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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 items can always be obtained through trade later, e.g. one can drop the expensive anvil to bring 500 extra units of booze or purchase additional skills for the expedition party. New players can look here for advice on trading with the first caravan.

A Trader is the term used at your Trade Depot to refer to your fortress Broker when dealing with merchants in a visiting caravan (r - "Trader requested at Depot"). As a profession, the term usually only applies to those merchants, and to a dwarf whose highest skill is Appraiser.

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 or build fortifications around it to protect caravans and your goods from thieves and goblins.

Do not build two Trade Depots however, as then neither will work properly.

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 if you claim the items),
  • the items that are in trade wagons or on merchant animals
  • the items that are on the trade depot (they belong to nobody until they are moved out of it)

So, merchant goods that were on the trade depot belong to you if they are not on trade wagons/merchant animals. So a little hint: when the merchants have finished unloading, deconstruct the depot...

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


Suggested trading procedure
Arrive at fortress location
Create goods Build Trade Depot
Check depot is accessible
Wait for caravan
Set goods to be traded Wait for caravan to arrive at depot and merchants to finish unloading Wait for the diplomat (if any) to reach your leader
Wait for goods to be hauled Turn your leader's labors off so they don't get distracted
Conduct meetings with the diplomat
Request trader at depot
Turn your trader's labors off so they don't get distracted
Turn trader's and leader's labors back on
Retrieve bins from depot to reuse

After entering the trade menu, select the items to offer from the right, and the desired items 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 acting broker has at least Novice or better Appraisal skill, 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. Be sure to use trade, not offer o, as this will make a gift of the selected items. The amount of acceptable profit is determined by the broker's skills and the merchant's mood, described below. Merchants may attempt to propose counteroffers if they do not accept the proposal, which can then be accepted, rejected, or further amended by the broker.

A good rule of thumb for inexperienced brokers is to give merchants a 50% or better profit. For example, if the desired goods are worth 500☼, make sure their profit is at least 250☼ (which would make the total worth of the offered goods 750☼). This should ensure that the merchants are happy with the trading and that they accept the trade immediately without making ridiculous counteroffers. With more experienced brokers or pleased merchants, even marginally profitable trades can be successful, and counteroffers can be rejected safely, offering the same trade again. Note however that a low profit margin for the traders may not be desirable - it has been suggested that both export and profit numbers influence the size of next year's caravan and, in the case of the dwarven caravan, immigration numbers.

Goods brought from caravans do not have base quality higher than superior, but decorations on a good may be of any quality.

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. 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 exceptional circumstances (or masochism) push you to do this.
  • 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. However, usually a caravan from a different civilization will accept stolen goods without changing them first.

Merchant mood[edit]

If your broker has Novice or better Judge of intent skill, there will be a line added below the merchant's dialogue describing the caravan's attitude. Their attitude rises with successful trades (especially if they get lots of profit) and falls when you propose deals they don't like.

  • (trader) seems ecstatic with the trading
  • (trader) seems very happy about the trading
  • (trader) seems pleased with the trading
  • (trader) seems willing to trade (Default, at least for humans)
  • (trader) seems to be rapidly losing patience
  • (trader) is not going to take much more of this
  • (trader) is unwilling to trade

The happier you make a merchant, the less profit margin he will demand in a trade. If merchants reach the lowest level, no further trade will be possible, and they will immediately pack up and leave your depot. Since annoyed traders are more likely to reject deals, you should be generous in initial negotiations. Skilled negotiators seem less likely to offend traders with unsuccessful deals.

An easy way to capitalize on this mood system is to perform several partial trades. First trade for a few items, offering goods twice the value of the items you ask for (e.g., offer 2000☼ for 1000☼ of his stuff). This will likely make the merchant ecstatic about trading with you. Exit the trade screen, unpause briefly, and then return to trading with a vengeance. With the merchant in such a good mood, he is more likely to counteroffer than reject a trade outright.

Seizing items[edit]

Pressing s from the trade menu will seize the selected items of the merchant's. 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 tricked into asking for them via counteroffer, or the items are "laundered" by decoration or used to create other goods. Seizing goods will hurt diplomatic relations, but is not grounds for an automatic siege.

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, and the caravan will leave. However, next year's caravan is partly based on the profits from the previous year - so if you are relying on that race's caravans for needed items, you're hurting yourself in the long run.

Another way to steal without marking as stolen is to forbid the trade depot just before they leave, causing them to leave their goods at the depot.

Note that the civilization attached to a particular caravan will keep track of the value of items the caravan was carrying when they set out to trade, and they will compare this value with the value of items they return home with. Regardless of what method you use to confiscate items from a caravan, even if you came to possess the goods through no fault of your own (an ambush killed the caravaners, for example) the parent civilization may decide that you stole from them and send a siege instead of a caravan the following year. It is prudent to take measures to protect caravans visiting your lands!

...or at least that's what's supposed to happen - due to a bug in this version, merchants fail to record their hardships in history, so no negative effects will occur. See below for more details.

Offering items[edit]

o You can also give away items, as gifts to the leaders of the civilization you are trading with. This presumably helps relations between yourself and the other faction. The exact effects are unknown but it is believed that offering goods increases the quantity and variety of trade goods brought by next year's caravan. Also the King usually requires offerings to be made before his arrival.

Note: There are no benefits to offering goods in this manner; Toady has stated that this is to be changed in future versions. ("Req174, REASON FOR OFFERING, (Future): There's no point of offering goods to your own king right now.)". For now offerings only increase your fortress' Exported Wealth, and all the FUN that entails.

Miscellaneous Trading Advice[edit]

  • Several small trades, exiting the trade window each time, will increase the Broker's relevant skills during the early game.
  • 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.
  • Be careful about asking traders to bring lots of individual lightweight items (such as meat and fish) as it can result in traders taking a very long time to unload their goods. Unless the path to your depot is extremely long, though, this is unlikely to cause significant problems.
  • All caravans will bring extra food (meat and edible plants), wooden logs, 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 unforbidden items in your fortress, stockpiled or not; thus, it is possible to trick caravans into thinking your supplies are low by forbidding all of your relevant stocks immediately prior to their arrival.
    • In order to avoid this behavior, you should make sure that, for each dwarf in your fortress, you have the following unforbidden items:
      • 5 pieces of food - meat, fish, plants, or "other" in your Status screen (even though "other" includes inedible items)
      • 1 wood log
      • 5 pieces of undamaged cloth, pieces of leather, or complete sets of pristine clothing (shirt+pants+shoe)


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), with the exception of dwarves, who always arrive unless they are extinct. Caravans appear to enter the map from a random direction which does not coincide with the relative direction of the originating civilization, and they may appear from different directions or z-levels each year. Caravans may leave without trading if it takes too long to reach the trade depot, and they cannot use stairs. Caravans will embark on their journey back exactly one month after their arrival, whether they have succeeded in reaching the depot or not.

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

Human and dwarven caravans may bring wagons to carry a larger quantity of trade goods.


The following races send caravans.


The dwarven caravan:

  • arrives in autumn.
  • employs wagons to bring more goods.
  • typically carries food, booze, leather and more. Dwarves alone may carry steel and steel goods.
  • tends to be well guarded.
  • sends a liaison who will speak with the Expedition leader (or Mayor) to negotiate prices.
  • influences the number of immigrants received (if the caravan leaves intact).[Verify]
  • 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.


A typical elven caravan.

The elven caravan:

  • arrives in spring.
  • does not send wagons.
  • typically carries cloth, rope, various above ground plants and their byproducts, logs, wooden crafts & weapons, large-sized clothing and armor, and may carry tame creatures (may arrive dead; a freezing biome, either at your fort or during travel, is suspected to be the cause).
  • tends to be unguarded.
  • does not accept some items in trade:

Elven traders do not like to be offered any tree byproducts. Forbidden items include:

  • Wooden items, and items derived from wood (including tower-cap logs), such as charcoal and pearlash
  • Items made from clear and crystal glass (because pearlash is used in their creation) - green glass appears to be perfectly acceptable
  • Items decorated with any of the above materials
  • Obsidian shortswords (since they have wooden handles)
  • Soap (made with ash)

Offering or trading forbidden items will cause the mood of the trader to drop rapidly, quickly (possible after first offer) causing him to refuse to trade any more that season and leave immediately. Additionally you will be called uncouth, crude, and barbaric for suggesting it. 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. Items made from silk are acceptable, as are all non-wooden plant-derived products such as cloth and thread. Different from previous versions, items made of bone and shell are acceptable. 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. Living animals are acceptable, as long as the cage or trap is not made of wood.

Be especially careful with reselling decorated items from other caravans, as non-wood/glass items may have decorations of wood or clear/crystal glass. All items that elven caravans sell are also unacceptable to sell back to elves, as the dwarves have no means of proving that they were made in an "elf kosher" way — and all dwarves know that elves have terrible memory.


The human caravan:

  • arrives in summer.
  • employs wagons to bring more goods.
  • typically carries a very large quantity and variety of goods.
  • tends to be moderately guarded.
  • sends a liaison who will speak with the broker to negotiate prices.


A goblin caravan may arrive if your civilization is at peace with the goblins.

The goblin caravan:

  • will arrive every season, four times per year
  • does not send wagons
  • tends to be unguarded
  • brings mostly food and cloth
  • does not send a liaison or a guild representative
  • does not make import/export agreements


Outpost liaisons (from your own civilization) and Guild representatives (from Human civilizations) may be sent 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 (however those items will also be more expensive). 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.

Trade agreements can be viewed at a later time through the Civilization menu (c). These trade agreements are cleared when a liaison of the corresponding civilization enters the screen, so they are generally not accessible after the caravan has arrived.

Note that if a liaison is prevented from leaving, it will eventually go insane. Liaisons are irreplaceable, so it is essential to protect them at all costs.


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. Wagons can also be destroyed by ocean waves coming up onto the shore if you have settled in the appropriate area. The only difference between collapsing under waves or a cave-in is a higher probably of recovering items if the wagon is destroyed by a wave.

While caravans can defend themselves, they don't like being ambushed. An encounter with unfriendly creatures may cause them to 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 occur.

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 is not known for certain if this hurts diplomatic relations, but most likely it's the same as any case where the entire caravan fails to return home.

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. You may also want to make the depot a restricted area to encourage civilians to go around it. 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.

If you want the merchants to leave safely, you can build four or more tunnels to each corner of the map, connected to your fortress only by drawbridges. As long as there is no other way to enter and exit your fortress, invaders and merchants will both go towards any tunnel that you activate. You can lock the merchants into the trade depot, and then open a tunnel entrance on one side of the map to make the invaders head towards that tunnel. When they get close to it, you can close it, and then open the entrance on the other side of the map, and let the traders out of the depot. If your fortress and depot are in the middle of the map, this will give the traders quite a head-start to get away.


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 for Windows fixes this: