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This article is about an older version of DF.
This article is about individual soldiers and their training; for information on maneuvering, scheduling, or equipping, your dwarves, see the respective pages. For a general overview, see Military.

Your soldiers are the dwarves who make up each squad of your military. Turning your useless civilians into hardened harbingers of death is one of the most important jobs in the fort. With all the horrors Fun awaiting you, you'll need the toughest dwarves you can get.

Soldiers and Civilians[edit]

At any given moment, a dwarf is either a soldier or a civilian. When on duty, a dwarf plays the role of a soldier. The dwarf's icon will be solid: . When off duty, the dwarf is a civilian, with a hollow icon: . Off duty is the default state; all your dwarves will start out this way.

A dwarf goes on duty when given an active order, or when his schedule requires him to follow a passive order. When going on duty, a dwarf will pick up any equipment needed to fill out his assigned uniform. If the dwarf's military title is "Recruit" (see Skills below), then the dwarf will think a bad thought about the draft when going on duty unless there is an active siege. Likewise, if a military dwarf goes off duty but has no civilian skills of Novice or higher (civilian title of "Peasant"), then the dwarf receives a bad thought about being relieved from duty (unless he was previously a Recruit).

On-duty soldiers will not follow any orders, alerts or schedules when they are in line of sight of an "enemy", be it a goblin, an alligator or even a hoary marmot. Instead they will chase right into the perceived opponent, no matter how badly outnumbered they are.

Off-duty civilians behave in precisely the opposite manner. A civilian who spots a hostile creature will panic: he will stop working on whatever job he is performing, and will run in some highly inappropriate direction (generally away from the perceived threat, but not necessarily toward safety). It doesn't matter that the "threat" is trapped behind a solid wall, three Z levels down, with no conceivable way to injure the dwarf -- if a civilian can see it, he'll run from it.

An off-duty dwarf who is a member of a squad will perform whatever civilian labors are enabled. In addition, he may train in his barracks, doing Individual Weapon Drills, if his squad has an assigned barracks. (He will not participate in any group training, though.) Off-duty dwarves may continue to wear their military uniforms, if told to do so (this is the default).

Weapons and Skills[edit]

Dwarves will train with whatever weapons (they often carry more than one) they carry (not necessarily what you've assigned them) or use wrestling (if they're weaponless). All dwarves can wear armor and wield a shield along with their weapon(s). Occasionally, dwarves may become "attached to" their weapons and shields, and can even name their weapons.


When reaching Novice skill with a weapon (or wrestling), a dwarf will turn from a Recruit to a specialized soldier (i.e. a sword-using Recruit would become a Swordsdwarf). When reaching the level of Great or higher in a weapon skill, he will become a Hero, or elite soldier (i.e. a Swordsdwarf becomes a Swordmaster).

Dwarves can specialize in any of the following weapon skills. Not all of these skills are easily trained: some weapons, like pikes and whips, are 'foreign' and cannot be manufactured by dwarves.

Other military skills cannot be specialized in, but are equally important.

Yet more civilian skills are important for a soldier to have in order to learn (or teach) better during demonstrations.

The miner skill is unique in that although Dwarf Fortress does not usually consider it a weapon skill, it is the primary skill used by military dwarves wielding a pick. Dwarves without any other military specialization skill, but with skill in miner, will be named "Recruit" and act as if they were recruits.

Soldier professions[edit]

Every weapon has an associated skill. Soldiers will have professions according to what weapon they are most skilled at using, as long as they are at least a novice rank in one. Thus a soldier whose highest weapon skill is with a spear will be known as a Speardwarf, even if the soldier has been reassigned to train with an axe instead.


Axedwarves, thought by some to be the only true dwarven soldiers, specialize in the slash damage type, also known as the fine art of severing limbs. On some known accounts,axe dwarves have become Axe lords while only using a pick. These dwarves were legendary miners outfited for militia.


Hammerdwarves, the other true dwarven soldiers, specialize in the blunt damage type, which breaks the bones of the enemy and may propel the enemy some distance, causing extra damage if they are bashed into a wall, though this happens much less frequently than in earlier versions.

Human Hammermen often use a two-handed maul instead of a war hammer. More powerful, mauls focus on breaking bones rather than mangling limbs, though that does also happen on the occasion. They have a greater chance to knock back an opponent than a mace does but comes at the cost of speed and lack of a shield. Also should someone be knocked back into an obstacle, they'll take extra damage.


Macedwarves, like hammerdwarves, use blunt weapons that are suited against plate-armored opponents. If you plan to use the dwarves as marksdwarves it may be better to use hammers instead, as the hammer skill determines the effectiveness of crossbows used in melee.


Speardwarves specialize in edged damage, and will puncture an enemy's organs quickly and critically once in range. The spear doesn't hit as hard as an axe, but it has a higher chance of piercing organs, making it a better choice against large, living creatures like demons or dragons. These dwarves are your monster killers; they specialize mainly in killing unarmored targets but are still extremely deadly against armored targets since they can puncture organs. While your other dwarves disable the enemy, the speardwarves will finish them off quickly. Definitely have a squad of them in your military.


A Jack-of-All-Trades weapon, Swordsdwarves deal edged damage. Swords can cut off limbs, like an axe, but also reasonably good at hitting internal organs, like a spear. They are useful for a general-purpose squad or a stormtrooper squad of sorts.


Marksdwarves, the only ranged soldiers, are armed with crossbows and deal edge damage from afar. A bolt does a fine job at destroying the internal organs of a creature while also doing some damage to outside parts. This is of limited use against creatures without organs, such as bronze colossuses or creatures made out of non-solid materials, such as magma men. Occasionally a bolt will get stuck in a target. Though these bolts may later be retrieved from the corpse the only known combat use for this is that a wrestling dwarf may grab the bolt and twist it in the wound.

Generally they are used as a first line of defense; stick them in your tower behind fortifications to slow down/injure enemies coming in so that your melee dwarves can take them out easier. Don't rely on them too much; it takes a while for them to kill their enemies unless they score a lucky hit.

A marksdwarf who is forced into melee will use the hammer skill to bash enemies with their crossbow, so you may consider crosstraining them as hammerdwarves.

Immigrating Trappers, Hunters, and other Rangers often arrive with some training in the Marksdwarf skill.


Wrestlers focus on tying the opponent into knots, choking them, and breaking limbs. Creatures tied up in wrestling will do nothing else and remain immobile, perfect for a marksdwarf to pick off the creature at a range or an armed dwarf to carve into bite-sized pieces. Also note that this skill is often used in extremely close combat regardless of what weapon a dwarf is holding, so it can be useful even for a dwarf with a weapon equipped. Wrestlers are much weaker than any other soldier type, but forcing powerful opponents to wrestle can exhaust them and make them easy prey for other soldiers.

Wrestler skill will be improved somewhat even while practicing with a weapon.


Any dwarf without at least one of the above skills at Novice level or higher will be classified as recruits. If you keep them off of active duty, they will train at their selected weapon until they reach Novice skill in it, at which point they will turn into one of the above weaponsdwarves.


Melee goblins are no match for a champion Axedwarf.

Once soldiers reach Great skill level (the 11th level) in any weapon, they will become heroes, will be called Lord/Master/Elite and have a different color shade, and will turn off all of their laborsBug:3100. Heroes can be removed from duty regardless of skill level. Heroes can be kept on active duty indefinitely, since they love training and will no longer complain about long patrol duty.

Note that non-weapon (like shield or armor) or wrestling skills do not make dwarf a hero.

Exception: If a dwarf gains Great skill (or above) in a weapons skill while a civilian (usually as a Hunter), they will not become a Hero, not even when activated as military. To become a Hero, some experience over the limit must be gained while activated as a soldier. Weapon skills can only be improved as a civilian while Hunting, through in-active training, or on the chance occasion that a civilian dwarf is forced into combat by an enemy. If the dwarf is then activated as military and gains any experience in a weapon that is at rank 11 or better, the dwarf becomes a Hero as usual.


The champion is a noble position appointed by the Baron (that is, you can appoint it, but you can't do so without a baron or greater noble being present). A champion has no special room requirements, but may make a single demand eventually. As the title of champion is bestowed by appointment rather than merit, you may want to have your best teacher be the champion and conduct weapon demonstrations to boost the morale of training soldiers while your toughest killers go out and fight goblins.


Once you've drafted some dwarves, you should start training them. Dwarves will perform 'Individual Training' when they have no active order or scheduling to follow. They will spar, or observe/teach combat demonstrations when they are following the 'Train' schedule order. Dwarves will train with whatever weapon they carry. Marksdwarves require an archery target to train, as well as bolts (assigned in the military/ammunition window). If this is not available, they will simply do combat demonstrations in the barracks; if you do not assign them a barracks, they will simply stand in your meeting areas with the job "Soldier (cannot follow orders)".

Squads train in their assigned barracks. To assign a squad, build a bed or storage building (i.e. weapon rack) and turn it into a room, then use the secondary up/down selector to pick your squad and press t to tell the squad to train there. You may wish to build your barracks outside to avoid cave adaptation.

Duty Roster[edit]

Dwarves will get a bad thought if left on patrol duty too long. When scheduling your squads, make sure they have some down-time, such as training.

Due to a bug, however, training is currently considered to be "active patrol duty" and will escalate unhappy thoughts, and reverting to Civilian mode does not count as down-time.Bug:3190


You can assign what squad carries how much or little food and alcohol through the military screen's supplies tab. Make sure your dwarves have access to flasks, waterskins and backpacks. Carrying rations will not prevent your dwarves from going off duty to eat or drink, but it will reduce the amount of time they are off duty. The downside of assigning food to soldiers is that they will likely drop it in their barracks, where it will rot and produce miasmaBug:3471. DFHack's cleanowned command can solve this problem.

See Also:

Military and defense
Managing soldiers
Design tips