Group Finder PUGs: Personal Loot is Your Friend

Dear people who run PUG raids – forget everything you have been told. Personal Loot is the only loot system you should accept when joining groups using the Group Finder tool and 100% of the raid is a PUG. The common lore that Master Looter will give you more stuff in our PUG raid is absolutely wrong. It both fails at basic math (because mathematically ML and personal loot give the exact same amount of loot), and  it doesn’t take into account the amount of scams happening in raids every single day by random people making Group Finder raids for the sole purpose of scamming others (or who accidentally scam people because when it comes time to distribute loot, they have no reason to be honest). Instead, Master Looter is only of benefit if you are in an organized group (e.g., guild or other group of people who know and trust each other, or groups like Open Raid that can be organized and tracked so people can build reputations). The math actually shows that under cases of heavy loot competition (as would happen in PUG raids), you get more loot from Personal Loot than Master Looter.

The PUG problem:

The community in World of Warcraft has a huge loot problem. With the advent of Group Finder and tons of cross-realm raids, we have tons of people forming up raids to scam other players so they can keep the loot to themselves. While some honest people do form up raids and do master looter, someone joining a raid has no idea whether they are joining a scam raid or a real raid. In this loot culture, it feels as though there are  people every single day flocking to the Customer Support problems where someone “stole” their loot. In these loot dispute cases, if Blizzard finds evidence of the master looter running a scam, Blizzard deletes the items from the community and doesn’t give them to anyone. That is, every day, it’s theoretically possible that dozens or hundreds of loot items under the master looter system from PUG raids from the group finder are being destroyed and no one has them. There are even people making instructional videos to teach other people how to scam others without Blizzard being able to punish them. When people calculate the value of master looter, however, they don’t count these items that are lost to the void due to scams. Instead, they calculate the value of master looter assuming you are a guild group that distributes loot fairly – which is inherently untrue in PUG situations.

The people calculating the value of master looter aren’t taking into account the amount of pain that master looter causes to people who have their items ‘stolen’ in PUG raids by dishonest master looters every day. So, the question needs to be: why should you trust your master looter? If you have a good reason other than “because they said so,” then master looter is probably fine. If someone doing the master looting has a social contract or reputation to maintain, then master looter is probably fine. If they are a random person you found in the group finder and you don’t have a reason to trust them, then why should you let them control whether or not you get loot? While there are plenty of honest people out there in the game, Personal Loot is just a dramatically better loot system when you are running with complete strangers and you have no way of knowing if the raid leader is honest or not. In things like Oqueue raids where you can get a sense of whether someone is honest or not, then Master Looter is a great system. In random PUGs, there is no social contract to handle loot disputes, so even honest raid leaders benefit from Personal Loot in fully random PUGs with complete strangers, because then you aren’t responsible for dealing with petty looting issues and you can focus on having fun.

That is – even if you are an honest PUG leader in the Group Finder, you are still doing it wrong if you don’t run with Personal Loot because you are perpetuating a myth that Master Looter is better than Personal Loot for PUGs when Master Looter is worse for PUGs than personal loot by far. You do players a disservice by running master Looter in true 100% PUG raids where no one knows each other because there is no way to tell the difference between honest runs and scam runs, and that sets people up to be victims of the scammers. Instead, personal loot gives everyone the same amount of loot in real runs, and gives people substantially more opportunities for loot by totally eliminating scammers. That is, when you join a PUG raid, unless someone posts explicit, detailed, and clear loot policies in raid chat where everyone can see – you have agreed to hand over all rights of the loot to the person with master looter privilages.

Guilds do Benefit From Master Looter

You want organized guild groups among friends to be running with Master Looter – because that gives you the ability to redistribute items among your organized guild team and fill in gear gaps of people who need things. In this way, organized guilds get more items spread across their raid in ways they think is best. That is, the closer you get to your raid being saturated with gear, the more you need to control who is getting the items (e.g., gearing up a new raid member, getting the bow to a hunter who has had a terrible time finding a weapon, etc.).

So, master looter is only better in situations where the loot competition is actually controlled by gear saturation across a raid tier. When there are 4 people competing for a drop in the guild, each time someone gets the item, the number of people competing for the drop goes down by 1. You want to take away the loot opportunity from the person in full BIS gear and give items to the people who are under-geared, and that’s basically the only reason why guilds prefer Master Looter to personal loot in raids. In organized groups, controlling gear distribution means that items go to people who need that item the most, and fewer items get lost to being vendor trash by people who can’t disenchant.

We sometimes bring PUGs into our organized guild raids, and because we are a highly organized structure, we can’t take advantage of those people because our reputation matters in terms of being able to stay a guild. Thus, master looter only works when the person doing the master looting is tied to a social contract and has a social reason for wanting to stay honest – AND when you are guaranteed to have gear saturation with most people running together each week to hit a saturation point where master looter actually starts paying out better than personal loot in the first place.


In PUGs, Personal Loot Gets You More of What You Want

In random PUGs, personal loot is better and personally gets you things you want more. That is, in PUG groups, there are likely to be more people for whom this is their very first time in and they also want that same item you want. That is, rather than one hunter with terrible loot luck you want to give the bow to, you now have 5 hunters who all want that one bow under a master looter situation. Every time someone gets what they want, they stop running in the PUGs and are replaced with a person who needs gear. Because the raid composition changes every single time, and you have no benefit of carry-over from the previous raid.

Master Looter is thus not superior to personal loot in PUG raids because you never benefit from gearing other people up – because you never see those raiders again (when they hit gear saturation, they stop running raids). If you assume that you always have to compete against 2 other people for loot, then personal loot always pays out better – and you may get up to twice as much gear from personal loot than master looter over the course of the expansion (e.g., your chance of getting loot drops from 79% over the course of a full Highmaul clear for personal loot to 33% across the course of a clear for Master looter – that is, master looter costs you tons of loot over time when you run in PUGs where lots of people need gear).

In the PUG, personal loot is better because it always gives you opportunities to get loot in PUG raids. Thus, personal loot actually gives you (an individual person in the raid) a higher chance of getting what you want in a PUG raid because you never compete for your loot rolls in the PUG situation with personal loot. Combined with the likelihood that a person running as master looter in a PUG raid will scam the other players in the raid, it’s not worth the risks to have a minuscule statistical chance of getting the item you want.

There are also risks to being someone who serves as the master looter in raids, because anyone unhappy about how loot was distributed will accuse you of scamming them and will report you. Thus, the risks of being a master looter in PUGs have a cost that people don’t talk about. The fact that actual scams happen every day with the master looter in random PUGs makes being a master looter in PUGs come with an unacceptable level of risk. Being in the raid with a master looter you don’t know also comes with an unacceptable level of risk. There is tons of risk, but no reward, to using master looter in random PUG groups with people you have no social connection to.

Why the myth of Master Looter is persists in PUGs

People are stuck on the conclusions that organized raid groups have come to and use the loot rules for PUGs that help high-end guilds be successful. People want easy answers, and so “master looter = the best looter” has become pervasive and consistent. Personal loot will give people in PUGs a higher chance of getting an item, whereas organized guilds benefit from being able to choose who gets the loot.

Letting someone choose who gets the loot in a PUG, however, pretty much guarantees you will not come out of the raid happy more often than not. If they make personal loot so much superior to master looter mathematically that even guilds would have to swap to personal loot, it would ultimately hurt the ability for organized groups to function. Our guild’s loot system is how we reward people for showing up, for communicating absences, and otherwise adhering to the social contract of our guild. That social contract also ensures that no one in our guild has to ever feel the risk of being scammed when it hits time for loot.

So, there has to be a different way to teach PUGs to use the loot system that benefits them the most. Getting scammed by dishonest PUG master looters, and reducing the risks involved in running PUGs is exactly WHY personal loot was invented, and everyone who lets themselves get burned just contribute to the problem. While some PUG master looters are honest, without a social contract with that person, you have no way to tell the scam artists from the honest, great raid leaders.

Common loot scams

This type of loot scam happens every single day.

PUG raids need to demand personal loot for people to stop getting scammed.

There isn’t a good solution to the problem, other than for players to just refuse to go on scam Group Finder Tool raids. It seems like the more obvious solution would be for Blizzard to prevent group finder groups from using master looter, but that won’t work. Instead, by taking away choice, people would just simply stop running in the group finder and would go back to using addons and other systems to bypass restrictions. Blizzard can’t make decisions about whether or not you trust the person who is controlling your loot. Instead, the community has to put their foot down and demand that Group Finder raids run personal loot if they are true PUGs. In groups where there is no social contract to ensure that loot is distributed fairly, you should demand that personal loot be the only loot system of choice. The only way to fix this cultural problem is for people to decide that Master Looter risks in PUGs are unacceptable and force PUG raids to run with personal loot.

That has to come from us as a community to say – no more chances for scammers to steal our loot. If your raid leader doesn’t have crystal clear loot guidelines, doesn’t have a good Oqueue reputation, isn’t someone you know, and doesn’t have any reason to be fair – then in you just shouldn’t trust them. The Group Finder tool isn’t meant for you to run Master Looter Raids. The new Group Finder tool exists for strangers to run together, and in this case, you should be wary of Master Looting Group Finder runs where there isn’t a clear set of loot rules stated in writing (MS>OS isn’t a clear set of loot rules). By Blizzard’s standards, all loot belongs to the master looter unless there are clear loot rules that show the person scammed you, and you never get the loot after you are the victim of a scam. Personal Loot gives you just as much loot over time as Master Looter will, especially if you end up in scam runs periodically where you have no chance for loot (even if you have 10 good runs for every 1 scam run where someone takes your junk). While some PUG raid leaders are honest, even PUG raid leaders would benefit from using the Personal Loot to avoid having loot drama. Guilds have a social contract to handle loot drama. Random PUGs are either going to have Personal Loot or drama. I think people should be asking for Personal Loot to avoid drama.

Posted in Uncategorized, Warlords of Draenor, Written By Lissanna

5 comments on “Group Finder PUGs: Personal Loot is Your Friend
  1. Stephen O'Sullivan says:

    I came here from a Twitter link by Olivia Grace hoping to find a more compelling argument than the one you have put forward. Again, like most others your article screams of the fact you were burned on loot during an LFG run. If you are not happy with the loot rules set out, do not join the run or better yet, organize your own. This game survived 9 years with Mastrr Loot in PuG runs and it worked out absolutely fine. I personally hosted hundreds of runs during ToT, SoO and now WoD raids using Master Looter and no one has ever been scammed. The fact is you are basing your argument on a very very small percentage of players who are taking advantage, those players existed in previous expansions too and always will, that is why every individual has the choice to decide if they want to be part of the raid with ML or PL. Just because a very small amount are taking advantage doesn’t mean it should be removed as an option.

    • Lissanna says:

      I’ve never run in any of those runs. I also suggested at the end of the post that it wasn’t something Blizzard should change, and that Master Looter was good in some situations. However, I’m suggesting that players start refusing to run in random Group Finder PUGs where Master Looter is enabled and there is zero social contract that forces the person to distribute loot in an honest manner. Master Looter means that all loot belongs to the group leader, so it’s a huge disadvantage for players to refuse to take advantage of the personal loot system for truly random PUGs.

      I am a forum MVP who spends lots of time on the customer support forums. The sheer increase in volume of loot scams since the introduction of the Group Finder suggests that the social contracts that USED to make master looter okay for PUGs has totally broken down. That is – while there used to not be many loot scams, there are TONS more loot scams now. I am having to make like DAILY posts telling people that “sorry, you can’t have your gear back, sorry you got scammed”. The great thing about personal loot is that no one should ever be scammed, because it’s impossible to scam people when you run personal loot.

      Thus, if you don’t trust the master looter, chances are that you are going to get scammed at some point running Group Finder raids. Given that the volume of scams has probably increased from maybe 1 every few weeks to huge posts with dozens of responses every single day on the customer support forums suggests this is a NEW problem because the Group Finder tool made it so easy for strangers to group together and never form a social bond.

      The fact that Personal Looter exists means that it is possible to totally eliminate the scam PUG raids. Personal Loot gives you better loot than master looter in PUG groups, even excluding the scam situation because of the lack of gear saturation. If you run with groups like QQueue where you can check someone’s reputation, that’s fine. However, running Master Looter runs via the Group Finder tool (and bringing in 100% strangers) sets the stage where people can take advantage of your trustworthiness to scam others. So, if you are running things where most of the people know you, master looter is fine (BUT doesn’t result in anyone getting more loot, and just increases the work you do compared to Personal Loot).

  2. ellie says:

    Just some thoughts:

    I’m no math guru by any means, but I believe one thing you forgot to take into account is also that with personal loot, you have a chance of getting duplicates and downgrades. So that the 1 out of 5 chance you do win loot, it could be entirely wasted and count as a 0 because it’s the exact same belt you’re wearing/ a downgrade. This would then change the equation.

    Regarding master loot vs. personal loot in PUGs, we actually used to run personal loot. I would have it clearly stated in the description. Every run, some PUGs would inevitably be very shocked (apparently reading is hard) when they found out it was personal loot, and would leave group or incessantly whine at me to change it to master loot.

    Master loot ninjaing IS a growing problem. Blizzard’s Pontius Pilate stance ( just hurts the legit players and rewards greedy scrubs. The only long-term solution I can think of at the moment is to make it so that all raids formed through the premade group finder are auto set to Personal Loot and cannot be changed. (Raids made by inviting on your own cross-server would be unaffected)

    • Lissanna says:

      The concerns over duplicate items are really only relevant in situations where most of the raid is gear saturated and wants to give away their chances of loot to another person. Not in situations where everyone needs stuff and 10 to 15 people are rolling every time anything drops in the PUG.

      Using free rolls via Blizzard’s Need Before Greed roll system would also entirely solve the problem of duplicate items without giving away all of your rights to loot in PUG situations. Master Looter is a system where you hand over your rights to loot to a single person, and you should ONLY ever do that in cases where you trust the person doing that looting. ML doesn’t solve the problem of duplicate items, it creates a new problem in PUGs where you are often competing against 15 people for an item you really want in those PUG groups with low gear saturation and high demand for items. The groups specifically “reserving” items from PUG runs are also pretty dishonest since then people are actually giving away their chances to acquire loot at all. Unless you are trying for tank items, you don’t benefit from Master Looter in low gear saturation PUG groups.

      If you are running a PUG where most people need loot, then you aren’t benefitting from Master Looter. The “duplicate items” argument is only beneficial and relevant if you can ensure that only 1 or 2 people need any of the items that drop from a boss. If 10 or 15 people are rolling off for an item that drops, you’ve managed to give away your chances for the loot you want just to avoid the emotional feeling of getting a duplicate item.

  3. Ander says:

    I raided seriously for about two years back in 3.2, 3.3 and 4.0 but now that I have less time I just do LFR (I know, I know!) and PUGs when I have some time, which is not very often.
    Man am I glad something like personal loot was eventually introduced to WoW. I remember hating losing items to people rolling Need on items in dungeons when they actually didn’t need them, but this paled in comparison to the hystrionic prima donna dramas in raids for tokens or items.
    If it were for me, I’d enforce Personal loot in all GF groups, and GG. Leave ML for Guilds which can distribute gear properly, and let dice fall where they may for the others. No drama, just play.


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