Dwarf Fortress's graphical adventure mode launches today, includes extremely Dwarf Fortress touches like '186 animal people portraits' and a unique sound effect for walking on soap

Adventure mode, Dwarf Fortress's lesser-appreciated RPG-style alternative to building and managing a colony of dwarves, is finally playable on Steam, with snazzy new pixel art graphics, a whole new set of songs, and the same detailed UI makeover the main mode got when it launched in late 2022. It's launching today in beta, which means it's not quite finished, but the bulk of the mode is there, allowing you to go into one of your own fortresses for a ground-level view or go out into the world in search of quests.

While it may look rudimentary at a glance, adventure mode has the main Fortress mode's same lunatic attention to detail. In combat you can damage a variety of limbs using a dizzying variety of attack types (quick/heavywild/precise/charge and more), deploy wrestling moves that let you choose whether to grab opponents with your upper or lower arms or use your hands, and then read all the details of the action in comically grisly detail. But much more exciting to me is the ability to play as an anthropomorphized version of practically any animal in the game. You can see my custom Cockatiel man here, but you can also make a Cassowary man, a Cheetah man, a Chinchilla man, a Crab man, a Crow man, a Copperhead snake man, and if you can't tell right now I've only picked examples that start with C and there are like 130 more on top of those.

(Image credit: Bay12 Games)

Peach-faced lovebird man. Bark scorpion man. (OK, I'll stop now.)

Each of the animal-man or -woman hybrids now have their own custom pixel art portraits, which is a new feature also being added to Dwarf mode. While dwarves, elves, humans, goblins and kobolds will all get procedurally generated faces with features that accurately represent the randomly generated descriptions of their physical appearances, animal people will have to settle for one portrait per species (at least until modders get their hands in there). 

"We still have the artists working nonstop," co-creator Tarn Adams told me. "We've got variations for all the clothing. If the description of a dwarf says their nose is a little wider, they get a wider nose in the picture. All of their injuries and so forth, like if their eye has a scar over it, that'll be reflected on the portrait as well. Also, it's very popular in Adventure mode for people to play animal people, and we have 186 animal people portraits now."

I counted only 139 creatures available to choose from when I started a new adventure—perhaps a limitation of the world generation locking out a few races. Sometime after the beta the Dwarf Fortress devs do plan to add visible equipment to the animal peoples' portraits so they'll at least "be wearing their little hats." 

"If you have a capybara person that's in chain armor and wearing a hood, then that will be reflected eventually," Adams said.

I'm personally most excited for a pile of new music being added to the excellent Dwarf Fortress soundtrack for Adventure mode, which I'll happily listen to even while not playing the game. There are also new sound effects to heighten the adventuring feeling, like "the sound of walking through short grass, the sound of walking through tall grass, and walking through mud," said Tarn Adams. "And because it's Dwarf Fortress, the sound of walking on floors made of soap. That has a unique sound.

There was always kind of a weird half-bug in the game that 'soap bars' got interpreted generally as bars, so you can build floors out of them. So we're like, lean into it until you get rid of it."

(Image credit: Bay12 Games)

Even with graphics, Adventure mode remains a bit like playing an '80s PC dungeon crawler but inside the vast simulation of Dwarf Fortress—it's not a very guided experience, but the developers have plans to add more structure to it as time goes on. And now that they've finally finished almost all the UI work for Adventure mode, the Adams brothers can finally start moving on to their plans for additional Dwarf Fortress features, like the long-awaited magic and villains systems.

"We're finally going to be able to work on the game design and new things, make Adventure mode better, make Dwarf mode better," said Zach Adams. "We've been waiting for this moment."

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).