Dwarf Fortress Diaries

Dwarf Fortress: A Brief Introduction

What is it?

A game with no win condition and a learning curve in the shape of a vertical wall.

More seriously: Dwarf Fortress is quite possibly the most in-depth simulator game ever made. Creatures have blood and organs that affect their functioning. They have emotions and thoughts that influence their behavior. They have personalities, beliefs, and relationships with each other. Actions have consequences. Caves can collapse in on themselves if you don't keep some supports up. World generation accounts for rain shadows and other weather effects. An infamous bug had cats die of alcohol poisoning because they'd walk through a puddle of beer and then clean themselves off, ingesting the substance on their fur. This game goes in-depth. It's no wonder it's been in active development since 2006. The wild part is that one man made all of this- it's a labor of love at its finest.

There are three gameplay modes: Fortress Mode, or "noble murder simulator"; Adventure Mode, or "but I want to be the main character!"; and Legends Mode, or "oooh, lore". This page is only concerned with Fortress Mode for the moment, but there's a peek into Legends Mode on the next page anyway. What, you thought I was going to generate 250 years of fictional history and not poke around in it a little bit?

Fortress Mode is essentially a city builder. Oh, and everything wants to kill you. Can't forget about the murderous wildlife or undead hordes or "oh god, why did I embark on an evil glacier?" moments. This is a game where the only end result is everyone dying, usually in entertaining ways. The fun is seeing how it finally goes down (and in trying to accomplish something absolutely bonkers in the process).

The community has a saying about this: "losing is fun". I've had more fun losing forts to my own ineptitude than I have in a lot of games. This game builds stories, and that's what makes it so interesting. By the time your fort goes down in flames, it's told an incredible tale of survival against all odds. Madness, love, greed, fury, hope... it's all there. All that's left is to watch it burn and write it down.

You can get the ASCII version for free here if you'd like, and there's a graphical version in the works as of this writing. That'll be on Steam and itch.io when it comes out. If you don't want to wait but are struggling to make sense of all those ASCII characters (help, I'm being attacked by a k!), there are tilesets and bundled versions that make it easier to visually understand. The most famous is probably the Lazy Newb Pack. I'll be using the Linux Dwarf Pack to save myself some pain.

Last updated .
Licensed GPL 3.0 or later.

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