It will be difficult to make this seem less directly related to my current situation than it is. What I mean is: this is a private QQ and a public QQ. Both a philosophical argument and a more personal argument. I actually have a proposal at the end of this rant. So bear with it.
Preliminary disclaimer: this is not about loot. It’s about loot policy. We all know that getting loot is part of the motivating factor for playing the game. If you raided all of ICC25, then all of ICC heroic, and were victorious the whole way through, you would feel like you beat the game for sure. But if you got no gear along the way, your gnawing sense that you were being carried would get stronger and stronger. That you weren’t living up to your potential. That you were in fact more of a burden than a player. If your toon is not evolving, getting slightly but consistently more powerful with every raid week, it becomes a psychic knot. It feels awful, and it has effects on your performance, your relationships, and your interest in playing the game. Whoever says that loot isn’t important might be correct if they’re attacking gear-score whores. I just hope you don’t miss the deeper point: loot is in fact quite important.
As I’ve said before, I believe loot council is the best loot distribution method available. That is, if it’s run by philosopher kings and/or enlightened officers. I have not met a single person who fits this description. Therefore, in practice, it runs the gamut from merely awful to the absolute worst.
The quality of a LC is limited by several factors, including but hardly limited to: (1) the integrity of the council members; (2) the degree of team spirit on the council and in the guild itself; (3) the data systems used for tracking loot distribution, including a way to measure the amount of upgrade a piece represents; (4) clear rules regarding performance and its affect on loot; and (5) delicate care for the individuals in the raid, as well as for the raid itself.
Integrity: This should be obvious. We’ve all heard stories of loot councils in which council members grabbed high-value loot for themselves, or gave it to their friends. That’s just the most obvious example of a lack of integrity. While integrity is tied to team spirit (below), it is so vast and multi-dimensional that it can’t really be narrowed down to a simple bullet-point. There are more situations than you could ever codify in some rulebook of loot allocation. Integrity itself must be the rulebook; you need to be truly trustworthy to be a loot councillor. And that’s no small feat.
I’ve been in the position many times of having to make a loot allocation decision that had no easy answer, and which would most definitely anger or hurt someone who did not deserve their fate. It’s hard stuff. Most people I know have small cojones when it comes to making hard decisions, such that they’ll reliably take the easy way out, rather than make harder, gutsier, riskier calls. Our true character is on the line when it comes to stuff like this. We all know it. Challenging situations bring out the devil and the saint in us; those with more integrity are more likely to show their saint than their devil when the going gets tough.
Team spirit: First of all, if your guild is missing this, you should be looking for a new guild. And if your officers are missing this, run for the hills. It’s a team sport, and if you don’t have a team-spirited team, there’s no loot distribution “trick” that can fix it for you. Certainly a LC needs to have its eyes not on the individuals, but on the team. Where will this piece of loot benefit us the most? This is so obvious it surely doesn’t need to be said. But it always needs to be said.
Data systems + upgrade measurements: That’s fancytalk for “spreadsheet.” The LC needs to track who was given what, and when. It needs to track when people missed raids. It needs to track the degree of each upgrade – getting a new ring with a 19-iLevel jump is very different than getting a new 19-iLevel pair of pants, or a trinket.
If a loot council is looking at any single piece of gear in isolation, it’s doomed to failure. Consider two mages, one decked out in Ulduar (226) gear, the other in ToC10 (232) gear. Every piece that drops will be a bigger upgrade for the Ulduar mage, so unless you’re tracking distributions as a holistic upgrade model, with team spirit, and a lot of integrity, the ToC10 mage will get gear only after the Ulduar mage is fully ICC geared. This is a stupid-obvious example of one of the problems that data systems should be in place to help solve. No system is a replacement for integrity, intelligence, and care, but those qualities without a data system cannot be channeled and used properly.
Performance: If there is ANY rule that affect how loot is distributed, it must be articulated clearly so everyone knows what to expect. Will missing a raid lower your loot priority? By how much, and for how long? How about dying to fire? Lower dps? Will brown-nosing change your priority? Being an officer? Donating to the guild bank? These types of rules are often in place but unspoken until the moment they’re used. (See integrity, above.) Personally I’m seriously opposed to a lot of these policies, but that’s not the point: if these policies will be in place, they must be explicit.
Care for the individuals: At any point along the way, you need to be aware of what’s happening on the other side of the council’s walls. Has one of your raiders gone three weeks without a drop? Maybe they should get the next one even if it isn’t the highest benefit for the raid. Maybe, just maybe, that will keep your raiders happy. And that’s in the loot council’s hands. Is it paying attention?
Between all of these criteria, there has to be some way to prevent imbalanced situations. Just as an example, I looked at our guild’s healing core. In that group, you have people with this many main-spec LC-assigned drops: 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 7. (Which one do you think is the officer?) Maybe I’m wrong about my presumption that fairness forms some portion of the policy. But in case I’m right, I have a suggestion.
The proposal: Limit loot council to non-armored pieces: rings, necklaces, trinkets, cloaks, weapons and offhands/shields. Use EPGP for anything with an armor class.
Let’s say your raid has an abundance of clothies, but only two holy pallies. (Pretty typical, I suspect!) In a pure EPGP system, the pallies would have less competition, and would spend fewer points on armored gear than the clothies, leaving them freer to bid higher on shared gear like rings or trinkets. Implementing a hybrid system where a LC handles shared gear would ensure that your clothies, leather, mail, and plate wearers all have an equal shake at that stuff.
It also allows the LC to shift the loot balance if too many mail pieces have dropped recently (for example). So even if a ring might be a great benefit to a resto shaman, the LC can rebalance loot distribution as it sees fit.
The meta-point: Running a guild is not the same as leading a raid. There is a whole other set of skills that very few people have; skills that are about humanity, fairness, and development of team spirit. And no, leading a guild is not about group hugs. But integrity (in the way I’m describing it here) has absolutely nothing to do with being soft. It has to do with doing the right thing.