Valheim Skills, XP and Combat Guide

by Valkymaera

This was gained through a combination of partial glimpses of framework “behind the curtain” of the game, and many hours of stopwatch-timing, punch-counting, jump-counting, and spreadsheet-making. Many boars died to bring you what I have learned– thanks to everyone who has been contributing, correcting and questioning.


Experience (XP) required to advance a skill by exactly 1 is calculated when reaching a new level, and grows exponentially. All skills use the same curve/formula for experience requirements. To get a feel for the curve, here are some rounded up requirements to reach some levels from the previous level:

Level 1: 1
Level 5: 7
Level 10: 17
Level 25: 63
Level 50: 178
Level 75: 326
Level 100: 501

Once a level is reached/set, the experience for the skill is set to zero. There is no rollover. When determining how skills affect gameplay, only the current level is considered– progress between levels does not matter.

Skills share a pattern of xp gain based on their type, but each skill has its own unique base xp value granted in that pattern. Detailed below are the patterns of skill gain, followed by the list of base xp values.

Hitting objects (rocks, trees, buildings, etc) gives base xp for the weapon’s skill. Hitting enemies or players gives 1.5x base. This is per attack– regardless of how many things you hit in a swing, if at least one of those objects is an enemy or player, you gain 1.5x base, otherwise you gain base xp. You do not gain more xp for a skill by hitting more things at once. You can, however, gain both axe and woodcutting xp by hitting both trees and non-trees in a single swing.

Pickaxe follows this melee pattern– lowering terrain does not grant xp. Attacking other players grants xp even if their pvp is disabled.

Hitting enemies and players gives base xp per hit. Hitting objects gives only half.

Note for weapons: Damage dealt, resistances, combos, backstabbing, and stagger “crits” do not affect skill gain. Damage that is reduced to zero, including damage to immune or invulnerable objects (including players with pvp disabled), will still give xp as normal. If you see floating text at all, you are gaining xp.

If you are within one or more enemies’ view range and none of them are alerted, you gain base xp per second spent moving. Otherwise, gain 0.1x base per second moving. It doesn’t matter how many enemies you are sneaking near, how close you are, which way they are facing, how dark it is, or how visible you are. You don’t have to sneak for a full second to benefit (fractional seconds of sneaking will accumulate).

You gain 0.1x base per second moving even if there are no enemies nearby. Players do not count as enemies, even if pvp-enabled.

Gain base xp per jump, so long as you have the stamina (jumping with insufficient stamina will still show a small jump animation, but you will not gain xp). The height you jump from or land from does not matter, nor does the distance or what you jump over.

Gain base xp per second spent running. You don’t have to run for a full second to benefit (fractional seconds will accumulate). Slope, weight carried, and movement modifiers do not affect this xp.

Gain base xp per hit you attempt to block, or 2x if the hit was successfully parried. It doesn’t matter what you use to block with, and apart from parry xp it doesn’t matter how much damage you blocked, or if you failed to block any or all of the damage. Each hit blocked gives its own xp.

Your pvp must be enabled to gain block xp from other player attacks.

Gain base xp per second moving, even if you are out of stamina & drowning. Wading and treading water do not grant xp.

Hitting trees with an axe gives woodcutting base xp (not axe xp). This can occur once per swing– it doesn’t matter how many trees you hit in an attack. If you hit trees & non-trees in the same swing with an axe, you will gain both woodcutting and axes base xp. If at least one of those was an enemy or player, you will gain 1.5x for both.

Below are the estimated base xp values for each skill, gained during the “usage” patterns above. This list is more likely to change than the patterns above as the game is developed/balanced.

Clubs: 1
Blocking : 0.5
Unarmed: 1
Run: 0.2
Sneak: 0.5
Swim: 0.3*
Jump: 0.5
Bows: 2.5
Polearms: 1
Axes: 1
Pickaxes : 1
Knives: 1
Spears: 1.5
Woodcutting: 1

*Swim could use a few more tests for verification

On death, every skill loses 5% of its current level, and its experience progress is set to zero. This means on death a level 40 skill will drop to the start of level 38, and all progress made toward level 41 is lost. For 10 minutes afterward, you will be safe from further death-related skill loss (shown in the top right corner as a ‘no skill drain’ status effect).

While the rested buff is active, you gain 50% more experience.

Skills are not constrained to integers, and skill loss on death is not rounded to the nearest integer. This means if your skill level is 12 and you die, losing 5%, it becomes level 11.4, and calculates the amount of experience required to reach level 12.4, then 13.4, and so on. The skill shown in the UI is truncated, so even if your skill level is 11.98, you will see it as level 11, not 12.

Your skill’s usefulness is based on how close it is to 100. This means 11.4 is mechanically better than 11. If you ever experienced confusion where someone equipped with the same gear as you and the same apparent skill level as you has different gear stats than you, it’s probably because one of you has a higher fractional skill level.

Combat & Skill Application

While holding block, you will attempt to reduce all damage in a 180 degree arc in front of you, using your offhand item if you have one, otherwise the equipped weapon, if any. Almost all blocking effects are going to be based on the item’s effective Block Power, which is the maximum damage it can block. Your blocking skill increases this block power, by up to 50% at level 100. This effective value is shown in yellow on the item.

Per incoming hit, an amount of damage up to the effective block power of the item is absorbed, if you have sufficient stamina. This also reduces knockback dealt to you by 50 to 100%. The stamina cost, knockback reduction, and item durability damage depend on how much damage is blocked relative to your effective block power. If your entire block power is used to block the attack, the stamina cost is 25. Less block power used means less stamina spent, less damage to the item, and less knockback, all of which approach zero as the damage approaches zero.

If you don’t have sufficient stamina for the block, you will take full damage. Your block power can be lower than the damage but you must have enough stamina to block the attack for it to be effective at all.

If you don’t block all incoming blockable damage, whether due to insufficient stamina or insufficient block power, you will be staggered.

When blocking, only your block skill is applicable. Your weapon skill does not matter. Weapon knockback also does not matter. Blocking reduces damage before armor calculations.

For items that allow parrying, blocking within 0.25 seconds before being hit will apply your parry bonus multiplier to its block power. If you’re able to block all of the damage, the parry is successful, and the enemy will be knocked back and staggered (if not immune). The knockback applied to the enemy is based on the item’s Parry Force. The less of your block power used to absorb the hit, the more of that parry force is applied to the enemy. Parry is a part of the block system, and uses the stats for whatever item you’re blocking with. If you have a shield, for example, your weapon’s block and parry stats are ignored.

Parrying does not increase damage of any attacks. It may appear to, due to the extra damage staggered enemies take. The parry multiplier, however, is not a damage multiplier.

After damage is reduced by any blocked amount, All worn armor values are added together to determine total armor, which will reduce damage further.
For each hit taken, if the damage is at least twice as great as the armor, it is reduced directly
(Damage – Total Armor)

If the damage is less than twice the armor, it is scaled down using the following formula:
Damage taken = (Damage / (4 * Total Armor)) * Damage

Armor will reduce all direct damage except poison damage and ‘pure damage’ effects like fall damage. Damage over time from status effects is not reduced. At the moment, it appears only players have armor.

Your skill level with a weapon determines the damage and knockback relative to the item’s base values. This is shown in the weapon’s UI as numbers in parenthesis next to the base damage of the weapon. At 0 skill, you will do between 25 and 55% of the base damage and knockback, while at skill 100 you will do between 85 and 100% of the base damage and knockback. Your skill will also reduce the stamina drain of attacks, scaling up to 33% reduction at level 100.

For bows, skill also reduces the draw time by 1% per level.

Enemies that have been parried, or have taken significant damage in a short time, will become staggered, typically shown by an animation (for humanoids this is usually reeling backward and flailing off-balance). Staggered enemies take 2x damage from melee and ranged attacks. Attacks doubled in this way will create a critical hit sound, which I would describe as metal clashing. Not all enemies can be staggered, and some are more resistant than others.

When staggering by damage, the amount of damage required depends on their max health, their vulnerability to stagger, and any extra stagger the weapon applies. I have not determined the values of these metrics for enemies or weapons yet, only that they exist.

Attacking an enemy that is not alert will apply the backstab multiplier of the weapon to the damage. It does not matter whether or not you are sneaking or which direction the enemy is facing. Once backstab damage is dealt, the enemy is immune to further backstabs for 5 minutes. Attacks that deal backstab damage will create a critical hit sound that I would describe as the whistle of an arrow (this sound is different from the staggered damage sound).

Damage that includes a type that the enemy is weak or very weak to will show in yellow and they will take 50% or 100% extra damage, respectively. If they are resistant or very resistant, the numbers are shown in gray and they take 50% or 75% less damage, respectively.

A single attack can deal damage of multiple types, such as a fire arrow dealing pierce and fire damage, or knives dealing slash and pierce damage. Each damage type is handled separately for weakness and resistance. If multiple vulnerabilities and/or weaknesses are applied to the same attack, the most significant modifier is what determines how the damage is displayed.

Several melee weapons will chain together consecutive attacks in a short time as a combo animation. The final hit in this combo will deal double damage.

Some enemies have stars representing additional levels. Enemies above level 1 gain 100% base health per additional level, and 50% base damage per additional level. Enemies will also scale based on players within proximity. Each additional player within range (expected to be 200 meters) increases the health of spawned enemies by 40%, and incoming damage by enemies by 4%. If players leave the area, the incoming damage scales back down. The health appears to remain boosted, but this could use further verification.

All of these scaling modifiers are applied multiplicatively; i.e. health is calculated as base \ player scaling * level scaling. A level 3 enemy near 4 players would spawn with 660% health, and hit for 224% damage.*

There is no random critical hit chance or vulnerable spots on enemies. Damage is modified by Resist/Vulnerability, backstab, stagger, combo finisher, skill, level scaling, group scaling, blocking, and armor. As a technicality, hitting a staggered enemy is sometimes referred to as a “crit”, though the chance of double damage on a staggered enemy is 100%.

During long fights, especially with lots of kiting, an enemy may lose their alerted status, which can result in a backstab mid-fight if they have not been backstabbed in the last 5 minutes. This may contribute to the misconception of random or location-based crits.

Non-combat Skill Application

Not all skill benefits are shown in the game tooltips. Here are some known benefits to each of the non-combat skills, as well as information settling some questions about them:

Run skill reduces stamina drain while running by up to 50%, and increases speed by up to 25%

Swim skill reduces stamina drain while swimming. The amount is not certain but appears to be up to 60%

When drowning, you lose 5% of your max health per second. Being well fed will help you swim longer by giving you stamina, but won’t help you live longer once you’re out of stamina. Eat high-stamina foods instead of health-foods when swimming.

Sneak skill reduces stamina drain while sneaking by up to 75% non-linearly, with more noticeable reductions in earlier levels. Sneak skill also reduces your visibility to enemies as follows:

While sneaking, your visibility is based on the light level of your position, represented in your HUD as a small bar under the reticle. This bar fills with white as you are in brighter locations, and lowers in darker locations. This value directly reduces the effective view range of enemies when considering if you are seen by them. For example if that “visibility meter” is filled 80% white, then enemies around you have 80% of their view range when calculating if you’re inside it.

With 0 skill, this meter will be at 50% in the darkest dark and 100% in the brightest bright. This means you can cut enemy view range in half at best, if it’s dark enough. at 100 skill, the meter will be at 20% in the darkest dark, and 60% in the brightest bright.

While sneaking you make no sound. Sneak considers line-of-sight, but is not chance-based. If the enemy has line-of-sight to you, and you are in their modified view range, they will see you. Enemies do have a frontal view-cone, but I do not know the angles, which may vary per enemy.

Jump skill increases the height of a jump by increasing its velocity up to 40%, resulting in a significant height boost for which I do not have a calculation. Skill does not appear to reduce stamina cost.

Movement speed modifiers from equipped items will apply to Run speed and jog speed, and will increase the stamina cost of jump and dodge-roll. It will not affect sneak or swim at all.

The total weight you are carrying does not seem to matter, as long as you are not over-encumbered, but there is a small amount of exploring left to do for this to be absolutely sure.

My Contribution to Settling Rumors & Misconceptions

There have been interesting debates and rumors that I have enjoyed exploring. Here are some things I’ve discovered on a few topics of interest, most of which mentioned above:

  • Parry Bonus only affects block power, it does not empower your attacks.
  • Wind does not affect sneak or enemy awareness (enemies can only see and hear … for now)
  • You DO gain sneak skill if there are no enemies nearby, albeit 1/10th of normal
  • Skill loss on death is 5%, not 10%
  • Headshots don’t deal extra damage (but are satisfying nonetheless)
  • There is no random chance of a critical hit, in the traditional sense. The closest thing to this is the chance of an enemy to become unalerted and receive backstab damage once, and the chance to deal enough normal-range damage fast enough to stagger, opening the enemy up to double damage while staggered.

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