July 3, 2015

RNG: Dude, Where’s My Loot?

Video Games

WoW recently dropped a new patch, and there has been quite a bit of controversy behind some of the dev statements made about the patch, I’m honestly loving it. In this patch, a new raid, Hellfire Citadel was also added, as with the rest of the raids this expansion it’s top-notch. However, with that adds complications for many guilds clearing the raid. Who gets the loot?

Well, a further complication is added to that for many groups. Why doesn’t the gear we need drop? Why didn’t we get it in a bonus roll (you can use resources to get an additional chance at loot in WoW)? How come the gear didn’t drop the bonus stats we wanted?

All of these questions aren’t even solely about WoW’s loot system. This could pertain to any RPG, MMO, FPS, etc. that drops loot or has any sort of reward for killing something. Why is this?

If you asked any given player of your game you’d probably get a response that had the acronym “RNG” in the sentence. Sometimes they might actually give you the meaning of these three letters, “Random Number Generator”.

We’ve spoke about this before in the probability post I wrote early on in this site’s lifetime. In that post we learned that a random number generator is essentially anything that picks a number based on the constraints we give the generator. A 6-sided die could be considered a RNG. It “chooses” a number between 1 and 6.

Okay, but where’s my loot though?

The amount of times I hear my guildies complain about not getting that piece of loot they want off a boss is tiring. I can’t blame them because I definitely do it too. So, how does the system in a game determine what loot we get?

An example of a loot table.Well, many games that use RNG in their loot have something called a loot table. This is a list of all possible drops that could be in that creature, chest, boss, etc. sometimes this might even include bonus drops. Regardless, now we know why my guildies and myself know what loot we WANT off the boss, but we still don’t know why we didn’t get it.

An example of a loot table.

Example of a loot table.

That’s where the RNG comes into play. From a top-down view this is what we can assume goes on in the code for that loot. There is a constraint in the RNG that says what the maximum number that can be “rolled” by the code. This number is automatically rolled for however many times the boss drops an item. The code specifies what number the RNG lands on will be what possible item the boss drops. Generally we can assume that each piece has more than 1 number attached to it.

See, in many games some pieces have a different chance to drop than the other items on the list. These pieces have less possible numbers the RNG can land on and therefore as far as probability is concerned, will not drop as often. However, that’s where the random part comes in. For some groups maybe that legendary piece of loot that has only a 1% drop chance will drop ever week. You’re not guaranteed to get that piece ever, but you’re also not guaranteed to never see that piece drop.

Basically the game rolls some dice, adds the dice up, looks at its loot table for the pieces of gear that have the same number it rolled, and finally drops those pieces.


Is RNG fair? Yes. Is RNG fun? That’s debatable. Every person that tries to loot the thing has an equal chance at getting the loot they want to drop. For some games you can do this multiple times per [insert time period here] in order to increase your chances at getting that sweet piece of gear.

Is RNG fun? That’s a subjective question and really hard to say. Some games integrate RNG more than others so it doesn’t just pertain to loot, but how you play your character. Sometimes certain abilities only work when they “proc” off of another or your damage will vary based on RNG. Sometimes it can be fun in a wack-a-mole way, and it is necessary because if we got the same loot drops off of bosses in dungeons or raids we’d never go back once we got that gear. It keeps content “fresh”, but it can be redundant.

RNG is a necessary evil. It can make us cry. It can make us jump for joy. All in all, I think it is necessary for any MMO.

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