Dwarf Fortress is an incredible, absurd game. Sometimes the funniest parts of your game are buried somewhere you’ll never see. Last night, for example, I discovered a tale of the world’s loneliest dwarf necromancer.
When you start a game of Dwarf Fortress, you must first create a new world. You set parameters like how big it will be, how frequently minerals will appear, or how hostile the world will be, and then Dwarf Fortress will create something according to your specific needs. I’ve always been most intrigued by the “History” setting, which determines how long the world has existed and the amount of historical figures and events there are. In most of my games I don’t mess with it, because rolling a decently-sized world with a long history takes forever, and I just want to put my dwarves in a fortress. Yesterday, when I found myself rolling a new world after everyone in my previous fortress starved to death, I decided to create the smallest possible world with the longest possible history, just to see what would happen.
Dwarf Fortress has a couple of different game modes. In Legends Mode you can read the long history the game generates. In Fortress mode, where you make a fortress and manage dwarves, you almost never see any of that history. Sometimes it will be referenced in books you can buy or write, or art that people make, but for the most part, the history of your world is just flavor. From Legends Mode you can export .xml files containing all of the world generation information, and intrepid Dwarf Fortress fans have created their own programs to make all this information easier to read. I loaded my exported files into one such program, Legends Viewer, and learned some very interesting things.
In this particular game, there had been a 50-years-long war, which the game dubbed The Steamy War, during which it seemed like one side attacked the other nearly a hundred times. In the world’s current state, dwarves are just gone:
I found a few refugees scattered in the human kingdoms, but the lone dwarven civilization that the game generated, The Furnace of Pleating, is now ruled by humans. The dwarves who once ruled it were decimated by The Steamy War.
That war, by the way, was brutal. The goblin civilization of The Black Hatred sieged The Furnace of Pleating 86 times. The dwarves never won a single battle.
Although The Furnace of Pleating technically exists, dwarves were pretty much gone by year 60. Goblins and humans squabbled over who would get the remainder of The Furnace of Pleating until the humans murdered the goblins out of existence. I did notice something strange nearby, though. In the map below, the red squares are where the dwarves used to live.
That little purple diamond, sitting right above the red square to the right, is a tower called Deerirons. In that tower lives Kel Boltmatch, a dwarf necromancer. He is one of the last twenty or so dwarves left alive. Well, I should say “alive,” because necromancers aren’t really alive. But Kel inhabits that tower along with six other dwarf necromancers, five human necromancers, a handful of other nercromancers including whatever a Giraffe Man is, and they all share that space with 25 reanimated dwarf corpses.
Kel used to live in the nearby dwarf fortress of Manorsculpted but became obsessed with the idea of living forever around year 8. Not long into The Steamy War, he started reanimating dwarf corpses. Here’s a map of where most of the battles took place on this world. Kel lives right in the middle of that red hot spot.
But now the world’s cooled off a bit. There’s no longer a forever war because the humans don’t really have anyone to fight against. Kel doesn’t have much to do. In his spare time, he’s been writing books. Almost all of them are about Deerirons, the place where he’s been living for hundreds of years. Here are a few sample titles:
- The Pursuit of the Tower
- To the Tower
- Meditations On the Tower
- The Tower: A Quandary
- Dreams of the Tower
- The Way with the Tower
- The Tower: Problems and Solutions
- The Tower After the End
- The Tower Explained
- The World Without the Tower
- Errors in the Tower
- Kel Boltmatch Came Full Circle
It should be noted that Kel is also a great comedian. It is his top skill. You think he tells jokes to his undead friends?
I haven’t started a fortress in this absurd world because I honestly don’t want to mess around with this history. If I hadn’t looked through it, I never would have known the world my dwarves were setting foot into. They’d be awaiting for dispatches from The Furnace of Pleating that would never come. They’d receive no traders to hawk their wares to. No migrant dwarves would join their humble halls. If they searched the forts long since abandoned in the Steamy War, they might find a refugee or two. Or they might hear Kel Boltmatch, scribbling away in the tower Deerirons, as he finishes a new book.