Archive for July 25th, 2011

Auspicious Beginnings

Join me as I recount the trials and tribulations of Megadru the Hammered Pillar, a dwarf fortress meant to stand the tests of time. This fortress is meant to provide the foundation for my next dungeons and dragons campaign. See [this article] where I go into some details about my plans. For now, though, sit back and enjoy reading about the stubborn dwarves known as the Gilded Picks Guild.

The Gilded Picks Guild set out from the fortress of their fathers in the year 260 by their reckoning, and headed north, to a previously scouted area that lay in a mountain pass where the black sands of an arctic desert give way to a conifer forest. Here in this pass they struck their picks into the sand and soil and broke the foundations of their vision: a dwarf fortress of such magnitude that the world would sing its praises until the end of time.

Their vision was of a wide square shaft, over 100 cubits on a side, drilled down into the sand and soft clay five levels, or about 100 cubits. The stone they used to create this shaft would in turn be used to build a great stone tower to encompass the shaft and rise as far into the air as the shaft’s descent. Skylights would be placed into the tower to give natural light into the shaft, all the way down to the stone floor below. It would be splendid, and the green glass windows would allow for indoor farming. The Pillar would then be surrounded by a high wall, and two spires would mark the grand entrance. There would be no entrance into the pillar itself from above ground.

With the floor of the Hammered Pillar five levels below the surface, the bulk of the working fortress itself would be deeper. Level 5 would be a major military zone, and the tentative plan is for level 6 to house the vast warehouses, level 7 will be the workshops, level 8 will be the housing, level 9 will be the treasure vaults. At some point another defensive bulwark will be set up at the entrance to the underdark caverns, and then of course, like all good dwarves, dreams of magma forges would keep them digging ever further down.

The complexity of the task meant Lolor, expedition leader, had to plan for temporary housing whilst the Hammered Pillar was completed. Now, the site between two mountain roots featured a small drop off between the highland desert and the lowlands of the pine forest. There was a sloped area that formed a sort of three-sided cupped or protected valley-like area that Lolor decided would be perfect for the grand entrance. Drilling into the slope would provide an excellent grand hall to get to the Pillar, but on the other wall to the left, a smaller entrance was mined out. This would eventually be an off-shoot guard house when the fortress was complete, but for now it would be a completely disconnected burrow for the fledging Hammerer Guild. It was into this burrow, named Winter Haven, that the dwarves wintered their first year, and they hoped they would be out of it before the second winter hit.

While getting the fortress set up for the massive undertaking, his miners, Thob and Zan began mining a staircase down from Winter haven, and dug through layers of soil then stone until they hit an open space at level 11. They had broken through the roof of an underworld cavern, and so they immediately ordered a pair of hatches to seal the doorway from any flying creatures that might find dwarf tasty.

Moving back up the stairs they began hollowing out a set of chambers 5 levels below ground. These rooms were meant for various needs of the fledgling community, including a water reservoir that they totally failed to fill before winter set in, causing the dwarfs to become mad with thirst, as usual for one of my games; but we are getting ahead of ourselves, it is still spring.

In the far north, the ice doesn’t melt until sometime in late spring or early summer, and after the The Gilded Picks Guild arrive, one of them, we shall call Erimikus, went out hunting for plants to brew. He was the brewer, farmer, and all around expert horticulturist for the entire colony, but mere days after arriving, he drowned. Erimikus was foolish enough to cross a pond of water just as the thaw came, and fell into the deep pond and drowned. Being down to six dwarves right out of the gate, especially a dwarf so important to the survival that first year, was a major setback. In addition, none of the other dwarves could retrieve his body, and by the end of summer, the ghost of Erimikus was haunting the pool. It was a sad affair.

With the temporary burrow done, the miners Thob and Zan spoke to Lolor and got the first orders for the grand undertaking. They would spend the winter months mining out the deep shaft of the Hammered Pillar, by digging out five layers, then going back and removing the floors between each layer. Now, thob and Zan were professional miners by this time, having single-handedly dug out Winter Haven, and they took to the new project with gusto. They followed Lolor’s plan to a tee.

Now Lolor is only a dabbling architect, and his plan called for clearing out each level, then going back afterwards and removing each floor between levels, starting with the level below the surface. They decided to leave the surface unbroken until the outer wall of the tower rose to encompass the shaft, thereby protecting it from nosy neighbors. This was a good plan. Removing the floors between open levels, however, not so good.

Thob was the first to go. He was working on level one, happily clearing floors and opening up the shaft, when he got turned around and started clearing out the floor sections that connected him to the edge. This caused a cave-in, and he dropped all four levels, breaking through the floor of each level on his way down, until he smashed into the rock floor of level 5. He didn’t survive the fall.

Zan, shocked by his brothers demise, was called off duty for an emergency mission to prepare a crypt down in the basement of Winter Haven. The stone mason was called in to prepare a stone sarcophagus as well as a slab for engraving the great deeds of Thob the legendary miner. Luckily his pick was recovered, and a new miner was chosen amongst the 11 new immigrants to show up, hearing of the Hammered Pillar as its fame spread. This miner didn’t last long until he too fell to his death.

Lolor is a dwarf driven by success, and at this point he made a private decision that the Pillar was the most important, and that it had to be continued at all cost. Taking up the two bent picks, he nominated two more miners from the new immigrants, and continued picking new miners as each one lost his life. Poor Zan was next to go, and the work was finished by a series of low-paid novice miners. Four miners died, and a carpenter who was struck by a falling miner, as well as countless injuries, but by spring of the second year the shaft was done.

Right in time for an influx of 24 new immigrants. Over the course of a few weeks in early spring, before even the ice had melted to allow fresh drinking water, the Hammered Pillare almost tripled in population, up to 55 dwarves. This was good news and bad. More dwarves would help the fortress to success in the long run, but in the short term there was little housing, food, or beer to go around.

Stay tuned to find out what happens during the second year of the construction of The Hammered Pillar.

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