Using Dwarf Fortress as a map generator

The previous article in this series discussed my reasons for generating a new campaign setting. This time I will discuss the maps that Dwarf Fortress generates for a new world.

DF allows users to export the world maps and history in Legends mode. This creates great depth via procedural generation without requiring the world builder to design everything by hand. (I also sponsored Worldspinner on Kickstarter for similar purposes. I have a problem…) We have only to specify a few parameters such as the world size (e.g. “Small” or “Medium”), the length of the history, and the relative number of civilizations. It then generates the world by simulating natural processes and interaction between the civilizations, monsters, and people.

After generating a new world in DF, I use a map maker script for GIMP. This takes various maps from DF (such as “Biomes”, “Elevation”, “Volcanism”, etc.) and combines them. Despite the tedious user experience of repetitively navigating to the directory with the exported maps, the script produces fantastic results like the gorgeous render below. By itself, this could provide enough for some world builders to get started.
World map of Inalaanenu

But DF can also directly generate maps of a particular site. For example, one of the settlements in that world looks as follows:

Town map


The town belongs to a broader civilization which has its own culture and history. For example, we have a list of the deities and forces of nature that civilization worships and a chronicle of its rulers. (I will discuss this part of the world generation for the next article in the series.) I haven’t yet figured out the best way to label the sites on the world map. In the meantime, DF has its own map viewer that allows us to follow along. The existing utilities for viewing maps and Legends mode data have given me a bit of trouble. But DF also exports a very large XML file with lots of data that I have started to parse with Dwarf Chronicler, a tool I have started to write myself. Future posts will discuss this project too.

We don’t have to use the site maps from DF, though. Many of them don’t look nice enough for displaying or have much interesting detail. In fact, the map of Puzzlingdust above has more to it than most. The geographical locations and basic demographics of the hamlets, towns, dark fortresses, and such, should provide enough detail to get started. From there, we can populate the towns as needed with some of the characters that DF has generated or create our own. I already sponsor Dyson Logos via Patreon and some of those maps will serve this purpose well. Those who want to stick with procedurally generated dungeons should look at Donjon as usual. (Side note: thanks to Drow, who runs that site, for the shout-out to my daughter in the banner. That really made her night, and mine, when we saw it.)

As referenced above, the next post in this series will discuss the races, civilizations, and monsters of Dwarf Fortress and how to use those for an old-school campaign setting.


4 thoughts on “Using Dwarf Fortress as a map generator

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s