I'm setting up my first militia; I've got a nice moat and I need some dwarves to take pot-shots at the enemy in the event of a siege.

But who do I conscript? I'm staring at dwarf therapist and feeling a little overwhelmed. I can't find any obviously useless dwarves; everyone's got skills that I'd rather not see wasted in the trenches or on the training grounds.

And what about all those personality traits? Datan Elbelsodal is a fine hunter and marksdwarf, but he's also quick to anger and dislikes regulations, would he do well taking orders? I can't tell what is flavour text and what will affect my dwarves performance.

What are some things to look for in good militia recruits?

Whom should I not conscript because they're more useful somewhere else?

  • 10
    doesn't matter. They will all die meaningless deaths.
    – Euphoric
    May 27, 2013 at 20:17
  • 2
    @Euphoric Only if you assert that a hilarious death is meaningless! Jun 3, 2013 at 19:42

2 Answers 2


Wait for the next wave of immigrants. There's always a few who have either no skills at all, or high skills in utterly worthless things like "soap maker" or "woodcrafter". There are a lot of skills that sound good but are actually pretty useless.

For a melee squad, you can also draft your spare miners. Mining trains strength, so miners are usually pretty strong. Most fortresses don't have a lot of mining to do after the initial layout, so if a miner doesn't have any other skills you can afford to make them fighters. Also, mining picks aren't very good weapons, but they use the Mining skill to fight with instead of Axedwarf or Hammerdwarf or one of the other military skills, so you probably have a bunch of dwarves that are already highly skilled.

Personality traits aren't really implemented that much either, so Datan is a great recruit for a marksdwarf squad.

The other thing to look for is some immigrant who randomly has a decent teaching skill; these dwarfs make good squad captains.

  • 3
    I came from a long line of lye and soap makers you insensitive clod!
    – wr4ith
    Jun 5, 2013 at 5:27
  • 1
    @wr4ith I'm, um, sure that lye making is a, erm (snrk), a noble and honorable (giggle) profession. But I'm sorry, it's just utterly useless in a frontier fortress! When there's goblins, elephants, or elves attacking, a true dwarf does not take a bath! A true dwarf, a DWARF, takes up axe and mail to defend the tunnels!
    – Paul Z
    Jun 5, 2013 at 14:24
  • 1
    One slight correction to this answer: a (hilarious) bug was recently discovered which means that all fortress born dwards stay child sized. It was discovered that their tiny size makes them useless with most weapons, but they're actually pretty good with Pickaxes :)
    – Ian
    Jun 6, 2013 at 12:14
  • @Ian Huh. I hadn't heard about that. Good to know, I guess? But probably it will get fixed sometime soon after the next release.
    – Paul Z
    Jun 6, 2013 at 13:02

The first thing you look for is if the dwarf have skills directly related to combat, like weapons skills or fighting, dodging, biting, ambushing, etc. If a dwarf does not have combat skills he will not like you for drafting him and loses happiness. Something like "Unhappy because of the recent draft" will show up within his thoughts.

Most of the time I start selecting dwarfs when I have about 25 to 35 unless I am playing near a tower or on evil grounds which make the game harder. Once you get that migration wave that brings you to around 25 to 35, start selecting conscripts. Most of the time I end up with lots of pump operators, masons, engravers and furnace workers, but these skills level quickly anyway and except for masonry add nothing to item value. Stone crafting levels quickly too with the abundance of stone and because you often get mood swings from other dwarfs that kick their skill up to legendary in any of the craftsman skills. All that means that conscripting immigrant masons, stone workers, furnace operators, and pump operators isn't any real loss of skills. The most important dwarves IMHO are weapon and armor smiths – don't conscript them.

When you have military on active and inactive states you should also make sure they have at least some skill in the normal labors or they will not be happy about going to civilian work again.

  • 1
    The question is about how to "make a sensible decision as to who is to valuable to die and who is not". Saying to do it isn't very helpful.
    – kotekzot
    Jun 3, 2013 at 10:52
  • Read what i type in the future. I give valuable pointers who you can recruit. Like i usually recruit mason, engravers, pump operators and furnace workers. I add to it that you should recruit dwarfs with military skill or they will be unhappy with the drafting as well as when you put them back in the regular labors they should have at least some skill in one of them. Afaik this answers the question as close as possible since everybody plays a different style.
    – Madmenyo
    Jun 3, 2013 at 15:37
  • For questions that are subjective, we try to ensure that reasons are given, along with your choice. "I choose dwarves with X because of Y". That backs up your opinion, and makes the answer much better. Make a sensible decision as to who is least to valuable to die and who is not. is subjective to the extreme; what's sensible? Which one is most expendable?
    – Frank
    Jun 3, 2013 at 15:44
  • I might have been more clear then i guess. Since i am saying that i often end up with a lot of dwarfs with the same labors i suggest there, that you should use those because you have many. Reversing the question often helps solving it. And nobody here told him about drafting dwarfs without military skill will cause unhappiness. Therefor i am sure my answer IS constructive and helpful.
    – Madmenyo
    Jun 3, 2013 at 16:02
  • Thing is, though, you say to choose dwarves with military skills, but you don't really explain it at all. It makes them unhappy. Alright. How do you go about choosing dwarves with military skills? I've played Dwarf Fortress, and I don't know what you're talking about; are you talking about actual skills, like a weapon or armor skill? Or are you talking about dwarves with a military bent to their personality? Anything you think is helpful should be in the answer, not just in the comments. Please remember to explain why, too.
    – Frank
    Jun 3, 2013 at 16:06

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