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Activity zones are areas to which dwarves are constrained when performing specific tasks, such as fishing, dumping objects, or collecting water. Activity zones are optional for the performance of certain tasks (fishing, collecting water) but obligatory for certain others (dumping), and are used primarily to 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, ()Pressing in the Zones menu cycles through each method, and pressing begins designation. Rectangular zones are placed in the same manner as stockpiles, specifying two corners of the rectangle. The numbers in brackets after each type of zone indicate how many selected floor tiles can be used for that type of zone. 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. The maximum size of an activity zone is 31x31.
Dwarves will use these zones to draw water, to satisfy booze-less thirst, tend to another thirsty dwarf (with the Give Water job), 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 - this is redundant as they are already considered their own water source.
Dwarves will preferably use these zones when fishing, using them up until their supply is exhausted before on to the next water source (and exclusively if designated as such by standing orders: -). As with water sources, only tiles adjacent to water qualify as usable tiles. Far-flung fisherdwarves fishing off a distant river or pool are a serious defensive liability in case of an attack, and moreover building a fishing inlet is an easy and logistically rewarding project, so it is recommended to eventually construct one and designate it as the fortress's fishing area by combining an activity zone and a change in the standing orders settings. You can fish through a grate or even a well, provided there is water in the well 1 z-level below the activity zone, and you can defend against swimming building destroyers pathing into your fortress through this route by using fortifications.
The capture live fish job can only be carried out at a designated fishing zone.
Garbage dump zones are areas in which dwarves will throw items designated for dumping - either with by using - (one item at a time), or -- (area dumping; note that this designates all items on the tiles for dumping, even placed furniture). Garbage dumps are not the same as refuse stockpiles, which can be designated to accept any specific type(s) of refuse, such as animal corpses or bones, and then are randomly filled by haulers whenever the items appear 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.
Be aware that 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.
A pen or a pasture is used to contain tame animals. Once one is created, animals must be assigned to it individually by pressing from the zone information screen. Dwarves will drag the assigned animals to the pen or pasture automatically. Domestic animals tend to aggregate at meeting areas instead, as will herbivorous ones, which will lead to probably starvation unless your meeting area is overgrown with grass or fungi for some reason. Any tame creature with the "grazer" token in the raws should be assigned to a pasture. This includes 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 animals will abandon their posts and will have to be dragged back to them if they are threatened by enemies, and 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.
- See also: Mass pitting
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 then . It can be changed back to a pit the same way. Creatures can be assigned to a pit/pond through the menu. If the creature is caged, a dwarf will release it from the cage (rather than bringing the cage to the pit). The dwarf will lead the beast to the pit 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 may escape on being released from their cage, as may thieves. See Mass pitting for more information on pit design involving hostile creatures. Additionally, dwarves refuse to pit dwarves, hostile or not.
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; this may be undesirable, although otherwise-idle dwarves performing this task won't be making any friends.
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 do so so as 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 within the fortress. A meeting area filled with dwarves increases the social skills of idlers. It makes idle dwarves a little less idle. Because almost every dwarf visits a meeting area at least occasionally, it's an ideal place to site valuable objects and buildings. A meeting area exposed to sunlight will additionally prevent dwarves from becoming cave-adapted. Note that having dwarves socialize will often result in them forming relationships.
It is not advisable to have animals mill around in crowded meeting areas for a prolonged time as they will pick fights with dwarves and other animals. While this may be negligible in the case of a hen, it also applies to your war dogs (although this can be partly beneficial, since all your dwarves will get combat experience from being bitten occasionally, especially the children, who mill around constantly). Designating a meeting area is done via the zone menu; type , set up a zone, and mark it both "active" and "meeting".
A hospital zone allows wounded dwarves to rest and receive care and treatment. Dwarves can be rested and (mostly) treated in any free fortress bed but traction benches can only be constructed in hospital zones and designating a zone allows healthcare to reserve healthcare supplies: plaster powder, splints, crutches, thread, cloth, soap, and buckets so long as containers are available in the zone. The limits of storage in containers can be set in the zones menu by using () selecting the hospital zone and then .
An animal training zone allows animal training. Animals cannot be trained unless they are in a training zone or pasture or on a restraint. To be tamed, they must be in a cage. For making an animal training zone, it is advisable to create a small room with a tightly shut door. The training zone should be combined with a pasture to keep in wild animals. This will make sure your animals don't escape when they are not being trained.