Dear Mr. Sands,
It has come to my attention that you have some interest in giving Dwarf Fortress another try. I realize that this may seem like a momentous undertaking, but there really is an amazing game hidden beneath all the ASCII. I too was very skeptical when I played the game for the first time ages ago, and much like yourself I found it cryptic and frustrating enough that I stopped playing for a long time. I decided to give it another shot months later, and somehow managed to get over the hump that seems to push so many people away. Once you've played enough to know what the ASCII means without having to stop and check (it takes less time than you probably think), the game takes on a whole different personality. A touch of imagination combined with what's happening on your screen, and the game starts to tell a story that's different for every fortress you make.
To me, that little story is what makes it such a great game. There's no amazing gameplay in mining out a bunch of gold nuggets and having them made into golden thrones for my dining hall, but it IS pretty awesome to imagine the scene in your head, your dwarves all chowing down atop some golden, jewel encrusted furniture. The detailed wound system is another example of this. In most games, your characters fight and you know that you lost 10 hitpoints but won the fight. In Dwarf Fortress, you can see that your dwarf lost his left thumb and suffered a broken leg in the last battle. Not only that, but you'll watch your bearded little buddy struggling to make it through his day with his new injuries. It adds a whole different level of attachment to what are really just little ASCII smiley faces darting around your monitor.
But, I digress. I'm not here to sell you on the game. I'm here to offer my assistance in broadening your horizons. I'm not the biggest DF dork around (I don't think I've played at all in the past few months), but I've done my part in walking hordes of people from other forums through the basics of the game. I really believe most gamers would be as amazed at DF as I am if they could just get past the ASCII and the interface, but many aren't willing to try. It's truly not as difficult a process as you might believe, and the game contains lots of helpful little tools to guide you along your way. You'll be pausing to check what that little ~ means every 5 seconds for a while, but before you know it you'll be reading a screenshot of Dwarf Fortress like the guys in the Matrix decipher that green crap that scrolls down their screens.
I assume you're going to have piles of questions when you first start the game. Really, the best way to get newbies started on DF is to let them play while attempting to answer the inevitable avalanche of questions they'll have. Just remember the official Dwarf Fortress motto: Losing is fun! You're going to see your dwarves starve to death, go mad, get dismembered, fall off of cliffs, drown in lava, and die in plenty of other horrible ways before you master the game. Judging by your generally sadistic nature, I don't think this is going to be a problem.
So, in order to facilitate your new venture into Dwarf Fortress, I offer to answer any and all DF questions you may have. Post them in the thread, IM me on Steam, email me, whatever. There's an excellent DF wiki out there somewhere, but even it can't answer every question you're going to have. It's your destiny to be united with your Brothers in Bearddom, and I'd hate for a few simple questions to stand in your way.
PS: Has anyone been following the recent development updates? His latest project has been adding realistically simulated tissue layers to every living creature in the game. Holy crap.