You shouldn’t wait for inspiration. Sometimes, you have to force it to come. And sometimes, you have to go out and search for it. I made one post about my top five generators in this post, but there is one major generator that didn’t make the list. Mostly because it’s not just a generator, but also a video game (two great things rolled into one!).
Dwarf Fortress is a fantasy simulator where you help a colony of dwarves build a fortress. Sounds simple enough, but it’s actually pretty complicated! One of those “gotta have the wiki open while you play” games. Don’t let that scare you though! It’s really easy to learn if you take the time to do it. And depending on what you need, you might never have to actually play the game. Lemme go down the three modes it has and how each can help you.
The mode that it’s known for. This is where you aid your dwarves in building a fortress. You have complete freedom in how you build it. The traditional way is to dig and mine underground and go from there. But you can also build towers, bridges, moats, a town, treehouses, whatever you want! Just make sure you have food and water (and alcohol) for your dwarves and that you can protect them from oncoming threats.
How can this help?
You can simulate a certain town you have in mind! It might take a while to build up, but maybe it can add something to your town’s history. It can also help you decide how many people are in your town, birth rates, death rates, any possible wars, etc. And if you end up getting overrun by zombie goblins, well, you know how your town ends!
The Skyrim/Dungeons and Dragons portion of the game. Here, you create a character and just go have an adventure. Whatever adventure you want. For example, you could kill the titan that’s been terrorizing your home town. Maybe end the great war that’s been going on for decades. How about starting a musical troupe with a bunch of drunken dwarves? Be warned that this mode is difficult and it’s not uncommon to have an early death.
How can this help?
Do you want to help develop the journey and adventures of a certain character? Then this is the mode for you! Just create that character and see what happens. Maybe not much happens except that they kill some great crocodile. Well, add that to your story! Have your character kill some great creature during their travels.
And if your character dies? Well, you could, of course, kill them in your novel. Or don’t. If it doesn’t fit your story, you don’t have to add it. And if you need more adventures, there’s nothing stopping you from making a copy of your character in the game.
This is my favorite part of the game and the whole reason I decided to write this post. Legends mode is where all history of your simulated world is recorded. All of it. From the smallest of nobodies to the greatest of heroes. All religious gods and goddesses. All cities and fortresses and their wars. Getting lost in the info isn’t a hard thing to do.
How can this help?
You probably already know where I’m going with this. Simply create your fantasy world and BAM! There’s your history. All of it done, just like that. Need a lost artifact? Here’s a special cup with info of its creator and how it ended up getting lost in the ruins. Need a great war? The elves and dwarves have been battling for fifty years—here’s all their battles, great heroes, cities destroyed, etc. Want history of a town? Here’s one with the year it started, the celebrations it has had, the battles that happened in it, the artifacts that were created. Seriously, this mode is a fantasy writer’s life saver.
And there you go! I used Dwarf Fortress countless times for different fantasy/supernatural stories, so hopefully, it can help you just the same! You can nab the Dwarf Fortress starter pack here (yes, it’s free), and here are some tutorials to help you get started. Feel free to share with me some DF stories below!