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Sneak attack instead of Backstab

SilenceSilence Member Posts: 437
edited August 2012 in Archive (Feature Requests)
I'm sure everyone agrees that Thief class is in need of re-balancing. The Thief is generally inferior at combat (particularly in BG2, when missile combat isn't that useful). The one case where a Thief is useful is when it performs a backstab, which does a massive amount of damage. But backstab requires a lot of planning (potions plus skills) making it not the best long-term option. I contend that for many reasons, Sneak Attack is superior to backstab, and should be implemented instead.

Sneak attack is easier to do (requires only flanking) and applies in more circumstances. It therefore can help rescue the Thief's poor combat performance. It's also a more balanced form of combat than backstab, since sneak adds only a few additional attack dice at most (rather than multiplying base damage by some ridiculous factor, like x5). And since a rogue never gets that many attacks, even when magically enhanced by items or potions, Sneak attack never gets that overpowered.

Sneak attack still requires positioning, so you'd have to micro-manage your thief effectively. This, if anything, adds to the combat experience. You could apply it to any weapon, which removes that absurd "swords only!" requirement of backstab which limits variety. And, if you were really worried about balance, you could make it apply once per round only.

I know Backstab is a favourite of 2nd edition diehards. But it's vanished from the gaming scene since, and I think there is a reason for that. In 3rd edition and beyond, Sneak attack was a huge part of the Rogue class. The Sneak attack mechanic has also bled into other games, like Dragon Age. In Icewind Dale, another Infinity Engine game, they tried to implement this system and I think the results were good. Sneak attack is clearly the wave of the future and the salvation of the rogue.



  • ddubiousddubious Member Posts: 29
    The Thief is undoubtedly worse at fighting.

    Less hp (d6 rather than d10, no high con possible, mitigated a little by faster leveling)
    Worse Thaco Progression (even accounting for faster leveling)
    Worse Armor and No Shield (even with higher dex)

    That said, they do generally have the Dex to make better use of bows, so there's a plus.

    I think the issue was that combat was a healthy portion of the game. A thief's backstabs were best performed by multiclass characters like Montaron (multiply the weapon specialization bonus). Pure thieves felt very lazy in battle. Even clerics get more hp and AC.

    Though these are issues inherited from ADnD itself, this is a video game, and there are lots of fights. With only small exceptions, you cannot role-play your way around them. Even with the thief's role in disarming traps, he feels very lackluster in battle, with melee combat being a huge area of deficit.

    I wouldn't remove backstab. Personally, I like it too much. However, I know that something like a 3e sneak attack has worked in this engine before, so I would be in favor of a small benefit to thieves, as long as it left them worse off than fighters, and fell in line with 2e ADnD stylings.

    Hypothetical Proposal: Keep Backstab, but also have 'Sneak Attack' - Add your backstab multiplier (instead of... multiplying it) to melee attacks that count as a 'sneak attack' (generally, attacking an opponent who isn't attacking). A thief would add 2 to 5 damage to his attack (depending on level) when he met the tactical requirements.

  • kamuizinkamuizin Member Posts: 3,680
    @Silence, you said that thiefs are inferior in combat, yet Backstab is to much overpowered, so i fail to see a link between your arguments and request. But don't worry, while i don't agree with your arguments, i support your request.

    Thiefs are a lot overpowered on Baldur's Gate, especially in high levels. In low levels they can keep bows and crosbows in hand and avoid close combats, and yet they're useful, traps and locked things in BG are a big issue, and a thief is vital for many more reasons than combat itself.

    The problem with the game is not with thiefs but with the lack of them, as we simple don't have good or enough thieves NPCs to add as companions.

    Icewind Dale, that use near the same infinite engine model that BG, has a option on the game configuration system called "sneak attack on" if i'm not mistaken. This option when enable turn every attack made from behind to count as a sneak attack, however it replace the backstab option. So if you want backstabs you can't use sneak attack, and if you enable sneak attacks the backstab is disabled on the game. You can't change the settings while the game is on, so you can't abuse of the feature, changing it at pleasure. A good way to change the problem in my opinion.

  • SilenceSilence Member Posts: 437
    edited August 2012
    @kazuimin: Thanks for taking the time to read it all :) But I said Backstab was unbalanced, not overpowered. Backstab has highly skewed damage, but it's difficult to pull off (barring magical invisibility, you get one backstab per combat and you better hope it hits successfully). I'd prefer a more realistic damage move that you can employ frequently...but that's me.

    I disagree that thieves are overpowered at low levels (though thief traps are grossly overbalanced at epic levels - that is after much leveling). Fighters can also use bows (and use them better) and wizards can use darts and daggers, which are competitive at the very least. Most traps you can freely spring with the right resistance potions (except for some psychotic ones in Durlag's Tower). Knock spell, or high strength, opens most chests. In pencil & paper, I get why the thief has to be bad at combat (cause he's awesome elsewhere). But 75% of the BG video game is battle, so I don't think the same argument applies.

    I guess I'm also unsure what a good thief NPC would be like. The two main NPC thieves, Imoen (BGI) and Yoshimo (BG2) have perfect thief stats: 18 DEX, 16 CON. I don't think any other stats influence thief gameplay...unless we're talking kits, weapon profs, or which abilities they develop first.

    @ddubious, kazuimin: You both make an excellent point...which I agree with...that IWD had the optional feature. That I'd like to general removing content is a bad idea. I think the selectable options work better.

  • bigdogchrisbigdogchris Member Posts: 1,336
    There's no such thing as "rebalance" in this game because the game follows a set of pre-defined rules. If you start straying from the rules for one class then people will want you to for others.

    I'm happy with the thief just the way they are. I always play a fighter/thief though since you gain better HP and THAC0 but Thief skills are still high. Plus, I totally disagree that Missile combat is 'useless'. It's one of the best weapon types in the game.

  • SilenceSilence Member Posts: 437
    edited August 2012
    @bigdogchris: That is exactly what re-balancing is, and it happens all the time. That's the original reason they removed the extra attack granted by weapon mastery for the warrior. A lot of people thought this was a bug, but it was actually taken out of the game on purpose and left out. They also modified the way the strength modifier affects backstab damage before, too. So there's precedent to change the rules, as long as it's within reason.

    As for missile combat being 'useless', I never said that. I said it was less useful in BG2, which it is. Missile combat is problematic in BG2 for a number of reasons. The major one is that, without magical arrows (which you must buy at cost) you cannot penetrate tougher opponent's armor (high + arrows are tough to find). The second thing is that the quality of magical arrows is far lower in the second game. In BG1, the arrows are superior to most BG2 arrows. Missile damage is also not modified by strength, so it never benefits from high strength scores and is quickly eclipsed by melee damage, which does benefit from high strength. Strength tends to increase as you find stat books, magic items, and potions, and this leads to insane damage for melee weapons in the long run.

  • SixheadeddogSixheadeddog Member Posts: 188
    I don't think there's any reason to modify the existing rule set -- the game is a decade old, for crying out loud.

    Every class has stuff that it's supposed to be good at. The warrior classes excel at combat. The priests and wizards are there for their spell support. The thieves are there to make sure you don't blunder through traps or miss any important loot due to locked boxes.

    Point being: if you're rolling a Thief expecting the goodies you'd get in WoW or in 3rd edition... well, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. I don't think there's anything wrong with the class as-is; not shedding very many tears over Thieves with combat envy.

  • FrozenDervishFrozenDervish Member Posts: 295
    edited August 2012
    Disagree with removing backstab and replacing it with sneak attack. Backstab is the reason playing a thief is so fun in BG as compared to how terrible it felt playing a rogue in nwn with the terrible sneak attack.

  • MoomintrollMoomintroll Member Posts: 1,481
    I actually quite like the NWN sneak attack, it gave backstab functionality to those lower damage finesse weapons, that a thief might be sneaking around with. Granted when I first played it I was annoyed to not have the pure multiplicative power of the BG style backstab.

    On the other hand, if I make a thief in NWN it would be silly to give him a longsword, which I find irritating.

  • SolyarisSolyaris Member Posts: 24
    I know this topic is about low level thieves, but...

    Wizard Slayer + Thief + Use Any Items + Purifier + Assassination = mage tears

  • LinkamusLinkamus Member Posts: 220
    Wizard Slayer / Thief dual class + the right items creates a pretty cheesy character, heh.

  • CloutierCloutier Member Posts: 211
    With the cloak of non-detection, backstabbing thieves are insane. No need to give them more power...

  • SceptenarSceptenar Member Posts: 606
    I don't mind sneak attack, but I prefer backstab for my 2nd edition game. If they want to do it like in Icewind Dale so that it is an option, not a requirement then I am fine with it. But they don't need to go and fix what isn't broken.

  • smeagolheartsmeagolheart Member Posts: 7,539
    I support and heartily agree with the request for sneak attack

  • SpartacusSpartacus Member Posts: 23
    I love playing thieves. My last character was an assassin. Even though it was often difficult to get a backstab off, when you instantly kill a mage by dealing 70 damage... that feels awesome. I think backstab should stay - but there were a couple other changes suggested in a different thread for making it more viable in SoA and ToB that I think would be good to implement.

  • smeagolheartsmeagolheart Member Posts: 7,539
    I was thinking of requesting this again, however, I'd like to necro this request up instead of requesting it again.

    I'd love for sneak attack to make it into the game.

    How about a thief kit called the Rogue that had sneak attack instead of backstab. Hey even IWD had option for sneak attack for pities sake.

  • EdvinEdvin Member, Translator (NDA) Posts: 3,128
    edited April 2013
    Hey that is good idea !

    People who love backstabing can keep their stupid thieves and we can get new kit.

    Someting like +1 bonus damage/lvl if you made successful sneak attack will be optimal.

    Anything bigger is to much OP ( +2/lvl = +80 dmg on lvl 40 ) and anything lesser isn´t worthy losing backstab.

    Post edited by Edvin on
  • MajocaMajoca Member Posts: 263
    edited April 2013
    I disagree with OP, though the game is combat orientated and the thief does lack in the combat efficiency of a fighter class you can easily justify a thief roles by saying the game is a party orientated game. You are suppose to have different people/characters fulfilling different roles. The thief gets a lot of use and is a vital role in any party. Disarming traps helps so much especially when you go to dangerous but rewarding places like Durlag's tower, scouting the map undetected delivers information allowing you to plan an attack and help you prepare or even avoid encounters, back stab damage is strong and helps to weaken strong opponents, they can backup your fighters with range because dexterity is their best attribute, you can open chest and locked doors giving you access to loot you would not otherwise get without a thief, you can set up traps which again opens up new tactics like luring or overpowered cheese. They make for great additions to other classes when you dual class or multi-class. Okay they are not a fighter or a ranger but that's not there class. Perhaps you may complain that the fighter has no useful abilities? or a mage is just too weak when you have no spells, where do you draw the line with classes those two examples are as valid as yours?

    Now lets decipher your post, you assume everyone agrees with you which I think is slightly deluded, as proof I disagree and so do some people, not everyone but you should not assume what people think without evidence.
    you are complaining about planning, potions and SKILL, making it no the best long-term solution.
    1) planning? you have to do that anyway, you cannot go and kill the toughest bosses by running in and just randomly clicking there has to be a level of planning.
    2)what else are you going to do with potions, I like using consumables, it adds depth to the game because you are increasing your characters abilities to out perform the enemy or situation, isn't that something we do in real life? Get a better computer to handle difficult tasks or buy a better camera or lens to achieve better consistency of quality images, hire a better employee to do the job better and quickly, drink potions to help us win?
    3) SKILL, if the game required no skill whatsoever it would be boring

    "Sneak attack is easier to do" < that is the reason gaming the past few years has taken a hit, because developers are making things easier, now I am not saying implement complex systems for a simple thing or task, however tactics and performing difficult tasks to achieve a good out come like a X5 damage multiplier is rewarding and worth the effort of placing a sprite behind another sprite facing its back. That is not that difficult especially when you are INVISIBLE? you know the ability to either drink a potion to make you invisible or hide in shadows or get a mage to cast invisibility on you, or use an item which gives you invisibility.

    I am sure you can back stab with a staff too and a club, but I am unaware if this is changed.

    Now I can agree sneak attack is the way forward but it depends on the game, Baldur's Gate has ran with Backstab, it works and shouldn't be changed because that's what the game is. If you change that then you might as well change everything, Neverwinter rest system made more sense than sleeping for 8 hours over and over again again where does the line stop? Why not keep it the way it is because the thief is already valuable even if you cant see it?

    I am sorry if it sounds harsh, its not a personal attack, just my opinion on the matter and I respect you entitlement of your own opinion though it does need strengthening.

  • smeagolheartsmeagolheart Member Posts: 7,539
    Edvin said:

    Hey that is good idea !

    People who love backstabing can keep their stupid thieves and we can get new kit.

    Someting like +1 bonus damage/lvl if you made successful sneak attack will be optimal.

    Anything bigger is to much OP ( +2/lvl = +80 dmg on lvl 40 ) and anything lesser isn´t worthy losing backstab.

    IIRC 3E sneak attack progression is 1d6 every 2 levels. You don't have to be behind a foe like backstab, the side or behind will work.

  • EdvinEdvin Member, Translator (NDA) Posts: 3,128
    I know, but + 20-120 dmg on lvl 40 ? Isn´t that little to much for game like BG ?
    Even Firkraag have only 184 HP ( Sarevok have 135 hp )...

  • TJ_HookerTJ_Hooker Member Posts: 2,438
    Yeah, but level 40 is ridiculously high. Most people will never even hit level 40 unless they're running with a small party. And by the time you get to high levels like that, there's all kinds of crazy stuff going on that is arguably OP.

    Also, an assassin can probably do that kind of damage with a backstab by level 21.

  • kamuizinkamuizin Member Posts: 3,680
    Sneak attack is already implemented on infinite engine, it's on Icewind Dale already and can be easly brought to BG:EE i think. The question is, the devs want to do this? In Icewind dale you had to enter game configurations to set if the game would work with sneak attack or backstab. I personally disagree with that option.

    I believe that any attack made by the sides or behind with a thief should be labeled as sneak attack with the proper bonus, and any attack made while invisible from behind should automatic replace sneak attack and should be labeled as backstab with the proper bonus.

    However, to not make the game too easy, the enemies scripts should make them turn to attack the thief with preference after the first "attack/hit/set amount of damage" taken by sneak attack.

  • smeagolheartsmeagolheart Member Posts: 7,539
    TJ_Hooker said:

    Yeah, but level 40 is ridiculously high. Most people will never even hit level 40 unless they're running with a small party. And by the time you get to high levels like that, there's all kinds of crazy stuff going on that is arguably OP.

    Also, an assassin can probably do that kind of damage with a backstab by level 21.

    There are already opponents immune to backstab, these dudes would be immune to sneak as well. And as mentioned by the time you get to high levels, there is plenty of other OP stuff going on than a thief that is effective ONLY when someone else is tanking for him.

  • mjsmjs Member Posts: 742
    A place for everything and everything in it's place

    Rogues already have a useful function they fulfil excellently, but off you want it request it, I wouldn't want to see backstab replaced, but a new kit with sneak attack seems reasonable

    Of course the swashbuckler largely answers the combat orientated third question already

  • IecerintIecerint Member Posts: 415
    I hope the Evil Female Thief isn't totally inept.

  • EntropyXIIEntropyXII Member Posts: 656
    I like the thief class either way. Both require tactical maneuvering prior to each battle, which is what I personally love about thieves. Hacking and slashing isn't really for me, but each to their own.

    Implementing sneak attacks into BG might prove difficult though, as the counter balance to sneak attacks is drawing aggression - which if I remember correctly BG does not have the scripting for. EE might have corrected this but I haven't tried it myself. I definitely remember being able to tank hordes of enemies with my buffed out mage in the original game though.

    I think the mechanics are fine the way they are. What I WOULD like to see however, is a 'finesse' ability being added which allows rogues to apply their dexterity modifier to thac0. It just feels wrong rolling a high strength rogue :(

  • EdvinEdvin Member, Translator (NDA) Posts: 3,128
    edited April 2013
    What about some kit ( someting very similar like Swashbuckler ) what made automatic critic damage if attack from behind or flank ?
    ( + some attack bonuses, otherwise it isn't worthy losing backstabbing )

  • EntropyXIIEntropyXII Member Posts: 656
    @Edvin Without the correct scripting such as drawing aggression, that would be way to overpowered unfortunately. ^above post^

  • EdvinEdvin Member, Translator (NDA) Posts: 3,128
    edited April 2013

    @Edvin Without the correct scripting such as drawing aggression, that would be way to overpowered unfortunately. ^above post^

    Critic is only twice damage. Shadowdancer have triple damage, invisibility and flash.
    That isn´t overpowered ?

    BTW on bigger levels is thiefs twice damage still lesser then fighter damage ( with Grand Mastery )

  • EntropyXIIEntropyXII Member Posts: 656
    @Edvin Sneak attacking is a constant attack. At least shadow dancers have to roll for hiding in shadows and wait a few seconds before trying again. With minimum or no agro; a thief can simply stand behind any enemy while a warrior tanks, essentially critical hitting with every hit. With a decent weapon and high thac0, rogues with sneak attack in BG would do insane DPS, much more than a shadow dancer. In my opinion it would be way overpowered to be considered.

    This is why sneak attack can only really be implemented in games where the AI in enemies realise they're being stabbed in the kidneys from behind constantly.

    If they were going to put it in BG then I would be happier if it would be a flat damage bonus. Someone mentioned +5 for every five levels. That seems a bit more balanced than critting every hit in my opinion with an enemy that ignores the fact your stabbing him in the back.

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