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Nightmare Fuel / Dwarf Fortress

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Despite being in ASCII and not outwardly scary, this game is full of Nightmare Fuel, all of it being mostly Fridge Horror. If your fortress hasn't produced some sort of nightmare fuel by the time you're done with any given fort, you're clearly doing something wrong.

  • Dwarf Fortress players are not exactly the picture of sanity and/or morality, and they're well aware of it. They'll acknowledge how fucked up it is to have a discussion about the best way to capture mermaids in order to start breeding an endless supply to kill and harvest the ever valuable bones from. But they will discuss it.
    • The worst part about this, is that money isn't all that important in DF. DF slowly turns players into Dwarves by having them hoard an increasingly valuable treasure for no reason other than they can. Mermaid bones were valuable, but mostly pointless. They did it simply for the challenge.
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    • The worst part is: really imagine a scheme to capture mermaids, chain them up and force them to produce young, then "air-drown" the young to butcher them for bones.
    • There was also the "Most evil/horrific thing you've ever done" thread on the Bay 12 Games forum which was deleted because somebody "won". And it was not the story of the dwarf who broke a child's arms and legs, proceeded to slowly beat the parents to death right in front of the child and then beat the child to death with the corpse of its mother. The story that won is so horrible, even Dwarf Fortress players don't like to mention Obok Meatgod. You have been warned.
    • Maternal armor:
    It's been a long time now since I realized that dorfs bring their babies into battle with them. It's been a slightly shorter time since I started recruiting only female dorfs into my military, and making sure they each had enough time to mill about with male dorfs to be constantly nursing.
    • It is possible for a woman to accidentally hit an enemy with her baby.
  • Pretty much everything in the medical system can cause this.
    • The health/medical system has had its share of bugs, which is its own cause of Nightmare Fuel. Like your dwarf getting his legs chopped off. Then seeing him still making his way around the fortress doing jobs a few months later, with his legs still missing.
    • Or when diagnostics was still horribly broken and a dwarf would spend literally months lying on the floor bleeding out while the doctor totally ignored him. The solution? Build a spike trap under him and continue to spike him until the doctor takes notice of one of his new injuries and drags him to the hospital or he dies.
    • The dwarf whose cut on his arm was diagnosed as rotting lungs? The surgeon then removed the dwarf's lungs...the dwarf, obviously, did not survive. Possibly the worst part? This was an experiment to see what happens when you assign a dwarf with no diagnosis skill to be the chief medical dwarf.
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  • Pretty much any player interaction with lava has a good chance of creating this. Bugs especially, as they have a tendency to create things like perpetually burning puppies or unkillable blizzard men who are still wading through the stuff even as their fat boils off through their eye sockets (yes, boiling fat is quantified by the game). The cherry on top is that, after it's over, your engravers are liable to fill your entire fortress with procedurally generated carvings of people melting.
  • Tantrum spirals, a rather famous part of the game before they were removed in the 2014 releases and onward. Urist McCatlady's cat dies. McCatlady proceeds to break Urist McLumberjack's favorite table. Urist McLumberjack proceeds to murder three dwarves. The families of the dead then murder others/break things/begin to riot. Repeat. Once a Tantrum Spiral gained momentum, nothing save for flooding the fort with lava and leaving a few survivors tended to work.
  • Procedurally generated monsters (forgotten beasts, titans, angels, and demons). Early versions had rather vanilla tentacle demons, but later releases feature such horrors as acid-breathing elephants made out of barf with three eyes and six legs. Thanks to the game's randomization of features for these creatures, it can produce some truly nightmarish eldritch abominations. Mostly, these are usually given a basic animal description, before going completely off the rails. You could face down creatures made of dust, spewing acid, looking like an eight-legged whale. For starters. note  Some can be quite unnerving:
    The Forgotten Beast Xukong The Gland Of Muck has come! An enormous eight-legged quadruped composed of native platinum. It squirms and fidgets. Beware its poisonous vapors! Xukong was associated with caverns and blight.
    • A giant frog-like creature made out of vomit with exposed circulatory system that spits a poison that causes your dwarves' skin to melt and — thanks to implementation of "syndromes" — is also transmissible? Geh.
    • A huge eyeless cicada with no eyes and branching antennae and a red exoskeleton that spits webs!!
    • "A penguin brute, who happens to lack a mouth, has a tail, and "it knows and intones the names of all it encounters"."
      "Wait, how does it intone names without a mouth?"
      "I don't know, but it still does. That's the creepiest part."
    • The blood of certain forgotten beasts causes body parts it comes in contact with to rot instantly. Cue several dwarves roaming the halls of your fortress in a daze, bleeding and spewing miasma as their bodies rot — while they're still alive — before they swiftly suffocate and die, or sometimes they don't swiftly suffocate and die, sometimes they survive, but all the flesh melts off their feet... but they still have feet and are still walking around despite the fact the rot is slowly moving up to the legs now.
    • Be afraid. Be very afraid. The Ass Demons are out there.
    • A Zinc quadruped with gas that causes rapid bleeding out. Monsters like these need to be taken down in hand-to-hand.
    • Sometimes it's possible to get creatures that don't make any sense, like six-legged quadrupeds made of salt that swim in water and magma.
    • Angels are even more dangerous than the other three procedural monsters, and carry weapons that are superior even to adamantine weapons. And then there's the thing they guard: A slab containing the true name of a demon, who was summoned by one of the gods. That's right, the reason why there are demons on the surface, even before the clowns get released from their three-ring circus, is because the gods intentionally put them there.
  • A lot of the underground wildlife:
    A medium-sized monster walking on two clawed legs. It has two mouths on the ends of a pair of tentacles. It uses its mouths to digest its victims with acid and rows of razor-like teeth.
    • Giant Cave Spiders. Not only is there the whole Big Creepy-Crawlies and Giant Spider angle, but they kill dwarves in horrific ways. GCS throws web; dwarf gets immobilized by web; dwarf gets bitten by GCS, therefore getting GCS neurotoxin in their blood, which will start a paralysis syndrome on the dwarf; GCS continues to bite dwarf, who is still conscious but paralyzed; dwarf loses blood, gets closer to asphyxiation due to muscle failure. Repeat this a hundred times, until the dwarf dies of blood loss or asphyxiation. And GCS generally take days to kill a dwarf in this way. Cruel and Unusual Death, anyone?
    • Some of them are blatant Captain Ersatz versions of Dungeons & Dragons monsters, but many of those are excellent Nightmare Fuel already. Vargouilles/Hungry heads, anyone?
    • Molemarians. Mole rat man torsos on giant mole rat bodies.
  • Boatmurdered. In the end, only one sane dwarf is left, who is wearing both adamantine chainmail and plate armour to protect him from the insanity. Everyone else is on a murderous rampage or on fire from burning puppy bodies. The place is a veritable nightmare fuel refinery. Here's a quote straight from one of the players' logs.
    "At this point, we have somehow managed to create *THE* root of evil in the dwarven universe. Here is what it must look like from the mountainhomes:
    1) Dwarves go to Boatmurdered and disappear.
    2) Lava comes out of Boatmurdered and destroys the surrounding environment no less than three times a year.
    3) A maniacal dwarven supervillain comes out of Boatmurdered and goes on a killing spree.

    Shit, there are probably entire fucking sagas that are being sung about the evil fortress of damnation known as Boatmurdered."

    • The wildlife around Boatmurdered counts as well:
      "The trumpeting! THE TRUMPETING!"
    • The Madness Mantra of the aforementioned armoured dwarf.
  • When you've Dug Too Deep, specifically by following an Adamantine vein until it gets hollow, the game makes it very, very clear you're in for some Fun.
    Horrifying screams come from the darkness below!
  • Evil biomes are full of this, naturally:
    • The werewolves, ogres and masses of undead are bad enough, but hey, you can handle it, even when the fish slither out of their pools like something out of Gyo. Then you notice that all the trees and shrubs are dead, too. Then you notice this doesn't stop them from growing. The Savage Evil biomes are called "Terrifying" for a reason.
    • As of version 31.19, evil biomes sport grass made out of fingers, intestines, and eyes - and, yes, the eyes blink at you.
    • Then one of your dwarfs gets possessed and uses some of this 'wood', the bones of one of the 'animals', and a seemingly normal chunk of basalt to make a statue. Of cheese.
    • With the 34.01 release, evil biomes are much, MUCH worse, with Made of Evil substances raining down from the sky on your dwarves and spreading disease all over the surface, and fog clouds that make everything they envelop die in horrible, horrible ways. Also, nothing stays dead. Not even butchered animals' skins or severed limbs. Not even if you've already killed them several times. They'll be back again. Then there are the "thralls" and "husks" - creatures that have been turned against all life by evil fog. How scary are they? Oh, they're only so strong that they'll kill an entire horde of demons while outnumbered several times over.
  • Occasionally, Toady's comments in the dev log about the more gory moments in testing.
    "During the test (a 20 sword free-for-all), a guy got stabbed in the lower body twice, his guts popped out, and then a third guy came up and severed his exposed guts, so that all seems to be working."
    "In other news, the dwarf with the boiling gold blood..."
  • One forum thread is about a player's military encountering a Forgotten Beast that caused their skin and eyes to rot and permanently paralyzed their peripheral nervous system. Thanks to his effective medical staff the majority of them failed to die from either the rot or any subsequent infection. The result was an eyeless, skinless, Legendary military that, thanks to the nerve paralysis, felt no pain. This either belongs here or on the CMOA page. Probably both.
    "Let's expose our military to zombie-dust so they can't feel pain. They don't NEED skin."
  • How about the injuries?!? When your arm gets ripped off, what do you think? Well, in Dwarf Fortress, dwarves just keep walking around, leaving a goddamn blood trail on the floor.
  • Bronze Colossuses. Huge, nightmarishly fast, and unimaginably strong. Oh, and damn near unkillable. Large parties of adventurers have been reduced to screaming, mangled piles of agony by these monsters. They tend to grab their victims, put their limbs in a lock, then break them. They really don't need to: they could kill most players just by grabbing their heads, and pinching. Consider that for a second: they could kill you instantly, but instead they toy with you until they tire of you, then kill you. They could just strangle you to death (there's pretty much no way you could break their grip), or gouge out your eyes, or many of the other, nastier wrestling moves. Instead, they break your arms and legs before punching you to death. They don't blind you, because they want to see the look in your eyes as you die, and they don't strangle you because they want to hear you scream...
  • Some creatures that were modded in fit this trope quite well:
    • The Holistic Spawn from Syrupleaf, as seen here.
    • Corrosion turns the game from a standard fantasy setting into a Zombie Apocalypse setting - gone are the Goblin sieges, instead your settlements have to struggle against the Infected. Just like with unmodded DF's Werebeasts, being bitten by them results in your citizens eventually becoming more Infected. Unlike the Werebeasts, who appear alone, the Infected come in large hordes.
    • Dark Ages lives up to its name, and adds many new creatures that will ruthlessly butcher your dwarves. While some are standard fantasy tropes, such as the Orcs and Gnolls, there are more strange horrors - of particular note are the Shadows or the Aboleth - the former are hateful shadows who kill anything and everything, whereas the latter are amphibious horrors from the depths who will convert dead bodies into clones of themselves - better keep that corpse stockpile sealed away!
    • What Lurks Below adds themed flora and fauna to the caverns. The first layer isn't so bad - mostly larger and stranger-looking forms of aboveground animals, as well as the occasional ambulatory plant. The potential second layers are where things start getting more creepy - being either inhabited giant insectoids and their conscious, infested drones, or being the home of horribly mutated zombies, ghostly spirits, and skeletal monstrosities. The last layers are even worse, either being filled with organic growths, screaming heads and meat moss, with various horrid abominations calling the place their home, or, alternatively, a hellish landscape with spires of obsidian and various demonic inhabitants, including actual demonic clowns and Four Horsemen expies.
    • Lands of Duality, from the man that brought us What Lurks Below. Good biomes aren't so nightmarish, just extremely dangerous thanks to the presence of The Fair Folk and elemental spirits with unclear agendas, though the Seraphs and their servants can be unnerving thanks to their even murkier goals and tendency to assimilate living creatures into seemingly mindless servants, including sentients. Evil biomes, however... if you weren't satisfied with husking clouds and the dead never staying down, they are now crawling with bloodthirsty demons, heavily mutated undead and things from realms not meant to be witnessed by man or dwarf. And that's just the overview; every last kind of biome, from mountains to oceans, has its own flavor of danger.
    • Even the more benign mods like My Little Fortress or Rise of the Mushroom Kingdom can be surprisingly shocking, due to well-known creatures like Koopas, Shy Guys and Goombas suddenly engaging in the same type of violence and brutality that everything in normal Dwarf Fortress partakes in. Hell, one of the first playthroughs of the former quickly started off with a cute unicorn mangling several harpies bare-hooved, complete with gouging their eyes out with her horn.
    • Toady One's devlog is a fountain of this: "I tried the butcher command in the arena, and the necromancer managed to raise both a skeleton and a walking hollow skin... which I suppose I'll keep since it makes about as much sense as a walking skeleton. So... keep the necromancer away from your raw skin stockpiles, he he he." This is why vegetarian forts are recommended when embarking in evil biomes.
  • A topic on the forums was how a dorf baby was killed during a siege and it came back as a ghost. But the ghost baby was still being carried by his grieving mother. Imagine walking down the halls of a fortress and just seeing a mother, in a corner, crying and coddling a cooing, transparent baby. And on that note,
    She was attacked by own dead child lately.
  • The 2012 release brought us lots of Big Creepy-Crawlies, like giant brown recluses and giant mosquitoes that like to swarm your fort and suck your dwarves dry - one release had a bug that caused hundreds of the latter to spawn at once.
  • Night creatures. To put it simply: Vampires get a bonus 200 note  to their physical stats, Werebeasts have a Healing Factor that fixes everything, including limbs, and Necromancers can call a Zombie Apocalypse with a thought. And not one of them ages or gets hungry or thirsty or tired (beyond the vampire's need for blood, of course). Imagine trying to fight these guys - even the players are terrified of them, which, if you've been paying attention, is saying a lot.
    • Necromancers are bad enough, but if one is killed in fortress mode and isn't interred or memorialized properly, they, like everyone else, can become a ghost to come back and haunt you. What's really creepy is that they can still raise corpses... including their own. And then there's the nice little quirk of werebeast limbs raised by necromancers regenerating entire creatures on a full moon.
    • As of v.40, undead from necromancer sieges carry armour and weapons. Let the sheer terror of that thought work its way into your brain. There are several stories of a single undead swordsman annihilating multiple squads by himself. On the bright side, zombies can now be killed with magma.
  • The giant sponge. They seem utterly mundane and harmless until you realize... they have only one body part, no brain, and no blood. Edged weapons only tear it, and blunt weapons serve no purpose but make it mad. And despite seemingly being unable to move, it can push at a dwarf and kill it instantly. Fire cannot kill it, nor can magma. Not even an army of a thousand bronze colossi could destroy this creature. Only through air-drowning it or encasing it in solid stone or ice can it be destroyed. And gods help you if you come across a zombie giant sponge; they're even harder to kill since they don't have to breathe.
    • Giant sponge husks anyone?
    • As someone on the forums described them, "They have no nervous system. All they can feel is hate."
    • Giant sponges are killable as of version 0.40.01. On the flip side, the alteration to blunt force mechanics means that their push attack can now mangle or explode body parts, including heads.
  • In adventure mode, you will often get told not to stray too far from a village, if you're alone. If you're foolish enough to do that regardless, you start hearing incessant cackling. A few turns later, a gang of bogeymen gangs up on you. They aren't impossible to beat, if you have proper training and decent fighting tactics, but an unprepared adventurer will most likely get beaten to death.
  • Fell moods. A dwarf falling into a strange mood is always ominous, but in most cases, supplying the dwarf with the workshop and materials they need resolves the issue and gets you an artifact and a legendary craftsdwarf to show for it. A dwarf who goes into a fell mood, on the other hand, promptly goes out and murders the nearest dwarf, butchers the corpse, and makes their artifact out of the victim's skin or bones.
  • STEALTH WEREMAMMOTH! Gets even creepier when you know elephants are actually quite sneaky, their steps completely silent.
  • Sometimes dwarves will go insane, often resulting in this. Most would say this signals things have Gone Horribly Wrong, but if you have ever been on the forums you know this means things have Gone Horribly Right.
    • Sometimes this means they go berserk, wildly and often brutally slaughtering everything in their path. You see, berserk rage also doubles as a permanent form of the "Enraged!" status, which boosts their strength enough that these dwarves can and will crush bones with their bare hands. If this dwarf happens to be a soldier, pray that your military can get there in time, because they'll carve a bloody path through everything and everyone else.
    • Insane dwarves will either starve to death, get put down by the militia or outright commit suicide.
    • Suicidal dwarves will typically jump off a cliff, even if they happen to be holding a baby. And they don't care if there's water or magma down there; if it'll kill them, it'll do.
    • The simple fact that once a dwarf goes insane, there's no going back. They may as well be dead; their minds will not recover.
  • You wouldn't think that having a fully-functional temperature system would be nightmare fuel... until a player figured out how to create a monster that utilized it as a weapon, creating a creature that had a constant body temperature that was the maximum possible in the game. Plants burst into flames just by being near it, but that was only the start. This also meant that weapons and armor literally liquefied and then vaporized off of anyone trying to approach it. And then the Body Horror began, as the blood within their bodies literally began to vaporize as well, and escape through their skin. Once killed, the remains burned, then vaporized, until nothing was left. There were not even bodies left to bury. It was perfectly possible for it to destroy entire populations just by standing still and letting people try to attack it.
    • Modded thermonuclear cats that have physical properties which cause them to combust/explode upon spawning.
    • A minor one, but modders failing to properly define the body of a creature may result in it being made from essentially nothing (or just straight-up not having a body). However, the structural data is still intact, so this "nothing" can still pick up and wear/wield gear. Also, attempting to get a description of such a creature crashes the game. Imagine what that looks like in-universe...
  • The legendary artifact Planepacked contains an ungodly amount of items built into it, and contains what would appear to be the entire history of the world in which it was created. It also includes 73 images of itself, leading one to believe that either the designs engraved upon it are minutely fractal, or that where Planepacked stands, the universe folds.
  • Trying to check the weather, time, odour or temperature after death in adventure mode will give some rather eerie messages about the subject. A bit morbid by itself, could it also be hinting at some sort of future afterlife update, considering ghosts and Hell already exist in the game? And what is the game implying by how it's still possible to "feel" being cold and clammy when dead?
    "You've lost track of time since your death."
    "Being dead is cold and clammy."
    "Things smell bad when you are dead."
    "There is no sunlight when you are dead."
  • In a more mundane vein, the dwarven Kangaroo Court, which can produce some truly epic Miscarriage of Justice such as convicting an animal for murders committed with weapons, note  convict someone whom, at the time of the crime, has been long dead, and even convict the victim of the crime committed against them. Not for making a false allegation, but for basically committing the crime against themselves. At least when it comes to this, the dwarves can actually call out their overseer in their own, unhappy tantrum-starting way if it's overdone.
  • In version 0.47.01, before it was fixed in 0.47.02, babies would ride their mother like a horse, directing her movements. Since the baby had no survival instincts, the mother and baby would eventually starve.


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