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In one of my games, I can't seem to find metallic ore. I've dug to the -20 floor, hit 2 caverns, and I've dug horizontally and vertically to.

Some of the stuff you usually build from metal can be built from other materials (mechanisms, for example) but what about the other stuff?

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I don't have a solution, but this is why you're told if there are shallow and deep metals when you're selecting your site before you embark... – Wooble Sep 2 '11 at 14:36
I've always had some luck with the fetal position. – GnomeSlice Sep 2 '11 at 17:39
up vote 5 down vote accepted

If you have Bauxite or another magma safe stone: Dig until you find magma, direct some magma to a prepared pool in a controlled manner and base your industry on Obsidian. Mine the obsidian, refill the pool with water, than magma again and repeat as needed.

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If I hit some of this stones, I'll give it a try, thanks. – Ghislain Leveque Sep 2 '11 at 16:06
With careful mining, you wouldn't really need magma safe materials to make obsidian, right? – mckeed Sep 2 '11 at 21:52
@mckeed: You have to have a magma-proof floodgate to stop the lava to mine the obsidian and fill the pool back up with water. – Ullallulloo Sep 2 '11 at 23:19
Obsidian swords are better than nothing, but you need metal for armor. – user19220 Mar 26 '13 at 5:09

Assuming you have the other materials to work with (stone, wood and glass), you can go on fine without metal. The most important use for metal is in armor and weapons. All other uses can be substituted - wood and glass for trap components, stone for mechanisms, glass and leather for vials / waterbags, etc.

The usual response to questions like this is "dig deeper!" but let's assume that there really is no metal on the map (which is fairly unlikely, but there's also the question of whether or not the following methods are more economical compared to a mining, smelting and forging industry). There are really two simple ways to get metal on maps without them.


You can buy weapon and armor directly from traders, but these are usually prohibitively expensive for an early fortress. Instead, purchase bars to forge your own weapon and armor. Cages are also good candidate for melting, according to this handy table at MagmaWiki. Remember to request for them when your outpost liaison arrives.

Goblinite Extraction... a cheap, renewable, environmentally friendly method for gathering silver, iron, copper, and more rarely other weapons grade metal. An early fortress should use a mix of cage and stone fall trap, and perhaps a pair of drawbridges to trap the goblins.

If you feel industrious, create wood or glass trap components (giant serrated discs and the like) to use in more efficient, reusable weapons trap. Older fortresses will sometimes have large, elaborate traps (example) using elements such as pressure plate, magma, water and ice to efficiently and safely mine out large quantities of goblinite. Remember that to extract every last ounce of goblinite, one should lure the entire squad of goblins all at once into the traps, because goblins have an unfortunate tendency to flee after a large percentage of their compatriots are annihilated.

The first few units of goblinite can be directly given to your fledgling military, or built into traps to allow more goblinite to be extracted. Later ones can be melted down and reforged into weapon and armor the silly goblins don't use, or as training for your metalsmithes.

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Trade for it with the trade Caravans, tell them to bring metal next year. Definitely not the optimal solution, but it can at least give you some metal to work with until you find some.

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+1, but you might want to combine these answers together. – Ullallulloo Sep 2 '11 at 18:43
@ullallulloo: I think they are two distinct answers. For example, this one is MUCH less likely to result in terminal FUN. – aslum Sep 2 '11 at 21:31
They're two solutions, but would likely be best in a single answer. EDIT: Plus, you could get the Disciplined badge! – Ullallulloo Sep 2 '11 at 23:20

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