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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