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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.

Definition[]

In the glossary to the Dungeon Masters Guide (1e) (1979), Gary Gygax defines "Monty Haul" as follows:

"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.

The term is believed to have been originally coined by Rob Kuntz, in reference to Jim Ward.[1] Ward embraced the title, and subsequently wrote a series of Dragon Magazine articles: Monty Haul and His Friends At Play, Dragon #14 (May 1978), p.21, Monty and the German High Command, Dragon #15 (Jun 1978), p.6, The Thursday Night D&D Game for Monty and the Boys, Dragon #16 (Jul 1978), p.12, Monty Strikes Back, Dragon #21 (Dec 1978), p.26, Monty Haul and the Best of Freddie, Dragon #24 (Apr 1979), p.42, and Monty Strikes Back, Dragon #28 (Aug 1979), p.37.

Causes[]

While Monty Haul campaigns can easily occur as a result of a too-generous DM trying to please their players, there are several instances where it is caused or exacerbated by the game rules. This particularly occurred in earlier editions of the game, prior to Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition's stricter treasure guidelines.

AD&D's level training rules[]

In the article Only train when you gain, Dragon #97 (May 1985), author David B. Reeder speculates that Monty Haul campaigns commonly begin as a response to the high costs of AD&D's level training rules.

In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition, player character must spend gold on training in order to level up, and cannot receive further experience points until they do so. However, it can easily occur that the cost to go from level 1 to level 2 exceeded the amount of gold gained in that time, requiring players to grind low-level combat for gold pieces without gaining commensurate experience. Some DMs may resolve this by giving out excess gold, which starts a trend that may continue throughout a campaign.

Misinterpreted treasure tables[]

AD&D 1st edition's treasure awarding rules could be misinterpreted to award more treasure than intended.

The amount of treasure held by a group of monsters was given in a table in the Monster Manual (1e) (1977), p.105. However, some DMs may have inadvertently used the treasure tables in the Dungeon Masters Guide (1e) (1979), p.120-125, which represented randomly found treasures and could give much higher amounts. This could allow low-level creatures to possess much higher treasures than intended.

Additionally, the treasure guidelines refer to a group of monsters, not an individual monster; and the treasure for monsters is usually in their lair, whereas a percentage of monsters are not found in their lair. Both of these rules could easily be missed, affording a full treasure to each monster, amounting to several times as much treasure as intended. In combination with the use of the DMG treasure tables, this could lead to campaigns with a very high amount of treasure.

Since treasure tables are random, it is also possible to receive exceptionally high treasure by luck. Rolling high on AD&D treasures tables also often allows the DM to roll again on a higher table, allowing treasures higher than normally allowed. An example of this is in Gary Gygax's own campaign, where a character played by his son Ernie, who possessed a vorpal sword, managed to end up acquiring a second vorpal sword.

Treasure-heavy modules[]

Early AD&D adventure modules frequently gave out large amounts of treasure, which DMs dutifully obeyed. The article History of a game that failed, Dragon #99 (Jul 1985), advised reducing treasure, and warned that certain magic items in particular could be overpowered in practice.

From D&D 3rd edition onward, most official adventure modules obeyed treasure award guidelines more closely.

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.

Expectation clash[]

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.

Solutions[]

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.

Increased costs[]

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).

Gary Gygax himself recommended this approach, intentionally adding level training costs to the design AD&D for this purpose:[2]

"Gaining lots of treasure is something I always favored. To keep it moving I encouraged players to have their PCs hire many retainers, troops, build a castle, etc. When that failed to keep them seeking more wealth the trainig costs and other cash-draining devices were added into the game."

Backfires[]

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.[3]

Starting again[]

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.

Preventative measures[]

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.

AD&D level training costs[]

Only train when you gain, Dragon #97 (May 1985), which blames the level training costs for inspiring Monty Haul costs, suggests reducing level training costs so only be required at levels where the character gains new class abilities. This is intended to discourage DMs from having to give out too much gold to meet player expecations.

Publication history[]

Original D&D[]

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.

Magazine articles[]

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.

References[]

  1. "I'm Monty Haul. I think it was Rob Kuntz who first called me that after watching me DM a few games. I've always considered Gary's DMing style to be the perfect balance of danger and presentation of treasure. My style is much more over the top as I love to see people use lots of magic as characters of my game. The Monty stories were indeed a parody of some of the games I and others ran amped up about a thousand times. I had lots of fun writing them and I got lots of fan letters from people wanting more." Q&A with James M. Ward, page 2. Dragonsfoot, May 12, 2005.
  2. Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 263. ENWorld, Dec 22, 2005.
  3. There can never be too many dragons, right?, Dragon #96 (Apr 1985), p.53.
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