Monday, September 28, 2009

Is Fairness Relative or Absolute?

A guild uses basic /random to distribute loot. There are three tanks in the raid: Wendy the Warrior; Daisy the Death Knight; and Patricia the Paladin. All three tanks desire [Ciderhelm's Ring of Effective Health], and it drops in tonight's raid.

Scenario 1: Straight Roll

All three tanks roll on the ring:
Rolls (H to L)Winner
W, D, PWendy
W, P, DWendy
D, W, PDaisy
D, P, WDaisy
P, W, DPatricia
P, D, WPatricia

Each tank has a 33% chance of winning the item. I think we can all agree that this is as fair as it gets, absent any other information.

Senario 2: Passing

Wendy and Daisy are best friends. Wendy thinks that Daisy is a little undergeared, and she resolves to pass to Daisy if she can. (By passing, I mean Wendy chooses to nullify her roll if and only if Daisy is the second-highest roller.)

Potential outcomes:

Rolls (H to L)Winner
W, D, PDaisy(!!)
W, P, DWendy
D, W, PDaisy
D, P, WDaisy
P, W, DPatricia
P, D, WPatricia

Is this fair to Patricia?

My first thought is to say that it is not fair. But then I considered some more.

On the one hand, Daisy now has a 50% chance to get the item while Patricia only has a 33%. That doesn't really seem fair. But on the other hand, note that in both scenarios, Patricia has the exact same chance to win the item. Her chance to win the item doesn't change at all. It's not less likely that she will get the item.

So what is fair? Does fairness depend on only your own chances to win? Or is your position relative to others important as well?

I am not really sure anymore. If the probability of Patricia winning the item decreased, that would be absolutely unfair (under the given conditions). But if the probability doesn't change, fairness seems harder to determine.


  1. Just to clarify, what do you mean by "passing". In your post you give the impression that Wendy is giving the loot she won to Daisy. If so then that is unfair because it in effect gives Daisy two rolls. If however, by "passing", you mean Wendy decides to not loot after winning and the loot is then given to the next highest roller, then yet that is fair. Everyone still had one roll with highest roll winning.

  2. I mean Wendy chooses to Pass or nullify her roll after seeing the results, and the second-highest gets it.

  3. I think this is more a question of etiquette than "fairness".

    If Wendy chooses to give her winning roll to Daisy, it's perfectly fair. As they allow trading of BoP items for a short while after looking, it's really Wendy's business what she does with her winnings.

    It's fair. But rather discourteous.

    Be polite: Roll on loot you intend on using, thus maintaining equal opportunity on loot for all the other elgible classes/specs.

  4. I think it's clear that Wendy will be giving items she wins to Daisy (or rather in this case, having the Master Looter do it).

    This scenario will be fair by the numbers but potentially perceived as unfair by Patricia, who doesn't have an equal chance to get the item versus the competition.

    The rub on this is that you will be unable to ensure that the "proper" person gets the loot should it fall to Wendy, as Wendy could just give the item to Daisy if she won regardless of declared intentions. This would give Daisy an even larger chance of winning.

  5. I think that's fair. Patricia might not like it, because she might think Wendy is showing favortism to Daisy that she is not showing Patricia, but Patricia's chances don't change.

    I've been in raids before where someone will pass to the second person because they need it more and I've never heard any resentment from the other people.

    But the passing generally comes after the roll is won. The "Wendy" never says up front that she's going to pass to Daisy so the Patricia doesn't know Wendy's intent (or potential favortism) until after it happens.

  6. In that case, then I don't think it is fair. Wendy should either take the item if she wins or shouldn't roll at all. While it's true that Patricia's chances of winning don't go down, it's not fair that one person's odds go up because of the actions of a third person.

  7. I'll vote for 'not fair' because it is a secret deal between two guild members. Could this be turned into 'i'll give you the ring if you don't roll on the sword if it drops'?

    It is in everyones best interest to help out an undergeared OT, I just think that open and honest is a much better, and less likely to end up with hurt feelings later. If tank #2 quits because of this, its a much bigger loss that the ring. If tank #3 feels like they are being manipulated later, or if tank #1 resents conceding this roll and looses out on something else also, etc etc.

  8. It's entirely fair. I would have no misgivings about somebody giving an item to somebody else. If they won it by roll, I can't argue about what they do with it.

    "OMG you can't give that away! You won it so you have to wear it and like it pal!!"

  9. I wouldn't consider this scenario as fair. If Wendy were passing to Daisy based on the fact that she needs the item the most out of the three players, I would consider this a respectable gesture. But based on the fact that Wendy is passing the item to Daisy because they are BFFs, I consider it not only unfair but selfish as well. If I were the raid leader, I would ask myself "will this benefit the raid as a team or will it only cause more problems in the future?"

  10. Ky from Casual Hardcore also brought this topic up today, and it is interesting. I think I will write on it as well this week.

    In short - no, it isnt fair. Fair, by its nature, means everyone is on equal footing. In your case, wendy is not on equal footing. She has a stipulation that in some situations, raises her chance of getting the item - a conditional if you will.

    This pact is ok, if you have NO one else that needs that item - ie only wendy and daisy really need the item. If patricia needs this, then before rolling, wendy needs to nullify her roll. These kinds of pacts really mess with loot systems. If this kind of pact were verifiable (i.e. guild foums, e-mails), it would be punishable by my guild. You cant make it unfair to another person by pure nature of a friendship.

    Loot, as always, depends on your raid group. If you have a mature raid group, you have no loot drama. If you dont, you are going to have to come up with a system that works for you.

    However, that being said - all loot systems do not *have* to be fair to work. Your goal is for the loot system to work, not for it to be fair. By its nature, dkp is unfair. certain players will always have some advantage over other players - they can afford to craft most of their stuff, they are able to attend more raids, etc. That makes it unfair - it is unblanced. But most guilds use DKP because it WORKS.

  11. They all have equal chances to decide what to do with the item. The outcome might not be fair, but that is inevitable unless they can all get their own rings.

  12. "(By passing, I mean Wendy chooses to nullify her roll if and only if Daisy is the second-highest roller.)"

    This statement is the core of the dishonesty of this premise. Wendy has effectively decided to say that "Even though I really dont need it that much, Patricia can't have it even though she worked just as hard as Daisy" You are adding a human decision to what is supposed to be a totally random and agreed upon loot rules.

    If Wendy does not roll, Daisy is guaranteed to have an increased chance to win. (and yes i realize that so did Patrica) That is what a friend should do. Absolutely no hard feelings can result from this.

    Any other way MUST be announced before any loot is dropped so that the third party has a chance to agree to the rules. After that, once rules are established, they have to be followed.

  13. It's not fair. Ignoring all but the goal of obtaining the most loot, you get your pick of which toon you'll be of the three: the only logical pick is to be Daisy.
    The logical end result of this strategy is to get as many friendly raid members as possible to roll on everything and trade items to you secretly, so that some excluded player has next to no chance to win items.
    And if simpling winning a roll is the be-all and end-all of fairness then all raid members should roll on all items and the winner decide what happens to it.

  14. Thromanan, make the assumption that Wendy would still use the ring full-time if she won it. It would be a solid upgrade for here, maybe from ilvl 226 to ilvl 245. And the same for Patricia. But maybe Daisy only has a ilvl 213 ring, so Wendy would rather boost her up, especially since she's her best friend.

  15. @Rohan

    I see your point but Wendy still becomes a loot council of one. She arbitrarily made a rule outside of the standard looting procedures. All loot rules have to be agreed upon by all parties, else the process is compromised.

    Would a championship team forfeit a title game because they liked the 2nd place team more than their most hated rival (or someone who they were completely indifferent about) who came in third?

    If you win, use it. If its an upgrade for a friend on the same roll, back out to give them a better chance. Math has it's place. Yes the probability is the same. Does not make it ethical or correct.

  16. Hey rohan, here's my opinion.

    This has much less to do with fairness than with our ability to predict the winner.

    The only fairness involved is what you point, Patricia has exactly the same chances to win on both scenarii, so she wasn't grudged at all, but in the second scenario it's much more easy to see Daisy winning so everybody get fooled into thinking it's unfair.

    The only possible way in which it could debatable is if the person passing really shouldn't have been allowed to roll in the first place (e.g. wrong class, or clearly not an upgrade) and this is because it changes the odds of patricia between the 2 scenarii

    Fairness is not really subjective, it's a matteer of computing odds between cases, and it's very important for whoever is in charge or the loot to figure it out and not be fooled by quick *it's not fair* QQ.

    check this btw

    look at 8 around minutes

  17. It doesn't matter that Patricia's odds aren't affected, that's irrelevant. By rolling without the intention of collecting the item, Wendy is deliberately stacking the odds in favour of Daisy. This is not 'fair' under any definition in the context of an 'equal' roll.

  18. It's not fair.

    If you don't need the item, don't roll. If you do need it, take it.

    That being said, I've done that before.

    It gets more unfair if multiple runs are involved. You are going to roll again against the person that passed and would have won last time. Now, if it is a fixed group the chance Patricia is 0.33% the first run and 0.5% the second time it dropps.

    But, normally Wendy is better geared than Daisy because she invests more time upgrading her gear. She probably has a higher attendance to raids than Daisy. Therefore it is more likely that Patricia groups again with Wendy than it is that she groups again with Daisy and therefore her chances go down.

  19. I wouldn't consider it fair, but there's not much to do about it. When someone passes on gear after a winning role, there's no telling why. "Player Y can use it better than I can" is usually the given explanation if you ask, a valid argument if you ask me. The case of "I'll pass on the ring only if player Y is second on the roll" could happen but you will never notice it as that person will keep such decisions for him/herself.

  20. @merlot it's not irrelevant at all in this context, i would invite you to read the asumptions.
    If W will not use the ring at all as you suggest then it's really a different problem indeed and it can be considered unfair, D would then basicaly be padding the division in her favor.

    Elaborating a bit more:
    If we stay under the asumptions, so people rolling on the item genuinely need it, can and will use it, and have been allowed to roll by whoever grants that right (loot council or policy or whatever, taking attendance and rarity into account and whatnot) then you basically have given a fair chance to everybody included in the roll. They all have exactly the same chance to win the item. and it's 1/n

    What they will do with that chance really need to be left to that person's own discretion.
    No action they can take can diminish the chances of a person to win. It can diminish them relatively to another person, but not absolutely. And it would then mean than somebody else willingly allowed his chances to go down.

    And in my opionion this is all a system has to take care of.

    From a Guild politics pov i would suggest that it's not something you'll be able to prevent anyway. If you try to control your guildies choices then it'll happen collusively ("you roll quick and i'll roll only when somebody beats you") or they'll start to fake their needs to workaround the system or whatever, taking time and energy from the officiers to check etc...

    And don't forget the items can be traded now anyway.

  21. Within the context of the single roll, Daisy the DK's chances have not been harmed. It is "unfair" in the sense that not all three have identical chances, but it is not unfair to Daisy... in the context of that single roll.

    The more interesting question, however, is how this impacts future rolls, and (more importantly) future roles within the raid team. Why is Wendy favoring Patricia? A plausible situation is that at the moment, Patricia isn't a threat to Wendy, but that Daisy is. If there are usually two raid tank slots, and three raid tanks, someone has to sit. If Wendy would rather have Patricia as a "second tank" (for whatever reason) she can influence the team to allow this by favoring Patricia in looting. Naturally, she can only do this if she feels she has a lead on Daisy.

    Fair in the single roll situation does not imply fair in the overall continuing raid picture. Guild breaking drama can easily ensue.

  22. Sorry, but my definition of fair is apparently different than yours. Yes, its true that in your example that Patricia has the same odds of winning in both scenarios.

    However, fairness requires the same odds for all participants. In this case Daisy has better odds.

    By definition, that is unfair.

  23. It is fair as long as the person who gets it is second highest. Not of course if she decides to give it away.

    As you point out, it does NOT affect anyone else. Patricia may feel upset and cry "unfair" but she would be wrong, and simple mathematics points out how wrong she is. She has the exact same chance to win either way.

  24. I believe the question of whether or not it's fair comes down to when Wendy makes the decision to pass in favor of giving Daisy the ring. If she passes after winning then it seems fair, but if she decides beforehand to pass under certain circumstances and then rolls anyway, that's unfair because she is manipulating the privilege of being allowed to roll in order to favor Daisy over Patricia.

    Lets say for example that the same three people are trying to divide up a Pizza with 6 pieces in it. In the fair case, all three decide they are equally hungry and take 2 slices each. However, after only 1 slice Wendy is already full, and since Daisy seems to be much hungrier after her second slice than Patricia, or simply because she likes her better, she gives her own second slice to Daisy. (This may not seem fair, but it is, as it's Wendy's slice and she can do whatever she wants with it.)

    In the unfair case, Wendy knows beforehand that she is only going to be able to eat 1 slice. However, instead of only taking one slice and allowing Patricia and Daisy to sort out the rest between themselves, she takes 2 slices with the full intention of giving Daisy the entire second slice, ensuring that Patricia doesn't get a chance at it.

    I definitely think that Wendy has no rights to determine who gets the last slice between Daisy and Patricia, since she herself does not want it.

  25. I cannot believe people are still willing to debate this.

    Suppose you have 1 in a million odds to win the lottery. It is a fair game as long as every other participant has the same chance. If you found out that there were only one other person in the lottery and somehow they had 999,999 in a million chance of winning while you held the remaining one, would you continue to call it fair?

    It is absurd that this can continue to be seen as anything other than what it is, participants choosing to manipulate the outcome of what should otherwise be a random chance with even odds. The second anyone starts to manipulate they remove the fairness.

  26. @Dyemaker: there's this lottery and you know there are 10 tickets, you bought 1 ticket, you have 1 /10 chance to win.
    You know 10 other people bought a ticket.
    Is it fair ?

    Now you learn that actually the 9 other tickets have been bought by just 1 guy (he found the other 8 buyers and bought their ticket back), does this change anything to the lottery ?

    No ticket has a better chance than any other, it's just that they belong to the same person, because somebody else gave it to him.

    It's only unfair if the ticket wasn't supposed to exist in the first place, but was created only to be given to that guy. THIS is the part that has to be managed, no fake rolls, no rolls on item you wouldn't wear, no rolls on item you cannot wear.

  27. Loot has never been distributed random. Need (using it) always comes before greed (selling it for money).

    If you compare a raid instance to a lottery you would buy tickets.

    Then, the lottery would reveal what the price is. Let's assume, today it is a TV. Now everyone who already owns a better TV passes and only the people without a TV or with a worse TV would get a chance at it. (The other people maybe hoped that today the lottery would give out a microwave).

    Now, you claim your TV is worse than the price. But as soon as you notice that the TV would go to your friend if you claim your own TV is better. At that point it gets fishy.

  28. It isn't fair. If you're willing to pass the loot to someone else, then you didn't really "need" it, did you? Yet this implies that the person who gave it to Daisy still rolled need.

    If Patricia is not going to equip the ring, she should not roll on it. That way Daisy and Wendy have an equal (50%) chance to win. If she rolls with the intent to give it to Daisy, then Wendy's chances HAVE INDEED changed, going from a 50% chance to beat Daisy alone to only a 33% chance to beat both Daisy and Patricia.