How much is a buff worth?

It is a common trade-off in MMO design that players are asked to decide whether they’d prefer more damage or more utility for their character. Any talent spec scheme that lets you choose whether you’d prefer to spend points on buffs instead of on more damage is following this theme.

With tanking or healing classes, you’re simply choosing what type of utility you prefer to provide. Would you prefer better buffs, or slightly larger heals? Better raid buffs or more threat for yourself?

But with a dps class, it’s a straight up choice between more personal dps vs more raid utility. The idea of a raid buff is that the performance of the whole raid is improved by more than any detrimental effect on the buffer. So why must it feel like a penalty if someone is asked to buff? I think it’s because there’s a sense in which you are donating a gift to the raid (the buff and the dps hit) in return for your raid spot, whilst raiding alongside other people who don’t have to do that. Not only that, but due to various buffs working in different ways, some classes do genuinely get to provide buffs at very little personal cost. So it is easy to feel hard-done-by.

In Wrath-era WoW, all classes have become buffing classes because Blizzard decided to spread out the buffs. But can you really teach an old dog new tricks? Will classes that had previously been categorised as pure dps really want to give up their top slots in order to give better buffs?

Ghostcrawler had an interesting comment on this in shaman forums recently:

We want classes to have to take a hit for buffing the raid, but we don’t want it to be a gigantic one. Again, on the one hand players are eager for these buffs because it “secures them a slot!” but on the other hand, they want someone else to do the buff so they don’t have to.

This is spot on in my experience. Dps tend to complain like crazy about having to be ‘the buff bitch’, even though they’d likely complain even more if no one wanted the buff at all and it was never worth speccing for. I don’t mean every single one of them complains, but everyone who enjoys playing the damage meter exhales a private sigh when they realise that they are on buffing duty so won’t be troubling the top 5 slots.

This expansion has marked a minor role shift for dps specs in the game, towards more hybridness. If we had buffing classes, no one would complain about providing buffs because it would be their raison-d’etre. Although that would present a completely different set of issues.

How does your raid decide which member of each class should buff? Do people complain when they are asked to do it?