Monday, May 21, 2012

Dwarf Fortress: Summitspear 253

Fire sweeps across our trading post. (Click image to embiggen.)

This is the fourth in my latest Dwarf Fortress series (but just the third year). The beginning of Summitspear is here. If you're looking to get started in the game yourself, check this out.

253 was a year of triumph and tragedy here at Summitspear. It began just like the previous year, with a huge immigrant wave: 33 dwarves, ten of them children.

Several were highly skilled loners, and having learned our lesson, we immediately locked them up. As it turned out, though, none were vampires. Well, better embarrassed than dead, right? We apologized, and there seems to be no hard feelings.

(Note that our four vampires are still locked away, still healthy and even content, despite months without food or drink - or blood. Our dwarves even voted Ingish Touchedrooms mayor again, though none were foolish enough to let him out. Perhaps we should put a more solid barricade on his cell...

(Actually, I suspect that this was just a protest vote against Urdim Lovedmetal. A leader, after all, must often make unpopular decisions. She simply ignored the vote and continued as our mayor, but I think she was angered by it. At least, she had old Urist Quakecudgel beaten bloody for missing a production mandate, even though Urist had absolutely nothing to do with that.)

Mid-spring, a troll surprised us, suddenly appearing in the heart of our fortress (written up here). We must count that a triumph, despite our errors, as not a single dwarf was so much as scratched.

Then, just before summer, six goblin spearmen and a crossbowman ambushed us, and we came out of that remarkably well, too. Well, we were lucky. We recognize that now. But at the time, our soldiers got to feeling pretty cocky.

In fact, we didn't even see the goblins until the crossbowman was foolish enough to shoot at a badger, just outside our southwest gate. And then he proceeded to walk right into a cage trap, which eliminated our most dangerous enemy right off the bat.

The spearmen were smart enough to stay at a distance,... but not smart enough to stay quite far enough away. Apparently, they didn't want to leave their leader. Unfortunately for them, our marksdwarves crept out on top of the wall (we're still building our defenses), ambushing the ambushers.

It was a glorious triumph, again without injury to our own people. And another, smaller ambush in late summer was no more successful. Even the industrial accident, shortly thereafter, which knocked Mistem Craftedglides off the wall, two stories down into our (dry) moat, left her with just scrapes and bruises. At this point, it was looking to be a pretty good year!

Meanwhile, our miners kept digging, finding yet another cavern system - or the same one, perhaps - just above a vast lake of magma, far, far beneath our fortress. This time, we were very careful to keep any openings blocked up.

And it's a very good thing we were, because we discovered far worse dangers than trolls, deep underground. Several times our people spotted a Forgotten Beast wandering the caverns.

Fubag the Flood of Slivers is a gigantic three-eyed lizard with antennae sprouting from its head. When first spotted, it was covered in blood - not its own, unfortunately. Later, we discovered the scene of a battle where the beast had wiped out a whole tribe of serpentmen. We couldn't inspect the scene very closely, but it looked like Fubag had used some kind of chemical attack. It was really very gruesome.

We've spotted the beast several times, but never in the same place twice, so it will be hard to set up an ambush. We're pretty sure it can't fly, but we don't know if it can discharge its noxious secretions as a ranged attack (another potential problem with the ambush idea). Clearly, anything which can take out a whole tribe of serpentmen is a deadly danger to us.

We also discovered part of a smooth stone structure, obviously artificial, just above the magma. We haven't been able to get a good look at it yet. What we can see doesn't tell us much. Maybe it's just more serpentmen? For the time being, we're leaving it alone.

But we did carve out some rooms down there, so we can use the magma for smelting ore and forging metal. We haven't been able to find any coal here, so we've been forced to burn wood for charcoal. And even in a jungle setting, that's not very efficient.

Unfortunately, the magma is far, far below the rest of our fortress, and our iron deposits tend to be near the surface, too. We could move our fortress, of course, but that would mean abandoning what we've struggled so hard to build. Just to save us a little effort? I don't think so.

However, we've recently heard of new minecart technology which would let us haul large quantities of ore and other materials on a track. It's still experimental, but it sounds intriguing. [Note that minecarts have just been introduced in the latest Dwarf Fortress release, though I have yet to install that one. They do seem to be quite... challenging - and very dangerous.]

I mentioned tragedy, as well as triumph, so I suppose I should get to that. In late autumn, just when we were expecting a dwarven caravan (which never arrived), we were besieged by the goblins. This was no minor ambush, but a war party of 15 bowmen, a maceman, and a trained giant olm.

As I mentioned previously, our defenses were (and are) incomplete, but it was our own mistakes which really hurt us. The goblins came from the north, where their bowmen lined the far riverbank. So our marksdwarves were ordered to the second-story fortifications to shoot back.

But we'd gotten too cocky. Our marksdwarves apparently thought they were invincible. Instead of staying behind the fortifications, they kept moving into the open, where they could be shot full of arrows. Two died, and two others were badly injured.

It was a long battle. When we raised the bridge, the maceman and the giant olm (which, as an amphibian, was perfectly capable of swimming the river) fell into our moat. They were only stunned, but it let us concentrate on the bowmen.

With the bridge up, the bowmen tried to ford the river. Four goblins were swept over the waterfall. Several others were caught in traps. Our people finally finished off the last of them, then stood at the edge of the moat and used the giant olm for target practice. It was a victory, but an expensive one.

Then, in early winter, we were attacked by a dragon. Yes, an actual, fire-breathing dragon! Luckily, the creature couldn't fly (although it swam quite well). As I mentioned, our walls aren't complete. So when the dragon neared our fortress, it breathed a vast gust of flame far across the moat, roasting our livestock and setting the jungle inside our compound afire.

That initial flaming was absolutely incredible! With that kind of ranged attack, I don't know what we could have done. Luckily, the dragon stumbled into a cage trap - and thankfully, a metal cage trap, at that.

But meanwhile, fire raced through our compound, killing even more livestock. Unfortunately, this was the dry season, and the jungle went up like tinder. The image above shows the flames sweeping across our trading post. (The image below is just a little later, when the fire reached the west wall.)

Luckily, the walls, the stairs, the floor hatches are all stone, and wouldn't burn. But the fire raced through our cage stockpile, burning up all of our wooden cages - and the goblin prisoners inside them.

Stonesense image of our compound, covered in ash. Flames still burn to the west.

Again, we were lucky. The jungle will recover. We will recover. Indeed, fire wasn't our biggest danger this year. Water was.

The river to our north has always been treacherous. The banks are slippery, the current is swift, and it ends in a waterfall which drops down a tall cliff. We'd lost dwarves to the river in previous years, but it became an absolute deathtrap in 253.

In late summer, we lost three of our people in quick succession. In the fall, another two - and these among our most skilled. Warnings of the danger didn't seem to help. Prohibiting access to that part of the river didn't stop it, either.

We built floor grating at the bottom of the cliff, so we could at least collect the remains of our dwarves. (It's bad enough to lose a loved one. When we can't even recover their remains, when the bodies lie rotting at the bottom of a river, rather than entombed - returned to the stone - as dwarves should be, it's especially depressing.)

The river didn't just grab dwarves, either. All manner of creatures have plunged over the waterfall. With the grating, they tend to live, though they're battered pretty badly. But all of those goblin bowmen survived the fall well enough to still fight. Not any of our own people, though. It's a long way down.

Anyway, we finally decided we had to do something. We were just losing too many of our people. So we built a bridge over the most dangerous stretch of the river.

But even then, the river reached out for one more sacrifice. Endok Silverbristled, one of our original founders, skilled mason, mechanic, and architect, slipped as he was building the bridge and fell to his death.

Stonesense view of the new bridge over the waterfall.

We had only beginners left to finish he job, but it was finally accomplished, just before the year came to an end. It's a retractable bridge, so it will double as a trap - not a very safe trap, admittedly, since it will dump enemies down into our residential section (but they probably won't be too healthy by then).

We ended our third year in Summitspear with 126 residents, including 38 children and four vampires (sealed away in their little cells). We also have a memorial hall with a long line of coffins bearing our honored dead - and stone slabs memorializing those whose bones we couldn't recover.

Our miners are already working to enlarge that space. It's a dangerous land. We're only just starting to realize how dangerous.

Note: Part 5 is here.

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