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Many MMORPGs have monsters that are infrequent spawns with rare items. In fact, the rarity of items is where much of the replay value comes into play. If all one had to do was just go to a shop NPC to buy every item, people would quit once they got bored of said items.

But sometimes, an item is so rare, so irreplaceable, and so iconic that it causes otherwise rational people to do horrible things. Indeed, with the uncertainty of getting it and the high competition both within and without a guild, many people resort to downright Machiavellian tactics. People will backstab, undermine, and do nasty things to try to secure it for themselves. People will abuse game mechanics, leading to excessive use of cheat programs. People will try to Player Kill those that pose a threat to them getting it. Indeed, very few guilds can have this item in their treasure pool without all hell breaking loose. Expect Ninja Looting, lot sniping, and a ton of arguments about who deserved it.

There are a couple criteria for an item to fall under this trope. First, it has to be extremely rare. At best, maybe two can drop per month total for an entire server. It has to be something that is the best for a particular class/playstyle, going well above and beyond other options. If you can't define a player based on whether or not they have it, it most likely doesn't count. It has to be something that drops from a world spawn, leading to heavy competition from other groups. And finally, it has to cause a ton of drama. Typically, the negative actions that players partake in to get this item will overrule any positive benefit the item gives. While the other rules can be stretched, this is required.

Compare Artifact of Doom and McGuffin, fictional plot devices that share many similar properties.

Examples of Loot Drama include:


  • Final Fantasy XI: Ridill, the former trope namer, is a sword usable by six jobs that has a frequently occurring chance of additional attacks in a given attack round. It is dropped by Fafnir, a "notorious monster" on a 21-to-24-hour spawn timer (except every 4-10 days, when something else spawns in his place). The drop rate on Ridill is hard to quantify with a percentage, but exceptionally low; The "average" estimate is about 5%. And it is the source of a vast majority of the drama in the game. There are also several other items that actually have lower proliferation rates, but due to their specialized and not-so-glorious benefits, don't really cause as much drama.
    • A fitting coincidence is that in the original Fafnir myth, one of his items (Andvaranauts as opposed to Ridill) pretty much corrupted people into being greedy assholes. How apt.
      • Ironically, no player particularly cares for the Andvaranauts. Except for the odd person who might find their strange stat bonus to be useful.
    • Some servers had this compounded even further by groups dedicated exclusively to hunting Fafnir specifically to sell the drops. While exceptionally rare, it's somehow even more insulting than the cookie-cutter cheater linkshell because at least they ostensibly care about their own advancement instead of exploiting the game for money.
    • Let's take this moment to put some rough numbers to the trope. According to Square Enix, as of 2009 the game hosted over 2 million characters in 20 jobs, of which 6 can use Ridill. According to the game's wiki (of course it has one), as of 2008 those six jobs were played by 30% of characters, resulting in 600,000 characters trying to get one. Meanwhile, Fafnir has been fightable since April 2003. Assuming it drops Ridill precisely once a month and that all 16 current servers were available from launch, there are at most 1648 Ridills available to the 600,000 characters that want one[1]. See the Conflict Ball now?
      • Ironically enough, changes to FFXI have made Ridill much more marginalized in its usefulness than times past. Before Warriors needed it to go from fairly good to amazingly powerful. Gameplay changes now just make acquiring a Ridill a different kind of powerful, and even then there are debates as to which way is better.
    • Worse than Ridill, but less infamous, is the Defending Ring. It's one of the most powerful items in the game, reducing all damage the wearer takes by 10%. A notorious monster named Behemoth only spawns once every 21-24 hours. King Behemoth will randomly spawn instead of Behemoth starting 4 spawns after King Behemoth's last death (so he takes 4 days until as long as he feels like to spawn). King Behemoth drops the Defending Ring, but only an estimated 7% of the time. Assuming a flawless 4 days for each King Behemoth, it's about two months before this ring will statistically drop. Demand is so high that players winning it from the yearly staff-run in-game lottery (having chosen it over, among other things, more money than most players would ever need) are almost universally derided.
      • Assuming 60 days and the perfect one kill every 4 days, if the same person kills King Behemoth every time, they have a 2/3 chance for that ring to have dropped at least once. So, two months, and there's still a 1/3 shot of never getting it at all.
  • In Eve Online, it's not so much that the owning of a rare ship causes drama, it's the desire of everyone else to want to blow it up and get credit on the kill mail. Because Eve is a single server, rare ships destroyed in combat are Lost Forever. A few different kinds of ships fit this trope:
    • Titans are the largest and (with their Wave Motion Gun weapons) debatably most powerful ships in the game, with a resource and time requirement that can only be put up by the largest alliances. And the largest alliances are always fighting each other. Blowing up titans in fleet battles is almost routine now, but oh the drama when someone in an alliance turns traitor and steals one. Or the time when Goonswarm found and killed a "baby titan" that was almost finished with construction (they take a month to build).
    • Limited edition rare ships include unique faction ships such as the Raven State Issue, or Tempest Tribal Issue, which were handed out as rewards for player tournaments. They are now nearly priceless, as some have been destroyed, and the owners rarely entertain buy offers. Due to their value, these ships are never actually undocked or used, being owned by collectors of unique items, despite the Megathron Federate Issue and Raven State Issue being the most powerful battleships in the game. And in the realm of indescribably valuable is the Apocalypse Imperial Issue. There used to be two. Now there is one. In the entire universe. No more will be made. It's been fought over, killed for, and stolen many times. And the current owner refuses to even host showings of it. Frigate class examples include the Gold Magnate (exactly one was given out as an event prize. It has since been destroyed in PvP combat and is now Lost Forever) and the Silver Magnate (given out at the same time as the Gold. Although originally more numerous, many have also been destroyed, so there are only 3 or 4 estimated to still exist.)
    • On a different note, Capital ships (dreadnoughts and carriers) as well as supercapitals are not allowed into high security space and are unable to be built there or flown in. Originally, when capitals were first introduced, they were allowed to be built in all security levels for a brief time. During this time, several carriers and at least one dreadnought were built, with some remaining. There are several carriers around in various systems, but only one dreadnought remaining (it's called the Veldnaught and spends all its time mining Veldspar). The drama came when a GM, ignorant of the Grandfather Clause, moved the ships into low-sec, and a flamewar ensued over whether they should be moved back or their "special" status discarded - the owner of the Veldnaught is something of an Eve celebrity). They were moved back under the condition that they could never be used for combat.
  • World of Warcraft has several items of that kind, which have their own rarity category, called Legendary. Without exception, these weapons require weeks of raiding efforts to be created, and just deciding who in the guild should get the item can be cause for much drama. Some epic drops in normal dungeons also fall into this category, such as an extremely rare mount (which only looks unique and doesn't offer any improvements over normal epic mounts, mind you).
    • At least this type of items in World of Warcraft all come in instanced dungeons, so the drama is at least limited to those who participated in the raid. One can only imagine the howling terror of a legendary item on a world spawn in that game.
    • Prior to a fix that gave all hunter pets of a given type the same attack speed, a rare spawn called "Broken Tooth" was particularly desired as a hunter pet for its 1-second attack speed, the fastest of any trainable creature. This creature, which roamed randomly throughout a remote region of the game, had an eight-hour respawn timer and more often than not was killed by non-hunters who didn't recognize its significance.
      • Uber rare pets have returned, with the Spirit Beasts (a glorified cat with swirly spots and evil glowing eyes -- oh, and it casts Moonfire as a normal attack). Again, spawns once a day in a random position in a rather large area of the game and is rare as all getout. Oh, and he's invisible.
    • The last Legendary item released before the Wrath of the Lich King expansion was Thoridal, the Stars' Fury, a Legendary bow. There's only one class that deals damage primarily through ranged weapons: The Hunter. However, the bow curiously lacked a class limitation to them. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before one was looted to a Rogue - who'd use it as little more than a minor stat boost - over two Hunters that could have used it. The fallout from the drama that caused broke out of even the server it happened on, with the entire World of Warcraft community now knowing of it. That is the power of Loot Drama.
    • There's also now a rare (Possibly the rarest creature in WoW) that drops itself as an in-game flying mount. The approrpiately-named Time-Lost Proto-Drake has multiple paths it can patrol along, but nobody's followed it for very long because it's now well-known enough that most servers have a few people in its most commonly-seen areas at all times. In addition, the loot is bind on pickup. The monster itself is quite weak, any character at the level cap could solo it with their eyes closed, so its a case of blind luck or dogged persistence.
      • Speaking of mounts, there are also several very rare mounts that drop from instanced bosses. Due to their exceeding rarity, sometimes dropping less than once in every hundred runs, it was not uncommon to see groups, raids, and even guilds fracture if greed got the better of somebody. Game Masters have been called in to punish those who steal these mounts, and they do so.
        • Back in vanilla, multiple guilds fell apart due to infighting over who would get the incredibly rare drop of Baron Rivendare's Charger. Using it in public was also a known cause of the owner getting hounded and harassed by less lucky players. Yes, you could feel loot drama from players who didn't even play with you.
  • Gaia Online has the Angelic Halo. It was one of the first Monthly Collectables released and it's virtually impossibly to get one. The admins and artists know this and love to screw with the users about it. Several cheap alternatives have been released because of the item's rarity.
    • Chance Item prizes, usually the 'cute animal mascot' types, fall into this more often than not; the most notorious of them are Lucky the Cat and Jet the Kitten Star, both of which fall somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 million gold due to their rarity and have sparked many an angry rant.
  • Team Fortress 2 has this with the unlockable weapons and to a greater extent hats. With the Random Drop system, people leave their computers on and wait until they get items.
    • This caused Valve to remove hats and other items from people who farmed items by idling and/or using other exploits. Valve rewarded players who didn't do this by giving them a halo hat as proof. However, this caused even more drama where people made fun of people who got the halos or even banned people from their severs outright from having it.
    • The best example of this yet in the game is the Golden Wrench. There are only 100 of them in the whole game. That's right, 100 total for a million+ players. To get one you had to be either super-lucky or knew the mechanics of how to obtain it during a three-day period. As for the drama-causing part... Well, here is a blog post from an important person in the various Golden Wrench charities explaining what the rage was all about.
      • It's gotten to a point where even those who obtained the wrench legitimately will not use it and will set their player profiles to private so no one can find out and hound them in public for being so-called cheaters. One of the "lucky" players who got a wrench has even changed his account name to "The Wrench Is Cursed."
      • Even better, anywhere from 25 to 33 Golden Wrenches have been intentionally destroyed. Some destroyed their Wrench for charity; others destroyed their Wrench purely for the "lulz" of watching thousands of people rage at them for simply destroying an incredibly valuable item.
  • While not nearly as rare as some of the other items on this page, the Cloudsong from Dark Age of Camelot caused a player to have an absolute meltdown when another player picked it up. That meltdown, featured on this YTMND, became a popular internet fad for quite some time.
  • The Isolator Badge in City of Heroes. To obtain this badge, you had to defeat 100 Contaminated Thugs that were only found in the tutorial zone. If you bypassed the tutorial, or you got bored fighting that type of thug (and it is really boring), this badge was Lost Forever. The developers eventually responded to complaints by adding...the Infected Thug enemies, who act and look exactly the same as Contaminated but don't count towards the badge.
    • After more complaints, they finally added a spawn point. For ONE Thug. Every two hours. In a high-level PvP zone. And since villains can't get this badge and thus had nothing to lose, it was easy for Griefers to just kill the Thug (it's still level 1!). And then stomp the non-PvP ready hero who was just here for the badge.
    • After more complaints, this was finally rectified with the Flashback system, where you get to replay the tutorial mission and regain the badge.
  • Unusual in that this isn't an online game, certain Pokémon may sometimes be this rare due to the difficulty in getting them. Especially Pokémon that are given out at Nintendo events. This goes doubly for Pokémon that are only available through these events like Mew and Celebi. This also applies to Pokémon that have special moves they wouldn't normally learn (such as Ralts with Wish) or shiny Pokémon (which are only encountered once in a blue moon.)
    • This has gone down a bit as far as shiny Pokémon are concerned, as most can now be obtained through chaining, a method which allows you to get shinies more reliably. Granted, it's still hard to get one, but they're much more common now.
    • This is also why there's very little stigma to using a Game Shark to access the inaccessible, especially among those who have little to no chance of gaining one officially.
  • Diablo II has a rare item, the Stone of Jordan, which gives + 1 to every skill. This was actually used as currency in the online aspect of the game for rare goods. Before any crackdown on selling in-game items for real money, an eBay auction was selling about 50 of these for $300. Since the crackdown, perfect gems are used as the surrogate currency.
    • Diablo II in general is notorious for this. One patch offers runes and runewords; runes are special socketable items with a range of abilities, depending on the rune. Rune drops aren't determined by magic find so the probability of finding any (much less the one you want) is very low. Runewords are specific combinations of runes in a specific item which when created, imbue the item with increased stats, ranging from useful to GameBreaking. Runes have supplanted the Stone of Jordan as the ingame with its own exchange and pricing system to boot. Rampant duping of runes has actually caused inflation.
    • For reference: There are 26 runes. The last 8 can have odds of dropping of one in tens, hundreds of thousands. To make a runeword, you'll need a specific combination, up to 6 of the "high" ones. And, sometimes, finding an item good enough to put these beasts in is going to be just as difficult.
  • Ragnarok Online is probably the king of this trope. Almost every monster/boss/etc. in the game has a chance to drop a card, which can be compounded into compatible equipment types to give special benefits to their users. Some cards are vital in the creation of some classes, while others can be flat-out gamebreaking. The bottom line, however, is that the base drop rate for most cards is 1/10000. Ten-flipping-thousand. But hey, at least combat is quicker in RO than other MMORPGs, right? Right?
    • Add to that the fact that all the minibosses and boss characters had spawn times of between 1 hour for the weaker ones to 24 hours for the big MV Ps (the game's equivalent of bosses), some spawned randomly from a pool (Rekenber Biolabs) and some required an entire guild to run a quest just to get one to spawn, nevermind try defeating it (Thanatos).
    • To add to the drama, all drops were lootable by ANYONE after a fixed amount of time, if the original player who killed it couldn't pick it up in time. This has resulted in some serious drama where a passing bot or passing player could loot a valuable card in the mess of loot when the exclusive loot rights timed out. And said owner of bot or player would then try to sell it back to the original owner.
  • The Hockey Stick of Furious Angry Rage in Kingdom of Loathing could probably have been considered to cause Loot Drama at one time, though other additions have since made the hockey stick's benefit more marginal. When equipped, the hockey stick would cause any monster the player was fighting to become stronger by 30 levels (at the time meaning + 30 to the monster's attack and defense), with the benefit of + 6 XP per battle. The + 30 did not add to the monster's HP (though that was fixed later), and its other stats are nearly moot if you can KO it in one hit. Also, up to 3 hockey sticks could be equipped to take up all 3 accessory slots, and their effects would stack to a whopping + 18 XP per battle. (The toughest monsters in the game back then had a base XP value of 36.) In short, they were extremely useful, and nothing else in the game at the time came close in effectiveness. Meanwhile, hockey sticks are also an Ultra-Rare. The Ultra-Rare mechanic itself is unknown, but it is suspected that only a certain number of Ultra-Rares (around 2-4) can drop across the entire game per day. Add that to the fact that the hockey stick only drops in a zone that players usually have no reason to bother visiting and can only be visited by ascended players who are a Mysticality sign in their current ascension, and the end result was pretty predictable. (Thankfully, it's easily traded, which lead to some clans having them on a timeshare system.)
    • This was also slightly lessened due to the fact that Kingdom of Loathing is kind of a special case due to its interface - if you were to get one, nobody else would see that fact unless you wanted them to. Far more like drama-causing loot now are the boss drops from Hobopolis, which have fairly good chances of dropping, but which only one single player per clan gets a chance of snagging per run. Most notably is Hodgman's Imaginary Hamster, which drops 100% of the time from the Bonus Boss and doesn't automatically go to the player who killed him... if you beat the Dungeon in 1100 turns or less, a feat requiring literally almost perfect turn management and a character specifically designed to take down a Nigh Invulnerable Bonus Boss in a single hit. And did we mention that each "raid" of Hobopolis has a meat cost of one million meat?
      • Smart clans cooperate for hamster runs. With the new slime dungeon, smart clans also cooperate for slime prizes that can only be gotten by speed runs. There are also high-level players who *cough* rent themselves out as boss killers, and even entire clans that will let you walk in and take their loot ... for a price. Notably, most of the best Hobopolis items (and many slime items) are non-tradable, so you have to make at least a token venture into the clan's dungeon to get the item.
    • Oddly enough, the Hockey Stick, Crazy Bastard Sword, et all of the Ultra Rare drops have subsequently been replaced by gear obtainable in-game, from special one-time-only quests, or Items of the Month (the Brimstone Bludgeon far, far outweighs the CBS for Musc boost, and the Haiku Katana gives near-equivalent bonuses all-around and has way better abilities - both are one-handed weapons, too, while the LBS is 2, making them even better in comparison). IOTM's & FOTM's in particular are known for this, one being the V-Mask, which is generally considered a ridiculously high-powered item; others are the aforementioned Haiku Katana, Pilgrim Shield, any Tome, Libram, or Spellbook, and especially the familiars - Bandersnatch, He-Boulder, Llama Lama, Comma Chameleon, and Sandworm being some of the best.
      • And with the recent introduction of the Juju mask, Vivala masks sank significantly in price. Hooray for power inflation.
      • Note that Items and Familiars of the Month can only enter the game if someone "donates" money to the server fund. (They're tradeable, so it doesn't necessarily have to be the same person, but the price seems to hover around four million meat per ten US dollar donation.)
  • In Ace Online, the really good rare drops are greatly sought after. Several bosses, particularly the ones who drop the parts of the unique Boss Armors, are always being chased by players of both nations within minutes, and sometimes even within seconds, of their spawning. Whole long-and-nasty bouts of warring often break out over the control of maps with these bosses.
    • Other than that, the demand for more mundane rares, such as the Seraphim Bible and Gemetria Scripture (which are used to make Legendary weapons and armor), which drop from most Gold Mobs, is there too, but at least they drop more often and are thus more accessible to casual players.
    • There are also hard-to-obtain minerals and alloys, like the much-sought-after Aimaam Edcanium and Shine Titanium, which sell for tens of thousands of SPI.
    • Somehow, someway, Episode 3 Part 2 decides to give this trope a giant middle finger with an unhealthy dose of Bribing Your Way to Victory. The boss armors mentioned now have are available in the form of replica armors, available from the cash shop slot machine (each token relatively "cheap", and with 1-in-20 chances, it's much higher than boss drops). A big difference is that while the replica armors are inferior to the real armors, they are upgradeable (whereas the finished boss armors are not; unfinished boss armors are seldom useful except for Episode 3 ones), allowing massive doses of Elite Tweak. Putting the real and customized replica Episode 2 armors side-by-side, chances are the pimped up replica armor will have better stats than the rare, real armor, which makes the real armors nothing more than less-than-useful collector's item.
      • It is however worth mentioning that only Episode 2 boss armors get replicas. Episode 3 Vattallus armors don't (it is debatable which will be better, the pimped Episode 2 replicas or finished Episode 3 rares.)
  • Sim City 4 Deluxe manages to turn high-end commercial development and some rewards into this in the general game. Many modding communities have built mods, buildings, and other various programs to help make getting skyscrapers and rare rewards easier to achieve. Of course, being as chock full of egotism and snobbery that occurs in the modding community, the general person won't be able to get access to such things without wading through ego wars. Of course, had Maxis not made even the easy level of the game difficult as it is, half of these problems wouldn't happen.
  • Maple Story: Unless you're buying it off of other users (for millions and millions of Mesos), chances are you'll be spending a good deal of time hunting monsters so you can FINALLY equip something over level 35.
    • And not just something. Most armor for every possible class can only be taken from monsters.
      • This has mostly been rectified by a major update which greatly increased drop rates and a major update which added the ability to craft your own equipment easily.

Non-Video Game Examples:

  • In The Guild, a web series about people who play an MMORPG together, the group finds a rare item. Both Tink and Clara want it, and are engaged in bartering for it, when Clara's children distract her, causing the guild leader to give the item to Tink. Clara gets upset, and sets up a secondary account to PK the guild leader's character out of revenge in secret. When it's eventually revealed that she was the one who kept killing him, it caused a temporary rift among the guildmembers.
  • In .hack//Sign, the minor character A-20 is trying to get an item known as "The Golden Grunty". Her character is very low level, and completely incapable of obtaining it on her own; she manages to rope Mimiru into going with her, in spite of the fact that there are very serious and real things going on. Mimiru eventually gets fed up dealing with A-20 and leaves her in the dungeon alone, but goes back at the end and finally helps her reach the dungeon's treasure room. They acquire the Golden Grunty, and Mimiru is excited, because it will raise a character's stats by a huge amount. In an inversion, though, both A-20 and Mimiru insist the other to take it. Eventually, Mimiru convinces A-20 to keep it, and try the game for a little longer.
  • Parodied in Sluggy Freelance when a World of Warcraft style MMORPG has a special ability-boosting hat that a raid's boss only drops once every ten raids. When Torg gets the hat his first time playing the raid, other players who have done it 50 times without getting the hat are pissed.
  • The Big Bang Theory provides two examples:

Notes

  1. Add +16 to this number for every month that has passed since then
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