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Officers' Quarters: The ethics of loot selling

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

A few weeks ago I wrote a column about husband/wife guild leaders who were using the old double-roll scam in a new way now that loot doesn't bind to a character for two hours. I also mentioned in that column the new trend in raids, particularly PUG raids, of offering gold for an item that someone else has fairly won.

This week I received an e-mail from a player feeling guilt for selling an item. I'd like to address his situation first. Then I'll talk about what you as an officer should consider when this situation arises in your guild.

Dear Scott,

I wasn't entirely sure who to ask for this, and seeing as how the Officer's Quarters column you write seems to be the most "Dear Abby" esque that I can find, well, I figured you might be able to help me out.

With the recent implementation of being able to give "mislooted" items to other qualified members of a raid upon a bosses completion, there has obviously been a lot of abuse to this new change. Abuse which, until very recently, I had been abhorrently against. However, I was put into such a situation recently, and well, suffice it to say, I am a bumbling hypocrite.

The story: After one shotting 25 man Onyxia, the Sharpened Obsidian Edged Blade dropped. I currently have Reckoning, so the sword was definitely an upgrade, but nothing major. To my amazement, I actually won the roll (something which, in a PUG 25 man, against half a dozen other rollers, well, was surprising to say the least). I got the normal "dude, I'll buy that from you", all that jazz, which I casually laughed off as I usually do.

After the raid, I was approached very humbly by the raid leader, asking if I was interested in selling. I said no, as usual. However, he went on to explain to me how it was the last thing he needed before Icecrown, and after inspecting his gear, I saw that he was telling the truth. He offered me a handsome amount of gold in exchange for the item. After much deliberation, and some influences from the Utilitarian method of thinking, I amply traded the sword for the jackpot of gold. How much I won't say, but enough to humble any 80, let's put it at that.

For some reason however, I still feel a little dirty about this transaction; like I had not only gone against my own values and principles, but that I had taken advantage of a system which was implemented in the first place to help correct looting errors, not allow the richest people to merely buy off the loot from whomever wins it.

Also, how does Blizzard feel toward players selling in game loot for in game gold to one another, despite the fact that I legitimately won the item, and for all intensive purposes, should have kept it for myself? Did I screw over the other rollers in the raid, or once the item was mine, was it ok for me to then do as I please with it? In the long haul, especially with Icecrown right around the corner, and my lack of raiding time, I feel like I got the better end of the deal. All the same, something still feels a bit off. Any help/advice you could give would be appreciated.


Hi, Clansey. It's amazing what a whopping pile of gold can do, isn't it? When you're face to face with a trading window and a whole lot of zeros, perspective can shift. I don't blame you for taking him up on the offer, and I wouldn't say you necessarily did anything wrong.

It doesn't sound to me like you're in a raiding guild. If you were, and you passed up on a major upgrade for money, then a case could be made that you weren't doing all you could to help your guild succeed.

But if you're just an average player going about his own business, it's completely up to you whether the weapon or the cash is worth more. You happened to choose the cash. Considering that better weapons will soon be available, I'd say it's a sensible decision.

Not only that, but you also helped out someone who is in a raiding guild and who wants to be as prepared as possible going into the next tier. So, far from beating yourself up over it, you should see it as a good thing -- a deal that helped out both of you and harmed no one.

(A quick aside: I feel obligated to point out, as a fellow paladin, that Reckoning isn't doing you any favors. Unless you're playing a "protribution" PvP build, you aren't going to get hit enough to get any use of this talent as a DPS'er.)

Blizzard to my knowledge has never commented on this behavior or on any method of distributing loot. If they did, I imagine that they wouldn't necessarily care one way or the other. They've been tweaking the loot windows recently, but they've never flat out stated that any way of handling loot is right or wrong, nor should they. It's up to the player community to determine what we consider ethical and unethical when it comes to loot situations.

So let's talk about that. When should we as officers put our foot down against this behavior? Should we, under any circumstances, actually encourage it?

Mike Schramm posted about the relatively new phenomenon of GDKP runs. He linked to one of my columns and implied that I wasn't a fan of GDKP. That's not actually how I feel. I'm fine with GDKP as long as that is the intention of the run and everyone is on board with that system. If your guild needs nothing from an instance, a GDKP run is a great way to increase your group's cash flow.

In a nutshell, the way it works is this: You invite some wealthy, undergeared outsiders to the run along with some players you know can make sure you clear the zone. When loot drops, players outbid each other for the items they want. Everyone splits the proceeds at the end of the night.

A GDKP run can be a great cushion against future raiding expenses such as repair bills, gems and enchants, flasks and potions, etc. Depending on how it goes, one run can cover weeks and even months of costs for your raiders. It harms no one and it helps your raids, so I have no problem with it.

What I'm against is when a PUG raid that I'm leading suddenly turns into a GDKP run. It should never be expected that a player will sell a fairly obtained item, and no one should ever be pressured into selling. That is when it crosses the line, in my opinion.

Many players, like Clansey at one time, aren't comfortable with selling loot. They don't want offers. They just want their item. By tempting them with large amounts of gold, you can put them in an awkward situation.

If one of my raiders is going to offer a PUG player gold for an item, I'd prefer that they do it in private. And before making an offer, they should ask if the person is interested in selling at all. If they say no, that should be the end of it -- not offering more and more gold to change their mind. If the player says yes, and my raider is able to purchase an upgrade, I have no problem with this transaction. Certainly I don't want anyone in my guild to feel like buying loot is the only way to gear up. But if they're willing to supplement themselves in this way, and they can afford it, that's their business.

However, I don't want my raiders selling items that are upgrades under any circumstances. I want them to have the best possible gear. Fun and successful raiding is what allows my guild to function. It is what defines us. When people pass on upgrades for cash, it undermines our ability to succeed.

Beyond that, I don't want them to roll on items they don't need just for the sake of a quick buck. It's dishonest and it promotes dishonesty.

It's possible that my raiders cut such deals with each other, but I've told them that I don't like it. We don't use any sort of DKP system. I would prefer that the player who won an item kept it, but my officers and I don't check whether every single piece of loot winds up with the player who won it. Most of our players are pretty generous with loot and would rather pass an item to someone than sell it to them. So far I haven't heard of any intraguild loot sales going on, and I hope it doesn't happen.

So, to sum up:

  • Planned GDKP run: OK
  • Spontaneous GDKP run: Not OK
  • PUG player voluntarily selling loot to my raider: OK
  • My raider selling loot to a PUG player: Not OK
  • My raider selling loot to another of my raiders: Not OK
I'm sure other officers and players have differing opinions from mine, but it's important to talk about it. At some point, we need to rein this behavior in and set some boundaries. Why? Think about the long-term evolution of this phenomenon.

What if it reaches a point where every player rolls on every item their class could theoretically use, whether it's an upgrade or not, in the hopes that someone will buy it from them? In essence, that turns every run into a GDKP run. Instead of splitting the profits, however, all the money goes to the player who was lucky enough to win the roll. Any way you slice it, it's not fair to other players.

We as officers have the duty not to let loot selling spiral out of control. We can't control what PUG players do, but we can encourage our guildmates to roll on loot in an honest way, to buy loot only when the seller is comfortable with it, and to treat each other with courtesy when it comes to loot within the guild.


Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas, and suggestions at You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!

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