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The seven best Dwarf Fortress mods on Steam

Our favorite ways to improve Dwarf Fortress

A Dwarf Fortress embark location with improved graphics from mods. Image: Bay 12 Games/Kitfox Games via Polygon
Jeffrey Parkin (he/him) has been writing video game guides for Polygon for almost seven years. He has learned to love just about every genre of game that exists.

Dwarf Fortress coming to Steam means that community-created mods are easier than ever to install. These mods do everything from adding new playable races to tweaking graphics to turning Dwarf Fortress into Pokémon.

Below, we’ll tell you how to find and install mods into your Dwarf Fortress game on Steam and list our seven favorites.

How to install Dwarf Fortress mods

Dwarf Fortress mods are installed through the Steam Workshop for the game. Browse through the options there and subscribe to the ones you want.

Mods can only be used in newly generated worlds — you can only activate them during world creation — so you’ll need to start a new fortress to use them. In the Create A New World screen, click on Mods in the bottom right.

A screenshot of the Dwarf Fortress mod options in the world creation screen.
You install mods through the world creation screen.
Image: Bay 12 Games/Kitfox Games via Polygon

You’ll see three columns here — available mods on the left, the default Vanilla mods in the middle, and details about whatever you’re hover over on the right (including conflicts with other mods). Click the arrow next to the mods you want to activate, and they’ll move into the center column.

Click on Basic Options to return to the main creation options (the mods you chose will remain).

Interface Tweaks

The first mod we recommend is one called Interface Tweaks by Trainzack. The main thing you’ll notice with this mod is that the keyboard hotkeys are listed on almost every icon. Yes, the Steam version of Dwarf Fortress still requires a mouse, but this mod will make the keyboard a lot more useful (and will help veteran players remember the new hotkeys).

It also adds some color to the play and pause buttons. The color scheme is red and green, so not exactly the most accessible palette, but it should help make them a little clearer to most users.

Detailed Landscapes

While the tiles of ground in Dwarf Fortress all look like generic grass or cavern spots, there’s actually a huge variety of plants and mushrooms. Detailed Landscapes by Poss adds graphics for 39 species.

The way Dwarf Fortress tiles and blends the graphics for ground is a bit convoluted for a mod to handle, so this one isn’t always perfect — it looks a little checker boarded — but seeing how wild the wilderness really is adds a nice touch.

Rounded Hills and Reduced Z-Level Fog

A pair of visual mods, Rounded Hills by Poss and Reduced Z-Level Fog by Munashe are just nice to have if only to soften the visuals of Dwarf Fortress. The Rounded Hills mod smooths out the sharp corners on the terrain ramps and makes it look a little more natural. The Reduced Z-Level Fog extends your ability to see a few Z-levels deeper and actually see what’s going on in your world.

Whaleys Dogs

A Dwarf Fortress corgi added by the Whaleys Dogs mod.
C’mon, just look at this corgi.
Image: Bay 12 Games/Kitfox Games via Polygon

They’re all good dogs, so why not add some sprites to expand the visuals? The Whaleys Dogs mod by user Roseanne on DVD 2K19 adds graphics for eight new breeds of dog. None of the stats change, but, I mean, look at that corgi.

Let Dwarven Women Have Beards

This mod by Lielac does exactly what it says. Some dwarven women have beards.

[Author’s note: Look, I did a quick Google to double-check something before I made a comment about Tolkien’s dwarves and … it’s A Whole Thing™ — as with most things Tolkien. So, instead, let’s just say that this mod isn’t so much an “accuracy” thing as it is about simply letting dwarven women have beards.]

War Possums

Look, there’s no way to not recommend War Possums by Elsie (with an honorable mention to War Geese by Mackeroni). War Possums adds (o)possums as a domesticated species — which means you can choose them at embark and, more importantly, train them for war.