Digging caverns

I’m posting below an excellent question from Tuhalu which I thought might be of interest to others.


Hi, I asked a question during the stream today and you did try and answer it, but there seemed to be some misunderstanding. So let me put it to you as a scenario.

You dig a mine into the side of a mountain using the slice tool. You make some rooms for storage or whatever. Digging down to another level is no problem because you can see the floor from the slice you are in. Maybe you want to put some buildings in your cave, so you need enough height to put roofs on. But what you really want to do is make big old caverns with a roof that is much higher. You’ve got all that mountain above you, so seems like a waste not to use it. It would be nice if the only entrance was where you dug it to begin with.

The problem comes when you realise there is no combination of mining tool and vision mode that lets you select the roof of the slice you have the tunnel in.

If you use the slice tool to go up one slice, you can select an area, but it doesn’t select the floor under all that stone. It’s hard to tell if you are area you are selecting actually matches too. The hearthlings won’t dig out the area to reveal the floor because they can’t reach through the floor/roof blocks to get at it.

If you use the x-ray mode, the roof is usually invisible. The one exception I’ve found is when you dig a staircase tunnel with the single tile mining tool. In any case, you can’t use the mining tools to dig straight up, becuase you can only drag them horizontally on the same slice.

Obviously, the workaround is to go outside the mountain and dig a tunnel from up above. But then you have to fill it in afterwards and that will be visible when you use x-ray mode.

Ideally, you could extend the slice mode be capable of cutting away the world in slices along the x and z axis too. Not only would you get a sweet ant-farm view of your mines, you would have no blind spots to make digging up and down annoying. Note: Digging down can be annoying too when you have 4 or 5 hearthlings all standing in the way of your mouse cursor.

Another helpful addition would be to have an x-ray vision mode that shows the floors, walls and ceilings of your mining area. Then you can simply select the current roof to be removed.

None of this works if your hearthlings can’t reach the roof to dig it out in the first place and that is the part which you addressed on the stream.

Anyhow, I imagine this case is going to be pretty low priority for quite a while. I just wanted to see if digging up in that way was something that had been considered. I feel like I can’t be the only person to ever think about hollowing out a mountain from the bottom up :wink:


Indeed, you are correct*. :wink:

We do want people to be able to dig into a mountain and then create a tall multi-story cavern inside (I’m thinking of a large Dwarven throne room with polished marble walls!). Thanks for the clear explanation!

* There is in fact a trick that will allow you to do this. By holding a selection across multiple camera views, and using a complicated set of ladders and mining zones, I was able to build the three story high cavern below.

All screenshots were taken from the same camera view. This can be built with the public release without using any cheats or debug functions (e.g. insta-mine), although it requires a bit of patience and knowledge about what blocks are mined first in a zone with a given geometry.

X-ray view:

Slice view:

Normal view:


Ahah! I see what you did there.

  1. Dig away a single block of the cliff to give yourself a place to start. You can be pretty tricky and do this a very long distance from your proposed cavern so it isn’t too obvious. The level of the block you dig out is going to be the same as the floor/roof you want to dig through.
  2. Dig the entry tunnel into the area you want to make a cavern in.
  3. Go into x-ray mode to designate a strip at the level of the roof over the tunnel to the room. Designate a second strip one tile higher as well.
  4. Build at least one ladder for the hearthlings to reach the roof with. They will now tap away at the pieces of roof they can reach until you have a small hole going up.
  5. Remove the mining zones you’ve made so far. They have done their job.
  6. Use x-ray mode and the 4x4x4 mining tool. Select the very top of the area you’ve already dug out. You may need to extend your ladders so the hearthlings can get up far enough, but they’ll dig their way up into the next slice.
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 until you’ve dug far enough upward.
  8. Dig sideways at the top level until the room is wide and long enough.
  9. Dig down from the top. Don’t forget to remove the ladders as you go. They won’t dig out the blocks under the ladders until you do.

Note: Using the mining tool in x-ray mode is a bit glitchy as you can’t actually see the mining zone after you’ve released the cursor to set it. Sometimes you have to switch back and forth between modes and heights to get into a slice mode where you can see the mining zone in the roof and remove it after it’s done its job. I’m sure @Albert knows all about this since he figured out the essential trick first, but I’m just putting this out there for anyone else.


@Tuhalu - Bingo! You got it!


I’m so confused. I think I’ll stick to farming. You’re gonna make me wrack my head against a wall figuring this out, aren’t you?


Cool but wouldnt it be easier if you Could just hold down control or something and the mining selection tool would go verticaly instead of horizontally. Or something like the window above the xray view that has the mode flat or full, but then on the mining pick that asks horizontal or vertical


You’d want something like that for the mining tool. But there are a couple things you would want to do before tackling that.

  • A working viewpoint. If you can’t see what you are doing, it becomes very difficult to know how far down or up you are actually digging. The current slice and x-ray modes are not well suited for this. With slice you can’t see where you are dragging your shape to. With x-ray you can’t see where the mining zones are or where the unaltered surface is.
  • Alternatively, you can probably get away with just adding the ability to remove parts of a mining zone with some kind of zone eraser tool. It matters less if you can’t see what you are doing if you can go in and fix it on each slice level afterwards.

Fyi, keys ‘[’ and ‘]’ will move the slice height up and down, which makes it easier to align zones on multiple levels.


I hadn’t really played the game since digging and mining came in until now and yeah, the absence of a “side view” option for your dig is REALLY painful. Top-down is nice and a good start but there really needs to be a way to plan your digs out in advance along the vertical axis, not just the horizontal.

Because it’s a 3d game with a free camera, it’s very difficult to plot a dig out in advance and know that (for example) the staircase you’re planning to dig on one level is going to connect up with the platform you’re digging on the next level and the other staircase you’re digging out on the level above that.

There’s also no way to “template” dig patterns, like you can with buildings, so if you actually do spend the time to dig out something complicated (say, a spiral staircase) that pattern will be lost with the next patch and your next build.

I know this is all very dwarf-fortressy but a lot of people are coming to SH from that background and are going to expect those tools. It seems like mostly a UI change, but honestly I hope it gets a fairly high priority from the team.

edit: another thing. Build scaffolding for digs, just like with houses.

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