Nothing in Dwarf Fortress is ever simple. Even something as basic as building different types of rooms involves a few counterintuitive steps. Where you might expect that all you need for a temple is an altar and a will to worship, in fact, it actually involves allocating the space properly. Without this step, it will not function fully, and your dwarves may experience some spiritual distress as a result.
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How to build a temple
Designating a room as a temple isn’t particularly difficult, but it does involve navigating Dwarf Fortress’s nested menus in a slightly convoluted fashion. The first step is to allocate a boardroom area for the room. You can do this in the Regions menu (Z.) Just select a conference room from this list and then fill in the room where you want to create a temple.
From here, you can add a new region to the meeting room by selecting it while in the list of regions and then selecting the icon (circled above) that allows you to add new regions overlapping existing ones. At this point, just select a temple from the list of options and you’re on your way to some quiet prayer for the soul. Note that you can also assign a specific deity to a temple by clicking the icon next to the deity selected above. Early on, though, it’s probably a good idea to make it non-denominational, at least until you have the space and resources for more specialized temples.
Temples are a great place to set up an altar for your dwarves to leave offerings on. However, they will not reach their full potential without some tools included. To add instruments, you’ll need to add storage for those instruments, and you can also assign a room performer. Before your dwarves can dance, you need to make sure that the total empty floor space in the temple is at least 25 tiles.