Image courtesy of andehans
Sure, it’s all about killing the boss. It’s a group effort, a bonding experience, and a hell of a lot of fun. The problems start right after the screenshots are taken and the congratulations are over – loot dropped. What was it, and who should get it?
There are two common systems for deciding who, of the 10 or 25 people standing over the body, should get the gear upgrades: Loot Council, and DKP. Both systems function well on a day-to-day basis. Like most governing systems, the issues come in at the extremes, when a piece is wanted by more than one player, and especially if it’s a rare item. My guild used a pure DKP system when I first joined, and has slowly migrated to a full-blown Loot Council. I think it’s brilliant.
In a Loot Council system, the Raid Leader, Officers, Class Leaders, or a combination decide which player in the raid has earned the gear. Ideally, their decision is made based on attendance, viability, available upgrades, and the individual’s contributions to the raid and to the guild.
DKP, or Dragon Kill Points, is much less arbitrary on the surface. Guild members are awarded points for raid attendance, presence at kills, and sometimes other contributions to the guild (donations to the Gbank, for example.) This is usually tracked on the guild website. Then, when the gear drops, players are either allowed to bid, auction style, or simply purchase the piece for a set price. The raider with the most DKP has priority, and unless they choose to pass, wins the item. The price is then deducted from their DKP balance.
For a Loot Council system to work, the people making the decisions have to have a working knowledge of the needs of each class (knowing that Spirit is nearly useless for Paladins helps when awarding healing loot), and the strengths and weaknesses of each of their raiders. It helps a lot to have class-leaders involved in the decision-making process, since they’re usually the most familiar with both. Most importantly, the raiders have to trust their officers. If favoritism or greed are real issues among your guild leadership, Loot Council won’t cause the collapse of your guild – but it will definitely speed it up.
For a DKP system to work, every individual raider has to know their gear, possible upgrades, and playstyle. Each raider spends their points on the items that will make the biggest impact for them. If players buy an okay item, without knowing that a better item for the same slot, or for the cost, drops one or two bosses later, it’s their loss. Supposedly. The best and worst thing about DKP is that it is completely objective. You raid, you earn your points, the bosses die, and each raider spends their points as they see fit. It’s the ultimate self-actualizing system. The problem? Raiding is a group-effort.
Why I Personally Hate DKP
The system doesn’t care if a raider played their heart out, and has no other viable upgrades. A more-tenured player has first dibs on anything that drops, regardless of benefit to the guild as a whole. DKP, by its very nature, focuses exclusively on the measurable contributions of the individual. It objectively tracks how often they’ve shown up, how many boss-kills they attended, and how much money they paid. DKP is, essentially, an attendance grade in what should be a meritocracy.
Not that attendance is trivial. Being willing to show up and throw down day after day is part of what makes a top-notch raiding core. And those who show up every day SHOULD by all means be rewarded. There’s a marked difference, though, between playing your guts out and just showing up, and DKP can’t differentiate. On the other hand, any good officer knows who their key players are.
As a byproduct of this individualistic focus, participants in a DKP system tend to build up an entitlement mentality. “This gear is mine, because I earned it and paid for it,” is dangerous when the whole point is to continue progressing, not as 25 individuals, but as a guild. I’ve seen it get nasty when passing is suggested to a more-tenured player – it’s not that they really need a piece, it’s that they want it; regardless of the fact that the increase to their own swollen stats would have a significantly smaller impact on the group than would helping a guildie get rid of one of several sub-par items. Obviously, even in a DKP system, responsible raiders do pass to other players – but then the recipient of the gear has just been granted a “favor” by a more-tenured player. And there’s absolutely zero back-up if the veteran isn’t feeling generous.
Raiding in a Loot Council guild, you haven’t done your job by showing up. You haven’t done your job if the boss merely dies on schedule, either. You are constantly auditioning, pushing yourself and your teammates, you are forever earning not only the gear that might drop that night, but the gear you’ve been awarded each night of your membership, and your very raid spot. Yeah, it can be stressful. But I prefer the shared stress of 25 people pushing to do their absolute best over the stress of 25 people trying to figure out whose fault that 3rd wipe was – on farm content.
I have yet to be in any run where the raiders weren’t congratulated on their shiny new purples. In a pure DKP system, I’ve never understood this practice. Congratulating a player on gear that was essentially defaulted to them based on their accumulated points rings very hollow in comparison to congratulating a guildie who was awarded gear for their contribution to the latest group effort. The difference is the same as that of receiving a gift or buying the damn thing yourself. There’s a bonding experience with the former that isn’t replicated in the latter. And friendships and guilds – long term relationships – are built upon multiples of those small bonding experiences.
In fact, I’ve seen DKP systems actively erode those bonds. If you’ve ever calculated your own DKP vs. another raider’s, found yourself wishing they just wouldn’t show so you can beat them out, or quietly tried to convince them not to bid, you’ve had some of those same anti-group effort sentiments that underscore the kind of bickering and jealousy that tear guilds apart. Doing your best and proving you’ve earned a piece is a world away from hoping that your talented teammate is a no-show. But, if there’s no Council that will hear your case, you don’t really have any other recourse in a DKP system. Even if you KNOW that a Druid won’t get the same benefit from the Crystal Spire of Karabor, you can’t argue with the points. A good Loot Council will listen to your case in the bids, and make their reasons known when they award the upgrade. It’s hard to have sour grapes when you know the other guy deserved the reward they got, but easy to grumble if their major contribution was signing the guild charter before you did.
Which leads to a more long-term tricky situation – certain gear was designed to be optimal for certain classes. Not things as clear-cut as a heavy-spirit cloth healing helm, but truly questionable items – rings, weapons, necks, and trinkets. Some of them are just better for some classes than they are for others, especially given available upgrades. DKP absolutely cannot account for class-optimization without some pretty strategic loot-master intervention. I’m not saying Paladins should never equip a Light Fathom Scepter or Coral Ring of the Revived, I’m just saying an equivalently geared Druid or Priest would get a LOT more bang for the Guild’s collective buck. Not only will the player keep the piece longer, which frees up more gear for more upgrades for other players down the line, but the raid will get more benefit from it while they wear it. And as heart-wrenching as 1% wipes are, they are much easier to avoid when every player in the lineup is optimized.
Switching from DKP to Loot Council is not a panacea for everything that afflicts your guild. You won’t miraculously find that all the gear goes to the exact-right player, or that no one gets their feelings hurt. And if you don’t trust your leaders to award gear, you have problems no loot system will patch up for long. Similarly, raiders that grumble about deserving players being rewarded are likely not the players you want to keep around – and they’ll remove themselves from your guild long before they have a chance to leech hard-won purples that can’t be recovered. A good Loot Council provides a level of deliberation, thoughtfulness, and a bias in favor of hard work and team effort that DKP can’t replicate. And if there ever really is a tie in terms of overall contribution and deservedness, a good ol’ fashioned /random will end most disputes.