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Old 03-09-2018, 11:10 AM   #1
Kalzazz
 
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Default Backstab - what is it good for?

I am having a hard time figuring use for Backstab

The result seems to be the squishy thief hero becomes behind the closest enemy and does very mean things to it, possibly fatally

Then the thief is near all the other enemies and gets mauled
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Old 03-09-2018, 11:44 AM   #2
A Ladder
 
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Default Re: Backstab - what is it good for?

In one instance, yes, they would get mauled. But you have to think of other scenarios.

Let's say you have an Evil Necromancer with his zombie minions. He sends the minions crashing into the front line of the PCs heavy fighters. The Thief can Backstab the Necromancer and since the minions are engaged with the heavies the Thief doesn't get squished.

Let's say you have a lone sentry. The thief can take this guy out quickly, easily, and most importantly, silently. Also, not squished.

Let's say you have a long chain of monsters filing down towards the PCs. Thief takes out the back one and then hides again. The monsters are none the wiser. Ergo, thief is not squished again.

I think it's OK for the GM to allow the thief to silently take out foes in the back row and give the monsters Perception rolls to notice. With luck and timing and tactics the thief can be an angel of death before the monsters notice. If you and your drooling, bloodlust companions go charging into melee against some intruders. Will you be noticing the not-bellowing, not-shiny, skinny guy in the back who's stabbing your buddy who is ten yards away from you? Not all the time.
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Old 03-09-2018, 12:01 PM   #3
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Default Re: Backstab - what is it good for?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalzazz View Post
I am having a hard time figuring use for Backstab

The result seems to be the squishy thief hero becomes behind the closest enemy and does very mean things to it, possibly fatally

Then the thief is near all the other enemies and gets mauled
I think maybe the trick here is to wait until the battle has been joined, then jump into the back of it.
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Old 03-09-2018, 12:03 PM   #4
Kromm
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Default Re: Backstab - what is it good for?

Even in a pitched battle, remember that the thief ends up behind the nearest foe, so if that foe falls down, the thief ought to be looking right at his own allies, because there should be no foes between the defeated one and the good guys. Moreover, it's attacking that reveals the thief's presence, and there's no obligation to attack at once . . . the thief's "first attack" needn't be the opening attack of the battle or even occur on the thief's first turn. Thus, a thief who makes the Stealth roll is effectively invisible behind enemies until the time is right to strike (or the GM says "Enough is enough!" and insists on action). This lets the thief act when it would be safest.

Which said, this trick is at +5 in an ambush (offsetting the basic -5) for good reason: It's mostly meant for ambushes. And in ambushes, Surprise Attacks (Exploits, pp. 26-27) normally applies. Which means the enemy will suffer from mental stun. Which, if the thief attacks right away, means wasting at least one turn after the thief attacks taking a Do Nothing maneuver. During this turn, the thief can be running to safety!
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Old 03-09-2018, 12:19 PM   #5
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Default Re: Backstab - what is it good for?

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Which said, this trick is at +5 in an ambush (offsetting the basic -5)
Side point: why is it written as "basic -5, +5 when ambushing, no modifier in a stand-up fight, -5 if ambushed" instead of "no modifier when ambushing, -5 in a stand-up fight, -10 if ambushed"?

Incidentally, backstabbing is hardly limited to thieves. Sure, they're better at it, but barbarians, knights, and martial artists, and swashbucklers all have enough stealth to have a decent chance at doing it and would find it useful to do so.
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Old 03-09-2018, 01:45 PM   #6
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Default Re: Backstab - what is it good for?

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Side point: why is it written as "basic -5, +5 when ambushing, no modifier in a stand-up fight, -5 if ambushed" instead of "no modifier when ambushing, -5 in a stand-up fight, -10 if ambushed"?
That comes from the GURPS implementation, and is intended to present an easy target for technique design (i.e., defaults to Stealth-5 and cannot be raised higher than Stealth). I agree that 0/-5/-10 would be better than -5 + +5/0/-5 in this case. Ah, well.
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Old 03-11-2018, 12:39 PM   #7
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Default Re: Backstab - what is it good for?

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Originally Posted by Kalzazz View Post
I am having a hard time figuring use for Backstab

The result seems to be the squishy thief hero becomes behind the closest enemy and does very mean things to it, possibly fatally

Then the thief is near all the other enemies and gets mauled
If that’s the ONLY way you can think of to play it then you probably shouldn’t play a backstabbing thief type.
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Old 03-12-2018, 07:14 AM   #8
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If that’s the ONLY way you can think of to play it then you probably shouldn’t play a backstabbing thief type.
The trick when playing a backstabbing thief is not to play a squishy thief. Backstabbers are still warriors of a sort, and character-creation choices should reflect this.

You definitely want to think about investing in Combat Reflexes and Enhanced Dodge . . . worry about damage-boosters like Expert Backstabbing and Weapon Master (Knives) later on. Your priority at the campaign outset is to survive; you don't advance any faster if you do more damage, and you don't advance at all if you die! Also look at the "blade and shield" melee package, so you'll have better defenses. And think about using quirk points for a combination of higher weapon skills and cash for light-but-good armor.
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Old 03-12-2018, 01:06 PM   #9
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Default Re: Backstab - what is it good for?

My half-ogre thief Teetonka invested 4 quirk points into Axe/Mace skill for back-"stabbing". He's big and solid for a Thief and has a lot of HP. I don't regret it, but Teeto had a couple of bad incidents that may have lead to this thread... But one of them was a case where trading nearly all of Teeto's HP for that backstab on the Troll[1] probably was a big difference in that fight.

Combat Reflexes doesn't mean squat when you're being dogpiled; when it appears to be one enemy surrounded by hapless captive villagers, and you pop in and backstab the enemy only to discover the "villagers" are actually Throttlers, you get dogpiled. That's not really a weakness of backstabbing per ce, that was a wacky situation.

[1] No, I didn't expect to one-shot the Troll. I think there should have been more Mental Stun going around than we had, but it's been a few months.
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Old 03-12-2018, 01:15 PM   #10
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Default Re: Backstab - what is it good for?

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Combat Reflexes doesn't mean squat when you're being dogpiled; when it appears to be one enemy surrounded by hapless captive villagers, and you pop in and backstab the enemy only to discover the "villagers" are actually Throttlers, you get dogpiled. That's not really a weakness of backstabbing per ce, that was a wacky situation.
Yeah, that's kind of a setup. It does nicely illustrate how a noncombat monster ability intended to liven up encounters can have combat effects, though. ;)
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