Lootsystems – DKP and Its Alternatives

1. Introduction
One of the most important early decisions prospective guild leaders face is picking a loot system that fits their guild. There are many different systems that help you hand out loot to your raid members. Picking a system that doesn’t match the guild’s philosophy will result in problems among your members and negatively impact recruitment.

Discussions about loot systems frequently are influenced by certain ideas of what makes for fair loot distributions. These include:

– People who put in more effort should get more loot than people who only play every once in a while.
– Everyone in a raid should be afforded equal opportunity on loot drops.
– Loot should be awarded to players in a way to benefit the raid the most.

If you aim to create and foster a hardcore raiding guild, you might value those who will benefit the raid most, along with those who put in more effort. If your guild is more casually focused, you are more likely to focus on a more even distribution of loot.
The problem is that most guilds fall between these two extreme. You might run a mostly casual guild but have a small group of hardcore players. Or your guild is comprised of mostly hardcore players, but you can’t seem to find enough of them to fill your raids and are forced to take on some more casual players. Either way, loot distribution will be skewed toward one of the groups.

2. Goals of Lootsystems
It’s important for you to understand that loot systems are not fair. Any loot system will favor certain playstyles or classes over others. The good news is that your loot system does not have to be fair. It only has to be agreed upon. When you think about the rules which should govern loot distribution in your guild, you should primarily think about what kind of effect you want the rules to have on your raiders. Loot rules are one of your most potent strategic tools for progression. Use them to guide your members toward the ”right” kind of behavior.

What does this mean? Let’s say you want to make sure your raids can always start on schedule. One of the most effective ways to make sure that people show up on time is to give everybody who was present at the start of the raid a DKP bonus. This kind of incentive will get you far better results than any guild rules or penalties ever will. Instead of punishing your members and running the risk of alienating them, you instead reward good behavior. And the best part about this kind of practice is that you can extend it toward anything else you want to encourage your members to do. Here’s a list of things you might want to reward through DKP:

– Be on time, stay full raid
– Be available outside instance
– Reagent farming for guild bank
– Gear optimization outside raids
– New boss kill bonus

That being said, lets look at the different kinds of loot systems you may consider for your guild.

3. Roll of the dice – Random number generator
The most simple of loot systems: When loot drops, all players who can use the item may use the ingame /roll or /random commands. The highest number wins the item.

Pros: Quick. No organization required. In the long run loot is distributed (more or less) proportional to attendance (see below for a comparison of random distribution and DKP).

Cons: Does not allow you to add behavior incentives. Also, due to the pure random distribution of loot, the outcome of rolls might be bad for guild progression, especially in the short term.

There is no deterrent for rolling on items. Players have nothing to lose from rolling on ANY item.

4. Loot council
The leadership of the guild hands out loot to whomever they feel deserves it In theory, the best way to handle loot distribution for raid progression. It is the most straight-forward way to always distribute gear according to your guilds principles. While loot councils may be used to distribute loot among both casual and hardcore, keeping gear levels even, this does not play toward the strengths of this system (for a better alternative see Suicide Kings).

Pros: Does not require you to spend time maintaining a points database. Loot can be given to those who will make the best use of it in future raids.
Cons: Lacks the mathematical objectivity of a numeric loot system. Due to its purely subjective nature, the loot council requires a large amount of trust in the guild leaders. While it can work for certain guilds, loot councils have gained a negative reputation with a lot of players. The stigma of nepotism might deter potential applicants to the guild, even if loot is handled ”fairly”.

Note: Beware of creating positive feedback cycles as you reward particular members who then get more important to the raid. This puts them higher up on the loot council’s priority list etc.

5. DKP – Point based systems
The so called DKP based systems is a group of point based loot distribution systems for MMOs. The term DKP originally stems from the loot system used by the high profile Everquest raiding guild Afterlife (led by Thott of Thottbot fame). Their members were rewarded for their participation in events (e.g. raids) by awarding them points. The players can then trade those points for items.
Since then, players created a large number of varitations based on the original basic principles of the Afterlife DKP system: Earning points and trading those points for loot.

5a) Earning Points
There are two elements to consider when you decide how you want to hand out points to your raiders. When do you want to hand out rewards and how do you determine how many points players receive?

Basically there are two different approaches to rewarding players. You can either reward them for completing certain content (killing a boss). Or, you may alternatively pay them a sort of wage, based on the time spent raiding (Z DKP for every XY minutes). Both of these approaches have their respective advantages and downsides.

When deciding how many points to hand out there are three basic possibilities:
– The rewards depend on how much DKP is spent on items (Zero-sum).
– The rewards are fixed.
– The reward depends on content goals met.

5b) Getting loot
Again, there are two elements to consider when deciding how people acquire items with their earned points. You have to decide how the winner of an item is decided and you have to decide how many points a particular item costs the winner.
o When deciding who gets a particular item you can assign the item to whoever has the most points saved up (Standard DKP), or you may choose to randomly decide among all who have enough points to afford the item (Probabilistic DKP/Weighted Rolls).

How you set up your item pricing can make or break your DKP system. There are numerous systems. Below are the most common options:
– Fixed price
– Some percentage of buyer’s DKP total
– System dependent price (depends on several peoples’ DKP levels)
– Auction, price dependent on how much people bid

DKP (Fixed price)
Probably the most common variation of DKP. Every item is given a fixed price. Members who raid more, get more loot. Item prices are subtracted from a players total DKP.

– Easy to set up incentives.
– Objective loot distribution.
– Complete freedom in setting up earning part of system.
– Items always cost the same no matter if you get it first or last.

– You have to set prices for all items.
– If you make mistakes and set prices too high, items will go to waste.
– Low prices lead to inflation and DKP Gap problems (see 6. DKP inflation and the DKP Gap).
– Requires an external DKP database

DKP (Auctions)
Uses auctions instead of fixed prices to distribute items to players. Winning bids are subtracted from a players total DKP. Generally speaking, auctions based systems tend to redistribution of loot. Prices will lower over time, allowing casual players to get items cheaper than hardcore raiders. Bidding systems Share many of the same advantages and disadvantages of fixed price DKP:

– Easy to set up incentives.
– Objective loot distribution.
– Complete freedom in setting up earning part of system.
– No small upgrade problems
– DKP inflation itself has less of an impact on auction based systems

– Risk of collusion between members to get items cheap
– You should set up minimum prices for all items.
– DKP Gap problems (see 6. DKP inflation and the DKP Gap).
– Classes may profit from low numbers in raid and gain an advantage with multi-class items.
– Requires an external DKP database

DKP (Zero-sum)
Zero-sum DKP offers a different approach to point earning. When players spend points, they are distributed among the other players in the raid. That being said, both auction based or fixed price zero-sum DKP systems are possible. Overall, zero-sum has both up and downsides:

– If you do not want to offer incentive DKP, there is no inflation in a zero-sum system.
– Objective loot distribution.

– Points are only earned when points are spent: No points for new boss attempts!
– Bonus DKP (incentives) leads to inflation.
– Does not help against DKP Gap.
– Makes farm raids more attractive for raiders than progress raids.
– Requires an external DKP database

Suicide Kings
You set up a list (random order) of your players. Your position on the list determines your loot priority. When you get loot (suicide), you move to the bottom of the list and everybody else in the raid moves up one spot. Players that are not in attendance remain in their current position. This feature creates a certain casual player friendly bias, as hardcore players may find themselves unable to pass more casual players. (For a more hardcore raider friendly version see Spend-ALL DKP)

– Quick and easy to set up.

– Does not allow you to add behavior incentives.
– Player may pass on upgrades in order to get more desirable items.

Spend-all DKP
Think of it as Suicide Kings DKP. Can be set up to use any of the normal DKP point earning options. Items always cost 100% of the buyers DKP. Not as casual friendly as Suicide Kings, as players can pass other players when they don’t attend raids. (For a more casual raider friendly version see Suicide Kings)

– No work setting up item prices.
– No DKP inflation or DKP Gap problems.

– Does not allow you to add behavior incentives.
– Player may pass on upgrades in order to get more desirable items.
– Requires a DKP database

Probabilistic DKP/Weighted Rolls
This system marries rolls and fixed price DKP. Requires the administrative work of DKP without delivering DKP’s main advantages. Not recommended.

– Allows for incentive bonus DKP.
– Complete freedom in setting up earning part of system.
– Items always cost the same no matter if you get it first or last.

– Unpredictable.
– You have to set prices for all items.
– If you make mistakes and set prices too high, items will go to waste.
– Low prices lead to inflation and DKP Gap problems (see 6. DKP inflation and the DKP Gap).
– Requires an external DKP database

A more recent point based item distribution system is Effort Points, Gear Points (EPGP). Instead of subtracting item prices from a players total DKP, EPGP divides a players lifetime total earned points by the points he spent on items so far. The resulting ratio determines loot priority. Similar to fixed price DKP.

– Based on an World of Warcraft ingame addon: No DKP site needed.
– No work setting up item prices: Item prices based on item level
– Easy to set up incentives.
– Objective loot distribution.
– Complete freedom in setting up earning part of system.
– Items always cost the same no matter if you get it first or last.

– Only available for World of Warcraft
– Based on an ingame addon: Problems on patch days
– Players may skip small upgrades
– Vulnerable to inflation and DKP Gap problems (see 6. DKP inflation and the DKP Gap).

6. DKP Inflation and the DKP Gap
When you ask players about DKP, you will get a lot of negative reactions. DKP systems can and often go horribly wrong. More often than not the reason for player’s strong negative feelings toward DKP systems is a result of a DKP system that was set up improperly. In theory, there should always be a balance between the DKP points a guild hands out to its members and the DKP deducted from the raiders DKP when they buy items. However, a lot of guilds are not aware of the importance of this rule. They hand out far more DKP than they ever could hope to deduct from item sales. The result is DKP inflation. Members gain more and more DKP, their total DKP continues to rise even when they buy items.

Now, the real problem arises when new members join your guild. As long as nobody new entered the system, DKP inflation was no real issue, since everybody had inflated amounts of DKP. However, new players will struggle to ever close the DKP gap between themselves and your veteran players. This can remain true even if the veterans have since adopted a more casual playstyle. Clearly then, this is an important issue, not only for recruiting but also for guild progression. Below are some ideas on how to meet this challenge:

a) DKP Decay
Decay is one of the most important tools to fight inflation in DKP systems that are susceptible to such problems. Decay removes a certain percentage of people’s DKP at a certain interval. Ideally, you set up decay so that the amount of DKP removed from the system equals your rate of inflation for that period.

Example: Over the period of 1 month your members earned 100 DKP. However, they only
spent on average 80DKP each on items. To avoid inflation you would have to set decay up to remove an additional 20 DKP from the system..

There is however, a second benefit from using decay in your loot system. The purpose of DKP systems is to reward participation. DKP decay allows you to put weight on recent activity while not discarding older events altogether.

b) DKP Tax
Think of it as a sales tax. Like decay, DKP taxation can help solve problems of point inflation or hoarding. The difference between the two systems is the way you deduct points. Basically, DKP taxes add points on top of item costs. In this way, DKP taxation adds a percentage of the players total DKP to an item price, regardless of what system you normally use.


  • Flat tax,
  • Progressive tax

Pros: Helps you to avoid growing DKP gaps between veteran raiders and new recruits through DKP inflation.

Cons: The more active raiders in your guild may acquire all items available to them in your current raiding instance early on. They might accumulate a large amount of points before you move on to new bosses and end up a slightly higher price on their next item.

c) DKP Cap
Another way to avoid point inflation and DKP gaps.

Pros: Little to no effort involved for guild leaders.

Cons: Players may reach the DKP cap and not be able to spend DKP due to unlucky drops or because they have all items the instance has to offer. In these cases the DKP system offers no incentive to the player to participate in raids.

d) Separating Instance DKP
Yet another way to avoid point inflation and DKP gaps.

Pros: Works well when theres multiple raid instances on the same raid tier (10man and 25man versions for example).

Cons: Separating DKP for instances basically represents a DKP wipe if applied to raid instances with different tiers of progression (e.g. Ulduar and Naxxramas)

7. Optional policies
There are of course other loot system policies you might want to consider.

a) Small upgrades
When you decide to use a fixed price DKP system, you will sooner or later have items go to waste. Generally, raiders are reluctant to spend points on, what they consider, small upgrades. An item may well be more powerful than their current equipment, but they feel that other drops will give them better value for the price. Nevertheless, it is in the guild’s best interest to maximize your raider’s stats. Every small upgrade helps on the tough challenges ahead. If you want to make sure that items don’t go to waste you have a number of options available to you.

The way a lot of guilds solve this problem is to force their raiders to take certain items. However, this only creates new problems. First of all people do not like having items forced on them, especially items that cost them DKP. They might plan get some other item from the next boss and lose it to another player because you made them spend DKP on something they didn’t really want. Clearly, this situation would lead to more trouble than the small upgrade the item provides is worth.

You might, of course, force upgrades on people and then not charge them DKP. Again this will result in problems. People will start exploiting the system and try to get free upgrades.

Another way to approach the problem is to take the current item somebody uses into account when determining the price of an item: If Player A only gains a small upgrade from an item, he will only pay a small price for it, because he gets a”refund” for his current item. Because of this, Player A gets good value out his points. Player B does not have as good gear as Player A. The upgrade gained from the drop is far greater for him. The points he can get refunded for his current item is considerably lower. This has four beneficial effects:

– Players do not pass on small upgrades.
– Players always pay appropriate prices for items.
– Players don’t hold out for slightly better rare drops and let massive upgrades go to waste to safe points.
– Players do not try to skip whole tiers of equipment on purpose.

When you find a problem in your loot system, don’t try to fix it by punishing people who abuse it. Instead, add incentives that guide people toward proper behavior.

b) Alt Characters
When setting up your loot system you will have to decide whether or not Alts share the same DKP as the player’s main character. Some points for consideration:
– You do not want DKP spent on Alts that could be used to improve the main.
– Loot that would go to waste otherwise could help the guild on Alts.

If possible, avoid gearing up Alts and depending on them to do jobs in raids because you don’t have a Main to do the job.

c) Main switching
Sometimes players will want to change classes. Set up rules that govern these switches and post them on the website to avoid problems later on. Two suggestions:
– If the guild needs the class the player previously played: restart DKP (and have the player re-apply.)
– If the guild does not need Main, but needs new class: transfer DKP.

8. Conclusion
Remember that picking your loot system is only one of the challenges in forming a successful raiding guild in MMOs. For any loot system to work for your guild, you have to make sure that you communicate your guild’s philosophy to your members and/or applicants. Do not try to hide the reason behind choosing a particular system, doing so will only lead to problems down the road, often even to guilds disbanding over loot discussions.

9. Useful links

eqdkp.com/ Open source DKP system based on PHP/MySQL.
eqdkp-plus.com/ Custom version of EQDKP. Includes guild CMS system.
lokorin.com/dkplp/ DKP log parser. Very useful for time-based DKP systems.