After generating a new world in Dwarf Fortress, I decided to dig around in its history before embarking on a new save. Inspired by YouTubers like Kruggsmash, who give their fortresses epic narratives that tie into the past of the civilisation, I wanted to know all I could about the dwarven culture I would be inhabiting before I took over a fortress. What I found was a royal lineage of would-be necromancers.
This started out with me trying to figure out why the current dwarven queen of The Creation of Gorging (the randomly generated name of the civilisation I had created) worshipped a human god. Everything, including what gods exist and what kind of gods they are, is generated randomly during the creation of a world.
You can find out who your dwarves worship when you’re running a fortress by selecting them and looking at their thoughts, but if you want a better idea of what pantheons exist, you can open up the save in Legends mode and check out the historical figures. If you want an easier way to do that, you can export the .xml file from Legends mode, then use a fan-made program called Legends Viewer to sort through the information.
When I loaded up this save, which is a world called Ramul Thran, which translates to The Planes Of Dawn, I decided at first just to see who the rulers of the largest dwarven civilisation were and who they worshipped. The current queen, Kol Rimmobbed, worships the human deity Pibang, who is associated with inspiration and poetry.
I quickly learned that her grandmother had been raised in a human civilisation before becoming queen herself, and so her descendents were also worshippers of Pibang for three generations now. That was pretty cute, I thought. Then I saw that Kol had a secret goal of reaching immortality. That was less cute.
Every dwarf in Dwarf Fortress, as well as the goblins, elves, and humans, have a goal they want to accomplish before they die. For some, it’s to master an art. For others, it’s to see the great sites of the world. If anyone has a goal of immortality, it’s because they want to eventually become a necromancer, which, yikes.
Necromancers can raise the dead, which is pretty unchill on its own. Just like goblins or other hostile creatures, the undead can lay siege to your fortress if it’s in range of a necromancer’s tower, which can either be super unfun or very fun, depending on how much fun you think it is when a lot of dwarves die.
If the necromancer rides into battle themselves, every dwarf who dies will be added to their army. I both love and hate necromancers. They create some interesting narrative wrinkles, but also, they create zombies, which are super annoying.
I’m not sure why certain characters in Dwarf Fortress want to become necromancers. As far as I can tell, it’s random. But every other leader from The Creation of Gorging wanted to be one, and given that it was a monarchy, that resulted in a whole family in which every other generation wanted to master the secret of life and death.
I looked all the way back to the first king of The Creation of Gorging. They didn’t want to be a necromancer, but also they died in two years from a demon attack. The second king wanted to be a necromancer as well, but it didn’t pan out. Every other generation in the royal bloodline had a desire to raise the dead, but none of them have succeeded.
A leader of another civilisation long ago succeeded in their quest to raise the dead, though. Iden Praisedaxes, the second queen of the slightly smaller dwarven kingdom of Bent Rooms, became queen in year two and became obsessed with her own mortality in year 14. She began to worship the dwarven god Tarmid, who is associated with fortresses, wars and death.
In year 26, her ardent worship finally led her to find a tablet containing the secrets of a necromancer. Not long after, she abandoned the fortress to build her own personal civilisation—one of necromancers, their apprentices, and the raised undead in the tower Takenkind, called The Diamond Intensity.
Over five hundred years have passed since Iden Praisedaxes left the Bent Rooms for her tower. She still lives, even now.
In the present time period of my game, I’m seeing the world of Ramul Thran in crisis, with some civilizations having been engaged in war with each other for over a century. Maybe the dwarven leaders of The Creation of Gorging looked back to history to try to figure out how to weather to storm, and pass down the story of the necromancer queen whose tower still stands to this day.
This game is pretty sparse. But because of that sparseness, it’s possible to spin complex mental narratives from the raw information that Dwarf Fortress gives you about the world you’re playing in. I can’t help but imagine Kol Rimmobbed being told the legend of Iden by her grandmother, internalising the idea of becoming immortal, and then using her resources as queen to try to reach that goal.
The temptation must be so great. The wars have created a lot of corpses—more fodder for an undead army. If Kol learned the secret of life and death and then joined Iden at Takenkind, dwarfkind could truly live forever. In order to find out what happens, I have to play.