D&D 5E Is the Default Playstyle of 5E "Monty Haul?"

Retreater

Legend
I'm sure most of you are familiar with the expression of the "Monty Haul" style game.
(In case you're not, here's a link to an article: Monty Haul)

Specifically, looking at the 1990 "Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide" definition: "a 'giveaway' campaign in which the players receive treasure and experience disproportionate to the dangers they overcome."

Is there any "danger" inherent in 5E? In my two groups currently playing 5E, I have the following:
  • A 3rd level party that functions around 7th level.
  • A 7th level party that functions around 14th level.

Any time I give them XP or treasure, it doesn't feel "earned." More importantly, it doesn't feel "needed."
  • Why worry about an extra +1 to hit when you already destroy anything the DM throws at you?
  • An extra 6 HP when you don't even drop to half health in a routine combat?
  • What incentive could there be for playing smart when every battle can be won with standard operating procedures? (It's not important to exploit a creature's weakness when you're going to be able to kill it with ease anyway.)
 

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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
The PCs I'm running for--a party of six at 18th level, and a party of five at 13th level--punch well above their weight. I have had little problem actually threatening them, and have come close to wiping both parties more than once.

So, yes, there is at least some danger to the characters inherent in 5e.

The PCs have avoided some of the worst consequences by being relatively smart about things. In at least one instance, that has meant bailing on what they were trying to do.

That probably isn't helpful, except perhaps as a way of saying there are answers.
 

wedgeski

Adventurer
How experienced are your players? I agree that the default assumptions of 5E make for a relatively easy time of it, but a bunch of new players coming in at 3rd level are going to get their butts kicked by a 7th level encounter.
 


tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
It's nothing with no guidance & makes no effort at even urging players to even make efforts to get onboard with the GMs efforts.
 

Retreater

Legend
No, because it would imply that the DM is giving them items and experience disproportionate to the challenge.

IME, most DMs aren't doing that. However, its still very easy for PCs to punch above their weight. Its been discussed ad nauseum how the CR system doesn't work well and I think that's what you're experiencing here.
My experience (pun intended) is that most enemies fall into two camps.
1) monsters a party can eventually wear down (usually ones that affect a single character)
2) monsters that can one-shot numerous characters with a massive AoE attack (e.g. dragons).
It's not just the CR system that's off - the entirety of monster design seems wrong.
 

Oofta

Legend
I've run games for two groups simultaneously keeping them at the same level with the same options for builds and wealth. One group was significantly more effective than the other, it had nothing to do with what they were given it had everything to do with team dynamics and tactics.

The CR system is designed for 4 person party of inefficient newbies with no magic, feats or multiclassing. In addition the rankings are often misunderstood. Deadly doesn't mean a PC will die, it's that there's a high likelihood. Basically they shot for the low end of the spectrum and it will always be and has always been up to the DM to balance encounters depending on numerous factors including how good the group's tactics are.

A preponderance of magic item will increase the capability and can make people more reliant on magic items than the abilities associated with their class. Whether that's good or bad is a matter of personal preference. Personally I go with fewer magic items and fairly low amounts of gold.
 

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the expression of the "Monty Haul" style game.
(In case you're not, here's a link to an article: Monty Haul)

Specifically, looking at the 1990 "Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide" definition: "a 'giveaway' campaign in which the players receive treasure and experience disproportionate to the dangers they overcome."

Is there any "danger" inherent in 5E? In my two groups currently playing 5E, I have the following:
  • A 3rd level party that functions around 7th level.
  • A 7th level party that functions around 14th level.

Any time I give them XP or treasure, it doesn't feel "earned." More importantly, it doesn't feel "needed."
it depends... I have seen smart (or lucky) players build characters that hit WAY above what they are supposed to. Even before an optimized character though 5e is SUPER forgiving of biting off more then you can chew.

Worse still (especially if you don't customized to your characters) is a dungeon that would be a fun challenge to a party of 5 fighter, mage, cleric, rogue, third wheel (bard, barbarian ranger or paladin normally) can be deadly to party of 4 2 rouges 2 fighters and maybe unpassable to a party of 4 fighters... but be a super breeze to a party of 4 wizard (bladesinger) warlock (hexblade) cleric (war) druid (wildshape one).


  • Why worry about an extra +1 to hit when you already destroy anything the DM throws at you?
  • An extra 6 HP when you don't even drop to half health in a routine combat?
  • What incentive could there be for playing smart when every battle can be won with standard operating procedures? (It's not important to exploit a creature's weakness when you're going to be able to kill it with ease anyway.)
this hits home real hard for me... more then once I have thrown a +2 or +3 weapon into a treasure pile just to have a party member laugh "I guess I will hit 90% of the time instead of 80% of the time"... I also once had a campaign where I threw a dungeon where by XP every encounter was deadly+ level and I dropped 1 character in 1 fight, and bloodied 2 characters but in 2 different fights and at the end the wizard said "I don't think I took any damage at all".... ugh.
 

My experience (pun intended) is that most enemies fall into two camps.
1) monsters a party can eventually wear down (usually ones that affect a single character)
2) monsters that can one-shot numerous characters with a massive AoE attack (e.g. dragons).
It's not just the CR system that's off - the entirety of monster design seems wrong.
may i add 3) the low CR monster that has a way to kill other then hp damage and as such can hit WAY higher then there CR says...

the shadow is my go to example. 3 shadows are pittifully easy to slaughter at level 20... but if all three hit your melee combatant that needs str he loses 3d4 from his attack stat... if all three hit your dump stat str character it could kill them.
 

Jahydin

Adventurer
I don't think so.

For one, you don't need to hand out treasure all in this edition. In my games, I don't hand out magic armor for example.

Second, 5E isn't meant to be challenging to the left brain (tactically), it's meant to be challenging to the right brain (creatively). But more importantly, its focus is fun.

I've wasted too many years compiling and trying to "fix" D&D, but its success speaks for itself and it obviously has its fans, so decided to just switch to a system that does do what I want. Currently that's Pathfinder 2E and Castles and Crusades. To anyone in the same boat, please do yourself a favor and do the same!

I still run 5E for friends who want to play, but have learned not to take the system seriously and lean on the creativity aspect. If I design an encounter with two Hill Giants for example, who cares about combat math and tactics. Much more interesting to see how they approach diplomatically (outsmart or genuinely befriend them) or creatively, such as using magic to trick them into running away.
 

Gadget

Adventurer
I think it has been established that 5e characters can easily punch well about their weight class, and that the CR system can be...somewhat inaccurate.

However, I'm not sure that counts as "Monty Haul" as I understand the term. It originates from AD&D & Gygax himself in describing games in which the DM is too free with treasure and--especially--magic items (which were a much bigger part of PC power back then). If your party is steamrolling opponents because you are tossing out copious and powerful magic items that are easily attainable, then you might have a Monty Haul game. But 5e was designed to de-emphasize magic items in over all character power, and a couple of plus 1s here are there are not a big deal by mid levels.

There could be plenty of other reasons your PCs are having it easy outside of Monty Haul style set-ups.
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Monty Haul was also really only a thing during the era when you earned your Experience Points via the amount of GPs worth of treasure you found. So it wasn't just getting stuff that you didn't "earn"... it was the entire leveling experience put on a fast track. Monty Haul DMs gave out much more treasure than the monster entries listed in MM would have, in order for their PCs to level up at a much faster rate than they ordinarily should have.

You really can't have a Monty Haul campaign in the same way during 5E because treasure and magic items just do not produce the same effects that they did in AD&D and 2E. Money means little a lot of the time in 5E... and magic items are nice, but more often than not are just on par if not even less powerful than the class features PCs get from their standard class leveling. So giving out lots of treasure just doesn't mean a whole lot nowadays. It's a nice reward, but it's by no means the end all and be all of adventuring like it was in the 70s and 80s.
 
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Mort

Legend
Supporter
As others have said It's less Monty Haul (the overabundance of magic items and other loot made available to the party) and more that the CR system/encounter design doesn't take into account A LOT of factors.

For example a 5 person 6th level party made up of experienced players will absolutely destroy a Mummy Lord (CR 15 but renowned for being a weak 15).

That same party will likely have huge problems with (and might well lose a PC to) a well-coordinated group (coming through walls, not grouped well for turning etc.) of 6 or so shadows, which is, in theory, a trivial encounter for that level.
 
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NotAYakk

Legend
I'm sure most of you are familiar with the expression of the "Monty Haul" style game.
(In case you're not, here's a link to an article: Monty Haul)

Specifically, looking at the 1990 "Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide" definition: "a 'giveaway' campaign in which the players receive treasure and experience disproportionate to the dangers they overcome."

Is there any "danger" inherent in 5E? In my two groups currently playing 5E, I have the following:
  • A 3rd level party that functions around 7th level.
  • A 7th level party that functions around 14th level.

Any time I give them XP or treasure, it doesn't feel "earned." More importantly, it doesn't feel "needed."
  • Why worry about an extra +1 to hit when you already destroy anything the DM throws at you?
  • An extra 6 HP when you don't even drop to half health in a routine combat?
  • What incentive could there be for playing smart when every battle can be won with standard operating procedures? (It's not important to exploit a creature's weakness when you're going to be able to kill it with ease anyway.)
So, if your players are having 1 encounter/day, and your expectation is that fights are going to be close, a party of 6 level 3 characters can blow away CR 7 foes.

Try adding up the level/CR of both sides. The default assumptions is that you'll have like 7 encounters where the typical one is 1/4 of the party's total level. In addition, some encounters are 1/3 the party's total level, and some of them are 40%-50% of the party's total level. All in one day.

Adding strong magic items can easily make players 2-3 levels more powerful than their on-paper level, as can optimization.

PCs can even beat even fights -- where the CR is equal to the sum of PC levels.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
So, if your players are having 1 encounter/day, and your expectation is that fights are going to be close, a party of 6 level 3 characters can blow away CR 7 foes.

Try adding up the level/CR of both sides. The default assumptions is that you'll have like 7 encounters where the typical one is 1/4 of the party's total level. In addition, some encounters are 1/3 the party's total level, and some of them are 40%-50% of the party's total level. All in one day.

Adding strong magic items can easily make players 2-3 levels more powerful than their on-paper level, as can optimization.

PCs can even beat even fights -- where the CR is equal to the sum of PC levels.
That's not how people play because gameplay is limited by the constraints of how long those encounters take & how long a session lasts. Sure you can spread that out over multiple sessions but the rest mechanics are structured to be easy for players to force through no matter what the GM throws out shy of outright Fiat & the party is still able to trivially blaze through all of the prior filler encounters with ease up until the last fight or two. When the default assumptions fail to account for realities of things like table & session time in any way shy of throwing it to the GM to solve those default assumptions are a failure of design.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
That's not how people play because gameplay is limited by the constraints of how long those encounters take & how long a session lasts. Sure you can spread that out over multiple sessions but the rest mechanics are structured to be easy for players to force through no matter what the GM throws out shy of outright Fiat & the party is still able to trivially blaze through all of the prior filler encounters with ease up until the last fight or two. When the default assumptions fail to account for realities of things like table & session time in any way shy of throwing it to the GM to solve those default assumptions are a failure of design.
Sure, I'm just explaining the problem.

Either have your plots move at the speed of "the world is ending tomorrow/the invaders arrive tomorrow/etc, feel free to take a long rest but then the world ends" or use gritty rests and have plots move at the speed of "the world/etc ends in 10 days".

Or understand what it does to the game.

The game really was playtested for recovery after a lot of encounters. If you remove that, combat acts strange, and CR doesn't work as described at all.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
My regular players are very experienced and they optimize (as individuals and usually as a team) and I'm still throwing them a beating regularly. There are character deaths every campaign. I'm probably somewhat stingy with magic items in certain games, but usually that is offset with gold and the ability to purchase what they want as a downtime activity or some such.

It's hard to say what you're doing that is different than me, but I suspect the encounter design has something to do with it or possibly time pressure.
 


dave2008

Legend
Is there any "danger" inherent in 5E?
Absolutely! The default encounter guidelines are set on the easy side, but you are given everything you need to ramp it up. Also, if you are giving out magic items you should up monsters too (wish the DMG made that more clear). More importantly...
In my two groups currently playing 5E, I have the following:
  • A 3rd level party that functions around 7th level.
  • A 7th level party that functions around 14th level.
...I suggest you look at 5e differently. Clearly the encounter guidelines are not meant for you and your group. Ignore them and just make fun encounters and don't worry about the "level" of the fight. That is what I do and it is not only more enjoyable for me to DM, it is more fun (and potentially dangerous) for the PCs.
Any time I give them XP or treasure, it doesn't feel "earned." More importantly, it doesn't feel "needed."
  • Why worry about an extra +1 to hit when you already destroy anything the DM throws at you?
I don't really give out +items so if I do it feels like a big deal. It is also not uncommon for my group to face things they can't simply destroy. Fleeing and avoidance are fairly common tactics in my 5e game.
  • An extra 6 HP when you don't even drop to half health in a routine combat?
Wow, I feel like I'm a killer DM and I don't try to take as much as half there HP in a routine fight, maybe 25% max. However, a challenging fight might take 75%+ of their HP
  • What incentive could there be for playing smart when every battle can be won with standard operating procedures? (It's not important to exploit a creature's weakness when you're going to be able to kill it with ease anyway.)
That is not my experience. My players typically have to investigate and strategize to finish off a big foe. I mean there is a reason PCs go to lvl 20 and monsters go to CR 30.
 

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