Raid loot systems

Our guild has been using a zero sum gain DKP system for our Naxx runs (using the EPGP addon to calculate the DKP points of each item for us). It worked well initially, when nearly every drop was an upgrade for someone. Then, as Naxx slowly turned into a farming run, most of the loot that dropped wasn’t needed by anyone for their main spec, and no-one wanted to spend their DKP on an offset. DKP transactions were becoming increasingly infrequent.

Then it became clear that dual spec would be coming in 3.1. We didn’t want our loot system to gimp our players’ flexibility by stopping people taking off-set upgrades that would make them more flexible in the raid. (We don’t often have too many healers signed up for a raid, but its great that one of them can now switch to DPS – and be well geared for it – when we do).

That led to a modification of our DKP system, making it rely partly on an honor system. Our loot order is now:

  1. Use DKP for an major upgrade to your main spec.
  2. Roll for the loot if the item is an off-spec upgrade, a sidegrade, or a minor main spec upgrade.
  3. If no-one at all wants it, roll to vendor (we don’t have an enchanter).

Bu that didn’t get around the main problem we’d hit – so few major upgrade items are dropping that hardly any DKP is spent or earned in a run.

But the fundamental problem remains – zero sum DKP only rewards raiders when an item drops that someone actually wants. It doesn’t reward raiders for being loyal to the guild, making themselves available for runs, not getting tied to another raid ID when they’re put on standby, and all the other good things players can do to make guild raiding a success.

I’ve been looking at  number of alternatives. They all have their pros and cons. I thought I’d document what I’ve found so far (mostly by searching on WoWWiki). I’d love to hear from you on any different systems you’re using, or your experiences of using one of these systems.

Zero sum gain DKP

This is what my guild are using now. Everyone starts on zero DKP. When someone gets an item they want to spend DKP on, the DKP for the item is divided up between the rest of the raid.

This is great when you’re getting lots of upgrade drops, but I explained the problems we’re having above. Probably the biggest problem is that it encourages players to pass on upgrades because they’re saving DKP for the item they *really* want. Encouraging that behavior doesn’t benefit the raid as a whole.

‘Other’ DKP

Zero sum gain DKP is probably the most commonly used, but there are man variants.

In non- zero sum gain systems, DKP points are typically also allocated to raiders who show ‘desirable’ behavior. For example, points can be awards for being on standby, or for providing consumables to the raid, or for spending 2 hours of continual wipes while trying to learn a new boss.

This has some components we’re looking for, but it still has that element of encouraging players to pass on upgrades to keep their points for the biggies. Another behavior we’d like to encourage is for raiders to feel good about dropping out of a raid to allow a lesser geared player to have a chance. If players feel they’re getting less points by doing that, then we’re discouraging this – ‘if I drop out, then that other hunter will overtake my DKP score and I’ll have to wait longer to get my gun from the end boss’.

Also, if not managed carefully, you can get ‘inflation’ in the system meaning that newer raiders will always be behind the veteran raiders, no matter how long they’ve been in the guild.

There are many, many variants of DKP. For example, Floor Log Rap.

Loot council

A committee decides who should get each item when it drops.

The advantage of a loot council is that a fairly run loot council can ensure that loot is distributed in a way that best benefits the raid as a whole. Making sure (for example) that tanks and healers get geared up before DPSers, or that Hunter A doesn’t get that purple gun as a small upgrade because its a massive upgrade for Hunter B. 

The disadvantage is that its a prime source for guild drama. It doesn’t take much for one guildie to decide he’s being treated unfairly. (Let’s face it – everyone thinks they deserve the next drop more than the other people who could use it). My feeling is that people will accept this in a hard core raiding guild, because they expect to spend the majority of their time raiding and progressing quickly. They know they’re still getting more and better loot than if they left to join a less progressed guild, so its worth sticking around.

And bigger guilds have more scope for telling people to ‘like it or lump it’. Our guild’s main problem is still just getting 10 raiders together on a Friday night.

This system is also a lot of work for the Loot Council. They have to know what gear each raider is wearing, and understand what stats will benefit that player’s talent spec the most. This implies that the Loot Council has to know more about each class and the talent trees than anyone else in the raid.

Ni Karma

I’d never heard of this until I started researching loot systems. Its complicated, but it seems to be aimed at what we’re looking for in a loot system for our guild – reward guildies for being good guildies. A veteran hunter who signs up for a run to help gear new raiders up will increase their chances of getting loot over someone who is only willing to come to the highest progression content.

The system is basically this:

Karma points are awarded for good behavior. What you class as good behavior is up to the guild – coming on a raid, being available on standby, spending hours without drops helping learn a new boss, …

You can also deduct karma points for bad behavior if you like. Not showing up for a raid you signed up for, excessive AFKing during the raid, suddenly leaving the raid without having informed the raid leader you had a ‘hard stop’ time at the start, …

That’s the easy bit. The complicated part is how the points are spent on loot. 

When loot drops, players can pass, roll without karma points, or roll with karma points. If any player opts to roll with karma points, then other players can still roll as long as their own karma points total is within 50 points of the player using his karma points. (This makes sure that someone with a very low points total can’t win loot in competition with someone who has been saving points for a long time).

All the eligible players roll, and karma points are added to the roll total for players who opted to use karma. Highest value gets the loot. If the winning player was using his karma points, then he loses half his karma points. If the winning player didn’t use karma points, then he doesn’t lose any.

What I find interesting in this system is that items will cost most for the people who value them most. If someone bids karma very regularly (on small upgrades, for example), then each item doesn’t cost much karma (half of a small number is a small number). But if someone wants to save their karma to make sure they definitely get that amazingly OP gun when it drops, then they end up spending a lot of karma on it (half a big number is still a big number). 

And loot isn’t being wasted, because people can still choose to roll without karma on ‘nice to have’ gear.

The disadvantage is that someone could get upset that they have the most karma points and still not win the loot item.

Shroud Loot System

A simpler version of Ni Karma.

Points are earned for attendance (often awarded ‘per hour’ of attendance to reward people for helping the guild learn progression content).

Points are spent by either bidding half your total points on an item, or paying a nominal minimum fee for lesser items.

Although its simplicity is attractive, forcing people to spend points on every item could lead to the same problem as DKP – items that would have benefitted someone being DEed or vendored.

Suicide Kings

A simple list system. If you’re at the top of the list, then you get first choice on the drop. If you take it, then you go to the bottom of the list and everyone else moves up one space. Players not present stay at the same position in the list.

Its main advantage is its simplicity. The disadvantages are the same as DKP – it only rewards players when someone needs the loot, and it encourages players to reject minor upgrades.

Random Roll

The simplest of all loot systems. The random number generator decides who gets the loot.

This is the system the other loot systems are trying to improve on. The big disadvantage here is that a veteran raider might have done 20 runs waiting for an item to drop and be out-rolled by someone on their first ever run. Then he runs the instance 10 more times and the same thing happens. Soul destroying.


That’s the list for now. I’ll try to add more systems as I find them. Please tell me about your own experiences with loot systems – either the ones listed here or if you use something different.


One response to “Raid loot systems

  1. Nice post. I don’t envy you the choice you have to make, because I doubt there is a completely “fair” system available. I am no expert in DKP systems, but I suspect a combination of your zero sum DKP, loot council, and Karma systems will be the “best”. After all, what is the main compulsion for raiders turning up for the raid? Having a great time with friends, perfecting your technique with bosses .. and of course, upgrading your gear… if you come often enough, and make your intentions clear enough, you’ll get what you want .. eventually 🙂