(This is a re-post of something from my personal blog)
I've recently been reading through my Dragon Magazine PDF archive (GREAT product, really), getting myself ready for my upcoming DF game. Which is blatantly an excuse to use my AD&D and D&D and Rolemaster adventurers with my players. Again, since I've done that before.
What I went looking for was inspiration, and what I found the most in was the articles by James M. Ward.
He wrote the various "Monty Haul" articles. In modern parlance, a Monty Haul GM is a giveaway GM. He/she gives out ridiculous amounts of power for little danger, and makes the game basically a gimme-fest for the player(s). But James M. Ward (and "Monty") did it differently. You really want to run an Iron Golem fighter? Sure, go for it. Here's a vorpal sword for you. And a laser pistol. And the Ring of Gaxx and the Inestimable Jacinth of Beauty. What the hell, here are all of Vecna's body parts and 10 portable holes and a lifetime supply of Rings of Wishing. You'll need them.
That's right, you will. The games described are totally over the top, the enemies as close to totally unfair as you can get as saying "they automatically roll 20s to hit and maximum damage." But the players get a fair shot at beating them. If they do, the treasures are equally amazing - the unique artifacts of D&D canon, powerful items of all sorts (as mentioned, vorpal swords, laser weaponry, grenades, rings of wishing, etc.) But about half of the stories seemed to end with some variation of "we used wishes to get the hell out of there!" to save their precious high level characters.
It sounds really fun . . . and it sounds like exactly the stuff Gary Gygax wanted to expunge from the game when AD&D rolled along. It's the sort of stuff the Out on a Limb letters column responses bashed. It's explicitly spoken of as a bad thing - high level characters with almost abusive power levels against totally unfair monsters recovering ludicrous treasures.
Like I said, this is what I grew up learned was bad gaming. What Chad Underkoffler coined as "hurting wrong fun." Stuff you weren't supposed to be doing - but the people doing it seemed to be enjoying it.
James M. Ward sounds like the best sort of GM ever. The guy who gives you whatever you want but makes it never enough to do more than get by. The guy who always has something terribly awesome in store for you, game after game.
All in all, I'd have loved to play a D&D game with Gary Gygax before he died. But I think maybe a game of Metamorphosis Alpha or original D&D with James Ward would be more instructive . . .