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Revision as of 18:30, 18 July 2019 by Silverwing235 (talk | contribs) (Skill level names)
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This article is about the current version of DF.

See also: Combat skill

Skills are used by dwarves to accomplish almost every task in the game. Higher levels of a skill allow a dwarf to accomplish the respective task more quickly and/or more effectively. Whenever a skill is used, experience is gained for that skill, allowing the dwarf to progress to higher skill levels. Creatures aside from dwarves may also possess skills that match what species they are (e.g. cats and monkeys having legendary skill in climbing).

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," or "V rusty" in game. 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 Rust 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 "V rusty" notifications.

Skill level names

The names of skill levels are as follows, in order of the experience required to achieve them:

Rank Skill Name Notes
0 Not (No skill)
0 Dabbling This level isn't displayed on the "prepare for journey carefully" screen.
1 Novice
2 Adequate
3 Competent
4 Skilled
5 Proficient Maximum possible skill level for dwarves while "preparing for journey carefully".
6 Talented
7 Adept
8 Expert
9 Professional
10 Accomplished
11 Great
12 Master
13 High Master
14 Grand Master Maximum possible skill for any creature in the "object testing arena".
15+ Legendary

Skills in use

Blinking legendary dwarves.

Skills are never referred to in-game by "level number", but for all practical purposes, that is how they are treated by the game. "Dabbling" is not functionally a level, with "Novice" being level 1, and "Legendary" being any level 15 and up.

All skills take (400 + 100 * the new level) experience points to gain a level, meaning Novice takes 500 experience points, and reaching Legendary from Grand Master takes 1900 experience points, or 18000 total experience.

Many skills can gain practical levels beyond level 15, or "Legendary". Crafting skills with quality have a functional maximum of level 20, or "Legendary +5" as it is often called. This is used in determining item quality, where skill level is tested with a series of "dice rolls" against successively higher targets. A Legendary +5 dwarf has a skill level of 20, which means they are guaranteed exceptional quality (quality level 4) unless they "critically fail" one of the quality rolls, and they additionally have a fairly decent percentage roll to succeed at making a masterwork. Attributes and traits now play a role in crafting, however, so there are subtle layers of complexity in that.

Labors with or without quality often have a time period associated with them, and skill levels reduce this significantly. Legendary +5 can eliminate all time required to do a job down to a single action, exponentially increasing productivity.

Combat skills can scale upwards to a functionally impossible-to-reach degree, meaning that simply reaching Legendary in a combat skill only means they've just started climbing the ranks of the legendary warriors of Dwarf Fortress. A Legendary +100 warrior will hit more regularly and deal more damage than a "mere" Legendary +10, although it takes nearly three-quarters of a million more experience points to get there.

Skill penalties

Dwarves that are hungry, tired, or thirsty will work slower and produce lower quality goods. The latter is unimportant for some tasks, such as wood cutting or furnace operating, but you may want to halt construction of platinum statues or steel breastplates if that smith is famished or hollow-eyed from lack of sleep.


Dwarf.png Miner
Dwarf.png Woodworker
Dwarf.png Stoneworker
Dwarf.png Ranger
Dwarf.png Doctor
Dwarf.png Farmer
Dwarf.png Fishery worker
Dwarf.png Metalsmith
Dwarf.png Jeweler
Dwarf.png Craftsdwarf
Dwarf.png Engineer
Dwarf.png Other Jobs
Dwarf.png Administrator
Dwarf2.png Military
Dwarf.png Broker
Dwarf.png Miscellaneous
Dwarf.png Performance
Dwarf.png Scholar
Dwarf.png Unused

Skills, attributes and traits

  • Skills and attributes:
    • .. are both trained by being used in activities they relate to.
    • .. both influence future success of these activities, like craft quality, work speed, combat survivability, accuracy and damage.
    • The dwarf's profession is determined by their highest-ranking skill group.
    • crafting skills are increased by preferences, but capped, so the dwarf will make items beyond their skill level, but won't affect the chances of making more high-value items at the highest skill level.Verify
    • The dwarf's highest moodable skill determines potential artifact types during a strange mood.
  • Traits:
    • can be changed (at least beliefs change through arguments).
    • affect which social skills gain experience (if the dwarf has X trait it will not gain experience in X skill) at all.
    • give thoughts when performing certain activities.
    • influence choice of Artifact materials.

To summarize it goes like this:

Thought <--triggers-- Activity ----trains----> Attribute
   ^          ,----------|                         |
modifies   modifies    trains                   increases
   | ,--------'          |                         |
   | v                   v                         v
 Trait --influences--> Skill --increases--> Dwarf performance
   |           ,---------|
 item        item        |
material     type    determines
   |  ,--------'         |
   v  v                  v
Artifact <--chosen-- Profession

Since the same skills can be used by various professions, and the same attributes are trained by various skills, this allows for cross-training.

As traits can limit learning some skills, which can be required by some Noble positions, the need arises to:

  • avoid appointing a dwarf that will never learn a certain skill to a Noble position that uses it:
  • appoint a dwarf with a useful effect given by a trait to a profession that benefits from it:

Skill rust

Every skill has the following set of improvement and decay counters, which are caste specific:

[SKILL_RATE] (Default is [SKILL_RATE: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.


Randomly generated musical instruments and musical compositions are also considered skills and gain experience from use, though it is not clear how greater skill levels affect anything or if these performance-related skills rust.