Slaves to Armok II: Dwarf Fortress

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Slaves to Armok II: Dwarf Fortress
Beta Project
Developer Bay 12 Games
Theme Fantasy
Influences Dungeon Keeper, Miner VGA, Hack, SimCity(?)
Released 2006 Oct 08
Updated 2023 Oct 3 (v0.50.11)
Licensing Freeware, Closed source
P. Language C++
Platforms Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
Interface ASCII, Tiles, Keyboard, Mouse
Game Length Open ended
Official site of Slaves to Armok II: Dwarf Fortress

Dwarf Fortress is a computer game for Windows, Mac, and Linux that combines certain aspects of roguelike games and strategy games. The game is currently in the alpha stage of development, but more versions are continually being added on. The current version is fully playable.


Dwarf Fortress is a successor to Slaves to Armok: God of Blood by Bay 12 Games. The earlier game was a more traditional "hack and slash" roleplaying game, with a 3D graphical interface. Dwarf Fortress discarded Armok's 3D graphics for a tileset based on ASCII characters and expanded play to incorporate an economic and strategy mode, in addition to more conventional roguelike roleplay.

Development on Dwarf Fortress started in October 2002, and the first version was released in August 2006. The game has garnered substantial attention for a freeware release still in the alpha stage, with a review in the December 2006 issue of PC Gamer UK, an article on popular website Eurogamer, and multiple extremely long threads in the Something Awful and Penny Arcade internet forums. Development is active, with 20 releases in the first two months, and a small but robust testing community providing feedback.


Prior to play, a world must be generated: each world is uniquely constructed, and any events which take place during play will alter the world in subsequent games. World creation in Dwarf Fortress is quite elaborate: terrain is fractally-generated, then erosion is simulated, and wildlife, towns, and other sites are placed. Each site also has a history specific to it. This world-creation process can take anywhere from seconds to days, greatly dependent on the size and age of the world you want.

The game offers two modes of play: "Dwarf Fortress" mode, in which the player builds a dwarven mountain settlement, and "Adventurer" mode, in which the player controls an individual in typical roguelike manner. Only one of the two modes can be actively played in a given game world, although fortresses built in prior games can be visited by adventurers in subsequent games.

Though not necessarily a gameplay mode, there is also "Legends" mode. This mode allows you to explore the history of your world, inspecting specific individuals, sites, and civilizations. You can even trace the impact of your fortresses and adventurers. It also has export options so that legends can be viewed in a more user-friendly browser.

Dwarf Fortress mode

The initial settlement party consists of seven dwarves. The player has a number of points to spend on resources (food, weapons, armor, equipment, etc) and skills for settlers. Once these decisions have been made, the settlers arrive and begin their work.

There is a large variety of tasks that can be performed in the game. Some are basic and unsurprising, such as mining, woodcutting, metalsmithing, masonry, farming, and cooking; others are more esoteric, such as soapmaking, fish-cleaning, engraving, and gem cutting. A dwarf's "career" will generally be based on the skill he or she practices most.

Upon arriving at their mountain, the player directs the dwarves indirectly by creating jobs. Jobs are created by designating work areas. The marking of an area for wood-chopping creates one "chop down tree" job for every tree in that area. If a stockpile for wood is created, a "haul lumber to stockpile" job is created whenever there is a free log and a free space in the stockpile. Any dwarf with the appropriate skill may try to do a job. Higher skill in a given job may result in the dwarf doing it faster (such as with mining) or better (in the case of crafting).

As they excavate their fortress the dwarves will generally have to create living space, find a way to produce food (which generally means some form of farming and irrigation), secure access to water and alcohol, and build workshops to create valuable goods to trade for essentials. They will also encounter hostile creatures and monsters against whom they must defend themselves; this generally means organizing a military. As the fortress grows, additional dwarves will arrive, providing more labor and the possibility of increased specialization.

As the game proceeds, players will encounter traders from foreign civilizations, dwarven nobles who place demands on the populace, dangerous creatures from both inside and outside the mountain, goblin sieges, maniacal dwarven artisans, and a variety of other special events.

Adventure mode

In "Adventure mode", the player controls an individual character, such as the common dwarf, human, or elf, but also a range of other beings. This mode is more like traditional roguelike games. At present, it is fairly minimal; Fortress mode has received the bulk of the developer's attention.

Adventurers can be given several combat-related skills: shield use, armor use, ambushing, wrestling, and any of several weapon skills. Starting gear for adventurers cannot be chosen directly, but is based on what skills are chosen.

Adventurer mode revolves around getting quests from mayors or kings, or just wandering around slaughtering things. Quests involve killing monsters found in dungeons and caves and provide no specific reward. There is no real "goal" per se, other than survival. It is completely open-ended.

Human towns have stores where you can buy weapons, armor, food, and other items. You can also assemble a party of adventurers by talking to townsfolk and asking them join your group.

Combat is revolved around targeting specific body parts to cut off body parts, stab through organs, and give yourself chances to execute the finishing blow, or perhaps leave them paralyzed so you don't have to worry about them. Each weapon has different advantages, and even without a weapon your Adventurer can be a dangerous creature. Hand combat is a viable choice, as it can be used to choke, gouge, and throw your enemy to the ground. Some can even explode an arm through a simple kick.

Ongoing development

Dwarf Fortress already offers quite detailed gameplay, and its developer has an extensive list of intended future features (which can be found here). A very abbreviated list of intended features includes:

  • Magic system based on a creation myth
  • More extensively-detailed civilizations
  • Greater automation of player management tasks
  • Fleshing out Adventurer mode
  • More elaborate goals for both Adventurer and Fortress mode
  • More extensive use of generated world history
  • Artifact system rehaul

The modding community is still active, and mods that add entire races, civilizations, weapons, and monsters are often updated.

External links

Game and resources