Demystifying the Experience System

Table of Contents
  1. The Expanded Bucket Metaphor
  2. Skillsets
  3. Pool Size
  4. Pulse Size
  5. Mind State
  6. Changes to the Experience System
  7. Learning Strategies
  8. When Should I Stop Training Mentals?

There are four primary factors that determine the rate at which you learn new skills: pool size, pulse size, and mind state. Before I discuss the mechanics of the learning system, I will start by explaining the classic bucket metaphor that players use to explain the rate of learning. I will also expand on that metaphor.

The Expanded Bucket Metaphor

The bucket metaphor is a useful tool for understanding the difference between pool size and pulse size and how these factors work together. Your capacity for learning is like a bucket with a hole in it. The bucket fills with liquid (your field experience), which slowly drains through the hole. As the liquid drains through the hole, your field experience is converted into actual ranks.

Pool Size: the bucket

The size of the bucket is like your pool size. The bigger the bucket, the more liquid it can hold. Every time you gain field experience, some liquid is added to your bucket. If your bucket is full, any additional liquid you try to add will overflow and be wasted. It is better to have a big bucket that holds a lot of liquid.

Pulse Size: the hole in the bucket

The size of the hole is like your pulse size. The liquid in your bucket gradually drains through this hole. When this happens, your field experience is converted into actual ranks. It is better to have a big hole so that the liquid drains quickly.

This much of the metaphor is well-known and is widely used to explain learning to new players. Now that you understand your pool size and your pulse size, let's expand on the metaphor. If you've been playing DragonRealms for any length of time, you are also aware of mind states. How do these fit in the picture?

Mind State: viscosity of the fluid

A poor mind state may reduce the speed at which liquid drains from the bucket. When your mind state is poor, the liquid itself flows poorly, even though the hole may be completely unblocked. Think of your mind state as the viscosity of the liquid in your bucket. When your mind is "clear," the liquid is thin like water and easily flows through the hole. When your mind is "frozen," the liquid is like tar pitch and barely flows at all.


I'm assuming that most of you already know about primary, secondary, and tertiary skillsets, but for those of you who don't, here's the lowdown. (You need to know what these terms mean, because they're used throughout this guide.)

Each guild has one primary, two secondary, and two tertiary skillsets. (The skillsets are armor, weapons, magic, survival, and lore.)

Primary: This skillset is the focus of your guild. Consequently, you will learn primary skills more quickly than secondary or tertiary skills. Your guild's highest requirements will be in your primary skillset.

Secondary: This skillset is somewhat important to your guild. You will learn these skills at a moderate rate, and your guild will impose moderate requirements for advancement in these skills.

Tertiary: This skillset is considered a distraction from your guild's purpose. Unfortunately, you learn tertiary skills at a slow rate, but your guild does not require much work in this area. (That doesn't mean you should neglect tertiary skills.)

Here are the primary, secondary, and tertiary skillsets for each guild. (If you aren't in a guild, all of your skills are secondary.)

Primary Secondary Secondary Tertiary Tertiary
Barbarian Weapons Armor Survival Lore Magic
Bard Lore Magic Weapons Survival Armor
Cleric Magic Lore Weapons Armor Survival
Empath Lore Magic Survival Armor Weapons
Moon Mage Magic Lore Survival Armor Weapons
Necromancer Survival Magic Lore Weapons Armor
Paladin Armor Weapons Lore Magic Survival
Ranger Survival Weapons Armor Lore Magic
Thief Survival Weapons Lore Armor Magic
Trader Lore Survival Armor Weapons Magic
Warrior Mage Magic Weapons Lore Armor Survival

Pool Size

Before I start, let me make it clear that you don't just have one "pool size." Every one of your skills has a different pool. (You're actually carrying dozens of buckets of varying sizes, although the holes are all the same size.)

Your pool size is how much field experience you can hold. The larger your pool, the bigger your experience pulses. (This is because the pulse size is a certain percentage of your pool, however big it may be.) As your pool fills, you will notice your learning state change:

Amount Learning Mindstate Fraction
clear 0/34
dabbling 1/34
perusing 2/34
learning 3/34
thoughtful 4/34
thinking 5/34
considering 6/34
pondering 7/34
ruminating 8/34
concentrating 9/34
attentive 10/34
deliberative 11/34
interested 12/34
examining 13/34
understanding 14/34
absorbing 15/34
intrigued 16/34
scrutinizing 17/34
analyzing 18/34
studious 19/34
focused 20/34
very focused 21/34
engaged 22/34
very engaged 23/34
cogitating 24/34
fascinated 25/34
captivated 26/34
engrossed 27/34
riveted 28/34
very riveted 29/34
rapt 30/34
very rapt 31/34
enthralled 32/34
nearly locked 33/34
mind lock 34/34

Factors that determine pool size (in descending order of importance):
  1. Whether the skill is in your primary, secondary, or tertiary skillset
  2. The number of ranks you have in the skill
  3. Intelligence
  4. Discipline
Relatively speaking, Intelligence and Discipline have the largest effect on tertiary skills at low ranks.

Pulse Size (Absorption Rate)

Every 200 seconds, one of your skillsets will pulse. Primary skills pulse first, followed by secondary skills, and finally tertiary skills.

The primary factor affecting pulse size is whether the skill is primary, secondary, or tertiary:

Skillset Time to Pulse From Mind Lock to Clear
Primary 40-60 minutes
Secondary 50-80 minutes
Tertiary 70-100 minutes

In an effort to make DragonRealms more newbie-friendly, Simutronics has tweaked the drainage rates for skills with fewer than 100 ranks. All skills with fewer than 50 ranks skills will drain like primary skills. All tertiary skills with between 50 and 100 ranks will drain like secondary skills.

Wisdom also affects your pulse size. Higher Wisdom means bigger pulses, but every time you train Wisdom, you have a diminishing return on your investment (but not logarithmically diminishing).

Mind States

Note: The mind state system has been temporarily disabled, meaning that your mind state will always be "clear." Mind murk will return in some form at an unspecified time.

Mind states decrease the rate at which you absorb experience into new ranks. Whenever you are "mind locked" in a skill, you cannot gain new experience in that skill until you absorb some of your field experience. If you continue to gain experience while you are mind locked, the experience will spill over into your "mind state" pool. When you are mind locked in skills for an extended period of time, your mind state will worsen.

You can check your mind state by looking at your "overall state of mind" when you type SKILLS. Your mind state ranges from clear (best) to very frozen (worst).
  1. clear
  2. fluid
  3. murky
  4. very murky
  5. thick: penalty begins
  6. very thick
  7. dense
  8. very dense
  9. stagnant
  10. very stagnant
  11. frozen: no longer absorbing experience
  12. very frozen
The learning penalty increases as your mind state worsens, until you stop absorbing any experience at "frozen." (Being "very frozen" simply means that it will take even longer for your mind state to improve.) The only way to improve a poor mind state is to stop gaining field experience for a while. This will give your mind state pool a chance to drain.

If you improve your pool size or pulse rate (see above), it will take longer to mind lock, and therefore, you can train for longer periods of time without filling your mind state pool. However, the best way to avoid a poor mind state is to avoid being mind locked in multiple skills for an extended period of time.

Changes to the Experience System

On July 10, 2009, Simutronics overhauled the experience system. The overall rate of learning is similar, but some of the mechanics have changed:

Pool Sizes: Pool sizes are much larger.

Pulse Sizes: Pulses are now static instead of dynamic. So for a given rank and stats, you will always pulse the same amount (assuming you have enough experience in the pool to fill that pulse).

The maximum percentage of a pool that you can drain at once is much smaller. However, since the pools are larger, the drainage rates should be comparable to the amount drained while "mind locked" in the old system.

Wall Cycles: Wall cycles have been abolished. Primary skills always pulse more than secondary skills, which always pulse more than tertiary skills. There is, however, an even/odd cycle where odd ranks are slightly slower than even ranks. Instead of there being a huge gap between the "wall" and the "anti-wall," there's just a small gap that alternates back and forth.

The new system continues to relax the drainage rates during early training. All skills with fewer than 50 ranks skills will drain like primary skills. All tertiary skills with between 50 and 100 ranks will drain like secondary skills.

Statistics: Statistics have a much greater effect on the experience system. Intelligence and Wisdom are the ways to go here, and both provide the same bonus amount to different things. Intelligence and Wisdom affect all skills equally. These stats have diminishing returns that are not logarithmically diminishing.

Pool States: The 13 original pool states (clear, learning, muddled, etc.) have been replaced by 35 new pool states. (See above for a complete list.)

Mind States: Mind Murk has gone away for the time being. In other words, your mind state will always be clear, regardless of how much experience you are gaining.

Learning Strategies

Focus Early on Mentals

Most people recommend that you focus your early training on mentals. This is generally good advice, although I would at least train Strength and Stamina to the point where you have little encumbrance/burden.

How exactly you should focus your training is up to you, but you may want to keep all of your stats relatively even until they are around 20. Then specialize according to your guild and play style.

The 2-point Spread

Some players believe that you should keep your mentals two points apart, with Wisdom 2 points higher than Intelligence and Intelligence 2 points higher than Discipline. It is no longer true that Wisdom has a greater effect than Intelligence. However, even under the old system, I did not base my training on the 2-point spread.

The 2-point spread developed at a time before the old learning formulas were known. It was merely some player's educated guess at how to optimize learning. Once the learning formulas were discovered, there was no reason to adhere to the 2-point spread. You could see exactly how each stat affected the learning rate. With the recent changes (see above), there's even less of a reason to adhere to the 2-point spread.

Soft Caps for Stats

Intelligence and Wisdom have diminishing returns that are not logarithmically diminishing. What this means is that every time you train one of these stats, it will have less of an effect on learning than before. (For example, if you train Wisdom from 10 to 11, you will experience a greater improvement to pulse size than if you train Wisdom from 20 to 21.) The practical effect is that each stat has a "soft cap," beyond which it is no longer an efficient use of your TDPs to train. (Note: mental stats affect more than learning, so you should not stop training them.)


People often say that it is not worthwhile to train Wisdom beyond 28 or 30. This is a relic from the time when the exact learning formulas were known. Some people said not to train past 28, because that was when you achieved an ideal pulse size of 40%. Others said not to train past 30, because that was the point at which you gained less than a 1% improvement to your pulse size by training. Wisdom still has a soft cap, but it might not be the same as before, because the experience system was tweaked.


People used to say that even though Wisdom had a soft cap of 28-30, Intelligence had no soft cap, so you should train that as high as possible to improve your pool size. This used to be true, because the pool size formula did not use a logarithmic function of Intelligence. However, that has changed. Intelligence, like Wisdom, also has a soft cap. We just don't know what it is.

The new experience formulas have not been released, and therefore, no one really knows the new soft caps. (We can guess, but until there is accurate information, I wouldn't base my training regimen on anyone's guess.) We only know that Intelligence and Wisdom have a bigger effect than they used to have.

Training as a Commoner

Because Commoners learn all skills as if they were secondary skills, people used to train their future guild's tertiary skills as Commoners before joining their guild. (For example, a future Moon Mage might train weapons and armor as a Commoner before joining the Moon Mage guild.)

However, with the abolition of the wall cycles, starting as a Commoner is less efficient. Tertiary skills will drain as efficiently as secondary skills for the first 100 ranks.

In addition, Commoners are sometimes at a disadvantage relative to guilded secondary skills. For example, a Commoner can only use small arm-worn shields, whereas armor-secondary guilds can use medium arm-worn shields.

Unless you want to spend a long time as a Commoner, I recommend joining a guild immediately. The only reason to play as a Commoner now is if you are planning to train tertiary skills past 100 ranks or if you want to train weapons before becoming an Empath (because Empaths can't kill most things with their own hands). Even then, you'll be missing out on the TDPs and guild abilities that you could get by circling.

When Should I Stop Training Mentals?

As I explained above, there comes a point when additional training in Wisdom and Intelligence won't have much of an effect on learning. However, that does not mean that you should stop training these stats. Wisdom and Intelligence are used in other systems.

Wisdom Intelligence