Dwarf Fortress is a fantasy-themed colony management simulation and roguelike developed independently by Tarn Adams and his brother Zach Adams. In development since 2002, it is an extremely deep game renowned for its level of detail, complexity, and difficulty for newer players. You can download Dwarf Fortress for free and read more on the Bay 12 website. It is natively playable on computers running Windows, Linux, or OSX.
Also: in March of 2019, Dwarf Fortress was announced to be released on Steam and itch.io with the support of Kitfox Games. As of writing, that release date is yet to be announced, but you can read more on the Patreon post that has some more detail.
In my opinion the difficulty is mostly due to the user interface (‘UI’), which is not only represented entirely by ASCII graphics, but can be obscure in certain game menus. I will include some helpful links for any prospective players-to-be who are looking in on this page.
If you enjoy roguelikes and city/colony builders, it is definitely worth the look even if you’re unsure about the UI. It’s my absolute favorite video game, and so of course I’ll be talking about it!
This page will basically be a list of links and assorted blurbs. I’m by no means an arbiter of quality or the community voice, but the links here are ones offered out of my own preference and tastes. You will note a lack of mods. Typically I like to play the vanilla game with complementary utilities. Suggestions and improvements are super welcome! This list will likely expand and contract over time. I also plan on incrementally adding screenshots.
This page was last updated on November 6, 2019
- Main Links ~ Informational and community links
- N00b Resources ~ Stuff to help n00bs
- Recommended Utilities ~ My favorite and recommended utilities
- Interesting / Noteworthy Utilities ~ Some utilities that are interesting, useful, or worth trying out but just not for me
- Fun Stuff ~ Miscellaneous fun stuff
- Utilities in Testing ~ Utilities that I’m testing or planning to
- Bay 12 Games Forums ~ (HTTPS not available) This is the developer’s forums for Dwarf Fortress and their other games. You can also find announcements, game questions and answers, many user-created stories, and receive help for game issues.
- Bay 12 Games Forums > DF Modding ~ (HTTPS not available) A forum where community tools like mods, graphics and tilesets, utilities, and other such helpful things go. My recommended utilities will usually be found here.
- Dwarf Fortress File Depot ~ (HTTPS not available) The DFFD is a repository of utilities, mods, saved worlds, and more. This is where most community-made softwares and their updates are uploaded by their developer(s). Best of all, you don’t need an account to download.
- Dwarf Fortress subreddit ~ Though I don’t like to use Reddit myself, the Dwarf Fortress subreddit is active and seems to be of a generally higher quality than similar subreddit communities. It can be a good way to get in touch with the community if you use Reddit but aren’t sure about making a Bay 12 account.
- Dwarf Fortress Wiki ~ Absolutely awesome wiki!! Very few game wikis compare to this one. This is a great reference when you’re playing. Every single time I play a session, at least half a dozen queries are run through the wiki.
- Community mods and utilities list ~ A Bay 12 forums thread with a master list of an opening post that has a whole lot of community-made mods and utilities. It contains essentials, mods, graphics packs, visualizers, modding utilities, and more. Almost everything—if not everything—on this page under the utility listings should be there.
These pages should be helpful if you’re new to Dwarf Fortress. Since Dwarf Fortress is pretty much two (three depending on who you’re asking) games in one, I will clearly mark which one the guides are for. That will either be for fortress mode or adventurer mode.
- Fortress mode quickstart guide ~ Provided by the Dwarf Fortress Wiki, this is one of the best beginner tutorials and the one that I started with. It walks you through the basics of setting up your first world and subsequent fortress.
- Fortress mode reference ~ Contains a list of fortress mode concepts and keybinds. It should be a companion to the above link, but you can certainly flip through it any time.
- (Windows) PeridexisErrant’s Starter Pack (Bay 12 Forums thread) ~ Purported to be one of the better launchers to use with a bunch of helpful utilities and graphic tilesets. Tailored for newer players, it comes bundled with DFHack, SoundSense, Dwarf Therapist, Armok Vision, and so much more to help out new players and seasoned players alike. Simple for n00bs and customizable for veterans!
- (Windows) Meph tileset and utilities pack ~ Personally not a user, but I will pass this off to friends who are put off by the native ASCII tileset. It is an excellently-crafted launcher with a graphical tileset and several utilities like DFHack, Dwarf Therapist, SoundSense, and much more. Its launcher allows you to tweak several game settings easily. Another version appears to be available for Linux and macOS users without most of those attractive features as of October 2019.
- (Linux) LinuxLNP (Bay 12 Forums thread) ~ This is a lazy n00b pack providing an easy interface to edit init files, update and install graphics packs, launch utilities, and more. It runs on Linux through a simple shell script. Here is a screenshot of the main panel.
These are my favorite and commonly used utilities. They might not be the most helpful by community standards, but I really like them!
- (Windows / Linux / macOS) Dwarf Therapist (Bay 12 Forums thread) ~ Hands down THE tool to have. This utility helps you manage your dwarves by allowing you to quickly assign labors, view the health screen, geld and butcher animals, view needs and stress levels, view dwarf personalities for occupation elibility, and so much more. It’s easy to use and could help you prevent a nasty tantrum spiral or worse.
- (Windows / Linux / macOS) DFHack (Bay 12 Forums thread) ~ Very useful tool with a huge array of available scripts and add-ons. I use it mostly for its small quality of life fixes and checking information that players usually aren’t privy to. A lot of mods and other utilities interact with DFHack, and it doesn’t hurt to grab it. There is helpful documentation as well available here. Some players have complained it made their games somewhat more prone to crashing, so save often.
- These aren’t standalone utilities but my favorite DFHack commands are:
burial. You can check out these and most commands with either
- These aren’t standalone utilities but my favorite DFHack commands are:
- (Windows) Legends Viewer (Bay 12 Forums thread) ~ A utility that reads XML data exported from legends mode and organizes it into a readable and neat wiki-like reader. It’s easy to get lost clicking and clicking and clicking and reading the otherwise untold stories of people and places far away.
Interesting / Noteworthy Utilities
These utilities are respectable, often really cool, and can bring a lot to your experience. They weren’t my favorites, but there’s still a lot of good about them!
- (Windows / Linux / macOS) Armok Vision (Bay 12 Forums thread) ~ A realtime 3D fortress visualizer that can help bring your fortress more to life.
- (DFHack Plugin) Stonesense (
ssense) (Bay 12 Forums thread) ~ Stonesense is a DFHack plugin ran from within DFHack with the commands
ssense. It is another visualizer, but renders realtime in a 3D isometric view. It actually looks really awesome!! Unfortunately, I can’t recommend with my favorites it because I’ve been unable to get it running under my copy of DFHack. While I haven’t used it, it is definitely a community favorite and worth checking out if you use or plan to use DFHack.
- (Windows / Linux / macOS) Masterwork Dwarf Fortress ~ Holy crow! This thing is a monster! An amazingly huge launcher with a ton of quality of life updates, mods (including new playable races not limited to humans, orcs, and kobolds all with their own workshops), multiple tilesets, a lot of new items, and comes with many utilities listed on this page. A massive project which also has a Patreon for its maintainer, Meph.
- (Windows / Linux / macOS) DwarfFamily ~ Scans XML files from your Legends information and generates a GED file of world family trees, which is compatible with multiple genealogy tools and family tree visualizers. Some Bay 12 users noted a lot of surprises! You should probably know how to use GED files first or do some reading if you want to export the information.
- Dwarf Fortress scenario generator ~ A fun little web utility to generate a challenge or endgoal for your games with biome, surroundings, challenges, and goals as parameters. This is a cute way to add some difficulty or rocky situations to your game if you tend to play it safe like I do.
Utilities in Testing
These are utilities that I’ve recently found or decided to try out.
- (Windows / Linux / macOS) SoundSense (Bay 12 Forums thread) ~ Adds sounds and music to the game. It has a DFFD download page and documentation is hosted on the Dwarf Fortress Wiki.
- (Windows / Linux / macOS) Announcement Window (Bay 12 Forums thread) ~ A realtime stream and filter for announcements written in Python.
- (Windows / Linux / macOS) LegendsBrowser (Bay 12 Forums thread) ~ A cross-platform legends reader written in Java that you can access from the browser. Since Legends Viewer (one of my recommended utilities) is unavailable on Linux and macOS, this is worth a try!