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Dwarf Fortress: Embark Setup [Complete Guide]

Dive into the comprehensive details for the best embark setup in Dwarf Fortress.

The old-school Dwarf Fortress makes a comeback on Steam with significant UI changes, but the overall essence of the game remains the same. The game focuses on strategic fortress builds constructed to defend against various types of invading entities present in the game.

In addition to the defenses, the player needs to keep in check the food, minerals, and other essential resources so that the community advances in the right direction. We bring forward the best embark setup in Dwarf Fortress so the players can build a sturdy foundation for their fortress.

Key Takeaways

  • Embarking requires selecting a location, dwarf jobs, and resources for your colony.
  • Build a peaceful world with moderate difficulty settings to get better good locations.
  • Ideal locations for embarking include peaceful areas with plenty of natural resources like minerals and food.
  • Distributing proportional skills among dwarves is integral.

What Is Embarking?

Embarking in Dwarf Fortress is the initial setup in the game, which includes the following basic steps:

  • Choosing a location for your civilization.
  •  Allocating professional skills to each of your dwarfs.
  •  Specifying your baseline resources and supplies.
  •  Beginning your journey towards a new culture.

Each step requires in-depth knowledge of the game, which you can only get through the game experience. Embarking plays a vital role as it gives the necessary boost to your colony for the upcoming challenges. For the best embark setup in Dwarf Fortress, you have to keep in mind the ideal combination between the location you choose, the initial resources, and the dwarf professions in the game as well.

World Building

To embark on Dwarf Fortress, you must build a world first. Creating a world is pretty simple, as it allows the selection of a few pre-defined attributes of the world you are making. These attributes define the difficulty mode of the game. You can go with the most straightforward world built with many mineral resources and a less hostile environment. After creating the world, you will move toward the game mode you want to play. To embark, continue with the Fortress mode and choose the location on the map where you want to embark and start your dwarf civilization.

The recommended world setup consists of the following settings:

  • World Map Size: Medium
  • History Length: 100 Years
  • Number of Civilizations: Medium
  • Maximum Number of Sites: Medium
  • Number of Beasts: Medium is advised depending on your preferences, for less effort.
  • Natural Savagery: As per your liking, Medium is recommended for less difficulty
  • Mineral Occurrence: Frequent or Everywhere.
Dwarf Fortress: World Building Settings.
Dwarf Fortress: World Building Settings.

Tips For A Good Embark Setup

To build a dominant settlement, you should consider the general vital points.

  • The best embark setup in Dwarf Fortress is built around a location with a proper amount of resources, and it should also be away from any malicious sites and dangerous areas.
  • Avoid Aquifiers, regions with an infinite amount of water that can flood your entire colony.
  •  The dwarf skills should be relevant to the location you have chosen for embarking.
  •  The dwarf professions should have a mixture of working labor and typical jobs like collecting food, building defenses, and the army.

Once you enter the world you just created, you can look into the other parameters for your civilization.

Embark Locations

Locations play a critical role in Dwarf Fortress. The selected site is permanent for one game and cannot be changed again. So, you must be mindful when choosing the site for your first embark setup in the game. An embark can be made across various biomes, not a single one. Therefore, you will get plenty of options to choose from. A good embark site should have the following characteristics:

  • Rivers as they provide a good source of food like fish and a consistent water supply.
  • Mountains supply metals, which will be essential for many buildings in the game.
  • Moderate Climate, neither too hot nor too cold.
  • Embarks near forests can give a decent amount of wood.
  • Calm neighbors help maintain a peaceful environment.
  • A 4×4 embark will serve the best as the starter.
An ideal location to Embark
An ideal location to Embark


Dwarf Fortress features many biomes in a single world, so you will have many locations that can be best suited for your embark. Dwarf Fortress features eight types of biomes, but not all are good for embarking or even habitable.

Seas / Rivers

Seas and rivers are excellent sources of water and fish for your fortress. They can be used to transport to nearby islands or locations. So, staying near a sea or river is highly suggested. Seas and rivers can freeze during winters or in cold climates; therefore, choose the location wisely.


Forests may seem fine as they have a lot of wood, but you need other materials that forests cannot provide. Digging deeper into the land to find metals and other minerals would be best. Also, forests can block pathways that make it difficult for your dwarves to find your fortress.


Plains are open areas with no sight of any blockages. There is a possibility to find some rare herbs or ponds in plains, but other than that, they contain a meager amount of minerals or wood. They inhabit extreme temperature ranges during the year’s respective seasons, making it hard for your population to survive. There are three types of plains found in Dwarf Fortress, but they do not differ much in an embark setup.

  • Grassland
  • Savanna
  • Shrubland


Similar to seas and rivers, oceans also supply sand, essential for various things, fish, and water. Oceans are inhabitable, so you cannot embark on the water’s surface.


Mountains are a suitable location containing many metals and other materials. Analogous to oceans in terms of inhabitance, you cannot embark directly on mountains. However, it is a perfect idea to embark near a mountain biome to get an unlimited supply of minerals.


Glaciers are completely inhabitable due to the intense cold weather. The lakes and rivers are frozen, so there is no water supply. Any sign of life is hardly noticeable, so only a person who wants a tough challenge will embark there.


Tundra is extensive plains with severely cold temperatures, so islands and any water reservoir freeze. It is tough to survive in this biome.


Extreme conditioned areas with almost no sight of plant life. However, you can find a variety of animals to hunt there.

Various Biomes
Various Biomes in Dwarf Fortress.

Neighbors & Factions

Factions are pre-built civilizations present in the world. They have fortresses that can help you in several ways. Your colony should be near the faction you select so you can conveniently engage in trades and mutual relations, and they help create strong alliances. Avoid isolated islands because it would be hard to reach your allies in an emergency.

Neighbors play a critical role in Dwarf Fortress. The category of neighbors near your fortress will define your overall gameplay. A peaceful neighbor will make the game easier, while a hostile one will keep you busy defending yourself and paying attention to your offense. You can check the details of the neighbors in your surrounding in the tab present in the top right corner. Elves, humans, and goblins are usually good choices when considering locations.

Neighbour Details.
Dwarf Fortress: Neighbour Details.


Surroundings matter a lot in addition to biomes. Surround refers to the items and conditions present in a specific location. The information about each location’s surroundings is found in the details tab in the top right corner. The surroundings differ from biome to biome, but they can be categorized into three basic types:


Good surroundings are the areas with the least hostile activity. This means that there will not be anything that can harm you. You will find plenty of animals here which are friendly. All locations inside good surroundings are tagged with either one of the following labels:

  • Serene
  • Mirthful
  • Joyous Wilds


As the name suggests, these surroundings will indeed cause much trouble if you are not cautious. Evil surroundings have the highest number of hostile mobs. You will encounter demons, zombies, and other ghostly entities that will rip apart your dwarves and destroy your buildings. These surroundings provide a good challenge for adventurous players, but sometimes they get hard enough to tackle. Any of the following keywords mark these areas. It is advised to keep yourself away from these places as far as possible.

  • Sinister
  • Haunted
  • Terrifying


Neutral surroundings offer both hostile mobs and peaceful animals in the same region. These mobs are generally weak and are easy to kill. These include wild animals like lions, elephants, and other aggressive beasts. So, any place in neutral surroundings will not cause much trouble. These surroundings are the best if you are new to the game but eager enough to dive into the challenges. The major areas in this category are:

  • Calm
  • Wilderness
  • Untamed Wilds
Untamed Wilds Surrounding
Untamed Wilds Surrounding

Temperature & Climate

The temperature will define a specific location’s degree of hotness or coldness. The lifestyle of your dwarves depends a lot on the temperature region you choose. Ideally, a warm part suits dwarves best and provides some other necessities that become unavailable in many other temperature conditions. In short, you might want to avoid extreme temperature zones because each has its significant disadvantages, which are hard to deal with.

Extreme Hot

A few plains and deserts are zones with scorching temperatures. In these locations, your dwarves will struggle to survive due to the scarcity of water and the absence of animals and vegetation.


Moderate-temperature regions with a bit of hotness are the best because they support ideal living environments for many animals and vegetation. You will find abundant food and other materials, and your dwarves will live prosperous lives. Most plains, forests, and river or seaside locations are included in this category.

Extreme Cold

Tundra and Glaciers feature extremely low temperatures where anyone can hardly survive. Most water sources are frozen due to insane coldness, and there is a rare sign of any living creature. It is challenging to farm any vegetables in the frozen lands as well.

Temperature Detail for a Mountain Region
Temperature Detail for a Mountain Region

Trees & Vegetation

Trees provide wood, whereas vegetables offer food and other essential herbs required to craft different items. Both are extremely necessary for any fortress because wood is used to build furniture; building sand can also be used as burning material.

Therefore, finding a location like a heavy forest with many trees is suggested so you won’t run out of wood. If you cannot find such a location, keep checking for the place with the most trees to get maximum wood for your fortress.

Minerals, Resources & Miscellaneous Items

In addition to the basic stuff, you can get hold of several other items and minerals in the game. These items are used to build weapons, medicines, and buildings for your fortress. Most of them are underground, and each item can be found in a specific biome. We won’t go into much detail about these.


Sand is required to create Glass. Glass is used in many other items like bottles and even in decorating homes and windows.


Clay is required for pottery, similar to sand.


Frozen water. It is not of any use as of now.


They are required to grow crops and build farms. They are an essential food source, and locations with fertile soil are rare.


Aquifers are infinite underground water sources. They are extremely dangerous as they can flood and kill your miners.

Shallow Metals

Less valuable metals are found near the surface of the earth. They are more common in mountain areas.

Deep Metals

Expensive and rare metals are found deep in the ground. You will need to build bottomless mines to get access to these metals.

Flux Stone Layer

It contains materials to manufacture steel.

Embark Size

Embark size is the area of your first building in the location you have just chosen. A larger embark size requires more building resources, while a smaller one may not be large enough to fit your entire supplies and dwarves. Hence, an ideal size for an embark setup in Dwarf Fortress is 4×4, which is neither too large nor too small.

You can even increase it up to 16×16, but most players prefer to make it 4×4, 3×3, or 6×6. The embark size is a one-time setting similar to the embark location, so you should spend your resources on an ideal embark size.

Embarking a Spot
Embarking a Spot

Embark Location Tool

If you have difficulty finding the right location to embark, then don’t worry, as the game has a perfect solution. The “Find Embark Location” option allows you to filter out sites with specific characteristics in the generated world. It is present in the lower right corner of the screen. There are many variables that you can change, but for simplicity, the following list below shows a few ideal settings to find the best embark setup location in Dwarf Fortress:

  • Aquifer (Light): No
  • Aquifer (Heavy): No
  • River: Yes
  • Soil: Some
  • Temperature: Moderate

Afterward, you can zoom into the filtered locations and find the best spot that suits you according to your choice. Additionally, you should consider trees, vegetables, and animals while searching for places in these locations.

Dwarf Fortress: Embark Location Filter
Dwarf Fortress: Embark Location Filter

Skill Points

Once you have finalized your embark location, the next step is to select the dwarf jobs and assign skill points. You can customize the dwarf profiles per your liking and experience, but the one I am sharing here is best for beginners and players who have a little experience with the game but still don’t know how to build dwarf profiles. This profile focuses on a balanced game style based on farming and mining.

A default profile option will also give you a list of the default sets of skills assigned to each dwarf. You can refer to it to ignore the hassle of setting up all the skills yourself.

Skill Categories

In the Dwarves tab, you will see four types of jobs that you can assign to your dwarves. These professions are divided based on their role in the game.

  • Crucial: These professions are a must for your fortress. From the ten initial points, you should allocate a decent number of them to creating dwarves with these skills, as they will help you build a strong foundation for your civilization.
  • Labor: These are secondary occupations that play a critical role too. After distributing the skills in the crucial tab, you should consider having a set of these jobs.
  • Combat: Combat skills are essential for the defense and offense of your colony. A strong soldier guided by a skilled general will prevent attacks on your fortress. However, for starters, you can skip these.
  • Other: These are less critical jobs you can consider if you have a few points left. These usually include student, teacher, singer, and related uncommon jobs, which do not matter much initially.
Dwarf Fortress: Dwarves Profession/Skill List
Dwarf Fortress: Dwarves Profession/Skill List

Assigning Skill Points

Initially, you will get seven dwarves that you can customize according to your choice. You can allocate ten skill points to each dwarf. The most skill points given to a particular profession will define the major job of the dwarf. Although the dwarf will be able to do other jobs as well, they won’t be as much efficient as his main job. For the best embark setup in Dwarf Fortress, you can go with the following profile:

Miner x2

Miners are essential for the game. They dig up the land and extract expensive metals to build equipment and tools. Having at least two miners makes it easy to progress and gather a lot of metal.

  • Crucial
    • Miner: 2 Points


Woodworkers will chop down trees and create woodcraft. Wood can be used either as fuel or as material for furniture and other stuff.

  • Crucial
    • Woodcutter: 1 Point
    • Carpenter: 1 Point


For building anything, a mason is required. He will efficiently build houses and other structures.

  • Crucial
    • Mason: 2 Points


A professional in metal-related work will build the essential tools and weapons.

  • Crucial
    • Blacksmith: 2 Points
    • Weaponsmith: 2 Points


Brewers will make beer while the planter will work to farm crops. The herbalist profession will search the nearby areas to find and gather any essential herbs or shrubs.

  • Crucial
    • Brewer: 2 Points
    • Planter: 2 Points
  • Labor
    • Herbalist: 3 Points


A person with basic knowledge of several skills can work in more than one place at a time to craft the required materials.

  • Labor
    • Cook: 1 Point
    • Weaving: 1 Point
    • Mechanics: 1 Point
    • Tanner: 1 Point

In the end, you will still have some points left that you can use to assign professions according to your choice. Remember, skills assigned to a dwarf will make up his permanent profession. You dwarf can learn new skills, but it will take some time.


In the next tab, you can see the list of available items that you can have once the game starts. You get 1000 points to get the required items and animals. There is a default list of all items that are necessary for you to set up a fortress. You have a decent amount of points left as well, in case you want to make some addition to your items profile. These include essential tools and food items for your dwarves to start working in the fortress. You don’t need to work on this category a lot because the list of items is very lengthy, and you will waste a lot of time choosing the right ones.

Dwarf Fortress: Items Inventory
Dwarf Fortress: Items Inventory

Some recommended additions to the default list for the best embark setup in Dwarf Fortress is shown below:


It is good to increase the Beer and Ale to 70 each because you can focus on the other stuff without worrying about building a brewery in the beginning stages of the game.


Just like drinks, food is equally essential too. Although food is easy to get in the game, bringing more food at the start will help you keep engaged in other essential things. Therefore, you can easily build a farm or fishing camp alongside your other builds. You can go with any food, but I recommend keeping meat because it can be quickly cooked.


Increase the number of plump helmets to get enough food by farming them. The limitation of this crop is that it can be grown in underground farms only.


You can choose a few extra anvils and wheelbarrows to get your metal work done efficiently. Wheelbarrows will help quickly transport materials from one place to another.


Spending a few more points on seeds is not bad. Seeds will help you grow more crops that can be used as medicines or food for your dwarves. It is suggested to keep more plump helmets and cave wheat seeds.


Animals are an important part of the game. They can be used as food, transport, or to work on farms. There is no default list of animals in the game, so you will need to select them manually by spending the skill points for items. The suitable animal profile for the beginning game includes the following animals:

  • Turkey Hen: Having 6 of them at the start will be enough. They will be mainly used as food,
  • Turkey Gobbler: 1 male turkey will do fine to increase its population.
  • Dogs: Keeping two dogs is sufficient. You can train them as hunting or guard dogs.
  • Ewe: You can get one sheep to get wool for your dwarves.

You can add more animals because you still have some points left. You can either go with donkeys for transportation, farming, and cows to supply milk or use it as food. It’s entirely up to you. Cats are good for vermins, which can prevent disasters in your civilization. However, you can still get cats later in the game via immigrants so that they can be skipped.

Dwarf Fortress: Animal Inventory
Dwarf Fortress: Animal Inventory

Final Thoughts

This article presented the best embark setup for Dwarf Fortress, which focuses on a farming and mining-based game style. You can tweak some changes and make it more suitable for a hunting or fishing profile or even an aggressive one by spending more points on combat skills.

However, it is recommended for beginners to keep defensive-based gameplay and develop a strong fortress before getting into any combat. Once you get skilled enough, you can make a strong army, raid mines, and other fortresses, and ward off enemies more effectively.

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