Monty Haul, sometimes spelled Monty Hall, is a piece of Dungeons & Dragons terminology used to describe a style of play in which the Dungeon Master is unreasonably generous in awarding treasure, experience and other rewards.
The term is named for Monty Hall, host of the US television series Let's Make a Deal, which was famous for awarding grand prizes. It should not be confused with the Monty Hall problem, a mathematical paradox named for the same gameshow host.
- "A campaign (or the DM running it) in which greatly excessive amounts of treasure and/or experience are given out."
DMGR1 Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide (1990) defines Monty Haul as a "giveaway" campaign in which the players receive treasure and experience disproportionate to the dangers they overcome.
Leveling up in AD&D1
Ironically, the Dungeon Masters Guide (1e) (1979) itself, on page 86, was the main cause of the problem in the early days by requiring 1,500g/week/level with the number of weeks based on the role playing (1-4; 1 was excellent while 4 was abysmal) to advance to the next level - if you could find a trainer. If not it became 3,000g/week/level.
In fact, "Only Train When You Gain" in Dragon #97 (May 1985) by David B. Reeder laid much, if not all, of the blame for Monty Haul campaigns on this rule. He points out "the DMG (p. 86) stresses that they cannot gain additional experience points while waiting until they can pay for the training:"Once a character has points which are equal to or greater than the minimum number necessary to move upward in experience level, no further experience points can be gained until the character actually gains the new level.'"
Even in the "give me" situation provided in the article where a seven member party gets enough goods and treasures to give every member of the party 680 gold pieces and the leader, Khalim, enough experience points to go to level 2 he still has to cough up a minimum of 820 additional gold pieces. So the party is basically killing more monsters and only getting money for their trouble.
"The DM, who sees that he is losing the players interest, realizes he must do something. It is at this point that he takes the first step toward a Monty Haul campaign." Basically, the GM is forced, by the rules mind you, to contrive a way to get enough gold into the party's hands so they can get to 2nd level. Problem that is is a minimum of 10,500 gold or the equivalent of a small dragon horde. To get to level 3 the seven member party needs a minimum of 21,000 gold and so on.
DMG1 Treasure (Random) Tables
The random Treasure tables on pages 120-125 was another issue as the amount of treasure each type of monster was supposed to award was actually in the Monster Manual on page 105. So any DM who used the DMG1 tables on their own could, with totally freaky die rolls, wind up with 10 orcs guarding 5,000-30,000 electrum pieces. This was Monty Hall in the truest sense of the term. Really newbie DMs would go with the roll and go on to the next monster.
As the "History of a game that failed" article in Dragon #99 (Jul 1985) pointed out, modules in the hand of an inexperienced DM were a potential disaster waiting for a time and place to happen. They either could wipe out the party; requires spells, skills, or items the party didn't have; or worse or be overly free with powerful magic items.
Problems caused by Monty Hall
Lack of challenge
Players equipped with exceptional power may find that the game no longer poses a challenge. This can lead to an unsatisfying gameplay experience.
In the article Curing the Monty Haul Malady, Dragon #82 (Feb 1984), Roger E. Moore argues:
- "The hidden problem, of course, is that giveaway games like this pale very quickly. Soon no one feels challenged by anything the DM throws at them, people get bored, and the game folds. Sometimes one or two players are shown exceptional favoritism in a campaign by the DM, and everyone else gets shafted. No matter how you do it, giveaway games like those described above will produce nothing whatsover but a sorry, frustrating mess."
Lack of rules support
Characters who quickly exceed the standard level limits of the game rules may find that there is no published game content above this level. This will require the Dungeon Master to invent new rules to compensate.
This is less of a problem in certain editions of D&D, such as D&D 3rd edition, which included optional rules for characters above 20th level. These rules include the Epic Level Handbook (2002). However, epic level play was still not well-supported in further products, with Dungeon magazine featuring only four D&D 3e adventures for characters of 20th level or above. Of 2,678 monsters listed in Wizards of the Coast D&D 3.5 Monster Index, only 124 (4.6%) are CR 20 or above, and only seven are CR 40 or higher.
Players who are accustomed to Monty Haul style play may balk at the relative lack of treasure and XP in another campaign which adheres to the standard guidelines. They may find the new campaign unsatisfying as a result.
Ignore the gold requirements in the DMG 1e
This is the best solution for AD&D1 as it nips the cause in the bud. Have a "train by doing" attitude where characters naturally level their abilities.
Removing items and excess power
The DM can remove the items from the campaign, have monsters capture the party and steal their items, or have the items lose most or all of their power. Level-draining undead may steal their excess experience levels. However, players can perceive this loss of power to be highly unfair and arbitrary, causing more dissatisfaction than the overpowered game itself.
Giving the players increased expenses can help to divest them of their excessive currency. This approach is recommended by Aurora's Whole Realms Catalogue (1992), as well as the article Curing the Monty Haul Malady by Roger E. Moore, appearing in Dragon #82 (Feb 1984). The problem is this causes and if the GM is trying to have anything remotely resembling a realistic economy as local inflation quickly goes out of control and it takes a wheel barrel of gold to buy a loaf of bread.
Maintaining extremely powerful magic items can have unpleasant drawbacks. Some of the items may be cursed, or draw the ire of thieves or powerful entities.
DMGR1 Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide (1990) suggests having all of the party's magic items flying together to form a magic item golem, which they must now fight. Defeating the creature would destroy most of the items.
The quazar dragon is a unique being 75,000 miles long who consumes planets where enormous quantities of magic items are concentrated in one place. It is so large that it takes at least half a day to close its mouth. The only known solution is to immediately throw all available magic items into a sphere of anihilation.
The DM may simply require the players to retire their characters and start a new campaign, one which will be better balanaced. This is not a perfect solution, as the reduction in power may disappoint some players.
Dungeon Builder's Guidebook (1998), p.8, recommends thinking carefully in dungeon design to avoid overstocking dungeons with treasure. However, it warns that being too stingy is an equally large mistake, as players who do not receive tangible benefits for their efforts will become unmotivated.
The earliest known mention of Monty Haul in Dungeons & Dragons appeared in the foreword to Supplement 4, Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976). According to editor Tim Kask, that book was published to fix the level of the deities, in response to players who had somehow managed to reach absurdly high power levels and claimed to have slain gods. The foreword reads:
- "This volume is something else, also: our last attempt to reach the "Monty Hall" DMs. Perhaps some of the 'giveaway' campaigns will look as foolish as they truly are. This is our last attempt to delineate the absurdity of 40+ level characters. When Odin, the All-Father has only(?) 300 hit points, who can take a 44th-level Lord seriously?"
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
The spelling "Monty Haul" soon became prevalent, with "haul" referring to the massive hauls of treasure awarded by some DMs. In the Dungeon Masters Guide (1e) (1979), p.92, Placement of Magic items, Gary Gygax was critical of extremely high-level, high-powered play:
- These god-like characters boast and strut about with retinues of ultra-powerful servants and scores of mighty magic items, artifacts, relics adorning them as if they were Christmas treesdecked out with tinsel and ornaments. Not only are such "Monty Haul" games a crashing bore for most participants, they are a headache for their DMs as well, for the rules of the game do not provide anything for such play — no reasonable opponents, no rewards, nothing!"
The high-level module H4 The Throne of Bloodstone (1988) used the term "Monty Haul" in defending its decision to publish stats for level 100 characters.
The Monty Haul style of play was described in the DMGR1 Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide (1990), which warned that it is a difficult situation to escape from without restarting the campaign.
Dragon #14 (May 1978) published an jocular article titled Monty Haul and his Friends at Play, by James M. Ward. He noted a general dislike of Monty Haul GMs among the employees of TSR, and wrote a fictionalized account of a wargaming referee named Monty Haul. Sequels to this series appeared in Dragon issues 15, 16, 21, 24 and 28. Dragon #37 (May 1980) featured Presenting... The Monties', an article by Len Lakofka introducing a comical Monty Haul pantheon, including stats for the chaotic neutral Monty Haul.
Letters about the Monty Haul problem frequently appeared in the letters page of Dragon Magazine. In a response to a letter printed in Dragon #36 (Apr 1980), editor Jake Jaquet debated the issue of Monty Haul dungeons:
- "Does anyone out there remember when 5,000 points on a pinball machine was a great score? Nowadays, if you don't score half a million you're wasting your money. The game itself hasn't changed much ... it's just that the manufacturers have tacked a couple of zeroes onto everything. Those bigger scores sound more impressive."
- "As long as the balance of the game remains constant, it shouldn't make any difference, play-wise, if you're 1st level or 10th level or 100th level. The problem that arises, though, is that generally higher level characters are not met with corresponding higher level difficulties, and the game falls apart ... If [the DM] continues to present a challenging campaign the players, great. But if he lacks the imagination and ingenuity to continue what he has started, he is doing both the players and the game an unfair disservice."
Articles aiming to tackle the problem of Monty Haul DMs included Curing the Monty Haul Malady (Dragon #82 (Feb 1984)) and Only Train When You Gain (Dragon #97 (May 1985)). The humorous Quazar Dragon, appearing in Dragon #96 (Apr 1985), is a planet-eating creature which consumes worlds where a single adventuring party has managed to seize control of the entire world's supply of magic items.
- There can never be too many dragons, right?, Dragon #96 (Apr 1985), p.53.