I just started playing Dwarf Fortress about a week ago. It is definitely my new addiction. I've grasped almost all of the basic concepts (military, Dwarf Therapist, farming, and trading), but the thing which seems to constantly make me want to start over with a new fortress is the mass of migrants that I usually get around year 2 or 3.

Basically, I gain dwarves faster than I can build new rooms, larger meeting areas... well larger everything for that matter, and even if I do, it's a jumbled mess I cant make any sense of. My dilemma isn't being able to find things to do with the dwarves as it is preparing for them. It is completely impractical to carve out massive areas into the mountain early in the game without suffering consequences.

I find it challenging to keep 60+ dwarves happy, clothed, armed, and fed, not to mention the dozens of animals they bring in. I can only imagine what it's like trying to maintain 200 dwarves later in the game. So, my question is how can I prepare/build my fortress to efficiently maintain 100+ dwarves later on?

To help get an idea of what I'm asking, here is a list of things I'm having problems with:

  • My configuration of buildings tends to become unorganized and eventually completely inefficient in keeping up with the demand of multiple dwarves. I tend to only build one of every workshop/furnace, usually on the same level as everything else. The wiki tutorial suggests three smelters for each furnace, which seems like overkill since I definitely don't plan on having three furnace operators during the early game.

  • I can't seem to get the farms right. If I build individual plots it takes up too much of my time, but if I build large plots I never have enough seeds to provide for it until much later. During my current game I built one large plot early on (which only allowed me to plant one thing per season) and a second farm plot about a year or so later is taking forever to get going. The wiki mentions starting with a 3x3 plot under- and above-ground, though this definitely led to my dwarves dying a slow death.

  • Bedrooms are a huge issue I am having, as they are material- and time-consuming. I never seem to be able to produce the furniture fast enough. I usually make a bed, chest, door, and cabinet for each room and assigning a room for each dwarf, as it tends to make them happier.

  • Pens/Pastures take up a lot of space. Trying to figure out how much is a reasonable amount of space for late game is definitely trial-and-error. My pastures tend to be around 20x20, and I can't make it any bigger as I have walls set up to protect my pasture and surface builds. Unfortunately, I can tell that if I get too many more animals, the grass in the pasture is going to disappear completely. I have started to slaughter a few of the extra bunnies and bulls, which is helping, but I don't like to slaughter animals that provide milk/fur/eggs, so eventually the pastures fill past capacity. The wiki says a 10x10 should be good enough, but I don't see how that's possible.

In short, I am looking for a detailed answer.

  • 3
    I think this is a great question! But you may want to break each question into it's own; you should be able to garner better answers that way.
    – Frank
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 17:56
  • it's not so much seperate questions but a list of things to help get an expert started, in my mind atleast. @fbueckert
    – Paralytic
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 17:58
  • Step 1: Make sure you have a really good computer. It gets slow later on. But more seriously, macro keys are your best friend, if your keyboard has them. I have my default bedroom dig set to one, furnishing set to another, then assign as a bedroom set to another, with moving between rooms in the macro so I can do a whole row of rooms by mashing one key.
    – fire.eagle
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 17:58
  • I have both, never thought of using the macro keys for the game, good thought! @fire.eagle
    – Paralytic
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 18:00
  • 1
    Hrm. While all those questions can be grouped as a general more efficient question, remember that questions are supposed to be reasonable in scope, and a general rule of thumb is one question should be exactly that, one question. I still think you'd get better answers breaking it out, but the choice is yours.
    – Frank
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 18:03

3 Answers 3


Ok, I am going to attempt to answer all of your questions one at a time.

First of all, you wondered about clothing and arming your dwarves. While is does become a problem at some point, it doesn't usually for a while, you have at least enough time to buy cloth from the merchants (they always come with a ton) and build a couple workshops. Arms-wise, you should only have weapons in use by your military, and you shouldn't need a ton of military dwarves, it is always most efficient to have your defenses based around traps.

Secondly: bedrooms. I have found that it is best (until you reach the population cap, although that tends to be a bit buggy) to have all of your dwarves sleep in one giant dormitory with many beds. You can do this by building a bedroom that encompasses all of the beds in the area and then toggling "dormitory" to "Y." This way, you have one area where all of your dwarves sleep, and the only thing you will need to worry about is having enough beds. You probably only need the number of beds to be 25% of the number of dwarves you have, as that should cover all the sleeping dwarves. It is even better to have a much larger room with half of it being a statue garden, as then you will have dwarves in the room who are awake and will see it if any vampires start killing dwarves.

For pens and pastures, there isn't a great way to make them efficient that I have found. There isn't really a great need to have them, though, because you can buy a lot of cheese and cloth from merchants. The only reason you would need a pasture, I've found, is for a chicken egg-laying area, but for that, you can make it underground in stone, you just need to be sure to have nest-boxes.

Building configuration-wise, I find that it is good to have a set plan for design before-hand. For example, know that you will put a lot of your workshops in one area, and your meeting hall and bedroom (see above) in another. It's also good practice to only dig out enough room for the workshop and not to group them all together in one room. You should also have rooms for your stockpiles near the corresponding workshops. Also be sure to have one "main" hallway, it should be 3-wide or more, as this will prevent traffic jams down the road.

Finally: farms. I would recommend you build a couple plump-helmet farms, as large as possible, to feed your dwarves. Seeds shouldn't be a problem, just go to the overview (z) menu, move over to kitchen, and disable plump helmets for cooking but not for brewing. You should have several breweries to make alcohol, and these will also return seeds. It is also good to have an egg-laying center (see above) and a kitchen. Hens and roosters will produce a ton of eggs, and if you set your kitchen to auto-repeat cooking easy meals, you should be able to feed your dwarves.

  • i appreciate your answer looks like this question is gonna get closed anyway, 3 votes to close already
    – Paralytic
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 20:41
  • 1
    I would hope that your rosters aren't laying eggs, that said however, you do need a male bird of the same species in your fortress for your female birds to start producing eggs.
    – bcpettifer
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 10:11

I've never had much trouble keeping my dwarves fed and housed. Here's how I generally manage things:


As others have noted, all you really need for a bedroom is a bed. Just keep churning those out fast enough to keep a reasonable stockpile. In the early game, dormitories are more efficient than owned rooms, since the beds can be used in turns. (On the other hand, note that married couples will share an owned room.)

Note that, in vanilla DF, beds are one of the few things that can only be made from wood, and the availability of sufficient wood can be a problem in some areas. Besides efficient logging operations, other ways to mitigate that include buying and ordering wood from merchants (it's really cheap) and avoiding the use of wood for things that don't absolutely require it. (In particular, rock pots can be used instead of wooden barrels, and cheap bolts can be made of bone instead of wood. Also, many things you might need wood for, like splints, crutches and buckets, can also be cheaply bought from merchants.)

Room planning:

I really don't have any good tips for that, except to dig out lots of small rooms in advance and make sure you always have a surplus of doors and such.

Also, don't keep everything on one level — make use of the Z axis. Stacking your bedrooms / workshops / etc. vertically will make them a lot more compact, and will reduce hauling distance too.

Speaking of planning, remember that you don't have to build your final fortress immediately. It's perfectly fine to first set up a small, basic fortress for your initial population, and then start building a bigger and better one some distance away. Once the second fortress is done, you can strip the original hole in the ground of its inventory and either repurpose it or just leave it abandoned. Then, if your new quarters still feel cramped, start building a third fortress, and so on.


Farms are really productive in DF, so you don't need many of them (or large ones). I like to start with a single 3×3 plot growing plump helmets year round, and later add similar plots for other plants as I build the necessary industries to use them. For a really huge fortress, I might consider a second plump helmet plot.

The trick, as others have noted, is making sure you don't run out of seeds. The typical ways to lose seeds are:

  • cooking the plants or the seeds themselves,
  • leaving unharvested plants to wilt, or
  • leaving the harvested plants to rot outside a stockpile.

To avoid accidentally cooking your seed stock, forbid the cooking of both plants and seeds in the kitchen status screen. You can re-enable this temporarily if you're sure you have enough extra seeds, but don't forget to keep an eye on it. Brewing plants is OK, though, and the resulting booze can be cooked if you want.

Wilted plants don't yield seeds (or anything else), so make sure you have dwarves ready to harvest them. This is not generally a problem as long as the "dwarves all harvest" standing order is enabled, since even children and nobles will do it.

The rest is basically all stockpile management. I like to make separate food stockpiles for a) raw plants, b) raw meat/fish, c) prepared meals and d) seeds, all customized to only accept those specific items. Both the raw plant and especially the seed stockpiles should be close to the farms (as in, right next to them) to minimize hauling time. For the seed stockpile, I also always use the trick described on the wiki of setting up two seed stockpiles, one feeding into the other — it's very effective in keeping your farms fully utilized and eliminating the "no seeds" spam.

In the early game, I also like to harvest as many outdoor plants as I can, if only to get more variety in booze, and replant any seeds I get from them (especially sun berries and strawberries, which are great staple foods and booze sources). I also like to buy any and all food brought by merchants — it's cheap, adds variety and lets you more than make up the price by cooking it into lavish meals and selling the leftovers back to the next bunch of merchants.


Don't even bother. Grazing animals are ridiculously impractical to keep in current versions of DF. If you have some, just butcher them ASAP and enjoy the extra meat.

(Of course, pasture zones in general are very useful for restricting animals to certain areas. It's only the animals that need an actual outdoor pasture with grass that are impractical to keep.)

  • awsome answer, you deserve the +1. With the farming, how long do you wait to expand your farms, since it takes time to get a nice stockpile of seeds going. I haven't played in a while but I remember there were animals worth the effort to keep.
    – Paralytic
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 15:46
  • With the stockpile method I'm using, and keeping brewing on repeat (and plant/seed cooking forbidden), I've honestly never had a problem with building up seed stocks. It probably helps that I usually bring plenty (= a few dozen) of seeds on embark, since they're cheap and come with a free bag. (I don't usually bring raw plants, since the fort will survive fine on meat and wild plants until I get farms going.) And yes, there are plenty of animals worth keeping, including dogs, cats and all kinds of birds; it's only the grazing herbivores that are currently all but useless. Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 15:54
  • Ps. Brewing is a fast way to turn harvested plants back into seeds, and thereby quickly build up your seed stock. You just need to make sure you have enough barrels / pots to put all that booze into. (Booze-cooking, in turn, can help you get rid of excess booze, if your dwarves aren't guzzling it fast enough. The resulting lavish meal stacks are great for trading, which lets you buy more materials and ingredients, etc.) Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 16:00
  • 1
    DF2014 makes grazers viable.
    – thedagit
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 20:27

Did you say...large populations?

  1. a 5x5 plot TO START WITH.
  2. b. do NOT let dwarves use barrels in the seed stockpile. just don't.
  3. IGNORE the "no seeds" spam. it'll get worse if you let them mix barrels and seeds. Pay attention to z-kitchen if you're nervous.
  4. DO COOK: wine. DO NOT COOK: the helmets themselves-yet.
    DO: mix food. 4.a Dining hall: ONE dining-room declared and resized over any number of paired tables and chairs. declaring every table a dining hall causes "not enough chairs/tables" thoughts for some weird reason. 4.b. do NOT let multiple chairs touch any given table. see 4a.

  5. bedrooms: you need a total of three 'rooms' for your population explosion alone. A. a hospital. 5 beds under the gaze of a single "hospital" declaration. B. a dormitory: 20+ beds all under a single 'dormitory' declaration. C. a bunch of overlapping bedrooms. do NOT waste time assigning these to individual dwarves. exception: miserable/unhappy dwarves. ...gotta go. or i'd add more.

  • 2
    You could easily fit 300 dwarves on a 2x2 embark site, also large embark sites = terrible idea unless your CPU is overclocked to 12GHz and cooled with liquid nitrogen.
    – kotekzot
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 16:57

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