Defense of the Dwarven Fortress: How to build a drawbridge, arm your dwarves and counter attacks (2023)

So in our beginner's guide to the dwarven stronghold, you've mastered the basics.(opens in a new tab). You have unearthed your dwarven stronghold, a reasonably functional outpost among the savages ready to do just that.

But there are dangers out there. Animals, robbers and warrior enemies are waiting to take everything you deserve. You need to be prepared to fight back, whether it's through clever defenses, strong walls, or a group of highly-skilled soldiers, you need a good way to defeat or evade your enemies.

Conflict is inevitable in Dwarf Fortress, but being prepared is not.

Dwarven Fortress Defense Basics

Start with a drawbridge

The best way to defend your fortress is with a heavy stone drawbridge. Unlike many other things in the game code (such as doors), a dwarven drawbridge is not a building with a capital b, but a building thatcan notIt was destroyed. It's a floor when it's down, or a wall when it's up: therefore, according to the Dwarf Fortress rules, it can't be destroyed by even the biggest enemies.

To build a good drawbridge, ask the masons to make some stone blocks. Use these blocks to build your bridge, but make sure to select it as a drawbridge from the icons that appear and make sure it's heading in the right direction. Height and length are irrelevant here.

Then use a mechanic's shop to create somemechanismsof beautiful hard rock. You can use these to install a lever in your common area and then other mechanisms to connect that lever to your bridge. Telling the dwarves to pull the lever will raise the bridge. Bonus points if you fill a nice deep pit below with vertical spikes and wait for the enemies to stand up before giving the command to stand up - they will all fall into the spikes.

A fragmented militia is better than no militia

Defense of the Dwarven Fortress: How to build a drawbridge, arm your dwarves and counter attacks (1)

(Video) PROPER DEFENSE - Beginners Tutorial Series DWARF FORTRESS 20

By pressing the buttonqshortcut or by clicking the banner icon in the bottom right corner to open the militia menu. Here you can create and deploy squads of military gnomes. You can use the sword icon here to send them after specific targets and the arrow icon to send them to defend a specific location. Note that they automatically track any enemies they see there - there is no combat discipline in Dwarven Fortress.

At first, it's helpful to just create a squad and populate it with your dwarves giving them the leather armor preset. Even without the proper equipment, a group of dwarves with their standard copper weapons can take down some examples of dangerous native wildlife: dingoes, wolverines, robber keas, or particularly angry geese.

Later, you'll want to form a proper squad and tell them to equip the correct armor and weapons if you have them, or create custom gear sets if you don't.

train your army

build a barracks

Once the fort is up and running decently, usually in the first fall or winter, you'll want to dig up or build a space for Usually this is a decent 10×10 room with 10 beds, a couple of chests, a couple of lockers, and some armor and weapon racks for taste. It is good to place it somewhere near the entrance or where the enemies are waiting for you.

Once created, you can use the Zone interface to assign specific squads to train, sleep, and store their stuff here. Putting your first squads of militia dwarves on a fractional training schedule is a good move: they will train for three months every six months and do the normal work assigned to the other three. They can serve as helpers for large enemy attacks.

Once you have enough dwarves to feel safe sending some for full-time training, start putting immigrants with no useful skills into a military unit assigned to train full-time and also sleep in the barracks. Establish your consistent training schedule and complete the list over time before starting a new one. I like to have 20 full-time military dwarfs in a fort of 200, with a reserve of 30-40 as part-time militiamen.

Good military candidates are dwarves with mostly useless skills like legendary soap makers, potash makers, and millers, but really anyone without traits like weak, frail, and sickly will do just fine. Don't bother making training weapons or anything, you don't need them.

Migrant hunters are excellent candidates for squads of crossbow-wielding marker dwarves. If you want, you can build a nice shooting range for them to practice on: put it next to the barracks and make sure you give them an entrance on the side they shoot at.

build your army

Defense of the Dwarven Fortress: How to build a drawbridge, arm your dwarves and counter attacks (2)

(Video) Dwarf Fortress: A Beginners Guide & Tutorial [part 4: Military]

Spears, battle axes, and war hammers are the mainstays of the dwarven army. Armor and weapons are generally best when made of metal, but leather, bone, or even wood may suffice in a desperate pinch.

Here is your general quality order with metals:

  1. copper
  2. Bronze (bismuth or regular)
  3. Ferro
  4. Stahl

Silver makes terrible cutting weapons, but great hammers, it is too heavy.

If you have metal and the time, you can customize your metal armor kit to include a metal shirt and a metal breastplate to maximize coverage. Otherwise, you'll need a metal helmet, metal gauntlets, metal shin guards, and metal boots for the more heavily armored dwarves.

Most nasty enemies are best taken down with slashing weapons, so battle axes work well against them by removing limbs. I recommend battle axes for your first squad and warhammers for your second. Well-armored enemies, such as B. Goblin sieges are best taken down with hammers or armor-crushing maces. they are war hammersparticularlyimportant against undead and necromancer attacks because they destroy ("crush") limbs rather than sever them, because a severed limb can simply... revive and continue attacking.

There are two exceptions to the substantive rules:

  • Shields can be made of any material, but they need to be replaced regularly and don't help offensively if they're made of wood or leather.
  • Crossbows can be made from literally anything to give an equivalent effect when shooting. However, bolts are best when made of metal, but it's hard to argue against bone bolts fired from bone crossbows when they are so numerous.

I'll also point out that your miner team can be a great support militia team - the ability to attack with a pickaxe is mining, so they'll be very good at it. Just create a new all-metal suit of armor for them to wear.

...or go into battle unarmed instead

Defense of the Dwarven Fortress: How to build a drawbridge, arm your dwarves and counter attacks (3)

(Video) STARTER BASE - Advanced Tutorial DWARF FORTRESS Guide Ep 01

Not enough metal for good weapons and armor? Dwarves can be very good fighters, and even if you don't have enough weapons to equip, they are happy to train in unarmed combat. Dwarf MMA gets the job done most of the time and can help if your dwarf falls apart in the middle of the fight. However, even an armed novice can outrun an unarmed master.

You can also do a lot with the animals. The most effective way to defend against kobold thieves and goblin thieves is to set up a herding area for the dogs near the entrance of your stronghold and then train them to become war dogs in the Units menu, Pets tab. Trade with humans and elves against brown bears, gorillas, or even elephants if you wish to continue with this philosophy, or catch and train them yourself.

Personally, I'm a big fan of war-trained brown bears.

set traps

Traps, traps and more traps

Defense of the Dwarven Fortress: How to build a drawbridge, arm your dwarves and counter attacks (4)

There's nothing like a hallway full of traps. Your own citizens won't activate them, or visitors, and softening up attackers by running down a long corridor of sharp and dangerous things works wonders. A very effective starting defense is simply a corridor full of rockfall traps that drop a heavy rock at the bad guys. It won't stop a troll, but it will stop a wolf.

If you're upgrading your army's weapons, I'd suggest placing the old ones in weapon traps. It's also a great use of excess bone - slice it into crossbows and bone bolts to set up a multitude of vicious crossbow traps. For bonus points (mine), craft weapons in your forge that can only fall into traps:

  1. huge ax blades
  2. sharp metal balls
  3. large serrated slices

I do not recommend cage traps too early. It's fun to capture enemies and wildlife later on, but it requires a little more handling than beginners might like.

(Video) Dwarf Fortress - Quick Tutorial - Military Squads

Once you've got your feet under you, try building more complex traps. A favorite is the drowning chamber: an enclosed space with drawbridges at each end and locks in the ceiling, each with a channel above it that connects to a water source. Enemies come in, you pull levers to build bridges. Then pull the levers to flood the room. After they drown, do an end game to open the lower floodgates and empty the space into something like an underground cave or sea.

Dwarf Fortress enemies to watch out for

We'll end with some descriptions of what might be in store for you. There are no spoilers.

Sieges, robberies and raids

💰 thievesThey are groups of goblins who want to steal your things or goblins who want to kidnap your children. They are not visible to you until a dwarf sees them. The best defense here is to make sure that animals like dogs are always near the entrance of the fortress - they will sniff them out so you can send the militia after them. Keep in mind that crooks avoid traps!

🦹‍♂️ AmbushesThey are equally covert groups of scavengers who, instead of stealing, want to cause trouble. They are smaller and can be very dangerous for your lone Woodcutter or Herbalist working outside the fortress, but they can be wiped out by even a small militia.

🗡 In the municipalityThey are big attacks from enemies who want to destroy your fortress. Goblins and elves attack and happily run through corridors full of traps. You can kill enough of them to make them run or wait; they will eventually leave. Elves are usually easy to kill because they only use wooden weapons and armor, but sometimes they bring along giant beasts as allies. Human sieges can be nasty because they actually camp outside and wait for you, harass dwarves leaving the fortress, and kill incoming trade caravans. Necromancer attacks are a nightmare, so if you're a beginner, just don't start somewhere that says you have a necromancer as your neighbor.


Megabeasts are villains that include dragons, colossi, giants, and titans, all kinds of horrors. They usually attack from above and are very good at destroying buildings and doors. Some, like the bronze colossi and dragons, are extremely dangerous due to their incredible stamina and/or fiery breath. This is usually a case where stealth is the better part of bravery if you don't have confidence or a strong army - seal the drawbridge and wait for it to come out.

the depths below

Defense of the Dwarven Fortress: How to build a drawbridge, arm your dwarves and counter attacks (5)

🦇 Underground nativesthey exist, including cavemen-fish, bat-men, reptile-men and rat-men, and they can be friendly or hostile towards your stronghold. Once you open a cave level, the enemy cave dwellers will launch attacks and ambushes against you from time to time. They come more often if you cut a lot of mushrooms and do a lot of underground fishing. Be sure to defend the entrances to the underground fortress, as well as the ones above.

(Video) Dwarf Fortress - (Minotaur Attack & Bridge Mayhem) [part 2]

🕷 Forgotten BeastsOf course, those experiments that the gods forgot at creation also lurk, locked away in underground caverns. I won't say too much, but be careful around them, especially if they spew cobwebs, emit poisonous gas, or are made of an exceptionally strong substance. Megabeast's warnings apply here.

things that happen overnight

The Dwarf Fortress also hasVampiremithey were creatures, who can directly attack or infiltrate your stronghold disguised as migrants. Creature werewolves especially suffer from a contagious disease that can ruin your fortress. I'll leave it up to you to figure out the best way to defeat these enemies... but keep an eye out for the suspiciously pale immigrants who are hundreds of years old and have very high abilities.

Too greedy, too deep

Of course there are things older and dirtier than goblins in the depths of the world, where ancient and nameless things gnaw at the pillars of creation.


1. Dwarf Fortress - Your First Fortress Tutorial Lets Play | 04 (Traps and Weapons)
2. Your First Fortress: A Dwarf Fortress Crash Course
3. Dwarf Fortress: A Beginners Guide & Tutorial [part 5]
4. Dwarf Fortress: A Beginners Guide & Tutorial [part 3: Water]
5. Dwarf Fortress: A Beginners Guide & Tutorial [Steam Edition]
6. Dwarf Fortress - Your First Fortress Tutorial Lets Play | 01 (Aquifer and Farming)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kimberely Baumbach CPA

Last Updated: 25/09/2023

Views: 6248

Rating: 4 / 5 (61 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kimberely Baumbach CPA

Birthday: 1996-01-14

Address: 8381 Boyce Course, Imeldachester, ND 74681

Phone: +3571286597580

Job: Product Banking Analyst

Hobby: Cosplaying, Inline skating, Amateur radio, Baton twirling, Mountaineering, Flying, Archery

Introduction: My name is Kimberely Baumbach CPA, I am a gorgeous, bright, charming, encouraging, zealous, lively, good person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.