Wyn over at the World of Matticus, has posted an article on looting and the relative merits of a Loot Council over a DKP system. I suggest first that the DKP system is broken down, since despite many systems being called DKP there are actually many variants of it, a brief list would be:

  • Baseline DKP
    • The generic system, you kill a boss, you receive DKP.
  • Time Reward DKP
    • DKP is awarded for presence in addition to or instead of for Boss kills.
  • Split Tier DKP
    • DKP is split across multiple tiers, promotes running instances of a particular tier level to acquire gear their, raiders focusing on only a single tier have little chance at items on another tier. Useful in large / split focus raiding guilds where potential sources of DKP such as Zul'Aman are far more frequent than higher tiers, simplifies boss kills to a single value in that tier.
  • Zero Sum DKP
    • DKP purchases should tend towards zero, as such the average item cost should be in the range of (DKP per night*Nights between loot). This is typically seen as the Holy Grail of DKP systems, where items that are directly beneficial are spread evenly amongst players.
  • Positive DKP
    • DKP purchases leave players with a positive DKP score, rewards continued progression and presence, that is more "experienced" raiders get first pick on loot.
  • Negative DKP
    • DKP purchases leave players with a negative DKP score, rewards newer players and players with very long gaps between loot.
Each of these systems then tends to break down into one of a few basic types of distribution:
  • Fixed Price
    • This works from highest DKP score player to the lowest, each getting a chance at refusal for a fixed price, typically Tier items hold a higher cost than non-tier items, and class specific items may hold lower value. Offspec items may or may not hold modified values, however typically are a bid of last resort.
  • Modified Roll
    • Players use their DKP to modify a roll on the item, can be a roll+DKP, or a 1-DKP spent roll, adds randomness to loot distribution however still allows people with higher DKP more of a chance to win.
  • Auction
    • Players tell an auctioneer their bid (potentially multiple rounds), and the highest bid wins. Players with the highest DKP can guarantee their win by bidding more than the other player is capable of bidding, however it is possible to bid in relation to the item's value to you. Typically has a minimum bid.
So even a simple DKP system can be broken down a lot, there isn't really a "standard" DKP system, but the common points between them are that points are awarded based on time or kills, and that the expenditure of these points increases your chance to win an item. Essentially DKP is a strange cross between a meritocracy system (people who are present for the most kills acquire the most dkp), a time based reward (if you haven't had an item for a while you will tend to have accumulated more DKP), and a cookie (you get to make your looting decisions, typically only modified by common sense). This is typically in direct contrast to a Suicide Kings system (rotating loot list, no sense of "value" to an item), or a Loot Council (meritocracy as determined by other people).

Since Wyn looked at the Loot Council vs DKP I should stick to the same topic really, and why I prefer DKP as a system.

Dragon Kill Points:
  • Rewards players in a fair manner
  • Allows players to determine value of items to their progression
  • Allows players to determine if another player would benefit more
  • Expenditure is at the player's discretion
  • Limited time between acquiring "loot master" position for your loot group
    • At a certain point where you have not acquired items DKP will reach a stage where all loot must pass through your "veto", that is at a certain point your effort will be rewarded if you stay.
  • Gives the loot decisions to the people most likely to be aware of their progression path.
  • Can be implemented with a priority system
Loot Council
  • Reward the "best" player for that loot
  • Maximises raid-wide equalisation of gear / focus on specific gearing to take place
  • Should minimise the chance of "spite" looting, or "badly optimised" looting
  • Potential to reward "effort" rather than merely effort.
Essentially, DKP is a blind system, it rewards everyone in a successful raid the same way and assumes that a raid is 100% a group effort, that is the total reward should be split across every member of the raid equally, a Loot Council by contrast assumes that there are circumstances in which a raid is not 100% a group effort and instead that extra effort within a raid should have the potential to be rewarded. Additionally the Loot Council allows for items to be spread across the raid in an equalising manner (maximising the overall effectiveness of the raid in a flood-fill manner). It could be argued (and indeed Wyn did) that a Loot Council is more fair, that simply kill a boss on schedule, turning up with pots and flasks is not a fair way to distribute loot, however most DKP systems look at this the other way in that turning up, applying effort and being prepared is the standard for the system, and other behaviour should be penalised (perhaps not as badly as the infamous "50 DKP, minus!" quote).

Typically a raid should expect all players to have the best out of raid gear that can be acquired, and to come prepared with pots and flasks and any materials they need, it is unlikely, especially with the availability of high quality PvP gear, and the Badge of Justice acquirable PvE gear that there will be a significant different in a members level of gear, especially in late game raids, everything is a minor upgrade, but its the quality of the minor upgrade that may matter.

The reward (and associated congratualtions) in a DKP system typically come from the the success, its not merely the purple loot you acquired but a symbol of the kill, and a step forward on your progression path, a raid full of DKP based players is 25 people with 25 gearing paths working together, a Loot Council is 25 people working as a raid, the question though is which is better, the more Capitalistic system of DKP or the Communist Loot Council. In the end I suppose it comes down to how fair your Loot Council is, their understanding of your class and progression and how widely varied your raid is.

If your raid is widely spread in terms of gear, then a Loot Council allows you (or a priority DKP) to assign loot to those players to bring them up to the standard of the other players in a easily understandable way, however as I noted, with the availability of loot there should not be a high gear delta within the raid, and if there is (such as a T4 player getting into a T6 Sunwell Guild) then the raid is already likely quite saturated with loot and it will flow well either way towards the T4 player.

The you have to understand the classes, and I think I can speak from experience here, I am a Protection Paladin, in general pre-T6 there is no specific Paladin loot and my gear path was similar to Warriors. However in a T6 instance there appears a Paladin loot path, however the gear progression path for a Paladin is strange, typically I will have:
  • Main Tank Sets:
    • Avoidance
    • Threat
    • Block
  • Off Tank Sets:
    • General
    • Avoidance
    • Threat
    • Block
  • Area of Effect Tanking Sets:
    • Block
    • Armour / Avoidance
  • Resistance Sets:
    • Fire
    • Fire with defense cap
    • Frost
    • Nature
    • Shadow
For these sets to be completed my gear path will include the majority of the Paladin items (threat stats typically and dodge), the majority of Warrior items (defence, expertise and hit), and a smattering of caster trinkets for the threat sets. The exact distribution of the gear I need at any particular time depends heavily on what drops, I can offset a Warrior heavy gear set using Paladin and threat items, or a Paladin set lacking avoidance using Warrior gear items. Taking an example I picked up the Girdle of Mighty Resolve, to replace my Girdle of the Protector, or my Belt of the Guardian (the latter is in my block set, the former in my MT set). Replacing the Protector with the Mighty Resolve reduced my avoidance, at the benefit of slightly increased health and threat, its redistribution of that avoidance however let me equip a ring to replace the block ring I had been required to equip to maintain uncrushable status, however I could only do so because I replaced my Sabatons of the Righteous Defender with the Myrmidon's Treads. So a Paladin gear upgrade was only viable because I acquired a Warrior avoidance item that let me swap from a Warrior / AoE block ring to a generic tanking ring. Now should I have taken the Warrior boots over the potential drop from Naj'entus for Paladin boots, the answer I would give is that I would like both, since they will both see heavy use depending on the fight and the DPS running with us that night. It might have been more efficient to flood fill the raid and give the Warrior the slight upgrade to the Treads, however my DKP bid (which was actually low as I was trying to be fair) valued them more highly than his. I will likely win the Paladin boots at a minimum bid as well, giving me effectively 2 loot items where he had only one upgrade path.

Suddenly I start too seem a bit of a loot addict, yet I am at current the best geared / attending Paladin tank of this guild, and the Warrior tank I rolled against is the 3rd Warrior tank (going by gear / presence), having the option to gear myself (and strangely the requirement given some of the mental gymnastics required to work out a feasible set for each boss) for the fight makes it more viable for the raid to progress. At each stage however my DKP as I am on 2.2 gearing paths at the same time will be spread more thinly allowing someone with fewer gearing paths priority over me, in effect it comes down to how much we value the items, and whether I can rely on my "main" gearing path being acquired cheaply enough that I can afford to acquire the other items for my sets. Some how with a gearing path like I have, where the availability of gear (and Warrior items have roughly a 2x drop rate of the Paladin ones) makes a huge difference in the priority of items I can get, and what it allows me to wear from my bank, I can't see a loot council being able to fully assess the gear paths that I am on, and how each drop affects all of my previous and next best choices. Speaking with my raid leader and main tank he originally thought I would aim purely for the Paladin gearing path, yet once I explained my reasoning he let me take and make choices based on my own opinion of whether its main or offspec, and how much I should bid or force the issue.

As a final point, one of the key principles of a DKP system is that it is blind, like Justice. A raid leader or guild master can show favouritism through it using the invites and instances to make it more or less effective, however at its heart all players can accept DKP as being 100% impartial and simply rewarding the raid evenly while averaging loot over all players over a length of time. A Loot Council can be more easily abused and can seem (even if not) to be unfair or indeed biased towards classes with strange gearing requirements. I would take myself and my class to be the ultimate pressure on a loot council, a really hard to evaluate upgrade path, coupled with it being a similarly small upgrade to both myself and the Warrior tanks in the raid, in most cases I could see it being reduced to a turn about or roll system, where as even with DKP we are willing to pass for each other, or put in minimum bids such that we express an interest but do not force the other player to bid high to beat us.

DKP and Loot Councils on their own are both highly flawed systems, however with a touch of rationality or fairness both can be fit for purpose, however the impact of a non-arbitrary and blind system on classes with multiple gearing paths, and its affect on other classes is important. A Paladin healer cannot use a staff, making the Crystal Spire their ultimate goal in Black Temple, yet its effectiveness in the hands of an AoE healer may be better, however diminishing that players role, or potentially risking a tank surviving may mean it was better spent in the hands of that Paladin than in the hands of another.