One of my favorite parts of playing Dwarf Fortress is the randomly generated legendary artifacts that my dwarves make. Usually, they’re epic pieces of armor or furniture or crafts that are decorated in brilliant gems and images from the dwarves’ memories. In the game I was playing yesterday, the dwarves kept giving me dumb pieces of shit, and I’m still mad about it.
Dwarves are simple creatures, but they do have memories, friends, enemies, likes and dislikes. When they create art, what they make is influenced by those things. Take this engraving that one of my dwarves did, for example:
I have no idea who Besmar is or why he’s so afraid of mussels, but apparently, the dwarf who carved this didn’t want him to forget it.
Part of why it’s exciting when a dwarf makes an artifact is that you know that it’ll be influenced by the things they’ve experienced. The whole process is quite dramatic. First, the game will tell you that a dwarf has been struck by a strange mood, and they’ll claim a workshop. If they can collect all the materials they need to make their artifact, they’ll get to it. If not, they go insane. After a brief waiting period, the game will alert you that their craft is completed, and you finally get a good look at what it is.
Keep all that in mind while I show you the shitty artifacts my dwarves kept making last night. They’re all extremely valuable pieces of crap.
Take this okli—a bagpipe-esque instrument—that one of my dwarves made.
That’s right, it doesn’t have gemstones on it, but the image of gemstones in fish leather. I don’t know why the dwarf didn’t use actual gemstones, either. We constantly had plenty of gems around.
This amulet was also a disappointment.
I guess this dwarf invented the Dwarf Fortress version of Christianity, but with double the crucifixion.
By far the most infuriating was this amulet, however.
Like, my dude withdrew from society and painstakingly made a piece of jewelry… that has the image of tubes and a body cast on it. Where am I supposed to put that? Who would want this? Why, why did you make it?
The randomness of artifacts is what makes them a delight. When I look at this incredibly dumb object, it’s like my dwarves become real people. They’re flawed and ruled by their whims; ultimately, they’re not in my control. It’s what allows the game to feel so alive, even as you are cursing your dwarves for being so fucking terrible at making art.
Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for my dwarves, not long after this amulet was created, we got our entire shit wrecked by a goblin siege. While sixty dwarves died, I’m sure the remaining forty will have plenty of material for new artifacts. At the very least, we should get something decorated with the image of dwarves cowering before goblins instead of cowering before a bivalve.