What configuration options can I change to make Dwarf Fortress easier to play?
I found one of the easiest ways to simplify the game without hacking or removing many sources of Fun is to lower the population cap. I found that once my fortress grew to 100 dwarves or beyond, I couldn't figure out how to manage all of them and keep them working productive jobs. So instead they all just sat around throwing parties and pestering my productive dwarves. Until you get enough experience to handle a fortress that size, try lowering the cap to 40 or 50 dwarves.
To do this in v0.31.08, edit data/init/d_init.txt and change the value of this line:
Note: your actual population may still go above the cap you set, you just stop getting new immigrant waves after you reach or surpass that cap. And apparently births don't respect caps. Also I think (but I haven't tested) that you can change this mid-game if you save and quit first.
I really think you shouldn't. I know that sounds kind of weird but all of the joy you will every obtain out of that game derives from the fact that its Hard. That's hard with a capital 'H.' Man hard. After playing Dwarf Fortress for a year and a half now Hard is a four letter word to me.
Now, as much as I don't think you should change the game to make it easier (and there are sites that will help you hack it). I will provide you with some resources; an instruction manual, so to speak.
The Utter Newby Tutorial. Gives you much of the basic controls and layout for your fortress.
Cpt. Duck's Video Tutorial. I literally learned DF by watching these videos and copying them perfectly. It took me close to 10 fortresses to get to the end of his first fortress. Well worth it.
Finally, there is the story of Boatmurdered. It is what is called a legacy fortress, where a different person played each year. Its incredibly entertaining, even though parts of it read like a "what not to do."
You can try editing the game's raw creature sources directly. Search the game's directory for a file (probably called
creature_standard.txt) that contains the following line:
Add the following tags after that line:
This will make your dwarves immune to most status conditions. Now find these lines:
[BODY_SIZE:0:0:3000] [BODY_SIZE:1:168:15000] [BODY_SIZE:12:0:60000]
Add one or two zeroes to the last numbers of each line. This will make your dwarves gigantic and unlikely to be killed by anything.
.txt) file, run DF and create a new world. Have fun!
If building mega structures is your aim, my advice is to start on an Island. Press tab to check nearby civilizations, and if only dwarves show then embark somewhere around that area. You won't get any goblin snatchers/ambushes/sieges ever. I'm at 181 dwarves and the only thing that ever came was a titan which was easily dispatched by my militia (equipped with training weapons funnily enough).
One thing I like to do, although it at a certain point it may not be "easier" (depending on your play style), is lower the population cap VERY low. i.e. 10, 15 or 20. Just make sure you build a trade depot, I think a caravan needs to visit & leave once before migrants stop.
The easiest thing (without even needing to change an ini file) is to get Masterwork Dwarf Fortress and turn invaders off in the settings... this may be a little too easy, but I think you can re-enable once you have a nice big fortress with lots of fun prepared for your friendly visitors. Also, Masterwork has a lot of other settings you can use to make things easier or harder.
Necromancy! (for the sake of the 2018 Dwarf Fortress learner)
Use a pack that makes it easier to configure the game. See http://dwarffortresswiki.org/Utility:Lazy_Newb_Pack
I really like the PeridexisErrant's Starter Pack
Some of the pack features are things like tile sets that make it easier to see what's going on in the game, easily turning on and off game features like auto save, aquifer generation, whether or not invaders will invade, population cap, etc. It also includes handy 3rd party utilities like Dwarf Therapist (which makes it much easier to see what labors dwarfs have and to change them).
I'm not one who likes playing with exploits or cheats/hacks. I do like using a few "quality of life" enhancements, and the ability to enable or disable or adjust settings when the guide I'm using encourages it. Packs are a great way to get those quality of life features and configuration editors into dwarf fortress.