This is a post about loot. Hard to believe, since no one cares anyway :)
It’s not a post about how to distribute loot within your guild. There are many systems, and they all have varying degrees of suck. To minimize suck, look into EPGP and move on. Perhaps I’ll expand on that another day. Not now though.
No, this post is about what Blizzard can do about spellpower plate. But wait! Don’t run away! I promise, there’s more to it than that.
Spellpower plate is just the most obvious and extreme example of bad loot distribution by Blizzard. There are other examples, and it’s only gotten worse with the new “bring the player not the class” philosophy. BTPNTC allows guilds to run with groups that are (from a purely loot-oriented viewpoint) radically imbalanced.
My guild runs with two regular hunters. (Used to be three, but grats on the new baby, Griz!) We have no enhancement shaman. So every piece of mail gear goes straight to them, and they also get a shot at plenty of offset pieces. They’ve both got multiple 232 weapons and are well on their way to building separate gear sets for MM and SV.
Meanwhile, in our cloth-heavy guild, many of us softies are rocking four or five pieces of Ulduar gear. That’s after about 110 boss kills.
So what we have is a question of balance. Your guild might be the opposite, with tons of hunters and few clothies. Or lots of trees & boomkins but no priests. I love the BTPNTC philosophy to death, but this can be a real issue.
The spectrum of gear flexibility
Blizzard has a number of different loot distribution systems in place that attempt to address the balance concern. Here’s a diagram of those systems, arranged from the most specific (boss X drops the Ring of Not Again) to the most general (40 emblems gets you whatever the heck you want):
On the left we have a boss who drops some specific item; you have no choice in the matter. This, of course, is the way almost all raid-boss loot works. On the right we have a boss who drops a token that can be used to purchase any tier piece for any class (like the new T9 system). Emblem gear is similarly flexible, perhaps more so.
Previous tiers (I’m using T7 as an example) used a semi-flexible system, in which the slot was fixed (head piece, for example) but the class was flexible (rogues, death knights, mages, druids). There are also offset options within that (e.g., different types of druid headpieces for different specs), so there was an interesting balance of flexibility and specificity.
Blizzard has been clear that they don’t want bosses to drop only flexi-tokens. The badge system was designed to fill in gaps, to allow you to buy gear after the RNG clobbered you week in and week out. But bosses will not be dropping “Buy Any Loot Token #1” any time soon. The gambler’s thrill of hitting the jackpot is a key part of the game, which means losing rolls is going to happen until darkness descends over Azeroth.
(By the way, I’m glad they didn’t implement boss-kill statistics until 3.0. Otherwise I’d know exactly how many times I killed Prince and did not get my T4 helm. Even with the flexibility in the tier-gear system, the RNG is a huge factor, and is one reason I visited that dark castle so many times.)
Probably didn’t see that coming, did you? Well. Think about it. Quest rewards give you options, but they aren’t innumerable. You get about 4 pieces of gear to choose from, and Blizzard has done its darndest to ensure that all specs and armor classes are accounted for during the leveling process. (Tanks will tell you differently.) Even if there are quests that have no rewards that interest you, over time you will certainly be able to build up a set of gear that tracks your leveling progress and power.
Have raid-level bosses drop quest-reward tokens. (“This item begins a quest.”) For Ulduar, the quest turn-in might be in the foyer, so you can easily port around to receive your quest rewards.
The quest rewards would be tightly defined. Take Ignis, for example.
I haven’t thought through how all the tokens would be organized, except to realize it is a non-trivial but very solvable problem. You would have to combine things that don’t fit very easily (like that totem or a trinket). You could ensure that no token gave more than two rewards, as a way of keeping this system closer to the left side of my chart. (More options in the quest reward pushes it closer to the right, of course.) I’ll leave the subtleties of the quest-reward organization to the smart people. But the general idea should be clear.
I find this system very appealing: it still leaves a lot of randomness, while allowing a bit more control over gearing up your raid. And it leaves Blizzard plenty of control over how much or how little they want the RNG to affect your winnings.
And with that, there’s no need to change any fundamental mechanics of the game. No ridiculous strength-to-spellpower conversion talents in the paladins’ holy tree. No “everyone can wear plate” silliness. We’re just taking the edge off the randomness of boss drops, while still keeping the thrill of the rare drop and the thrill of a good roll as motivating factors.
By the way, has anyone seen Guiding Star? Fifteen Razorscale kills and no drops. And ten folks who would roll on it for their main spec. WTB better boss-drop mechanics. Even slightly better would be enough.