Deciding on loot rules

You cannot play an MMO for very long before butting your head against the notion of loot rules. In fact, the first time you are in a group and some item drops, what do you do?

Maybe a little box comes up on screen with some obscure symbols. Perhaps it says need or greed. So you press some random button because you don’t know, and if you get it wrong people yell at you. If you’re polite or with friends, you ask them first. If you’re not then you just hit need and hope for the best.

None of this is obvious to new players. But a large part of MMO culture and social custom is centred on looting rules; when you can loot, where you can loot, how you can loot,  and what are the looting taboos. In WoW, different servers can even have different customs.

Looting in PUGS

The requirements for a good PUG looting rule are:

  • Should be known in advance, so that people who don’t like the rules can turn down the group.

That’s the only important rule. But it’s actually quite rare that people will discuss loot before a run. They’ll assume usually that you go with whatever the server custom is.

Some people are also very fussy about letting others roll on off-spec gear. Game custom is usually that you roll for gear that supports the role you are currently playing. But it’s a PUG so who really cares what they think? It really isn’t worth fussing too much about such things, and if you’re concerned about the social implications of rolling for off-spec then just let people know what you plan to do at the start.

But players do have a strong sense of ‘priority loot’, and which of the possible drops are ‘theirs’. And if you are relying on PUGs to help gear up your tank/healer for raiding, you can understand why it is annoying to have the rest of the group roll for something you need when they may or may not ever use it. I think this is mostly silly but that’s how PUGs roll.

  • Looting should be memoryless.

Looting rules in a PUG shouldn’t care about what players were doing before they joined the group. It doesn’t matter how many times you have already run an instance to try to get a specific drop, it doesn’t entitle you to automatically win it in the next PUG if others want it also.

Raid Rules

There’s been so much said and written about DKP schemes and raid looting rules. The purpose of loot rules in a raid are very different from a PUG. This is partly because they’re often used more as incentives than as pure loot distribution, and also because of the history of raid loot.

It’s hard to imagine now, with Naxxramas practically throwing loot at raid groups, but in the past you’d expect to kill a boss and get two items to distribute between 40 (or more) people. That’s the atmosphere in which DKP was devised. Somehow it had to make for a fair scheme that would get those 40 people to keep coming back until everyone was kitted out. And because loot was so rare, it was important not to ‘waste’ it.

So that meant raid leaders wanted to prioritise giving loot to the more active raid members (loot gets used to help the raid more), giving loot to primary specs and often to tanks and healers first (loot helps the raid progress more quickly) and sometimes penalising players who slowed down or messed up the raid (-50DKP!!!!). And it had to give players an easy way to see that if they turned up more frequently they had a better chance of getting loot.

And, equally important, raids were difficult. It was quite likely that you’d spend all night wiping and picking up no more loot than repair bills. But you needed people to be willing to keep coming along and doing that, in the knowledge that their effort would be rewarded once the loot started dropping.

I reject most of these criteria. That was then, this is now. We have more loot to share around and people will find other things to do if the raids aren’t fun. And, more importantly, the current 10 mans are fairly easy. So it isn’t so important to lure people along for wipe nights.

Will it work in future too? Only time will tell.

My 10 man rules

These are my criteria for picking loot rules:

  • Must be fair (or at least equally unfair to everyone involved)
  • Must involve as little work as possible for raid leader (ie. me!)
  • Must be easy for everyone to understand.
  • Must be sufficiently rewarding that players feel they always have a shot at any item they particularly want

My personal experience of running large raids in the past has always been that prioritising gear based on main spec sucks. This is because it requires the raid leader to be able to rule on which gear is appropriate for which class or spec. Other people may be happy trying to rule on whether paladins need expertise or resto shamans need crit, I am not.

They’re all grown up, and they’ve all been playing their classes long enough to know what works for them. So I rejected this at the start.

Instead, because we’re just working with 10 people, I decided that I would invite people who knew their own class well enough to know what they want, and/or would get on well enough to discuss it if they weren’t sure.

I also wanted to keep the memoryless aspect of PUG looting. This was to be a casual raid. I hoped very much that people would find it fun and profitable and would want to keep coming, but I also wanted people who couldn’t make every week to feel that it would be a good use of their time. So no DKP (hurrah!).

I also decided that gearing people up for off-specs was going to be one of the main goals of the 10 man runs.  There have already been a few times when I’ve asked a tank or healer to respec to dps because it made the raid balance work better. So why would we not help players do that? Plus it’s an extra incentive for people to keep coming after they have their main spec gear. So I decided on no loot priorities.

What I actually said in the rules was that people were welcome to discuss it but that if there were any disagreements, we’d go with a dice roll. In practice, players often do pass gear to people who want it for a main spec but I don’t have to be involved. (That’s a win from my point of view.)

I also decided that if anyone brought an alt, they could roll on an equal footing with the mains. Gearing up alts is a perfectly good aim for 10 man runs, encourages people to keep coming along, and there’s no reason not to reward people equally if they put in the same time and effort.

The final tweak was because after a couple of weeks, I noticed that a few people really were just raiding because there was one specific item they wanted. So I let people specify a priority list of 1-2 items. And if that item drops then only people who named it can roll. There’s no guarantee that they will be the only person who will roll (if more than one have it on their lists) but the chances should be a bit better.

This is a bit more housekeeping than I really prefer to do (I can’t be bothered with DKP or bidding mini-games). And in practice people tend to pass for main spec anyway. I’m not actually convinced this priority list idea is anything but an empty incentive, but people do seem to like it. And it encourages players to come along  for that one last drop.

I also let people specify if they want priority on abyss crystals for some enchant, but they can’t also claim priority on a drop if they do that. So after the run, we split the crystals by first giving them to people who prioritised them (ie. just give them as many as they need, assuming we have enough) and storing the rest for future use. Another goal of the 10 mans is to provide people with expensive enchanting materials. But they have to actually come on the raid and help get them.

Anyhow, it has been working fine. People seem happy. Lots of gear has dropped and been given out. It’s quick and easy and if people get frustrated, it’s at the RNG and not at me ;) But it does very much require that you can trust your own raiders to know what gear they want.

What I hope you can get from this is that I designed the incentive/reward system to fit the type of raid I wanted to run and emphasise not only the fun, casual nature but also the fact that I actively encouraged people to come get offspec gear and kit their alts up.

Why do I always miss the good raids?

We had another surprisingly good week in 25-man raids. On Wednesday after the reset the raid leaders scheduled us up for the one wing in Naxxramas that we hadn’t attempted yet….

You’re in the army now!

The military wing is notable for its execution fights and it probably says a lot about our raid and it’s general (lack of) coordination that the RLs left this one till last. When I say execution fights, I mean encounters that aren’t as gear dependent as they are ‘people knowing what to do’ dependent.

The first boss is a gimmick fight, and the gimmick is that no mere player can tank him. He has to be tanked by one of his adds, and this has to happen via players casting mind control which is a priest spell. He’s also notable for me personally in that I used to play an alliance priest back in the days of yore and I was one of the mind controllers on this fight and boy did I hate it. Every week I would say to my class leader afterwards, ‘I’m never doing this again.” And he’d say, “Same time next week then.” I think it was having 38 other people yelling at me on voicechat that did it, even when we were doing it relatively smoothly.

He’s a LOT easier now.

After a few wipes our priests got the hang of it and he hit the deck. I was on dps duties (fear my 1.4k protection dps, even despite having spent some badges to get a new dpsish trinket and necklace!) for this one, which at least gives everyone else some kind of benchmark. I look at it this way: someone has to be at the bottom of the damage meters. And I guess at least I have room to improve.

Then we moved on to Gothik the Harvester (otherwise known as ‘that git with the beard’), which is a fight I think I’m going to really enjoy once we’ve done it a few more times. The raid splits into two and moves into two different rooms, live side which is a boring room and dead side which is a boring room with piles of bones in it. When the encounter starts you get a few minutes of increasing numbers of adds pouring into the live side where we (attempt to) tank and kill them … and once dead they appear at the dead side where the other guys have to do the same.

It gets increasingly frenetic until you get to phase two where the boss appears and teleports around a bit and then finally the raid gets to join together again and he dies shortly afterwards. I was tanking the live side and the two paladin tanks on the dead side. We had another couple of wipes here and eventually stuck a feral on backup duty with me, and then we got him! I think next time I’ll ignore the little adds and just focus on the tougher ones, and try to get the rest of the guys to stand further back. Anyhow, I think I can do it better but hey, he died. I thought it was a pretty fun fight.

We then moved on to The Four Horsemen which was a fiendishly complicated and technical encounter back in the day. I know it’s supposed tobe a lot easier now. In essence there are 4 bosses which need to be tanked in 4 different corners, and there’s some dancing around and tanks have to swap bosses and so on. We wiped a few times trying to get the pull right — it’s not supposed to be that hard but the guys on the back bosses weren’t seeming to pick them up properly — and then hit end of raid time and called it.

Two new bosses and a bit of learning time on a third, not too bad. I also distinguished myself with an inane number of accidental trash pulls. I think the best was when I had lined a mob up to shoot and instead I hit the charge button (ie. so instead of shooting it, I charged into the pack). The fact that none of these mad pulls wiped the group shows that a) people are reasonably on their toes and b) Naxx trash is NOT what it used to be.

Another time, same as the first

Last night I was out and the guys went back in and … cleared all the bosses we’d killed last week. So that’s spider wing, plague wing, and first two bosses of the construct wing. There was one plate-wearing tank there so naturally loads of tanking gear dropped and he got almost totally outfitted without having to bid more than minimum DKP on any item.

I’m dead proud of them all, but I have to steel myself to log in now because he is that guy who will spend all of this week boasting about his stats and copy/pasting his new purples to guild chat. I wouldn’t mind but he also got geared up in a single Karazhan run in the last expansion!

There must be a downside to being ultra-lucky with drops and lack of competition but I can’t see what it is. And naturally if we’d scheduled the runs in the opposite order, I would be bitching about missing the first kills instead ;)

In which I lead a raid

Over last weekend, we also took out Sartharion. Because he’s a fairly easy fight, the RLs decided to use this as an opportunity to rotate a few people into the raid who aren’t really geared for Naxxramas yet but are keen to raid. We one shotted the dragon, but it was a drawn out messy kill and I personally cannot wait until paladins get a regular taunt next patch (hopefully next week) because one of ours kept taunting the boss off me, which is annoying.

After this, I organised a 10 man raid to the same boss. It is definitely weird having the encounters available on both 10 and 25 man mode, but was quite fun to go in with a few guildies and trash him with feeling for being such a pain earlier. Had compliments on my raid leading which amuses me because I thought I was being laconic to the point of comatoseness, plus its hard to really give useful instructions with a dragon in your face.

This week’s bitching in raid forums

The main discussion this week was about DKP. I can’t stand DKP, its only redeeming factor in my eyes is that it makes life easier for the raid leaders than the alternative. So this week we were discussing some new tweak someone thought up to our scheme where when you bid you have to also say if it’s a major or minor upgrade for you.

I personally think this is dumb. Clearly if it’s a major upgrade you’ll just bid more because it will be worth more to you? Unless you are that guy who lucks out and gets everything for min bid but I’m not bitter.