Borrowed from After Action Reporter on why people should play Dwarf Fortress:
The best answer, I believe, is presented by Damien Neil from over on QuarterToThree.com, read on…
I built an arena. A pit on the bottom level for the contestants. On the next level up, seats for the spectators, with a pair of thrones forged from solid gold for the Baroness and her consort. A level above that, the cheap seats. On the top level, a retracting bridge extends out over the pit, so that unlucky contestants can be dropped in.
The main level has a number of silver statues on it, and is designated as a sculpture garden, so my dwarves like to hang out there, giving me plenty of spectators. Unfortunately, they tend to run away when I toss a goblin in. Wimps.
So I decided to add some additional features to keep them happy when the arena isn’t being used for my goblin-war dog cage matches. I dug out a cistern below the arena, and an lengthy, winding channel leading from the brook on the surface down to the cistern. Floodgates controlled by levers allow me to fill the cistern without flooding the fortress.
I then added a sequence of pumps to draw water from the cistern to a channel above the arena. The water falls through two holes to splash down in the gladiatorial pit. From there, it drains back into the cistern. The pumps are powered by windmills on the surface, and a lever permits me to disengage a gear and shut off the pump system.
My dwarves were ecstatic, with many happy thoughts generated–dwarves like waterfalls.
While this construction went on, the Baroness’s consort mandated that we produce several adamantine items. We have no adamantium available, which made this request…problematic. Eventually, he furiously gave up–and declared one of the smithdwarves responsible for failing to fulfill the mandate.
One of the guards carried out the smithdwarf’s punishment, beating her senseless in the dining room. He was overly zealous: She died.
A short while later, her youngest daughter threw herself into the arena pit in despair. She was washed into the cistern and drowned. The stench of her rotting corpse hindered the dwarves’ enjoyment of the lovely sculpture garden.
I resolved to retrieve her bones from the cistern to provide her with a proper burial. I added hatches to the top of the waterfall system, covering the holes that allow water to pour down into the pit. Pull a lever to close the hatches, and water flows over them and to a new sequence of pumps that will draw it to the surface. The uppermost pump is located in a small building atop a hill behind the fortress, and a windmill on the roof powers the system. To dispose of the water cleanly, I constructed an aqueduct (built of lovely blue microcline) that will carries the water back to the stream.
The system isn’t quite complete yet; I still need to redesign the bottom end of the pumping system to reach the lower depths of the cistern.
And that’s what’s so special about this game.
And if that doesn’t get you going, how about this fantastic story from Nate over on RockPaperShotgun.com:
When one dwarf got a mad look in his eye, grabbed a sheet of eagle leather and some silver, and emerged from his workshop three months later with the most beautiful quiver the world had ever seen, I knew it belonged on the back of Nil, the settlement’s legendary champion, a master of four weapons, and getting pretty good at swimming to boot. After a few months of fiddling with doors, Nil eventually strapped on the artifact quiver.
Life was good for a while. Goblins delivered more iron goods than we could ever use. We’d struck a thick vein of adamanite. The larders were full, the merchants looted, the goods organized behind locked doors to protect and control any moody dwarves.
Then a miner uncovered a strange room, covered with engravings, filled with smoke, and with moans of the damned. And the demons came. Spirits of fire, they filled the tunnels with burning dwarves.
Nil picked up his crossbow and gathered his squad of champions. He was fearless. His crossbow was a machine-gun in his hands. Demons fell. But Nil was injured, and the wound… smoldered. And smoldered. Nil left a trail of smoke behind him. At first it was his arm. Then his chest. His endurance failed, and after several weeks, Nil collapsed, and burned into carbon, along with all he carried.
All he carried, that is, except for the artifact quiver that was strapped to his back. This was a quiver of the gods– more beautiful than any dwarf could imagine, tougher than the rock we stand on, and as deadly as any demon. The quiver, of course, was on fire, but no dwarf that laid eyes on it could trouble him or herself with wondering why it was perched on a pile of cinders. One by one, each dwarf claimed the flaming quiver, and one by one, each dwarf in the settlement burned.
Here’s a link to a nice, LONG succession game story: Boatmurdered. I highly recommend at least reading up to StarkRavingMad’s update. It’s hilarious.