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Activity zones are areas in which dwarves are instructed to perform specific tasks, such as fishing, dumping objects, or collecting water. While activity zones are necessary for the performance of certain tasks, such as collecting sand, they can also be used to help to keep dwarves out of danger and greatly increase the efficiency of some of their hauling behavior.
Activity zones can be placed in any revealed tile, including in open space (over the chasm or a river, for instance), or on top of a building or stockpile. (If any tile is impassable or unreachable, however, that portion of the zone will go unused.) They are placed in the same manner as stockpiles, by designating a rectangular area using Enter from within the Zones menu (i).
The location of a zone is only visible while in the Zones menu, and any object lying on the ground will hide the presence of a zone tile. Buildings, stockpiles, constructions, and even rock walls will not obscure zone tiles, even though they may sometimes make them inaccessible.
Once an activity zone is created, tasks can be assigned to it by hovering over it with the cursor while in the Zones menu. When hovering over the activity zone, you may tap a to enable or disable the zone. Disabling a zone will not cancel any existing job that involves that zone, but no further jobs related to it will be created while it is disabled.
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Water source zones are areas in which dwarves will look for water to fill buckets, waterskins, or to drink. If there is no water source zone, dwarves may attempt to get water a great distance away from the fortress.
To define a water source, place a zone next to a constructed or natural murky pool, river, or channel full of fresh water. If the water is fresh, each ground tile within the zone adjacent to the water is considered a water source tile, and that number of water-tiles will be seen in the sub-menu - if you see none, that water is not fresh. Thus, if you want to place a single-tile zone to be used as a water source, place the zone onto a ground tile adjacent to the water, not onto the open space above the water. Water sources can also be placed over grates and floor bars, as well as directly on top of a brook.
This zone should not be used with wells - they are already their own type of water source.
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Fishing zones are areas in which dwarves will attempt to fish.
To define a fishing zone, place a zone over ground tiles adjacent to an ocean, murky pool, brook, stream, river, or lake. Fishing may also be done at artificially-created ponds. As with a water source, each ground tile that is adjacent to the natural water source is considered a fishing zone: drawing a single tile of fishing zone on top of the water will accomplish nothing unless it is on top of a brook tile or above a grate or floor bars.
If you do not designate fishing zone(s), any dwarves with the fishing labor enabled will still go off to in any fish-bearing body of water, although they may choose to fish in an area very distant from the fortress, which may also expose them to dangerous wildlife. Note that a fishing zone is required for dwarves ordered to "Catch live fish" from a Fishery - if no zones are present, they will simply stand around and do nothing.
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Garbage dump zones are areas in which dwarves will throw items specifically designated by using k then d for single items at a time, or d, b, d to designate a larger area to be dumped (or use the mouse to point and click). Garbage dumps are not the same as refuse stockpiles, which can be designated to accept any specific type(s) of refuse-type item, such as animal corpses or bones, and then are randomly filled by haulers as the items become available on the map.
- Only accept items that have been marked for dumping.
- Require dwarves to have refuse hauling labor enabled.
- Are subject to refuse orders (o: Set Orders and Options -> r: Refuse Orders). Most notably, dwarves will not dump items that are outside unless you allow them to (o->r->o).
To place a garbage dump, trace a zone on either a relatively empty plot of land or adjacent to a cliff face or hole. If a garbage zone is designated beside a cliff or hole (both natural or dwarf made) garbage will be thrown off/in the z-space. Each ground tile within that zone is considered a garbage dump tile; thus, if you want to place a single-tile zone, place the zone onto a ground tile (optionally adjacent to a cliff or pit), not onto an open space. Items dumped into a chasm or magma (provided they are not magma safe) will disappear permanently. Otherwise, any number of dumped items will fit even in a 1x1 square; this can be used for stone management.
Once items are dumped they are automatically marked as "forbidden" however they will not dump items that are also forbidden. If you wish to use dumped items, you need to reclaim them. Press k to view the item and f to toggle forbid status. You may also use the reclaim designation to reclaim simultaneously all of the items dumped by using d, b, c and tracing the designation over top of the objects.
Dumping can be used as an effective siege defense tactic in an entirely above-ground fortress, since ordering dwarves to stay inside will have no effect - when you get a siege, make a large dumping designation on those useless stones of yours then just reclaim them if you need them back.
If a garbage dump is located next to open space, dwarves will always stand on a garbage dump square when throwing into that open space, even if it could potentially be done more efficiently. If a garbage dump is located next to multiple tiles of open space, the seem to prefer the one farthest to the northwest. If a tile to the north and a tile to the west are the only tiles available, they will throw to the west. Since falling objects do not hurt dwarves, such garbage dumps can be a very efficient method of moving materials to the lower levels of your fortress.
Dwarves seem to throw dumped items in the nearest available garbage dump, although this is probably not reliable given that they don't always use the nearest available item to make things at workshops. If a nearer zone becomes available as they are traveling to a zone they will ignore it. Also, they seem to prefer dumps that allow them to throw things in to open space regardless of how far away they are.
Note that Dwarves will actually destroy cave spider silk webs instead of hauling it. Webs need to be gathered by a job generated at a loom using the weaving labor.
If a garbage dump zone is placed within a map feature (i.e. a chasm, bottomless pit, magma pool, magma pipe, underground pool, or underground river) and items are dumped into it, any inhabitants of that map feature will become angry and be more likely to attack your fortress.
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Pit zones are areas that dwarves can be instructed to fill with specific creatures. The zone will only ever be used if you specify an animal manually to be dumped into the pit. Be wary that merchant guards will attack dangerous creatures that are on their way to be pitted, regardless of the creature not being able to attack back. So wait for merchants to leave before pitting anything.
Pond zones are areas that dwarves can be told to fill with water, using buckets. If the zone is active, the dwarves will continue attempting to fill the pond until it reaches a 6/7 state.
To place a pit/pond zone, trace a zone directly over top of open space you wish to use as a pit or pond. Unlike most of the other activity zones, the ground tiles are not used to determine the zone: a single-tile pit/pond zone is placed on top of the open space, not on the ground tile adjacent to it.
After defining the zone, hover over the zone then use P to open a menu which allows you to toggle whether it is a pit or pond with the key f. You may also specify animals you would like to throw into the pit or pond by selecting them with + and - and hitting Enter; a + symbol denotes those animals which have been selected.
If you wish to fill a large pond faster, you may place multiple pond zones side by side, one for each tile of the pond accessible from the shore. Each individual zone will generate its own Fill Pond job. Likewise, you may define multiple pit zones side by side, and may thus toss several animals into the same pit simultaneously by specifying different animals for each pit zone.
It may also be advisable to disable the hauling of furniture from the Orders menu while filling a pond, as otherwise the buckets used to fill the pond will be immediately tasked for storage in a stockpile, resulting in numerous task cancellations.
It is possible to designate a pit/pond zone over a hole covered by a bridge or floor hatch; oddly, dwarves will still be able to drop monsters/water into the pit, despite the barrier present. This can be useful when pitting numerous dangerous creatures, as dwarves will otherwise cancel their tasks when they see the other hostile creatures already in the pit.
There is a small bug / glitch where dwarves pitting a hostile creature will cancel their task and run away after releasing the hostile from their cage. The only way to avoid this is to not stockpile / build cages that contain the creature you want to pit. Therefore, after capturing a creature with the cage trap, leave the cage where it is if you want to pit the captured creature.
To the above mentioned bug, there is also an alternative. You can build a cage and as it asks you to select a cage, press x to "expand" the list. This way it should show all the information of a cage - i.e. Kobold Cage (Pine). After placing the cage in your desired location, link a lever to the cage and pull it to release the creature. This is a good idea for a large "prisoner" battle.
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Sand collection zones are areas in which dwarves will search for sand when ordered to gather it. Sand is used for glassmaking. Unlike water source and fishing zones, dwarves won't find sand by themselves if you don't define a sand collection zone. To collect sand, build a glass furnace and queue up "collect sand" tasks at the building or using the manager screen.
Sand collection zones must be placed either on top of or adjacent to a floor tile containing any type of sand - (normal) sand, yellow sand, white sand, black sand, or red sand. Sandy clay, sandy loam, and the like are not sufficient. It's worth noting that sand collection zones can be placed on top of stockpiles or even farm plots.
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Meeting area zones are areas in which dwarves and animals will congregate, similar to meeting halls.
Additionally, immigrants will collect here until their "migrant" status wears off. It is a good idea to have at least one Meeting Area, of one form or another: it allows you to make off-duty dwarves and animals gather in an area where they are not vulnerable, such as within the fortress. Also, if you don't have a Meeting Area zone or other type of meeting hall, migrants which arrive will wait at the edge of the map until "migrant" wears off. A meeting area filled with idle dwarves rubbing shoulders quickly increases the social skills of idlers which may give them attribute boosts. It makes idle dwarves a little less idle, and makes selecting a replacement broker (if the old one dies) easier.
There are several ways to designate a meeting hall. The preferred method is to use an Activity zone; type i, set up a zone, and mark it both "active" and "meeting". Statue gardens and zoos are intrinsically meeting halls, as are rooms defined from a well. However, you can also create a Meeting Hall.
Because every dwarf will gather at the meeting hall every so often, it is an ideal place to site objects that give them happy thoughts. Interesting animals in cages perhaps designated as a zoo, a waterfall with mist, and high-quality statues and other objects can each improve the quality of life in your fortress. A meeting hall placed in a place with sunshine will ensure that dwarves do not become cave adapted. Your starting wagon will serve as a meeting hall until you establish an official one or it is disassembled.
Be warned that having dwarves socialize will result in them becoming friends. This is often considered negative due to the extreme happiness penalties implicit in having a friend die, and can make your fortress much more vulnerable to tantrum spirals.