23a:Trading

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This article is about an older version of DF.

Trading in Dwarf Fortress first occurs in the first autumn after establishing your fortress, with the arrival of the Dwarven caravan. Trading is a good way to acquire resources that are not available or are rare in the local area. It also allows for more freedom in selecting starting gear, because certain items can always be obtained through trade later. New players can look here for advice on trading with the first caravan.

Trade Depot[edit]

Building a Trade depot will allow you the opportunity to trade with caravans that arrive at your fortress.

While it may be convenient to build a Trade Depot outside first, it is usually a good idea to move it inside to protect caravans and your goods from thieves and goblins.

Everything that is on your map belongs to you, except:

  • the items of non-fortress members (only if they are alive, when they are dead they belong to you),
  • the items that are in trade wagons or on merchant animals
  • the items that are in the trade depot

Deconstructing the trade depot after the merchants have finished unloading will allow you to steal all of the items, though the civilization from which the merchants came will take offense to this action and may decide to attack you the next time they visit.

See the Trade depot article for more information on how to interact with it.

Trading[edit]

After entering the trade menu, select the items to sell from the right, and the items to buy from the left. All caravans have a weight limit which cannot be exceeded, and the allowed additional weight is displayed in the lower right corner. If the Broker has arrived, the value of all items will be displayed. Once the proposal is ready, press t to make an offer, but merchants will not agree unless they make adequate profit; unlike in later versions, this will not affect their mood, so you can repeatedly make trade offers until you get one that is acceptable. Be sure to use trade, not offer o, as this will make a gift of the selected items.

Trading cue colors[edit]

  • Items in brown have been created (or modified) by your fortress. They can be traded away or offered as a gift.
  • Items in white were created by another source, either acquired from a caravan or brought during embark. They can be traded, but if one of these items has been selected, the entire selection cannot be offered as a gift.
  • Items in purple are under a no-export mandate and should not be traded away unless you are willing to face the consequences.
  • Items in green have just been gifted to the caravan and they will not trade it back.
  • Items in red have been seized from another caravan and cannot be traded as is; you will need to decorate them or turn them into other items for them to become "valid" trading items.

Seizing items[edit]

Pressing s from the trade menu will seize the selected items of the merchants. If you seize goods from a caravan, the merchant will respond "Take what you want. I can't stop you." and then leave immediately without the seized goods. Items cannot be seized from the dwarven caravan, and other races will not buy goods stolen from one of their caravans (then marked in red) unless they are "laundered" by decoration or used to create other goods. Seizing goods will hurt diplomatic relations - see Diplomacy for more details.

Pressing the seize button while no goods are selected will result in the merchant interpreting your seizure as a joke. This apparently does nothing to benefit or hinder your trading.

As a side note, if you deconstruct your trade depot with a caravan in it, the wagons will be killed and all the caravan's items will drop to the ground, to be readily hauled away by your Dwarves. This does not mark the items as stolen, but it still has all of the same negative effects as seizing goods - the civilization from which the caravan originated will observe that the value of their caravan was less than what they had when they visited you, so even if you came to possess the goods through no fault of your own (goblins killed the merchants, for example) they will decide that you stole from them and may decide to attack you in response.

...or at least that's what's supposed to happen - due to a bug, this does not actually occur. See below for more information.

Offering items[edit]

o You can also give away items, as gifts to the leaders of the civilization you are trading with. The King requires offerings to be made before his arrival, while Humans and Elves can be mollified by suitably large donations.

Miscellaneous Trading Advice[edit]

  • Food inside the Trade Depot can go bad. Have a food stockpile nearby so you can quickly haul goods inside.
  • Thieves and thieving critters tend to follow caravans. Expect assaults and intruders.
  • All caravans will bring extra food (meat and edible plants) and cloth/leather (for making clothes) if the supplies of your fortress are low enough, independent of whether or not you requested them. This does not apply in the case that the weight limit is exceeded by (other) items you requested. The supply situation, as observed by traders, is based solely on the number of items in your fortress, stockpiled or not. In order to avoid this behavior, you should make sure that, for each dwarf in your fortress, you have the following items:
    • 5 pieces of food - meat, fish, plants, or "other" in your Status screen (even though "other" includes inedible items)
    • 5 pieces of undamaged cloth, pieces of leather, or complete sets of pristine clothing (shirt+pants+shoe)

Caravans[edit]

Each friendly race will send a caravan each season that they are active, which is once per year for humans, elves, and dwarves. Caravans will only show up if that race considers the fortress site accessible (as denoted on the embark screen) and if the civilization is not unhappy with you.

Note that if traders or their animals are prevented from leaving, they will eventually go insane.

Wagons[edit]

If you have built a road from the depot to the edge of the map (such that a 3 tile wide trail of "+"s trail off the left edge) and the depot is accessible, Human traders will send wagons with their caravans, which have a much greater capacity for bringing foreign imports and accepting dwarven exports. Any patches of stone outdoors must be smoothed (d - s), and trees must be cut down (d - t). Any buildings which are normally passable, including restraints and traps, will not obstruct wagons either, but any creatures standing in their way will slow them down significantly.

Nobles[edit]

Once the appropriate nobles arrive, Humans will send their guild representative (or equivalent) with caravans to speak to important dwarves. They will allow you to choose the type of items that your fortress is interested in, and will focus on bringing more of that kind of item on the next caravan (though at significantly increased expense). They will also present you with a list of the items they're willing to pay more for, which will be effective upon their next arrival.

Note that if a merchant noble is prevented from leaving after finishing their meeting, they will eventually go insane.

Races[edit]

The following races send caravans:

Dwarves[edit]

The dwarven caravan:

  • arrives in autumn.
  • typically carries food, leather, and cloth.
  • is well guarded.
  • once you have a bookkeeper, sends an outpost liaison who will allow you to request anvils, picks, and seeds.
  • influences the number of immigrants received (if the caravan leaves intact).
  • will not cause sieges when repeatedly destroyed or lost.
  • is the only caravan to arrive during a fortress' first year.
  • always arrives regardless of embark location.
  • cannot have its goods seized from the trade menu.

Elves[edit]

The elven caravan:

  • arrives in spring.
  • sends only 2 pack animals, typically loaded with cloth and/or plants.
  • is unguarded.
  • does not accept some items in trade.


"Once a beautiful tree, and now? It is a rude bauble, fit only for your kind."

Elven traders do not like to be offered any tree byproducts:


"I see your low race still revels in death. That poor, gentle creature..."

Elven traders also do not like to be offered any animal byproducts:


"You truely despise life, don't you? I am beside myself with grief. Perhaps we will show you how they suffered."

Offering or trading forbidden items will cause the traders to refuse to trade any more that season and leave immediately. Additionally you will be called uncouth, crude, and barbaric for suggesting it (depending on whether you offered wood products, animal products, or both). Tragic incidents can befall name callers which if repeated can lead to interesting times and even great fun!

However, stone and metal items, even when charcoal is used in production, are acceptable, as are items made from non-wooden plant-derived products such as cloth and thread. You can also transport your goods to the trade depot in a wooden bin, as long as you do not try to sell the bin itself.

Humans[edit]

The human caravan:

  • arrives in summer.
  • employs wagons to bring more goods.
  • typically carries a very large quantity and variety of goods.
  • is well guarded.
  • once you have a broker, sends a merchant noble who will negotiate prices.

Destruction[edit]

If caravans are destroyed (intentionally or unintentionally), the items may remain for use. Traders caught in a cave-in will flee as if they were attacked but will leave all the items dropped by the caravan behind. Pack animals carrying items are affected just like a normal tamed mule and must be killed in the cave-in for them to drop items on the ground. It is however much more likely that the pack animal(s) will only be stunned or rendered unconscious and flee shortly after recovering from the hit. Wagons will collapse if caught in a cave-in, leaving all that it was carrying on the ground as a result.

While caravans can defend themselves, they don't like being ambushed. If any merchant (including any wagon or pack animal) is killed, the entire caravan will retreat and forget about trading with you for the season. Repeated caravan destruction (intentional or unintentional) will strain diplomatic relations and may result in a siege; due to a bug, however, this does not actually happen.

Caravan Delay[edit]

If a caravan has arrived at your trade depot and is unable to leave for about six months after they arrived, the merchants and animals will go insane. This can result in a bunch of merchants attacking your dwarves, or just standing around moping until they starve to death. It goes without saying that this will significantly harm diplomatic relations.

If you have locked the caravan into your fortress to hold out against a siege, it's a good idea to station a squad of soldiers near the trade depot in case the merchants go berserk. Alternatively, you can design the trade depot using drawbridges so that it can be sealed off from the rest of the fortress during a siege, though take care not to put them so close to the depot that they crush the merchants when they are raised or lowered.

Bugs[edit]

Hardships experienced by caravans are not properly recorded in the world's history, so future caravans will not be influenced by them. The following patch for version 0.23.130.23a fixes this: