Arôlvîr -- Understars

Author: Findan
Published: 2018-05-08, edited: 2018-05-08
A comprehensive tour of my surface fortress, Understars.

Game: Dwarf Fortress
Version used: 43.05
Welcome to Arôlvîr, Understars! I finished this fort some time ago but I've now decided to share it with fellow overseers. I know it's not the most impressive fort, but I think it's pretty neat nonetheless.

I was always fond of the idea of playing purely on the surface and never breaching the caverns, and that dream was realized with Understars. Over a period of 10 in-game years I built 70 buildings and surrounded them with a wall, fought against goblins and a nasty swamp titan, lost over a dozen citizens to drowning in various accidents and had my expedition leader turn into an immortal eternally insane vampire. It was pretty fun.

Stonesense large screenshot:
https://ibb.co/bsFUYn

(It's especially fun building a fort for ages, using a variety of wood types because they're all the same color in DF, then seeing the fort in stonesense and witnessing how goddamn ugly some buildings are. Please tell me there's an option to turn off wood colours in stonesense. Please.)
The fortress had a population cap of 150, with 21 extra citizens either being born in the fortress or being visitors that were granted citizenship (the child cap was much higher). The city has 15 human citizens, for it was founded near hamlets of the Bold Union and Unions of Stabilizing, both human civilizations. In fact, the fortress is a melting pot of the aforementioned human cultures as well as the Mortified Coal, my dwarven civilization. (there's elves nearby too but who cares about them)

(as a side note, most of those "nobles/admin" are just off-duty soldiers who have legendary organizers. Go figure.)

It's not the most wealthy fortress out there, but that's what happens when you can't mine near-infinite veins of gold and adamantine. My embark only had tetrahedrite and a little cassiterite, so I was limited to copper, bronze, small amounts of silver and goblinite.

The main export of Understars is fish. Loads of fish. Pretty much nothing but fish. Main imports are leather, gold, instruments and books.
The first building constructed by the founders of Understars was this wooden fort surrounded by a moat. In the early years, before the construction of the city wall, citizens retreated here whenever the enemy attacked.

Nowadays it has no military use (except for being the last refuge if things go horribly wrong), but functions as an administrative centre, dining hall, furniture storage, a dormitory for the homeless and a kindergarten. For some reason the children love playing in the dormitory, next to hairy homeless peasants and gruff human mercenaries. On the top floor is the lever room, where all bridges in the settlement can be controlled.

South of the mead hall is the barracks, a fortified three-story building made of siltstone blocks. On the top floor are two balconies for defence and the personal quarters of the Captain of the Starguard, leader of the fortress guard. Two artifacts are placed here, as well as the trophy of the previous captain who perished in a goblin siege.
Itvid was a wereiguana who attacked the fort a year after the embark and was heroically slain by the captain of the guard. Not sure why this memorial I built says he "went missing".
On the second floor of the mead hall are the quarters of city administrators, the bookkeeper, the manager and the mayor, as well as the dormitory/kindergarten. The mayor's room has several artifacts and silver chests, as well as personal items human mercenaries dropped when they were hired. I can't do anything with them, probably because they're claimed I guess.

The second floor of the barracks has the personal quarters of the militia commander and his three subordinate captains.
The first floor of the mead hall contains the main gathering place of the city and its metaphorical heart: the vomit-coated Hall of Feasts. Statues, instruments, an artifact, lots of wooden pots filled with alcohol and chests filled with cups. Everything a dwarf needs to be happy.

The first floor of the barracks contains the training hall. It is crammed during winter when all soldiers are training, but the other seasons are devoted to civilian labour. Some dwarves train here nonetheless during that time.

You might be wondering about that door on the northern wall. Well, remember those drowning accidents I mentioned? Yeah, this was how I discovered the "dodging through walls" bug. Once I had lost two legendary dwarves (the only survivors of a bloody goblin siege), I was pretty pissed, but there was little I could do except add this door and hope that dwarves will use it when they need it. (yes i could've build a floor all along the northern wall but then goblins could jump over the moat and climb over the walls of my fort)

West of the barracks is the archery training range, where the Starguard train.
Underneath the barracks (and below the ammo/equipment stockpile in the basement) are the prison cells. At the time of taking this image, one cell was occupied by Nomal Koldomas, a stress-prone mason who tends to throw tantrums (yes, a tantruming dwarf in 43.05, amazing isn't it?) and another cell was occupied by... Mörul, the founder of the fortress and the expedition leader. Forever sealed beneath the city she founded, lost in madness.

Her story in more detail: https://imgur.com/a/qjEz4

Under the town hall (and below the furniture stockpile) are the tomb of the first mayor, the artifact vault and two wells which remain functional during winter (unlike the well in the center of town) and which secure water supply during a siege. Also, there's a tunnel connecting to the granary, so food is also available if shit hits the fan.
Oddom died like a true dwarf, fighting against goblin invaders, defending the town which he ruled. I don't remember exactly but he probably was amongst the oldest dwarves in the city, a member of the first generation created by Armok himself. He had great skills and even created the Basis of Boiling, an iron crossbow that is still wielded by the Captain of the Guard. May he rest in peace.
East of the mead hall are two buildings, the fishery and the granary, both two stories tall. As you can see, the granary has a bridge in the entrance so it can be sealed during a siege. It remains accessible via the tunnel I showed. The fishery has four workshops, where fishery workers prepare all the tonnes of raw fish caught by the legendary fisherdwarves.
Further eastward are six large homes of the Guild Masters. I should probably explain how society is organized in Understars first.

The city has six guilds which dominate local industry: Stoneworker's Guild, Metalworker's Guild, Woodworker's Guild, Crafter's Guild, Clothier's Guild and Brewer's & Baker's Guild. Members of guilds are guaranteed two-story houses and are allowed to use workshops for labour. The best crafter of each guild is elevated to the position of Guild Master and lives in one of these houses. The fishers do not have a guild as they do not have a specialist crafting skill, but because of the importance of fish exports the legendary fishers own houses as well.

What about the dwarves who are not part of guilds? Well, you'll see eventually.
South of the center of the city, where the well is located, are the trade depot and the hospital. The depot is a simple construct: just a flat stone roof above it to shield merchants from near-constant rain. The hospital is a two-story building, with the upper floor containing the quarters of the chief medical dwarf and his apprentice suturer.
West of the trade depot and south of the barracks is the Temple of Wealth, dedicated to Ibel the Mighty Controls. She is the God of wealth, jewels, war and fortresses. So fittingly, Her temple is a stone pyramid next to the barracks, with a floor made of gold and silver as well as silver furniture, and two gem windows decorating the entrance. Vutok the Old, the current mayor of the fortress, spends much time here praying to Ibel. Her prayers seem to have had an effect, for no goblins have besieged the town for about 5 years (there was one small raiding party of a dozen goblins and humans but that's it)
The two silver statues were commissioned by the city government. Here is what they depict.
Southeast of the temple are three important buildings in the city: the Vault of Wisdom, the Silent Tombs and the Hungry Man.

The library is the tallest building in the city, with 5 stories, but its first floor is unremarkable, only having decorative statues.

The Silent Tombs is a pyramid with extensive tombs underneath (as it would be an outrage to bury dwarves on the surface!) dedicated primarily to Iklist, the God of Silence, but also to Mothram Boredomfail and Anur Weresoul the Poison of Obscurity. The latter two have no worshippers, but are closely related to death and misery.

The first floor of the Hungry Man is a far more joyous place than the Silent Tombs. While the Hall of Feasts is reserved for citizens only, the Hungry Man welcomes all visitors and is popular among humans (hence the name).
Here are the statues in the Silent Tombs.
The second floor of the library contains some reading (and eating I guess... filthy dwarves) tables and the bookcases, where all the books and scrolls are stored. Over the years Understars has gathered quite a collection, with many tomes written by the scholars of the town (mostly Ònul).

The upper floor of the Hungry Man has an in-door balcony and four rooms that can be rented by humans.
The third and fourth floors of the Vault are identical, with four reading/eating tables on each.
The fifth and uppermost floor of the Vault has many windows, and the view from here is quite nice. Scholars often spend time here as they ponder highly scientific topics, such as reproductive behaviour.
The first tomb layer is not that extensive, as various basements and tunnels are in the way. Here lie the first citizens to die here, in this forest far from home. Here is also the stone tomb of mayor Vutok the Old, ready to receive her body once she finally dies of old age. And yes, every single dwarf that dies gets a coffin and a memorial. It's nice to go through them sometimes and reminisce about the dwarves, their deeds and their tragic deaths.

West of the tombs are some poor dwarves' quarters. Yeah, that's where they live. At least the rent is cheap.

Those weird tunnels? Well, it's a long story.

One of the worst threats faced by Understars was Ngethac Divemucus the Feral Leopard, a web-spewing monstrosity that killed 5 dwarves. It may not seem like much, but all 5 came AFTER it was successfully and "safely" contained in the tombs, where it was happily destroying every memorial and coffin. But unlike with Mörul, I couldn't just leave it here, in the sanctum of Iklist, where all the heroes of the city lay and whose peace had been disturbed. I had to kill the fucker.

I dug a lot of tunnels. I carved a lot of fortifications. I build a ballista. I ordered my crossbow-armed guardsdwarves to shoot hundreds of bolts at it. It refused to die and managed to kill 5 dwarves due to my own errors and due to the stupidity of the dwarves (hey, don't go in the tombs to haul a coffin into the stockpile, there's a titan th-- aaaand he's dead).

But eventually, after I almost decided to give up, it finally perished.
This statue next to the pyramid celebrates that victory, when Cerol the Guardsdwarf headshot the bastard and finally killed it. Cerol became a hero and gained the nickname "Titan-Slayer".
Here are some memorials in the tombs.
The Brutal Assaults took a toll on the population and it took years to recover.
Cursed human werebeast.
The bottom layer of tombs is more extensive and has both free coffins and space for expansion. Many of the coffins are occupied by war casualties. Cursed goblins.
East of the Silent Tombs is the "park", though dwarves are not hippies and have no need for such a thing. Fruit is gathered from these trees so alcohol can be brewed, and animals use this as their pasture. It's not a park, okay?
Here are the Burrows, where the majority of the poor populace lives. Farmers, threshers, milkers, shearers and peasants.They don't deserve anything more than this.
North of the burrows, next to the Southeast Gate and the farms, are three buildings which form the backbone of agricultural industry in Understars. The Clothier's Guild owns the large workshop to the west, the Brewers' & Bakers' Guild owns the southern building while the farmers, despite not having a guild, own the northern one. A watermill does most of the hard work of milling, though nowadays it is not fully functional as the moat I dug still hasn't filled and the river is not as full as before. The butcher's workshop is outside, so no miasma appears.

I'll explain those human corpses in a moment.
The second floors of all buildings contain more workspace: looms, dyeries, kitchens, farmer's workshops and the soap maker.
Clothier workshop and the cook workshop are both two stories tall, but the farmer workshop has a third floor, with a tanner, leather workshop (both owned by the crafting guild), two querns and a press.
Here you can see the basements with the stockpiles, but that's not the main point of this image.

Like I said, because I am filling the moat the water level of the river has dropped. This means human visitors think it's a great idea to take a shortcut over the river. And this in turn leads to humans freezing solid when winter comes. Look in the upper left corner of the image. Yup, that's a human spearman visitor crossing the river. Sigh.

I think humans are just as dumb as dwarves are.
Here are the farms. Not much to say about them.

South of the farms is the Sanctum of Soil, a temple for Id the Tin Iron. His statue is surrounded by votive offerings.
His shrine is uderground near the farms, as he ensures good harvests and keeps the soil fertile.
Here's some beehives, a bunch of cages next to the animal training zone and a huge pile of animal bones.
Southwest of the city is a cavernous shrine dedicated to Lûrit, the God of mountains. The dwarves of Understars might be filthy surface-dwellers, but they still venerate the old gods of their ancestors.
Here's a bunch of goblin bones and the Atom Smasher, which gets rid of tattered clothing.

And that's everything on the southern side of the river! Now it's time for the northern side, which is less developed but still has many important buildings.
Here are three such buildings: the temple of the humans, the carpentry workshop and the largest religious building in the city, the Grand Temple of Lumnum Begincavern, the patron goddess of the fort and the main god of the pantheon of Mortified Coal: The Shrine of Stars.

The Convent of Gods is dedicated to two human deities: Gal Showcamp (of the Unions of Stabilizing) and Sushhath Smiledlathered (of the Bold Union). There is a graveyard behind it, reserved for humans and their bizarre burial tradition. One human is already buried there.

The carpentry workshop is owned by the Woodworkers' guild and has three stories, filled with bowyers, carpenter's workshops, asheries and wood burners.
The founders of the city had some worshippers of Lumnum. Dwellers of fortresses and mountain halls who worship Her never actually see stars, so Understars is an important religious center for many pilgrims. Or would be if I had updated the fort to the newest version, as 43.05 didn't have pilgrims. Like I said the government of the fortress, the Star-Sect of Night, has Lumnum as their patron goddess.
The Shrine of Stars has a glass ceilings so Lumnum's worshippers can admire Her nightsky, and four tall spires reaching for the heavens above.
Here's how humans are buried, in shallow graves. I first dig a ramp, then dig one tile south (so there's a ground floor above it) and place a coffin there. When a human dies, I ensure they are placed in the coffin, then seal the ramp with a stone floor and put a memorial on top.
Ongu was a human mercenary hired some years ago who died of old age. He was buried here in Understars.
To the west are three guildhouses and a bunch of homes. There's the Metalworkers' workshop, Crafters' workshop and (not visible in the image except for the storage basement) the Stoneworkers' workshop.
In between all three is a war memorial dedicated to the many dwarves that died during the bloodiest goblin siege, the Brutal Assaults. Three bronze statues standing in silence underneath a plum tree.
The Brutal Assaults was initally like any other siege: the goblins came, all dwarves retreated to the mead hall and trolls wrecked some buildings. But I decided that my military was strong enough to drive away the invaders and ordered an attack.

It did not go well.

All three statues were commissioned by the government, and thus are 100% true and free from propaganda.
This statue depicts Avuz, the militia commander whose memorial I showed earlier. He was also the slayer of Itvid the wereiguana.
Alåth Faintseal was a Captain of the Guard, the previous wielder of the Basis of Boiling.
All three buildings have two floors, with workshops associated with each guild's speciality.
Secluded away from the city among the trees is a shrine to Gulnas Apesforded, a god of nature. He is one of the most popular deities in the fort.

shut up we're not filthy long-eared hippies we are true dwarves
SHUT UP WE ARE REAL BEARDED STONE-LOVING DWARVES ARMED WITH METAL

I'VE CUT DOWN HUNDREDS OF TREES, HAVE YOU SEEN ALL THE WOODEN BUILDINGS? WE ARE NOT ELVEsjsdgjskhgksd
The city has six gates, two on both western and eastern sides and one on southern and northern sides. Each gate is decorated with a gem window and a neat triangle shape which you can see in the stonesense screenshot.
Access to mines remains important even during a siege, so I've dug tunnels that go underneath the moats into the quarries.

Oh, remember all those stone buildings I showed you?
This is where all the diorite comes from.

This is one level out of 5.

Thank Armok for wheelbarrows.
The city has 171 citizens, 61 pets and livestock (mostly doggos), ~30 visitors and wild animals at the time of taking this picture and 67 corpses (mostly goblins).

I use the following naming convention for my citizens:
Guild Master -- leader of one of the six guilds. Usually has legendary skill.
Master (profession name) -- skill level higher than great
Guild (profession name) -- guild member
Apprentice (profession name) -- a member-in-training with a skill level lower than competent
Most humans in Understars are mercenaries, though some are entertainers, one is a scholar and one (not visible here because I used the search term "human" and his profession is "Guild Metalsmith") is a guild member.
Let's take a look at some of the more famous citizens of Understars, shall we?

Vutok is 167 years old and truly deserves the nickname "Old".

By the way, how can dwarves have dark skin if they spend all their time underground away from the sun?

oh sorry is that racist i'll just shut up then
Ònul the Wise is by far the most productive scholar out of the three ones in the Vault of Wisdom. A philosopher by trade, he has written around a dozen tomes on various subjects, and according to legends viewer, was the first to "discover the specialized (law) in the field of philosophy".

he also had an elf philosopher as his master (who had made three discoveries himself) but SHUT UP WE HATE ELVES
Ònul's apprentice is Degël. Unlike her master, she feels anxious discussing scientific topics, and is nowhere near as skilled. But one day, she might start writing scrolls as well.
Imbo Elf-Slayer is a famed human mercenary, veteran of the war that the Bold Union fought against elven scum and wife of a lord. She is old but do not underestimate her.
Look at all those elves she has killed! Truly, she belongs to this fort, because we all hate elves.
Sarvesh is the young priestess of Iklist, responsible for all burials. She spends almost ALL of her time in the Silent Tombs, praying to the God of Silence. Some dwarves think she's a bit creepy.
Understars has a formidable military built during the many years of peace (and rebuilt basically from scratch after the disastrous Brutal Assaults), with five military squads. Though the peace also means that the military has been sitting idle... like I said, this is 43.05, so I can't just send them out to rape and pillage a goblin pit.

The Starguard are the oldest squad in the city and are responsible for dispensing justice and maintaining order. They are armed with crossbows and are also the city's primary pest control. Countless keas have been slain by them.

Starknights are the finest warriors of Understars, all of them with a weapon skill of Great or above. They are fully armoured from head to toe and are fearsome indeed.

Starbeards are the "regular" squad, with helmets, leggings and chain shirts and average skill levels.

Understars Militia is the tranining squad that is never expected to face real battle. Dwarves below competent skill level belong to this squad and are wearing only helmets.

Mercenaries are humans hired by the Star-Sect to fight and die for them. They are usually sent out to battle first and are considered more expendable. But they are as heavily armoured as Starknights and their skill levels are nothing to laugh at.
Here are the administrators and commanders of Understars, responsible for running the city along with the Guild Masters.

There is no death penalty in Understars, which I know doesn't sound very dwarven, but trust me we are 100% dwarf.
Because Understars isn't amazingly wealthy or populous, there aren't too many artifacts, and because of cheap materials some of them are near-worthless wooden crap. But some artifacts are worth showing, I think.

The three tomes on top of the list are all imported, but all other ones have been written by the scholars of the fortress. Mostly Ònul.
The Basis of Boiling is the first valuable artifact created in Understars. It is always wielded by the Captain of the Guard.

yes i know it has mostly been used for pest control shut up
This floodgate is publicly presented in the Hall of Feasts and admired by the citizenry.
The second page of "artifacts". It's mostly scrolls, mostly written by Ònul. There's also a third page with two artifacts and nothing else so I did not take a screenshot.
And finally, the city mascot: A tame grizzly bear who vigilantly guards the streets. Its scars show that it should not be messed with.

...yes i bought it from the elves. BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN WE DON'T HATE THE TREE-HUGGING BUGGERS!
Now it is time for some Armok Vision screenshots! I am amazed that my crappy computer was able to handle this. It is not the latest version so dwarves still have this old look and plenty of things lack graphics, but nevertheless I think the fort looks very nice.

god damn it same problem with armok vision, all the different wood types have different colors, HOW DO I TURN THIS OF REEEEEE

A fisher is catching the main export of Understars.
The first floor of a common guildmember house. Looks kinda comfy to be honest.
The second floor, with a stone chest, a cabinet and a bed.
The Hall of Feasts in all its vomit-covered glory.
Vutok the Old enjoying her dinner, accompanied by valuable artifacts.
A view from the top floor of the mead hall.
Houses of the Guild Masters and a view down a street.
The Shrine of Stars. Note how Armok Vision does not render that many layers: if I go one layer up, the ground disappears. If I go one layer down, the roofs of buildings disappear. So you can't fully see the size of the spires, neither can you see the gate decorations.
You can see them now, though. And now you can also not see the ground.
The Temple of Wealth looks fabulous, if you ignore the vomit.
The Silent Tombs and some houses around them.
The Hungry Man is filled with hungry humans and some dwarves.
A doggo is enjoying the view from the top floor of the Vault of Wisdom. Also he's licking the vomit.
The walls of Understars are tall enough to discourage any goblin fools.
A peasant hovel.
The war memorial, covered by plums.
Just because it's a surface fort doesn't mean there aren't any claustrophobic tunnels.
The shrine to Gulnas. It looks pretty nice... IF YOU ARE AN ELF THAT IS AND WE ARE NOT ELVES DAMMIT
The fortress mascot says goodbye to you and thanks you for reading everything. Hope you enjoyed this tour of my 100% dwarven fortress! I hope it inspires you in some way to try out life on the surface for once. It's not that bad, to be honest. Trust me, I am not an undercover elf trying to trick you.

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