UPDATED: A Beginners Guide to DKP (Dragon Kill Points)
NOTICE: This guide is meant to be a complete guide to DKP and its use. It is however written from a WoW perspective so some of the terminology, group sizes, items, etc are only relevant for WoW. The ideas and concepts are easy to view separately from the game and use for any MMO, and players should feel free to do so. Most DKP systems are only used for large raids and not 5 man instances. I have included some 5 man instance examples just for simple examples.
What the Heck is DKP?
This is a fairly common question for players either new to MMO's or new to end game raids in MMO's. In fact many people play MMO's for years before they actually hear the term, as it is only really used at the raiding level of play. If you are a casual player and do not raid, DKP does very little for you.
DKP is a loot system that was invented long ago (in the video game time frame) as a way to decide who should get the loot that drops in a dungeon. Most players feel that a completely random roll for loot is not fair since one player may consistently win or lose the roll. A more controlled and organized system ensures that all players eventually get roughly even amounts of loot based on their attendance of the guilds raids. The acronym DKP stands for Dragon Kill Points. A simple definition of DKP would be:
DKP (Dragon Kill Points) - A complex tracking system used by guilds in MMO's to distribute loot to players, based on the player's contribution to the guild's raiding efforts.
A more complex and in depth definition of DKP and a bit about its history can be found in the definition from eqdkp.com:
DKP, short for Dragon Kill Points, is a concept originally created by Thott of Afterlife. These points are awarded to each guild member as they attend a guild raid. The current DKP of each member reflects his or her priority for loot. When a member "wins" an item, they lose a DKP amount that reflects the value of that item. DKP allows for an unbiased comparison between guild members when decisions about loot are to be made based on attendance and recent items that have been awarded.
The Afterlife guild is still alive and well and can be found here: http://www.afterlifeguild.org/
How Does DKP work?
DKP can be complicated and has evolved over time into several different variations. Before getting into the exact details of the variations and different ways DKP is implemented you should have a firm grasp of the basic concept. The basic concept is that you are awarded points for participating in Raids with your guild. These points are then tracked by someone in the guild and used to help determine who gets future loot.
In general the player with the most available points will get the item that they want over another player that wants the same item. This means that if player 1 has 200 DKP and player 2 has 175 DKP and an item drops that they both want, player 1 gets it if they are willing to spend the DKP points on it. If it was 50 DKP points they would recieve the item and pay the 50 DKP. The next item that both players want would then go to player 2 as they would be the higher player at 175 DKP compared to player 1's new total of 150 DKP.
How do I earn DKP points?
No matter which system of DKP is used there are usually several ways to earn points. The ones used in your guild are up to the guild. Some guilds use all methods to award points while others only use the loot drops to determine points. There is no right or wrong way, as long as it is consistent. Below is a list of the primary methods of earning DKP points.
Loot Drops - This is by far the most common method to award points to players for the actual loot that drops on the raid. This requires either a chart of point values for all possible drops in a zone or the use of open points bidding for the item. Points charts in WoW are normally allocated in increments of 10 or 25 so that any item that drops can be easily divided by the number of players in the raid. With a point chart system each player would get a fraction of the points that were allocated to the item, whether they got the item or not.
Loot Drop Chart Points Example:
Guild A kills a boss in a 10 player raid. The boss drops 3 epic items that have a points rating. The items are worth 100, 100, and 50 points.
If your guild uses a bidding system then it all comes down to how much is bid on each item. There are generally minimum bids for an items, and minimum increments. Bid systems are becoming less common though, as tracking them becomes more complicated and the actual bids need to be manually tracked and updated into a system later.
Loot Drop Bid Points Example:
Guild A kills a second boss in a 10 player raid. The boss drops 2 epic items that players want and bidding ensues.
Boss Kills - Some guilds award points based on the boss that is defeated. This can be based on the difficulty of the boss, potential drops from the boss, or difficulty getting a group for the boss. This is often used for bosses that people do not like fighting, have poor drops, or are that players have grown bored with. Many times this is a bonus to the loot drop points that guilds use to encourage players to attend for all bosses.
Instance Bonus - This is sometimes used to encourage players to stay to complete entire raids. Many guilds will track when players join the raid and if they stay until completion. Some guilds offer bonuses to those that stay until the end, while other guilds chose to not award their loot or boss kill points until the end of the raid and then only to those still in attendance. Either way works out to roughly the same thing.
Time Bonus - This is very often used by guilds when learning new instances or bosses. There are few other ways to earn points if you are not killing bosses or receiving loot, so this encourages guild members to attend and help learn the new instances or bosses. It is generally a preset point amount per hour equal to to normal DKP awards if fighting bosses.
Extra Bonuses - There are many other things that your guild can choose to award bonus DKP for. For instance some grant a bonus for being on time to a raid, some grant bonuses for first time kills of bosses, some grant extra DKP for defeating heroic mode bosses, or for showing up for gearing runs for new players. This is really up to your guild and is generally used as extra motivation to get people attending different things or as rewards for downing new content.
What are these Variations of DKP that you mention?
There are several main types of DKP. The biggest that are in standard use are regular DKP (as described above), zero-sum DKP, suicide DKP, and GDKP.
Standard DKP - This is a straight forward system where everyone earns points and you can only spend the points that you have. You may never spend more than you have and no one is ever below zero points.
Zero-Sum DKP - In a zero-sum DKP system the guild DKP records always end with a zero total point balance. The person that is interested in an item may voice interest no matter their points balance. The player with the highest points balance receives the item and goes down that amount of points even if they were at a negative number or it will take them to a negative value.
Zero-sum takes some time to get used to and is more complicated but many feel it is a fairer system and allows people to get items they need even if they do not have points, instead of disenchanting them.
Zero-Sum DKP Example:
The following group is in a DKP rated instance with the starting totals shown:
After killing the first boss a caster staff drops that was assigned a value of 10 points. Messiah, Boomjack and Ethec all want it. Messiah has the highest current DKP so is awarded the staff, which costs him 10 points. Each member of the party is then also awarded 2 points for the drop (10 points / 5 players), which leaves us with the following.
The next boss drops 2 items, an Axe worth 15 points and a caster ring worth 10 points. Both Ratboy and Ralphedel are interested in the axe, but Ratboy has the most points so gets it. Ethec is the only caster that wants the ring (Messiah and Boomjack already have it) . Ratboy spends 15 points and Ethec spends 10 (driving himself further into the hole, but still getting items!). Also 25 points were dropped so each player earns 5. The chart would now look like this:
Zero-sum DKP was originally designed to resolve the issues around item rot. What is item rot you ask? It is what happens to items that nobody can afford due to lack of points, or they are not willing to spend all their points knowing they would be near zero and not be able to get anything else after.
An example of this would be that a boss drops an Uber Sword of Fire. It is worth 120 points, but nobody that wants it has 120 points. Without zero-sum it would not be given out and would "rot" on the corpse. The saying, "Grats Rot" was common in EQ for this reason.
Suicide DKP - This is a relatively new DKP system that is similar to zero-sum but far simpler. DKP is earned normally by all players, however, when you win an item, you immediatly lose all your earned DKP and drop down to 0. This has seen a lot of use lately for two main reasons.
The first reason is that it is simple to maintain, because everyone has a point value as they earn them or zero as soon as they get a piece of gear. The second reason is that it really pushes players to use points early when they have them, since no matter how many points you have, you still drop to zero once you buy an item.
A key point to keep in mind here is that you do not actually need points to get an item. If you express interest in an item, win it and drop to zero, and then another item drops, you can still express interest in it. If no one else wants the item, you can still get it, and it just cost you nothing. If multiple players that have zero want it, then it goes to a tie breaker, usually based on the results of a random roll.
GDKP - The first three all use points-based systems to track and priortize loot distribution. GDKP uses gold and is generally a system used for pick-up-group raids. It will not be discussed in detail here, instead if you are interested in it, we have a full guide for it here: GDKP Guide.
What about the bidding systems I have heard of?
Many guilds either do not like pre-made point charts or want a more free flowing system. In these systems any time an item is dropped players are allowed a chance to bid on the item. This allows players that do not have the most points to still potentially get the item that they want if they are willing to spend more points.
Even though one player may have a 100 DKP and another only 80, under this system if the person with 80 was willing to give up 75 of their points and the person with 100 was only willing to spend 70, then the person with 80 would get the item. Under a fixed system the item might have only cost 40 points, but the player with 80 would never stand a chance to get it, or it may have been worth 120 points and neither could have gotten it.
All of the DKP charts are then updated based on the points spent on the item. When using a bidding system, numbers can get complicated on a DKP chart as many players will have fractions of a point. Some guilds drop all fractions at the end of a raid, while others keep them or round up to the nearest number.
Lastly, most guilds that allow bidding have a minimum point value assigned to items. It may be on a per item basis or a simple 10 point min. on all armor and 15 point min. on all weapons.
Why do we need DKP?
DKP is in place to, over time, make things fair for all players in a raiding guild. It has several goals that most games do not address in their loot system. If a system was built in-game to address the perceived loot issues then DKP would probably not be needed. The issues it tries to address and the general goals of the system are as follows.
Is DKP Fair?
This is a matter of opinion rather than something that can easily be given a yes or no answer. There are two sides to the argument. Both have some valid points and are worth looking at.
Yes, it is fair - Without a DKP system or some loot distribution system it is entirely possible that a player could raid with you for a year and never get an item. This could happen if every item was randomed and they were unlucky on the random rolls. This means they may put 52 weeks of effort in for zero reward. With a DKP system, they would be guaranteed to get something as over time they would become the highest on the list and become eligible for the choice of the gear they wanted.
No, it isn't fair - On the flip side, attending additional raids does not up the percentage chance that the item you want drops, it's always random. Additionally, if it is known that you are only attending and saving points for item X and you have the highest DKP, it decreases the chance that others that want that item will attend the raid. This is because as long as you have the highest DKP total they have no chance to get the item.
Like I said both have their points. In the long term though I (and most guilds) find it is better to reward the players that have put serious time into learning and playing through raids with the guild. Without a DKP system it is entirely possible that a player joins a raid guild, runs a few raids, gets all the items they need / want and then leave the guild. By using an effort-based reward system it promotes staying with a guild over time and helping the guild as a whole.
Where can I find DKP management software?
There are two main DKP software packages right now. The are eqDKP which is based on the first implementation and designed for Everquest 1 and 2 and nDKP which is made primarily for World of Warcraft. Both are easy to modify though and there is tons of support (especially for eqDKP) that should allow you to fit almost any game. Links to both sites can be found in the Links and References section below.