Why I think that main specs should still go before off specs

Spinks made a post the other day in which she mentioned winning the Black Heart in Trial of the Champion on her druid. She was healing at the time and outrolled a dps death knight for the trinket, who then proceeded to call her a ninja. A commenter asked if she would have rolled need against the tank as well, and she said yes, spawning a lot of confused or even somewhat annoyed responses from other commenters.

Today she posted a sort of follow-up in which she talks about loot lust in general and how the random number generator is fair, but she doesn't actually address the main question that was on my mind after reading her earlier post: Who should get to roll in the first place and why?

Basically, I found myself agreeing with the commenters from her previous blog entry who mostly expressed the opinion that rolling need on something for your off spec against someone else's main spec is wrong. I was even thinking about adding a comment of my own, but then I hesitated. Why do I think it's wrong? Why do I think the tank would be more deserving of a tanking trinket than her (at the time) resto druid? She's going to use it too, after all, and she made just as much of a contribution to the run.

After thinking about it some more, I came up with two reasons why we generally expect main specs to have priority: practical group benefit and fair distribution.

Practical group benefit is easy to explain. Back in Ye Days Of OldeTM, when instances were hard and wiping repeatedly was an accepted part of the experience, making sure that the loot was given to someone who was going to use it right then and there made sense. If the first boss dropped a blue shield that was an upgrade for your tank, it was a no-brainer that it should be given to your tank - to make him that little bit stronger and the run a little bit easier. Who cared if the dps warrior also wanted it for his tanking set to off-tank trash in raids? The here and now was what counted.

It's not hard to see why this way of thinking has lost significance, considering that most people who run heroics these days overgear them by a huge margin, so everyone's a bit blasé about a lot of the loot there. Ok, so that shield is an upgrade for the tank, but we're killing all the mobs so quickly that they barely have time to touch the tank anyway, so what does it matter who gets it?

That still leaves us with the question of fair distribution, however. Spinks notes correctly that handing out loot "fairly" is very difficult... however, in pugs people are generally happy to settle for "evenly". Even Spinks mentions that her raids had a "one item per person" rule, which strikes me as a bit inconsistent with her claim that the RNG is fair, but anyway... the idea is that since it's hard to figure out who's the most "deserving" of loot, it's alright to not get into that, but at the very least you should make sure that as many people as possible get something. I once ran a raid without any rules to ensure even distribution of loot, one paladin rolled on everything he could use and won three items or so while many others got nothing. Hey, the RNG is fair, right? You better believe that the other raiders didn't think so.

Now, in a five-man pug you'll pretty much never get even distribution of loot. Most modern instances don't even have five bosses, but even in the ones that do it's highly unlikely that the loot gods will smile upon you in such a way that you get a useful drop for every party member in the group. If every boss drops spell power leather and you only have one druid, there simply isn't anything anyone can do, and you can only congratulate the guy on being a lucky sod.

However, we can influence loot distribution by limiting who gets to roll on which items, and "everyone rolls on items for his current spec only" has served people reasonably well in the past, as it will limit competition for each drop considerably. Yes, the dps death knight and the fury warrior will still both want the two-handed weapon, but the warlock doesn't have to worry about the tanking druid nabbing his caster dagger, and the druid doesn't have to fear that the holy pally will roll for the tanking ring.

The problem with chucking this old rule of thumb and just letting everyone roll on everything they can use is that it gives a massive advantage to those who have a dual spec, and an even bigger advantage to hybrids in general. Suddenly the druid gets to roll on tanking loot, melee dps loot, and all caster loot, simply because he's a druid and he could theoretically use all of it for one of his alternate specs, while rogues, mages and other single-purpose classes are still bound by the same limitations as before because they only have one role. I can accept that loot distribution isn't always going to be even and fair, but I definitely don't want to encourage people to intentionally make it even more unfair by giving some individuals three times as many rolls just because they play a certain class. It's not so much about main spec vs. off spec as about one spec vs. multi-spec.

With that said, I don't think it's wrong if say, a druid goes to heal an instance and then rolls on tanking loot, as long as that's the only type of loot he needs. However, in all honesty I don't like it either, because it makes things unnecessarily complicated. He'd have to state beforehand that he's only there for the tanking loot since it's not obvious, and to avoid looking like a greedy bugger who just rolls on everything he can use for one of his quadruple-specs. Then the tank might decide that he doesn't want to take his chances with a group where he unexpectedly has competition for tanking loot and leaves the group (I've seen it happen), making everything grind to a halt. So I still think that it's preferable to just queue up as the role you want loot for if you're just going for a specific piece of gear.

Finally I just have to say that I hate the argument that people shouldn't get upset about losing loot rolls because "it'll drop again". That's like telling someone that they will win the lottery one day - it's only true if you assume that the person has an infinite amount of time and patience to keep trying, which most people won't have. I mean, I've raided the same content every week for months and still some much-coveted drops completely failed to appear in the boss's loot tables, ever. I'm not saying that people should always throw a fit when they don't get the item they wanted, but telling them that it might drop again if only they run the same instance another thirty times is hardly comforting or reassuring.


  1. "Finally I just have to say that I hate the argument that people shouldn't get upset about losing loot rolls because "it'll drop again"."

    But it's true. And honestly, in a MMO (if it's decently designed), there is always a backup option. And if you get really unlucky and spend long enough without getting the item, eventually a new patch will bring new options also.

    People really should not get upset about losing loot rolls.

    And I think that with the one item per person restriction, I was still feeling my way. But even so, a raid that requires 100 people and a lot of organisation is so different from a random 5 man PUG which requires you to wait 10 mins in a queue and can be repeated daily.

    I just think you need to let go of the idea that it really matters whether you control loot distribution in a 5 man. Who cares? Let the loot go to someone who will use it and then move on. I also think that forcing people to pick a main spec before they run an instance is unnecessarily complicated -- if people need lots of items (like new 80s) then do they really look like greedy buggers when they roll for them?

    If you want to argue that you're so scared of upsetting the tank or healer that you won't roll against them, then you don't have to. Everyone gets to choose what role they queue as. But I do think everyone also needs to get used to the idea that people will gear up their dual specs in random instances.

  2. When I tank in randoms I am helping everybody get into instances quicker as there is a shortage of tanks. Any DPS or healer that wishes to roll on tanking gear for an OS can queue as tank and get an instant queue for the instance.

    If they choose not to, I can choose to leave normal HoR if I see any other shield-using class that also has the capability to tank.

    I can't be bothered having the gear I specifically queue the instance for as the spec I need the gear for taken by another player who couldn't be arsed to take advantage of the instant queue.

  3. The days of main spec are as dead as the day of the 'Main Tank'.

    We have tanking teams now and thanks to Raid Bosses needing different numbers of DamageSoakingManasponges (can ya tell my 'main' is a healer?) those tanks are going to be in a different spec in some fights. Might as well have them in decent gear!

    Likewise who's more utility to the 'PuGing Comunity'? The grumpy 'Main Spec' class or the Multi-role maestro who signs for whats needed 20 times a day? I know plenty of folk who game a lot who can out perform the average PuGer in either of their specs. Tank, Healer, DPS...whatever. Heck my healy shammy is normally top of the DPS charts in PuGs unless I happen to get a main spec raider along and then I'll give 'em a run.

    I can see why raids use systems to maximise the raid's effectiveness and prioritise distribution. But in PuGS?

    Main Spec is Dead. Long live Duel Spec.


  4. @Spinks: Well, you're right that there'll always be another patch, another expansion and so on, but with that reasoning you might as well stop working on your character altogether because none of it matters in the long run. I do think people are allowed to care about what happens in the short term too.

    And a big raid might feel different, but at the end of the day a random guy who joins a big raid didn't spend any more time and effort on it than someone who ran heroic FoS fifteen times for a drop - why should the latter's investment not matter then?

    The point is, I agree that it's no use to get upset about loot not dropping, or losing a fair roll - but multi-spec rolls are unfair, and when people don't care about playing fairly with others it takes a lot of fun out of the game.

    @Uzi: You say that dual specs matter in raids, not in pugs, but then say that it makes sense for raids to have main spec rules but not for pugs?

    And when you talk about a "grumpy" main spec guy vs. a "multi-role maestro", all you're saying is that you think the latter is a better player and thus deserves more loot anyway, which just raises the question of how to distribute loot based on skill, which is a whole other can of worms.

  5. At least on sane person left. :-)

    There are a lot of problems with needing loot for the spec your not playing.

    The major problem is that it forces everybody to be an ass. Because if you respect the rule and the others don't, it's just your disadvantage.

    Which means, to make things equal, you have to roll on off-spec loot. Which is bad as it makes me feel bad. I don't want to take something from the tank. But if I don't do it I risk that the tank takes dps loot while I passed on tank loot.

    This is very bad for the game as you start to care less and less about others. Blizzard should immediately change the loot rules to only allow you to roll on the role you fulfill. That would be more useful than the armor type restriction.

    If it evolves in this way, being nice means you loose. Being greedy means you will have loot but you might not feel good about it.

    The second is that you don't need loot for a spec you don't play. If you don't tank, you don't need tank loot. If you always queue as tank because the queue is shorter, you don't need dps gear. A lot of people collect tank gear but never tank. That gear is lost. The tank would get much more use and enjoyment out of it. The same is true the other way around. You don't need a special gear to farm.

    And the argument that you help the group when you heal because without you the run wouldn't even happen is bullshit. Because the other 4 were on the front of the queue and would have gotten the next healer if you didn't sign up. Therefore, all you did is shortened their wait time by about 10 seconds. That hardly justifies for taking loot because you are selfless healing/tanking the instance.

  6. I'm kind of not getting into this one as its the way to start blog wars (as I learned to my cost the last time I posted about loot distribution).

    I think part of the difficulties is that we do tend to conflate fairness and justice... Spinks is right, RNG is completely *fair*; what it isn't is *just*.

  7. If I can't be arsed to heal and queue as DPS, then I will not roll need on that awesome healing trinket that drops. I would love to have it, but will only take it if the healer in the group doesn't want it.

    It is really unfortunate that there isn't an off-spec need option. At the moment I can either roll need against the healer, which to me is completely wrong. Or I roll greed/de against the prot warrior, rogue and mage who can't use the thing at all.

    The solution in my mind is simple communication, which seems easy but in today's speed runs you can rarely get "Hello" typed before the tank is pulling, much less a statement about loot.

    If I wanted to roll on off-spec gear, I would try to state upfront that I have an off-spec and that I would very much like to get gear for it. Saying that I will need on such items, but if there is anyone in the group that needs them for current spec I will trade the item if I win it. So kind of in lieu of having a "Need for Offspec"-button.

  8. I would loves ta see a new option added in between "need" and "greed/DE". I often pugs as dps, 'cause I likes fer ta relax fer 15 minutes in-between runs. Now, if tank gear I don't want ta roll against the bugger what girded his loins and tanked the glunkerduppers, but I should definitely gets it rather than some bugger what's gonna sell / shard it. So I waits and scrolls the chat window and tries ta find what the tank did. Is a hassle, and bein' the good guy shouldn't be. Ah well.

    Course, full disclosure says I should mention I got the Black heart in me first ToC run. Which do make it easier fer ta play the good guy.

  9. Imho the problem is education. Most of my chars are dual-spec and usually I sign up with their 2 specs and let the Finder give me a role. If something I can use for my secondary spec drops I first check if anyone is clicking Need on it. If no one does, I then ask if it's ok if I take it for offspec. So far I've never had any problem with that and people agreed. If I'd go and click Need without checking before if some main spec also needs it I'd be very rude and either a) I'd get voteckiked or at least b) people wouldn't feel comfortably playing with me (and if I wasn't in a power position like tank or heal any mistake I'd made would mean nobody would feel inclined to save my pixelized ass).
    Same happens when someone ask to click N for offspec. If no mainspek needs the item it's the more fair (or more just in this case) thing you (and the rest) can do.
    So what I'd do if after asking somebody says "no! only roll for current spec"? Well, it depends on the situation. If the item is claimed by somebody and that one is not main spec, I'd roll Need too. Someone else is breaking a non-written rule and I was polite enough to ask first, so why should somebody else get it by breaking a rule? let Lady RNG decide (and the bitch usually hates me, believe me!). If all roll G/D then I'd roll G too. At least I'd have a chance to get the item, even I'd be cursing who said no for being such morons.
    I'm not sure restricting the rolls to available specs or current specs being played would be a good solution. May seem better (more fair and just) for everybody, but some items are too "vague" to be classified as good for certain spec, like caster weapons who lack both hit and mp5/spi so they can be used by mages, affliction warlocks, holy paladins, balance druids, destruction warlocks, restorarion druids, etc Of course you could tag that weapon as ok for all these classes but then again dual-specced and hybrids chars would have more roll chances than pure classes and monospecs. That wouldn't be that fair. Ok, they invested 1000 gold and some more into training another skill tree, but they're not using it right now.
    So again I think the current system is quite good as long as you state before the roll if you can roll for offspec and everybody agrees on the loot sharing. Blizzard already states this in the loading screen tips: a little kindness goes a long way.