For the rating of a player's combat abilities, see Combat level.
Below is a brief explanation of the three Combat styles that can be used.
- In Melee combat, the maximum damage is determined by Strength, along with the strength bonuses provided by equipment. Accuracy is determined by Attack and the attack bonuses provided by weapons and other equipment.
- For Ranged combat, both the Ranged level and the type of ammunition determine the maximum damage. The accuracy is determined by the weapon used.
- Magic-based damage is typically based on the selected Magic combat spell, not by Magic level. (Exceptions include Magic Dart and salamanders.) Magical accuracy is affected by both the equipment bonuses and by the Magic level.
Even though each level is designated for one style of Combat, multiple styles of combat can be used in one fight, since players have the ability to switch weapons at will and at any time. The act of using two or more combat styles in a fight to gain an advantage is called "hybridding". While not usually popular or effective in PvP or low level Wilderness combat, hybridding is a necessary tactic in high level Wilderness combat. The purpose of hybridding is to maintain the advantage over your enemy and bypass protection prayers.
Players gain combat skill xp from dealing damage. The normal value is 4 xp per damage in the combat style used in magic, ranged, and melee. However, the high defence monsters have higher xp for hitpoint damage ratio.  The normal value for hitpoint experience gained is 1.33 xp per damage done.
Magic spells also grant xp for the spell cast even if the spell splashes. Defensive mode in magic and range are also an exception. If a player uses magic on defensive mode, the normal value is 1 xp to magic and 1 xp to defense per damage done, plus casting xp. For ranging with long range, the normal value is 2 ranged xp and 2 defense xp per damage done. If a player is using a melee weapon, such as an abyssal whip or spear that shares experience with attack, strength, and defense, then the normal value is 1.33 xp (4 divided by 3) per damage done to attack, strength, and defense.
Hitpoints is the level that limits the health of a player or monster. This is the skill which essentially decides a battle, as an individual loses when their hitpoints hit 0. Since this skill is the deciding factor in Combat, there are various methods of adjusting your hitpoints.
- Hitpoints are primarily restored through the use of food, drinks, and some potions. There are some roundabout methods of healing, including healing others through butterflies and Magic, or going to an NPC for healing, such as a monk, but these methods are often ineffective and uncommon.
- It is possible to boost your hitpoints past the current maximum, through the use of Saradomin brews or some foods. While the majority of these boosts are temporary and your hitpoints would gradually reset to their regular level, they can be significant in a fight.
Defence is the second skill which plays an active role in nearly all combat situations, except when safespotting or any other instance where the opponent cannot retaliate. Defence as a skill doesn't directly reduce the damage taken per hit, but rather makes it more likely that enemies will hit you for zero damage, which is equivalent to a miss. Because training in the defensive style reduces the damage dealt and therefore XP gained per hour, Defence is not as popular a combat skill to train. In this way, Defence could be equated to "evasiveness". The only way to reduce the damage taken from a successful hit is to utilise protection prayers when battling other players or monsters that hit through prayer.
While Defence is responsible for reducing the accuracy of most hits, it is only 30% effective against Magic spells. Instead, 70% of the reduction of accuracy for a spell is determined by your own Magic level. To guard well against Magic, you would need a sizeable Magic level yourself.
NPCs magic defence
NPC's magic defence is not affected by it's defence level only magic level and magic defence bonus. See Magic.
Prayer, the final combat skill, is optional to use. However, it is allowed in all combat situations, except in instances where it is specifically forbidden (for example, during the boss fight in Dream Mentor). Prayer allows the use of prayers, which are temporary passive boosts which a player can activate at will. Prayer effects include stat boost, Protect Item, hitpoint restoration, and even damage upon death. Prayer is a unique system; while prayers are active, the player's Prayer points are slowly drained at a rate dependent on both the type of prayer and any prayer bonuses provided by equipment, and prayers can no longer be used when all prayer points have been drained. Like with Hitpoints, increasing your Prayer level increases your maximum Prayer points and allows access to a lever variety of prayers. But unlike Hitpoints, prayer points do not regenerate over time (outside of the Demonic Ruins) and can only be restored by praying at an altar, consuming potions, or using certain Special attacks.
While skills are an important aspect of Combat, damage done and received is mostly determined by external traits, and there is a multitude of other factors which contribute to the fight.
Armour and weaponry
Generally, armour boosts a person's defensive capabilities by reducing the accuracy of incoming attacks, and weaponry boosts a player's offensive capabilities. However, armour may also provide offensive bonuses, and weapons usually provide minor defensive bonuses. For maximum effectiveness, players should use the best equipment available to them, since bonuses provided by equipment are at least as important as levels in combat skills.
The elysian spirit shield and dinh's bulwark are currently the only pieces of armour and weaponry that provide general damage absorption abilities. Certain shields can reduce the damage taken from dragon breath, and Yak-hide armour reduces damage taken from Ice trolls.
Stat increases are available to anybody through the use of potions and certain food items. Through skill boosts, one can temporarily increase a combat statistic to a higher level. These boosts can cause your combat stats to exceed the known cap of 99.
Special attacks are specific to some weapons that player can wield. Special attacks consume a set percentage of the special attack bar in exchange for an effect specific to the weapon, which may include extra damage, additional hits, stat drains, and many others.
All weapons in RuneScape have a specific speed, which determines the interval between successive hits. Attack speed is arguably the single most important factor in damage per second, though fast weapons tend to not be as accurate or powerful as their counterparts. Fast, inaccurate weapons are ideal against enemies with low Defence, while slower, more accurate weapons fare better against enemies with high Defence.