Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dwarf Fortress: Finding the perfect embark zone

One of the most challenging aspects of Dwarf Fortress is simply finding where you should build your fortress. Typically, a lush, calm forest near a river is as good a place as any for a newcomer. But have you thought about what you will need later during that fortress? Here are some things that an ideal site would offer:

A source of metalPreferably Iron (Ores include: Hematite, Magnetite and Limonite). You should not worry about the depth of metal, as long as your site has metal - you should be able to find it. Note that sharp weapons are best made from Steel or Iron, while blunt weapons are best made from Silver or Copper.

Flux Stone
if paired with iron, you can easily produce Steel - one of the strongest metals available.

No aquifer
An aquifer is an entire layer of water found in the ground. This makes it very difficult to dig, and unless you are intentionally trying to dig through it, it should be avoided. (Note: You can disable aquifers for world generation, but you must generate a new world)
High savagery means many giant creatures, or sentient beings like Badger Men. In calm areas, you will find what you would consider standard creatures. Jaguars, Elephants, Bears... Benign areas are typically docile, but you can usually find creatures from Neutral biomes within Benign areas.

Similar to Savagery, and in fact they are paired together, you should find a place of appriate alignment. Blue-colored zones are Good, green, yellow, and other standard colors are Neutral, and purple/pink biomes are Evil. Good biomes will have Centaurs, Harpies, and Unicorns. Evil biomes will have Zombies and Skeletons, and even more strange creatures.
    You basically don't want a cold climate unless you are specifically looking for a challenge. Cold climates basically mean that your water source will freeze during winter, or any particularly cold season. Water will not freeze unless the tile is considered 'above ground'. Building a well over a tile of water keeps the water below considered 'above ground', so you will need to create an underground well to keep a water supply through the winter. Hot temperatures imply that water will evaporate from ponds and open sources, but they are typically not an issue.

    Would you prefer a
    river, or the lake?
    Overall Climate
    Climate combines savagery, alignment, temperature and other things like rainfall, elevation, and biome. Typically, you do not need to worry about where you embark. But if a specific creature bothers you, such as Badgers, you should consider a different climate. Badgers only live in areas that are warm year-round, so embarking in a tropical forest likely won't have badgers.

    Water Source
    Having a water source is not mandatory, but it certainly helps. Water can be found in caverns beneath the earth at any biome, but with that you must deal with the denizens within. If you embark at an area with infinite water, such as a river, brook, lake, or ocean, you have potential for unlimited energy via machinery as well as an infinite water supply for drinking. But your dwarves want booze, so even that is not very important.

    Pressing [Tab] on the embark screen will bring you to several useful menus, one of these is Neighboors. The higher the listing, the closer the civilization. Some areas may have elves which the Dwarves are at war with, so it is important to know about your neighbors before choosing an embark location. Note that Kobolds cannot be seen on the Neighbors menu, but are still classified as a sentient race as far as the game is concerned.

    Tools to ensure resources
    If you want to ensure you will be able to find the raw materials you are looking for, such as iron ores, you can use the tool DFProspectAll. This is included in with the tool DFHack. Consider the following resources:
    • Plump Helmets can be eaten raw, cooked, or brewed into booze. They can also be grown all year long. This is by far the most useful and versatile underground crop available.
    • Pig Tails can be planted in Summer and Autumn, and can be turned into thread or brewed into booze.
    • Hematite, Limonite, and Magnetite are all ores of Iron. Without any of these, you will need to rely on trading to produce both iron and steel
    • Bituminous Coal is useful because smelting it consumes one unit of coal, and produces two units of coal. With this, you do not need to burn wood to maintain a metal industry. 
    For my next entry, I will offer some tips to what you should bring along on your adventure.