Dwarf Fortress, two words that should strike fear into the hearts of any fan of empire oriented games. DF is a game done in ASCII graphics and coded with an Assburger's focus by Toady One. Toady played Rogue then thought to himself "I want to build a town in it".
The motto of DF is "Losing is Fun." And if your fortress isn't burning, over-ran with demons, with half your military tantruming and slaughtering their way through your peasants, you are doing it wrong. Dying horrifically is what DF is all about. Though it is simplistic in graphics, the depth of the game's mechanics makes some corporate sponsored shit look like a pile of severed dicks. It is truly amazing the level of violence that was able to be incorporated into some ASCII characters.
The game itself features two main play modes - Dwarf Fortress Mode and Adventurer Mode. Adventurer Mode allows you to explore the land you've helped shape and create all while dying horribly to the various denizens of the world. Fortress Mode allows you to build your Fortress (hurr durr) and attempt to thrive. Being a pure sandbox game, the end will come unexpectedly and more likely than not, hilariously.
If you think you can master this game in five minutes like the basement dweller you are, you're fucking wrong. Be prepared to spend 13,254 hours trying to figure out how to make your dwarf fucking walk.
What's Dwarf Fortress like?
What is the appeal of this game?
It's like cleaning your home until it's sparkling, caring for your children, like the mom of the year. You'll have to be a perfect wife at day and a pornstar at night, and then your husband gets drunk and beats the shit out of you, pisses his pants in the living room, ruining the carpet, screams at your children that you're a whore and he's sure you're cheating him, and proceeds to drive to his lovers place for a night of sex. Then one day he's not drunk he pats your head and wispers he loves you and you're the best woman in the world, and you feel like it's all been worth it.
This is Dwarf Fortress.
Dwarves? In my Fortress?
Seven intrepid dwarves set off from their capital city to attempt to found a new city and grow and prosper. They set off with some meager provisions loaded into their wagon. Your dwarves have personalities of their own, have likes and dislikes, and need alcohol to get through the working day. So you better start busting your ass on getting some room carved out of that there mountain and get some stills going before the liquor dries up. Do not forget the fact that you need something to actually brew into liquor. So you better have dwarves assigned to picking plants or farming.
You're out of barrels? Better get a dwarf out there chopping down trees, a carpenter's workshop up, and a dwarf in there making some barrels. And it only gets more complicated from there on out.
What, you can't build a bed even though you have lumber? Well that's because beds aren't made out of lumber, they're made out of beds. Go to your carpenter's workshop and order a bed to be made, and then build the bed.
As you produce goods in your fortress, you will attract migrants. Quite often they will be completely fucking useless, but then you can just change their job settings and make them do something that's needed. With each dwarf's personality they have likes and dislikes which can give him happy and unhappy thoughts respectively. If your dwarves get too unhappy, they can become Melancholy and emo, or tantrum and RAGE.
Both are bad.
Melancholy dwarves will often strip their clothes off and refuse to eat, becoming a very naked an hero. If they tantrum, better hope its not a military dwarf or you're in for some casualties! Well damn, the dwarf died. Eh well fuck 'em.
Oh wait, what's that?
Rotting corpses and not having their family members buried gives unhappy thoughts? Fuck, you better build some coffins and dig out a catacombs. Better make it a big one, it only gets more fun from here on out. Did we mention that ignoring corpses causes the ghosts to come back and assrape you?
A common complaint amongst newbies to the game is the Ascii graphics. And cries of "why cant it have "real" graphics"? are often heard. The simple answer is that the game process a huge amount of data just keeping track of all the shit in the game, from the smallest fish to the biggest Rape monsters. Just because something may not be onscreen (infact it could be on the oppisite side of the planet or hundreds of miles beneath the eart) the game is still keep track of it. If the graphics got any better you would need some theoretical super computer from the future to play it. Even with a graphics mod running it only gets as good as some early NES graphics. In closing, FUCK YOUR GRAPHICS.
Dwarven Justice and Nobles
Once your fortress has grown in wealth and prosperity it will attract some goddamn picky ass nobles that need nice quarters and demand things of the dwarves that live there. Another prominent figure comes along with these individuals, and that is the Hammerer. Sure, you'll have a jail built by that time. Some beds, some chains, liquor nearby and maybe even a nice statue arrangement to try and give your convicts happy thoughts.
But nobles don't have time for that kind of shit. If that dwarf doesn't produce a Glass Window for his office in the basement, he's getting a hammerin'. Fuck off if you don't have sand in your embark area, and no sir you can't trade for that shit either. So with any given amount of luck the dwarf getting the hammering will have an extremely high toughness and will spend the rest of his existence as a vegetable needing to be waited on by your other dwarves. And if not...
Well, you did build a bigger catacomb right?
Many enterprising players that don't feel like screwing around with Nobles prefer to "eliminate" the problem through some creative methods. Disposing of nobles in DF is as much of a game as the game itself. Drowning pits, feed them to wild animals you trapped, drop them off of high ledges, wall them into their bedrooms until they starve to death.. the options are as limited as your imagination. Maiming the Hammerer is also an option although a bit harder to accomplish in general. If you kill him, they just send another. So you need to paralyze the prick.
It is a credit to Toady One the sheer brutality that he managed to incorporate into simple ASCII graphics. When your hammer-dwarf lays into someone, that cocksucker goes fucking flying and body parts and blood fly everywhere. The combat system while fairly simple in approach, is extremely detailed down to tracking just how damaged various body parts of the victim are. Axes sever limbs, spears puncture organs, elephants and carp rend hapless dwarves while wardogs rend apart goblin pedophiles.
In addition, one of the most recent (and buggiest) updates introduced necromancers, which can raise armies of Zombies to thoroughly rape your fortress into oblivion. However, as severed body parts don't actually die, you could be fighting a single zombie squid, only to kill it and be fighting 10 zombie squid tentacles. Hair and skin can also be reanimated, even though they just wander around unable to kill anything. You're gonna need a bigger catacombs.
—Toady One, being attentive to detail
Things That Want you Dead
The life of a dwarf is a perilous one. Certain factors figure into how dangerous the area will be that you settle in when you are first choosing an Embark site. The procedural world generation always ensures plenty of variety in terms of locations, so you could pick from any environment you can think of. Just remember that everything you encounter out there is trying to kill you.
"The King of Beasts" is an award given by the DF community to whichever animal possesses the greatest ability to Rape one's fortress into oblivion. The first recipient of the award was the Carp, but more on that later. The second recipient was the Elephant, as seen in Boatmurdered. The third recipient was the Giant Mosquito, which a programming bug allowed to appear in groups numbering in the hundreds, murdering one's GPU as well as the dwarves. The current holder of the award is the Giant Sea Sponge, as it is completely unkillable, despite the fact that it cannot move or breathe on land. Unless it's a zombie, that is.
Woe be unto the fool that decides to embark in an area where there are carp infested bodies of water. Those carp will fuck the shit out of any dwarf that wanders too near that water source. THE SHIT OUT OF. No. You don't comprehend the fucking MURDER these sons of bitches do: They refuse to die; they rend dwarves in half, then parade the spoils about until it attracts another dwarf. THEN RENDS THAT MOTHERFUCKER IN HALF AND CONTINUE THE CYCLE.
But wait! I don't need water, I have alcohol! Unless you run out of alcohol or have injured dwarves (and you will) which can only drink water as they recover.
The various goblinoids and wildlife will harass you as you get your fortress established. Rhesus Macques just love to steal shit you had laying around your trade depot before it got moved back into the fortress. Goblins come in several forms. There are ambushes which usually come with trade caravans, kidnappers which come to stuff your dwarf loli in a sack and take them back to their basement for some fun, and later on in the game goblin sieges. Defending your dwarves and fortress is paramount to not getting utterly slaughtered by these things. Some parts are simple, wardogs and traps can take care of thieves and pedos. An ambush can be turned back with an adequate military force. A siege needs strong defenses.
Players have come up with several ingenious and hilarious ways to defend their dwarves. Some prefer hallways full of traps, others prefer a giant drawbridge which they can drop on the enemy as they amass outside (known as a Dwarven Atom Smasher, since Toady fucked up and anything under a bridge is purged from existence like shit from the goatse guy's ass), others build elaborate channeling and piping systems to flood the hallway with either magma or water to make short work of the enemy. Like many things, the options are only limited by your imagination.
For those players who have been playing for awhile, it gets to the point where the normal run of the mill game tends to get a little monotonous. This is where megaprojects start rearing their heads. If you can think of something that might be interesting to see, there is probably a way to make it happen. Players have really stretched their imaginations and Toady One's coding in finding more interesting ways to make their dwarves die horribly.
Some players choose to build large structures from cathedrals honoring the game's god Armok, to elaborate mechanical systems with the game's engineering mechanics, to giant coliseum-esque arenas for dwarfs to fight captured animals, goblins, and megabeasts. Once again, about the only limit is your imagination.
- Build a fortress and survive.
- Flood large areas of land with magma.
- Melt in the rain.
- Rip dicks off and beat people to death with them.
- Raise pregnant war dogs that give birth to puppies that fuck your shit up right when they leave the vagoo, all during battle.
- Build a computer.
- Colonize Hell.
- Train an army of Paladins and go to war with Hell.
- Fuck Elven and Goblin children.
- Build an elaborate trap system that releases a cage full of giant scorpions to fight the invading army for you.
Given how complex Dwarf Fortress is, you can basically waste your entire life trying to find as many things you can possibly do. Add to that a fuckton of mods and you might as well give up everything you own just to play a game that makes your eyes bleed.
About the developer
—A typical DF bug report.
Yes, the entire motherfucking complicated game is developed by a single guy, Toady One, aka Tarn Adams. (As if it wasn't obvious from the fact that every single bug has a better chance of dying of old age rather than being fixed). 'Awkward' doesn't even begin to describe this guy, as can anyone attest to who have listened to his podcasts mainly consisting of being in love with his fucking cat. He apparently used to be a math teacher, but who fucking cares.
How does he make a living? By soliciting donations from the part of the community that is either 1) struggling so hard to figure out how to play the game that they still think Dwarf Fortress will be fun if they master it or 2) have mastered the game, realized it is shit and thinks the next update will help, but haven't been around long enough to realize that every 'update' brings nothing but more bugs, lower performance and decidedly less gameplay or 3) asperger heroes that, well, are fucking cunts. HE LITERALLY GETS THOUSANDS OF BUCKS in donations each month. WTF! How do the few autistic nerds devoted to this crapfest even acquire money?
Beyond his love for cats, he is also famous for not wanting to involve other people in the development process. He claims this is to ensure 'financial' security. Which makes sense. If he can get perpetual donations for not making the game any better, who needs additional developers? But there is also the ulterior motive: When Toady accidentally released a binary that revealed some debug information so *GASP* people could see function names, he cried like a baby about being VIOLATED by the people that PEEKED INTO his PRIVATE CODE. So the obvious conclusion is that Tarn Adams is intimate with his code, and who would want to share their life partner with random strangers on the internet?
In a few different areas of the internets, a style of play called a succession game may periodically be started in a community. The basic gist of it is each player plays through a year of the fortress' life and do their best to make it thrive. If someone purposefully screws over the fortress, then they revert to a previous save. For those familiar with DF, this is a fairly popular way to add some more variety to the game and will occasionally produce hilarious results.
—StarkRavingMad, a player
Boatmurdered was the name of a fortress succession game played by a series of Goons. Virtually everything that could go wrong did. From swarms of elephants that killed immigrants and traders while they reached the fortress, to the piles of corpses outside of the gates and scorched wasteland from the magma doomsday device, to no one knowing exactly what levers opened what flood-gates inside of the fortress, to the fortress ending when a majority of its population had been laid to waste by itself; the saga of Boatmurdered is truly epic and the epitome of doing it right in Dwarf Fortress. Even in the game's (few) scripted events, things went so horribly wrong that even valiant attempts to salvage the game failed utterly, examples included one notable instance wherein a besieging force of goblins and a rampaging herd of elephants joined forces to slaughter the entire military, only to fall over and die, causing the area to flood with a shitload of miasma(which is basically a shorter term for 'smell of rotting asshole of a 50 year old fat guy').
The intro to Boatmurdered also includes a nice little crash course of Dwarf Fortress and how to understand what you're looking at. It is fairly easy to follow even for people that are not familiar with the game.
- Bay 12 Games - Publisher of the game.
- Dwarf Fortress Wiki
- The Saga of Boatmurdered
- Dwarf Fortress Forums
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