Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dividing the spoils

It is a common problem for people in a fantasy gaming world to encounter:  Once the evil dragon is finally dead, how do we divvy up the loot?  Even the classic Dungeons and Dragons 2nd ed. players handbook talks about how the party could or should divide up the magical items and treasure that are found once a monster is defeated.  There are many systems of course and some are better than others.  The D&D 2nd solutions range from everybody getting loot totally randomly (which is fair, but idiotic since a fighter with a magic wand and a mage with a suit of Chain Mail + 1 is not particularly good for beating the *next* dragon) to everyone just being reasonable about things and giving loot to the people who can use it best.  There is much discussion about making sure everyone gets something and balancing need against equality.

This question is an important one in WOW.  When a boss finally dies you have to figure out who gets the stuff.  The most common methods are Loot Council, Dragon Kill Points (DKP) and rolling.  Loot Council has the benefit that the officers of a guild can make sure that loot goes to people who have better attendance, greater need or are deserving in some other way.  It has the problem that the council can also make sure the guild leader's significant other gets more loot than anybody else even though they are terrible and rarely show up.  This is obviously not the only way favourtism appears but it certainly is very common.  The greater problem is that even if the leaders are being quite fair there is a constant perception of bias from outside their circle.  DKP has the advantages of being transparent and equitable but it requires large amounts of outside work and leads to point hoarding, collusion and badly allocated items.

When my guild decided on our loot system a few years ago we wanted something very fast to use with minimal overhead and absolutely zero decisions to make.  Nobody wanted the headache of trying to figure out what was most fair and the inevitable ill will that results from making the decision rightly or wrongly.  When a piece of loot is being allocated everyone interested in it rolls.  The person who is highest on the following list gets the item and if there is a tie the highest roll takes it.

1. Raiders for Main 
2. Raider-Initiates/Members for Main 
3. Raiders for Main, same ilvl 
4. Raider-Initiates/Members for Main, same ilvl 
5. Raiders for Off 
6. Raider-Initiates/Members for Off 
7. Raiders for Off, same ilvl 
8. Raider-Initiates/Members for Off, same ilvl 

That is it.  No decisions, no overhead.  There are a few caveats in that hunters get 'super mainspec' access to range weapons and 'not quite mainspec' access to melee weapons and items with hit or spirit can only be rolled as mainspec by the appropriate classes/specs.  Also the guild leader would get to award a legendary item if that ever came up... which it did not.

I have played with DKP, Loot Council and the rolling method above and I can say for a certainty that this system is by far the best.  There is no guilt or confusion about when you are allowed to roll, no hidden penalties for rolling at the wrong time and no significant way to game the system in a fashion that is bad for the group.  One advantage I particularly like is that it is extremely fast to award loot compared to how things worked with other systems.

Unfortunately my guild is done with raiding, which is certainly another post in and of itself.  This means that to continue to raid I have to find some other group of folks and learn to deal with all their quirks and peculiarities including a loot system that isn't all it could be.  The group I found has a pretty reasonable system... but I am spoiled now; I have become a loot system snob.  Now I must qualify this with the note that they don't run a pure Loot Council nor DKP but rather a rolling system that has a ton of unwritten social rules.  You don't ask for too much loot, you don't ask for loot someone else really wants, you don't ask for loot that is a bigger upgrade for someone else than yourself.  Trouble with all these caveats is that they just invite drama and delay.  Before I know if I should ask for something I have to check the other bidders to figure out how much loot they have gotten lately and compare that to my own acquisition.  I also need to figure out how much of an upgrade it is for the various people involved and whether or not anybody is waiting on this particular drop.  All of this leads to delay while everybody involved does all the calculation and inevitably hard feelings will emerge when somebody comes to a different conclusion than somebody else.  The group I am joining have a long track record of being successful and lacking in drama so I suspect nothing bad will happen but once you have worked with the best it is hard to accept anything less.

We had some very telling experiences with our system when new recruits joined up.  In particular a recent warlock recruit was asking about the status of the set piece shoulders.
Me:  I keep hoping we will run out of mainspec people to give them to so I can get a set for my tanking spec.

Recruit:  Well, obviously I will pass the shoulders to you.

Me:  The hell you will.  You will roll like everybody else and the system will award it to the correct person which is you in this case.  I don't expect you to pass up mainspec gear just because I am the guild leader and you need to pander to my desires - that kind of crap is for other guilds.

Man, that felt good.  That careful pussyfooting around trying to figure out how to not offend people by asking for what you want is a regular and terrible aspect of joining new groups.  I am damn glad that my guild spent more time yelling at recruits to roll for gear and stop being scared than for anything else.  Creating an atmosphere where the focus is on playing the game instead of trying to avoid hurting people's feelings is important.


  1. I loved that part of our loot system. People didn't roll and I told them that they better damn well roll.

    But really, my favourite thing about our loot system was that it was built on the assumption that we were going to kick the crap out of things. Trying to figure out how to maximize loot to people to make sure you can beat the next encounter and to make sure everyone feels like they got a fair shake is for people who aren't just doing to smash the crap out of everything and have enough loot to go around. Spending time assigning loot correctly doesn't make sense when every second you waste is a second you aren't beating the living hell out of the next boss. We had a loot system premised on resounding success.

    We were following the advice of the Gandhi, and being the changes we wanted to see in the world; those changes being more dead dragons, more piles of shiny purple things.

  2. We also had a loot system for a 10 person raid where actual conflicts on items are few and far between. And when it could be a conflict it sometimes was as evidenced by discussions on 4-piece vs 5-piece on tier tokens or if expertise/hit/haste are tanking stats.

    Back in TBC I think a 'just roll' system would have been a real disaster. Sure, my DKP system required a lot of external time spent to keep it updated and there were a lot of debates about how things should work as time went by but it worked at handing out loot fairly quickly which is, as Sthenno says, very important. And for the most part the loot went to the place I thought it should go. Transparent, well-defined, and reasonably quick to work out when a piece of loot drops.

    A system which requires everyone to just know what everyone else wants and has gotten recently seems terrible to me. Especially when it comes to tier tokens. As a DK I could care less how the casting cloth/leather has been spread out but I shouldn't roll on a token because someone thinks they've been shafted recently? Bah. I'd just accept my label as loot whore in that system and roll on anything I wanted. If I got booted, I got booted.

  3. I agree that we had a few times when we disagreed on things but the beauty of the system is that you can simply write in a note "Gear without dodge, parry and crit is fair game for both tanks and plate dps" and then it is that way going forward. I don't mind that sometimes we have to debate what the system is but I like to be able to do that away from raid time and avoid the pressure to decide in the moment. To me it is critical that these decisions be made before the piece of loot drops.

    Note that the DKP system we used went a long way towards avoiding DKP hoarding and collusion because we avoided bidding systems and scaled up costs with new tiers. It is possible to make a pretty good DKP system that works fine but it does require a ton of maintenance which I dislike.

  4. Have any of ya'll tried out EPGP? I've run that with three different raid groups for varying lengths of time, and I find it to be an acceptable solution. Particularly for less defined and possibly less consistently attended raids, it has the advantage of encouraging regular, *TIMELY* attendance with EP, and then applying a quantitative number with GP to that emotional question of "how much loot has So-and-So received recently?"

    I agree that the whole "we divide loot by /roll, but don't be a gear hog" is entirely to wishy-washy. I've liked the experiences I've had running EPGP with speed too - loot was typically assigned faster than it would take three or four raid members to type or hit their /roll macros.

  5. My current guild pretty much does the same as your new guild. We have been playing now for a few months, and have always just rolled for items. This only takes about 30 seconds.

    Now that we are looking to start heroic content, we may switch it up a bit with the introduction of heroic tokens. Probably something along the lines of if you get a heroic token you are ineligible until everyone gets one.