Dwarf Fortress’ Dynamic Storytelling Remains Undefeated To This Day

The experience always varies in each playthrough.

Story Highlights

  • Dwarf Fortress features an in-depth story generator that creates personal tales as you play.
  • Its storytelling stays unmatched to this day, delivering a new experience in every playthrough.
  • A couple of other titles also use this mechanic, which increases replayability by a long stretch. 

Games let you forge your own epic sagas or experience a prepared linear path. However, there is only so much you can do with a title before you hit a limit. But what if stories are created organically as you play? I’ve always felt like games that lack a set path or limits result in something profound, which makes you feel like you’re on a never-ending adventure. 

These rare yet popular entries are only possible because of emergent story generators—they allow for procedural in-game events and stories to be created on the spot. What that entails is an experience unlike any you have had before. I think when we talk about procedural story generation, the game that does it the best is surely Dwarf Fortress, and for good reason.

The roguelike indie has been around since 2006 but has left a gap that no other entry has been able to fill since. The game enjoys a loyal community and finally got a Steam release two years ago. But what made it an unforgettable venture for us all? 

Dwarf Fortress — An Epic Of A Million Stories

Dwarf Fortress Has Only Grown In Popularity Over The Decades | Image Source: Steam
Dwarf Fortress Has Only Grown In Popularity Over The Decades | Image Source: Steam

The colony sim is centered around you leading a group of dwarves in the deepest, most intricate simulation ever. There are multiple game modes, but all of them are fun in their own right since the title’s chef-d’oeuvre is story generation. While it is a solid game in and of itself, what shines for me is the unlimited lore potential. I thoroughly enjoy catching up on all the procedural activities that happen during gameplay. 

Just let me point out one thing. The highly-difficult gameplay is designed to make you fail. But hey that’s the entire point since all civilizations eventually fall. But Dwarf Fortress simulates everything you can imagine, including creatures, cultures, wars, and catastrophic events. Since the first playthrough, you are taught to expect the unexpected at any time.

The world generation of DF is fascinating
byu/BoogTheGrizzlyBear indwarffortress

If you love what you’re reading, then you’ll never grow bored of this entry. There will always be something to do, or you can sit and watch the world evolve around you while doing the bare minimum as the overseer.

The Randomly-Generated Worlds Provide A Fresh Canvas For Dramatic Storytelling

A part of the charm of Dwarf Fortress is creating new worlds just to see the emergent histories that are concocted. Each character you encounter has an elaborate past that can leave you laughing or sentimental. Now imagine piling all this storytelling and scaling it up to levels of civilizations and kingdoms. It’s impossible to run out of potential discoveries and paths you can eventually stumble upon.

What are your best Dwarf Fortress stories? Please share them!
byu/May_South indwarffortress

The web is scattered with players’ personal stories that range from certain dwarves to whole civilizations. It’s a sub-genre of the community that prefers listening to or reading the epic tales others have experienced.

And frankly, I don’t blame them. You can head over to YouTube or various forums and find unique narratives that have left a deep mark on the players. Don’t worry about spoiling yourself, since you will never encounter the same events as anyone else. But I reckon playing is the best way to experience all that Dwarf Fortress is waiting to share.

YouTube video

The Rich Tapestry Of Story Generation Still Remains Unrivaled

Some may argue that titles like NetHack and Rimworld compete with Dwarf Fortress. However, DF’s simulation is on a completely different scale. It has a bit of everything for everyone because of the underlying infinite creative liberty.

Nevertheless, getting into the roguelike is not easy, as it has a steep learning curve you have to adapt to. The Steam release does—thankfully—make it much easier to understand the base mechanics.

Another thing worth discussing is that the game does not spoon-feed you stories, unlike others in this genre. You do have to seek them on your own. Keep track of your favorite characters and in-game events to see how their personal lives evolve during playthrough. Dwarf Fortress also gives enough raw material to paint a beautiful landscape in your mind.

Additionally, the addictive repertoire of mods also adds another level of depth in case you want to change something to your liking. Mods tinker with pretty much everything in the game, for both the F2P and Steam versions.  

Other Games That Replicate The Story Generation Mechanic

Dwarf Fortress has inspired many games over the years. Some of the biggest names include Minecraft and Rimworld. It is a great entry-level colony sim for players who want to get a knack for the genre and prefer a laid-back approach.

Helldivers 2 uses a game master that creates events as you play | Image Source: Steam
Helldivers 2 uses a game master that creates events as you play | Image Source: Steam

Helldivers 2 is among the recent additions that use a storyteller to influence game events in every round. It greatly boosts replayability and makes the ever-evolving intergalactic war a treat to play.

Oxygen Not Included, The Sims, EVE Online, and many others also offer their own brand of storytelling after taking inspiration from Dwarf Fortress. 

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Shameer Sarfaraz is a Senior News Writer on eXputer who loves to keep up with the gaming and entertainment industries devoutly. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science and several years of experience reporting on games. Besides his passion for breaking news stories, Shahmeer loves spending his leisure time farming away in Stardew Valley. VGC, IGN, GameSpot, Game Rant, TheGamer, GamingBolt, The Verge, NME, Metro, Dot Esports, GameByte, Kotaku Australia, PC Gamer, and more have cited his articles.

Experience: 4+ Years || Education: Bachelor in Computer Science.

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