Dwarf Fortress Best Embark Setup, Items & Skills

Learn how to embark effectively so you don't have any issues in early game of Dwarf Fortress!

Embark in Dwarf Fortress is the first step in the game when you’re about to begin your long journey. It requires you to pick out a good location and take all sorts of useful items and dwarves with you. By choosing the best Embark location and items in Dwarf Fortress, you’ll have a much easier time.

The process of Embarking can be split into two major sections with their intricacies within. The first step is choosing the right location to Embark, which requires you to consider your Biome, surroundings, neighbors, temperature, and much more. After that, you must plan carefully by choosing which kind of skilled Dwarves you should take alongside all sorts of animals and items.

Key Highlights

  • The first thing you must do is choose an area to embark on when starting your Dwarf Fortress world. Embark location is permanent, so much be chosen carefully.
  • While embarking, one must consider their biome, climate, and surroundings as it’ll affect their day-to-day gameplay.
  • Choosing the right neighbors and factions can hugely impact how you interact with the world.
  • After you’ve chosen an embark size and location, you can prepare carefully by customizing your dwarves’ skills, items, and animals. 

Embark Location

Best Embark Location Dwarf Fortress
Dwarf Fortress World Map [captured by eXputer]
As mentioned, the first step after world generation is to find a starting location to embark. You’ll be presented with a map of the world. You can move around using WASD or the middle mouse button.

You’ll see a detailed breakdown in the top-right section as you hover over the different areas. Because everyone will have their own unique and different world generations, it is hard to tell you exactly where to embark or what might be the exact best embark location. However, there are general pointers and things that you can look out for to find a good location that can help you at the start.


best biomes for embarking dwarf fortress
Dwarf Fortress Biome Details Highlighted [image by us]
There are many different biomes to pick from. You’ve got plains such as Savannas or Shrublands, Deserts such as Badlands or Rocky Wasteland, Oceans, Swamps, Lakes, and much more. All of these Biomes tend to have their own climates, vegetation, and number of Trees.

It’s not just the Biome that matters, but the things inside and around it that truly matters. For example, you could settle in a forest where there are a good number of trees, but the temperature might be too cold or hot, which can affect your Dwarves.

Furthermore, the climate of your location can also affect the resources that you might have around you. For example, if you have a river as a water source and live in a cold climate area, it’ll likely freeze during certain months of the year. And if you’re living in a hot area, your river or pools can get dried out until there is rain.

Similarly, you could find good vegetation, the best seeds, and a good number of trees but might end up settling near an ocean with salty water. Your dwarves can’t drink salty water, so you’ll need to find a way to desalinate the water. But, at the start, that might be too tricky and is just an unnecessary hassle that you can avoid with ease by choosing a better location.

Here are some general things that you should look for in your Biome for a better time:

  • Choose an area with relatively more forests, as wood will be a valuable resource at the start.
  • Try to be close to areas where you can get water, such as lakes, waterfalls, or rivers.
  • Vegetation is important for farming. You don’t need too much, but you’re in the clear as long as you’ve got some form of vegetation.
  • Each climate can be tackled differently, but for beginners, the best starting climate will be warm as you’ll have water sources uninterrupted throughout the year.


surrounding categories
Dwarf Fortress Surroundings [image taken by eXputer]
Besides just your Biome, the next thing that you need to consider is the surroundings, as it can affect plant life, animals, and creatures that will appear in the Biome that you’re embarked in. These plants or animals can be anything from peaceful to extremely dangerous and anything in between.

Your surroundings are not tied to specific biomes. You can have the same Biome in different locations on the map but with different surroundings. However, certain animals or plants require a specific biome with specific surroundings and climates to spawn in. If you’re new to the game, this might not be a huge concern, but it is worth considering when you’ve played for long enough.

Additionally, you can have a region or Biome that overlaps between two different types of surroundings which is usually the ideal case. You can have one area with perhaps calm surroundings and another with something evil for a little more action. Regardless, the surroundings can be put into three categories.


The first category is the Neutral surroundings in the game. Calm, Wilderness, and Untamed Wilds come under Neutral. In general, neutral regions tend to be more realistic with familiar wildlife. Calm tends to have the least animals and threats, but that usually means that you’ll also come across fewer resources.

Untamed Wilds is the most savage of the three and can hold powerful animals, such as elephants, and dangerous and aggressive giant eagles. You’ll likely have a good balance in Wilderness as you’ll have enough animals to help you survive while facing a few challenges.


Although quite rare, all the surroundings that come under the good category are usually less aggressive with weak creatures. In fact, the creatures in these good biomes tend to be fantasy creatures, such as unicorns.

Serene, Mirthful, and Joyous Wilds are all part of the good regions. You’ll be able to get a good amount of plants in these areas, such as rope reed, strawberries, and prickle berries. Serene is the most peaceful surrounding, with Joyous being the most challenging one depending on your climate and Biome.

If you can find these rare surroundings, they might be good for starting, especially Mirthful. But because of the fantasy creatures, certain players might prefer realistic surroundings such as Wilderness.


If you’re new to the game, then without a doubt, you should stay as far away from Evil surroundings as possible. These contain Sinister, Haunted, and Terrifying surroundings. They are usually the most challenging areas with dangerous and aggressive creatures such as beak bogs, ogres, and harpies.

There’s quite a lot of depth in the Evil regions, such as the existence of demons, necromancers, bogeymen, and much more. Evil wildlife and plantlife that you’ll find there will be undead who don’t feel much pain and can rip your dwarves apart with ease. You’ll need to be quite good at combat to deal with the undead.

Even if you decide to embark on an evil region, you’ll need to create an underground base with lots of traps to keep out the creatures. That is because the creatures that roam around in the evil regions can destroy your buildings and steal your items. But generally, don’t start with an evil region unless you’re looking for the added challenge. However, you can remain close to one to explore it later when you’ve got a good hang of the game.


Neighbors like elves, humans, goblins
Dwarf Fortress Neighbor Details [captured by eXputer]
Neighbors aren’t usually the first thing that you might consider while embarking, but it definitely is one of the factors that can make a difference. The most obvious tip is to not embark on some island as many of your neighbors, and especially other dwarves, won’t be able to reach you. That will ultimately reduce your chances of being able to trade and get different types of resources.

The neighbor’s tab usually indicates all the nearby neighbors that can reach you eventually. If a certain civilization doesn’t appear, that means it won’t be able to reach you either while you’re in that area.

Additionally, you can choose a faction for your dwarves, which will indicate the population of that faction and the regions where they’re settled. Embarking near those areas will increase your chances of being visited by the dwarves. So, in short:

  • It is important to consider the neighbors around you, especially if they’re hostile or not, as Goblins can come in to steal your items.
  • A good location is one with Goblins, Humans, and Elves nearby.
  • Pick out a faction for your dwarves and try to embark close to where many of those faction dwarves are already settled.

Soul And Metals

The last thing that you might be concerned about while embarking is the type of soil or metals available in the area. It is best that if you’re new to the game, you shouldn’t fret too much about these details. There are usually ways around areas that might have terrible soil or lack of metals.

One thing you could care about is not to embark in an area with no soil. Additionally, if you can find an area with iron, you’ll have a good advantage at the start while creating your tools. Furthermore, avoid areas that have aquifers, as it can be tedious to deal with while digging.

Embark Size

Once you’ve picked out an embark location, you’ll be asked to choose the size of your site. 3×3 is usually ideal; the higher you’ll go, the more resource-demanding the game will be. By default, 4×4 or 6×6 are usually the maximum dimensions.

However, you can actually go into the settings and crank that all the way up to 16×16. But do that only if your system can handle it. For most players, 3×3 or 4×4 will be enough as they’ll be able to cover a good amount of area.

Just keep in mind that once you’ve chosen a location and size of your embarking area, you cannot change it. Therefore, consider everything that we mentioned for the location carefully and choose wisely.

Preparing Carefully

preparing for journey section during embarking in Dwarf Fortress
Preparing Carefully Option [image by eXputer]
Once you’ve picked out your embark location and size, you can move on to the second half of embarking before actually playing. When you’ve picked out your location, you’ll be presented with a screen similar to what is shown above. It is worth considering that you can immediately start playing and skip this part of embarking.

However, if you head to the “prepare for the journey” section, you’ll be able to choose your own skills, equipment, and animals to take with you right at the start. These can help you give a slight edge and make things easier at the start. Even if you ignore the whole equipment and animals section, the skills section is worth exploring.


dwarf skills
Dwarf Fortress Different Skills [captured by eXputer]
The first tab that you’ll find when you begin to prepare carefully is the skills section for your Dwarves. You’ll be able to assign 10 points for different skills from an entire pool of skills. Although you can choose whatever you want, it’s best to have some specific type of dwarves at the start.

It is also worth noting that you can assign all the roles and determine skills for your dwarves once the game has started as well. But if you want certain dwarves to get to work immediately while you tend to other matters, then assigning skills at the start can be helpful. Here’s a general overview of what kind of skills you should assign at the start:

  • Mason: By putting some points into the Mason skill, you’ll have an adequate mason who’ll be able to craft doors, tables, and much for you.
  • Blacksmith and Weaponsmith: You won’t be doing any hardcore blacksmithing at the start, so assigning both the blacksmith and weaponsmith skills to one dwarf will get you set up for the early stages of the game.
  • Farmer: Although farming isn’t hard to teach to your dwarves, starting with at least one farmer can be handy. Invest skills into planting and brewing, and you’ll have a good farmer.
  • Miner: Mining is a huge part of the game, whether you’re expanding your area or looking for precious metals. Considering that you start with around two pickaxes at the start, having two miners can be useful.
  • Fisher: Food is going to be vital at the start. You can either get food through hunting or fishing. A fisherman might be more useful than a hunter near the start because your hunter can sometimes catch the attention of a dangerous animal that you might not be equipped to handle.


best items for embarking dwarf fortress
Item list while preparing [image by eXputer]
For the most part, you don’t really need to mess around with the items that you’ll be taking with you. But if you know in advance that you will be relying on some skill early on, you can change up your items accordingly. Here are some items that you might want to change up while embarking:

  • Pickaxe: You’ll start with two pickaxes which are more than enough. However, if you plan on mining and expanding your area as soon as you drop in, taking three pickaxes with you might be useful.
  • Alcohol: Your dwarves like to drink. So, if you’re unsure of what else to bring, then you should go for increasing the number of alcohol that you take with you initially.


animal list
Animal list for Embarking [screenshot by eXputer]
After you’ve used up your points on acquiring skills and extra items, you can spend the remaining points on bringing some animals along with you. Here are some of the best animals when you’re trying to Embark on Dwarf Fortress:

  • Cat: Cats are good for keeping away vermin, such as rats and lizards, that might try to steal your food.
  • Hunting Dog: As the name suggests, a hunting dog can be helpful against many other animals in hunting.
  • Turkey: Great source for leather early on, and they don’t cost that many points either.
  • Alpacas: They don’t consume as much food compared to Llamas and provide more food than animals such as goats. As you can shear, milk, and breed them pretty quickly, Alpacas can be good at the start.

With that, you know about the best possible setups while embarking on Dwarf Fortress. As everyone will have their own different world, it can be tricky to give exact instructions on what to choose. But depending on your personal goals and experience, you can use the general outlines that we laid out for picking a location to find the right spot and setup for yourself.

Up Next: BEST Dwarf Fortress Tips And Tricks

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Atik Younus

Atik is a Game Guides Writer at eXputer with plenty of experience under his belt. He has a knack for well-written stories and amazing combat mechanics. When not found going on adventures with Nathan Drake, he's usually found creating 3D artwork and writing code.

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