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The Azeroth Ethicist: Cheating (or not cheating) the roll system

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I was healing a Well of Eternity PUG a few days ago when I got a whisper from the group's warrior tank.

Warrior: Could you help me out with something?

Me: Sure, what do you need?

Warrior: If Varo'then's Brooch drops at the end, would you roll on it for me?

Me: Um ...

I'd been off in my own little world watching health bars and thinking about next week's Shifting Perspectives column and hadn't paid any attention to the group's composition. It turns out the DPSers were a mage, a hunter, and -- oh, there we go -- a frost death knight. So in the event that the strength trinket dropped, the warrior tank wanted me to roll on it and, if I won, give it to him over the DK. He probably asked the mage and the priest to do the same thing, but the group was quiet in party chat, so I have no way of knowing.

We had a small and, to his credit, civil conversation over it, and there are a few issues here on which I'd like to get readers' opinions.

The warrior's argument

The warrior's rationale for wanting extra votes for the trinket were as follows:
  • "I've been running this place for months and I've never won the roll." As someone who also plays a restoration shaman and has never seen the Pauldrons of Midnight Whispers drop off Asira in Hour of Twilight, I can sympathize. Sometimes the loot gods don't smile on you.
  • "It's the last thing I need for my DPS set." I can understand that too.
  • "The death knight cheated by using PvP gear to pass the ilevel requirement." I looked. The DK did have the season 11 neck and shoulders but was otherwise outfitted in PvE gear that would have been more than enough to meet the required 353 ilevel, so this was a bogus argument.
  • "He's got a tank trinket. I'm not stealing 'his' trinket; I'm just paying him back for stealing somebody else's." It was true that one of the DK's trinkets was the Veil of Lies. The other was the heroic Heart of Solace. I asked the warrior if he knew the DK, and he said no, and I said it wasn't fair to assume that the DK had "stolen" the drop. I assume the warrior's attitude comes from the common (and to be frank, not entirely unjustified) tank's anger at players who queue as DPS and roll on every tanking drop in sight. Granted, the Veil isn't a DPS trinket, but maybe the DK was an alt that had just hadn't gotten anything better. And wouldn't it make more sense for the DK to get an actual DPS trinket to use?
I'm trying to give the warrior the benefit of the doubt because he otherwise seemed like a nice person. However, I had to tell him that I didn't agree with him and that, although I wished him luck over the drop, I didn't think it was fair to give him an extra roll.

Gaming loot distribution for good and bad reasons

Something about this situation made me really uncomfortable. It's completely legal in the sense that nothing about the game's loot mechanics prevents a group from doing this, but it's abusing what's otherwise intended to be a fair system. Any group that does this can reduce a player's chance of winning a drop from 50% (assuming you were only rolling against one other player, as the warrior and the DK were) to as little as 20%. And may the loot gods (or the law of averages) help you if you're a solo player in the Raid Finder rolling against a guild group.

This is actually the third time in recent memory that someone in a PUG has privately messaged me with a request to give him or her an additional roll, and I'm starting to wonder how common this is. Guilds who abuse the Raid Finder by rolling on everything and then distribute drops among their own members have also been the subject of a lot of anger on the forums. It's a vivid reminder that every solution -- in this case, Blizzard's effort to make it easier for players to fix loot mistakes without waiting for a GM -- creates its own set of problems. Here, it's making it possible for players to effectively vote on what your chances should be of winning a drop.

Having said that, I've seen otherwise uninvolved players roll on/win drops that they then give to someone else for the following reasons:
  • "The other guy's been winning too much, and this player deserves it."
  • "F*** that guild group. They'll take everything unless the rest of us roll as a group too."
  • "Insignia of the Corrupted Mind should not go to someone who keep dying to stupid mistakes."
  • "The priest's been doing most of the healing, and the shaman is a jerk."
  • "The paladin has his four-piece tier bonus already. He doesn't need off-spec when the warlock doesn't have any."
I can't really fault the Robin Hood-esque impulse, but man, I can see why Blizzard changed the loot system again for Mists of Pandaria.

So I ask you, readers, is it ever OK to give someone an extra roll, or should it always be considered cheating?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

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