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dwarf-fortress
“There’s always more to do, but we’re pretty much done with what we’ve found we need to do before the first release, so we’ll go ahead with that release in a few days!” so sayeth Toady One, progenitor of Dwarf Fortress, the game of cruel and undwarfy punishment.

This new version is much anticipated after a long hiatus and will lead to more dwarfy stories, like previous games:

Dwarf Fortress is the Hardest Game Ever
Stasisgem- A Dwarf Fortress Conceived to Stand the Test of Time
The Descent and Fall of the Stasisgem Dwarf Fortress
The Dwarf Fortress Mega Dungeon Campaign Megadru the Hammered Pillars

Megadru the Hammered Pillar, A Dwarf Fortress Year 1
Another Dwarf Fortress Crumbles to Dust – Toppling the Hammered Pillar
Thobost Gar – the Death Girder – a Dwarf Fortress inspired Mega Dungeon Campaign
Diamond Vise – The Red Tower
Countess Thobthiket and the Fall of Diamond Vise
What Fresh Rope is this? Dwarf Fortress 2012
The Short Happy Life of the Ringmartyr Dwarf Fortress
Dwarf Fortress 2014 – the magnifitude of Landseal
Dwarf Fortress 2014 – Poor Fleshy Arches

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dwarf-fortress

After reading an update on the ongoing development of the explored universe’s most difficult computer game, Dwarf Fortress, I realize it must immediately be added to lore of all dwarves, everywhere. He spaketh thusly:

I decided to go with a stepladder tool. Dwarves can build them, carry them around and climb up on them to access an extra 3x3x2 block of potential fruit above their heads (not including whatever is sitting around in the 3×3 on the ground). When a dwarf is standing on the ladder, they appear one z-level above it, and they have a hold on it in a way which’ll hopefully translate to things like climbing statues or standing on tables in the future. I allowed reach from the ladder to go up 2 levels since many trees don’t end up with fruit-bearing branches 1 level above the ground (and the higher fruit will still be inaccessible even with this system, though you could build a platform or something). I still have a bit more to do to keep the system moving quickly and allowing dwarves to retain the ladder between jobs if they aren’t returning with their fruit haul.

Yes, and so it was envisioned, so it shall be. All dwarves build and carry their own custom step-ladder, allowing them access to areas otherwise unreachable to them. The ladder can be foldable, integrated into the dwarf’s clothing, or simply slung over a shoulder, each in preference and skill of the owner. Some ladders might even be built of, or inlaid with the bones of their ancestors. The step-ladders are made according to the wealth and prestige of the dwarf, being invariably built of the finest materials attainable, and the higher a dwarf can step, the higher in dwarven society he will climb.

Needless to say, there is little indignity worse than stepping on another dwarf’s ladder. Ain’t it always so?

Hmm…

I suppose there could be a counter-culture of dwarves, say dwarf druids perhaps, who forgo the cultural norm of step-ladder envy, but instead they are measured on their ability to construct quickly and efficiently as possible, a step-ladder right there on the spot, whenever one is needed. Interesting how so many of these “rebels” always seem to have a bundle of twigs tightly wound with twine nearby.

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Landseal Dwarf Fortress 2014

Landseal Dwarf Fortress 2014

This is the story of Landseal, a Dwarf Fortress that overcame extreme conditions not only to survive, but to prevail. In year 125, seven dwarves from a clan known as the Pink Froth decided they would bring civilization to the Mountains of Universal Truth, so they set out with a wagon, a cow, a mule, and a small flock of peacocks to build a fortress to stand the test of time. My dwarves just love peacock eggs.

The area they chose was perfectly situated along the forested slopes of a mountain range, with a wide valley at its feet cut by a fast flowing brook. The dwarves, made up of a pair of miners, two masons, two carpenters, and a cook, wasted no time setting up shop. While the miners began an extensive moat system fed by the brook, the wood cutters stockpiled a massive quantity of wood for future construction, and made a few beds too. The masons began chiseling doors, tables, and chairs, while the cook planted farms, turned the buckets of brought milk into cheese, and began turning the brought fruit into wine coolers.

The fortress was humming along nicely that first summer, and when the trade liaison from the Pink Froth arrived, we had a few goods to trade (mostly mechanisms) for a few bushels of mushrooms. We asked for wood, fruit, metal bars, and beer for next year. The trade caravan left, and the dwarves settled in for a long but mild winter.

The canals outside the mountain home had been dug by this time but now began the more difficult task of digging the canals inside the mountain. Tragedy struck when Lorbam fell into the well he was digging. (Don’t start at the bottom and work your way up, Lorbem! Start at the top and work down!) he was a pile of blood and bones in a deep well, and a wall of water was coming his way as the canals began to fill. His leg and arm were both broken and he was unconscious. Luckily a few migrants had recently showed up, and one of them who had no experience or aspirations other than to raise a family was summarily promoted to chief medical dwarf. He was given a room in the half completed hospital wing, and provided with a bed for his first patient.

Meanwhile the other miner continued mining and discovered that the mountain was riddled with gold veins, hallelujah! Unfortunately, there was no industrial metal found, so everything had to be made of gold. This is good in some ways, but weapons and armor cannot be made from gold, so the dwarves were getting wealthy, but had little to defend themselves.

The hospital wing and initiation chambers

The hospital wing and initiation chambers

The chief doctor was doing medical testing on Lorbem the miner, and eventually after much surgery and setting of bones, the dwarf was released to bed rest. His wounds developed an infection, but that didn’t stop him, and he needed a crutch. We built him a gold one, the doctor presented it to him, and Lorbem took the golden crutch and hobbled off to work – digging out gold. The dwarf had been through the ringer, and he was tired and thirsty by the time he mined out his first lump of gold, so I gave him a chair at the head of the dining room, which satisfied Lorbem greatly. Six months later the infection was cleared up, he was totally better with two scars and he became the fortress’s most legendary miner.

So passed the first year, but early on in the second year a message popped up stating that a human giant of UNPRECEDENTED size had arrived and that the dwarves must fear for their lives. Landseal had the bare bones of a military, with a squad of axe and hammer dwarves and a squad of crossbow dwarves, but very few weapons and armor to go around. The dwarves were basically a bunch of scantily clad wrestlers at this point, and I did not see it ending well for them or for the fortress. Luckily, it did not come to that, as the giant chased the first dwarf it found right into a cage trap. I can only imagine how this massive giant must have looked stuffed into a little bamboo cage, but it worked! The fortress was saved!

The giant cage was quickly installed in the dining room, and glass-blocks built up around it to insure that the giant wasn’t going anywhere, even if the bamboo failed. About this time, the elves showed up without much interesting to trade except for some fruits and vegetables an a gorgeous red cardinal in a cherry-wood cage, so I installed that across from the giant, and now the dwarves have a menagerie in their dining hall. Incidentally, the giant is not considered a prisoner, but instead a “caged guest” who seems to have no complaints about his situation. That was how year two progressed.

The grand dining hall with the caged giant of unparallelled size

The grand dining hall with the caged giant of unparallelled size

About this time, the legendary miner Lorbem hit a vein of tetrahidrite. Hallelujah, copper and silver! It may not be the best quality, but at least armor and weapons can be made from copper, and weapons from silver – hello silver war hammers. So began the long process of mining and smelting the ore in preparation for building up the military. About this time, we also discovered a large deposit of obsidian, and so our craft-dwarves started pumping out obsidian short swords –crude but deadly awesome weapons.

It was late when suddenly, at the worst possible moment, the goblins invaded. It was a siege! I saved, exited, and went to bed.

All that day I spent my spare time wondering how I would overcome the goblin siege. It is a simple thing, really, to escape if everything has been set up properly, and some fortress aficionados will claim that defense against siege is the easiest disaster to avert. Simply by having the correct defenses in place – such as locked doors, cage traps, and draw bridges, one can effectively funnel the goblins to their doom. Landseal had all these defenses, but such is the nature of warfare that it never takes place under optimal circumstances. Three times I reloaded that save file, and three times the fortress was devastated within days of the siege.

(Note – Dwarf Fortress is not meant to be exited without saving. In other words, there is no easy way to revert to previous saves, other than with third party add-ons. Also, it goes against the spirit of the game to replay mistakes in hopes for a better outcome. However, there are exceptions to every rule, and in this particular case, I wanted to find a way overcome a seemingly impossible siege, and so I used the rarely used command “die” to cause the game to exit without saving. I do not do this lightly, or often.)

The first time, I went for the brute force approach. Hunkering down was not possible due to a single door being ajar. Earlier I had noticed that one of my exterior doors was not the blue color that I favored, and I opted to send a dwarf to replace the ugly red door with a proper dacite door. The dwarf completed the work, but left the red door on the ground blocking the new blue door from shutting completely, thereby allowing an entrance for the goblins. I set up a dump and put in an order for the dumping of the red door. Meanwhile I drafted every able bodied dwarf into the military and sent them to the area where the door was.

Battle at Landseal Bridge

Battle at Landseal Bridge

The door never got fixed, and the goblins made it over the moat before the bridge could be raised, so I sent the mass of seventy naked dwarven wrestlers out to attack. It was a bloodbath. The fight took place on the bridge and over a dozen dwarves charged straight into the river like lemmings to drown. When the battle with the 9 invaders was over, only 22 dwarves remained alive.

Exit without saving.

The second time, I had the same door ajar problem, so I set the dwarves to guard it, but did not send them out in mass until the goblins had cleared the bridge. This time the fight looked like it was won with over 50 dwarves surviving, however the last goblin was some kind of hammer lord who slew or injured so many dwarves, that by the time it was over, I was once again down to twenty dwarves when all was said and done. The hammer lord ended up being a dwarf named Ngokang Dreadfuldesserts, who wore a crown of goblin bone, an must have been some type of chief of the goblins. Dwarves were flung all over the yard by this maniac ,devastation ensued.

Exit without saving.

This was looking bad. I walked away. I thought about it. I had dinner.

The third time, I took no chances and raised the drawbridge as soon as I could, while leaving the military inactive so they would have time to do other things – like remove doors ajar! I had hesitated to do this before because there were dwarves outside the moat when the invasion took place and I didn’t want to cut off any dwarves seeking shelter. In the end it worked out, because after the draw bridge closed, the cut off dwarf realized he could climb the slope and jump down into the yard. He did, and escaped, but three goblins followed him into the yard.

Dwarves were going out one by one to confront the three goblins in the yard, and dying. This could not go on. I sent out the army, and they killed the goblins, and I still had 50 dwarves left! It was going to work!

However, the twenty or so dwarves who died caused a huge amount of grief. Dead goblin and dwarf bodies littered the yard in front of the fortress. There were not enough caskets, and so bodies began to decompose. One dwarf became so distraught that he wandered aimlessly, breaking whatever crafted objects he came across.

About this time a fantastic set of events transpired. A peasant rose from the ranks of the unwashed masses to claim hereditary rule over the fortress, and to declare herself the countess of the county of Landseal. It was amazing, and filled the fortress with unbridled joy, and the dwarves all pitched in to give her as much help as possible to make her ascension the miracle it should be. The expedition leader got a fey look in his eye and snuck off to the forge to create the first artifact – a golden scepter, for the countess!

As the countess and her procession made their way through the fortress, they crossed the inner drawbridge to inspect the yard, scene of the epic battle. The angry dwarf who loved to break things reached the bridge at the same time. He was fresh from the gore of the battlefield and somehow managed to destroy the drawbridge, sending the newly minted contessa and her retinue into the moat to drown. O the horror. The fortress could not go on.

Exit without saving.

It was late, go to bed or try again? The fortress was about to be retired, but I thought I might try one last time, with a few tweaks. I loaded up the game, the goblins appeared, and a miracle happened. Just as I was taking every step I could: dumping the red door, locking the outer doors, raising the drawbridge, mustering the army… one little dwarf named Athel, who was not even in the military, wandered out into the yard wielding an obsidian short sword. What was he doing? All the other dwarves were running for the safety of the fortress, but he was leaving?

Even before the command to raise the bridges could be enacted, Athel crossed the outer bridge and confronted the goblins alone with his obsidian blade. One goblin fell, then another, and another! I was calculating in my head how many lives each goblin death would save when I realized all the goblins were dead and Athel fought the evil dwarf Sinisterdesserts. A naked, novice wrestler with an obsidian blade vs warhammer wielding evil dwarf hammerlord goblin-king.

A hero is born.

A hero is born.

A goblin-bone crown sailed through the air to land on the banks of the moat. Athel had saved the fortress single handedly without a single casualty! I instantly promoted him to Captain of the Guard and gave him his own squad to command.

The fortress survived!

Save and exit.

Stay tuned for part two, in which I learn that dwarven babies float.

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df2012

So a new version of Dwarf Fortress has released, after a two year wait since the last update. We are now on version 0.40.05. Yes that is a zero at the front. 9-12 years in and we are almost halfway through the aplha phase of development! This game takes stamina.

Fleshy Arches was a short-lived Frotress that looked like it would go places, but was quickly doomed over the ourse of a few months due mostly to stupidity. I shall not spend too much time on this prefix of a fortress, but its downfall is worth noting.

It started out between grasslands and mountains, with a brook meandering through. There was not a tree to be found on the entire map, and I made do with three wagon-wood beds for the first year of existence. There were upwards of 80 dwarfs hot-bunking it by the end. I finally got some wood when I reached the caverns below, but the giant mushrooms gave out paltry amounts of usable lumber.

The other strange thing about this site were the forest gnomes. the site was lousy with them, and at first I didn’t even notice, until they started stealing booze. Then an angry dwarf got mad at a gnome and smeared his carcass across the drawbridge, and whenever another dwarf saw the carnage they became horrified. This was new, the horror of the dwarves. The forest gnomes were more like gremlins, and I found them to be the root cause of many of the ills of Fleshy Arches. They were very easy to kill however, and horrific gnome corpses began turning up all over the place, horrifying any dwarves who stumbled upon them. It is as if the dwarves couldn’t believe that one of their kind would treat a fellow bearded fairy in such a manner, yet each of them had their own personal tale of tearing a gnome to shreds over some stolen trinket or prank.

While digging out fortifications in the mountain above the entrance, two legendary miners fell to their deaths. That was almost impossible to overcome, and due totally to my stupidity. It is too risky to trench over open spaces! Why do I continue to do it?! Never again. I thought it would be okay since there was a moat below to soften the fall, but they drowned. We need dwarf life guards.

And then the trade caravans never came. The gnomes were stealing more and more booze, even though I had none, and I discovered the remains of a human trading party, with all their goods scattered about. I thought at least I had hit the jackpot with some free loot, but none of it mattered when what I really needed was booze and food, of which those damned gnomes had taken everything.

Although Fleshy Arches never received a full trade caravan, the dwarf liason brought a tale of woe for two years, of a civilization called “The Elven Cobra of Gazes” who were on a rampage of invasion. The Snake Elves might be the reason we were receiving so many migrants, as the entire world was being overrun.

But back to our own trading woes, how the forest gnomes managed to slaughter a human trading caravan I will never know — when my dwarf cook could kill one simply by rolling him up into the dough and flattening him out (horrifying every dwarf in the kitchen) — but it was the first and last caravan to ever arrive at Fleshy Arches, which meant it was cut off and there was only one way to go. I dug deeper, hoping to find magma, because I had no fuel for forges. I thought I found riches beyond wildest belief, and broke open a tube. It led straight down. All the way down.

The fortress was destroyed to the last dwarf within days. It was sad watching a handful of dwarf children (who do not count against population) running back and forth looking for a way out, while the last dwarf standing, the mayor, tried to get to them. His last words:

Kikrost Akrullimar, mayor: Can it all end so quickly? This does not scare me.

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Fightin' youths

Fightin’ youths

I told this story during the last game night, and it received enough laughs that I thought it would be worth sharing to a wider audience.

I have some experience wielding polearms, both as a hobbyist and professionally. I learned to fight with medieval weaponry as a kid growing up, and I had a chance to use my skills one day during Basic Training after I joined the US Army Reserves. This is the story of how that all played out.

While growing up in the 80’s, my friends and I discovered D&D, the Renaissance Festival, and the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) at about the same time. This triumvirate of awesome led us to spend a summer building weapons out of dowel rods, foam pipe insulation and duct tape. We primarily built swords with increasingly complicated hilts, but we experimented in other weaponry as well, including various pole arms built using long curtain rods with paper towel rolls duct taped to the end, and other embellishments.

For one full summer we battled it out in the yards of our neighborhood, suffering minor scrapes and cuts. No bones were broken but there were a few concussions, and once my friend Billy got knocked out by a savage blow to the temple. These were serious fights that took place at full strength. We had rules about fair fighting, which saved us from the worst injuries, but we were a tough group of kids not afraid to hit hard enough to make the other cry.

The amazing thing about this summer of melee is that we actually began to develop fighting skills. There were times when a bout would last for more than a few seconds, as we learned to position, feint, deflect, and wait for openings. I enjoyed dueling with long and short sword, but my specialty was the pole arm.

Life went on, and we grew up and out of our combat phase. A decade later, at 26 years old, I found myself newly married, about to be father, and I joined the Army Reserves. (The exact reasons for this are still obscure.) One fall day I set out for Basic Training, and spent eight weeks training with a great group of young men and women, most of them straight out of high school. One of these fine folks was a fellow named Richard Faith. He came from central Kansas, and he had to get a special waiver to join the army. His only available career path was as a boiler-operator. He was also my battle buddy, meaning we did everything together, and had to look out for one another. This big old corn-fed galoot was as big hearted as he was big boned, but he struggled mightily to pass all the requirements of Basic Training that would allow him to serve in the Army.

Faith had to stay after every night at the shooting range to try and get the required “Sharpshooter” badge. He had to run two miles every single day until he could get his time below the maximum. Both of these things he only passed on the day of graduation by the narrowest of margins. While we were getting our dress uniforms on, Faith was out shooting and running his two miles through the snow. When a drill sergeant entered our dressing room to tell us Faith finally earned his badges, a cheer went up. His graduation was truly an achievement, and though I never saw him again afterwards, I am sure he went on to become a success. I have rarely met another with as much grit as he had.

Faith had problems. He was slow, both physically and mentally, and had a hard time in stressful conditions. When it was our day to throw live hand grenades, he had to go around with a big white ‘X’ chalked on his helmet to let everyone know he was NOT ALLOWED to touch a grenade, god save us all.

One day during Basic Training, the drill sergeants led us out onto a playing field, and we all gathered around in a ring. The boxes we brought along were opened to reveal protective equipment as well as big double-ended padded pole-arm like training weapons. Here we go! I thought this would be a chance to really show off some of my skills. The fights were fun, with people cheering and calling out, and finally it was my turn to go.

I stepped out into the circle carrying my pole arm easily, doing a few tricks, spinning it, and moving in different attack and defense poses to the delight of the recruits. Faith eventually got his helmet secured and grabbed his pole arm. I was smiling, having a good time, and I moved into a position with the pole arm held out and up with both hands, ready to deflect and defend against whatever Faith could throw at me.

Little was I prepared for the mad attack Richard Faith unleashed. He held his pole arm like a giant club above his head and charged straight toward me at top speed with a guttural howl. I was surprised but moved into a position to easily deflect his crude blow, only I did not account for the superhuman strength of an enraged Faith who battered my weapon aside with a mighty sweep and them began to beat me into the earth. It was all over in a matter of seconds.

I stood up shaky, and as the sergeant held up Faith’s arm in victory, I shambled back to my place in the circle, bruised in more ways than one. Everyone around me clapped me on the back and said how great it was that I let Faith win. I just nodded, still stunned, and still trying to make sense of what happened. I still think about the episode from time to time, and there are many lessons I have taken from it. One lesson I learned is that getting cocky and underestimating your foe is a huge mistake. Another thing I learned is that victory will go to the person who wants it more, and Richard Faith, though he may have been lacking in skill and ability, made up for all his short-comings with a surplus of drive.

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The dungeons of the sunken city of Xak Tsaroth

The dungeons of the sunken city of Xak Tsaroth

Our Subsurface Environments Acquisition Specialist, Dave surprised us all with a surprise deliver this holiday season. Itar’s Workshop ran a kickstarter concurrently with the Dwarven Forge Kickstarter and offered similar compatible dungeon tiles. The basic set unpainted in dungeon gray made its appearance on the table this week. The pieces ought to go onsale once the kickstarter is fulfilled through the webstore Itar’s Workshop.

'Ere's wot wot wot ye got right 'ere.

‘Ere’s wot wot wot ye got right ‘ere.

The general apearance of the tiles is very similar to Dwarven Forge’s Dungeon Tiles, with the key differences that the floor bases are not as thick, and the walls are only about half as high. I actually prefer the heights of these walls as they allow a better viewing angle of the table top action.

The mmaterial is very light, and feels like plaster. They are fragile enough that I will try not to drop, knock, or crush them. I store my Dwarven Forge tiles in the canvas sack they came with, but for these I will find a shoe box or something in which to carefully stack them.

Itars Dungeon tles after one black wash

Itars Dungeon tles after one black wash

The material was light gray as opposed to the dark almost black of DF tiles. Therefore I decided to do the opposite technique for painting. Instead of drhy brushing light gray, I would begin with black wash. The material is strangely water repellant which made it extremely difficult to do an effective wash.Perhaps they needed to have a primer, but I assumed the wqash would act as a thin primer coat. Apparently not.

I ended up dunking the pieces into the pool of black and still it would drain off leaving no trace but pools in the depressions. After letting the first coat sit all night, I went back with a second coat, and this time I really worked the now partially evaporated therefore even thicker black wash into the cracks and crevices.I think the improvement is noticeable.

A box of black washed Itar Dungeon Tiles

A box of black washed Itar Dungeon Tiles

The next step will be to do a light grey dry brush over the high points, and also a tan fieldstone drybrush to pick out a few fieldstones. I am thinking of picking out some watery and mossy highlights as well to really make these pieces pop. I will also make sure to sealcoat these, preferably wth something with some protective qualities, a polyurethane perhaps. More pictures to follw.

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Dwarven Forge Cavern Tiles Goodness

Dwarven Forge Cavern Tiles Goodness

Dwarven Forge Cavern Tiles Kickstarter is in its final week, and it is looking pretty amazing. I became a convert during their last Kickstarter, and love using these tiles to build epic set pieces, or to throw together at the table. Sometimes even the players build the floor plan! It is great fun and looks awesome. I am a fan.

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