A game about a bunch of dwarves working in a mine might make you think about the Snow White song “Heigh-Ho,” and for good reason. The entire gameplay loop revolves around putting your population work. Without labor assignments, you simply won’t get anything done. Here’s a quick run-through of how to make sign your dwarves up for these all-important tasks.
Dwarf Fortress labor assignments, explained
There are many work details available on the labor menu (the hammer icon in the left row). These cover a wide range of tasks, all of which are important. Miners are the ones who dig into the earth, hunters go out and seek food for the group, plant gathers, pick berries when requested, and so on. Assigning these roles is easy: simply click the role you want to attach to a dwarf, then click their name. Each dwarf can have up to four work details, and it’s good to diversify everyone’s skills.
You’ll notice that many members of your group already have specialties, so they’ll be better suited for the associated task. That said, expanding their abilities is still a good thing. Don’t let your miners just mine and do nothing else because you want maximize the time when building.
Dwarf Fortress specialties, explained
You’ll also notice that certain dwarves have descriptions that aren’t necessarily one-to-one with work details on the labor menu. In these instances, they’re good choices for some of the more specialized work that comes with mid- and late-game tasks. For example, an expedition leader (marked above) is naturally suited to being a manager at one of your workshops. Likewise, a hunter can make for a good militia commander because they already understand some level of combat.
You’ll come across more and more of these as you continue playing, so be on the lookout for dwarves with additional knowledge in fields like medicine. Everyone should do basic labor, but not everyone should be promoted to the more specialized roles.