For the second day of Dwarf Fortress Week, I’ll be looking at the game’s Legends mode and how it can help you in generating ideas for locations, characters, and plots. While the world I generated is only 100 game-years old, due to the way that game generation works, you’ll find that it still has ample material for use.
Legends mode is where the history of the game world is recorded, from the first official year on; if you keep playing n the same world multiple games in a row, you’ll find your own fortresses and adventurers recorded in it. This can be an excellent way to get a sense of ownership for the world, even if many of your early games will involve abandoned forts and dead adventurers.
Entering Legends mode presents us with a list of options: historical figures, sites, artifacts, regions, underground regions, civilizations and other entities (an entity is essentially the same thing as a civilization), structures, historical maps, and an act-by-act history of the Ages of the world starting with the Age of Myth. As the generation didn’t run for long enough to change to a different age, this world is still in the Age of Myth – legendary beasts, titans, and Forgotten Beasts still abound.
Historical Figures is helpful at the tabletop because it gives you the name of the entity and their species, providing you an initial base; selecting one will provide you with a translation of the name into English, a description for those who aren’t one of the common races, and a history to give you a feel for them. An example is Ngordax Stozunguslu Zom Ostrug, known also as Ngordax Poisonterrors the Fiend of Bewildering. He’s a giant lizard twisted into a bloated humanoid form, covered in short, even mauve hair, with deadly blood. He thrust a spike of the underworld’s material up into the mortal realm, creating a gateway he named the Towers of Hell. He’s a perfect adversary for a campaign – a fiendish creature from the dawn of time, looking to invade the mortal world if he can just find his way up from the depths with his army of demons and damned souls. More than that, he’s listed as the master of the Plague of Joy, a civilization entity.
So let’s look at that under Civilizations and Other Entities; thankfully it’s near the top. Unsurprisingly for Dwarf Fortress, it’s a goblin civilization, with the original name being Snodub Onosm – which jointly provides a handy name for a nasty nation-state of goblinoids or whatever you want to swap out for the goblins. This listing provides a nice list of related entities and creatures that have been foes of Snodub Onosm, as well as a history you can use to chart out how dangerous they are. Pointedly, they seem to be at odds with the Work of Emancipating, a dwarven civilization, and they have a hero who leads the battles when Ngordax shows up. It also shows their first settlement, Nguslusmatspo or ‘Terroroil’, which is likely the site of the Dark Tower built above the Towers of Hell.
Looking up Terroroil in Sites gives us a handy list of goblins settled there, books they’ve authored, treasures stolen from them, and so on. We can earmark it as the site of the Big Bad for the campaign, and note the other settlements of Snodub Onosm as fortresses and warcamps where the players will need to take the fight. We can check them similarly for historical information.
Artifacts is a tab that provides us the last piece we need for concocting a campaign around the evil Ngordax: the engraved artifact slab that was created with the aid of the god Mirding, allowing the demon into the physical world. In Dwarf Fortress, this slab will be entombed in a vault guarded by divine agents of the god in question, and getting hold of it allows for the demon to be either banished or forced into servitude.
Thus we can weave a coherent plot from the wealth of information provided by just a short run of the game’s world generation engine. The players, members of the Work of Emancipation, which we’ll cast as an organization opposed to the goblins of Snodub Onosm due to their use of slaves as labor and food, need to find the iron slab Rathaafi Ecanocei in the vaults where the Ngordax buried it so that he can be banished and the goblins deprived of his leadership. To accomplish this, they need to raid the warcamps of the goblins to unearth clues they need to find the location of the entrance, which will eventually pit them against the divine agents set to guard it. Finally, they’ll need to lead an army against Terroroil to fight their way to Ngordax’s throne of bone and blackened metal so they can command him to begone from the world – unless they get too tempted by the power offered and bind him to their service instead.
And this is just the barest fraction of 100 years of world generation information from Legends mode; the iron slab is just one of 1255 artifacts in the world, Ngordax is just one of 17489 historical figures, and so on. Multiple campaigns of information lie here, including handy pre-generated names for all of Ngordax’s trusted servants and minions, named weapons of legend, and more.
Tomorrow, I’ll be back to talk about how fortress mode can teach you about the layout of settlements, and why it makes some sense for fantastical worlds to have ruins scattered across the landscape.
If you’d like a copy of the Dwarf Fortress world I’ve generated for this week’s posts, feel free to contact me!