The Tattered Notebook: Auctioning raid loot, place bids now!

If you've spent any time in EverQuest II, you've probably seen auctions in public channels for fabled group and raid loot. And if you've walked past entrances to raid zones, you've probably seen the herd of semi-afk toons waiting outside, watching chat, and ready to zone in and loot at a moment's notice.

Those who object to this practice have a few strong arguments. But the main one is that they believe in the philosophy of "earn it to wear it" -- that you should put in the effort and the time it takes to defeat a raid encounter in order to reap the benefits. They also argue that it cheapens the overall sense of value that raid gear has if "everyone else is wearing it."

While I find that argument a bit dubious (and I have a little story to explain why), there are several strong arguments, both for and against the selling of loot rights. Read on for a closer look.

I'd like to start off with a little story. Ten years ago, on the Prexus server forums in EverQuest, a player by the name of Entheniel Woundhealer was out hunting when he came across a player named Thorcastien, who was without a surname and who was wearing a Cloak of Flames, one of the highly prized loot items that dropped off the dragon Nagafen. Mr. Woundhealer had been on a few Nagafen raids and had yet to be awarded a Cloak of Flames -- heck, only a very small handful of players on the entire server had looted one. And now, he was crossing paths with someone who wasn't even high enough level to get a surname (you needed to be over level 20 to request one) and was sporting the best cloak in the game. As he put it in his post, "it was very disturbing." How could a low-level character be allowed to waltz around with top raid loot?

His now-infamous post, Twinks with Dragon Loot (TWDL, as the Prexus community lovingly referred to it), revealed a frustration with the idea that someone's character got loot and didn't deserve it. It was one of the first manifestations of the "earn it to wear it" school of thought, and it's an argument that persists even today.

The flaw in his argument, though, was that he based his conclusions on inaccurate assumptions. Thorcastien was actually one of the top players on the server. He simply chose not to carry his surname, perhaps to separate himself from the rest of the pack. Not only was Thorcastien one of the highest-level players on Prexus (57 when the cap was 60), but he was a very active raider and well-known among his peers. There's little doubt that he earned his cloak, and poor Mr. Woundhealer became the butt of many a joke and one of the longest forum threads ever.

With EQII, it's easy to define "earning a raid item" as your being present on the raid. But what about the idea that good players deserve good rewards? I'm sure we all have come across sub-par raiders -- have they really earned their loot? What about someone who might not be in a top raid guild but is a master at trading on the broker and has become the Donald Trump of his server. He might not be a raider, but isn't he a good player? I'm not arguing that he should have first shot on raid loot, but if it's going to rot, why not let him buy it?

I would take it one step further and argue that raid drops should all be tradable on the broker -- bind on equip rather than bind on loot. Why? One big reason is that it would help raids move a lot faster. Guilds would no longer have to hold things up to get someone into the zone to loot something. In addition, raid leaders could bank items, so members who couldn't make a raid could still have a shot at an upgrade. Even better, lower-level members who are working on playing catch-up have an easier time getting caught up on raid gear, meaning less "back-farming" for guilds.

For better or worse, it would also breathe new life into the broker. Over the years, the broker has become loaded with gear that isn't worth purchasing. It would be nice to see some valuable, albeit rare, gear upgrades for sale once again.

I know there's an argument against such a change because it could make it harder for casual guilds to retain active raiders. After all, if they can buy their loot, why bother raiding? But it can actually help casual guilds. First off, raid loot isn't for sale right away -- hardcore raid guilds will take time to equip their roster first. So it's still worth it for members in casual guilds to raid. And for every piece of gear that a member buys, there's one less piece a casual guild has to farm, which also makes the raid force that much stronger the next time it raids.

Finally, to say that players would prefer to buy their gear and bypass raiding implies that the raid content isn't worth doing. But overall, I don't think that's true. For every Venril Sathir or Druushk fight (so much fun clicking that obelisk!), there are dozens of interesting, challenging, and downright fun raid encounters. Perhaps some would buy gear and be happy to skip raiding, but you have to ask the question, why buy the gear in the first place?

When I see a crowd of players standing outside a raid zone, staring into space, it just doesn't look right. I'd much rather see those players out and about, actually playing the game, rather than playing the chat channels. To do that, though, would mean one of two options: either remove looting rights completely from those that weren't in raid for the kill, or allow items to be tradable. The first really isn't a realistic option, since link-dead players aren't going to be too thrilled that they're shut out of loot. So why not drop the no-trade tag and open things up a bit? It's time for "rot" to share the wealth.

From the snow-capped mountains of New Halas to the mysterious waters of the Vasty Deep, Karen Bryan explores the lands of Norrath to share her tales of adventure. Armed with just a scimitar, a quill, and a dented iron stein, she reports on all the latest news from EverQuest II in her weekly column, The Tattered Notebook. You can send feedback or elven spirits to karen@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.