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v0.31:Activity zone

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This article is about an older version of DF.

Activity zones are areas in which dwarves are instructed to perform specific tasks, such as fishing, dumping objects, or collecting water. While activity zones are optional for the performance of certain tasks (fishing, collecting water) and obligatory for certain others (dumping), they can also be used to help keep dwarves out of danger.

Activity zones can be placed in any revealed tile, including in open space or over a river or on top of a building or stockpile. They are placed in one of three ways: rectangular, flow, or floor flow. From within the Zones menu, (i)Pressing e in the Zones menu cycles through each method, and pressing Enter begins designation. Rectangular zones are placed in the same manner as stockpiles, specifying two corners of the rectangle. Flow and floor flow are placed similarly to designating rooms from pieces of furniture using +/- to adjust the size (floor flow excludes walls). After that the zone has to be assigned to one of the listed tasks to become functional, by pressing the proper key. In some cases (hospital, pit/pond) additional orders can then be set from the same menu.

The location of a zone is only visible while in the Zones menu, and any object lying on the ground will hide the presence of a zone tile.

Water Source[edit]

Shortcut w

Dwarves will draw water from this zone to satisfy their thirst, to tend to another thirsty dwarf, or to fill a Pond zone.

Only tiles adjacent to water qualify as usable water sources - thus, if you want to place a single-tile zone, place the zone onto a ground tile next to the water, not over the water itself.

This zone should not be used with wells - they are already their own type of water source.


Shortcut f

The above advice for water source zones is applicable to fishing zones. You can fish through a grate or even a well, provided there is water in the well 1 z-level below the activity zone.

Garbage Dump[edit]

Shortcut g

Garbage dump zones are areas in which dwarves will throw items specifically designated by using k then d for single items at a time, or d, b, d to designate a larger area to be dumped (or use the mouse to point and click). Garbage dumps are not the same as refuse stockpiles, which can be designated to accept any specific type(s) of refuse-type item, such as animal corpses or bones, and then are randomly filled by haulers as the items become available on the map.

The garbage dump may be inappropriately named, as it's more of a matter compression zone. The specifics are beyond human understanding, however, dwarves are in fact capable of compressing an infinite amount of matter into only one tile, as long as it is specified as a garbage dump. If for some reason Urist is yet again incapable of locating his favorite pair of cave troll leather socks, he should think to look among the black hole of matter that is the nearest garbage dump, as they could be snugly lodged between a few billion rocks.

Garbage dumps:

  • Only accept items that have been marked for dumping.
  • Require dwarves to have refuse hauling labor enabled.
  • Are subject to refuse orders (o: Set Orders and Options -> r: Refuse Orders). Most notably, dwarves will not dump items that are outside unless you allow them to (o->r->o).

To place a garbage dump, trace a zone on either a relatively empty plot of land or adjacent to a cliff face or hole. If a garbage zone is designated beside a cliff or hole (both natural or dwarf made) garbage will be thrown off/in the z-space. Each ground tile within that zone is considered a garbage dump tile; thus, if you want to place a single-tile zone, place the zone onto a ground tile (optionally adjacent to a cliff or pit), not onto an open space. Items dumped into magma (provided they are not magma safe) will disappear permanently. Otherwise a single tile (either a dump zone, or the ground below the open space) will hold any number of dumped objects.

Once items are dumped they are automatically marked as "forbidden" however they will not dump items that are also forbidden. If you wish to use dumped items, you need to reclaim them. Press k to view the item and f to toggle forbid status. You may also use the reclaim designation to reclaim simultaneously all of the items dumped by using d, b, c and tracing the designation over top of the objects.

If a garbage dump is located next to open space, dwarves will always stand on a garbage dump square when throwing into that open space, even if it could potentially be done more efficiently. If a garbage dump is located next to multiple tiles of open space, they seem to prefer the one farthest to the northwest. If a tile to the north and a tile to the west are the only tiles available, they will throw to the west. Since falling objects do not hurt dwarves, such garbage dumps can be a very efficient method of moving materials to the lower levels of your fortress.

Dwarves seem to throw dumped items in the nearest available garbage dump, although this is probably not reliable given that they don't always use the nearest available item to make things at workshops. If a nearer zone becomes available as they are traveling to a zone they will ignore it. Also, they seem to prefer dumps that allow them to throw things in to open space regardless of how far away they are.

Probably due to a bug, dwarves periodically ignore items that are meant to be dumped. Viewing the item by pressing k then toggling forbid and dump status on, then off again f->f->d->d seems to correct this problem.

Previously dumped items are regarded as 'refuse' and will not be recognized (or re-dumped) unless 'gather refuse from outside' is enabled in your orders.

  • Garbage dumps are great space savers because they can hold an infinite number of items on one tile. If the dump is designated inside a workshop, the workshop will not become cluttered.
  • It may be a good idea, to set a garbage dump in a stone workshop, then fill it with nearby stones. Reclaim them dbc, but make sure, that your dwarves will not haul them into a far stone stockpile.
  • However, if you put a garbage dump inside a magma workshop with the intent of dumping ores there, make sure the zone does not overlap any open pits of magma you may have carelessly left around, or as per the intended behavior, items will be dumped into the magma.
  • If you designate an area dbd to dump, everything in that area will be dumped starting with the deepest item. This means, if you have a food stockpile, with a barrel, inside some bags with dwarven flour, then both the barrel, bag, and flour will be designated for dump, and the order will be: flour (you will lose any milled plant / liquid if hauled from the container), bag, barrel.
  • If you want to quickly sort out a stockpile (make several plant specific ones instead of one plant stockpile), dump your barrels (one by one kd), and all your barrels are inside the garbage dump, you can area dump it dbd making your dwarves to run much less. (Technically they should just stay still, and unload the contents). After you have finished (and redesignated your new plant specific stockpiles), claim your plants and barrels dbc.
  • If you designate items for dumping, but forget to mark an active garbage dump, your dwarves will continue hauling / using the item, until an active garbage dump is marked.


shortcut n

A pen or a pasture is used to contain tame animals. Once one is created, animals must be assigned to it individually by pressing N from the zone information screen. Dwarves will drag the assigned animals to the pen or pasture automatically. As of version .31.19, many domestic animals will become hungry and starve if not assigned to a pasture with grass or fungus (note that the assigned creatures can eat all of the grass in a pen/pasture and then starve). Any tame creature with the "grazer" token in the raws should be assigned to a pasture. This includes pigs, mules, cows, goats, horses, yaks, unicorns etc. Animals will not typically wander out of their assigned pasture even if it is not walled in, however an exposed pasture may lead to premature slaughter at the hands of invaders. Since pets can be assigned to pen/pastures and a zone can be created under a dwarven atom smasher, this is one of the easiest ways to prevent catsplosions.


Shortcut p

A Pit/Pond requires a ramp or hole with adjacent flooring on which a dwarf can stand. Designate the zone from the top of the ramp or hole, such that the zone designation is floating in the open space above the floor of the pit/pond. By default, the zone will be a pit. To change it to a pond, press P then f. It can be changed back to a pit the same way.

Creatures can be assigned to a pit/pond through the P menu. A dwarf will lead the beast to the ramp or hole and throw it in. If the pit is a ramp rather than a hole, the creature will then wander back out, as it will if the pit has some other exit path (which would include straight back up the hole for flying creatures).

Note that not all hostile creatures can safely be dragged to a pit opening. Large creatures and thieves/snatchers will escape on being released from their cage. See Mass pitting for more information on pit design involving hostile creatures. "Thieves/snatchers" includes the common goblin thief, but also animals such as chimpanzees.

The only real difference between a pit and a pond is that dwarves will attempt to fill a pond with water, carried by bucket from a water source. They will stand on the floor adjacent to the top of the ramp or hole, and toss the water onto the ramp or into the hole. Each bucketful increases the depth of the water in the tile below by 1/7. Once the water is dumped from the bucket, the dwarf will either drop the bucket and perform a different task, or choose to fill a pond zone tile again using the bucket (s)he currently holds.

Dwarves will stop scheduling the Fill Pond job when the water depth reaches 6/7.

Specifying a pond zone is one technique used for irrigation, in order to make mud for farming on areas without soil.

Currently, no matter how large the designated pond area, only one dwarf at a time will try to fill the pond. In order to fill a large area quickly, it is necessary to designate multiple smaller pond zones (or several zones overlapping the same area).

If you have more than one pond designated as a water source, your dwarves may endlessly try to fill each pond with the other pond's water, making a loop of useless duty.

Sand Collection[edit]

Shortcut s

Sand collection zones are important in the glass industry. They may be placed anywhere, but are only useful when actually placed on sand.

Clay Collection[edit]

shortcut c

Clay collection zones are important in the ceramic industry.

Meeting Area[edit]

Shortcut m

Meeting area zones are zones in which idle dwarves and animals will congregate, similar to meeting halls. Additionally, immigrants will collect at a meeting area until their "migrant" status wears off.

Note that the wagon you arrive with constitutes a meeting area until you designate the first meeting area of your own. If you start in hostile surroundings it is important to get your dwarves and animals out of danger quickly.

It is a good idea to have at least one meeting area, of one form or another: it allows you to make off-duty dwarves and animals gather in an area where they are not vulnerable, such as within the fortress.

There are several ways to designate a meeting hall. The preferred method is to use an Activity zone; type i, set up a zone, and mark it both "active" and "meeting". Statue gardens and zoos are intrinsically meeting halls, as are rooms defined from a well. However, you can also create a Meeting Hall.

A meeting area filled with dwarves increases the social skills of idlers. It makes idle dwarves a little less idle, and makes selecting a replacement broker easier. Because almost every dwarf visits a meeting hall at least occasionally, it's an ideal place to site valuable objects and buildings. A meeting hall exposed to sunlight will prevent dwarves from becoming cave-adapted.

Be warned that having dwarves socialize will often result in them becoming friends (or forming a grudge).


Shortcut h

A Hospital zone is an area designated for the care and treatment of sick and wounded dwarves.

Setting up a Hospital[edit]

While there are no particular restrictions on the areas that can be set as hospital zones, a hospital requires certain furniture and supplies to function properly:

Furniture Function
Beds Allow sick dwarves to rest
Tables Used in surgery
Traction benches Immobilize dwarves who need to stay still to heal
Boxes/Bags Storage for medical supplies

Medical equipment Function Unit quantity*
Thread Required for suturing wounds 15000
Cloth Required for bandages 10000
Splints Used to bind broken bones 1
Crutches Walking aid for dwarves with leg injuries 1
Powder for casts Used to make plaster casts for setting bones 150
  • Used by doctors to carry water for cleaning patients
  • Used by dwarves with the Feed Patients/Prisoners labor to water patients
Soap Used to reduce infections when washing patients 150

*The unit quantity is the quantity of each item that appears in the Hospital Information screen when one object of that type is stored. For example, if one bolt of cloth is stored in the hospital zone, the hospital will report that it contains 10000 cloth.

In addition to furniture and medical supplies, a source of water is more or less mandatory, as sick dwarves need it for drinking as well as cleaning. The water source need not be in the hospital zone, although the shorter the distance between the two the better.

When the Zones menu (i) is open and the cursor is in a hospital zone, H will bring up the Hospital Information screen. This screen shows the quantity of each type of furniture piece and medical equipment present in the Hospital, and allows you to set the desired quantity of each type of equipment. Note that you must have boxes or bags constructed in the hospital zone for supplies to be stored for medical use; items in a stockpile do not count for the hospital, even if the stockpile is in the hospital zone.

Hospital Beds[edit]

When a dwarf becomes sick or wounded, he will be carried to a bed in a hospital zone by a dwarf with the Recovering Wounded labor set, assuming such a bed is available; otherwise, he may be carried to a bed in a barracks or dormitory, or to an unassigned bed. If an injured dwarf is resting in a bed outside a hospital zone, he will remain there even if hospital beds become available. Deconstructing the sick dwarf's bed may cause him to be move to a hospital bed, although it is possible for doctors to treat patients who are resting outside of a hospital zone, so long as adequate supplies are available.