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).

How To Win Epics And Influence People

How To Win Epics And Influence People

Admit it. You like loot as much as I do. Maybe you oggle over stats on a new shiny with a calculator and spreadsheet at hand. Perhaps you spend a minute twirling your character around in the dressing room to see how a new item fits.

Whatever the case, you get that fuzzy feeling when you crouch over the still-sizzling and now gently glittering bit of the boss’ corpse and see that it’s dropped something for you.

But should you roll?

Minding your manners with loot is a basic expectation amongst WoW players in any group; organised, guild, PUG or otherwise for 5-25 mans. “Doin’ it rong” with loot could mean dire consequences for you. You could be laughed at, shunned by the community, or end up with your characters running around in eye-peelingly bright colours.

Doing it right, though, could mean that you get the loot you need and that people will consider you trustworthy. I don’t just mean regarding loot. Being sound of mind with loot etiquette is considered a signal that you are generally sound. Loot etiquette is about everyone getting the purples they want without unpleasant hold-ups. So if “your shinies or your life” doesn’t go down well, what is the right way?

I’m going to start off with some basic guidelines and then discuss a few of the finer points regarding loot. A lot of this column might seem like basic stuff to you if you’re a hardcore raider but it’s crucial stuff others have asked me to explain – and who knows, perhaps there’s something in it for everyone.

Either way it’s all subjective stuff and I expect – nay, demand, as any good highwayowl should – that it might inspire a healthy debate about how you expect others to mind their loot manners. But first hold your horses, on to the guidelines;

You should roll on an epic drop if:

  1. It’s a direct upgrade for your main spec. Sidenote: don’t feel guilty about rolling! A DK in my guild always used to feel guilty for rolling as though he hadn’t earned it. That’s tripe. You’ve as much right to roll as anyone else, especially if you’ve given it your all, no matter how little or large the meters ‘think’ that is.
  2. It’s a direct upgrade for your off-spec or a minor side-grade for your main spec if no-one else needs it as in point #1
  3. It’s a quest or seasonal item which you can reasonably assume that if people need it in order to complete their quest/achievement, they will roll. I’m thinking of things like Green Winter Hat. Frozen orbs also come under this category in random PUGs, these days

You should not roll on an epic drop if:

  1. It’s a BoE and you’re needing it for cash without asking/having a group consensus on doing this. I was in a PUG last week for which Avool’s Sword of Jin dropped from the first trash pack. Everyone greeded except the DPS warrior. When pressed by the rest of the group he said he needed it for his off spec. We asked him to equip it and he admitted he was needing it for his flying mount costs. This makes him a ninja, a liar and simply rude as he didn’t apologise at all – all in one. Don’t be that guy.
  2. The item doesn’t have your exact stats and other people need kit with those stats. The obvious case in point here is if you’re a priestie healer and you roll on something with hit on it when there are cloth DPSers in the group. They won’t thank you for taking their epix, and you’ll likely replace it with better itemized pieces quickly anyway.
  3. You’re rolling against someone you run with weekly and it’s orders of magnitude a greater upgrade for him than for you. Take this one with a pinch of salt. It depends on your own opinion, your interpretation of your stats and on how nice you’re feeling, frankly. Passing on a bit of kit for someone else occasionally (don’t do it all the time) can be a kind act and can win you a friend for life (or at least a fortnight) and upgrading Clarence’s iLevel 200 shoes might just benefit the whole group.
  4. Thanks to Phaythe for this oneStat sticks. That is, if it’s a bow or gun and it’s an upgrade for a hunter, melee DPS shouldn’t roll on it. It’s not as much an upgrade for you as for the hunter whose ranged weapon provides a large amount of his DPS. Likewise, hunters shouldn’t roll on melee weapons if meleers need them, for the same reason.

Basic principles that those are, they’re still shrouded by a grey miasma. For example, no basic etiquette list is going to help you if you haven’t got some grip on your class. You do need to know which stats are useful for your class and spec, to stop you getting laughed or nerd-raged at for rolling on tank loot as a fury warrior because it’s purple and you’re in greens, and that’s all you know.

But I’m no theorycrafter, I hear you cry. ” That’s fine. It is essential that you have a basic grasp of your stats but you don’t need any more than that if you don’t want to confuse yourself for whatever reason. Perhaps you’re a fresh 80 wanting to take it slow, just not a stat-interested person, perhaps you’re new to the class, or just get confused with amounts of stats – whatever the reason, step one is to remember that it’s ok to only have a basic grasp; you don’t need to be a human WoW stat splicer if you don’t want to be. Just get as far into stats as you’re comfortable with.

Step 2 in this case is to be proactive. Get that basic knowledge of your stats. There are websites out there with information for all classes and specs, and a lot of those sites have people who are genuinely helpful if you ask questions. You could also use sandbox websites like Warcrafter, customizeable stat-weighting addons like Pawn or programs like Rawr in advance and when loot drops so you know what items and stats to look for.

Likewise, you could also find friends or helpful players who can answer questions like “do I need more hit” or “is Hersir’s Greatspear better than Twin’s Pact for me?”

And yes, players should be willing to help. They should know it’s entirely possible that players can gear up in Heroics and then hit raids with gaps in their knowledge. I have, as a new bear tank who geared up purely in Heroics and is starting to raid from a bear’s furry perspective – looking straight at ICC loot. The end-game raids *are* the training grounds in WotLK.

If all else fails and the roll-timer is running low (it’s not that long if you’re agonizing over rolling) then you could always ask in raid chat whether it’s ok that you need X too. If the other rollers are nice and considerate they’ll either say “sure go ahead” or “no, because ABC good reason, for you”. An answer like “omg no feck off its mine noob” is a sure reason that they are only in it for themselves and you should probably roll.

You could also look at min-maxing if you do have a grasp of stats and you want to wring more out of your items. In order to avoid mis-looting in this case you’ll need an even clearer grasp on your class; which stats are useful and until which point (for example, soft crit cap if you’re a holy priest), how much to stack some stats while safely ignoring others. You’ll also need to keep updated with hotfixes and theorycrafting trends – and it’ll behoof you to be flexible if the theorycrafters turn a long-held cornerstone of your class on its head.

This is a real beartrap (or owl, or… you get the idea) as regards etiquette. If your stat requirements change due to min-maxing or trying new set ups, it might make you appear inconsistent or dopey – at best – when rolling for loot. At worst, it might make you seem plain weird or rude, because you might be rolling on things you weren’t interested in last week or items which other people think aren’t exactly suited to you.

I wasn’t kidding when I said loot etiquette was subjective. In this case the best method is probably to say “I want to roll on this because I’m over the soft crit cap and need some haste”; sounding reasonable is going to be more acceptable and trustworthy than, say, swearing and disappearing in a homely blue beam.

There is another form of min-maxing specifically related to PUGs vs. guild runs. I think of it as the loyalty <-> selfishness temptation. Say you’re in a PUG run and a piece of loot drops which is a side-grade for your character. Or maybe you think the item might be useful in one or two progression encounters; in reality it’d likely never see the light of day out of your backpack. It so happens that it’s also a huge upgrade for some of the other healers in your PUG. Do you roll on it because 6 extra haste might give you an edge in your guild’s progression night? Guild comes first, right? Every little helps?

Yes. So does it for the other healers in your PUG. They want to give their guild’s runs an edge, too, and they want to progress their character. In this case the etiquette really is personal preference. I’d say if it’s not that much benefit to you then be nice – it’ll make that healer’s day and may gain you another healer’s loyalty.

In any case, if the drops are perfectly stat’ed for your spec and it is an upgrade then you should roll, right?

Wait.

The only thing is – you’re a mail wearer, and the drop’s cloth. This is a frequent event for my resto shaman. I’m currently wearing two pieces of cloth from badges – but useful (and indeed on the BiS list for me) raid-drop cloth? Those I won’t get for a long time because there are clothies in my group. I wouldn’t even consider rolling against them. Generally you’ll be looked at askance and have some trust-points taken off if you ask to roll on loot that’s not your armour proficiency. It’s Bad Manners.

This is all particularly relevant when there are no loot systems in place. To a certain extent loot systems remove the need for etiquette towards other players, as they give you an incentive to wait for the thing you really need. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still be nice, considerate, and win some friends with (or without) a set loot system like DKP or Suicide Kings.

 

What do you think? Are loot manners the stuff of life or of forgotten legend for WoW? Do you have problems with etiquette because you don’t know what to roll on and don’t feel you can admit it? Do you think loot systems are much safer? Are there any other grey areas that irk you regarding loot?

This is a post by Mimetir, a druid of a raidleader on The Venture Co. (EU). You can find my twitter feed here.

Article images originally by Migraine Chick and unforth @ Flickr

Yes, I Wrote for the WoW Magazine – Check out my Articles

You might remember that several months ago, I sent out a plea for help and volunteers. I was working on a secret project but I couldn’t really disclose what it was. Some of you guys guessed that I was working on a raid UI or healing addon.

Sorry to burst your bubble. I’m not that good with coding.

But I do love writing.

During the week of BlizzCon 2009, I was contacted by the Editor in Chief of the WoW magazine. He read my blogs and asked if I could contribute two articles. One of them was on loot systems and the other was on healing UIs that are used by various players.

Naturally I said yes!

Here are the scans (PDF):

This first article is on loot systems. Loot council, DKP, SK, and need before greed.

The second article is on healing UIs. You might recognize some of the people I interviewed. The first one I interviewed was Lilitharien. Yes, the same Lilitharien from Divine Aegis! Another familiar face you may recognize is Zusterke, who frequents the Plus Heal forums (and has guest posted on World of Snarkcraft).

I am slightly depressed. Its actually quite silly and I don’t know why its affecting me so much. You’ll notice that my name doesn’t appear anywhere on the scans. In fact, it doesn’t appear anywhere in the magazine.

It was a great opportunity and I’m thrilled to have been a part of it, don’t get me wrong. But when I show it to my friends and say "Look! I wrote these! I got published! Ain’t that cool?", I’ll be met with skepticism. And I won’t have any way to prove that I did this.

Its disheartening for me since I’m considering diving into journalism or communications. I wrote for what looks to be one of the coolest magazines on the planet, and I can’t even add that to my resume.

The reasons? I don’t want to get into the details about it here. Suffice it to say, I believe its… ah, whats the word? Political?

Anyway, those two will most likely be the only articles I’ll ever write in print. I know for a fact that I won’t be given the opportunity to write for them again (Politics). I had a great time interviewing everyone. I apologize to those of you that I had spoken to where none of your material was included. Thanks to everyone who offered me 15 minutes (or hours) of their time when I was looking for volunteers. Obviously, I could not have done it without them.

Look, I grew up evangelizing Blizzard and playing their games since I was 8 or something. I learned keyboard commands in Warcraft II before learning how to touch-type. I invited friends over to my house to show off Starcraft. I was practically first in line for Warcraft 3 when it debuted.

Its just crushing when you find out that the gaming company who you’re most loyal and passionate about has heard of you and doesn’t really like you. Sorry, this is bothering me a lot more than I thought it would.

Anyway, if you haven’t already, you should go subscribe to the WoW Magazine (and no, I don’t get commission :P). Lots of useful stuff for players of all types and I guarantee you’ll find a few things in there that will be relevant (or at least amusing) to you.