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.

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6 thoughts on “The Most Successful Loot Systems

  1. Frijona

    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. Frijona

      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. Typhoonandrew

    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. GoW Post author

      Yep, Loot Coun­cil can be the best.

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