Obviously, a DKP or similar formal loot system can sidestep a lot of these issues. You can just ignore the armor class of a drop and let players bid as they wish. A limited resource that must be earned has a way of limiting people's desire for any drops that aren't the absolute ideal item for a slot. Are guilds still using these systems?
My guild, even though it's very large, has been running mostly 10-player raids. As such, it's been easy for us to distribute loot solely by /random and some common sense.
Our priorities are a bit different than those outlined in the e-mail. It sounds like you're giving out offspec gear that could be used for a main spec just because it happens to be leather rather than mail. So I don't blame your Elemental and Resto shamans for being somewhat upset. (I do blame them for mistaking Enhancement gear for caster gear, however . . .)
Your system may be fair in a strict sense, but it's not the best system to help your progression and it's also probably pretty frustrating at times for your players.
Raid leaders have to keep the best interests of the raid in mind, which means giving out loot where it will benefit the raid's DPS, mitigation, or healing efficiency most.
Here's how my guild does it. When an item drops, first dibs goes to the players whose armor type and spec matches the gear. For example, if Sapphiron drops Helm of the Vast Legions, rogues and Feral druids would be the first classes to roll on it. If there are none in the raid or they don't want the helm, then any other physical DPS main spec, regardless of class or armor type, would have the opportunity to roll. That way, if the item is an upgrade, it will be used to boost the DPS of the raid.
If no main spec DPS class wants the drop, then it will be up for grabs to any offspecs who can equip it. Our players will often defer to the offspec whose armor class matches the item, but it's for an offspec, so we don't micromanage who can roll.
This system has worked great for us so far, but we are a relatively drama-free bunch. Still, you can justify it every time because it helps the raid improve. Common sense wins out. Likewise, you can't really justify giving Footsteps of Malygos to a Feral druid over an Elemental shaman just because it's leather. That item will rot in a bank instead of helping your raid. Loot that helps the raid results in more loot. Common sense tells you to give it to the player who will use it to kill bosses rather than the player who will use it to grind dailies.
Now, tanks and healers might not like it. After all, although it's easier than it used to be, they do have a tougher time solo questing than DPS specs do. But they also have plenty of opportunity to acquire solo gear in many other ways -- reputation, crafting, BOEs, and so on. An extra 10 DPS for your DPS main specs can mean the difference between loot and wiping. An extra 10 DPS for your Holy priest will mean he or she can get her quests done ever so slightly faster.
We all want our tanks and healers to be happy. But in the course of farming the limited raids that Northrend currently has to offer, they'll have plenty of chances to roll on loot that main specs don't need. It may take a few weeks, but eventually the players who attend raids regularly will get every drop they ever wanted and then some. And the quicker you gear up your main specs, the less time it will take every week to get those drops.
Rings, necklaces, trinkets, cloaks, and weapons don't have armor types, so those items are most likely to cause drama. Again, common sense has to come into play. Clearly an item with attack power should go to a DPS spec and an item with spell power should go to a caster. Other stats are a bit more tricky.
- If an item has hit or armor penetration, DPS main specs should get priority.
- A healing main spec should never have priority on an item with expertise or spell penetration.
- A ranged DPS class should never have priority on an item with expertise.
- If an item has mana per 5, healing main specs should get priority, unless it also has DPS-priority specs.
- If an item has extra armor or other mitigation stats, tanking main specs should get priority.
- If an item has intelligence, a mana-using class should get priority.
- Haste and crit are stats that any spec can use.
You can apply these guidelines to any drop. It sounds complicated at first, but it's really not that bad. With these guidelines in mind, decisions can be made very quickly and with practically no debate. Here are some examples: Infection Repulser
or Volitant Amulet
-- healing main spec priority because of mp5; Gown of Blaumeux
-- cloth-wearing, DPS caster main spec priority due to hit; Mark of Norgannon
-- any melee DPS main spec priority due to expertise; Benefactor's Gauntlets
-- Resto and Elemental shamans have equal priority because crit and haste are helpful stats for both classes.
Beyond that, you can go into further detail if you wish. For example, armor penetration isn't a highly effective stat for Ret paladins because many of their attacks already bypass armor. But that type of aggressive min/maxing can overcomplicate your system, so use your own discretion there.
Making good decisions about loot that benefits the raid is the best way to avoid drama. You'll never be able to keep every player happy, but you can create a situation where arguing against the system is, almost by definition, acting selfishly.
Has anyone out there come up with a better system or solution? Tell us about it below!