The pros & cons of various loot systems in WoW raiding

So, I got an e-mail from a player called Starfoxe (primarily a priest, but has a druid alt) asking about loot distribution systems. Since I’m not currently an officer in a raiding guild, it’s not something I have to worry about too often. However, in my many years of raiding, I’ve seen just about every loot system (and places where I didn’t experience it myself, I’ve looked up information on it). I can’t really go super in depth about every loot system used in WoW (and you wouldn’t want to read that wall -o- text), but this should be a good starting point, and I’ve included a lot of links when possible for further information about the systems.

In the end, the “best” looting system is the one that works best for your guild and your raid, that causes the least drama among your raid members, and that distributes the loot in a way that your guild thinks is fair.

So, lets get started!

Non-point based Loot systems:

Default UI’s – Need or greed rolls

  • Pros: Simple, easy, fast. Allows anyone who wants an item to roll on it and potentially win it.
  • Cons: Leaves you open to ninjas who roll need on everything and steal loot from other people. Also doesn’t reward people based on how dedicated they are to a guild’s run, so this isn’t recommended for progression guids that are working to clear new content, since this rewards greedy behavior.
  • Best used for: Alt farming runs of content that isn’t too important when you are running it with people you know and trust, where you aren’t too concerned about who does (or doesn’t) get loot.

Master Looter with /random rolls from raid members

  • Pros: Simple, easy. Gives ML control for making sure that people don’t ninja loot. Also allows discussion time before ML awards the items.
  • Cons: Takes longer to do than just using the default rolling system. Still leaves open the possibility that one person can walk away with everything that drops if they can use it. Creates drama when the person who wins the roll is denied the loot. However, you can set it up before hand to only allow 1 “need” item per person (per night or raid lockout) if you need to spread around the loot a little better while still being in a PUG.
  • Best used for: PUG raids in places like Naxxramas & Ulduar – where point based systems are hard to use, but you want some sense of control over where the loot goes.

“Loot Council”

  • What it is: A group of people (usually the officers) decide who will get the loot without using points or rolling. They usually award loot based on… well, however they feel like it. Some may use class-restrictions or role restrictions. I had a guild once that made us write down what ONE piece of loot we wanted to be able to get from each slot, and if one of those items dropped, we had a chance of it being awarded to us. Other guilds just kinda “go with the flow” because they are a tight-nit group of “friends” who want to work together and spend more time trying to give loot to their friend rather than take it themselves.
  • Pros: Usually simple and easy. Allows the raid to spread out loot between everyone in the raids. Doesn’t require you to actually be “lucky” at rolling.
  • Cons: Allows people to give loot to their friends and people may have a lot of drama about who you give some items to.
  • Best used for: People who know eachother very well and always raid with the same group of people who aren’t greedy.
DKP/point systems:

There are as many loot systems as there are guilds running them. DKP systems are easy to modify to change it to whatever you want to do. So, this is just an overview of some basic systems, and a lot of links to other resources. Click here for more info on DKP systems in WoW, along with lots of links from the wowwiki page. There is also a good beginner’s guide to DKP on the Ten Ton hammer site (though that site might be a little outdated).

EQDKP – Dragon Kill Points:

  • What it is: EQDKP is the traditional DKP system, where you earn points for being in raids, and you spend your points for loot. You have to decide in any DKP system when to award points (for showing up on time? Killing bosses? Time spent attempting new bosses without loot drops? Et cetra). You also have to decide how you will award points (discussed more below).
  • Pros: Allows for a lot of varieties and customizations to fit a guild’s needs. Allows for tracking of who was there the most, and prevents people who show up sporadically to come and take the best loot pieces for themselves because of a lucky roll. Prevents some of the loot drama of loot councils for raids that need more structure than loot councils can give them. Also allows people to be rewarded based on the amount of effort they put into being there and helping clear through content.
  • Cons: Allows for inflation of points which makes it hard for new guild members to ever catch up. Switching from a free-roll system to a point-based system also sometimes causes drama.  Kreeoni’s blog also has more information on pitfalls of common DKP systems.
  • Best used for: Progression raiding guilds that were fans of EQ’s system of earning points for attending raids. Does not work well for PUG groups, as tracking points is actually a lot of work, and you need to have a fairly consistent group of people for DKP systems to work.

Helping you manage DKP systems out of game:

There are three types of ways you can spend points that are used by DKP systems-

Fixed-value DKP systems:

  • What it is: You spend a fixed number of points on the items under a DKP system.
  • Pros: Everyone spends the same points on items, knows what the value is, and everyone who wants the items has to spend an equal number of points. You have the option to allow off-set “greed” items to be zero, or a percentage of main set points – or it may cost the same number of points regardless.
  • Cons: Inflation is usually common in fixed-value traditional DKP systems, as people earn more points than they spend after a certain point of gearing up.

Bidding-based DKP systems:

  • What it is: You bid how many points you want to spend. Some guilds use public bidding, where you know how much people bid. Some people use silent bidding, where you send a tell to the master looter with what item it is and how many points you are willing to spend for it.
  • Pros: Allows a flexible point cost, based on what people are willing to spend. If someone wants to spend all their points on something, they are welcome to do that.
  • Cons: Allows people to work together to bring down point costs for non-set pieces within their class, or bid a tiny amount of DKP if you know no one needs the item. You could bid a ton of DKP for an item no one needs if the guild uses anonymous bids that you can’t see. The person with the highest total of current points has no guarantee that they will win the item. Everyone spends a different number of points for the same thing. I had a raid with a bidding system, and I’d always pass the first time something dropped to see what value it had for people, so I didn’t spend way more points than someone. Creates either comradery to bring down the point cost, or competition against your raid members which inflates the price. I personally like fixed-value DKP so that we all spend the same amount on things.

DKP percent of your points:

  • What it is: When you get the item, you spend a certain % of your total points. Technically, suicide king-type systems would qualify here, but there are systems that earn points using traditional DKP methods, and then do things like spending half your points and such.
  • Pros: Helps combat inflation, allows person with the most points to win the item.
  • Cons: Still alows for not spending points for a long time unless there is a decay system in plance, where you don’t want to bid on items so that your total amount of points will go up over time, thus having some (more minor) inflation problems, depending on how things are worked out. You may also not be willing to spend half your DKP on minor upgrades, and you may not want to pay that fixed percent for off-set gear.
Examples of some popular DKP systems:

Zero-sum DKP

  • What it is: When someone wins loot, they spend points and those points are then divided up and awarded to the raid. So, lets say the item cost them 48 points, then the 48 points is subtracted from their total and divided up amongst the rest of the raid: 48/24 = 2 DKP. Traditionally uses fixed-value DKP prices for items.
  • Pros: Avoids some of the inflation problems of EQDKP (though it still allows point-hoarding from older members), as there are a limited number of points in the system, without awarding more points into the DKP system than is spent on gear.
  • Cons: You have to kill bosses and have people need the gear to be able to get points, which means that depending on the loot that drops, you may get less points for the same encounter from week to week. You also can’t earn points on progression nights when you don’t kill bosses. Seems problematic when people leave the raiding guild (where do their points go? – It could be timely to rebalance points, or deal with people who come infrequently but still suck points out of circulation).
  • Best used for: Guilds with a good understanding of how complicated point systems work, and are willing to spend time to manage the points people are earning and to rebalance the system as needed. While you can award progression nights, that requries rebalancing the system periodically, so it’s best designed for people who have good attendance and don’t need to be rewarded for not killing bosses.

SWAPS DKP system:

  • What it is: Zero sum DKP with “blind” bidding-based loot.
  • Pros: Avoids some of the DKp inflation problems based on the zero-sum sysem, but allows for flexible point-bidding instead of fixed amounts for looting.
  • Cons: Like the zero-sum DKP, there isn’t traditionally an award of points for “progression nights,” but awards for progression nights also lead to inflation of points.
  • Best used for: Guilds that want zero-sum DKP, but need to reward unsuccessful attempts for progression with new content.
Other point-based systems –

Suicide Kings (SKG):

  • What it is: A spin on DKP that helps prevent inflation of points.  A priority list is set up, and when you get an item, you drop to the bottom of the priority list (ie. when you get an item, you “suicide”). The person at the top of the list gets priority on drops until they get an item.
  • Pros: Usually distributes loot more evenly between raid members, regardless of raid attendance. Allows new members a chance of catching up with the more experienced members. Like all loot systems, this can be modified to fit the needs of your guild.
  • Cons: Promotes “dkp hoarding” and not taking minor upgrades for fear that you’ll drop yourself to the bottom and not get the better upgrades later in the instance. May you to fall to the bottom of the loot list even for minor upgrades depending on how you set up the system (what do you do about off-set greed items?).
  • Best used for: Raiding guilds who dislike the inflation seen in other looting systems, and want newer members to be able to rotate into the loot system, while still allowing for a fair distribution of loot (because everyone has a chance to be at the top). You could (in theory) rise to the top of the list even if you don’t attend raids regularly, just by not receiving loot for a while (though some people think this is a “pro”).


  • What it is: A system of Effort points (EP) and Gear points (GP). When you kill bosses (or whenever your officers decide to give out points), you are awarded EP. As you spend points (with fixed values for items), you earn GP. Your standing for loot is your EP divided by your GP (which gives you your Personal Rating – PR). EP can be awarded for any type of activity the guild decides on.
  • Pros: In-game addons make managing points simple and easy (don’t need to track points on a website, don’t have to spend countless hours keeping points up to date – you can subtract points right when the loot drops). Also gives a bar for raid members to indicate if they need the dropped item, if it’s a greed/off-set item, or if they pass on the item. Gives master looter the ability to monitor points and award the items.
  • Cons: Has some inflation problems as people get more and more Earned Points, however there is a Decay system set in place to avoid this (if the guild takes advantage of it). My guild requires all raid members to download addons to be able to bid on items, which could be either a pro or a con.
  • Best used for: Progression raiding guilds who aren’t a fan of spending all your points on an item, but still want people’s standings to drop more dramatically when they get alot of costly loot, to help ensure things are spread around more.

Shroud loot system (SLS):

Conclusions: So, which one is best? Everyone will say “the one I’m using right now”, and they’re usually right. My current guild uses EPGP, which I really like.

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6 comments on “The pros & cons of various loot systems in WoW raiding
  1. Lavata says:

    That was still a wall of text. 🙂

  2. Lissanna says:

    I know… it looked shorter before the site put all the extra space between the paragraphs. 🙁

  3. Maor says:

    My guild currently uses the Master Looter roll system. We’ve made additional rules on top of that, but at the core its that.

  4. Anelf says:

    I evaluated all these options for my guild. I ended up creating a simplified Shroud loot system. I didn’t like the minimum bid element, as it encourages two raiders waiting for the same major piece to leave smaller upgrades to be disenchanted.

    We award 10 points for being available for a raid (whether you get to run or not), 5 points if you’re there at the end (to encourage ‘stand-bys’ to stick around in case they’re needed). And a common points pool is used across all scheduled raids – from OS to Ulduar (to encourage our well geared raiders to help gear up new people).

    Bids are half your points on an item that’s a major upgrade. Minor upgrades and offsets are free to the highest roller if no-one wants to bid points. We rely on trust for people not to pretend a major piece is for an offset.

    And that’s it (except for a couple of caveats for people who sign up for an instance when they’re massively undergeared).

    The system is working well so far. (And you’re welcome to call this the Anelf system if you really want to 😉 ).

    BTW You didn’t mention the (very complicated but intriguing) Ni Karma system 🙂 .

  5. Watreskell says:

    We use a Master-Looter-need-greed-whatever-the-raid-leader-feels-like-it system. When an item drops, you are free to roll need on it if it is your main spec and you are a guild “member” or higher. You can win one need per night. If no one rolls need, you can roll greed on it, even initiates and off specs, priority given to main spec initiates or trials over off spec. You can get one greed per night. All that goes out the window if the tank needs the item, or the ML/GM/RL decides otherwise.

    Two of our three main tanks share my token, so I have been a little bitter about this system. Yeah I do believe it is good to gear up the tank, but when they are calling for “MOAR HEELZ NAO!!1eleven”, the tank in 4/5 T8.5 will not make my heals any bigger.

    I finally got to roll on (and win) my helm T8.5 this week, and just spent some of my emblems for the chest piece, now if only Razorscale would stop being so stingy with that mace.

  6. Taz says:

    Our raids involve a Master Looter system that breaks down like this:

    -1 Successful Need Roll per Raid (not counting Tier)
    -Infinite Successful Greed/Offspec Rolls per Raid (if no one Needs item)
    -1 Successful Tier Piece Roll per Raid (only if you’ve raided with the group for at least 3 lockout periods)

    While I’ve never used either the DKP or Loot Council systems, I could definitely see value to them. Of course, I feel that the system we use works very well for our group.

    Either way, thanks for the incredibly informative breakdown! Wall of text or not, it was very useful!


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