Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The End

Nutscaves went on to do a few assorted other projects. The population grew some more, and the fortress began Project Beloved Creatures (as well as Project Beloved Objects in Beloved Materials).

Nutscaves was used to test weaponization of 12,600-degree iron arrows, and some other facts about weaponizing heat and magma. (It was established that 12,600-degree iron arrows were not any more useful than any other temperature of iron arrows against goblins.)

Because of the wide array of knowledge I gained while overseeing Nutscaves, I was proudly able to help other players for a long time to come.

The most interesting thing about the fortress, to me, was the way that every time there was a terrible wave of death, the survivors were mostly of two types: the murderers who went on a rampage, but didn't go all the way off the deep end—and the dwarves who didn't care.  Dwarves who cracked died. Dwarves who ran screaming from a tantrummer with a battle axe almost always died. The kindest dwarves who helped the others and tried to rescue them, usually died to whatever hurt their buddy. And the next wave of migrants never knew what they were getting into until/unless word got out.

Don't get me wrong. I was horrified. Traumatized. At a loss for words. I needed to know what would happen next, though. So I kept going.

No single survivor at Nutscaves survived for more than about ten years there. The toughest murderers nearly all died eventually to plague, and in one or two cases they got murdered themselves during future tantrum spirals.

Nutscaves went on for several more dwarven years, but its quarantine procedures, defenses, and my own skills as a player had become so strong that nothing interesting ever seemed like it would happen there again. We also seemed to have captured all the wildlife outside the fortress, and the goblins soon feared to invade us. I am sure it was only a matter of time before some more !!fun!!, but soon I grew bored waiting for it. Months after I stopped playing Nutscaves, I realized I should pop open the door to hell at the bottom of the fortress, but by then DF2012 was out, and I decided to move on. My next fortress, in DF2012, was Earthsplatter, where the world was destroyed by vampires.

Project Beloved Creatures

So I was thinking about the happy thoughts dwarves get from seeing beloved creatures in a cage, and it occurred to me I could use this to increase the overall happiness at Nutscaves by having some reasonable fun with animals. (Nutscaves is starting to get a little dull, because we're now rich and happy enough, and well-designed enough, and our traps are powerful enough, to solve every problem that's been thrown at us so far.)

Currently pairs of bedrooms for normal dwarves (ones who aren't the mayor and aren't severely unhappy) are built like this:


- =Open Floor

and repeat. The bolded area (which includes the open floor, may not be visible on the hyphens) is the area that makes up one bedroom. It's symmetric on the other side and the open floor space is shared (this allows them to put their crap in a cabinet while also keeping the room value low, to prevent the mayor or nobles from getting mad--though I don't have a noble anymore).

Without modifying the current layout, I could build cages on the walkable floor, ideally made of materials the dwarves like, and put creatures they love inside. Cages are perfectly passable and it wouldn't disrupt the flow of dwarves heading to and from bed.

I could also rearrange rooms a bit so that dwarves who loved the same animal could all share floor space with one animal between them.

Animals that are detestable (such as rats) would not be eligible for this Tantrum Insulation Plan. Dwarves who love detestable animals will receive a new room layout, with the detestable animal hidden from passersby.

It's a little bit micromanagey since I have to look in individual profiles to find the beloved animals, and then consult the Room directory to find the dwarf's room, and build the cage and put the right animal inside. The other option would be to shove the everything-cage into the main stairwell in an all-purpose manner, but that's somehow just not as cute and cuddly.

I should also be working on bringing up some more magma for Project Goblin Equipment Sorter, but I'm a little stalled on that at the moment because I've either got to find a convenient way to move the goblins that I trap below the drawbridge, down below the aquifer, or I've got to bring the magma up above the aquifer. Both are fairly arduous tasks because of the small dimensions of the freeway I've punched through the aquifer, and both will require a new layout for the top level of the fort. A smarter builder than me could probably have done this already, but all I've got is me so...I sort of sit and think about how to do it the least painful way, while letting time pass in Nutscaves.

Why to use fire-safe materials when sealing caverns

Well, we had some more accidents at Nutscaves. (...) One of the dwarves whose spouse was killed by the recent bout of plague tantrummed a bunch of times. His name is Ezum Fedtome. He was assigned a royal dining room and bedroom, and had been comforted by the lovely waterfall, but it wasn't enough.

Ezum Fedtome knew exactly what he wanted to do during his final tantrum, too. He stomped out of his royal bedroom, marched past the roast stockpiles in a rage, headed up the main stairway, past the forges and the dining hall and the hospital, and proceeded all the way through the fort, past the farms, past the trade depot...and then he was outside under a starry winter sky. He stood in the center of the vomit-covered drawbridge which makes the sole entrance to Nutscaves, and he did the unthinkable.

He destroyed it.

He fell crashing down, along with the bridge, onto the upright spears underneath, where he was merely injured. I had deliberately left the spears upright instead of retracting them when I saw what he was up to, because dwarves who destroy the entrance drawbridge are not welcome in Nutscaves.

Ezum pulled himself off the spears, calmed down, and went about his business. I may execute him for his terrible crime later. I'm still considering it. His four children are all ecstatic despite the dead mother. He's the only one who insists on continuing to have a problem.

(I am sorry Armok's heart probably seems to have grown so hard.)

We had to spend the rest of the winter frantically rebuilding the drawbridge and reconnecting it to its lever. The bridge is long and because of its size, it takes a very long time for the architects to design and build. This is extremely time consuming work and Armok was very, very displeased. Without the drawbridge we are completely disconnected from the outside world, and if a siege came we would be trapped underground forever.

As the masons finished reconstructing the bridge and the mechanics got to work linking the lever, the fortress was attacked by a very terrible forgotten beast. Of course the beast waited to attack until a dwarf had trapped himself in the spear corridor in the deepest cavern. Mechanisms were still not connected from the last beast attack--the dwarves had been too busy with the drawbridge over the winter. The trapped dwarf was unable to get himself out before the beast destroyed the floodgate separating them.

The beast is the most terrifying (to me) one I've seen yet. "Nokgol Sodkun", a gigantic hairy lacewing, with an enormous shell and a bloated body. Its russet hair is long and wavy. Beware its fire!

Its fire.

Its fire.


Why didn't I use fire-safe materials to construct the entrances to the caverns??? What was I thinking???

When the mighty lacewing tore down the "warning" floodgate, it blew a wave of fire at the helpless dwarf. The wave of fire lit up all the wooden spears in the traps and some clothing a stupid, sloppy dwarven child, in need of a stern talking-to, had left behind. Then the marble floodgate connecting the spear corridor to the designated combat area caught fire.

Yes, the marble floodgate. Flux materials are "considered fire-safe", but apparently only when they're used in the production of steel. @#*$!!  Put them in front of an angry fire-breathing lacewing and nothing good will happen!

The !!*Marble Floodgate*!! was holding up for the time being, despite running with flames on both sides. The fire spread rapidly to engulf all the plant life and soil in the fighting room. I hadn't had time to floor it properly yet. I had considered that task low priority, since I had been keeping it clear of trees, and trees were the only previous reason I knew why I ought to floor it. (That and plague contaminants, but we hadn't had any yet in this cavern.) Some soldiers had been waiting in that room to fight the beast when it came in, but that was before I realized how I ought to


The nearest soldiers' clothes caught fire and smoke filled the room. I realized the trapped dwarf was good and dead, and the beast was standing on the spikes now as it worked on destroying the flaming marble floodgate between it and the soldiers. So I commanded the dwarves in the dining hall to man the spikes. And I commanded the soldiers to run out of the area through the bathtub.

Who knew--dwarven bathtubs are great for more than one reason! The bathtub doused their !!clothes!!, and is preventing the fire from spreading into the fortress.

I am a little bit annoyed at this beast. And at Ezum Fedtome. If our hairy lacewing manages to kill anybody else, I'm going to stick Ezum in a cage. I'm not sure for how long.

Back to conquering it...

Food fight

So one of the doctors at Nutscaves is finally fed up with the flies and being nauseated by the sun. She is throwing a tantrum in a food stockpile, hurling roasts at anyone who comes near. She started by fracturing the mayor's head with a sheep tripe roast, and she's still on a rampage.

I'm trying to build a mist generator.

Too many goblins!

So Nutscaves pulled through the recent tragedies, though we still have over a dozen dwarves wandering around slowly with fever and extreme swelling. Ticking time bomb or totally safe? Hard to tell.

With the autumn siege of 267, combined with hauling all the previous goblin crap to the trade depot to buy all the iron the human traders brought--Armok has realized there is a problem.

The problem is that the goblins and their buddies (trolls, namely) just bring too much crap to the fortress. The particular goblin civilization that attacks Nutscaves, The Tame Disloyalty, does not have good access even to the weakest of metals. Most of their troops arrive wearing a low quality, emblemmed copper breastplate and helm, with low quality troll fur or spider silk clothing to fill in the rest of their "armor". Their weapons are usually copper. Their veteran goblins wear the same, but sometimes have a silver weapon. The masters and captains usually wear a few pieces of iron or steel.

I've seen other goblin civilizations, such as the one at my last fortress, that can afford to outfit every last goblin in full steel. So I know it could happen. But at Nutscaves it doesn't.

Armok added the masterwork copper and bismuth bronze menacing spikes that Sarvesh, our now-legendary weaponsmith, skilled up on, to the entrance spikes. (I couldn't melt the darn things..she'd tantrum.) This beefed up the spikes a great deal, especially considering that even our best-armored foes are usually wearing mere cloth over most of their bodies. (And the traps I beefed up had been just small sets of wooden training spears, before.)

As a result of the upgrade, we're getting a lot more corpses a lot faster during sieges as a result, and the resulting heap of bloody cloth outside the fortress is becoming...mountainous. It's getting difficult to drag it just the thirty paces indoors, to the stockpile next to the trade depot, in any reasonable amount of time. Then the junky goblin armor consumes a lot of bins, and the spider silk stuff is annoyingly valuable, making it hard to trade it all away.

Hauling it down to the magma has become a bit problematic, because Armok is sometimes having to use dumps to store other unwieldy things Armok accidentally overstocked, like magma-safe hatches and pump components. So I have to make sure nothing else in the fortress that I want to keep, is marked for dumping when I send items down to the sea. I'm a little overwhelmed with the level of micromanagement needed to get rid of all this junk.

There is enough of it that the trade depot filter screen is getting a little slow--something I had proudly prevented until recently. I enjoy keeping my fortress interface running smoothly and at a good framerate, and having the filters respond quickly to keystrokes. There's way too much crap in the fortress now.

There are several possible solutions I've considered:

1. Don't let the goblins enter the map. But Armok likes the goblins. The goblins give us purpose, meaning, and most importantly, entertainment in several forms.

2. Who cares about the items I might accidentally destroy...I can always dig up more quartzite and replace them. There's at least one whole rock level of it under us that hasn't been dug out. But Armok hates digging and (s)he hates the possibility of dumping some masterwork item while the fort is currently at its unhappiest since the Tantrum Spirals of Wiping. Armok can take this solution but Armok would like something better.

3. Armok was thinking to him-/herself: "If only I could set up a trap that sorted out the steel and iron items from the goblins, and dumped the others into the magma--"

And then it dawned on Armok. A substance in the fortress exists that can do just what Armok desires! It is the preferred substance of the best and mightiest builders: the magma itself! And Armok finally understands why the great builders would go to such lengths to utilize this substance!

Magma kills goblins and trolls, and all their other buddies that sometimes come along. It burns up everything they wear except iron and steel. When drained, it leaves nearly-molten-hot iron and steel items--but they can be cooled by being dunked in water.

Armok has theoretically infinite access to magma. Armok has infinite access to water. Does Armok dare build the deadliest trap Armok has ever seriously conceived of?

Previously the spikes were the deadliest trap Armok had ever dared employ. Just a few months ago, a veteran dwarf soldier in full fortress-forged, high-quality steel plate was accidentally killed by one in a single hit. (Oops.) But other than that, Armok has successfully kept the dwarves quite safe from the spikes. Can Armok keep the dwarves safe from the magma?

There is the question of what type of trap to design.

Trap Design 1. Some builders bring their magma to the surface and flood their entry bridge with it, then atom-smash the magma to drain. Armok could do that, but in Nutscaves it would be very tough. The holes in our aquifer aren't big enough to fit more plumbing (the current "surface" magma rests two layers below the aquifer, powering the forges), and Armok's magma piston isn't currently reusable either, after the Great Collapse of 263. Making the magma piston reusable once more isn't a huge deal, because it just involves some building, and extending water plumbing that was designed with this type of extension in mind. But, Armok would have to deconstruct an awful lot of stuff and tear massive holes in the top of the fortress, to freeze large enough openings in the aquifer to fit plumbing. This would probably take several tense winters of carefully-planned building.

Or I would have to painstakingly open the aquifer the "normal" way, with pumps, after carefully deciphering a diagram with lots of ASCII symbols, and which wasn't drawn with readability or order of operations particularly in mind... Haha, yeah right!

Armok has not particularly enjoyed freezing through this particular aquifer--Armok has done it twice now, once to make a path and the second time to widen it. (It's annoying because the aquifer is two layers tall, and it's several layers below the surface, and it has to be frozen-through in a funnel shape. The "funnel" I had to dig just to wind up with a 3x3 stairway in it was massive and very disruptive to fortress traffic.)

Trap Design 2. I could build or remodel a room below the aquifer, capable of being filled with magma, and drained, and then cooled with water. (Alternately, I also have a "room" in the fortress that is full of magma, and conveniently placed at the bottom of a hundred-ish-story air shaft. It could be easily modified to be drainable and refillable.) Then, all prisoners that behave themselves (non-thieves) could be melted in there--and I wouldn't have to bother stripping equipment from those types of prisoners anymore either. Unfortunately my current trap system (due to being very lethal) only allows me to pick up about a dozen prisoners from each siege, though, and I like to use prisoners for soldier practice. (It's the non-prisoners I want to melt.) During sieges, another two dozen goblins-and-co. tend to die to one of the two strips of spikes, or weapon traps, and the rest run away.

Trap Design 3. I could simply kill less goblins. I could remove high-quality metal components from traps, and stop spilling so many of the attackers into the spike room below the drawbridge. This would reduce the amount of clothing and other general crap I wind up with. However, my common sense tells me that decreasing defenses in order to potentially allow more or stronger attackers to get into the fortress, is not the smartest way to deal with our little trash problem.

Trap Design 4. I think what I'd really like, is to be able to flood the spike room under the drawbridge with magma at will. (While also retaining the ability to decide whether or not to use the magma, such as if I want to keep a special corpse for butchering, or some piece of treasure.) This would mean removing any weapon components in there that are not magma-safe (not a problem--hello Sarvesh!).

Getting water in there to cool it afterward would be a real pita, though, because the area is considered "Above Ground", and water will freeze as it enters the room at frozen times of year, which sometimes happen to correspond with sieges. The freezing water will create an ice plug, jamming the whole system.

The tiles of my spike room are considered "Above Ground" because the natural rock above them has been removed (when the drawbridge was built). (Even if something is built above "Above Ground" tiles, they can never become Subterranean again. It's similar to being infected with dreaded Light.)

So what I need to be able to do, I think, if I want to be able to melt the prisoners that get dropped under the bridge--is to find a way to lure them into a Subterranean area that can then be sealed (and then flooded with magma, drained, and cooled with water). Luring them (such as with a chained rabbit) would need to take into account that they may have long-range weapons, and one shot can potentially kill the lure, stopping it from working.

I've thought about using a locked door to protect my, say, chained rabbit from real harm--since that's what I use to get my giant cave spider to shoot silk at that poor dog in the weavers' area. I believe the goblins can either unlock doors (because they're sentient), or that they just won't bother trying to path through one (and so won't be interested in the rabbit), though. (In 40d it was the latter, but I've read on the magmawiki that it's the former, and magmawiki has been wrong so many times--so I don't know this for certain until I test it myself.) Well, I don't think a locked door will be right for this.

I remember a trap design I saw in 40d where a goat was tied up at the center of a long spiral path. As invaders entered the path, a floodgate went up to protect the goat, and the invaders got doused in magma. This is effective against goblin archers, and I use a design based on it for my trade depot entrance. It does have some problems, though, like it's kind of slow. (Goblins don't just charge in.) And in 31.25, unlike 40d, pathing is blocked by 1/7 depth evaporating magma. Magma takes a really long time to evaporate.

Well. I'll think about it some more.

Winter 266, Nutscaves

So the winter of 266 didn't go well at Nutscaves. We've had another series of terrible accidents. I hope the worst is past now, but there's still a forgotten beast composed of undulating snow flying around in one of the caverns, and we need to get in there quite desperately (...facepalm). So maybe it's not over yet.

I suppose the trouble began with Armok saying in the early autumn, "Hmm, things are getting a little dull at Nutscaves. Let's spice it up by quickly cleaning up some garbage outside the fortress, before the usual siege time arrives."

266 was certainly a pretty dull year until winter. Spring through mid-autumn consisted of mostly-normal trading, one siege, a handful of routine prisoner executions, the long-awaited full coverage of the military in high quality steel plate, a very minor plague incident, and the bricking-up of most of the remaining soil floor. (Soil is always just begging to get contaminated.) A lot of stockpiles were moved or rearranged for construction purposes, but not much other serious work occurred during the year. We also had to temporarily shut down the farms at the start of winter because our food and booze stockpiles were overflowing and the fortress was getting increasingly full of rats. A lot of dwarves were mad about the rats, but it was nothing serious.

So in early autumn Armok designated some junk to pick up from the far corner of the great outdoors, and the haulers cheerfully proceeded out of the fortress in a line. They were just glad to have some work to do. Armok hoped nothing would go wrong.

The haulers tidied the mess quickly. But after the dwarfstorm converged on the junk pile and headed back to the fortress, there was one item left on the ground to pick up. It was a low quality cedar training spear.

(Of course it had to be that. Something totally useless, and worth about four dwarfbucks.)

The haulers dumped the items in the designated area just inside the fort entrance. One particularly quick hauler, a skinny eighty-nine year old woman who was so quick partly because she was wearing absolutely nothing but gloves and shoes--volunteered to rush back outside and get the spear. She was called Shorast Tiredgild, and there was nothing tired about her. She was quick and agile and strong, and has amazing willpower and self-discipline. No wonder she volunteered to go pick up the last item. And so the other haulers cheered at her offering, and gladly went down to the new stoneware brick bar, to start celebrating a job well done.

And so, the sprightly and mostly-naked Shorast Tiredgild ventured back outside, alone, to pick up the near-worthless cedar training spear in the far corner of Nutscaves' small corner of The Tufted Desert.

And so tragedy began to strike. Let's take a look at what happened at the magma furnaces in the meanwhile:

In recent times, Nutscaves had been training a very promising potter. We currently employ a total of only three potters: two came to the fortress very skilled, and our third one, Kumil Glorieshammer, was selected to be trained from a low skill level simply for her very impressively high potting potential. Kumil Glorieshammer is a 57-year-old woman, fat and with silver eyes, cinnamon skin, and a clean-shaven head. (She is probably fat because she has a great love of most of Nutscaves' most commonly-produced dishes, especially the Longland flour.) She started out making crappy, hard-to-identify stoneware statues I had to offload on the traders--but she moved up to High Master Potter very quickly and was well on her way to Grand Master, like the other potters.

And so, as sprightly Shorast the hauler left the fortress, Kumil Glorieshammer was suddenly possessed by the desire to create an artifact! Armok was overjoyed because it would mean that Kumil would beat the other two potters to Legendary status, and Armok was quite excited to possibly get a stoneware artifact for Nutscaves!

But no. It was not to be. Anything Armok wants so much, Armok may not have.

Armok was very puzzled as (s)he watched Kumil Glorieshammer abandon her station at the kiln. Then Armok realized Kumil was probably heading to the regular, non-magma-powered kiln. Armok shrugged. Armok felt anticipation. Armok made some designations around the fortress while Kumil made her way downstairs.

Then Kumil kept going down the stairs, right past the wood shop and its non-magma-powered kiln. "Kumil! Wrong way!" cried Armok.

Kumil stopped at the bone room and claimed a crafter's workshop.

Armok's blood pressure rose and Armok checked Kumil to make sure she hadn't been studying crafting in her spare time. Kumil had no skills besides fighting and potting. What was she doing in the crappy crafting workshop? That was for making junk out of bones, and engraving slabs, and refilling on wooden bolts every few years. "Get out of there, Kumil!" cried Armok.

Armok froze time, and consulted the current of knowledge that flows through the magma of all the worlds, and learned a fact:

Potters can't make pottery artifacts.

Armok cried a little, got over it, and un-froze time. But after claiming the workshop, Kumil Glorieshammer would not move. "What are you doing now, Kumil?" inquired Armok.

When Kumil continued to stay stubbornly still instead of gathering materials for her crappy crafts artifact, Armok went closer and listened to her mutterings. Kumil was listing many demands for materials.

"Oh, silly Kumil! You want stone blocks and I forgot to un-forbid the 27 rainbow-colorful ones that we're not using right now. Let me fix that," said Armok. Armok did as Armok promised.

But Armok had also heard something much worse than "stone blocks" come out of Kumil Glorieshammer's mouth. Armok tried to ignore it. Armok felt afraid. Armok prayed Kumil would move after unforbidding the blocks.

Kumil did not move.

"Uh oh," said Armok.

"a shell... a shell... a shell..." whispered Kumil.

Armok froze time and panicked a little.

It is Nutscaves' one weakness (besides just being Nutscaves). Our kryptonite: shells. We have dozens of artifacts and we've been lucky that no one has ever demanded one until now. (The demands were made rare because of a persistent unaddressed game bug.) But now it has happened.

Shells come from four sources: raw turtles, mussels, and oysters that are caught and prepared on-site; and snail men. We have access to none of those at Nutscaves. We're in badlands, the wrong biome for all four. (Shells should also come from cave lobsters, or from shelled creatures brought by the caravan, but there is a terrible bug about that, and our caverns have always had no amphibious life anyway.) ((Unfortunately I knew nothing about the bug or lack of life in our caverns at the time.))

At first Armok made the mistake of thinking Armok could get the dwarves to catch a cave lobster and remove its shell. (This was before Armok consulted the great flow of magma knowledge and learned that cave lobsters are currently shell-less.)

And so Armok opened the second cavern and told all forty of the reserves that they were now fishermen. Armok designated the shore of the great cavern lake for fishing, and hoped they'd catch and prepare enough lobsters before Kumil lost her mind.

Forty fishers marched down into the cavern and went to work with their beards.

A great beast of undulating snow promptly found its way into the third cavern. Not the cavern we were fishing in--but the one below it. Armok checked the seals and set the proper spears to repeat, and hoped the great beast of undulating snow wouldn't find some way into the fortress Armok hadn't thought of. The first and second caverns have well-planned entrances, but there's a hole in the ceiling in the third one that Armok hasn't gotten around to fixing. Armok hoped the beast couldn't fly.

Undulating snow doesn't fly, right?

While checking that all the machinery was ready to stave off the beast in the third cavern, Armok considered that if a beast entered the cavern where the dwarves were fishing, they would be trapped.

Utes Stestrakzom, an enormous, slavering, winged and feathered earthworm with long, broad cinnamon feathers knew its cue when it heard it. Armok didn't have to think it twice. The great current of magma that carries knowledge through the world is powerful indeed. Utes Strestrakzom entered the second cavern very near where the dwarves were fishing. Beware its poisonous gas.

"UHOH," said Armok. Armok knew not to mess with poisonous gas. Just what was Armok thinking, letting these dwarves fish here without building a proper, safe fishing station? Armok had gotten into a panic about the shells and Armok doesn't do the cleverest things when Armok panics.

The fortress went on alert (all dwarves report to safe areas!) and as a result, the dwarves stopped upgrading upright spears they'd been working on beefing up at the entrance. It wasn't a big deal--we only replace one square urist of spears at a time because we might need to use the spears at any moment. But it left us in a more poorly defended position than usual.

Immediately after issuing the alert, a vile force of darkness arrived! Large squads of goblins and trolls appeared in every direction. It must have taken them days to surround Nutscaves so thoroughly.

"Oh, crud, Shorast!" cried Armok, helplessly. Sprightly Shorast Tiredgild, the hauler, had the cedar training spear in hand and was hurrying toward the fortress, but several squads of goblins were closer to Nutscaves proper than she was, and some of them had bows.

Armok decided not to start up the mechanical spears until Shorast's fate was decided. This would mean some goblins might get into the fortress fairly uninjured, if they moved fast and as a group.

Armok realized all Armok's soldiers were struggling to get away from the fishing area in the second cavern. Forty disorganized soldiers on civilian duty don't move well in single file. They have to walk in single file to get to the muddy shore, and the entrance to the fortress via the cavern is single file as well. When they get an alert they hurry, and they don't care about stepping on people. The stampede down there was getting out of hand. A lot of dwarves were lying on the ground. Meanwhile, Utes Strestrakzom, the slavering winged earthworm, beware its poisonous gas, was practically on top of them.

Armok did some facepalming.

"Just kill it," said Armok in defeat, when Armok was done facepalming.

At least they were already wearing all their steel plate. It isn't good to expose that many dwarves to poisonous gas and boiling extract at once, though. Armok knows!

There was one fortunate incident in the whole thing. Because of Shorast Tiredgild's nudity, and the light weight of the cedar training spear she carried, she was able to sprint to the fortress like a shooting star. She easily beat the closest group of goblins and arrived safely and unscathed. She reported to the safe area immediately and hastened to put away the spear. Armok could barely believe it. She had been surrounded and it had looked very grim, but Shorast didn't even get within shooting range of the goblins.

Armok started the mechanical spears and began raising and lowering the drawbridge at intervals, dumping the goblins one serving at a time into the maw of Armok's masterful goblin grinding traps, and taking joy in slaughter as Armok went. Fortunately Armok wouldn't need the soldiers this time. If Armok gets overwhelmed, Armok can just raise the bridge until the civilians un-jam enough weapon traps and reload enough cages.

Good thing, because the forty would-be fisherman-soldiers were having the fight of their lives.

Utes Strestrakzom, the slavering winged earthworm, beware its poisonous gas--could not hurt the dwarves through their steel plate via normal means, but Utes was a clever (perhaps the cleverest?) giant winged and feathered earthworm. Utes lashed out and grabbed at wrists and hands, trying to relieve the soldiers of their shields, while releasing clouds of poison and boiling extract. Many dwarves dropped their shields or were unable to raise them, and became stricken immediately with nausea and fever, and became stunned and vulnerable as a result. Fortunately the still-healthy dwarves' ferocious attacks kept Utes on the move, and Utes could not hang around to prey upon the sickened dwarves.

The dwarves fought Utes for a week while Armok and his/her civilian lever operators took care of the siege together. Because of the surprise start while fishing in an unsafe area, the fight did not take place in the proper part of the cavern, and pools of forgotten beast extract and deadly blood went everywhere. Many dwarves stepped in them while fighting and did not have their protective water coating to save themselves.

Utes took very little damage while the dwarves attempted to attack him. He darted around the soldiers and dodged and rolled and flew with amazing alacrity. Hundreds of attacks failed to connect. Someone with a spear managed to stab him in the mouth early on, and he received a few small scratches to the body, but for most of the week the soldiers just chased him around and protected each other without doing any real damage.

Finally the dwarf with the spear who'd stabbed Utes in the mouth, managed to get behind Utes. He'd been unconscious back there, but recovered and moved slowly toward Utes, nauseated and disoriented. Utes was distracted by dodging dozens of soldiers' attacks, and didn't see him coming in time. The dwarf took one good stab and jammed his spear into Utes' brain from behind, and promptly fell unconscious again. Utes fell dead to the ground.

Most of the dwarves that weren't already unconscious promptly fainted, or dragged themselves slowly toward the hospital through pools of forgotten beast extract. That is, to be clear, pools of plague. Most of the dwarves were nauseated, half were fevered (a frightening condition I've never seen before), and several were necrotic and exuding clouds of miasma. All of them except a few lucky ones had severe swelling. Necrotic, fevered blood plague.

"Oh no!" said Armok. "What have I done?!" The hospital has only fourteen beds.

The long line of weary soldiers left a trail of vomit from the second cavern all the way up to the hospital. Some decided they felt sort of better along the way, and went back down to fish in a safer area Armok had located for them. (Eventually they interrupted their fishing to report to the hospital.) By the time the first wave reached the hospital, there were just enough beds.

But things weren't looking good for them.

The doctors told the fevered ones, "Yes, you have a fever. It will make you feel unfocused and slow. It may last forever or you may just die at some point. There's nothing we can do for you. Good luck and enjoy the rest of your life while you still cling to it." And they discharged them from the hospital. Now those dwarves are going around slowly, with increasing swelling. It's only a matter of time for them.

The surgeons went to work on the necrotic cases. They're still working on the worst one. It isn't looking good. They've done the same surgical procedure three times in a row on poor Urist Chanceclasped, who has only one kill to his name. The rot keeps spreading and returning, and the swelling has kept increasing. The surgeon had to cut him open to release the pressure of the swelling, and now the whole room is spattered with blood. The patients usually don't live long after that happens.

The worst thing is, this botched fight with Utes Strestrakzom and the fishing in the cavern was all for nothing. We have no shells. There was no life in the water of the second cavern, and unless we happen to find any in the tiny unexplored portion of the third cavern (currently guarded by a forgotten beast of undulating snow oh crud, it flew through the hole and is in the stairwell now!), there will never be any shells. Kumil Glorieshammer, our most promising potter, is almost definitely going to die, along with all the people with the fever.

As a "bonus", between them, they have friendships with everyone in the fortress.

At least we didn't bring the plague contaminant into the fortress. The quarantining worked. A maximum of forty people can die. The fighting was all on the proper side of the bathtub, even though it wasn't in the designated combat area, and even though way too many dwarves were involved. At least we have that: a hundred and twenty dwarves will not get the plague.

My introduction to starting a fortress

Here is Armok's lesson in fortress-building, or what to do once a site is found and embarked-upon. This lesson is about understanding the Dwarf Fortress world and critical problem-solving in new fortresses, rather than the specifics of using the interface. (There are plenty of tutorials about the latter.) Finding a site and all the other stuff that happens before embarking is a more contentious subject, and lots of information can be found about it elsewhere.


Armok believes the most critical lesson in fortresses is to keep the citizens alive. (Your definition of what constitutes a "citizen" versus a "non-citizen" is totally up to you.) Citizens have a few simple needs:
  • Citizens who are exposed to freezing or scorching weather for too long will die. Get them into a subterranean area any way you can. (Subterranean areas are always at a constant survivable temperature.) Their fat and clothes will protect them for a while in freezing weather, but against scorching weather there is no protection. You get to a subterranean area by digging. I hope you brought a pick!
  • Citizens must drink. Citizens who are healthy want their favorite beer, but they'll take any beer pretty gladly. They'll drink water if there's no other choice. Citizens who are sick or injured need water. Citizens can also drink dirty water if they have to. Dirty water will get them sick, and they'll probably die if they come down with the kind of stuff that's in dirty water.
How to get drinks?
  1. Beer is made at the brewery, from plants or honey. The brewer needs a barrel (made from wood or metal) or a large pot (made from stone, glass, or clay) to put the beer in. Strangely, he doesn't need water in order to brew. The plants can be gathered from naturally-occurring shrubs, grown at a farm plot, or bought from the caravan. Honey is gathered from your beekeeping area (until it bugs out). Shrubs that get walked on even a little bit will die. If shrubs are sparse in your area, be careful where you tread!
  2. Water is found in streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, oceans, and subterranean caverns. Nearly every map has water, even if it's only subterranean. The dwarves can drink non-salt water directly from the source, but they don't like that and will use it as a last resort. They prefer a well. You can build a well over water to make them like the water better. But if the water isn't flowing water, it'll be dirty. You can make dirty water clean by putting it in a reservoir that is more than one Z-level deep with water. This takes time to construct, but a safe, clean water source is a staple in every fortress.
  • Citizens must eat. If there's edible stuff in the fortress (even live vermin), the citizens will know what to do with it. Citizens get really unhappy resorting to catching and eating their own live vermin. It's also possible to starve to death that way. So it's best to have another, more reliable source of food. Citizens like food best if it's been cooked at the kitchen into a quality meal. Food comes from tons of sources:
A. Female birds lay edible eggs, even if a male is not around. This is a great source of food. All the bird needs to get to work is access to a nest box, which you can make from any hard material (wood, stone, glass, clay, metal, etc.).

B. Fisherdwarves can catch fish from water. This is also a great source of food, especially if the water has flow. If it has flow, you won't ever run out of fish!* Beware as your fish and turtles can go extinct if you over-fish non-flowing water, such as ponds.

((Note: At least in DF2012, you most certainly will run out of fish from flowing water. Fish are no longer a long-term food source.))

C. Butchers can slaughter animals into edible meat and organs (and other inedible products you can use). Sometimes they can slaughter very-recently-dead animals, but live ones work a lot better. Even smaller animals provide a very large amount of meat, if they provide any at all. (One butchered adult sheep can feed four dwarves for a year, for example. An adult grizzly bear will feed five.) You can get animals for your butcher by buying them from caravans, hunting them, catching them in cages, breeding wild or tame animals within the fortress, or just killing wild animals by accident or with traps or soldiers. Wild animals are not reliably butcherable, but some of their corpses will be.

D. The berries and other plants you gather from shrubs can be eaten outright.

E. You can grow crops for a very reliable, steady source of food. Edible crops include mushrooms, berries, grain for flour, sweet pods for sugar and syrup, and the all-important spices. An unskilled farmer with two small farm plots and enough seeds can keep dozens of dwarves fed by himself every year, and a legendary farmer with the same can feed over three hundred dwarves. So, usually your farmer will produce more food than you need. The excess food makes very valuable trade goods for the caravan, especially if it's cooked.

F. Honey and royal jelly can be gathered from an artificial beehive. These cannot be eaten until cooked at the kitchen. There are many bugs with beekeeping** in DF2010 and it can be a frustrating industry to try to run.

((** I'd just like to add I find this particularly tragic, personally.))

Also, the bugs with beekeeping seem to persist in DF2012 as well.))

G. Milk can be cooked at the kitchen, or processed into cheese. Milk comes from milking tame milkable animals at the farmer's workshop, or buying it from the caravan. There are bugs with the pastures these animals need in order to survive in DF2010, and keeping “grazer” animals can be an exercise in frustration.
  • Citizens must be kept happy enough to not throw violent tantrums or go insane. Insane dwarves will starve and dehydrate themselves, and insanity cannot be cured. Dwarves will go insane from unhappiness, and also from trying to make an artifact but not having the materials they want. Keep a good selection of materials around the fortress for the latter. As for the former, a citizen's state of happiness is summed from many sources. Here are some examples:
A. Unhappiness. Citizens are made unhappy by the following types of things:
  • A friend, family member, or pet dies
  • They witness any friendly creature's death
  • They see a corpse of a pet or a member of their civilization lying around somewhere in a decayed state
  • They come into contact (line of sight) with a creature they detest. Most dwarves detest rats or roaches, and these tend to be common in farms and food storage areas. Employing a cat can go a long way to keep these pests at bay. All dwarves also hate being harassed by flies. Flies will unavoidably swarm around where there are corpses or food. Keeping food out of the main walkway is a good idea, but dwarves will still be harassed by flies when they go to pick up food to eat. This seems to be an unavoidable source of unhappiness, unless you can somehow avoid stockpiling food. (Let me know if you do.)
  • They are attacked violently while a civilian
  • They survive an accident, such as a cave-in or near-drowning
  • They drink the same type of booze too many times in a row
  • They drink unclean water, or eat vermin they personally caught with their bare hands
  • They get quite hungry, thirsty, or tired
  • They don't get to sleep in appropriate quarters (normal dwarves just like a low-quality bed to sleep in, but mayors need "decent quarters" to remain content, and nobles need much more)
  • They talked to a noble (only if the dwarf doesn't care for authority)
  • And many other sources of unhappy thoughts.
Enough unhappiness will harden a dwarf to further unhappiness. That is, if that dwarf isn't driven to insanity by unhappiness first. The dwarf's personality plays a part in this.

B. Happiness. Citizens are made happy by the following types of things:
  • Being near mist (like a waterfall)
  • Talking with family members, friends, or any dwarven child
  • Being near their pet or a beloved creature
  • Eating in a nice dining room
  • Sleeping in a bedroom finer than one's station in life
  • Admiring an owned object or owned room
  • Admiring a well-crafted or well-built object, or being in close contact with an object the dwarf likes
  • Eating a favorite food or drinking a favorite booze
  • Drinking pure water from a deep well (more than one z-level water depth)
  • Being let out of a cage. (Dwarves can't get into a cage through normal means, but cage traps will capture them if they're unconscious or caught in a web.)
  • Continuing to live life with an unpunished crime. Murdering other members of the dwarf's civilization is a crime, and so is anything the nobles say is a crime--such as failing to meet a mandate.
  • Being brought food or water, or brought to rest in bed (such as after an accident)
  • Recovering from an illness or injury
  • Becoming a parent, spouse, elected official, or noble
  • Making an artifact
  • Having a bath
  • Having a bath with soap (much happier thought than just having a bath)
  • And many other sources of happy thoughts.
Personality plays a part in whether a dwarf is happy or not, but many events will make every dwarf happy or unhappy. Everyone appreciates a good dining room and having their favorite booze and food available.
  • A spectacular enough accident has the potential to wipe out your fortress. Cave-ins, floods, fires, ill-conceived traps or constructions, falls from great heights, drowning, and just about any other conceivable type of accident can kill the citizens. Be careful when you mine and build.
  • Finally, citizens must be protected from physical harm in the form of invaders and aggressive wild animals. These enemies come with varying degrees of determination, and will arrive from the surface or the caverns if they can find a way to reach you. It is up to you to decide how to protect your citizens from hostile forces. Having a sealable entrance you can put your dwarves behind goes a long way to protect the citizens from hostiles in a young fortress, but it is not required. You can deploy traps of all kinds, drawbridges, lockable doors, siege weapons, land mines, personnel, plague, extreme heat or cold, and vicious trained, tame, or wild animals (such as dogs, wolves, black/grizzly/polar bears, and large cats) to protect the fortress from hostiles.
From a building standpoint, your defenses are only as good as the weakest link. If your wall is otherwise really nice but has one opening in it, that's where the invaders will come through. If the ceiling above your main stairwell has one hole in it, that's where the goblin bowmen will go to shoot. If you build some kind of open tunnel to your beehives or the oceanside and your fort is otherwise sealed up, I'm sure you can guess where the invaders will come in.

Some types of defenses are very good against some types of enemies and not others.
  • Only one weapon works on every enemy: entombment. You can encase anything in obsidian or ice, or bury it under a cave-in of natural rock, to kill it.
  • Magma is highly effective against everything except forgotten beasts, and foes that normally live in magma.
  • Upright spear traps work really well against enemies with organs, but they're pretty useless against an organless foe that is composed of things like vomit, fire, or rock.
  • Flying enemies won't come down and stand on your traps or fight with your melee soldiers, unless there's no other way to get to the place they want. Otherwise those weapons can be very effective, depending on the quality involved and any natural resistances of the enemies.
  • War dogs, grizzly bears, and the like are good at slowing down enemies and can kill almost as well as a dwarf soldier--but enemies with metal weapons will hack them to pieces with very little effort. (Note: Animals are an extremely bad choice to use against goblins in DF2010.)
I additionally note that goblin sieges, the most common reason you will need defenses--will often send more enemies than your total population, and they'll be well-trained and well-armored--so hoping to match them toe-to-toe in an open field with your soldiers every time isn't necessarily a good plan for the continuance of the fortress.

That is Armok's introduction to Dwarf Fortress.

TLDR: If you can keep at least one citizen alive, you win haven't lost yet.

Quarantining your fortress, step 7: If you can't find it, you know where it is

Always remember, when in doubt, you can always pass the problem along to the traders.

If you just can't find where the plague is coming from, and you've checked all the floors and walls, and taken my other precautions (yes, it can still happen if the fort was previously contaminated like Nutscaves!), then there is still a solution--because in this case you do know where that plague is coming from, by process of elimination. It's on an object that people have been handling.

So there are two things left to do:
  1. Take everything to the trade depot or the magma sea (in my case I just picked whichever was closer to the items), forfeit all of it, and start over worldly-things-wise. Your material things are much worse than worthless if everyone who touches them dies. Dwarves might die hauling, but more will rise up to replace them until the item gets to its destination. (That, or the fort will die out.) The plague is by far the mightiest opponent I have encountered in Dwarf Fortress, and there is definitely no dishonor in losing to such a powerful foe.
  2. Look at people's owned clothes that they are not wearing. My dwarves all sleep in one section of the fortress and have their own cabinets, so this is fairly easy (though a bit painstaking) in my fort. If you find plague contaminant on a piece of clothing someone owns (and this can only have happened if your fort wasn't properly quarantined at some point, like Nutscaves), then you have a somewhat serious problem (as in, the type you can't ignore). You can't sell or move owned items, or give the dwarves any instructions whatsoever about them (except this one): So forbid the item and everything adjacent, and wall it up as in Quarantining your fortress, step 6. The owner will not complain as long as it stays forbidden.
I prefer to burn owned items if at all possible, rather than forbid them, since I use Forbid/un-Forbid to do some other things. I don't know a good way to start a controlled fire in the bedrooms, but so far contaminated owned items have always shown up in magma or water plumbing areas (due to water's nature of sympathetic magic and contaminant-gathering, and its way of accidentally getting into my magma shaft in the past).

I have lit things on fire in the magma shaft countless times with the express purpose of getting rid of them (and more often, without the express purpose of getting rid of them). The water reservoirs are pretty good too, since you can just forbid and forget items that "fall in". (You just have to re-forbid if it gets un-forbidden at any point, or else the owner will start whining about how he really really wants his tattered left sock that's under five stories of water in the well reservoir. I should probably have built a proper drain on that...)

And so concludes how Armok has learned to prevent and fight the plague. Armok's most important feature in this regard is probably persistence, and open-mindedness, because certainly, Armok found not all of the information available about quarantining a fortress online is correct.

Quarantining your fortress, step 6: Know what they won't clean

I have some obviously contaminated spots in my fortress that I just could not get the dwarves to clean, period. Originally I didn't know what to do about these areas, so I tried everything and had to learn my conclusions by experience.

For starters, dwarves currently won't clean:
  • Stairs
  • Soil layers
  • Above ground areas
  • Constructed walls
(I think most of that is a bug, personally.) And walls are a particular problem in Nutscaves--I have some walls near the trade depot that are spattered with the worst type of infectious plague. Standing directly next to these walls is enough to catch it. Ask the dead traders and everybody who lived in the fortress and wasn't completely occupied with work elsewhere that fateful year. Oh wait.

You can remove contaminants from a wall by removing the wall. (Note: I don't recommend doing this.) The building material will be contaminated when it comes out. The miner or builder who removes the wall will 100% certainly be contaminated if not wearing gloves. This miner or builder will also very likely be contaminated even if fully dressed, because they have to come in close contact with the contaminated area to do their job, and close contact is the definition of plague spreading in DF.

Whether or not this miner or builder contracts the plague himself, the next bathtub this miner or builder goes through will get plague in the water. Bathtubs are high priority for cleaners when engraved--but the cleaners can't just teleport there instantly, or finish the job instantly. (You could station janitors in the tub, but they will just tend to wind up standing in plague, and come down with it, before they decide to start cleaning. I learned from experience.) Injured dwarves who may have dropped a boot and move through the tub, such as to the hospital, will be infected. (Example: A goblin bit your foot off in the execution room. Now you've got the plague because of that miner who decontaminated the wall! It happened.)

Anyone who hauls the contaminated building material away will also contaminate the first tub they go through. The building material will get clean from that, but your shoeless dwarves won't thank you.

Clearly this is a nightmare. Plague that can survive on surfaces indefinitely is a nightmare. It's hard to find and it's hard to clean up (if it even can be cleaned-up). You don't want it. But you have it. What to do?

There is one solution that definitely works. This substance has to be located and sealed off--and it has to be sealed off while standing in a tile that is not contaminated. If you can prevent the builder from getting contaminated and avoid creating contaminated building materials, then nobody will get sick from this contaminated tile (once it's sealed). But how?!

First, you have to do everything in your power to keep dwarves from continuing to step on or next to the contaminated areas while the builders work:

  1. Identify contaminated areas and deny access to that section of the fortress, such as via a burrow.
  2. I mark contaminated areas as Restricted Traffic so that dwarves (and invaders, who can likewise spread contaminants) will do everything in their power not to step there. Traffic designations will also help you keep track of places that have been contaminated and sealed off in the soil layers (where contaminants are not visible), so that you don't try to do anything else there.

Hopefully, nobody will starve or dehydrate while your builders save the fortress. This is why it's good to have multiple stockpiles of food and beer, and clean water sources throughout the fortress. At Nutscaves, before proper quarantine measures were in place, the dwarves had to be sealed off from each of the three vital things at various times of plague.

So, next we must build a wall all around the contaminated area, and a floor over the top of it (if the top isn't already sealed). Why a floor over the top of it? Because if you don't, mark my words, some unlucky dwarf or animal will find a way to fall inside there someday. (It'll be so much !!fun!! getting him out without contaminating the fortress...that's coming from one who knows!)

Make sure the builders will not have to walk through the contaminated areas to get to the materials they'll use, or to build the seal itself. You can control the direction the dwarves build from, by designating a statue to be built in the tiles you don't want (can't let!) them to stand in, and suspend the construction of the statue. So, suspend statue construction over every contaminated tile and adjacent tiles, before doing anything else. I always keep some junky statues around the fortress for this simple purpose (and others).

This is painstaking, nitpicking work especially in soil layers where contaminants are invisible in the GUI, but it's worth not getting any dwarves sick. The last of the very worst strain of plague in my fortress is, as far as I know, currently entombed by stone walls and floors next to the trade depot. No one has had it for seven years. (We currently only have a weaker blood plague and the light necrotic plague active, that I know of, and I haven't been able to track them down. I suspect they're on pieces of clothing's time for another fiery sacrifice of our worldly goods.)

Now, as long as we never tear down those walls and floors entombing the plague (or find an object that magically survived with contaminant on it), we should never get that particular plague again.

Quarantining your fortress, step 5: No kids in the tub!

And, no kids beyond the tub either! I've had two children born in the fortress survive to adulthood (in their full nudity) alive now. (The fort is 16 years old, so that's really all the children that have had time to live to age 13 after the first two gigantic spirals of doom wiped the population.) There are about 28 other completely naked children and babies all across the age spectrum. We haven't had any kids die to plague for nearly a decade. That's not to say it can't happen--but here is how to control the kids.

Nutscaves contains a burrow that is bordered by the bathtubs. I named it "Safe Indoor Living". Safe Indoor Living also doesn't contain any dangerous areas, like the magma shaft or the prisoner processing station, or anything in the contaminated or outdoor areas. It doesn't really matter how big or nice this burrow is, as long as it has somewhere for the kids to sleep, food for them to eat, and beer. (Mine happens to contain a lot more than what is needed for survival.) What matters here is protecting the kids. All the dwarven children are assigned to live in this burrow. When an infant becomes a toddler, that's Armok's cue to assign. They're unassigned when they reach adulthood. (I know when they reach adulthood because on adulthood they automatically become a hauler, and I start getting spammed with messages about inaccessible items they want to haul. The items are outside the Safe Indoor Living area.)

Infants cannot be assigned to this burrow because their mothers carry them around. Infants are constantly in danger of infection because of this, but such is the danger of infancy. You could further protect the infants by confining mothers to the burrow as well. I don't do that because it's too micromanagey for me.

Kids will leave this burrow, but what I've found (and that contradicts the information on the magmawiki) is that they will not do it, unless their parent does and they've decided to follow this parent. Almost all of the dwarves in my fortress live and work in this burrow and rarely leave it, and the kids tend to throw a lot of parties to keep themselves occupied within the burrow even if their parents leave. Clearly this setup is not 100% safe, but children rarely go outside the burrow and it seems reasonably effective in keeping the plague at bay.

Only locking them into a safe room until adulthood, and air-dropping food and beer would be truly safe. But I don't care for that standard of living. At Nutscaves we willingly take some risks to live happier lives.

Also, dwarves get happy thoughts from talking to children, and children stay happy by throwing parties and enjoying good meals and beer. So it's nice if the kids' burrow contains meeting areas and a nice dining room.

Quarantining your fortress, step 4: Wash it

Nutscaves was already highly contaminated before I took the three critical measures above. Dwarves walking over or handling contaminated items were falling ill left and right. People were dying with contaminants on their clothes, and the clothes would sit a while. Then I'd decide they were in the way, or need to build (or deconstruct) something where the clothes pile was...and somebody would touch them.

The trade depot was a particular problem area. The items would get moved or stepped on, and the plague spiral would start anew. Contaminants weren't just on the clothes and other gear, either. They had found their way onto building materials as well.

I had no idea what to do about this to begin with, so I started making people take off their clothes when I realized they were wearing bad clothes. This was the wrong step to take, but I didn't know it at the time. I believe the right step to take, if quarantining has failed and something contaminated has found its way into the fort, is to purge the contaminants, now. Naked people handling contaminated clothes just make the problem worse.

There are many ways to get the contaminants off of an object, and my favorite one is magma. Luckily I had found the magma sea before people started dying of plague. I designated a dump over the open magma and started dumping contaminated items: clothes, equipment, stone. It was a painstaking process and some of the dwarves taking the items down to the Magma Clothes “Washer” got sick. Others had to come to replace them. Eventually enough dwarves who happened to be wearing gloves and shoes were hauling, and we managed to get rid of the bad stuff.

Another washing method that is easier than that, is to wash in a dwarven bathtub. This is preferably a bathtub not a lot of people will be walking through. In my fort, the one in the second cavern pretty well never gets touched, so it doubles as a clothes washer. I just designate it as a dump and the dwarves will put the items in. When the items are reclaimed, all they'll have on them is "water covering". Just don't dare reclaim them until the filth has been cleaned from the tub area.

Another method I (accidentally) used to get rid of contaminated stone is, if I know the stone is contaminated, and I know I'll want to use that type of stone later and may have an accident with it if I forbid it--just (make sure all builders are wearing gloves and*) use up all the stone by building a floor with it. If it's used to build a floor, the floor will be contaminated and a dwarf will come along and clean it fairly promptly. As long as he doesn't stand right on that dirty square, he won't come in contact with the contaminants. They try not to stand on the dirty square when they clean, if there's only one such square. I cleaned the stone I didn't purge with magma, this way.

((* Note: I believe there is still some risk of contracting the plague when handling the contaminated material, but it's not 100% if hand protection is worn.))

Quarantining your fortress, step 3: Gloves and shoes

In every fortress, currently contaminated or not, everyone should be wearing gloves and shoes at all times. These two simple pieces of clothing will save the wearer's life if anything in the fortress becomes contaminated at any point. Unfortunately children born in the fort are born naked, and cannot acquire clothing until they reach adulthood at age 13. (More on that later.)

The way to make adult dwarves wear gloves and shoes is slightly annoying, but it's for their own safety. The dwarves will never acquire proper shoes and gloves on their own, and they like to strip naked randomly when left to their own devices. So, Armok has to instantiate rules in order to enforce this simple dress code. There is no other way to save the dwarves from their own stupidity (or totally innocent frolicking and enjoyment of life, if you prefer).

What Armok had to do to make the dwarves wear gloves and shoes, is:
  1. Create a military uniform that includes these two items, optionally adding socks for extra foot protection or mittens for extra hand protection.
  2. Assign all adults to military squads.
  3. Assign their squads to wear this uniform.
  4. Draft the squad into active duty once. (I just use the Station command to do this.)
  5. Wait for everybody to get dressed.
  6. (You can now deactivate them safely.)
  7. (Don't forget to activate them again each time their shoes or gloves rot off.)
My civilians just use a uniform that includes gloves x 1, socks x 1, and shoes x 1. They're assigned to wear this over their own clothing--so they won't bother putting it on until their own clothes start rotting away. The socks are there for backup in case the shoes rot faster than expected. I could add mittens to wear over gloves, too, but it takes the dwarves so long to get dressed with just those three items that I don't think it's worth it.

This method isn't foolproof without micromanagement or automation, because clothing wears out really quickly, especially shoes, and the dwarves have to be activated into the military to know to put shoes on. To make the dwarves do this on their own, Nutscaves is now using an alert that automatically reissues the Station command to a few dwarves at a time, a couple of times a year. Using a scheduled alert like this enrages (or depresses, depending on personality) non-military dwarves, even though they're only on active duty for only five minutes per year and never have to fight anything. (That's said to be a bug Toady is working on.)

I suppose legendary dining rooms and meals are there to help mitigate that sort of thing.

Quarantining your fortress, step 2: Forgotten beast traps

Coming into contact with a Forgotten Beast is an almost sure way to contract the plague and get contaminants all over one's equipment. When a soldier dies of the plague, other soldiers will look to upgrade their equipment. If they're not stopped, the survivors will pick up the equipment which is inevitably coated in contaminants, and instantly contract the plague themselves when they do. Then they'll die of plague, and the process will repeat.

There are two different ways I know of to prevent this: 1. Forbid all dropped items upon death, and never let a dwarf step near that tile again (if it's contaminated) - or 2. Just don't let dwarves or animals come into contact with forgotten beasts. The first method works, but is impractical since the only way to stop dwarves from deciding to step on contaminated equipment is to encase the items in obsidian or ice, or remove an area about 5 tiles in every direction from the citizens' burrow.

So I use the second method: My caverns are completely sealed (including from flying beasts) except for one destroyable entrance, protected by lever-operated upright spikes. Normal, highly-safety-oriented players (not me) just seal the caverns completely and call it done, I think, letting forgotten beasts accumulate and roam around. Forgotten beasts can't destroy walls or floors--so this works great for them.

I use a slightly-less-safe entrances-with-traps method, in which most forgotten beasts die of being impaled by mechanical spikes while they try to tear down floodgates. This way, I can access the caverns and continue to harvest wood and water from them, and build plumbing structures that go through them, without my builders having to worry about 20 forgotten beasts roaming around.

In other words, I know I'm shooting myself in the foot by letting the caverns be part of my gameplay. But why play without enjoying the caverns? If I'm not living on the edge, I feel I'm taking up too much space.

Quarantining your fortress, step 1: Water coating

((This post is about quarantining. If you want to just skip to the story, the next story post is "Winter 266, Nutscaves"))

Everything in a safe DF2010 fortress revolves around the dwarven bathtubs. Dwarves must be funneled through a smoothed and engraved dwarven bathtub whenever they enter or leave the hospital, the soil layers of the fortress, or any cavern. These bathtubs are incredibly dangerous, in a way, because they gather contaminants off of dwarves and objects (which then emerge clean with a coating of water).

Coming in contact with contaminants is what causes plague. The engravings in the tubs help ensure the tubs get prioritized for cleaning regularly. I find they are usually cleaned within a week of contamination even with forty dedicated, stationed janitors standing in the tub. In sum, tubs alone will never save you.

The tubs do not prevent the plague. They just prevent infected substances from escaping the caverns and Nutscaves' contaminated soil (upper) levels. The contaminants cannot get into the rock layers where most dwarves live and work unless they are already there, or a bathtub fails by becoming dry. (Such as that incident when the well went dry*, and everyone decided to give patients water from the hospital bathtub until it dried up.) ((* That incident was told orally.))

Bathtubs do not get dry on their own once they have depth 2/7 or more water in them. This depth prevents evaporation. It's dwarven physics.

When a dwarf gets wet in the bathtub, his Water Coating seems to temporarily prevent him from getting contaminated further. I keep all dwarven forays into the caverns, which are full of forgotten beast poison, as brief as possible. This ensures the dwarves keep their protective water coating. When I chop cavern wood, I select very small areas and stop the wood cutters if it's starting to take too long. I don't let my wood cutters haul wood--the wood haulers can zip in and out and keep a water coating to do that bit safely, while I keep my eye on the woodcutters and minimize their time spent working. The less total time the dwarves spend in the cavern chopping, the less micromanagement I have to do.

When we haul a forgotten beast corpse from the spike traps in the caverns to the butcher, the hauler also gets the water coating. So far I haven't had any of them get contaminated with extracts or deadly blood. (Part of the reason I continue to keep my caverns open instead of permanently sealing them, is because I continue to test whether this water coating really works as contaminant prevention. So far it seems to.)

Plague prevention measures: the 7-step program

So we had (yet) another dwarf contract the plague at Nutscaves. A learning experience ensued: he'd been assigned new shoes within the last two years, but his shoes had just rotted off, apparently moments before the illness kicked in. He contracted the blood plague, but the case was mild and he survived.

Previously I hadn't thought shoes would rot off so quickly. Perhaps it happened because we'd been doing a lot of long-range hauling recently--or he'd been assigned some slightly worn shoes to begin with. Each year I had been assigning ten new dwarves to wear shoes, assuming this would keep up with wear and not aggravate too many dwarves with "Enforced Dressing" (wherein I draft them into the military and make them stand around until their whole "squad" manages to get dressed. There are a lot of bumblers in my fortress and this takes a long time. There are tons of whines and complaints about hunger and thirst to accompany the process.) Each year I also check the condition of all currently assigned shoes, and decide whether to replace them.

After that dwarf contracted the plague, I did an extra check for glove-and-shoe wear, six months before the next one was due. I discovered a lot of other shoes had rotted off of other dwarves as well, much faster than expected! And so Nutscaves spent the late summer/early autumn of the year 266 doing nothing but reassigning shoes and gloves, to prevent more plague. It was a painstaking task on the part of Armok, and had to be done sloppily for speed (to prevent more plague contraction). Many dwarves are now walking around very upset as a result. We're in a precarious situation because of it. If anybody comes down with the plague and dies, or if there's a construction accident soon, we're already sitting on the precipice of a tantrum spiral.

Nutscaves is an unusual fortress. It has survived multiple strains and outbreaks of the worst type of highly contagious, deadly necrotic blood plague. It also has highly contaminated living and work spaces that can't be cleaned up safely. Many citizens also became infected with plague in less well-quarantined times, and they occasionally fall ill with recurrences of it. And yet, we have a population of about 155 dwarves, with 30 of them buck-naked children and infants. We have had only one plague death, and one other dwarf falling ill with plague and recovering, in the last few years.

Potentially, at any moment, if Armok stopped employing our strict quarantine procedures, then most of the population could fall ill and die. This fort has survived sixteen years so far, and Armok's procedures have evolved over time to prevent infection as much as possible within reason. Armok is currently using a set of procedures which seem quite effective in preventing the spread of plague. They're not 100% effective, but this quarantine procedure shows that a badly contaminated fort is not necessarily doomed. If I had started out with these procedures, the fort might never have become infected at all.

Following are Armok's current quarantine procedures, evolved over 16 years at Nutscaves.

The curse of Nutscaves strikes again! Rampaging cave crocodile and plague!

In proper Nutscaves fashion, a cave crocodile escaped a cavern construction area unnoticed on this otherwise-fine autumn day. The cave crocodile silently raced up a vacant part of the stairwell and prowled around the fort's quietest beer stockpile, where a miner soon came along to enjoy a drink.

The cave crocodile charged into the oblivious miner. It knocked the miner over, and bit his foot right off and ate it. Then it got to work gnawing on the remaining intact portion of the miner's leg. Once he overcame his surprise, the miner managed to hit the cave crocodile in the leg once with his pick and chip the bone. The cave crocodile would become unsteady from bone pain within seconds, but it was already too late. The miner's open femoral artery was a serious obstacle to remaining alive, and he bled to death on the spot.

A soldier with an iron whip arrived seconds after the attack started, and brained the crocodile on his first swing, right after the miner died.

The miner's family is now tantrumming. Of course he was married with children. The wife is currently standing in the magma shaft (a relatively unsafe, non-OSHA-compliant 40-story air shaft which sometimes has magma at the bottom...or the top...or both). She is holding her infant and making threats.

How did they get so unhappy so quickly? Normally the dwarves don't tantrum at just one death, of one family member. Well, I'll tell you why! Because, right before the rogue cave crocodile attack, we had the plague. Again. Not any of the nice plagues. The blood plague. The one where people step in something bad and ten steps later, they die from gushing blood out their feet. None of them even make it to the hospital with that one. They go ten steps, faint if they're lucky, and die. Have lots of coffins at the ready at all times if you have that shit in your fort!

Preventing the blood plague is easy. Everyone has to wear shoes. That is all. Shoes. Shoes. Shoes! You'd think it would be easy, but no. Ordering them to put on shoes is an exercise in frustration as it usually results in dwarves-already-wearing-shoes taking them off, and walking through the contaminants and dying of the blood plague. Damn it! It also involves lots of otherwise-shoeless dwarves deciding to put on exactly one shoe, and then giving up, and walking through the contaminants in one shoe. One shoe is just as good as no shoes when it comes to blood plague. ARRGGHH! These dwarves! Don't they want to live?

A note about the story

Caging Therapy: A dwarf is purposely captured in a cage, but he does not realize it was anything but an accident. He is left in the cage for any length of time—short or long. When he is let out of the cage, he is so incredibly ecstatic about regaining his freedom, that his other troubles seem very minor to him. Useful for helping to prevent a tantrum.

Nutscaves, the deathtrap, risen again

Nutscaves had become almost boring with its almost total lack of accidents and plagues in the year 262.

For the first three seasons in the year 262, we got a wave of migrants "despite the danger". Then in winter, we got a wave of migrants. Not "despite the danger". Just a plain old wave of migrants. "Uh oh!" cried Armok. Armok knew something bad was about to happen. The fortress' 13th year anniversary was just about to dawn.

So fortunately for Nutscaves' reputation as a deathtrap, the year 263 rolled in.

I suppose it all began with the giant hairy alligator and its poisonous secretions. At the very end of the year 262, the alligator finally found a floodgate to knock down in the cavern. This was a trap to alert Armok. Armok directed the soldiers to gather up and prepare to fight the giant hairy alligator and its poisonous secretions, while it knocked down the next layer of traps. The alligator's name was Quazi. Quazi Siga Bora.

Armok also ordered the upright spears in the second trap layer for that cavern to repeat. This is where it all began to go wrong. Dwarves pulled and pulled the lever, but nothing happened. Had Armok simply labeled this lever, and then forgotten to link it up? It certainly wasn't impossible. Armok tries to build too many things at once, and sometimes forgets things like this.

A quota of soldiers had gathered, so Armok ordered the inner floodgate opened, and the brave men and women to charge Quazi Siga Bora. They ran out into the cavern, through the quarantine bathtub, and assaulted Quazi with all manner of weaponry. Two mothers even carried their infants into battle, to show them how it's done.

Quazi Siga Bora, giant hairy alligator, beware its poisonous secretions, was a very powerful opponent. He picked up dwarves in his jaws and threw them left and right, like rag dolls. But the dwarves were determined, and most of them were also slightly seasoned in "battle" (against buck-naked goblin prisoners and the like) by this point. They kept coming back. They kept attacking.

A week later, most of Quazi's body parts were broken, including his spine and skull and all his extremities. One lung was pierced, and about half his organs, and an artery or two were open in his heart. But he felt no pain and fought on, ferociously. Only one dwarf was too wounded to continue fighting--the militia commander himself. He lay in the bottom of the dwarven bathtub, where Quazi had thrown him, miserable and with many broken bones.

Crafters heard about the cavern battle raging on beneath them, and some brave souls tried to come and rescue the wounded militia commander. But they had to approach too close to Quazi, and they ran scared.

Finally, just as Armok feared the soldiers would surely become too tired, hungry, and thirsty to continue, some lucky soul drove their iron morning star into Quazi's brain. Quazi had been doubled over in pain and not able to attack for about a full day by then, but he was darn difficult to kill. Armok quickly released the soldiers from duty, and the wounded commander was promptly carried to the hospital by a fellow soldier.

(And both infants survived unscathed. I hope they learned something about fighting. And, who knew they could go a week without alcohol or food, and no ill effects*?)

((* I later learned this is because dwarven infants draw all sustenance from their mothers, of course.))

Armok felt like celebrating, and the peasant Monom promptly started a fresh party at the statue garden. (Which of course is now pristine and shows no evidence of past carnage.) Armok sent his/her blessings.

Armok dispatched men and women to fix the broken floodgate and the defunct mechanical upright spears trap, and to construct some improvements to the cavern entrance to make it easier to fight the next forgotten beast. Then Armok turned Armok's attention to the magma pumps, the new sub-aquifer plumbing system, and the silk farm.

Armok made some designations and became distracted with working on three projects at once while also proudly monitoring the doctors' work in the hospital. And so Armok designated something incorrectly in the magma pump area. Armok still doesn't know what it was. Armok made an awful lot of designations, and due to the cleanup after the easily-defeated goblin siege from last night, and the soldiers' need for food, drink, and rest--the dwarves didn't get right on the new orders right away. Armok fired-and-forgot so many designations.

And so the year 263 dawned. The fortress turned 13 years old, and the dwarves started up a fresh party to celebrate the new year. The militia commander was still in the hospital, but the doctors were working on him very busily.

At the start of the year 263 Armok concluded that there was a problem at the silk farm, but Armok wasn't sure how to fix it. Weavers kept trying to walk over the hatches and go right into the giant cave spider's side of the room to collect webs, even though there were plenty of webs on their side of the room. Armok feared for both the spider's life, and theirs. (Giant cave spiders have a very poisonous, instantly paralyzing bite, and they're about 2/3 the size of a fully-grown horse, with a lot of legs for kicking.)

Armok was also having some FPS issues and pinpointed pathfinding as the root cause. Armok began distracting Armok, by making long-overdue traffic designations, which helped with the FPS problem immediately. Armok sat and gloated proudly, admiring the masterful traffic designations.

And so the dominoes began to fall.

A few weeks into spring, while Armok was puzzling over the silk farm issue (and foolishly still letting the weavers collect silk, despite the problem), everything came to a sharp standstill and Armok received a puzzling, frightening message.

"Some mason cancels Build Wall: Dangerous Terrain"

Then Armok saw frightfully large clouds of dust in the magma pump area, where dozens of dwarves were working. The mason and subject of the message had fallen into the deep cavern lake several stories below the work area. Apparently he'd gone off a ledge the builders had been sealing off.

Then Armok received another message. "A section of the cavern has collapsed!"

Armok's eyes grew large. Armok gasped. Armok couldn't think of any reason why there would be a collapse. And. What was collapsing?

Armok looked at the moment frozen in time. Dozens of workers were standing in the dust clouds of a truly massive collapse. Oh deities. Had the great magma piston somehow collapsed without Armok designating the lever to be pulled? The fully correctly supported magma piston?

The workers had been constructing a wall to seal off the magma pumps from the open air of the second cavern. The second cavern is mostly open air with a lake at the bottom, and the workers were up above the water level, on a ledge.

"Oh no!" cried Armok. Their fate was already sealed.

It wasn't the piston itself that was collapsing. It was most of the piston's support structure. I don't know how Armok messed that up so badly. It was truly...unmasterful?

And so most of the magma pump stack and supporting walls and floors went crashing into the deep cavern lake, taking dozens of dwarves down with it. This was a large number of stories collapsing.

Most of the builders...dozens of them... were hurled into the cavern lake. Most broke a lot of bones in the fall. Some of them mercifully died on impact with the rocky lake bottom. Others were unconscious when they fell, or unconscious from the impact with the water, and they drowned quickly. Two of the miners who'd been heading down the shaft had fallen a shorter distance to the water, and managed to swim to a safe ledge. But they were stranded. The entire support structure above them was gone.

The miners who had been working below this area were thrown dozens of stories down the shaft, into the magma tank. Luckily (?) there wasn't any magma in it at the time. None of them lived; they got hit by too many other falling objects, and the fall was too far anyway. Their severed limbs and heads and other body parts rained down in a heap, all over the bottom of the magma tank, painting it red with blood. Armok was horrified.

A builder was also hurled down the shaft with the force of the collapse, and he somehow managed to land on the piston support bridge. His legs were broken and his arms severed by falling objects, and he could not move. He lay on the bridge, praying someone would come for him. Unfortunately, that whole lower section of the piston was separated from the rest of the fort by the massive collapse.

When Armok was done being horrified and sorting out how to possibly save the three survivors (the two miners who swam to safety, and the broken builder lying on the bridge halfway down the shaft), Armok made designations for rescue.

When Armok was done, not a single dwarf sprang to build Armok's designations.

Armok realized this was because all the builders were either a) dead, or b) the armless dying builder on the bridge.

"You're all builders now!" Armok called out through the fortress, to the living dwarves.

The other dwarves didn't know how to build, and went about their tasks very slowly. Most of the dwarves panicked at the thought of trying something new, and went on break, hiding in the backs of their bedrooms, as far away from the building designations as possible. Armok sighed. The stranded miners and the dying builder began to dehydrate and starve. Armok told the miners to drink cavern water, and prayed it would be safe and that cave fish would not bite (or eat) them. Armok told the miners to start hacking out stones and building a makeshift bridge from their end.

A week later the miners were rescued, and a few days after that the low-quality scaffold extension was completed, to rescue the armless builder on the bridge. He must have made himself an awesome tourniquet with his legs somehow.

And so Armok thought the crisis was averted. Armok made further designations to seal the shaft away from the cavern. During the rescue, Armok had been noticing a lot of messages from the silk farm and the almost-complete well reservoir. Armok had been ignoring them. Who cares about the silk farm or the new water supply when dwarves need rescued?

Now Armok had a look at the silk farm.

A grisly scene had unfolded.

Armok's legendary weaver, who doubled as Armok's best suturer, was lying paralyzed on one of the giant cave spider's pressure plates. The giant cave spider was standing over her. It had injected its deadly paralytic poison into her blood four times, and was working on a fifth. It had her head in its mouth, and was shaking her around by it. So far, it had managed to break some tissue in her neck.

Apparently the weaver had greedily crossed a hatch for no reason, and then been caught by the spider as expected. It had injected her with its toxin to paralyze her immediately. Four other dwarves were in the room, trying to pick up the piece of silk thread she had gathered, and to rescue her. They kept approaching and then running away, frightened by the spider gobbling her head.

Armok put Armok's head in Armok's hands. This was all because of Armok's deficiency in learning ASCII symbols. If Armok understood all the symbols used in the drawing of the Completely Safe(tm) Wild Giant Cave Spider Silk Farm Design, then Armok would have built a safe silk farm instead of a risky one. The risky one is good, and had earned us an absurd amount of the world's best thread, and it had taken months for a real accident to happen--but it's not safe. Now the legendary weaver and creator of our artifact cloth short skirt, menacing with spikes of pig iron and named The Temptation of Monks, was paying the price.

Armok considered how to get the dwarves out of this situation.

Armok could send in soldiers to take out the spider, but the giant cave spiders are legendarily hard to catch and Nutscaves was very, very lucky to have won the lottery by catching this one. And this weaver was already dead--a single injection of the toxin is not survivable. Adding a dead spider to a dead weaver would not help.

Armok ordered the failsafe lever to be pulled. It would open a floodgate leading to a cage trap, to recapture the spider. Armok considered that the lever should also open all the hatches to speed the process, but Armok hadn't done that in the construction. The spider wasn't going anywhere until it was done devouring the weaver, anyway. Armok mourned the loss of the weaver.

Armok forbade the thread and stopped the silk collection process. And then Armok set about learning more ASCII symbols so that Armok could modify the silk farm to be Completely Safe(tm).

Armok now has the knowledge of some more ASCII symbols and knows how to add safety measures to the farm.

But the dwarves are mourning. Many dwarves are miserable. Armok had killed off 1/3 of the population with Armok's mistakes.

So then Armok finally noticed the trapped dwarves in the water reservoir they'd been building. They'd been starving there for weeks while all of this was going on, and Armok hadn't noticed during the chaos. They were all miserable and angry with Armok for leaving them walled up in the reservoir. Armok sighed and let them out. Luckily Armok had forgotten to start the pumps, or they would have drowned.

A few migrants arrived "despite the danger". We can't even blame the plague this time. Nobody got it in 262, and nobody got it in 263 yet either.

At least Armok learned a few things. And once Armok recaptures the spider, Armok is going to have to send some dwarves to the web room for Caging Therapy. The mayor will have to join them--he's getting less and less ecstatic about his delayed punishment for murder as time goes by. He's been making a lot of mandates recently.

The shortest siege ever

So the goblins decided to send a siege to Nutscaves. (What goblin wouldn't want the plague! And we have a second plague now, thanks to a beast with a puking/nerve plague getting into the stairwell, while Armok was being forgetful about some cavern construction!)

The goblins realized that their last set of ambushes wasn't very effective, what with everybody standing on mechanical spikes or getting thrown onto spikes as the fiendish Stern Handles raised and lowered the drawbridge. This time the goblins had a new plan!

The typical sort-of-green (in more ways than one!) goblin lashers were led by a goblin spearman of middling skill. Spearmen are fairly new for these goblins.

And they brought along a new secret weapon.


The spearman was riding it. Clearly if everyone could see him on the battlefield, the same slaughter by the mechanical upright spears would not happen a second time!

So the goblins cautiously approached the fort as a group, as they do in sieges. (Oh, how I wish I could order my dwarves to move like that--slow and orderly, a march.)

The goblins studied the mechanical spears. A few lashers were sent forward to stand on the first row of raising-and-lowering spears, to see what would happen.

For whatever reason, the current first row of spears are all wooden training spears. The goblins were unharmed.

The goblin spearman and leader, Zom Ghoulnightmares, became satisfied that it was safe. He guided his cave crocodile mount forward as well, and showed the group that the spears were completely harmless. His mount dodged them easily.

"Today we shall take this disgusting, orderly fortress, men!" he called out from atop his noble cave crocodile steed. "I will lead the way! CHARGE!!" he shouted, and when the spears next went down, he spurred his mount forward toward the bridge.

His mount was uneager. In the end it followed his command, but it balked left and right, and moved slowly, diagonally toward the bridge.

"Damn you, Azstrog!" cried Zom at his noble steed. He regained control of Azstrog just before the bridge and aimed him straight again, but it was a split second too late.

A menacing bismuth bronze spike of low production quality rose up out of the ground, tearing straight through Azstrog's stomach and into Zom Ghoulnightmares' heart, piercing a major artery.

Zom would have screamed in indignance, but he was gurgling blood. "Forward!" he tried to cry. "Forward!" But it sounded more like "fwghhghhh".

Azstrog's forward momentum carried them into the middle of the bridge, and in his dying moments Zom could almost see down the ramp into Nutscaves, the fortress he should have been set to plunder and rule over that day.

Azstrog the cave crocodile knew what was best for him. He threw Zom off his back, turned around, and raced over the spikes next time they went down, and into the horizon. The greenest lasher in the bunch took off running too. Zom lay on the bridge, staring up at the cold sky for a moment. And then he died.

The rest of the goblin lashers looked on in horror.

"Is it over?" asked a newer recruit.

Another lasher shrugged.

"It's not over!" cried the new recruit in reply. "Zom said the spikes were safe! Let's finish this!"  And then, "And look--the spikes are gone now."

Meanwhile, in the dining room of Nutscaves, the lever puller's arm had gotten tired and she was swapping duty with another dwarf nearby.

"Hmm," said one of the more seasoned goblins, debating.

"CHARGE!" cried the goblin recruit.

The recruit stepped forward toward the bridge, and the same bismuth bronze menacing spike suddenly came up out of the ground and went straight through his stomach.

All the other goblins turned around and ran.

"Wait!" cried the recruit, hacking and leaning over. Between puking he cried, "I'm not dead!"

Nobody waited.

The dwarves would've gone out to finish off the recruit, but Armok decided to leave them working on trading for more spears. The recruit passed out and bled a lot, but he finally made it to the border of Nutscaves with the wilderness, and will never be seen or heard from again.

And then the goblin what?

So, Nutscaves has been testing out various machines and constructions before the inevitable-looking future shutdown*.  I had a bunch of migrants, so I made some new "Reserves" (soldiers) for the veterans to train. A bunch of naked mole dogs and those leftover goblins from the overly hilarious spiking incident last night** were slated to assist in "training" the new soldiers.

((* The fortress had seemed to stabilize at this point. Ha ha.))
((** Unfortunately this event was told orally and everyone who heard it tragically died of laughter, including me, somehow. If I find the record of it, I will post it.))

So I sent a military squad to the execution chamber. The squad consisted of one strong veteran, two fairly fresh recruits who at least vaguely know where the pointy ends of their weapons were (but could use quite a bit of practice), and two true newbie soldiers.

There were the usual complaints from the two total newbies. "Oh no, I've been drafted, WHY?! WHY ME?! Can't you pick someone else??? Someone else would definitely be better! /cry" I knew as soon as they got their blades really good and wet in the blood of about a dozen opponents, that they'd stop complaining.

Unfortunately their veteran captain was a little too veteran, and quickly finished off just about every prisoner the "Animal handlers" dropped into the room, in one strike of his beloved steel blade. The newbies didn't get much good practice. But they got a little.

As I train a squad I like to start with easy enemies, and work up to harder ones until the dwarves are too tired to continue (or until the dozens of corpses in the room are too close to rotting, as happens with veteran soldiers who don't get tired easily). So the naked mole dogs got thrown into the room, then the wild camels, then the (naked) goblin bowmen and crossbowmen. At that point the newbies were really griping a lot and on the verge of tantrumming, and the room was full of flies and going to generate miasma soon. The soldiers were hungry and thirsty, too. So I dropped in one final goblin, a naked lasher (they use whips normally). I figured the soldiers would finish it off fairly quickly, although it was the toughest opponent they'd meet today. And I decided I would let the dwarves have a recess after that.

Unarmored melee goblins tend to dodge around a lot and give a lot of valuable experience to my soldiers, as the soldiers try and fail to strike, and as the goblin punches hopelessly at the steel plate mail. Unfortunately, I sort of forgot that I'd never had many steel-plated soldiers in my military in this fort, and so there wasn't quite enough steel to go around. One of the newbies was wearing some alderwood high boots (as in, wooden boots) I'd bought from the elves, instead of metal ones.

The naked goblin lasher rolled and hopped nimbly around the room as the dwarves whiffed away at it. The captain soon hacked a hand off it, and promptly stabbed it through the stomach in one smooth motion before it danced away. This made its fate quite inevitable, but for a few seconds the goblin would still be going strong. (They start puking or doubling over from nausea shortly after any type of gut wound, and then they become easy to hit.)

So in his last few moments of free movement before the pain and nausea would kick in, the naked goblin lasher jumped across the room, probably did some kind of parkour on the wall, and then charged straight into one of the really irritated total newbies, Tobul Deepcraft. Tobul caught her steel axe blade in the goblin's elbow on the way down, but they slammed into the floor together in a tangle. The goblin promptly locked his jaws onto Tobul's right boot. She tried to shake the goblin off, but being inexperienced in combat, she failed at first. The goblin responded by jerking Tobul around by the foot, and she flailed wildly in a panic, trying to get away--

And then the goblin lasher bit her foot clean off.  Alder wooden high boot and all. Quite violently.

The captain was swinging his steel blade down at that moment, and saved poor Tobul from further harm by immediately beheading the prone goblin, but the damage was done.

Armok, in quite a panic (and sort of amusedly horrified, in a way...), released the soldiers from their station and threw the switch to open the execution room door. Armok had never before seen a fully armored (admittedly her feet weren't in metal but...) soldier get so badly harmed by a naked goblin, when the odds were this much in the dwarves' favor--even with total newbie dwarves. (Five armored soldiers vs. one naked goblin?!) The goblin lasher wasn't even anything special--he was nearly as green a combatant as Tobul.

Tobul was immediately so relieved to finally be off duty, that she forgot about her bleeding stump and immediately went on what she felt was an overdue break, right in the heap of corpses in the execution chamber. She refused to let anyone rescue her. She said, "This is my time and I'm trying to calm down here. I've had a very bad day. You will have to wait," as various helpful pump operators and miners walked in, inquiring if they might escort her to the hospital for treatment.

After a few hours went by, Tobul managed to calm herself down, probably by getting weaker from all the blood loss. At last she relented and let one of the still-living murderers in charge of the fort, pick her up and carry her to the hospital. She left some pretty big pools of blood in the execution chamber behind her. Now her stump is being cleaned and dressed in the hospital, and she's being given a crutch as we speak.

I wonder if Tobul considers herself lucky, in a way, for losing her foot at this particular time. Word has certainly spread to the hospital that we currently have a forgotten beast breaking into the top cavern, and all military squads are being activated to deal with it.