Dwarf Fortress – Basic Guide for New Players

A short guide to get you going in DF.

Newbies Guide to Basics

Pre Game / World Building

  • As soon as your world finishes generating click on “Play Now”.
  • Click on “Fortress mode”.
  • Click on “Find embark location”.

Now you will see a menu open and a lot of options… do this:

  • Savagery = calm
  • Spirit = good (or default)
  • Temperature = medium
  • Flux = yes
  • Aquifers (light/heavy) = no
  • Soil = “<= some”
  • River = “yes”

Now click on “begin” and this will search the entire world for a place that matches your description. The larger the world, the longer it will take. Next find the areas highlighted with bright green that match your search parameters. Click on one area, if you don’t like it you can RMB to go back and try another. As soon as you are happy with the general look click “Embark”. The default size is 4×4, but I suggest you try 2×2. This compresses the map… it will still look roughly the same, but it will be 1/2 the size. This means you won’t have to scroll much to see everything on your screen.

I suggest you try everything I’ve written until now in a pocket size world. Try 4×4, 3×3, 2×2 embark sizes to see which one you like best.

What Now? This!

Click to enlarge…

The steps highlighted in green should be completed before the caravan arrives.

  • As soon as you spawn in make sure the game is paused.
  • Set zones.
  • Set labor.
  • Cut trees in a large area.
  • Set an area to deposit wood.
  • Plan your fortress
  • Build a Farm.
  • In order: Carpenter’s Shop, Still, Mason’s workshop, Gem Cutter, Machinist.
  • Assign your expedition leader as the: book keeper, manager, and broken. Give him a chair.
  • Loop: beds, chests, closets, barrels, chairs, wheelbarrow
  • Loop: doors, mechanisms, altar, tables.
  • Build individual dormitories. Minimum size is 2×2 or 1×5 each room needs a closet, chest, bed, and a door.


  • Try to build as far as possible from enemies.
  • Large rooms (over 7×7) need support structures or else the roof will cave-in.
  • Digging under / towards a water source will flood the area.
  • Tiny button next to the map you can toggle for water level info. [1/7] you can walk, [2/7] you can build, [3/7] cannot build, but you can walk, [>5/7] swimming time, [7/7] water goes from floor to ceiling.
  • Keep digging downwards to find magma / lava. It’s deeper than you think. So keep digging.
  • You are building a fortress, as such you will need a moat / ditch, and a drawbridge. If enemies come just raise the bridge.
  • Dead animals, dispose of them ASAP. They will release miasma / stench and make your dwarfs very unhappy quick.
  • Place your food prep / stock in separate areas that you can quickly shutdown / shutoff / dismantle if need be.
  • Most shops require a 3×3.
  • Before you strike the earth, pause the game, plan ahead. Set up the entire layout until this point.
Jan Bonkoski
About Jan Bonkoski 962 Articles
Jan Bakowski aka Lazy Dice, was always interested in gaming and writing. His love of gaming began with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64) back in 1998. He’s been making game guides since 2012. Sharing his gaming experience with other players has become not only his hobby but also his job. In his free time, he plays on Steam Deck.

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