Here is a mini guide I made for a couple of mates I was trying to help into the game. It's from the last version, so may be a little out of date, but most will still apply...
This is from memory, so probably will have mistakes. Key pressing instructions are case sensitive.
Losing is fun. It is easy to build an impregnable and self sufficient fortress. Once you have the basics down, the fun begins with creating unlikely situations and such and seeing how long you survive. Or trying to build wild feats of engineering and screwing up and drowning your dwarfs in magma. Or murdering all their pet kittens and sitting back to watch the rage spiral out of control
Space bar pauses and unpauses, and backs out of multi level menus.
By default, any dwarf who is skilled in something will have the ability to do that something turned on. Eg, if a dwarf is skilled in Carpentry and Woodcutting, both those skills will be turned on when you start playing.
Any dwarf can do any task. Skill levels just help them do it more efficiently. A higher mining skill will let your dwarf mine faster and he will also more often leave behind usable rock. Some skills require equipment. You can’t mine without a pickaxe, nor cut down trees without an axe (only axes in game currently are battleaxes).
To enable or disable a skill on a dwarf, press ‘u’ to bring up the character list. Highlight the dwarf you want and press ‘c’. Press ‘p’ and then ‘l’.
Now you will have a list of skills. Use +, -, or cursor up and down (cant remember which) to scroll. Enter toggles a skill on or off.
Digging is pretty important. To dig you need:
A dwarf with the mining skill enabled.
A pick (might be called a pickaxe).
A designated mining area.
To designate a mining area press ‘d’ and then ‘d’, then use enter to start highlighting an area, move the cursor, and press enter again to designate the area you selected. It wont appear to be selected until the second enter. Unpause. If your miners can access the designated area they will soon rush to the area and start mining.
This method is best used to dig into a cliff face on the current z level you are viewing.
To view up and down z levels, press ‘<’ and ‘>’.
If there are no convenient cliff for digging in, you may need to dig straight down.
Press ‘d’ and then ‘j’ (downward stair). Position the cursor where you want to dig and press enter twice to designate the square (or move the cursor between the two presses to make a larger staircase).
Make sure the cursor is positioned in the same spot as you want your stair and press ‘>’ to go down a z level. The screen should be mostly black now, as you are viewing underground.
With the cursor in the same position, press ‘u’ (upward stair) then press enter twice to designate. Unpause and the mining dwarf should rush to dig out the down stair on ground level, then continue to dig the up stair, one z level down.
Stairs must always be made of a connecting up (on the lower level) and down (on the upper level) stair. There is also an up/down stair that combines both (‘d’, ‘i’). This will act as an up and a down stair in the same space. You still need a connecting square above or below to make a functional staircase.
That’s the guts of digging out your fortress. Once you have dug down you can use the first method for digging about the current z level.
If your miners are not leaving any usable rock behind, they are either unskilled and will leave more behind as they get better, or you are digging dirt or sand or something similar. Try digging deeper.
(NCIS just lost any and all credibility it may ever have had with me. One of the main characters just called a crowbar a tire-iron. What a moron.)
Moving up a tech level
Before you start building stuff, make sure at least one of your dwarfs has the ‘Architecture’ skill enabled. Some of the larger buildings require an architect to design them before they will be built.
Three important structures at the start of the game are:
Press ‘b’ (build), ‘w’ (workshops), ‘c’ (carpenter). Move the building plan to a nice spot and press enter. Choose the building material (stone is good as wood is better used for other stuff, but you will need to have created some usable stone from mining first).
Do the same with ‘b’, ‘w’, ‘m’ for the mason’s workshop, and ‘b’, ‘w’, ‘r’ for the craftdwarf’s workshop.
Now to make something with the shiny new workshops. Unpause the game and press ‘q’. Move the cursor over a building. You’ll see a list of options related to that building. To add an action to the building queue press ‘a’. Here’s some things that you’ll need a few of early on:
- Bed (1 per dwarf)
- (all on repeat)
- (all on repeat)
- Stone craft (one of each, all on repeat)
Of course, to do any of this you will need dwarfs with the Carpenter, Mason, and Stonecrafter skills enabled.
It helps efficiency to build stockpiles for certain materials nearby your workshops. That way your wee craftdwarfs don’t have to move so far to get their materials.
To create a stockpile press ‘p’, and choose the material you want to make the stockpile for. For example, ‘w’ (wood) then press enter to start designating an area, move the cursor, and press enter to complete designating the area. Make a wood stockpile next to your Carpenter’s workshop. Make a stone one next to the Mason and Craftdwarf Workshops. Make a Furniture stockpile near the Carpenter and Mason workshop and make a Finished Goods stockpile near the Craftdwarf’s Workshop.
Later once you have dug out your underground fortress you will dismantle all these areas and re-make them inside. When you break down the buildings you made you will get back the materials you made them with.
Generally the key for removing stuff is ‘x’. ‘d’, ‘x’ will enable you to rub out designated mining areas. ‘q’, cursor over a building, ‘x’, will order a building demolished. ‘p’, ‘x’ can be used to clear stockpiles.
Keeping the dwarfs alive.
There are a few things the dwarfs will almost certainly need. There are lots of ways for them to die. Buried in cave-ins, drowned in floods, burned by magma, chopped by goblins, eaten by zombie whales (yes), and the less glamorous ways, starving and dehydration.
The easiest way to start producing food is to make sure when you started you bought some Plump Helmet Spawn. Then you can make a farm and grow your own plump helmets.
Dig out an area in some dirt, loam, clay, sand, etc. Pretty much anything that isn’t rock. If you have none of this you will be in trouble. Water, when drained, leaves behind mud you can grow on, so you could drain a pond if desperate, and either farm where the pond was, or where the water flowed to after it evaporates and leaves a muddy surface. Plump helmets can only grow underground though.
To create a farming plot, press ‘b’, ‘p’. Then use ‘u’ and ‘k’ to increase the size and shape of the plot and press enter to place it when you are ready.
Any dwarf with the ‘Farming (fields)’ skill turned on will come and build the plot. When the plot is finished, press ‘q’, move the cursor over the plot, press ‘a’ to select the crop for the first season. Highlight Plump Helmets and press enter. Use ‘b’, ‘c’, ‘d’ , to do the same for all the other seasons.
Your farmer will start to plant the spawn and grow some delicious plump helmets. You might need quite a bit of food, so consider turning off all the other skills for your farmer dwarf so that they only do farming and nothing else. Every time a dwarf eats a raw plump helmet a seed is generated, so as long as you are not cooking your plumpies, you have an infinite supply of seeds.
Dwarfs will drink water (if it is available on your map) if they have nothing else. But they will get shitty about it and wont work as hard. Make sure you keep them in alcohol by brewing your plump helmets into dwarf wine. Once you have the farm going, build a brewery (‘b’, ‘w’, ‘l’ (a still)). Remember, you will need a dwarf with the brewing skill enabled.
Once the still is built, press ‘q’, highlight the still, add a task (brew a drink) and set it to repeat. The brewer will need the barrels created by your carpenter (which in turn need wood harvested by your woodcutter) to store the drink in.
The first challenge you may have is the local wildlife. Most of it will ignore you, but some places do have mean creatures right from the start. Non military dwarfs will run away from any nasties that get close. If the nasties run faster, your dwarf will probably die. All you can do is draft the dwarf into the military and hope for the best.
To draft a dwarf press ‘v’ (view creature), put the cursor over the dwarf, press ‘p’, and press ‘A’ (case sensitive). That dwarf is now an army dwarf. He should attack the menacing creature, or at least stop running, get attacked, and fight to defend himself.
Better defense is a limited entrance to your fortress that is lined with traps. You can limit the entrance by either initially digging only a narrow passage into your fort, or else you can build walls to channel enemy into the places you want them. To build a wall press ‘b’, ‘C’, ‘w’, then place it with enter. You will need to repeat that a lot of times to get a decent wall. Walls can be built in bulk now. Take a look at the options when you go to build one, you will be able to edit the dimensions of the wall-to-be.
To build traps you will need mechanisms.
First enable the Mechanic skill on a dwarf (or two). Then build a Mechanic’s Workshop. Press ‘b’, ‘w’, ‘t’ and place it by a stone stockpile.
There is only one action that can be queued in a Mechanic’s Workshop. Set it to repeatedly construct mechanisms and leave it going.
Once you have mechanisms, the easiest trap to build is a stonefall trap. Press ‘b’, ‘T’, ‘s’, and place as many as you need to cover the width of your narrow entrance. Build a few rows of them as well, because once the trap is activated it needs to be reset before it will work again.
Some nasties can avoid traps. The first intruders to your mighty fortress will likely be thieving kobolds. They are stealthy (you wont see them), and avoid your traps. You’ll only find out that they are there when one of your dwarfs bumps into one and reveals it. Then the game pauses and zooms to the location. You can then select your closest dwarf and draft him to the military. Kobolds are faster than dwarfs and will try to run, but if your dwarf gets a lucky hit in it’s likely he will be able to wrestle the hapless kobold to the ground and choke the life out of him. The kobold thieves carry copper daggers though, and a lucky hit can end in suffering and sometimes death for the dwarf. If he’s a highly necessary dwarf then the safe (and boring) option is not drafting him and letting both parties flee.
As your fortress gains more worth and higher population goblins will begin to ambush, then siege you, and the sieges they send will get progressively stronger. Eventually they will spring all your traps, break down your doors, kill all your dwarfs, and plunder all your goodies. Then you start again. J
To create warrior dwarfs, press ‘m’, highlight the dwarfs you want to have as your warriors (peasants make good conscripts), and press ‘a’. They are most likely unskilled warriors and will be listed as recruits.
You can use enter to promote a leader, and then enter each dwarf you want to be in his squad. Press space to stop promoting dwarfs.
Press ‘w’ to assign dwarfs weapons and armour. It’s safest to start recruits out with the best armour possible, a shield, and no weapon. This will let them train their wrestling skill which is surprisingly effective, as it also dodging attacks is related to wrestling ability.
Once done with weapons, spacebar back to the military window and press ‘v’ to get into squad options for the currently selected squad. Change options to your liking, but have the squad stand down, so they will spar together and gain skill.
To spar you will also need a barracks. Dig out a nice big room and build a bed (‘b’, ‘b’) in it. Spacebar out and press ‘q’. Cursor over the bed, make it into a bedroom (‘r’ and then + several times to make it bigger), and toggle barracks (‘b’).
Military system received a massive overhaul in the last patch. Likely not much of this applies. If you can figure out the new Military system, give me some tips please!
Eventually traders will arrive with much needed supplies. The first thing you will require for trading is a Trade Depot. Press ‘b’, ‘D’ and place the depot. The depot takes three materials to build (stone, stone and stone is fine) and also requires an architect to design it. We talked about this before
There are two types of traders. Beasts of burden, and wagons. Provided you didn’t choose somewhere really stupid to initially embark (I’m not sure it’s even possible) the traders with mules/donkeys/camels etc will be able to make it to your depot as long as it wasn’t placed somewhere really silly (on an island or in a room with no entrances?). Also if there is a clear enough path to your depot then wagons will be able to reach it, and they will bring you more stuff of course.
Once the traders reach the depot and start unloading their goodies (or even while they are on the way there), press ‘q’, move the cursor over the depot, press ‘r’ to call your trader to the depot. If you are not sure you have a trader or he seems busy, you may want to use the ‘b’ option to allow any dwarf to conduct the trade. The first trade is often quite important to the well-being of your fortress. Then press ‘g’ to select which goods to have your dwarfs move to the depot. Press ‘d’ to sort goods by value.
If you have had your stonecrafter churning out stone crafts (as was instructed earlier) AND you had your carpenter spitting out the occasional bin, AND you designated a ‘finished goods’ stockpile, there should be sever bins of finished goods which will be worth a fair bit. Flag these to be transported to the depot, unpause, and let it happen.
When the goodies have been moved there and the trader has arrived at the depot, hit ‘t’ to trade. I wont explain this explicitly, you should have a handle on the menus by now. Highlight the goodies you want from the trader and highlight the goddies you are willing to offer. The visiting trader will want to make a decent profit, that’s what he is there for after all. And there is no need for you to be stingy as your dwarfs cant eat all those stone crafts you have been pumping out. You’ll have lots more when the next trader appears.
Complete the trade when you are satisfied and that’s pretty much it.
If there is an emergency and for some reason trading has gone disastrously, you haven’t managed to trade anything and you REALLY need the stuff they bought, then you can tear down the trade depot
down around the punks ears. Everything will spill out on the ground and your dwarfs will merrily claim it and add it to your stockpiles. It’s cheating, but what are they gonna do about it?
Now that I’m done with this, you bastards better spend at least as long trying to figure out the game as I did typing! Any questions, sing out. J