Why a World Top 10 Guild Doesn’t use Loot Council

I received a lead on a potential recruit the other day as a guild member referral. The fellow had a few questions about the guild before he submitted a formal application. He’d been out of the game for a while having not played since the early tiers of Cataclysm. I set aside my in-game responsibilities so I could devote my full attention and answer whatever his concerns were.

  • What were our immediate class needs?
  • How is Mists raiding?
  • Is it okay if he applies sometime before patch 5.2?

I answered him as honestly as I could. Our immediate needs are DPS warriors, resto druids, and mistweaver/DPS monks. Ultimately it depended on what he wanted to play the most. Mists raiding is engaging and fun. Yes, he can apply specifically for 5.2.

We chatted a little more. I went over his guild history and made attempts to verify his accomplishments and affiliations as best I could. After I was satisfied, I asked him what loot system his previous guild used. Conquest has always utilized loot council from the beginning.

“We used DKP.”

My eyes widened. I was quite surprised. Normally, I expect cutting edge guilds to rely on Loot Council or some other similar system to maximize the effectiveness of loot on their players and to make sure it goes to the right people.

But DKP? I didn’t think this was the type of guild to use it. Why did they choose to use DKP?

“We originally used Loot Council for a long time. However, we eventually realized that it took an extraordinary amount of time to really add all the potential stats gained for different players. It simply took too long for the officers to make the most effective choice even though they were all quite knowledgeable of the different classes. Plus once we entered farm mode, the loot drops would eventually sort itself out since we were raking in tons of drops a week making gearing the raid up easy.”

In our raids, it can take a little longer than normal to get through select items like weapons and trinkets so I can see where the interest of time comes from. When you’re in the race for world first, you need to really be on point with time management. No one wants to lose out on world firsts because they were busy distributing loot.

I’m not planning on shifting loot systems at the moment but I found it a fascinating insight into how top tier guilds work. While each loot system has it’s distinct specialties, it’s up to you to select the right one for your guild.

Reserved Loot in PuG Raids

After our 10-man raid Tuesday night, I had some extra time before I needed to head off and gain some real-life rested xp.  Since my server is a low-population server–let me correct that, SUPER-low-population–,  PuG raids are hard to come by.  I generally don’t enjoy these raids on my server, because most of the people in those groups don’t know how to work as a team. They also tend to be ignorant to fight mechanics or are too lazy to learn them.  Every now and then, though, I have an “inkling” for a 25-man.

I had Trade Chat open in a separate window, looking for something to do. A Prot Pally from another guild was looking for a healer and a ranged DPS for ICC25. Since I don’t get a chance to heal on my Shaman a lot, I opted in. I knew I’d have a limited amount of time, but PuGs on Nazjatar don’t last long.  I rarely see an ICC PuG get a good shot at Plague Quarter (let alone Putricide) before people start getting “raid A.D.D”.

Ooh! An ICC 25! I run through a check of the gear lists, and I know that my Shaman is still using Protector of Frigid Souls, so the Bulwark of Smouldering Steel from Marrowgar would do nicely! What’s a hard-working Resto Shaman gotta do to get a decent shield in this place?! ToC runs are non-existent, obviously, and I don’t have the 1800 rating (yet) for the Wrathful Gladiator’s Barrier.  There isn’t a 10man shield in ICC until Sindragosa, and I always seem to be working on the nights that we kill her.  So this PuG is a perfect opportunity, right? Wrong.

The Bomb Drops

I step into this fresh ICC 25-man raid. I’ve got my Well Fed buff and my flask going; I’m ready to rock. Right before the first pull, and after all the buffs have been put out, the Raid Leader says in chat that the Bulwark of Smouldering Steel is “reserved”. I check his spec, and he’s a full-blown Prot Pally. I ask him if he’s trying to get it for off-spec. He says no, it’s for their Resto Shaman that just hit 80 not too long ago. I send him a whisper: “That’s really the only reason I’m here is to roll on that Shield. I’d like to roll on it, if you don’t mind.” I’m essentially (and politely) told no, and if I didn’t want to continue, then he’d understand. Well, in a flash of frustration, I bowed out and left the raid. Other spouts of disapproval of something being “reserved” echoed through Raid Chat as I clicked my “Leave Party” option.

My Reaction

Although there is one exception, I’m totally against this kind of loot distribution or raid leading, especially in a PuG. I find that it’s disrespectful to the other people that are brought in to help. You’re essentially saying to me, “I want your help in downing these bosses, but you’re not going to get a fair crack at what drops.” I’ve found a trend also in these types of situations. Either they’re entirely in the mindset of thinking that they can’t possible perform well enough without said gear, or they’re just plain inconsiderate, selfish, and rude. In most of these circumstances, I’ve even had a lower GearScore (means little to me, but means THE WORLD to PuGs), and have been able to incredibly out-heal (with little overhealing) the raider in question. I’m not saying that since I have higher numbers that I should get the Shield, but saying that I’m putting good work in but not allowed to roll on the Shield is a straight smack in the face.

The only exception I’ve been able to see (and from reactions I’ve gotten on Twitter), is a Legendary (and I agree). Things like the Fragments of Val’anyr or Shadowfrost Shard‘s (or any of the Shadowmourne pieces) are entirely fair, just so long as it’s laid out beforehand. Those are long treks to get that one item finished. Other loot, though, should be fair game using whatever loot system you dole out. Straight up reserving them is just selfish, in my mind.

Except for the loot system we use in my ICC 10-man, Team Sport always uses an open roll system. If you’re putting the work into the raid, you deserve a chance to get main-spec loot.  Some people would think that means that we get people rolling on stuff they don’t necessarily need, but it works out great. Since people know that’s how we run our raids, we have a wealth of people that love to run with us. Hence, we can be picky about bringing honest and friendly raiders.

After an experience like this, I’ll never take part in a “reserved loot” raid. Whether it’s my gear or not, it’s just principle.

What do you think? Would you continue to run with a “reserved loot” raid? Or would you bow out?

Behind the Scenes: Loot Council

Behind the Scenes: Loot Council

This might end up being one of the longest and most in depth posts you’ll ever read here about the loot council system. I tweeted a couple of weeks ago asking if people would be interested in an example of what happens to go on behind the scenes when loot is being decided. A resounding number said yes!

Took me about 7+ hours to conceptualize, write, and edit this one. Thanks to my guys for their help and suggestions.

What is loot council?

It is basically a group of players who decide which items go to which player when they drop in a raid. And before you say anything, yes it is entirely prone to favoritism. And yes, it is possible for it to be corrupt. Keep in mind though, the effectiveness of loot council is entirely dependant on your loot council. If they are nothing more than sniveling, selfish players who award loot only to themselves, then yes that is a problem. But if your loot council has progression first and foremost in mind, then it’ll work out in the end.

It’s not about being fair

A lot of players make the case that it isn’t fair.

You’re absolutely right.

Loot council is not designed to be fair.

In fact, it is far and away the worst system when it comes to fairness. Fairness is going to very by player and by situation. If a really awesome trinket drops, does it go to the new player who’s still using that 219 trinket who just joined the guild? Or does it go to the veteran who wants to replace his 264 trinket with a slightly upgraded version? Strong cases could easily be made for both. You could argue that that the new player would benefit the most from it as its the biggest upgrade for him (and consequently, overall raid DPS would increase). On the other hand, it could be used as a reward for the veteran for his consistent attendance and performance and that he deserves it (and has a higher chance of it sticking around in the guild as opposed to someone taking it and leaving).

When I pick out my council, I give them free reign on names and selections. They can only pick from the players who have listed themselves. They don’t have to give reasons for their judgments. Ultimately though, the one criteria I instill upon them is to do what’s best for the guild. If it means awarding a freshly minted player who just joined the guild with a trinket, that’s okay. If it means handing it off to a veteran, that’s okay too.

Every case is unique. We don’t operate on precedent because we can’t afford to “handcuff” ourselves in that manner.

Who is on it?

I try to maintain a fairly balanced class composition on the LC. It looks something like:

  1. Healer
  2. Tank
  3. Melee DPS
  4. Ranged DPS
  5. Other (Usually another ranged DPS, but it varies)

For me, the two criteria it takes to sit on it are both:

a) Basic knowledge of other classes and what’s desirable stats for them
b) Actually wanting to be on it

A surprising number of players I’ve approached over the 2 years have said they were hesitant to sit on it because they weren’t sure if they wanted that pressure or that power. I don’t want a player that screams “PICK ME PICK ME PICK ME”, I try to go after players who are willing to do it but are fine if they don’t.

If there’s some sort of bias detected, that council member is restricted from voting. For example, if someone’s fiancé or girlfriend or brother is up for an item, that council member would not be allowed to say anything. They can provide advice or notes, but that’s it. When that happens, an officer steps in temporarily and takes their spot. The same thing happens if it’s an item that a loot council member wants: They’re not allowed to vote (unless they pass). We try to minimize the obvious biases as best as possible.

Confused? Not every loot council member is an officer, that’s why an officer can periodically make a decision to fill in.

Loot council usually rotates after a month to several months depending on a number of things (Where we’re at in progression, boredom, “freshness” factor, etc).

Members have a say too!

In 80% of the loot decisions, we don’t actually have to come to a ruling. Back when we formed, Syd and I added a slight twist allowing our members to decide if something truly is an upgrade for them or not. Check out my macro:

LOOT OPTIONS
Int = You want and is a main spec upgrade
Pass = You want it, but can afford to wait or will not be using right away
Off = Off spec item
Say nothing = No interest in item

Yes, it’s tiered. Saying Interested signifies immediate desire and that it’s usable. Saying pass means you want it, but you won’t be able to use it until you get another piece of gear (like hit rating adjustments) or its a relatively minor upgrade (going from a 251 level item to a 264).

Anyway, I’ll give you a few of the loot scenarios and some of the decisions that I made. Keep in mind, there’s 5 of us. When someone says they want something though, we’ll ask them to link the current item that they wish to replace.

Give you an example:

[Coldwraith Links] has dropped.

Loot Master: 5
DPS warrior: Int [Vengeful Noose]
Loot Master: 4
Death Knight 1: Int [Coldwraith Links]
Death Knight 2: Int [Coldwraith Links]
Loot Master: 3
Loot Master: 2
Death Knight 3: pass
Loot Master: 1
Ret Pally: pass
Loot Master: –

Right off the bat, we’ll strike Death Knight 3 and our Ret Pally off the list. They both want it, but for whatever reason, they’re willing to wait or not able to use it (or are just being generous because maybe they’ve gotten a bit of upgrades that week). This case is one of the tougher ones we’ve had to deal with because all 3 partys’ could make a strong case for themselves.

But it’s easy in that since any of them could use it, the whole guild would benefit anyway regardless of who got it. I’m thinking big picture at this point. If memory serves, I think we gave it to Death Knight 2 because Death Knight 1 had gotten something earlier that night or that week. Honestly, it was a coin toss between the Death Knight and the Warrior.

Let’s do a tier example.

Conqueror’s Mark of Sanctification

Holy Priest – Int (42 badges) – Has no tier piece
Shadow Priest – Int (33 badges) – Has 1 tier piece (Shoulders), 251
Prot Paladin (off tank) – Int (60 badges) – Has no tier piece
Warlock – Int (60 badges) – Has 1 tier piece (Legs), 251
Ret Pally – Int (55 badges) – Has 1 tier piece, (Shoulders) 264

Let’s travel back in time a few months where tier tokens were still relatively new and not many players had tier pieces equipped yet. When it came to tier, we looked at factors like the amount of Emblems they had. We also wanted to know if they already had the 251 level tier pieces. We also had a quick chat with the players to really figure out which set bonuses were okay and which set bonuses were jaw droppingly awesome. Our mindset with tier is that we knew it would be a constant drop rate. We wanted to try to spread it out as much as possible. It was up to the raiders themselves individually to do dailies or whatever they could to get as much Frost Emblems as they could. Over a span of several weeks, our accessibility to tier would increase anyway. It was our job to determine who got what tier first.

Keep in mind, at the time Saurfang was the only boss who dropped tier at the time.

The first thing we looked at was how quick the token could be spent and used. The Shadow Priest would have been able to upgrade their tier shoulders immediately. The Holy Priest would need another week or two to purchase the 251. The Prot Paladin would also benefit and has not bought any tier yet. The Ret Pally already received one from the week before, striking her from the list. It would’ve been a tough call between the Warlock and the Prot Paladin. For me personally, I would’ve awarded it to our Warlock. It gives him immediate access to a 264 piece and a 2 piece with the shoulders.

Conqueror would drop again and it would’ve been pretty easy to “map” out the next few drops anyway.

Phylactery for the Nameless Lich (heroic)

Loot Master: 5
Shadow Priest: Int Phylactery of the Nameless Lich
Loot Master: 4
Warlock: Int Muradin’s Spyglass
Mage: Int Eye of the Broodmother
Loot Master: 3
Loot Master: 2
Loot Master: 1
Shadow Priest: pass
Loot Master: –

Here’s some background information. Both the Warlock and the Mage joined the guild the same day. The Shadow Priest has been around for 9 months as a regular raider. Our Shadow Priest notices the trinkets the other two are using and realizes it would be a better upgrade for the other two and decides to withdraw his name from consideration. Seeing as the Mage and Warlock are new and that extensive notes have been taken so far on their performance. The Warlock has been performing extremely well with top 5 finishes on most boss fights. The Mage is about average to below average (10th-15th with massive fluctuations). Unfortunately, the Warlock was mind controlled on Blood Queen because his target had already been bitten. In terms of drops, the Warlock had received no items that night and the Mage received both a Vanquisher token and a neck upgrade (both immediately used).

It’s now down to the battle of the recruits.

This is one of those “investment” type calls. Who are we most likely to keep? Who is most likely to go? We don’t know. It’s difficult to gauge that especially on a day 1 (a little easier after week 1). Do we give it to the Warlock as a reward so far for his efforts (except for the blown bite)? Or do we give it to the Mage to escalate his gear further? We’re aware that his DPS isn’t as high as the rest and it would really bring it in line. But he already received two items that night.

Those were just some of the questions that ran through my head. Ultimately, the Phylactery would’ve been an upgrade for either of the two. And for me, I would’ve sided with the Warlock just for the sake of even distribution.

Heroic Solace of the Defeated

Holy Priest – Int – Heroic Althor’s Abacus, Glowing Twilight Scale
Disc Priest – Int – Talisman of Resurgence, Glowing Twilight Scale
Resto Shaman – Int – Heroic Althor’s Abacus, Purified Lunar Dust
Resto Druid – Int – Ephemeral Snowflake, Heroic Althor’s Abacus
Resto Druid 2 – Int – Ephemeral Snowflake, Talisman of Resurgence
Holy Paladin – Int – Sliver of Pure Ice, Althor’s Abacus

Let’s try some healing trinkets. They are one of the biggest headaches in the game due to the number of players that want them when they drop. For me, when a player gets two powerful trinkets, I cut them off for the rest of the expansion. Again, I want to minimize the number of wasted drops. No point for us giving a trinket to one person only for them to replace it the week after when another player also could have benefited from it.

Here’s the information:

The Holy Paladin is entering finals for law school. He’s already declared that he will not be able to show up for the next 3 weeks. The Resto Druid received his Abacus earlier that week.

Ugh, tough decisions. The Holy Priest is just being plain greedy, so he gets struck. He’s already using trinkets that will last him the length of the expansion (probably that Matt guy who wants it, greedy bastard). The Holy Paladin could also put it to good use, but it won’t be effective for the next 3 weeks. The Resto Druid already got something that week, he’s out. Resto Druid 2 missed out on 2 straight progression raids without letting anyone know. Now it’s down to the Disc Priest and the Resto Shaman.

Looking across the board and seeing how everyone (and their mother) seems to already have an Althor’s Abacus, I’d award it to the Resto Shaman. The Disc Priest could benefit from an Abacus or a Solace. The Resto Shaman could use the Solace and then be done for trinkets for the expansion. It’s a narrow decision, but it ultimately gets awarded to the Resto Shaman because the Disc Priest trinkets could be completed with any of the 2 above options.

Final thoughts

Generally, most items take seconds to resolve. The ones that take the longest end up being:

  • Weapons
  • Trinkets
  • Rings

Those take the longest because many classes have vested interest. Look at an item like the Ring of Rapid Ascent. It’s one of the top items by practically everyone (casters and healers).

Granted, we do make mistakes. For every 4 or so good loot decisions we make, there’s a bad one that bites us in the ass. A Glowing Twilight Scale was handed off to a Paladin because no other healers wanted it at the time. He left after 2 weeks. We passed a Deathbringer’s Will to a feral Druid who had been a long standing member of the guild before he departed to try his hand at a higher progression guild. Since the inception of the guild, we’ve had over 115 players contribute to the success of our raids and for various reasons, they have dropped out and retired (Getting married, moving, getting yelled at by SO for too much WoW time, school, work, etc).

I have never had a single player leave and cite the reason for their departure as “unfair loot system”. We have a strong recruiting process and players that (we think) are self-centered when it comes to drops don’t usually make it past week 1.

It takes a dedicated and unique organization to make this loot system work. Everyone needs to be onboard with it and absolutely must buy into the system. That’s the reason it works. It’s because players understand it isn’t always about loot.

In the event the council is evenly split or unable to come to a decision (say an item benefits 4 people on the council and they all want it), then any officers present will make the call. If it’s a 5 way split (which rarely happens), another officer is asked to make a pick so that it becomes a 2-1-1-1-1 decision. Lastly, for anything that cannot easily be decided, I invoke what’s called the Matt clause. It usually happens if there’s a number of loot council players or officers who are either absent or unable to vote. If that occurs, I make the decision regardless of whether I can vote or not. If I’m not present, that falls to the raid leader, then the main tank, and on down the chain of command until its resolved.

Remember, we have a raid to run and bosses to kill. We can’t spend all that time debating. Unless it’s a Deathbringer’s Will, it’ll drop again.

We’re not completely infallible. Just like referees, we make bad calls too. But hey, this system isn’t for everyone. But it definitely works for us (we took down heroic Putricide last week on 25 man, and that guy was a nut case).

While I suspect a number of you won’t agree (and will continue to disagree) with this system, I hope this post has at least shed some light on how a guild could do the job. I know of a guild where a Shaman immediately LC’s mail gear to himself for all 3 specs. It’s unfortunate that cases like that happen, but they do exist. I wanted to write this to illustrate that not every guild or loot council is corrupt (at least, not intentionally).

Book Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook

Book Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook

There is a book for everything it seems. Some will tell you how to hack an iPhone, others will tell you how to cook rare and exotic treats. In the gaming world there has been everything from strategy and content guides to art books and everything in between.

A few weeks ago a new book hit the stands, The Guild Leader’s Handbook by Scott F. Andrews. Scott is not only an accomplished and long time  guild leader in World of Warcraft, but also the author of “Officers’ Quarters” on wow.com. His book takes a look at what it is to run a guild in today’s modern MMOs and offers readers both looking to start a guild and those who have been at it a while, a cornucopia of information from his collected experiences. Today I’d like to share my thoughts on the book with you.

Before we begin I’d like to make a few things clear. Firstly, Yes I do write for wow.com as one of the class columnists. This does not mean however that I will be unfairly biased towards the book. I have had little to no interaction with Scott and anyone who knows me or has listened to my podcast knows that I do not temper my criticism and critiques based on acquaintances or tangential relations. In short, friend or foe I try to tell it exactly as it is and as unbiased as possible. In mathematical terms we would call this “Correlation does not imply causation”. Secondly, while I myself am not currently a Guild Leader in WoW, I have lead numerous successful guilds, super-groups, and various other groupings in many other games. I am however still the Healing Lead and one of the raid officers for the guild I call home, and thus in a leadership position within the structure.

The first thing I noticed when opening this book, is the level of accessibility. It was very well written and very easy not only to read but digest. The concepts and ideas in the book are thoughtfully laid out and the way the topics are grouped not only make sense logically, but allow the material to be more easily digested. Potentially confusing concepts are quickly explained, often times with a real life scenario that the author has experienced himself. The second thing I noticed while reading this book is the confirmation of the author’s depth of experience. The familiarity he writes about the topics is comforting and also conveys a sense of certainty that is easily lost when writing something of this nature.

The book itself covers many topics such as;

  • Forming a guild and making it successful
  • Choosing a guild size and focus
  • Dealing with guild drama
  • Differences between leading a guild and leading a raid
  • Loot distribution
  • Alternate styles of guilds (PvP, RP)
  • Choosing officers
  • Guild Morale
  • Planning for the long term
  • Dealing with Real Life

Seems like a lot to cover in such a small book doesn’t it? It is, but the author cuts out most of the unnecessary and leaves in the most relevant information to the topic. Each topic is subdivided and dives into specifics and does so with the perfect amount of detail.

There were a few pieces that really stood out to me while reading this. First was the section on forming a guild. Beyond setting a size and focus for your guild, the author talked about a topic that I think deserves some attention. Forming a guild identity and presence. For any established guild or group, their name and longevity carry a certain weight to them. If you think about any guilds, corps or fellowships you may have come across, I’m certain you can find at least one where their name is well known. For a new guild starting out it can be hard to forge an identity and establish a presence. The author offers some solid advice for creating a server presence. This ranges from specializing and becoming rock solid at a particular goal, having a history of cooperation with other people and guilds to having fun contests and events. One example that I found particularly enjoyable was the idea of taking a completely meaningless piece of land in the game and claiming it as your own, while challenging anyone to take it from you and doing anything you can to hold on to it. That would certain generate some notice, and could be a particularly fun event.

Next was explaining the differences between leading a guild, and leading a raid. The distinction is one that sometimes goes unnoticed. A lot of players seem to feel the two are always synonymous. The author explains the characteristics of a guild leader very well and talks about the shift in personae needed to lead a raid. The two can often times be polar opposites of each other. A guild leader is at the end of the night the ultimate authority of a guild. They can control who becomes officers, who is kicked or invited and tend to be looked upon as the arbiters for any guild disputes. Compassion, openness, friendliness and approachability all play very well to a guild leaders station. A raid leader has to evaluate performances constantly while keeping the group focused. They have to play the role of team captain, coach and player all at the same time. Leading by example, but also calling out problems and fixing issues as quickly as possible. This can sometimes involve not being very nice and squishy in your assessments. I was quite pleased to read this section here and it would be something I encourage not only people in leadership roles to read, but also those in a raider position. It is very much like being friends with your boss outside of work. When you’re at work you still need to work, and it’s your bosses job to keep you focused.

Another part that particularly stuck out to me was the section detailing real life interactions and issues. Even though this is a game, it is a social network. You are interacting with other players regularly, and you are devoting time out of real life to play this game with other people. As a result real life will always impact a gamers life and a game may affect the life of those that play it. This section of the book covers topics like dealing with addictions (both substance and potential video game addiction), Depression and mental illness, sexual predators, relationship problems, family problems, burnout and criminal confessions. These are real life topics that can and do affect people who play MMOs. This section offers advice to deal with these situations as they arise. Let’s not forget it wasn’t so long ago that a criminal was tracked down through WoW by law enforcement.

This section also talks about planning real life meet-ups. Investing as much time as you do in a guild there may come a time where you want to meet the people behind the avatars face to face. It sometimes requires a lot of planning, but can indeed be exceptionally rewarding.

So in the end what does this book really have to offer?

For the new guild leader or leadership role

A plethora of information that is neatly gathered in one place for you. There is a lot that goes into forming and running a guild. This book takes the information and neatly bundles it for you for easy consumption. The information contained in the book is very accurate, and is very universal in it’s approach. The advice offered is solid, well thought out and has been tried and tested by the author himself. The book may have items you never thought to consider, or just did not occur to you. It offers a new officer or guild leader a chance to be prepared and also educates you on exactly what you can expect. Everything from personalities in the guild and group dynamics to planning for the future and longevity of your guild. All the basics you could possibly need to know are detailed here for you.

For the old-hand

Even if you have been playing MMOs for a long time and are quite experienced at leading groups, running guilds and leading raids, this book will offer something that can often times be lost over time. Perspective. We fill these rolls for so long that things become second nature to us. Like everything sometimes it’s nice to have a refresher. No one is perfect 100% of the time, we all make mistakes or forget things. The way I view it is like this. Next to my computer I have a series of books for programming, APA style and formatting guides, marketing and business books and a variety of other reference material. No matter how long I’ve been doing something, there will be things that I will forget. Having these books handy gives me a reference. somewhere I can go to clarify questions and vague points or remind myself of things I may have forgotten. This book now has a permanent place on that shelf. For us old hands this book is a perfect reference to when we need to get back down to basics.

For the non leader

Even if you are not in a leadership role this book can offer you a great insight you might not have otherwise. Ever wonder why your guild leader made a particular decision but don’t really want to ask them? How about when a raid leader does something that you’re not quite sure of? This book will give you a basic understanding of what it is your guild’s leadership has to go through and constantly juggle to make sure the group remains stable and that you have a place you can unwind and have fun.

I applaud the author for this book. I found it easily accessible, accurate and a fantastic read. I was able to identify with the examples he presented right away and could have compared them to any number of stories from my own past in gaming. This book is a great starting point for anyone looking for form a guild, new to an officer position or for those who just want to understand what happens behind the scenes of their groups. On a personal level, reading this book allowed me to catch something happening in my very own guild that I almost missed simply by reading about it and being reminded of it.

The only criticism of it I have is that I feel it could have been longer.  Some of the sections could have been more fully explored and may have benefited from having a little more room to breathe. The book ends at a surprisingly short186 pages.

I feel it is well written, logically put together and is a must read for anyone seriously involved in MMOs and guild structure. Even with consideration of the length I feel that is well worth the money, and even more worth the time you would invest reading it.

The book retails for $24.95 us ($31.95 CDN) and can be purchased directly through the publisher’s website.

If you’ve read it and would like to share your thoughts on it we’d love to hear your opinion on it.

 

Pass the Parcel: When Raiders Won’t Roll

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This is a guest post by Mimetir, an oversized owl of a raid leader on The Venture Co (EU). You can find her twitter feed.

Loot.

Shiny items of [insert rainbow colour here] pot of gold goodness.

Many players actively strive to better their equipment and make that their main goal in the game. Better, stronger, faster, more purple pixels than before, able and willing to go forth and vanquish something corrupt for the good of Azeroth. Go on, admit it – we all want loot: if we didn’t, our characters would still be pattering around in recruit’s regalia and would be prone to splattering over the scenery as soon as they looked at an end game raid. Better gear is a must not only for those players who actively raid but also for the other people they raid with in order to aid smooth group progression. But what about the people who just… don’t go for loot?

Say a guild decides that they are ready for Trial of the Grand Crusader and choose to invite one of their regular and generally competent raid healers.

Call him Homer.

The catch is that Homer’s in Naxx25 kit and the Trial is, well, at Grand Crusader level. Homer struggles and there are a fair few deaths and extra strains being put on other raid members to keep the group alive. There is limited success and the road to progression is rocky; the guild is increasingly beset by much wailing and gnashing of hooves. These are effects which would quickly avalanche into morale killers and unnecessary wipes – and, the longer they continue, similar cracks may start appearing in the guild.

You might think that Homer would have better gear considering he is a good healer and turns up for raids regularly. Is he contending against 9 other clothies for his loot? I’d hope not unless their lock is an astonishingly good kiter. Has he been on runs plagued with plate drops? Not at all, he’s seen useable loot every week for the past six and counting. He just never rolls on loot. He’s been known to pass gear with twice as much spell power than his own in favour of the druid tank’s off off spec.

Twice.

Players like Homer are not as rare as you might think: I have seen many different players pass on loot which seems a boon giftwrapped for them from the loot gods.

What goes through a player like Homer’s mind? Perhaps one of the following:

I don’t need it as much as X does, give it to him. This reason is quite acceptable if it’s not a regular occurance. The player may just be a nice person – it’s sweet for players to occasionally pass loot for other team members and can bond the group together. But if a player regularly passes in favour of giving loot to others it may cause frustration and have other, deeper reasons behind it…

I have equal stats to [equivalent class] so I must be just as good without new loot. This reason can be somewhat deceptive and is the by product of a lack in knowledge of game mechanics and an over or underactive confidence. The player may truly believe what he’s saying, in which case nodding and smiling at him is probably the best initial reaction. On the other hand it may mean that the player doesn’t believe this at all and is trying to mask the fact that he’s hopelessly confused.

I use custom / old stat weightings and that item doesn’t fit. Not many items seem to. Stats are understood in different ways by different people – some people have trouble getting their head around them at all. Some players get a grip on stats and then hold on to that understanding for all time, even though stats change over time. These approaches are fine and can be addressed gently, starting with the basics – not everyone needs or wants to know the mathematics in depth.

I don’t understand loot and you’re waiting for a decision from me so give it to someone else already. Some players have never got a grip on loot at all. They may think that there is a complex maze of mathematics and stats behind understanding loot and be terrified of entering it. Alternatively they may not want to ask for help in case people think they are stupid. Whatever the case, these players may get easily irritated when attention is drawn to them during loot rolls.

I don’t have any interest in progressing this character but I’m relied upon to be here with this character. If this is the case the player will show no interest in anything to do with the run – gear progression, instance progression, tactic progression. They may become bitter and, gradually, an unreliable raider in more than the loot sense. They may also spoil for fights; in this situation regularly passing on loot would just be an indication that this player needs a break.

There are probably many other reasons but those are the main ones I’ve heard players use. All of these responses can lead to an uncomfortable atmosphere in the passing player’s group – just look at the effects Homer has on his guild’s progression run. Progression requires every member of the group to be of an equal standard in their role in order that the group knows they can trust and rely on one another. Homer’s loot behavior may inspire bitterness and futility in his healer teammates, for example; the longer it goes on the more uncertain they are whether they will have to keep an eye on picking up Homer’s role.

thinking-1

A player who is in this situation regarding loot is also likely to be feeling uncomfortable himself. Whatever his reason for passing on loot regularly, Homer is likely to be aware that it is creating tension. He may also feel cornered and not know how or whom to talk to about it: he has, to his mind, a good reason for passing on loot but his group members’ teeth are wearing into dust and their hooves getting chipped. He may realize that on some level he is letting the group down. This may lead to a drop in his performance and skill level, and potentially to a voluntary or forced drop from the raid team.

A player’s reason for constantly passing, whatever it may be, is their reason – not an excuse. It should not be ridiculed or dismissed out of hand by anyone in the group, including themselves. Neither should a blind eye be turned to this behavior if it is causing tension in the group. I think it should be brought into the open and discussed in a supportive manner, either as a team if everyone is comfortable to do so, or one to one between the player and either an officer or someone who is close to the player, who is comfortable being a mediator. Most of the reasons listed above are easily addressed – the second, third and fourth could all be eased through a variety of methods. The player might be directed to theorycrafting sites such as Elitist Jerks to read around their class in order to nourish or update their understanding of it. They might be encouraged to start playing with sites such as Lootrank, Warcrafter or download Rawr. Class group discussions and workshops could be run within the guild. Hell, a few patient players in the guild might take it upon themselves to run a few more relaxed instances with Homer to have him learn more about his class or become more used to loot rolling in a less stressful environment.

The fourth and fifth reasons listed above are the most worrying ones for a guild. Those are the ones which most quickly lead to a player feeling like they are being forced to do something they don’t want to, and becoming alienated from the guild. The player knows he is relied upon and this fact becomes a burden. He becomes more stressed and disinterested with varying reactions depending on his personality: the progression path gets rockier for everyone on it.

In my opinion it is crucial to watch out for raiders repeatedly passing on loot. I’d say that from a raid leader’s perspective it’s important to open those lines of dialogue with a Homer-like player and get an idea of his mindset and what should, if anything, be done about it: Obviously as a raid leader you don’t want to be stuck with a player whose loot behaviour holds the rest of the group back and causes cracks to appear.

Of course, depending on your agreed loot set up, as a raid leader you could simply give loot you consider beneficial to the player even if he passes on it, but that may cause its own problems. Will the player feel even more cornered and forced to do something they don’t want to? Probably. Will they and other group members loose or gain respect for you and the loot system and will it cause more cracks or cement over old ones? Probably the former. Do you, in fact, know better than the player himself?

So if you know someone who regularly passes on loot – or are someone in that situation – get talking about it. There’s no shame in not understanding something and the mechanics of WoW are too vast and perhaps fluid to be nailed down in one in one brain at any one time. Whether you’re Homer or Homer’s group member you may just learn something about another class or person and become a closer, better, faster – more purple – group for it.

I’d be interested to hear what you think, too – be you the uncomfortable Homer, the gnashing group member, the exasperated raid leader/officer – or you’ve seen it before, from afar, and pondered on the subject. Do you think loot passing is something which happens often? Something which is a taboo subject, especially in raiding guilds? Something which shouldn’t happen if the guild or group is set up correctly? How do you think this kind of loot behaviour should be addressed – with sidelining or discussion and support?

Systemic Looting of Your 25 Naxx Pug

Pickup raids. We can’t live with ‘em and we can’t live without ‘em. For the players that don’t have the scheduling ability to raid with a guild, they have no choice but to raid with 24 other players ranging from the chivalrous to the downright nasty.

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a Naxx 25 pug on my alt Shaman which went somewhat smoothly for the most part. Patchwerk and Four Horsemen absolutely stoned the raid and we had to call it later.

Loot System

Here’s how loot was handled and I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

1 Tier roll for entire night
1 Need/1 Greed for Spider and Plague Wing combined
1 Need/1 Greed for Military and Abomination Wing combined

I felt that it was simple and that it worked. With the amount of loot that drops in Naxx, this was simple, fast, and effective. Players were limited to only one tier piece, period. But having four other roles helped prevent sharding of gear and helped spread the loot around more than if it was just 1 need, 1 greed.

My Elemental Shaman clocked in at ~1900 DPS on Patchwerk. I got some more work to do, it seems.

Handling loot in pugs is a lot more different then handling loot in guilds.

Have you participated in any Heroic raids lately? How has loot been handled?

Build Your Own Guild Part 3: The Dreaded Loot Question

Build Your Own Guild Part 3: The Dreaded Loot Question


Congratulations, New GM! You have your Guild Charter and Rules ready, and that website is up and running. Even though you’re not raiding yet, your next step is to decide what to do with the funny purple stuff that drops when you kill things. And yes, you must make this call even before you have enough members to stare down High King Maulgar. When I interview new recruits, they almost all ask me how my guild handles loot. If you create a fair means of distributing shiny epix, and you’re well on your way to having a healthy, happy, boss-destroying raiding guild. You must pick a loot system from the beginning and stick with it—the worst thing you can do is vacillate between systems and potentially cheat your members out of their just deserts.

Loot system basics:

Almost all raiding guilds use some variation of one of two types of gear distribution systems. The first is Loot Council, in which the officers or other elected body decide who gets each piece of gear that drops based on a complex ratio of need and merit. The other system is DKP, an archaic gaming term that stands for Dragon Kill Points. DKP systems allow raiders to earn points for killing bosses (or anything else the guild leadership decides is fair) and spend them for gear. There are benefits and drawbacks to both types of systems. Not everyone agrees with me either–based on her own personal experiences, Wyn gives you almost the opposite advice that I will. Listen to both of us and draw your own conclusions.

How do I choose?

Before you pick either DKP or Loot Council, you must decide what you want your loot system to accomplish. The following is a basic guide to the implicit goals of both system types.

1. Loot Council

This type of system is designed to optimize gear drops by placing them in the hands of those who will have most use for them. This may sound like the best players receive every item, but in practice, this is not true. A well-functioning Loot Council uses gear drops both to reward players for excellent performance and to help raise players to the group standard. Sometimes–perhaps often–the Council will reward the weakest player in a class and spec. All decisions are made for the good of the group, and no good items are sharded. Each member of the Loot Council must be extremely well-informed about the loot tables themselves and about the needs, wants, and skills of the player base. If a player on the Loot Council is interested in a gear drop, he or she generally bows out of the discussion on the item in question.

2. DKP

All DKP systems invest their players with “buying power,” and players get to decide what is most important to them. In all such systems, players tend to save for the best drops for themselves, assuming that they can identify them. DKP systems award gear based on attendance–more boss kills means a larger share of the loot. In this way, they can help a guild retain players over the long haul, because they can objectively track the benefits of consistent raiding. These systems are democratic in that they do not distinguish among players based on skill. As such, however, they do not always place items with the player who will get most use out of them. In addition, middling quality items will often be sharded as players learn to prioritize.

Drawbacks: Nutshell Version

Neither of these systems is perfect. Assuming real-life implementation, with no extreme chicanery, shenanigans, or other forms of bad behavior on the part of officers or raiders, here are the typical problems each system type experiences.

Loot Council:

1. The drama llama rears its ugly head

Human nature dictates that each player will be more aware of her own skills and contributions than those of others. This kind of blindness virtually guarantees that some people will not be happy with any given loot decision.

2. Inefficient use of raid time

The Loot Council will probably discuss most items as they drop. This could cost the raid upwards of 5 minutes at the end of every boss kill, which may put the guild in a crunch for longer instances with large numbers of bosses.

3. Inaccurate tracking

Unless the guild uses a mod to track drops awarded, loot may be distributed unevenly. The memory is a notoriously inaccurate instrument. Without hard numbers for attendance or drops rewarded, the Loot Council may unintentionally give more to some and less to others.

4. Bias

Human error plays a large part in the Loot Council system. We are all biased–our thoughts and feelings affect us at every moment, even though we don’t realize it. I’m not talking about malicious prejudice–I’m talking about the little unconscious leanings that occur even when we mean no harm. It would be nigh-impossible for a Loot Council to be entirely neutral toward every raider in the guild.

5. Lack of inherent structure

If you choose Loot Council, you will have to come up with the operating rules yourself. Guilds accomplish this in highly unique ways–poke around some websites and copy good ideas. You will have to determine on what basis loot is awarded, who gets to participate in the decision, and how much time will be allowed for debate.

DKP:

1. Sometimes people don’t know what is best for them

Your players will spend dkp as they like, and some of them will use their points unwisely. You cannot force people to research your loot system and their class drops and come up with the absolute best strategy. People may hoard points, or they may spend them on the “wrong” items. Many perfectly serviceable pieces might end up being disenchanted or given away for off-spec.

2. It won’t stop the QQ

I can almost guarantee that the drama will be less than with Loot Council, but people will still be upset when they don’t get what they want. The complaints will be more intense as the item value increases. Remember that random loot is random, even though your dkp system is not.

3. Inaccurate tracking

If you’re using a pencil-paper system, errors will happen, and they may render the system meaningless. I strongly advocate tracking DKP with a mod if you can. If that is impossible, make sure you deputize one officer to update it, and beat him with your Riding Crop if he misses a day.

4. Every system can be played

Any time you put power in the players’ hands, there will be ways for an individual to work the system to his advantage. Most players won’t try–they will play because they enjoy it, and they’ll put in the exact same amount of participation no matter what loot system the guild uses. Others will find the exact right equation of play time to maximize their drops. It doesn’t mean they are bad people or bad players–sometimes it just goes right along with other types of min-maxing behaviors, which most raiding guilds encourage. For a concrete example, if your guild uses zero-sum dkp, points are only awarded when players take loot. For a certain player, this practice de-incentivizes progression nights, because they may earn nothing at all for a night full of wipes. Alternately, if your guild uses a positive sum dkp system, you might weight progression raids very heavily and in turn de-incentivize farm content.

5. You will have to choose a system flavor carefully

People have been playing MMOs for several years now, and there are many types of systems. In order to choose a specific DKP system, you will have to do a level of research that the Loot Council folks won’t even dream of.

DKP system types

If you’ve thought through your decision, and you’ve decided to go with DKP, here is a basic guide to system types. They all have the same core principles–democratic distribution and rewards that increase with attendance–but they manifest those principles in radically different ways. Each of these systems assumes that the person with most DKP will be offered first choice on items.

Zero-sum DKP

This system is for math nerds only–the basis of the system is that the raid’s total DKP always sits at 0. Points are awarded when a piece of gear is taken. For example, if I take the Thunderheart Helmet from Archimonde, its value will be subtracted from my DKP. For the sake of argument, let’s just say I lost 240 points. The other 24 people in the raid will be awarded 1/24 of the points I just spent, or 10 points each. This is one of those systems that really, really requires a mod to track, because you will have to recalculate after each piece of loot is awarded. The guild will also have to decide how many points each item is worth, because after all, not all pieces are created equal.

Positive-sum DKP: Additive

This system is similar to zero-sum dkp, but it allows the guild to add points to the system for anything and everything, including attendance and progression. As with zero-sum, each item is worth a certain number of points, and when a player receives a drop, the item’s value is subtracted from her total. Players may go below zero. These systems tend to get very, very inflated, and the gap between the bottom of the top can be just crazy.

Positive-sum DKP: Relational

The basic system of this type is Ep/Gp, which I must say is my favorite of all possible systems and the one my guild uses. A person’s DKP is a ratio calculated from her Effort Points divided by her Gear Points. Effort points are typically awarded either for boss kills, with each boss assigned a specific value, or for minutes of participation. My guild awarded points for boss kills in TBC but we’re switching over to an easier, more automatic points per minute system for Wrath. Ratios always stay above zero, and if you implement the system as intended (which I STRONGLY suggest), decay controls inflation. To decay the system, you reduce everyone’s EP and GP by a certain percentage at determined moments. The system designers mention 10% per raid as a good figure, and I tend to agree. The purpose of decay is to shrink the gaps in the list–this practice lets new players move up faster despite lower total attendance. In addition, players who have a long dry spell with no loot will remain near the top of the list even after they take their first item, making things more fair over the long haul. This process, in combination with the decay, also tends to discourage hoarding. The cherry on top of the system is the excellent mod that comes with it. The item values are built-in, and anyone with the proper clearance can update the system during the raid. I’ve been master looting for my guild using this system since January, and it works like a charm. The only caveat is that you must back up the data every week–content patches almost always wipe the system.

Suicide Kings

What would happen if you had 100% decay on Ep/Gp? You’d have Suicide Kings. This sorta-system belongs in the DKP list, but just barely. To use Suicide Kings, random roll all of your members into positions and arrange them in a list with number 1 at the top. Person #1, regardless of attendance, skill, or whatever, will have first crack at anything that drops. When he takes something, he will move to the last position. Suicide Kings is extremely easy to track, even with a pencil-paper method, but you may see extreme problems with hoarding or with raider apathy. Expect some raiders only to show up if their names are near the top.

Other rules:

Any system works better if you have some courtesy rules or guidelines in place. Heck, I’ve even seen random roll work for the top alliance guild on our server, and it’s because their guild has a culture of sharing. All guilds should encourage players to be kind to their fellows and to pass things when they can afford to. In addition, no matter what system you choose, your officers or class officers should not hesitate to give advice on gear choice. If possible, persuade people out of bad decisions. Sometimes you will have to lay down the law. For example, if a paladin wants to spend her DKP on cloth healing gloves that are also a significant upgrade for your priest, don’t let her do it. In addition, some guilds make a special exception for their main tanks and gear them up first. We have never done that, and our tanks are well-geared just because their attendance is good. If you want to move very fast, though, you may need to get that gear on the tank regardless of his DKP. Likewise, if one of your players needs to perform a special role, make sure he or she has the gear to do it. For example, my guild awarded the first Void-Star Talisman to our warlock tank for Leotheras. Every member of the guild was happy about the decision, because we all wanted to get to Leo as fast as possible.

And lastly, good luck. You’ll need it to get through the loot system minefield without life-threatening injury or, at the least, major scarring.