Loot is usually a major issue in guilds. Which loot system should you use, how should you address its weaknesses (all loot systems have weaknesses) and what is the best way to handle the inevitable drama that follows the shiny stuff?
In my experience, people who raid will ultimately subscribe to one of two basic philosophies when it comes to loot. Loot is either a means to an end which helps you to fight the bosses you want to be fighting, or loot is your reward for killing the bosses who are hoarding your upgrades. I’d like to try and clarify that I am not trying to paint either stance in a negative light. I don’t believe that either should be viewed as “better” and I think that overwhelmingly most of us migrate back and forth along the spectrum between the two most of the time. That being said, it will inevitably come across that I am pretty heavily biased on the matter when it comes to my personal motivations.
I think that it is critically important for individuals to understand their own current location on this spectrum and how it affects their motivations in the game. I think that it is even more important for anyone trying to lead a guild or raid group to have a general understanding of where your raiders fall on this issue and more importantly, I think it is imperative that you have a firm grasp on where your group’s official stance on the issue is. No realistic discussion or decisions can be had regarding loot distribution within your guild until you get all of the rest of this stuff into the light.
While I find myself falling firmly on the “means to an end”, boss killing oriented, end of the spectrum, I have also been in guilds where collecting the loot is the primary focus and is what drives people to play. Neither is a bad thing as long as everyone understands what the focus is. Because the desire for newer and shinier loot seems to have been cast as an inherently selfish and evil stance to have though, most people have been driven to become closet loot whores who feel the need to self-righteously proclaim that they are not interested in the pursuit of such things. In my experience it is this self-delusional practice of self-loathing that leads to the majority of the discontent and drama over loot. As an aside, I think this theory is one explanation to why GDKP runs seem to work out so well for so many people. Everyone in the run understands exactly why everyone else is there.
This topic is one of the many that Roksi and I have always been on the same page with. One of the things we try and screen for during our application process is a compatible outlook toward loot in our raiders. I’m not sure you could even call what we use in our raids an actual “loot distribution system” As soon as a boss dies, everyone but me runs off toward the next boss/trash, other than perhaps one person who stays behind to rez anyone who died. I link everything at once in a raid warning and if anyone sees anything that they are interested in for any reason they /roll I then use my massive powers of deduction to figure out whether the mage is rolling on the plate tanking legs or the wand that just dropped, whether the ret pally (with the prot offspec) is unable to distinguish between tank legs and dps legs or perhaps is just rolling offspec, or the hunter who must be looking for some new plate pants for his murloc pet. I give people somewhere between 15 and 23.5 seconds to /roll and then pass out the loot as quickly as possible so I can join the rest of the raid. Any time any sort of potential conflict tries to present itself, one of two things happen…
1) The people manage to get the actual /roll in before the conflict is recognized and I get to assign the item to whoever won. Usually this is followed by that person trying to convince one of the others to take it instead of them.
2) The potential conflict is spotted early and before anyone manages to figure out how to type /roll in their chat window, all of the people in the raid capable of equipping the item usually end up in a self-deprecating contest to see who can convince the other to take the item first which invariably ends with me randomly assigning the loot to whichever one of them I can locate in the list first and telling them to work it out or /roll between themselves while I get back to clearing stuff to the next boss.
We operate under the basic understanding that loot always will drop again (eventually), if you don’t get it this time you’ll just be more likely to get it next time and the idea that even if it never drops again, the difference that one item is likely to make on your performance is going to be dwarfed by all of the other variables that you actually have control over. Our group tends to raid consistently enough and clears through the content quickly enough that every one of us understands that by the end of a tier cycle we will be sharding 95% of everything that drops and we will all get whatever it is we are looking for eventually.
If I really had to try and describe what sort of reward/motivational/incentive system Production Company uses, I would say that our system actually has nothing at all to do with loot. If you were to take a peek over at what our attendance tracking system looks like though and how it influences who ends up in a raid and who ends up on a bench from one raid to the next, you would probably see a lot of similar traits found in many DKP systems used to distribute loot. In our guild at least, we all value our raid slot far more than we would attribute to any piece of gear… Maybe I should write up something about our attendance tracking spreadsheet Roksi and I use…