A while back Allison Robert posted an article on rolling ethics on WoW Insider. This got me to thinking about my views on ethics in deciding whether to hit need or not in given situations. I know this is kind of a late response, but here goes.
First, I want to talk a little bit about an ideal loot distribution system, or at least what I would consider an ideal loot distribution system. An ideal loot distribution system would give loot to whoever could put it to best use. This, of course, punts the problem down a bit: how do we decide who can best use loot? Let’s walk through some examples, all of which assume that all other things not specified are equal:
- In a heroic instance, cloth gear with +spirit on it drops. In the party are a holy priest and a fire mage. The loot should go to the holy priest because spirit is practically useless for fire mages.
- In a heroic instance, plate gear with tanking stats drops. In the party are a paladin tank and a frost death knight with a tanking off spec. The loot should go to the paladin tank because she will use it more often.
- In a heroic instance, leather agility gear drops. In the party are a rogue, for whom the gear is a significant stat upgrade, and a feral druid, for whom the gear is not an upgrade but who likes the look of the gear and wants it for transmogrification. The loot should go to the rogue because gameplay trumps aesthetics.
- In a raid with a static 10-man group, a tier token drops. Two people can use it; for one, it would complete a 4 set bonus, but for the other it would be the third (or fifth) piece of the set. The first person should get it because the additional bonus will best help the raid.
- In a raid with a static 10-man group, an ilvl 397 gear drops. One person has an ilvl 397 item in that slot, but the gear that dropped is better itemized. Another person has an ilvl 378 item in that slot. It should go to the second person because it is a bigger upgrade.
- In a raid with a mostly static 10-man group, an item drops. Two people can use it: one is a raid “regular” who has attended most if not all of the group’s raids, while the other is a “stand-in” who, by choice, raids infrequently. The item should go to the first person because it will be better used in future raids.
- In a raid with a static 10-man group, an cloth item with crit and hit drops. There exists an item in the same slot that has mastery and hit, and is otherwise identical. Two people can use it: a fire mage, and an arcane mage. Assume that is absolutely established that, at current gear levels, crit is the best secondary stat for fire mages, while mastery is the best secondary stat for arcane mages. The item should go to the fire mage, because the arcane mage would likely want to replace it with the mastery item anyway.
- In a heroic group, a plate tanking item drops. Tanking for the group is a protection paladin, who has no present plans to tank in raids, whose present gear is more than sufficient to tank heroics, and for whom the item would be an upgrade. Present in the group is a death knight, currently frost specced, but who has a tank off-spec for which the item is an upgrade, and who plans to raid tank when suitably geared. The item should go to the death knight, because she has a greater need for it.
Most of the time, the ideal result is not difficult to determine. There are certainly edge cases (e.g., case 7 above as a practical matter because most people aren’t certain of the stat priorities for classes other than their own), but most of the time you can figure out for yourself who can best use loot.
How does this fit in with ethics? Lets start with a basic idea:
You should roll need on an item if you believe it is possible that, among the members of the party, you will put the item to best use.
This is not an absolute principle in the world of LFR and Dungeon Finder, but it’s a good place to start. In a group with people you know, you can talk about it to determine that answer. Does the tank need an item? Is a person trying to build an offset to raid? Does a person desperately need a tier to get the tier bonus? And so on. You should not cover your ears and ignore possible avenues for determining whether this is the case.
In LFR and Dungeon Finder, however, this changes. Other people will roll need and you can’t be certain as to what basis they use to determine whether to roll need. Some people roll need on whatever they can simply because they want the vendor value of the item (which is assumed to be negligible). A further example are LFR trolls, the people in LFR who do so little dps that it’s obvious they’re not trying, or very possibly actively trying to hinder the progress of the group (by attacking corruptions on Spine, for instance). These people will roll need on items and, in my experience, win them all the time.
Which leads to a more realistic principle:
You should roll need on an item if you believe it is possible that you will put the item to better use than someone who will roll need on the item.
This broadens things considerably. If, for instance, you are running with a friend who is on your same tier token, it’s perfectly reasonable under this rule to roll for them, because giving them the tier token puts it to better use than someone who is rolling for the vendor value of the token (and you know that such people exist). It’s fine to roll on a tier token to build a rarely used offset. And so on. In fact, the limit to this is rolling need on items for their vendor value; this is the same use as the others, not better, and is the purpose of the greed roll.
"But wait!" you might say. What of the poor person, running LFR desperately to help her raid team progress, who really needs a tier token and is cheated by you rolling on it for a friend? Well, that’s too bad for them. As far as expectations, however, if you go into a LFR with 11 other people rolling on that token, your reasonable expectation to winning that token is 1 in 12. Everyone has a right to roll on tokens, even if it’s not ethical for them to do so. And if I roll on a token to give it to a friend, perhaps that’s not as good a use as someone who is rolling for themselves. But it is certainly a better use than for someone who has no specific use for the item and is rolling for vendor value (or perhaps for use as a bargaining chip). And — most importantly — I can’t be expected to tell one from the other.
That last point is critical. By rolling on something for a friend, you’re ensuring a productive use for the item. Is that necessarily nice to the people running solo? No. But I believe it is ethical. When Dungeon Finder first came out, my friend Leafie summed up this approach succinctly: “If you have any use for it, roll need. It will drop again.”
I believe that to be an ethical approach. In certain situations, you may want to give up your right to roll in order to be nice, but in LFR the chances are the person to whom you are being nice is an LFR troll.