Friday, April 13, 2012

Monty Haul Games: Introduction

These next posts are dedicated to all those great, silly, misinterpreted 'monty haul' adventures we played back in the day. I'm including seven of the more famous magic artifacts. These tossed 'game balance' out the window, and provided something of a wish fulfillment for the players (ex. Like wielding a magic sword that mimics the power of a light-saber).

I suppose there are two types of "Monty Haul" adventures. 1). The PCs get an exorbitant amount of gold pieces and magic items. 2). The PCs get an artifact that possesses 22 powers and abilities (thus, magically 'over-hauling' the rules of the game). We were guilty of both types, but at the time, it was great fun for us (not so much for Jeff, James, and Paul - my rotating DM's at the time).

Embracing Advanced D+D didn't come easy at first. We fell into the typical trap: "Monty Hauling" (i.e. "splurging") on magic weapons and killing ancient dragons with millions in gold pieces for experience points. Over time, we eventually settled into something that resembled a RPG.

When our old DM, Jeff Berkley*, took away Tom’s  Armor of the Cosmos, we knew our Monty Hauling days were numbered, which not only worked up a new love for the game, but also helped us to uncover the game's strange little details (ex. Everything has  limitations). And when we started reading the letter's section, Sage Advice, (thank you Skip Williams), and the "how to" articles by Gary Gygax and the rest, in Dragon magazines, we started to get a good idea of the "game mechanics", which gave us innovated ways to tweak the rules.

For instance, before entering the dark cavern, we'd cast a light spell on an object (a cup or bowl), then throw said object into the center of the room, to see what waited for us, in the darkness. Or we'd send the thief to scout ahead, imbued with clairaudience, and potions of invisibility (to sneak around), spider climb (to remain hidden) and a cure moderate wound and strength (for the trek back). Sure, it’s “dungeon crawl 101” now, but back then, it was the wisdom of game designing masters (at a time when “game theory” was hardly considered “main stream”. In fact, in some circles, it was ‘Un-American’).   

More than anything, though, we'd been tailor-making the game (our character sheets, treasure maps, and scenarios) since Holmes, Moldvay and Metzler. Long before it fell into the quagmire of skill boxes, proficiency charts, and the ever expanding spell listings. In these early days, it was hard to find D+D material, so you were forced to improvise and make up your own rules. As a result, our games were home to some outlandish magic items that would “freak out” the average rule lawyer. It didn't help that one of the rules of the game was "make up your own rules". It gave you permission to play the game the way you wanted, and not always the way it should be played (which was always an issue back then- The letter's section in early Dragon magazine are littered with comments about the drastic differences between one DM to another, and pleaded for some sort of definitive unified rules set).

It was one of the many pitfalls you faced when you told people to use their imagination. So, enjoy this trip with me down the magical laden lands of Monty Haul Adventures.  
(*His name has been changed to protect highly sensitive documents from falling into the wrong hands).

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