See also: Combat skill
Skills are used by dwarves to accomplish almost every task. Higher skills allow dwarves to accomplish tasks more quickly and more effectively (for example, mining and crafting). Whenever a skill is used experience is gained for that skill, allowing the dwarf to reach higher skill levels.
If a dwarf does not use a skill for a prolonged period of time, the skill will be labeled "rusty." If the rusty skill continues to remain unused, it will eventually be labeled "very rusty." Skills remaining at very rusty for prolonged periods of time will gradually suffer permanent experience loss. It is not possible in-game to know whether a given skill has suffered level loss, but any utility capable of reading exact XP levels will show a skill with a lost level as being at 100% of the XP required to take it to the next skill level. See the Rust Mechanics below for more details.
To determine what skills a dwarf has, press v and highlight the dwarf, then press g to ensure you are on the general information page. The skills will be grouped into three toggleable types: combat, labor and miscellaneous skills. Included on the list are the levels of each skill, and, if applicable, "rusty" or "very rusty" notifcations.
Skill levels are as follows:
- High Master
- Grand Master
 Skill penalties
Dwarves that are hungry, tired, or thirsty will work slower and produce lower quality goods. This is unimportant for some tasks such as wood cutting or furnace operating but you may want to halt construction of aluminum statues if your blacksmith is famished and hollow-eyed from lack of sleep.
 Skills, Attributes and Traits
- are trained by being used in some activity.
- train attributes.
- the same attribute can be trained by various skills.
- it's assumed that the skills also use some of the attributes that they train.
- certain skills are required or important for certain noble, military and civilian professions.
- certain professions require several skills.
- the same skill can be used by various professions.
- are increased by Preferences, but capped, so the dwarf will make items beyond its skill level but won't affect the chances of making more high value items at the highest skill level.
- cannot be modified in-game.Verify
- affect which social skills gain experience (if the dwarf has X trait it will not gain experience in X skill) at all.
- have other in-game effects that can be useful for certain professions.
- give thoughts when performing certain activities.
To summarize it goes like this:
Trait --> Skill <--> Attribute
Since the same skills can be used by various professions, and the same attributes are trained by various skills, this allows for cross-training.
Being traits the unmodifiableVerify, limiting factor on which skills can be learned or having useful effects, and certain professions requiring various skills, the need arises to:
- avoid appointing a dwarf that will never learn a certain skill to a profession that uses it:
- appoint a dwarf with an useful effect given by a trait to a profession that benefits from it:
 Rust Mechanics
Every skill has the following set of improvement and decay counters, which are caste specific:
SKILL_RATE (Default is 100:8:16:16]
* % of improvement points you get (Default 100)
* unused counter rate (Default 8)
* rust counter rate (Default 16)
* demotion counter rate (Default 16)
The unused counter starts incrementing while a dwarf isn't using a skill. Once it reaches the cap, it will reset to zero, and the rust counter rate will increment by 1. This continues until the rust counter's cap is reached, and then the demotion counter is incremented by 1, and the rust counter is reset to zero. When the demotion counter finally reaches its cap, a 'layer' of rust is added to the skill, and the demotion counter is reset to zero.
The 'Rusty' and 'V.Rusty' descriptions which are appended to a skill within Dwarf Fortress are determined by the following conditions:
- Rusty: A skill level greater than 0 and less than 4, and the skill level * 0.5 <= the number of rust layers.
- Very Rusty: A skill level greater than or equal to 4, and the skill level * 0.75 <= the number of rust layers.
For example, a level 3 skill with 4 layers of rust: 3 * 0.5 = 1.5 which is less than the 4 layers of rust, so it's a Rusty skill. A level 8 with 6 layers of rust: 8 * 0.75 = 6 which is equal to the layers of rust, so it's a Very Rusty skill.
In testing it appears that the layers of rust are limited to a maximum of 6. If the counters reach the maximum and it attempts to increase to a 7th layer of rust, all counters are stopped, and the 'Rusty' and 'V. Rusty' descriptions are erroneously removed from the skill descriptions within Dwarf Fortress.