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DKP, or dragon kill points, is a class of systems used in MMORPGs, such as EverQuest, EverQuest II and World of Warcraft, to distribute rare in-game items among players within a Guild. The original DKP system was named and developed by the EverQuest guild Afterlife in 1999. This system was used to manage distribution of rare items that came from the bosses “Lord Nagafen” and “Lady Vox”, who were both dragons in the original EverQuest - hence the name Dragon Kill Points. There are now several DKP systems, all of which differ slightly.

Why DKP?

MMORPGs involve players in the development of a character, or multiple characters, much like traditional paper-and-pencil or table-top role-playing games. Computer role-playing games generally involve a single player interacting with software-controlled environments and entities. MMORPGs take this concept one step further by adding interactions with other human players in an environment which can connect hundreds or thousands of players. Developing your character in an MMORPG will involve a combination of skill improvements and collecting items which, broadly speaking, enhance your skills and abilities.

Many MMORPGs have high-end items which are randomly generated in small numbers when certain very powerful enemies in the game, or "bosses," are defeated in raids. Bosses are common throughout MMORPGs, but the level of boss difficulty continues to increase as a character advances through the game. This requires greater effort and coordination among larger groups of players. As the number of players required to defeat a boss grows, so does the problem of distributing the rewards from such efforts. Since these items appear, or "drop", in quantities much smaller than the total number of players in the group required to defeat them, a means of deciding which of the players should receive which of the items is necessary. One way to decide is to use a DKP system.

Goals of DKP systems

DKP systems try to maximize "fairness" over the more common alternative of decision by random chance. Because there are differences of opinion about what constitutes "fair", there are several implementations of DKP systems.

DKP systems are often a balancing act of a number of conflicting goals. Some properties that would be desired in a system:

  • Items should be assigned in a way perceived as fair by the participating members.
  • Items should be assigned in a way that increases the overall strength of the guild/clan, thus making future encounters easier.
  • Established members who have worked hard toward particular items should be able to get those items reliably.
  • New members should be able to receive valuable items as an incentive for guild membership.
  • Highly valuable items should always be assigned to some guild member; if items are not distributed, the guild as a whole misses an opportunity to strengthen.
  • The system should be relatively easy to administer and understand.

Meeting all these goals at once is difficult, and may require compromise.

Basic DKP

DKP is actually not a single system but a number of competing systems that all use the name "DKP." The most basic of these systems is that each time a boss is defeated, everyone participating in its defeat earns a point. Because some bosses are harder than others, different DKP values may be earned for defeating different monsters. Further, some guilds may dispense points for non-tangible effects, such as hours in attendance during raids, showing up on time, staying until the end of a raid, or committing personal wealth towards the raid's success. When a rare item is dropped by a boss, a simple auction occurs; the player who bids the most points gains the item, and his DKP account is deducted.

Problems with basic DKP

There are several weaknesses with a basic DKP system.

  • Inflation - as time progresses, long-standing players build up a large bank of points and they can afford to out-bid any new players. As a result, new players may hesitate to join a guild using a basic DKP system.
  • Collusion - Collusion can be used to defeat the basic DKP system. Many items are useful only to one class of players. If, for example, a "Warrior-only" item drops, the warriors could all agree to limit their spending of DKP, such as by assigning it randomly and then bidding the minimum bid, or by placing a ceiling on the price. If this happens, warrior items would be relatively undervalued compared to items for other classes. When items useful to multiple classes drop the warriors will, as a group, have more DKP to spend than those from some other class.

Modifications to basic DKP

One modification attempts to repair the collusion vulnerability in DKP by using a separate set of points for each class that are spent on class-only drops. This greatly mitigates the effects of collusion at the expense of added complexity.

Another common change to the basic DKP system is for the guild leadership to only allow certain classes to bid for an item, or even to give preference to a specific player who serves an important strategic role. Typically, once the preferred classes or players have the item in question, future drops of such an item is awarded via the standard method.

Other changes involve the assignment of points to players under different circumstances than those described for the basic DKP system. For example, points may be awarded for being on time to guild or clan events, or based on time spent on an encounter in the group or raid. In addition, bonus points are often awarded the first time a major encounter is successfully completed by the group to encourage people to be involved in the effort required to allow the group access to this new, higher-power content.

Some systems have procedures for normalizing the point totals so that established players do not have hugely inflated numbers of points. This may involve subtracting a fixed number of points from everybody on a regular basis, or devising systems by which points will decay over time. By example, the guild could decide to subtract from every player a value equal to the average DKP score of all the players, or to multiply the total of each player by a constant smaller than 1. These techniques retain the relative position of the players in the hierarchy, but make it easier for new players to "catch up."

On the other hand, some guilds also regard the opposite condition as a problem. In bid-based DKP systems, the prices of many items decay over time, as they're acquired by more players. (See Economics of DKP, below.) For this reason, instead of penalizing DKP hoarding, some guilds will instead have their new recruits start at a DKP penalty and/or establish minimum bids for items, as it would take the newcomers less DKP and less effort to acquire equipment that was once highly sought after and expensive.

Finally, some systems impose fixed prices on items that are decided upon in advance rather than conducting an auction. The "Fixed-price DKP" system has the advantage that it is very quick to administer, but suffers from the deleterious economic effects of price controls. (See Price Controls below.)

Other DKP systems

Some other systems that also call themselves DKP are in use, but often differ substantially in their mechanics. The sections below provide a sample of some of the systems that are in use. The exact mechanics used by each guild are often slightly different, or they may use elements from multiple systems. As such, this list is not comprehensive.

Zero-sum DKP

In this system, every item that can be received in a particular encounter is assigned a point value in advance. When such an item drops, players, in priority of their total number of points, have the option of receiving that item. If a player elects to do so, then everybody participating in that encounter receives an equal fraction of the points just spent. Players are allowed to have negative points. The total number of points spent is always equal to the points received, which is the origin of the name "Zero-Sum".

Here is an example to make this concept clearer. If we have a group that meets a challenge resulting in an item costing 80 points, and there are 40 members of the group, then everybody in the group would have 2 points added to their totals (80 point item divided by 40 group members). The person who receives the item would lose 78 points total (spent 80 on item but gets their 2 point share). In order for the person who just spent 78 points to get another item, he or she would have to wait until his or her total points were at least as high as the other members of the group. The final result here is a sort of round-robin scheme, weighted by the value of the item that was awarded.

Proponents of zero-sum DKP argue that it allows newer members more of a chance to receive items, since group members will often go into negative points after receiving particularly valuable items, and new members will start at zero points. However, the effect of this system is to assign both a price ceiling and a price floor to the "DKP Market," which carries its own advantages and disadvantages. (See Price Controls below).

This system is mostly immune to collusion attacks, assuming that a strategy for unwanted items is chosen that prevents collusion.

Zero-sum DKP systems can lead to problems when learning new content. The time spent learning a dungeon with little to no drops is not reflected in a player's DKP score, which can lead to players not showing up to raids until the group begins to receive a significant amount of items. To compensate for this, some guilds will include a 'ghost' player in the database, which will be considered present at every raid and earn points like any other player. This pool of DKP in the 'ghost' player's account is then used to reward the players that show up to new boss attempts.

A zero-sum DKP system is sometimes also called "nil" or "null" DKP.

EPGP

Effort points/Gear points model. This is a (sort of) variant of Zero-Sum in which there are two ever increasing pool of points. One is Effort points (EP) and the other Gear points (GP). Loot priority is computed as EP/GP. Since EP is now decoupled from GP there is no need to balance the system to a sum of zero; a division of EP with GP shows exactly the ratio of effort to gear of each player. As long as that is balanced, loot distribution is fair.

Much like Zero-Sum this system also allows newer members to get items fast, but keeps fairness across the whole spectrum of members in a guild. EPGP also keeps a very good balance between casual and hardcore players in the same guild: a hardcore player that raids twice as much as a casual player will receive twice as many items. The addition of "point rot" also rewards active players since not participating in raids will decrease your points.

Because of the unique decoupling of effort and reward, EPGP allows the award of EPs to almost anything: learning new content, farming specific items needed for progression of the guild, fixing the guild's website, etc. It also allows assigning GPs to enchanting materials, crafting materials or even gold from the guild bank. The end result is a system that is fair, simple to understand, and gives almost instant new member gratification.

Spend-all DKP

In spend-all DKP, whenever a player decides to purchase an item, that player is required to spend all of his or her current DKP to purchase it. Items are assigned in priority order of number of DKP. This is intended to ensure that newer players will be able to receive items even in a mature DKP system, but that veteran players will be almost guaranteed to get items they have been trying to get for a long time.

The biggest problem with this system is that players are frequently unwilling to spend all their points on certain items, meaning there will be lots of unwanted items. Also, in spend-all DKP, players will not have as much incentive, once they are the current point leader amongst competing players, to participate in encounters that do not have a chance of producing the specific item they are looking for, other than participating just frequently enough so as to remain the leader.

This system is mostly immune to collusion attacks, assuming that a strategy for unwanted items is chosen that prevents collusion.

Spend-enough DKP

Spend-Enough DKP is intended to achieve some of the results of spend-all, but in a less extreme manner. In Spend-enough DKP, players are given priority in order of point total. Eligible players are polled in priority order, and if a player wants an item when their turn comes, that player must spend DKP in an amount 1 greater than the next-highest eligible player. This allows players to keep some DKP, but acts as though everyone of lower priority wanted the item and assumes that those players would have bid up the item to that point. One of the primary advantages to this approach is simplicity of administration, since players are merely required to announce their candidacy for an item and the raid leader can determine everything needed from there.

While not as severe as in spend-all, spend-enough DKP can lead to unwanted items.

This system is mostly immune to collusion attacks, assuming that a strategy for unwanted items is chosen that prevents collusion.

Probabilistic DKP

Rather than directly spending DKP to purchase items, some guilds instead use the DKP total of players to influence their probability of receiving the item in a random roll. For example, if one player has 20 DKP and another 10 DKP, the player with the higher total might have twice the chance on a given drop to receive the item. The DKP total of the winning player is then reduced by a predetermined item value.

Proponents of this system argue that it creates a balanced relationship between older members and newer members by awarding advantage to the more experienced players without completely shutting the new players out.

An example of Probabilistic DKP is the Reaper system proposed by Everquest's Dharszolin of Stromm. This system uses the formula RANDOM + ((RAIDS - LOOTS) * MULTIPLIER). The ability to change the random roll number as well as the multiplier make the system highly flexible to meet current needs as well as future needs by making a few minor changes.

Effective DKP

A variation of the standard DKP system but uses the 60-day attendance% to determine a person's current DKP, hence effective. This system fights inflation in the way that loot is awarded by activity.

If Member A has been in the guild for one year and earned 1000 DKP total and Member B joined 4 months ago and only has 300 DKP; however, Member A has slowed down on his attendance to around 30% of the total raids while Member B has been very active with 100% attendance, the effective DKP of both players will be:

  • Member A - 1000 DKP * .3 = 300 DKP
  • Member B - 300 DKP * 1.00 = 300 DKP

This sets them both at par with each other simply because of attendance, rewarding even new players based on their activity. This system most of all, puts a great value into activity. Even old members who have accumulated enormous amounts of DKP will need to sustain what they earned with attendance. The cost of the item comes from the amount of DKP earned, the effective DKP total is only used to determine the winner of an item.

Strategies for dealing with unwanted items

In any system, but especially those that have some sort of effective price floor, there will be items that are not wanted by any member of the group involved. Different clans or guilds deal with this issue in different ways. One way is that a leader of the guild will assign the item to a particular player, either forcing that player to pay a DKP price for the item, or simply basing it on who is deemed to most benefit from it, or some other factor. A random roll could be used. Some guilds maintain a "guild bank" where such items are stored until and if someone should want it if this is possible in that game. In some games, it is possible to break down an item into components useful for other purposes. If this is possible, some groups may choose to do this for otherwise unwanted items.

Note, however, that often a DKP system may have been designed the way it is to prevent collusion between players. If your DKP system has a mechanism for assigning an unwanted item, then this may itself be used as a means of collusion amongst players unless players are forced to pay for the item.

The economics of DKP

Since the intention of DKP is to allocate scarce resources amongst guild members, it can be understood in the context of economics. In particular, we should consider the effects of such systems on the supply and demand that combine to determine the prices of items.

Understanding how the supply of items works can be somewhat problematic. In a normal economy, supply is created through the efforts of agents in the economy to use resources to create goods or services for sale, and indeed, items in a MMORPG are generated by the efforts of players. In games such as World of Warcraft, however, some items can only be used by the player who originally "loots" the item. Such items are called NO-TRADE in Everquest or BOP (Bound/Bind on pickup) in World of Warcraft. Other items can be sold or given away after being found. In Everquest terminology the items are flagged as Attunable. The supply of these items is therefore somewhat quirky, as only those players present at a particular encounter can receive an item. For the most part the supply is a fixed constant times the number of times a particular group completes a particular encounter.

Once a player has a particular item, there is usually no need for him ever to get another one. That is, the marginal utility of the second copy of that item is usually zero, while it is high for the first copy of items useful to that player. When an encounter is new or has not yet been defeated often for a particular group, the demand for the items from these encounters will be very high. However, after the encounter has been completed many times, most players will already have all they need of a particular item, and thus the demand for it tends to fall off dramatically.

The net effect of a roughly fixed supply and a rapidly decreasing demand is that the DKP value of items starts very high when a guild is new and then rapidly crashes as the guild matures, eventually approaching a steady state controlled by the rarity of the item, its relative value, and the rate of inflow of new members and exit of existing members. Indeed, this fact is the reason some groups opt for fixed-price systems, since some members feel it is unfair for them to pay the early high prices and new members pay the lower prices after the price crashes.

Price controls

Some systems, such as zero-sum and fixed-price, impose price ceilings, price floors, or both.

The effect of a price floor is that there will often be situations where nobody is willing to spend the required number of points for a particular item, necessitating the need for some means to resolve this difficulty. See "Strategies for dealing with unwanted items" above for more information on how this can be handled.

The price ceiling means that there will be situations where more than one player will want it at the given price. This is generally easier to resolve than items not being wanted at all, since falling back to random roll amongst those players that can afford it is usually considered fair in the sense that all players being allowed to roll are deserving of the item as defined by the point system. If prices are set too low, however, too many players will have enough points to purchase items and much of the purpose of a point system in the first place is lost.

DKP controversy

Because DKP results in a redistribution of the virtual wealth, the topic is of course controversial. This section documents some of the arguments for and against using a DKP system. This section does not consider the question of individual systems, but rather the entire concept of using point systems to reward play.

Essentially, the premise underlying DKP systems is that a player should be rewarded relative to their efforts. However, there is still controversy regarding whether the concepts of "value" and "effort" supporting DKP systems are essentially flawed.

Arguments against DKP systems

  • DKP rewards long-term raiding with a particular group over quality of contribution. This is a problem in common with other seniority systems. This can be mitigated somewhat using ideas such as decay of DKP, or diminishing returns on DKP.
  • On raids where organization and acquired player experience do not impact the outcome of the raid, DKP systems are inappropriate because every player contributes equally to that particular encounter.
  • Casual players already have fewer opportunities for loot since they run fewer encounters than those who play intensively. The use of DKP therefore disproportionately penalizes the casual player.
  • New raiders can spend weeks without acquiring items, and months before they can acquire desirable items with which the rest of the raid is not already saturated. This can lead to frustration in only receiving "trash" items that nobody else wants, and more frustration still if the DKP system forces them to pay for the items that they received only because nobody else was interested.
  • Because new raiders are generally more poorly-geared than existing raiders, and "old items" being cast off for newly-farmed replacements can only be sold for cash and not passed along to other raiders, DKP causes players who are poorly-equipped to gain power much more slowly than players who are already well-equipped, increasing rather than narrowing the relative disparity in power as well as reducing the speed at which the raid as a whole becomes more powerful.
  • Certain rare items can go for months between drops even with consistent, weekly raiding. DKP can rob a player of the opportunity to acquire a desired item at all if the raiding group moves on to a different dungeon before the player has had a chance to purchase it.

Arguments for DKP systems

  • "Hard-core" players contribute disproportionately to a raid group. They are instrumental in learning complex or difficult encounters, forming strategy, organizing the guild, and often hold key positions in the guild. They therefore are able to receive loot commensurate to their greater contribution.
  • For regular raids, every player who wants even a rare item will eventually have it. DKP systems only determine the order in which that item is awarded.
  • In addition to the personal benefits of an item, there are externalities for the guild itself. For example, a weapon that raises the DPS of a tank benefits the raid by allowing other players to use more DPS without pulling aggro. DKP ensures that players who have historically raided the most will receive these items first, on the assumption that they are likely to bring this item to the most future raids, maximizing the group benefit.
  • DKP systems encourage experienced, well-geared players continue to run encounters that they no longer personally benefit from, by increasing the chance that they will receive loot from other encounters.
  • Probabilistic systems often suffer from short-run anomalies. DKP systems make results more predictable, which aids in both planning and player acceptance.
  • While attempting encounters with high learning curves, many weeks can go by without any loot dropping at all. Most DKP systems reward regular attendance and persistence in the face of frustrating, long-term defeats. It therefore helps keep raid composition consistent and helps bring bosses to "farm status". New players therefore also benefit from the long-term investment of the guild.

External links

  • Rapid Raid: The DKP system for Guild Launch that provides a streamlined interface and various DKP types.
  • GuildPortal Integrated DKP: The DKP system built in to raids, events, and attendance as part of the overall guild hosting package offered by GuildPortal.com.
  • EPGP: In game EPGP tracking addon for World of Warcraft - Curse Gaming download link
  • WebDKP: A free website and addon for managing DKP in World of Warcraft
  • DKP Log Parser: An open source tool for managing DKP awards based on time spent in a raid.
  • EQdkp: an open source program that guilds can use to manage their own DKP systems.
  • EQdkp Plus: next Generation EQDKP, designed for WoW only. It included the most Plugins and Mods for Wow.
  • Free DKP Host: Free EQdkp Hosting provider. Provides free DKP Sites and forum/raid managers for a monthly fee.
  • SDKP: a very simple centralized DKP-System where everyone can start his own DKP-System.
  • Nurfed DKP (NDKP) A DKP program developed by NurfedUI, primarily centered around World of Warcraft
  • Crimson Talon Loot List Program Everquest: A alternate real time raid loot distribution tool based on a bid process and player position on a list derived from attendance. Highest position holder placing the bid wins and moves to the bottom of the list, cycling current raid attendies up. Non attendies maintain position on the list. This tool aims strikes a balance between casual and active players. Requires Microsoft .NET 1.1
  • AutoDKP: AutoDKP provides a complete solution for automated DKP calculation and DKP records management for World of Warcraft. It is an open source tool that provides an advanced user-interface for all DKP needs. You can set up your own custom DKP point system, fine-tune DKP calculations, and output your results in HTML. AutoDKP supports Time-based, Boss-Kill, and Zero-Sum DKP types. Furthermore, AutoDKP manages raid and DKP history. With a few clicks of a button, you can have all data and points for a raid automatically generated.
  • Reaper Program: Free Reaper points calculator for Everquest I, by George W. Bleck (Dharszolin of Stromm)
  • MLdkp: DKP System by the World of Warcraft-Guild Moonglade Lumberjacks

(This article was originally at Wikipedia, but was deleted.)

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