The Most Successful Loot Systems

A friend recently asked me an offhand question about zero-sum dkp systems with a 25% monthly degeneration with a weird main/alt policy… and I could immediately rattle off the strengths and weaknesses of such a system, including where it could be subverted and where the likely problems would be down the road. Ok, so it turns out that I'm interested in loot systems and guild leadership.

So what's the goal of loot systems? Most articles I've seen about loot assignments is about getting the gear to the right place while being fair.

Well… yes. That's the stated goal. There's more, though.

Cassio, a guest blogger at World of Matticus, uncovered the truth in a post about assigning loot (emphasis mine):

In my guild, I am currently the raid leader for ten man raids and it falls onto me to sort out loot distribution and how to do so without causing problems that could destabilize the raid group and force us back due to people leaving and having to replace with new people.

In programmer speak, this is Step 0. You don't list Step 0 to the guild, but when designing a loot system, it should be first on your list.

The bulk of his post is a quality explanation about trying to find the best home for each piece of gear that drops, but the quoted sentence made my eyes pop out. This is the most honest account of running loot systems I've ever seen! (I love the language of that sentence, too–it's an economist talking about the health of systems. More posts from your friend please, Matt!)

The whole time I was designing, changing, and updating my guild's loot policy, I was dancing around this truth.

Setting up and implementing your guild's loot policies is like being a parent: there is no perfect way, because like any leadership situation, it's not purely procedural and every person is different. Your goals, in order:

  1. Do not cause immediate systemic failure.
  2. Do not cause eventual systemic failure.
  3. Give your guildmates a chance to succeed/thrive.

Systemic failure is what Cassio talks about. If the loot system is not well received by his guild, people will leave and the guild will cease to be relevant as an entity. Notice that I didn't say anything about "is fair" or "is good for the guild's progress". Progress can very well happen entirely without loot. Such concerns follow Step 3.

How many guilds crash and burn, drama implosions, yelling, and so on while the officers feebly point at their loot policies?

"But, but, but… we posted it all on the guild forums, right here!"

A well-written and well-designed loot system is only part of the solution. Every kind of loot system can work: loot council, dkp, list-based, rank based, main/alt based, die rolling, consulting invisible friends, whatever. It's not that the loot system you choose is irrelevant, but it's certainly not the most important part.

The most important part is strong leadership. It's that, for example, the person who is point for the guild's loot policy is well informed and able to have a smart conversation on the guild's loot policy.

"Why are we using loot council?"

"Um, what's loot council?"

"It's when someone in leadership assigns loot to someone in the raid."

"Oh, that sounds like what we do!"

The guild member is now thinking: why do I know more about this than the leadership?

Cassio's post made me understand why I always wanted a Loot Officer when I was GM.

Let's try that again.

"Why are we using loot council?"

"I think it has the best match of strengths and weaknesses for our guild, it's easy to administer and use, doesn't require an addon, no website checking, no collusion possible, no point hoarding, and–"

"Ok, sounds good!"

And of course, since every conceivable loot system does have strengths and weaknesses, the real problem is convincing people that your system is fair enough and then managing people's disappointment when a weakness results in their disappointment. At some point, someone's going to be angry when they think they deserve something and then they don't get it.

The only solution to this that ephemeral Leadership–an environment where such problems are handled quickly, easily, and with minimal guild drama.

So it turns out that the most important part of loot systems has nothing to do with loot systems.

This is why guild leadership gets paid the big bucks.

More Words!

6 thoughts on “The Most Successful Loot Systems”

  1. Loot drama is one thing we really haven't had drama with in the guild. I think a lot of it has to do with the make-up of our guild in that it has mature players who enjoy the game for a lot more than purple epix and enjoy the guild for more reasons than just providing a convenient way to access those epix.

    1. The drama is mainly around RP stuff. We have the raiders who RP and the RPers who raid and the RPers who don't really want to raid. We have restrictions on how people are supposed to RP and that causes drama with people saying "you can't tell me what I can or can't do with my character."

      Our loot system is simple:

      Upgrade > RP gear > Disenchant > Sell.

      If someone is an asshole they'll generally find out about it and then if it persists be asked to leave.

  2. Loot Council also has the advantage of making it clear that your reputation is most important. Its who you are and how you are perceived. If you suit your guild and it suits you back, then it should be an excellent mix. If not, find a new guild.

    1. Yep, Loot Council can be the best.

      I'll do a top level survey of the common loot systems and their strengths and weaknesses.

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