(The Fresh Rope game ended due to a bug – it kept crashing, a real problem the longer a fortress survives, especially when a new release is going through its growing pains. Version 34.05 had been released and I was still using version 34.02, so I figured it was a good time to pull the Rope.)
They envisioned starting small and poor, and staying that way for as long as possible while the outer defenses were built up. The Fortress of the Ringmartyrs was founded on a forested plateau in a warm climate with year-round rain, and lots of small lakes. Unlike most fortresses, there was no mining the first year, in fact, the dwarves lived without any stone at all for over a year while they set up their site plan.
While the carpenters chopped the massive amounts of logs needed for the all-wood above ground fort and stockade, the miners put their picks to work digging trenches to connect the nearby lakes into a wide, murky moat. Within this ring, the carpenters built up a huge wooden fortress, housing the Trade Depot, carpenter’s shack, and a craftworks station, along with all the necessities for the food industry – kitchen, still, farmer’s workshop, butcher and tanner. This large building also housed a few beds tucked in corners and some tables and chairs, and eventually the entire compound was roofed, at the cost of thousands of trees. It is amazing how much wood putting on a roof can use. (I solved this spectacularly in my current glorious fortress, Shootflukes, which should get a write up eventually.)
After two years of enforced poverty the central fort was walled and roofed, and a stockade wall circled the inner circumference of the moat. The miners finally breached the ground and began digging out the level just beneath the fortress. Hemmed in by the moat, this level became a series of large store rooms. Then the miners delved deep and began digging out a massive centrally open grand hall, about 10 levels below ground. Around this central hall, corridors led off into a new unique layout of workshops, small stockpiles, and housing. Yet the workshops sat idle, as all hands were put to work hauling, chopping, or digging, rather than building and increasing the fortress’ wealth. The second year, no migrants arrived at all, due to the lack of the finer things dwarves have come to expect in their fortresses. For the seven – now 16 – original Ringmartyrs, simple meals, beer in great quantities, and an above ground dormitory were all they needed.
That is, until one of the dwarves entered a strange mood. He demanded metal bars, and I did not want him to go mad, so I set up a wood furnace, smelter and forge for the express purpose of melting down the few nuggets of ore so far uncovered, one of which happened to be solid gold. The dwarf took the gold, and made the coolest golden battle axe of all time, with a picture of a cacao tree on its blade. This axe, worth over a hundred thousand dwarf bucks, increased fortress wealth one thousand percent, and suddenly the Ringmartyrs gained celebratory status. 25 new migrants immediately arrived, nearly tripling the population. And they were not all…
I worried that the sudden, vast increase in wealth would cause an unsavory element to look toward the Ringmartyr’s fortress with envy, so I needed to prepare. The walls, moat, drawbridge, and cage traps would thwart any invasion, so no military had been set up due to the high cost of weapons and armour, but the golden axe had ended the Ringmartyr’s subsistence living with a single whack. So the newly built forge was put to work outfitting a single squad, as usual with silver war hammers. This was done in the nick of time, not for an invasion, but because of a single stranger who came trundling towards the Ringmartyrs from the east.
He was a were-tortoise, and the moat did not stop him; he paddled across with leisurely ease. Nor did the cage traps thwart him, when he transformed into normal looking dwarf. The were-tortoise ran amok through the fortress, before being chased out and all over the map by the squad. They chased him for weeks, all over the place before eventually the golden axe managed to hew through the shell and destroy the forgotten beast. As the exhausted and wounded (bitten) dwarves trudged back to the fortress, night fell, and a full moon came out. No less than half the squad then transformed into were-tortoises and commenced slaughtering the populace.
Weeks passed as the dwarves and tortoises fought through the darkened halls. The population dropped from a high of over forty dwarves down to nine survivors by the time the lycanthropy had run its course. The were-beasts had decimated the fortress, but somehow, due to the golden axe, no doubt, dwarves still sought out a new life in the fortress the Ringmartyr’s built, and so the population began to rise again. Blood scrubbers, undertakers, and coffin makers were in great demand.
After the decimation, things started to turn around. A chamber was set aside for the victims of the were-tortoise, and it held over 60 coffins, many of which were for children and babies, the most fragile of dwarves. (Babies and children are not counted as population, so while the population was listed at 43 at the time of the lycanthrope infestation, the total population including kids, must have added another twenty, judging by the high number of short caskets.
The rain quickly washed away signs of the struggle, and after the mausoleum was completed and stocked with the dead, the fortress began to pick itself up. Forges rang out day and night outfitting the dwarves in iron, while the craftworkers worked overtime to have a big selection for that year’s trade caravan. When a small goblin band of ambushers arrived, the dwarves went about their business with little fear of attack. They were secure by moat, walls, and cage traps, which would easily hold the goblins at bay.
Being safe from invasion, however, id not prevent the conniving little brutes from causing trouble. They continuously ran about trying to catch any dwarf who ventured across the moat – for wood, fishing, to collect a dead dwarf from the garbage heap for burial, or just out for a walk, and so I determined to lure the goblins to their demise. The reborn fortress needed freedom to rebuild!
It would be a simple matter to let down the drawbridge, and allow the goblins to cross and trap themselves in the cunningly concealed falling cage traps installed just inside the main entrance. To be sure nothing went awry, I stationed the squad of dwarves on the other side of the bank of cage traps, so they could deal with any goblins who made it through the gauntlet. It would be a turkey shoot.
The bridge dropped, the dwarves moved into position. The goblins noticed the way was open and streamed towards the bridge. There were more than I thought, and there weren’t enough cages for them all, so it was a good thing the dwarven squad was waiting for them.
The goblins hit the bridge. The dwarves saw them coming, and ran past the waiting traps to meet them on the bridge. NO! A furious battle took place, and all 10 members of the squad were slain, and the few remaining goblins made it into the fortress from a small sortie door wedged open by the corpse of the captain of the guard, golden axe locked in his stiff dead fingers.
Soon all that remained of Ringmartyrs were the ghosts. It was a great experiment gone terribly awry. That damned golden axe cursed them all.