DFHack development overview

This page provides an overview of DFHack components. If you are looking to develop a tool for DFHack, developing a script or plugin is likely the most straightforward choice.

Other pages that may be relevant include:

Architecture diagrams

These two diagrams give a very high level overview of where DFHack fits into the DF call structure and how the pieces of DFHack itself fit together:

DFHack logic injection diagram

When DF loads, it looks for a “dfhooks” library file (named appropriately per platform, e.g. libdfhooks.so on Linux). DFHack provides this library file, and DF calls the API functions at specific points in its initialization code and main event loop.

In addition, DFHack can “interpose” the virtual methods of DF classes. In particular, it intercepts calls to the interface functions of each DF viewscreen class to provide overlay functionality.

The dfhooks API is defined in DF’s open source component g_src: https://github.com/Putnam3145/Dwarf-Fortress–libgraphics–/blob/master/g_src/dfhooks.h

DFHack tool call graph

DF memory layout is encoded in the xml files of the df-structures repository. These XML files are converted into C++ header files during the build process.

The functionality of the DFHack core library is grouped by Modules that access DF memory according to the defined structures.

The Lua API layer makes DFHack core facilities available to Lua scripts. Both the C++ and Lua APIs have a library of convenience functions, though only the Lua API is well-documented. Notably, the entire UI widget library is Lua-only, though C++ plugins can easily access it via the plugin-Lua interop layer.


DFHack plugins are written in C++ and located in the plugins folder. Currently, documentation on how to write plugins is somewhat sparse. There are templates that you can use to get started in the plugins/examples folder, and the source code of existing plugins is also helpful.

If you want to compile a plugin that you have just added, you will need to add a call to DFHACK_PLUGIN in plugins/CMakeLists.txt.

Plugins have the ability to make one or more commands available to users of the DFHack console. Examples include 3dveins (which implements the 3dveins command) and reveal (which implements reveal, unreveal, and several other commands).

Plugins can also register handlers to run on every tick, and can interface with the built-in enable and disable commands. For the full plugin API, see the example skeleton plugin.

Installed plugins live in the hack/plugins folder of a DFHack installation, and the load family of commands can be used to load a recompiled plugin without restarting DF.

Run plug at the DFHack prompt for a list of all plugins included in DFHack.


DFHack scripts are written in Lua, with a well-documented library. Referring to existing scripts as well as the API documentation is very helpful when developing new scripts.

Scripts included in DFHack live in a separate scripts repository. This can be found in the scripts submodule if you have cloned DFHack, or the hack/scripts folder of an installed copy of DFHack.


The DFHack core has a variety of low-level functions. It is responsible for implementing the dfhooks API that DF calls, it provides a console, and it provides an interface for plugins and scripts to interact with DF.


A lot of shared code to interact with DF in more complicated ways is contained in modules. For example, the Units module contains functions for checking various traits of units, changing nicknames properly, and more. Generally, code that is useful to multiple plugins and scripts should go in the appropriate module, if there is one.

Most modules are also exposed to Lua, although some functions (and some entire modules) are currently only available in C++.

Remote access interface

DFHack provides a remote access interface that external tools can connect to and use to interact with DF. See DFHack remote interface for more information.