The Crimson Pyramid

You know, I’ve run a fortress like an Aztec cult before.

I don’t know how it all got started. Maybe it was when I noticed how fun it was to drop  an elf invader 20 Z-levels and watch the explosion paint the walls red, sending little peasants scurrying to clean up the gore. Maybe it was when I renamed my philosopher’s profession to “Priest” and then “High Priest.”

I definitely know where it went. Some urge made me create a sort of sacrificial pyramid that stretched fourteen Z-levels to the heavens over the rest of my fortress. Each section was engraved with all sorts of horrific events, as the local legends seemed to revolve around the wounding of some dwarf when he tried to fight a cyclops and got his arm ripped off or something, not to mention all the inhumane atrocities committed by the little buggers. Needless to say, when the temple was finished, it was covered from top to bottom in pictures to rival any glowing pit. I was quite content with my little megaproject.

red crimson pyramid aztec dwarf fortress

But that was only the start. Now, to understand this setup, you have to understand the layout of the fortress itself. The temple was constructed at the center of this open-sky fort, where I had also designated the meeting area. Around this, there were several nobledwarf’s and legendary’s houses and a few grand dining halls and such. A small wall separated this section from the larger, more industrial area of the city, and finally open-air farms ringed the walls that were a good 3 levels high and patrolled by 2 squads of marksdwarves. The lower class living quarters, which consisted of 2×1 squares with a door and a bed, the magma-fueled steel foundry and the barracks were all underneath the city, where the miners toiled all day long and the noise and heat were unbearable. Mind you, these hellish subterranean apartments were located just below the grand temple.

Now, one day, I decide that I want to see an goblin explode in the middle of the town square, so I order that a cage be dumped at the top of the temple (which, of course, had a 3×3 notch in it designated just for that purpose). So my will be done, a little metalcrafting immigrant dwarf climbs to the top, releases the doomed prisoner, and watches as the goblin’s guts spray all over the 10+ idling dorfs.

He immediately goes insane, and produces a steel-gold-silver-aluminum monstrosity of a chair that’s worth millions of dwarfbucks. Apparently, Armok was pleased with my sacrifice.

So I test the system. Every time a peasant gets sick of the hell-pit they live in and goes berserk, I sacrifice an invader. Every time a dwarf screams for shells and crystal glass, I sacrifice. Every time a noble mandates a steel-plated bedroom, I sacrifice.

And it works. Like a charm. A bloody, gored-smeared charm.

Soon, I realized the necessity of these near-weekly offerings, and how the sadistic dwarves seem to love them. I installed grates to allow the blood and guts to splatter down into the lower levels, staining the living quarters crimson. The king bathed in carmine near-daily, spending all his time in the meeting area. The subterranean river runs red with gore, and the nobles demand mandates of ruby and bauxite and hematite to visually satisfy their thirst. The engravers are going mad with all sorts of demonic pictures, and the temple itself is stained.

I loved it. I loved every siege, for it meant more sacrifices. I murdered the human caravans so that they might fall into my traps. I provoked the wildlife into my snares. I would have Armok be exalted by my worship.

Soon I realized the madness, soon I realized the sanguine path on which I tread. I watched as the streets ran red with blood, as the mines flowed with red rivulets and dwarves went berserk with bloodlust. I realized what I must do.

I saved the game, removed an old 512 mb USB drive from my desk, and copied the file to its barren memory. I then deleted the original from my hard drive, took the stick to my back yard, and buried it.

As far as I know, it remains there today, slowly polluting the ground with its thirst.

– Author unknown

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The Story of Idenzatthud

Idenzatthud, also known as “Paddlejungle,” was glorious in my eyes.  It’s the best fortress I have ever created, mostly because it’s the only fortress I have ever created.  I plodded along, adding workshops and areas as I realized their critical importance in the game and trying to figure out what the heck you were supposed to do in order to get a military and a hospital up and going.  I even found time to smooth out a great hall in preparation for any epic acts that I could engrave on to the wall.

Oh we had goblin attacks, sure.  My effective tactic was to let my utterly worthless immigrants take their tools and mob the goblins until I won.  This had the benefit of free armor and a good way to cap the population.  And for a while, all was happy and kind of boring.  That is, until I learned of glorious, glorious, magma and all of its wonderful uses.  I had to have it.

After digging down about 122 levels, I found caverns, which I promptly walled up in order to not have to deal with them.  As it is with dwarves, of course one of my miners was stuck outside the walled in staircase and started to wander around the cavern until he died of thirst, I was disappointed at the loss of a pick, but oh well.

A few in-game months later, I finally found the magma sea and mined into a pillar so I could reach down to the magma and run a channel to make my magma furnace placement easier.  It was going pretty well, and I started reading about channeling on the wiki to see what I could do with it.  At about the exact point when I noticed that I shouldn’t do exactly what I was doing, my expedition leader mined out the last rocks holding back the molten rock.

I didn’t really see what happened, because of all the smoke, so I thought he might’ve escaped, until I noticed some oddly colored magma. It was molten copper.  Izen had a copper pick.  I quickly switched out his coffin for a memorial slab. Close enough, I suppose.

I set up the forges and started building copper armor and swords for my to be military. (My dwarves weren’t appreciating all the migrant deaths.)  After I sold about 200 mugs to a caravan (“I went to dwarf fortress and all I got was this stupid mug,”) I was feeling pretty good about myself as everything was in perfect order.  Then we got hit by another goblin ambush.

Before, these guys were no big deal.  My migrants with picks and axes could take them on with heavy casualties, but they still won fairly easily.  These goblins were different.  They had steel armor, flails, swords, and battle-axes and they knew how to use them.  I was feeling pretty cocky and sent my two full squads which had literally started training two days earlier, as their armor and weapons were being produced.  They stood no chance as the invaders cut through them like a scythe through wheat.  Blood was splattered all across the front of my fortress.

I panicked and raised the drawbridge, promptly launching one of about 60 idle chicks through the air to its death.  The goblins had no way inside, so I just had to wait for the armor and weapons to be made.  In short order I had two more full squads (with copper armor and weapons this time) waiting by the raised drawbridge in preparation for attack.  There was only one goblin outside; the rest were wandering the countryside killing my chickens.  I lowered the drawbridge and charged.

I watched in horror as about 10 seconds later, the goblin emerged from the blood and corpses completely unscathed.  I immediately ordered my drawbridge raised, but of course the bridge only was raised after he had run well past it, locking my remaining 30 dwarves inside with him.

At this point I had given up, and I ordered the great hall to be engraved so that hopefully some history would remain.  As the goblin gleefully chased my terrified dwarves and puppies down the halls, the fortress eventually grew silent, except for in the great hall.  One dwarf remained, and of course it was a noble…

This noble figured he’d try his hand at engraving, so I watched him engrave a few walls, and then the goblin found him.  The noble tried to run but the goblin just splattered his brains across my beautifully smoothed flooring.  At least he finished a few engravings.

The first thing I find he engraved was a circle, with no decorations or anything.  I viewed his other engravings and found two more circles, two engravings of reeds (which didn’t exist in the biome my fort was in) and two engravings of giant Axolotls (which have never existed or been relevant to my fortresses history.)

How incredibly anticlimactic.

So ended the story of Idenzatthud, a fortress whose downfall went unrecorded due to one noble’s artistic deficiency.

Why do Dwarves go Mad?

You have to look at it from their perspective. It’s easy to say that they’re snapping easily when you’re just looking at things from outside the monitor and reading events in lines on the screen.

When a dwarf gets a serious wound, though, they are likely to be maimed for life. It’s not so strange for extremely tough, previously self-reliant types of people to completely flip out when faced with that sort of thing.

And we’re not talking about ‘seeing a rat’. We’re talking about having the fortress that you slaved to create crawling with rats. We’re talking rats and vermin crawling over you while you sleep and eating the food out of your hands.

And don’t forget the other things. Portions of the fortress are covered in noxious, wretched miasmas of decay so thick that they actually obscure your view. Friends and relatives die regularly and are sometimes just left to rot on the ground. Wild raccoons and other horrible monsters are just waiting for the chance to rip out your throat. If you make a mistake or fail to meet a production order, the sheriff cuts you to pieces with an axe. Horrible creatures regularly crawl out of your drinking water and try to murder you in your beds. Filthy new immigrants are constantly being shoved into your fortress’ cramped quarters, forcing you to work yourself down to the bone to get new quarters ready and leaving you with barely enough food to get through the winter. And when food runs out, you’re reduced to grubbing for rats, beetles, and worms in order to survive.

And then, when inspiration finally strikes–when you finally a chance to do what you’ve been dreaming to do for your entire life, the one reason you really went through the hell of this horrible fortress, the one true Dwarven dream–when you finally feel inspiration strike you and can see the form of your artifact in your head, you end up wasting three months doing nothing as your incompetent leaders fail to provide you with the necessary materials. Eventually, the vision begins to fade and you realize you can no longer remember what the artifact you’d waited your entire life for even looks like. Wouldn’t you go mad, too?

Don’t ask why your dwarves go insane or throw tantrums. Ask how they manage to stay sane the rest of the time.

Written by Aquillion


I must start by saying that I am a cold, emotionless man. I’ve seen a lot of bad things, and I usually just give them a “meh”. I won’t cry at a movie and I won’t fawn over cute animals. This made me all the more shocked when I was genuinely moved by something that happened in my fortress, something I feel compelled to write about.

I had embarked on a fairly peaceful spot and for the first five years we had nary a goblin. I did some trading, pierced the aquifer and got a few gems and some silver and plodded along. I had but one squad in the beginning, with Zasit Avedineth, Axe Lord at it’s head. When those wasters of elves showed up with a giant jaguar I was only too happy to take it. It was immediately trained up and put into the service of Zasit Avedineth as a giant war jaguar (what other game has these?).

They trained together all day long, embarked on a few skirmishes and trained up all the new recruits. Anywhere the axe lord was, the jaguar was soon to follow. Everything was just peachy.

Then came Usmza Sadtusnung Obrazongong Sloron, dragon.

Immediately the whole military (about 30 out of 80 dwarfs, with several legendaries among them) was mobilized, but the dragon was too fast. Before he could reach the door of the fortress the drawbridge was raised, blocking the dragon’s entrance, but also locking half the military inside. In a ferocious battle, which involved lots of fire, shin punching and a particularly courageous dog biting the dragon in the head, the dwarfs slew the beast. It was not however, without causalities.

Some of the dwarfs had been caramelized, others had lost limbs, and the particularly courageous dog had bled out. The bridge came down and the survivors limped to the hospital. A couple of enterprising dwarfs dashed to the battlefield to pilfer the goodies of the fallen, but aside from that, the smoky wasteland was left alone. Then I saw As Kizestolon, Giant Jaguar. At first I was delighted – my Axe Lord must be around too. It took me a minute to realize what the reports confirmed. As Kizestolon had been trapped inside, while his master had been first to the dragon. Avedineth had only lost a leg in the scrap, but had bled to death in the aftermath and was dragged back to be returned to the stone from whence he came.


Maybe he knew what had happened, and maybe he didn’t, but I shed a tear for As Kizestolon sitting alone in the ash-strewn center of the burning forest, still the pet of Zasit Avedineth.

That’s loyalty.


– Art by Mcgormack

– Author unknown.

Âsax Masterjails, The Most Awesome Cave Swallowman Ever

About a year or so into my most recent embark, I received a message informing me that Rusmo Ômourog, a forgotten beast, (specifically, a shelled hippopotamus with external ribs and curly emerald hair) had been struck down.  Which was strange, since I was still dallying about on the surface, still paranoid from my last fort being annihilated by a fire-breathing pterodactyl thing.  Not long thereafter, I found out the cause:

“Âsax, Cave Swallow Man Spearman has bestowed the name Mudoung upon a tunnel tube shield!”

“Âsax, Cave Swallow Man Spearman has bestowed the name Zosbagnaxob Spug Akul upon a fungiwood spear!”

Unfortunately, it would appear Âsax either could not make up his mind, or was exceedingly forgetful; the blighter began renaming his weapons thereafter, at an alarmingly high rate, pausing the game and zooming into the unexplored blackness of the earth each time.  So I placed a note at the place I was forever being dragged to, and had my miners dig there. Âsax had to die.

There were two odd things when I found him at his camp.  Unlike his kin, Âsax was “friendly,” not “hostile.”  And he was a bit busy.  Specifically, he was locked in combat with Ejem Itvidsiñur Ipizocul, a massive, poison-spitting blob of ash. He apparently didn’t think killing one forgotten beast with a wooden spear and shield was enough.  And Âsax is winning; Ejem had a tail at one point, but Âsax has lopped it off, and Ejem’s body is red (mangled) at the time of writing.  Âsax, although “tired,” is unhurt.

I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do about Âsax.  I can’t let his obsessive renaming grind my game to a halt, but since he’s not hostile, I can’t attack him.  And the fact that he’s killed one and a half forgotten beasts to my zero makes me think that might not be wise.  Perhaps his obsessive renaming is related to his combat with Ejem; I’ll see if I can help him hasten the beast’s demise.

OK, this is getting ridiculous.  While waiting for some source of leather to make a quiver (for some reason, I’ve not seen a single caravan), Ana showed up.  Ana is “a great quadruped composed of coral” with three tails, a “gaunt appearance,” and deadly spittle.  Since it couldn’t reach me, it went straight for Âsax, whose third toe on his right foot is now broken and smashed open.  This is the only damage Ana and Ejem (who just won’t die despite being in the red) have done.
Let me re-iterate: he is trapped between two poison spitting Forgotten Beasts, and that’s all they’ve managed to do to him.  Maybe it’s a bug…


This is insane.  Lacking any major source of magma or water, I figured I’d just have my miners cut open an alternate route, and then hack Ana and Ejem, into pieces.  I mean, tearing a creature limb from limb will kill it eventually, right?

I soon found out this answer was “wrong.” As soon as I pierced through on ground level, Âsax decided he wanted to see the sky and flew like a maniac out of the cavern, with Ana and Ejem close behind.  I eventually managed to lure them into a side tunnel and seal the two forgotten beasts in (along with a fish dissector dwarf I’d used to distract them); my very own Hidden Fun Stuff.

Though no longer fighting the beasts, Âsax is still doing the obnoxious renaming every few minutes that started this whole mess.  My dwarves are ignoring the kill order; they have it on their job list, but are hanging out in the barracks instead.  They’ll obey other kill orders, though.  Since I don’t have any magma, and very little water, I can’t think of how to eliminate Âsax… or at least get him to shut up.  He’s presently chilling in my main hallway, showing benign interest in my dwarves’ activities.

I found out how to make the game not react to Âsax’s obsessive renaming; it had risen to twice a minute.  Now that that problem is solved, I’ll let him roam freely throughout my fort.
This was by far the weirdest series of events I’ve ever had happen to me personally in Dwarf Fortress.

Also, when sealing in Ejem and Ana, I forgot to seal their escape route back into the depths.  They’re back down there, beating up reptile men.  Whoops.  Well, as long as I dig carefully, not my problem…

…I can’t believe it.
There was a goblin ambush.  Master lasher Atu Wraithwhipped managed to do what three of the most appalling abominations in all of creation, two of them immortals, failed to do; kill Âsax.  Âsax defended the fortress as nobly as any of my actual soldiers, but evidently, his specialty was in dealing with freakish behemoths, not armed, armored goblins.
Those gobbo bastards managed to kill two of my most popular and useful dwarves as well; I may be looking at a fatal tantrum spiral thanks to them.
What a strange little tale.  Atu Wraithwhipped… I’ll remember that name, and if the fortress falls, I’ve got a goblin to hunt down in Adventurer mode.

Well, I made a copy to look at the legends mode:

571 artifacts are listed, all of them just different names Âsax gave to his fungiwood spear and tunnel tube shield.

Not much on the painfully unremarkable Atu Wraithwhipped.  He was born to unknown parents in 803 (present date is early 1055), and he’s a member of the Blotted Incest.  He has no home listed, and his only kills are Âsax and a stray cat, also in my fort.

Âsax was born in 1042, and his life was completely unremarkable until he slew Rusmo Mournfulcackled.  (Rusmo failed to kill a single creature before Âsax slew him in early 1053.)  Âsax, for his part, never stopped considering himself a member of his nameless tribe of cave swallowmen.  Due to Âsax’s efforts, said tribe is now listed on the legends screen, though it has no symbol or name.  Its history only records Ejem, Ana, and Atu Wraithwhipped becoming its enemies.

Oh, and I found out why no caravans, and only a smattering of migrants, have come.
My settlement, Reignstake, has truly been well named. The entire reign of dwarvern civilization is indeed at stake.

It is the last dwarvern settlement on the entire planet.

Just when I thought this game could get no stranger…

As soon as is possible, Âsax will be getting a shrine; I intend ensure that his remains and weapons are given a place of honor.

This will have to wait until the dwarves’ current tantrum spiral wears off. Until then, I plan to set up a far more brutal series of traps and surprises to deal with the Blotted Incest, involving cage traps and guard dogs.  I can’t exactly expand my military, though.  It consists of two dwarves, one of whom has been struck by melancholy.  The rest of my dwarves are needed for their non-military skills.  (Oddly, the melancholy dwarf has not committed, or sought to commit, suicide; he has been obsessively practicing in the barracks, but has refused both food and drink.  He’ll no doubt be dead soon, at any rate…)

Then again, I’ve got a nice little subterranean ecosystem going, independent of the bloodthirsty fiends of the underworld.  Now that I know why the Mountainhomes haven’t been sending caravans (because they’re dead to the last dwarf), and why the humans and elves have been ignoring me (because according to their records, I don’t exist), maybe I should just close up that bridge and be done with it.  Then I have only to deal with the abominations of the underworld, should I inadvertently break back into the subterranean ecosystems.

I’m down to fourteen dwarves now, including the aforementioned melancholy dwarf, and the ones not actively suicidal are mostly pretty close.

In short: I cannot dare dig too deep, lest the undying horrors below tear my people asunder.  I cannot sacrifice even the least of my people, for even they are needed to repopulate my nigh-annihilated people.  The rest of this world either cares nothing for my fate, or seeks to hasten the extinction of all dwarfkind.  The only glimmer of hope my people have ever borne witness to, an eccentric cave swallowman, lies dead by a goblin’s lucky strike.

This is the most Fun I’ve had in a long time.

Here is everything worthy of note from his legends description:  (Âsax is goblin-tounge for Masterjails, by the way, since the underground peoples use goblin as their communication language.)

Masterjails was a cave swallow man born in 1042.  He was of unknown parentage.

In the early autumn of 1053, Masterjails mortally wounded the forgotten beast Rusmo Mournfulcackled, who suffocated, with Squareluck the Tones of Safety in Reignstake.

[Yes, Âsax was 11 years old when he killed Rusmo.]

In the early summer of 1054, Moroserivers the Decent Salve received its name in Reignstake from Masterjails.

In the early summer of 1054, The Cyclopean Tar received its name in Reignstake from Masterjails.

[So on and so forth for many pages…]

In the early spring of 1055, Masterjails bled to death, slain by the goblin Atu Wraithwhipped with a silver whip in Reignstake.

Yeah, that’s pretty much his entire life according to legends mode.  It misses the months spent fighting undying abominations of ash and coral, though, dodging attack after attack, without suffering anything worse than a broken toe, but there isn’t much to say about him.  He only had thirteen years of life, though with them, he achieved more than the average elf does in a thousand.

I think the sheer ordinariness of him makes him all the more awesome.  He wasn’t chosen by some mighty god, or born to some ancient lineage.  He did not wield mighty artifacts or arcane magics.  He was a cave swallowman with a fungiwood spear and a tunnel tube shield, who dared to challenge the unspeakable… and won.

Written by KillerClowns


Dwarfs of Note

I’ve started playing again. Dwarfs of note:

“Hero,” who got his title in the last goblin invasion – only a small one, thank God. All my dwarfs were outside collecting wood, and they only just ran inside in time. Hero was trapped outside by a cruel twist of fate – he ran outside just as the drawbridge was swinging up, knocking him unconscious. He lay in the entrance halls while the multi-layered traps and wardogs took care of the advance party of trolls, and then he woke up just as the main host of enemies arrived at the gate. Grabbing up his crossbow he fired wildly into the scrum – with his first shot piercing the heart of the goblin leader. As the rest of the ungodly fiends ran for their lives, he chased after firing with every step, slaying a dozen goblins before the river. He returned home to a heroes welcome, and a title to match.

“The Butcher,” which is a lesson in what results if you let an initial population of 4 randy horses breed unchecked for a few years. The resulting 100-odd horses were starting to block up the corridors- at least 30 had adopted a lowly peasant and followed him everywhere. His description, however, said he didn’t like horses. So I made him into a butcher. Two seasons later and pretty much my entire fortress is flooded with blood, and I have three tanners working overtime to keep up with this one pissed off, horse hating slaughter machine. I have a couple of years worth of meat and leather armour for all my marksdwarfs though, so it’s well worth it. I also have about 40 cats… yummy.

“The Recruit,” who was a lone fisherman wandering the banks of the underground river fishing for cave lobster. His journeys had taken him further afield than usual, down an old abandoned (though stupidly unlocked) exploratory passage which led to a small far away beach, where he was ambushed by lizardmen. I switched to the military screen and recruited him- as he was in my initial batch of dwarfs, I’d made sure he’d got some small amount of military training, and an axe to carry. He smote the first lizardman with such a hefty blow that the corpse splattered blood over the wall on the far side of the river. He took down another, and another. The ground was littered with limbs and chucks, both from the invaders and the one lone soldier. Finally he fled in terror- down the long passage towards the squads of marksdwarfs I’d sent running as soon as the alarm was sounded. He made noble progress, but with only one leg left working, it was futile. The last invading lizardman caught up and tore his throat out, a heartbeat before being slaughtered by the squads. The Recruit lay there for a while, no doubt in terrible agony, with every part of his body damaged, before bleeding to death, just as the soldiers reached him.

Written by Poobar.  Source

My Encounter With a False God

So I’m not exactly an avid player of Dwarf Fortress. In fact, I haven’t even played fortress mode that much. Instead, I usually play adventure mode to find my Fun, and what happened tonight was something special, at least for me.

When the new update hit the scene, I decided to create a pocket world with a pretty long history of about 750 years, to see if I could find any crypts and artifacts. What I found was Tuftmatches, a fortress filled with ancient books.

Here’s an example of such a book:

Unfortunately, I had made the mistake of not learning how to read, so I don’t know what was in the books.

So I decided to enter the large building within a fortress, and imagine my surprise when before me stands the great deity Talde, clear as day!

Deciding not to waste any time, I immediately strike up a conversation with him.

He seemed nice enough, although he didn’t want to join me nor let me fight for his cause.

Hearing that, I decided to go outside and explore a bit more, when…

…What the hell?

This is where I started to get just a tiny bit suspicious, so I decided to take a closer look on his person, and well, let’s say the description was unexpected.

So I decide to look up Legends mode. Not finding much info on Talde (just the description), I take a closer look at some of the artifacts I found…

Abesp Frothygalls, huh? Well, let’s check him out and…

By Armok!

So there you have it. The god I met was actually demon from the beginning of time, who has tricked the world into thinking he is a god for over 700 years, writing books about himself to bypass the time.

(It turns out one of those books contained the spell to raise the dead. I might attack him with an army of zombies now.)

Written by SpinozaDreams

Roburky’s Dwarf Fortress Diary (Mirror)

Dwarf Fortress is a management game from another world. So detailed is its simulation of harsh and bloody dwarven existence that reading the creator’s development log is like reading updates from a deity as it puts together a new planet.

22nd May 2008: Handled talking to babies.
9th November 2008: Remembered to make ribs internal.
3rd January 2009: Wrote up organ strikes, but it keeps crashing when I hit the spleen.

You’ve likely already come to a conclusion whether you’re a person capable of delving beyond the alien interface to meet this amazing game for yourself, but before you make any further judgments, allow me to tell you a story of a band of dwarves who left their dwarven city, and established a new settlement that they called ‘SquashedBrains’.

I started this game shortly after Dwarf Fortress’ introduction of the third dimension, back in 2007. It was an exciting time for those who had played the previous versions, with lots of new features to experiment with. One of these was the ability to build constructions. Previously, you could only mine out the rock and create rooms out of what you left behind. Now you could build walls, and potentially make buildings of your own on the surface.

I felt it was clear that I should start a Tower of Babel project as soon as possible. How high could we go? Was there an upper limit to this world? What would happen if I reached it?

We began the construction next to our main fortress entrance. It was five tiles wide, and five tiles long, with a staircase in the corner. It was fiddly work, as constructed walls and floors had to be designated one tile at a time, but things were nevertheless progressing well. I had a team of very highly skilled masons working on it full-time. On the third floor, however, all of my masons got themselves stuck. They had chosen to build the walls before the floors, and had walked along the top of the walls of the level below, built a new wall on top of it, and left themselves no route back to the staircase.

I assigned some peasants to be emergency masons to try and finish the floor to let them out, but their unskilled hands were not working fast enough. My stranded dwarves were starving to death. Drastic measures were called for. I designated the wall they were standing on for demolition.

The result? Massive structural collapse. The screen is entirely obscured by clouds of dust and smoke. But it’s a kind of success. The masons were now lying on the grass outside the tower, unconscious but unhurt. The only casualty was my fish dissector, who died in the middle of the collapse, according to the message log. I presume he got hit in the head while passing by underneath, but I couldn’t really tell what happened with all the smoke.


It wasn’t until a whole game year later that I noticed what the single teal coloured stripy square was on every level of my fortress. Using the ‘look at’ command that gives you detailed information on the contents of a tile, I discovered that symbol meant ‘open space’. It seems that much of the tower had collapsed onto a single square, and punched a hole through my entire goddamned fortress. There is a gap in the floor of my tomb, my prison, my mighty statue party room, the mayor’s bedroom, and several stairways. Seven levels below the ground, beneath all of the holes, there is an almighty pile of stone and a pool of blood. That, I suspect, was the resting place of the fish dissector.

My dwarves are a practical people. We used the hole for an elegant solution to our stone clutter problem. Whenever you expand your mountain home, there is always the question of what to do with all of the stone that gets mined out. Once upon a time, we would create an enormous stockpile outside and carry them out one by one and stack them in orderly rows. Then I changed to ordering my masons to build stone blocks out of it all, which took up much less storage space, and could be used to construct higher quality buildings. Over the years, however, it still took up too much space.

But thanks to my failed career as a skyscraper architect, we now had a handy garbage chute on every level of the fortress. Some quick setting up of rubbish zones over the gap, and then designating some rock for dumping, and all the useless clutter in our home gets chucked down the hole to join the fish dissector’s bodily fluids at the bottom. A new age of efficiency for the fortress began.


Then the hydra came. Which was rather inconvenient. With all the ambitious construction projects going ahead, I hadn’t actually got around to developing a military to deal with the monsters that Dwarf Fortress throws at you.

I called all of my dwarves inside, forbade them from leaving, and prepared to press them all into emergency military service. The hydra sprinted across the map, directly towards my fortress entrance next to the collapsed tower. It forced its way through the front door, and was caught by my single cage trap as it charged across the entrance hall.

I was honestly surprised to see that work on a giant monster. My fortress was saved, but I now had the problem of an enormous multi-headed mythical creature in a little wooden cage. It was sitting in my animal stockpile alongside the cows and camels. I dug out a room a little way down the cliff from my fortress entrance, and put the hydra in there, surrounded with engraved pillars. It would be a shrine to the fortune of SquashedBrains.

As soon as this was done, however, a titan arrived. It entered the map behind a visiting dwarven trade caravan. Their armed guard immediately sprang into action, and the most unbelievably epic battle that I have ever observed – through the medium of textual wound and status readouts – took place.

The dwarves piled on to the approaching titan, but it rapidly killed the majority, and sent the remainder fleeing for their lives. This left a single caravan guard to fight the colossal text entity on his own. This axe-dwarf was described as ‘unbelievably agile’, and was fighting the giant creature bare-handed, his weapon having been irretrievably lodged in the titan’s shoulder early on in the struggle. This duel went on for days, possibly months of in-game time. They were both tired and over-exerted, and would occasionally slip into unconsciousness. The titan was dripping in dwarf blood from head to toe. There were steel axes sticking out of his arms and hands, and he was trying to beat down the dwarf using a steel helmet stolen from a dwarf corpse. Eventually, finally, brilliantly, the dwarf was victorious, and the titan fell.

My one actual, trained soldier slept through the entire event. All he got to see of the titan was its bones being made into crossbow bolts as the saviour of SquashedBrains and his caravan went riding off into the sunset. Having only narrowly avoided destruction by two different giant monsters by sheer chance, I decided that I needed a military. I drafted almost half of my population into the army and set them training. They didn’t manage to get much training done before another calamity struck: a goblin horde arrived, and was going to besiege the fortress. Could my luck possibly hold?

Back in 2007, there was a bug with Dwarf Fortress that meant that goblin sieges often didn’t actually attack your fortress. If they didn’t see a dwarf, they would mill around on the edges of the map, and eventually go home.

These goblins did see a dwarf, however, because most of my untrained army decided to launch an attack on the legions of mounted goblins and their superhumanly tough human swordsmen leaders. Needless to say, the eager dwarf combatants were cut to pieces without landing a single blow. Attempting to mitigate the destruction, I marked their bodies and equipment as forbidden, which would prevent the civilian dwarves from coming out to retrieve them. By the time the goblin army left, there was was a field of rotten dwarf corpses spread out in front of the fortress. I decided, with the enemy gone, that it was probably safe to let the other dwarves bury the poor bastards.

But Dwarf Fortress is designed for even this eventuality. It turns out that dwarves react to walking out into a battlefield covered in putrified blood and rotting corpses by vomiting in horror. There’s far more spew out by the river now than there was blood in the first place.

Not all was bodily fluids and horror, however. One of my soldiers had been looking after a baby, which survived the siege. Her soldier friend then adopted the child, and then later had a baby herself. So she was soon carrying two babies with her everywhere. Needless to say, she really wasn’t getting a lot of soldiering done. I decided I would turn her back into a civilian until the kids grew up a bit.

In fact a lot of the dwarfs that died had friends. Friends who had to pick up rotting chunks of their former buddies off the ground, and have consequently been incredibly miserable. They’ve also been periodically getting angry at the world and smashing random stuff in the fortress. One dwarf lost one too many friends in the battle for him to recover. He went mad and threw himself 13 levels down the garbage chute. He’s now lying unconscious at the bottom with his legs smashed to pieces. Nobody wants to help rescue him.

The aftermath of war is horrible. And in the game.

With so many dead, incompetent, war heroes, I needed a proper place to bury them. I had recently found an underground bottomless chasm, and I decided a mass tomb overlooking the edge would be a fitting and impressive location. Between each coffin was a pillar lovingly engraved with images of cackling goblins and dying dwarves.

When it was finished, I started digging channels on the layer above, to divert water from a nearby river closer to the main fortress so I could make a well. But I accidentally cut the channel into the tomb. The river is now flowing through the tomb, creating a waterfall into the chasm.

One dwarf was caught inside when it happened, burying her friend, and she has been swimming against the flow for a season, now. She’s going to die, but at least she’s improving her swimming skill, and has been “comforted by a lovely waterfall”.

War was bad. But fantasy fauna would be worse.

A dragon arrived.

I suppose I survived the first two giant monster attacks through luck, and situations outside my control. SquashedBrains was out of luck, it seems, and no random occurrence was going to make this dragon attack easier on the fortress.

I had, of course, made some preparations for monster attacks. I had removed what was a very easily accessible stairway direct to every floor on my fortress, and instead put the western entrance to my fortress inside my lead tower of towering doom. On the first floor down I had set up a barracks and an archery range, so my remaining marksdwarves-in-training would never be far away from an attacking beast. They were still entirely untrained, but it was the best we can do that this stage.

Ramul Kortilrane the dragon swooped down straight towards the base of my tower. I called the dwarves back inside, and locked the doors. He arrived and stood there between the decorative statues by the gate.

I wasn’t going to be bullied off my own land. I sent the marksdwarves out to the ground floor of the tower. I had cut some fortifications into the walls on this level so that my crossbow-armed dwarves could shoot out at nearby targets. They marched up the stairs, … then cowered in the back corner away from the dragon. The dragon got very excited by this. He knocked over a statue, and began breathing fire all over the tower. Then he leapt straight up to the windows and melted the dwarf standing furthest forward.

I unlocked the door and instructed cowardly marksdwarves to get back outside. There was no point risking lives if they weren’t going to use the fortifications properly. I don’t really know what happened next, as everything was obscured by smoke. But it must have been a truly heroic battle, because, when it cleared, both the dragon and all of my marksdwarves were dead.

Of course, there were quite a few things on fire, too. And that fire was spreading. A fire spreading in ASCII. I lost an additional nine dwarves before I even realised what was happening. Developer Tarn Adams has created some amazingly detailed systems for temperature and fire in this game, but teaching dwarves how to react to those conditions is still on his to-do list. For all the intricacy and cleverness of the dwarf simulations, they had no way of dealing with a burning fortress. Soon another goblin army arrived to siege the fortress. Their work would not be difficult. The entire thing was ablaze, and my sixteen remaining dwarves were all bedridden, incapacitated with severe burns.

And that is how the tale of the fortress of SquashedBrains came to an end.

[Get Dwarf Fortress here, and check out the video tutorials here.]

Written By RPS on June 14th, 2009 at 8:40 pm.


Stories of murderous carp have been a part of the Dwarf Fortress lore ever since they were introduced. Here are just a few of those stories:


I just recently started playing the 40d version. There weren’t any carp in the version I used to play years ago.  I thought the claims of murderous carp decimating dwarves were exaggerated, until I lost my entire embark party to a single carp…

– Kraega

Once I lost my seven dwarves to a river full of carp and immediately reclaimed. The game gave me 70 dwarves. It turned out that even they weren’t enough.

Do not underestimate these foul riparian beasts!

– darkflagrance

I remember this one carp, that had killed over 100 dwarves, by sitting in a pond and eating them while they passed to get their pig tail sock. It got to the point where I was sending out my whole army, only to have them pulled in and drowned. In retrospect, my mistake was not using crossbow dwarves, but still. In the end, I decided to boot up the companion, overpower a dwarf, give him 100 swimming, strip him, throw him in, and let them do battle. THAT is the only way to injure a carp.

– Randomonioum

I lost my first fortress to carp.

They killed a hunter who was walking around. Then they killed the peasant who came to claim his garb. Then they gravely wounded the next peasant. At this point I’d finally figured out what was happening, so I made their items forbidden and cut my losses.

Except that I hadn’t dug a well yet. Dwarves kept coming to the river for water to treat the injured peasant and ended up dying or getting seriously hurt, which in turn caused more dwarves to get more water and… you see where this is going. I didn’t figure out how to make zones until it was far too late, and the resulting tantrum spiral caused my dwarves to descend to a level of barbarism that played out much like Bioshock under the Mountain.

So I guess the lesson is to build wells and flee from the terrifying carp.

– monk12

I literally stopped playing the game for a year due to the unkillable supercarp in every source of water available. They swam in the channels I dug, they muscled their way through the grates, and they killed my dwarves dead with their giant carpy teeth (thus polluting the drinkable water).

At some point it got so bad that in order to get fresh water, the dwarves had to go a bit upriver. Then they got devoured by carp there, thus polluting the water.

So they had to go a bit more upriver to get fresh water (ignoring the pond I built and closed off with an actual floodgate this time; I’m still not sure why they ignored it); at which point they got killed by a carp, thus … I’m sure you can see where this is going.

At that point, the strewn out chain of dwarves trying to get past the waterlogged corpses to fresh water was attacked by goblins and hacked to pieces. It was one of the most ridiculous chains of events I’ve ever experienced.

– Marcin

My dwarves worked vigorously for years on an impressive underground canal system unmatched by anything save Roosevelt’s TVA. The final step in its construction was the channeling out of the thin strip of rock that separated the canal from the river. By itself it was a precarious task, as it required building stairs two z-levels down a cliff face. The river happened to be embedded in sheer walled canyon. But that’s not all; the river was swarming with sadistic carp. Fears aside, this canal needed completion, so the first miner goes down the stairs and begins channeling. The first channel is dug out, and the river back floods into the canal, sucking the water, and incidentally the carp, toward it.

Instantly the river flares up frothing white as the carp surround the miner on all sides and go absolutely mad. Chunks fly everywhere and the miner disappears in the bedlam. The site is now more dangerous than a room full of berserk goblin hammer lords as the carp are sucked up against the grate of the canal entry in worrying numbers.

However, the show must go on, and three more miners are sent in, each meeting the same fate. It is then that I notice that that most recently fallen miner has a child, and that child became apparently curious of the whereabouts of her mother. Before I can do anything, the child is already at the channel entry, investigating the puddles of blood and floating bodies stuck to the grate. The carp have at her, and instead of running, she sits down and cries. I watch in horror as the child defiantly manages to avoid be pulled into the river, and is slowly nibbled and bitten to agonizing death by the insidious carp. The child dies in place after having every limb removed one by one.

I threw up in my mouth a little bit, and sent in my legendary super-agile miner to finish the job. He dug that channel so fast the carp didn’t even notice his presence. A hatch cover was placed over entrance to the stairwell and forbidden, forever. The child’s bones can still be seen in a pile on the banks of the mighty channel—now named in her honor.

– Joel Clark

Further reading: