The Perfect Loot System….

… Doesn’t exist. Sorry, but sooner or later SOMEONE is going to feel they’ve gotten the short end of the stick. That said, some things are better than others in most cases.

Before I get started on my preferred loot system (not quite the same thing at all), let me AGAIN say that as long as everyone trusts the system it’ll work. And when you’re getting members complaining, you need to take a look at whether the system needs tweaked or if instead it’s a problem with the member(s).

Generally, people think that the people who contribute the most should get the most. Conflicting with this are two issues. First, there’s the definition of “contribute”. Second, and subtle, there’s the idea that membership should allow you at least SOME chance.

Now in my experience part of the problem starts even before you enter the instance/raid. Let me teach with an example. You’ve got, say, 12 people show up for a run on Kara. You pick 10, of course, and the people who run Kara get both credit (points or whatever) AND opportunity for loot. Next week, you have 14 people show up. You pick a slightly different group of 10 (6 from last week, 4 new), but the same two get left out. The people running (which includes some who ran last time) get more points and opportunity. Far too often, and the point of this example, the two dedicated ‘showed but not included’ members have zero points. And they DEFINITELY have no opportunity. This has the makings of a major crisis for your guild – at the minimum, you have two people who were willing and able but for whatever reason are now two weeks behind a large proportion – to include the 8 members (four from each week) who have had both points and opportunity but did NOT show the dedication.

Now the fast and easy answer is to give points for being ready. But if these two players never get the chance to ENTER, they’re not going to get the chance to GET – regardless of number of points. You see, I think, the problem. It’s my opinion that a good loot system STARTS with opportunity.

Second issue – I don’t like inflation. For this reason I dislike adding a potentially infinite amount of points to people’s balances for actions and attendance and gifts to the guild and all of that. HOWEVER… I am completely comfortable with the guild having a Point Bank – that is, a pool of unassigned DKP points which can be distributed by the guild officers (on, preferably, a vote). And I like the guild being able to reward ‘services to the guild’ (other than ‘I am an officer, so there’). I’m also completely comfortable with players — and the Guild — using their DKP as in-guild currency – as in, “Hey, I need this enchant and I have the mats. 10DKP?” Note that you need a mechanism for mutual record in this case – a witness to the exchange is minimum. (Be forewarned of a potential issue. Call it the Mercenary Syndrome – “You want my buffs? 10 points.” There are many ways to resolve it, but the easiest is, “ok, here are my points. By the way, if you want MY buffs, it’s going to be 10 points.” A raid is so interdependent that the mercenary idiot will soon find himself broke, while the share and share alike people will be doing just fine. Of course, it makes for a rough first couple of times…)

Third issue – I do not like Loot Councils as a general rule. While the principle is ideal (a group decides who gets what based on needs of the guild), it almost always seems that “i like Mike” gets into the mess — or at least it gets perceived as such. Actually, what happens is a positive feedback cycle as the person with good gear is more important to the guild’s success so that person gets MORE good gear…. yech. Best intentions make a road that goes to some of the worst places. There are ways to head this off, but it all boils down to accountability and trust – and the former is more important in any group of more than half a dozen (ie, most raiding guilds).

With all this in mind, we can look at my favorite (not perfect) loot system. Summary first (and again at the end), and then a lot of details.

Modified Zero-sum DKP – new members mean new DKP is created (flat rate, predetermined). DKP points are spent for raid slots as well as loot. All DKP points BID are distributed, with a “guild tax” meaning the guild DKP bank gets part of the distribution. Guild (as opposed to member) DKP may be expended on things to enhance the guild based on clear rules and full accountability.

OK, let’s take this in turn. First, when a member joins the guild a pre-determined amount of DKP is added to the guild bank, and (my recommendation) the member is paid a flat amount from the bank. As the member is promoted, the bank pays an additional one-time amount.

Next, DKP for raid slots. When you arrive at the start-point slots are identified. (Actually, the raid leader should have pre-identified the necessary slots.) Some – very few, ideally – will have a specific player assigned. (My preference is at most two – the raid leader, and a guild officer if the RL isn’t.) The rest of the slots are role-based (healer, tank, dps, cc, or whatever you think you need), with at least two being “any”. Players bid on slots they wish to fill. ALL points bid are divided amongst the people who did NOT get slots. (Let’s pause for an example. Say there are five competitors for three healer slots. The bids are 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 points. The 20, 25 and 30 points ‘win’ slots, and the 100 points – yes, if you bid the points went into the pool – are split between the 10 and 15 point bidders after the guild DKPbank takes its cut. For simplicity we’ll go heavy handed and say the tax is 10% — which is too much but make the math easy. Thus our two ‘losers’ each received 45 points and are up, respectively, 35 and 30 points from earlier.) Recall I had two “any” slots. Any players who didn’t win the dedicated slot may now bid for an “any” slot to finish the raid.

Before we go on, let’s catch the two loopholes. First, there are two players (and maybe more) who didn’t have to pay anything. Two are the “pre-named”, and it may be that there are insufficient or barely enough applicants for certain slots – thus winning with a bid of “one point”. It’s my recommendation in this system that those players lose some points which go to all the other players present. I happen to like using the average of the winning competitive bids – again, distributed to all the other players (and that includes the other pre-named player if such exists.)

Second, what about the sporadic players – the once a month attenders? Don’t worry about them. Seriously. See, the first time they show up they’ll have their untouched pool, and almost certainly get in. But until they show up again they can’t get points. Remember, basically you get points by being there but getting nothing – just a share of the points others spent. Oh, there’ll be some recovery when there are bids for drops (we’ll get there), but that’s only coming from what’s in the pool of raid-members — arrive and don’t play and your points build, arrive and play and they may – especially if you GOT something – drop.

Within the instance, the BoPs and Rare BoEs are zero-sum DKP. All bids (winner and otherwise) go to all the members who didn’t bid. Minus, of course, the Bank’s Share. Here is one of those “the guild leadership may spend DKP” points… The guild leadership may pre-designate certain items as ‘reserved’. In the event they drop, they go to the person the Raid Leader designates (usually identified before the start along with the reservation of item) OR to the guild bank. The DKP price is also pre-designated, and the bank pays all players EXCEPT the recipient of the item as though the recipient had won the bid. Note that in this case the bank does NOT receive its tax.

Note an important secondary point of this pre-designation. Members can debate whether it’s right – both the distribution AND the DKP – in accordance with the guild’s principles. (Some guilds are very democratic, others are purely authoritarian. Either way, this will fit the process.)

Out of instances/raids, the guild leadership may find itself with good reason to reward certain members of the guild for service, and the DKP bank gives excellent opportunity. When, and how much, is a matter of debate and flavor. But by restricting such to only the ‘funds’ in the bank, DKP inflation is avoided.

Again, let me summarize. I like a zero-sum DKP with some points belonging to the guild bank. DKP is spent not only on items in instances, but also on raid slots. The guild bank gets a ‘cut’ of all DKP expenditures in ‘official’ situations. The Bank can also bid on items, and my recommendation is that this is a fixed, PRE-IDENTIFED, and sole bid (what items, and what amount of points). Members may also pay each other for things with DKP points, though the guild may have to watch this to avoid abuse.

Oh. One DKP pool per PLAYER, not per CHARACTER. Should be fairly obvious, of course, but let’s kill that problem up front.

Now is it a perfect system? snicker. I can list flaws – I’ve run into a few and am sure there are more waiting to ambush me. But… it has worked for me. It solves the problems of inflation, solves a problem far too often unaddressed, and is generally understood and trusted by most players.

In the end, “it works for us” is better than the never-attainable “perfect”. Now go play and have fun.

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~ by Kirk on October 3, 2007.

8 Responses to “The Perfect Loot System….”

  1. Wow what a complex system! I think it offends the KISS* principle and for that reason alone I wouldn’t want to be a part of it. I have found from experience that the simple /roll system works fine for Kara. A form of DKP is needed for the 25 mans but IMHO it needs to be simple. None will ever be oerfect and the one you describe is far from perfect. It sounds like it was set up by a lawyer! (I can say that as I am a lawyer.)

    *KISS = “Keep It Simple Stupid”

  2. bigguns – in detail, you’re right. in execution, however, it’s not much more complex than /roll.

    Anytime you’re trying to share limited items between guildmembers, the guildmembers bid guild points – high bid wins. All bid points – win or lose – are shared to the rest of the guild present.

    I’ve seen the arguments that you should “just” /roll in kara. It works. I don’t like it. shrug.

  3. I’ve just hit 67, so haven’t experienced these issues yet, but I think that /roll is blind justice. I would prefer a system that rewards me for my loyalty AND looks after me when I need it. unfortunately, I am still a NUUUB so have no alternate to offer. What is DKP??? I need to research ;-)

  4. @ Xcal,

    DKP is Dragon Kill Points. The system was first developed by Thott of the guild Afterlife in the original Everquest (in 1999). It is a system that attempts to equally distribute loot over time.

    Simply – you earn points. When loot drops, you spend points. The person willing to spend the most for the item gets the item. All else – how the points are earned, cross distribution, and so forth, are supplemental details. A google search – or entering dkp on wowwiki.com – will give you a good set of starting points.

  5. Heya Kirk,

    You left out a detail for the system that I think is important – the bidding system.

    Are they “blind” (everyone interested whispers their bid to the loot master), auction-style, or something else?

    Also – “All bids (winner and otherwise)…” go to the other players? Losing bids get subtracted from the players that lose out on the item? Wow – that would be the first that I’ve ever heard of that part. Particular reason for this? (I have an idea, but I want to hear it from you)

    Love the blog BTW – keep up the good work! :)

  6. Jabari, good catch.

    Open auction. The ‘all bids’ line is to kill a gaming technique that can lead to hard feelings down the road – bid forcing. That is, forcing up the bid on something you don’t want so the other person won’t have points to challenge you on a later drop you want more.

    Also… I’ve seen one variation on the “distribute to everyone else” I found interesting and will toss in. All points spent are distributed to everyone INCLUDING the bidders (minus the bank’s cut). I’m… not sure this is good, but it worked when I saw it. It certainly simplified the math in the end.

  7. Re: Deducting losing bids.

    I thought so. Did you see the mini-flamefest that happened over at BRK’s a bit back because he did that exact thing? *chuckle*
    As I said, I’ve never seen doing that before – how does it work in practice? I would imagine that it really stops a lot of the “bidding wars” from getting very high.

    One other idea might be to do a compromise thing where you redistribute the points to everyone except the item winner – then the “losing bidders” get a (small) portion of their points back, but it would still probably stop the “I’m bidding but I don’t want it” stupidity. *shrug*

  8. […] The Perfect Loot System…. […]

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