Monty Haul — The Big Deal [Issue 0, 1, & 2]

Monty Haul

A 5th Edition ‘Zine With a 1st Edition Vibe

Author: Mark Finn
Publisher: MonkeyHaus Press
Page Count: Issue 0 – 74 pages
Page Count: Issue 1 – 52 pages
Page Count: Issue 2 – 60 pages
Available Formats: PDF & Print – $5 (PDF) / $10 (Print)

Monty Haul is a fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons zine with an old school flair. Born out of Kickstarter’s ZineQuest, an initiative to promote RPG-related zines on their platform, several hundred aspiring zine authors launch crowd-funded campaigns using ZineQuest’s publication specifications; content, page size, color use, etc. In turn, Authors keeping to those specs received promotional assistance from Kickstarter and had their projects hosted on a special ZineQuest page. Mark Finn, the author of the Monty Haul Zine, had always wanted to showcase his accumulated creative content but was unhappy with the restrictions placed upon him by the DMsGuild. When Kickstarter’s ZineQuest Program arose, he saw an opportunity to test the waters by creating his Monty Haul Zines, Issues One and Two. His campaign was quickly funded and fulfilled on time, a year later.

Mark began by developing Issue 0, the test platform for his later issues. Having a previous background as an author and editor, his skill at page layout was untested. Using content previously published on his blog Confessions of a Reformed RPGer, he honed his layout and design skills, developing a look for the zines. The result was a compilation of previously published but much-refined content with royalty-free black and white art giving the zine a vintage feel. Later issues would feature original commissioned artwork. Mark was so please with the results he released it for publication.

Issue 0 begins with a letter from the editor, “Welcome to Monty Haul: Do You Kids Want Snacks?” It was a way for Mark to introduce himself to his readers and provide background information about himself and his love of Dungeons and Dragons. Mark began with D&D in its early years and developed an affinity for the hobby and the authors that inspired it. Monty Haul Zines’ content reflects the nuances of older editions of D&D, and inspirational readings of Appendix N adapted for the game’s current mechanics.

The contents of each issue have an overarching theme to them. In Issue 0, the theme is cities, Issue One magic, and Issue Two is all about thieves. Issue 0 contains an alternate crit system, alternative rules for bringing back unusual familiars found in later editions, a look at Balkanized–Mark’s home-brewed world, new Cleric Domains found within cities, a new rogue archetype, city orientated character backgrounds, and a random background generator for noble characters. Issue One features new arcane archetypes and backgrounds, alternative rules for alchemical crafting, designing a magical city, stocking a shop with elixirs and draughts, revamping NPC reaction rolls, and new creepy crawling creatures that will make players squirm. Issue Two gives the reader a glimpse into Mark’s upcoming project with notes for running a thieves campaign, pulling off a heist, random heist generator, a new Bard College, another rogue archetype, more character backgrounds, poisoners, skullduggery, and the continuing from the previous issue, alchemical crafting.

It’s difficult to gauge the compatibility of the content within Monty Haul without using it. Though as written, it doesn’t read like it would break anyone’s game. Instead, the content adds a lot of flavors back into the 5th edition, which, in my opinion, has been filtered out.

Some of the content that really stuck with me is the random background generator for noble characters and pulling off a heist and its random generator. The random background generator for noble characters is reminiscent of AD&D Unearthed Arcana’s Social Class and Rank charts found in the Dungeon Masters’ Section of that book. Monty Haul’s version is an expansion of these character-building tables with richer detail and deeper development. The article on heists and its random generator is a great step-by-step overview of what it takes to create and execute a successful robbery. Each of these articles is neutral enough to port over to any system. With a little reskinning, the random generators for both can be used with other genres.

Monty Haul is filled with Appendix N literature influences. Mark is well versed in Appendix N authors; wrote an award-nominated biography on Robert E. Howard titled “Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard.” Mark takes his Appendix N knowledge and integrates it in Issue One with a new Arcane Archetype, The King in Yellow. He has fully fleshed out this new Arcane Archetype with mythos influenced spells and sanity breaking features available to arcane users at various levels of the character’s growth. His Appendix N knowledge is also apparent in Issue 2, all about thieves. Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser have heavily influenced this issue, as well as Chaosium’s Thieves world.

Though for me, the greatest inclusion and what gives it its old school feel is the revamping or alternative rules to the current edition. The optional critical hits article in Issue 0 reminds me of the Dragon Magazine article “Good Hits and Bad Misses.” Both comprise various rollable charts to further the experience when a critical hit or a critical fumble is rolled. Monty Haul’s charts work by determining where the blow lands on a D6 location chart before rolling another D6 to determine the extent of the damage on that body part. In contrast, the Dragon Magazine article uses percentile charts based on the type of weapon used. If a character was using a bladed weapon on Dragon’s charts, a 00 or 99 without a helm would decapitate the recipient. The Monty Haul version only requires a roll of two sixes to get the same results,; a much higher probability of 1/36 as opposed to 1/100.

The best callout comes from Issue One, “Plaguing Your Mages With Arcane Pests.” In this article, Mark had me squirming in my seat with fully stated creatures inspired by AD&D Rot Worm. Four minute creepy crawling creatures that one could squish with ease if not embedded in one’s self. There are Mind Mites, a parasitic infection that eats spell slots preventing a spellcaster from storing spells in their head. The Eye Spider lives in the host’s eye and locks away anything read that day in its web, preventing that information from being retrieved. The Tongue Slug a fey-based pest that attaches and overtakes the host’s tongue. Lastly, The Ear Worm enters through the host’s ear and embeds itself in the brain, eating the language and speech sections. To remove each one of these pests, players will have to use their imagination because a weapon swing isn’t going to fix the problem.

Monty Haul Zine lives up to its name and ideals. Each issue upholds old school ideas to flavor the current version of Dungeons and Dragons. They are easy to slip into a current game and will throw the players for a loop. If you’re looking to spice up your bland 5e game, take a look at any of the Monty Haul zines. I’m sure there will be something inside that you’ll like.

~Stephen Pennisi

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