Stabbing Revision

Let me lay down some sexy hot logic up in this wiki page: the Stabbing interface has a number of issues that should be addressed in 0.7 such as making the player waste key strokes (thus real time) for a frequent action, interrupting game flow, and causing extra message spam, with no good reason for doing any of these things.

The primary cause of this is that the weapons intended for Stabbing (Short Blades) are completely inferior to Long Blades in melee combat proper, and there is no reason for any race to keep using Short Blades in melee once a Long Blade is available (cross training re-enforces this). In my opinion there are 2 ways of solving this dilemma:

Option 1: Remove the Equip Requirement

By removing the requirement to actually equip the weapon you stab with (much like the 0.7 butchering change), most of the issue is resolved. An additional change that would fit well with this is the merging of Short and Long Blades into one category, and being allowed to “quiver” a Stabbing weapon so the game knows which blade in your inventory you want it to use without having to manually select it every time you want to Stab, similar to the existing “butchering quiver”. I don't think this is ideal however, because Short Blades themselves could grow like Slings have in 0.6 and be able to stand alone as a viable weapon type, allowing for more racial aptitude variation and play styles (what self respecting Rogue / Assassin wanders around lopping off heads with a Long Sword?).

Would you rather be stabbed with a dagger, or attacked from behind with a long sword ? I'm convinced the only reason assasins and murderers use daggers because they're enough and easy to conceal. I think Stabbing damage bonus should be more less equal for all weapons, reducing uniqueness of short blades in this area… but wait - wielded weapon would start to play a big part in Stealth, and short blades would get little or no penalties to Stealth unlike other weapons. Then make weapon switching bad for stealth, and make it automatic (ala butchering) if you wish. — b0rsuk 2010-02-16 06:23
While that is an interesting approach, it returns to the same problem of needing to swap weapons the moment your stab attempt fails because Short Blades would remain a bad melee option. Your bit below about increasing the opportunities for distraction stabs might help make them more useful though as a weapon you keep wielding during melee fights. — vandal 2010-02-16 08:06

Option 2: Short Blades As a Viable Melee Weapon

If Short Blades themselves were to become a viable weapon (compared to Long) in standard melee combat, it would solve the weapon swapping issue neatly, and Long Blades would be free to have whatever special property dpeg wants them to as they would remain separate skills. Short Blades then, would become the skill used to determine Stabbing damage, and the Stabbing skill itself could be removed from the game. This also has issues, but I believe they can be (and are more worth the trouble of being) overcome. The largest would be that having the special trait of being able to Stab built into Short Blades skill without changing their base dmg will not solve the melee combat viability issue, Short Blades would need a standard attack special trait to remain competitive with the other new weapon type special abilities. I have thought of 2 that could be viable so far:

  1. Mini-stabs during normal melee attacks, something like a 20% chance for +300% dmg on attack at 27 Short Blades skill. Basically, have this reflect the existing “distracted” mini-stabs and perhaps even stack with that chance when the distracted condition is met. I like this because it keeps with the theme of Short Blades / Stabbing being all about spike damage and the 20% chance means you could potentially attack 10 times in a row without ever proc'ing, ensuring that the RNG remains just as much a factor to consider during melee combat as it does during Stealth checks while attempting a normal Stab.
  2. Less interesting, but in my opinion equally viable, would be giving Short Blades a passive armour penetration bonus much like the act of Stabbing has already. Something like 75% enemy armour dmg reduction is ignored at 27 SB skill.

Both of these options are extensions of existing Stabbing traits, so I don't think they're hard to justify merging into Short Blade behavior during normal combat.

I fundamentally disagree with Option 2. I think the change you're proposing would actually remove uniqueness from Short Blades - namely, that you need to use tricks to make them effective. If you could just cause a lot of damage, who could bother with Distortion, Electricity, regular stabbing and distraction stabbing ? I have a lot of feedback on dedicated distraction stabbing character: 2010-02-16 06:27
Stabbings are instant kills before the monster is aware of your presence, typically, and that would remain unique and useful no matter if Short Blades could be within 10% of the dmg output of other weapon classes during regular melee. — vandal 2010-02-16 08:06
bladed_weaponsstab contains a proposal going in this direction. Stabbing unaware opponents would work as now, but dexterous characters could use a bladed weapon (the lighter the better) to stab monsters also in open combat. — dpeg 2010-04-28 14:23
As one of most used weapons in 0.8+, I think there's no problem with their strength. Primarily due to stabbing :p — KiloByte 2011-12-06 20:27

Option 3: Drop "Stabbing" as a separate skill

Stabbing with weapons other than short blades (and, to a minor extent, long ones) is a bad joke. For the full blown sleeping stab, if you train your Stabbing moderately high, you get the equivalent of a single free blow. A lousy dagger in the same case can one-shot a Pan lord… Thus, let's drop Stabbing as a skill and replace it with dex+Short Blades (the latter only if you're wielding one). This would stop the trick of doing good damage with a dagger you don't know how to use just because you trained hitting people in the back with your mace, and thus, remove the swapping problem. — kilobyte 2010-04-28 11:56

I agree that we need (at most) two skills out of Short Blades, Long Blades, Stabbing.I feel that stabbing should work best as a passive, implicite action (see Combat Maneuvers & Weapon Reform). Therefore fully seconding kilobyte's proposal. In the long run, I'd like to see short blades as the (viable) weapon of choice for stabbers (i.e. not just for the stabbing itself), whereas long blades would be a weapon type comparable to maces, axes etc. (Here I am arguing that it's probably okay to keep the two Blades skills separated.) The cross-training between them can stay. — dpeg 2010-04-28 14:25
I think it's 1 hit kill stabbing that's the problem, not the other weapons. Instakill stabbing removes a lot of possibilities from the game. Why would you ever sneak past a monster ? It's much safer to stab it. Lemuel had an idea I like a lot: chance of being spotted should be proportional to distance from monsters. That way, sneaking around would be possible, and stabbing would be more risky. Because of instakill stabs all sorts of stealth-based tricks are pointless. Setting up “explosives” like corpses/potions for Ignite Poison or Corpse Rot is a waste of time. Fancier effects from stabbing (like stunning, strangling, pushing) are obsolete because you can always 1 hit kill with a dagger. And people blame Paralysis for being useless without realising the root of the problem: instakill stabbing makes difference between Sleep and Paralysis effectively nonexistant. — b0rsuk 2010-04-28 19:15
I've made up my mind on Short Blades and Stabbing. I think Short Blades is the only example of a well-implemented melee weapon skill in Crawl. Short Blades are simply distinctive and have well-defined uses. There is no weapon class this unique. Outside short blades, weapon skills are almost purely flavour — you can pick any other weapon type and win the exact same way. It is currently a no-brainer that you should only learn one melee weapon skill.
I now officially support this option — best Stabbing should become unique ability of Short Blades. I'm a bit surprised all the opinions I posted earlier on this topic are compatible, but I can't complain :-). — b0rsuk 2010-08-30 19:32
Sounds good to me. Do you also agree that the Stabbing skill can be removed (as a skill — the mechanic would stay, of course), because a Short Blade user will invariably train Stabbing as well, and so it's better to make stabbing a function of the weapon (with Short Blades being clear leader)?
I am a bit torn about the uniqueness (i.e. stabbing tied to short blades). This might be a case where it is better to sacrifice realism to gameplay. On the other hand, if we make stab success dependent on Dex (as it should be), then general access to stabbing (chances increase if the weapon is smaller and Dex is higher) could make stat choice more interesting.
The only reason I have slight doubts about this is my earlier idea: to rename Stabbing to Opportunism, which would combine Stabbing with Pickpocketing. I think Stabbing is very much like pickpocketing - it's about using target's lack of attention at close range. This is of course about implementing Thief (pure Stealth) playstyle. Unfortunately Crawl may be too far down the road of xp-killing to ever make pure stealth reasonable, even with Stealth god who gives xp as long as you don't kill.

Yes, I think Stabbing should be removed and become a part of Short Blades. Most of Short Blades users have good Stabbing apt anyway. The sole exception is, I think, Hill Orc, and that was based on my suggestion to make them dirty fighters. But with current state of things “dirty fighting” doesn't work. Stabbing trains only on a succesful stab, which has very low chance at low skill (talking about distraction- and retreat stabbing). Why training occurs at success and not at an attempt is beyond me. My complaints about Stabbing being ridiculously hard to train via distraction stabbing have not been taken seriously (see: ). It is reasonable to increase value of Dex for purposes of Stabbing. — b0rsuk 2010-09-02 05:18
I've always been partial to the idea of making weapon classes more distinct, but should Felids make it out of the cats branch, it might be good to make an exception and give them unarmed stabbing (or train short blades on stabs for them somehow – retractable claws or fangs?), such as not to restrict them from that. — mrmistermonkey 2010-09-02 04:31
I think if you gave each weapon a unique effect when used to stab, the problem would be resolved. It makes no sense that someone with an executioners axe would be unable to decapitate a sleeping humanoid. It also makes no sense that someone with a spear wouldn't be able to impale a creature to the ground and keep it there. It also makes no sense that someone with a katana is unable to maim a monster when it's completely asleep (or at least slash it so it bleeds).
Clubs are good because they confuse when they 'stab'. I think if we look at stabbing as “the ability to hurt distracted monsters” rather than as “the ability to shove a weapon in deep” then stabbing can be salvaged. Give each weapon a unique stab ability and tone down the overall power of stabs by spreading it to each weapon class (eg. daggers will never one-hit something and will instead take them down and cause them to bleed). If you think about it, it's totally unreasonable that a dagger can “stab” something and kill it instantly, but a great sword can't. If they're targetting some 'vital' spot, a dagger isn't going to be any better than a long sword at doing this. — studiomk 2010-09-04 10:30

Option 4: scale down dagger sleep stabbing, give more opportunities for stabbing, make other weapons useful for stabbing

I refuse to accept dagger stabs as “working properly”, and I have data to back it up: In short, around 10 Stabbing skill is almost guarranteed 1 hit kill on any sleeping creature, yet very high (20 and more) level with focus on Dex and good race fails to produce good results in combat (distraction stabs). The +50%, -50% change was a drop in the bucket and much more is needed before a verdict can be reached.

As said above, I think 1 stab kills are what's wrong, because they don't leave room for finesse:

  • Sneaking around or past monsters is more dangerous than just stabbing them (collateral damage: Thief, more peaceful playstyles)
  • Setting up any kind of traps around sleeping monsters is much harder than just stabbing (collateral damage: Stealth, misc items, traps, tactics). No one is going to FR explosives if you can just stab in 1 hit.
  • Alternative stabbing effects are by definition weaker than outright kills, unless a stab could enslave a monster. See below for a list of ideas. (collateral damage: other weapon types)
  • Paralysis is hard to distinguish from sleep, because dagger stab is the ultimate thing to do against a monster in both cases (collateral damage: hostile enchantments). Paralysis would be a lot more useful if players could reasonably expect to get cloud spells or Conjure Flame early.
  • Distraction stabbing, which in many cases needs more resources or creativity to execute, is outshined by sleep stabbing (Collateral damage: Stabbing skill)

As promised, a list of stabbing effects which would become viable if short blade stabbing was toned down:

  • Unarmed Combat - strangle. Completely silent, and with enough time undisturbed guarrantees a kill.
  • Maces - head blow. A bit noisier, but ignores AC.
  • Staves - knee hit. Slows monster for a long time.
  • Polearms - Impale. A lot of damage and potentially a kill, but noisy and requires time to pull the weapon out.
  • Long Blades - Disarm. Perfect as distraction stab effect. In short, monster is permanently weakened.
  • Short blades - cut purse (pickpocket), take away monster's item(s) before the fight starts. Or perhaps this should be the Unarmed effect.

You could even go fancy and prepare 2 special attacks for each weapon category. Unarmed on sleeping target could be Strangle, while distraction stab would result in a Throw.

As for Short Blades, I have no problems accepting possibility of a weapon category being different. It's a topic for another wall of text, but balancing weapons by “rate of fire” sucks, and speed brand sucks twice as much. If you want a weapon category to deal more damage, be explicit about it and don't require players to crunch numbers. If you want to affect AC penetration, it can also be stated openly. Make it a design decision, not a side effect.The truth is, there's very very little distinguishing weapon speed from damage increase. In rare circumstances a fast weapon allows player to kill a lot of creatures in short period of time - before their companions can react. This is much less common than one might think because glass cannon monsters are rare in Crawl and become even rarer in later stages. Hydras, boggarts, spores are few and far between. I'd rather take a look at monster HP and AC in later stages of the game than change short blades significantly. That would fix more than just Short Blades.

b0rsuk 2010-04-28 19:24

Maces need to have a chance to stun (confuse) the monster too. Long blades should have a chance to maim, not disarm; if the chance fails it causes bleeding instead. Unarmed should do disarming, I think. Short blades should cause them to bleed heavily (if they can't bleed then the short blade pretty much does nothing; as it should be). No stab should be an instant kill (unless stabbing a Vampire with a piercing weapon, or decapitating a humanoid with an executioner's axe). — studiomk 2010-09-04 10:35

Option 5: Stabbing skill gives chance of ignoring AC

Short blades such as the stiletto were often used to penetrate gaps in a knight's armour. One way short blades could be made better in a normal fight, where the enemy is neither sleeping nor distracted, is to give a passive chance to ignore AC on an attack. “You find a gap in the enemy's defenses!” This way high stabbing+short blades+dex can actually compete in melee. Weapons of speed and the like are most annoying against high AC + high health opponents, where you spend the entire battle chipping away tiny amounts of health. Ignoring AC won't insta-kill like a stab will, but it would mean doing more damage. — slyshy 2010-09-02 05:49

Sounds just like Option 2: Short Blades As a Viable Melee Weapon, which also mentions AC negation. Implementation is slightly different.
Variant: rename Stabbing into something like Find Weakness, and make it work proportional to the extra to-hit you have on your attack (nonlinear) - you know more weak points, and higher to-hit allows you to target an appropriate Achilles heel. Sleeping/distraction would thus be a pure to-hit bonus, daggers would be better for stabbing because they have higher innate to-hit bonus, and this way you can use this skill to some degree in face-to-face melee (as well as in ranged combat). It can also provide some protection from monsters that try to stab the player. —sinsi 2011-04-01 22:49

Option 6: Stabbing as a member of new Trickery skill group

Another option is to make some skills (currently labeled as “other”) belong to a common Trickery group, analogous to Spellcasting and Fighting. They could be mostly Dexterity-based. Other Trickery skills could include:

  • Traps&Doors
  • Evocations
  • Stealth
  • Invocations (well…)
  • Bows
  • Crossbows
  • Slings
  • Throwing

As for Stabbing, it would no longer be affected by Short Blades or Fighting skills. Stabbers wouldn't automatically become fighters. The difference is more philosophical than mechanical at this point, but it could be a foundation. — b0rsuk 2010-09-03 19:46

  • I like this, dont know about the ranged weapons though(besides blowguns). Could be called 'Skulduggery'. — porkchop 2010-09-03 20:10
  • This doesn't seem to solve any actual issue. — tgw 2010-09-03 21:30
    • It does make implementing pure stealth playstyle easier. No combat requirements. I still prefer Option 2 though. — b0rsuk 2010-09-04 07:18

Option 7: Stabbing as an aspect of Weapon not Skill

This option may duplicate other options. At the moment (0.10), Stabbing is applied on a weapon category basis. Short blades stab well, long blades stab less well, other things stab poorly.

Qualifications of Stabbing should be applied on a weapon type basis, not a skill type basis.

Certain non-short/long blade items traditionally used to stab include but are not limited to Tridents, potentially Lajatangs and Blade Hands (the spell), and Horns which are relegated to non-stabworthy Skills of Polearms, Staves and Unarmed Combat, respectively. As Stabbing apparently uses the skill to qualify a weapon type as stab-worthy, this is incorrect. The proposal is to make Stabbing a property of a weapon type, not a Skill type and check against that property.

Sounds better than my idea (option 2). Some weapons are better than others: for example, long blades and small clubs are middle-tier. If you use them, have lots of skill and pass a Dex check, you get to stab. — KiloByte 2011-12-06 20:27
Nearly any weapon will do far more damage than usual when applied with some deliberation to a defenseless victim. Why cant axes be used to chop off the head of sleeping enemies? Also hitting someone in the back of the head with a club (or even moreso with a mace, or giant spiked club) hard enough will usually kill them in a single blow. Even a crossbow or bow could be used for this at melee range. Yet currently this is impossible in crawl, and would still be impossible according to this proposal, just because these weapons aren't used with a stabbing motion.
Attacking an unaware enemy with a Trident has nothing more in common with attacking it with a dagger than attacking it with an axe does. Note that axes were used in executions a lot more than daggers. This suggests that axes are actually the better implement for killing defenseless people when concealment is not an issue (in the crawl dungeon it certainly isn't).
I'm not saying stabbing with axes should be possible in crawl. My point is that flavor (or the name of the stabbing skill) shouldn't greatly affect design decisions in this case. Making any weapon that can do damage with a stabbing motion able to instakill sleeping enemies would make no gameplay sense at all, and no flavor sense either. The important issues in this case are gameplay and clarity, not the name of the skill. — Galefury 2011-12-08 13:57
Three Points in response: (1) This section is simply to request that qualification of Stabbing be placed on the specific Weapon itself, not the Skill Category to which the weapon belongs. (2) If the goal is to create a death or critical hit on a given unwary (confused, sleeping, unaware) target, then (especially given TSOs flavor-dislike of this tactic) this skill is best served being renamed to Assassinate, Execute or Murder. (3) Axes being used in executions has less to do with their ability to sneak up on someone and more to do with the target being rendered immobile, a large amount of strength or weight (guillotine) behind the weapon, and time / opportunity to perform a proper swing. It is my understanding that SPEED is a factor in the ability to perform a Stabbing task and since SPEED is a factor of weapons, this makes this section requesting weapon type as qualification relevant. Weapon type and Speed (including brand and character attack speed) should be used as qualifications of this ability. Daggers of Speed or Quickblades should be the fastest to perform this task. This might qualify whips. — XuaXua 2011-12-08 20:57
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dcss/brainstorm/combat/stabbing.txt · Last modified: 2011-12-20 20:13 by XuaXua
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