Dwarf Fortress: How to Custom Embark

This guide will teach you how to Custom Embark in Dwarf Fortress.



The main goal of this Guide is to encourage you to Custom Embark in Dwarf Fortress, for the sake of experimentation, optimisation, and overall fun.


There’s many ways to play Dwarf Fortress, with Custom Embarking you get to kickstart the process. The more you know about how the skills work, how migrants work, and how to teach those skills; the more you will realize how useful some skills are to custom embark with. Always refer to the Wiki for more information on the topics below.

Migrants and Military

Since Migrants do not arrive with Legendary Military skills, you have the opportunity to start with a 7 Dwarf Military Embark. This can be useful for situations where early game survival is important, or it can be used to eventually train your whole fort early on. This Embark is the easiest and most powerful to start with. Great for beginners and veterans alike. Adjusting this loadout for 1 dedicated Worker, can allow for Constant Training for 6 Dwarves, while the 7th Dwarf works to do everything else.

Guildhall Teachers

In Guildhall Zones, skills can only be taught if another creature has the same skill level or higher. If you start with 2 Dwarves with the same skill, they can immediately teach each other that skill in a Guildhall. Depending on where the Meeting Zones are at, you may need to use Burrows to maintain the teaching process. Migrants may come in with Legendary skills to teach as well.

Library Skills

Most Librarian-related skills cannot be taught in a Guildhall (except Doctor skills) and Migrants rarely possess Library-related skills; so any skill that has to do with a Library will be a unique addition to your Fort.

Social Skills

Social skills like Appraiser, Negotiator, and Judge of Intent are useful for Trading. However, most social skills are useless to embark with, as most of your migrants and visitors will have very high social and musical skills. Also, Dwarves with Good Memory make the best Traders.

Cross Training

A single Dwarf can perform multiple jobs depending on the time it takes, and how often the job is required. If a skill is not trained after a period of time, it will begin to rust. So that being said, only choose skills that you know will not rust. This balancing act can become an art, allowing you to have a single Dwarf manage multiple tasks at once without any interruptions. For example: A single Dwarf can manage Shearing, Milking, Gelding, Beekeeping, Soaper, Lye Maker, Potash Maker, and Wax Worker, as most of these skills are very difficult to maintain. Since those skills are all from the Farmer Guild, A Farmer Guildhall will allow that one Dwarf to teach all of those skills to everybody else, preventing rust for the teacher and the taught.


Some Industries can take a lot of time and skills to invest in. With the combination of Skills, Guildhall Teachers, and Workshop Labour; you can quickly grow your chosen industry. Some skills work well together but are not part of the same Guildhall, like Weaving (Craftsdwarf) and Spinning (Farmer) for example.


There’s a lot of weird loadouts you can do that don’t have to do with any of the above. Some can be a mix of all of the above to adapt to the situation, or to try something new. For example, you don’t have to make a fort with everybody working together. You can have small groups of Dwarves working together in separate areas.


Depending on the personality Traits and Values, you may want to give certain roles to certain Dwarves to make sure they stay happy. Take the time to “interview” each Dwarf before you assign Skills.

Item Suggestions:

These are Items I use very often. It covers the basics, has tons of raw resources, and prevents early Strange Mood deaths.
1 Anvil
20 Leather
100 Logs
10 of each Seed
2 Pickaxes
100+ Booze
100 Milk
50 Sand
20+ Lignite
20 Lye
1-3 Pig Tail Thread
10+ Silk Thread

Animal Suggestions:

These animals do not require grazing, useful for embarks without grass. Adding Shearable animals for a textile Industry is recommended for most fort loadouts.
1-2 Cats
2 Dogs
2 Pigs
2-4 Poultry

Save Profile Trick

If you plan on Custom Embarking more often, you’ll notice that your Dwarves will always be different at the start. So by spending all your points on Items and Animals first, then Save Profile; it will you save a lot of time if you plan on using those same Items and Animals. Sometimes the realm won’t have what you requested, so adjust accordingly. From this Saved profile, you get to choose the skills for the Dwarves, and then Embark without wasting time over animals and items.


This information is based off my 2000 hours of playtime, all the knowledge I learned from the Wikipedia, all the silly experimenting I did with custom embarking, and eventually refining the process into where it is today. I tried to keep this guide very short, to cut the fat down that the Wikipedia can sometimes provide.

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