Note: I discovered the remarkable PC game 'Dwarf Fortress' a while back. Cool Shite needed a review, so I found some tutorials, and figured out how to play this... utterly bugfuck insane game.
I really don't want to waste my time talking about the mechanics of the game and the system. You can, after all, find my review on Cool Shite here: Dwarf Fortress Review. Or you can just Google on Dwarf Fortress, and see what you find. It's worth the effort.
In the meantime, here's a letter from the Town Manager of my fortress to the king that sent him and the other dwarfy colonists into the wilderness, hopefully to prosper and thrive. Hopefully it'll give you some idea of how this lunatic game plays out...
The Baroness has gone mad.
At least she’s had the decency to do it in an appropriately aristocratic fashion. A forlorn, ragged figure, she haunts the byways of our mighty Fortress Alebaldness, clutching her annoying baby, whining endlessly about the Dungeonmaster having a nicer dining room than her, and occasionally screaming with hallucinations as the withdrawal symptoms set in.
The Baron was much more forthright about it. He went mad about a month after his wife, and promptly turned berserk in the ground-level statue garden. He managed to kill one of the war dogs before The Hammerer turned up and put an end to the brief, rather pathetic rampage.
I’m quite grateful to The Hammerer, really. Because I must admit: we do have an alcohol problem in Alebaldness. As you know, the dwarfs you sent here only function properly at a high level of regular drunkenness. Apparently, our fields and farms are too damned fruitful. We have room after room of food storage: piles of prickleberries, wild strawberries galore, oceans of plump helmets... and meat! We have cat meat, dog meat, cow meat, muskox meat, carp meat, sailfin mollymeat, rhesus macacque meat, deer meat, goat meat, and some mouldering piles which the cooks assure me are still edible, but can’t actually be identified at this point. Then there’s the plants. We’ve grown them and harvested them. We’ve gathered them from the wild. We’ve processed them endlessly, and now we have so many stocks of ‘plant’ that nobody really knows what to do with them, except stick them in yet more goddam barrels.
And therein lies the problem. Apparently, the brewer can’t actually create any more sweet, sweet moonshiny booze until he has a barrel or two available, and even though I've got three carpenters working fulltime turning out nothing but barrels, the damned food-storage lackeys keep running off with them all, to stuff them full of yet more anonymous plant matter, mouldering meat, and plump helmets. (Note: what, exactly, is a ‘plump helmet’ and why do we eat it? It sounds terribly... metaphorical. Like a coy nickname for an erection. I’m not really sure that sort of thing constitutes a good diet.)
In any case, I’ve put a stop to all farming. I’ve even created a Royal Guard, in the hopes that perhaps the few remaining nobles will be suitably flattered, and thus not go quite as insane as the Baroness and her consort. The Hammerer and the Dungeonmaster are actually quite useful chaps, and I’d hate to see them charging about the place, rending their shabby clothing, gnashing their yellow teeth, and baying at... well, the ceiling, what with us living mostly underground.
At least the goblins have backed off for the time being. Now that we’ve got two squads of marksdwarfs and two teams of champion wrestlers in chainmail, they have been taking a much softer approach. True, we still get the occasional snatcher wandering the boundaries, but in general the populace seems quite cheered by the spectacle of goblin snatchers being torn to pieces by mighty champion wrestlers. And now that the perimeter wall is finished, the only ways in are through the gates with the chained war dogs, the cage traps, the stone drop traps, the weapon traps, and the drawbridges which we can close on a moment’s notice, providing the dwarfs in the control room aren’t too fucking drunk to to pull a lever. Still, it can be quite entertaining if they’re a little late. Three or four goblin pikemen racing frantically around the compound, screaming in horror as the dogs and the wrestlers tear them into itty-bitty green and bloody pieces is a bracing spectacle.
The last goblin raid was actually rather helpful. Since we’ve completed the wall and the drawbridges, the greenies have seemingly decided to time their attacks for the arrival of the regular merchant caravans, in the hopes we’ll leave the gates unguarded. Or something. They sent a score or so of goblins with pikes and crossbows, led by a human Axelord. The arriving caravans were overwhelmed so fast that pieces of caravan guard were still raining down by the time the greenies got to the wardogs chained at the gate. I sent three heavily armoured Champion Wrestlers out to greet them, and raised the bridges. Meanwhile, a team of perpetually half-drunk and insubordinate marksdwarfs set up behind the fortifications and supplied some alleged covering fire. They didn’t hit any of the All-Star Homicidal Wrestling Freakshow this time, so I suppose that’s good.
The slaughter was unspeakable. We lost a hunter who didn’t get inside the perimeter in time, and two babies carried into battle by the lunatic leader of the Pleasant Syrups, which is the title our foremost squadron of steroid abusers has taken. The goblins and their axelord, on the other hand, were ripped into so many pieces by the withdrawal-maddened Pleasant Syrups that over a month later, we’re still cleaning up the mess.
The conflict was so horrific that the sole surviving human merchant instantly went stark raving mad. And his dromedary, too. They just stood there amidst the blood and severed limbs and heads and the vomit and the dead babies. Naturally, I was forced to rescue all the gear they brought with them. We got barrels of free booze, still more plump helmets, a remarkable variety of meats, a range of iron toys, some useful weapons, an entire mule in a cage, and best of all, we got five iron anvils. Five! Added to the four we so laboriously purchased from various over-charging merchant bastards, and we now have more Magma Forges than any sane fortress could possibly use.
Did I say sane? Strike that. In any case, how can you possibly have too many Magma Forges?
The only drawback of the whole event seems to be that the human diplomat went away unhappy. (And how did he survive, anyway? I certainly didn’t see him anywhere near the carnage. Where was he?) Evidently the sight of a goblin army eating his fellow men alive distressed him. Or possibly it was just the fact that we took all their stuff after the event. Which is just tough snot for him. We would happily have negotiated with the remaining merchant, except all he did was stand in one spot and babble meaninglessly. Him and his equally insane dromedary. And you can’t barter with a mad camel, can you?
No, I think the goblins are under control for the moment. And once we complete the Very Long Fake Entrance Hall Of Hideous Trap-Laden Doom With Optional Flooding And Drowning, I think we’ll be fine. So it’s the skeletal mountain goats that really piss me off. They hang around the slopes to the south, where the dwarfs inexplicably go wandering.
Why? Sometimes they say they want a drink. And yet the fortress abounds with wells and underground canals, all nicely set up for guzzling. Sometimes they claim they’re ‘putting items in stockpiles’. What items? What stockpiles? I have a feeling the dwarfs in question are out gathering up bones and skulls of previous victims of the evil skeletal goats, or even the skeletons of previous evil goats torn apart in hideous training exercises by the demented Pleasant Syrups... so you can see it’s a sort of self-sustaining cycle, and I’m damned if I can figure out what to do about it. Except maybe drink more. And even that’s problematic in Fortress Alebaldness, isn’t it?
Of course, the most horrific problem is the children. There must be something in the water here, or perhaps it’s just the perpetual exposure to heavy metal residues. The children are suicidally stupid. They wander around the magma forges at will, getting in the way of the smithies as they pound molten bronze (oh, how I wish we could find some goddamned iron!) into chainmail for the Pleasant Syrups and their fearsomely violent ilk. They play games on the edge of the bottomless chasm, which is particularly annoying because nobody else will go there for fear of the skeletal antmen some ten levels down, who are trapped forever and permanently incapable of harming anyone or anything. Nevertheless, I can’t use the chasm as a garbage dump because my dwarfs get scared and run away from the edge whenever they see the skeletal antmen down there, waving their bony antenna in feeble, futile menace.
But the children aren’t scared, are they? Oh no. Nor are they scared of goblins. In fact, they love nothing more than rushing to the forefront of a battleground before the military actually arrives, so that the goblins can dismember them and make a fine, nutritious snack of young dwarf jerky in order to prepare themselves for the upcoming battle. And of course, there are the babies. Why do the soldiers always breed? And why do they insist on carrying their babies into the battle with them? Why arent the other dwarfs whooping it up and producing offspring at the same rate as those hideously fecund champion wrestlers?
Just a few notes to finish up, your Highness. Fortress Alebaldness is short of a few vital things. We can trade for iron (if the merchants survive the goblins long enough to avoid catatonia) but so far we have no sources of sand with which to make glass, and weve run out of turtle shell. These may sound like small matters, your Highness, but so far two of my dwarfs have been taken by Fey Moods and seized the glass furnace... only to gradually go mad for lack of raw materials. The score for turtle shell is even worse: weve lost three. Naturally I walled them up until they died, but the stench is dreadful, and since nobody wants to bury the corpses of these maddwarfs, I’ve had to order them dropped into the Magma Pits for disposal. You can imagine what thats done to morale around the place, I’m sure.
Therefore, if you could just see fit to include some glass and turtle shell with your next shipment of totally fucking useless nobility, your Highness, we might possibly see another year or two out of Fortress Alebaldness. Only -- please, for the love of Armok, don’t send us any more fucking Philosphers. The one you sent keeps changing the prices of goods without warning, and staggering about the corridors muttering “I drink therefore I am”, and giggling to himself in a very disturbing fashion. I think one Philosopher is really all that any fortress should have to take.
Town Manager of Mabdugroder (Alebaldness.)
PS: And send more booze. Or at least send us a lot of empty barrels. The goddam elves have demanded we restrict our tree-cutting this year, which makes barrel-making and therefore brewing quite difficult. And if it comes to a choice between the entire fortress going mad from alcohol withdrawal or war with the pointy-eared treehugging hippie stoner bastards, you know which way I’m going to jump, don’t you?