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Cross-training is training your military dwarf candidates in civilian disciplines (or vice versa), and offers multiple benefits. First and most importantly, it gives you several extra attribute increases. Toughness, especially, is extremely important for military dwarves; it allows them to take more wounds before passing out from pain, and to recover from wounds faster. Second, it provides a ready pool of recruits in case your military takes a beating at one point or another, and/or allows civilians a better-than-normal chance to defend themselves. Third, it ensures that your soldiers have some domestic skills so they will not receive unhappy thoughts from being de-activated from the military in the event you need to downsize, or just need some extra labor short-term. Finally, most reserves programs provide chronic idlers with some work to do, which can be essential for unskilled workers like peasants to break out of their poverty (and therefore, unhappiness) cycle once the dwarven economy kicks in.
There is nothing saying you have to use only one of these ideas; they are all various approaches toward addressing these areas.
Cross-training (starting a reserves program)
The biggest thing to remember with a reserves program is that if you're going to go, you go all the way. Don't institute something "just for a little while" and come up with a handful of novice reservists; they will not get significant stat increases and you'll only waste time. Time is not something you have a heck of a lot of in a reserves program, typically. Remember that after you draft them, most dwarves are going to need about a year of sparring or training before they're ready for heavy combat. You might not have that much time if you are getting sieges regularly.
Artillery proving ground (siege operator)
Mass-produce some catapults, line them up near a quarry, and fire away. Works well to dispose of stone from a gulag (see below).
- Trains a skill that's reasonably useful, and provides a place to put all the sub-par siege engine components your siege engineer will doubtlessly create if you're going for superior-quality engines.
- Harasses the wildlife, which is always fun.
- Very slow to train (2+ years for legendary).
- Fairly space-consuming to set up a well-designed and usable proving ground.
- Can be dangerous depending on the biome (especially when elephants are present. If they get winged by a stray boulder, you can bet they're going to be coming straight at you).
- Siege operators are civilians, and will run in fear when an enemy approaches them.
The gulag is basically a strip mine that is located far away from your main fortress (so you don't have to worry about accidentally screwing up your own building plans; if you are careful in planning, it may be placed closer to your fortress). Take a big square and start leveling it (but leave some support columns to avoid cave-ins); it's really no more complicated than that. Since picks can actually be used as weapons, it's worthwhile to give the reservists who will be working in the gulag picks made out of iron, or, if you are really living large, steel. Note that you will have to turn your usual mining corps (the civilian miners who are already experienced with mining) off for this setup to work properly.
- Soldiers enter the military with an emergency weapon in their hand already; this can be critical in the case of speardwarves, who have a habit of losing their weapons in an enemy, or marksdwarves, who are forced to use the hammerdwarf skill in melee, which they may not even have.
- Toting a pick for close-quarters support might make a legendary marksdwarf more useful, since the pathetic bludgeon damage of his wood and bone crossbows are less important.
- Can be quite useful for producing stones you might not have access to normally, or uncovering veins of precious metals.
- Relatively little oversight from you.
- Can easily be transformed into a tower-cap farm, providing a safe and replenishable wood source.
- Juggling your real miners and your reservists when there's real work to be done on the fort can be a chore.
- Hard to keep dwarves in the gulag for too long; they'll inevitably get hungry, thirsty, and tired and start hiking back to the fortress proper.
- Can be dangerous, especially if they're digging near the cave river, chasm, or magma flow.
- Does require some amount of oversight from you, especially when your reservists start getting better at mining and run out of work more quickly.
- Low-skill miners may discover---and then partially destroy---valuable gem or mineral deposits.
Renovation (stone detailing)
Another convenient way to buff up your dwarves, assigning your reservists to mass stone detailing duty increases your fortress' architectural wealth and makes the place look nicer. While they may clutter the halls somewhat, it doesn't require any special allocation of food, beds or drink. Just turn on stone detailing for your reservists and mark up as much of the fortress as you like for renovation.
- Even easier to set up; just assign your dwarves and an area and you're good to go.
- Increases your fortress' value and general happiness.
- Requires no continuous oversight on your part.
- Very safe, if you only assign areas inside the fortress.
- Wealth overflow may bring too many immigrants.
- Serious conflict with engraving assignments; trying to engrave with poorly trained engravers wastes a lot of wealth that essentially comes from nothing. To avoid this, have periods when you only designate stone smoothing, followed by periods where you only designate engraving.
- Careless designation of smoothing areas may have your dwarves engraving images in previously smoothed walls and floors, since this version uses the same designation for smoothing rough stone and engraving smoothed stone.
- If you smooth and engrave all your bedrooms, many dwarves will not be able to afford them once the Dwarven economy kicks in.
Make one or more mason's workshops in an area with a bunch of junk stone you don't care about, or that you're actively looking to clear. Change the workshop settings to allow only your reservists to use it, then tell the workshop to churn out crafts, junk furniture, stone blocks, and trade goods that you can trade en-masse. Works well in conjunction with a gulag. Alternate ideas for sweatshops include a mechanic's workshop or a magma glass furnace to train mechanic and glassmaker respectively. Note: Do NOT try this with the carpenter skill, or any other resource you don't have in near-limitless abundance. Sweatshops will consume huge amounts of their associated resources, and if you run out mid-way you have probably wasted your time. This includes coke or charcoal used in the normal (non-magma) glass furnace.
- Quantitatively turns a profit. The inferior trade goods can be dumped on the next caravan for more useful commodities like cloth and leather.
- Mass-producing blocks makes for buildings with higher value.
- Unlike many other training programs, Sweatshops train a skill that is very useful.
- Slow to level.
- Hard to keep the reservists on task, since they'll need to do plenty of hauling to keep their workshop from becoming chokingly cluttered.
- Can be a logistical nightmare; making bins and organizing hauling for the finished goods can be insane if you're working from a gulag.
- Can be dangerous depending on the location of your sweatshops.
- Note also that stone blocks cannot be made into furniture or stone crafts. This may or may not be an issue depending on where you're putting your gulag.
Dwarf Powered Mill (grower,cook,miller)
Start off by growing a surplus of millable plants and some bags. Create multiple mills along the cave river, ideally partially enclosed so things don't get washed away during seasonal floods. Next to this area make a kitchen assigned to an experienced cook. Enable milling for the dwarves you wish to cross-train and order the cook to make lavish meals. As long as your growers and herbalists provide a steady supply of millable plants and your cook can empty out bags quick enough, the milling jobs will continue.
- Produces a lot of wealth as flour is a high value ingredient
- Produces high amounts of food
- Sustains the training of non cross-training dwarves such as the cook and growers
- Requires a surplus of millable plants to ensure continuous milling, thus you may need to increase the number of plots/growers
- If you don't have enough bags and your cook decides to go on break you may end up having job cancellations for the millers
- Dedicated haulers will be required to keep all workshops clutter free
As long as wood hauling is turned off, dwarves will move from one tree to the next without stopping to bring the wood back. On a heavily forested map, this means that dedicated wood cutters can skill up very quickly.
Of course, this training strategy isn't going endear you with the elves.
- Works quickly
- Trees regrow
- Provides useful lumber to carpenters, charcoal makers, etc
- Can cause problems with elves
- Map dependent
- Trees take a long time to regrow
- Unless care is taken to only designate a small area for cutting, trainees and haulers can be spread out across the map while, making them vulnerable to creatures. (OTOH, if done with more than a few dwarves at a time, a small squad of axe-wielding recruits is not completely defenseless, and military can be stationed as support.)
Dwarf Scouts (ambusher, hunter, marksdwarf)
Marksdwarves are an important part of any military. A bum rush of low level marksdwarves is good, but not as effective as an elite backup squad! Here is what you can do: Draft a comfortable amount of dwarves to hunting, give them all cheap crossbows. Your dwarves should hunt as usual. But you are really training an elite squad of assassins, that will one day hunt goblins instead of groundhogs.
- Easy to start.
- Lots of meat, bones and leather around.
- Aforementioned bones can be recycled to make new bolts.
- Doesn't work on some maps.
- Hunting is dangerous!
- Not as economically productive as some other methods.
National self-defense training
This is the counter-part to the above - this trains civilians in basic wrestling. All your civilians - or at least, most of them. Any time a dwarf is activated into the military, and they do not have at least Novice level in some combat skill, they get a bad thought. Give every civilian dwarf one or two weeks off when they first immigrate and train them up to Novice in wrestling - that's all they need. Then, if they ever get caught where they don't want to be (maybe they bump into a thief coming around a corner, or a flying critter jumps them, or you need to urgently order them out of the path of a magma flood, or send them to the control room - anything), not only can you activate them with no bad thoughts, but every dwarf has a better chance at not-dying - which can only be a good thing.
- Artillery training can give you some siege operators, which will be useful if you have ballistae.
- The gulag requires planning, and your dwarves in the fortress proper may run all the way to the gulag to grab a stone for some crafts, a chair, etc. It does, however, train your dwarves in mining quickly, which is always a useful skill.
- Renovation is hands-free, but may bloat your fortress wealth too quickly.
- The sweatshop creates a large amount of goods, which can be traded away to keep traders happy. It also increases your wealth by quite a lot, which can be good or bad depending upon your situation. The goods are also difficult to manage.
Note that artillery training doesn't take away strange mood potential (you can give those dwarves dabbling in anything you want and that's how they'll get theirs), while the gulag, renovation, and sweatshop do.
Army corps of engineers
Your actual soldiers are obviously only one facet to your military preparation. Defensive structures like fortifications and moats need civilian support, and they need to be constructed - and sometimes that's as dangerous as military service itself. In the best of times it should be done quickly and efficiently, because faster means less time vulnerable to dangerous predators. In emergencies, having a trained, reliable workforce, with enough manpower to tackle any job at any time and can accomplish those projects quickly can be a fortress saver.
The incredible amount of effort required to complete full defensive preparations on many maps means that the military can benefit greatly from having a corps of dwarves who are dedicated and trained to support the development full time.
Organizing a Corps of Engineers requires extra effort and planning on your part, but pays off big later on. Corps engineers become incredibly useful and will produce superior, happiness-inducing structures and items even after their chief issues are done. Also, since their highest strange mood eligible skill tends to be masonry, it improves your chances of getting a legendary mason, which is always a treat.
The bread and butter skill of the engineer corps are masonry along with mechanics, and some architecture thrown in for some trainees (but not necessarily all, see below). Candidates really don't need any prior skills, but if you can recruit some immigrants that come with one of these skills already, so much the better. The long term result is a crew that can build anything anywhere, but not until after some training, so you should not use any dwarves who will be needed elsewhere soon. Assign potash makers, soapers, and the like instead. Miners that have run out of digging work and are suddenly idle (and already have attributes for faster hauling of building stones) are also good candidates. You may wish to swap masonry with carpentry if you are doing a challenge where your structures are chiefly made out of wood, or conceivably even a metalcrafting skill, but the gist of it is the same.
Since some of these dwarves may be performing construction outside, one variation includes designating them with the woodcutting labor, so they will carry battle axes full time. When wood needs to be cut, one tight area is designated at a time, and they all respond - this encourages mutual support. Other outdoor activities likewise become safer with a number of armed dwarves responding together, and faster with practice, so plant gathering may be another skill to add to the mix. Assigning war dogs to these outdoor-engineers is another good plan. (Whether or not to then train them as (reservist) axedwarves is up to you - see cross-training, at the first half of this article.)
A suitable number of engineer corps members depends on personal preference and the expected scope of your projects, but you want them to support each other, so perhaps a half-dozen or more for an average fortress, or maybe ~10% total. This might seem like a lot when you have the fortress guard demanding 10%, the royal guard demanding another 5%, plus what dwarves you have committed to reserves programs or in the regular army, but your goal is a reliable building crew, large enough so they will not all be "on break" at once. Remember also that engineer corps members are civilians (with attributes) and can be temporarily re-assigned to urgent hauling duty when the need arises, so they are not lost to other support tasks.
After you've decided who you want in the engineer corps, it's suggested that you give them a custom profession, to distinguish them in your units menu. They behave so much like normal civilians that it's hard to keep track of them if you don't. Some suggestions for custom ranks are "Reserves," "Multi", "Corps Engineer", "CE", or some other profession or abbreviation that makes sense to you.
Once your main fortress has the basics and things are relatively settled, build some mason's workshops for the corps to work out of. Build as many as you have corps engineer members, to make sure that everyone is guaranteed to have work, and do it in areas that are dense with mined stones, preferably in low-traffic areas (but be careful about noise). A good place to start is anywhere you want to clear of useless stone, or any stone you want to turn into building material - that's what they'll be producing, and a lot of it.
After the corps' workshops are set up, we'll need to change the workshop profiles to make sure the regular masons don't use them. You can do this one of two ways. First, query the workshop, and choose Profile to see who is allowed to work there. Then, either:
- Lower the max skill threshhold to "Proficient" (or your choice). This lets different trainees swap workshops.
- Or, enable each of the engineer corps' members individually. Tedious, but only needs to be done once, and very effective. This allows you more control over individual engineers over an extended period.
- Or both.
Then, set the corps' workshops to produce stone blocks, and put that on repeat. Keep it there. This is going to be the corps' only job for it's few seasons, to train up masonry.
(Why are we building blocks, again?)
A couple of reasons.
- 1) Blocks have no quality modifier. That means that your dabbling mason engineer corps members are producing blocks every bit as good as your legendary masons.
- 2) Blocks can be used in building bridges, roads, and aqueducts. What was the Corps' first job? Building, of course!
- 3) Blocks make higher-value constructions than normal stone. Constructions made out of stone will become "Rough (rock) (construction)", while block constructions will eliminate the rough modifier and contribute more to the fortress's wealth.
- 4) Blocks can be collected into bins (which is not true of raw stones), reducing stone clutter. This is important for moving them to handy on-site stockpiles.
- 5) Blocks make it easier to budget stone for constructions, so you can see if you're running low on material or using more than you expected.
If you stop at no-label, you will have added 37 blocks/trainee to your stocks: 17 to Novice, and another 20 to No-Label. (See Experience for more info.)
(If you're training carpenters, you can mass-produce barrels and bins (you always seem to need more))
Mechanic skill is important to place levers and link them with existing devices, for traps or bridges, or whatever. It also allows them to reload traps, and/or clear any that may have jammed, relieving your primary Mechanic of this burden. The importance of this skill depends on the extent of your use of levers and traps in your fortress design.
After you're satisfied with the skill level of your trainees (no-tag is a good place to be), move on to training mechanics. Shut down the mason's workshops and build mechanic's workshops where there is more stone. Start churning out (no-/low-quality) mechanisms - again, 17 each will give Novice level, another 20 each will give No-Label. After you've got a decent handful, you may decide to build experience by building levers and linking them all a door. Don't go too overboard with training mechanics. Again, no-label is a good place to be, ample - you're just speeding things along a bit. Mechanics are not usually used enough to warrant going all out.
Architecture is useful because dwarves trained in it will increase the quality of the structures they design, and so seeing them will cause happy thoughts. Factor in how easy it is to train up and it's a no-brainer. Of course, feel free to stop this at any time to attend to more urgent matters.
After you're done with mechanics, switch to architecture on some of your trainees. Only a few buildings need architecture, and only one architect can work on any designated structure at a time, regardless the size, so you don't (necessarily) need them all to have it. If you have one, they will train up as they build - if you have a lot, they will share the tasks and not achieve higher levels unless you stop and specifically give them more dedicated training.
The easiest way to train any number of architects is to turn off their masonry labor* and designate a bunch of supports (you will eventually need 17/trainee, just to start). Use the any nearby stone or blocks that is not needed elsewhere - designate one support over one stone if you can, to reduce hauling time. After they've been designed (and now "need masonry"), un-designate them (t, x. If you want to actually build them, then keep masonry on, and that would train both architecture and masonry, giving you more net experience.
(* Other dwarves with masonry may respond to build the designed supports, and faster than you'd expect, the little masonic ninjas. If this is a concern, lock your trainees in a room with the stone and let 'em design in peace.)
After the training starts taking hold, you will have a cadre of proficient building designers, proficient masons, skilled mechanics, and (optionally, see below) proficient siege operators or axe-dwarves. This can happen in as little as 3 years of training. You can (and should!) continue to train them until they are legendary in all of these, but that is very long term. In the shorter, 3 year term, you have a rock-solid foundation to react to any construction demand with speed, efficiency, and awesome quality.
Remember that every dwarf in this crew will have masonry and mechanic labor designated (and possibly carpenter, etc) - for your primary mason's and mechanic's workshops, go into those workshop Profiles and only allow your primary, best-skilled dwarves to respond to work orders there, either by name or skill level, or both. If you forget to do this, you'll have your trainees jumping in and producing your furniture at lower quality.
Role in your military
Especially if you opt for the wood-cutter approach and they are armed 24/7 with axes, a brief (or not so brief) sparring session will make them extremely dangerous if ambushed, and create a reserve force to support your full-time military. Just be careful to train no military skill near Great level, as this will remove them permanently from the civilian workforce! Not even close - remember that combat gives experience quickly. Somewhere between Proficient and Professional should be ample for reserves. This is true for axe or wrestler, both of which can be handy for combatants.
You can also, at your discretion, enable the siege operating labor to train the engineer corps in the use of artillery. This is mainly to give them an actual military use, and since cross-training them like this reduces the military's overall impact on your society. If you've got enough dwarves to make a separate artillery corps, go right ahead.