Loot – Ohh The Loot!

Rohan from Blessing of Kings and Ky from Casual Hardcore both touched upon loot yesterday, and I think I want to chime in.

My guild leader had some nervousness when the ability to trade BoP items was implemented.  Now, make no mistake, I think this was a much needed thing.  I am sure that GM’s were just flooded with requests to trade mislooted items.  But it does add a layer of complexity to looting and loot rules.

Both Rohan and Ky present situations very similar – I.E. a person from their guild looted an item, and ended up trading it to another person.  In Ky’s Case, he looted the item to prevent it from going to a pug.  In Rohan’s situation, he presented a scenario at which two guildies had a pact that excluded a third roller on the item.  In both cases, the core question is – is this fair to the other raiders?

If we take a look at the definition of fair, specifically in the context of loot in WoW we get:

free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice

Essentially, both cases do not produce a fair result – there is a bias in each case, either for or against another potential looter.

There are two questions that immediately come to mind when reviewing this – Can we even produce a fair looting system?  Does looting systems *have* to be fair?

To answer both questions, lets take a look at a couple of popular looting systems:

DKP

This is probably the most widely used loot systems for guilds who are just starting out, and its easy to see why.  There is a quantifiable number behind your loot system.  Johnny has 1500 DKP, Lily has 3000.  If Lily wants the item, she has two clear advantages – she can afford to pay more DKP for an item she really wants.  Also, she has more DKP overall, so even if Johnny really, really wanted/needed the item and Lily was not being particularly nice that evening, she could bid 1501 DKP and immediately remove Johnny from the bidding pile.

In terms of “fairness” DKP does have a bias towards people who have more in game gold – if they craft (or more to the point, pay for another to craft for them) even 20% of their gear, they are able to amass more DKP (because they aren’t spending it) to blow people out of the water when there are significant upgrades on the table.  Thus, the wealthy (in game) toons are the best geared.

Even the more specialized DKP systems (ep/gp, etc…) have these same flaws.  EP/GP is even more susceptible to wealth- the wealthy toons can always have the best buffs/flasks and will automatically be given the max amount of EP from every run.

Suicide Kings

This looting system starts with a list.  Whoever is on that list is placed in a priority order.  When loot is distributed, you can choose to take an item or pass.  If you pass, nothing happens to your standing on this “list.”  If you choose to take an item, then you “suicide” yourself to the bottom of the list.  If two people want the item, whoever is at the top of the list gets priority.  No rolling.

In terms of fairness, there is two things to consider.  First, and the biggest concern, is who comes up with the initial list?  Does everyone just /roll?  If not, are we alphabetical?  Are we penalized for having a toon named zephyr?

Secondly, while this system does spread the loot around more evenly, it does penalize you for taking any loot.  Once you take the loot (especially in 25 man raiding), you probably wont see any loot until the other team-mates have already received loot.  But everyone participated, why shouldn’t everyone have an equal shot each boss at loot?

Loot Council

Loot council is a system that is comprised of several raid members.  If you have interest in an item, you tell the council that you want the item.  Based on everyone that has interest in the item, they decide who should get the loot, and where it should go.

Of all the loot systems, this is the one that requires the most – it requires the most work (3-4 people minimum have to be involved to be considered “fair”), it requires all of your raid members to be mature (loot council decisions are final, peeps), and it certainly requires the most work to get through the drama that is bound to happen.

Don’t even get me started on fair for this one.  These systems favor the under geared, plain and simple.  Not to mention – who in the heck determines what is and isn’t an upgrade for one of your members – and to what extent?  Do you verify off of iLvl?  That really isn’t the best way – the trinkets fire has are both iLvl 200, and they are best in 10 man raiding all the way up to ToC 10.  Basically, you must have an expert on the council in every possible spec for every raid member to be truly “fair.”

Need Before Greed

This is probably the most straight forward of the looting systems – if you need the item, /roll.  If no one needs it /roll for vendor (or, if you have a nice enchanter, /roll for shard).

In terms of fairness – this is the only true *fair* system – there is no bias towards any one person.  Everyone has an equal shot at all loot each roll.

Each of these loot systems have any number of transmutations and permutations, often becoming more complex to try to be more fair.  I wont touch on those, they are too numerous.

Do looting systems have to be fair?

In the strictest sense, absolutely not.

I know you are all ready to jump on me for that, but think about it.  Fair by definition does not mean enjoyable.  We could run with Need/Greed allowing every member who needs an item to roll for it.  That opens loot up to the RNG – and anyone who has ever quested in Hellfire Penninsula, hunting those dammed boars to no end, knows she can be a cruel mistress.  Random is random.  Sometimes that means that one person has all the lucky rolls and only he/she gets all (or most) of the loot.  That is no fun for the second rogue who worked his rear off for the raid only to get no gear for two weeks straight?

Basically, looting systems, in order for them to work drama free, have to match the guild’s definition of fair, which is going to change with time.  Fair may be completely random to one guild, but it might be gearing up the under geared toons to another guild, because in the end, you cant get to the bigger loot until you have a fully geared raid.  Hell, fun might be bowing down to the dictator of the loot council, just so you can get in a raid or two, and get right back out.

The point is that in the strictest sense, most loot models are not “fair.”  But that is ok.  Just about everyone who plays the game hates the RNG mistress (who is the only true “fair”).  Loot systems don’t have to be fair.  What loot systems really have to accomplish is fun.

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