At one time or another, all of us who play WoW long enough have been "asked to pass" on loot. Usually it all works out OK. Either you pass or you don't, and everyone goes about their business. However, the situation is bursting with the potential for drama -- as we see in the following email.
Great blog, I'm relatively new to WoW (joined my first and current raiding guild in the beginning of Cataclysm) and have due to some unfortunate situations become guild leader. I had to learn and adapt quickly and your blog has helped me a lot. Recently, I had to deal with a situation that seemed very dramatic from my PoV and needed my attention as GM.
The guild was doing a more casual Dragon Soul run. We normally have raids for raiding members only and we use EP/GP there. This run was set up and led by an experienced raid and guild leader that is part of our raiding team. I did not personally attend -- normally I would lead raids.
They used the Roll system to distribute loot. However, there were a few members of the progression raiding team that attended this run. Some of them still interested in some rarer normal drops. While it was not required, it seemed to be common behaviour to pass for these main raiders when they needed an item.
At some point, an item that one of the main raiders actually needed dropped, and was rolled on.
This is where it starts.
One of our 'standby' raiders won the item. We'll call her S. She was happy, even rolled a 100. The raid leader tends to help her as she is not very good at gear and such and did so in this raid as well: he explained that the item would not be optimal for her. He also started about the item being very good, BiS even, for one of our main raiders, we'll call her R. Now, he explained this on ventrilo, and one of the raid members, now named H, responded to this with 'She won it by a roll, it's hers'. In response, the raid leader asked S to come to a different ventrilo channel ...
Right after they returned to the main channel, R had whispered S if she would pass the item to her as it was her BiS and she was a main raider, and therefore could use it very well. S felt forced to give the item to her. She felt that the 'main raiders' pressured her to give the item, that she won so happily and spoil the fun ...
I was not attending, but I was ... in contact with a few raiders. S also did a shoutout in /officer that she was sick of the 'main raider before others' mentality, which, in combination with both H and R whispering me confused things about the situation, made the scenario seem quite dramatic to me.
I then said in /guild that the Roll was binding and no one could be forced to pass for whatever reason if that person didn't want to. I also stated that I wanted the raid leader, R and S with me after they had finished ...
I tried to make clear that they all meant well, but there were things that we could learn from this situation:
-- R has to more carefully phrase open questions, so that they don't denigrate the receiver.
-- S has to understand that the main raiders are not her enemies and won't hate her for not passing on an item.
-- The raid leader has to avoid cases of confusion like this, where he implied a bad scenario by taking someone aside on ventrilo.
Now, initially I meant to ask, is this a correct observation and did I handle correctly?
The worst kind of drama from a leadership standpoint is the drama that happens when you're not there. You often wind up getting a different version of the story from everyone involved, and then you have to make decisions based on biased or incomplete information. I think you did the best you could given the circumstances.
In fact, you handled this awkward situation very well. You pinpointed exactly how each member involved could have handled this incident better.
Stick to your system
There is a greater concern at stake, however. In the future, I would recommend that "casual" runs like this stick to the outcome of the roll with no discussion about it. When you ask people to pass on loot, you're changing the entire loot system. Members attended this run believing that loot would be distributed by rolling. Suddenly, S had to deal with a loot council.
The moment the question is asked, someone like S can't win. Either she passes the item and feels bullied, or she keeps the item and feels selfish. Even when people are happy to pass, it just creates uncomfortable situations and bad precedents.
Sending the wrong message
Your raiders shouldn't be treated like VIPs who deserve whatever they need over everyone else in the guild. Doing so sends a message that raiders are above the rules.
This message, in turn, deepens the divide among raiders and your "stand-by" members. Based on S's outburst in the officer channel, I'd say that divide already runs pretty deep. If an officer feels that way, how do your other members feel?
Runs like this should serve to increase friendship between those groups, not cause resentment. As the guild leader, bridging the gap between these two groups will be one of your biggest challenges.
Not worth it
This incident is a perfect example of why the asked to pass scenario is just trouble. In the long run, the hassle and bad feelings are not worth that one raider getting that one upgrade. It's very unlikely that your progression will be affected by it.
Obviously if an item is really bad for someone's spec, then they could be convinced not to roll. You can avoid such situations by helping your members to be better informed about loot choices -- but the right time for that is not immediately after an item drops.
The phrase best in slot has acquired an almost mythical quality that players use to win arguments over loot. In reality, an item that's best in slot is often a minimal upgrade over a similar item from the same tier.
The best raiders in the world almost never have full best-in-slot sets when they get world-first kills. They haven't had time to farm them. Believe it or not, your raiders don't need them either. Sure, better gear always helps, but preparation and execution are much bigger factors on all but the checkiest of gear checks.
Not to mention, S could someday be asked to jump into a progression run. You want her to have some upgrades before that happens. The item in question is probably a bigger upgrade for her at this point in the expansion than for R.
In general, any exception to loot rules should be reviewed very carefully to make sure the benefit is worth the cost, confusion, and possible unhappiness that could result. To me, guild harmony trumps a minuscule gain toward possible progression every single time.
Officers' Quarters keeps your guild leadership on track to cope with sticky situations such as members turned poachers or the return of an ex-guild leader and looking forward to what guilds need in Mists of Pandaria. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.