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Dwarves in your military will be one of the following types of soldiers. What type of soldier they are will be determined by whichever weapon they are most skilled at using. All soldiers can carry shields, regardless of what weapon they use. Weapon, armor, and squad choices are controlled from the Military screen (m). The dwarven military is organized via use of the squad system.
Weapon & Military Skills
In Fortress mode, any dwarf can be assigned any weapon and try to use it, with or without the skill - but the better the skill, the better the soldier. If a dwarf's highest skill is a weapons skill, that will determine the dwarf's profession. It's quite possible to order an axedwarf, or any untrained peasant, to pick up a short sword and order them to fight - they just won't be as good.
Note that in Fortress Mode, dwarves cannot wield knives or larger versions of the above weapons, nor can they learn the skills to do so.
Soldiers will train when not on duty. Marksdwarves will shoot at archery targets if they are correctly set up and you have wood or bone bolts available. Melee dwarves (including wrestlers) will spar with their weapons in a barracks if you have built one. For full information, see the article on sparring.
You may organize your dwarves into squads of troops through the military menu. Select the squad commander, then press Enter. Select another dwarf, and press Enter to add this dwarf to the first soldier's squad. When you are finished adding to a particular squad, use the Spacebar to end the assignments. Adding an unenlisted dwarf to a currently active squad will activate this new soldier. Adding dwarves to an inactive squad will not activate the squad.
You may also select sub-commanders in this manner, creating an established chain of command.
Active squads will stay close to the leader of their squad. If he takes a break to Eat or Drink, his squad will follow him. They will also follow him back to his bed if he goes to rest or heal. If a squad leader is hospitalized, the dwarves under his command will do nothing useful until he is healed, or a different leader is assigned. Squads will work towards a single goal -- if attacking a group of hostiles that scatter in several directions, the entire squad will follow one hostile.[Verify]
You must activate and deactivate your squads through the military menu's "view squad" sub-menu. Non-elite soldiers will grow unhappy if left on patrol duty too long, and they will not have a chance to improve their skills. A squad that is off-duty will spar in a barracks or train at archery targets with wooden or bone bolts.
You may wish to design outdoor training areas so that your soldiers do not fall prey to cave adaptation.
You may also specify if the squad should carry food and water, using backpacks and waterskins respectively, using the military menu.
Every weapon has an associated skill. Soldiers will have professions according to what weapon they are most skilled at using, as long as they are at least a novice rank in one. Thus a soldier whose highest weapon skill is with a spear will be known as a Speardwarf, even if the soldier has been reassigned to train with an axe instead.
Axedwarves, thought by some to be the only true dwarven soldier, specialize in slash damage, also known as the fine art of mangling and severing limbs. This damage type is useful for taking away opponents' mobility and means of attack while eventually causing them to bleed to death on the ground. Battle axes move slower than swords but do more damage per stroke.
Hammerdwarves, the other true dwarven soldiers, specialize in bludgeon damage, which breaks the bones of the enemy and will often repel the enemy some distance, causing extra damage if they are bashed into a wall.
Human Hammermen use a two-handed maul instead of a war hammer. More powerful, mauls focus on breaking bones rather than mangling limbs, though that does also happen on the occasion. They have a greater chance to knock back an opponent than a mace does but comes at the cost of speed. Also should someone be knocked back into an obstacle, they'll take extra damage.
Macedwarves are exactly like hammerdwarves, but use a weapon with a different name and skill, though exactly the same in game terms. Assuming none of your weaponsmiths have a preference for maces, hammers are slightly better, since the hammer skill is also used by a marksman who has run out of bolts or finds an opponent in his face (he bashes enemies with his crossbow. This is the only time when it's good to have a metal crossbow, by the way.)
Speardwarves specialize in pierce damage and will puncture an enemy's organs quickly and critically once in range. The spear doesn't hit as hard as an axe, but it has a higher chance of piercing organs, making it a better choice against large, living creatures like demons or dragons.
Swordsdwaves deal slash damage. Swords can cut off limbs, like an axe, but also reasonably good at hitting internal organs, like a spear.
Marksdwarves, thought of as the wimpiest soldiers, are armed with crossbows and deal pierce damage from afar. A bolt does a fine job at destroying the internal organs of a creature while also doing some damage to outside parts. This is of limited use against creatures without organs, such as magma men. Occasionally a bolt will get stuck in a target. The only known use for this is that a wrestling dwarf may grab the bolt and twist it in the wound.
A Marksdwarf who is forced into melee will use the hammer skill to bash enemies with their crossbow, so you may consider crosstraining them as hammerdwarves.
Immigrating trappers often arrive with a Novice Marksdwarf skill.
Wrestlers focus on tying the opponent into knots, choking them, and breaking limbs. Creatures tied up in wrestling will do nothing else and remain immobile, perfect for a marksdwarf to pick off the creature at a range or an armed dwarf to carve into bite-sized pieces. Also note that this skill determines how much a dwarf will evade/dodge attacks, so it can be useful even for a dwarf with a weapon equipped. Wrestlers are much weaker than any other soldier type, but forcing powerful opponents to wrestle can exhaust them and make them easy prey for other soldiers.
Wrestler skill will be improved somewhat even while practicing with a weapon.
Any dwarf without at least one of the above skills at Novice level or higher will be classified as recruits. If you keep them off duty, they will train at their selected weapon until they reach Novice skill in it, at which point they will turn into one of the above weaponsdwarves.
Heroes and Champions
Once soldiers reach great skill level (the 11th above "no skill") in any weapon (or wrestling), they will become heroes, will be called Lord/Master/Elite, have a different color shade and can no longer be removed from the military. Their "Pref" menu will be replaced by the text "This hero need not work", and you will not be able to deactivate them (make them civilians again), transfer them into or out of the Guard, or assign work dogs to them. Note that armor user skill and shield user skills do not make a hero.
You can still change their weapon and armor settings via the military screen (weapons), and to change their soldiering orders (view squad). Heroes in either the Fortress or Royal Guard cannot be given military orders via the Squads screen (x) and will become permanently useless. If you have any Expert, Professional, or Accomplished soldiers in the Guard, and don't wish them to be locked into the military, transfer them out. Alternatively, a dwarf on the verge of becoming a hero in one weapon skill can be assigned another weapon and will continue training there; the attribute bonuses from gaining each weapon skill do stack. This is one method of making a legendary shield user/armor user without making a hero.
Upon reaching legendary skill level in any weapon, a hero will become a champion, with the following announcement: "<dwarfname> has become a legendary champion! Hail <dwarfname>!". Champions behave the same as heroes, although they are additionally exempt from the dwarven economy, like all legendary dwarves. Champions cannot serve under heroes or normal soldiers, but willingly serve under other Champions.
- Exception: From observed behavior, it seems that if a dwarf gains Great skill (or above) in a weapons skill while a civilian (as a Hunter), they will not become a Hero (or Champion), not even when Activated as military. To become a Hero or Champion, some experience over the limit must be gained while activated as a soldier. Weapon skills can only be improved as a civilian while Hunting, depending on the weapon assigned to the dwarf. If the dwarf is then activated as military and gains any experience in a weapon that is at rank 15 or better, the dwarf becomes a Champion or Hero as usual and cannot then be de-activated.
Heroes will gain a special job title related to their weapon proficiency (Hammer Lord, Axe Lord, etc.) Champions will use Champion as their job title regardless of weapon proficiency.
Once a dwarf becomes a Hero, his profession cannot change to become a hero of another weapon type and will not become a Champion until the original weapon skill reaches Legendary - for example, a Hammer Lord can train to become a Legendary Marksdwarf but will remain a Hammer Lord, only becoming a Champion once the Hammerdwarf skill is also trained to Legendary.
Only Heroes and Champions can wear artifact weapons and armor.