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As your dwarves gain experience in various skills, they also gain attribute increases. There are three dwarven attributes: Strength, Agility, and Toughness. When a dwarf gains an attribute increase, an announcement appears: "[Dwarf] is more experienced." Dwarves will not gain attributes if they are doing something that does not involve a skill -- hauling, being stationed on duty (and not in combat), on break, etc.
Dwarves which attain legendary skill levels are likely to have one or more attributes at a highly developed level, and will continue to gain attribute increases as they exercise their skill.
Toady has stated that although there is no cap on attribute increases, after the fifth increase they are still displayed as 'Ultra-Mighty' 'Perfectly Agile' or 'Superdwarvenly Tough', so an attribute gain message without a change in displayed attributes is possible.
The 3 attributes
Allows a dwarf to carry heavy objects without being slowed, and (presumably) increases damage. In adventure mode, having a higher level of strength will enable you to pull your weapons out of a wound in which they have been stuck with a lower chance of losing hold of it. It also increases your chance of successful wrestling moves (i.e. pulling a sword out of a kobold's hand).
The levels of strength are:
- (No indicator - base strength)
- Very Strong
- Extremely Strong
The following jobs determine their speed based on strength:
- Wood cutting
- Farming jobs (planting seeds, harvesting crops, fertilizing fields, gathering shrubs, processing plants to thread or barrel, milling, milking)
- Furniture crafting (doors, floodgates, beds, chairs, coffins, tables, chests, bins, armor stands, weapon racks, cabinets, statues, cages, barrels)
- Finished good crafting (weapons, anvils, siege engine parts, armor, helms, pants, gloves, shoes, shields, flasks, goblets, instruments, toys, animal traps, buckets, ammo, backpacks, quivers, trap components, siege ammo,
- Misc. crafting (blocks, dyeing, studding with metal)
- Furnace jobs (smelting ores, melting items, charcoal, ash)
- Animal processing (butchering, tanning leather, rendering fat)
- Animal handling (caging and uncaging, chaining and unchaining, leading creatures, ponding and unponding fish)
- Other jobs
- Loading siege engines
- Cleaning jammed traps
- Filling waterskins
- Filling and draining ponds
- Filling and draining aquariums
- Recovering wounded, giving food and water
- Weaving adamantine cloth
Speeds many tasks undertaken by a dwarf, including movement, combat, digging. (Does not speed "workshop" related tasks.[Verify])
The levels of agility are:
- (No indicator - base agility) -- speed 1000
- Agile -- speed 1098
- Very Agile -- speed 1219
- Extremely Agile -- speed 1369
- Unbelievably Agile -- speed 1562
- Perfectly Agile -- speed 1818
The "speed" values are what is shown in Adventurer mode. If you choose to modify the game to make dwarves faster, you must use numbers lower than 1000 (e.g., [SPEED:700]) in the raws. See speed for more details.
The following jobs determine their speed based on agility:
- Stone detailing (smoothing, engraving, carving fortifications)
- Loading traps
- Linking buildings to triggers
- Fishing jobs (fishing, cleaning fish, catching live fish, extracting from fish)
- Trapping (baiting traps, catching live vermin, extracting from vermin, recovering pet vermin)
- Farming jobs (making cheese, processsing plants to bags or vials, extracting from plants, brewing, cooking meals)
- Glass furniture crafting (doors, floodgates, chairs, coffins, tables, chests, armor stands, weapon racks, cabinets, statues, cages, windows)
- Jeweling (cutting gems or glass, encrusting goods with gems or glass)
- Processing (making lye, potash, pearlash, soap, extracting strands)
- Crafting (crafts, coins, chains, totems, mechanisms, weaving cloth, decorating items, sewing images)
- Glass crafting (vials, goblets, instruments, toys, buckets, blocks, raw glass)
Makes a dwarf both harder to injure and capable of making more combat moves before getting tired. Also increases the time before a dwarf succumbs to thirst, hunger, suffocation, and drowning. Reduces the chance of falling unconscious due to pain. Also decreases the amount of bedrest needed to heal from wounds.
The levels of toughness are:
- (No indicator - base toughness)
- Very Tough
- Extremely Tough
- Unbelievably Tough
- Superdwarvenly Tough
Races other than dwarves will have different race-appropriate descriptors for the top toughness level (Superhumanly, Superelvenly, or Supergoblinly).
The following jobs determine their speed based on toughness:
- Collecting sand
- Taming animals
- Training animals for hunting or war
Attribute increases are based on total experience gained across all skills, and are not connected to the attainment of specific skill levels.
The specific attribute gained is selected randomly, and specific skills have no relationship to which attributes are gained - any skill can bestow any attribute equally.
Dwarves with a single skill will get their first attribute between Competent and Skilled, their second when reaching Talented, a third between Expert and Professional, a fourth when reaching Great, and a fifth between High Master and Grand Master. Further increases can happen after Legendary.
There are several good guides at how to quickly level up your dwarves in the military section, most notably the Sparring article and the Cross-training article.
This presumably keeps going, following the formula: Y=1750X+250X2 (Experience needed = 1750*level + 250*level squared)