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The Guild Counsel: Gold Rush, Alaska teaches how not to run a guild

Karen Bryan

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I started watching Discovery's Gold Rush, Alaska last season, and while I always take "reality" tv with a grain of salt, I've gotten hooked on watching the slow-motion train wreck that is the Hoffman mining crew. The series follows a group of miners in Alaska as they try to strike it rich and find gold. Last season, the crew pulled out less gold than I have in my meager jewelery box, and the season ended with a water-filled hole, shoddy equipment, and a big financial debt.

Interestingly enough, the lure of gold and the lure of leading a guild have some surprising parallels. To some, it's a temptation that's hard to resist, and to others, it's something that only fools or crazy people would do. If you do it right, and you have a little bit of luck, you can really strike it rich, but if you make mistakes or don't know what you're doing, you'll end up in a crater-sized hole with no way out, wondering how the heck things got to this point. In this week's Guild Counsel, we'll look at some of the mistakes made by the Hoffman mining crew and how they apply to running (or in this case, not running) a guild.

Get the proper equipment

In the first season, it seemed as if the show should have been named "Busted Gear, Alaska" because the crew spent more time trying to repair equipment than it did actually mining for gold. They team members ended up digging a hole for themselves (pardon the pun) as they had to scramble to buy parts and lost valuable time in repairs. It's important that if you're going to try something challenging, you should go in over-equipped rather than under-equipped. It's the same with guilds and raiding: You can try to charge in to a raid zone that's beyond your gear, but there's a good chance that you'll walk out with broken equipment and low morale. Good gear allows you to spend more time on problem-solving the content and executing the strat because you don't have to worry as much about people getting one-shotted or being a speedbump on raids.

Keep grandpa away from the dozer

The senior member of the Hoffman crew is Jack Hoffman, and he tends to be the one behind the wheel of all the heavy equipment. But he's not exactly the deftest driver around, and things got so bad in Season one that the group had to plead with a friend to help sort out the mess of paths and holes that Jack had made in the mining pit.

When running a guild, you want to make sure you have the right people filling necessary roles. You don't put the timid, uncommunicative Warrior in the role of pacing a raid and main tanking mobs. Similarly, you don't put the absent-minded healer in charge of healing the main tank group. And you absolutely don't put grandpa behind the dozer.

Don't wing it

The main reason I love watching Gold Rush is that you never know what insanely dangerous thing the crew members will do next. Often, they'll get themselves into a pickle and wind up going with the riskiest, crazy plan to attempt to fix it. On one episode, they decided to drive their excavator across the river rather than over the bridge. As if that weren't risky enough, one member decided to get on the ATV to scout things out and promptly got stranded in the current. The group's solution was to chain up the ATV and then continue to drive the excavator across the river -- with the ATV dangling at the end. It's a miracle that the whole thing didn't tip over and succumb to the currents. On another episode, the team bought a gold-mining water table, which is supposed to filter the dirt from the gold. But no one on the team could figure out the directions and assemble it properly, so the miners ended up flushing away gold along with the dirt they were trying to filter.

Gold Rush
You can't just show up in Alaska with a dream and expect to hit gold. Too often, the crew members seemed to be winging it through the season, and it's little surprise that they walked away nearly empty-handed. The same bodes true for guilds. You can't just fill up your roster and expect that your guild goals will suddenly happen. If you are raiding, you should do a little research on what to expect. Spoilers and videos are great, but don't just go in expecting to parrot them verbatim. Good raid leaders will come prepared but will also find a strategy that is most effective for the raid force assembled.

Be careful what you promise

If there's one thing that's certain about the show, it's that Todd Hoffman is a great talker. He's convinced his team memebers to stick around even though they've experienced disaster after disaster. But he's often made promises that he can't keep, and the phrase "trust me" can only keeping working for so long.

I've met more than a few guild leaders who can deliver one heck of a speech, but when faced with the nuts and bolts of running a guild, they tend to fall short. I've also met guild leaders who aren't big on talk but nevertheless run a fantastic guild because they're organized, recruit good people, and have a clear and well-thought out plan for where the guild is headed. You can grow a long beard, don an orange hard-hat, and convince people that there's millions in gold under your claim, but that's all worthless if you can't keep things running smoothly and efficiently.

Gold Rush
Watch your back

This tip doesn't really apply to MMOs with nice, instanced, readily available content, but for guilds that are on PvP servers or deal with contested content, you always have to watch your back. In Gold Rush, the Hoffman team had an unexpected addition late in the season: an experienced miner named Fred "Dakota" Hurt, and the crew members didn't exactly welcome him with open arms. Fred got the last laugh, though, and bought the claim right out from under them.

If you're a competitive guild, you have to be on guard against people who will double-cross, spy, and even cheat in order to get the advantage. It's not a playstyle that appeals to everyone, but if you choose to go that route, you have to be wary of everyone, even within your own guild. EVE tends to be the poster MMO when it comes to double-crossing, and while it makes for some compelling news, it's probably not that fun when you're on the receiving end of things.

The Hoffman crew from Gold Rush, Alaska seems to be headed toward more dirt-filled buckets and financial disaster. And while it's sad to see the team losing so much money on a dream, it makes you wonder how anyone could make that many mistakes along the way. Running a guild is similar in that when things go bad, they go shockingly bad, to the point of nuclear meltdown and drama on a scale never before seen. Hopefully, by avoiding certain mistakes, you can steer clear of the sinkhole and keep things running smoothly in your guild.

Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.

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