Halo was my favorite game for all of high school. It has bled into my subconscious and has affected the way I design encounters since day one. Here's the big points.
1. Break the enemy into rankings
- In Halo you have varying enemies rankings that each have their own abilities and level of difficulty.
- Grunts - Elites - Brutes - Jackals - Hunters - uhhh, the others
- Fourth Edition did this really well with the various types of each creature and giving each one a role
- In 5e you can do this by assigning different monsters from the Monster Manual to each role
- Some are already grouped like this through lore, but you can use or ignore this. CREATE YOUR OWN LORE
- Example using the basic lore of D&D: Goblins (grunts), Orcs (elites), Bugbears (hunters), stirges (drones), hobgoblins (jackals)
- I would use these stats to create my own, rooted in my own world.
- FURTHER - in Halo, as you progress, each of these rankings has sub-ranks inside of them. There are many variations of the grunts and elites throughout all of Halo 1, adding more variety.
- You can accomplish this by giving them different weapons, more health, and spells
2. Group the rankings into Encounter Groups
- In Halo there are several encounter groups that you will run into over and over again
- You could break these down into a random encounter table and use it to build your own
|2.||2d4 grunts, 1d2 Elites|
|3.||2d6 grunts, 1d2 Elites|
|5.||Swarm of drones|
|7.||d4 jackals, 1 elite|
|8.||2d4 grunts, d4 jackals, 1 elite|
- That might be an oversimplification, but still, using that you can have a base encounter chart with different locations
- You can get creative by expanding each of the encounter groups to include the different types of each ranking.
|1.||2d6 grunts fucking around|
|2.||d4 kamikaze grunts|
|3.||d6 grunts, d2 fuelrod grunts|
|4.||d4 fleeing grunts|
- It gets more and more complex and detailed as you combine the ranking types and the encounter groups
|1.||d4 kamikaze grunts, d2 sniper jackals|
|2.||d2 fuelrod grunts, d6 grunts, sword elite|
|3.||2 hunters, d6 grunts fucking around|
|4.||d4 assassin elites|
- You can customize your own encounter groups to show the flavor of each area
- The goal is to have a bunch of encounter groups that you can mix and match to keep the encounters focused on the same rival force, but keep the encounters fresh and new each time
3. Overwhelm the PCs
- The best parts of Halo are when you have way too much to do
- The flood are on all sides of you and won't stop coming till you move on
- Do not be afraid to overwhelm your PCs by throwing more than one encounter group at them at once
- Or throw them one after another, in a wave-style of encounter
- Your players will get creative to get out of these situations
- It's totally normal for a player or two to go down in an encounter, it's why they have short rests
- If you're really worried about the party being beaten up too much, give them more toys--
4. Vehicles are toys designed to make you feel EPIC
- Vehicles serve one purpose in Halo: to allow the player to face more enemies at once, giving encounters a grander scale
- A vehicle is a toy for the player to use
- Other toys include the power weapons
- Vehicles and power weapons are the equivalent of magic items in DnD
- If you give the players a Necklace of Fireball, you SHOULD be throwing a lot more opponents at them at once, specifically squisher groups of grunts
- If you give them a +1 sword, you should be throwing opponents with more health and AC
- I often see people asking how to handle accidentally giving the players items that are too powerful so that they end up stomping all encounters
- This. Should. Not. Happen. The reason being - you can ALWAYS throw bigger and badder things at your players. Finding the right balance takes time, but always opt for giving them more they can handle, and then mitigating when it seems like too much.
5. OVERWHELM THE PCS
- Yes, this one gets a second chance.
- I'm serious people. You need to try this. I know it might make you nervous. I know you fear that your friends and players will think you're being mean.
- But trust me. Your players will find a way to make it out. Especially if you've given them toys to play with.
- This is why I am never worried about handing out potions and strange, single/limited-use magic items all the time. Because one day they'll remember they have it and it will save the day. And it will be memorable.
5b. Here's how I do it
When it comes to designing encounters I follow these basic rules
- The opponents Hit Dice should be AT LEAST equal to the PCs, which means if there are 5 level 3 players, that's 15HD to spend. So 15 1HD opponents, 2 7HD opponents, 1 big 15HD opponent. This works out to a good encounter 95% of the time.
- The opponent should get 1 attack per 2 PCs, at least. So in any given round against 5 PCs, you should be rolling 2-3 attacks. MINIMUM. Action economy is a big thing in 5e and you need to level the playing field.
- Their to-hit bonus should be their HD + 2 (for proficiency). This is not always sound, but it's a good rule of thumb.
- Their damage bonus should be 2 at a minimum. So even 3 attacks at 1d6 each can do a max of 24 damage.
- I always increase the number of dice they roll before the die type. So 2d6 before 1d8.
- I always increase the number of dice they roll before increasing their damage bonus. So the big 15HD bruiser might roll 6d6+2 instead of 2d6+12. Rolling dice is fun.
- For every 5HD an opponent has, give them an extra attack. So the 2 7HD opponents will each attack twice.
Alot of these guidelines are based on 5e's proficiency scale and player-leveling.
These are some of the bigger things I've taken from Halo. I hope you learned at least one thing from this.
If you want to see some of these things in action, check out my book.