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This article was written by the god Shadowfax, and posted on Mar 14, 2009.

This article discusses the thief backstab skill, including descriptions of how it works and how best to maximize its effectiveness for your character. Tips are provided for both beginners and veterans alike.

What is Backstab?

Backstab is a thief skill that allows a player to execute a sneak attack on an unsuspecting enemy. Learn the backstab skill as soon as it is available. Backstab is a mainstay of thievery and puts you on equal footing, in terms of dealing damage, with casters and warriors. Backstab is a low level skill and can be improved with use. Experienced, high level thieves can do a massive amount of damage with a well-executed backstab, possibly inflicting more damage than is possible with any other attack or spell.

Choose Your Weapon!

You must wield a weapon in order to backstab. Only weapons that have the 'pierce', 'stab', or 'sting' damage type and do not have a NO_BACKSTAB flag can be used to backstab. The damage type and flags of a weapon can be determined when it is identified or otherwise statted. You cannot attempt a backstab with an unsuitable weapon.

When choosing a weapon, consider its dieroll and any damroll effects. The damage your backstab inflicts is determined in part by your weapon's dieroll and your character's damroll.

Step by Step

You can only backstab an opponent that is not currently engaged in combat (with you or anyone else). Once you have chosen an eligible target, type "backstab ". You will get the message: "You move steathily into position...". There will be a short pause, sometimes called the 'setup lag'. The length of the setup lag is dependent on the speed of your backstabbing weapon, but beyond that cannot be changed. After the setup lag is complete, you attempt the backstab.

As with most thief skills, dexterity of the attacker is the governing attribute in determing success. However, unlike most other skills, there is no real defensive technique that targets may use beyond being paranoid and constantly on the lookout for the attack. Injured creatures are generally more aware and are harder to backstab, unless they are so wounded that they begin losing awareness of their surroundings. Creatures that sense life may also sense your presence prior to attack (hence the large proportion of undead assassins.)

The throw to land a successful backstab therefore looks something like:

attacker dexterity - target injury bonus - target sense life bonus

Sleeping, mortally wounded, or otherwise unaware creatures are generally even easier to backstab.

Note that in the above, there is no mention of thief level or backstab skill level. Anyone can land a sneak attack or sucker punch - the real power of the skill lies in making it the most effective sneak attack it can be.

Damage and Multipliers

If your attempt is successful, damage is dealt. The two basic stages to calculate your backstab damage are to calculate the base damage, then calculate the skill multiplier. The multiplier times the base damage is the final damage for the attack.

The base damage is simple to calculate; the weapon's dieroll is rolled, then half of the player's damroll is added. Other minor bonuses that are largely insignificant in the course of normal game play may also be present and are added into the overall damage roll.

The skill multiplier is substantially more complex. Your backstab skill level, thief level, and dexterity are the primary contributors here. Making sure that each is as high as possible raises the odds of a high multiplier.

A typical multiplier range for a level 15 thief would be from 1 to 11. For a high level thief with a lot of experience, the multiplier range may be as high as 1 to 24. Keep in mind that these are extreme limits, and that generally your backstab multiplier will remain near the center of the range. Wearing eq with the THIEF_SKILL_LEVEL effect can affect this range.

After you make a backstab attempt, your character will be unable to perform any other action for a short period of time except for melee combat. This recovery time is frequently referred to as the 'stab lag' and lasts for 3 rounds. You will experience stab lag and your target will attack you even if your attempt fails. Once the stab lag is over, you can react normally again.

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