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I can dig out staircases upwards, but how do I actually cross the surface?

#X##       _ is the ground surface
#X         X are staircases
####       # is earth
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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Carve a ramp, they go upwards. You can then build a downward staircase and replace the ramp with an upward staircase. The ramp may become unusable after constructing the upper staircase, so send that fish dissector if the area is dangerous or you are expecting delays.

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You can also try constructing or carving the downward staircase, but the ramp method will work 100%. – kotekzot May 8 '12 at 16:06
It worked great! Unfortunately the zombies smelled me from half the map and immediately stormed the entrance, killing all remaining dwarves. Oh well, that's the longest-lived fortress so far. – Anna May 8 '12 at 16:10
That is a rather unfortunate turn of events. If you like, I have some advice to help deal with such problems, though you may prefer to do things the Fun way instead. – kotekzot May 8 '12 at 16:12
I'm having great Fun, but I'd love to hear your advice :) – Anna May 8 '12 at 16:14
Beware, with great knowledge comes great boredom. – kotekzot May 8 '12 at 16:46

Dwarf Fortress uses a Wall/Floor system to handle its staircases. That is to say, to connect between two different z-levels, you need a down stairs on the floor of one level, and an upstairs on the wall of the level below that. (An up / down stairs is simply any tile with both an up stair in the wall and a down stair in the floor).

When breaching a surface from below, this means that all you need to do is designate a downwards stairs on the surface tile itself. If there is an up stair on the z-level directly below it, dwarves will be able to access it upwards.

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Hm, I tried this, and a mason stood below and was "constructing" for way too long time, so I removed the designation. – Anna May 8 '12 at 16:11
@Anna, not 'stairs' as in the masonry stairs, but a downward staircase - the miner designation. I think. If I can remember. I am not sure. Hmm :) – Asdafgh May 8 '12 at 17:23

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