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This article is about the current version of DF.

Trading in Dwarf Fortress first occurs in the first autumn after establishing your fortress, with the arrival of the dwarven caravan. Trading is a good way to acquire resources that aren't readily available in the local area. It also allows for more freedom in selecting starting gear and skills at embark, since neglected items can be obtained through trade later.

Trader is the term used at your trade depot to refer to your fortress representative when dealing with merchants in a visiting caravan (r - "Trader requested at Depot"). As a profession, the term applies to visiting merchants and dwarves whose highest skill is Appraiser.

Trade depot[edit]

Main article: Trade depot

Building a trade depot is a prerequisite for trade with caravans that arrive at your fortress.

While it may be convenient to build a depot outside at first, it is usually a good idea to move it inside or secure it with walls, bridges and other fortifications to protect caravans and your goods from thirsty animals, thieves and goblins.

Everything that is on your map belongs to you, except:

  • the items that are on merchants' animals and wagons
  • the items that are in the trade depot (they belong to the caravan until they are moved out of it)
  • items worn by non-fortress units (initially forbidden, but can be claimed via unforbidding and dumping them)

Trading flowchart[edit]

Suggested trading procedure
Arrive at fortress location
Create goods Build Trade Depot
Check depot is accessible
Wait for caravan
Set goods to be traded Wait for caravan to arrive at depot and merchants to finish unloading Wait for the diplomat (if any) to reach your leader
Wait for goods to be hauled Turn your leader's labors off so he doesn't get distracted
Conduct meetings with the diplomat
Request trader at Depot
Turn your trader's labors off so he doesn't get distracted
Turn trader's and leader's labors back on
Retrieve bins from Depot to reuse

Trader to depot[edit]

Before you can begin trading, your fortress's representative trader must be at the trade depot. Select the trade depot with q and then request the trader. Be sure that b reads "Only broker may trade" if you want your broker to represent your fortress. If it reads "Anyone can trade", a random, probably unskilled dwarf will volunteer to conduct the trade. Pressing b will toggle this setting. Once your trader has arrived, select the depot again with q and enter the trade menu. In the trade menu select the items to offer from the right and the desired items from the left. All caravans have a weight limit which cannot be exceeded, and the allowed additional weight is displayed in the lower right corner. If your broker (specifically, not necessarily your trader) has at least Novice or better Appraisal skill, the value of all items will be displayed. Once the proposal is ready, press t to propose the trade, but merchants will not agree unless they make adequate profit. Be sure to use trade, not offer o, as this will make a gift of the selected items. The amount of acceptable profit is determined by the trader's skills and the merchant's mood, described below. Merchants may attempt to propose counteroffers if they do not accept the proposal, which can then be accepted, rejected, or further amended by the trader.

With more experienced traders and pleased merchants, even marginally profitable trades can be successful, and counterproposals can be rejected safely, offering the same trade again. Note however that a low profit margin for the traders may not be desirable - it has been suggested that both export and profit numbers influence the size of next year's caravan and, in the case of the dwarven caravan, immigration numbers.Verify

Goods brought by caravans rarely have base quality higher than superior, and decorations on a good rarely exceed superior as well.

Trading cue colors[edit]

  • Brown Items have been created (or modified) by your fortress. They can be traded away or offered as a gift.
  • Gray Items were created by another source. They can be traded, but if one of these items has been selected, the entire selection cannot be offered as a gift.
  • Purple Items are under a no-export mandate. If they are traded away it will result in disciplinary action (see justice) against the dwarf that brought the item to the depot.
  • Green Items have just been gifted to the caravan and they will not trade it back.
  • Red Items have been seized from another caravan and cannot be traded as is; you will need to decorate them or turn them into other items for them to become "valid" trading items.

Note that containers (barrels, bins, etc.) will be displayed according to the origin of the container, not the contents. So a foreign barrel holding locally-produced beer will display as foreign (white). Once you view the container, the locally-made contents are displayed as local (brown).

Merchant mood[edit]

If your trader has Novice or better Judge of intent skill, there will be a line added below the merchant's dialogue describing the caravan's attitude. Their attitude rises with successful trades (especially if they get lots of profit) and falls when you propose deals they don't like. You can never make a deal that's at a loss for the merchant, even if they are at the highest possible mood.

  • (trader) seems ecstatic with the trading.
  • (trader) seems very happy about the trading.
  • (trader) seems pleased with the trading.
  • (trader) seems willing to trade.
  • (trader) seems to be rapidly losing patience.
  • (trader) is not going to take much more of this.
  • (trader) is unwilling to trade.

The happier you make a merchant, the less profit margin he will demand in a trade. If merchants reach the lowest level, no further trade will be possible, and they will immediately pack up and leave your depot. Since annoyed traders are more likely to reject deals, you should be generous in initial negotiations. Skilled negotiators seem less likely to offend traders with unsuccessful deals.

An easy way to capitalize on this mood system is to perform several partial trades. First trade for a few items, offering goods twice the value of the items you ask for (e.g. offer 2000☼ for 1000☼ of his stuff). This will likely make the merchant ecstatic about trading with you. Perform the next trades with a vengeance. With the merchant in such a good mood, he is more likely to counteroffer than reject a trade outright.

Seizing items[edit]

Pressing s from the trade menu will seize the selected items of the merchant's. If you seize goods from a caravan, the merchant will respond "Take what you want. I can't stop you." and then leave immediately without the seized goods. Items cannot be seized from the dwarven caravan, and other races will not buy goods stolen from one of their caravans (then marked in red) unless they are tricked into asking for them via counteroffer, or the items are "laundered" by decoration or used to create other goods. Seizing goods will hurt diplomatic relations, but is not grounds for an automatic siege.

Pressing the seize button while no goods are selected will result in the merchant interpreting your seizure as a joke. This apparently does nothing to benefit or hinder your trading.

As a side note, if you deconstruct your trade depot with a caravan in it, all the caravan's items will drop to the ground, to be readily hauled away by your dwarves. This does not mark the items as stolen, and the caravan will leave. However, next year's caravan is partly based on the profits from the previous year - so if you are relying on that race's caravans for needed items, you're hurting yourself in the long run.

Another way to steal without marking as stolen is to forbid the trade depot just before they leave, causing them to leave their goods at the depot.

If you're using the search plugin for DFHack (e.g. from the Lazy Newb Pack), be warned that s means "seize" and NOT "search", and there is no warning for it. Use q to search the merchant's goods and w to search yours.

Note that the civilization attached to a particular caravan will keep track of the value of items the caravan was carrying when they set out to trade, and they will compare this value with the value of items they return home with. Regardless of what method you use to confiscate items from a caravan, even if you came to possess the goods through no fault of your own (an ambush killed the traders and guards, for example) the parent civilization may decide that you stole from them and send a siege instead of a caravan the following year. It is prudent to take measures to protect caravans visiting your lands!

Offering items[edit]

o You can also give away items, as gifts to the leaders of the civilization you are trading with. This presumably helps relations between yourself and the other faction, though there is not yet a clear correlation between the value of the offerings and the improvement to relations. The exact effects of offerings on trading are unknown but it is believed due to the offerings' net trade value being counted towards the traders' profit, possibly with a modifier (possibly a multiplier of more than 1 as a bonus or less than 1 to compensate for the improved relations)Verify, which in turn increases the quantity and variety of trade goods brought by next year's caravan. Also the Monarch requires offerings to be made before their arrival. You cannot offer items that were not made at your fortress; the traders do not want your spare Goblinite clothes.

The value of an offering for the purpose of becoming the capital is adjusted by your current export agreement.

Unless you are looking for fun, under no conditions should you offer or trade items which are wooden or used wood in their creation (clear glass, for example) to elves, as this will insult the traders, and may cause them to leave or even damage relations enough to provoke a war between you and the elven civilization you traded with. They will accept their own "grown wood" items in trade without insult, however.

Miscellaneous trading advice[edit]

  • Thieves and thieving critters tend to follow caravans. Expect assaults and intruders.
  • Create your trading depot inside your fort, preferably in the beginning. Place a 3-tile wide path (which must be free of obstructions such as stairways, traps, minecart tracks and boulders) to the entrance of the fort and position war dogs along it (chains do not block wagons); this will help to protect the traders and keep the depot close to your supplies.
  • Avoid having multiple wagon paths to your depot. Caravan wagons cannot move through each other, and if two wagons happen to meet at a fork they may become gridlocked against each other, resulting in the destruction of wagons and loss of trade opportunities.
  • All caravans will bring extra food (meat and edible plants), wooden logs, and cloth/leather (for making clothes) if the supplies of your fortress are low enough, independent of whether or not you requested them. This does not apply in the case that the weight limit is exceeded by (other) items you requested. The supply situation, as observed by traders, is based solely on the number of unforbidden items in your fortress, stockpiled or not; thus, it is possible to trick caravans into thinking your supplies are low by forbidding all of your relevant stocks immediately prior to their arrival.
    • In order to avoid this behavior, you should make sure that, for each dwarf in your fortress, you have the following unforbidden items:
      • 5 pieces of food - meat, fish, plants, or "other" in your Status screen (even though "other" includes inedible items)
      • 1 wood log
      • 5 pieces of cloth, pieces of leather, or complete sets of pristine clothing (shirt+pants+shoe)
  • Define your trade depot as a burrow. When traders arrive, you can add your broker or another dwarf, perhaps one you want to train in trading, to the burrow. They will head to the depot immediately, and stay there until you remove them from the burrow.
  • Each trade you make (regardless of value) will increase your trader's skills by 50, distributed among Comedian, Flatterer, Intimidator, Judge of Intent, Negotiator, and Persuader. Each skill seems to gain around 5-15 experience points, but the sum will always be 50. The skill gain occurs as soon as the "t" button is pressed - if the offer is rejected, the dwarf will still gain 50 points. If the same offer is subsequently accepted, no additional skill will be gained.
  • Selecting "only broker may trade" ensures that you will start negotiations with a decently-skilled trader, but also requires a significant wait while your broker makes his way to the depot. Selecting "anyone can trade" will result in a poorly-trained trader arriving immediately. Once your fortress is producing enough goods to buy out the caravan, waiting for your broker is unnecessary; allowing your commoners to trade spreads out the trading skill gains and eliminates the micromanagement of trying to get your broker to the depot in a timely manner.


Each friendly race will send a caravan per year, linked to one season, which is autumn for dwarves, summer for humans, and spring for elves. If your fortress was founded in spring, it is likely that only a dwarven caravan will arrive the first year. Caravans will only show up if that race considers the fortress site accessible (as denoted on the embark screen) and "worth the effort" (as determined by the [PROGRESS_TRIGGER_*] tokens in the entity definition), with the exception of dwarves, who always arrive unless they are extinct. Caravans appear to enter the map from a random direction which does not coincide with the relative direction of the originating civilization, and they may appear from different directions and z-levels each year. However, they will always arrive at a location with a wagon-navigable path to the Trade Depot when one is available (though site-bisecting features like rivers might limit them to appear on a specific side). Caravans may leave without trading if it takes too long to reach the trade depot, or if they become spooked by wildlife or corpses. Caravans will embark on their journey back exactly one month after their arrival, whether they have succeeded in reaching the depot or not.

Note that if traders or their animals are prevented from leaving, they will eventually go insane.

Also worth mention is the pathing behavior of the entire caravan. If one member of the caravan reaches an obstacle in their chosen path (i.e. a raised drawbridge that was lowered when they entered the map) the entire caravan will re-path, instead of encountering the obstacle one by one. This behavior can be useful when attempting to free "stuck" wagons--a trader on foot encountering a locked door will cause the stuck wagons to turn around and path to a different exit, if available.


"Greetings from the mountainhome. Your efforts are legend there. Let us trade!"
"Greetings from the outer lands. Your efforts are legend there. Let us trade!" (If your fort is the mountainhome.)

The dwarven caravan:

  • arrives in autumn.
  • carries metal bars, leather, weapons and armor, food and booze, and more. Dwarves alone may bring steel and steel goods. They can still bring steel (and steel goods) and pig iron bars even if they do not have access to iron, but will not bring iron products.
  • usually carries a selection of books that your civilization has access to. This can include books written in previous forts of yours within the same civilization.
  • is heavily guarded.
  • sends a liaison who will speak with the Expedition leader, Mayor, Baron, Count, or Duke to negotiate an import-export agreement (unless the Monarch is present).
  • influences the number of immigrants received (if the caravan leaves intact).
  • will not cause sieges when repeatedly destroyed or lost.
  • is the only caravan to arrive during a fortress' first year.
  • always arrives regardless of embark location unless the dwarven civilization is extinct.
  • cannot have its goods seized from the trade menu.
  • may not arrive if your civilization lacks any notable figures.
  • cannot be offered goods if the monarch is present.


A typical elven caravan.
"Greetings. We are enchanted by your more ethical works. We've come to trade."

The elven caravan:

  • arrives in the spring.
  • carries cloth, ropes, various above-ground seeds, plants and their byproducts, logs, wooden goods & weapons, clothing and armor, and may carry tame exotic creatures.
  • is unguarded.
  • does not accept some items in trade: Elven traders do not like to be offered any tree byproducts unless they are "grown", which only elves can produce.

Forbidden (dwarf-made) items include:

Offering or trading forbidden items will cause the mood of the trader to drop rapidly, causing them to refuse to trade any more that season and leave immediately. Additionally you will be called uncouth, crude, and barbaric for not understanding their customs.

However, stone and metal items, even when charcoal is used in production, are acceptable (since the elves are unfamiliar with metalworking, and do not know that charcoal is used to make metal items). Items made from silk are acceptable, as are all non-wooden plant-derived products such as cloth and thread. Items made of bone (totems too), horn, shell or leather are acceptable, so are meat and fish. You can also transport your goods to the trade depot in a wooden bin, as long as you do not try to sell the bin. Living animals are acceptable, as long as the cage or trap is not made of wood.

Be especially careful with reselling decorated items from other caravans, as non-wood/glass items may have decorations of wood or clear/crystal glass. Note that items elven caravans sell can be resold to them, as the elves know that they were made in an elf-kosher way.

Because they do not utilize wagons, elven caravans have a much smaller weight limit than dwarven and human ones, making trading heavy items like furniture problematic.

"Once a beautiful tree, and now? It is a rude bauble, fit only for your kind."


"Greetings. The craftsdwarfship of the dwarves is unparalleled. Let's make a deal!"

The human caravan:

  • arrives in summer.
  • carries metal bars, sand, leather, cloth, wood, food and booze, books, ropes, waterskins, quivers, backpacks, metal weapons and clothing and armor, cages and a few domestic animals.
  • carries only large-sized clothing and armor, which is unusable by dwarves.
  • is moderately guarded.
MOD This page includes mods. The content is not part of normal DF as released. Changing game files can sometimes cause unexpected results, and should always be done with care and caution.

Goblins and Kobolds[edit]

A goblin caravan will only arrive if you mod the game, primarily because their entity lacks the entity tokens needed to make use of pack animals and wagons. That, and the token [BABYSNATCHER] makes them hostile to all non-goblin civilizations. These same caveats apply to kobolds (whose [UTTERANCES] and [ITEM_THIEF] tags make them hostile to every civilization).

The goblin caravan:

  • will arrive every season, four times per year
  • unguarded
  • brings mostly food and cloth
  • does not send a liaison or a guild representative
  • does not make import/export agreements

Modded civilizations[edit]

If you add additional civilizations to the game, they may also send caravans to you.

The following entity tokens affect the appearance of the caravans:


Outpost liaisons (from your own civilization) and foreign Merchant Nobles (if added with the TRADE responsibility) will arrive with the caravan to speak to your noble dwarves (and they will speak to those dwarves, even if they have to wait at their bedside in the hospital for months after the caravan has left), appearing on the map edge at the same time as the caravan (though in a different location). Meeting with them allows you to request specific items for the next caravan to bring (at a premium price) or take requests for production for the next caravan (for which the merchants will pay a premium).

Current trade agreements can be viewed through the Civilization menu (c). These trade agreements are cleared when a liaison of the corresponding civilization enters the screen, so they are generally not accessible after the caravan has arrived.

In the event that your leader is replaced, killed, or taken by a strange mood, the liaison may decide to leave your fortress "unhappy".Bug:576 Curiously, this will not occur if your leader is otherwise unable to perform the "conduct meeting" task. You can currently lock a liaison in a room and he will wait years to attend the meeting your noble is constantly conducting (and all subsequent diplomats appear to wait in line for the first to finish); this behavior is presumably a bug.Bug:8947

Whether having successfully met with your leader or given up, a liaison who has decided to leave but is prevented from reaching the map edge will eventually go insane.


If caravans are destroyed (intentionally or unintentionally), the items may remain for use. Traders caught in a cave-in will flee as if they were attacked, but will leave all the items dropped by the caravan behind. Pack animals carrying items are affected just like a normal tamed mule and must be killed in the cave-in for them to drop items on the ground. It is however much more likely that the pack animals will only be stunned or rendered unconscious, and flee shortly after recovering from the hit.

While caravans can defend themselves, they don't like being ambushed. If a caravan becomes terrified by wildlife or horrified by corpses it will turn around and flee the map. Any event resulting in the death of any merchant or pack animal will also cause them to retreat and forget about trading with you for the season. Repeated caravan destruction (intentional or unintentional) will strain diplomatic relations and may result in a siege.

Ambushing or seizing a caravan and letting a survivor escape seems to have a more detrimental effect than simply annihilating the whole caravan. (Presumably because you've left a witness to report what happened.)

Caravan Delay[edit]

If a caravan has arrived at your trade depot and is unable to leave for about two months after they finished packing up their goods, the merchants and animals will go insane. This can result in a bunch of merchants attacking your dwarves, or just standing around moping until they starve to death. It is not known for certain if this hurts diplomatic relations, but most likely it's the same as any case where the entire caravan fails to return home.

If you have locked the caravan into your fortress to hold out against a siege, it's a good idea to station a squad of soldiers near the trade depot in case the merchants go berserk. You may also want to make the depot a restricted area to encourage civilians to go around it. Alternatively, you can design the trade depot using drawbridges, so that it can be sealed off from the rest of the fortress during a siege.

If you want the merchants to leave safely, you can build four or more tunnels to each corner of the map, connected to your fortress only by drawbridges. As long as there is no other way to enter and exit your fortress, invaders and merchants will both go towards any tunnel that you activate. You can lock the merchants into the trade depot, and then open a tunnel entrance on one side of the map to make the invaders head towards that tunnel. When they get close to it, you can close it, and then open the entrance on the other side of the map, and let the traders out of the depot. If your fortress and depot are in the middle of the map, this will give the traders quite a head-start to get away.

Merchants can leave the map from any map edge-- including underground and aboveground map edges. If an unobstructed path through your fortress reaches a cavern edge, then blocking all overland paths will cause the merchants to depart underground. This can be useful, if you're suffering a prolonged siege; it can also be dangerous, if your underground regions are less secure than your surface. While it requires more preparation, an elevated bridge to a map edge can also allow traders to depart in peace.

Caravan guards cannot be starved, dehydrated, or driven to insanity if prevented from leaving, their employers and animals can, however.

If a large amount of items is sold / offered to the caravan, it may take a while to load it all, especially if you chose to keep your precious bins and traded your items individually.


  • Caravans become terrified/horrified very easily, abandon their wagons, and flee. Bug:7185
  • Aggressive, untrainable creatures (captured goblins, for example) cannot be traded; when a dwarf attempts to move the caged animal to the Depot, the creature is set free.
  • Wagons can occasionally become "stuck" on other wagons, walls, etc. Stuck wagons eventually deconstruct, leaving their merchandise behind. Bug:5687
  • If a caravan attempts to leave in late Winter/early Spring, they may try to path over any large frozen body of water. If the water thaws while the caravan is on it, the caravan will become magically stuck in mid-air until either the water refreezes or a floor is built underneath it. At this point, if they are still alive, they will leave the map normally.
  • When merchants leave with an animal, the merchants seem to be dragging their beast of burden instead of leading it. If the animal is incapacitated but not dead, the merchant will continue to walk at the same speed, dragging the unconscious beast.
  • If a merchant's chosen map edge exit is guarded by a hostile creature (including those on a restraint), the merchant will wander back and forth repeatedly and eventually go insane rather than path to an alternate exit.
  • Animals bought from merchants don't always become available for use.Bug:10162

Loyalty cascade[edit]

Main article: Faction

If you order your military to kill merchants from your own civilization, a bizarre result of the way loyalty is handled makes the members of your military who attacked the traders become enemies of your civilization, but members of your fort's government (dwarves of this faction are referred to as separatists). As enemies, they attack your other dwarves (citizens), but as members of the fort, they still follow orders. Allowing citizen militia dwarves to attack the separatists will give them opposite loyalties of the separatists, (i.e. loyal to civ, not to fort), or loyalists, who do not follow orders. And then, if a separatist or loyalist kill a citizen, they become enemies of the civ and fort, making them Renegades, who are essentially complete enemies of the citizens.

To prevent the cascade from spreading, order the original separatists away from the fortress and let them fight amongst themselves. If the results are renegades, it is okay to allow other dwarves to kill them (by stationing them nearby). If the results are separatists/loyalists, then you will need to separate them somehow.


  • Deconstructing the Depot will cause merchants to leave your fortress and abandon any goods in the Depot because items are not available until the building is fully deconstructed. However any animals they had caged will still belong to the merchants and only become friendly, you won't actually own them. According to Toady One, this is actually working as intended, and is not really an exploit or bug: "...the reckoning comes when they return with lesser value, and it has the same negative effect (it'll be listed as a disaster rather than an intentional seizing -- the depot could be destroyed, for instance -- but it counts for the same value if I remember). The overall wording could be changed and the interaction could be deepened to recognize this or that, but it's working as intended."[1]
  • If you wait until the merchants leave the map, you can "claim" caged animals by linking a lever to the cage and opening it, the animals will be released in a tamed state. Check the unit screen before releasing them; if the creatures still show as Merchant creatures, they will wander off the map when released; if they show as Tame creatures, they will stay once released.
  • If you lock them in your fortress for a minute or two (real time), the merchants MAY drop items and leave behind pack animals (Both of which are yours for the taking!) Note: Results are not consistent.
"Trading" in other Languages Books-aj.svg aj ashton 01.svg
Dwarven: nish
Elvish: lathì
Goblin: otsmor
Human: batow