Into the deep: it's time to learn how to play Dwarf Fortress

Defeat Is Glorious

If there's one story that should convince you, absolutely, that you should play Dwarf Fortress, it's the saga of Bravemule . Bravemule is a masterpiece of using Dwarf Fortress as a storytelling engine. Using in-game mechanics to assign or forbid individual dwarves from different parts of the fortress, it tells the story of suffering in a highly classist dwarven society, predicated on the resent that most players soon develop for worthless immigrants and the willingness to throw them in harm's way. Heavily illustrated with Stonesense (which renders Dwarf Fortress in 3D), it comes to a stunningly violent conclusion that captures the very core of the dwarven experience: losing is fun.

Losing is such a core aspect of the game that it has its own wiki article , and the article title “Fun” redirects to it. The whole point of being a dwarf is to dig too deep and too greedily; sitting around on the surface is for elves. You don't want to be an elf, do you? Of course not. They're cannibals . Reaching for difficult goals is honorable whether or not you achieve them. If it looks like you're not going to achieve them, fail in the most spectacular way possible. One of the most fun experiences I ever had in Dwarf Fortress was unintentionally tapping into an aquifer and flooding a well-established fortress. Sealing off the damage and restructuring around it was a fun challenge. More recently, I had a fort suffer the dreaded Tantrum Spiral: when negative emotions run high, fights break out, and when fights break out, negative emotions run high. I went from over 250 living dwarves to five. I rebuilt from those miserable ashes, and it was fun.

Dwarf Fortress has a strong sense of community, with friendly players exchanging techniques, mods, and horror stories about pulling the wrong lever (the right lever) and killing everyone. I've made a lot of friends through this game. A classmate introduced me to Dwarf Fortress in 2009 and I ended up marrying him. I can't promise everyone will find true love down in the caverns, but glory, death, and fun are certain. Strike the earth.

Melissa is an author and information security researcher with a special interest in video game glitches and speedrunning. She has been playing Dwarf Fortress for years, is pro-dwarf, and vehemently anti-elf.