Monday, September 13, 2010

Toraliden, 1053

This is the continuing saga of the settlement of Toraliden, my latest Dwarf Fortress game (version 0.31.12). The first installment is here.

1053 was a rough year at Toraliden. It had started on a high note, when we were declared a barony, with our leader, Aban Joinedfortresses as baroness. Sure, she had demanded better quarters to suit her new rank, with a well-equipped office and a personal dining room, but that wasn't unexpected. Unfortunately, she soon stopped cooking for us. In fact, she started doing little of anything, except for holding occasional parties which pulled productive dwarves from their duties.

Litast Blowrelics, a legendary miner, high master woodcrafter, and talented metalcrafter, replaced Aban as mayor. He insisted on an upgrade in residence as well, and has demanded that we make some gold items, but at least he continues to work as hard as ever. We must be thankful for small favors, I suppose.

The humans sent a trading caravan in the summer, our first contact with that civilization ("The Curled Realm of Blankets" - an interesting name for a nation, don't you think?). But while they were here, they witnessed a terrible industrial accident. Rakust Praisedstockades, working high above ground on our planned goblin trap, misjudged the strength of a construction [my own error, in fact] and fell ten stories when the floor gave way beneath him. Worse, the dust cloud - or perhaps the vibration - knocked two other dwarves off the narrow ledge as well, nearly wiping out our small staff of trained masons. It was really a terrible sight, with arms, legs, and heads flying everywhere.

Rakust and Catten Tribebolt each left a child behind, but even worse, from the standpoint of our fledgling community, was the loss of Kitty Pagefills, a legendary weaponsmith and talented metalsmith who'd been moonlighting as a mason. The loss of any of these three fine dwarves would have been a terrible tragedy, but without Kitty, we can't build the high-quality weapons needed for our defense.

Toraliden trap
Trapped passage, ten stories above the ground. The pressure plate opens all hatches and the door alongside it.

But we continued to build the structure, using unskilled masons (urged to use extreme caution), finally finishing the job a few months later. Now, in the meadow just outside our moat and drawbridge, a stairs climbs ten stories, ending in a narrow catwalk leading high over the wall. At the other end, another stairs leads down into the heart of our fortress. But the catwalk is cleverly designed with a false bottom. It's a trap to catch trespassers.

Unfortunately, it soon proved to be far from foolproof. That winter, Sigun Patternspear, animal trainer and mechanic, was working at the kennel when he was surprised by goblins. The kennel is on a ledge, partway up the mountain, within our moat and safe from most attacks - but not, as it turned out, safe from arrows and crossbows shot from further up the mountain. Even so, Sigun would almost certainly have survived if he hadn't panicked, running away from safety instead of towards it. And once he was immobilized by a well-aimed crossbow bolt, there was little we could do for him. He bled out from multiple wounds.

Well, after that, we were anxious to get our revenge and watched with glee as the goblins, meeting our closed drawbridge, headed into our shiny new trap. But here is when we realized we hadn't fully thought things through. For one thing, we hadn't enclosed the staircase, expecting that our marksdwarves would get some target practice as the goblins climbed up in plain sight. We'd forgotten that they could shoot back. Even worse, the stair was high enough that they could shoot over our fortifications.

When we discovered our mistake, we tried to move our soldiers to safety, but two young recruits, Atlas Controlhalls and Thor Girderpets, were shot before they could get away. Then, as each goblin climbed high enough, he emptied his quiver into these two targets. (Thor suffocated in his own blood. Atlas is being treated in our hospital, in intensive care, still bleeding profusely and in intense pain, with all his extremities mangled, plus damage to his heart, guts, and pancreas. It's touch and go, and if he does survive, he may be crippled for life.)

Since each goblin stopped to shoot before continuing onward, they ended up well-separated, and when the leader stepped on the pressure plate built into the floor, opening up hatches in the corridor ahead and behind him, only one of his squad fell to his death. Yes, it was a rewarding sight, when that goblin hit the ground, pieces of him flying off in every direction. But it was still only one out of seven.

And that's when we discovered another design flaw. Blocked from going forward or back, the goblin leader (an elf, actually - apparently a snatched child, grown to adulthood among his kidnappers) stepped into the doorway that we'd opened for him. But then, instead of moving back to the stairs, he simply jammed the door open, and when the hatches closed again, he had a clear path into our fortress. Even worse, his remaining followers could also take that path, avoiding the trapped passageway and the pressure plate entirely. The entire goblin warparty ran towards our people, yelling terrifying battle cries.

Luckily, we hadn't entirely trusted our experiment, not without a good test first, so we had backup traps. Those killed two goblins and captured the others (including the elf leader). They're awaiting judgment - death, like that dealt out to the goblins we captured in earlier years (they were disarmed, then forced to face our entire military).

Losing five dwarves - with another barely clinging to life - has been a hard blow to our young fortress. Morale is still pretty high among our residents - we did construct modest bedrooms for everyone, and our dining hall is truly a wonder to behold - but our reputation has suffered. We received no immigrants at all this past year.

But we continue to build and we continue to explore. We've discovered vast caverns underground, amazing places which thrill our dwarven souls. And far, far underground, we think we've discovered magma. It's a long way off, but we might be able to harness it for our metal-forging and glass-melting workshops. We're using coal-fired forges now, but that's just not as elegant as using liquid rock. (On the other hand, coal is abundant and a lot closer to where it's needed.)

Toraliden underground
A small part of one cavern system, far underground at Toraliden.

Now that spring is here, we're hopeful that the new year will be better than the last (much better, if there's any justice in the world). We plan to make big changes to our flawed trap system, if goblins give us the time we need for rebuilding. We plan to explore the caverns and the magma ocean. (We must decide whether to make that long trek regularly, or instead, move our whole community further down into the heart of the mountain.) And we hope to start attracting immigrants again, since we desperately need a larger labor force. We're down to 55 dwarves right now, and five of them are just children.

We need a better warning system for goblin attacks, and we need to build walls and ceilings to protect against missile fire from above. For that, we desperately need new masons. And we need to improve our military, because we can't depend entirely on traps. Well, we're a young fortress, and there's always too much to do. But we've got a good location, with good resources, and we're becoming a regular stop on several different caravan routes, elf and human, as well as dwarf. Toraliden has only just begun to make a name for itself.

Note: Dwarven last names are composed of two words in the dwarf language (just as "Toraliden" means "Lawpaddles"). In this post, I've started to translate these names, which is different from how I started this  history. I don't know, it just seemed like "Patternspear" was easier to read and comprehend than "Lilarlokum."

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