Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Were in the Mirror

"Take a look at yourself and then make that change"

Michael Jackson - Man in the Mirror

I've finally started getting into Dwarf Fortress. I say "finally" because its station at the intersection of games, complexity, world-building and self-destructiveness made it only a matter of time before I barricaded myself under some mountain or another to chisel stone thrones and throw stones on my enemies. It's just taken me five years or so since first downloading it to get over the nauseating text-based "graphics" and learn to hate it for its mouseless control scheme instead, but more on that some other time. Given my preference for jumping into games without documentation, I've also racked up a pretty hefty head-count over my half-dozen failed attempts as I learn everything the hard way.

So far my fortresses have died once of starvation and three times of dehydration - in three different ways no less: evaporation, freezing and "whaddayamean wells need to be built over water to give water?" One fortress I grew to hate for the myriad mistakes I'd made in designing it, so I tried taking divine vengeance by having the dwarves tunnel into the bottom of a lake. To compound my frustration, the lake was so shallow as to barely drench the floor of a side corridor, and my hated underlings went glumly about their business with muddy feet until I hung my head in shame and left them in peace to start fresh.

The two remaining losses, however, came at the hands paws of were-beasts. The universe, as frequently noted, has a sense of humor. My very first attempt as Werwolfe, leader of dwarves, lasted not even a year:
After that, Dumat of Mange of Moons, last survivor of rampant wereantelope infection, spent a few lonely months puttering around the empty halls, choking on the miasma given off by the corpses of his slain comrades and breaking things faster than he could build them. I like to think he's still there, nursing his infection underground like his Dragon Age namesake until he will one day rise up with an army of Wereantelope-spawn to blight the landscape.

Two attempts later the story was if anything even more heartbreaking. Remembering Dumat, I had the wherewithal to move all my industry indoors and lock said doors when a werelizard came calling, cutting my losses to the few workers caught milking livestock or pickin' posies. Too late (after the full moon had passed, the monster departed and doors re-opened) did I notice two survivors: two children who had been playing outside at the time of the attack. Sure enough on closer inspection they both bore injuries, and on the next full moon the adorable little tykes rose up to slaughter the score of adults who'd welcomed them into the fortress.

Thus is a wer-beast hoist by his own petard.

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