|This article is about an older version of DF.
|This feature has one or more outstanding bugs. Please view the Bugs section for details.
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 or purchase of additional skills for the expedition party, because items can always be obtained through trade later.
Trader is the term used at your Trade Depot to refer to your fortress Broker when dealing with merchants in a visiting caravan ( - "Trader requested at Depot"). As a profession, the term usually only applies to visiting merchants, or to a dwarf whose highest skill is Appraiser.
Building a Trade depot is a requisite for trade with caravans that arrive at your fortress.
While it may be convenient to build a Trade Depot outside at first, it is usually a really good idea to move it inside or build walls, bridges and other fortifications around it to protect caravans and your goods from animals (guzzlers), 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 if you claim the items),[Verify]
- the items that are on merchant animals[Verify]
- the items that are on the trade depot (they belong to the caravan until they are moved out of it)
See the Trade depot article for more information on how to interact with it.
|Suggested trading procedure
|Arrive at fortress location
|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 to propose the trade, but merchants will not agree unless they make adequate profit. Be sure to use trade, not offer , 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.
With more experienced brokers or pleased merchants, even marginally profitable trades can be successful, and counterproposals 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 years caravan and, in the case of the dwarven caravan, immigration numbers.[Verify]
Goods brought by caravans do not have base quality higher than superior, but decorations on a good may be of any quality.[Verify]
Trading cue colors
- Brown Items have been created (or modified) by your fortress. They can be traded away or offered as a gift.
- Gray Items 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.
- Purple Items are under a no-export mandate. If they are traded away it will result in disciplinary action (see justice) against the dwarf that brought the item to the depot.
- Green Items have just been gifted to the caravan and they will not trade it back.
- Red Items 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.
Note that containers (barrels, bins, etc) will be displayed according to the origin of the container, not the contents. So a foreign barrel holding locally-produced beer will display as foreign (white). Once you iew the container, the locally-made contents are displayed as local (brown).
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 (eg, 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.
Pressing 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.[Verify]
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.[Verify]
As a side note, if you deconstruct your trade depot with a caravan in it, 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.[Verify]
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.[Verify]
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![Verify]
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, though there is not yet a clear correlation between the value of the offerings and the improvement to relations. The exact effects of offerings on trading are unknown but it is believed due to the offerings' net trade value being counted towards the traders' profit, possibly with a modifier (possibly a multiplier of more than 1 as a bonus or less than 1 to compensate for the improved relations)[Verify], which in turn increases the quantity and variety of trade goods brought by next year's caravan. Also the King requires offerings to be made before his arrival.(5,000 in 0.31.25) You cannot offer items that were not made at your fortress; the traders do not want your spare goblin harvest clothes.
Note: There are currently no benefits to offering goods to your king; the game developers have 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.)"
Unless you are looking for fun, under no conditions should you offer or trade items which are wooden or used wood in their creation (glass, for example) to elves, as this will insult the traders, and may cause them to leave or even damage relations enough to provoke a war between you and the elven civilization you traded with. They will be equally insulted by you trading back their wood-related items - their refusal to accept back their wooden items is probably a bug which will be removed in a later release, though this has not been verified. It is also worth noting that in-game the only way to acquire wood is by chopping down trees, so it is likely that the elves have developed a method of growing and acquiring wood without killing trees which will be included in later development (unless they are just cutting down trees that have already died naturally).
Miscellaneous Trading Advice
- Several small trades, exiting the trade window each time, no longer increases the Broker's relevant skills during the early game. [Verify]
- 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.[Verify]
- Create your trading depot inside your fort, preferably in the beginning. Place a 3-tile wide path (which must be free of obstructions such as stairways) to the entrance of the fort and line this with traps; this will help to protect the traders and keep the depot close to your supplies.
- 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:
- Define your trade depot as a burrow. When traders arrive, you can add your broker or another dwarf, perhaps one you want to train in trading, to the burrow. They will head to the depot immediately, and stay there until you remove them from the burrow.
- Elves will trade Tame exotic creatures; however, once purchased, these creatures will not show up on the Animal section of the Status screen if you do not have a Dungeon master (a noble position that is currently bugged).
Each friendly race will send a caravan per year, linked to one season, which is autumn for dwarves, summer for humans, spring for elves. In rare cases, goblins will show up in winter.[Verify] However, in the first year only a dwarven caravan will arrive, although it will tend to arrive later than mid-autumn, unlike previous versions [Verify]. 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.[Verify] 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. Caravans will embark on their journey back exactly one month after their arrival, whether they have succeeded in reaching the depot or not.[Verify]
Note that if traders or their animals are prevented from leaving, they will eventually go insane.
Also worth mention is the pathing behavior of the entire caravan. If one member of the caravan reaches a block in their chosen path (ie. a raised drawbridge that was lowered when they entered the map) the entire caravan will re-path, instead of encountering the obstacle one by one.
- "Our fortunes rise and fall together"
The dwarven caravan:
- arrives in autumn.
- carries metal bars, leather, weapons and armor, food and booze, and more. Dwarves alone may bring steel and steel goods. They can still bring steel (and steel goods) and pig iron bars even if they do not have access to iron, but will not bring iron products.
- is well guarded.
- sends a liaison who will speak with the Expedition leader, Mayor, Baron, Count, or Duke to negotiate an import-export agreement (unless the Monarch is present).
- 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, as long as the dwarven civilization is not extinct.[Verify]
- cannot have its goods seized from the trade menu.
- may not arrive if your civilization lacks any notable figures.
The elven caravan:
- arrives in the spring.
- carries cloth, ropes, various above-ground seeds, plants and their byproducts, logs, wooden goods & weapons, clothing and armor, and may carry tame exotic creatures.
- is unguarded.
- does not accept some items in trade:
Elven traders do not like to be offered any tree byproducts. Forbidden items include:
- Wooden items (including subterranean mushrooms such as tower-caps)
- Items derived from wood - ash and charcoal, as well as lye, potash, and pearlash
- Items made from clear and crystal glass (due to the pearlash used) - 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 lye)
Offering or trading forbidden items will cause the mood of the trader to drop rapidly, causing them to refuse to trade any more that season and leave immediately. Additionally you will be called uncouth, crude, and barbaric for not understanding their customs.
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. Items made of bone (totems too), horn, shell or leather are acceptable, so are meat and fish. 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 such 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.
The human caravan:
- arrives in summer.
- carries metal bars, sand, leather, cloth, wood, food and booze, ropes, waterskins, quivers, backpacks, metal weapons and clothing and armor, cages and a few domestic animals.
- is moderately guarded.
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[Verify]
- 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 foreign Merchant Nobles (if added with the TRADE responsibility) will arrive with the caravan to speak to your noble dwarves (and they will speak to those dwarves, even if they have to wait at their bedside in the hospital for months after the caravan has left), appearing on the map edge at the same time as the caravan (though in a different location). Meeting with them allows you to request specific items for the next caravan to bring (at a premium price) or take requests for production for the next caravan (for which the merchants will pay a premium).
Current trade agreements can be viewed through the Civilization menu (). 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.
In the event that your leader is replaced, killed, or taken by a strange mood, the liaison may decide to leave your fortress "unhappy". Curiously, this will not occur if your leader is otherwise unable to perform the "conduct meeting" task. You can currently lock a liaison in a room and he will wait years to attend the meeting your noble is constantly conducting (and all subsequent diplomats appear to wait in line for the first to finish); this behavior is presumably a bug.
Whether having successfully met with your leader or given up, a liaison who has decided to leave but is prevented from reaching the map edge will eventually go insane.
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 animals will only be stunned or rendered unconscious, and flee shortly after recovering from the hit.
While caravans can defend themselves, they don't like being ambushed. An encounter with unfriendly creatures resulting in the death of any merchant or pack animal will 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.
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.[Verify]
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.[Verify]
Merchants can leave the map from any map edge-- including underground map edges. If an unobstructed path through your fortress reaches an edge, then blocking an overland path will cause the merchants to travel underground. This can be useful, if you're suffering a prolonged siege; it can also be dangerous, if your underground regions are less secure than your surface.
Caravan guards cannot be starved, dehydrated, or driven to insanity if prevented from leaving, their employers and animals will however.
- No one brings wagons, even if there is a clear path to your depot. Bug:197
- If your hospital isn't already stocked with the specified amount of thread/cloth, your dwarves will carry off as much from the caravan as they need to fill it. Bug:66
- Caravans show up very late in the season. Bug:1756
- If you order your military to kill merchants from your own civilization, your soldiers will simultaneously become members and enemies of your civilization, resulting in a civil war within your fortress. When this happens, all current members of the fortress (excluding incoming migrants) will turn on each other yet they will still be seen as normal working dwarves in the status screens. This will only last for those who were alive during the attack, they will always be hostile to everyone including incoming migrants (yet they still do their jobs/ follow military orders and work as dwarves although they will interrupt other's work. They will not be shown as enemies in the Units screen).
- If you destroy the Depot while they are unloaded you will get the leaving message but they will leave before the building is completely destroyed, so they will not reclaim any of their stuff because it is not available until the building is fully deconstructed. However any animals they had caged will only become friendly, you won't actually own them.
If you wait some time (2-3 months), you can "claim" animals by linking a lever to the cage and opening it, the animals will be released in a tamed state. Check the 'u'nit screen before releasing them; if the creatures still show as Merchant creatures, they will wander off the map when released; if they show as Tame creatures, they will stay once released.