How to distribute stuff has always been a big debate since people started having to group up to get the loot. Many guilds use all sorts of different systems, each claiming that theirs is the best. A common gripe among casual players is that they are firmly against any sort of DKP (Dragon Kill Points) which is basically a way of tracking how many times a player has helped to kill bosses and rewards them accordingly.
Many times, loot rules will be the biggest reason for drama and discontent in a guild because an incident occured that wasn’t “fair”. And people will come up with all sorts of tweaks and adjustments in order to make their system “more fair”.
What I think people fail to realise is that there is no definition of “fair”. When someone, somewhere, gets a piece of loot over someone else, a case can almost always be made that it’s “not fair”.
For example, what is fair? Does it mean that everyone has an equal chance of loot? Ok, that sounds like a reasonable definition. So random /roll on all loot will accomplish this perfectly because it’s a uniform distribution…
But wait, what if during the night some guy is on a hot streak and ends up rolling high and winning every single piece of loot that drops? Somehow, this isn’t “fair” anymore. So do we restrict people to 1 piece per night? That sounds “fair” again.
Ok, then a great tanking shield drops. Your tank has been waiting for this for 6 months, coming night after night just hoping that this item drops. But a off-tank who logs on once a month then rolls a 100 and gets the item, which goes into his bank. Is this “fair”? Yes and no, it was a random roll, but it doesn’t seem like the regular tank got a good deal out of it.
So what now? Maybe there should be some way of tracking player efforts historically, so that they can be rewarded accordingly. Enter DKP, Suicide Kings, zero-sum DKP etc etc etc… Also enter accusations of hoarding DKP, forced loot when someone doesn’t want to spend it on a minor upgrade, and of course complaints by non-regular raiders that they basically can’t keep up with the DKP of regular raiders and thus “never get the chance to loot”.
To deal with this, some people go to… Loot Council! Where a group of people will vote and decide on who gets loot, with no /rolling and no DKP. The loot will be distributed for the benefit of the guild and go to those to whom it is the biggest upgrade etc etc. Sounds great and “fair”. So did communism by the way.
My take on it is this… it doesn’t really matter what system you have, the important thing is that there actually is a system. Despite what many people claim, there is no “fairest” system because what’s fair differs from case to case. Random roll doesn’t really work well because a raid isn’t like a pugged heroic, the efforts to kill the boss do not extend only to that particular fight and many people will feel disgruntled if their efforts learning fights and clearing previous trash bosses go completely unrewarded. Some form of DKP helps to track this. To counter the argument of the more casual raiders never being able to loot, remember that the hardcore raiders get many more chances at seeing the item that they want drop. By the laws of probability, they earn more DKP because they come to more raids but they also spend more DKP because they see more drops. Thus, by the time the casual sees item X drop, most likely many hardcore raiders already have it so they get it anyway. The only time this comes into dispute is when a very rare top of the line weapon drops from a difficult boss, in which case I would say a case can be made for it going to the people with 2000 DKP anyway since they’ve been waiting for it forever. A casual doesn’t NEED to get the absolute best spelldamage weapon in the game, he can get the next best one since all the others already have it. Remember, gear has a much smaller effect on performance than most people think.
Loot council is the absolute worst system there can possibly be, because there is no system at all. No matter how good the intentions of the council members, there are many subconscious prejudices that will affect any such decisions. And because there is no transparent system, a disgruntled player can very easily convince himself (rightly or wrongly) that there is favouritism in loot distribution. Plus with the intelligence of the average WoW player (hint: rogue class leader who thinks that a) subtlely is good raid dps b) other officers are dumb enough to believe him) I think people should be a lot more cynical about the effectiveness of Loot Council.
In short, as long as there is a system and the rules apply to all players strictly and in a transparent manner, most people will be honest enough to accept it. If they lose out on a piece of loot today, they know that if another day the situation was reversed the winner would be on the other end of the stick. No amount of tweaking of rules will ever prevent “unfairness”, the important thing is to ensure that it’s “equally unfair”. The people who try to game the system will always try to do so, no matter what new rules you put it. So don’t add new rules, get rid of players who are obviously asshats.
And remember that in the end, loot will come in time. If you never get an item, so be it, the continued success of the raid proves that you didn’t need it.