Category Archives: Different storytelling

Dwarf Fortress: A Review

by Jason Gibbs

So I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  Dwarf Fortress is supposed to be an immersive game a la Civ, something I enjoy when I have a few days to kill.  There are various warnings about the steep learning curve, and the tagline is “losing is fun.”

Well, I thought, I’ll give it a try.

The game inspired Minecraft amongst others, and has been given a facelift for its Steam release, and the new graphics clearly take inspiration back from Minecraft.  The interface is in some ways aesthetically pleasing, and in others a little painful.  Search doesn’t work very well in a number of the screens and transferring control is tricky.  But I’ll come back to that.

When you start you can set some criteria and the world is procedurally generated.  This creates a history for the world, which results in civilisations with a rich past and sometimes artefacts.  None of this is particularly relevant to the new player, but at later stages can matter.

I started by selecting the tutorial which placed my dwarves in an area with a brook, some woods and no aquifer.  Which meant I could dig.  I dug out some caverns, started setting up workshops and generally following what the tutorial told me.  At this point I thought, you know, it’s not that hard.

I built out a bit, added bedrooms and farming plots, and lo and behold, some immigrants.  Now some people seem to see this as an issue, but at this point I figure it’s a sign of success.  I continue to build.

Then I get attacked by some goblins.  I see them off, but at the loss of one of my dwarves.  It made me sad.  So I set up a couple of squads of troops so I could respond properly to the next incursion.

My fortress grew further.  Then disaster, a big goblin attack wiped out more than half of my dwarves.  I was gutted.  This was what is known as fun.  Apparently.  So I went back to a prior save and looked at my troops.  Well, they had no armour or real weapons.  And they hadn’t even been training with what they had.  So I set up a steel industry, which took several tries, and a foray into the Dwarf Fortress wiki, and I got them into a training schedule.

This time when I had a big goblin attack I tore the slimey gits apart.  I lost one dwarf, I think they lost 50.  That felt like a fair exchange.

At this point the children start demanding some time.  The tutorial didn’t have any suggestions for that, but I managed to fob them off with a new game on their tablets.

Then my dwarves start complaining about being unhappy.  I mean really unhappy.  I have plenty of alcohol, and food, and bedrooms, but no, the high maintenance creatures were getting depressed and throwing tantrums.

You know why?  I wasn’t making them any new clothes.  What they were wearing was literally falling off them.  I had to set up a clothes industry, which involved gathering silk, weaving it and making clothes, all from the task menu.

My wife then wanted to know where I’d hidden the wine, so I gave her directions to the cupboard.  I made a mental note to set up a series of tasks to keep her happy, otherwise I could see things getting difficult.

It was too late on that timeline, so I had to go back, quite a way and start again.  I got my armour and clothes industries off to a start early on, and the squads training.

Apparently the children needed to be taken somewhere.  I checked the task menu, but there was nothing obvious I could do about it.  I had to perform the task myself.

Having wasted a lot of time on that I got back to exploring the underground caverns, and got over-excited about digging out gems.  I had targeted a pillar and unfortunately let out a demon.  The demon set about wiping out my dwarves.  There was nothing I could do, it was fast and brutal.  Then my wife came in and demanded that I join the family for dinner.  I tried to explain, but she just slammed the door.

So I went back in time and made sure not to dig out all the obvious juicy piles of gems.  I didn’t want that to happen again.  And anyway, I found enough on the upper levels, and I just hoped there was no more fun waiting for me.

I now had four squads of soldiers ready to go, and as a result of my bribes my fortress had been turned into a barony.  It was going well.  I figured it was time to give the goblins back some of the goodness they’d given to me.

My boss phoned, he sounded worried about me.  I explained to him that I was attacking the nearest goblin nest and that I was starting a new project to get a waterfall.  See the dwarves like waterfalls, and while they had clothes and bedrooms and whatnot, some of them were still getting annoyed.

He expressed some surprise about my choice of task cascades and said something about me not getting paid.  But I had three jewellers’ workshops cutting and polishing gems, so I knew I’d have plenty when the next caravan arrived.

The fortress had been humming along, one of the few times when there wasn’t much to do, when I realised the house had been quiet for a bit.  The note by my cold dinner said something about taking the kids and going to stay with her sister.  

At this point one of my missions had wiped out a goblin nest and my fortress had a new holding.  But I’d made a mistake and sent too many good squads… and my fortress was attacked and virtually wiped out before I managed to force them off.

I cried.


After a couple of days I began to feel as hungry as my dwarves when I forgot to gather food for them.  I looked at the dirty plate next to my desk and saw the note.

I stumbled away from the desk, had a shower and fell into bed.


I kept trying to find the earlier save in my life before I started playing Dwarf Fortress, but I wasn’t able to find it.  I realised I’d have to play this one forward.


My wife wouldn’t speak to me.  I couldn’t send a squad as an ambassador.  I did speak to my boss.  He chalked it down to stress and blamed himself for loading me up with too much work to try and get me promoted.  I had to agree to go back to a more normal work pattern, but he did say I could work from home on Fridays, which would give me lunch times for the dwarves, and avoided one commute a week.


My fortress became the Mountainhome, which was great, it basically meant it was the best fortress in this instance of the game, and the King and Queen had come to live with me.  The downside was that I had had to build them some really shiny quarters which was a pain in the butt.

I was speaking to my uber eats delivery woman more than my wife, which she thought was wrong.  The delivery woman that is, I had no idea what my wife thought as she wasn’t talking to me directly, and the letters from the lawyers all made me out to be some kind of psycho.


My son came to visit.  He let me show him the Mountainhome before insisting that I leave the dwarves alone.

He gave me a bit of a bollocking.  OK, a lot of a bollocking.

Basically I had to choose, the dwarves or my family.


You know, there was a good patch there.  But then those **** goblins came again, and a demon attacked at the same time.  The dwarves got wiped out.  I went back.  The dwarves started complaining a lot.  Then some started turning up dead.  A vampire, but where?  Then another bloody demon.

Again and again I had to restart, and the dwarves, you know what, they’re total gits.  They didn’t appreciate what I did for them.


It’d been a week since I had looked at the game.  It was hard.  I couldn’t drink, because if I did I’d wake up in front of the computer.


I had a conversation with my wife.  It was difficult.  She had called me some names.  Said it had been bad enough when I was drifting, but this Dwarf blah blah was the final straw.  I had promised her I was clean, and would never go back.


That’s my story.

I went to my Dwarves Anonymous meeting today.  That’s a year clean.  I see the kids every other week, and my wife, sorry ex-wife even smiled at me last week.  I miss them.  The dwarves I mean.  I miss them every day, but I can’t go back.


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Coffee Match

This is another using a similar theme to Coffee.  I’ve meant to come back to it, but reading it again I think it still works nicely.


Coffee Match

“Latte: I’m so boring. No muffins or pastries, thanks. Take away: Late as ever, no time to hang around here. Benito: today’s name, based on famous dictators, it’s not like they ever remember my real name.”

“Mocha: I need the chocolate hit, and yes to the cream: of course. Ooh, who’s that nice looking guy waiting for his drink? Oh, my name, it is Joan: not that you’ll get it right. I’ll be Joanne, or Jo, or even Jon that one time. Where did he go?


“Latte: one day I’ll order something interesting, I wonder what she drinks? I’m sure she was staring at me yesterday. Joseph: perhaps too subtle that one.

“Mocha, but skinny: I need to lose a bit of weight if there are going to be decent men coming in here, and yes, I think no cream either: as he’s definitely sneaking a few peaks at me. Jo: Does that sound more attractive?


“Latte: she was definitely looking at me. Actually, can I have that to stay: there’s hope she’ll be in soon. Where is she though? Oh name, um, Pol: no need to give me a funny look, I was distracted.

“Another latte: is she not coming in today? To stay: I’m already late, might as well wait another quarter hour. Mao: yep, didn’t notice the name change, and he only served me twenty minutes ago.

“Latte: boring, and, make it decaf: I’m buzzing from all this caffeine, take away: maybe I can recover some of the morning, wait there she is, I’ll try a smile when she gets to the waiting area. Didn’t ask my name that time, I wonder which one he’ll go for.

“Skinny: yes still, have you seen the weight I’m carrying, mocha: I need chocolate more than ever this morning, with an extra shot: I shouldn’t have stayed up late watching that box set, but it was soo good, and I really wanted to know the ending, and I couldn’t believe she actually did that, wait is he smiling at me? Jon: oh right, not even a double take, thanks so much.


“Mocha: mmm chocolate and soya milk: Caroline, yoga guru and all round wonder woman, said it was much healthier than even skinny milk and it would help me lose weight. Where is he today? I was hoping he might actually say something. Can’t hang around too long today, I have to get to that meeting with, hmm, what is her name?

“Latte: boring, but extra shot: I saw she had one, and to be honest today I need the extra jolt, that fifth pint last night might have been an issue, and make it a grande: I’ll need something to keep me going through the morning, especially as I must have missed her already. A blueberry muffin too please: it might help my stomach settle. Bashar: Nice pause there, shows they aren’t true robots yet.


“Decaf: I don’t know what happened yesterday but that extra shot made my heart palpitate and gave me an even worse headache, I might lay off the caffeine for a while, latte: still want the milk though. I think I heard her buy soya yesterday, that’s a bit new age for me. Still, she is lovely. Name is Daffy: crossover to cartoon characters today. I’m sure she told the barista her name was John, which seems strange.

“Skinny: definitely don’t want that soya stuff again it was so horrible I do not know what Caroline was thinking, I barely managed half my drink yesterday, mocha: sticking with chocolate, hope the soya hasn’t ruined it for me. At least he’s here today. Maybe he’ll say something. I wish he’d stop changing his name every day, it’s really not that funny.


“Latte: boring I know, and not decaf but I need a little pick me up; caffeinated Dutch courage. Oh, and a skinny: not that I think she needs it, mocha: this is it, hopefully she’ll go for it and not think I’m some kind of creepy stalker. My name? Oh, it’s James: yes, really.


“Skinny: still need to keep my figure, mocha: does a girl need to explain? And a latte: I told him it was boring, but he certainly isn’t, it was so nice that he finally got the courage to speak to me. What an amazing date, I feel like I’m walking on air. Maybe I should get a muffin? No, don’t want to scare him off. He should be here soon. John: I’ll stick with that as it seemed to amuse him so much.

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‘Feedback’ shortlisted

The nice people at selected ‘Feedback’ for the shortlist for their ‘No. 12 Short Story Writing Competition‘  (You’ll need to scroll to the bottom to see the shortlist).  It didn’t win, but it’s very nice to be recognised.  Here is the story:


Firemen today rescued a cat which had been stuck up an oak tree in a public park in Farnham, Surrey, for at least nine hours.  Mrs Kathleen Timkins, the cat’s owner, was distraught.

“Poor Tiddles was up there for so long.  I called the firemen, but they’re so understaffed these days, what with everything that’s going on.  I’m just so glad they could come and get him.”

Fire Chief Patton said, “We’re just glad to have been able to have help with this.  If we had more resources we’d have been able to get to Tiddles much earlier.”

A council spokesman commented that there were plans to have the lower branches of the trees cut off in the Summer to reduce the likelihood of similar issues.

Tiddles only comment was some purring as Mrs Timkins stroked him.

Report by Tracy Gared


Comment Feed (Chronological Order):

1 – Treehouse

Is this really the basis of modern journalism?  A cat in a tree.  How much money was spent saving this damned cat.


2 – MuttsNuts

Somun shouldve shot horrid little thing.  Would’ve saved everyun time.

<This comment is being reviewed for offensive content>


3 – PussyGalore

I like cats.  What is an outrage is just how short-staffed the fire service is.  When I was younger a cat wouldn’t have to wait for more than a couple of hours for rescue.


4 – SocialistWorker

It’s this bloody government.  Always cutting.  They don’t care about us.  I bet if it had been a Tory cat it would have been saved in minutes.


6 – PurplePasty

So nice of the BBC to finally allow us to comment on something real.  I’m assuming the propaganda police let this one through.

7 – ToryBoy


You’re clearly an idiot.  Farnham is a proper Conservative area.  The real problem is that all our taxes are going on paying for scroungers like you, who seem to have lots of time to comment on BBC articles.


9 – TheTruthIsOutThere

what this report fails to mention is how tiddles got into the tree this is cleerly the work of aliens some form of sinister plot


12 – AverageTaxpayer

Classic BBC bias.  When are you going to report fairly and accurately on these kinds of stories and not whitewash them!


15 – SocialistWorker

@ToryBoy I have a job, a shift job, which I’m about to start.  I bet you’re one of those City types who only does a couple of hours before heading off to lunch or the strip club.  Probably commented on your post using your smartphone, while quaffing Champagne.

@AverageTaxpayer amen to that brother.


17 – LittleEngland

When are we going to get a vote on independence from Europe?  Now that we’ve ditched the Scots, let’s get rid of the real millstone around our necks, those damned bureaucrats in Brussels.


18 – CatGuardianFarnham

This is AN APPEAL TO RAISE MONEY TO BUY CAT RESCUE.  Please see our website here.  Remember, we get no money from the government, so are totally reliant on your donations.  From just £3 a month you can make sure that no cat will have to suffer like Tiddles ever again.

21 – ToryBoy

@SocialistWorker I’m a shift worker too, and not in the City, so don’t force your ridiculous left wing sterotypes on me.

@TheTruthIsOutThere stop smoking whatever it is you’re smoking.

@AverageTaxpayer did you even read the article?


27 – SocialistWorker

@ToryBoy doesn’t matter, it’s still government cuts which created this mess.

@LittleEngland I’m sure you read one of those so-called newspapers which constantly tell you that Europe is the cause of all our problems.  Maybe you should do a little research before parroting such ignorant views.


28 – ToryBoy

@SocialistWorker only because they’re dealing with the mess left by your lot.  If they hadn’t overspent so much!

@CatGuardianFarnham I’ve signed up.


29 – SocialistWorker

@ToryBoy they were just making up for the chronic underinvestment from the last time your lot were in power.  All you care about is making the rich richer, and damn the rest of us.

And giving £3 a month to save poor little Tiddles doesn’t absolve you of anything.

@CatGuardianFarnham I give money to the national CatGuardians, so hopefully some of that comes to you guys.


30 – ToryBoy

@SocialisWorker as much as I’d like to point out the fallacy of your comment, there is something else I’d like to mention.  Have you noticed we’re the only ones left on this thread?  I’ve looked and I can’t find any active thread anywhere else.


31 – SocialistWorker

@ToryBoy I assumed you were just using classic divide and rule tactics instead of arguing with me.  But I think you’re right.  Everything else seems to have just stopped.  My twitter feed is dead too.


32 – ToryBoy

@SocialistWorker I think it might be related to this: the last update seems to imply that it would hit Europe if it landed.  If it did hit, that would be an extinction event on the order of the one which wiped out the dinosaurs.


33 – SocialistWorker

@ToryBoy don’t be ridiculous.  If that had happened then the website would be down.


34 – ToryBoy

@SocialistWorker we’re probably looking at a mirror site somewhere else, probably a local repeater.  I’m guessing you’re not in England.  I’ve tried phoning people.  Nothing.  Try it.


35 – SocialistWorker

@ToryBoy you’re right,  I can’t get hold of anyone.   I’m actually in Antarctica.


36 – ToryBoy

@SocialistWorker ditto.


37- SocialistWorker

Tom?  Seriously.


38 – ToryBoy

Yes.  Lucy I assume.  Want to get drunk?


39 – SocialistWorker

Well, I did say I’d only have a drink with you if you were the last person on Earth… so I guess, yes.


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I’ve been trying to explore different ways of telling stories.  This was my first attempt as using coffee ordering.  The aim was to write a 500 word piece of flash fiction just in coffee orders.  I’m relatively happy with it, and might well come back to the technique.



By Jason Gibbs

“Can I have a tall, by which I mean medium, skinny: you see not only am I trying to lose weight, but also it turns out I’m slightly lactose intolerant, and actually since I started having skinny I have far fewer stomach cramps, though in all honesty I’d prefer it if you had goats milk, decaf: a few years ago I gave up caffeine for a couple of weeks as a test to see what it did, and I had two weeks of headaches and feeling like I had a fever so I haven’t touched the stuff since, in fact I think I’ve been caffeine free for over three years now, except once when someone accidentally gave me a cup and my heart started racing and I started feeling paranoid, really, it was horrible, never again, it’s evil I tell you, latte: yes I know it’s a weird Americanised version of an Italian drink which is only really had at breakfast in Italy and even then is considered more for kids, it has milk in it after all, but I like it, though I’m starting to wonder if I should have a white Americano, because I think it’s the espresso I like and not the milk, and what with the intolerance thing, and the lack of goat’s milk, I wonder if that would be more sensible, but in all honesty I’ve ordered this so many times I’m not sure I could really change.

“Anything else.”

“Yes, could I have a grande: what we used to call large, it’s for my boss who’s too damn lazy to buy his own coffee and thinks he’s a big man, both in size and organisationally so should have a big coffee, soya: after he heard about my lactose intolerance he had his checked and it was apparently much worse, so he has soya even though it churns his stomach, mocha: because he can’t admit he doesn’t actually like coffee, with an extra shot: as he thinks that makes him seem more macho, or possibly because he heard his boss get an extra shot once and thinks it’ll help in his campaign to get to the top.  Oh, and also extra hot: I’m not sure he knows what this means, but he asks for it, in a kind of, look at me I’m hot aren’t I kind of way, and his secretary rolls her eyes.”

“Cream on the mocha?”

“Yes, obviously, the guy isn’t actually lactose intolerant, and he hates the soya, so he always says yes to the cream and then pretends he only has a bit.  They used to ask about sugar too, but I don’t think even they would agree to add the seven teaspoons he has to have to stomach the stuff.  I suggested he have tea once and he nearly ripped my head off.”

“A tall, skinny, decaf latte and an extra hot grande soya mocha with an extra shot?  Can I have your name?”



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Filed under Different storytelling, Flash Fiction