A loot ninja, AKA ninja looter or simply ninja, is a player who takes loot to which he or she is not entitled. The act is referred to as ninja looting or ninjaing. The term predates World of Warcraft and originated with the notion of looting as quickly as possible. The common synonym for this behavior is greeder, though that term has ironically fairer play connotations specific to WoW.
The term originates from prior-generation MMO's, where loot was often contained in a chest or other container guarded by a mob. Players could potentially sneak around the mob and the rest of the party, taking the item without having contributed to the fight. Within World of Warcraft, the term seems to have a few different meanings depending on whom you ask, such as:
- A player who, when in a group, rolls "Need" on everything regardless of if he or she can use it.
- A player who takes everything not nailed down in an instance without asking: chests, ores, skins, herbs, etc..
- A player who sits by or tries to disturb another player while he or she is fighting a mob so the other player dies and he gets an easy kill (and loot) afterwards.
- A player who rolls on an BoP item that everyone else has passed on or a player who loots a corpse without permission after everyone has passed on a BoP item. Generally, groups decide how to best make use of the item that no one can use, sometimes DPS classes will back out of +healing/+spell damage (as opposed to just +spell damage) even if it is an upgrade and will ask for the item if no one else needs it. Additionally, if no one needs it and no one reconsidered, it often goes to a enchanter, who disenchants it, and then the group rolls for the materials acquired from the disenchanted item. Sometimes players loot items for more sentimental reasons (like "town clothes" in RP servers) and will normally pass on it unless no one else needs it. If there are no enchanters in the group and no one changes their mind, generally the group will roll for its NPC value.
- A player who loots a chest or harvests a resource while another player is fighting the mobs which were defending it, possibly using or a dash ability to aid in this.
- A party or raid leader who changes the looting system to "Master Loot" near the end of a boss kill and steals the loot off of a corpse without letting other players roll for the items. Especially one who sets up a group just for the first or second boss, and then hearthstones without speaking or claiming he has to sleep or work, meanwhile setting up another group to loot it again, perhaps prominent of Gold Farmers.
- The term have also been used about a player, who joins an instance and leaves the group immediately after having needed the loot he is going after.
Gold farmers also try to join instance groups in order to ninja/pirate loot items and sell them.
Loot ninjas are understandably not well liked by other players. Often, a ninja will get a bad reputation on a realm which eventually prevents them from being invited to participate in any high level instances. Many guilds also have rules stating that ninjas/pirates should be kicked from the guild on their first offense.
Dealing with Ninja Looters
With the advent of patch 3.3.0, Need before Greed was implemented as the standard looting system, the ability to ninja loot has been significantly reduced, so long as everyone hits 'need'. Unfortunately, this also means that players with legitimate off-specs are often denied needed gear. Additionally, this patch has provided the ability to trade BoP items with other players that were eligible for the loot. Therefore, if a player acquires a BoP item unfairly - it is possible to discuss this and trade the item between players (this is a good way of telling the difference between genuine mistakes and a loot ninja).
There is also an ongoing debate as to whether rolling "Need" for a player's off-role is considered ninja-looting, especially when another group member needs the item for their own role. An example of this would be a shaman, present in a group in the role of Healer, rolling Need on an Agility ring which a rogue who is present needs for his current role of DPS. An MMO-Champion forum discussion on the topic can be found here. This debate has fueled argument that the Need roll should be split into Main Spec and Off Spec rolls, with Main Spec rolls getting priority. The general consensus so far seems to be that out of courtesy, a player should only roll Need on an item for offspec (or off-role) if nobody present needs it for their current party role. Sometimes, those will also ask if they can Need for an item and why they want it to prevent the thought of ninjaing. Though some people might be suspicious if the reason is legit, many feel this is good etiquette in this situation, since those that usually ask such are not usually viewed as those that would ninja loot items.
Blizzard's Official Policy
Blizzard's official stance is that unnecessarily rolling Need, Master Looting, or leaving an instance after winning an item do not constitute ninja looting, and as such the GM's will not intervene. Blizzard will usually only take action for a blatant scam, such as a raid leader declaring free rolls in chat and then master-looting everything to himself. They will not intervene if there was no prior agreement (and cannot if the agreement was made over Ventrilo or a private forum- it has to be in game, where they can check logs). In any PuG raid, ask the raid leader to state the loot policy explicitly in chat.
World of Warcraft Game Design
Several features in World of Warcraft were designed to minimize the opportunities for players to ninja/pirate loot, addressing problems which had occurred in earlier games.
- A mob is tagged by the first player character or group to damage it, and it can not be looted by anyone else.
- Rogues, druids and Night Elves cannot remain stealthed while looting or harvesting resources.
- The loot options in the game stratify item rolls. While a ninja/pirate may roll on items he or she shouldn't, there is a chance the more deserving player will win.
- In Dungeon Finder groups, items marked as Bind on Equip will become Soulbound if the player rolls Need, at which point they can only be sold to a vendor or disenchanted.