A long-standing bug with the Backstab command was fixed on 28th April 2011. However, this bug had become so ingrained in the game that, for example, many weapons appear to have been designed to work with the bug.
Please Do Not Edit Other People's Ideas or explain why other people's ideas are wrong! Instead, just add your own thoughts on how backstab should work.
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I think backstab should only work for weapons with a pierce damage component, the command is back_STAB_ after all.
A pure pierce weapon is probably easier to backstab with compared to a mixed damage type weapon.
A heavier / longer / wider weapon is probably harder to wield covertly, but probably does more damage.
Lighter weapons can probably be manipulated faster (number of hits per weapon) than heavier weapons.
I'd suggest that the lightest fastest daggers might be capable of as many as 4 or even 5 stabs in a combat heartbeat when wielded skillfully in the prime hand. I'd think that the number of actions in a single heartbeat would be a reasonable limiting factor.
Prime hand may be faster than off hand, so you might with identical weapons in each hand get an extra hit in with your prime hand. Hits with the prime hand might also be better placed and do more damage.
Lots of fast jabbing hits taking advantage of the element of surprise, the element of surprise meaning that your target doesn't make any defensive moves during the attack. However, these are not the prepared blows of a normal special attack, and might well individually be slightly less damaging than a normal base round, the strength of the attack will be the number of attacks combined with the surprise.
So, possibly as many as 9 rapid stabs (5 prime hand, 4 off hand) doing perhaps the equivalent damage of 7 or 8 base round attacks.
"Shock and Awe" effect is probably down to the surprise of the attack, so a feature of the co.it.weap and co.stealth.* skills.
Damage caused is down to the ability to plunge the weapon into the target, so a feature of the weapon skill and the weapon itself.
"Mug" might be an alternative for blunt weapons, although this take on "mug" might not be what the thieves would expect mug to be.
More of an aesthetic thing than anything else, I always found it odd that pretty much every single member of every single guild backstabbed in exactly the same way.
It would be nice to have more variety to the backstab, maybe having different "styles" that you could set/learn from different sources. Depending on the style used it could give a different "effect" as to how the backstab is performed (or failed). Purely cosmetic, it would add some variety. A few examples:
A "clumsy" backstab in which the attacker feigns tripping over, using the opportunity to stab their victim several times (inspired by Lao Tze and those other seemingly harmless types who can inflict serious damage without ever giving the impression of actually attacking) A violent style, focusing on pure brutality over finesse (with appropriate setup/attack messages) A professional style, with each hit being carefully placed etc.