Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dwarf Fortress - Lazy Newb Pack

I already posted about one game today, so I thought I'd add a few notes about another - one of my all-time favorites, Dwarf Fortress.

I never did get back to Toraliden, my last fortress. Just too much else going on. However, I still plan to test my revised trap there, the one which drops invaders through a series of trapdoors.

But Dwarf Fortress has gone through multiple revisions since then, and I don't think the old game saves are compatible. So when I downloaded this Lazy Newb Pack, I started a completely new game - in Adventure Mode, this time.

But first, a little about the Lazy Newb Pack. It's a package of the latest version of Dwarf Fortress, along with various graphics packs (sorry, but I just can't do ASCII graphics) and utilities. It's designed to make it easy for Dwarf Fortress beginners, but it's really nice for pretty much everyone. I highly recommend it.

Just unzip the main folder somewhere and it's ready to go. Click on Lazy Newb Pack.exe to start the front end. The rest is pretty much self-explanatory. The only thing it doesn't do is change the screen resolution. If you want to do that, you need to edit the init.txt file (you can do that from the Lazy Newb Pack screen)... and to know what you're doing.

Really, if you've ever thought about trying Dwarf Fortress, this is the way to do it. It's really nice. I suggest checking out the wiki before trying your first game, though. Once you get started, you can press "?" for help, but it's not easy getting started if you don't have a clue what's going on.

Of course, the Dwarf Fortress motto is "Losing is Fun." If you do something wrong, so what? Just see what happens. If your fortress goes down to crushing defeat, well, that's fun, too. And it's something that's happened to everyone who's played this game. (In fact, there is literally no way to win in Dwarf Fortress. There are many ways to lose, or you can just get bored and decide to start over. But there's no way to "win" - except just to have fun.)

I can't say anything about the utilities included with the Lazy Newb Pack, because I've never used them. Some people swear by them, though. Check them out, if you want. And note that all of this is free. If you like the game, you might donate at the website. After all, the developer, Tarn Adams, lives on voluntary donations from his many fans.

Fortress Mode is the heart and soul of this game, but I wasn't ready to start a new fortress just yet. So I thought I've give Adventure Mode a try. I'd played it briefly, a year or more ago, but there didn't seem to be much there yet. But Tarn has been working on it, and it shows.

Adventure Mode is more like a traditional RPG. (Fortress Mode is like nothing else you've ever seen before.) You create a character - I'd go with a human, because he'll start in a human town - set up his beginning attributes and skills, and send him out to gain fame and fortune killing monsters.

There are shops in human towns (but not in hamlets), where you can trade goods. And there are NPCs you can recruit to join you (it's very important to recruit a meat shield). It won't be easy getting people to join you at first, but after you've killed a few monsters for them (ask them about performing a "service"), they'll be eager to die for you.

My first adventurer was killed by bogeymen when he foolishly tried to sleep alone at night. Well, my companions were all dead, and I was hoping I could risk it. And I figured he might be tough enough to take on a bogeyman. But six of them killed him before he could even wake up completely. Lesson learned.

Now I'm playing another swordsman, Willam Leafape ("leaf-ape"). It's kind of funny. Right off the bat, I recruited three peasants, armed only with knives and wearing no armor. Two of them were killed in our first fight, and the third was critically wounded, such that he could no longer walk. From then on, he crawled everywhere. But he was still fast enough to keep up with everyone else, and he was a bonafide killing machine with that knife.

Often enough, my peasant would kill an enemy before I could even get close enough to take a swing. And though I started recruiting soldiers after that, they would die like flies, and my crawling peasant would come out of every battle alive - grievously hurt, often enough, but it never seemed to slow him down.

But on my last play, we got ambushed by goblins. I had ten soldiers with me, and my own character was fully armed and armored in iron. But there were a lot of goblins, and they had a goblin leader with them who was just unstoppable.

I had to run to the north, escaping the ambush, in order to drop behind a hill and start sneaking. I came back, but my guys were dropping like flies, even my incredible peasant. Staying hidden, I killed every last goblin except the leader. And then I started after him, but I just couldn't seem to hit him at all.

Even when he couldn't see me, he'd parry my attack and return a devastating counterstrike. Pretty soon, I was crawling, too. If I hadn't been hidden, I would never have escaped. As it is, I'll never walk again. But I happened to have a crutch in my pack, so I hobbled back to civilization.

I don't know if I'll retire this guy or not. I'd really like to take down that goblin leader sometime. But that would take a lot of grinding - first, to become a legendary crutch-user, and then to improve my fighting skills enough to have a decent chance in another fight. I really don't think that sounds like fun.

And Adventure Mode is great for killing a few hours, but Fortress Mode is where the meat of Dwarf Fortress really is. Nothing beats leading a handful of dwarves in carving a home out of the wilderness, to go from sleeping in the dirt and scrambling for enough food to an enormous fortress - a barony, perhaps - full of skilled, prosperous dwarves and capable of withstanding an assault by a whole army of foes.

But we'll see. I still need to go back to Toraliden and test that new trap design, sometime. And believe it or not, I really don't have much time in the summer to play games.


Forest said...

Your adventure mode experience is completely hilarious. I've always focused on the fortress mode, but now I'm considering the adventure mode for a shot.

WCG said...

Forest, Adventure Mode turned out to be a lot of fun, and that was before the recent update that added even more to it.

I never got back to Willam Leafape, and I haven't played it since. I never got back to Toraliden, either. It's hard to find the time for everything. But when I get tired of my new fortress (Summitspear), I might go back to Adventure Mode again, even if just briefly.