The Problems of Loot

Loot is a constant source of tension both for players from the same guild on a raid as well as for pick-up groups. Here are stories from players that illustrate the varied ways in which loot can cause problems in the game.

In most loot drops, players use an automated random number generator provided by the game to decide who receives the drop. The problem is in deciding who gets to make a roll. After all, not everyone can use the drop. The story below illustrates an even stickier point. What if the some players can "make better use" of an item?

The closest I've come to real 'loot drama' is when a couple of my guildies and I (they a Shaman and a Warrior, I a Priest) all rolled on a particularly sweet mace from one instance. Initially, the other two objected to my rolling; after all, I mostly do the healing rather than melee, so they thought that they could put it to better use. I pointed out that, when I either run out of mana or am soloing with no one to keep the mobs off me, I need a good melee weapon as a backup. While it's true that my melee DPS is less critical than theirs, it's still important; furthermore, both of them can wield other, better weapons, whereas I'm stuck with maces, staves, and daggers. I won the item, by the way. [WoW, M, 23]

In WoW, the Enchanting profession creates a unique problem which the following player describes well. What happens if the drop isn't going to be equipped?

In World of Warcraft, there's a crafting profession called Enchanting. Whereas other professions require gathering resources like metal or plants or leather, Enchanting 'disenchants' found items into elemental parts, and uses those parts to imbue other items with better powers. The better the disenchanted item, the better the elemental parts they receive. I've been in 'roll if you can use it' groups with Enchanters, and often they will roll for everything, including items not usable by their class, arguing that they can disenchant those items for their crafting profession. This can cause some hard feelings when the Mage Enchanter keeps winning two-handed axes and mail armor that could be well used by other characters in the group. If asked, some Enchanters will agree to only roll on class usable items, but some will get obstinate and claim they have the right to roll on everything. I tend to either boot that player if I'm leading the group, or leave the group myself in those cases. [WoW, M, 21]


Loot problems intensify in guilds because of the sustained nature of the transactions. The following story from Anarchy Online is a common scenario where one player feels he deserves more in the face of what the guild policy states.

My Anarchy Online guild got into the habit of raiding 'Pocket Bosses' when the Shadowlands expansion came along. Bosses were spawned if you found their 'pattern', which were made up of multiple components and took several players to assemble. Howver, it was often one person who would find the individual pieces through hours of single-minded hunting. Being highly ranked in the guild, I wrote a cursory loot policy on our forums, encouraging the distribution of loot in the most equal way possible, giving priority to those who would benefit the most from a drop. Feedback was encouraging, and I cheerily anticipated our first Pocket Boss raid; patterns on this occasion were being supplied by a single dedicated player, Bas.

Upon distributing the first of the raid's drops, my initial enthusiasm quickly melted away when Bas became noticeably upset with the looting policy. Pocket Boss loot sold for very appreciable sums of credits, and Bas wanted more than a few of the drops in return for his hard work. This idea was at odds with the loot policy that had been discussed, and our gathering immediately became uncomfortably tense. I hurriedly attempted to reach a compromise, but something had broken between us. For the rest of the evening, Bas would grudgingly and hesitantly voice his desired portion after several requests, and I would attempt to distribute the remaining loot to those who could use them. The guild eventually created a more polished plan that incorporated what had been learned, but the tension between Bas, and I, the creator of the original draft, never fully eased. This event showed me that loot problems are inevitable- I encouraged feedback for the loot policy before the raid, but many did not respond. Dilemmas like these will always be with us, so I've became more tolerant towards such events, and try to sooth them when they do arise. [AO, M, 18]


The issue of seniority also emerges in more long-standing guilds.

There was one time though where I did a raid and a rogue set item dropped. I was a level 58 rogue at the time playing WoW. The level cap is 60. It was a guild raid. There were 2 other rogues there who were eligible to roll on the item. Another rogue had won a blue item already. I rolled the highest out of us three but the other two rogues were level 60. I had just joined the guild a few days prior and many of the rogues were claiming seniority over such a drop. I didn't say anything and left it up to the guild leader to decide. After much talk on vent (or so I was told after by a friend of mine.) The guild leader decided I should receive the item. Apparently almost everyone except the guild leader was against me but the leader stuck to the rules and said until they established seniority loot rules he would have to go by the current rules they were using which was just a roll. Many of the rogues were angered by this decision because they had been in the guild for a couple months and all of a sudden I was in for a couple days and got an item they have been trying to get for a long while. [WoW, M, 16]

See also this article for other problems of loot distribution within guilds.


And perhaps the most amusing story of all. The loot problems that emerge when you play with your mother-in-law.

I often play (WoW) with a close RL friend of mine and we often share horror stories of groupings gone bad. He told me of a raid on the Scarlet Monastery--an instanced dungeon for middling high players. He was together with his fiancée and her parents, who all play the game, as well as a guild mate. Now, my friend is a paladin and uses melee weapons; his father-in-law-to-be is also a paladin. His intended's mother, however, is a hunter who uses primarily ranged weapons. Going through the instance, they were following the traditional and understood policy of taking turns looting (game-enforced) and rolling on green (magical) or better items.

One thing to understand is that my friend tends to be an honorable person, and perhaps a bit too giving for his own good. That said, one thing that will piss him off is for a person to roll on an item (bind-on-pickup in particular) that they can't use. That night, his fiancée's mother, the hunter, rolled on every single BoP melee weapon she could find, and won a good portion of them. Her reasoning was that since my friend already had a weapon (it was quite crappy) he couldn't possibly need any of those, while she, however, needed the money.

In the days afterwards, I got to listen to much ranting about that. My friend tried to state the problem politely to her, and his fiancée, who understood the problem, tried to talk to her mother, but she wouldn't listen. My friend (who was highest level and the party leader) could very well kick his future mother-in-law from the group but with some serious RL complications. So, he put up with it and grumbled for the next week and resolved to in the future not go on raids with her (he's already broken this--he can't refuse when his girl asks him to join them). His fiancée talked to her mother about looting and apparently she seems to be a bit better, but I know that it is a source of stress for my friend. [anon]

I guess the main take-away is ... don't play MMOs with your mother-in-law :)