In this post, I'm going to give a short overview of the game/simulator and available addons.
The first thing I ought to do is try to define what Dwarf Fortress is. It's a game, yeah sure. But it's also a simulator and a pretty powerful one at that. Most people start out generating a world. At this early point already, the program outdoes others by not simply generating a random map, but generating an entire history, mythology and applying things like continental drift, disasters, ... all by following the rules of physics.
Once you properly embark, you'll notice that each of your dwarves not only has basic behaviour, but deep psychological profiles which are critical to the succes of your endeavour.
To provide an example of the kind of depth it goes to: each limb and part of a creature (up to fingers and toes) has its own separate status and health bar.
I could go on and on but there's so much ridiculous detail that you should just experiment and find out yourself.
Dwarf fortress provides 2 game modes:
In fortress mode, you start with a few dwarves and you try to establish a colony (or not) that survives for as long as possible (or not) until Fun comes along.
Adventure mode places only a single dwarf under your control and has you travel around, kill monsters (or anything else) and other stuff.
-Set up a small working colony of dwarves
-Expand that colony until you're producing less basic stuff
-Challenge yourself by making intricate constructions or doing self-imposed challenges
Any player starting out (and playing) will acknowledge that dwarf fortress has a steep learning curve. There is not tutorial to speak of and many first fortresses have gone under before even getting started.
Other players will get turned away because of the ascii graphics.
Don't despair however as the game has been open for modding a long time and has a lot of useful add-ons that'll make life easier. Some add graphics to the game, others help monitoring your dwarves.
|Lazy Newb Pack UI|
All in all, dwarf fortress is a highly interesting game, featuring a lot of awesome and Fun stuff. The amount of depth is incredible and you can definitely have hours of fun trying to get your dwarves not to die (or the opposite).
It can be difficult your first time through, but by following a (couple) of tutorials, trying stuff and having all kinds of hilarious disasters, you'll slowly get better and discover all sorts of awesome stuff to do.
wiki tutorials page: http://dwarffortresswiki.org/index.php/Tutorials