As a rule, I do not fall into the category of a Monty Haul-type referee. I can be downright stingy, in fact. My players can attest that they’ve gone into Stonehell and come back out with the pocket change that a pair of sentries had on them. Sometimes they’re even operating at a loss when they go delving.
Not today though. At our first session since the holiday break, the party found two of the largest treasure hordes on the second level of the dungeon. The amount of money and experience they hauled out was damn near obscene. Because of this, they actually ran into the rule that stipulates a PC can never advance more than a single level as a result of an adventure—something which has occurred only one or two times in my games in the three decades I’ve been playing.
Watching them deal with the logistical problem of getting the sheer amount of coinage they stumbled onto back to the surface was extremely entertaining. Rations went flying, coils of rope were discarded, torches jettisoned, and all that dungeon trash that adventurers tend to accumulate (“I take the orcs’ longswords! We can sell them back in town.”) got dumped without ceremony. When all was said and done, only two of the six PCs had a weapon in hand—the rest had their mitts filled with sacks.
They crawled back to the surface at the breakneck speed of 30’ a turn, were almost robbed by a gang of bugbears, dodged kobold javelins, crossed the Pit of Great Annoyance on a rickety ladder, and faced a mass of seven zombies that stood between them and the stairs to the surface, but they made it out alive and filthy rich. Of course, the next time they might not be so lucky, but this uncertainty is one of the more enjoyable factors about the old style of gaming. There are few attempts to balance risk or reward in the early editions, so any trip could end in a windfall or a wipeout. It is that uncertainty that makes me come back for more, both as a player and a referee. I wonder why anyone would want it otherwise, but it takes all types I suppose.
After all the PC deaths that have occurred and the near poverty the adventurers endured since the campaign began, it’s great to see them have a big win. The power level of the campaign is slowly growing, which not only adds to the survivability of the PCs, but also gives me greater leeway with what I can introduce into the campaign—and I have some interesting plans…
All in all, today was a good day for gaming and it was precisely what I needed to get me to refocus after the three weeks off. I’m looking forward to next week’s session. I see an overland journey on the horizon, something we haven’t done since the original campaign world. The sandbox is waiting for the PCs…and some hexes are hungry.