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Officers' Quarters: Dual spec, double loot?


Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes
Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.

Ever since Ghostcrawler's Q&A session last week, it seems like everyone wants to talk about dual specs, so I might as well give in. A few readers have written me to ask how I will handle loot distribution in this crazy double-speccing future. Does having two easily switchable specs entitle a player to double the loot? One reader details his struggle to formulate a fair and effective system:

Dear Scott,

As I'm sure you're aware by now, Blizzard recently stated that dual specs are definitely in the foreseeable future. This brings a huge dilemma on raid loot distribution. How do I distribute loot when everyone can use it now?

The issue was brought up on our guild's forum recently, and I had not even thought about the possible ramifications til now. Is there any good solution? Let me give a little run down of my thoughts so far.

[. . .]One officer suggested that we up the amount of DKP people can earn on a boss and let everyone bid on the item if they could use it in their dual specs. My thoughts were that this would highly inflate the DKP of the "pure" classes seeing as they only need one set of gear so would be bidding on only half as many times as "hybrid" classes. And that would not be fair to those who play hybrid classes but for the sole purpose of DPS. Also, it would open up the floodgates on tier tokens. If everyone had the right to roll on whatever they could use, they'd be bidding on more than one tier token, possibly alienating the newcomers who could afford said token but just didn't have enough DKP to outroll the weekly raider who already has that tier item for another spec essentially making loot distribution less even across the board.
I also feel that this would encourage too much role switching. [. . .] I feel like people are going to take this as basically a flavor-of-the-week situation. Mr. Druid thinks, "Hey, I want to tank today!", then next raid he thinks "Let's try Moonkin form!", and then the next "I'm a kitty cat! RAWR!" This would be an extreme hassle to schedule against, and the druid would be splitting his gear to the point that he'd have a few good items here and there but no solid raid spec.

A second officer suggested that we stay the same on our loot distribution, making everyone declare a Main and an Alt spec. Initially, I thought this was the best route to go. But the longer I sit on it, the more I have doubts about this too.

Say we have a raid group made out and need one melee dps. We have a spare tank floating around that day and tell him he can come as DPS. During the raid, it makes the fights easier if said warrior switches to his tank spec for fights like Gluth but switches back to DPS for others like Thaddius. We down the boss and a tank item and a DPS item drops. Since he declared Tank as his main, does he have to forgo the DPS item even though it could be a huge upgrade to him?

I may be overthinking this problem, but it's been chewing at me since I've read the news. How do you think your guild will handle it?

Thanks,

Perplexed Paladin

I've been overthinking it myself lately. My officers and I have been grappling with this issue for a few days now, bouncing posts back and forth in our private forum. I'm not going to claim to have definitive answers in this column, so look elsewhere if you want to read an authoritative solution. I'm just going to bounce ideas around, and I invite all of our readers out there to post their ideas below. With a little bit of community thought-sharing, and some experience under our belts once these situations start cropping up, we'll get it all sorted out eventually.

Perplexed, I almost wish my guild were using DKP like you are. We dropped it for this expansion and it's going to make life more difficult for us when this dual spec feature becomes a reality. I'll get into that conundrum later. For now, let's look at how DKP will be affected.

The beauty of DKP is that you have to make sure you really want an item before you bid on it. You have a finite resource that must be spent wisely. Players will be reluctant to bid recklessly for offspec drops. This facet of the system, in and of itself, will police most of your worries, Perplexed.

Assuming you're using a zero-sum system, newer players with fewer points will eventually get their chances, even if some old-timers get an offspec drop or two first. It's just the nature of the beast.

The raiders who jump from spec to spec are going find that they are far less effective than raiders who have stuck with one spec. If they want to spend their points on three or four different specs, that's their prerogative. You can't tell someone how to spend their points. But they shouldn't be surprised when they are asked to sit out for someone who's better geared at their role. Also, most players do eventually find a spec that they want to play most of the time, even if it takes a couple of weeks of experimentation to figure it out. So I wouldn't consider this a major concern.

As far as your tank/DPS example goes, the easy answer is to let the player bid on the items she wants. She'll be spreading herself thin if she goes for two specs at once. The smart bet for hybrids will be to gear up one spec and then a second spec once the first spec is complete. But again, it's going to be up to her. They're her points.

If you start telling people what they can and can't bid on, you're making extra work for yourself and opening yourself up for drama. So one school of thought is to let the DKP do its work and let the chips fall where they may. In essence, you'd be ignoring the dual spec option and just allowing people to gear up as they've always done. If you want to discount offspec items, as many guilds do, that can only help the inflation problem.

Your point about inflation for pure DPS classes is a good one. It's true that, if all drops cost roughly the same, a high-attendance mage or hunter is going to have an excess of points compared to a hybrid who's putting together two, three, or even four sets.

You could do what Blizzard is doing with badges: use different points for different tiers of content. Naxx/OS/Malygos -- your Tier 7 raids -- would use one set of points, while Ulduar and any other Tier 8 raids would use another. That way, everyone sets foot into Tier 8 on an even playing field.

The downside to this is that it will require more effort from the officers to track multiple point sets. Not to mention that it would discourage people from attending the Tier 7 farming runs if they know they'll never be able to spend the points. You may lose some of your pure classes on those nights, but if you have enough hybrids and newer players to keep farming the old zones, separate point systems could be one solution for you.

Another option would be to make drops that are purely for tanking and healing (such as they are these days) cost a certain fraction of the points of a DPS item. That would encourage players to build up their tanking and healing sets first, which is desirable for making sure you have enough of each to keep raiding. It would also mean less inflation with regards to your DPS. Hybrids with multiple sets would still find themselves behind the pure DPS classes, particularly if your hybrids are gearing up DPS sets, too. But the effect in general would be less drastic.

My guild has a very different problem, since we've abandoned our DKP system in favor of rolling on everything. When you've got two specs, you've got a legitimate reason to roll on two sets of gear, whereas the pure classes will only ever roll on one. That wouldn't be a problem if hybrids weren't rolling on DPS gear, but they do and they will.

You're going to have people with a primary spec, a secondary spec, and one or two offspecs. Does that mean you have three different levels of priority, or should dual specs have equal priority for rolls? How do you track each person's spec priorities?

Once you bring alts into the equation, it makes things even more messy. For example, does a main's second spec get priority over an alt's main spec? Does a main's offspec get priority over an alt's second spec?

One way to look at it is that secondary specs, offspecs, and alts all serve the same purpose: they give your raid flexibility for many different situations. So you could enforce a priority system whereby main specs of main characters trump all other considerations, and let every other spec or alt duke it out for what's left.

As a raid leader, however, you may want to encourage people to bring their mains -- and to have flexible mains -- so that (a) you minimize downtime for swapping roles and (b) you have the most effective characters in the raid as much as possible for faster, more efficient clears. In this system, you'd let mains roll on whatever they wanted and only give loot to alts when all the mains were passing. That would greatly discourage alting on all but the most farmed-out content.

However, that means you may be sharding a lot of items that alts would have gotten if people weren't so reluctant to bring them. Someday you may need one of those alts to tank or heal or DPS, and they won't be anywhere near the gear level of your guild's mains.

You could also get into loot drama when hybrids just roll away on every drop they could ever equip, regardless of who would actually use the drops. For this system, you'd need mature, generous players who know each other's main specs. That way, intelligent decisions could be made about who's going to roll and who's going to pass. Given that my guild has such players, we're leaning toward this system right now.

A third option is far more complex but also probably the most fair. You would allow people to roll based on some combination of the following priorities: main character, primary spec; main character, secondary spec; alt character, primary spec; alt character, secondary spec; main character, offspec; alt character, offspec. Yes, that's six different priority levels. You can order them as you see fit, and you can combine them into equivalent categories. However, you still need to keep track of every player's spec priorities. And when loot drops, you'll have to establish who wants to roll on it and for which priority level.

Here's one way it could work. Suppose you combine priorities and assign each level a letter for easy reference, like so:

A-level priority: main character, primary specs
B-level priority: main character, secondary specs and alt character, primary specs
C-level priority: alt character, secondary specs, and offspecs for any character

Then you could ask everyone on our raiding roster who played any kind of hybrid class, main or alt, to post their priority level for each spec. That way you'd have it all in writing should any controversies arise. And you can also make sure that people understand what the priority levels mean before everyone finds themselves in a loot-assignment situation.

When loot does drop, whoever wants to roll should roll, but they should also identify the priority level of their roll at the same time. For example, a player would have to type B before she types /random. That way, the raid leader can quickly scan down the chat log, picking out the highest roll of the highest priority level. If there's only one A roll, then the decision is already made.

In a DKP system, pure classes come out ahead. When you're rolling for loot, pure classes are at a disadvantage. By making your A-level priority a single spec in a rolling system, you're making sure everyone is on equal footing for the gear they really need.

Ultimately it comes down to what type of guild you lead. A smaller, friendlier guild can probably get by with an informal system. A larger guild may want to stratify its players' specs into firmly defined, descending levels of priority.

I'm curious to hear what other officers plan to do once the dual spec feature goes live. Share your ideas below!

/salute

Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas, and suggestions at scott.andrews@weblogsinc.com. You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters! For more WoW Insider gameplay columns, click here.

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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