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The original version of this article was written in December, 2003 (see below). Back in “the day,” there were no skill locks or skill gain arrows in UO. In order to maintain a skill, you had to use it frequently – otherwise, it would automatically start to decay and you would lose skill points. Some skills decayed “faster” than other skills. Skills that decayed quickly had to be used more frequently to prevent decay. Alchemy was the “fastest” decaying skill; Remove Trap was the slowest.

Sometime around 2004, EA implemented skill locks. Hallelujah! Now, you could control which skills stayed locked and which would increase or decrease.

However, I’m convinced (by my own personal experiences and experiments) that while automatic skill decay was disabled in the game, the skill decay rates were NOT disabled.

Why does this matter?

Let’s say that you’re a long-time UO veteran with a max skill cap of 720 points. You’re at the skill cap. You’ve got 110 magery and 110 Swordsmanship. You decide to drop Swords to 100 so that you can go Legendary with magery (120). You toggle your Swordsmanship arrow down, and your Magery arrow up in your skill gump. All is well…. except that you can’t seem to gain anything, or gains are extremely slow!

You see – Swordsmanship is a pretty slow decaying skill – meaning, it’s hard to lose Swords points. If you had some points of Alchemy to drop, Alchemy wouldn’t put up a fight! It decays easily, and wouldn’t block your Magery gains.

The solution?

Mark your Alchemy skill to go Up temporarily, and mark Swords to go down. Go to an herbalist in a mage shop and buy 10 points worth of Alchemy training. (They will offer 20-30 points worth of training for 200-300gp. Be sure to give no more than 100gp so that you get no more than 10 points of Alchemy – otherwise, Swords will go down more than 10 points to below GM. You might want to give 95 gold, just to be safe).

With Swords now at (or around) 100, lock it. Next, mark Alchemy to go down. Now go train magery. I bet you’ll gain quickly, and continue to gain at the “normal” rate for your skill level.

Many people say this is all a myth. Most of those people (the ones I’ve discussed this with) weren’t around in UO before skill locks existed. I’ve tested this countless times, and still use the alchemy trick to this day (2008). While soulstones are also an option (to drop your total skill points below the cap, leaving room to gain), often times I don’t want to cripple my character template by removing an entire skill. Most of my characters are at max skill points, and unless I have some Alchemy available to drop, it is very hard for me to gain – even with other skill arrows marked down. Buying up a few points of Alchemy has, without fail, ALWAYS restored my ability to gain skills – even at the skill cap. I’ve even tested a few times with tailoring around 113 skill, and having zero alchemy (and no other fast-decaying skills marked down) has blocked my GGS gains! Go buy alchy, craft something, and bingo – there’s my GGS gain.

If I’m crazy, so be it – but I’m convinced that skill decay rates were never removed from the skill gain code. Hey – if you’re stuck, it’s worth a shot! 🙂

Here’s the original article, from December 2003:
Since UO introduced skill management options, training skills has become worlds easier. How many old timers remember the days of accidentally seeing your most prized skill gain achievement decay because you forgot to use the skill? Ouch! Today, we can set our skills to increase or decrease, or lock them as we see fit. No more decaying of skills unless we say so!

Here’s the catch, however. Training a skill is not as simple as setting the one you want increased as “up” and the one you want decreased as “down.” Various skills have different skill decay rates – meaning, some skills will decay (go down) quicker than others, even when you set them as “down” in your skills gump.

Here is a list of various skills and their decay rates. Skills at the top of the list decay the fastest; skills at the bottom decay the slowest.

[fastest]
Alchemy
Anatomy
Animal Lore
Item ID
Arms Lore
Parrying
Begging
Blacksmithy
Fletching
Peacemaking
Camping
Carpentry
Cartography
Cooking
Detecting Hidden
Enticement
Evaluating Intelligence
Healing
Fishing
Forensic Evaluation
Herding
Hiding
Provocation
Inscription
Lockpicking
Magery
Resisting Spells
Tactics
Snooping
Musicianship
Poisoning
Archery
Spirit Speak
Tailoring
Animal Taming
Taste Identification
Tinkering
Tracking
Veterinary
Swordsmanship
Mace Fighting
Fencing
Wrestling
Lumberjacking
Mining
Meditation
Stealth
Remove Trap
[slowest]

So – what do you do if you’re at the skill cap, and you’re trying to raise a new skill by decreasing an old one, but the skill you’ve set to decrease is a SLOW decaying skill? Simple…. Go buy ALCHEMY! Yup. I said alchemy. Mark your Alchemy skill as “up” and your slow-decay skill as “down.” Run to your nearest alchemist or mage shop and find an NPC Herbalist. Ask the herbalist to teach you the alchemy skill (right-click on the NPC and look for the “Train Alchemy” option). Pay the required amount of gold (usually under 300gp), and cha-ching! Watch your slow-decay skill disappear and be replaced with Alchemy.

Why alchemy? Because it is the fastest decaying skill there is. Therefore, you will not have skill decay roadblocks hampering your quest to gain in your new skill. Don’t forget to set your Alchemy skill to DOWN before you start training your new skill.

I must thank The Scandinavian of the Stratics forums for this tip, as it was given to me in a desperate time of skill training need! Thank you!