How can I prepare/build my fortress to handle large populations?



  • I just started playing Dwarf Fortress about a week ago. It is definitely my new addiction. I've grasped almost all of the basic concepts (military, Dwarf Therapist, farming, and trading), but the thing which seems to constantly make me want to start over with a new fortress is the mass of migrants that I usually get around year 2 or 3.

    Basically, I gain dwarves faster than I can build new rooms, larger meeting areas... well larger everything for that matter, and even if I do, it's a jumbled mess I cant make any sense of. My dilemma isn't being able to find things to do with the dwarves as it is preparing for them. It is completely impractical to carve out massive areas into the mountain early in the game without suffering consequences.

    I find it challenging to keep 60+ dwarves happy, clothed, armed, and fed, not to mention the dozens of animals they bring in. I can only imagine what it's like trying to maintain 200 dwarves later in the game. So, my question is how can I prepare/build my fortress to efficiently maintain 100+ dwarves later on?

    To help get an idea of what I'm asking, here is a list of things I'm having problems with:

    • My configuration of buildings tends to become unorganized and eventually completely inefficient in keeping up with the demand of multiple dwarves. I tend to only build one of every workshop/furnace, usually on the same level as everything else. The wiki tutorial suggests three smelters for each furnace, which seems like overkill since I definitely don't plan on having three furnace operators during the early game.

    • I can't seem to get the farms right. If I build individual plots it takes up too much of my time, but if I build large plots I never have enough seeds to provide for it until much later. During my current game I built one large plot early on (which only allowed me to plant one thing per season) and a second farm plot about a year or so later is taking forever to get going. The wiki mentions starting with a 3x3 plot under- and above-ground, though this definitely led to my dwarves dying a slow death.

    • Bedrooms are a huge issue I am having, as they are material- and time-consuming. I never seem to be able to produce the furniture fast enough. I usually make a bed, chest, door, and cabinet for each room and assigning a room for each dwarf, as it tends to make them happier.

    • Pens/Pastures take up a lot of space. Trying to figure out how much is a reasonable amount of space for late game is definitely trial-and-error. My pastures tend to be around 20x20, and I can't make it any bigger as I have walls set up to protect my pasture and surface builds. Unfortunately, I can tell that if I get too many more animals, the grass in the pasture is going to disappear completely. I have started to slaughter a few of the extra bunnies and bulls, which is helping, but I don't like to slaughter animals that provide milk/fur/eggs, so eventually the pastures fill past capacity. The wiki says a 10x10 should be good enough, but I don't see how that's possible.

    In short, I am looking for a detailed answer.


  • QA Engineer

    Ok, I am going to attempt to answer all of your questions one at a time.

    First of all, you wondered about clothing and arming your dwarves. While is does become a problem at some point, it doesn't usually for a while, you have at least enough time to buy cloth from the merchants (they always come with a ton) and build a couple workshops. Arms-wise, you should only have weapons in use by your military, and you shouldn't need a ton of military dwarves, it is always most efficient to have your defenses based around traps.

    Secondly: bedrooms. I have found that it is best (until you reach the population cap, although that tends to be a bit buggy) to have all of your dwarves sleep in one giant dormitory with many beds. You can do this by building a bedroom that encompasses all of the beds in the area and then toggling "dormitory" to "Y." This way, you have one area where all of your dwarves sleep, and the only thing you will need to worry about is having enough beds. You probably only need the number of beds to be 25% of the number of dwarves you have, as that should cover all the sleeping dwarves. It is even better to have a much larger room with half of it being a statue garden, as then you will have dwarves in the room who are awake and will see it if any vampires start killing dwarves.

    For pens and pastures, there isn't a great way to make them efficient that I have found. There isn't really a great need to have them, though, because you can buy a lot of cheese and cloth from merchants. The only reason you would need a pasture, I've found, is for a chicken egg-laying area, but for that, you can make it underground in stone, you just need to be sure to have nest-boxes.

    Building configuration-wise, I find that it is good to have a set plan for design before-hand. For example, know that you will put a lot of your workshops in one area, and your meeting hall and bedroom (see above) in another. It's also good practice to only dig out enough room for the workshop and not to group them all together in one room. You should also have rooms for your stockpiles near the corresponding workshops. Also be sure to have one "main" hallway, it should be 3-wide or more, as this will prevent traffic jams down the road.

    Finally: farms. I would recommend you build a couple plump-helmet farms, as large as possible, to feed your dwarves. Seeds shouldn't be a problem, just go to the overview (z) menu, move over to kitchen, and disable plump helmets for cooking but not for brewing. You should have several breweries to make alcohol, and these will also return seeds. It is also good to have an egg-laying center (see above) and a kitchen. Hens and roosters will produce a ton of eggs, and if you set your kitchen to auto-repeat cooking easy meals, you should be able to feed your dwarves.


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