My dwarves have suddenly stopped working... to the tune of 30-40 idlers. I feel like I've got plenty of tasks, but obviously not enough. What's some good busywork I can set my dwarves to doing.

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    Also make sure you haven't accidentally blocked your dwarves away from possible jobs. – Raven Dreamer Nov 8 '11 at 6:45

First, make sure your dwarves' labor preferences allow them to work those jobs.

Second, make sure you have the tools for those jobs. (It's hard to chop trees without an axe)

Third, make sure your lazy dwarves aren't new immigrants. (New immigrants are lazy)

If after all that, you still need busywork, some good busy work includes:

  1. Engraving - smoothed/engraved rooms make dwarves happy!
  2. Military training - a trained dwarf is much more likely to survive than untrained militia
  3. Herbalism - if your map is safe, gather more plants and seeds to trade, cook, or brew booze with.
  4. Cooking - turn boring food into lavish meals!

Long-term projects to utilize your work force might include:

  1. Constructing a megaproject.
  2. Starting up a new industry.
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    Setting up a low-skill mason's workshop near recently dug-out areas of the map with a "create rock blocks" job on autorepeat will simultaneously clean up your map, give you lots of building materials to construct nice-looking floors, walls, roads and bridges with, and train your dorfs in the Masonry skill so they'll be able to build high quality rock thrones, coffers, tables and statues for you later. – Shadur Nov 30 '11 at 18:11
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    I would mention that of the suggestions listed, cooking is probably the least effective in creating jobs, because a) it's a workshop labor, so it only employs one dwarf at a time per workshop; b) it consumes raw food; and c) it's pretty fast so you'll quickly run out of food to cook. Smoothing/engraving works great until you've engraved everything in sight, then you're left with military and that's basically it. – Paul Z Nov 30 '11 at 20:50

In addition to what @Arkive posted, I also like to fiddle with my stockpile management pretty closely, which can queue up quite a few hauling jobs pretty quickly.

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    Creating enough bins and barrels (or pots) to more efficiently fill your stockpiles also helps a lot. – Shadur Nov 30 '11 at 18:08
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    For sure. I'm just always changing what things I want in which stockpiles and rearranging them to suit my current needs. – edsobo Nov 30 '11 at 22:50

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