Ninja Looting: Is it possible?

For years, players have argued that ninja looting is possible within World of Warcraft.  We take an in-depth look into what ninja looting really is and look at ways to prevent any scams.

Warlords of Draenor

So, what is ninja looting?  Simply put, ninja looting is the act of obtaining loot in which you are not entitled to.  In some other MMORPGs, a player was able to "wait in the shadows" while another player kills a mob.  The waiting player would then run out and quickly loot the mob.  That is ninja looting.  So, is it possible within World of Warcraft?  The short answer is no, and here's why.

Tagging System

World of Warcraft has a tagging system that "binds" the mob to the player that hit it first.  Only that player is able to loot the mob, unless in a group in which the group loot rules would apply.  There are a few options for group loot which I'll cover later on.

I've been ninja'd!  Help!

Here's the scenario:  You are running a raid in a pick-up group (PUG).  The group kills a boss and the looting process starts.  You are interested in something the boss drops, so you let the Raid Leader know.  The Leader tells everyone who's interested in the gear to roll and gives some basic rules.  You roll 89, which is the highest roll.  However, rather than receiving the loot like you were expecting, the Leader leaves the instance.  Have you been ninja'd?  No.  Scammed?  Possibly, but it depends on what was stated when the loot rules were posted, if at all.

The Loot Rules

Before a raid or dungeon begins, its important that the Leader post clear loot rules in chat.  Not in Skype, not verbally over VoIP, but actually typing in-game.  The loot rules must state who is eligible to roll for certain pieces of gear, how the winner is determined, etc.  Here's an example:

If you are interested in a piece of gear, you must state your intention in chat.  If you are the only person interested, you get the gear.  If more than one person is interested, you will /roll.  The person closest to 100 will win the item.

Again, that must be stated in-game.

The Master of the Loot

It seems plenty of PUGs run with Master Looter, and there isn't a single good reason why.  If you're running a PUG with bunch of strangers with ML, you are definitely setting yourself up for a fall.  However, even if the ML takes all of the gear, you may still have a case for a scam.  Is it considered ninja looting, though?  Nope.  That term is not accurate at all for World of Warcraft, which can be summed up best by the support page: Ninja Looting: Blizzard's Stance.

When you run with a ML, you are basically stating you trust that person to distribute the loot fairly according to the loot rules established in the beginning.  If the loot rules are similar to what's posted above, you're good to go.  If its MS>OS, you're out of luck.


What does that mean, exactly?  My Spec > Other's Spec?  Main Spec > Other Specs?  Main Spec > Off Spec?  It could mean virtually anything.  While most players take it to mean Main Spec > Off Spec, that is just a player definition.

While an interesting idea, one of the reasons why MS > OS is not a viable looting rule would be because that is not information that we track. So whatever role you may or may not be in is essentially irrelevant from an investigative point of view.

Loot Scams

From Ninja Looting: Blizzard's Stance:

When a Master Looter establishes clear rules for specific loot distribution using channels that are visible to all players (such as party chat or raid chat) then breaks those rules by distributing the loot differently, Blizzard considers it a loot scam. If a Master Looter refuses to honor a specific agreement, you can contact Support to report that player for scamming. Include details about the rule established and how it was broken. Blizzard will review the chat logs and may suspend the player or remove items depending on the findings.

Due to the privacy associated with these investigations, we will not release details regarding an investigation's findings or any actions taken against other players. Loot removed during a scam investigation will typically be left unassigned.

So how can you protect yourself?  There are three options:  1. Get the Leader to post clear loot rules, 2. Get the Leader to change the loot type, or 3. Leave the group.  If the Leader agrees to post clear loot rules, they should be posted as such:

Loot rules need to be specific and virtually in legalese. You need specifics on:
1. What constitutes "Main Spec"
2. What constitutes "Off Spec"
3. Are any items on reserve?
4. When /roll 1-100 for an item, only those who qualify will have their rolls taken into account.
5. When /roll 1-100 for an item, it will be the closest person to 100, ties will be re-rolled between those who tied.
6. You'll want to explain how MS and OS are handled if a player is forced to change spec too.
7. What happens to items that nobody needs? Are they DE'd? Who gets the mats?

That will help minimize the risk of the loot scam since now there's logs of the rules!  What about changing the loot type?  There are a few options:

  1. Personal Loot
    1. Each player will get loot appropriate to them, or gold.  There is a certain amount of luck involved here.
  2. Need before Greed
    1. This is the default loot method for groups.
    2. Need - Players clicking the Need option really do need that item.  The intend to use it.
    3. Greed - The player indicates they intend to give it to an alt or sell it.
  3. Group Loot
    1. Similar to Round Robin method
    2. Leader sets thresholds for what gets rolled on
    3. All other loot is "first come, first served"

The third option really needs no explanation.  You'll just simply leave the group!

Spread the Word!

We're all one huge family here in World of Warcraft.  You can help curb the behavior of loot scams and the like by simply not giving in to Master Looter in PUGs.  If you run in a group with a ML, you run the risk of the ML taking all of the loot.  Most of the time, Blizzard will not intervene unless a clear scam took place.

I hope this helps clarify things for everyone.  Be safe in the World (of Warcraft)!