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Outpost GemSitDasTot: A Dwarf Fortress Journal Part 1

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I’ve been inspired by the fine folks over at Rock Paper Shotgun to try to play Dwarf Fortress.  I’ve tried many times, but I eventually get caught in a mistake or can’t figure out how to accomplish something and lose interest in the game.  I hope that by, keeping a game journal, I can force myself to play through to the bitter end.  As you may know, all DF games have a bitter end.

For the uninitiated, Dwarf Fortress is a “game” in which you lead a group of dwarves through their attempt to colonize the land and prosper until they get eaten by something.  The interface is decidedly old-school and the command structure is particularly perplexing and has led to people creating utility programs like Dwarf Therapist to make the management of your chin-height horde slightly less painful.  Even though the graphics are rudimentary, I’ve found this game can eat up system resources like nobody’s business.

With a steep learning curve and lacking any sort of helpful in-game documentation, it’s a miracle anyone plays Dwarf Fortress.  The Wiki helps, as do several tutorials that can be found there.  If you are inspired to give this game a try, don’t ask me for help.  I only know the rudiments and I’ve never gotten very far in any one game.

So, remembering that Losing Is Fun, here goes.

After generating a new world, a process that takes 20-30 minutes and generates a half gigabyte save file, I begin a search for a embarkation point.  After a bit of fiddling with the search settings and one false start, I’m placed in a reasonably decent spot.  I’ve found it takes experience to find a good spot, as the repercussions of your decision may not be felt for several years in the game.

The game suggests I name the outpost Gemsitdastot.  Gem sit makes sense–dwarves like to encrust their furniture with cut gems so there’s likely to be at least one gem-encrusted throne before too long.  Das tot is a bit frightening, as I know we’re one umlaut short of the word for death.  Thus, the translation I derive for Gemsitdastot is “The Gem Encrusted Throne of Death”.  Here’s what things look like at the start:


The First Day of Gemsitdastot


There you see my seven intrepid pioneers: Cerol U., Doren, CerolK., Obok, Erush, Rith, and Zuntir.  Among them are the animals, two war dogs, two cats to kill the small vermin and breed hellish amounts of spawn, and a donkey who hopes the dwarves don’t run out of food.  At the center is the wagon, containing all their initial supplies and just waiting to be pilfered.

Before I can even contemplate unpausing the game, there are lots of little things to do.  I set a refuse stockpile so the dwarves will dump the bodies of cat and dog kills out of the way.  I use Dwarf Therapist to turn off hauling duties for my three of my dwarves who will be too busy with their primary duties.  I assign war dog to my farmer/herbalist and wood cutter to protect them when they roam on the surface.  I designate downward stairs for my miner to dig and upward stairs on the level below to connect up.  I designate planet gathering and tree cutting zones to start gathering resources.

In a case of perfect foreshadowing, several vultures wing their way through camp as everyone rushes off to their jobs.  Moment later one harasses my miner, mason, and carpenter before Kadol the wardog arrives and rips it to shreds (see combat report below).  Naturally, I haven’t trained anyone as a butcher, and everyone knows dwarves will eat anything nearly related to meat.  All through the spring my dwarves are harassed by the wily vultures, who steal a bit of food before I can get the stockpiles relocated below ground.


Kadol vs. Buzzard Battle Report (click for full view)


By the end of spring, the dwarves have made good progress.  In the picture below you see the workshops and dining hall.  The essential still is up and running, as are the mechanic’s workshop, the craftdwarf’s station, and the carpentry and masonry shops. On the surface I have a Trade Depot up and a surface farm turning out a few small batches of strawberries.  Elsewhere is the dormitory.


Year One, Workshop and Meeting Hall Floor


Summer sees a few smaller improvements, as the population waits for the arrives of migrants who can start filling in specialized labor roles.  The subterranian farm is irrigated, but summer rains prevent it from sufficiently drying to wall back up, leaving a nice ambush route for goblins.  An office is appointed to the expedition leader, who is also working as broker and bookeeper.  Individual bedrooms start arriving just before autumn begins.

With Autumn comes the dwarven trader with his caravan.  I haul my fine crafts up to the depot and put out a call for my broker/expedition leader, who eventually shows up after basting himself liberally with dwarven wine.  Luckily the trader is quite willing to buy the dozens of authentic rock mugs my craftsdwarf had produced.  In exchange the expedition leader pounces on the available meat, a few interesting weapons, and a caged cow.  The dwarven diplomat also arrived with carrvan and I count it a minor success that I didn’t kill him by accident.

Winter allows for more construction, as I start to wall in the surface structures and a nearby lake in preparation for the inevitable goblin hordes that will find me once the fortress starts looking prosperous.  My mason hops to it, making good progress until he manages to wall himself in.  There are two types of masons–those who have walled themselves in and those who will.  This makes for an elaborate bit of tunneling beneath the lake for my miner to free him.  I’ll have to have a look at the east wall and possibly reposition it so there’s a margin around the lake for the miner to navigate.


Cerol the Mason traps himself


So a year has passed for the dwarves of GemSitDasTot.  They’ve been fortunate that the terrain they have claimed is reasonably friendly–there are plenty of trees and local plants to gather, water is easily acquired, allowing for a massive underground farming area.  The alligators prowling the map haven’t taken issue with their new neighbors yet.  There still aren’t any new migrants, but I know I’ll soon have more than I desire.  What can possibly go wrong?

Written by Bill

October 9, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Posted in PC Gaming

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