Distant Constructs

published: 2015-03-01, updated: 2021-01-19

Tales of Avarice and Cupidity

Dwarf Fortress is like a mix of the Sims and Sim City with magma, demonic monstrosities, and copious amounts of alcohol. One of the most intriguing aspects of the game is the the level of replayability and interactivity the randomly generated game world provides. The game is conceived as a “fantasy world generator” and every character that you encounter has a full simulated history, which may include interactions with other characters. Armies, towns, and civilizations also rise and fall while you are playing the game, and you may hear about such happenings from interactions with other characters. Very impressive for a 1.5 person undertaking! I’m really looking forward to the implementation of magic systems and creation myths (article, video), if and when that happens.

A fun fact: the title of this site, Distant Constructs, is a combination of the names of one of my first settlements, Distantposts, and its main military squad, the Furious Constructs. The ill-fated fortress was destroyed by a horde of more than 50 skilled goblins, led by a web-shooting skunk demon. I hope that the tragic history of its name does not foreshadow a similar fate for this website.

If you have heard about the game before, you may have heard that it has a fiendish learning curve and is notoriously difficult. I did not find this issue, perhaps because of the quality of the wiki and video tutorials on YouTube. I found it relatively straightforward to start up my own fortress. However, there are a few tweaks that can help ease beginners into the game.

Easing the pain

As of early 2021, the game is receiving a graphical overhaul motivated, in part, due to financial concerns caused by the execrable state of the US healthcare system1. The tips in this section refer to the “Classic” ASCII version of the game.

There are some modifications and utilities that help reduce some of the most frustrating aspects of the game. There are starter packs such as this which provide a plethora of tools, but I found that there are two tools that help the most.

Purists may claim that unless you play ASCII mode, you are missing out on a defining aspect of the game. However, while I enjoy playing other ASCII games such as Angband and ADOM, I found the ASCII graphics are somewhat distracting. This may be because there are a wider range of symbols used and because different types of ground have different symbols, so while you may be standing in an empty desert you will have to parse through the meaning of commas, periods, quotes, backticks, tildas and tiny lemniscates to understand that you are standing in an empty desert. Tilesets alleviate this issue by making the appearance of common objects more readily recognizable. I like the tilesets “Wanderlust” and “Phoebus”

The second utility that I use while playing fortress mode is Dwarf Therapist. This makes managing dwarves much easier and makes migrant waves of 40+ dwarves more bearable.


  1. To quote an exchange about to Charles Mingus being evicted in a documentary “That a man of such talents who created work that lasted after his death is in such dire financial straits says much to anyone…” Or, to frivolously quote George Bernard Shaw, “O God that madest this beautiful earth, when will it be ready to receive Thy saints?” (from Saint Joan). ↩︎