I am interested in learning how to play Dwarf Fortress. Where should I start, as an absolute beginner?
I like this set of tutorials. It's based on the old version but it goes through the steps of building a fortress pretty well.
Captain Duck has a great series of video tutorials (http://www.youtube.com/user/captnduck). Most of them are for pre-2010 versions, but they still give a great intro to the game, and he has started to make a couple of videos for the 2010 version. He starts the tutorials at the absolute beginning, and walks you through everything.
If you have any specific questions, the dwarf fortress wiki is a great place to look (http://df.magmawiki.com/).
Different styles work better for different people, but I learned the fun way:
- Figure out what happened
If you're stuck on something specific, there's nothing wrong with looking at a tutorial or checking the wiki, but try not to over-research before you really get your feet wet. One of the coolest things about learning to play DF is discovering all of the neat/interesting/strange/complex things that the world does and researching too much before hand will diminish the sense of discovery.
Learn how to feed and hydrate your dwarfs.
There's a Quickstart guide at The Dwarf Fortress Wiki, which is an invaluble reference site. I didn't have any issues applying the previous version's tutorial(v0.28.181.40d) to the current version(v0.31.10).
Getting Started with Dwarf Fortress is a book that's been recently released and is a great way to learn to play.
It's by Peter Tyson, the same guy who wrote the The Complete and Utter Newbie Tutorial for Dwarf Fortress.
I would also recommend the #DwarfFortress channel on quakenet. If you do not know how to use IRC you can plug that channel into http://webchat.quakenet.org and get on. There is usually tons of people around, just be patient as they might not instantly answer