Turk Zapt’s 25 Metagaming Rules of RPG Combat


Combat is a considered a complex part of most games and has many rules to cover the different scenarios that might come up. Most of the time, we end up seeing people simply trading blows and it loses its luster. This is because a number of different factors; the biggest being that Auto-Attacks are easy. Beyond that there is a host of other metagaming factors that are occurring behind the scenes. If you understand what those are we can use them to get us away from monotonous combat and make it more exciting. The first step in making combat more exciting is understanding the more nuanced details involved in damage actions, support actions, dice rolling, and combat structure. Today I am going to talk about some of the things that are not evident at first glance.

  1. Players will do what is in predictable, routine patterns that are the bane of exciting Combat Encounters.
  2. The more Dice Rolls that occur, the slower Combat will be.
  3. You can attain faster Combat through fewer Dice Rolls.
  4. Use Average Damage dice for Villains to make faster Combat Encounters.
  5. Using Average Damage Dice plus a 1d6 will add a variety to Average Damage.
  6. Multithreading–where you allow multiple actions to be performed at the same time–will make for faster Combat. Resolve Actions in Initiative Order.
  7. Heroes usually have more actions per round than Villains, close that gap or make the Villain’s damage more severe to increase the deadliness factor.
  8. Shorter Combats will encourage players to ONLY use Damage Abilities.
  9. Longer Combats will encourage players to use ALL abilities especially Support Abilities like buffs and debuffs.
  10. Large amounts of damage from Villains will encourage players to Heal and make Healers feel more useful.
  11. Adding Health to your Villains will extend the length of your Combat Encounter.
  12. Reducing the Health of your Villains will reduce the length of a Combat Encounter.
  13. Don’t increase Defense on your Villains, making them harder to hit can be boring, just add Health.
  14. Give hidden Weaknesses to your Villains to reward those that think outside the box, but give clues as to what those Weaknesses are.
  15. Telegraph a Villain’s Strengths to give your players a chance to counter them.
  16. Villain Special Attacks should be a surprise, but afterwards telegraph them to give your players a chance.
  17. When players start looking for every advantage in combat, you have them hooked.
  18. With AoE burn downs you can defeat multiple Foes as fast as one Foe since their damage is taken concurrently.
  19. GMs should separate multiple Foes to shield them from AoE burn downs.
  20. Single Target Actions are only useful against Single Foes.
  21. If you use Multiple Powerful Foes, you will encourage your players to use AoE Actions over Single Target Actions.
  22. AoE Actions should be weaker than Single Target Attacks or cost more to use.
  23. Buffs and Debuffs should be fast actions or players will forego using them in favor of Damage Dealing actions.
  24. Triage scenarios–multiple serious problems are present to deal with and priorities must be assigned–add excitement and a deadliness factor to combat.
  25. Villains should perform AoEs to build a Triage Scenario.

This list is not exhaustive, there is a lot more that can be said about Combat and the meta knowledge involved in it, but this is a good start. I would love to see what you have to add to this list. Let me know what you think.

-Turk Zapt




Beyond the Fold

The Beyond the Fold section is a little addition I am adding to my posts to share some preview content or extra details regarding an off-topic area. Today’s Beyond the Fold is a little preview of the new Necromancer Hero Class I am designing for the Unchained Heroes RPG.


Necromorph: The Monster

Sustained Mobile [Supernatural] [Boon]

Energy: CFT 100

Range: Self

Action Time: 3 (Very Fast)

Duration: Until Canceled

You fashion and augment your body with great necromantic energies to build yourself into a monstrous form that stands tall, fierce, and terrifying before your opponents. Your skin color becomes gray and lifeless looking, your muscles bulge in disproportionate ways and you are infused with abyssal energy.

Effect: You become The Monster. Your Creature Type becomes Undead and you gain the following Strengths and Weaknesses that are active only while under this transformation.


  • Become a Large Size Creature, -2 DEF, +5 Health/level, +1 Healthy Stage, Battle Presence 2
  • Large Creatures may wield Large Weapons (2H) as Onehanded Weapons
  • Automatically gain the Intimidation Talent while Active
  • You gain the Rubbery Flesh (page 307) and Relentless (page 314) Creature Strengths
  • Battle Skills are swapped. POW and ATK take each others values as well as WILL and DEF and SP and MS. You effectively become a Martial based Hero Class.
  • All Strengths of the Undead Creature Type (page 298)


  • Critical Effect/Fire Damage
  • -4 MISC MOD to Mobility
  • -10 MISC MOD to all Influence Skill Checks for anything besides Intimidation.
  • All Weaknesses of the Undead Creature Type (page 296)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *