Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dwarf Fortress: Summitspear 252

Stonesense* image of Summitspear trading post area. (This shows the initial construction of an army barracks above the trading post itself.) Farms to the northeast. Most of the jungle is already cut down for wood and animal pastures.
(Click images to embiggen)

This is part 2 of my latest Dwarf Fortress game (part 1 is here). The fort (mostly underground) is Summitspear. This is the report of our second year:

You may have heard of that ancient elven curse, "May you live in interesting times." After this past year, I think I'm beginning to understand that mindset.

The year started off well. We more than doubled our numbers when a whopping 30 immigrants showed up! Eight of them were children, and most of the rest were the usual young, poorly skilled, or just plain unsuccessful dwarves who typically search for a new start. But a few were highly skilled and, really, very impressive dwarves, altogether.

In fact, one of them was so impressive that we elected him mayor just a few short weeks later. Ingish Touchrooms was an older dwarf, tall, with a calm demeanor. He was skilled in a wide variety of professions, as well as being a great conversationalist and just a great guy to be around.

Even our previous leader, Urdim Lovedmetal, was quite willing to turn over her duties to Ingish and concentrate on mining. Well, more than anything, she wanted Summitspear to thrive. And our new mayor seemed like the perfect dwarf to lead us to greatness.

Shortly thereafter, though, tragedy struck. Rakust Summitspears, one of our founding seven, our carpenter and our armorsmith, was found dead in his bedroom, completely drained of blood. Ah, I remember how proud he was when Urdim named our fortress (not named after Rakust, exactly, though I guess it's fitting, now). It's ironic that he was the first of us to die.

Bembul Tickspaddled found the body and seemed to be very shaken up by it. Well, we all were. How could this happen? How could anything get into our apartment complex, far underground?

Summitspear bedrooms, underground. Noble rooms at bottom right. Cells at bottom left. Burial chambers between the two. Bridge crosses cavern at waterfall, letting dwarves enjoy the sunshine and the mist. In the middle is the bottom of our well.

Shortly afterwards, 16-year-old Minkot Steelsalves discovered the body of her husband, Tekkud Swallowblockades, a young macedwarf who'd been training to defend our fortress, in their bed. He'd also been completely drained of blood.

Well, we all started worrying then. We removed the doors to all of our bedrooms. (Since they apparently hadn't been any protection, anyway, we thought we'd trade privacy for safety.) And we started a military patrol up and down the hallways. This time, we'd catch whoever or whatever was doing this.

But we didn't. In late summer, little Alath Pagequests, only six years old, was discovered dead in her parents' bed. She might have been safe in her own room, but her father was Captain of the Guard, and noble quarters are more private. Oh, who knows? But three dead in such a short time? We were all terrified.

Ingish tried to keep us calm, but we dwarves could talk about little but this. It was clearly a vampire - if not more than one - and just as clearly, he or they were living among us. No one could get in from outside the fort, not without being seen - and certainly not three times. But who could it be?

After the first death, we were cautious, but after three, we knew we had to act. We'd had no deaths our first year, so we old-timers were confident enough in each other. But we started to look very closely at the immigrants who'd arrived in the spring, just before the first murder.

There'd been another 14 immigrants arrive in the summer, too - after the first two deaths, but before the third. But most of them had been in family groups. The exceptions were Eshtan Flagtwinkling, who was the daughter of an existing citizen, and Monom Razorcontest, who, at the tender age of 17, seemed unlikely to be a vampire.

In that big migration wave in the spring, though, there were four older dwarves who arrived without any family members. One was Bembul Tickspaddled, the very dwarf who'd found Rakust's body. (We'd never actually asked her how she found the body, either - why she'd gone into his bedroom in the first place. Perhaps she'd been seen leaving the room, and so needed to distract us?)

The other three were much older dwarves, highly skilled (so why come here?),... and one of them was our new mayor, Ingish Touchrooms! It was he who'd been urging us to stay calm. Was that just a coincidence? At this point, we were having trouble trusting anyone.

But we had to act. So we took all four dwarves and locked them up. Their individual cells contained a bed and nothing else. And we barred the doors. Then we applied to Urdim to lead us again. The fact that we'd just locked up our previous mayor didn't seem to bother her. At least, she graciously accepted the task.

It wasn't long before Morul Pagedpoints, a master fisherman who was apparently just something of a loner, began suffering from a lack of food and drink. So we released him from his cell, apologizing profusely. But the other three seemed to thrive on nothing at all. And the murders stopped.

We'd learned our lesson. In the fall, another 15 immigrants arrived, and we questioned them closely. Six of them were children, with their families. Moldath Woundivory arrived alone, but at 16, she was barely more than a child herself, so we left her free. (Poor girl. We should have locked her up. No she wasn't a vampire, but only a few weeks later, she slipped and fell into the river, then was carried over the waterfall to her death. We weren't even able to recover her body.)

But two dwarves - older, capable, well-skilled - arrived with no family members and no family connections here. So we locked them up. One of them, Likot Enterwhip, soon showed clear physical distress from the lack of food and drink, so we released him. But the other seems to be perfectly healthy yet.

Stonesense* image of the same bedroom area. Noble rooms at bottom. Burial chambers to the left. Cells, with four vampires inside, at the far left. The bridge crosses the cavern to the ordinary (non-noble) bedrooms. Note the lack of doors on the rooms.

Apparently, all four of the dwarves in these cells are vampires. At least, they've gone for months without food or drink - not even water. None of them even seem to be unhappy. They stay busy engraving the walls of their cells, and that seems to be all they need.

They still don't admit to being vampires. They plead to be let out, explaining that it's all just a mistake. But they can't explain how they survive on nothing. In fact, they don't even try. And we haven't had a single murder since we locked them up.

Oddly enough, they're still relatively popular among most of our citizens. Oh, no one has been crazy enough to release any of them. The evidence, after all, is clear. But I guess it's hard to avoid treating them as the dwarves they pretend to be, even after all this. Still, we try to keep the other dwarves away. (In that respect, putting the cells along a busy corridor was clearly a mistake.)

We've had a busy year in other ways, too. We welcomed trading caravans from the elves and the humans, as well as our fellow dwarves. We didn't need much from the elves (from the East Fords), but we gave them a good deal, anyway. And we bought a lot from the humans, of the Stormy Nation.

As to the dwarves, well,... our first year, the outpost liaison from the Fence of Dreaming left in a huff when our leader failed to greet him. This year, the liaison stumbled into a kobold thief as he was walking towards our north entrance and was stabbed in the leg. These diplomats are not having the best of luck, are they?

Luckily, he was close to the entrance and was able to escape his attacker as three of our war dogs chased after the kobold. The first dog grabbed the thief by his hand - his left hand, unfortunately - and the kobold stabbed her in the head with his knife, killing the dog instantly. The other two war dogs succeeded in killing the thief - well, chasing it into some caravan guards, actually - but not until one of them had been stabbed repeatedly. The dog still survives, but probably not for long.

And this was just a kobold - a kobold with no armor at all and only a knife for a weapon! Kobolds are supposed to be weak, cowardly little creatures. How much more damage would a goblin have done? Or a minotaur?

Yes, a minotaur - a giant humanoid creature with the head of a bull - attacked our fortress, too, last year. Luckily, he stumbled into a cage trap before he made it to the north entrance. But we're really worried that he might break free. Unfortunately, we don't have a safe place to put him, not yet. We're working on that, but everything takes time.

Stonesense* image of the Summitspear dining hall, with the hospital adjacent to it. The top of our well is just off the hospital. (Dwarves don't normally drink water.) Noble dining rooms, at the bottom right, are located just above their bedrooms.

Several of our dwarves fell into strange moods last year, as Urdim had done the first. I'm not sure I understand that, but it hasn't caused any harm, so far. Indeed, we've ended up with some beautiful creations, like a table made of rock salt, mule leather, and iron, and another made of gneiss and skunk leather. (I don't think these dwarves are thinking too clearly when they pick out the materials.)

But the oddest might have been when four-year-old Dobar Earthenlabors was possessed by a strange mood and claimed a bone-crafter's workshop. Afterwards - after creating sheep bone and cave spider silk greaves - she seemed just the same as before. Whatever it was, it seems to have had no permanent effect on the little girl, for good or ill.

Finally, our miners stumbled across a vast cavern system - or perhaps two - deep underground. They were looking for flux stone and coal. Eventually, they found some marble, but we still haven't found a source of coal. We might have to dig still deeper, down to where we might hope to find magma.

At any rate, the cavern seems to be a maze of twisty little passages. About 40 stories below ground, it extends a good 15 stories from top to bottom, but it's really too maze-like to tell for sure how far it goes. Some ways below that, we encountered another, similar cavern system - again, just twisty little passages. It might be part of the same cavern complex, but it doesn't look that way.

But the fact is, we've only begun to explore into the depths here. Urdim was determined that we create a proper fortress - at least, "proper" as humans consider such things - so we've spent a lot of time building walls on the surface (with very little to show for it, so far). And, of course, there are the everyday requirements of life, too. (Suffering through vampire attacks didn't help much!)

At the end of the year, we have 77 citizens, including 4 vampires and 24 children. (Note that Litast Fencewave, son of Mistem Glazechampions and Meng Merchantfocus, reached his majority - his twelfth birthday - during the year. With little self-discipline or focus, he was put on stone detailing duty, for now.) Even after losing four dwarves this year, our population has grown more than three-fold from the 22 we had a year ago! Admittedly, we could have done without the vampires...

Unfortunately, we've become increasingly worried about the nearby goblin civilization, the Cremated Hatred. So far, they've just sent thieves to harass us, and we've caught most of them, I think. But our defenses are still quite primitive. We have five masons working around the clock, but the walls go slowly. And we can't thrive with just a defense, anyway. Even if we could close ourselves off from the outside world, how would we grow? We need an offense, too!

And our military is still very small and poorly-equipped. We lost our skilled armorsmith to the vampires, and it took us a long time to find flux stone, anyway. We can make small quantities of iron weapons, and even smaller quantities of steel, but without coal or magma - or, ideally, both - we can't do much. We bought some iron weapons from the humans last year, but we can't afford to buy enough of them. Or of armor, either. That stuff is expensive!

Besides, we're dwarves. It shames us to buy weapons and armor from the humans - or even from our own people. But everything takes time. We've been here two years now, and we've come a long way. But we've still got a long way to go, too. Well, we'll see what year 253 brings us...

Note: Part 3 is here.

*Note that Stonesense is a Dwarf Fortress utility which comes bundled with the Lazy Newb Pack. Like everything else associated with Dwarf Fortress, it's still in development, but it's kind of neat to get a 3-d view of a fortress.


Chimeradave said...

I don't know if I'd like the game, but you sure spun a good yarn. No wonder you like the game so much.

WCG said...

Games that tell a story are fine, John, but I prefer games that let you tell your own story.

Dwarf Fortress is not at all user-friendly. It would never sell as a mainstream game. But there's a reason why it has such a devoted following. (The game developer lives on the voluntary donations of his fans.)

There's no script. Even the world is different each time (not just the geography, but history, too). Your dwarves are people, with similar needs, but different preferences. They make friends. They fall in love. And they grieve when they lose someone they care about - even a pet.

So the "story" is different for every player and every fort. Players sometimes post their tales on the forum (here). It's really kind of neat. When a war dog saves his owner from a goblin ambush, then crawls across the map, bleeding profusely, before dying at his master's feet, that's the kind of experience you don't get from other games.

Or if you do, it's the exact same thing every time you play the game. Here, it's not. In Dwarf Fortress, dwarves and dogs (and goblins) just behave as you'd expect. The story is different every time.

So, yeah, I love the game. It can be frustrating, true. And there's no way to win (just multiple ways to lose). But I rarely finish any games. I just play for awhile, until I feel like something new.