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Looting (alternately, 'lewting', from a common misspelling), in video games such as role-playing video games, massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) and MUDs, is the process by which a player character obtains items (or loot) such as in-game currency, spells, equipment, or weapons, often from the corpse of a creature or possibly the corpse of another player in a PVP situation (cf. looting). These looted items will be placed into the player's own inventory. Loot is considered a reward for killing a creature or other player.
The term "ninja looting", or just "ninja-ing", applies to a number of common looting practices. A player exhibiting any of these behaviors might be labeled a "ninja looter", or simply a "ninja":
- Looting treasure off enemies that a party other than his own has defeated but not yet looted.
- This situation could arise in a number of ways. The killing party could still be involved in a protracted battle with additional enemies, or that party could be having difficulty deciding among themselves who should loot the item, or they may have decided it should go to a friend's or guildmate's character who is not in that party and are awaiting his arrival from elsewhere in the game. (The latter two cases are particular to MMOGs where powerful and important items typically become permanently bound to the first player who picks them up. Otherwise, the item could be looted by anyone and redistributed to the proper individual later.) Similarly, at times there may be a physically accessible treasure that is being guarded (e.g., a treasure chest), such that any attempt to loot it will provoke the guardians into attacking; a player who waits near such a treasure for another player to engage the guardians – and then loots it himself while the other player is occupied in combat – is considered a ninja looter (effortlessly acquiring a treasure at someone else's risk and expense).
- Looting specific items off enemies that the player's own party defeated before the party has formally decided who should do so or in direct contradiction to a decision that someone else should loot; in games in which players can activate an "autoloot" option (intended for convenience when fighting solo), this practice often occurs accidentally when a player forgets to disable autoloot and is tolerated as long as the looting party (usually the one who strikes the final blow) immediately transfers the item as agreed upon, either directly to a person designated in advance to receive it or, if no such designation occurred, by conducting a dieroll (cf. the ancient practice of "casting lots" for non-divisible items) to select a recipient.
- Consistently looting all defeated enemies at the earliest possible moment, thus precluding any other party member from receiving any treasure, even when nothing special is to be had. (This is also known as "loot whoring" when not followed by distribution in accordance with previous plans [see discussion of "autoloot" above].)
- Looting items that the player did not have the high roll for and/or cannot use for the sole purpose of selling or trading it. Sometimes this may be discovered after the fact if that same item (through an in-game trade system, such as the Auction House in World of Warcraft) is later found to be for sale by the player who lied about needing it. This may also occur by misuse of the in-game loot distribution system, by misleading or confusing loot rules, or simply by a lack of established loot rules. Taking advantage of these last two situations is often thought of as a mild offense and may be overlooked as carelessness or poor planning.
Many MMOGs have various loot distribution systems built into the game that attempt to take fairness into account; World of Warcraft, for example, features a time-limited 'trading period' in which any loot can be given to someone else before it's locked to the holder. Some MMOs offer no such 'loot protection', or only offer a very basic system; according, 'loot etiquette' varies from game to game, as does the prevailing attitude toward (and tolerance of) ninja looters.
In games that don't have a loot-protection system in place, ninja looters often earn a negative reputation, particularly in games where a 'group effort' provides the greater reward; chronic and unrepentant ninja looters are frequently 'named-and-shamed' in online communities for disrupting a group by effectively 'stealing' loot that was intended for someone else.
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The term "scavenging" is used when referring to the process of acquiring loot other players have not picked up, often purposely so, without actually helping them defeat the enemies. By means of scavenging, players may acquire gear they would not have access to by means of their own prowess. Players known to scavenge are called scavengers. Scavenging may be seen as a nuisance by some players, yet the scavenger is normally tolerated if he lets the active players pick their loot first, but this can also turn against them as most loot left behind is useless, "low gold" (low in-game value) items. For example, in RuneScape, the bones of a slain monster are normally left behind, which most other people are welcome to take when they become visible.
Scavenging often occurs in levels where risk is minimal (e. g. the level has been cleared already and there will be no respawns) and lots of neglected loot can be obtained, a practice prefigured in literature by Les Miserables' Thénardier. A prime example for this is the secret "cow" level in Diablo II, where low level players will often come in to scavenge after the level has been cleared by high level players. The neglected loot is often weak or worthless to the players who cleared it but extremely powerful and valuable to starting players.
- "'City of Heroes' is a massively entertaining online success". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. August 31, 2004. p. 3E. Retrieved Jan 31, 2010.
- http://mmohuts.com/editorials/mmorpg-etiquette 'MMORPG Etiquette – Do’s and Dont’s of MMORPGs'