation that had everything and has now been polished from the ground up. Before you grab your pickaxe, read on for helpful beginner tips in our Dwarf Fortress Guide.

Dwarf Fortress is a fantasy building simulation from Bay 12 Games, in which you’ll build and manage a dwarf colony. The US brothers Zach and Tarn are developing this title for over 20 years, but millions of fans are enjoying and celebrating it since 2006 in its alpha version. The game has a very special reputation and is exhibited as a work of art along with other famous titles in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Before we head into the Dwarf Fortress Tutorial, let’s check the game’s background first.


What is special about this world simulation?

The game probably reflects the most ambitious attempt to recreate an entire world on the computer. At the start of the game, each world is procedurally generated. This way, the structure of the world, the vegetation, the state of health, and the state of mind of the characters are always unique, including up to a thousand years of history, particularly written for your dwarves.

Dwarf Fortress represents one of the most complicated and profound simulations of an entire world in games to date. At the same time, it paved the way for numerous building simulation games, such as the very popular Minecraft or RimWorld. Sounds mindblowing? It is! But as of today, even newcomers will be able to get into the game a bit more easily. To get a first impression before heading into our Dwarf Fort Guide, feel free to check out the brand-new launch Trailer:


The re-coded Steam-Edition is now available

Starting today, 12/6/2022, a polished HD version of the famous building simulation is available for PC. It features fresh graphics, revamped sound, a new user interface, navigable menus, and a very helpful Tutorial to get new players on board safely. Read about all the new features in this news article on Steam, and if you like, grab a copy for yourself there too.


Start your mining adventure the right way with our Dwarf Fortress Guide

This game is challenging. It requires some practice and know-how to become the master of your adventure in these lands. A Dwarf Fortress Guide can be helpful at the beginning. With these 12 Tips, you’ll get off to a smooth start. If you want to dive deeper right away, you can also check the official videos. Even though these are quite long, they complement our Dwarf Fortress Guide very well:


1. Failing is OK

This Dwarf Fortress tip is especially important for beginners to remember and take to heart: In this dwarf-building sim, it is absolutely okay to fail. And you will. It can happen that you accidentally flood your dwarf colony with water. The auto-save feature allows you to get back in earlier if necessary. Sometimes, however, you simply choose the absolutely wrong location and find yourself in such a predicament that the smartest thing to do would be just to give up and start from scratch. A small consolation: Your abandoned settlement remains in the world, and you can visit it later with a squad and collect resources.


2. The right place to start

After you have created a world, you need to choose a location for your new dwarf kingdom. This should be a particularly favorable area, especially one with some trees, no aquifers, and some soil. If you encounter an aquifer, for example, it will cause your fortress to gradually flood. It makes your building project more difficult. You need trees to make workshops and furniture, and fertile soil is essential for agriculture.

In this screenshot, most of the frame is covered by a grassy landscape. At the top as well as at the right edge of the image is shown the interior of a mountain in dark grey color. A brown mine shaft runs vertically through the mountain at the top of the image and opens into the grassy landscape. On the left side of the picture, we can see two white goats, a white sheep, and five brown oxen on the grassland. In the center of the picture a little below, there is a large rectangular storehouse, which is completely filled with wooden symbols. In addition, in the meadow, there are also variously shaped stones, green bushes as well as plants.
Grassland and wood storage in Dwarf Fortress (Source: Bay 12 Games/Kitfox Games)


3. How to handle Dwarf Fortress farming

The above-ground farming is extremely useful in the beginning. Explore your surroundings in search of some plants, make drinks from them and use the seeds obtained to build a few farms and start your agriculture. If your farmers don’t start working, check if you have any peasants (i.e. dwarves with “Farming Fields” work assigned) and make sure that these are not busy elsewhere at the moment. Since farming is a low-priority task in the game, it is advisable to temporarily disable all other tasks to put them to work. By the way, experienced farmers also bring in better yields.


4. How to dig down

To dig down, press the “D” key, then the “G” key for downstairs. Make sure your box selection is on (“Alt+M”), so you can select a whole area at once. Now build a staircase to dig down. Click the left mouse button on the area where you want to have the staircase. Click one time for the beginning in one area and another time for the end of the staircase in another area so that the staircase is now displayed. Next, you have to move your middle mouse wheel forward once to go one level down the stairs. Then press the “I” key to build the up-down staircase. Now when you select the staircase area again, it is also marked as such. Your dwarves now should have access to the floor below. Otherwise, we recommend you have another look at the new Tutorial for Dwarf Fortress.

On the left side of the picture, we can see the surface of the earth with a grassy landscape. On it, we can see two small lakes and two brownfields where geodes grow. Furthermore, tree stumps, stone deposits, horses, and two lumberjacks standing next to trees are depicted. On the right side, the underground dwarven fortress is depicted with numerous stone rectangular passages and rooms. At the top, we can see two storerooms with wooden chests and barrels. To the right, a kind of kitchen can be seen, and further to the right, another lounge. At the bottom right of the picture, we can see numerous dormitories with red beds and single dwarves. To get an overview, it is helpful to have a look at a Dwarf Fortress guide in advance to learn more about farming or e.g. crafting armor.
Screenshot of Dwarf Fortress (Source: Bay 12 Games/Kitfox Games)


5. Notice warnings

Warnings and alerts appear from time to time in the upper left corner. Take notice of them, as you will receive important information about births, and the weather, which will alert you to potential problems. For example, you will also receive warnings about stopped orders, and you can take the appropriate steps in time to solve the problem. Cut down new trees when there is a lack of wood, build new plants or issue new work orders to have new barrels made, for example.


6. Dig & build vertically

Throughout the game, the main focus is on mining. Here it is important to dig not only directly below the surface in the first layer but also down into much deeper elevations. This has clear advantages: The deeper you get, the more fertile the soil and the better your farms will thrive. You’ll also find more robust materials, which will allow you to build higher-quality architecture or armor. A vertical fortress is also easier to navigate and organize than a horizontal one.

The dwarf build-up sim can be seen in its original version here. The screenshot shows a huge cave complex in dark shades with roughly pixelated graphics. Countless icons of various colors and shapes can be seen both inside the cave system, which takes up about 70% of the image, and outside in the landscape. At the bottom, we can see a large blue body of water, as well as another small lake at the top left of the image. There are also two small lakes inside Dwarf Castle, it seems. The entire scene here looks like a whole mosaic composed of numerous different square stones.
Original version of Dwarf Fortress from 2006 (Source: Bay 12 Games/Kitfox Games)


7. Stack your stockpiles

Create stockpiles to store all the resources you’ve gained. In the in-game Tutorial, you will learn all the basics about this important feature. However, you must be aware that it is very beneficial to set up several large stockpiles. You have to organize the many materials to ensure efficient work and progress in mining. Since the deeper you dig, the resource deposits change, it is also highly recommended to divide the supplies according to levels.


8. Don’t go overboard on hallways

One of the other helpful tips is to keep your digging to a minimum. Digging is time and energy-consuming. It is enough if hallways are limited to the width of a block. Also, you don’t have to worry about possible jams, as the dwarves will pass through or over all furniture and structures and not collide with each other.


9. Don’t dig too much at once

Using the dig commands menu, you can give orders to your dwarves to dig a certain pattern. However, your miners will spend a lot of time and leave unfinished spots if they get too many digging orders. It is much cheaper to set smaller digging goals piece by piece and wait until they are finished before setting up more.

With the help of a Dwarf Fortress guide, you can reach deeper layers of the earth faster and you also get access to lava lakes, as shown in this screenshot: The right half of the picture shows a large red-orange lava lake, to which two parallel horizontal shafts lead, but they seem to prevent the lava from entering using barricades. The two shafts lead in the middle of the picture to numerous square rooms, each of which is equipped with different supplies, such as gold bars, weapons, or coal. The rooms are symmetrical and laid out in the same manner. A circular walkway is shown above, with a forge with an anvil visible in the center. A path leads to the left to several bedrooms arranged in parallel, each with a red bed and a white wardrobe. Here, a corridor to the left and one downward lead out of the picture.
Lava in Dwarf Fortress (Source: Bay 12 Games/Kitfox Games)


10. Take care of the well-being of your dwarves

After a few fortresses are built, the happiness of your dwarves will soon start to fade. But there are a few tricks you can use as a beginner to get this problem under control.

  • Click on your dwarves and analyze their negative feelings.
  • Craft some beds in a carpenter’s workshop. Build a dormitory for your dwarves, consisting of a door and four walls, and place the beds there.
  • Build a zone for meeting rooms, in which you place some tables and chairs so that the dwarves can sit down and rest. In any case, build these rooms underground and indoors. Dwarves do not like to stand in the rain.
  • Dwarves tend to get bored if they always eat and drink the same things. Collect and grow different plants to counter that, for example.


11. Some Dwarf Fortress armor tips

The possibilities to equip your dwarf warriors with armor are numerous and complex. The armor consists of different armor parts, which complement each other in their effectiveness. There are items for the body, legs, feet, and hands. The armor material is also very important. Leather and Bone are rather weak, whereas Steel offers excellent protection. Of course, it is always a question of your available resources and how much you want to invest. In order for you to master your battles without much difficulty in the future, we have listed some very good armor parts for your soldiers below that are considered “set and forget”.

  • Metal Helm
  • Metal Breastplate
  • Metal Mail Shirt
  • Metal Gauntlets
  • Metal Greaves
  • Metal High Boots
  • Any Shields (Featherwood versions have a great price-performance ratio)
  • Candy Robe (if not possible any other Robe)

You can also make candy that can replace the metal versions. Once you start producing masterpiece steel, all lower grades will be replaced.


12. What Dwarf Fortress weapons should you equip your military dwarves with

Deleted: If you have followed the Dwarf Fortress Tutorial up to here, hopefully you now know a few more useful tips. But one thing is still missing: The attack! The choice of weapons for your dwarves should also be well considered in order to be able to defend yourself sufficiently well. The following items should give your colony decent damage to cost ratio:

  • Hammerdwarf:
    Steel Warhammer, or Silver Warhammer if possible
  • Crossbowdwarf:
    At least Featherwood but better a Copper Crossbow
    Any Quiver available
    Steel and Silver Bolts are great, but the lower metal versions work well too
  • Axedwarf:
    Steel Battle Axe


If you also like to enjoy the sun, sometimes

We hope that our Dwarf Fortress Guide has made it easier for you to get started with the game. In case dwarves and mining are not your deal, and you want to see the daylight again? Then feel free to check out our rankings for the Best Sandbox Games, Best Open World Games, or the best City Building Games.

Your focus is more on challenging battles? Put your stamina and nerves to the test with the Best Roguelike Games for Switch and PC.


We hope that this Dwarf Fortress Guide was helpful to you. Did we miss anything crucial? We appreciate your comment below.

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