Matticast Poll: Loot Systems

This week on The Matticast we are going to be covering the pros and cons of various loot systems, but we wanted to get reader feedback first. Which loot system has worked best for you? Have ones you just hate? Answer our poll and leave us your feedback in the comments.

Which Loot System Do you Prefer

  • Loot Council (24%, 63 Votes)
  • EPGP (24%, 62 Votes)
  • Need/Greed (23%, 61 Votes)
  • DKP (13%, 33 Votes)
  • Suicide Kings (10%, 26 Votes)
  • Other (Leave In Comments) (6%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 261

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DKP is the Devil

DKP is the Devil

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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.

Basic Overview

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.

The Problems

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.

Luv,
Wyn

Resources for the New Guild Leader

I just wanted to highlight some links for any up and coming Guildmasters who aren’t sure where to start looking for the various services they will need to set up and organize their guild..

Guild Webhosting

Enjin (Affiliate link) – Free. Contains forums, item mouseovers, roster, news management, calendar, progression indicator, multiple themes available (Demos, upgradable)
Guildomatic
– Free. Contains forums, item mouseovers, roster, news management, Ad-Supported (Demo, upgradable)
Shivtr - Forums, character profiles, image gallery, events calendar, guild bank interface, polls (Free trial, $8.99 /month)
Guild Launch – Free, Forums, calendar, guild progression, RapidRaid loot management system, guild bank interface, armory interface, 10 MB file storage, Ad-Supported (demo, upgradable)
WoW Guilds – DKP system, bank management, raid progression module, WoW MP3 player, event management, over 70 templates to choose from, guild stats, armory interface (Demo – $9.88 /month)
Guild Universe – Forums, calendar, event management, guild application, roster, news management, polls (Demo, upgradable)
Guild Portal – Forums, polls, mail, content management system, raid calendar, bank management, roster management,  (Demo, equals to $5.00 /month)

Webhosting

Dreamhost (Affiliate link): Dreamhost powers World of Matticus (500 GB Disk storage, 5 TB monthly bandwidth, $5.95 /month depending on prepayment).

Forums

Yuku - Free, hundreds of skins, customizable polls, member management (premium available)
Free Forums – Free, daily backups, over 100 styles, member management, data recovery (premium available)

DKP and EPGP

DKP 4 Guilds – Inhouse DKP management, raid attendance logs, raid bank, item mouseovers.
EPGP Web – Web interface for EPGP users.

Voice Servers

Nationvoice (Affiliate link): My personal vent provider of choice. I’ve been with them for over 5 years since my early days in Counter-strike (50 users for $14.99).
Typefrag – An alternative to Nationvoice. A number of Guilds I know use them (50 users for $9.99 and they have a special where if you order for a year, you get 50% off).
MMO Mumble – Mumble hosting service. $5.63 for 25 slots.
Raidcall - Free, no dedicated servers needed.

General

Warcraft Realms – Online WoW census. Tracks a player’s guild history.
WoW Jutsu – Ranks guilds based on their progression. Filterable by battlegroup, server, and faction.
WoW Progress - Ranks guilds based on their progression. Filterable by battlegroup, server, and faction.
World of Logs – Think of it as a really indepth damage meter. Takes your combat log and outputs it into something meaningful.
WoWpedia - The encyclopedia of WoW. Useful for learning about raid instances and the trash therein as well as boss strategy.
Boss Killers – Various strategies for killing bosses.
Ask Mr Robot - Online tool for figure out what gear to get next on your character. Optimizes reforging and augments. Customizable stat weights.
Icy Veins - Class information and raid strategy

Recruiting

Elitist Jerks – One of the largest theorycrafting communities. $25 per thread.
Tankspot - Available to Tankspot donors only.
WoW Lemmings - WoW forums aggregator. Sorts the latest posts on the Guild Recruiting forums on the official WoW site by faction and class.

Structuring Your Casual Raiding Guild

King and his Pawns

A couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to read Karthis’ post on Building a Raiding Guild. In it, he posed several excellent points:

  • Progression Results
  • Leadership Restructuring
  • Smart Recruiting
  • Identifying and Assisting Underachievers
  • Accountability of the Raid
  • “Pat on the backs”
  • Separation of Raiders and Non-Raiders

The other day, an ingame friend of mine asked me to help him create the blueprint of a raiding guild from top to bottom identifying positions and the like. I figured my current Guild model would be a good one to use along with an explanation of each role both within the Guild and within the Raid.

Gnometastic posted a request for input about diving into the T5 instances which I will also address at the bottom of today’s (long ass) piece.

The first thing I will stress to any casual raiding guild is the following: Drop the casualness. The moment you decide to step foot in you T5 instances, you are an official raiding Guild.

What IS casual

From my various experiences and chats with other guilds, casual to THEM means:

    Not reading up on strategy before hand
    Not listening to the raid leader
    Not paying attention or having any kind of situational awareness

And they wonder why they have such a hard time in SSC and TK.

This is what casual means to me

    Not spending more than 6 hours a night raiding
    Not spending more than 3 days raiding
    Not being stupid while having fun

1 definition describes a guild that is struggling night after night in T5 instances and wonders what they have problems. The other is having a blast exploring Mount Hyjal and Black Temple.

Guild Positions

Here’s the framework of our Guild:

Guild Leader

We only have 1. There are no ifs, ands, or buts. The ultimate decision rests on him. Any hard calls are his to make. We are not tied down or restricted in any kind of way. Your Guild Leader should be rational, intelligent, and must actually have a pair.

I’ve seen a lot of paper tiger Guild Leaders who were not willing to stand up for themselves and their Guild. Everytime someone made a request, they would immediately bend over backwards to accommodate them. The way I see it, if you’re not willing enough to say no to someone in your Guild, you are not fit to lead. I wrote more about Leadership earlier in the school year. Any aspiring GMs, I encourage you to read it.

Your Guild Leader obviously cannot run the show alone. But he must be willing to listen to opinion of his officers and guildies. The guild in turn must respect the decision he comes to. If they don’t like it, they’re free to hit free agency.

Don’t run a CO-GM kind of deal. In my experience, I’ve found that it rarely works well. When 1 GM puts their foot down, the other may not be as firm. In fact, the 2nd GM might even reverse the first GM’s decision. You cannot that kind of instability in a Guild.

Officers

If you read Kestrel’s interview the other day, then you can see his best advice to any GM is one simple fact:

    You can’t do it all.

These are players that people can turn to for help. There isn’t really much for them to do. They could assist in various day to day guild affairs. Honestly, whoever you put in these positions depends primarily on what your Guild Leader lacks.

If he lacks time and organizational skills, he can delegate an officer to help him set raid schedules.

If he’s lacking people skills, delegate a recruiting officer or 2 to help find some raiders and personnel.

What they do isn’t important.

The bottom line is that these are individuals that your Guild leader can trust and depend on. There is no perfect set of criteria that can define who is eligible to be an officer and who isn’t.

Raid Structure

Here’s the real meat and potatoes. I think our raid structure is a pretty damn efficient model.

Raid Leaders

Note the plural. We have 2 raid leaders who feed off of each other because it’s impossible for 1 person to track everything going off simultaneously. It’s nice to have another leader around to call out something the other might miss.

In addition, it helps reduces burnout on 1 person. We have 1 person research and call the play for 1 boss. We have the other raid leader research and call the play for another boss. For example, our GM doubles as a raid leader (let’s call him Bob). He calls the play for Lurker, Fathom Lord, Tidewalker, and Al’ar. The other raid leader (let’s call him Fred) calls the plays for Vashj, Kael, and Leotheras.

During trash pulls, they light up the marks on the various mobs. They call for what it is that they want to happen. They might want a sheep on square, a misdirect on skull, or a trap on circle. They don’t care who does it as long as it’s done.

They have delegated duties down the chain of command.

Mage Leader

The job here for the mage leader is to set up and organize sheeps, plain and simple. If Bob calls for a sheep, the mage leader picks a mage within the raid and tells them to sheep that target. There’s going to be pulls where there could be 6+ mobs involved and keeping track of sheeps can be difficult. It’s the job for the mage to know who sheeps what when. It’s also the job for this mage to be able to “oh shit sheep” a mob incase 1 of the other mages fall.

Set up a mage channel.

Hunter Leader

Typically, our raiding arsenal includes 2 Hunters. They’re usually good about working out misdirects and traps amongst themselves. If you have more then that, it might be valuable to set up a go-to hunter to work out which mob or boss gets misdirected to who by which hunter so that there are no overlaps. Our Hunters usually interact with the mage leader in case they run out of mages to CC with.

Hunters: The Plan B.

Heal Leader

We like to dub ours “Gold Leader”. We even have our own healing channel. His purpose is pretty obvious and straight forward. He assigns the rest of the healers their targets. He’s intelligent enough to reassign or switch people around if it’s necessary.

For the love of god, if you’re a healer, ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR ASSIGNMENT. Echo back to him who you’re healing so that he knows there is no confusion!

Other Things to Know

I’m going to make a comment directed to Gnometastic in particular to all of his main points that he wanted to know more about.

Main Tanks

Carnage runs 1 Main Tank and 1 Off tank. The MT is a Warrior and the OT is a Druid. We also run 2 DPS Warriors who can slap a shield on and help with any extra parts of an encounter. We also have a Holy Paladin who’s willing to go Prot and vice versa as we need depending on the encounter.

Speccing into Raiding

As quoted by gnometastic:

I believe in freedom of choice and as long as you can play it you should be able to (within reason) spec it.

Normally, I’m inclined to agree. But this must be balanced by asking the following question:

    How badly you want to progress?

The 2 DPS warriors I mentioned above? They are willing to respec prot if the encounter requires it or there is simply too much healing required. Both of them respecced prot to allow healers an easier time during Kael.

On the flip side, if I were asked to do something like respec to Shadow, I would not. I’ve never played or levelled as Shadow. I wouldn’t know what to do. I would gimp the raid even further. I have no objections to sitting out a night in favor of another Shadow Priest.

If I were to become benched for the remainder of my time, then nothing stops me from parting company on good terms. I’m sure there are Guilds out there looking for a veteran healer.

Looting System

Hmm, it’s a toughie. It depends primarily on the Guild. Guilds have to start being strategic with their loot at some point. No matter what system is used, always ensure that Officer discretion can come into play at some point.

Carnage had the past policy of awarding MT priority on loot. That is, if it’s a substantial and noticeable upgrade for the tank, he gets first option no matter what his DKP is. If you think the MT might abuse that privilege, then I say to you to go find yourself a new MT.

There was a situation the past where a Defender token dropped. It would have been a marginal upgrade at best for the MT, but the 2 piece set bonus would have been a huge boon for the Priest. It was lobbied quite hard by our healer lead to have the MT policy revised to keep things like this in mind.

PvP vs PvE Gear

I made a quick note about this a while ago as a response to a reader. Before I believe that PvP Gear could not subsitute for raiding. Now I believe that there are different factors to take into account when deciding this.

    Raid Encounter
    Which season of gear

Although I still would not suggest raiding with full on Season 3 gear, I am open to the idea of substituting a a piece of gear or 2 depending on how the fights are. The Vindicator’s bracer would hands down blow away any kind of bracer that Attumen drops.

In any case, the gear choice isn’t that different for DPS classes I don’t think. But as a healer, I would value PvE gear way more then PvP gear.

By the way, be hit capped before worrying too much about spell damage and crit. That’s what my colleagues tell me and if you think about it, it does make sense. After all, what is the point of having insane spell damage if your spells get resists half the time?

Attendance and Raid Breakdown

From my experience with certain DKP systems, I’ve discovered that you can also apply a certain decay rate over DKP via a simple formula. For example, DKP earned x percentage of raids showed up to over the past 60 days.

Raider A has 100 DKP but his attendance has slackened to 30% attendance to real life factors. His effective DKP is now 30.
Raider B is new to the Guild and has 30 DKP so far but has been to 100% of the raids. He doesn’t have a penalty applied since he has showed up to all of them.

Here’s the standard Carnage configuration that we bring:

4 Tanks

  • 3 Warriors (2 of which can be DPS)
  • 1 Feral Druid (OT)

14 DPS

  • 2 Hunters (BM, I think)
  • 4 Mages
  • 3 Warlocks
  • 1 Shadow Priest
  • 1 Enhancement Shaman
  • 2 Rogues
  • We keep an extra Rogue, Shadow Priest, Elemental Shaman, and Hunter on standby depending on what we need more of.

7 Healers

  • 2 Holy Priests (1 with Imp. DS and 1 with CoH)
  • 3 Holy Paladins
  • 1 Resto Druid
  • 1 Resto Shaman
  • We keep an extra Paladin around in case he is needed.

For Voidreaver, Gnome, bring a Resto Shaman or 3. It makes the other healer classes kind of moot. I always wonder what I’m doing there when we do Voidreaver.

In terms of attendance, we do it inversely. If you can’t show up you make a note on the forums in advance. That gives the Raid leaders time to go scramble a replacement instead of having to do it last minute. We build the raid out of whoever is there with the core members. They are the ones that usually show up 9.9 times out of 10. I think I’ve only ever missed 2 official raids ever since I signed with Carnage back in May. The guys that should be raiding are the ones that want to raid and are willing to make the dedication for it.

We also don’t switch our MT/OT combinations. The MT is made the same no matter what. However, there are certain encounters where a Bear tank is better suited then a Warrior tank (Leo).

Class Balance

It honestly depends on the boss and the instance. We like to bring in 7 AoE. It makes killing things that much faster.

In the end, it does come down to how serious and committed you are. I think 20 hours a week is a bit much. Attrition will take it’s toll sooner or later. I know some successful raiding Guilds going at 6 hours a week. We clock in about 12 hours of 25 mans plus an additional 6 hours of optional 10 mans if we want.

This piece is probably one of the longer ones I’ve written. I probably should have broken it up and divided it. At the least, I would have had material for 3 days worth of posts. But you’re always welcome to bookmark and come back to it at a later time. I’m hoping the experiences I’ve had can benefit you in some way.

I’m kind of curious as to the experiences of other raiding readers. How is your guild set up in terms of class balance and leadership? Is there only 1 individual leading the entire raid including direction sheeps, heals, and so forth (Bless him)? Have you had any success with other styles of leadership?

How DKP Works

DKP: What Is It?

Simply put, I would define it as a form of currency for players. When MMO’s first came into being, a loot system needed to be formed. Players realized that it would not be fair to just allow anyone to roll on loot. It would completely suck if a player joined a raid and rolled 100 while you rolled a 1 even though you were there far longer. So some guy came up with a method to assign value to item drops (I think this was back in Everquest). DKP stands for Dragon Kill Points. In Everquest, they didn’t have you kill off Ogres or Shades or Demon Hunters (At least, I don’t think so).

There’s various methods for earning DKP and it is entirely up to your Guild brass to use what they want to use. Each method has it’s own positives and it’s own negatives. There’s different ways to spend it. A lot of players whine and complain about DKP and it’s usage. But the thing about DKP is that it doesn’t determine if you get loot… it determines when you get loot. A lot of people have difficulty wrapping their heads around that concept. They start complaining when some other player gets that coveted 500 spell damage weapon before they do.

Here’s a brief overview of the different ways Guilds can classify their DKP earning scheme:

Time based: DKP earned is relative to the amount of time spent raiding.
Boss kill: You take down X, you earn Y. Simple concept. It’s kind of like working where you get paid once you finish something.

Spending Schemes:

Basic: Your typical bidding system
Zero Sum: It’s a fixed system where the same amount of points being spent for an item get redistributed throughout the entire raid. So if a player spends 25 points to purchase a Bow, the entire raid gets 1 DKP each (25/1). Carnage utilizes this.
Spend All: This goes to the highest bidder. They are required to go all in on their bid. Once they get an item, they have to climb the ladder all over again. This results in a fairly even distribution of loot I would imagine.
Hybrid: This one’s an interesting system. You have a fixed cost on items and you add a random number generator on tp of that to help weigh the statistical chance that the player can receive that item. I daresay it’s a bit complicated to set up.

More analysis tomorrow. I turn 20 so I may not get around to it. It depends primarily on how much alcohol my friends pump into my system.