Monty Haul's Flying Circus

Bruce L Grubb originally wrote, as a part of a long thread titled “AD&D has RUINED Role-Playing!” on the rec.games.frp.gurps newsgroup:

This wild excalation in amount of damage is not limited to the mage; it just most pronounced in this class. Some GM's simply have character retire after 10th level because the power escalation is so bad. AD&D campaigns do have a tendancy to go one of four ways: Monty Haul, Munchkin, hack and slash, or 'killer dungeon' mainly because the rules are so badly written.

Puzzled, madman9@ibm.net then asked:

I'm curious about the terms you use here. I haven't been around gaming (and, in particular, AD&D) long enough to know, I suppose... but I tend to think of a Munchkin campaign to more-or-less be a Hack-and-Slash. I'd be interested to hear your definitions for the four campaign 'types' that AD&D tend to be. (I think I agree with your point, but I'd like to hear more.)

Bruce then answered with this thoughtful and very interesting article:

More detailed definitions of Monty Haul and Munchkin in the rec.games.frp.dnd FAQ.

Monty Haul
Campaign with the quick accumuation of wealth and/or power with little or no effort. For example: "In room #2 your find an unguarded untrapped treasure chest inside which you find a Flaming Sword +3, Chain Mail +5, and a Ring of Protection +5."

Munchkin
Player who sees the RPG as a game to be 'won' and manipulates the rules (and any loopholes in them) so as to create characters that have large amounts of power and few (if any) weaknesses.

Hack and Slash
The risks equal the rewards and the characters are 'normal' (little or no rule manipulation) but no role playing. Basically 'Find monster, defeat monster, get experience and treasure, repeat'. The 'Dungeon Crawl' is a subset of this type of campaign.

Killer Dungeon
The reverse of a Monty Haul compaign, insane/unavoidable risks with little or no reward. For example, the party desends down the only entrance to the dungeon with lit torches and despite their extensive research they find a natural gas pocket -- the hard way. No warning no way to avoid this but it likely killed at least one party member.

[madman9@ibm.net again: And, since this is the GURPS newsgroup, how do you think GURPS avoids these problems? Or, what types of campaigns do GURPS games tend to end up as?]

Since GURPS was built from the ground as a role-playing system rather then being derived from a wargame like AD&D was, GURPS is less prone to Monty Haulism and Munchkinism. Unlike AD&D, GURPS has clear and concise guidelines on how to GM (Chapter 21). Near the end of Chapter 21 there are clear and direct guidelines on how much experience to give players and a warning about character inflation; only by totally ignoring Chapter 21 can a GURPS campaign go Monty Haul.

Hack and Slash/Killer Dungeons are prevented by the deadliness of GURPS combat and the time it takes to create a character. In addition Chapter 21 gives guidelines on how to prevent these problems by telling the GM to play the NPCs intelligently.

This leaves Munchkinism. Unfortunately every RPG has loopholes that can be exploited, so it is up to the GM to totally stop this. Though GURPS does have some safeguards that prevent some of the Munchkin sillyness seen in AD&D campaigns. For example, it is nearly impossible for a munchkin to 'bring in' a GURPS character with all attributes maxed out (all 18's) into any campaign: the point total (around 580 sans any skills or advantages) gives the munchkin character away immediately. Also the costs in money and energy will usually give away munchkin characters with enough magic items to take out anything this side of a deity.

The few places where GURPS is prone to munchkin abuse can usually be easily spotted by a good GM who can implement a few house rules to fix the problem.

For example, from my AD&D GM days I knew that high skill level were going to be a problem -- so instead of capping them in GURPS I charged an Unusual Background for skills over the expert level (18). This, together with a few other interpretations, prevented the kind of Invisible-25, Flight-25 were-eagle, combat spell-25 sillyness seen in part of the Abusive Mage thread. [Which is an entirely different affair; check The Ultimate Wizard’s Get-rich Scheme to get a taste of it. -- Incanus]