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In World of Warcraft, loot can mean a couple of things:
- Stuff (treasure: items or money) you get from mobs or containers (barrels, boxes, chests, etc).
- The act (to loot; looting) of getting the stuff mentioned above.
Looting while solo
When soloing, looting is easy — a "lootable" corpse emits a "glistening" effect, and the cursor will change to the "trade" cursor when you mouse over the corpse. Simply right-click (or Command-click on a Mac with 1-button mouse) on the corpse of the mob you just killed, and a window will pop up containing any loot the mob was carrying. (Sometimes this window is empty, which means the mob had no loot.) Using Shift-right/Command-click "autoloots" the corpse, which picks up all items except "Bind on Pickup" items. For Bind on Pickup items, you will be prompted to accept the item, binding it to you, or turn it down, leaving it in the corpse. You can return and loot the corpse of any remaining items until it disappears.
Looting while in a party
In party situations, looting is vastly more complicated. The leader of the party can set the group looting parameters, as well as the threshold where items of particular quality are automatically rolled for. There are five group looting parameters:
- Free-for-all: (FFA) First-come, first-serve. You snooze, you lose. This is a good setting if you are assisting someone and intend for them to be able to loot all the kills, or if your party is not in the same area, this setting will prevent meaningless roll prompts. It also makes sense when grouping somewhere that isn't a dungeon, when it's very unlikely a really valuable item will drop.
- Master Loot: One person in the group, designated by the leader, loots all corpses and distributes the loot. This setting is very unpopular with party members, because it gives the Master Looter a lot of power to abuse, and requires a lot of trust, but if the Master Looter is trustworthy, fair, and knows what (s)he is doing, this can be the fairest system. Sometimes the RAID main looter loots the boss and then announces the looted items one by one. Whoever needs the announced item then types /roll in the chat prompt, which initiates an individual numeric roll. The one who has the highest roll is awarded the item.
- Round-robin: Party members take turns looting corpses. Seems like it might be fair, "What drops, drops", but a savvy player can manipulate the order that kills are made and get a disproportionate amount of better loot.
- Group Loot: Like Round-robin, except that there is a threshold set by the leader for which items must be rolled off (see details in following discussion). Group Loot is commonly used because it is a reasonable compromise based on a generally deserved lack of trust for other players. It is a baseline attempt at fairness at best. It is also the defult setting for all groups outside Random Dungeons.
- Need before Greed: "Pass" is automatically selected for party members who cannot use the item. Not a particularly fair system, not nearly as good as it sounds at first glance. Just because you can equip an item does not mean you need it. Just because you can't equip an item does not mean that you do not have legitimate secondary claims on the item, for an alt or for disenchanting. This is the unalterable default for pickup groups created via the new Dungeon Finder interface introduced in Patch 3.3.
In all loot settings, money on the corpse is distributed as evenly as possible among all the party members.
The group leader may set an item quality threshold. Items below this threshold are handled in a round-robin way preventing people from wasting time rolling for vendor trash. By default, uncommon and better items are rolled for. In raids, it's common to raise the threshold to rare or epic, since uncommon items are insignificant to players equipped enough to raid.
Quest Loot: Quest loot is on a separate loot distribution and there are two common modes for this to occur. 1) In quests where the party is to collect one of a specific item from a specific mob (Collect the head of (mob name here)) then regardless of loot setting, the mob will indicate lootable by every party member with the quest (and without the object). Each member may loot the quest item off the corpse. The other loot on the corpse is subject to the party loot setting. 2) In other quests which require collecting several items of a type (harpy feathers for example), the quest items will drop on some mobs and be looted in the normal way, except that if the current looter can't collect the items (not on quest, already has full set) then the quest loot is FFA for those members who can still pick up the quest items. Other items on the corpse are governed by the party loot setting. On some quests the quest loot is always free-for-all and this may be the above mechanic gone haywire. Some quests where the party is collecting one item will use the named mob mechanism (1) (the Shaman Voodoo Charm from quest, for example, where all party members can get the charm off the same shaman.)
Loot options: Need, Greed, Disenchant and Pass
Items of Uncommon (green) quality or higher might not be immediately lootable, depending on the loot rolling threshold established by the party leader. When an item is available that falls within that rolling threshold, the looter is prohibited from taking the item and a 'roll window' pops up for all party members with an image of the item and three or four buttons — a pair-of-dice button, a coin button, and a red circle with diagonal line button, and possibly a button showing a disintegrating sword.
|Need: Mouse over the picture of the item to see its characteristics, and if you want to take it to use, click the pair-of-dice button to randomly generate a number from 1 to 100. This is a 'need' roll and the item should be an upgrade for you. If it is an upgrade for your offspec (e.g. healing plate for a tanking paladin), it's generally okay to click Need, but only if no one else needs the item for their main spec. Warning: If you 'need' every drop, you will likely be branded a ninja and have trouble finding groups.|
|Greed: If you want it to sell, send to an alt, etc., click the coin button for a "greed" roll. This will only result in a roll if no one chooses need.|
|Disenchant: This is only available if someone in your group has the Enchanting profession, and enough skill in it to disenchant the item. If no one rolls Need, players rolling Disenchant and Greed roll together. If someone who selected Disenchant wins, they get the dusts, essences, shards or crystals produced from disenchanting the item. These are often, but not always, worth more than the item itself. A mod that lists the expected value of disenchanting the item may be useful.|
|Pass: If you don't want the item, click the cancel button and you will 'pass' on the item.|
The high-roller among those who roll is awarded the item, and it goes in that character's backpack. If their backpack is full, that person, and only that person, may loot it by clicking on the monster's corpse after first clearing up space.
If everyone passes on a rollable item, the item becomes freely lootable to anyone in the party.
The roll window has a timer shown as a shrinking bar; if the timer expires before you choose "need" or "greed", you will "pass" on the item. This is generally the recommended action for Bind on pickup items that you cannot equip.
Group policies and other loot options
- The generally accepted looting policy is to need on items you plan to use now or in the near future (1 or 2 levels). Generally people greed or pass on gear, and pass on profession recipes they do not want or need. Sometimes if a group member is unhappy with the outcome of a roll, another roll will be done using the /roll command. It is generally expected to greed or pass on a lockbox if one comes up; anyone who needs on one will likely be branded a ninja looter.
- Some groups have a policy that, when a bind on pickup item is found as loot, all characters are expected to 'pass' on the item so that a more deliberate selection can be made. It's good to know if your group follows this policy before you find such an item. While this system does nothing to stop a ninja from taking an item, some groups still insist on using it. Going against the grain while in a group usually just creates unrest and fights over loot.
- If you are the group leader, or the group leader seems levelheaded, it would be wise to use (or ask to use) the normal, built-in looting systems. While a ninja can still roll need on items they do not actually need, other people who do need the item will still have a shot at it, rather than the ninja just picking it up after everyone passes, or rolling after everyone else has passed.
- Often, Instances will be run with one character of much higher level leading the charge. This is frequently done in clans where senior members want to help others in acquiring good loot. In these cases, it is common that the senior party member will serve as party leader and set loot settings to Master Loot, so as to best distribute all loot.
- Another common protocol for distributing chest loot is 'high to low', where the highest level member of the group gets first crack at the chest, takes anything he likes, then anything left is available for the next highest level group member, etc., until the chest is empty or no one wishes to take anything else. Money in chests is distributed evenly among the party members who are nearby just like money from corpses.
- Many players consider it to be very rude if someone intentionally loots a corpse while combat is still going on. To avoid any conflicts, it is best to wait until combat is over and everyone has been rezzed (waiting for everyone to be rezzed is particularly important; a player can't roll on any items if they are not close enough to the body that is being looted).
- Abandoned loot on a corpse prevents it from being skinned, and it is considered polite for a party to loot all corpses if a skinner is in the party.
- A flaw in the mandatory Need before Greed system used in Dungeon Finder groups is that classes may not roll on gear of lesser armor level even if it is an unambiguous upgrade, such as a holy paladin wanting mail with spellpower and intellect. The only way for that player to be sure of getting that item is either for all other players to pass, or for whomever wins that item to trade it afterward. Since many players are in the habit of mindlessly clicking disenchant, this can be a problem, since the item will be immediately destroyed. The only solution is to announce before the fight that you are looking for a particular item and hope that everyone will pass on it if it drops.
Note that loot from containers — chests, food crates, and the like — as opposed to corpses, also uses the party loot threshold (if one is in effect), although the container will always be lootable by any party member. If the container holds a high-quality item, that item will be rolled on (or not), the same as if it were looted from a corpse. Since this is a recent change (Patch 2.1.0), many groups may still require rolling on content, or at least to link the common items such as foods and potions to give to those who need it. Since chests do not normally contain items of high value, usually the party members /roll for it.
In battlegrounds, players can loot enemy corpses. This will remove their insignia so that they must revive at the graveyard, and give the looter a small sum of money. Note that if the player's ghost is running toward the corpse when its insignia is removed, he'll have to run all the way back to the graveyard to resurrect, so it may be wise to wait a moment before looting. Looting the player's corpse will also force its spirit to release, if they have not already done so, thus preventing their ghost from spying on the area around their corpse.
- Read the item descriptions, know what you are rolling on.
- Know if your character needs the item, or can even use the item.
- Know what stats are important for your character class, and for your spec.
- Know what gear you already have.
- If you think you need everything, you need to consider others in your group. While you may need every single piece of gear that drops in an instance, being greedy might reduce your chance to be allowed to roll on that one piece that you really want.
- You do not "need" any and all green items merely because disenchanting them will help you level enchanting. Nor do you "need" all gems that drop to level your jewelcrafting. You get these things by buying them, and other people need money just as much as you do.
- Research the instance you will be going into for what loot has a chance to drop and decide ahead of time what you need.
- If it is a Bind on Pickup item, you can not give it to an alt. You can not auction it. It probably has a poor vendor value.
- Think beyond yourself. Stretch, you'll get better at it.
- Loot your kills. Even if your bags are full, open the corpses that are yours to loot (other than on free for all). This distributes the gold to the party and makes the corpse available to your party members when you close it.
- Communication goes a long way toward solving anything. If you are in a particular instance to acquire a specific item for which other party members may raise questions, make sure you are honest about it upfront and understand there is a chance you will be turned down and will have to join another group.
- If you are the group leader (have the controls), do not tolerate a ninja. Try education first, but if they insist on keeping to their behavior, quickly kick the member from your group. Realize that this may mean being undermanned and having to restart an instance, but a player with questionable intents will get your party killed anyway, so better now than later.
- If you are in such a group, politely make your concerns known. If nothing changes, ask the leader privately if they intend to take action, if not then politely state your intention to leave the group if that is your wish.
In the event of two or more rolls being equal (for example: if 2 players have a 'greed' roll with the number 56 for a certain item), the system performs a hidden secondary roll to determine which player will receive the item.
Groups and guilds that party regularly go beyond the built-in loot distribution mechanisms that Blizzard provides. There are numerous loot systems that can be used to distribute loot, with their own set of trade-offs.
There is a common misconception among game mechanics analysts that the Gambler's Fallacy  applies to the case of getting a specific loot item to drop at least once from a mob by repeatedly farming said mob. This is not exactly true. It is correct that every single time you kill said mob, the chance of the desired loot dropping is constant. However, the probability of getting the desired loot to drop at least once in a collective set of multiple kills is not constant. Rather, it is a normal probability density function centered on the expected number of kills for the loot to drop at least once .
Also, loot tables are NOT dependent on the leader's class.
- Patch 1.7.0 (patch date:2005-09-22): Need Before Greed and Group Loot options have been improved. The rolling window that appears when an item of the threshold and above is looted now has three buttons: a Need button (the dice), a Greed button (the coin), and a close button. Any players who select Need will get a chance to roll first for the item, with the high roller winning. If no one selects Need, all characters who selected Greed will then roll, with the highest roll winning the item. If everyone closes the window, the item becomes lootable by anyone in the group.
- Area of Effect looting
- Instance loot category
In Mists of Pandaria
- Looking for Raid (Raid Finder)