Sunday, December 21, 2008

Zero-Sum with a Twist

I follow one of the premier WoW Healer blogs, World of Matticus (I think all healers should take a gander at his site frequently; it's not just about priests anymore). Lately Matt and Syd have been chatting about Loot Council and how it works in their newly formed guild. This got me thinking about my guild's loot distribution system and made me want to analyze what works and what doesn't with our Zero Sum DKP system.

Guild Background

My guild has been around since before WoW launched. The founders came from a first-person shooter background and have been clan/guild members since the 1990s. I lucked into the guild just about the time they started seriously running Molten Core in vanilla WoW. At the time they needed extra bodies to fill the 40 man raids, so they made an alliance with another guild. I was a noob Priest in the other guild, and I raided both Molten Core and Zul'Gurub with xeno before I actually defected and joined them. A few months later I became an Officer, and I've never really looked back.

We've had the same basic loot distribution policy since Zul'Gurub, although we have tweaked it as we've experienced new issues. We started out as a close-knit group of friends, and even though we have grown considerably with time, the core values haven't changed that much.

We strive:
  1. To be as fair and open with loot decisions as possible.
  2. To avoid even the appearance of bias.
  3. To reward the faithful without punishing the new.

Raid Points (RP): Origins

First of all, we use the term "RP" rather than "DKP" when discussing the intangible currency used to purchase all items that drop during a 25 man raid with our guild. Our RP is tracked on our website and recorded either during or after each raid, depending on who is running the auctions that night.

We have drawn from several different distribution systems to create our unique model. Zero-Sum DKP, Open Bidding, Escrow and Efficiency Rewards are all combined in our system.

Zero-Sum DKP + Bidding

WoWWiki states that "Zero-sum DKP means that DKP is distributed based on the value of items that drop. All members in a zero-sum DKP start with a score of 0. When an item is given to a raid member, they have to pay for it in DKP (going negative if necessary). These DKP spent are immediately distributed among all the raid members. Thus the amount of DKP, i.e. the sum of all members in the system, is always zero."

"Although 'zero-sum' describes only a method of earning DKP, and it would in theory be perfectly possible to combine this income method with bidding for finding the item prices, nearly no raids actually do that."

Except us. We do that. We have a modified zero-sum RP system (there are 1000 points per person in our system) but do not have fixed prices for items. Instead, we have a minimum bid amount of 100 and all subsequent bids must be increases of 50.

The points spent during the auction are distributed to the members of the raid present at the time of the kill, including the person who purchased the item. So if I spend 250 RP for an item, each person in the raid receives approximately 10 points, and my RP balance is decreased by about 240. (The lack of certainty is because of a small tax placed on all bids in an effort to reduce inflation in our system.)

Escrow, or Balancing New and Old

One of our concerns was creating a system that both protected us from guild-hopping leeches and allowed us to minimize the DKP gap between long-term guild members and quality new-comers. Our solution was to give everyone--recruits and members--1000 points to spend, but recruits points are locked in "escrow" for a period of time. Members unlock these points by attending raids where they also earn RP from purchases made by others and efficiency rewards. It takes a new raider 20 raids (usually 3-4 weeks) to fully unlock his 1000 points. But he is able to bid as soon as he has earned 100 points to cover the minimum bid. This system helps to protect us from people who only join to get geared up quickly, but also gives new people who intend to stay the opportunity to bid on more popular items after a few weeks.

Efficiency Rewards

Over time, we have searched for additional ways to encourage and motivate our raiders to be efficient. The most effective way (short of making them cookies) has been to award bonuses for being on-time and staying throughout the raid. This is where the majority of our inflation comes from, but we made the decision to depart from the true zero-sum approach in order to help our progression.

Currently we award bonus points to:
  1. Individuals who are in the zone 10 minutes before we start.
  2. Everyone, if all raiders are zoned in and ready to pull at raid time (this one rarely happens).
  3. Individuals who remain until the end of the raid.
  4. Everyone who is present the first time we kill a boss.
  5. Everyone who remains for three or more attempts on a new boss we have never killed before.
These were added to increase efficiency by having people show up early and stay late, as well as to reward those who push through all the wipes while we learn an encounter. We wanted to show our appreciation to those who are willing to suffer with us rather than wait for us to have everything on farm status before signing up for raids.


I know I'm biased since this is the only system I've ever used, but I like our system and think that over the years we have adjusted the original idea to suit our needs. Our open auctions do not allow us to handpick the recipient of gear, but they do make all loot decisions transparent to our members. It also places the responsibility on each raid member to know which drops are upgrades. Each of us is responsible for choosing our own gear and the method that we obtain it. We can bid the minimum or continue to bid as the price skyrockets, the choice is ours.

I'm convinced that there will always be the occasional "grr" moment in any loot distribution system, but we have made the choice to allow our members control over their own gear destiny (within the limitations of our loot rules, but that's another post) and that works for me.

1 comment:

  1. In my guild we use a very simple DKP system. Every bosskill is awarded with points. Every try on a progression boss is awarded with points. If you apply for a raid but don't make it into the raid setup you'll get half the total dkp if you stay available for the raid.

    Biddings start at 10 for second equip, 30 for every other item and 50 for Tier gear and are whispered to the officer. In the beginning I found this hidden system very annoying but I got used to it. It avoids crazy bid wars I know from my old guild.

    Negave points on our loot system:
    -Working on a progress boss awards too much dkp. I feel like every raid night should award +/- the same amount of dkp with the occasional +dkp for "good play" or firstkills.
    -We distribute loot very very fast and mistakes happen and then have to be resolved via GM.
    -We don't perform enough buff checks to see if people use flasks/buff food.

    And at this point we prioritize tanks. I doubt we would have killed malygos yet if our tanks had to bid on their tier gear. On the other hand it of course feels annoying if you have to wait weeks until you can finally start to bid on tier tokens.