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Tips, tricks, and hotkeys you might not know in Dwarf Fortress Steam

Some tips and tricks to make this complex game easier!

Dwarf Fortress is a deeply complex and tricky game with decades of development behind it ahead of its release on Steam and With it, the thousands of players who’ve picked up the game have learned some hard lessons playing the game. Below we’ve tried to give some newer players the best tips and tricks we learned from playing Bay 12’s colony sim.

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Dwarf Fortress Tips and Tricks

  • Dwarves will automatically gather bodies and materials left on fallen or dead dwarves and bravely run into danger to retrieve the wounded. You can disable this in the Labor menu under Standing Orders.
  • The Manager and Bookkeeper are two of the most important nobles in the game. The Bookkeeper will allow you to find out the exact amount of stocks of each item you have, and a Manager will allow you to place bulk orders for crafting. These are essential nobles to instate as soon as possible.
  • One way to get more bags and barrels early in the game is to embark with as many foods and seeds as possible. Dwarves aren't super efficient and will bring a single piece of cow tripe in its own barrel to keep it separate from the 40 other pieces of meat you're bringing.
  • Pressing the WASD keys in a direction while mining, smoothing stone, or other designations will move the cursor exactly 11 squares. This is useful, and the 11x11 stockpile or room has become a really common size in Dwarf Fortress. It's also the perfect size for nine workshops with a 1x1 walkway between them. Or nine 3x3 bedrooms.
  • Cage traps are overpowered. Cable traps are the answer if you’re worried about how to defend your fortress. Enemy armies, ancient beasts, dragons, anything, will mindlessly blunder into cage traps. Only the most proficient and dangerous enemies can avoid them, making your fortress defense easy if you’re clever.
  • Dwarves will take breaks from work, sometimes even if you have tasks for them to do, and spend their time socializing. They'll default to hanging around the Wagon if you’ve not created a meeting hall or dining room. However, if you deconstruct the Wagon without designating a meeting hall, Dwarves won’t take breaks. Useful for early pushes into the mountain!
  • Your trading post should be one of the first things you build. Early trades with dwarven representatives, humans, and elves can make or break for your fortress, and often you can take away their entire inventory with a few dozen crafts or cut gems.

Related: Dwarf Fortress Steam UI and Symbols, Explained

  • Did you know dwarves love mist? Standing at the bottom of a waterfall will generate happy thoughts for dwarves and cheer them up. If you can create an artificial waterfall near a meeting hall or use a natural one, you can make your Dwarves incredibly happy.
  • Everything you dig, create, build, or farm adds to your fortress value. Sometimes this means you’ll be attacked faster, attract more migrants than you can support, or otherwise be in danger. Sometimes it can be better to dwell in the mud, dirt, and sand for a while until you’re ready for bigger problems.
  • Every dwarf has things they love and hate, such as certain animals, materials, and objects. If you fill a dwarves’ living environment with them, they’ll become incredibly happy. For instance, a dwarf who likes dogs will be happy if they own a dog, have dog statues, and their surroundings feature the engravings of dogs. Conversely, those same things will make them increasingly unhappy if they hate dogs.
  • Not happy with your mayor, baron, or other nobles? At a certain point, nobles will not work or contribute to your fortress. At that point, it’s time to *ahem* arrange for some accidents to happen.
  • And finally, always remember, “Losing is Fun!” You may lose your fortress to a silly mistake, to something completely unfair and out of your control. But think of the story you have and how fragile your fortress is. That’s what makes this game so crushingly brilliant.

For full Dwarf Fortress guides and info, stay tuned to Pro Game Guides, and check out How do you stop water from freezing in Dwarf Fortress?

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Image of Michael Hassall
Michael Hassall
Michael lives in the UK, but wishes he lived in Eorzea. A life-long gamer, Four years ago, he ditched a "real" job to write about video games for a living, and hasn't looked back. When not guiding players how to get the latest mounts, crafting recipes, and in-game goodies, he spends his time nurturing an unhealthy addiction to MMOs and gacha games.

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Tips, tricks, and hotkeys you might not know in Dwarf Fortress Steam

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