|This article is about an older version of DF.
Experience represents how much a certain dwarf (or other intelligent creature) has learned (about a certain subject, or as a whole). It affects proficiency in skills and a dwarf's attributes. Precise points in experience are never displayed directly, except in Adventurer mode.
Every experience point earned is associated with a skill. Skill increases happen when a certain number of points in that skill is reached. Attribute increases happen when a certain total number of points is reached.
The announcement "<Dwarfname> is more experienced" signifies an attribute increase. Skill increases are not announced unless the increase changes a dwarf's profession, when the announcement will be to the effect of "<Dwarfname> has become a <new profession>".
If a dwarf has zero experience in a skill, they will have no skill listed (but can still use that skill at an untrained level if a labor associated with the skill is designated, and will gain experience from completing such tasks).
To reach Novice level in any skill requires 500 XP. Reaching each successive level requires 500 plus an additional 100 XP per additional rank, so to go from Novice to (no label) requires 600 XP; (no label) to Competent requires 700 XP, and so on. The following figures are the cumulative XP needed to go from unskilled to any given skill level.
- (* "Proficient" is the highest rank that one of your initial seven dwarves can start with. Migrants will arrive several skills at Novice level.)
Although Legendary is the highest skill level displayed, there are actually five skill levels above that. Any higher skill levels are known to have an effect on item quality; a Legendary dwarf will make masterpiece items 15% of the time, on average, whereas a Legendary+5 dwarf will make masterpieces 27% of the time (and exceptional items the other 73% of the time). Skill beyond Legendary+5 does not increase the probability of creating a masterpiece item.
You can't find out exactly when a dwarf gets to Legendary+5, but if they have no other skills it will happen 1000 XP before their eighth attribute -- so when they get eight attributes, they are past Legendary+5. Although skill is capped at Legendary+5, experience is not capped at any level; a dwarf can keep gaining attributes by using a skill that has long since topped out.
Attribute increases are based on total experience gained across all skills, and are not connected to the attainment of specific skill levels.
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.
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.
Dwarves gain experience by performing tasks. Experience is gained when the task is completed; if a task takes a long time and is frequently interrupted (by the dwarf going off to drink, for instance), the dwarf will gain the skill very slowly. Tasks without an associated skill (such as hauling) do not give any experience.
Constructing buildings does not give experience unless the building requires architecture to build. Such buildings give 30 points of experience in building designer to the architect and a varying amount of experience to whichever dwarf finishes the building once it is designed, given gradually as the structure is built. The additional experience depends on what material is used to build the building: a building made of stone, stone blocks, or glass blocks gives masonry experience, a building made of logs gives carpentry experience, and a building made of metal bars or blocks gives metalsmithing experience.
Destroying buildings of any type gives no experience.