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.
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Backstab is "a rapid flurry of blows relevant to the weapon type of the attacker" and "delivered with an element of surprise which catches the defender off guard".
A single damage type weapon may be easier to backstab with compared to a mixed damage type weapon.
A bigger (heavier, longer, wider) weapon is probably harder to wield covertly than a smaller (lighter, shorter, thinner) one.
A bigger weapon is probably harder to manipulate rapidly, and thus slower and does less attacks, than a smaller one.
A bigger weapon probably does more damage with each blow than a smaller one.
A more skilled attacker can probably wield a weapon faster than a less skilled one.
A more skilled attacker probably does more damage with each blow than a less skilled one.
I'd suggest that the lightest fastest weapons might be capable of as many as 4 or even 5 attacks 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 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 attacks (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 a feature of the weapon skill and the weapon itself.
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.