Monday, March 31, 2008

Social Class, Psychology, and Dungeons and Dragons, Part II

Is the "Monty Haul" campaign bourgeois?

The Monty Haul campaign is a notorious style of Dungeons and Dragons consisting of a fantasy world with nothing but low-hanging fruit just waiting to be plucked (author's emphasis):
The Monty "Haul" Campaign derives its name from the game show Let's Make A Deal where Monty "Hall" gave away prizes to contestants who had to do next to nothing. This campaign style is typified by the Dungeon Master awarding large amounts of experience, cash, magic, or other powers to the characters in short order. For example, a 1st-level party finds a Sword+5, Holy Avenger, a Ring of Three Wishes, hundreds of thousands of gold pieces, or some similar treasure that required little effort and far exceeds their current power or wealth. Many believe whatever equipment or magic the party finds should be earned; even then, it should just add a little to a character's ever-increasing power. Also, adventurers shouldn't be able to buy everything their hearts desire, nor should the awarded experience ever be sufficient for characters to go up several levels at once. This defeats the purpose of adventuring, and the overly generous nature of a Monty Haul Campaign belittles actual character achievement.
On the face of it, the "Monty Haul" gamer seems like a middle-class stereotype: the "capitalist" who is happily converting an unearned financial windfall into an ostentatious display of magical power and/or conspicuous consumption. The alternative ideal is the "Bobo" gamer who values wealth, magic, and power for his or her character, but only as a means for obtaining "authentic" role-playing experiences.

Of course, this only really works as an analogy since both styles of play are considered equally geeky by mainstream opinion. The "Monty Haul" gamer is probably considered somewhat more geeky in this regard since he or she stereotypically making a vulgar display of in-game status symbols:
When relatively inexperienced players (often called Munchkins) from Monty Haul Campaigns hold out their 20th-level characters as a point of pride and accomplishment, it tends to rub the experienced gamer the wrong way, especially when the youngster delights in saying things like "My character is much better than yours," as if that were somehow the point of roleplaying.
Thus for many people, the "Monty Haul" player has all of the social cache of a lower-class person hitting the $10 million lotto jockpot, then blowing the money on a 10-feet tall, gold-plated statue of Jesus placed next to the plastic flamingos in his or her front lawn. On the other hand, the Bobo gamer has a related source of geek stigma: perversion. As alluded to in part I, the roleplaying exercise has the potential of bringing subconscious motives and desires to the surface. It goes without saying that these could be highly disapproved of by mainstream society; if the stereotypical "Monty Haul" gamer is bragging about the striking power of his "Toenail clippers +10 of instant demon slaying", the stereotypical "serious" roleplayer is an otherwise normal, sexually well-adjusted young man roleplaying a red-haired, green-eyed, stunningly beautiful, female elven druid.

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Blogger Madam Kistulot said...

Munchkins don't refer to inexperienced players. Most munchkins twink heavily - and skillfully - making characters based all on stats, minmaxing, and don't care about character concepts at all.

Thus, they are very small characters...

and munchkins.

3:51 AM  

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