Early on in online games the goal of a player is simple. Quest, grind and explore whichever world their character inhabits until the end level is reached. With the continuous play and open-ended structure of MMORGs there has to be some kind of marker or game structure that allows players to feel as if they are “winning” or still achieving something once they reach this milestone, otherwise they’ll stop playing the game. This generally takes the form of loot – more gold, better armor and weapons, rare crafting items, special mounts or pets, etc.
And that entire previous paragraph simply means that everybody loves loot. It is often what the end of the game is about. Players want the shiny armor, the powerful weapon, or the rare mount. In most games, however, getting these items means working together with a number of other players.
Having some kind of system in place to distribute the fruits of a raid is essential for any kind of group or guild that wants to stay together for an extended period of time. If players are frustrated or feel cheated, they won’t play their best or will leave the raid group to go somewhere else where they think they’ll be treated better. As long as people feel they have a fair chance at loot, the group has a chance at stability and success.
There are many different systems to be considered. The most popular of them are detailed in the sections below.
Raid Leader Decision/Loot Council
This loot system is very common, and on the surface seems less complicated than some of the others. There are no lists or points for anyone to keep track of, and while this is simple, this brings its own problems as well.
In this system, either the raid leader by himself or a group of people called the Loot Council decide who gets what loot during a raid or instance. The logic behind this is that someone in control – either a single person or a council – will decide what distribution is best for the group as a whole. If a weapon is a huge upgrade for one of the main healers, then the healer will be awarded the weapon. The entire raid is strengthened if everyone receives appropriate upgrades when they appear. This can cause friction within a group, however, because one person can end up getting more items than others if they are undergeared, and this system can also become corrupted very quickly, where raid leader or council favorites get the majority of the loot. Also, since it is a direct decision, this opens up certain people to attack if a player doesn’t agree with the decision that was made. It can be a fair and functional system, however, if managed correctly, and that is why it is a relatively popular form of loot distribution.
Suicide Kings is a loot system that has been gaining popularity over the years. It combines some aspects of a bidding system and integrates some random chance into the mix. It is an add-on that can be downloaded from Curse.
The way it operates is relatively simple. Players openly roll into a loot list, and are positioned according to whatever their roll happens to be. Now they can use this spot to bid on gear, and if they hold the highest position on the list of all the people that bid, they win the item and then they are “suicided” to the bottom of the list.
There are several variations on the system, including having more than one list for a raid or “Double Suicide Kings”, where each raider rolls into the list twice so they have two positions to sacrifice for gear. There are several down sides to this system – players are not rewarded for constant attendance or quality playing, and it can be a little unfair to hybrid classes. But the system is open and clear, and can work well for a raid that has a number of casual players.
DKP and Its Variations:
DKP, or Dragon Kill Points, is perhaps the most popular and well known loot system, and the oldest formal one for online games. It was developed by the guild Afterlife in 1999, and named after the two dragon end bosses in the original Everquest.
The premise of this system is that players earn points for performing certain actions – showing up to the raid on time, staying for the entire raid, downing certain bosses, providing buffs or potions as needed, etc. These points may then be traded for items that raid bosses drop. In some systems, players can lose DKP points for actions like missing a raid or disobeying raid leaders. The specifics on how points are spent, given or how players go about using them to obtain gear is different depending on both the variation of DKP used and the specific rules of the raid.
Two of the common variations are Zero-Sum DKP, which ensures that the net change in points amongst the raid is zero for each loot item, and DKPs that use an Auction system where players bid for the item they want and whoever bids the most points receives it. For details on the many, many variations of DKP, try here or here. Here is also a very useful video on how to set up a DKP system for your guild. There should be a system there for most guilds if DKP is what they are interested in.
The DKP system has a large number of game add-ons available, particularly for World of Warcraft.
This is a system were a list is kept (or points given, similar to DKP) for attending raids. More points or rewards are given for showing up on time and staying for the entire raid. Sometimes players can also earn rewards by being logged on in stand-by mode even if they are not a member of the raid. It is kind of a modification of the DKP system, although it does not always use points. The idea behind this is that only attendance to raids matter – not the gear a player already has, not their skill, their position in the guild or their position in the raid. The person who shows up for the raid gets the gear they want for it, and so on. While it can work on its own without anything else to modify it, it is often combined with a Loot Council system or some variant of Dragon Kill Points.
Simple Performance-Based Rewards
This system combines open rolls with skill during raids. So, for example, if an item for a melee-damage class drops, there will be open /rolls for all the players that can use that piece of gear in their main spec. But if there was an important strategy for that particular fight, such as staying out of a void zone or avoiding a large area of effect attack, any player that does not avoid it to the detriment of the entire raid will not be allowed to roll for the item. This process makes the good of the raid, as well as characters surviving encounters the focus of characters rather than DPS.
This will work well for groups that run together, but could run into some conflicts with pick-up group members. It can also be a little unfair to players new to different encounters, so it is also better to implement it with a stable, experienced raid group.
EPGP Loot System
EPGP, which stands for Effort Points/Gear Points, is a loot system that seems to be quickly gaining popularity. Effort Points are what is used to measure the work a player puts into both the guild and the raid group, so people who are just along to pick up gear or don’t help out the common goals of the raid will receive a lower amount of points. Gear Points quantify what loot or gear raid members get back in return. Priority Points are equal to the effort points divided by the gear points. Effort Points can be rewarded for activities such as: killing raid bosses, being on time, wiping on new raid bosses, staying for the entire raid, or helping out the guild by doing something like maintaining the website or keeping the guild bank stocked. Gear Points are given for receiving loot from either the raid or the guild bank. This means that players can’t indefinitely continue to be awarded high-level gear or expensive materials.
Another big feature of EPGP is the Decay System, which sets it apart from Suicide Kings. Over time, if a player does not raid with the group, they will lose both Gear Points and Effort Points, so a player who hasn’t raided in a month can’t show up and bid on gear with points they’ve been hording while not helping out the group. Gear Points and Effort Points generally decay at different rates
So this system rewards effort and attendance and the Gear Points system keeps everything balanced. It works very much like the Zero-Sum DKP system, just without the need to rebalance and tinker with the numbers all of the time. The “official” information website for EPGP can be found here, and the Google group is here.
Bidding for Loot
Several systems use a bid-type system to determine who gets the loot from a boss, but this idea is slightly different. Rather than bidding a player bidding his position on a list, like Suicide Kings, or bidding points that were earned DKP-style, players bid in-world objects, often money or gold. So, for example, if a great cloak for a caster drops, the casters can bid their gold or even other items like crafting materials to win that cloak. Some variations allow players to bid their time or skills, such as farming a certain amount for the guild bank or offering free crafting to guild members.
This can be an unfair system, and really only works in groups where the raiders spend roughly equal amounts of time playing. If there is a raid group that is split between casual players and hardcore players, the casual players will almost always lose a bid because they don’t spend as much time amassing in game wealth as the hardcore players. This means that raid members have to spend a great deal of time outside of raiding gathering materials and earning money. It rewards players for spending more time in game, and punishes those who don’t spend time grinding and increasing their wealth.
The Tichon System is a little rarer than the others, but is definitely worth a try if any of the other systems seem like they won’t be a good fit for a specific raid. The Tichon loot system is basically a reward system designed to move quickly and smoothly so the raid doesn’t spend inordinate amounts of time working out who gets what loot after a boss is killed. Tichon was written about by Matticus in his column World of Matticus.
Main Spec gear rolls are rolls that are 1-1000, while Off Spec gear rolls do a random 1-100 /roll. This gives off-spec players roughly a 10% chance of winning the roll, but gives precedence to a player’s main spec. This means the loot system is simple, straightforward, and fast. Most of the time the Tichon System only takes about 30 seconds to work out, as opposed to as much as 10 to 15 minutes with DKP or Suicide Kings.
These are only some of the more common loot systems across the different online games. It is certainly possible to create one of your own or even come up with a hybrid of one of the systems listed here. What is important is that players feel like they have a fair chance at getting something for the work they are putting in. No one is going to be interested in investing the time in end-game questing or raiding if they don’t feel like they are going to get anything out of it.