I've recently been playing the great/complex/astonishing Dwarf Fortress again. My new fortress is using all I have learned to do in the game so far - and I'm still learning to use more features of the game, my ability to survive growing constantly. Let's see, how far this will get me this time...
The first year of the fortress was easy, as they always tend to be. Seven dwarves with hand-picked skill to get me trough my first winter and get a basic production and growth of the fortress going. A mason, two miners, a carpenter, a negotiator and a cook, I had the essential skills for all my dwarves. The group brought a small group of chickens and a rooster to get egg-production going too.
The area we embarked to was a cold plateau with a river crossing it. I always try to find an area with a river to fill a cistern but with not aquifer so deep digging is possible. Trees are also important, as I do not like to trade for wood. Starting food-production would include plump helmets (and ale brewed from those), locally found wild strawberries (also with alcohol brewed from those) chicken eggs, honey, and meat from butchered animals such as the draft-animals that come with the first group of immigrants as well as any surplus cats that would eventually pop up. Later, I figured, migrants would bring the skills to catch fish and also have new animals to butcher with them for more meat.
The plateau is snow-covered nine months out of twelve. This area is way colder than I had anticipated but it can be settled. On the edge of the plateau, I dug the entrance to my fortress, allowing for a pasture (with a basin for water from the river) and stockpiles for stones on top. The first level would contain simple housing for the dwarves, as well as the workshops to manufacture all needed equipment and furniture. Topside I would build a defensive structure that left only one entrance and possibly a path overlooked by murder-holes for crossbowdwarves to fire through.
The second level below ground would hold the cistern. Ever since I learned how to use mechanisms, levers and floodgates, a cistern has been a very high priority in my fortress-design, especially in an area where open water freezes for most of the year. I never again want my dwarves to die in large numbers due to thirst. So digging that was one of the first things I did once a small meeting hall, workshops and basic housing was done for the dwarves. After that there would be the forming of a military and the construction of an outer wall.
Work on the fortress went well at first, although the winter was incredibly long and it took ages for the cistern to be flooded because of the water freezing in the river. When migrants showed up, I was able to incorporate them into my workforce and make their animals into food. I even for the first time realized how to operate a kitchen. Then came the biggest relevation since my discovery of how wells work in the game: I realized I can smelt ore into metals.
This is an incredible leap for me, as until now I had to buy metal armor and weaponry from passing caravans up until this moment. Realizing that about a third of the ore my dwarves dug out of the ground was in fact capable of being smelted into iron bars changed that so drastically that I was gushing. My first squad was crossbowdwarves, who would fire bolts made of bone at any foe stupid enough to attack the fortress. The second squad, once ready, would be close-combatants clad entirely in iron armor.
In former fortresses of mine, the military had been composed of anyone capable of holding a weapon and lacking a profession essential to the fortress. I had expected to lose around 75% of my military dwarves for every enemy incursion and the ratio of dead goblins to dead dwarves had always been around 1:3. This would change now. My dwarves would be armored. They could survive...