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DF2014:Adventure mode quick start

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This article is about the current version of DF.

This guide provides step-by-step instruction for those who have never played Dwarf Fortress in Adventure Mode before. It assumes that you have already installed the game and can navigate the menus on your own, but no significant knowledge of how to play Fortress Mode is required.

Read the full adventure mode documentation for additional detail.

Common UI Concepts[edit]

About Key Symbols

This document and most documents on the wiki use key symbols that look like t to indicate what keys are used for an operation. Note that these are case sensitive. In order to save space, Shift+t will be written as T. So t means "press the 't' key without the shift key" and T means "hold down shift and press the 't' key". Lowercase and uppercase keys will almost never perform the same function, so it is important to use the correct key. Sequences of keys will be written with dashes between them. So a-b-C means "press 'a', then press 'b', then hold shift and press 'c'".

Cursor Movement, Menu Selection, and Navigation

Esc Go back to the previous screen/menu
Change active menu option or move cursor
- + Alternate menu selection keys
Enter Select menu option

Sometimes you use the directional keys and Enter to make menu selections, but sometimes you will need to use the alternate selection keys (- and +) to make menu selections. Generally speaking, when dealing with menus, if the directional keys don't work try -/+.

Esc will almost always take you back to the previous screen until you get to the top level of the UI, at which point it will display the options menu.

World Generation[edit]

Some custom worlds which are interesting for fortress mode may be annoying for adventure mode for various reasons such as few civilizations, low population, certain races not existing, lack of access to metals, or history being so far advanced that many fortresses and towns have been abandoned.

For your first game it's best to start with a generic world to avoid potential problems. You can come back to an existing world once you have the hang of things.

See World generation if you need help with world generation.

For your first game...

Generate a world using Create New World! with:

  • World Size is Medium
  • History is Short
  • Number of Civilizations is High
  • Number of Sites is High
  • Number of Beasts is Medium
  • Natural Savagery is Medium
  • Mineral Occurrence is Frequent

These settings should help avoid the aforementioned problems.

Character Creation[edit]

Race and Civilization[edit]

For your first game...

Select Human of some civilization (not outsider).

The first step in starting an adventure mode game is to choose the race (and civilization) of your adventurer. All three races can complete the same quests.

  • Civilized Humans begin with bronze, iron, or silver weapons and can use any of the items sold by shopkeepers (who, for the time being, are only found in human towns and only sell human-sized clothing/armor). They also start with the widest variety of weapon skills. This is probably the best race to use when starting out.
  • Human Outsiders can only start with Spear User and Knife User as weapon skills, and they cannot start with Armor User or Shield User. They also start out literally naked with no clothing. Be aware this extends to backpacks, which are very difficult to find in shops. Bandit camps are likely your best bet to locate one.
  • Dwarves have the advantage of being able to go into a martial trance when fighting multiple foes at once. They are the only race which can start with steel weapons, but they wear "small" sized clothing (like goblins and elves) which means that they're unable to wear human clothing and armor found in shops.
  • Elves start with very weak wooden weapons and have a more limited list of weapon skills during character creation. They have the advantage that they have higher natural speed. Like dwarves they wear small sized clothing so will have the same problem finding suitable armor in shops. Finally, while this is of limited benefit, they are at peace with the wilderness and therefore will never be attacked by wild animals.


For your first game...

Select Demigod as your status. Even as a demigod you will likely die early and often anyway.

You can then choose to start as either a Peasant, Hero or Demigod. Each offers progressively more points to spend on attributes and skills. These three options essentially amount to how difficult it is to get started, so to make things easier for your first game you may want to just pick "demigod".

Starting Attributes[edit]

These are the attributes you start with. They will go up as your skills increase which means that many of them can be raised in game, sometimes rather easily. Agility, Toughness, and Strength are probably the most important, in that order. Endurance keeps a character from getting exhausted too quickly in battle, and Social Awareness increases the number of followers you can have at one time.

Other attributes to keep in mind in the future: Focus helps with Archer, Observer, and Ambusher. Willpower helps characters resist exertion/pain effects. Spatial Sense helps combat skills. Kinesthetic Sense helps with most skills involving any movement at all. These are less important to start out with, though, because they can be raised by doing various things in game, some of which are explained in the tips section.

Some attributes like Musicality are currently completely useless. (For more, see Adventurer Mode - Attributes)

For your first game...

Select the following attributes:

  • Superior Strength
  • High Agility
  • High Toughness
  • High Endurance
  • Very Low Analytical Ability
  • Superior Willpower
  • Very Low Creativity
  • Very Low Patience
  • Very Low Linguistic Ability
  • Very Low Musicality
  • Above Average Social Awareness

The others are either less important, easier to raise by doing things in game, or totally useless. Note that you won't have enough attribute points to increase all of these unless you set status to Demigod.

Analytical Ability, Creativity, Patience, Linguistic Ability, and Musicality are all mostly or completely useless, so turning them down gives you enough points to do all this. Willpower is so important because willpower lets you resist passing out due to injuries and, to a lesser extent, helps prevent exhaustion, so raising it up to Superior will not only kill two birds with one stone, but will also give you the ability to reach extremely high willpower levels. It also helps with Crutch Walker in case you lose or break a leg.

Later you may find that you want to start with different attributes, but these are a good safe starting point. For example, you may find that later you don't care about the extra follower from Social Awareness and want to increase Spatial Sense or something instead, but for purposes of getting through this tutorial alive the extra follower will help.

Read up on attributes for more information.

Starting Skills[edit]

These are what you start out with for skills, though you can increase them and develop others by doing things in game. The most important in the beginning are a specific melee weapon skill (such as Swordsman), and defensive skills like Shield User, Armor User, and Dodger.

Defensive skills are absolutely critical if you don't want to die instantly. (See combat skills for more info.) Observer is important for avoiding ambushes, which often mean instant death if sleeping, and Swimmer helps to avoid drowning. Others such as Fighter are useful but increase rather easily on their own in game. Novice Reader is important, not only if you wish to become a Necromancer (as there is currently no way of raising this skill) but because without it you are unable to read signs, which can be very inconvenient, and can make some quests harder to complete.

For your first game...

Select the following starting skills:

  • Proficient Swordsman (feel free to substitute a different melee weapon skill for this)
  • Adequate Observer
  • Novice Swimmer
  • Proficient Shield User
  • Proficient Armor User
  • Proficient Dodger
  • Novice Reader

The rest of the skills are relatively easy to raise in game or aren't that important at the beginning. Note that you won't have enough skill points to select all of these unless you previously selected Demigod as your status.

As with attributes, you may later find that you want to experiment with different skill point allocations, but these are some good safe starting choices for purposes of getting through the tutorial.

Read up on skills for more information.


Key Reference

Most of the key commands you will need are noted in the text, but refer to the quick reference guide if you need to look up the key for a particular action.

Background doesn't matter too much, although if you're Locally Important, you'll start off right in a mead hall (as opposed to having to walk to one as a peasant), which usually contains plenty of weaponry and armor for you to take. You'll also be a hearthperson, who can take orders from the lord or lady in the mead hall.

Your name and gender don't impact your character's ability, so feel free to do whatever you want with those.


Once you have finished character creation, hit the Esc key at any time and select Save Game to save your game. You can then come back to it later by using the Continue Playing option in the main menu.

Setting Off[edit]

Talking to someone.

You will usually start your adventure in a peasant hut (if you're a Peasant) or a mead hall or keep (if you're Locally Important). You can talk to nearby people using the k key, and Inquire about any troubles to learn of any quests you can take on. Some of the more common types you may be told about:

  • Beasts are any kind of creature that may be harassing people. The type of beasts range from vampires living amongst the inhabitants of a site, all the way up to titans and other mythical creatures.
  • Bandits are groups of people who menace people in nearby sites. They usually hang out in camps (shown by a ) on the map).
  • Criminals are similar to bandits, except they operate out of a site, such as a hamlet or dark pit.

Note that you have to press k each time you want to continue the conversation, and select the appropriate ongoing conversation. If someone else is said to know where to go, you may ask for the whereabouts of that person through Ask for directions (new menu)

Fast Travel[edit]

Alone in the dark...

Avoid traveling in the wilderness at night, particularly when you are alone.

Fast Travel screen. This adventurer is in a hamlet, with houses to the right and the mead hall visible in the upper-left corner of the hamlet. The asterisk in the middle of all the houses represents a group, in this case a group of unfriendly goblins. The zoomed-out world map is on the right.

So far you've been traveling around at normal scale, but this can be very slow for traveling between geographical regions.

Using T will open the fast-travel screen and enable you to roam the land very quickly. Notice the uppermost bar indicating the position of the sun.

Use m to open a zoomed-out overview map to further help you navigate. This key cycles between the most-zoomed-out "sepia tone" world map and no secondary map when traveling between sites, and in sites it cycles between a list of notable buildings where you're standing, the region map (your main map when not near a site), and the most-zoomed-out world map.

Finding Some Muscle[edit]

Much of the time, especially at the beginning, you need some companions to watch your back. The best place to find some is at a fortress, keep, or mead hall. Fortresses will be marked by a O on the region and world maps. On the site-level map, the fortress entrance will be marked by an 8 or ∞ in the outer wall. Keeps are in towns, and are a 3x3 building with a path leading from the entrance, usually surround by a large, encircling wall. Mead halls are found in hamlets, and are usually in a 3x3 yellow/brown square by itself, although sometimes it's integrated with the main housing area (in any case, the mead hall will be evidenced by a bright magenta name in the list of notable buildings).

No companion left behind...

When fast-traveling, make sure that all of your companions are near you or some may be left behind. If you've left behind companions, an asterisk will appear on the map where you previously were, and may even try to join up with you.

Move next to the entrance of your chosen source of soldiers and hit d to exit fast travel. You may need to walk around a bit to find the entrance. Once inside, if the location is not abandoned, you will find soldiers milling around. Use k to talk to them and select Ask listener to join you (new menu). Make sure you ask them to go on an adventure, not to lead you to some location. At first you will only be able to get three followers, but this is enough for now.

If the location is abandoned, leave and try another one.

Walk some distance away from the fort (or walk on the path out the keep until the path changes in material, or don't bother getting out if you're in a mead hall) and go back to the fast travel screen with T.

Getting Some Rest[edit]

Going bump in the night...

Beware of sleeping in the wilderness at night! If you have to sleep outside, only do so if you have companions. Even if you do have companions, it will usually be better to travel drowsy until you reach a fort or town where it's safe to sleep.

At this point you may have traveled enough that your character is tired. When your adventurer becomes tired, as indicated by the Drowsy attribute, it's time for some sleep. Move to a settlement of some sort, go into a building, and use the Z key to bring up the sleep menu.

If you are in a private house, you must first ask the owner for permission before you can sleep. If a commoner is blocking you from entering his home, use the s key to crawl under his legs, and then the same key to stand back up.

You are also probably hungry or thirsty by this time, indicated by the Hungry or Thirsty attributes respectively. As you should know, when this appears its time for a snack. To eat or drink, press e and locate some food - it can be anything, as long as it is actually food. You can "eat" something like a sword, but it will say "You lick the sword", and you will not get less hungry or thirsty(unless it has water covering on itVerify).

Thirsty in the rain

If your character is thirsty, and it is raining, even if you do have water with you; drink the water coverings. This will help you to save water for when it is not raining, especially when you are traveling a big distance. Press e like you normally would and scroll all the way to the bottom. You can also drink blood from wounds - maybe a little salty in real life, but in dwarf fortress, it works. Note that if you drink vampire blood, you will turn into a vampire, but this early in the game you dont have to worry about that.

Finding Your Target[edit]

Use Q to bring up the quest screen. By default you will get a list of events. Using the + and - keys, you can scroll through the quests displayed on the right. Pressing z will zoom in on the current quest target (if it's possible to), showing you the quickest path to reach it. The quest menu can also be used to pinpoint the location of many other useful sites and entities. If there are a lot of items to go through, you can use f to filter the list.

Fast travel toward the location where your target is. When you get close, go back to the quest screen, hit z and you should get a more detailed map of exactly where to go. Once you are in the right spot, hit d to exit fast travel mode. (If you want to come out of fast travel mode sneaking, press s and then d.)

In the upper-left corner of the screen you will now see a box with a list of icons and an abbreviation for a direction such as NNE (north northeast). Continue to move in the indicated direction until you find the target that you're supposed to kill. This won't work if your target is in the sewers unless you are in the sewers and standing on a ramp, but it will lead you to a lair entrance or the middle of a bandit camp.



Note that the target of your first quest may be in a camp (looks like ) surrounded by henchmen. Make sure to approach carefully and when you see one of them, let them come to you and let your companions attack first.

If you attempt to kill the target(s) of your first quest with neither companions nor armor then you are very likely to die. Therefore, before proceeding make sure you have friends with you. If you do, you shouldn't need armor if you let them do most of the fighting.

As you may have noticed by now, combat in Dwarf Fortress is quite complex compared to other games, so this section is kind of long. Please read it carefully though.

Movement and Positioning[edit]

When approaching a target it's usually best to wait using . to wait 10 instants (or , to wait just one) once you get close and let your target come to you so you can get the first shot on them. Positioning can be important because you don't want to let enemies attack you from the side or behind (!) and you should also try to move so that you're never fighting more than one opponent at a time. Green symbols that may appear next to you or others show the direction in which people are headed, which can be useful in positioning yourself.

If you need to catch up with someone, or change your sneak status, use S to pull up the movement dialog. This dialog controls the speed at which you move, and whether or not you're sneaking. If you're sneaking, you will see three-dimensional vision cones for people.

If you find yourself being shot at with ranged weapons, put a tree, hill, or other terrain feature between you and the archer and wait for some melee equipped opponents to come to you. Your followers will probably not be so smart though.

For your first fight, you may want to let your companions take the lead anyway though as you may not have any decent armor yet. Press . or , to skip instants if you want to wait in one spot and let your friends advance and soften up some enemies first. If one of your companions dies, no big deal. You can just take his stuff by pressing g then get another follower later. If they die and you're outnumbered, just run away and come back later with new companions.

If you want to be useful while sitting back and letting your friends charge in first, use t to throw objects such as rocks (freely available on many outdoor tiles by pressing g) at your opponent.

Attacking Effectively[edit]

Don't expect it to be easy...

If you're finding your first quest too difficult, and you manage to escape with your life, you can ignore the quest for a while, replace any dead followers, go ask NPCs about Surroundings, and try to find an easier camp or lair to attack. When you kill whatever "boss" is there, even if it not part of a quest, you can still go brag about it (most effectively by spreading the rumor of your deeds), raise your fame, get more followers, and then go back to the original quest. You can also just ask different people in different towns for different quests and perhaps find an easy one like killing a leopard.

To attack, you can simply use a directional key to move your character as if to collide with your target. More effective though is pressing A when directly adjacent to a target in order to target specific body parts.

At first your skills obviously won't be that great, so it's important to make targeted shots using A. Take the Easy strikes that are also Solid even if they target arms or legs. At first you're going to want to target limbs anyway because you're much less likely to be able to one-shot enemies with a blow to the head and you want to render them harmless as quickly as possible. If you get an Easy or Tricky shot to the head that is also relatively Solid, you might want to take it though. If every shot is difficult except for a body shot, take the body shot.

Taking out an arm or hand can disarm your foe, cutting off a foot or leg will knock the opponent down and severely limit their movement, and anything causing severe pain can cause the opponent to lose consciousness making a follow-up headshot very easy. Cutting off weapon arms and a leg means they're almost as good as dead, so take note of what will most easily neutralize the threat before killing it. You may want to ignore such disabled opponents for a while and help your companions disable uninjured enemies.

For armored areas, either avoid attacking them or attempt stabbing or blunt force rather than slashing.

  • Frequently your weapon will get "lodged in the wound" making it unavailable for another attack until you free it. To free the weapon, use the directional keys to step away/sideways.
  • When your weapon is lodged in an opponent, they are unable to dodge. If you have another weapon, then getting 1 weapon lodged is extremely beneficial as you can then proceed to kill/neutralise your opponent without worrying about them dodging. However, they are still able to parry, and you are still able to miss. Remember - counterattacks are the most deadly attacks. If you want to attack an opponent in a difficult place, then don't - it's not worth the risk.
  • Enemies behind you get a higher hit chance. You want to stay facing most of your enemies if you can, but you should never back into a corner.
  • You can select different styles for any aimed attack. Quick and wild attacks sacrifice power and/or accuracy for speed (leading to a greater chance that you will hit your target), while heavy and precise attacks sacrifice speed for increased power and/or accuracy. The speedier styles are good for initial hits, and the slower styles are good for finishing blows.


Once your targets are dead, take their stuff using the g key. Immediately use w to wear any armor or clothing you gain. Decapitated heads can be left behind (although they can be used as a rather morbid way of showing people what you've done).

When walking around, use the g key to pick up any equipment or item lying on the ground. These will then be added to your inventory i. Items may be sold later on to a shop at a nearby town (not hamlet). However, if you have too many things in your inventory you will be slowed down (indicated by a slower speed number, less than 1 if you're in the default walk pace) and may lose your next fight because of it.

Completing Quests[edit]

Once you complete your first quest, you can talk to any hamlet, town or fortress dweller to spread the news of your success. Brag about your past violent acts isn't as effective as Bring up specific incident or rumor (new menu). It is not necessary to return to the individual who told you about the trouble to report your success.

Small army...

For now, always recruit the maximum number of companions. Later you may find that you don't need as many, though you'll usually need at least a few.

Each time you report your success, your level of fame will increase. Once your fame has risen, more mighty warriors may want to join you on your way to glory. They can be recruited at the usual locations or among the common peasants. Your companions will greatly increase your chances of survival and adventurers who care about such things should drop by the nearest fortress, keep, or mead hall as quickly as possible.

Checking Things Out[edit]

At any time, use the z key to display your status. This can be used to look for any scratches, bruises or missing limbs.

To check on the status of your companions, use the c key to get a list of them (specifically, the ones within visual range) and a summary of their conditions, then press the key corresponding to the one you want to view up close. Alternatively, you can use the l key, which can also be used to look at any other item or creature within your range of vision.

You may equip any items that you find or buy using the w key. If you are wearing too many items in an existing location, items must first be removed using the r key. To swap weapons you should drop the equipped weapon first, or put it in your backpack, then get the new equipment from the ground or remove it from your backpack.

You can look at tracks nearby using K. If there are any obvious directions to pursue, a box under the "closest locations" box will tell you which way to follow particular tracks. Alt+k will give you a summary of the tracks right under you. o and O deal in odor detection.


You can tell at a glance which towns have shops by looking for white roads in towns (rather than the yellow roads that are houses most of the time) on the travel map.

To find shops, go stand on a white road tile on the fast travel screen then press m to display nearby structures. Walk around a bit and you should find some shops. Press d to appear on the road outside of them. You can walk inside and talk to the residents just like anyone else, except that residents in shops will be willing to Trade with you. In fast-travel mode, the list of significant buildings will tell you the shops available in that particular 3x3 square of land.

What Next[edit]

The next thing you should do is work on getting a full set of armor unless you have been lucky enough to have already obtained one. You may want to go tromping around in the woods looking for animals to kill. Killing animals can be profitable because you can butcher their corpses with x and sell the products. Butcher and sell all animal corpses until you've managed to obtain a full set of metal armor. Meat is surprisingly valuable.

You may need to visit several armor shops to find all the armor pieces you need.

Somewhat more dangerous, but much more profitable, is attacking bandit camps. Just let followers do most of the fighting and concentrate on picking off severely wounded enemies until you get at least a helmet, body, and leg armor. And if some followers die, all the better. You can take their stuff and use or sell it.

You can also rummage around in fortress, keeps, and mead halls for equipment.

After you've armored up a bit, it's probably safe to go on the next quest. Get as many companions as you can and set off for your next target. You can also Ask about the surrounding area, which can reveal lairs and other hidden sites on the map. You should probably avoid any non-quest lairs in the beginning, though, as lairs and such can have creatures that you won't be able to handle at this point.

After That[edit]

More Tips

See the Adventure mode FAQ for lots of tips and suggestions on how to avoid death and increase your skills.

Congratulations, you have graduated from adventurer school. You can now keep doing quests, explore random sites, go find and explore an old fort of yours in one of your existing worlds, get lost in the underworld, or whatever you feel like.

You may want to read though the full adventure mode documentation to learn about things that weren't covered here.


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